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John Winchester’s rage was a palpable force, and Dean took an involuntary step back, covering the act by moving to the table.  He rested his palms on the pages spread out there.  “I looked all over town, got the cops to let me take a crack at their traffic cam footage--” Dean’s heart was the drum line, setting the tempo, and his tongue almost tripped over itself trying to keep up--”nothin’ there and he’s not answering his phone but after I talked to everyone I could find around  here that knew him and every hunter Sam knew I got someone to triangulate his phone and he might be in Arizona but the signal  hasn’t moved….”

He choked to a stop, throat suddenly dry on the implication of that.  A phone carried by a living body didn’t just stop moving.

Dean had kept his eyes and hands on the evidence of his efforts at locating his wayward brother, using his peripheral vision to track the malevolent force that was his father.

He had been hunting monsters his entire life, and nothing, absolutely nothing, terrified him more than the utterly silent man who was now standing so close that Dean could feel his father’s heat.

“He took his bag,” John’s voice rumbled, deceptively calm.

“Yeah,” Dean grunted, and felt a low tremble start to grow deep in his gut.

“Stole a car.  Ran away.”

“Yeah,” Dean whispered, and the tremble grew to a quake.

“And where were you?”

The shaking broke through the surface.  John was close enough to feel it, and Dean knew that it gave him away, that even if he never spoke again,  his father would know that the guilt and the blame rested solely on Dean’s treacherously shuddering shoulders.

But to refuse to answer constituted insubordination.  “I--I was out,” Dean ground out, fighting to keep his voice strong.

“Getting laid?” It was more of an accusation than a query.

As suddenly as it had begun, the trembling ceased.  Dean hung his head, shoulders limp.  “Yes.”

The force that was John Winchester exploded, spinning Dean around to land a blow to the younger man’s jaw, pulling him off of the table the boy landed on to throw him into the wall, pinning Dean with one hand while he buried his fist in his son’s stomach, then throwing the object of his blind rage to the ground, steel toes of his boots raising a nearly satisfying grunt of pain from his target as bone gave way beneath the impact.

“You put some skank-ass whore, some slut with no standards, above your own brother ?”  

Dean curled in on himself, arms wrapped over his head, knees pulled tightly to his chest.  John moved behind him, lashing out with his boot at an unprotected kidney, and Dean arched back in pain.

John buried his fist in his older son’s hair, yanking the boy’s head up, shaking it to emphasize his words.  “You think a blow job is worth more than your brother’s life ?”

Dean’s eyes were glassy, the words barely registering as he fought to stay conscious through the agony spreading out from his lower back.

His head was released violently, and he rolled to his stomach, forehead pressed against coarse carpeting, struggling to breathe.

Dean believed that it was over.  Thought he’d push himself slowly to his feet, stagger to the bathroom, piss blood, wash his face, then go out to find his dad sitting in the driver’s seat of the Impala, waiting for him so they could go get Sam.  Together.

When Dean heard the unmistakable sound of a belt being unbuckled, of leather sliding along denim, he almost vomited.

“No,” he whispered, the sound of his shame and desperation sinking into the already soiled flooring beneath him.

“Get up,” his father growled, and Dean’s heart stuttered in his chest.

“Dad...I’m sorry.”

“You either get up and take what’s coming to you or get the fuck out.”

Tears scorched his throat and Dean swallowed convulsively as his life spiraled out of control in the length of that one sentence.  

Without Sam he was nothing.

Without Sam and his father, he was less than nothing.

There really was no choice.

He bit back a gasp as the act of getting to his feet caused a sickening bone-on-bone grinding of fractured ribs.

He stood, one hand on the back of a chair for support, swaying slightly.

Waiting.

“You know the drill,” that gravelly voice reminded him.  “Strip.”

From across the room Dean watched himself comply, shaking fingers making slow work of the buttons on his flannel, face pinching in sudden pain as he raised his arms to remove his t-shirt, eyes downcast as he stood, bare-chested, praying that this would be enough.

Dark bruises were already coloring his pale skin.

“I said ‘Strip’.  Don’t make me do it for you.”

Abruptly Dean was back in his own body, the visceral memory of the last time his father had said that to him dousing him like ice water. 

<<"Pants down.” 

"Please!  Dad!”  and then it began again, and if anything the hairbrush was landing with more force, each explosion of agony coming one on top of another, and Dean’s fingers clawed into the sheets, trying  in vain to pull him away>>

Gooseflesh stood out on his arms, his torso.

He fumbled with his belt, fingers thick, uncoordinated.

“Get your boots off first, dumbass.”  The contempt in the man’s voice struck Dean like a blow, and he doubled over, shame stealing his wind.

He staggered, falling against the wall, and leaned there while he fought with his laces.

Time stretched out impossibly long, Dean’s normally agile mind struggling with the dual tasks of measuring his father’s impatience while doing his best to comply with man’s demands.

Finally he found himself staring, slack-jawed, at his socks.

“Dean!” That voice boomed, and the man it named raised his eyes, looking startled.  “I said ‘Strip.’  Last chance.”

The menace jolted him, and Dean straightened, turning towards the wall behind him.  His mind was blank as he forced denim and soft black cotton over his hips, down his thighs, allowing them to drop of their own accord until they caught at his ankles.

“Hands on your head,” the voice commanded, and it may as well have been God himself, holding Dean’s soul in the palm of his hand.

Dean complied, damaged muscles protesting.

He cringed at the sound of the table crashing into the cabinet, making way for John Winchester’s rage.

There was no lecture, no reiteration of all of Dean’s shortcomings, nothing at all to herald the approach of the storm that broke over the young man’s already battered flesh.

It was fire.  It was ice.  Wendigo’s claws, vampire’s teeth, the invisible crush of a vengeful spirit...the only sounds leather and metal striking flesh, breath hissing out of each man in a steady rhythm as the exertion of striking resonated against the agony of being struck.

A part of Dean was distantly aware that his father was whipping him with the buckle-end of his belt, that the metal was tearing his flesh, and the warm liquid he felt on his skin could only be blood.

In this moment, John was barely human, but Dean knew that in spite of this, he had to endure, to complete this act of contrition, to wipe his sins away so he could earn his way back into his father’s good graces.

At least for as long as it took for Dean to fail his father as he always did, trapped in this cycle of failure and redemption, shame and relief.

Hatred and adoration.

There was a pause in the hell storm as John Winchester crossed from Dean’s left to his right, shifting the belt from one hand to the other, shaking out his sore arm.

Dean leaned his forehead against the wall.   Why are walls always so cool, even when the room is hot?

He held onto that, cool and hot, focusing on the flesh presented to his father.  Is it hot, or is it very, very cold?  What does hot feel like?  And cold?  If that were a blade made out of ice, would it burn?

The blows resumed then, fueled by rage, as rhythmic as a metronome.

Groans had become the counterpoint to the striker’s hisses, but all Dean was aware of was the cool wall pressing in against him, so smooth and soft against his cheek and chest, but somehow hard and warm against his knees.

“Get up!” the god commanded, and only then did Dean realize that it wasn’t the wall against his knees, it was the traitorous ground--

And suddenly he was on his side, right shoulder supported by the kind wall, left temple against the floor, bile flowing with lazy ease from his slack jaw.

 


 

John stepped back, murderous raging seeping out of him as he took in Dean’s limp form.

Limp... and bloody.

Two memories vied for control of John’s consciousness:  Dean, lying on a bed, limp and bloody after a werewolf attack, and Dean, face down on a bed, limp and bloody after the last time John had used his belt on the boy.

As before, the bloodied leather slid from his hand, buckle striking the floor with an audible “thump”.

John’s knees followed as his  hands rose to his face in horror.  

“Dean…” he choked out, the word a prayer, a plea.

He crawled across the floor, fingers sliding desperately into sweat-slicked hair, following the curve of the skull to the sharp angle of jaw, digging in greedily to the tender flesh there.

“Please, Dean, please ,”  unaware of the irony in that, not guessing that his son had sent a similar, but unspoken plea, “Please, Dad, please !” just before the boy’s sanity left to seek sanctuary in a less hostile plane.

The pulse was rapid.  Maybe a bit weaker than normal, but John had never had a reason to seek out this validation of life when the vessel it represented was ‘normal’.

John sat back on his heels, one hand clasped desperately to that thready pulse, the other pressed in equal desperation to his own face.

“Jesus.   Mary .  I’m sorry.  I’m so, so sorry.”

And the god-like hunter, broken, repentant , sobbed in a way that his battered son had not.

Chapter Text


John hadn’t felt this utterly shattered since the night Mary died.

“No,” he corrected himself, “since the day after.  Waking up with two little kids, no home, no wife.  That’s when it really hit.”

He lifted the bottle, toasting himself solemnly for his honesty, and drank.

He held the last mouthful of whiskey, savoring the flavor and the burn as he stared, bleary-eyed, at his son.

The form under the blankets hadn’t moved.  Not while John fell apart beside him, bawling like a toddler who just had his favorite toy stolen.  Not while the caring father in John broke through the guilt and despair long enough to wipe up the vomit pooling beneath his son’s face, or when he lifted Dean’s head to slide a pillow under it, nor when he piled every blanket he could find over the boy, hiding from sight the evidence of John’s brutality.

Of his failure.

“Shtartin’ t’ worry me, kid,” he slurred, but the bottle of Jack was empty, and somehow John’s body had turned to lead.  Not stone , he thought.   Not that cold .

“He’ll wake up purty shoon,” John reassured himself.  He absent mindedly raised the bottle to his lips, frowning when he found it empty.  “Fuck.”

It took an immense amount of effort to push himself up from the chair, but he managed it, then stood swaying, one hand pressing into the counter of the room’s kitchenette, the empty bottle dangling, forgotten, from the other.

John dropped his chin to his chest, closing his eyes against the spinning in his head.  When it stopped, he looked around him, trying to remember what he was doing.

He noticed the whiskey bottle in his fist, smiled, raised it to his lips, and frowned.  “Oh, yeah,” he mumbled, dropping the now offensive object into the sink, “ ‘s gettin’ a beer.”

The counter supported his drunken efforts to make his way to the small refrigerator.  

He squinted against harsh white light to examine the contents, finally grunting in disgust as he removed a water bottle.  He held it close to his face, examining it with a scowl.  “Oughta be vodka,” he mumbled.

He nearly fell attempting to twist the cap off the bottle, and had to lean his hips against the counter.  He drained the bottle, grimacing as he swiped a sleeve across his wet mouth.

His eyes were drawn to his son’s unmoving form, and tears misted his vision.  He lurched back to the fridge, nearly falling when he jerked the door open.

He bent, swaying, to extract a new bottle.  “Jus’ water,” he explained to no one at all.  “ ‘s all we got lef’ in here.  Jus’ water.”

He staggered backwards for two steps before he managed to force his body forward, intent on reaching Dean.

Somehow he kept veering to the right, and no amount of fierce grimacing nor irritated growling could correct his trajectory.

So focused was he on his task that he grunted in surprise as his lower limbs struck the edge of one of the beds, knocking his feet from beneath him and tipping him onto it.

The water bottle fell from his hand, rolling across the floor until it came to rest against the shrouded form he had been so determined to reach.

The mattress seemed to wrap around him, and John made a half-hearted attempt at shaking it off before succumbing to the soft lullabye and sliding into alcohol-poisoned sleep.

 


 

 

He awoke to a headache.  Thankfully not the bounced-off-a-wall-by-an-angry-ghost kind; this was more irritating than painful.  

He sat up, feeling the tilt and shift of reality that meant he wasn’t sober yet.  Not stuporously drunk, but most definitely far from sober.

He rubbed a hand over his face, grimacing at the combined discomforts of stubble and a chalky mouth.

There seemed to be an impossibly long stretch of stained carpeting between himself and the kitchenette.

A pile of blankets lay in a half-circle on the floor, and John squinted at them.  “Dean,” he rasped, memoring blinding him, and struggled to get to his feet.

A widened stance wasn’t quite enough to compensate for his absent equilibrium, and he found himself sitting heavily on the bed.  He waited a minute, elbows on his knees, palms cradling his face, before trying again.  This time he managed to stay up, but made the involuntary discovery that it helped to walk.

His bladder suggested that they amble over to the bathroom, and John agreed.

He fell against the door, only then realizing that the sound he’d been ignoring was running water.

“Mus’ be takin’ a shower,” he informed himself, waving a limp hand towards the blankets formerly occupied by his son.

John pressed his forehead into the crack where door met frame.  “Dean,” he called, but his voice refused to rise, and he knew he hadn’t been heard.  He fumbled with the doorknob, nearly falling into the small space as the handle unexpectedly turned under his hand.

He’d assumed it would be locked.

He slid along the wall until he was able to snag the shower curtain.  “Dean,” he rasped, “you need some--”

His vocal folds locked at the sight of his son flinching away from him, pressing one discolored shoulder into the corner while raising the other protectively to an equally colorful cheek.

The eye closest to John--Dean’s right-- was swollen nearly shut.  Dean’s pelvic bones were turned into the wall, granting John a full view of the havoc he had wrecked on the young man’s lower back, buttocks, and thighs.

John was not aware that his mouth hung open as the fog draped over his brain abruptly lifted, gaze taking in Dean’s injuries, the hunter in him automatically cataloguing in preparation for delivering aide.

The black and purple that are hallmarks of deep tissue bruising covered his boy’s back from shoulder to--

John’s eyes followed the discoloration, nausea washing over him coldly as he realized that it ended at the backs of his son’s knees.

Worse still was the realization that the dark canvas was decorated with streaks and slashes of red, the abstract artwork of a confirmed sadist.

“Jesus,” the father breathed, dropping the curtain as he stumbled back, thoughts kaleidoscoping in his brain.  He sorted through them, desperate to find the one that would begin the tortuous process of repair.

“I...I’ll get you some pain-killers.”  It was the best he could come up with, and he hoped it would do.

 


 

 

Dean emerged from the bathroom with a towel fisted loosely around his waist, catching John in a paralytic state of indecision.

Dean froze in place, dropping his eyes.

“I-I couldn’t find them at first,”  John offered, face flushing.  He held his fist out.  “The pain-killers, I mean.”

Dean didn’t react, and John took an eager step forward.  “They’re the good ones,” he explained, as if offering a special treat.

Still Dean did not react, and John stuttered forward, unease replacing eagerness.  He cleared his throat softly.  “Take them, Dean.”

He hadn’t meant to make it a command, but as his son’s arm reluctantly rose, he realized that it must have sounded that way.

Dean’s palm stopped inches from John’s own, and the father allowed the medication to drop gently onto the cupped surface.  He offered a water bottle with the other hand.

Dean stood for a moment, one heavy-lidded eye locked on the round, white pills resting against his skin.  He blinked, flicking his gaze from the yablets to the plastic bottle to the hand holding his towel in place, then back to the pills.

Slowly the palm rose until the edge rested against his lower lip, tipping the medication into his barely open mouth.  The hand then moved, leaden and dull, as if of its own reluctant accord, drawing close to the proffered beverage.

When it had traversed half the necessary distance, it stopped, suspended in the open space between the two men, waiting.

Tablets dissolved bitterly against Dean’s tongue.

John’s brow furrowed, and he tilted the lower half of the bottle towards his son, an impatient gesture of “take it!”

Still Dean stood, waiting.

John studied this new puzzle, determined to solve it.  Took in the single visible iris, obscured by dark lashes.  The forced closure of the dominant eye.  The bruising along the right cheek countered by that of the left jaw.

He noted with some surprise the breadth of Dean’s shoulders, the definition in his chest and arms.  Ignoring the geographic purpling over the  left side of the torso, he chose instead to observe the thick abdominal muscles and sharply demarcated pelvic bones.

He’s not a boy , the hunter noted, and the father unconsciously cringed.

The ragged, overly-bleached motel towel sagged loosely against pale skin, and the knuckles of the fist that gripped it were a strained white.

Understanding snapped John’s eyes up, and he hurriedly twisted the cap from the bottle before pushing the now damp plastic into the lax palm still suspended before him.

Without looking at him, Dean raised the bottle to his lips, tilted his head back, and drank until the bottle was empty.

He lowered his arm and stood limply, waiting.

The inaction evoked an image in John’s mind of a tow-headed boy, recently rendered motherless and mute, moving only when directed to do so.

Involuntarily scanning that well-developed torso once more, “Why did you--” spilled past John’s lips before he choked the words back, knowing that “let me do this to you?” would sound, not like the shocked incredulity he felt, but like an accusation, placing blame on the victim.  Blame that belonged to John, and John alone.

“Why don’t you go lie down?”  he amended, and stepped aside, inviting the man that he hoped he could still call ‘Son’ to pass.

Dean moved with the shuffling steps of a shackled prisoner, hesitant, uncoordinated, as if this body was new to him and he was not yet sure that he could trust it.  He paused when he reached the narrow alley between the two beds, head down, shoulders hunched.

John’s brows furrowed once again as he contemplated this behavior, scrutinizing each bed before turning his attention to the source of his confusion, hoping that the direction of Dean’s gaze would give some clue as to what had halted the boy-- My son , he corrected himself--in his tracks.

Dean’s head was bowed, lashes lowered, seemingly memorizing the stains in the carpeting at his feet.

John crossed to him, intending to inspect that area himself.

He stopped just behind Dean’s left shoulder, and realized that the younger man was trembling.

John backed away, shaken.

He moved to the pile of bedding on the floor, and leaned down to retrieve the pillow as well as a blanket.  “You can take whichever bed you want,”  he offered over his shoulder, gifting the other man with the safety of distance and a turned back.

He waited, unconsciously ticking off seconds in his head.  He reached thirty, and still had not heard his son move.

He turned with forced langor to make his way to the bed closest to the bathroom--the one that he typically forced Dean to occupy, as he himself preferred to place his body between his son and the outer door.

“You can take this one,” he suggested.

Dean turned, still visibly shaking, and lifted a knee onto the bed.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Lose the towel first, man!  It’s soaking wet!”

At the first barked syllables, Dean had flinched, then frozen in place.  Now he straightened, offending limb returning to the floor a step behind its owner.

The towel dropped to the carpet.

Dean returned to immobility.

John was once again confronted with irrefutable evidence that the son that he had whipped like a child just hours ago was most definitely...not.

He tossed the pillow into the center of the bed.  “Face down.  Put that under your hips.”  He winced at the commanding tone he had habitually adopted.

His jaw dropped in morbid fascination as a whole body shudder worked its way through the man before him, and Dean’s traumatic silence ended with a barely audible, “Dad...please.”

John blanched as he realized where Dean’s mind had gone.  What he was undoubtedly remembering from another incident that John swore he’d never repeat.

<< “Lift up,” he commanded, and a pillow slid roughly under Dean’s groin, forcing his hips up to expose the tender crease where glutes meet hamstrings.>>

“No, not...I just meant…”  he gestured lamely at the young man’s groin.  “That thing practically needs its own room.”  He tried to force a laugh.  “I just..I mean...I thought it’d be more comfortable…”

Quit talking, John , and he ground his teeth, disgusted with himself.

He closed his eyes, breathing in deeply through his nose, holding it through several heart beats, struggling to clear his mind.

The breath was released in an audible sigh, and John felt every second of his age, the full effects of each of his many failures.

“Please, Dean...just rest, okay?  However and wherever you can...get comfortable...and rest.  I’m going to get some supplies...food...maybe some ice to cut down on the swelling.”

Skirting wide around the adult that John now realized was merely disguising a terrified child, the defeated father made his escape.

 

Chapter Text

 



“I’m going to get some supplies” were the last words to register in Dean’s mind.

He’s leaving me.  He’s making an excuse and he’s leaving me.

He realized he was shaking again, and felt a detached sense of irritation at that evidence of his weakness.  So what if his father left him?  He should.  He should go find Sam.  That was what mattered: Sam.

He was aware of the door closing and an engine starting up just outside.   Not the Impala , he observed.  He’s taking his own truck.

Leaving the Impala, because he’s leaving me .

He swayed, weakness and nausea rocking him.  He closed his eyes, fighting for equilibrium, and found himself on his knees between the two beds.

He’ll come back, he promised himself, though he didn’t believe it.

He turned to rest his forehead against his bed.   Dad’s , he corrected, but the reason he’d stopped between the two, driven his father away with his shameful inability to make such a simple decision, was that he’d been sleeping in that one.  His father had been away, and Dean always placed himself between the outside world and his little brother.

Always.

So when John told him to lie down, he’d had to figure out which choice would piss his father off the least.  Would choosing the bed by the door seem defiant, as if Dean was challenging  his father’s authority?  Would taking Sammy’s bed be disrespectful, because that left John with the one Dean had soiled with whatever dirt, sweat, saliva, and whatever had rubbed off of his skin and clothes while he slept?  

Plus Dean was maybe, just a little bit superstitious, and taking Sammy’s bed had felt...wrong.  Like he was already assuming that Sammy wasn’t coming back.

There were so many rules, and every time Dean thought he knew them all, he ended up doing something wrong.

So he continued to kneel, forehead against the sheet, breathing in the familiar mix of deodorant, after shave, and gun oil that had transferred from his own body to these sheets.

He dozed.

A rude pounding on the door obliterated the peaceful fog that had cradled him, and he gasped as the unexpected rush of adrenaline jolted through his torso, pain erupting from his fractured ribs.

“Dean, you in there?  It’s Bobby!  Open up, ya idjit!”

“Bobby?”  Dean’s voice was faint and unrecognizable, even to his own ears.

He braced a palm on each bed and attempted to lever himself to a standing position.  

“C’mon Dean!  I think I got a lead on Sammy!”  The wood vibrated beneath the older hunter’s fist twice more.  “Better not be on the shitter,” came a quieter but clearly audible growl. “Feel like a sittin’ duck out here.”

Dean failed to suppress a moan as contused muscles were forced to obey his demand to rise.  A sensation akin to that of a thousand near-simultaneous bee stings made him wonder how long his body weight had been resting on his lower legs.

“Fuck.”  He wasn’t sure he could walk on feet numbed by a prolonged interruption in blood flow.

“Singer!  What are you doin’ here?”  John Winchester’s voice reverberated through the old door.

He came back.

Relief, sorrow, guilt, fear, and joy broke over Dean in a dizzying wave, and he closed his eyes tightly against all of it.

“Hey, Winchester,” and in his mind Dean could see the two veteran hunters slapping one another on the shoulder in a restrained display of brotherhood.  “Dean called me, wondering if I’d seen Sam.  Figured I’d stop by, see if I could  help.”

The voices carried through the thin wood as if it was nonexistent.

“That’s mighty kind of ya, Bobby.  I was just gonna drop in at the police station and check on a few things.  Lemme just get Dean settled real quick and you can join me.”

“Sure.  Lemme get those bags from ya so you can unlock the door.  Been poundin’ on it half the damn’ day, and that idjit son of yours ain’t answered.  He okay?”

Dean’s mind kicked into overdrive.   Gotta cover up .  Lying under blankets or wrapping a towel around his waist would’ve been enough under normal circumstances, but he didn’t want Bobby to see that he’d been whipped like little fucking child.  

The bruises on his face, those didn’t bother him. It’d piss Bobby off--always did when John left marks, whether during training or in discipline--but at least that was the type of bludgeoning an adult earned.  

The kind of beating you gave someone you at least respected.

“He’s fine, but I gotta make sure he’s decent before you come in.  He’s been alone for a few days, no tellin’ what he’s used to doing with his down time.”

Dean moved stiffly to the foot of the bed, face contorting as he leaned down to snag his open duffle bag.  

Fractured ribs, man.  Worst fuckin’ injury there is.  Core muscles responsible for posture and breathing attach to each one, so everything hurts.  Laughing, crying, just breathing .  Sitting, lying, standing...but the worst is bending, either toward the injury, where each jagged end tunnels through previously shredded muscle to accommodate the movement, or away, where developing scar tissue is brutalized as the area stretches.

But there was movement at the door, and even if Bobby stayed out, Dean would be visible as it opened--

Any physician that had seen Dean’s  injuries would have sworn that no one in that condition could move as quickly as the young man did, but by the time the door opened, he’d managed to force his mutilated torso into a t-shirt before dropping into a seated position to tug blessedly loose sweatpants up over his hips.

John cracked the door open just enough to stick his head in, body imposed between Bobby’s keen eyes and whatever potential horror waited in that cursed motel room.

Dean saw the look of disbelief turn to relief, then confused suspicion as his eyes washed over Dean, then quickly scanned the room.  “Dean?”

“Hey, Dad,” and he raised a hand the way he always had.  “You came back.”  He cringed on the words, but John didn’t appear to notice.

“How...Are you alone?”

Now it was Dean’s turn to be confused, an emotion that quickly turned to shame.   “You put some skank-ass whore, a slut with no standards, above your own brother?”  He lowered his head.  “Yeah.  I didn’t....there’s no chic here.”

“That’s not--”

“Hey, Dean, ya decent?” Bobby’s voice cut in, and John’s puzzled scowled turned to one of irritation.

Dean glanced at  his father.  Their eyes met, and Dean dropped his, chest tightening at the anger he read.

“Yeah, he’s decent,” John answered for his son, moving in to the room without inviting the older hunter to follow.

Which Bobby did anyway, a paper bag balanced on one arm.  “How ya holdin’ up, kid?”  He dumped the sac on the table carelessly, then slanted his eyes at John.  “Hope ya didn’ have eggs in here.”

John snorted.  

Dean took advantage of Bobby’s distracted attention to force himself to get to his feet and start moving toward the bathroom.

“I gotta hit the shower--”

But Bobby caught him, pulling the younger man in for a brief but tight hug.  Misinterpreting the tense shoulders, he thumped a closed palm against the boy’s back.  “We’ll get ‘im back, Dean.  Don’t you worry.”  The words were gruff and low, for Dean and Dean alone.

The kindness was like gasoline on the embers of Dean’s shame.  He dropped  his head, tears pearling in his lashes. “Good to see you, Bobby.”

In his desperation to escape the searing affection of the grizzled old hunter, Dean turned too quickly, stumbling over his own feet and the edge of the bed.

Bobby reacted instinctively, gripping Dean’s upper arm to balance him.

“What the hell?”  Dean heard the man mutter.  He conducted a mental scrutiny of everything Bobby could have seen, heard, or felt in the seconds leading up to that remark.

His shirt was sticking to his back in places.  His thin, white shirt.

Fuck .

“It’s nothin’, Bobby.  I need a shower.”  He tugged his arm away gently, and focused on keeping his movements as smooth and loose as possible until he succeeded in achieving the sanctuary of the motel’s out-dated bathroom.  

He nearly fell into the room, kicking the door shut with his heel before catching the edge of the sink with his palms.  He allowed his head to hang, feeling his pulse beat in one swollen eye, feeling scabs tear across his upper back as his shoulders hunched until the blades were almost touching.

“What the hell happened to him ?”  

Bobby’s voice carried too clearly through the door, and Dean shifted his weight to free his right arm long enough to get water running in the sink.

Either John didn’t answer or his voice was too low for Dean to hear.

Bobby’s was loud, strong, and indignant.  “Did you do that to him?”

Dean cringed, and that hateful shaking began once more.

“Sweet Mother of God, Winchester!  Pile a’ blankets over vomit, blood on the floor and the wall...What the fuck did you do?”

This wasn’t the first time Bobby had walked into a situation like this.  

<< John had just enough time to whip the rough sheet over Dean’s sobbing form before the door burst open.

“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing, Winchester?”

“My job as a father, Singer!” >>

Dean was certain that Bobby’s hunter instincts had kicked in, and the man who had been his surrogate father for more years than he could count had added things up.

Please, Bobby.  Don’t. ”  But his voice was a whisper so quiet that it didn’t even reach his own ears.

A low rumble marked John’s response, followed by Bobby’s increasingly angry retort.  “‘On Dean’s watch’?  Are you fucking kidding me, Winchester?  Sam is seventeen years old.  He doesn’t need a goddamned babysitter, and Dean has a right to some sort of life of his own!”

“Dean knows that Sam is his responsibility, especially when I’m not around!”  

Dean couldn’t tell if his father had moved closer to the bathroom, or his rising temper was illustrated in his voice.  Neither bode well, and Dean moved from the sink to kneel before the toilet, stomach rolling ominously.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, Winchester?  I’ve never agreed with the burden you placed on Dean, making a kid be a parent to another kid, but for Christ’ sake--”

“Don’t you fucking tell me how to raise my own fucking kids!”

Dean’s abdomen contracted violently and agony locked his diaphragm as his fractured ribs insisted that all motion stop now.

“Not what you said all those times you dropped them off over the past decade-and-a-half!”  

“Bullshit!  We’ve had this conversation before!  I know what I’m doing!”

“Do you really?”  Bobby’s voice was poisonous with sarcasm and condescension.  “Because that boy in there is one of the best I’ve ever known.  He’s a good hunter, tough as hell, smart, and loyal to a fault.  And you just keep pushing, keep demanding more, and he tries so hard to please you, and then you do this ?”

Dean reached to flush the toilet, desperate to drown out the voices.

The liquid cacophony ended, allowing Bobby’s voice to assert itself once more.  “And I can guaran-damn-tee that you convinced him that he deserved it.  You fucking asshole.”

“He god-damned well did deserve it, Bobby!  It’s Sam.  Fucking Sam !  Mary died tried to protect him, and I…”

Dean rested his sweaty forehead on the cool edge of the commode, face running hot with tears.

“And you don’t think she would have done the same for Dean?”  The eldest hunter’s voice was softer, but still laced with ire.

“Losing Sam….It’s like I’m losing Mary all over again.”

The wounded tone was one Dean rarely heard, and combined guilt and shame threatened to choke him.

“Jesus, John.  Don’t you think I know that?  But do you ever, even for a minute, stop to think about what all of this is like for Dean?  She was his mother , Sam is his brother , and you--you’re his drill sergeant, his fucking idol, and by God, John, you’re tearing this kid apart!”

Dean’s shoulders heaved with the sobs he fought to control, and this agony, hearing his thoughts voiced and validated by Bobby, this was so much worse than his father’s belt  had been.

John’s voice was reduced to a low rumble.

“So are you telling me that Dean is expendable?  Is that how it is for you, Winchester?”  Bobby’s indignation had found fuel, and his voice rose once more.

Dean crawled to the bathtub, cranking both taps up until they were fully open, the resultant stream nearly deafening.  He closed the drain, turbulence adding to the din.

“Then you need to stop treating him like he is.  That boy--no, that man --he’s on edge.  I can feel it.  Worse yet, I’ve seen it the way he hunts, taking unnecessary risks, always ready to sacrifice himself for any one or any thing .  He ain’t just your equal, John, he’s better than you, and he’s the only who don’t know it.”

No .  “No,” Dean grunted, and it felt like his chest was being shredded from the inside.  “It’s not true.”

“You worry so fucking much about losing Sam.  You gotta start thinking about where you’ll be when you lose Dean, because that’s the path you’re on right now.”

A door slammed, and the deafening wail of his dying soul was the only sound Dean heard.












Chapter Text

 


 

Dean.”  The voice was as gentle as the single-knuckled wrap that heralded it, but the man in question still startled at the sound.  “You alright?”

“Just a sec.”  He flushed the toilet, buying himself time to wipe the evidence of his weakness from his face before moving to the door.  

He took a deep breath, then opened it.

His father stood, looking uncertain.

Dean felt his throat tighten.

“I got ice,” the elder Winchester offered, raising the long plastic bag in his fist.  “Thought you might wanna soak.”

Dean cleared his throat.  “Yeah.  I already got the water running.”

John looked past his son and nodded.  “Good.  I’ll just dump this in there before it gets too full.”

“I can do it,” and Dean reached for the bag.

John turned his shoulders, moving the gift out of his son’s reach.  “You...pretty sure your...your ribs are busted.  Or at least bruised.  Just let me do it.”  Guilt roughened his voice.  He watched Dean drop his eyes and lick his lips while shrinking away as much as the claustrophobia-inducing space would allow, and inwardly cursed himself.

He slid past the silent young man, tested the water temperature, turned the hot water tap off, emptied the contents of the bag into the tub.   He checked to make certain that there was a clean, dry towel nearby, that the soap was unwrapped and ready, that there was shampoo in easy reach if Dean wanted it.

When he ran out of excuses for avoiding his son, he took a deep breath and stood.

Dean was in exactly the same position he’d been in when John sidled past him.  

The father in him wondered how this son of his, the one who’d been disciplined multiple times for his inability to keep still on long car rides, could be so entirely motionless now.

John opened his mouth, wanting to say something about that, share a memory had of Dean driving his father crazy by turning on his knees in the passenger seat to toss M-n-Ms at his younger and easily irritated brother…

The mirror over the sink reflected the crimson-striped back of his son’s shirt, and the words stuck in John’s throat.

“Just--” his throat felt raw.  He moved his tongue, working up some saliva, and swallowed.

It seemed to resonate in that small space.

“Leave the door unlocked, okay, Kiddo?  And holler if you need anything.  You want a beer or somethin’?  Too early for more of the Tylenol with codeine, but I could get you something else….”

His voice trailed off.

Dean shook his head, eyes averted.  “I’m good.”  He paused.  “Thanks.”

John nodded.  “Good.  Fifteen minutes, alright?  More than that and I gotta check on ya.  Fair warning.”

He thought that might bring a smile--it had in the past--but Dean simply gave a solemn nod.  “Yessir.”

John sidled past his son to go pour himself a drink.

 



Knowing his father was listening, Dean bit back a groan as he lowered himself into the cold water.  There was no way he wanted to put pressure on any part of the back of his body, but without a snorkel, lying on his stomach wasn’t an option.

He grimaced as the ice water flooded over his groin.  “Fuckin’ hate cold,” he muttered, but he knew it would help, so he settled in, face twitching in pain as he eased his hips to the bottom of the tub, then gingerly rested his shoulder blades against the slanted back.  He closed his eyes--one eye, really, as the other was obscured by swelling--and concentrated on the way the frigid temperature felt on his balls.  

It distracted him from everything that hurt.

The old trick worked, and the part of his brain that was screaming alarms at him about all of the sensations it was getting that were meant to alert him that damage was being done, that he needed to run, or fight, to fix this: all of that faded into the background.

Which left the majority of his consciousness free to obsess about other things.

Bobby had said out loud the things Dean had felt: it wasn’t fair that he had to look out for Sammy all the time, he deserved a life of his own, his dad was wrong for expecting so much, wrong for….

Even silently, he couldn’t put it into words.  A cloud of images and sensations roiled in their place, everything that happened from Dean’s admission of guilt to passing out on the floor contained therein.

He rolled his lower lip under his teeth.

The problem was that Dean was pretty sure Bobby was wrong.  The stuff Dean had thought, Bobby had said, that was all just selfish and...whiny.  Dean was a Winchester, and Winchesters were hunters, and family was everything, and that’s the way it was.  Yeah, his dad treated him like Dean was a soldier, but that’s because what they did was dangerous and heroic, just like a soldier, and the only way to survive was to be hard, to be strong, physically but also mentally, and you didn’t get that way without...Well, you didn’t get that way by being coddled, babied.

And Bobby was wrong about another thing, because Dean was proud of who he was, as a hunter, at least.  He knew he was good at.  Better than any other hunter his own age that he knew about, better than most of the ones older than him.  His dad had taught him well, plus  he never shied from a hunt, no matter how nasty the monster.

They were just men, and you couldn’t stop them.  You sure you’re such a great hunter, Dean?

They were people, not monsters.  I don’t hunt people.

He pushed the thought away.  

Dean loved hunting.  He loved being a hero.

And he loved Sammy.

He shifted in the numbing liquid, wincing.

Okay, maybe sometimes he was jealous.  Resentful was probably a better word.  Because it really was unfair, the difference in how they were treated.  Dean was already hunting by the time he was nine, but Sammy didn’t even know monsters existed until he was eight, and didn’t learn how to shoot a pistol for another year after that.

Yet Dean didn’t want this life for Sammy, and the older they got, the stronger that feeling became, until the resentment lost its power.  Protecting Sam had come to mean so much more than just keeping him safe from monsters.  It was shielding him from anything that would hurt him, turn him rough and cold like Dean and John and Bobby.

“He’s who he’s s’posed to be,” Dean uttered.

“You need something?”  John called through the door, and Dean realized he’d spoken out loud.

“No.  Just got a Metallica song in my head.  Sorry.”

“You want some music?”

“Nah, ‘s alright.  Thanks, though.”

“You feeling light-headed or anything?”

“No.  I’m good.”

“Alright.”

Dean listened to the sound of his father moving away from the door and tried to pick up the thread of his last thought.

He didn’t have any options.  That was the thing.  He was who he was supposed to be, because...well, life made it so he had to be this way.  His present, his future, that was all dictated to him by the events in his past, things that happened that he and his dad and his mom and his little brother had no control over.  Maybe when he was three or four  he’d been like Sam, innocent and round-cheeked and soft, playing at being a cop or a fire-fighter or...whatever.  And maybe he’d would’ve ended up different, a guy with a blue collar job, a mechanic maybe, feeling that satisfaction of working with his hands, coming home at night to a sweet-smelling woman and a cold beer, being the kind of guy that other guys liked to hang around, a guy who laughed a lot and made other people laugh too, who loved to play with his kids and teach them things like how to shoot a bow or change a tire, not because they needed to fight monsters or be independent way too young, but because it was just so good to be with them, and see things through their eyes….

A hot tear contrasted sharply with the chilled skin on his face,  and he wiped it away.

It reminded him that his eye was a fucking mess, and he reached for the wash cloth carefully balanced on the edge of the tub, cupping it in his hand, filling it with ice, then pressing it to a blackened orbit.

So, he couldn’t have all that.  It may have been the guy that he was supposed to be once, but it wasn’t the guy that life let him be.  

Sam, though...if he could protect Sam enough, Sam could have that.  He could be who he was meant to be, the smart guy with some kind of white collar job that he’d had to go to college for a million years to get, with a whole frickin’ alphabet after his name, and some glamorous wife that was high society it made Dean nervous to be around her, and a huge mansion of a home with weird artwork on the walls that cost more than Dean could make in an entire night of hustling pool, and a membership at a...a golf club, or something like that.

Sam could have all of that, deserved to have all of that, but only if Dean did his job right.  

He had to look out for Sammy, because at least one of them should get to choose his life, not have it dictated to him.

So his dad was right.  And maybe Dean didn’t agree with how he did it, but John had done a good job of making Dean into the person he needed to be, and Dean knew he couldn’t get there on his own, that he needed to be forced, and reminded, and punished.  And Bobby was wrong, because when it came to John Winchester, not criticizing was the same as giving praise, and Dean got that a lot.

He wasn’t better than John, still needed that iron hand, that infallible leader guiding him, keeping him from making stupid mistakes...but he knew he was good, damned good, and he knew who he had to thank for that.

He’d always known, and that’s why he didn’t fight back when John struck him, stripped when ordered to, even though he knew what was coming.

Because life had forced this on John Winchester, too, and they were both doing the best they could.

For Sammy.

 

Chapter Text




Dean opened the bathroom door, startling both men, as John had been reaching for the door knob.

“Sorry, kiddo.”  John raised his wrist to look at his watch.  “Your fifteen minutes was up.  I was about to come check on you.”  He smiled at his son, relieved when Dean returned the gesture with a tentative smile of his own.  “Um...how you feelin’?”

“Better.  The codeine really messes with my balance and shit.  I’m glad it’s wearing off.”

John glanced down.  “Glad you ain’t dressed yet.  I need to take a look at...that.”  He swallowed against the pressure in his chest.  “Make sure nothing needs stitches.”  His throat was closing.  Stubbornly, he fought it.  “Too early to see infection, but I should get some antibiotic ointment on there, too.”

Dean nodded, seeming preternaturally calm to his still unnerved father.  “‘Kay.”  He waited, but John remained in place, preventing his exit.  “Um...you want me take Sammy’s bed?  ‘Cuz I gotta tell ya, his is cleaner than mi--the one by the door.  He was only in his one night.”

John stepped back.  “Oh.”  He should have figured that Dean would take his place, both literally as well as figuratively, when he left his boys alone.  He shrugged.  “It don’t matter to me.  I’d still like to be by the door, and I’m sure I’ve slept on worse sheets.”  He started towards the kitchen to retrieve the first aid kit, then stopped, brow furrowed.  “You ah...you didn’t have sex in that bed, did you?”

Dean actually laughed, and the feeling that swept through John was like a cool drink of lemonade on one hundred degree day.  

“No, Dad.  I used Sammy’s for that.  Don’t tell him.”  His son paused, and that mischievous twinkle that usually boded ill for his little brother was back in Dean’s eyes.  “On second thought, do tell him, but not until he’s slept in it at least once.”

John chuckled.  “N--”

No wonder he ran away! Had been the retort that came to mind, but he bit it off.   Too soon.

“No, I’ll let you tell him.”  He palmed the first aid kit, then gestured with his head for Dean to lie down.  “I’ll take a look at your back first, save the ribs for last.”

“Alright.”  

John watched the young man move easily to the bed, impressed with his son’s resiliency.   Would I  have gotten over something like this so fast?  Forgiven my father for something like this?

He’d grown up without one, and his mom hadn’t been much of a disciplinarian, so he had no way to  know.  No way to judge  himself against the standard set by his own son.

Pride was a warm pressure in his chest, forcing tears to gather in his eyes, goading him into speaking, but he could not.  

That had never been his way, never been their way.  He didn’t know how, couldn’t predict how Dean would react.

He watched the young hunter ease himself down onto the bed, wincing slightly as he arranged the pillows to his liking: one arm beneath them, head cradled comfortably.

John set the first aid kit on the nightstand and went to wash his hands.

He was stalling, still sickened by the evidence of his weakness, his inability to control his temper, his utter failure as a parent and a leader.

He took more time than he needed, first waiting for the water to run hot, then soaping, rinsing, and repeating.

Where did I learn this? To treat my own son like this?  But it wasn’t a difficult question: he was a marine, after all.

He remembered his first week at basic training, how shocked he’d been...how it had almost broken him.  He’d been coddled his whole life.  Not spoiled, really, but his mom was more likely to explain than punish, and although he  hadn’t taken advantage of that, hadn’t been a trouble-maker--well, not much of one--he’d felt...weak.  Soft.  Like he didn’t fit his own definition of a man.

So he’d joined the marines, and there was nothing soft or weak about his drill sergeant.

He’d hated the man.  Hated, idolized, and emulated him.

He saw all of that in Dean, and it terrified him.

John dried his hands before returning to his son’s side, and smiled when he recognized the soft rumble of the boy’s-- Not a boy --snore.

“Dean,” he called softly, because even he wasn’t stupid enough to startle this particular hunter out of a sound sleep, “I’m gonna get to work on you now.”  He moved to the side of the bed, then added, “Don’t hit me.”

The rhythmic snoring was briefly interrupted by a barely intelligible, “G’ ‘head,” before the pattern resumed.

John chuckled.  He settled gently beside his son, first aid kit open in his lap.

He couldn’t put it off any longer.

Wincing in anticipation, he began his first close inspection of the damage he had caused to one of the most important people in his life.

The bruising was extensive, but the cuts weren’t deep.  None appeared to require sutures.  He moved from the nape of Dean’s neck down his back, applying antibiotic ointment liberally while palpating as gently yet thoroughly as he was capable of.

Dean only grunted over two spots: the dorsal spinous process tenting the skin over the middle of his spine, and a spot over one jutting pelvic bone.   Cracked or bruised, John noted clinically, painful but not serious .

He directed his attention to the young man’s lower body, feeling a little sick as he finally realized that the thin white lines he’d been seeing threading their way through the purple-black contusions were scars from previous beatings.

Never again , he commanded himself, but a feeling of dread settled in the pit of his stomach as  he immediately remembered that he’d given that same command before, that each and every time he’d made that decree, he had later violated it.

How could I do that?  He asked himself, and it was the same question he always asked, with the same answer: he didn’t know.  

Every time, it was a blur.  He could remember the anger building until it became a rage so hot, so huge, that it exploded from him in fury, and he didn’t really know what he was doing, didn’t ...plan anything out, or think about it, didn’t observe the boy’s responses and modulate his actions accordingly….

Always, always , his awareness jumped from a black rage to an even blacker despair as his mind finally registered the sight of his son’s battered body splayed out before him.

He’d kill any monster, human or supernatural, that dared even attempt to injure his boy….and yet, he could do this .

John swallowed down bile and self-hatred as he smoothed the healing cream into his son’s cuts.

 

Never again.






Chapter Text

 


 

The weathered old hunter shoved his sweat-stained ball cap out of the way to dig the fingers and thumb of his left hand into his temples.  

“Fucking Winchester,” he muttered, but the anger was tempered with sadness.  “Damned idjit dun’t know what he’s got.”

For an instant the scent of freshly baked pie, vision of a gentle-voiced blonde, and touch of a loving palm overwhelmed him.

He’d had a family once, too.

“Be damned if I’m gonna just sit back and watch you blow that all to hell, ya stubborn git.”

He scowled at his phone as he thumbed in the speed dial.

“Bobby.”

“Now don’t hang up!  I’m sittin’ out front, and I got somethin’ for ya.  A peace offering, though Lord knows you don’t deserve it.  I’m gonna knock in about five seconds.  Don’t shoot me through the door.”

The silence on the other end had him sweating.

“Come.” And the call ended.

“So like fucking Winchester”, Bobby snorted.  “ ‘Come’ , like he’s some sorta king and I’m just a...a peasant, coming to seek a fuckin’ audience with him.  Arrogant bastard.”

He tugged his cap back into place before lunging out of the car, past noticing how difficult that once fluid transition had become.  He slammed the door, grimacing at the rust that patterned down onto his boot, the moved to the back door.  He’d chosen his peace offerings with a certainty borne of experience, and filled his arms before knocking the rear door shut with a hip and approaching the Winchester threshold.  

Without a hand free to knock, he was forced to announce himself.  “Yer majesty,” he snarked, “I come bearing gifts.”

John was scowling as he opened the door, face softening slightly as he took in the take out boxes and six pack.  “Bobby.  C’mon in.”  His voice was hushed.  “Dean’s asleep.”

“We’ll save ‘im some,” Bobby grunted.

He moved past John to set his offerings on the table, then strode around to the far side to claim the chair that was backed against the wall and facing the door.

Prime spot, he calculated.  

John stood considering him while Bobby casually twisted the top off a beer, locked eyes with the younger man, and drank.

Like two old frosty-maned lions, he observed, sizin’ up the competition, wonderin’ if it’s worth it.  

But Bobby knew what the prize was.  He’d been in this ring a few times, and he’d lost those rounds, but he’d be damned if he was gonna get KO’d this time.  It was round three, and the title was on the line.

Bobby’d been around this family long enough to know the pattern, and this was John Winchester at his most vulnerable.  Maybe it was wrong to use the man’s shame and remorse against him, but if exploiting a weakness didn’t work...well, he was gettin’ a little old to beat the sense into a rangy bull like John Winchester, but by God, he’d have a go at it if the asshole raised his hand to Dean one more time.

“Got somethin’ for ya.”  He fished a folded page from his shirt pocket, and John lowered himself into the other chair.

“Sammy?” the father asked, and the hope was audible.

“Sorta.”  Bobby unfolded the paper, smoothing it on the table between them.

This is where it could turn ugly real fast.

“Lady’s old man was a hunter.  She knows things.  She can help ya outta this mess if ya let her.”

John had raised a skeptical eyebrow.  “She know where I can find Sam?”

Bobby tipped the bottle to his lips, stalling while he gauged his words.  “Better.  She can help you keep him.”

Winchester’s eyes hardened along with the cut of his jaw, but Bobby matched him glower for glower.

Dean groaned softly, shifting in his sleep, and John dropped his gaze.

He covered by picking up a beer.  “So what is she?  A witch?  She gonna put a spell on Sammy?”

Bobby grunted.  “Don’t be such an idijit.”  He paused, evaluating his options just in case his next revelation lit the other man’s fuse.  “She’s a head shrinker.”

John snorted.  “Same damn’ thing.”  He tilted the bottle to his lips, eyes thoughtful.  “You think Sam’s just...what, depressed?  And she can talk him out of it, make him wanna stay?”

Bobby’s eyes held John’s as the wizened head shifted side to side.  “Ain’t Sam, John.  It’s you.”

The younger man’s jaw tightened and his eyes shifted to his other son, lying face down on the bed, covers pulled to his neck.

John lowered his eyelids along with the bottle, shoulders weighted down on a long sigh.

“Don’t do no good to bring ‘im back if’n he don’t wanna stay.  The two of you can’t keep him chained up, and you can’t watch him twen’y four-seven.  You’re gonna end up right back where you are now, and if that happens, you’ll lose ‘em both.”

Evening light slanted across the room from the front window, turning the tear on John’s cheekbone to molten gold.

And now’s the part where he puts a bullet in my brain, but despite that near certainty, Bobby continued to push, forcing his long time friend into a corner.  “You need help, John.”  He took a quick swig of his beer, mouth gone dry. “I called a cab.”

The other man shot to his feet with such force that the chair he’d been on slammed into the wall, jarring a cheap framed print into rattling against its hook.

“You called a fucking cab ?”

Bobby gazed at the hunter calmly.   Jus’ like a feral cat , he reasoned.  Slow and easy, ‘til it realizes there’s no threat here.  “Lemme ask you somethin’ John,” and his voice was warm, without censure.  “Did you make yourself a promise here today?”

John’s glare wavered, and Bobby knew he’d guessed correctly.

“Did you swear to yourself that you’d never do this again?”

The other man’s eyes slanted away, and color rose in his cheeks.

Bobby gentled his voice even more, reaching to stroke that timorously defensive cat.  “Not the first time you told yerself that, is it?”

And John broke.

 



John unfolded himself from the back of the cab, assessing his surroundings with a practiced glance camouflaged by an elaborate stretch.  

Suburbia.  Fantastic.

He leaned toward the driver’s window, wallet in hand, only to have the cabby wave him away.  “I gotta wait for you to get done,” the man explained.  “Don’t worry.  Your pop already took care of it.”

John chuckled at that.   My pop.  Can’t wait to tell Singer that one.  After I’m done beatin’ his head in for this little stunt.

He turned reluctantly to face the house.   White picket fence and the whole nine yards.   “Shee-iit,” he muttered, and just off of his right shoulder, the cab driver chuckled.  

John twisted toward him, eyebrow raised.  

“I don’t like the ‘burbs, either, man.  All the houses look the same.  Creeps me out.”

White teeth flashed in a strained smile before John sketched a salute.  “If I’m not out in an hour, send in some strippers and beer, alright?”

This time the driver’s laugh was chest-deep.  “You got it, man.”

The hunter ambled up the walk to rap on the door, aiming to project a confidence he didn’t feel.

The woman who answered was older than he expected, black hair shot with silver caught back in a comfortable bun, understated make-up somehow focusing attention on her eyes, sweater and ankle-length skirt looking simultaneously stylish yet comfortable.

“John Winchester?” she inquired.

He offered his hand warily.  “Caroline?”

Her palm was warm in his, grip firm without being challenging.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, John. Bobby’s been singing your praises for years.  Please, come in.”

John felt some of his tension drain away.   Don’t know how much Bobby told her, but at least it doesn’t sound like she’s ready to call social services on me.

The home matched the woman in both comfort and grace, and John relaxed as he slid onto a bar stool in the well-appointed kitchen.  “I usually drink tea at this time of the evening,” Caroline explained, “but I could make coffee if you’d prefer.  Or is there something else you’d like?”

“A stiff drink,” he muttered, and to his surprise, she agreed.

“One or two would probably help.  Whiskey, tequila, or beer?”

Both eyebrows shot up in surprise before John caught himself.  “Ah...whiskey would be great.  Thanks.”

Two glasses, two spheres of ice in each, and golden brown liquid from an oddly shaped bottle.

John eyed it closely, trying to read the label, and she smiled.  “Blanton’s,” she supplied, setting it down within in his reach.  “Only bourbon my husband will allow in the house.”  

John took a sip, holding it in his mouth, letting bite his tongue as it warmed there before sliding down his throat.  “Not bad.”  He set his glass down to pick up the bottle, turning it in his palms.  “I like the bottle.  Looks like a hand grenade.”  

“Hm.  I hadn’t thought of that, but I suppose it does.”

John set the bottle down, and Caroline settled onto a stool, the slick granite bar between them.

“Time to get serious, huh?”  He heard the tension in his voice, and wondered if she did, too.

“Yes, I suppose it is.  Where would you like to start?”

He forced himself to take a controlled sip of his whiskey.  “Guess it depends.”

“On what?”

He shrugged one shoulder.  “On what Bobby told you.”

He found it disconcerting that he couldn’t bring himself to make eye contact with the woman.

“Hmm….well, he told me that you’re a hunter and a former marine.  That you took it up after your wife died.  That you have two sons who also hunt.  That one recently disappeared, apparently of his own accord.”

In the silence, he could feel her studying him.

“He told me that he was worried about you, and about Dean.”

John held the glass suspended between his two hands, elbows braced on the bar top.

“Bobby oughta mind his own business.”  He spilled the remaining liquid into his mouth, ice knocking painfully into his upper lip, then set the glass down and reached for the bottle.

Caroline made no move to stop him as John helped himself to two fingers of her husband’s whiskey.

He gestured at her glass, and she shook her head.  “I’m good, thanks.”

He set the bottle down and began running a fingertip over the tumbler’s cool rim.

“What business is it that he’s intruding on?”

“Family business.”

“You don’t think of Bobby as family?”

John closed his eyes, sifting through memories.  

He took me under his wing when I first started hunting, he chided himself.  Taught me all he could.  Took care of the boys when I had to get away.  Never said 'no' to that, not once.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day...all those holidays, just the four of them.

“Yeah,” he ground out, “I do.”

“He feels the same.  It’s why he called me.”  She leaned forward, and suddenly warm hands covered his, stilling his movement.  “He cares about you, John.  He cares about your boys.  He took a big risk with this, and he knows that.  He wouldn’t have done that if you--you’re happiness and that of your boys--didn’t mean something to him.”

“I know,” and his voice was so thickened with emotion that it didn’t sound like his own.

“So,” she sat back, releasing his hands. “Tell me about your boys.”

 


 

 The whiskey was gone, the cab had been sent away, they’d moved to a pair of couches segregated by a heavy wooden coffee table, and still, John talked.

“This was clearly not the life you envisioned,” Caroline pointed out, and John shrugged.

“We don’t always get to choose.”

“Well, not always.  But in this case, you did.”

She trapped him with silences that he knew would stretch all the way to Hell if he didn’t fill them.

“Revenge.”

She tipped her head in agreement.  “If only the monsters knew that they were spawning their own nemeses….”

John smiled.  

“But,” she paused, rearranging herself on the couch and leaning towards him, “that choice has consequences.”

“I know.  We move around a lot, we get hurt--”

“You lose people, your boys don’t learn to form meaningful attachments.  That’s all true, but it’s not the greatest cost.”

He waited.

The moment expanded, undulating in the space between them.

“So, what is?”

She smiled.  “That’s what we need to find out before you can bring Sam home.”


Chapter Text


 

“Bobby?” Dean whispered into the sudden silence.

“Yeah.”  He scrubbed a hand down his face.  

“Is...is Dad gone?”

“Just for a little bit.  He’ll be back.”

Dean fought to untangle himself from the blankets, his only thought to get dressed and go after his father.

“Christ!”  Bobby’s sudden exclamation startled him.  He glanced over to see the older man staring at him wide-eyed, his expression a mixture of disgust and anger.

He’d forgotten about his back, or at least that Bobby hadn’t seen it yet.  Dean twisted into a sitting position, facing away from his friend, fighting for consciousness against the protest of broken ribs, his body insisting that he needed to stop moving and let himself heal.

The weakness passed.  He pressed his arm against his side, stabilizing the fractures, and pushed himself to his feet.

Cold nausea returned with a vengeance, and he swayed, closing his eyes and swallowing convulsively.

Bobby’s hand was cradling his elbow, warm and solid.  “Easy, boy.  Take it easy.”

Dean lowered his head, focusing on taking shallow, careful breaths.   Don’t puke.  God, that would hurt so fucking much.

He felt sweat on his skin, tried to focus on what that felt like, or the sensation of Bobby’s palm, or on the faint sounds coming from the room next door--

“Dude,” and Bobby was startled by the amused tone in the struggling hunter’s voice, “they’re gettin’ it on next door.”

Bobby snorted.  “Leave it to you to notice that.  Pervert.”

Dean continued to breathe carefully, head down, eyes closed, but he was no longer swallowing spastically and a smirk curved his lips.  “Whaddaya think, Bobby?  Hooker or secretary?”

Bobby shook his head.  “You alright?”

Dean opened his eyes.  “Better, yeah.”  The memory of why he’d needed to stand in the first place came back to him.  “Where’s Dad?  You guys were fighting.”

“I sent him to get some help.  You wanna get dressed, there, Adam?”

“Clothes’d be nice.  Unless the lady next door is feeling adventurous.”

“Like I said: pervert.”  Bobby picked up a duffle bag, rummaging through it.  “Dark colored t-shirts with rock band logos.  Must have the right bag.”

“Hell, yeah.  Gimme the Led Zepplin one.  And some sweatpants.”

“You want panties there, Princess?”

Dean reached behind him, fingers wincing their way down his damaged flesh.  “Nah.  I think the less I got touchin’ me, the better.”

“Yeah.”  Bobby carefully manipulated the boy into his clothing, hindered by his friend’s bluster.  “Quit movin’ so much, ya idjit!”

“I’m not a baby, for Pete’s sake!  I can dress myself!”

“Not right now ya can’t!  Now shut up and let’s get this over with!”

“You gonna tell me where Dad is?”

“After yer dressed and we’re gettin’ some food inta ya.  Now work with me here.”

Dean subsided, grumbling just enough to maintain his dignity, and Bobby hid his smile.  “Alright.  Now you’re decent enough, grab a pillow for your ass and let’s eat.”

Dean did as he was told.  “Don’t know if I can eat yet.  What’d ya bring?”

“Chinese.  Got some egg drop soup might stay down.”

Despite his reservations, Dean’s stomach rumbled, and he lowered himself to the cushioned chair gratefully.  “Thanks, Bobby.”

“Got some meds for ya, too.”  He thumped his fist down on the table near Dean’s, leaving two white tablets in its wake.

“Tylenol with codeine?”

“It’s a damned shame how easily you recognize those.”

Dean didn’t respond, but a familiar uncertainty and shame rose in his cheeks.  He hurriedly swallowed the pills, washing them down with bottled water.

“I don’t mean nothin’ against ya, Dean.  It ain’t yer fault you get hurt.  That’s hunter’s candy.”  Bobby settled himself into the chair opposite the young man, arranging white take-out boxes, manipulating chopsticks with surprising dexterity.  “And I know it’s gonna piss you off to hear me say it, but what your father did to you...that was wrong, and it ain’t your fault.”

Dean stirred the thick soup, queasiness returning.  “Bobby...I really don’t wanna talk about this.”

“Course not.  That’s ‘cause you’re a stubborn idjit, just like yer old man.”  He paused, transferring rice and meat in a white sauce to his mouth.  He stabbed the chopsticks in Dean’s direction.  “And that’s what he’s gettin’ help for.  Ain’t enough to bring Sam home, Dean, we gotta keep him here.  For that to happen, somethin’s gotta change.”

Dean lifted the spoon and tilted it, watching yellow liquid drip back into the styrofoam container.   Looks like pus.  A thin piece of egg oozed over the edge.  ‘ S like a chunk of shape shifter.  Bile rose, and he pushed the bowl away.

“Maybe….” his voice was tentative.  “Maybe we should...just let him go.”

He held himself very still, waiting for the storm to break.

It didn’t come.  “Yeah,” Bobby sighed instead.  “I thought about that.  Probably be the best thing for Sam. Don’t know if yer dad can do it, though.”

Dean slid a container of rice in front of himself and picked up a pair of chopsticks, just to give his fingers something to do.

“Why’s he like that, Bobby?”  And his voice was so small, so tremulous, that it seemed like he was a kid again, sitting at his Uncle Bobby’s kitchen table in the warmth of dusk, learning how to use chopsticks, asking the kind older man to explain the enigma of his father.

“Scared a’ losin’ ya.  You know that.”

“But he--”  It felt like his sternum was being crushed.

“I know, kid.  I know.  So afraid of monsters, he’s practically becoming one himself.  ‘Least where you and yer brother are concerned.”

“He doesn’t hit Sammy.”  As soon as he said it, Dean wondered why he’d spoken the words, and regretted it.  

“Yeah, I know.  It’s like he got himself locked into that night, needin’ you to protect Sammy so he could try to help yer mum.  ‘S exactly what ya’all have been doin’ ever since.”

Dean grunted, genuinely surprised at the insight.  “I never thought of that.”

Bobby shrugged.  “I live alone, kid.  I got nothin’ to do but think.”

“So...tell me about where you sent him?”

“A shrink.  Husband’s a hunter.  You gonna eat that rice, or just count the grains?”

Dean pushed it over to him.  Bobby scooped some into his moo goo gai pan before handing it back.

“Anyway,” he resumed around a mouthful of food, “she’s good.  Pretty sure she can help.”

“How do you know she’s good?”

Bobby stilled, forcing Dean to raise his eyes.  Bobby held the contact.  “‘Cuz she helped me, son.  That’s how.  Ain’t no shame in gettin’ help when ya need it.”

 


 

“So, let me just be certain that I understand: things had been going very well between you, and Dean in particular had impressed you with his skills as a hunter, his consistency in following directions, and his devotion to his responsibilities.  Is that correct?”

John nodded, affirming the counselor’s summary.

“And Sam had been less defiant and argumentative, getting good grades, and making friends.  Yes?”

“Yeah.”

“But you thought you had to pull Sam out of school because there’d been some deaths in another town.  You were going to look into it on your own and bring in your boys if you needed back-up.”

“That’s how we usually do it, yeah.”

“Sam raised a fuss so you decided to let the boys stay so Sam could finish out the semester.  You could still call Bobby if you needed back up.  The monster, likely a shape-shifter, ran, and you followed him, but then you got the call from Dean that his was brother missing.  It took you a day to make it back, at which time Dean admitted that he’d been with a girl when Sam packed his things and ran away.”

John was quiet.

“You were overwhelmed with rage and with fear for your younger son, and the next thing you knew, Dean was unconscious.”

“Yeah.”

“He never fought back, never defended himself, didn’t protest or try to stop you.”

“No.  Not that I remember.”   He trusted me.  Poor foolish kid trusted me.

Caroline was a quiet for a moment.  “How long had it been since there’d been a similar incident?”

“What, beating Dean half to death?”  Self-censure twisted his voice.

“Applying excessive physical discipline to either of your sons.”

“I never hit Sammy.”

Caroline tilted her head in acknowledgement.  

Before meeting Caroline, John had not realized what an effective interrogation technique silence could be.  It worried him with dull teeth, tugging and goading until he had to speak or risk losing his mind.

“Dean was seventeen.  He left Sammy alone.”

Caroline sat back, focus entirely on the man before her, and listened.

 


 

“Face down.  Pillow under your hips.”

His son’s face turned white.  “Dad--”

John’s backhand blow caught the boy across the cheek, and Dean staggered, knocking a lamp off the nightstand.

“Do it!”  John’s whole being shook with rage that he fought to control.   Just can’t trust this kid to do anything right!

Dean turned, stripping the blanket from the bed and holding a pillow against him as he moved to comply with his father’s harsh demand.

Jesus Christ.  He’s just gonna push every fucking button today, isn’t he?  “Pants down, Dean,” and the growl was laden with both irritation and disgust.

“Please, Dad, I’m seventeen!”   

The petulant whine was the detonator on John’s rage.

In the space of a heartbeat an iron hand had clamped around the boy’s throat, fingers a vice locked onto both sides of his jaw.  One corner of John’s lip lifted in a snarl as he raised the boy off the floor and slammed him against the wall.

John leaned in, rabid.  “One more sound and I swear to god I will rip your lying tongue out.”

Dean was choking, the combination of unshed tears, snot, and the hand around his throat effectively drowning him.

The boy struggled weakly, fingernails scraping along drywall.

The battle was short-lived.

The instant Dean let his body go slack, John hurled him to the bed and flipped him onto his stomach.  He was incensed, overwhelmed with the need to punish and pummel.  He looked around, spotting a thick wooden hairbrush balanced precariously on the edge of the nightstand.

Perfect .

He brought the implement down repeatedly on his son’s  jean-clad buttocks, and the impact would have been satisfying if not for the child’s complete lack of reaction.

I will get through to this stubborn, insolent, dishonest, irresponsible, disrespectful--

“Pants down.”  The rage had turned cold, chilling him, yet still his limbs trembled with the need to destroy.

Dean closed his eyes as his hands moved to obey.  Snap and zipper gave way, and he raised his hips, thumbs catching the waistband of both jeans and boxers, working the material down.

Jesus fucking Christ.  John impatiently ripped the boy’s clothing into a more acceptable position.  “Lift up,” he commanded, and jammed a pillow roughly under Dean’s groin, forcing his hips up to expose the tender crease where glutes meet hamstrings.

John shook his head at the bruises already evident on son’s backside.   Defiant little shit.

He moved around the perimeter of the bed, positioning himself at Dean’s side, pinning him with his left arm.  A sick glimmer of satisfaction pierced the black rage in anticipation of the reaction he was prepared to enjoy from his insolent son.   This will humble the little prick.

John’s face twisted into an unconscious grimace as he brought the wooden instrument down repeatedly on the bared flesh beneath him, lips pulled back into an unholy smile as he felt the boy buck and twist in reaction. Sweat broke out on Dean’s skin, and his movements became frantic and uncontrolled.

John shifted up onto one knee, hot palm pressing Dean’s torso into the mattress, and threw a heavy leg over his son’s.

The brief respite allowed Dean enough space for one gasping breath--”Please!  Dad!”  which only incensed the man further, and the instrument was applied with even more force, blows nearly overlapping.  Dean’s fingers clawed into the sheets, trying  in vain to pull him away.  One hand came back, attempting to provide some sort of protection, and John snarled at this open declaration of defiance.

John trapped the wrist, grinding the bones together in his fist, and brought the hard-backed brush down on it repeatedly.  Blood had blossomed on the upturned palm before John thrust the limb away, snarling, “Try that again and I’ll break your fucking arm.”

John resumed the assault on the boy’s backside, and Dean pulled the pillow into his mouth with his left arm, body heavying violently.

John was dimly aware that the boy’s breathing wasn’t right, he was puking or sobbing or hyperventilating or all three, and it was probably time to stop, but it just felt so good , so satisfying , such a release-

The brush snapped, head separating from the handle before bouncing to the floor.

John stared at the handle gripped in his fist, then down at the bloodied portion lying on the floor, uncomprehending.  He turned his eyes to the figure on the bed, the desperate, irregular respirations, deep discoloration of the exposed flesh, and the blood.

He stood, useless stick dropping from his hand as self-loathing washed over him in a chilling wave.

 



“What were you punishing him for?”  Caroline asked into the guilt-laden stillness.

“He left Sam to go buy groceries.  I thought he had stolen them and lied about it.”

“So you were punishing him for leaving Sam alone, but also lying and stealing.”

“Thought I was, yeah.”

“What do you mean?”

“Turns out he hadn’t lied.  He’d been saving his lunch money in case the food ran out before I got back.”  Bile rose in John’s throat at the memory.

He heard Caroline inhale deeply.

“Bobby was pissed.  He lectured me.  I took off for awhile, left the boys with him while I finished the hunt.”

“And when you came back?”

Remorse overwhelmed him.  “We all pretended it had never happened.”

“But something changed.”

John shrugged.  “Dean quit school to work and hunt.  I tried leaving more money, not staying away so long, leaving ‘em with Bobby more.”

“Did you do anything to try to make it up to Dean?”

John sighed.  “I gave him the Impala.”

“Hmm...a tie to your past.  Must feel like home to them.  To you.”

John shrugged.  “He was seventeen. It was time.  He’d been driving some bucket of rust that Bobby let him have.”

“You trusted him with something that was important to you, that symbolized the life you used to have.  That sent a powerful message to Dean, I’m sure.”

“Maybe.”

“But it was also...passing on a baton, in a manner of speaking.”

“I don’t know.”  He was wrung out.  Exhausted.

Caroline rose.  “This has been a lot, really.  I’ve got a guest room designed for hunters that need to lay low; you’ll be safe there.  Get some rest, and we’ll continue this tomorrow.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

He followed her meekly from the room.

Chapter Text


 

“I can’t go back.”  John forced the words past an insatiable cloud of shame, regret, and hopelessness that had been devouring his soul since Mary died.

Caroline was leaning forward, and her tone was vehement.  “Yes, you can.  Maybe not today, maybe not even tomorrow, but you can go back.”

His shoulders shook, humiliation fueling his despair as he felt tears coating his cheeks.  “I’m destroying them.”

“No, you are not.”  Her voice was stern, angry , even.  “They already lost their mother, John, lost every  home they ever had. They cannot afford to lose you, too.   That is what will destroy them, not you .”

The cloud burst, shredding him, and he covered his face with both hands as he sobbed.

Caroline crossed to him, first placing a tentative arm around his shoulders, then pulling him into her, holding him tightly, rocking him, cheek against his hair as she whispered soothing banalities: “It’s alright, John.  Just let it go.  It’s going to be alright.”

She held him as the damn broke on over ten years of suppressed grief, and wondered if he’d survive it.

 



Dean stood, wincing. “I really appreciate the effort, Bobby, and I can’t remember the last time I turned down a pancake breakfast, but I’m still feelin’ queasy.”  

“That normal for you after busted ribs?  Or did you crack your head, too?”

Dean ran his palm over his abdomen.  “I took a couple to the face.  Might have a bit of a concussion.  Could be the shot to the kidneys that did it, too.  I’m still pissin’ blood.”

Bobby shook his  head, expression dark.  “That--”

“Don’t,” Dean cut him off.  “What’s done is done.  He’s my dad , Bobby.”  Dean turned from the table.  “I’m gonna lay down for a bit.  ‘Less you need me for something?”  He looked at Bobby over his shoulder, but then raised his finger in a classic pose: “Hang on.  Gonna sneeze.”

He did, explosively, and immediately doubled over, clutching the back of the chair with white knuckles.

“Dean?  You alright?”

What the fuck?  Dean slowly lowered himself to one knee, forearm pressed to his side and abdomen.   Jesus, that hurts.  

“Dean?”  Bobby was on his feet, leaning over the table, concern etched in every wrinkle.

Dean shook his head in a small motion.  “Somethin’s not right…”   Shouldn’t hurt like this.

Bobby skirted the table to kneel beside him.  “Care to elaborate?”

Dean closed his eyes, swallowing back bile, forcing slower, calmer breaths than his body demanded.  “Doesn’t feel right.  Too sharp.  Too deep.”  He swallowed again.  “Gonna hurl.”

Bobby grabbed one of the take out containers.  

Dean emptied the scant contents of his stomach over Bobby’s hand, with little making it into the small white box held therein.

The older man, suddenly more father-figure than hunter, dropped the box in time to catch his tall young friend as Dean turned into a dead weight with no warning at all.  He was paler than Bobby had ever seen him.

Propping Dean  up with his shoulder freed Bobby enough for him to dig his cell phone out of his pocket.  “They’re all gonna be pissed at me for this one,” but he tapped in the three magic numbers anyway.

 


 

By the time flashing lights and sirens had invaded the room, Bobby was certain that he’d never regain all of the feeling in his feet.  Not knowing what was wrong with Dean, he’d been afraid to move him.   He’d sat with the combined weight of himself and a very muscular young man all resting on his tired old bones, counting the ticks of a clock he couldn’t see while simultaneously keeping track of his friend’s heart beat.  He willed it to keep pace with his own, and eventually to just keep beating at all.

To the ferocious pounding on the door, he shouted: “Ya gotta break it down!  I can’t git up!”

Which the paramedics did with great enthusiasm and an impressive show of splintered wood.

“What happened to him?” came the inevitable question from a man dressed in the uniform of an ambulance attendant.

It was a question Bobby had been dreading.  “He got beat up.”

“When?”  

One man had a stethoscope against the boy’s back, while the other had begun cutting the young man’s shirts away.

“Yesterday.”

“Jesus,” the ambulance attendant breathed, staring at the colorfully marked skin he had just uncovered.  “Who did this?”

“Y’ll have to ask him.”  All those agonizing minutes he’d spent kneeling under the boy’s weight, and that was the best he’d been able to come up with.

“Bobby,” the groan was so quiet that the ambulance attendants didn’t seem to hear it.

“Backboard,” one proclaimed, apparently announcing his intentions rather than giving an order, as he immediately left the room.

“Wha’s goin’ on?” Dean tried to raise his head and couldn’t.

“Gotta get ya to a hospital, kid.”

He was met with a soft groan in answer, followed by a question that tore straight to the older man’s heart: “Where’s Sam?”

I shoulda seen that comin’ .  “He’ll be there, kid.”

“We’re going to take him now.”  They had secured Dean’s neck and back as best as they were able, and were preparing to maneuver their patient to a supine position.

“His ribs are busted.”

“Where?”

“Right side, kinda low.”

The medics exchanged glances.  “Careful then,” one observed, and the other nodded.

They moved.

Dean screamed.

He’ll deny that later, Bobby thought, mind seeking an escape in mundane details.   Say it was quiet and low-pitched, more of a loud moan ...but to Bobby the desperate agony in the sound had been too raw, too primal, to qualify as anything but a scream.

Now flat on his back, Dean continued to moan softly, fighting to avoid the oxygen mask that one of the technicians was struggling to fit him with, arms and legs moving weakly as he strove to defend or flee, hunter’s instincts stepping up as consciousness ebbed.

“It’s okay, Dean,” Bobby soothed in a way he never dared in less dire situations, “don’t fight, boy.  They’re helping you.”

The shirts were entirely cut away, and the seasoned  hunter, a man who thought he’d seen so much that nothing could ever shock him again, was forced to turn his head.

That lean abdomen, normally concave when Dean lay in this position, was now distended, turgid, with a deep purple-black discoloration along the right side.

“Hemoabdomen,” the syllables pulsed with the sirens outside the door, and the technician reached for a microphone clipped to his chest.

“We need the medevac.”

Dean hates flying , but that turned out to be a frivolous concern as the boy in question suddenly went limp to the tone of anxious alarm bells.

 

Too late.



Chapter Text


 

<<Robert, it’s Caroline.  I need to talk to you about John.  Please call me back.>>

<<Caroline again.  John is not doing well.  Please call.>>

<<Caroline here.  Same message as before.>>

 

She’d lost track of the number of rings, was preparing yet another message in her mind, when a gruff “Caroline?” altered the script.

Her mind stumbled but quickly righted itself.  “Robert!  Thank goodness!  We need to talk about John.  He’s in bad shape.  I had to sedate him.”

“What for?”

She bit her lip, expression pensive.  “He’s suicidal.”

“Good.”  The bitterness reverberated in the nebulous reality of cell phone connectivity.

“What?  How can you say that?  You’ve known this man for years, practically treat him like a son!”  She paused as realization struck.  “How’s Dean?”

“Under the knife.”  His voice was ground glass.

“Robert--”

“The words ‘hemoabdomen’ or ‘ruptured hepatic hematoma’ mean anything to you, Doctor?”  He spat the sarcasm like venom.

She slumped into a ladder-backed chair.  “Oh my God.”

“The asshole musta kicked him with his fucking steel-toed boots on.  You know that kid’s been pissin’ blood?”

“Bobby, I--”

“That father-of-the-year you got over there ruptured his son’s liver, only the doc said it didn’t tear all the way through at first, just bled inside, like a blood blister.  Thin little sheet of tissue holdin’  it back.  Dean sneezed, tore that little membrane, and damned near bled out in the time it took the ambulance to get there.  Now the asshole wants to kill himself?  Let ‘im.”

“Bobby, do you have any idea what that would do to Dean?  His father committing suicide after this?  Dean would never forgive himself.”

Caroline waited through two of the angry hunter’s ragged breaths before she heard him speak again.  “Fine.  Lemme know what you need from me.  But if Dean dies, I’m comin’ over there and shootin’ that bastard myself.  Fair warning.”

“I...I guess I need to know...I need to be able to reassure John that you’ll take care of Dean and find Sam, because John will need to stay here for a little while.  If he gets any worse, I may have to have him committed.”

“‘Course I got Dean, and I already got Rufus keepin’ an eye on Sam.”

“You found Sam?”

“No, Dean did, he just hadn’t confirmed it.  I took a look, then sent Rufus to keep him safe while I sussed things out up here.  Damn’ good thing I did, too.”

“Yes, yes it was.”  It was Caroline’s turn to softly breathe.  “How...Before Dean...before he ended up needing an ambulance, how was he?  How was he feeling about John?”

“The usual.  ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ ‘he’s my dad,’ ‘he was right, I deserved it.’  Real Patty Hearst-type shit, if you ask me.”

“He needs his father to be infallible.”

“Yeah, well, I got news for ya lady: he ain’t.”

Caroline slumped in the chair, eyes closed.  “No.  No, he’s not.”   And neither am I carried clearly in her tone.

Bobby sighed.  “None of us are.”

She came to a decision.  “I can’t tell him about Dean.  Not yet.”

“And if Dean dies?”

She shrugged, a motion devoid of hope.  “Then...we’ll do the best we can.”

 


 

“Tell me some good memories you have of Dean.”

They were back in the kitchen, John’s face like melted wax, eyes turned to some inner horror.  “Memories of Dean?”

“Of you and Dean, specifically.”

John had his head propped on one fist, elegant fingers of the other idly turning a white coffee cup whose contents had long since cooled to a level that rendered it unpotable. The tortured expression deepened.  “I don’t have any.  Not me and Dean, at least.  Not since before --”  his breath hitched, and he scrubbed a hand over his face, "--before Mary died."

“I suspect that he would disagree.”

There was no response from the  hollow man seated  across from her.

“If I asked Dean that question, asked him to share good memories that he had of the two of you, what do you think he would say?”

John shrugged.  “Probably talk about training.  Or hunts.”

“Any incidents in particular that he likes to talk about?”

The silence rose between them, first stretching, then pacing, before John finally spoke.  “First time I took him shooting.  He loves to tell that story.”

“How old was he?”

“He was six… I’d completely forgotten his birthday until Bobby reminded me, and I felt like the biggest piece of shit to ever live.  I’d been working him up to shooting: had him handling empty guns; disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling them; dry-firing.  He sat through a lot of lectures about gun safety.”

He’d thought that would be enough, but Caroline waited, face expectant.

John shrugged one shoulder.  “Told him I had a surprise for him, that I hadn’t been able to get it ready for his birthday, so I was sorry it was a little late.  Walked him out to the woods--I’d already set some bottles up for us.  Told Dean I didn’t shoot a pistol ‘til I joined the Marines, and six was pretty young to become a man, but if anyone could, it was him.”

He paused, chewing his lip, fighting back tears.  “I held out the pistol, flat on my palm.  Just a little .22, easy to handle, not much kick.  I’ll never forget the look on his face: so solemn.  Kid was always so damned serious.”

He smiled, shaking his head.  “I watched him line up his first shot, could almost see him doing  all the things I’d told him about, tickin’ ‘em off of some list in his head one by one.  He took that first shot and went right down the line without a pause.  Hit every fuckin’ bottle.”  He nodded to himself, still smiling.  “Kid was a natural.”

“What did you say to him?”

“I don’t know.  Probably not much.  I mean, I didn’t have to, you know?  We stayed out there for an hour, me makin’ it harder, more realistic, him trying and concentrating and getting better and better.  Used up all the ammo I’d brought.  Gettin’ ready to go, he took the magazine out and opened the chamber just like I’d shown him, then handed the gun to me.  I knelt down, eye-to-eye, and put it back in his hand.  ‘It’s yours,’ I told him.  ‘You’re not a boy anymore.  Not when you shoot better than most men I know.’”

Caroline smiled.  “That’s beautiful, John.  It’s no wonder he loves to tell that story.”

John watched his fingers toy with the coffee mug.

“Does he tell any other stories?”

“Yeah...don’t know if they count as good memories, though.”

“What does he say?”

“Stuff about hunts, mostly.  Close calls, weird shit.  Times we really shouldn’t have come out alive, but we did.”

“So things he’s proud of.”

“Yeah.”

“Are they times that you’ve been proud of him?”

John turned that one over in his mind a few times.  “Huh.  Guess they are, yeah.”

“What about Sam?  What kinds of stories does Dean tell about himself and Sam?”

John laughed.  “Times he’s pissed Sam off, mostly.  Dean loves to pull pranks on his little brother.  Guess that’s one normal sibling thing that they do.”

“And Bobby?  What memories does Dean share about himself and Bobby?”

“Food.  Fixin’ cars.  Bobby’s taken him shootin’, too.”  John laughed, a rich, chest-deep sound.  “He tells a story about a time Bobby made him do some research, and he opened the wrong book.  Ended up learning all about Kinbaku .”

Kinbaku ?”

“Japanese bondage.  Apparently Bobby’s got a thing for it.  The man can even speak Japanese.  Did you know that?”

“It may have come up in conversation once or twice.”  She smiled, and John quirked an eyebrow.  “How old was Dean?”

“I dunno….thirteen, fourteen.  Old enough to understand what it was about.”

Caroline shook her head, bemused.

John chuckled.  “I learned about it when I came home to find Sam trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey, gagged and pissed as hell.  Dean had convinced Sam that it was a good idea for his brother to learn how to escape if some monster caught him and tied him up.” He chuckled.  “I think Sam’s still pissed about that one.”

They were both quiet, each reflecting on what had been said while allowing the other a chance to speak.

Caroline broke first.  “From what you’ve told me, Dean has good memories of all of you, but the only times he’s felt proud of himself have involved you.”

John dropped his eyes, long lashes shielding his soul from her scrutiny.  

“Is he still a good shot?”

John grunted.  “Best I’ve ever seen.  Better than me, even.”

“Does he know that?”

“What?  That he’s a good shot?  Or that I think he’s a better marksman than his old man?”

“Both.”

His fingers were back to caressing the smooth ceramic of the mug.  “Yeah, he knows.  He’s confident, never hesitates, no matter how tough the shot is.  And he’s heard me tell other hunters how good he is.  Hell, I’ll even move out of his way when we’ve only got one crack at it.  He knows.”

“Who taught him to shoot?”

John looked at her, brows furrowed.  “I did.  I already told you that.”

“Yes, you did.   You taught him.   You helped him develop that skill, you gave him confidence, you gave him a reason to feel proud.”

John ground his teeth.  “That was pretty underhanded there, Doc.”

“But you can’t deny it, can you?”

He closed his eyes, breathing deeply.  No more fucking crying.

“I’m going to give you a break now, but I want you to know that this is where we are heading: you are not destroying either of your sons, and they need you in their lives.  You aren’t leaving here until I’m convinced that you believe that.”

 

And the tears fell like rain.

 

Chapter Text


 

“I’m Detective Hedley.  I need to ask you some questions, Mr. Kayser.”

I figured , Bobby thought.  “Well, ask ‘em here. I ain’t leaving.”

The investigator looked over at the man in the hospital bed, absorbing the even respirations framing an absolute stillness.  “As long as you’re certain that we won’t disturb him.”  Without waiting for an answer, he sat, crossing one ankle over the opposite knee to create a table for his notebook.  “What can you tell me about the events that led to your nephew’s injuries?”

The steady pulse of the monitors provided a comforting backdrop.  Dean was finally stable.

“He asked me to come, didn’t tell me nothin’, passed out, scared the hell outta me.  I got no idea what happened to him.”

The level stare was assessing.   Bet he’s better than a lie detector, but Bobby’d been interrogated before.

“Are you aware of the extent of his injuries?”

“Am now, wasn’t until about an hour ago.  Surgeon came and talked to me.”

“Did he--”

“She,” Bobby interjected.

“Pardon me.  Did she tell you that the rape test was negative?”

“The what?”  Bobby stood, incensed.  “They had no right--”

“Mr. Kayser, please,” the detective held up a hand, palm out, and tilted his head toward the subject of their conversation.

Bobby glanced over at Dean.  The beeping of the heart monitor had sped up.

Bobby sat back down.  

“The hospital is under a legal obligation to test anyone showing certain types of injuries.  Your nephew fit the criteria.”

“And what criteria would that be?”

“He has injuries that could only have been sustained if he were...unclothed.”

A muscle in Bobby’s jaw twitched, but he held his tongue.

“Is your nephew enrolled in one of the universities here?”

Shit.  I sure hope I’m not diggin’ you a hole you can’t get out of, Dean.  “S’posed to be.”

“Any fraternities he’s interested expressed an interest in joining?”

“Not that he’s mentioned.”

The detective jotted something down.  “Know anything about his sexual habits?”

More than I’d like.  “Not really.  You lookin’ for anything specific?”

The officer dropped his foot to the floor to lean forward, elbows resting on his knees, notebook now dangling from a lax hand.  “I just had my ten year anniversary as a detective in this town.  Worked my way up through the ranks; been in law enforcement for...damn.  Goin’ on twenty-five years now.”  The skin around his eyes tightened.  “In my experience the kind of injuries your nephew sustained fall into one of three categories: hate crime, sadomasochism scene that got out of hand, or hazing.”

Feedin’ me a story.  Thank you, Detective.   “I’m not followin’ you.”  

The man began ticking off his points.  “Hate crime: with these kinds of injuries, I’d be looking for a group of homophobic rednecks.  Sadomasochism scene that got out of hand is self-explanatory. Hazing...well, his blood alcohol level was zero, but he did test positive for opioids, and we don’t know for certain when the activity occurred.  He could’ve metabolized the alcohol by the time he got here.”

“So you don’t think it was the sex thing.  I guarantee my nephew’s straight, and if he’s into S and M, this is the first I’ve heard about it.  So that leaves hazing.”

The detective returned to his notebook.  “Your nephew may or may not be straight, but he has no defensive injuries, and no sign that he was restrained in any way.  That leads me to believe that either he was knocked unconscious before someone took a belt to him, or he allowed it to happen.  He a fighter?”

“Whaddaya mean?”

“Scar tissue on his knuckles, some callused fractures.  He’s got a healed boxer’s break to his left hand.  He’s either been in a lotta fights or he trains real  hard.”

“Trains.  Golden Gloves.  Started as a kid, just kept with it.”

“So he wouldn’t be easy to knock out.  The doctor said your nephew’s CT scan didn’t show any evidence of a concussion.  He either let someone do this to him, or he was drugged with something that was out of his system by the time we tested him.”

“Well, he ain’t had these kinds of injuries before.”   Not counting the other half-dozen times his own damned father nearly beat him to death. “I mean, stuff from his fights, but not...the rest of it.”

“So no indication that he may have been into something  kinky or rough?  No leather, handcuffs, whips and chains?”

“Not that I’ve seen or heard about.”

The detective closed his book decisively.  “Well, I guess it’ll be a mystery until he wakes up, but my money’s on hazing.”  He stood, extending a hand to Bobby.  “Thanks for your cooperation.  I’ll be in touch.”

Bobby took the proffered hand, gripping it with feigned gratitude.  “Thank you for looking into this, Detective.  Sure wouldn’t want it to happen to someone else.”   And thanks for feedin’ me my lines, dickhead.


A steady beeping that had to be an alarm clock picked away at the soft wall of sleep he’d crawled behind, and he struggled to locate it so he could silence it, but his eyes wouldn’t open, and his body felt heavy and so far away, and the rhythmic tone was becoming more insistent, but his mind was detached and his eyes, his limbs, they wouldn’t obey, and he felt wrong, something was wrong, and he’d felt like this before when he was badly injured, and if he was this wrong, this heavy, this injured, then--

“Sam!”

A warm hand pressed against his shoulder.  “Easy, boy, easy. Sam’s safe.  Everything’s alright.”

“Bobby?”  His voice was raw.

“Yeah, Dean, it’s me.  You’re in a hospital, but you’re gonna be alright.”

Hospital.  “Can you--” dry tissue cracked, choking him.

He felt a straw against his lips.  “Drink, just a little.  I’ll get you some ice chips in a minute.”

Cool water burned parched tissues until they began to absorb the offering, softening in surrender.  “Thanks, Bobby.  Can you turn the damned monitors off?  That beeping is driving me nuts.”

Bobby chuckled.  “Well, at least I know it’s still you in there.”  With an ease borne of familiarity, he silenced the machines while leaving them functional.  “Better?”

“Much.  Thanks.”  He closed his eyes.  “Where’s Dad?”

Not Sam?  “With my friend the psychiatrist.”

“Does he know I’m here?”

“No.”

“Good.  I don’t want him to know.”

Bobby fought to keep his anger in check.  “He’s going to know eventually, Dean.  He ain’t gettin’ away with this.”

“Bobby, no.  You know what he’s like after this shit.  He’s gotta be a fuckin’ mess, and it was my fault--”

“Don’t you ever say that, boy!”  the words were growled through clenched teeth.  “You did not deserve this!”

“I know, I know, it got outta hand--”

“Stop!  You just stop right fuckin’ now, or am I goin’ over there and ventilating his head with a shotgun!  This ain’t ever happenin’ again, you hear me?  Not ever!”

Dean turned his face away, unable to stop the tears from running down the sides of his face.   Fuckin’ opioids.

Bobby rose, pacing, struggling to get his emotions under control, but also giving Dean enough privacy to do the same.

When he had his breathing back to normal, he returned to his friend’s bedside.  

Dean’s head was turned, eyes closed, chest rising and falling in a regular rhythm.  Thinking he was asleep, Bobby just stood, observing.

“You find Sam?” Dean’s voice was quiet, congested with unshed emotion.

“Actually, you did.  Triangulatin’ his phone was the key.  I got Rufus down there watchin’ him.  He’s fine.”

Dean turned emerald green eyes on the man who’d always been like a father to him.  “Why didn’t you bring him back?”

“Into this mess?  Are you kiddin’ me?  What do you think Sam would do if he saw you like this?  Knew that your father came damned close to killin’ you?”

Dean turned away, and Bobby cursed himself.  “God damnit..I’m sorry, kid.  Been a rough coupla days.”  He pulled a chair closer to the bed and slumped into it.  “We’ll go get ‘im, me an’ you, when you’re healed up a bit, okay?  In the meantime it ain’t a bad thing for your little brother to get a taste of livin’ on his own, and I got people watchin’ out for him.  He may go hungry--ain’t easy makin’ money when you’re seventeen in a new town--but we’ll make sure he don’t starve.”

What about Dad?  When’s he comin’ back?  But Dean wasn’t going down that rabbit hole again.  “I miss him.”   Where’d that come from?  “Damned opioids always turn me into a fuckin’ princess.”

“Well, I’ll let ya sleep it off in a minute.  A police detective has been in here askin’ questions, and he seems pretty sharp.  He fed me a story we can use if you’re up for hearin’ it.”

“Sure.”  He kept his face turned, eyes closed, but was listening intently.

“He thinks this was some sort of hazing thing.”

“Hazing?”

“Yeah, it’s a college thing.  Fraternities do it to members.”

“Like an initiation?”

“Exactly.  I been lookin’ into it since the guy left.  Seems like a pretty common thing to get the newbs liquored up and beat the shit outta them.  You didn’t have any alcohol in your system, but as long as it was over twelve hours between you supposedly gettin’ black-out drunk and me callin’ the ambulance, we got that part explained.  Helpful thing is that most kids protect the fraternity, and so do the schools.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“Yeah.  You just gotta clam up, maybe make up a different story that sounds like you’re coverin’ up, whatever.”

“I’m not registered at any college, though.”

“Well, I’m countin’ on the schools to stonewall as best they can, protectin’ themselves and their precious reputations.  Oughta buy us enough time to get our asses outta Dodge.”

“How long the docs think I gotta stay?”

“Coupla days, maybe a week.”

“Be gone tomorrow.”

“We’ll see, boy.  I’m not rushin’ it this time.  They had to take out part of your liver.”

Dean was having trouble focusing on Bobby’s words.  “They can do that?  Thought I needed a liver.”  

“She didn’t take all of it, and it regrows.”

“Like a lizard’s tail?  Cool.  Wait--did you say ‘she’?  My doctor is a chic?  Is she hot?”

Bobby chuckled.  “You are in-freakin’-corrigible.”

“Not true. I am completely corrigible.  Just ask the guidance counselor at the last school I went to.  Think she gives her own sponge baths?”

“You're thinking of 'corruptible'.  Now go back to sleep, ya idjit, ‘fore you embarrass me.  Oh, wait: the officer asked if you were a fighter.  He noticed some stuff, said you either fought a lot or trained hard.  I told him you’d been boxing since you were a kid, Golden Gloves an’ all that.”

“M’kay.”  He was fading out again.  “Bobby?”

“Yeah.”

“Tell ‘em to dial down the opioids, ‘kay?”

Bobby chuckled.  “Will do, boy.  Just get some rest now.  I gotcha.”

Obediently, Dean slid back behind the wall of sleep.

 

Chapter Text


 

“Tell me about raising your boys.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, after Mary died, you had choices.  Did you look for a relative to take them?  Consider foster care?  You chose to keep them with you, even though you had to have known how difficult that would be.  Why?”

“I...I don’t know.  I wasn’t really thinkin’ too well at first.  Guess I couldn’t stand the thought of losing anyone else.”

 

That first night, crawling into a motel room as the sun came up, Sammy cryin’, probably needing a bottle or a clean diaper, Dean’s face so pale and somber in the weak sunlight.  Sitting on the floor, rocking Sammy in his lap, both of them crying, Dean looking so lost…

 

John realized that she was pressuring him with silence again, holding him ransom with it.  “I cried alot.”  He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.  “Sam’d cry, just a baby, needing things that babies need, and I would cry because Mary wasn’t there to help.”

“What about Dean?”

John closed his eyes, bit his lips.  “He was just...quiet.  He’d stand there and look at us like he was trying to figure out what to do.  Then one time he brought a bottle.  Don’t even know  how he figured out how to make one, ya know?  He was so fucking small, so young.  But he did it, and then he started taking Sam away from me, feeding him, changing him, while I fell apart….”

“Did it help?  Having Dean take over in caring for Sam?”

“Sometimes.”

“And other times?”

Shame crept up his throat.  “Sometimes it made me mad.”

She waited.

“He never asked for anything.  Never cried.  Didn’t seem to need me, ready at four to be…”

The shame had grown into a suffocating pressure.

“Ready to be a better parent than I was.”  The words forced themselves through, completing his humiliation.

She watched him.

He shifted again, lacing his fingers together, examining them closely.  Anything to avoid Caroline’s eyes.

“I knew he needed something, but I didn’t know what it was, or maybe it was that he expected me to be like I had been before, and I couldn’t...I wasn’t that guy any more.”

“What guy was that?”

Goddamn crying again.  When did I turn into such a fucking princess?  “We were buddies.  Played all the time.  Ball, wrestling, tickle fights, Legos.  Mary--” is voice choked to a stop, the pain still so sharp that it stole his breath.

The silence pressed on him, forcing its way down his throat, pushing past the grief to make him inhale.  

“She was so good about...about letting me be the fun parent.  She took care of the discipline, and the things that needed to be done to keep the boy healthy, and she played with him, too.  I’d helped with feeding and diapers when he was still in ‘em, but when he got this age, this fun age, she just--” his voice broke again, and he rubbed at his eyes impatiently.  “She told me that she loved watching us together, that nothing made her  happier than hearing the two of us laugh at each other.”

“So you were his buddy and his hero right from the start.”

John exploded to  his feet, chair slamming back into the wall that he turned to slam his forehead against.

“John--” Caroline stood, hand out.

He sobbed.  “I couldn’t...I couldn’t be his hero.  I couldn’t save his mom, I couldn’t hold him and let him cry, I couldn’t make him smile, I couldn’t….I couldn’t.”

There was nothing for Caroline to do but stand there and watch him weep.


 

She’d suggested they move to the garden.  “Before you leave, I’m going to give you some tools to use, alright?  Exercise, sleep, and sunshine are three important ones.  Let’s walk.”

Caroline’s garden was as comfortable as her home: beautiful, but not overly immaculate.  It invited touch, soothed with bright colors and warm scents.  Trees spread protective limbs and thick grass cushioned world-weary feet as they wandered, aimless yet full of purpose.

“Initially you felt that you were failing Dean, that you had lost your status as his hero.  What did you do to remedy that?”

John shrugged, inhaling deeply, face tipped up to bask in the warm afternoon sun.  “Only other type of hero I knew how to be was a soldier.  Figured I’d have to emulate my drill sergeant.  I couldn’t be Dean’s buddy anymore, not knowing how dangerous the world really is.  Figured I owed it to the kid to give him the best chance he’d have at just stayin’ alive.”

“So that was something you deliberately decided to do?”

John stopped, fingers caressing a particularly vibrant leaf.   “No, not really.  I wasn’t doin’ much thinkin’ then.  Just started to happen.”  He released the leaf, resumed his stroll.  “I was focused on learning about whatever killed Mary, and I kept learning about other things, too, and started training myself, going back to the drills I’d done as a marine.  Somehow Dean was just always there, so I started training him, too.”

They’d come to a bench.  “Let’s sit a moment.”  Caroline settled herself on one end of the bench, turning to face John.  “When someone loses a loved one to violence, it is normal for that person to try to feel somehow responsible, as if that death could have been prevented if only you had been better prepared.”  

John nodded.  “Sounds about right.”

“So, in that situation, people can become obsessed with trying to prevent something like that from happening again.  You couldn’t leave the boys with anyone else, because you were certain--and rightly so--that no one understood what you did about the dangers we face.  No one else would be able to protect them.”

“Yeah.”

“And yet you also did not feel capable of protecting your sons, because of what had happened to Mary.”

In answer, John hung his head.

“All of that is perfectly normal, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Here is where things start to go awry: Dean’s overly mature reaction emphasized your feelings of incompetence and helplessness.  Those are emotions that contribute to your sense of vulnerability to random acts of violence.  Fear of a loss that you are, at least in your mind, not competent enough to prevent, leads to anger.”

“And I turn that anger on Dean.”

“Yes.  He has come to symbolize your short-comings.  When you strike out at him, it’s really you that you are angry with.”

“Jesus.  That is all kinds of fucked up.”

“Yes, and it’s a cycle that perpetuates and amplifies.  The better he does, the worse you feel: inadequate to protect the ones you love.  You push yourself harder, you push Dean harder, desperate to keep all of you safe.  He rises to the challenge, and instead of feeling proud of both Dean and yourself, you relive the experience of being a helpless parent to an inappropriately competent child.  It builds until something triggers a violent reaction, and that trigger seems to be--”

“Fear for Sammy’s safety.”

“Yes.”

John wiped a hand down his face.  “Told you they were better off without me.”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying.  What I am saying is this: part of that sense of helplessness comes from feeling as if you have no control over certain aspects of your life.  You had no control over what happened to Mary, and there’s nothing we can do about that.  But you also feel that you weren’t given a choice in how to raise your sons.  The circumstances of your life dictated that.”  

She placed her hand lightly on John’s forearm.  “In our very first session we discussed the fact that choosing to pursue revenge has consequences.  Well, you never actively chose revenge.  From what you’ve told me, you didn’t sit down, think about  your options, weight the costs versus benefits, and decide that revenge was your best option.  The consequence of instinctively seeking revenge is that you sacrificed your ability to choose the course of your own life.  That absence of choice increases your sense of vulnerability.”


“I’m not going to let Mary’s killer go free.”

“No, and I wouldn’t ask you to.  But right now you need to sit down and think about that.  You have to weigh the pros and cons, examine what the potential outcomes might be, and deliberately choose whether to follow this path...or create a new one.”

She tugged at his sleeve.  “Look at me, John.”

Deep brown eyes met hers, swimming in hurt and hope.  “What you did to Dean was wrong. I know that you know that, and I know that you hate yourself for it.”  

Hurt overpowered hope to spill down his cheeks, but he held her gaze.

“But Dean loves you, and he needs you.  We can fix this, we can make sure that it never happens again, but not until we understand why it happened in the first place and remedy those mistakes.  This is the first one, the foundation for everything that followed.  So I am giving you an assignment: examine the course of revenge.  Take that first step in regaining control of your life, of moving towards a feeling of competence and confidence.  Choose the path that you will follow.”

Chapter Text


 

“Good afternoon, gentlemen.”

Dean took in the curvacious, dark-haired female and a slow smile curled his sensuous lips.

She was surprised to feel her chest tighten and a warm flush creep up her neck.  “I’m Dr. Kim, Dean.  I met your uncle earlier.”

The young man looked startled.  “I thought you were a nurse.”

“Here to give ‘im a sponge bath,” the unkempt older man added.

“Bobby!”  The young man’s cheeks flushed, emphasizing the green of his eyes.

He scrambles my brain this badly when he’s all beat up, can’t imagine what he’d do to me without the bruises.  She squared her shoulders.  “It’s a common mistake.  I’m actually your surgeon, and if all goes well, this will be the only time you’ll see me.”

His face actually fell, and she added, “As long as there are no surgical complications, you’ll be in the care of one of the staff physicians.”

“Okay.”  He sounded disappointed, and her heart rate sped up.

Get it together, Lynne!  This is not the first attractive patient you’ve had!

She reached for the controls on the bed.  “I need to lower this to take a look at your incision.  How are you feeling?”

“Hey, Doc?”  the older man queried.  When she looked over at him, he continued, “you mind if I step out?  All this medical stuff makes me a little queasy.”

There was something odd in his facial expression, and she flicked a glance at her patient in time to catch him giving his uncle a wide-eyed look while mouthing something.   What the hell is that all about?

“Yes, of course.  This shouldn’t take long.”

She finished lowering the bed to the sound of her patient’s moan.  “How are feeling, Dean?”

“Just peachy.”  He had his eyes closed.

“I’m going to take a look at your abdomen, alright?”

“Sure.”

She pulled the covers down, piling them on his lap, then unsnapped the right sleeve of his gown.  That allowed her to peel the garment up and over to his left side, leaving the right half of his torso exposed.

“The discoloration doesn’t seem to have spread,” she observed, running gentle fingertips over his skin.

Gooseflesh appeared and his nipple hardened.  He was nearly vibrating with tension, and had kept his eyes closed.

“Just relax.  I promise I’ll be gentle.”

In response he draped his left arm over his face, stifling a groan.

“How much pain are you in?”

She pressed gently around the bandage over his incision before moving out to palpate his abdomen.

The muscles there were thick ridges beneath her questing fingers.

“Not much,” he mumbled.

She moved up, coasting over his ribs.  The well-defined intercostal muscles served to emphasize the defect created by the fractures.  She probed carefully, concerned about internal bleeding from the jagged rib ends, and noticed his sharp inhale.

“I’m sorry.  I know that hurts.  I’m done now.” She stroked the smooth skin once before turning to the cart she’d brought in.  “I’m going to use an ultrasound machine to make sure your liver has stopped bleeding, and then I’ll change your bandage, alright?”

His body was tight, coated with a thin sheen of sweat.

“Dean?”

“Yeah?”  his voice was muffled by a well-muscled arm.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah.”

“Let me see your face, please.”

His arm slowly withdrew.

She pulled out a penlight.  “Eyes, please.”

They popped open obediently, and she was immersed in their seductive verdance.  

It was suddenly very difficult to breathe.

He licked his lips, and difficult escalated to impossible.

His pupils dilated.  “Doc?”

“I--Sorry.”  She leaned back away from him, breaking the spell.  “On a scale of one to ten, how is your pain?”

“Depends,” he said, voice low and a little rough, eyes following her.

“On?”

That lazy smile came back, and she bit her lip.  “What you plan on doing about it.”

She stepped back, bumping her cart.  “I...I can get you some...some morphine.”

He chuckled, and the sound resonated inside of her.  “I hate that stuff.  Makes me all fuzzy and uncoordinated.”

“So your pain is…?”

“Undetectable when you’re looking at me like that.”

She knew her cheeks were flaming, and there was nothing she could do about it.  “Um...let me...ultrasound.”  With shaking hands she reached for the bottle of lubricant, discomfort growing as she squeezed it onto his skin.  He was watching her, gaze so intent she could feel it, even with her own eyes deliberately averted.  She used the machine’s probe to spread the gel, then scanned carefully, stopping to record images that would allow the machine to calculate a volume.  “No significant increase in fluid.  Looks like you’re doing well.”

Steadfastly refusing to look at him, she dipped a soft cloth into the basin of warm water on the cart.  She ran it over his abdomen, gently removing the ultrasound gel, and felt his muscles tremble beneath her hand.

She swallowed, licking her lips, and had to physically turn her shoulders to force herself not to flick a glance towards the blankets piled over the man’s groin.

You are a professional!  Stop acting like a freaking school girl!

She pulled on a pair of sterile gloves.  “I’ll change your bandage now.”

His teeth caught his lower lip and he nodded, holding her gaze.

She reached for the bandage.   Stop shaking!  She peeled it away, doing her best to avoid hurting him.  He made no sound, but his respiratory rate increased.

She probed the wound gently.  He held himself very still.

She could feel him watching her.

“It looks good,” she announced, risking a glance at him, hungry for those green eyes yet afraid of being lost in them again.

He was still biting his lip, eyes burning.

She replaced the bandage, then reached for the edge of his gown.

He caught her wrist, grip firm and very warm.  “Thank you.  Your hands are amazing.”  He lowered his own, taking hers with it, until her palm rested on his sternum between the swell of his pectoral muscles.

He released her, and her fingers splayed of their own accord.  His heart beat strongly  under her palm, and she closed her eyes.  Nearly against her will that errant hand strayed, appreciating velvet skin over taut muscle, stopping when sensitive fingertips caught on the tight nub of a very masculine nipple, and his chest rose and fell rapidly.

She licked her lips, mouth suddenly very wet, and withdrew her hand.

“I have to go.”  Her voice was nearly unrecognizable.

“Will I get to see you again?”

I shouldn’t.  But she was single, and so was he, as far as she knew, and if he weren’t her patient, it would certainly be alright, so maybe….

She hurriedly jotted down her number.  

Without saying a word, she left.

 


 

“Mr. Kayser,” the detective held out his hand.  “Surprised to see you out here.”

Bobby grunted as he shook the man’s  hand.   Me, too.  “Doctor had to do stuff to ‘im.  Asked me to step out.”

“I see.”  He leaned against the wall next to Bobby.  “Guess I’d better wait then, too.  By the way, what university did you say your nephew is attending?”  

Bobby was saved from answering by the young female surgeon who exited the room, face flushed, barely glancing at them as she strode briskly down the hallway.

Bobby shook his head and sighed.  “Guess he’s feelin’ better.”

The detective shot him a quizzical look which Bobby cheerfully ignored.

Dean was snoring softly when they entered his room.  Bobby put a hand on one blanket-draped foot, shaking it lightly.  “Hey, kid. There’s a detective here wants to talk to ya.”

“You don’t have to--” the officer began, but Dean snorted his way to consciousness.

“Hey,” he mumbled, fumbling for the bed controls.  “Bobby, ya wanna?”  He gestured at the bed.

“Yeah, sure.”  

Dean winced as the bed hummed, raising him to a sitting position.  “Detective...ah...Hedley, right?”

The man held out his hand.  “Nice to meet you, Dean.”

Dean completed the ritual, mindful of the IV catheter in the back of his hand.  “My uncle told me you’re trying to figure out what happened.  I’m not pressing charges.”

The detective pulled a chair closer to the bed before seating himself in it.  “You almost died, son.  Why wouldn’t you press charges?”

“‘Cause it was my fault, and I agreed to it.  Who’m I gonna charge?  Myself?”

“You agreed to nearly being beaten to death?”

“Well... I mean...no, that’s not how it was worded, but--”

“How was it worded then, Dean?  Initiation?  Proving yourself?”

Dean looked away.

“You do realize that hazing is illegal, right?  That you yourself could be charged as an accomplice?”

“That’s enough,” Bobby stepped in.  “First of all, we all know you can’t charge him with jack, and second, even if you could, no jury would lookit what happened to him and think he deserved even more punishment.”

The detective sighed.  “Look, son, we been battling hazing in this town for a long time.  It’s a serious problem.  Kids get hurt, emotionally traumatized, and even killed over this kind of thing every year.  You want to sit back and allow all of this to happen to somebody else?  Or you want to step up and help put an end to it?”

“Ain’t gonna happen to anyone else.  This was just me.”

“Right.” Hedley’s voice was ugly with disdain.

“It wasn’t hazing,” Dean offered.  “I slept with a brother’s chic.  He found out.  There’s consequences, and I knew it.  I had it comin’.”

“Which house?  Which fraternity?”

Dean looked away.

“What university are you enrolled at?”

More silence.

The detective snapped his notebook closed, standing to loom over the injured man.  “You’re an idiot.  Protecting someone who came very close to killing you over, what?  Some out-dated code of honor?  So this guy gets to walk around thinking that what he did to you is okay, that it’s an acceptable way to settle a dispute.  And you’re okay with that?  With letting a violent sociopath roam around, doing who knows what to people?”

Dean kept his eyes averted and held his silence.  

The officer turned to Bobby.  “And you--you’re just going to let your nephew do this?”

Bobby bridled.  “I don’t ‘let’ Dean do anything.  He’s an adult, he makes his own decisions.  ‘Sides, whadda you expect me to do, beat it out of him?”  His sarcasm was acerbic.

The two men stood, each with their hands on their hips, glaring at each other over Dean’s recumbent form.  

Eventually the detective shook his head, disgusted.  “Someone else is going to end up in the hospital--or the morgue.  And that’s gonna be on you.”  He spat the words at Dean before turning to stride from the room, back stiff with anger.

The two men watched until the last reverberation of the slamming door faded away.  Then they looked at each other and grinned.  

“Nice job,”  Bobby offered.

“You, too, Mr. Kayser.”

Bobby sat.  “So...How you feelin’?”

“Damn, Bobby.  That surgeon--”

“Not what I was askin’, Dean.”

The young man grinned wolfishly.  “Pretty sure I could go any time now.  Got her number.”

Bobby snorted, shaking his head.  “How about if we wait and see if you can hold some food down?  You do that, and we can talk about gettin’ ya outta here.”

“Fair enough.”  He lapsed into silence, face pensive.

“You wonderin’ about yer old man, ain’t ya?”

Dean licked his lips.

“Caroline’s workin’ on him.”

“What’s that mean?”

Bobby shook  his head.  “Dean, he ‘bout killed you.  That ain’t normal, alright?”

Dean fought to control his temper.  “He’s gotta...It’s not like I didn’t know , Bobby.”

“What the hell are you talkin’ about, boy?”

“I know how he is about me leavin’ Sammy alone.  I knew what would happen if he found out, and I did it anyway.  It’s nobody’s fault but my own.”

“Jesus Christ!”  Bobby was back on his feet, pacing.  “How are you so goddamned brainwashed?”

“I’m not!  That’s his big rule, everybody fuckin’ knows it, I know it--”

“Dean, lemme ask you this,”  Bobby stormed back over to the bedside and gripped the railing hard.  “If yer pop had left Sam with me, and you stopped in and found Sam home alone, would you beat my ass next time you saw me?”

Dean scowled.  “Jesus, Bobby.  Of course not.  That’s nuts.”

“And why is that nuts?”

“Because…” he struggled to find a reason that didn’t also apply to himself.  “I’m younger than you.  You’re the authority figure here.”

“So would yer dad have the right to beat my ass?”

That silenced him.  “I...Well...Did something happen to Sam?  In your scenario, did he disappear or get hurt or something?”

“Let’s say he ran away, like he did with you.  If you found your dad beatin’ the ever livin’ hell outta me, would you just let ‘im, ‘cause I deserved it?  I knew the rule and I ignored it, figuring a seventeen-year-old kid didn’t need a fuckin’ baby-sitter.  What would you do, Dean?”

Dean tried to imagine that.   His father and Bobby had some pretty heated arguments every now and then.  Bobby’d threatened his father more than once, usually for something John had done to Dean.  But would Dean step in?  Would he stop John if his father was hurting Bobby?

“I don’t know, Bobby.  I don’t know.”

“He ain’t a god, you know.  He makes mistakes.”

Dean shook his head.  “Not about big things.  Important things.”

“I know you think you gotta believe that, ‘cause somehow it makes you feel safer, but you’re wrong, Dean.”

Dean had had enough.  “And what exactly is it that you want me to do, Bobby?” he exploded.  “You keep bringin’ this shit up, over and over again, and it’s too late, it’s already been done, and what do you want me to do, huh?  You want me to tell the man to fuck off?  Want me to throw a fist at his face?  Run off with Sammy?  Just what the fuck are you tryin’ to get me to do?”  In his distress he’d tried to sit up, lean forward, and now he groaned, pressing a  hand to his side as the color drained from his face.  “Son of a bitch.”  He exhaled, leaning back.  Sweat broke out on his forehead.

Bobby’s face was creased with concern.  “Relax, Dean. Relax.”  He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and gently dabbed at the boy’s brow.  

Dean closed his eyes, panting.

“You need more pain meds?  I’ll call the nurse…”

“No.  Fuckin’ hate morphine.  Just gimme a minute.”

Bobby stood by-- Hovering -- watching with pained regret as the young hunter consciously brought his physical distress under control.  

Eventually the color returned to his face and the tension left his torso.  Dean swallowed audibly before clearing his throat.  “Maybe...maybe I oughta stay one more night.”

“Good plan, genius.”  Bobby stroked the cloth repeatedly over Dean’s forehead.  “I don’t know what I want from you, kid.”  His voice was soft, the gruffness gone.  “I just… I don’t want this to ever happen to you again.”

“Me, either,” Dean admitted.  “So what’s this Caroline person doin’ again?”  He had his eyes closed, and his breathing was still a little rapid.

“She’s helpin’ him figure out how to control his temper.”

“But he’ll still train me?  Still be tough as hell, ganking monsters most hunters avoid?  Still…”   be a hero.

“Yeah.  He’ll still be all a’ that.”

“You promise, Bobby?”  and his voice was small.

Bobby felt the boy’s hand slide over to his, and he gripped it tightly.  “I promise, kid.”

 

Chapter Text


“So, have you completed your assignment?”  Caroline set two cut glass tumblers on the table.

“Yeah.”  He opened his journal.  “I worked it out like an algorithm.  Took me hours.”  He studied the page as if it had been written by someone else.

“And?”

“And….I could lose them.  You said to weigh the pros and cons, and that’s...that’s one of the cons: I could lose my boys.”

Caroline had located another bottle of Branton’s, and she poured them each a glass.

John ignored his.  “I could...I could let ‘em go.  Let Sam go to college, let Dean do...whatever it is that he wants to do.  And I could keep huntin’ myself, or I could stop….”

He was smoothing the open pages of the journal repetitively, like petting a cat.

“But it feels like…”  His voice broke.  I am so fucking tired of crying.  “Like I’d be letting Mary die.  Like as long as I’m looking for this thing that...that killed her...then she’s not really dead, like she could still be out there, still come back, if I just get rid of this thing…”

His breathing was uneven.

He stroked the pages.

Caroline waited.

“I know that’s not gonna happen.”  His voice was a whisper.  “I know she’s...she’s gone.  But I still can’t...I still gotta kill that thing.  For her, I gotta do it.”

“So, just to be clear, you’re choosing revenge for Mary’s death over the possibility of losing both of your sons?”

He swiped angrily at his face, refusing to look at her.  “Makes me some kind of asshole, right?”

His admission echoed in the stillness.

“I’ll do everything I can to protect them.  I will.  Teach ‘em, make ‘em strong.  And if they wanna leave, they can.  I won’t make it easy, won’t help ‘em desert their mother, but I won’t force ‘em to stay.  To be hunters.”

He emptied his glass in one swallow.

Caroline refilled it.

Callused fingers scraped worn paper.

“She was mine first, you know?”  His voice had faded to a rough whisper.

Caroline tilted her head in acknowledgement, an unnecessary gesture, as John had not bothered to look to see how she responded.

“She was my wife before she was their mother.  I love my boys, I do, and I’m proud of ‘em...but she came first.  Mary comes first.”

He looked up, eyes dry.

“That’s my choice.”



“Hey, Mother.  I’m home.”

“Zellynnexia, my child,” full lips brushed across Dr. Kim’s forehead, then pulled away abruptly.  “What is it, ‘Lynnexia?”

Lynne draped her purse and coat over the back of a chair before dropping into a seat at the table.  “I met someone…”

“Show me.”  Her mother rested long, elegant fingers on Lynne’s forearm.

Both women closed their eyes.

 

Her fingers splayed of their own accord.  His heart beat strongly  under her palm, and she closed her eyes.  Nearly against her will that errant hand strayed, appreciating velvet skin over taut muscle--

 

“Winchester,” the older female breathed, breaking contact.

“You know him?”

“Dean Winchester.  He’s a hunter.  We have been looking for him.”


“Just ‘cause they pulled the catheter out of yer dick don’t mean ya gotta leave tonight,” Bobby argued. “They left the IV catheter in your hand for a reason.”

“Yeah, whatever.”  Dean promptly yanked said IV out.  “Help me up.”

“Fer what?”  A rough palm pressed Dean back into the mattress.  “Ya fergit what happened a couple hours ago when you tried to sit up?  Use the bed, ya idjit.”  He pressed a button on the controller, and a mechanical hum carried Dean into a sitting position.

“I gotta take a piss, alright, Bobby?  And I am not callin’ a nurse who’ll just bring me a damned bedpan!”   I’ve taken about as much humiliation as I can stand for one week.

“Well, just calm down and take it easy. Lemme help.”

“I been handlin’ this on my own since I was three.  Pretty sure I got it.”  He moved to swing his legs off the bed and hissed in pain, forearm pressing to his side.

Bobby lowered the bed rail, then stood, waiting.

“Fuckin’ hate broken ribs,” Dean mumbled.  He closed his eyes, his entire being focused on breathing, on fighting back the blackness that taunted him with the promise of oblivion.

When he opened his eyes again, Bobby was ready.  Dean made no objection as the older man helped him to his feet, then slid his arm around Dean’s waist, hand curling over his right hip, holding the injured man as he swayed.  

The stubborn young hunter, face deathly pale once more, closed his eyes, swallowing convulsively.

Bobby had done this dance with Dean before.  “I got nowhere else to be, kid.  Take all the time ya need.”

“Better move before my feet freeze to the damned floor,” Dean groused.  “Why are hospitals always so fuckin’ cold?”

“To keep half-naked assholes like you in bed where they belong!” Bobby grunted in reply.

They shuffled across the floor, Dean steadily taking more of his own weight, until they reached the bathroom.

“You got this?”  Bobby queried.  “‘Cause if not, well, wouldn’t be the first time I--”

“Bobby, if you don’t stop bringin’ up that time I got wasted as a twelve-year-old and you had to hold my dick for me so I wouldn’t piss all over myself, I swear to God--”

Bobby chuckled.  “Needed a tweezers and a magnifyin’ glass--”

“When I’m healed, I’m beatin’ your ass.”

“Yeah, well, first step is ta piss without fallin’ on your ass.  Get to it, boy.”

He patted Dean lightly on the shoulder, and felt the man flinch.

He winced himself before pulling the door part way closed and turning his back to it.  “I’ll be right here.  Try to call me before ya fall, not after, okay?”

Dean pinned the front of the hospital gown under the hand that he had planted on the edge of the sink.   He’s not listening, he tried to tell his bladder, knowing full well that his old friend sure as hell was listening--listening for the sound of Dean passing out and crashing to the floor.  He closed his eyes, concentrating-- relax, just relax -- and was rewarded with a sharp sting that quickly faded as his raw urethra rid itself of the last reminder of its own personal torture.  Fuckin’ hate catheters.

He sighed as  his bladder emptied.   Now all I gotta do is eat without hurlin’, and I can go ho--well, I can leave here.

He washed and dried his hands without ever once meeting his own eyes in the mirror.


“What makes Dean Winchester so special?”  Why were you looking for him, and why did he have such a strong effect on me?

We created him, child.  “Dean Winchester is part of the reason that we were exiled.”  Meridiana rested her fingertips on Zellynnexia’s forearm.  Mother and daughter closed their eyes.

 

“It doesn’t have to be this way!” Meridiana stared down at the dead man, disgust a blight on her otherwise perfect features.  “We can live as symbionts rather than parasites, create a new race, Nephilim that will be strong enough to--”

“Stop!”  Irdulili’s thunder shook the ground.  “Nephilim.”  He spat lightning at Meridiana’s feet, and his disgust at the word approximated hers of the dead man.  “Offspring of ‘sons of God’ and ‘daughters of man’.  Are we?  Are we sons of God?”  Thunder roared as he bore down on her, and despite  herself, Meridiana felt her heart tremble.  “God lays no such claim.  He has forsaken us.  We are demons, Daughter!  And demons do not serve man!”  His voice had risen to a mind-numbing howl, and she cowered before him.

He froze.  Meridiana looked up, and in the sudden terrifying stillness, she realized that he had just seen what she had done.  “Cambion,”  he uttered, voice a bare rumble.

She inched backward.  “Father….”

He started enlarging before her eyes.  “Cambion,” and his volume was growing as well.

She began to retreat in earnest.  “No, Father, let me explain!”

He had doubled in size, a roiling black cloud of malevolence that threatened to devour her.  “CAMBION!”

His arm lashed out and a streak of lightning split her in two.

 

The contact was broken and the two females opened their eyes.

“Mother!  You created a cambion?”  Lynne’s voice was breathless with disbelief.

“No.  That’s what I had wanted to explain to your grandfather, but he was too incensed to listen.  We--myself and some like-minded ‘Cubi--we influenced a man and a woman to come together.  She came from a long line of Hunters, he from a similarly long ancestry of Men of Letters.  The two most powerful lines among the humans, those best equipped to battle Darkness.”

“Influenced?”

“We went to them in dreams, disguised as the other.  Mary dreamt of John, John of Mary, before they ever met.”

“And?”

Meridiana smiled.  “And when they came together, we...we introduced just a touch of ‘Cubi.  We ensured that the child that was conceived by these two powerful humans would have the added strength, physical resilience, and seductive powers of a ‘Cubi.”

“Mother!”  Lynne breathed, awed.

 

“The child we created is Dean Winchester.”




Chapter Text




“Alright, you’ve taken a very important step towards regaining control of your life: you’ve made the choice.  Life is no longer controlling you; you are now in charge of your own life.  How does that feel?”

“Like I’m wasting my time here, and need to get back out there, hunting things,” John growled, and for the first time Caroline felt the danger emanating off of the man.

“Understood, but we’re not quite done yet.  We still need to identify the things that you would like to change in how you’ve been interacting with your sons--and the things that you want to keep the same.”

“Fine.  Let’s get it done.”

Caroline inhaled deeply, held it, then released it slowly.  “Two sons, two very different approaches to them.  Roughly we need to make certain that you don’t drive Sam away, but, more importantly, we need to make absolutely certain that you never brutalize Dean again.  Or Sam, for that matter.”

“I told you: I’ve never hit Sam.”

She cocked her head in an inquisitive motion that bizarrely reminded John of a small bird.  “Why is that, do you suppose?”

He rolled his eyes.   I am so ready to be done with this.  “He’s Sam.  We protect him, we don’t hurt him.”

“Why Sam, though?  Why does that not apply to Dean?”

“Because Sam’s the baby.  Dean and I both  protect him.”

“John, I’ve never met Sam, but Bobby’s told me about him.  He’s seventeen-years-old and, what, six feet tall?”

John shrugged.

“He’s been hunting with you for at least five years, correct?”

“Yeah.”

“So he’s hardly a baby.”

John shifted uncomfortably, making the wooden chair creak.

“This is another common reaction to experiencing random violence: you’re locked into the pattern that was established during that incident: you and Dean, protecting Sam.”

John sighed, expelling irritation.

“I realize that this is starting to sound like a broken record, but there are things that your  mind does, John.  They are subconscious reactions that are meant to protect you in the short-term, but in a perfect world, the conscious mind analyzes and adapts for a sustainable long-term solution.  When we sublimate rather than cope, that integration between subconscious and conscious doesn’t occur, and we get trapped in a defensive phase that was never meant to continue.”

John shifted again.   Startin’ to feel like a kid in the principal’s office.   “Alright, so what do I have to do?”

Caroline shook her head.  “There’s no short-term solution that I know of.  Cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, those are the traditional methods of assisting people who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.   Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a newer, controversial therapy that may work more quickly, but I don’t know of anyone who is practicing it at this time.”

“I ain’t sitting around with...I won’t do group therapy.”

“Understood.”

“How long’s this cognitive behavioral thing take?”

“It varies.  I typically start with twice weekly therapy sessions.  With civilians that can continue for months before both the client and I are comfortably decreasing to once weekly, then twice monthly sessions.  From hunters I take what I can get when I can get it.”

John smiled grimly.  “Sounds like Dean.”

Caroline looked startled, then laughed.  “Well...yes, I suppose that could be a double entendre.”

“So obviously I fall into the ‘hunter’ category.  How we gonna play this?”

“I still want to have a list of specific behaviors or interactions with each son that you would like to change, and a plan for how to do that.  Then I’ll give you some tools for helping to manage your anger and recognize the signs that indicate that an incident may be imminent.  Finally, I’m going to assign you some reading and writing exercises.”

John groaned.  “Did I tell you I  hated school?  Particularly English classes?”

Caroline smiled, patting his hand.  “Consider it retribution.”

Level eyes met hers.  “Fair enough.”




Meridiana cupped her daughter’s chin in her hands, forcing the young woman to meet her gaze.  “You need to collect him.”

Zellynnexia shot to her feet.  “Mother, I can’t!  He’s too...I won’t be able to control it!  I’ll either drain him, or lose myself!”

“Shush, child,” Meridiana soothed.  “Just sit, and listen to me.  There is something coming, something bad.  An apocalypse of some sort.  We can’t fight it alone--we are too few, and reproduction has been forbidden us.  If my father discovers that anyone has created a true cambion would bring death to all involved.”

She paused, assessing the beautiful, intelligent, strong being before her.  “But Dean Winchester...genetics from two powerful lines of humans...if we collect him, combine just a bit of ‘Cubi, then implant that seed into carefully chosen humans--hunters--the offspring won’t be cambion.  They will be humans.  Enhanced humans, stronger, able to heal more quickly, harder to kill...and with an increased seductive ability that ensures the continuation of what we have wrought.”

“The symbiosis you tried to tell Grandfather about?”

“Precisely.  We feed on  human sexual energy without draining them, and in return we heal them and create a stronger line of humans that are better prepared to stand beside us in the coming storm.”

“And we increase their attractiveness as well as their sexual cravings.”

Meridiana smiled lasciviously.  “Well, it is a mutually advantageous interaction, after all.”

Lynne lowered her head.  “I am afraid.”

Meridiana stroked her daughter’s hair.  “Of what, my child?”

“Grandfather… but also Dean.  I... I’ve never felt what I did with him.  I don’t know if I can control it.  What if I can’t stop in time?”

“I’ll be with you, child.  I can remove you should the need arise.”

“And Grandfather?  What if he finds out?”

“We will just have to be certain that he doesn’t.”

“How, Mother?  He’s practically a god--”

“Practically.  Not actually.  He is not omnipotent.”

“But he must be watching you, watching Dean…”

“His powers of observation are very limited, Zellynnexia.  When he struck me, sundered me in two, he severed our telepathic connection.  I am cut off from all but those I have chosen to bond with.  He can only observe me as a human would.”

“And Dean?”

“The same.  Irdulili’s only connection to the child was through me.  In expelling me, he freed us all.”

Lynne sighed, resignation softening her spine.

“What of the other man?  Dean’s uncle?  I’m certain he won’t leave his nephew’s bedside, and it will take my full concentration to remain in control while I...collect him.”

“He has an uncle?  Show me.”

The telepathic connection was made, and a very warm smile graced Meridiana’s elegant features.  “Bobby Singer.”

“You know him?  Another hunter?  Did you….”

Meridiana’s gaze softened, lost in memory.  “I used to feed on him, long ago, before he was married.  Before he became a hunter.  Beautiful man.  Strong mind.”  She brushed a strand of hair from her daughter’s cheek.  “It will be a pleasure to distract him for you.”

Lynne shook her head, smiling.  “Just don’t become distracted yourself, Mother.  I’m serious about my fear of Dean Winchester.”

Meridiana laughed, a hearty, beautiful sound.  “I’ve had centuries to practice my self-control.  You’ll be fine.”

 


 

“Ya shouldn’ta pulled the damn catheter out, ya idjit,” Bobby admonished, gruff tone only emphasizing his concern.

Dean had pushed  his food tray to the side with a decidedly nauseous expression, leaving even the pudding untouched.  “‘S not pain, Bobby, I jus’ feel like I’m gonna hurl.  Probably from too many pain meds.”

Bobby rolled his eyes.  “I call ‘bullshit’ on that one, Winchester.”

“I concur,” the physician at Dean’s bedside offered.  He held Dean’s chart in his hands.  “Your heart rate and blood pressure have been increasing steadily throughout the afternoon.”  He paused as the nurse removed the blood pressure cuff from his patient’s arm and rattled off some numbers, none of which meant a thing to the patient they were discussing.  “And now they are higher still.  Your respiratory rate is increased as well.”  To the nurse he added in an undertone,  “I knew they should’ve plated his ribs.”

The nurse shrugged, a silent, “I agree, but whattaya gonna do?”.

The doctor sighed.  “We can either replace the IV catheter or give you intramuscular injections.  I’m not confident that you’ll be able to keep oral medications down long enough for them to do any good.  What’s your preference?  I don’t want to waste time inserting a catheter if you’re just going to pull it out again as soon as we leave the room.”

Dean swallowed convulsively. His chest rose and fell in rapid, shallow breaths, and the tension was clearly visible in the lines of his face.  “How long?”  His eyes were closed, voice pain-roughened.

“How long for what?”

“How long am I gonna--” he broke off, swallowing hard, hand rising to cover his mouth.

The nurse bent forward quickly, holding an emesis basin under his patient’s lips, ready to help the man turn onto his side should he lose the battle against his nausea.

Dean’s jaw clenched and he held his breath, sweat beading along his hairline.

Bobby took hold of his wrist, pressing his thumb firmly into a pressure point there.  “‘S’posed to help with nausea,” he offered to his audience of medical personnel.  “Eastern medicine, acupressure stuff.  Lived in Japan for a while.”

Dean’s chest began to move again, and he slowly relaxed.  “How long am I gonna feel this way?”

“Given the extent of damage, I expect the nausea to be fairly severe for three or four days, and persist for at least a week.  Pain is harder to predict; everyone’s a bit different.  At least two weeks, I would think.  Maybe longer.  You should be able to switch to oral medications in two or three days.”

The lines in the young man’s face deepened.  “Son of a bitch.”  He licked his lips.  “IV,” he conceded, and the physician patted his shin through the blankets.

“Good choice.”

 




“I’ll give you one more day, Doc,” John conceded.

Caroline nodded.  “Alright.  As I said, I’ll take what I can get.  One more day, and then you can go.”  She sighed.  I hope for Dean’s sake that his father is ready.

 

Chapter Text



One IV catheter, an anti-nausea injection, and  a shot of morphine later, Dean was beginning to drift.  

“How are you feeling, Dean?” the physician asked.

“You’re not Dr. Kim, and I ain’t usu’lly into guys, but if I could move righ’ now, I think I’d kiss you, Doc.”

Bobby chuckled.  “Guess that means he’s feelin’ pretty good, and for once the ass is grateful for it.”

The doctor smiled.  “I know it’s important to be tough, Dean, but it’s ridiculous to put yourself through that kind of pain when you don’t have to.”

Dean smiled lazily.  “Jus’ tryin’a get outta here.  No ‘fense, but I don’ like ‘ospitals mush.”

Bobby patted his hand, hoping to stop the unfiltered chatter before the wrong words leaked out.  “Nobody does, boy.  Go to sleep.  You’ll feel better in the mornin’.”

Dr. Garby took the hint.  “He’s right, Dean.  Just close your eyes and get some rest, okay?  We’ll talk more about getting you out of here tomorrow.”

“Mm-kay.”  He closed his eyes obediently.  A Mona Lisa smile ghosted the corners of his mouth as he floated on morphine-induced memories from earlier in the day.

 



“Good afternoon, gentlemen.”

Dean took in the curvaceous, dark-haired female.   By God, it’s a true Busty Asian Beauty!  Hope she’s here to give me a sponge bath. He felt that slow smile that women couldn’t seem to resist break out over his face.

“I’m Dr. Kim, Dean.  I met your uncle earlier.”

Oh, shit!  She’s a doctor!   Panic danced in his chest.  “I thought you were a nurse.”  Nurses usually liked him.  They were kind, and did things to make him feel better, and brought him food.  Doctors...doctors were frightening.  They gave him orders and made him stay in bed and eat disgusting things and wouldn’t let him have pie, and they did things that hurt or ordered other people to stick things in him, and they wanted to look at and touch things they shouldn’t, and he just had to let them, because it was supposedly good for him.  Doctors were terrifying.

“Here to give ‘im a sponge bath,” Bobby told her, and Dean could’ve killed him.

“Bobby!”  He widened his eyes, trying to tell the older man to shut his trap.

“It’s a common mistake.  I’m actually your surgeon, and if all goes well, this will be the only time you’ll see me.”  She sounded irritated.

Oh, shit.  I am so screwed.

“As long as there are no surgical complications, you’ll be in the care of one of the staff physicians,” she added, and her voice had softened.

“Okay.”  He tried not to sound as relieved as he felt.

She reached for the controls on the bed.  “I need to lower this to take a look at your incision.  How are you feeling?”

Oh, crap!  She was going to have to partially undress him, and she’d be touching him, and damn, she was so hot, and he could only imagine how pissed she’d be if his body responded the way he was sure it would….

“Hey, Doc?”  Bobby queried.  Dean knew right away what Bobby was doing, and he widened his eyes, mouthing, “Don’t you dare leave!  No!”

But Bobby just continued, “You mind if I step out?  All this medical stuff makes me a little queasy,”  and the look in his eyes was sheer mirth.

Oh, you son of a bitch!  I will get you for this!

“Yes, of course.  This shouldn’t take long.”

She leaned forward slightly, manipulating the controls on the bed, and the v-neck of her scrub top gaped open.  His eyes traced the swell of one beautifully shaped breast to where it disappeared into the cup of her bra, and he groaned.  Little Dean was awake.

“How are you feeling, Dean?”

“Just peachy.”  He closed his eyes.   Go back to sleep, you little bastard!  I’m in charge here!

“I’m going to take a look at your abdomen, alright?”

Oh, hell. This is so bad. “Sure.”   Boy, if you ever want to come out and  play again, you will damned well go back to sleep now, before she finds you and rips you right off!  You hear me?

She pulled the covers down, piling them on his lap, then unsnapped the right sleeve of his gown.  That allowed her to peel the garment up and over to his left side, leaving the right half of his torso exposed.

“The discoloration doesn’t seem to have spread,” she observed, running the pads of her velvety soft fingers over his skin.

Little Dean lept to attention, and it was all Big Dean could do not to groan in a flood of embarrassment and apprehension.   Please don’t let her notice!

He felt gooseflesh develop as his nipple hardened, and resolutely kept his eyes closed.   Think about ghouls.  Stinky, nasty, chunks-of-flesh-falling-off ghouls….

“Just relax.  I promise I’ll be gentle.”

His rock-hard dick jumped again, heavy blankets be damned, and he draped his left arm over his face, stifling a groan.

“How much pain are you in?”

Her fingers were warm and sure as they traveled over his abdomen, and he begged his body to ignore how good it felt.   Think about pain.  How do those ribs really feel, Little Dean?

 


 

 

The memory transitioned seamlessly  into a dream, with the dreamer himself unaware of having drifted off to sleep.

 

“Let’s see what you’re hiding under there, Dean.”  She stripped the blankets from him, and his heart chittered frantically in his chest.   She’s gonna see, and be so angry!

Suddenly his hospital gown was gone, and his body was tight, coated with a thin sheen of sweat, eyes squeezed tightly closed, braced for some sort of punishment.

“Dean?”

“Yeah?”  The air was cool on his skin.

“Open your eyes.”  Her voice held a quiet but undeniable authority, and his eyelids popped open obediently.

She was nude, skin glowing silver in the insubstantial fluorescence of the hospital monitors, and she was all soft curves and smooth skin and he wanted so badly to touch her, run calloused palms that were accustomed to rough over something breathtakingly tender, but he couldn’t move, no matter how hard he tried.

He drank her in, and he knew that his eyes were wide, that his expression was exactly like a little kid on Christmas morning, staring at a tree piled high with gifts and a stocking overflowing with candy, because that was how he felt.  She was perfect, her breasts round and heavy, waist narrowing to the flare of luscious hips, so out of his league that he couldn’t believe she was gifting him with this, giving herself to him  --

Suddenly she was straddling him, swollen and hot, poised over his aching erection, and her fingers slid over his chest, his abdomen, awakening every nerve ending that she touched.  He moaned, straining to reach her, to press his hips into hers, raise his lips to taste her honey-scented skin, his hands to sculpt rounded flesh, but his body wouldn’t obey.

Her mouth followed her hands, lips, tongue, and teeth exploring him, torturing him with pleasure until he was burning with it, every cell begging for her to engulf him, possess him, make him her own.

“Please...please.” But he didn’t even know what he was pleading for, only that his entire body was aching with desire, straining to reach her, and her mouth covered his, sucking his tongue into its wet heat at the same time that she lowered her hips, impaling her body on his engorged cock, surrounding and saturating him with molten velvet that tore his breath from him in a hoarse shout, and there was nothing but raw pleasure, exquisite in its totality, exploding out from him in a blinding flash of white light, wiping his mind clear of thought and his consciousness free of any sensation other than bliss.

His body broke free of its paralysis, curling into her, arms wrapping tightly around her back to grip her shoulders, pulling her closer as he drove upward in an instinctive need to exist in this ecstasy for all of eternity.

 


 

“Zellynnexia!”

The syllables crashed through his awareness, bliss splintering around him, and she was gone.

  


 

 

She knelt on her bedroom floor, unaware of her breathless moans as her own bliss rolled through her, blinding and deafening her to anything but this soul-encompassing pleasure --

It released her, and she collapsed into her mother’s arms, boneless and warm, the residue of her orgasm echoing in her joints and tingling along her skin.

“Are you alright?”

Her mother’s voice was tender, and Lynne smiled, even as a shudder ran through her.  “I  couldn’t control it.”

“No...I’m sorry.  He is more dangerous than I thought.”

“Did he...did he break through?  Did he touch me?”

“Yes.”  Her voice was light with the wonder of it.  “He moved.  I had been taught that such a thing was not possible for a  human, but he moved.”

“Momma,” she whispered, and despite the danger she had been in, she felt nothing but joy and gratitude, “I’m glad you were there.”

“As am I, child.  As am I.”

 

Chapter Text


 

The unconscious smile faded from Bobby’s face as awareness dawned with the new day.  He glanced down at himself, shifted uncomfortably, then slanted his eyes at Dean.  Noting the young man’s state of deep sleep, the increasingly irritated older man pinched the front of his jeans between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, grimacing as he simultaneously pulled on the fabric while wriggling his hips.  The memory of his dream was fresh and hot in his mind, multiplying his ire as he immediately recognized its source.  “Damned succubus,” he muttered darkly, shifting a look back to his younger, normally-irresistible-to-females friend.  “What the hell’d it want with me?”  He tugged the edge of his flannel down over the front of his pants.  “I’m too old for this crap!”

His lip curled in disgust at the sensation of drying cloth against his groin as he rose to check on his fellow hunter.  

“Huh,” he observed.  “Ain’t never seen you sleep this deep ‘afore.”  He rested his palms on the bed rail, expectant.   Kid’s got a third freakin’ eye.  He never sleeps through havin’ someone stare at him like this.   It had been one of Sam’s favorite ways to torment his older brother when they were both young.   Hell, prob’ly still is.

Bobby’s vague sense of unease grew with each slow, insensate breath the young hunter took.

“What the  hell?” he grumbled.  He turned and scanned the monitors.  Lights were flashing, and he realized that no one had noticed the modification he’d made to the audible alarms the day before.  “Shit!”  He fumbled for the controls strapped to the railing, pressing the ‘Call’ button before hurrying from the room, a tightly controlled “Nurse!” reverberating loudly in the narrow corridor.

 

 


 

 

“I really don’t know,” Dr. Garby admitted, shaking his head.  He raised his eyes from his silent patient.  “Your nephew’s in a coma, Mr. Kayser.  We performed a CT scan of his entire body, then followed up with an MRI just to be certain.  We can’t find a cause.  In fact,” and his brows furrowed as his confusion surfaced, “his ribs, liver, and kidney all look...healed.”  He rubbed at his jawline firmly as he shook his head.  “I’ve sent off some advanced  blood chemistries, including toxin screening and quantification of his opioid levels in case we inadvertently overdosed him, but if all of that comes back within the normal range, I’ll be at a loss for an explanation  here.”

Bobby’s combined sensations of nausea and dread had grown with each revelation from the concerned physician.   Succubus.  Or Succubi.  Hell, could even’a been an Incubus, really.  ‘Cubi of some sort, anyway.  Got us both.  But why?

“I’m very sorry, Mr. Kayser.  I don’t know what to say.”

Bobby shook himself back into character.  “‘S okay, Doc.  Sounds like ya done all ya could.  Guess it’s in the Good Lord’s hands now.”  Like that douchebag ever comes through for us.

“He is stable for now, at least.  I’m going to make some phone calls and scour the medical journals while we wait for the test results to come back.  The staff knows to alert me to any changes immediately.”  He rose, moving toward the door, only to turn back a few steps from the bed.  “Oh, and Mr. Kayser?”

Bobby looked up.  “Yuh?”

“Please don’t touch the monitors.”

The chagrined hunter nodded, that unfamiliar sense of having been justly chastised bleeding into his voice.  “Yes, sir.”

The room emptied, and the tired old man allowed his shoulders to droop as he scanned the supine figure on the bed before him.  Frustration amplified by worry had him balancing on the edge of despair.  “What the hell is goin’ on now, Kid?”

 



“Robert.  How is Dean?”

“Tha’s what I called about, Caroline.  There’s somethin’ goin’ on here, and I...I need Winchester.”

He’ given me this one last day, Bobby, and I’m honestly not certain that it will be enough.  Can this wait?”

Bobby tipped his head back on a long, contemplative, and soul-weary sigh.  What’s gonna kill him first?  A damned succubus, or his old man?  The grizzled hunter shook his head.  “Lord knows I don’t wanna interfere with what yer doin’ -- Hell, I’d be  happy to never be in the same state as that bastard ever again -- but this can’t wait, and I got no one else to call.”  He lifted his ballcap, raking the last three fingers of the same hand through his hair before settling the symbol of his identity firmly in place.  “I need ‘im, Caroline.”

He heard his reservations echoed in her sigh.  “Alright.  I’ll get him.”

Seconds later a familiar voice filled his ear.  “Bobby.  What’s happening?  How’s Dean?  Where’s Sam?”

Bobby glowered at the phone.   Bastard ain’t made any progress at all.  “Hold yer horses, there, Winchester.  Sam’s in Flagstaff, just like Dean thought.  Rufus is watchin’ ‘im.  Dean --”  the hitch in his voice surprised him.  Bobby coughed to cover it up.  “Dean’s in a coma.”  He lowered his voice, turning away from the bed.  “Pretty sure a Succubus got him.”

“A what?  Where the hell is  he?  Where are you?”  There was a brief pause as the fierce hunter’s agile brain caught up, followed by a familiar refrain of: “Singer! What the hell is goin’ on?” in a tone that alerted all within hearing range that John Winchester was about to explode.

Bobby sighed wearily, the sleeplessness, frustration, and worry of the past few days washing over him, and he lowered his face to his hand, scrubbing at it with a calloused palm.  I don’t wanna do this anymore.  I don’t even know where to start.

But in defiance of all logic or self-preservation, Bobby Singer loved the Winchesters, and he couldn’t desert them.  

Get ‘im focused on somethin’ he can hunt.  “A Succubus got ahold of Dean. Only a matter a’ time, I suppose.” He contemplated that for too brief a moment, promising himself he’d give that realization the attention it deserved as soon as he had the time. “I’m actually surprised it took this long, given the boy’s...appetite.  Anyway, I can’t tell yet if it...ah...just fed off  him, or actually...um... collected him.”

The whole conversation was forcing Bobby’s mind into corners it  had never wanted to see, and he was feeling decidedly uncomfortable.

“I don’t know anything about these things, Bobby.  What the hell does that all mean?  Why’s he in a coma?”

“There are a lotta types of ‘Cubi,” the more knowledgeable hunter began, only to be cut-off by his consistently rude protege.

“‘Cubi?”

“Female are Succubi, male are Incubi.  Collectively I call ‘em ‘Cubi.”

You call ‘em?”  the other hunter observed acerbically.  “Nevermind.  What are they? You said they feed off people, so some kind of monster, but what?  Vampires? Fairies?”

Bobby choked down his impatience.  “Technically, they’re demons, but not all of ‘em kill people.”

“Wait: demons?  What the hell, Bobby?  Demons are real?”

“Yeah, they’re real.  Don’t know all that much about ‘em, but I’ve run into a Succubus a time or two.”  One I didn’t know about ‘til long after the fact, ain’t seen in decades, yet she came back last night.  Why is that?

“You need to tell me everything you know about demons, Singer,” and the man had adopted the low and dangerous tone that Bobby tried to pretend didn’t trigger all of his defenses.

“I will, soon as this particular crisis is over.”   Not like I was deliberately keepin’ it a secret from ya, asshole. They’re just so damned rare.  He pushed an image of his murderous, black-eyed wife back into the far reaches of his mind.   “Right now we need to focus on the problem at hand.”

“Right,” the man conceded, tone softening incrementally.  “‘Cubi: feed on people, may have fed on Dean.  Or, did you say ‘collected’ from him?  What do they collect?”

“If it’s the type I think it is, they feed on sexual energy and they collect…” he shook his head, pausing to rub his forehead again.  “Semen.”

The silence vibrated between them, and Bobby nearly chuckled. Think that’s the first time that man’s ever been struck dumb.

“I don’t know what the thing’s intentions are, but it -- “ he broke off, realizing that John had yet to be enlightened as to the full extent of his older son’s injuries. That wasn’t a subject he wanted to address just now.  “It left him alive.  I got nothin’ to show me that Dean put up a fight, so I gotta believe it was a choice that the demon made.  I just don’t know who, or why, or where to look for the damned thing.”

“Shit,” came the low mutter, and Bobby could picture the other man rubbing a hand across his face.  “You think it’s just lettin’ him live so it can keep feedin’ off him a little at a time  until it finally kills him?”

Not a bad way to go, all things considered.  “Maybe.  Not sure if it matters about the collecting or not.  Hard to find much in the lore about ‘em breeding.  I mean, that’s the reason they’re supposed to do that: they combine their genetics with a  human’s to create Cambion.  I don’t know if they’re doin’ that, and if they are, why it would matter whether Dean survived the process.  Unless they want more.  Creatin’ an army, or somethin’.”   Hunter-Cambion army.  Bobby shuddered internally at the thought.

“Wait, wait, you’re losin’ me, Singer.  Cambion?  What the hell is that?  And an army of what?  For what?”

“Cambion are half-human, half-demon. S’posed ta be more powerful than a demon, which actually don’t make a lick a’ sense to me.  Like breedin’ a toy poodle and a pitbull together so’s you can make a wolf.  Anyway, an army of Cambion, and I don’t know what for.  One a’ the things we need to look into.”

John sighed.  “Sounds like one helluva hunt.” He was quiet, and Bobby predicted where his mind was going. “I wonder if this has got anything to do with what happened to Mary.”

Stifling guilt at the planned manipulation, Bobby replied with: “Could be.  Not an avenue we’ve explored already, that’s fer sure.”

John grunted in acknowledgement.  “I gotta wrap a few things up on this end, but should reach you in about two hours.  What hospital are you at?  I assume if Dean’s in a coma, you’ve got him admitted, right?”  The tone had dropped back to dangerous as Protective Daddy surfaced.

“A’ course he’s in a hospital.  Whaddaya think I am, an idjit?  But I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to come here.”  Bobby scrambled to find a reason why, certain that learning how close Dean had come to dying at his father’s hands would be more detrimental than helpful at this point.  It needed to be discussed, but not right now.  Not when so many variables were out of Bobby’s control.

“What the hell are you spoutin’, Singer?  My boy’s in the hospital in a fuckin’ coma!  Of course I’m gonna be there!”

“A Succubus fed on me, too, John.  It ain’t gonna do us any good for the damned thing to hit all of us.  As far as we know, you’re still under its radar, and we need to keep it that way.”

“What if it comes back?  It already got to Dean once on your watch.”

Bobby bridled at the familiar condemnation. “On your watch”, John Winchester for “you’ve committed an unpardonable sin.”  Miserable bastard.

“The thing’s either gotta take on a human form, a corporeal one, or come to you in a dream.  Now I know it’s out there, all I gotta do is make sure I’m awake whenever Dean’s asleep, and he doesn’t get any opportunities to mingle.”

“He’s in a coma, for Christ’ sake.  You gonna stay awake twenty-four seven until he comes out of it?  We need to take it in shifts.”

“I’ll have Rufus bring Sam back to do that.”

“You’d put Sam under the gun with that thing?”

By the tone of his voice, Bobby was certain that the man had risen to his full height and was standing with his fist clenched, trembling with the need to smash Bobby’s face in.

“No, I’d put Rufus in its sights. Knowin’ him, the dirty old bastard would thank me for it, too.”

Bobby’s effort at lightening the mood must have been successful, because even the intangible energy of radio waves stretching between the two hunters’ cell phones lost its electric edge.

“I’ll send Sam to help you out,” the eldest hunter offered, knowing he was walking a thin line by appointing himself the primary organizer of this hunt.  “He’s even better at research than I am, assuming you can get him to the right library.”   There , Bobby observed, pleased with his machinations.   That should tie everything up: keep John away from Dean, get Sam into the part of the hunt he actually enjoys, and still hopefully allow everyone to figure this mess out.

Bobby Singer, you are a freakin’ genius.





Chapter Text


 

“Well hey there, Sleepin’ Beauty.  Nice t’see ya awake.”

“MmmmBobby?”  Dean tried willing his arms and legs to move.

“Yeah, kid, I’m here.”

“Why can’ I move?  Body feels heavy.”

“Lingerin’ effects of the spell, or poison, or whatever.”

Green eyes opened wide.  “What are you talkin’ about?”

Bobby’s smile twisted with the worry he’d felt and the relief he was experiencing now.  “Succubus got ya.  Couldn’t find a prince to kiss ya awake.  Startin’ to worry I was gonna hafta try myself, but then that detective stopped back in.”

Dean grimaced.  “Haha, very funny.  So Hedley came back?  Why?”

Bobby’s expression turned grim.  “You went into a coma, and the docs couldn’t figure out why.  They went lookin’ harder for drugs, did a hair analysis.  Just came back today.”

Dean felt a  headache coming on.  “I thought those things took months.”  He closed his eyes, then snapped them open again.  “How long was I out?”

“Three days.  They did a rush on this one, hopin’ to find out what to do for ya.”  Bobby shrugged.  “We were on it too, a’ course, but I don’t knows we did much better.”

“Three days?  Son of a bitch.”  Dean glanced around, noting the vases of flowers suffused with herbs, particularly sage.  “Wait: is that garlic?”

“Well...yeah.”  Bobby looked chagrined.  “Kinda graspin’ at straws, here.”

“You think a vampire did this?”

“No, ya idjit, I tol’ ya: it was a Succubus.  Or mebbe an Incubus.  Can’t really tell from this side a’ things.”

“Yeah, you said that in the middle of your comedy act, thought it was part of the show.  So, where’s Sam?  He safe?  And when’s Dad comin’ back?”

Irritation crossed the older hunter’s face.  “Christ, Dean.  You just hear you were attacked by somethin’ that put ya in a coma for three whole days, and you ain’t got any questions about that?”

Dean just looked at him.  “Well?  Sam?  Dad?””

Bobby sighed.  “They’re together, tryin’ track this thing down--”

Dean struggled to push himself up, and Bobby angrily forced him back to the mattress.  “Bobby!  I gotta --”

“Lay your ass down right now, jackass, or I swear to your mother I’ll knock your ass out!”

The thundering tone was one Bobby rarely resorted to, and Dean subsided, eyes wide.

“What the hell, Bobby?”

“You just listen to me, and you listen good, Dean Winchester.  I know you’ve made it your sworn duty to take care of everybody, but for once in your damned life you’re gonna sit back and get well, you hear me?  That’s twice in a matter a’ days that I almost watched you die, and by God, I am not doing it again!”

Bobby stood, red-faced and panting, in contrast to Dean, wide-eyed and pale.

Bobby blinked, and Dean licked his lips nervously.

The old hunter relaxed, removing his hands from the boy’s chest.  “Sorry.”  The word was clipped and gruff.

I’m not worth all that .  “So...um...what’s this thing that’s got me, and what are we doing about it?”   And how many questions that I don’t give a damn about do I have to ask before you answer the ones that matter?

“A succubus is a type of demon, feeds on  human energy.  Sexual energy, with this particular one, though there are others that can feed on different emotions and whatnot.  Sam and John are doing some research, but our witness has been asleep this whole time, so there’s that.”

Dean breathed a sigh of relief.  “Sammy’s doin’ research, huh?  Bet he likes that.”   How was he about being brought back?  Did he come without a fight ‘cause he wanted to help me?  But he knew he couldn’t ask.

“Yeah, but like I said, we ain’t got very far.” He gestured around at the room. “Did find out how to keep it away.  Damned good thing, too, ‘cause I had to call Rufus in for back up, and I can only stand that asshole for so long.”

Dean chuckled.   He and Rufus are like brothers, the way they bicker.  Worse’n me and Sam.   Then he sobered.  “So this thing is a demon?”

“Sorta.  The lore’s a little sketchy, but the nearest I can figure it out, the first Incubus was a storm god --”

“Wait: what’s an Incubus?  I thought you said ‘Succubus’.”

“Male is an Incubus, female’s a Succubus.  May I continue?”  Sarcasm had always been Bobby’s primary language.  “So, this storm god musta been some sort of archangel or something.  Don’t know what he did, but it pissed God off, and he got cast out.  Started breedin’ with humans, made more ‘Cubi.”

“Breeding with humans?  So half god, half man?”

“Not god: demon.  Or maybe still angel, at that point.  I don’t really know the whole supernatural family tree, Dean.”

Dean ignored the jibe, thinking.  “So you think one...ah…”

“Quit gettin’ ahead a’ yerself and lemme finish educatin’ ya.  So, for a while these things could breed and make new beings and whatever.  Ended up bein’ a bunch of...tribes, I guess you’d call ‘em.  Different ones can feed on different things, all human, ‘cause like all former archangels, Irdulili, or it might be Lilu, hates humans.”

“What things do they feed on?  Does it kill the humans?”

“They feed on emotional energy.  Lust, anger, sadness, joy, you name it, somebody’s feeding on it.  Since it’s energy they’re taking, yeah, they can kill the host.  Rumor has it that more and more of ‘um are tryin’ to pass as human, though, and there hasn’t been a ‘Cubus death reported by a hunter since I don’t-know-when.”

“Huh.  That’s interesting.  Are they still breeding with people, though?”

“Don’t think so.  Apparently Irdulili forbade it.  His own daughter tried it, and he hit her with a lightning bolt.”

And you thought my dad was bad!  “That’s quite a lesson.  Kill her?”

“Nope.  Split her in two.  Lore has it that one half stayed with him, and is pure evil.  The other went off somewhere, and is apparently a force for good.”

“So what kind do you think went after me?”

Bobby began to look uncomfortable.  “Well...there were actually two here that night.”

Dean felt a slow smile start to grow on his face.

“Oh, knock it off!  Idjit!”  Bobby muttered.  “The one I...dreamt about...I’d had dreams about her before, a long time ago.  So when I woke up, I remembered her and recognized  her.  Then I saw you in a coma, and figured you’d had a visitor, too.  Heard mine yell ‘Zellynnexia’.  That name mean anything to you?”

Dean furrowed his eyebrows in thought.  “No...doesn’t sound familiar.  I like it though.  Not often you get a ‘z’ and an ‘x’ in the same name.”

Bobby rolled his eyes.  “I’d say you could name yer children after her, but turns out, you might.”

“Whaddaya mean?”  

Responding to the alarm in the young man’s voice, Bobby chuckled. “Don’t worry, son.  If she presses for marriage or child support, we got a pretty strong argument for claiming you were coerced.”

“Oh, you are just all sorts of funny today, Bobby.  Seriously, are there gonna be a bunch of half Dean, half demons runnin’ around out there?  ‘Cause frankly, I don’t like my odds against somethin’ like that.”

Bobby passed a hand over his face wearily.  “We don’t know.  We don’t know if she collected your...ah….DNA, or just fed off you -- took your energy, which is what put you in a coma.”

“How do we find out?”

“Well,”  Bobby shifted in his chair, “we were hoping you could tell us.”

“Tell you?”

“Yeah.  Like….remember the dream you had, and tell us.”

“A dream I had three days ago, while I was hopped up on morphine.  That’s what you expect me to remember?”

Bobby looked sheepish.  “Well...yeah.”

Dean rolled his eyes.  “Well, hate to break it to ya, but I don’t.  So, what now?”

Bobby spread his hands, palms up.  “Do what we always do, I guess: research, keep our eyes open...and set out some bait.”

 

Chapter Text


“I still don’t understand why I can’t go see Dean.”  The seventeen-year-old’s tone bordered on a whine.

John sighed.   Patience, Winchester.  “I don’t exactly understand it, either, Sammy.  Somethin’ about a police detective sniffin’ around, but also not wanting the ‘Cubi to know who all we’ve got workin’ with us.”

“But Rufus -- “

“I get the impression Bobby doesn’t consider him family.  Or maybe there’s something Bobby knows about the man’s ability to withstand a Succubus attack that he ain’t sharin’.”

John set down the gun he’d been cleaning to give Sam his full attention.  “I gotta be honest, Sam, I don’t like it either, but I’ve known Bobby a long time, and the man is smart.”  He flashed a rare smile at his younger son.  “Almost as smart as you, genius.”  Not so long ago he would have rumpled Sam’s hair with that compliment, and received a smile in return.   Miss those days.

“Anyway, the point is, he may not be telling us everything, but I trust him.”

John watched Sam’s eyes fill, and he knew where this was going.  “But he’s in a coma, Dad.  What if he….” the boy’s words were a harsh near-whisper.

John sighed.  “According to Bobby, the doctor says Dean’s body is gettin’ stronger and his brainwaves are increasing, so he’s gettin’ better.  It’s just takin’ a while.  And we all know your big brother could use all the brainwaves he can get, so I’m not gonna try to rush things.”  He’d meant that as a joke, but from the look on Sam’s face, he hadn’t taken it that way.

“I shouldn’t have left.  Maybe I could’ve stopped it.”

“Or got chewed up by it yourself.  And what were you gonna do, go on his date with him?  Hand him a condom?  C’mon, Sam!  Dean’s a big boy, he oughta be able to take care of himself.”  John knew the minute he heard himself speak the words that he was going to pay for that remark.

Sam stood, angry.  “He should, and he would, if we got to be normal people!  Normal people don’t have to worry about getting their life force drained by a freakin’ demon in the middle of the night!  But we aren’t normal people, and you won’t let us be!”

John watched his sensitive younger son snatch up his bag on his way to the bathroom.  Not a lot of options for storming off in a huff in a hotel room.  He could tell by the sound of the tap that Sam was running a bath, and the father sighed.  Might as well get to work on the stuff Caroline gave me.  He’s gonna be in there a while.

 


 

Detective Hedley chose that moment to enter.  “Bait for what?”

“Jus’ plannin’ a little fishin’ trip now that the boy’s awake,” Bobby punted.

The police officer pulled up a chair.  “Oh, yeah?  What are you after?  Salmon?  Trout?”

Bobby answered “Rainbow” at the same time Dean claimed “Sturgeon”.

Bobby glowered at his “nephew”.  “We haven’t decided yet.”

Hedley lifted his eyebrows.  “Clearly.  Anyway, I wanted to talk to you a bit more, Dean.  I think it’d be best if we started this conversation off privately.” He looked to Bobby, who set his jaw and crossed his arms over his chest.

Dean shifted uncomfortably in his blankets.  “Why?”

“Your uncle tell you the hospital ran a test on your hair?”

“Yeah.  Tryin’ to figure out why I went into a coma.  Lookin’ for drugs, but I’m not a user.”

“Didn’t figure you were, being an athlete and everything, but you never know.”  He shrugged dismissively.  “You’ve had a lot of injuries over the years, and pain medications can be addictive.”

Dean blanked for a second, then caught up.   Oh, yeah.  Bobby told ‘im I was a boxer.   “And?”

The detective held up a folder.  “We got the results back.  Confidentiality laws dictate that I go over them with you privately first.”

Both of the hunters could tell that there was more the man wasn’t saying.

Bobby looked to Dean, who shrugged.  “I could use a cup a’ coffee,” the older man conceded.

Hedley waited until the door had closed before he began to speak.  “You seem like a straight-forward guy, so I’m going to get right to it: They found rohypnol.”

Dean stared at him blankly.  

“Roofies?” the detective provided.

A cold flush washed over Dean.

“Ah.  I see that one rings a bell.  Care to tell me about it?”

Dean turned his head and began an intense study of the ceiling.

“They did a pretty thorough exam that first night, Dean.  Found some injuries, minor compared to the ones you needed surgery for, that had happened a few days before these others.”  He waved a  hand to encompass the younger man’s entire body.  “Bruises, abrasions, nothing too serious.  Given where some of them were and the fact that they were already healing by the time you sustained the near-fatal ones, we just chalked it up to some rough but likely consensual sexual activity.”

The man he was questioning may as well have been turned to stone.

“But then we found the rohypnol.  Date-rape drug.  And this is a college town; we deal with that kind of thing way too frequently, and we take it seriously.”

Absolutely no reaction from the man on the bed.

Hedley leaned forward, intent.  “So, I have to ask you: were you conscious for either of those events?  Or did you have a drink and wake up all beat to hell with no idea how or why?”

The kid didn’t even blink.

The detective leaned in even closer, breath fanning the boy’s ear. “Or is it in your hair because you’re the one doling it out, and you accidentally dosed yourself?”

The readings on the monitors never waivered.  

The officer blew out a disgusted sigh.  “Still not talking.  Someone else is going to go through this because you’re too stubborn or stupid, or have some misplaced sense of loyalty.”  He stood up, tossing a business card onto the blanketed figure currently imitating a statue before him.  “You know where to reach me, and I’ll be watching you.”

Dean held perfectly still until he heard the door close, and then he began to shake.

 


 

 

Bobby walked into the room and nearly collided with Dean.  “Well, nice to see ya on yer feet again, even if I wasn’t really expectin’ it so soon.”

The young hunter was dressed in the clothes Bobby had brought for him, plastic bag with the ones that had been cut away dangling from his fist.  “Let’s go.”  His voice was terse, and he shouldered past his friend.

“Well, shit.”

Bobby glanced around the room, hoping they weren’t forgetting anything, and then hurried to catch up to the long-legged hunter.  “You sign yerself out?”

“Yeah.”

Bobby was puffing a little and trying not to show it.  He was grateful when they reached an elevator, and Dean pressed the ground-floor button.  “Dean, what’s this all about?”

Dean slanted a glance at him briefly.  “Damned detective’s askin’ too many questions.  And I been here way too long.”

Growing impatient, he turned for the stairs.  

Bobby sighed as he followed.  “Damn pig-headed, impatient Winchesters.  I have a heart attack, it’s your fault!”

Dean’s cheeks flushed.  “Sorry, Bobby.”  He turned back to the elevator just in time to watch it close.  “Shit.”  He leaned against the wall, thumb once again depressing the ‘down’ button, and sighed.  “Just really want to get back to a normal routine, ya know?”

And Bobby knew that wasn’t it at all, but he was willing to play along.  “Sure, kid.  I know.”

The elevator opened, and Dean found himself face-to-face with Dr. Kim.

Her eyes widened, and memory flooded him.

 

Full breasts heavy in his hands, her skin silver in the light of the monitors, her body so hot and tight around him --

 

“Zellynnexia?”

Her brows dipped.  “Excuse me?  I’m Dr. Kim, remember?  Nice to see you up and about.”  She glanced down at the bag in his hand.  “You’re leaving?  Aren’t you supposed to be ridden out in a wheelchair?”

Dean was staring, face flushed, fighting for equilibrium.  “I...uh…”

The doctor glanced down at her watch.  “Sorry, but I really need to get going.  Were you waiting for this elevator?”  She slid smoothly past them.

Dean stared after her, dumbstruck.

Bobby tugged on his sleeve.  “Dean?  Now’s not the time, buddy. C’mon.  We’ll talk in the car.”

Dean turned glazed eyes and an open mouth on Bobby.

The older man looped his arm through his young friend’s and tugged him into the waiting elevator.  “Looks like ya got yer memory back.  Hope ya got more than porn to share with the group.”

The elevator closed, carrying them towards a Winchester family reunion.  “Yippee,” Bobby muttered.  “I can hardly wait.”

 

Chapter Text


 

Bobby paused in the act of retrieving a bag from the bed of his truck to watch his family reunite.  

For all of their bickering, those two sure do love each other.   Sam had scampered across the parking lot like a gangly colt as soon as he saw Bobby’s truck pull up.  For his part, Dean had his door open before the wheels stopped rolling, and wrapped his slightly taller little brother up in a hug that lifted the delighted boy off of his feet.

They really shouldn’t be apart.

John had come as far as the doorway, leaning against it, dimples deepening in a relaxed grin as he observed his boys.  He straightened as Dean approached, smile fading, and Bobby read the uncertainty there.  

Dean stopped within arm’s length, and his queried “Dad?” begged for acceptance in a way that broke Bobby’s heart even as his blood boiled.

The Winchester patriarch pulled his eldest into a tight embrace, and the tears on his cheeks were understood by all to be forgiven as he had nearly lost this child to a Succubus.  A demon.

Dean had demanded vehemently that Bobby keep his secret so that neither John nor Sam would ever know that it was not the actions of a monster that had landed Dean in the hospital in the first place.

Not a supernatural one, anyway.

Dean’s memory of the Succubus hadn’t turned out to be very helpful.  Once they’d all made it clear that they wanted the nudity and more graphic details omitted, there wasn’t much to tell.  Dean was convinced that it was Dr. Kim, despite all three of the hunters showing him different articles of lore explaining that a Succubus could take on any form that it chose, so they were starting with that.

Sam teased that it had actually been Dr. Garby that the Succubus had chosen to impersonate, and John had been surprisingly tolerant of the pillow fight that ensued.

Pizza boxes and beer bottles decorated the hotel room.  Plans had been laid, further research outlined.

Bobby couldn’t think of any more excuses for staying.  “To protect Dean from you” wasn’t a reason that John Winchester would accept, graciously or otherwise.

As if sensing his unease, the man himself followed Bobby out to his truck.  “Singer....Thanks.”

Bobby sighed.  He chewed his lip, pulled his cap off, raked a hand through his hair, tugged the cap back down.

Finally he looked up at his friend, a man he had mentored for the past sixteen years.  “John, you know I love ya.”

John shifted uncomfortably, dropping his chin to hide his eyes.

“But I love your boys more.”  He waited for the other hunter to look up.  “If you ever raise a hand to either of them ever again, I will take that shotgun --” he stabbed a finger at the rack in the rear windshield of his old Ford-- “and I will blow a hole in you big enough to park my truck in.  You hear me, Winchester?”

John nodded, face solemn.  “I hear you, Bobby.  And I won’t.  I swear.”

“Good,” the man grunted, and he heaved himself into the driver’s seat.  “See ya in a week.”

John stood, hands in his pockets, watching until the old hunter’s taillights were swallowed by the night.

 

Chapter Text


Dean smiled as he leaned back on his elbows against the bar.  Classic rock, the solid thwock of a stick tapping a cue ball, ice rattling in glasses.  Women in tight shirts and even tighter jeans,  not afraid to catch your  eye.  Men with hard faces and assessing stares, ready with a challenge or a smile, take your pick.  

My kinda place. My kinda people .  

He’d taken a break from his babysitter duties, leaving Sam back at this week’s home to cuddle up with his books.  Kid had plans, some he shared with his big brother and some he didn’t, but Dean knew.  He knew more than Sam realized, and that -- all of that: where Sam planned on going and what he was willing to give up to get there; what their dad would do about it -- that had been rolling through Dean in an uneasy cloud for weeks, sometimes in his stomach, other times in his chest, then settling in the back of his skull to pound relentlessly.  

And that was why he was here tonight, smiling out at the simple people with their simple pleasures that made him feel at home.  Or made him forget about ‘home’, if he was lucky.

He pushed up, snagging his beer in two long, slender fingers, and made his way to one of the pool tables.  He’d been watching, and a couple of the guys were good enough to be a challenge.  He didn’t need to hustle tonight. He needed something he didn’t bother trying to put words to, but he knew that a couple games of pool where winning or losing didn’t matter would feed that vague hunger.

He stacked his coins on the table.  

“You want a partner?” one of the men asked, and Dean answered with an easy smile.

“Sure.  Name’s Dean.”

“Jeff.”

They traded grips.

“Watcha playin’ for?”  Dean queried, not really caring, but knowing that it was part of the ritual.

“Just drinks.”

“Loser buys,” Dean drawled, and his grin had just the right touch of confidence in it.  “I’m plannin’ on getting wasted tonight.  How ‘bout you?”  

And the dance began.

 


“Whaddaya think?”  Three men stood around a high table, eyes on the one who had just joined the game.

“Mmmm….” a bearded man took a long pull on his beer.  “Nice build on ‘im.  Moves well.”

The newcomer bent over the table, tail of his shirt pulling up, denim stretching tight over flesh hardened by use, and the third man’s face creased in a predatory smile.  “Mmmm….I like that ass.  Looks young, too.”

A fourth man had walked up on them, pool cue in hand, and picked up a glass.  “I don’t know.  He’s big, got some scarring on his knuckles.  Might not be so easy.”

The first man who had spoken turned, shielding his hands from view of all but those in front of him, and flashed a small cellophane bag.  “Chemical persuasion,” and the friendly little bar turned darker.


“You as good at poker as you are at pool?”

Dean flashed a smile and a wink.  “‘Course not.”

Jeff laughed.  “Well, I’m prob’ly gonna regret this -- oughta make ya prove yourself first -- but I got a private game startin’ in a few minutes.  Be a good place to make some quick cash, if a coupla sharps worked together on it.  You in?”

“Hell, yeah!”  The cloud was gone, at least temporarily, and the night just kept getting better.

“Finish yer drink,” a bearded man from their group admonished, holding Dean’s tumbler out to him.  “Ain’t polite to leave it when we’s the ones hadta buy it.”  He smiled when he said it, and Dean chuckled.

“Aw, Scott, you know they always taste better when ya earn ‘em fair and square, right?”  Dean winked good naturedly at the man before tipping his head back and emptying his glass.  “So where’s this game?”  He tucked a hand in his pocket, fingering his car keys.

“We gotta take ya there.”

Dean’s enthusiasm cooled.  “Can I just follow in my car?  I can’t stay long.”   Gotta get back to Sammy.

“Private means not-quite-legal.  Unfamiliar vehicle rolls up, they lock it down.  It ain’t far, though.  Hell, you could walk there from here, come to that.”

Dean shrugged.  “Yeah, alright.  Let’s do this.”

 


 

By the time they had settled into the car, Dean was feeling more than buzzed.  “Shouldn’a finished tha’ las’ one,” and he tipped over onto Jeff’s shoulder.

“Easy there, cowboy,” Jeff chuckled, tilting him back against the window.  “We’ll get ya a coffee when we get inside.”

“M’kay,” but he was having trouble staying awake, and Jeff’s shoulder was more comfortable than the car’s window.

 


 

One on each side they half carry, half drag him into the house.  He tries to help, but his toes keep catching, and he can’t keep his head up.  A part of his mind picks at him, a concerned What the fuck? , but it is quiet and very far away.

He rouses somewhat when the door closes behind them.  Lights come on, and he blinks, trying to focus.

Living room, not too clean, mattresses instead of furniture.  “‘S a crack house?”  and the men laugh, but he doesn’t know why.

 


 

 

“You need to lie down.” Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal.  “You had a little too much whiskey, buddy.”

Hands on his jacket, and he thinks there might be something wrong with that, and he tries to resist, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal.  “We gotta get these off of you, get you comfortable so you can sleep it off.”

And he lets them.  He lets them take his jacket, and his flannel, and when he is swaying there in jeans and a t-shirt, Scott kneels.  Dean feels someone tugging on his boots, and he mumbles “No,” or  he thinks  he does, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal.  “Cowboys don’t really sleep with their boots on, Dean.”

 


 

 

And then he’s on the mattress, and there is a man on each arm, and Jeff is sitting on his pelvis, pinning him down with his hips.  And Jeff bunches Dean’s shirt in his hands, from hem to neck, and he pulls it up and forces it between Dean’ teeth, and he is not paternal at all.

 


There are hands, so many hands, and Dean can’t remember  how many there should be, how many he came here with, but they are holding him and stroking him and pinching his nipples and scraping nails down his thighs, and somehow his jeans are gone, cool air on skin that should not be bare, and he tries to fight but he can’t, and  he tries to think but he can’t, and  now there is heat and wet, too, and the sharp nip of teeth and slick glide of tongues all over his skin, and before he can wonder if this is a vampire nest, someone is devouring his cock, soft-moist-sucking warmth, and his back arches as he groans, and it shouldn’t feel so good, he can’t remember why but it shouldn’t, and he tries not to let it get him hard, but it does, and the hands and mouths move faster, they are everywhere, and his skin is tingling and his heart is racing and he feels the build and he knows it’s coming and it shouldn’t and it is and he can’t and it’s wrong and the wet sucking heat is filling his head and a “No” boils from his lips as his torso folds and his orgasm erupts and

tears

    cringe

         down

              his

                  face.

 


 

Male laughter rides his shuddering culmination, and they turn him over.

 


 

The fog is lifting and he knows what’s next  and this “No!” is panicked, louder, and he arches his back, bucks his hips, desperate to escape, and a cruel hand jerks his head back, replacing the cloth that he had somehow rid himself of, pulling it tight, fisting it at the back of his head, holding it, keeping his spine bowed painfully, and through the blur of tears and lash-shuttered eyes he sees Jeff kneeling on one of his bare arms and Jeff’s face is feral and hands circle Dean’s ankles like talons and they pull and he fights and something tears in his leg and he panics and a weight settles between his thighs and he struggles and the men hold tighter and he feels the pressure against his ass and he knows what’s coming and he’s not ready, he doesn’t want this, and his mind screams and he panics and the man above him pulls harder on the bridle of Dean’s gag, using it for leverage while he thrusts forward viciously, forcing his dick past Dean’s determined clenching

 

Dean screams, the sound desperate and wild even through thick cloth.

 

It’s fire and tearing and he’s never felt agony like this before, pain, plenty of pain, but not like this, and something slams into his guts and vomit erupts in his throat and it fills his nose and saturates the cotton in his mouth and the cloud is back and it is growing and his body goes limp  and the tearing in his ass and the pounding in his guts increase and his body is jerking with each

brutal

thrust

of his

rapist's

hips

and

  the

      world

        goes

            black.


 

He awakens to fear.  He doesn't know why, and years of training immediately kick in, forcing him into stillness when his instincts scream at him to run.  

He listens, straining into the silence.  Distant sounds: birds, traffic.  Nothing close.

He realizes that he is nude.

Feels dried something on his skin, making him itch.

The memory of his night returns in a flood, and he frantically pulls his face to the edge of the mattress, stomach contracting violently, mucus and bile erupting forecefully.

The convulsion ends, and he holds his breath, waiting.

No sound, no movement.

No men .

He sags back into the mattress and cries, a silent despair.  

How could I?  

    Why couldn’t I?  

          What made them choose me ?

 


 

After a time, he remembers Sammy, and he realizes that he has to move.  

He doesn't want to.  

 Doesn't want to face this new day.

   Doesn't want to try to go on from here.  

     Doesn't know how.

Isn't sure he can.

 


 

 

He pushes up, refusing to look at himself.

Still wearing the t-shirt bunched up around his neck, front soaked with spit and snot and bile, clammy and foul…but once he tugs it down, it covers him.

 

Other than dried spit, cum, and some blood, it is the only thing covering him.

 

He gathers his clothes.  Gets shakily to his feet.

His ass aches, and he winces at the feel of something wet slicking down the inside of his thigh.

He stumbles getting off of the mattress, has to lean hard against a wall just to shuffle painfully down the hallway.

 

Bathroom .

 

The shower works, and he lets it run until steam roils, then steps into the scalding spray.

 

Fire cleanses, but water can, too, if it’s  hot enough.

His tears are a cold contrast.

 


 

T-shirt discarded on the floor of the dirty bathroom, otherwise dressed.  Outside.  Looks left, looks right.  Miraculously, he can see his car, half a block away, parked on the street.  

 

No keys in his pocket.

 

Walking hurts, aching and with sharp bites of tearing pain where there should never be any pain.

 

He reaches the car, his sanctuary, and sees that the keys are in the ignition.  Bastards.  Someone could’ve stolen her.

 

The seed of anger finally germinates.

 

Door never seemed this heavy before , but he gets it open, sits gingerly, wincing as he slides into place.

Feels the wetness, knows it will seep through, but leather can be cleaned.

 

The drive to the motel is long and painful, but it’s a school day for Sammy, and he’ll be gone already. Dean will have a few  hours to clean his Baby.  

To shower again.

Get the bleeding stopped.

 

To figure out who he is now, and whether he is worth salvaging.  

And if it turns out he’s not?  

Well....Sammy is at school, and Dean’s pistol is a sanctuary, too.

 

Chapter Text


 

“Hey!  Get that out of his mouth!”  Jeff dropped to his knees, ripping Cole’s hand away from the t-shirt wrapped with suffocating force around Dean’s head.

Cole was gone, head back, a near shout scraping through  his throat as his body convulsed around what looked to be a rather extreme orgasm.

Fuckin’ pig.   Jeff braced Dean’s shoulders, holding him in place as Cole’s violent motions jarred the unresponsive form.  Fluid bubbled from Dean’s mouth and nose with each thrust.

At least it’s helping clear his airways.

Cole fell forward onto his hands, his flushed, sweating face inches from Jeff’s.  

Jeff ignored the panting, using the tail of his own shirt to wipe vomit from Dean’s lips and chin.

“Jesus Christ,” Cole panted, “he’s so fuckin’ tight.”

Jeff grunted.  “You done?”

Cole dropped down to his elbows. “Yeah.  Fuck, that was intense.”

“Get off him.”

“Jus’ a sec.  Gotta catch my breath first.”

Jeff shoved him violently, sending Cole over on his back in a sprawl.

“What’s your deal, Jeff?  Christ!”

 

Adam had moved to stand between Dean’s legs, and was fumbling with his belt.

 

Jeff held his hand up.  “Hold up!  Just back off a second!”  

“Fuck that.  You may’ve brought him in, but I supplied the roofies.  I get next dibs.”

Jeff was up and in the man’s face before anyone could react.  “Ryan told me part of my job was to  make sure you assholes didn’t kill anyone, remember?”  He was nose-to-nose with the younger man, finger in his face.  “This guy --” he jabbed the finger at Dean -- “is choking on his own vomit.  Give me a fuckin’ minute to get him stabilized, alright?”

Adam had taken an involuntary step back.  Now he raised his hands, palms out in a placating manner.  “Alright, dude, chill.  I didn’t know.  Do what you gotta do.”

Jeff returned to his position at Dean’s head.  “Scott.  Gimme my bag.”

Scott found the paramedic’s satchel and dropped it beside his friend, looking at him as if Jeff had turned rabid.

Jeff rummaged through the cotents, extracting a stethoscope.  He rolled his patient onto his side, pressing the bell against the broad back, listening carefully.

He ignored the vultures standing around watching.   Hope it kills their buzz and they leave him alone.

 

“Sam.”  The sound was so quiet that, without the amplification of the stethoscope, Jeff probably would have missed it.

Jeff leaned closer.  “Dean?”

He struggled, trying to rise.  “Where’s Sam?”  The words were slurred, movements uncoordinated.

Jeff pushed him back down.  “Who’s Sam?”

“Brother.” He lifted a hand, pushing weakly at Jeff’s.  “Gotta take care of ‘im. Keep ‘im safe.”

“Just chill out for a minute, okay?  I’ll get you fixed up.  Then we’ll get you back to Sam.”

“‘Kay.”  He relaxed, closing his eyes.  “Wha’s wrong wi’ me?”  He rubbed weakly at his abdomen.  “Don’ feel..." He grunted, wincing.  "Hur’s.”

“Um….you were...drowning.”  Jeff pulled out a bottle and a syringe.  “Are you allergic to penicillin?”

 

Dean’s eyes shot open.  “No!”  He shoved Jeff away, movements stronger now, voice panicked.  “Don’t fuckin’ touch me!”  

“Dean, just calm down.”

Ignoring Jeff’s command, he started pushing with his feet, trying to distance himself from the man in front of him.  

Adam dropped down to grip his legs, and Dean kicked out at him.  “Get the fuck away from me!”

Scott and Cole moved in, and the man began bucking violently, fighting to get free.  “Get OFF!”  

Ryan cuffed Jeff on the back of the head.  “Get control of this.  Now.”

Fuckin’ asshole.

Jeff rummaged through his bag, dropping the penicillin to extract a different vial.  “Lay on him.  Hold him down.”

“No!”  the word was simultaneously enraged and terrified.  “Touch me again and I’ll fuckin’ kill you!”

I hate this.  Jeff drew clear fluid into a syringe.  “I need his arm. The vein inside his elbow.”

“Don’t do this, Jeff.”  The deep growl voiced an unmistakable threat.

Jeff closed his eyes briefly.   This shit never bothered me before.  Why does it feel so wrong this time?

He opened his eyes, glanced at his patient, and was caught by the man’s stare.

Desperation, rage, and terror glowed there.  “Jeff...please.  I need to get back to my brother.”  His voice was quiet, the tone reasonable.

A gun cocked behind him, and Jeff felt hard metal pressed to his skull.  “Jeff.  You remember the deal, right?”

Jeff froze, heart and mind both racing, desperate for a way out of this situation.  Finding none, he closed his eyes, nodding.

A wordless shout tore through his patient, who nearly broke free of the men’s grasp.  “Get on him!” Ryan commanded from his position behind Jeff.  Adam wrapped both arms around Dean’s lower legs before laying on them.  Cole sprawled over the struggling man’s pelvis and thighs, and Scott straddled his chest with a knee on each bicep.

Dean lunged up, lifting his shoulders just enough to allow him to sink his teeth into denim, and Scott screamed.  He began pummeling their captive’s head frantically, the blows coming at too strained of an angle to have much power behind them.

Dean hung on, shaking his head like a wolf slaughtering a rabbit, a continuous wet roar bubbling out through locked jaws.

Shaun gripped the enraged man’s right wrist, pulling the arm straight, holding it with both hands as their bit of fun overcame the rohypnol enough to show his strength.

Scott was shrieking continuously, knuckles bleeding from repeated ineffectual contact with Dean’s tempered skull.

Jeff swallowed convulsively.  I’m sorry, Dean.

He slid the needle beneath the man’s skin.

 

Feeling the intrusion and knowing full well what it meant, Dean finally released his victim to turn a pleading gaze on the stranger that he had mistakenly trusted as a friend.

“Jeff!  Don’t!”  All that had been in  his eyes was clearly audible in Dean’s voice.

“You won’t remember anything,” Jeff promised.

“I’ll fucking kill you!”  Despite the restraint, Dean managed to arch his torso, twisting as he did, nearly freeing his right arm. “I will fucking kill you all!”

Blood flashed into the syringe, and Jeff depressed the plunger.

“You son-of-a-bitch.”  His eyes locked on Jeff’s, the glow dimming as tension faded, one tear tracking down  his face.  Dean went limp.

 

The hard metal ceased to press against  Jeff’s scalp.  “Good boy.”  Ryan moved into his field of view.  “Keep him under control.”

Ignoring him, Jeff pulled another bottle from the bag.

“What’s that?  I want him to be able to respond, you know.”

“It’s to keep him from puking again.  I assume you don’t want to fuck a corpse.”

Ryan grunted.  “Might as well be if he’s too out of it to put up a fight, or get hard.”

Jeff administered the injection.  “He won’t be.  Gave him something like the roofies.  He won’t really know what’s going on, but he’ll be able to move a little.  Maybe say a word or two."

“Good.  I want him responsive when it’s my turn.”  He tucked the pistol into his waistband.  “You want next dibs?  Take your turn now so you’re free in case he needs more drugs?”  He kicked the unconscious man in the ribs.  “Fucker’s a lot tougher than I expected.”

Jeff clenched his jaw.  “I ain’t touchin’ him.”

Ryan snorted.  “His threats scare ya, little girl?”

Jeff kept his eyes averted as he shook his head.  “He’s got a brother he’s supposed to be lookin’ after.  This ain’t right.”

“A brother, huh?”  Shaun was on his feet, and gripped his crotch in a lewd gesture.  “I’ll take care of ‘im for ya, Dean.”  He smirked as several of the men chuckled.

Jeff shot him a glare.

Ryan shook his head.  “Gettin’ soft, Jeff.  We’ll have to talk about that later.”  He looked around at the assembled men. “Adam?  You’re up.”  He put a boot on Dean’s shoulder, shoving him onto his back.  

Adam grinned, forcing his jeans and briefs halfway down his thighs before positioning himself on his knees.  “Yeah.  I get to look at that pretty face.”

“Just wait a fucking minute.  I need to check on Scott.” Jeff tipped his head toward the man who had crawled a few feet away and was now hunched over his bloody crotch, keening softly.  “Just. Wait.”

He kept his eyes on the men he had suddenly grown to despise, moving backwards, locating Scott by following the wounded animal sounds he was making.

 

He was forced to trust the lust-crazed group as he reached Scott’s side.  “Lemme see.”  He pulled the whimpering man’s hands away, but could observe nothing beyond blood and torn denim.  “We gotta get your pants off, or at least down, Scott.  I need to know how much damage he did.”

He reached for Scott’s belt, only to be stopped by a clammy grip on his wrist and wide eyes nearly touching his own.  “No!”  Scott’s voice was a strained whisper.  “They might rape me, too!”

Jeff swallowed audibly, disgust making his stomach turn.   Serves you fuckin’ right.  Serves all of us right.  “Human bite wounds always get infected, Scott.  It needs to be cleaned out.  Might need stitches.”  Or more, if that iron jaw crushed enough tissue .

“Not here,” Scott insisted.  “I don’t trust them.”  His eyes darted, seeking an answer, or an escape.  They landed back on Jeff.  “Take me to the hospital?  Please?”

Jeff closed his eyes, shaking his head.  “I won’t leave Dean alone with them.  They might kill him.”

“Then I’ll wait, alright?  I’ll just wait.”  Scott dropped his hands back to his crotch, giving Jeff a pathetic smile.

“Do you have any idea how long this could take?  There’s four guys over there, Scott.  Four lust-crazed fucking sadists working themselves into a frenzy over this poor bastard.  You think each of ‘em is gonna be satisfied with just one round?  Think again!”

“It’s okay.  I can wait.  It’s not so bad now.”  But his voice was pitiful.

Jeff turned as he stood.  “Alright.  Party’s over.”  He put as much authority into his voice as he could muster. “I gotta get Scott to a hospital, and I’m not leaving Dean alone with you assholes.  You’re all so jacked up right now, you’ll kill him, and I ain’t going to the electric chair for you pukes.”

Ryan folded his arms over his chest.  

His pistol dangled loosely from his right fist.

Shit .  Jeff felt his chest constrict.

“Cole,” Ryan barked, “drop Scott off at the hospital, then get your ass back here.”

A pissed-off Cole stomped across the mattresses to grip Scott by his upper arm.  Scott yelped as he was forced to his feet.  “Get a move on, dipshit.” Cole gave the injured man a shove, earning a small shout of pain. “I wanna get at least one more shot into that guy before mornin’.”

Jeff watched them go. Scott, slumped against Cole’s irritated form, cried out with each wincing step.

 

“Jeff.”  The single syllable was a command.

Jeff swallowed back bile as he crawled to his position at Dean’s head, knees bracing the unconscious man’s shoulders, hands cradling his skull.  “If I say ‘stop’, you fuckin’ stop.  Got it?”  He shot a venomous glare at the half-nude man kneeling between his patient’s thighs.  

Adam sneered.  “I’ll try, man, but if he feels as good as Cole said, I may not have a whole lotta control.”  

Jeff shook his head.   Please stay under, Dean.  Don’t fight the drugs.


Jeff maintained his position at Dean’s head, monitoring his breathing and watching for signs of nausea as each man cycled through.  Other than one whimpered “Hurts” in an impossibly small voice and a single “Sam” that was much more forceful, Dean had shown no sign of regaining consciousness.

The men who were awaiting their turns were lounging around, tipping back bottles of beer and fondling one another as they watched the show.

Ryan cuffed Jeff on the side of the  head.  “Said I wanted him awake, dammit. How much of that shit did you give him?”

“Response is unpredictable.  You know that,” Jeff ground out through clenched teeth.

Ryan knelt beside Dean’s supine body.  He reached out, gripping the flaccid penis, attempting to stroke it to awareness.  He glared at Jeff.  “You know I love makin’ a straight boy see the error of his ways.  How’m I s’posed to do that now?”

“You already got him first thing.”

“Yeah, and I wanted to end the same way.  Wake ‘im up.”

“You see the scars on this guy?  He’s lived through some shit.  I really don’t think waking him up is a smart idea.”

The gun was out, pressed to Jeff’s throat while a  hand fisted in his hair, pulling his head back.  “Wake him the fuck up, or I’ll take it out on your ass instead.”

“Fine,” Jeff ground out through teeth forced together by the barrel of Ryan’s gun.  

Ryan eased off, but he kept the pistol out.

Jeff looked through his supplies, pulling out a bottle of flumazenil.  His hands shook as he drew the reversal agent up into a syringe.

This is the last one.  I’m not doing this again.

He slid the needle home.


Ryan smiled as he set the gun down.  He slid his hand up his victim’s thigh, cupping the man’s testicles, then began stroking his slowly filling penis.  “That’s more like it.”

Jeff pulled his over-shirt off, folded it, and used it to fashion a blindfold for his patient.

“What’s that for?”  Ryan had one hand on Dean’s dick while the other was gliding over his well-muscled chest.

“Your safety.”

Ryan snorted.

Dean moaned, shifting his hips.

Ryan chuckled.  “Look how hard he is.”  He watched his hand move.  “God, that’s nice.”

Dean’s breathing had quickened.  “Wha’s goin’ on?”  He turned his head left, then right, as if trying to dislodge the blindfold.

“Kinky date, buddy," Jeff offered, hoping to keep the man pliant. "Just relax and enjoy.”

Ryan dropped his head, running his tongue up Dean’s abdomen before fastening his teeth on one taut nipple.

Dean groaned, arching his hips up into Ryan’s hand.  “Shit.”

Jeff closed his eyes.  I’m sorry, man.  I am so fucking sorry.

Ryan moaned at Dean’s response, dropping his head to slide his mouth over the engorged cock in his fist.  His hand and mouth moved in conjunction while Dean thrust up into  him, abdominal muscles tensing and flexing, fingernails digging into the mattress convulsively.

Ryan sat up, allowing Dean's cock to slide from his mouth.  His fist continued to glide up and down Dean’s shaft slowly, and the drugged man squirmed at the touch.  

“Please…”

“Please what, Dean?”

Jeff knew that this was Ryan’s kink, the thing that drove him absolutely wild: a straight guy begging him for release.

Dean curled up, reaching clumsily for Ryan’s hand.  “More.”

Ryan caught one of the weakly grasping arms, pushing it toward Jeff.  “Hold him.”

Wordlessly Jeff shifted, cradling Dean’s head on his thighs so that he could grasp both of the man’s wrists.

Dean struggled feebly, the drugs crippling his defenses.

Ryan freed his own erection from his clothing, stroking it in time to his motions on Dean.

Dean’s head pressed into Jeff’s thighs as his back arched involuntarily.  His abdomen moved in small, rapid motions as he huffed in strained breaths.  “Jeff…” The name was a barely intelligible moan.

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Tell her," he moaned again, rocking his head back, mouth open on a pant, "to go faster.”

Jeff couldn’t help but chuckle.

Ryan did as well. “You got any lube in that handy little bag of yours?” His face was flushed, and he was breath-for-breath with Dean.

“Yeah.  Gonna  hafta find it yourself, though.”  Jeff used his head to motion to the fingers encircling Dean’s wrists.  “Kinda busy right now.”

Ryan flashed his teeth in a feral smile before extracting a tube of water-based lubricant from Jeff’s duffel.  He flipped the lid open, squeezing a generous amount of the substance onto Dean’s visibly throbbing erection.

The organ jumped and Dean hissed.  “Cold.”

“It’ll warm up quick,” Ryan assured him.  He filled his left hand with gel, then dropped the tube.  Breathing heavily, pupils dilated, he wrapped one fist around his own cock as the other encircled Dean’s. Both men moaned as Ryan began to stroke, heavy-lidded eyes roaming from Dean’s face to his groin and back again.

Jeff was caught up in it as well, each stuttered breath and pleasure-spiked grunt shooting straight to his groin.

Jeff watched Ryan work the other man, movements slow and deliberate, sliding up the tumescent shaft, twisting around the equally engorged head, then sliding back down.

Dean’s abdominal muscles spasmed and his head rolled from side to side.  “Please.  So close.”  He thrust up with his hips, attempting to quicken the tempo.

Ryan groaned, body curling over his own hand, but continued at the same tortuous pace.

Dean grimaced.  The muscles in his shoulders and arms tightened as his torso contracted.  “God...oh, god…”  His back arched, skull digging into Jeff’s thighs, knees alternately flexing and extending as a hoarse shout echoed around the room, sounding like it had been torn from his very soul.

Ryan watched, mouth hanging open, tip of his tongue visible, until a hot jet of semen arced from his victim, spattering across the already soiled shirt that had been shoved up beneath Dean’s chin.

And then Ryan lost control, hunching over his own hand as he shouted out his release.  He tilted forward, resting his head on Dean’s heaving torso, struggling to catch his breath.

Jeff’s focus was entirely on Dean, watching him grimace, seeing his hands flex and his entire body tremble as the aftershocks of a protracted orgasm worked their way through him.

Jeff licked his lips, mouth suddenly dry, cock hard and aching.

Dean gradually relaxed, breath slowing.

He began to snore softly.

 

Ryan sat up, looking around, somewhat bleary-eyed, at the room’s occupants.  “Damn.  Anyone else here think this was the best one yet?”

Jeff carded his fingers through Dean’s sweat-damp hair, silently agreeing.   Wish it had never  happened.

“You gonna need to drug him again to buy us time to get outta here?”

Jeff shook his head.  “The flumazenil wears off before the flun-- before the roofies.  He should sleep for a couple hours now.”

“Good.”  Ryan stood up, pushing himself back into his pants. “Party’s over.  Let’s get movin’.”

Jeff removed the improvised blindfold from Dean's face and checked his bag, ensuring that he wasn’t leaving anything behind.  

“Jeff.  Let’s go.”

He glanced around, seeing that the others had already left.  “Yeah.  Comin’.”

Ryan held the door open, waiting for him.

 

Jeff found Dean’s clothes, making sure they were close at hand, draping the man’s flannel over his lower body.

He knelt, bringing his lips close to the other man’s ear.  “I’m sorry, Dean.  I hope you don’t remember any of this.  And I hope your brother’s okay.”

He raked his fingertips through the unconscious man’s sweat-soaked hair one more time before following Ryan out the door.

 

Chapter Text


ON THE RUN:  CHAPTER ONE


Dean stood, leaning forward with his head bowed, feeling spray from the showerhead pummel the back of his skull.  He watched the water sheet down his chest, steam heavy in his lungs.  He shifted his weight to his left palm, splayed flat on the wall, and allowed the right to follow the stream, gliding along the uniform swell of his pectoral muscle to tumble over the white water of his ribcage before dipping into the ravine formed by the union of his right and left abdominal muscles.

His erection was there, proud and strong, waiting for him, and he sighed as he curled his fist around it.  Stroked once, twice...the same pace, same pressure he’d used his whole life.

It didn’t feel the same.

He closed his eyes, jaw clenching, and leaned his wet forehead against the back of his left hand.  Water scalded its way down his back.

He concentrated, struggling to find the right thread of thought, the right memory, the right...anything.

Fuck!

He squeezed viciously, teeth bared, bending his hardness in an attempt to relieve the pressure.

Pushing up, he switched hands, pausing to soap the left.  “Like a blind date,” he muttered, trying again.

Nothing.

He allowed his hand to slide lower, palm cradling his swollen scrotum, less for pleasure than to alleviate the ache.

“Too young for this,” yet there it was.

Damned succubus, but he knew that wasn’t it, because this had started days before, and the only thing that gave him hope was the memory of what the succubus had been able to coax out of him.  Something  he hadn’t been able to do for himself in weeks.

             <<“Cowboys don’t really sleep with their boots on, Dean.”>>

Bile rose in his throat.

He was flaccid before he even reached for the towel.

“Some hunter.”

There was no one to disagree.


“You leave me any hot water, jerk?”  The younger Winchester’s bearing was simultaneously challenging and wounded.

“Prob’ly.”  The shard of regret dissolved within a pool of shame.

Sam stalked past him, deliberately knocking shoulders.  “I got school this morning, you know.”

“Get up earlier then.”

“Fricken’ crickets don’t get up as early as you these days, Dean.” His eyes narrowed.  “Maybe you should learn to jack off quicker.”

Dean rolled his eyes as he pawed through his duffle.  “Nice one, Sammy.”

His brother snorted and slammed the bathroom door.

Dean found the pair of socks he’d been searching for, sniffed them to make certain they were clean, then perched on the edge of the bed to pull them on.  “Tell me we’re actually gonna go hunt something today. Room’s startin’ to feel like a friggin’ prison cell.”

“Tell me you’ll quit putting your brother in a pissy mood right before he goes to school.”  John sat at the table, reading glasses in place, intent on the mess spread out in front of him.

Dean snorted.  “He wouldn’t need so much hot water if he’d cut his damn hair, quit lookin’ like a girl.”

John shot a glare over his glasses.  Dean was making his bed, back to his father, and the look was wasted on him.  The hunter returned to his research.  “You do spend an awfully long time in the shower lately.”

“Got a big dick.  Takes longer.”

John set his pen down with a thump that drew a flinch from his older son, but the younger hunter continued straightening blankets as if nothing had happened.

“There somethin’ you wanna say to me, Dean?”  It was a familiar challenge, and a warning to either tone it down or face the consequences.

Dean dropped onto the freshly made bed with an irritated huff.  “I’m just sick of doing a whole lot of nothing!  We’re only an hour from Dr. Kim -- “

“And I’ve told you we’ve got someone else on her.  Someone she doesn’t recognize on sight.  So far she is showing no signs of being a succubus, or any other kind of monster, for that matter.  She’s human, Dean, until proven otherwise.”

“Well why don’t we go hunt something else, then?  Why this freakin’ obsession when there aren’t even any bodies on the ground?”  Dean’s tone was becoming strident as his frustration found its voice.

“You know why, Dean.  It may have your DNA, doing God knows what with it, and we need to --”

“What?  Get it back?  It’s been two damned weeks.  You don’t think they’ve done whatever the hell they were gonna do by now?  Why don’t you just admit that we’re staying here so you can get your rocks off with Caroline?”

The abrupt silence was oppressive.  Dean watched his father fight for control.

Oh, shit.

“In the car, now,” the older man finally ground out.

Dean stood, legs suddenly shaky.  “Where -- ?”

“Training.  There’s a stadium at Sammy’s school.”

Dean picked up his bag, reaching inside.

“What are you doing?”  The elder Winchester’s voice rolled like thunder across the room, and Dean felt the hair on the back of his neck rise.

“Changing.”  He held up a bundled pair of gray sweat pants.

“Jeans and boots, Dean.”

Fuck .  Dean sighed, stuffing his preferred work out clothes back into his bag.

“What’s that, Dean?”

“I said, ‘Yes, sir’,” he intoned by rote, then headed out to the car.


 

After ten laps around the track and finishing his twentieth on the risers, Dean’s legs gave out.  He knelt, bracing himself on a seat while he dry-heaved onto the grass.   ‘Least I made it down this time.

John crossed to him.  “That was twenty.”  He held out a water bottle.  “Small sips.”

Dean took it, grateful, and sipped when he could stop panting long enough to swallow.  “Piece...of...cake,” he huffed between breaths.

John grunted.  “Jacket and flannel off.  Push-ups next.  You got one minute.”

Dean struggled to remove the sweat-soaked garments.  His entire t-shirt was a shade darker than when he’d put it on that morning.  His jeans clung to him.  He flopped onto his back, arms spread wide on the cool grass.  “How many?”

“‘Til you’re done.”

“Shit.”

“Keep it up, boy, and I’ll keep addin’ on.  We’ve got -- “ he checked the watch on his wrist -- “another five-plus hours to kill until Sammy’s done with school.”

Dean dropped an arm over his face.   This has gotta be some sort of child abuse.  ‘Cept I ain’t exactly a child anymore.

“Minute’s up.  Take a drink, and let’s go.”

“Winchester push-ups, I assume.”

John’s grin was savage.  “No better.”  He waited until his son was in position.  “Down and hold….up.  Down and hold…..up.  Down and up for five.  Diamond position.  Down and hold….up.”

This continued, pauses holding Dean’s chest suspended just off the ground for varying lengths of time, hand positions changing, and alternating between one- and two-handed styles, all cycling repetitively until the young hunter’s arms collapsed.

John could see the tremor’s in the boy’s triceps and shoulders.

“Gonna need help wipin’ my ass for the next week.”

John scowled.  “Wall sit.  Now.”

Dean groaned, arms visibly shaking as he forced himself to his feet.  “I hate wall sits.”

“And I hate insubordination.  Now move.”

He’d fallen and been ordered back into place three times before his father decided to move on.  “Hand targets.  Let’s go.”

Dean rolled his eyes.  “Seriously?  I can barely move!”

John, on the other hand, moved so fast that the words were still hanging in the air when Dean found himself pinned to the wall, his father’s face close enough to flavor Dean’s existence with the fragrance of coffee and toothpaste.  “Did you roll your fucking eyes at me?”  

The man’s lips barely moved, and the sound was as deeply terrifying as a growl heard from behind while standing in a night-dark wood.

Dean swallowed hard.   What the hell are you doing, Winchester?  “N-I mean: Sorry.  Sorry, sir.”

John shoved away from his son, pointing to the open field.  “Get your gloves on.”

Dean gave him an inquisitive look, not daring to ask about the change in plans.  He wasn’t normally afforded the luxury of gloves when he worked the targets.

“We’re sparring.”

Dread uncurled itself languorously in Dean’s chest.

“Take the grappling gloves.” A merciful concession, leaving John the heavy ones.

Fine tremors worked through Dean’s limbs, and he wondered if he should even bother trying, knowing he was going to get his ass handed to him either way.

But he was a Winchester, and Winchesters never give in.  “This is when it counts, Boy,” his father’s gruff voice reminded him.  “The trainin’ you do when you feel like you can’t move anymore, that’s the trainin’ that does the most good.”

So Dean lifted arms trembling with fatigue, determined to prove something to both of them.

John circled, light on the balls of his feet, moving like the boxer who’d trained him.  Dean held the center, watching for an opening, letting instinct and nearly two decades of practice guide him.

He dodged a jab, blocked a cross, and turned his hip into a knee before catching a hook to the body that sent him to the ground, winded.  In a flash John had his son face down on the turf, arm around his neck, straddling the boy’s hips with the younger man’s spine arched.  “You ready to tap, Son?”

              <<A cruel hand jerks his head back, replacing the cloth that he had somehow rid himself of,

                   fisting it at the back of his skull, pulling it tight,  keeping his spine bowed painfully -->>

“No!” John instinctively loosened his grip, the panic in Dean’s voice startling him.  The man beneath him turned feral, bucking and twisting, teeth bared, and John scrambled away, curling to cover his face with both arms as Dean followed, eyes inhuman, swinging viciously.

“Dean!  Stand down!”

The boy stumbled back before falling to his knees, chest heaving, blinking sanity back into his eyes.

John uncoiled.  “What the hell was that?”

Dean looked away, shaking his head.  “I don’t know, sir.  I don’t know.”   

            <<His mind screams and he panics and the man above him pulls harder on the bridle of Dean’s gag --  >>

“I’m sorry.”

John stood, unlacing his gloves as he assessed the creature before him.  “Too much adrenaline, maybe.  Let’s call it a day.”


They held their silence all the way back to the motel.  “Go ice down,” the elder Winchester ordered.  “I’ll grab some food and pick up Sammy.”

“Yes, Sir.”  Dean stifled a groan for already stiffening muscles as he unfolded himself from the car.

“Nice job out there today, Cowboy,” and with that one word, the young hunter was right back where he’d started --    

     <<“ Cowboys don’t really sleep with their boots on, Dean,”  --  >>

weak, worthless, and ashamed.

Chapter Text


 

Sam recognized the musical tinkle of ice shifting in water.  “What’s with Dean?”

John was unloading food bags, and didn’t bother to turn around.  “Training.  He’s fine.”

“Hmphf.”  Sam knew what that word, spoken in isolation, really meant: punishment, John Winchester style.  

John glanced up at him, correctly reading the censure in the unstructured vocalization.  “He was gettin’ stir-crazy.  I’m sure you noticed.  Figured you’d appreciate havin’ a break for a little bit.”

“Maybe he wouldn’t be stir-crazy if we’d gone to Bobby’s like you said we were gonna.”

John raised his eyebrows, surprise mingling with the seeds of annoyance.  “We stayed so you could finish out the semester, remember?”

He did remember, but he was feeling petulant.  “He could go on alone.  He is an adult, you know.”

John sighed, shaking his head.  “Why am I repeating conversations with both of you today?  It’s a two-day drive,  he’s got to sleep some time, and we can’t be certain of keeping a succubus away while he’s alone.  So unless Bobby can come and get him  --   which he can’t, because he runs the same risks --  then Dean is stuck with  us.  We clear?”

“Yes, sir,” the boy muttered.  He dropped into an easy chair and pulled his backpack onto his lap.  His hand skimmed over a glossy brochure in the main pocket, and he smiled to himself.  

He was opening a textbook when his father spoke again.  “I know he’s bein’ an ass lately, but your brother has been through alot the past couple weeks.  We both need to cut him some slack.”

“You mean the succubus thing?  The coma?”

John held his younger son’s gaze.  “Sure, that.  And you takin’ off.  That was pretty rough on him, you know.”

Sam rolled his eyes.   Not this again.   The three days that Dean had been in a coma had been a non-stop lecture from John and a never-ending stream of apologies from Sam.  “Speaking of repeating conversations….”

“Sam.”  The word was a warning, the bark before the bite.

Sam subsided, attention returning to his homework.

He’d apologized, sure.  He hadn’t meant a word of it.  While Northern Arizona University hadn’t exactly been his dream college, he’d taken a friend up on his offer of joining the high school senior on his tour of the campus, and that two weeks in Flagstaff had been heaven.  Sam knew without a doubt that he was meant to attend a university: the austere buildings, grandiose lecture halls, multi-storied libraries...and people, thousands of them, people his age, who didn’t think that liking to read made someone a nerd.

He glowered at the bathroom door before lifting the flap on his backpack for another peek at the brochure inside.

Stanford.

No point in dreaming if you don’t dream big.

 


 

Despite his hatred of cold water, Dean dozed.

 

     <<“We gotta get these off of you, get you comfortable so you can sleep it off.”>>

 

He startled awake, heart racing, ice clattering with the sudden movement.  “Fuck.”

He trailed his fingertips lazily down his torso, appreciating the smooth glide of skin ending at his uncooperative phallus.  He flopped it back and forth aimlessly.  “‘Member when we used to be friends?”  He let it drop.  “Yeah.  Me, too.”

Zellynnexia.

He closed his eyes. Her kind were gods once.  Why wouldn’t a prayer work?  He wondered if some kind of offering would help, then realized what type of gift a sex goddess might want, and sighed.   Fuckin’ hopeless.  Can’t give what I’m trying so hard to get.

Despair crept up on him again, ink-black fingers sliding around his heart while digging hooked claws into his brain.

Just gotta hold on until Sammy makes it to college.  Once he’s set, I’m gone.

The thought made him smile.




 

 

“Mother, I can feel him.”

Meridiana carded elegant fingers through her daughter’s luxurious hair.  “I’m not surprised, Zellynnexia.  He touched you while you were collecting him.  You know that creates a bond.”

“He broke through the veil -- ”

“I’m not blaming you, child.  I’m simply explaining: you are bonded.  You will find him, feel him, even hear his thoughts, whenever you make the effort to do so.”

“He’s calling to me.”

Meridiana’s eyes widened.  “ Calling to you?”

“Yes.  May I go to him?”

“No, Lynne. They are hunting us now, hunting you .  It’s not safe.”

“But he’s in pain, Mother.   Please .”

“He is injured?  How?”

The young succubus closed her eyes, tracing the delicate white strand back to its source, dipping her hands into the warm essence that was Dean Winchester.  “Not his body, Mother.  His soul.”  She opened her eyes, returning to herself fully.  “He’s planning his death.”  Her voice caught, and tears glistened brightly.

“Oh, child.”

Meridiana pulled her only daughter into her chest, as if shielding her from the coming loss.




 

 

“Here.”  John tossed a rolled newspaper to his oldest son.  “Found you a case. Knock yourself out.”

Dean shook the tabloid out, scanning quickly before finding the article of interest, reading it with intense focus.  He read it through once, then again, before looking up at his father, suspicion in his eyes.  “Sounds like a poltergeist.”

“I thought so, too.”

Dean flipped the rag back at him, lip curled in disgust.  “Seriously?  A poltergeist ?  C’mon, Dad!  Give the fricken’ maid a can of salt and a couple instructions, and she can take care of it  herself!  I’m goin’ out there, I want a challenge!  Somethin’ I can sink my teeth into!”

“Which translates to something you need back-up for, and we don’t have time for that, Dean.”  He tossed the paper back to his son.  “Take it or leave it.  Doesn’t matter to me.”

Dean shook his head.  “Fine.”  He snatched the sheets from the floor where he’d allowed them to land.  “I’ll take it.”  He headed for the door.

“Dean.”

The commanding tone was one he’d never been able to ignore.  He paused with his hand on the doorknob, waiting.

“Be careful.”

With a last snort of disgust, he was out the door.




 

 

The throaty rumble of the Impala, usually a balm to his soul, was not loud enough to drown out his father’s words: “Which translates to something you need back-up for.”  

Gone after werewolves, ghosts, ghouls, vampires...always with Dad.  I was his back-up, and now all of a sudden I need back-up?

The argument lacked logic, but the poisonous fog of self-hate bears a logic of its own.

 

     <<One on each side they half carry, half drag him into the house.  He tries to help, but his toes keep catching, and he can’t keep his head up.  

     A part of his mind picks at him, a concerned What the fuck? , but it is quiet and very far away.>>

 

Self-hate whispered in his ear, syllables dripping from a venomous tongue:   You needed back-up then, didn’t you, Boy?

Dean turned on the stereo, cranking it all the way up, Pink Floyd’s “On The Run” bludgeoning that voice into silence.

 




The house was deserted, owners having fled after reporting hearing strange noises and having random objects thrown at their heads.  Dean shook his head.  “Subtle bitch, ain’t it?”

He picked the lock on the backdoor, letting himself in with practiced ease.

“C’mon, ya son of a bitch!  I ain’t got all day!”

He stalked through the house, EMF reader in hand, opening doors and cupboards randomly, trying to irritate the spook he’d come to oust.

All was quiet, and he rolled his eyes.  “Are you gonna make me wait until night?”  He spun slowly in the spacious living room, pausing to scan the curved staircase, ending with a view into the kitchen.

It was a comfortable silence.

“You are, aren’t you?  Bastard.”  The last was muttered under his breath.  “Fine!” he yelled, making one last effort to draw the thing out.  “I’ll be back!”

He slammed the door on his way out.




 

 

With an entire day to kill, he found himself parked down the road from a seedy little bar.

 

     <<Classic rock, the solid thwock of a stick tapping a cue ball, ice rattling in glasses.  

     Women in tight shirts and even tighter jeans,  not afraid to catch your  eye.>>

 

It didn't look this bad at night.

He wasn’t aware that his heart rate had increased; didn’t feel the sweat on his palms.

 

     <<He made his way to one of the pool tables.  He stacked his coins on the table.  

     “ You want a partner?” one of the men asked, and Dean answered with an easy smile.>>

 

Blinking the memory back into its cage, he put the car in gear and drove away.

 


 

 

“Dr. Kim will see you now.”

The nurse escorted him into the surgeon’s cluttered office, closing the door behind him.

“Well, Dean!  It’s so nice to see you without the bruises!”  She stood, reaching across the desk to clasp his hand in one of her own.  “Please, sit.”

He did, feeling surreal.  

“So, what can I do for you, Dean?”

He scanned her features, hoping for some sign, some clue to tell him that he wasn’t crazy, that is suspicions were correct.  “Um…”

She smiled, a bright, if forced expression, and waited.

The silence became uncomfortable.

“I...I had a dream about you,” he finally stammered.

She blushed, dropping her eyes.  “Dean, I know, I was...inappropriate with you -- “

He sat forward.  “It was real, right?  Bobby -- my uncle -- he said it wasn’t, but it was.”

“I don’t know if we’re referring to the same thing.  When I checked on you?  The ultrasound, the bandage?”

Dean shook his head.  “No.  That night.  You came back.”

The color in her cheeks intensified.  “I -- I’m sorry, Dean, but I didn’t.  I gave you my phone number, and I probably shouldn’t have done that, but I didn’t come into your room that night.”  She looked away, wetting her lips.  “What you’re implying...I could lose my job, even my medical license, for something like that.”

He shook his head, brow furrowed.  “It was you.  I know it was.”

She raised her eyes, holding his strongly.  “No, Dean.  It wasn’t.”

It was is if the heat transferred from her flushed face to his.  “I...sorry.  I just...sorry.”  He stood up, stumbling against the chair.

She stood too, following.  “Dean,” and she caught his arm, pulling him to a stop.  “You nearly died, you know.”

He looked from the small, delicate hands wrapped around his wrist to her painfully sincere gaze.  

“Life is a  gift, Dean.  Please don’t throw it away.”

She released him, and he fumbled his way out of the room, heart in his throat.

 


 

 

He sat in a stolen car, littering the back seat with crushed beer cans as he emptied them.  The house was across from him.

It looked innocent in the daylight.

 

     <<Living room, not too clean, mattresses instead of furniture.  

     “‘S a crack house?”  and the men laugh, but he doesn’t know why.>>

 

He wondered how often they used it.  Just Monday nights, like with him?  Or was it random?  Once a week? More?  

Did they bring women, too?

 

     <<“You want to sit back and allow all of this to happen to somebody else? Or you want to step up and help put an end to it?”

     "You know where to reach me, and I'll be watching you.">>

 

As he stared at the deceptive facade, the germ of an idea began to form.  He pulled out his phone.




Chapter Text


 

“You finished with that poltergeist yet, Dean?  I expected you home before nightfall.”

“Yes, sir.  I shoulda called.  Lady was so happy, she sent me over to see her sister-in-law, havin’ the same problems.  Teenage girls in the homes.  Cousins.  You know how it is.”

“Well, get your ass back here. Caught another case.”

Truth was, Dean had taken care of the ‘geist just after sundown, and had been doing his own thing for the past two hours.

He was about done.

“A real hunt this time?”

John grunted, warning Dean to watch his tone.  “Werewolf.  That real enough for ya?”

Dean smiled.  “Oh, yeah.  That’ll do.”

He turned the big black car around and let it rumble it’s way back home.

 


 

John thought it was just one, but as Winchester luck would  have it, there turned out to be a pack of the things.  

The hunters  had followed a pair of the monsters into an abandoned barn.  Three Winchesters against two werewolves, seemed like a cakewalk.

And then the damned creatures started dropping out of the ceiling.

“I’m going up!” Dean shouted, launching himself parkour-style to the top of a half wall, springing off of that to grip the open door of the haymow before disappearing from sight.  Since the original two had already been dispatched, that left three for the other two hunters to deal with.

He levered himself up into the faces of two extremely angry werewolves.  With his weight on his hands, he had no defense as one grabbed him by the head to drag him the rest of the way up while the other raked its claws across his chest.

Ignoring the bite of nails digging into the skin at the base of his jaw, Dean donkey-kicked the advancing beast away while reaching behind  him to hook the other werewolf’s ankles, bringing it to the ground.  He backrolled out of the thing’s grip, landing with one knee on each side of its head, and drove a silver dagger into the creature’s heart just as the second one slammed into him, howling with rage.

He went over on his back, sliding across the straw-covered floor with the beast riding him like a sled.  It ended with Dean pinned beneath the monster, straining to hold slavering jaws away from his face while he fumbled for the gun tucked into his waistband.  He could feel the pistol digging into his spine, but the combined weight of his body and the werewolf’s effectively trapped the weapon against the floor.

Thick claws raked at his arms and chest, scalding saliva dripping onto his face, and Dean saw

 

     <<Jeff sitting on his pelvis, pinning him down with his hips . >>

 

His shouted “No!” was both savage and panicked, and he bucked wildly, throwing the thing off, following it immediately, fists and feet swinging.

“Dean! Get clear!”  The command resonated in the cavernous space, but neither combatant heard it.

The battle raged unabated, bodies twisting and rolling, claws flashing in the inconsistent moonlight breaking through the gaps in the derelict building’s walls.  Wordless sounds of inhuman ferocity emanated from both hunter and hunted, the line between them obliterated.

Abruptly a hand fisted in the back of Dean’s collar, twisting into the canvas of his jacket and throwing him off the werewolf.  He sprawled, a shot rang out, he scrambled to his feet, ready to dive back in, and was stopped by the heel of palm impacting brutally with his sternum, driving him back several steps.

“Enough!”  A bellow so loud, Dean was certain he felt the building shake.

He stood, chest heaving, vision clearing.

His father checked his gun before tucking it back into his waistband.

The werewolf lay dead...and pitifully human.

In two strides John was on him, bunching the front of Dean’s jacket in his fist and lifting, forcing him backwards on his toes until his back slammed into the wall.  His father drew his fist back sharply, lip curled in disgust.

 

Dust wafted down in the waiting stillness.

 

John visibly struggled for control, rage bordering on hatred burning in his eyes.

Dean watched passively, expecting to be struck, making no preparations to block the blow or defend himself in any way.

The arm exploded into movement, and Dean cringed marginally.

The plank beside his head groaned with the impact of the eldest Winchester’s fist.

Renewing his grip on the boy’s jacket, John flung him to the ground, then stormed out of the loft.

 

Dean used the wall to pull himself slowly to his feet, wondering what in the hell had just happened.




 

 

Sam pressed himself miserably into the corner of the back seat, involuntary witness to the inferno consuming the front section.

“What the hell were you thinking?”  Their father’s voice was unnecessarily loud, making Dean’s ears ring in the confined space.

“That there were more above us, and they needed to be cleared.” Obviously .

A fist snapped out, stopping with the tip of one finger resting against Dean’s cheekbone.  “Don’t you use that tone with me!  You know the rules, and you entered an unknown space with an unknown number of assailants -- “

“They were dropping down on our heads!  We needed to make a preemptive strike -- ”  A straight right connected with his jaw, sending his temple into the window.  He blinked, feeling his eyes roll, dangerously close to blacking out.

“You went up there, having no idea what you’d be facing, with your hands empty!  Are you trying to die?  Is that it?”

The young hunter wasn’t sure he was allowed to answer, yet not answering could be considered insubordination.  He settled for shaking his head in negation.

“What, then?  What the hell were you thinking ?”

“I dunno.  That one just almost dropped right onto Sammy -- “

“So you went right up the hole the damned things were pouring out of, alone and unarmed!  How fucking stupid are you, Dean?  Who the hell have I been training for the past fifteen years?”

“I had my gun -- “  another jab landed,  this time on his cheek bone, and Dean lost track of the world as his brain caromed off the inside of his skull.  

“Don’t you dare argue with me, you little prick!  Your hands were empty !  Worse than that, they were holding you up!  You were completely defenseless!”

 

<<There are hands, so many hands, and Dean can't remember how many there should be, how many he came here with,

but they are holding him and stroking him and pinching him and scratching him,

and he tries to fight but he can't, and he tries to think but he can't -->>

 

Dean blinked, fighting against the sensation of having his eyes roll in his head like the tumblers in a slot machine.  His face ached, but he refused to rub it.

For the remainder of the drive, John raged and Dean responded just enough to avoid incurring further wrath. But he heard what was behind the tyrade, what his father really meant:  You’re worthless, not fit to call yourself a Winchester, stupid, vulnerable, unreliable, reckless.

 


 

 

Dean opened  the door almost before the car stopped, nearly falling out onto the pavement.  Pushing himself erect, he headed  away, across the parking lot, steady light of an all-night diner calling to him.

“Just where the hell do you think you’re going?”  His father’s ire had not abated in the slightest.

Dean turned, shoulders hunching over a disorienting void.  “Does it matter?  Take care of Sammy, don’t take care of Sammy.  Risk your life for him, but don’t do anything stupid.  I can’t win, Dad.  So does it matter where I’m going, really?”

It was the utter lack of emotion in his son’s voice that stunned John into immobility, kept him locked in place as he watched his son to walk away.

“Sam,” John stopped his younger son with a hand on his arm.  “Let him go.”

“But the werewolf -- he’s bleeding, I saw it!”

“He’s upset, Sam.  He needs space.”

“Yeah, and why is that, Dad?  Why is he upset, again ?  Wouldn’t have anything to do with the way you made our ears bleed all the way back here, would it?  With you ranting about how stupid and worthless he is at one hundred freaking decibels?  No, that couldn’t be what upset Dean.”

“Enough, Sam.”  John tossed a duffel at him. “Get inside.  Clean the weapons.”

“You’re an asshole.”  But he went.

John shouldered the other weapons bag, scanning the area in front of the diner as he closed and locked the lid.  He’d lost sight of Dean, and it worried him.

 


 

The closer he got to it the less appealing the idea of the diner became.  Dean veered off, circling the block until he came up on the backside of the motel.  He followed the rear wall to the corner room, currently occupied by two of the three Winchesters.  Back against the brick, he slid down, knees hunched close to his chest.

He knew why his dad was angry, knew what, in his father’s eyes, he’d done wrong: risked an asset, been careless.  That he’d acted on instinct didn’t matter: there was no room for foolish heroics, and a suicidally reckless hunter was a danger to his crew.

Dean’s instinct wasn’t for self-preservation, and that made him a liability on a hunt.

 

<<through the blur of tears and lash-shuttered eyes he sees Jeff kneeling on one of his bare arms and Jeff's face is savage

and hands circle Dean's ankles like talons and they pull and he fights and something tears in his leg and he panics

and there is weight on his thighs and he struggles and the men hold tighter and he feels the pressure and he knows what's coming 

and his mind screams and he panics and the man above him pulls harder on the bridle of Dean's gag>>

 

He leaned to the side and retched.  Bile steamed in the dirt like a pathetic offering to a cruel god.

What am I now?

 




The high desert gets cold at night, and it was this that finally drove him in.  He pushed himself up, using the wall for support, his groan giving voice to protesting joints gone stiff with prolonged inactivity.

He rounded the corner, pulling up sharply as a silhouette materialized beyond the door.

The tip of a cigarette flared in the hollow night, and a haggard face glowed orange, a brief moment of surreality in the otherwise velveteen blankness.

“You okay?”  

It was his father’s voice, a deep rumble that could be as comforting as the Impala’s, and a sudden sharp longing locked Dean’s throat.

“‘Bout to come lookin’ for ya.  Thought you mighta passed out somewhere.”

The cigarette flared once more, then arced out to land, dying, on the cold pavement.

“You hurt?”

“No.”  The answer came unbidden as something in Dean quailed at the thought of baring himself to this man, of submitting to his ministrations.  

The silence brooded, heavy with potential.

“Need to sew my coat,” Dean finally ground out.  “Canvas protected me pretty well.”

“Sewing kit’s in the bathroom already.”

“Thanks.”  Dean moved towards the door, heart thrumming loudly in his chest, and it was raw fear, not cachectic anxiety, that rode his spine as he stepped closer to that ink-black, looming figure, and felt his father’s heat burning him through his clothes.

Door knob in hand, escape imminent, and that voice impaled him: “Dean.”

“Yes, sir?” And he was relieved, because his voice was quiet, but it was strong.

“Training tomorrow.”

Tears pricked his eyes.   He hasn’t given up on me.  “Yes, sir.”




 

 

John sighed, rubbing his arms to ward off the chill.  He searched his pocket, found the keys there, and moved to the cab of his truck.  The monstrous vehicle was quieter than the Impala, but just as welcoming.

He got the heater going before he pulled out his phone, thumbing a button on the speed dial.

“Caroline?  Is it too late?”

“I told you, I take my hunters whenever I can.  What’s on your mind?”

“It’s Dean.  I’m worried about Dean.”

 

Chapter Text


 

The sewing kit was underneath the first aid kit, both stacked on the toilet tank, because his father always saw everything, knew everything.

Dean shrugged out of his coat, dropping it to the floor and kicking it into a corner behind the door, knowing he’d examine and repair it when he was no longer at risk of bleeding on it.  The flannel came next, material on one side drawn into tatters like the fringe on a buckskin jacket.  Unsalvageable, but it might make decent rags.

He dropped it in the sink.

His t-shirt was plastered to him, a stiff and blackened bandage.  He gave up trying to peel it away in favor of soaking it off.

His jeans were bloody, but otherwise unscathed, a fact he was grateful for as he only had two pair to his name.

Steam had fogged the mirror by the time he stepped into the spray, and he gritted his teeth against the scald of water entering his cuts, telling himself it had to be cleaning them well to hurt that badly.

The cotton eventually relinquished its hold, and he eased it off, another useless scrap, this one damaged almost beyond recognition.

He turned his back to the spray, lathering his hair once, twice, three times, with each rinse carrying the cleansing foam over his chest to runnel into the deep cuts there, sanitizing them.

He turned off the shower, palming an apartment-sized bottle of dish soap, and began to work it into his lacerations.  From there he moved onto his groin, hand working behind and beneath him, making sure to scour every millimeter of flesh between mid-thigh and waist.

He lifted the handheld shower head from its rack, turned the tap to its hottest setting, and rinsed.

 

Then repeated it all.

 

And did it again.

 

Finally satisfied, he reached for a towel. He dried his hair and back, ignoring the front of his torso, and wrapped the towel around his waist.

The fan in the motel bathroom was apparently decorative, and he had to wipe the steam from the mirror with his repurposed shirt before he could examine his new marks.

Punctures, always a tricky wound to judge, ringed the curve of his jaw.  They were swollen and tender, but had bled little, which only told him that his jugular veins and carotid arteries had been spared.  Given that he was upright -- he hadn’t bled out somewhere -- that wasn’t new information.  He had no idea how deep the beast’s claws had penetrated, but other than washing out the wounds one more time, there was nothing to be done.

His chest was another story, one that his shirts had alluded to.  Parallel gashes in quadruplets, high and deep on the right, low and less so on the left.   Left-handed werewolf.  Weird.  

They looked clean enough, but Dean grimaced, realizing he’d need to suture the worst of them, and that it would require that he use his left hand.   Hope it’s better at that than the other job I tried to give it.  Not a very rewarding blind date.

John rapped a knuckle softly on the bathroom door.  “Need anything, Son?”

Longing and loss pulsed sharply in his chest, then faded.  “No, I’m good.  Just gotta sew up my coat.”

He waited through the silence to see if his father would accept that small lie and just leave.

“Alright,” and he sounded reluctant, but resigned.  “I’m goin’ to bed, but go ahead and wake me if you need anything.”

“Yes, sir.  ‘Night.”

Dean blinked rapidly, clearing his eyes, then drew in a breath and held it while he threaded the needle.


 

 

“Sweats and sneakers are okay today, Dean.”  His father had tilted Dean’s head, first to one side, then the other, and prodded the punctures gently before pronouncing the young hunter fit for training.

“Thanks, sir.” He had, of course, avoided disclosing the extent of his injuries to John.  

The trip to the school was quiet, each Winchester lost in thought, and none willing to share.

Sam cast Dean an apologetic glance as he headed into school, and Dean smiled a “No big deal, bro” in return.

The football field was bright in the morning light, promising a scorching day, but Dean kept his sigh internal.  If his dad wanted to put the effort into training him, it meant he hadn’t decided Dean was too much of a liability to allow him to hunt, and there was no way  he was going to risk changing the man’s mind.

“Ten and twenty?”

John’s sharp gaze scanned his older son appraisingly.  “For starters.”

Dean couldn’t help but grin as he turned away to start the first lap.


 

 

 

‘S not bad , he assured himself, ignoring the fact that even his unspoken words came between huffs for breath.   You always feel like this by the last trip up the risers.

Not this bad, he answered himself, and scowled at the unsolicited contention.

Stop bein’ a pussy.

He made it to the grass on shaky legs and lowered himself weakly to the ground, proud of himself for not ending his laps with a puke-fest this time.

‘Cause you were movin’ like somebody’s grandma, that inner voice sneered at  him.  He pretended to ignore it.

“Not bad.  Little slower than the other day, but you got it done.  We’ll up it next time.”

An internal groan translated to “Yes, sir” as it left his mouth.

His father offered him a water bottle.  “One minute, then push-ups and a wall sit.”

Dean accepted the gift, resting it on his thigh until he’d caught his breath enough to drink.  Sweat streamed down his face ineffectually, and as before, his clothing was soaked through.  This time it wasn’t all sweat, and for the hundredth time that day Dean congratulated himself for owning so much dark-hued clothing.  Sweat, blood, it all tainted black cotton the same.

He felt the stitches tear with the first push-up.  His right arm was shaking, like it didn’t want to support him. He gritted his teeth, shifting his weight to the other arm, the right doing little more than providing balance.

“Down….hold.”

The whole right side of his chest was burning.  He ground his teeth, eyes clenched shut.   You got this.  Hang on.

“And up.”

He probably would’ve gotten away with at least one more, except for gravity being a bitch and funneling blood down his straining pectorals, across his deltoid, and snaking it down his arm.  Except for that.

“Dean!  What the hell?”

Shit.  He is going to be so pissed.   With a sigh he allowed himself to drop to the ground.

His father rolled him over, none too gently.  “How bad?” Knowing his son would either evade or out-right lie, he moved to raise the boy’s shirt.

 

Jeff bunches Dean's shirt in his hands, from hem to neck, and he pulls it up and forces it between Dean's teeth

 

“No!”  The word was a gasp.  Dean knocked John’s hands away as his heels dug into the turf, scrambling backwards.

“Dean -- “ but his son’s eyes weren’t focused on him, and that realization locked him in place, hands suspended, with no idea what to do.

And just as quickly, it ended.

“I -- I’ll do it.  It’s stuck in some places.”  Dean’s eyes shifted slightly, centering on his father.

John’s brow creased, but he stayed where he was, cataloging his observations for later scrutiny.

Dean curled into a sitting position before reaching over his head, dragging damp cotton up his back to pull the garment over and in front of him.  He peeled it gingerly from his shoulders and chest as he lay back, wincing when the cloth caught on sharp suture ends.

A look of irritation shaded John’s face, and he shook his head.  “I’m not even gonna ask why you didn’t bother telling me about this.”

Dean looked away, tongue flicking out in a failed attempt to moisten parched lips.  

John stepped closer, and without warning or hesitation, emptied a water bottle over his son’s gore-painted torso.

Dean hissed in a breath, closing his eyes, but held his position.

He flinched when his father pressed the skin between two lacerations.  “Nice stitch-work.  Too bad there ain’t a suture in the world that will hold through push-ups.”  He stepped back, appraising his son, expression quizzical.  “You do those left-handed?”

“Yeah,” and his voice was raw with caged fear.

“Nice.”  He shook his head again.  “Shame all that work was wasted.  Let’s get you back, fix this up.  I wouldn’ta had you train if I’d known about this.”

And that’s why I didn’t tell you.




“You sure you don’t want me to just take you to a clinic?  This is gonna take a while, and it’ll hurt like a bitch for most of it.”

John had set up what he euphemistically called a ‘MASH camp’ against the end wall of the motel, out of sight of curious passers-by.  Dean was perched on a stool, back warmed by rough brick, wearing nothing but a towel.

He hadn’t been too thrilled with the idea, but John had pointed out that the lighting in their dismal room wasn’t nearly bright enough, and there was no one to hold a flashlight.  So sunlight it was, and the only good thing about that was the extra incentive his father would have to work quickly before they both roasted in their skins.

“This’s fine.”  The crown of his skull rested against the wall, chin angled up to give John better access.

 

“Shower and then rinse it out with this,” John had said a half-hour earlier, handing Dean a bottle of rubbing alcohol.  “Then I’ll clean it out and stitch it.”

“Clean it out?”

“Yeah.  Claws are nasty.  Doesn’t matter if it’s werewolf, wendigo, or house cat, the crap it carries in is just as likely to kill ya with infection  as the cuts themselves.”

 

So here he sat, sun baking his skin, waiting to feel forceps digging into his flesh.  And Dean was fairly certain that his father’s assertion that whiskey was not an option for pain control was some sort of punishment.  “You’re dehydrated.  Alcohol’s dangerous.”  That’s what the man had said, a not-so-subtle reference to that morning’s training session.

The Tylenol with codeine had taken effect, so at least he had that.

“You ready?”

Dean kept his eyes closed.  “Yeah.”

“Lemme know if you need a break.”  

“Yes, sir.”

 

From long experience Dean knew to find something to concentrate on that would distract him from what his father would be doing, so he let his mind drift.  

 

And he lets them. He lets them take his jacket, and his flannel --  

How could I...?

...Why couldn't I...?

 

His eyes snapped open.

Two latex-encased fingers settled on his chest, one on either side of a jagged laceration, and spread it open.   No worse than when the stitches pulled through.  Fluid under pressure -- He pulled it up into a syringe -- needled into raw flesh, and he closed his eyes again.  Then the metal, cold but burning, a sharp sting, and his dad’s self-satisfied grunt.  “Look at that, kid.  It’s like the damned thing was wearing press-on nails.”

Dean obligingly opened his eyes, cringing at the ragged black something that his father held gripped in his tweezers.  “That is nasty.”

"Full a’ bacteria, too, and God only knows what else.”  He wiped it onto a cloth.  “And that’s why we’re doing this.”

His father turned back towards him, and Dean closed his eyes, focus entirely on what  his father would be doing.


“Still need to work on those punctures, but I’m done with the cuts.”  John leaned back, rolling his shoulders, stretching out his spine.  “And I gotta get out of this sun.”  He scrutinized the young man before him.  Dean’s eyes were closed, body tight, jaw clenched, covered in a thin sheen of sweat.  He hadn’t done more than breath sharply here and there throughout the thirty minute ordeal.  “You alright?”

“Yeah, ‘m good,” but his voice was lifeless.

“C’mon, bud,” John stood, taking his son’s elbow gently.  “Let’s get you inside.  Don’t need to add sunburn to your list of injuries.”

“‘S too late,” Dean groaned, leaning forward to force himself to his feet.  “My pale ass was prob’ly pink the second I stepped out the door.”

“Skin’s not as red as that towel.  Think we’ll have to trash that one.”  They had a policy of not leaving bloody linens for motel staff to wonder about.

“Better the towel than my pants.”  Which was why he’d had to sit out there in a relative state of undress.

“You good to stand on your own while I make sure there’s no one in the parking lot?”

“Yeah.  ‘M good.”

He did appear solid, despite having a shoulder and his head pressed into the wall.

John slipped around the corner, scanned the area, and leaned back to give Dean a terse “Come.”

The room was dark and cold by comparison.  Dean showered again -- rinse, lather, rinse, repeat twice more -- and dressed before settling on top of the blankets with a grateful sigh.  

“Take a nap,” his father ordered.  “I got a few errands to run.  We’ll try to get those punctures opened up and cleaned out before I gotta go get Sam.”

“‘M kay.”  He was already half asleep.


            He pushed up, snagging his beer in two long, slender fingers, and made his way to one of the pool tables. He'd been watching, and a couple of the guys were good enough to be a challenge.

           He stacked his coins on the table.

          "You want a partner?" one of the men asked, and Dean answered with an easy smile.

         "Sure. Name's Dean."

         "Jeff."

 

Dean shifted in his sleep, unaware of the change in his heart rate.

 

          "Finish yer drink," a bearded man from their group admonished, holding Dean's tumbler out to him. "Ain't polite to leave it when we's the ones hadta buy it." He smiled when he said it, and Dean chuckled.

          "Aw, Scott, you know they always taste better when ya earn 'em fair and square, right?" Dean winked good naturedly at the man before tipping his head back and emptying his glass. "So where's this game?"

 

His limbs twitched, and he began breathing faster.

 

          One on each side they half carry, half drag him into the house. He tries to help, but his toes keep catching, and he can't keep his head up. A part of his mind picks at him, a concerned What the fuck? , but that voice is quiet and very far away.

          He rouses somewhat when the door closes behind them. Lights come on, and he blinks, trying to focus.

         Living room, not too clean, mattresses instead of furniture. "'S a crack house?" and the men laugh, but he doesn't know why.

        " You need to lie down." Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal. "You had a little too much whiskey, buddy."

         Hands on his jacket, and he thinks there might be something wrong with that, and he tries to resist, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal. "We gotta get these off of you, get you comfortable so you can sleep it off."

         And he lets them. He lets them take his jacket, and his flannel, and when he is swaying there in jeans and a t-shirt, Scott kneels. Dean feels someone tugging on his boots, and he mumbles "No," or he thinks he does, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal. "Cowboys don't really sleep with their boots on, Dean."

        And then he's on the mattress, and there is a man on each arm, and Jeff is sitting on his pelvis, pinning him down with his hips. And Jeff bunches Dean's shirt in his hands, from hem to neck, and he pulls it up and forces it between Dean's teeth, and he is not paternal at all.

 

“No!”  He bolted upright, scrambling backwards until he came up hard against the headboard.  It took a moment for his brain to accept what his eyes were telling him: he was alone in a hotel room, fully clothed and mobile.

 

He closed his eyes, swallowing hard.  He drew his left knee up, buttressing his elbow so his hand could hold his head.  

The fingers of his right  hand pressed into the damaged flesh over his chest.

Pain burned the last vestiges of the nightmare from his mind.

 



Chapter Text


 

“John.  It’s good to see you again.”  Caroline held the door open, stepping back to allow her guest entry.

“Thanks for seein’ me on such short notice.”

She led him to the kitchen. The twin tumblers and the unique shape of the Blanton’s bottle put him right back where he’d been weeks before.

“You mentioned concerns regarding Dean.”

“Yeah.  Something’s going on with him.”

“What do you mean?  What have you noticed?”

“He’s…”  John raked a  hand through his hair.  “He’s touchy, breakin’ rules he never used to, pushin’ my buttons.  Takin’ risks...seems like he’s trying to piss me off, ya know?”

She cocked her head in a thoughtful pose.  “Can you give me a specific example?”

“You know what I spent the mornin’ doing?  Stitching him up.  Werewolf hunt last night, he jumps up into a haymow -- alone -- and takes on two of ‘em.  Got his ass chewed, literally.”

“Well, that does sound -- “

“Wait, I wasn’t done.  You know how I found out about it?  I was makin’ him do some PT, punishment for bein’ so reckless the night before, and he’s doin’ push-ups, and blood starts pouring down his fuckin’ arm.”  His anger was palpable.  “I’d asked him I don’t know how many times, and he straight out lied to me, told me he wasn’t hurt even when he was in the bathroom trying to stitch his god-damned wounds left-handed!  Told me he was fixin’ his fucking coat !”

John had gained his feet, pacing like a cornered panther.  “What the hell am I supposed to do with that?”

He stood glaring at her, and she was thankful for the broad expanse of counter between them.  

She waited a moment, allowing some of the tension to dissipate.

“Have you given any thought to why this might make you so angry?”

He blinked like a startled child.  “What?”

“He kept an injury from you, and that makes you angry.  So angry you were tempted to strike him?”

A muscle in his jaw twitched, and she knew that she’d guessed correctly.

“I can understand anger born of fear, and concern, but anger that verges on violence...do you remember our discussion about ‘red flags’?”

He seemed to shrink before her as chagrin replaced anger.  “I’m over-reacting.”

“That’s not exactly how I would word it.  It’s a clue that we need to look for something deeper.”

He returned to his stool, posture resigned.  “Right.  Deeper.”

She waited to see if he would begin, but he simply sat, elbows braced, cradling his head in both hands.

“Do you remember what we found usually triggers your rage?”

“That whole feeling like I can’t protect my family thing.”

“Yes.”

He sighed.  “When I saw him disappear into the loft, I just -- “ he broke off to empty his glass, not bothering to appreciate the fine bourbon.  “I knew somethin’ had grabbed him by the head, knew he didn’t have a weapon in his hands.  Was sure I’d lose him this time.”  His voice had dropped to a barely audible growl.

She waited.

“Had to make sure the ones on our level were down before I could get to him.  And I get up there, and all I hear is snarling, and there’s a body, and first thing I thought was ‘they’re fightin’ over who gets to eat his heart.’”

He poured himself another double shot of whiskey, bottle tapping musically against the tumbler with the shaking of his hand.

He drained the glass and immediately refilled it.

“Figured out he was one a’ the ones fightin’, but  he wouldn’t get clear.  Had to drag him away to shoot the thing.”

His head was back in his hands, voice a nearly indistinct mumble.  “Damn near put my fist through his face.”

Caroline waited, the silence pressing on them both, heavy with the ghosts of rage, fear, and pain.

“Lectured him all the way back to the motel.”  His voice was stronger.  He sipped his Blanton’s.  “He took off.  Headed to a diner, walking.  Ended up sittin’ beside our room, around the corner.  I let him have his space, but I stayed out by the front, keepin’ an ear tuned to him.”  He turned the glass in his hand, watching the ice move.  “Came in, showered, cleaned up, went to bed.”  He drained the golden liquid decisively.  “Found him sleepin’ in the Impala the next morning.  He said Sam was too restless.  Told him he’d be doin’ some training, and he actually smiled.  Never said a thing about bein’ injured.”

He eyed the bottle, and she thought about stopping him, but he didn’t reach for it.  He’d consumed an alarming volume of hard liquor in a short period of time while showing no obvious effects, and she mentally added “alcoholic” to her list of diagnoses.

“Would you mind if we moved to the couches?  There isn’t as much padding between my bones and the chair as there was when I was younger.”

He glanced at her, surprised, but grunted “Sure.”

To her relief,  he left the bottle on the counter.

“So you took Dean to perform some physical training; a form of punishment, you said.  And how were you feeling toward him at that point?”

John shrugged.  “Annoyed, but not real angry.  He’d said somethin’ before he took off about me wanting him to save Sammy but not risk himself, and how he couldn’t win.”

She curled her legs beneath her and settled in across from her patient, scrutinizing him closely.  “And that cooled your rage?”

“Yeah.  Made me remember what you said, about me pushing him and then getting mad when he rose to the challenge, because it made me feel less...competent.”

“But you went ahead with the training because….”

“He needed to learn that he can’t take chances like that.  He’s gotta think, quit acting like he’s immortal -- “

“Or expendable?”

He hunched his shoulders a little tighter.

“So, the training?”

“Started with some laps, around the football field, then up and down the stadium risers.  I’ve seen him go faster, but I knew he didn’t get much sleep, so I didn’t really think about it. Then I had him start doin’ push-ups, and he was really struggling, and all of a sudden blood is just pouring down one arm.  So I flip him onto his back….”

She saw that look of remembering overlain with puzzlement and knew to hold her tongue.

“And I’m angry, because he knows he’s supposed to tell me when he’s injured, especially bad enough to bleed like he was, and that, on top of the stupidity from the night before, is just too much, so I start to pull his shirt up….and he...I can’t even explain it.  Pushes me away, crab-crawls backwards, and he’s staring but I don’t think it’s me he sees.  The look on his face, it was...I been with him when he’s faced all kinds of monsters for the first time, and I’ve never seen that reaction.”

“What did you see?”

“Terror. He was terrified.”

They let that settle for a moment.

“Was it you that had inspired that reaction?”

“I don’t know.”  He rubbed a hand over his face.  “I was mad, and I’m sure he knew it.”

“Mad enough to hurt him?”

John looked away, ashamed.

“So it may  have been you.”

“Maybe.  But he wasn’t seeing me.  His eyes weren’t focused on me.  And I thought maybe he was seeing the werewolves, and the whole thing the night before had been harder on  him than I thought, that he hadn’t just been hiding his physical injuries, he’d been hiding other stuff, too.  Maybe I only believe he loves to hunt because I want that to be true, you know?”

“How did that make you feel?”

“Like shit.  Like the biggest asshole that ever lived.”

She tipped her head in silent agreement.  “What happened next?”

“He snapped out of it, peeled his shirt off.  I got a look, took him back, cleaned it up.”

“Have there been any other incidents that have made you question Dean’s enjoyment of what he considers his job?”

John leaned back, exhaling thoughtfully.  “Not really...I mean, he’s usually a pain-in-the-ass between hunts.  Gotta keep him training, and I mean I gotta work him hard, or he’s just impossible to be around.  Took on the werewolf hunt because he’d been bitching, and I sent him after a poltergeist, figured he’d like that ‘cause I let  him handle it alone, and he was pissed ‘cause it was too easy.”

“What about the werewolf hunt?  How was he immediately afterward?”

“After I killed the last one?”

She shrugged, spreading her hands slightly.

John closed his eyes, picturing himself slamming Dean up against the wall, shaking with rage, fist pulled back….

He opened his eyes.  “I told you I was mad, right?”

Caroline nodded.

“I had him up against the wall.  Almost punched him.  And he just...he just stood there.  Didn’t look scared, or mad, or guilty.  Just...like he didn’t care.  Like it was gonna happen and he just didn’t care.”

Caroline leaned back, unfolding her legs to cross one over the other, lacing her hands around her knee.  “Hmmm...Interesting.”

John watched the intelligence play across her face, looking forward to hearing her thoughts.

Instead, she asked a question.  “How did he react to having you clean his wounds?”

John blinked.  “Uh...the way he usually does.  Real quiet, you know.  He’s always been like that: if he gets a hangnail or stubs his toe, he’ll whine for days.  Break his ribs or practically slice an arm off, you won’t hear a peep out of  him.”

She nodded thoughtfully.  “Have you noticed any other incidents where he seemed to be focused on something that wasn’t there?”

“Not really.  Nothing that stands out.”

“Interesting.”  She leaned forward, her expression earnest.  “It would be very helpful if I could meet with him.”

A strong sense of unease stole over him.  “Hafta think about that one.”

She shrugged.  “Of course.  In the meantime, we are faced with a situation where Dean did something that could have gotten him killed, you became enraged, you lectured but didn’t hurt him --”

“I did.”  He bowed his head.  “I punched him in the face twice on the drive back.”

He felt her disappointment without looking at her.

“And how did he react?”  Her voice was even, without censure.

John shrugged.  “Just got quiet.”

“That seems like a safe response.”

He felt his face get hot.

“There are two aspects of this that we need to consider.”  She had adopted her lecturing tone, and John’s shoulders lost some of their tension.  “There is your reaction to Dean, and Dean’s reaction to you.  He did something reckless that frightened and therefore angered you, but what actions of yours may have contributed to his behavior?  Similarly, he hid a serious injury from you, which also made you angry, but what actions of yours may have taught him to do that?”

John sighed.  “I am fucking him up so badly.”

“That’s not what I’m after here, John.  And it is not productive.  You love your son, you want to improve, and that’s what matters right now.”

He ran a hand through his hair.  “Yeah.  Okay, so, I yelled, I told him his actions put all of us at risk, told him I wasn’t sure he was cut out for hunting.”

“And where in that environment should he have felt safe disclosing his injuries to you?”

John leaned forward, covering his face in hands.  “Shit,” came the muffled response.  

“And as far as his recklessness: he told you that you’d commanded him to protect Sam, yet were angry at him for taking chances with his own life.  What actions of yours led him to believe that he was supposed to be willing to sacrifice himself for Sam?”

He did not respond, and with his face hidden, she could not read his expression.  

She was careful to keep her tone factual rather than judgmental.  “The punishment he received for leaving Sam alone to pursue his own interests, even briefly, was severe.”

He lowered his elbows to his knees, forearms curled over his head.  “Fuck.”

She sighed.  “And we have to consider the possibility that what he experienced on the field when you attempted to examine his injury was a flashback.  That it was you he was focused on: an earlier, visceral memory of you attacking him.”

“Jesus Christ.”  John stood, turning his back to her.  She watched him, taking in the bowed head, hunched shoulders, and hands tucked into his front pockets.  He walked over to lean his forehead against the doorframe.

As she watched, he slowly dropped to his knees, wrapped his arms around his face, and sobbed.

 

Chapter Text


 

At three a.m. Dean had finally broken down and popped a couple Tylenol with codeine.  

He’d been dangling on the edge of sleep, not entirely relaxed but at least resting, when Sam had abruptly flailed both gangly arms as if trying to catch himself in mid-fall, the right slapping down hard across Dean’s chest.

A displaced rib ground against his sternum and one of his lacerations began leaking blood, and Dean decided he was done with the bed for the night.

After washing down the pain medication, he scanned the room, assessing his options.

A brown leather jacket rewarded him with keys, and he went to stretch himself out in the backseat of his Impala.


 

“Dean.”

Gentle hands carded through his short hair, and relief bolstered by longing expanded to fill a void he hadn’t realized was there.

“Zellynnexia,” and the name was both a plea and prayer.

Fingertips traced his forehead.  “I’ve missed you.” Hot breath misted over his left eyebrow, tip of her tongue tracing the ridge, and he shivered with want.

He slid the fingers of both hands into her hair, marveling at its weight and softness.  “I’m glad you’re here.  I’ve been trying to find you.”  He drank her in, hungry to memorize each detail of her features.  “I need…”  The burning in his eyes closed off his throat.

“Shhh,” she admonished, and delicate lips whispered across his own, her tongue darting out to lap up his moan.  “I know.”

He closed  his eyes, curling his fingers into her dark locks, pulling himself into her mouth, sucking her lower lip, then her tongue, chasing it back with his own, invading and exploring, desperate to taste her sweetness, frantic for its balm.

She broke away to explore the side of his neck, the underside of his jaw, and he moaned again, straining towards her, heart drumming insistently.

It wasn’t until her nails scraped tantalizingly across his chest to tease a tight nipple that he realized he was nude.  Her teeth closed over that small but sensitive nub, and she held it carefully while the tip of her tongue stroked across it.

The feeling was electric, and he arched into her mindlessly.

“Lynne,” this time a demand as well as a promise.

She heard, and adjusted her hips, guiding him into her.

She is devouring him, soft-moist-sucking warmth, and his back arches as he groans, and it feels so incredibly good, he can't remember why it wouldn’t, and he tries not to let it over-power him, but it does, and their hands and mouths move faster, and his skin is tingling and his heart is racing and he feels the build and he knows it's coming and tries to slow it and he can't and it's everything and the wet sucking heat is filling his head and a wordless moan pours from his lips as his torso folds and his orgasm erupts and

tears

dance

down

his

face.

 

“Zellynnexia,” and his whisper was a song of praise in the starry night.

 

 


 

A black car in an open lot in the desert turns into an oven by seven a.m.

Dean awoke to that awareness, slick with sweat, body heavy and feeling...sated.

He focused on that, and on the pleasant tingle in his groin, the less pleasant stickiness, and the invasive suffusion of happiness that was the afterglow of Zellynnexia.

For the first time in a long time, he thought it might turn out to be a good day.


 

“I’m gonna drop you at Bobby’s this weekend.”

There was barely a hitch in the rhythm of the whetstone gliding across the machete blade.  “Just for the weekend?”  

“No.”  John paused, knowing this wouldn’t go over well with his oldest son, trying to find some way to get him to accept it anyway.  “You’re gettin’ stir crazy here and Bobby could use your help. I’m gonna leave ya with him, then come back and stay with Sam until his school year’s over.”

John couldn’t read the mix of emotions in  his son’s face, but he knew none of them added up to ‘pleased’.  

Shame and hurt won out, and he watched helplessly as Dean set the tools down, stood, and turned away, tears glinting in his eyes.

“Dean, it’s not a punishment, okay?  I’m not banishing you or anything, but there’s no hunt right now, and Bobby could use some help with those cars of his, and research on this ‘cubi thing.”

Dean had moved to his duffle bag and begun rummaging through it.

“Even if there was a hunt, you need time to heal -- “

He watched, dumbstruck, as his oldest son walked into the bathroom and shut the door.

He's never walked away from me like that before.

He sat down on the bed, running a hand through his hair.  “Christ.  What the hell am I doing?”  

 



Dean turned on the shower, letting it heat while he slowly peeled off his clothes and bandages.  They didn’t usually shower twice in a day with no hunt or training in between, but he figured the blood, sweat, and antibiotic ointment coating his torso gave him an excuse.

The steam was almost thick enough to choke him and the water scalded his skin.  He ducked his head into the spray, turning, soaking every part of himself.

Shampoo, let it sit, soap every millimeter of flesh, even between each of his toes.

Sending me away.

 

Rinse.

Shampoo.

Soap.

 

Not good enough to hunt with. Can’t trust me to have his back, to keep Sam safe, to...whatever.

 

Rinse.

Shampoo.

Soap.

 

before he can wonder if this is a vampire nest, someone is devouring him, soft-moist-sucking warmth, and his back arches as he groans, and it shouldn’t feel so good, he can’t remember why but it shouldn’t, and he tries not to let it, but it does, and the hands and mouths move faster, they are everywhere, and his skin is tingling and his heart is racing and he feels the build and he knows it’s coming and it shouldn’t and it is and he can’t and it’s wrong and the wet sucking heat is filling his head and a “No” boils from his lips as his torso folds and his orgasm erupts

 

He pressed his thumb  hard into the area on his chest where his rib had slipped off of its facet on his sternum, hissing at the sharp lance of pain.

Should have been able to stop them. Shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  And I…

He looked down at himself, cringing.   How could I let that get me off?

Everything I thought I was...I’m not.  And Dad knows….he’s always known.  That’s why he….

There were no words, just a cloud of memories, of strong words, harsh looks, merciless hands.

Dean sat in the bottom of the motel bathtub, knees drawn up, head bent low, hands laced over his skull, and rocked, too lost even for tears.




“He’s gone, Caroline.”  The pain and fear in his voice carried clearly through the phone.

She pictured him pacing, running a hand through his hair.  “Who is gone, John?”

“Dean.  He was in the shower; I left to get Sam, came back and he’s gone.  His duffel, his car, both gone.”

“Text and phone?”  She knew the answer, but had to ask.

“Not answering.  Phone goes straight to voicemail.”

“And I assume he’s had no contact --”

He cut her off, impatient.  “No contact with Sam or Bobby, and the guys I got watching the doc that treated him haven’t seen him, either.”  There was a pause, and she suspected that he was drinking.  “Bobby told me -- “ his voice choked off, and he cleared his throat.  “About Dean’s...surgery.”  His voice sounded off, and she knew he was crying.  “I almost killed him, Carol.  It’s no wonder he took off.”  Another pause, and the distinctive sound of glass on glass could be heard.   At least he’s not drinking straight from the bottle.  “I just don’t know why he bothered to stick around for so long in the first place.”

“Can you come over?”

“No.  I’ve got Sam.”

“Bring him.  It may help.”

His silence voiced his refusal, and she wondered, not for the first time, what he was so afraid of.

“What will you do then?”

He blew out a long breath.  “I don’t know, Caroline.  I just don’t know.”

And he ended the call.



Dean turned the manila envelope in his hands.  He’d been in plenty of police stations before, but couldn’t ever remember feeling this nervous.  

He stepped to the window at the front desk.  

“Help you?” the uniformed officer asked, sparing the tall young man the briefest glance before returning his attention to his computer screen.

“I’m looking for Detective Hedley.  Is he in?”

“About?”  The  man’s fingers tapped away on the keyboard.

“I...I need to give him this.”  Dean raised the envelope slightly.

“Just leave it here.  I’ll make sure he gets it.”

Dean shifted his weight from one foot to the other.  

The man looked up.

Dean found that he couldn’t meet the officer’s eyes.  “I’d really prefer to give it to  him myself.”

Now he had the uniformed man’s undivided attention.  “What did you say your name was?”

“Dean...Dean Kayser.  The detective questioned me about something when I was in the hospital.  I had a concussion and was doped up.”  He held up the envelope again.  “I have more information, but I don’t….”   I don’t want just anybody to see it .  He shrugged.  “No offense, but I don’t want to risk any of it getting misplaced.”

The officer looked at him for a moment, then picked up a phone.  “Hey, Dave.  You know a guy named Dean Kayser?”  There was a pause, and the man flicked his eyes over Dean as he listened.  “Yeah, that sounds like him.  He’s down front, got a package he wants to give you.  Won’t leave it with me.”  He listened again, then put his hand over the phone. “He wants to know if you want to go up.”

Dean took an involuntary step back.  “No...kind of in a hurry.”

The man removed his hand from the mouthpiece.  “Nah, you’re right, he don’t wanna come up.”  He nodded.  “Alright.  Thanks.”  He replaced the receiver in its cradle.  “He’ll be right down.”  He gestured toward a wooden bench.  “Have a seat.”

Dean glanced quickly at the cameras placed at ceiling level before concluding that they covered the room in its entirety.  He moved to the bench, but sat perched on the edge of it, one knee bouncing in agitation.

He stood as soon as he saw the detective approaching through the glass doors.

“Dean,” the man smiled warmly, extending his hand.  “What can I do for you?”

Foregoing the handshake, Dean pressed the envelope into the man’s palm.  “I thought about what you said.”  He dropped his chin, worrying his lower lip with his teeth.  “You’re right.  They have a  house…”  He shifted his weight, stuffed his hands in the front pockets of his jeans, and hunched his shoulders.  “I don’t think...I don’t think I was the first.”  He swallowed visibly. “ It’s all in there: what I remember.  The bar they...that I met them at.  Photos.  Address of the house.”  One hand rose, pressing hard into his chest.  “I left a t-shirt  there, on the floor in the bathroom.  ‘S probably still there.”  The hand rubbed, and Dean flinched.  “Living room...there’s no furniture.  Just mattresses.”

He stepped back, then turned toward the exit, and the detective caught his arm.

Dean jerked away instinctively, one foot dropping back into a balanced stance, arms rising to block or strike, eyes both fearful and angry.

“Sorry,” Hedley offered, hands up, one holding the envelope, the other palm out.  “I just wanted to thank you.” The detective’s voice was low, pitched so that only Dean could hear him.  “This wasn’t your fault, and coming in here like this took a lot of courage.”

Tears glinted brightly in the young man’s eyes as he turned and shouldered his way out the door.



By the time he got back to the motel, it was dark.

The black Impala purred as he guided it into a dark spot in the corner of the lot, far enough from his father’s room that he shouldn’t hear the rumbling beast, but close enough for Dean to see his family one last time.

He had a fresh bottle of Jack on the seat next to him.  He opened it, tipping his head back to drink deeply, enjoying the bite of the harsh liquor.  

The barrel of his Colt 1911 gleamed in the weak light of the one street lamp that managed to stretch its influence this far.  Dean ran his fingertips over the pattern etched there.  It was a beautiful piece, and as much as he tried to tell Sammy that it was the action and precision that he loved about his gun, it was the pearl handle and intricate design that had first caught his attention.

He was proud of his weapon.

He took another long drink, grimacing as he swallowed, and tipped his head back against the seat.  He could see the room through the curtain of his lashes, lights still on, shadows shifting across the windows.

Someone was pacing inside.

The brown liquor slid down his throat a bit more smoothly the third time.

He pulled his phone out, turned it on.  

Seven voicemails, eleven text messages, and too many missed calls to bother counting.  His dad, his brother, Bobby….

The bottle rose, tipped, and was lowered once more.

Three people.  Three people to care, to mourn.  That wasn’t so bad, right?  Not like he’d be leaving a couple dozen behind.  

One less hunter among those four.  Hunters knew how to cope.  They’d get over him pretty quickly.

He raised the liquor in a silent toast.  “Sorry, guys.  Sorry I’m not who we thought I was.”

One long swig, and he capped the bottle, dropping it on the seat.

The grip of his pistol felt so right in his hand.


 

John carried one of the straight-backed chairs out and set it next to the door, closing Sam inside.  He sat facing the Impala, a shape that was only vaguely discernible in the dark night, but one that he would recognize anywhere.

Heart in his throat, he dialed the familiar number, praying his son would answer.

Just when he thought he would be forced to walk over to the car, a whiskey-roughened voice spoke in his ear.  “Hey, Dad.”  

The vice around his chest loosened.

“Dean.  What’re you up to, son?”  He kept his tone gentle.

He counted three uneven breaths before Dean answered.  “Drinkin’, I guess.”

John sorted through responses, feeling like he was diffusing a bomb and not sure he was up to the task.  “Oh, yeah?  Whatcha drinkin’?”

“Jack.”

“Good choice.  Caroline has this stuff called ‘Branton’s’, or something like that.  Bottle looks like a  hand grenade. ‘S got a jockey on the cap.  We should split a bottle some time; it’s nice and smooth.”

No reply.

“You want someone to share that Jack with?”  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this afraid.

“Nah.  Not very good company right now.”

“Why’s that, Son?”  He tried to put every ounce of love he felt for the boy into his words.

More uneven breaths made their way to John’s ear.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be….” Dean’s voice faded out.

John sat forward, gripping the phone tightly.  “Couldn’t be what, Dean?  You’re everything I ever hoped you’d be, everything I’ve ever asked you to be, and more.  What are you sorry for?”

He’s crying.  Dean never cried, never, and the sound crushed John’s soul.  He stood, pacing, wanting more than anything to go to his son, afraid that it would be the wrong thing to do.  “Please, buddy.  You’re scaring me.  Talk to me.”

“I can’t --”  His voice broke on a sob.  Panic crested in John’s throat, and he began striding toward the Impala.

“You can, Dean, you can.  I’ve made so many mistakes with you, so many things I regret, but I love you and I’m proud of you, and there’s nothing you could tell me that would change that.”

“I’m not who you think I am.”  The voice was a whisper, and John stopped in his tracks, cold rushing down his spine.

“What do you mean?”

He held his breath, listening to his son struggle to control his own.

“I couldn’t stop them.”  

John strained after words that were barely a whisper.  “Couldn’t stop who?”

There was a single sob.  “They drugged me.”  His voice was even softer.

Jesus, no ….  John began moving toward the car again.  “Who drugged you, Dean?  When?”

A sharp, hiccuping breath preceded the words.  “Guys from the bar.  Night Sammy took off.”

John put a hand on the hood of the Impala, legs suddenly weak.  “Dean….”

“They…”  John could see his son through the windshield, hunched over the steering wheel, phone in one hand.

He was rubbing the barrel of his Colt against his temple.

“I couldn’t...I didn’t want….”

“Shhh,” John crooned, moving slowly towards the driver’s side door.  “It wasn’t your fault.  It doesn’t change who you are.”

Dean sobbed, and John watched the boy press the side of his pistol into his forehead, grinding against it.  

John put his left  hand on the door handle before crouching down to his son’s eye level.

“Why did they pick me?”  And John heard all that the question entailed, all the self-doubt, loathing, and shame.

“Because you’re a good-looking kid, Dean.  Your whole life I’ve caught people looking at you, and I’ve worried, and I should have warned you.  This my fault, Dean.  Mine, not yours.”

Dean rested the wrist of the hand holding the gun against the steering wheel, head rocking side to side as he cried.

“I’m here, buddy.  I’m here.”

John slowly opened the door.

Dean dropped his phone, shoulders heaving, sobbing against the steering wheel.

John slid his right hand across the boy’s shoulders, pulling his son into his chest.  With his left hand he took the Colt from Dean’s limp fingers.

Dean turned into him, fists gripping his father’s flannel, helplessness and shame racking his body as it boiled out of him uncontrollably.

John crushed the boy against him, doing his best to hold the fragments of his son’s soul together, whispering, “I’m sorry,” “I love you, Dean,” and “It’s going to be okay,” over and over again.

 

As soon as Dean went limp, either from exhaustion or an alcohol-induced blackout, John called Bobby.

“I know it’s late, but somethin’s happened to Dean.  I need to take him to Caroline.  Can you get here, keep an eye on Sam?”

“‘Course I can. I’m actually just one state over right now, workin’ a case.  Be there in about two  hours.”

“Thanks, Bobby.”

“You just make sure Dean’s okay.”  There was a pause.  “You didn’t hurt him, did you?”

John closed his eyes.  Knowing he deserved that only heightened the pain of it.  “No, not this time.”

“Good.  Might give ya a chance to make up for it.”

“Thanks.”  John’s tone was sardonic.

The line was dead.


With some effort John managed to force an unresponsive Dean over into the passenger seat, knocking a nearly empty bottle of Jack Daniels onto the floor in the process.  He slid in behind the wheel before pulling his son over to lean against his shoulder, the boy’s body heat and soft snore somehow comforting.

John texted Sam.  “I’ve got Dean.  He’s okay, but we need to go do something.  Bobby’s on the way.”

Then he leaned his head back against the seat and tried to absorb the bombshell his wrecked older son had dropped on him.

Dean... raped.  The cocky smile, the mischievous glint in his eyes, the determined set to his jaw, the childlike glee...To think that someone had missed all of that, had looked at his son and seen only a piece of flesh to be used and discarded….

Thank God they didn't kill him.

But John wanted to kill them.  To have hurt Dean this way, forcing him to doubt and hate himself, that was something John could not forgive.

He began piecing together the bits of information that Dean had given him.

There wasn’t much: more than one man; a bar; the night Sammy left.

John suddenly remembered what he’d asked Dean the day he’d come back from hunting a shape shifter to track down his younger son.  What he had assumed Dean had been doing, and the answer his boy had given: “Yes.”  John remembered the way Dean’s shoulders had dropped, his entire being limp with guilt...and acceptance.

He knew I was going to beat the hell out of him, and he let me.  Because he thought he deserved it, for what those piles of vomit did to him.

John leaned his head against his unconscious son’s, and his tears were lost in the boy’s sweat-damp hair.

I will make this right.  If it’s the last thing I do, I swear to God, I will make this right.

 

Chapter Text


 

Dean held himself very still, struggling to focus past the pounding in his head long enough to figure out where he was and who -- or what -- was lying next to him.

 

Without opening his eyes, he came to a few conclusions: he was in a bed; his father was asleep next to him; and he had the mother of all hangovers.

The room didn’t smell like a motel room, and he slitted his eyes fractionally, still not convinced that it was safe to make his return to consciousness known.  Not when having to move suddenly was likely to land him on the floor in a puddle of vomit.

Doesn’t look like a motel.  Looks like somebody’s house.  But not Bobby’s.  He couldn’t say for certain why, but he could almost guarantee that a woman lived here.

He lifted his head, looking around.  They appeared to be alone.  His father slept on his back, as always, snoring in a way that made Dean want to smother him with a pillow.  But he didn’t have his pistol on his chest, so either the hypervigilant hunter had been disarmed, or he felt safe.

Dean struggled to a seated position on the side of the mattress, cradling a head that felt swollen and ten pounds too heavy.  His stomach rolled, cursing him for the abuse he’d made it suffer the night before.  

Jack Daniels.  The Impala.  My Colt.

 

Dad.

 

He hadn’t realized that he’d groaned until he heard his father’s sleep-roughened voice.  “Hey, kiddo.  How ya feelin’?”

Dean groaned.  “Jack is not my friend.”

John chuckled.  “Yeah, had a few of those mornin’s myself.”  He rolled out of bed and stood.  “Bathroom’s through that door.  I’ll go get ya some coffee.”

“Aspirin?”  Dean added hopefully.

“‘Course.  You want any food with that?  Toast?  Bacon?”

Bile immediately rose in Dean’s throat.  He lurched into the bathroom, knocking the door shut with his elbow as he dropped to the floor.

John could hear his son retching.  “Guess not.”

 


 

Dean hunched over his coffee, eyes locked on the dancing steam as if it contained all of the answers to life’s most complex questions.

To say that he’d been less than thrilled at finding out where they were and why was a gross understatement.  “I almost lost you last night, Dean,” his father  had growled in a tone that Dean knew better than to question.  “I watched you hold a damn gun to your head.  Now, I don’t have to be there if you don’t want me to, but we are not leaving this house until Caroline tells me you’re ready.”

So he sat, hands warmed by the thick mug, inhaling the comforting aroma, feeling his thoughts spin and drift with less substance than the steam, wondering what the hell he was supposed to say to this woman who already knew way too much about him.

She settled onto a stool across the countertop from him, her own white mug centered precisely before her.  “Well, Dean,” and her voice carried a warm smile with it, “it’s nice to finally meet you.  Your father has told me a lot about you.  You’re quite an impressive young man, to hear him tell it.”

He flicked his eyes to her, returning his gaze almost immediately to his coffee.   She really expect me to believe that?

“I want to start by telling you what my role is here: I’m an impartial audience with some knowledge and experience to share, but I don’t ‘fix’ people.  I just make it possible for them to fix themselves.”

She lifted her cup, a motion that he watched with his peripheral vision.  She blew carefully before taking a tentative sip, then set the mug back onto the counter.

“I don’t judge, but even if I did, it shouldn’t matter, as you will likely never see me again after we’re through here.  My opinion is not important, because in the overall scheme of your life, I am not important.  And what we discuss is entirely confidential; I won’t disclose anything to anyone, not even your father or Bobby or your brother, unless you specifically ask me to.”

He licked his lips, top then bottom, and waited.

“And we can talk about anything you like.  It could be what happened last night, or what happened around the time Sam left, but it could be anything at all.  Memories, hobbies, movies you’ve seen, whatever you like.”

He nodded slightly.  Whatever I like, huh?

He took a sip of his coffee.  Cleared his throat.  “So, Bobby said your husband is a hunter.”

“He was,” she acknowledged.  “He passed away a few years ago.”

He glanced up at her.  “I’m sorry.”   Nice job, Winchester.  

She smiled.  “It’s alright.” Her smile slid away.  “No, that’s not true, and it’s not fair for me to ask you to bare your soul to me if I’m not willing to do the same.”  She looked down at her interlaced fingers.  “It’s hard, and I still miss him, still expect him to walk through the door or send me a text...but I can talk about him now without crying, so there’s that.”

Dean swallowed.  “If you don’t mind my asking…”

“How did he die?”  She met his eyes, and he saw the unshed tears in her wan smile.  “Not on a hunt, believe it or not.  He had actually retired.”

Her smile widened at Dean’s raised eyebrows.  “Yes, some hunters really do survive long enough to retire.”  She shrugged.  “One minute he was mowing the lawn while I cleaned the kitchen.  The next, a neighbor was knocking on the door, and I could already hear the sirens.”  She sipped her tea.

Dean waited.

“I went to him, fell to my knees, already crying.  He brushed my tears away, tried to tell me it was nothing, but we both knew he was lying.”  She shook her head.  “And do you know what he said to me?”

Dean watched her, knowing she did not require a response.

“He told me I was the best thing that had ever happened to him, of course.  But then he said, ‘Ain’t this ironic?  All those monsters, and it’s the damn lawn that gets me.’”  She chuckled even as she swiped tears from her cheeks.  “Then he said, ‘Hunter’s funeral, CeeCee, or I’m comin’ back and campin’ out in your bedroom.’”  She laughed again before reaching for a tissue and dabbing daintily at her nose.  “I loved his sense of humor.  It’s one of the things I miss the most about him.”

“My mom died when I was four.”   Where the hell did that come from?

Caroline nodded.

“Dad probably already told you that.”

She spread her hands and tipped her head in a “Yes, but continue” gesture.

“He wasn’t a hunter before that.  He was a mechanic.  Still fixes our cars.  He’s taught me that, too.”

She was perfectly still, watching him.

He kept his eyes on his coffee.

A clock ticked softly.  He could hear her breathing, slow and even.  A barely audible mechanical hum was followed by the sound of an ice cube falling into a bin as her freezer cycled through its duties.  He couldn’t hear his father, and wondered if he was nearby, listening.

“He told me about when he taught you to shoot a pistol.”

Dean huffed out a short laugh.  “Yeah.  I could barely hold the damned thing.  Started hunting a few months later.”

“What did you think of it at such a young age?  Were you afraid?”

He shrugged on shoulder.  “A little, maybe.  Mostly I just...I don’t know.  Felt proud, I guess, because my dad was treating me like a man, not like a little kid.”  He sipped his coffee.  “Thinking about it now, I’m surprised he did that.”

“How so?”

Another half-hearted shoulder movement.  “I dunno.  I was a liability, for sure.  He  had to have spent half his attention keeping an eye on me instead of focusing entirely on the monster he was after.  Coulda gotten him killed.”

“Yet it didn’t.  Why do you think he started training you so young?”

“Had to be done.  The monsters are out there, and for whatever reason, they’ve targeted our family.  I had to learn how to keep Sam safe, how to recognize the bad guys and take ‘em out.”

“Kill or be killed?”

He nodded.  “Exactly.”

She sipped her tea.

The sounds in the home had not changed.  He listened, cataloging, trying to wait her out.

“Did you ever get injured?”

He smiled into his mug.  It was a small victory, but it still felt good.

“Yeah, every now and then.  Dad was real careful, but monsters can be hard to predict.”  He turned the mug in his hands, caressing the smooth ceramic with his fingertips.  “First time was stupid: goin’ after a poltergeist, no big deal, but it threw a cup kinda like this one and I didn’t duck fast enough.  Knocked me out for a minute or two, cut my skin.”  He wasn’t even aware of the fingers that rose to explore his temple, as if the wound may still be palpable.  “I don’t think I even got a concussion.  Scared the hell outta Dad, though.”

“What did he do about it?”

“Ganked the ‘geist, of course.  Then dropped me and Sam at Bobby’s for a long time.”  He glanced up at her, then away.  “Well, it felt like a long time to me, anyway.”

“What did you do at Bobby’s?”

“Everything I could to get more useful to Dad.  Practiced shooting, learned about fixin’ cars, looked through Bobby’s books.  He’s got the biggest library of stuff about the supernatural that I’ve ever seen or even heard of.  Learned a lot.”

“Did you do anything just for fun?”

This time both shoulders twitched up briefly.  “He started teachin’ me how to cook.  And we’d play catch, and he’d make up games for me and Sam to play with him, like pretending we were  hunters and he was a monster, or he’d crawl on the floor and pretend to be a shark, and we had to jump from one piece of furniture to another to stay out of the water.”  He was smiling as he talked, and the expression felt unnatural to him.

“Sounds like Bobby really enjoyed you two.”

Dean chuckled.  “He’s a good guy.”

“So, your dad came back….”

Dean nodded.  “He needed Bobby for a job.  We all went to wherever it was Dad had been.  Something was killing kids, taking their hearts, but he wasn’t sure what it was, and he hadn’t been able to kill it.  Dad thought it was a werewolf, or maybe a pack of them, but Bobby was pretty sure it was a shape shifter.”

He paused, sorting the memory out in his mind.

“I’d done a lot of reading at Bobby’s, looked at a lot of books.  I was pretty sure it was an Aswang, which meant it could be keeping a sigbin or a wak-wak as a pet.  I tried to tell them what I was worried about, but they weren’t listening to me.”

He shifted in his chair, tipping his coffee, scowling at the lukewarm liquid.

“I was supposed to be keeping an eye on Sam, of course, but after they left I put him to bed, told him I was gonna get him some ice cream but if he wasn’t asleep when I came back, I’d eat it all myself.”

He smiled.  “He was so easy back then.”

He sighed and bit his bottom lip.

“I got the chic at the counter in the motel office to call me a cab. Don’t remember what story I made up; I think something about needing to pick my dad up from a bar.  Anyway, Dad  had left all his research out, so I knew what house they were going to.”

 


 

It was dark when he stepped out of the cab, and for a minute, he was afraid.  After all, he was disobeying his father’s orders and leaving Sam alone to hunt a monster that ate children’s hearts.

But he was a Winchester, and that’s what Winchesters do: kill bad things to keep other people safe.

“I have to go get the money from my dad.  I’ll be right back.”  

The cab driver looked annoyed, but he flicked a glance at his dashboard, then leaned back in his seat and tipped his cap over his eyes.  “Meter’s runnin’, kid.”

Dean hoisted one strap of his backpack over his shoulder and headed into the house.

He stopped just inside the door to remove  his pistol from the bag, checking to make certain it was loaded with the safety off.

The home smelled of fried food and unfamiliar spices.  The decor looked exotic to Dean’s inexperienced eyes, with some things that he was fairly certain were Asian.

A shout and a loud thud jolted him into a run, moving toward the sound, panic making him want to call out to his father and the man he called “Uncle”, yet also strangling the words in his chest.

He stopped at a closed door, hearing indistinct but disturbing sounds: some growls, some shouts.

And a gunshot, followed by a choked-off scream.

Opening the door and sidling quietly down the steps wasn’t a conscious thought.  As soon as he cleared the ceiling, his suspicions were confirmed: a dog-like creature that must have been a sigbin lay decapitated in a pool of its own blood.  Bobby was grappling with a woman who appeared to be bent on tearing his throat out, either with razor-sharp teeth or equally wicked claws.  A winged, vaguely human-shaped creature hovered over Dean’s father, talons buried in the hunter’s shoulders as it swiped at the man’s head with its dagger-tipped fingers.

Dean squatted and fired two quick shots, one to the female creature’s head, the second to the center mass of the flying thing.  The way it was facing, that meant he shot the thing in its hind end, but he hoped that the bullet would travel up into the torso and do enough damage to allow his father to finish it off.

The Aswang fell, her piercing shriek cut short as Bobby freed a machete from  beneath his coat and smoothly removed her head from her shoulders.

A hideous face with colorless skin and needle-like teeth filled Dean’s vision, the sound of its massive wings drowning out all other noise, and he fired into it repeatedly, scrambling backwards in a mindless panic that carried him beneath the opposite railing and over the edge of the staircase.

The fall was short, but it knocked the wind out of him, and he could do nothing but stare, open-mouthed, as the hideous, bleeding creature used its arms and wing tips to lever itself forward, blood lust the only thing keeping it moving.

The razor-like tip of one fetid black wing sliced through the shoulder of Dean’s shirt just as a machete separated the creature’s appendage from its body.  It flung the other wing out, twisting as it screamed, and Dean saw that the monster was legless.

Bobby hacked through the wing as it lashed out at him, bringing the blade through the monster’s neck on the return swing.

He bent over, panting, hands on his knees, as the carcass began to smoke, emitting an odor so foul that Dean used his first returned breath to roll over and vomit.

John limped over, one hand on his shoulder, blood seeping through his fingers.

Bobby straightened, clapping the younger man on the back.

John winced.

“That is one helluva  boy ya got there, Winchester.”

John stared down at his son, expression grim.  “Mm-hm.”

And Dean trembled, fear rocking through him.

 



“Turns out I was right: a family had moved in from the Philippines.  The mother was an Aswang -- a type of shape-shifter, so Bobby was half right.  Aswang are kind of like witches, too, though, and this one had a sigbin and a manananggal as pets.  Anyway, the Aswang that had been killing kids lived in the house, passing herself off as this tiny, sweet little Filipino mom.  She convinced Dad and Bobby that she was the victim, had been haunted or tormented or whatever by the sigbin, only she made it sound like it was a werewolf.  When they came to kill it, she called her manananggal and they all attacked.”

“But you were able to save them.”

He shook his head.  “Nah.  I just helped a little.”  He gave her an ironic grin.  “Like you do: helped them save themselves.”

She tipped her head in acknowledgement.  “But you left Sam alone….”

Dean looked away.  “Yeah.”

Caroline waited.

He stood, nodding towards the coffee pot.  “Mind if I refill?”

She saw it for the diversion it was, but spread her hands.  “Of course.  Help yourself.”

“You want some?”

“I’m drinking tea, but thank you.”

He took his time, pouring slowly, replacing the pot gently, blowing across the surface of the dark liquid, then sipping with exaggerated care.

She sat quietly, not looking directly at him.

He leaned his hips against the counter, standing just behind her right shoulder.

 

“That was the first time he took his belt to me.  Sent Bobby and Sam to get ice cream, since Sam was throwing a fit about me coming back without any.  Soon as they were gone, Dad told me what I’d done wrong, how much danger I’d put Sammy in, leaving him alone when they were hunting something that preyed on little kids.”

His voice was low, but she didn’t turn, knowing it would silence him.

“He’d never done anything like that to me before, so I didn’t really know what was going on.  And he seemed so calm, you know?  I mean, he wasn't yelling and throwing things or anything like that.  But he gets...quiet, I guess, when he's really, really angry….”

She heard him sigh heavily.

“I remember how much that first swipe hurt.  It surprised me, but I couldn’t move.  Too scared, and I knew I wasn’t supposed to, that I’d earned it and had to just take it.”  

She heard him sip his coffee.  

When his voice came again, it was so quiet she had difficult making out the words.  “Hate that feeling: face down, can’t see what’s comin’, can’t fight….”

 

She held her breath.

 

The sound of glass shattering startled her, and she turned quickly.

He was leaning against the sink, bent at the waist, rocking on the heels of his palms.  His body vibrated with tension.

She stilled, forcing the air to move soundlessly through her nose.

 

“So fucking helpless.”  His voice was raw, and his remembered horror washed over her like a physical entity.

 

She pivoted soundlessly on her stool, ready to offer comfort.

 

He leaned his thighs against the lower cabinet and reached into the sink with both hands.  “Couldn’t stop them.”  His shoulders moved, and she wondered what he was doing.  “Held me down, and I couldn’t move.”

 

She scanned the counter, looking for his mug.

 

“Gagged me...damn near choked to death on my own puke.”

 

Realization struck, and she nearly toppled her stool as she lunged toward him.  “Dean -- “

 

Blood ran freely from surgically precise incisions in his left arm, the thick crimson fluid already covering the bottom and side of her sink, painting the edge of the ceramic shard in his right hand.

Haunted eyes captured hers, and his hopelessness impaled her.  “I can’t -- “

His eyes rolled back, and she had just enough air to shout “John!” before the young man folded into her, taking them both to the floor.



Chapter Text


 

“You know you don’t really need to stay, Bobby.”  Sam had picked up on part of the conversation before the old hunter had walked outside, closing the door behind him.  “If they need you, go.  I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”

Bobby chuckled.  “If you call eatin’ nothing but Funyons and drinkin’ Mr. Pibb ‘capable’, then sure.”  He smiled, trying to reassure the younger man.  “They aren’t even on a hunt, Sam.  I aint’ s’posed to be tellin’ ya this, but they’re at Caroline’s.”

“Caroline?”

“She’s a psychotherapist, or psychiatrist, or something like that.  I can never keep the different types straight.”  He lifted his cap to run a hand through his hair, then tugged it back into place.  “Yer dad finally figured out that he can’t keep treatin’ Dean the way he has been, and he’s tryin’ to fix it.”

Sam looked surprised, then skeptical.

“But not a word about it from you, ya hear me?  This is delicate stuff, and the wrong thing said at the wrong time can screw the whole thing up.”

“You really think Dad can change?”

Bobby shrugged.  “Well, he wants to, and talkin’ to Caroline ain’t anything I thought he’d ever agree to.  Now he’s not only there, but he took Dean, too.  I think that says somethin’, don’t you?”

Sam remained dubious.  

“Just give ‘em a chance, Sam.  That’s all I ask.”

 


 

John sighed, shifting in the uncomfortable chair.

It wasn’t much, but it was enough to startle the hyper-alert young hunter to wakefulness.  Dean raised his left hand, wincing, and looked at the bandage wrapped around his forearm.  One sweeping gaze was enough for him to identify his surroundings as a hospital room.  He dropped his head back to the pillow on a sigh, then draped the swaddled limb over his eyes.

“Hey, kid.  How ya feelin’?”

John watched the muscles in his older son’s jaw tighten, then release.  “How long I gotta stay here?”

John swallowed.   Should make him stay until he’s done trying to die.  “Just until the transfusion’s done.”

“Good.”

John shifted.

 

Sighed.

 

Shifted again.  

 

He had no idea what to say to the man in front of him.  He’d known the kid all his life, and suddenly, his own son felt like a stranger.

“I wasn’t actually tryin’ to kill myself.”  The voice was muffled, but intelligible.  

John waited.

“I just…”  Dean sighed heavily.  “Needed to let some of it go, I guess.  Can’t explain it, but pain makes it more bearable.  Least for a little while.”  He slid his arm back, resting it on the pillow against the crown of his skull.  He kept his eyes closed.  “Didn’t mean to cut so deep.  Ceramic’s sharp.”

John had leaned forward, elbows on his knees.  He dropped his head into his hands. “I want to kill them, Dean.  I want to find each and every one of them and rip their guts out, watch ‘em die screaming at my feet.”  His voice was nearly inhuman.

“Jesus, Dad.”  Dean turned his head.

The older man’s next words were tear-clogged, spoken through fingers covering his face.  “I should have warned you, should have….I prepared you for every kind of monster I could think of, except the human kind.  It’s my fault, Dean.  This is all my fault.”

Dean struggled to turn onto his side so he could face his father more comfortably.  “Dad, that’s insane.  How could you have prepared me for that?  Or known you needed to?”

“I did, Dean."  He was vehement in self-recrimination.  "I’ve always seen how people look at you.  I should have known...but you kept gettin’ older, and I just thought you’d gotten to the point that it was no longer a threat....”

“Yeah, well...it never occured to me, either.”

“I know!  That’s what I mean!  It’s my job as your father to keep you safe, to teach you what to watch out for, how to fight it, and this --”

Dean had pushed himself up, fighting the dizziness and nausea that always seemed to accompany blood loss.  “Dad: it’s not your fault.”

“Oh, but it’s yours, Dean?”  John raised bloodshot, tear-filled eyes to his son.  

Dean looked away, shame creeping up his chest to color his face.  “I must have….”

“What?  Given some sort of subconscious signal?”

Dean ducked his head.  “You knew.”  His voice was wrecked.

“No, Dean, because there’s nothing to know. There’s no secret signals.  Caroline told me you probably thought that, because most r--most people who go through what you did feel that way.”  He stood and began pacing, agitated.  “She said you’d most likely feel ashamed, and guilty.  That you’d start doubting everything you’d been so sure about before.  That you’d likely be reckless, that you might seek out pain, that you’d go through cycles of --”  he broke of abruptly.

Dean was staring at him, open-mouthed.  “Really?”  It was a desperate whisper.  “She said all of that?  All this shit that I’m feeling: it’s normal?”

John dropped into his chair, relief weakening him.  “Yeah, Dean.  It’s all normal.  Part of the healing process.  I brought you to her so she can help you get through it.”  He lowered his head, then lifted it again, eyes wet.  “You can get through it, Dean.  You’re gonna be okay.”

Dean rolled to his back, face hidden in the crook of his arm, and cried.

 

But this time, the pain was edged with hope.

 


 

“Dad said you can help me get back to" -- caring about not dying -- "being a better hunter.”  

Once again, they  were seated in Caroline’s kitchen.  Dean noted with wry amusement that the mug she’d given him was insulated plastic, but he did not comment on it.

“Yes, I can.”

Dean looked down, swallowing audibly.  “So...what do I have to do?”

She shook her head.  “It’s different for each person.  Some do better with group therapy -- “ she smiled at his alarmed look -- “while others do better with individual therapy, or journaling, or medications, or some combination of those.  The most important step, in my experience, is to integrate the subconscious’ experience with the part of your brain that is responsible for conscious thought.  Your mind wants to be convinced that this will never happen again, which is why there is shame and guilt.  That is symptomatic of self-blame.  If you are to blame, then you have some control over a recurrence.  It is a normal, if unhealthy, response.”  

She paused, assessing his degree of understanding.

He was nodding thoughtfully.

“What I want you to do is understand that although the blame for this incident in no way rests with you, that does not mean that you have no control over how vulnerable you are to future incidents.  For example, would you a blame a man for being seduced by a succubus if he had no idea that such a creature existed?”

“Of course not.”

“But once the man is educated, he will know how to protect himself, at least to a certain extent.”

Dean nodded.  “Not his fault, but he’s not helpless.”

“Exactly.  As painful as it is, integrating your subconscious with your conscious means that you have to think about what happened, focus on details, and develop a plan to follow going forward from here.  That does not --” she leaned forward, emphatic, “mean that you are to assign yourself blame for any of this.”  She sat back.  “I don’t know exactly what happened, so I cannot assume that you did not make any mistakes, but I can say with certainty that no one ever deserves to have that sort of experience forced on him or her.  There is nothing you could ever do to earn that.”

She heard him swallow.

 

“They drugged me.”

 

She waited.

His knuckles were white as he gripped the plastic mug.

 

“We played pool for drinks.  J- “ his voice stuttered to a halt, and he cleared his throat.  “Jeff and I kept winning.”  

 

       “Finish yer drink,” Scott ordered, holding my glass out to me.  " Ain’t polite to leave it when we’s the ones hadta buy it.”  

       He smiled when he said it, and I laughed, feeling good, liking these people.

 

“I know the last one for sure was drugged.  I started feelin’ it on the way out the door.”

 

     By the time we got into the car, I was feeling completely wasted.  

     "Shouldn’a finished tha’ las’ one.”  For some reason, I had my head on Jeff’s shoulder.

    “Easy there, cowboy,” Jeff chuckled.  He pushed me off of him until I was leaning against the window.  “We’ll get ya a coffee when we get inside.”

    “M’kay,” but I was having trouble staying awake, and Jeff’s shoulder was more comfortable than the car’s window.

 

“Where were you going?  Back to Sam?”

That's where I should have been going.  He shook his head.  “Poker game.  Scott was driving.”

 

    “You as good at poker as you are at pool?”

     I gave him a smile and a wink.  “‘Course not.”

      Jeff laughed.  “Well, I’m prob’ly gonna regret this -- oughta make ya prove yerself first -- but I got a private game startin’ in a few minutes.  

     Be a good place to make some quick cash, if a coupla sharps worked t’gether on it.  You in?”

     “Hell, yeah!”

 

“How many were there?”

“I don’t know….”

 

     There are hands, so many hands, and I can’t remember how many there should be, how many guys I came here with,

     but they are holding me down and freaking touching me everywhere , and how the hell did I lose my jeans?

 

He shook the memory away.  “Six, I think.”

She waited.

“Jeff said we were goin’ to a private poker game, not quite legal. They had to practically carry me into the house.”

 

     One on each side they half carry, half drag me into the house.  

     I try to help, but I keep tripping, and I can’t hold my head up.  

     A part of me realizes something's wrong, tries to figure out what's going on, but I just can't hold onto the thought.

 

“Part of me knew somethin’ wasn’t right, but I couldn’t think straight.  ‘S like my brain kept falling asleep.”

 

     I woke up a little when the door closed.  Lights came on, and I squinted, trying to figure out where we were.

     Living room, not too clean, mattresses instead of furniture.  “‘S a crack house?”  and the guys laughed, but I wasn't sure why.

 

“There was no furniture, just --”  He stared down into his cup.  “Took my jacket and flannel, my boots.”  He turned on the stool, away from Caroline’s calm gaze.  “I wanted to stop them.”  His voice was hollow.

 

     Somehow my clothes were just gone, cool air on skin that should not be bare. I tried to fight, but I felt heavy and weak and slow, and they just held me down. 

     I tried to figure out what was going on so  I could stop it and get away, but my brain was as wrecked as my body. 

 

“They gagged me with my t-shirt.”

 

He stopped.

 

Tension vibrated through him.  His breathing was irregular.

 


 

 

There are hands, so many hands, and he can’t remember how many there should be, how many he came here with,

but they are holding him and stroking him and pinching him and scratching him,

and somehow his jeans are gone, cool air on skin that should not be bare,

and he tries to fight but he can’t, and  he tries to think but he can’t,

and  now there is heat and wet, too, and the sharp nip of teeth and slick glide of tongues

and before he can wonder if this is a vampire nest, someone is devouring him,

soft-moist-sucking warmth, and his back arches as he groans,

and it shouldn’t feel so good, he can’t remember why but it shouldn’t, and he tries not to let it, but it does,

and the hands and mouths move faster, they are everywhere, and his skin is tingling and his heart is racing

and he feels the build and he knows it’s coming and it shouldn’t and it is and he can’t and it’s wrong

and the wet sucking heat is filling his head and a “No” boils from his lips as his torso folds and his orgasm erupts and

tears

    cringe

         down

              his

                  face.

 

Male laughter rides his shuddering culmination, and they turn him over.

 

The fog is lifting and he knows what’s next  and this “No!” is panicked, louder,

and he arches his back, bucks his hips, desperate to escape,

and a cruel hand jerks his head back, replacing the cloth that he had somehow rid himself of,

pulling it tight, fisting it at the back of his skull, holding it, keeping his spine bowed painfully,

and through the blur of tears and lash-shuttered eyes he sees Jeff kneeling on one of his bare arms and Jeff’s face is feral

and hands circle his ankles like talons and they pull and he fights and something in his leg tears 

and he panics and there is weight on his thighs and he struggles and the men hold tighter and he feels the pressure

and he knows what’s coming and his mind screams and he panics

and the man above him pulls harder on the bridle of Dean’s gag while he thrusts forward viciously

 

And Dean screams, the sound desperate and wild even through thick cloth.

 

It’s fire and tearing and he’s never felt agony like this before, pain, plenty of pain, but not like this,

and something slams into his guts and vomit erupts in his throat and it fills his nose and saturates the cotton in his mouth

and the cloud is back and it is growing and his body goes limp  and the tearing and the pummeling increase

and his body is jerking and a button on the mattress is biting into his skin and the

world

     goes

         black.

 


 

“Dean?”  Her voice was gentle, and it brought him back.

He inhaled, a shuddering breath, and shook his head.  “I passed out somewhere in there.” He stared into the black liquid cooling in his mug, and wished that it was whiskey.  “Woke up alone.  Took a shower, went to walk back to the bar, found my car parked a block from the house.”  He turned back, lifted his mug.  “Back to the motel, found Sam gone.”  He swallowed tepid bitterness.  “Pretty sure you know the rest.”

She nodded.  “Yes.  It’s why your father and I started talking.”

She watched him fiddle with his cup.  “Did you know how your father would react to Sammy’s disappearance?”

He shrugged one shoulder.  “I had a pretty good idea, yeah.”

“He said that you let him believe you had been out with a woman.”

Another shrug.

“Do you think he would have reacted differently if he had known the truth?”

He was already so mad.  That quiet, jaw-clenched angry that meant someone was going to get their ass kicked.  If I told him I'd went out to try to hook up, ended up not just kidnapped but the little bitch to a bunch of dudes, just humans, not even monsters --

He turned away from her, arms wrapping tightly around his chest.

 

She waited.

 

I was supposed to be better than that.  Smarter.  Stronger.  He hunched his shoulders.

 

The clock over the sink ticked loudly in the stillness.

 

How the hell can I keep Sammy safe if I can't even --  He began to rock side-to-side on the stool.

 

“Dean,” she probed gently, “what did you think he would do when he found out?”

“Leave.”   Go get Sam, take off with him, leave me on my own.  Old enough, an adult, a liability, couldn’t obey one simple order, had to go out looking for…

Fun.  Pool or darts, but I’d wanted to hook up, too.  

Everyone -- Sam, Dad, Bobby -- they all knew when I went out I was looking to get laid.  That's what guys do, right?  Hunters, real men: gank monsters and hunt pussy.  And wasn’t that all that mattered?  That I was at least as much of a hunter as my dad?

“Why did you think that he would leave?”

She thought at first he was not going to answer, but then he cleared his throat.  “You know what bein’ a hunter’s like.  Can’t be...you gotta be tougher than everyone around you.”

“Ultra-masculine, despite the hunter’s gender?”

He shrugged.  “I guess.”

“And you felt that your masculinity had been, what?  Compromised?  Called into question?”

“Hasn’t it?”  His voice was raw.

“How would you have reacted if something similar had happened to your father?”

His reaction was immediate.  “It wouldn’t.”

“He never goes to bars?  Never drinks from a glass or open bottle that he’s left sit while he shoots pool or throws darts?  Never accepts drinks from strangers?”

“Yeah.”  

“Yes he never does any of that, or yes he does do some or all of that?”

“He goes to bars, he leaves his drink sometimes, he accepts drinks from strangers.”

“So it would be possible for him to be drugged without his knowledge.  Does that cause you to question his masculinity?”

Dean shook his head.

“And he doesn’t have some super power that makes him resistant to medications, so he would be as affected as anyone else.  So if he had been drugged, he also could have been over-powered.  Is that the part that would make you doubt him?”

“No.”  

“Is it the part where he is drugged nearly unconscious, out-numbered, and has his clothing forcibly removed?”

He stood abruptly.  “Just stop, okay?”  He was trembling, his eyes dark. “It wasn’t Dad, it was me, alright?”

“And you have to be even more masculine than your father?”

“I left Sammy, I was hoping to get laid, and I did.  I got what I was looking for --”

“Really?  That's what you were looking for?.”

He began to pace, eyes glued to the toes of his boots.

“When you went out looking for sex, Dean, what did you envision?”

Seven strides, turn, seven more.

“Did you expect to be with six strange men?”

 

He walked out the door.

 

She let him go.

Chapter Text


 

“I’m sorry, John,” Caroline offered, pacing.  “I don’t know why I assumed he’d stay in the garden.  I --” she broke off,  having nothing else to offer.

John pushed both hands through his hair, crushing his palms to his skull and closing his eyes.   Dean.  Where the fuck are you?

The image of his older son running a gun barrel along his temple filled John’s mind, and fear pressed against the underside of his sternum.

He dropped his hands long enough to drain the bourbon from his tumbler, then headed out the door.  “Call Bobby.  See if he’s heard from him.”

And he left the same way his son had.

 


 

He’d realized almost immediately that the garden didn’t have what he needed.  Scaling the wall neatly, Dean strode with false confidence through adjacent yards until he reached a sidewalk out of sight of Caroline’s house.

He walked.

I let them take my jacket, my flannel.   Why didn’t I fight?

 

    the sharp nip of teeth and slick glide of tongues and before I can wonder if it's a vampire nest --

 

And if it had been, he would have been dead, or turned.  Why didn’t I fight?  Why couldn’t I?

 

   it shouldn't feel so good, I can't remember why but it shouldn't, and I try not to let it, but it does, --

 

Why couldn’t I remember what made it so wrong for it to feel good?  Why couldn’t I stop it from feeling that way?  

 

    Male laughter around him while he rides out the orgasm he wasn't supposed to have.

 

He stopped in the center of the sidewalk.

 

They laughed at me.  

 

Laughed, because they knew I didn’t want that, and they made it happen anyway.  

 

Laughed, because they won.

 

He started walking, faster now.

 

     I arch my back, buck my hips, desperate to escape --

 

But he couldn’t.  He remembered that he fought, but he couldn’t stop them.  I wasn’t strong enough.  Why wasn’t I?  Did I really try as hard as I could?  Or did something hold me back?

 

      my skin is tingling and my heart is racing and I feel the build and I know it's coming and it shouldn't and it is and it's wrong

      and the wet sucking heat feels so damn good

 

Is that why I couldn’t fight them off?  Did part of me want them to win again?

 

He began to run.




 

 

“Jesus,” Bobby breathed into his cell phone, disgusted.  “What the hell is it with these boys of yours, Winchester?”

“I take it that means you haven’t heard from him.”

“No, I haven’t.  But if it makes ya feel any better, Sam’s still here.”

“Has he heard anything?”

“Not that I’m aware of.  Want me to ask him?”

“No,” John answered sharply. “No need to worry him.”

“Well, you got any thoughts?”

Too many, John thought, closing his eyes.  “He’s probably just blowing off steam.  We’ll find him.”

“Well, lemme know when you do.”  Bobby hung up the phone.

 


 

Dean moved through the woods with  none of his usual stealth, heedless of face-level branches, knowing only that he needed an escape from what he was feeling, that he needed his mind to just. Stop.

His breath was ragged and his face was wet, but he was heedless of that as well.

He pushed on, terrain becoming more rugged, sounds of civilization receding.

He stopped at the base of a rocky incline, boulders indistinct masses in the late dusk.  A familiar stench filled his senses: somewhere nearby a body was decomposing.

Not wanting to set his foot in a rotting deer carcass in the near darkness, Dean moved away, circling to the right around the outcropping.

He sensed a change in air pressure as something large dropped down onto him, and had just enough time to twist his torso towards the creature before its bulk covered him.  He hissed in pain as the lacerations on his chest opened under the impact.  His hip landed hard on stony ground a bare second before his skull connected with a stone, and consciousness fled.

 


 

The first thing Dean became aware of was the smell of decomposition.  Where it had been a faint annoyance before, it was now a nauseating force that threatened to unman  him with its potency.

The next thing he noticed was that he was suspended by his arms, twisting ever so slightly in the dead air around him.  His left arm burned, and the combination of warmth and stickiness alerted him to the facts that his self-inflicted cuts were not only bleeding again, but he'd been hanging there long enough for the blood to start to dry.

Great.  And no one has any idea where I am.  Hell, I don't even know where I am.

        he tries to fight and he can't

Jesus God, please let it be a monster this time.

He struggled to keep his breathing soft and even, not wanting whatever had captured him to realize that he was awake.

He slitted his eyes, seeing nothing but darkness.

He strained into the silence, detecting no sounds that he did not generate himself.

I’m not alone Damned thing may be quiet, but I can feel it watching me.

There was no sense in waiting for the monster to make the first move.  Better to take control of the situation and either get away or force the thing's hand, then get away.

He got his feet under him, straightening carefully, stretching his arms in hopes that his bound wrists had simply been looped over something.  

No such luck, but then, he hadn’t really expected it.

He slid the ropes forward and back as far as he could in each direction.  Finding no end, he gave a mental shrug and began shuffling forward.

The fetid odor increased.

Cold hands snaked around from behind him to dig into the lacerations on his chest as a tongue stabbed into a fresh cut on the back of his scalp.

“You taste so good.  I don’t normally eat live humans.  Gonna take my time and savor you.”

The hands roamed over his torso 

 

      hands, so many hands

 

and Dean jerked his head forward, then slammed it back, feeling a satisfying crunch of bone as it connected with whatever had nabbed him.  The grip on his chest loosened and he pulled his knees up, kicking behind him with all his strength, sending the thing flying away.

He began backing up quickly along the beam he was bound to.

He felt the air pressure change just before a solid object slammed into him, crushing him against what felt like a rock wall for his entire length, from hands to heels.

Shit .

Rough hands gripped his upper arms, jerking him away from the wall just enough to allow a fist to curl into his hair, pulling his head back.  

 

     head pulled back so far it felt like his spine would break

 

Panic blossomed in Dean's chest.

“I found your cell phone."  The very human voice was born on breath so rancid that it reminded Dean of opening a too-fresh grave.  "You’re Dean, right?  Some people are looking for you.  I heard them calling your name.  Don’t worry, though: they won’t find you.  I took your phone a few miles from here and then turned it on for you.  We’ll have all the time we need to enjoy one another, Dean.”  

A piece of cloth so foul that it made bile fill his throat was forced into Dean’s mouth.

 

      a cruel hand jerks his head back, replacing the cloth that he had somehow rid himself of

 

The panic grew, hot and insistent in his chest.

A mouth closed on his skin, tongue sliding into a re-opened laceration across his pectoral muscle.

 

     the sharp nip of teeth and slick glide of tongues

 

The panic exploded into rage, lending him an inhuman strength, and he drove one knee up hard into the thing’s groin, lifting it off its feet.  He heard it stagger back and drew his legs up once more, kicking out hard, feeling the thing fly away from him.  

He started forward again, moving quickly as the redolence grew until he connected with something that moved away before bumping back into him with a doughy viscidity that made him gag.

Son of a bitch.

He knew it would be a human corpse.  True, it could be some other mammal, but that didn’t fit with Winchester luck.

He slid back, gripping the beam with both hands, pulling himself up with the intention of using his boots to shove the body away, hoping it was rotten enough to fall off the beam so that he could keep moving.

Instead there was a sodden crack and he was falling.

He barely got his feet under him as the beam gave way, likely corroded by whatever fluids had soaked into it from the body -- or bodies -- that had hung there over time.

His grip on the beam kept it off his head, and he started to slide his wrists off of it, then changed his mind and gripped it, taking it with him as he stood.  Working on instinct  alone he spun, swinging the stronger end of the wood and feeling it connect with something that fell away on a pained grunt.

He backed away as he worked to free his arms, first pulling the gag out of his mouth, then using his teeth to work his wrists free.

The rope tasted putrid, and he spit repeatedly, refusing to let his mind dwell on what was likely flavoring it.

He dropped the loathsome fibers, gripped his fragment of beam tightly, and began feeling his way out of his prison.

 

At least he hoped he was on the way out.

 

He felt the thing a second before it tackled him.  He landed face down, hand closing over a stone.  The creature crawled up his body, straddling his hips with its thighs,

 

     he arches his back and bucks his hips

 

and he bucked up hard, twisting onto his back and bringing the rock across with strength born of remembered horror

 

not again it will not happen again

 

He felt something give and just kept striking, crazy with rage.

When the red fog cleared from his mind he found himself atop the monster, his face speckled with gore.

 

He slowly lowered the rock.

 

The creature was completely still.

 

Dean leaned back, fishing his lighter out of his pocket.  They took all my weapons, stripped me of everything that made me a hunter, but at least they left me this.

He thumbed the flame to life.

He was straddling a humanoid form...one without a face.  The forehead, eyes, and nose were now a gelatinous red-pink mass, mixing with the brain matter beneath.

“Gross.”

Dean pushed himself to his feet, staggering until his shoulder hit a wall.  He kept the light directed toward the creature, its dancing motion tricking him into believing the thing might still be alive.

He watched warily.   Too bad I don’t have any kerosene.  Love to torch this son of a bitch .

When he had finally convinced himself that the defaced being wasn’t coming after him again, he turned to shine the lighter around him, finding that he was in a tunnel. He watched the direction that the flame guttered, using it to guide his way out.

 


The moon was only three-quarters full, and Dean was torn between wishing it were full so he’d have more light and being glad it wasn’t so he didn’t have to worry about a werewolf being drawn to the smell of blood.

He didn’t recognize his surroundings, but the smell was familiar.  He knew he’d been somewhere close to this point when the thing took him.

He gave up trying to find his own trail and started down an animal track instead, knowing it would either lead him to water or an open field.


 

Water was the right guess.  He didn’t remember coming across a creek on the way in, but blood loss had his body screaming for fluids, and he dropped to his knees gratefully, rinsing his hands and face before scooping water greedily into his mouth.

When his thirst was sated, he washed his arms and face once again, picking chunks of gore from his hair.

“Gross.”

“Dean.”

He jumped at the voice, recognition doing nothing to slow his racing heart.

“Zellynnexia.”

She stood behind him, white dress glowing in the moonlight.  

“What are you doing here?”  Just seeing her had brought a sex-roughened edge to his voice.

“I came to help you.”

His brow furrowed.  “Help me with what?  I already killed whatever that thing was.”

“It was a ghoul, and I meant….I can heal your wounds...the physical ones, but I can help with the mental ones, too.”

He glanced away uneasily.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She took a step forward, reaching for him, and he flinched away.

“You called to me, Dean.  You were planning...you wanted to die.”

He dropped his eyes, ashamed.

She closed the distance between them, fingertips tracing the curve of his jaw.

He trembled, biting back a moan at the burn that her touch ignited in his groin.

“Let me heal you.”

“How?”  He barely recognized his own voice.

She stepped closer, hand snaking behind his head to pull him in.  “We just have to create a little energy,” she breathed against his lips, and this time he did moan, feeling her tongue lick out to explore his mouth, driving every rational thought from his mind.

“Lynne,” he melted into her, hands sliding over her back, palms flattening against the top of her hips, holding her while he pressed into her.

The pads of her fingers stroked beneath his tattered shirt, heat and a nerve-arousing tingle tracing along each laceration before flowing lower, pooling below his belt, making him groan with need.

“Zell...please.”  His voice was wrecked, and she trembled in his arms.

“We have to be careful...we could destroy one another.”  But she took his tongue, sucking it into her mouth as she slid her palm down, stroking him through his jeans.  

She pressed a memory of their first union into his mind, shuddering along with him as his orgasm struck, swallowing his shout of pleasure, following him as he dropped to his knees.

She released his mouth, folding into him as her own release left her weak. They panted together as they recovered.

“Zell -- “ he began, but she stopped him.

“You have to live, Dean Winchester.  The world needs you to live.”

And she was gone.

 


 

Dean pushed himself to his feet, grunting with the effort and wondering if the weakness he felt was from blood loss or...other exertions.

 

Ditto the stickiness in his jeans.

 

He smiled as he headed downstream, hoping to follow the creek back to civilization.

He hadn’t gone far before he heard a voice.  It was faint, far off, but he was pretty sure it was calling his name.

He started moving towards it.

As it became louder and more distinct, he took a chance on answering.  “Dad?”

“DEAN!”  The voice was more strident, and clearly that of his father.

Dean pushed himself harder, ignoring the branches that slapped his face and tugged at his clothes.  “I’m here, Dad!”

“Are you alright?”  

“Yeah, Dad.  I’m fine.”

Dean saw a flashlight beam cut between trees and headed toward it.  “I can see your light.”

“Where are you?”

“Little to your left.”

The beam swung past him.

“Too much.  Come back about...twenty degrees.”

It shifted, and he altered his course until he was headed straight for it.  “Keep it right there.  I’m almost there.”

They closed the distance rapidly, meeting on a narrow animal track.

John stopped an arm’s length from his son, beam chasing top to bottom.  “Jesus, Dean, you look like hell!  What happened?”

“Long story, and I really need a shower.  You drive at least part of the way?”

“Yeah.  To the park; couple people were able to point out where you’d gone into the woods.”

“Cool.  I’m exhausted.  And starving.  Take out and a shower in exchange for my story?”

His son's cheerful tone surprised him.  John wasn’t sure how to respond to this new-old Dean.  “Uh...yeah.  Sure.  Let’s go.”

 


 

Dean insisted on a shower before he’d eat, and after being confined in the cab of John's truck with him for the short trip home, neither John nor Caroline had any objection to delaying their meal a bit.

 

“So, the short version is,” Dean paused to shovel a piece of cherry pie into his mouth, humming in pleasure as he chewed and swallowed, “I got nabbed by a ghoul, killed it, and came home.”

“A ghoul?”

Dean closed his eyes, savoring the pleasant bite of tart cherries.  “Oh my God, this is good.”

John huffed in irritation, but Caroline laid her palm on his wrist.

“Yeah," Dean continued, cutting his pie with the edge of his fork.  "Dropped from somewhere above me.  Cracked my head open on something.  Woke up dangling from a beam with the disgusting thing sucking the blood out of the cut in my scalp.”  He shuddered at the memory and took another bite of ambrosia.  “I got it away from me -- musta knocked it out temporarily -- and…”  He swallowed hard, then pushed his plate away.  “There was a rotting corpse on the beam with me.  The wood had decomposed there, and it broke.  I managed to beat the freakin’ ghoul to death with a rock, then got the hell outta Dodge.”

John shook his head in disbelief.  “Those things are inhumanly strong, not to mention fast.  How’d you manage that, Dean?”

Humiliation flushed the young hunter’s cheeks, and he looked away.

“He’s not saying he doesn’t believe you, Dean,” Caroline offered.  “He’s just saying that what you did is incredibly impressive, and he’d like details.”

Dean shot a look from the counselor to his father, who nodded.  “Yeah, Dean.  I mean, you’re here, and we smelled what you were covered with. It’s just...damn.  I never heard of any hunter killing a ghoul alone, bare-handed.  I mean...holy shit, Dean!”

A warm glow started to grow in the young man’s chest.  “I don’t know.  I was angry, I guess.  Head-butted it, kicked it, hit it with the beam. It jumped me when I was tryin’ to leave, but when it knocked me down I picked up a big stone.  Used that grappling you taught us, Dad, and flipped it, then just kept beatin’ its head with the rock until it quit moving.”

John stared at him, mouth open.  “Unfreakin’ believable.  You are bad ass, boy.”

Dean chuckled, pulling his pie back in.  “I got lucky.  Or maybe it was old.”

John shook his head, smiling.  “Whatever.”  The smile faded.  “We found your phone.  What was up with that?”

Dean grunted.  “The ghoul took it while I was knocked out.  Said he’d dropped it in the woods miles from where we were, turned it on so you’d find it, give him time to….savor...me.”  He scowled down at his pie.  “You know, pecan might have been a better choice, at least for this conversation.”

Caroline nudged John, giving him a meaningful glare.

John inhaled audibly. “Finding your phone without you anywhere near it...that was pretty terrifying.”

Dean licked  his lips.  “I’m sorry.”  His voice was rough.

“‘S not your fault.  Just...thought I’d lost you.  Scared the hell outta me.”

“I won’t…”  Dean's voice trailed off.

John stared into his glass, then tossed back his bourbon.  “I know this is...this has been hard, Dean.”  He wiped a hand across his eyes.  “I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I try, and it just rips me apart.”  He licked his lips.  “But I can’t lose you, Dean.  Please, promise me, no matter how bad it gets, you won’t…” his voice broke, and he stopped, breath coming in short sobs.  “Promise you won’t leave.”  His voice thick, strangled with the necessity of admitting so much vulnerability.

Dean pulled his lip between his teeth, biting down hard.  “I won’t, Dad.  I won’t.”

John poured more whiskey over his dwindling ice, ignoring the tears that streaked his face.  “How do I know that, Dean?  You’ve already come close a couple times…”

“She...she told me not to.  Said the world needs me alive.”

“She?  She who?”  The agonized expression had sharpened to obsidian.

Dean dropped his gaze. “Zell.  Zellynnexia.  She...she found me after I got away from the ghoul.”  

John appeared stunned.  “Zellynnexia?  The one we’ve been looking for?”

“Yeah.”  Dean pushed back from the counter, pulling his shirt up to reveal unblemished skin stretched over sculpted muscle and sharply defined ribs.  “She healed my wounds.”

John took in the broad expanse of unmarked flesh.  “What the hell?”

“She’s not gonna...I mean, I don’t know what she’s doing with my...uh...DNA...but I don’t think it’s anything bad.  I mean, it can’t be.  And she could have -- “  He broke off, and his face flushed crimson.

John nodded, holding a hand up. “Yeah, we get it.  Alone in the woods, no warding, she could have done whatever she wanted, and she chose to heal you.  So, what did she say?”

“Just that the world needs me alive.”

They sat in silence, keeping their own counsel.

Caroline broke the spell.  “So, to recap: you were incapacitated, over-powered, tied up, had no weapons, and were injured...but you freed yourself and destroyed your captor, single-handedly.”

Dean fought a glow of pride from breaking through into a smile with a limited degree of success.  “Yeah.  Guess I did.”  He licked his fork, eyeing his empty plate.  “Got any more pie?”



                      

 

Chapter Text


 

They were at the counter again, Dean with his plastic mug of coffee, Caroline with her tea.  

“You’ve admitted that you were afraid that if your father learned what had happened, he’d leave you.  You’ve insisted that we not tell Bobby or Sam about any of this.  Now, I’m not saying that what you were feeling was wrong, or that we need to tell anyone anything, but I do need to know if you still feel shame for any part of what happened.  Again, it isn’t necessarily wrong to feel that way, but if you do, you need to examine your shame and understand it.  That will allow you to decide if that is something you deserve, or if it is a subconscious reaction that does not make sense.”

He remained silent.  

 

     someone is devouring him, soft-moist-sucking warmth, and his back arches as he groans,

     a nd his skin is tingling and his heart is racing and he feels the build and he knows it’s coming and it shouldn’t and it is

   

But there was also Zellynnexia.

 

     The pads of her fingers stroked beneath his tattered shirt,

     heat and a nerve-arousing tingle tracing along each laceration before flowing lower,

     pooling below his belt, making him groan with need.

 

Am I ashamed?  He thought about telling Sam or Bobby about Zell, and smiled.  Then he pictured himself trying to confess to either one about...that night... and his stomach rolled.   Yeah.  Guess I am.

She sighed.  “This is a very difficult topic to broach, and I need you to promise me that you will hear me out and  not walk away.”

He pulled his shoulders in, wanting to shut her out.

“Dean.”  She reached out, laying gentle fingertips on his sleeve.  “This may be the most important thing I tell you.  Please, just listen.  You don’t have to confirm or deny anything I say; just listen, alright?”

Dread welled, flowing from his chest out to his shoulders and down his arms.

“Why?” he whispered, voice strained.  “I mean...after last night.  Aren’t I good now?”

Caroline exhaled deeply.  “You’re better.  Much better.  But I don’t want to let you leave  here until I’m convinced that you won’t back slide.  What happened to you called two vital aspects of your self-identity into question: your identity as a hunter, and your identity as a heterosexual male.  Killing the ghoul went a long way towards resolving the issue of your status as a hunter.  I need to know that you are equally comfortable with your sexual identity, no matter what definition that ends up being.”

Fear burned like acid in his chest.  Dean nodded marginally.

Caroline took a deep breath.  “It is very common for men who rape other men to do everything in their power to force their victim to ejaculate.  They do it to dominate, to humiliate, to prove that they can.”

Dean stopped breathing.   They laughed.  They used their hands and their mouths and their date rape drugs, and he couldn’t stop it, and they laughed.

“As part of my graduate school training I assisted a professor who made a study of men who were in prison for that crime, so I’m not just telling you something I read in a textbook.  I talked to those men face-to-face.”  She shook her head, looking away.  “I still have nightmares about some of them.”

There was a roaring in his ears, and bile burned the back of his throat.

“Our bodies are machines, Dean, and we do not have complete control over what they do.  You can’t stop having a headache just because you don’t want to have one.  You can’t stop a certain type of touch from tickling, even when you don’t want to be tickled.  Pain, pressure, heat, cold: these sensations are all dictated by nerves, and nerves are just wires.  Look into something called ‘electroejaculation’ when you get a chance, and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s a method physicians use to cause paralyzed men to ejaculate.”

He could barely hear her over the pounding of his heart.   Did he really fight as hard as he could have?  He fought the ghoul off, even after it had knocked him out, tied him up, made him bleed.  Why couldn’t he fight Jeff off?  

“The point is that many rape victims do experience some sensory input that is perceived as pleasurable, an occurrence that is biologically programmed and unavoidable.  And that is often the worst part of the whole experience, because it leaves the person feeling as if he or she subconsciously wanted the act to occur.  That is not at all accurate, whether the person is gay, straight, or anything else,  and the guilt and shame that come with that belief are completely undeserved.”

But Dean was falling, pulled into the vortex of his all-too vivid memories, and Caroline's words did not register on his consciousness.

 

    he tries to resist, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal

    He lets them take his jacket, and his flannel,

    he mumbles “No,” or  he thinks  he does, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal

    And then he’s on the mattress, and there is a man on each arm,

   and Jeff is sitting on his pelvis, pinning him down with his hips.  

   And Jeff bunches Dean’s shirt in his hands, from hem to neck,

   and he pulls it up and forces it between Dean’ teeth, and he is not paternal at all.

 

Dean lunged for the sink, vomiting explosively into it.

 

      through the blur of tears and lash-shuttered eyes he sees Jeff kneeling on one of his bare arms and Jeff’s face is feral

     and hands circle Dean’s ankles like talons and they pull and he fights and something tears and he panics

 

He dropped to his knees, arms wrapped tightly around himself, rocking.

 

     he needed something he didn’t bother trying to put words to

 

She bit her lip as she watched him, tears gathering in her eyes.  “It wasn’t your fault, Dean,” she offered quietly.  “You didn’t want it, not on any level, no matter what physical sensations you experienced. It was not your fault, and you didn’t deserve it.”

Trapped in the depths of his flashback, Dean was deaf to his counselor's voice.

 

     “You want a partner?” one of the men asked, and Dean answered with an easy smile.

     “Sure.  Name’s Dean.”

 

He shifted, pulling his knees into his chest, dropping his chin to them, covering his head with his arms.  He pressed his body into the cabinet, curled tightly into himself.

 

     “Loser buys,” Dean drawled, and his grin had just the right touch of confidence in it.  

     “I’m plannin’ on getting wasted tonight.  How ‘bout you?”  

 

Caroline watched quietly.  She was tempted to sedate him, but was certain that it would not be safe to attempt injecting him without John providing restraint, and she feared the added trauma such an experience might cause.

     “You as good at poker as you are at pool?”

      Dean flashed a smile and a wink.  “‘Course not.”

 

Five minutes passed with no movement from the broken man save a fine tremor.

Caroline retrieved an afghan from a nearby couch.  Approaching cautiously, she draped it over his shoulders.

He never moved.

 

     “Aw, Scott, you know they always taste better when ya earn ‘em fair and square, right?”  

     Dean winked good naturedly at the man before tipping his head back and emptying his glass.

 

She relocated to the couch, able to observe her patient while still awarding him some privacy.

He pulled the afghan over his head and resumed rocking.  He wedged himself into a corner, no longer visible to Caroline without her making it obvious that she was watching him.  Instead, she shifted her attention to the exits, wanting only to know that he had not left.

 

     “M’kay,” but he was having trouble staying awake, and Jeff’s shoulder was more comfortable than the car’s window.

 

She had long since removed anything sharp or breakable from the kitchen.

After thirty minutes of silence, she stood, using the pretense of needing more tea as an excuse to return to the kitchen.

She found him curled tightly on the floor, asleep.

 


 

someone is devouring him, soft-moist-sucking warmth, and his back arches as he groans, and it feels so good, but it shouldn’t, he can’t remember why but it shouldn’t, and he tries not to let it, but it does, and soft hands and a hot mouth move faster,  and Jeff is there, and he is paternal, and Dean’s skin is tingling and his heart is racing and he feels the build and he knows it’s coming   and it shouldn’t and it is and he can’t and it’s wrong and the wet sucking heat is filling his head and “Jeff” moans from his lips as his torso folds and his orgasm erupts

 

someone is devouring him, soft-moist-sucking warmth, and his back arches as he groans, and it shouldn’t feel so good, he can’t remember why but it shouldn’t, and he tries not to let it, but it does, and the hands and mouths move faster, they are everywhere, and his skin is tingling and his heart is racing and he feels them bite and he knows what’s coming and he should fight but  he can’t and the wet sucking heat is draining his blood and a “No” bursts from his lips as his torso folds and his vomit erupts

 

someone is devouring him, jagged-sharp-burning agony, and his back arches as he screams, and fingers dig into recently sutured lacerations, “I smelled your blood” hissed in his ear, and he tries not to let it suck on him, but it does, and the sharp nails and strong jaws move faster, “ We’ll have all the time we need to enjoy one another, Dean,”   and his skin is shredding and his heart is racing and he feels the darkness and he knows it’s coming and he should fight and Sam needs him and he can’t and he’s so helpless and it’s wrong and the awful crushing torment is filling his head and a “No” explodes from his lips as his torso folds and his blood erupts

 

someone is devouring him, soft-moist-sucking warmth, and his back arches as he groans, and it’s never felt so good, he can’t remember why, and he sees Zellynnexia, and her hands and mouth move, they are everywhere, and his skin is tingling and his heart is racing and he feels the build and he knows it’s coming and wants to touch her and he can’t move and he wants her to feel good too and the wet sucking heat is filling his head and “Lynne” groans from his lips as his torso folds and his orgasm erupts

 


 

Dean sat up on a gasp.

 

His father watched him, lounging against the central island, beer bottle dangling from his fingers.  “You ready for bed yet?”

Dean looked around, confusion ebbing as the familiar lines of Caroline’s kitchen worked through his sleep-induced daze.

He snugged the knit blanket more tightly around his shoulders.  “Yeah.”

John heaved himself to his feet, leaving the bottle on the counter, and Dean followed him silently to their room.

 


 

“This ain’t something I ever thought I’d tell anyone.”  John’s voice, quiet and deep, filled the dark.

Dean froze, listening.

“You know my dad died when I was real young, and my ma never remarried.  Maybe that had somethin’ to do with it, maybe not.”

The pressure in Dean’s chest was nearly suffocating.

“My ma...she let me have a lot of freedom.  Made it easy to hide stuff from her.  So I started...ah...experimenting, I guess, at a pretty young age.”

Please, don’t , Dean wanted to insist, but the words stuck in his throat.

“Wasn’t always with females.  I was pretty much open to anything.  For quite a while, actually.  Then I went into the Marine Corps: all guys.”

Dean squeezed his eyes closed tightly.

“We didn’t talk about it, but pretty much everyone did it.  Especially after combat.  Adrenaline brings it out sometimes.”

Dean trembled in the silence.

“For some reason that all stopped when I got back, started living a civilian life.  Not sure why.  Wasn’t really a conscious thought; I guess the opportunities just weren’t coming up, or something.  And then I married your mom….”  His voice trailed off.

A tear slipped coldly down the side of Dean’s face.

“I haven’t thought about all that in a long time.  Never imagined tellin’ either of you boys about it, but maybe I should have.  I think it’s normal, that it happens with most young guys.”  

The bed creaked as bedding rustled, and Dean imagined that his father had turned on his side to face his oldest son.  

“Thought it might help you to hear that.”

 

     he tries to resist, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal

     the wet sucking heat is filling his head and a “No” boils from his lips as his torso folds and his orgasm erupts

     Does Dad know?  

 


 

“I’m gonna try to talk to Meridiana.”

Bobby didn’t expect this announcement to go over well with Sam.

He was pleasantly surprised by the young hunter’s response.

“It makes sense,” Sam began, voice pensive.  “I mean, she’s never hurt you before, right?”

Bobby smiled, realized why he was doing it -- the memories that had provoked it -- and coughed.  “No,” he agreed, projecting a little anger into his voice to cover his embarassment.  “She hasn’t.”

“Is it...is it like a lucid dream?  I mean, can you actually talk to her?  And will you remember the conversation when you wake up?”

Bobby had asked himself the same questions.  “I don’t really know.  I know I won’t be able to move, but she and I have spoken in the past, and I do remember what we said.”

Sam shrugged a shoulder.  “It’s a logical step.”  He looked away, voice nonchalant.  “Or I could try to get Zellynnexia to talk to me.”

His face colored immediately at Bobby’s loud guffaw.  Bobby bent double, hands on his knees, laughing until tears seeped from the corners of his eyes.  “Oh, damn!”  He struggled to bring himself under control.

Sam squirmed, cheeks on fire.

“I’m sorry, Sam.  Just,” he paused, wiping his eyes, “you tryin’ so hard to sound innocent --”  and he was gone again, lost in mirth.

Sam stood.  “I’m gonna...um...go see if we missed anything in the lore.”

“No, wait!”  Bobby reached out blindly, once again wiping his eyes, but managed to snag Sam’s wrist.  “I’m sorry, boy, I don’t mean nothin’ by it.”  He finally succeeded in replacing his smirk with a more characteristic scowl.  “The truth is your dad’d kill me if I let you take that risk, especially since we have no idea why she did what she did to your brother.  Can’t risk adding insult to injury.”

Sam sat back down.  “So...When?  And what do you want me to do?”

Bobby shrugged.  “Might as well be tonight.  We been doin’ research for weeks, ain’t come up with a thing yet.  No point in puttin’ off our best chance for learnin’ somethin’ useful.”

“Okay.  So what do I do?”

Bobby gave him a speculative look.  “Don’t think there’s really anything you can do, to be honest.  Like I said, I won’t be able to move, and you can’t see into my head, so you’d have no way of knowin’ if I was in trouble.  And I don’t know when or if she’ll come, so I can’t even say, ‘Come check on me in an hour’, you know?”  The older man shrugged.  “If I really thought this was dangerous, I’d figure somethin’ out, boy, but for now I’m thinkin’ you just get a good night’s sleep, and we’ll talk in the mornin’.”

Sam wasn’t at all thrilled with that idea, but the thought of sitting beside his surrogate father’s bed while the man experienced what was likely to be a wet dream didn’t appeal to him, either.  “Alright.”  He stood.  “Well...sweet dreams?”

Bobby chuckled.  “You, too.  See ya in the mornin’.”

Chapter Text


 

“So...ah...how’d it go?”  Sam shot a nervous glance over at Bobby as he poured strong black coffee into a thick mug.

Bobby grunted.  “It didn’t.  She never showed.”

Sam relaxed, grateful to have avoided what was sure to have been an awkward conversation.  He set the mug in front of Bobby, then moved to his own seat, wrapping long fingers around his still-warm tea.  “So, now what?”

Bobby shrugged.  “Hit the books, I guess.  See if we can figure out how to get her to show up.”

Sam sipped his tea.  “I could --”

Bobby slapped his cup down, sloshing hot liquid onto the table and his hand.  “No, you can’t!  We already had this conversation, Sam!” He shook his hand out, wincing.  “Try not to irritate me first thing in the mornin’, ya idjit.”

“Yeah.  Sorry.”  Sam popped his laptop open, a familiar defense for him whenever he felt the need to retreat from humanity.  “I’ll see what I can dig up about luring a succubus.”

“You do that,” the older man growled, and his face was lost behind a giant white mug.

 


 

“I hope you don’t mind,” Dean apologized to a stunned Caroline from his position at her stove.  “I woke up craving bacon and pancakes.”

She turned questioning eyes on John, who shrugged around his first coffee of the morning.  “He likes to cook.  Good at it, too.”

The teapot whistled, and Dean nodded her to a seat.  

“Man, you’ve got a lotta types of tea up there.”  He poured carefully into the mug he’d set before her.  “I just picked the one that was the emptiest.  Figured that meant you used it the most.”

She smiled as she watched him, noting that he kept his eyes averted from both her and his father.  “Why, thank you.  Brains as well as beauty.  You are a dangerous one.”

His smile faltered and he turned away.

She shot an embarrassed and apologetic look to John, who was glaring at her.  “I’m impressed that you know how to actually brew tea.  I could have sworn you told me you were a coffee man.”

Dean shrugged.  “Bobby and Sam like it, so I learned how.”

She nodded, holding her cup to her lips and blowing on it.  “Not a lot of people would go to that kind of trouble for something they didn’t also enjoy.”  She sipped her tea, eyes closing, a pleased hum rippling the steam rising from her mug.  “This is delicious.”

Dean slid a plate in front of her, then passed one to his father.  A generous stack of pancakes was obscured by a crush of blueberries and sliced strawberries.  Her look of surprise returned.  Dean sat at a spot midway between his father and his therapist, and she could feel his eyes on her.

She carefully cut a triangular section from the pile of ‘cakes, being sure to spear a blueberry and a slice of pancake with her fork.  She slid the bite into her mouth, then closed her eyes and moaned.  

Dean smiled.  “Found some agave syrup in your cupboard.”

She chewed slowly, savoring each flavor.  “And pecans.”

Dean nodded, chewing happily.  “And pecans.  Sam likes his that way, too.”

She looked over at John.  “What are yours?”

“Maple and bacon infused,” and his grin was wolfish.  “Told ya he can cook.”

She reloaded her fork.  “Keep this up and I’ll never let you leave!”  She chewed happily.  “I can’t even remember the last time anyone made me breakfast, and outside of a restaurant, it’s never been like this!”

Dean chuckled.  “We eat at a lot of diners.”  He kept his eyes on his food as he talked.  “Bobby taught me some basics, and now I just kinda pay attention when we get something that tastes better than we expected.  Sometimes the cook’ll answer my questions, other times it’s just trial-and-error ‘til I get it figured out.”

Caroline shook her head, once again humming happily.  “You are a treasure, Dean Winchester.  A rare and precious treasure.”

Even with his head angled towards his plate, she could tell that he blushed at that.

John ate deliberately, eyes flicking from one to the other, knowing that something was going on but not yet entirely clear on what that thing was.

Caroline leaned toward the young chef.  “What are yours?”

He glanced at her, eyes bright.  “Peanut butter and bacon.  With maple syrup.”

Her eyes widened, her mouth forming into an ‘O’.  “I would never have thought of that!”

“Wanna try it?”

She nodded eagerly.

She’s acting like a school girl, John observed, eyes narrowing, and felt a tick of jealousy flare through him.

Dean collected a bite, careful to include a small piece of bacon and run it through the melted peanut butter mixed with syrup pooling on his plate.  He leaned toward the older woman, hand cupped beneath his fork to catch any drips, and bit his lip as he watched hers close over his offering.

“Mmmmm...That is really good.”

Dean sat back, returning his attention to his plate.  “Yep.  ‘S like Heaven in your mouth.”

The little shit’s trying to charm  her into letting him leave!  John shook his head as he raised his fork to his mouth.  The taste exploded on his tongue and he closed his eyes, tempted to moan in pleasure himself.  He opened his eyes in time to catch Dean watching him, Mona Lisa curl to his lips.   Damnit!  He’s doin’ it to me, too!  Son of a bitch is good!

“You got any plans today, Kid?”   Can’t wait to hear this!

Dean glanced up, looking away again immediately.  “Well...I...I was hoping...since Zell fixed me and everything...that we could train.”  His eyes shot to his father once more, then back to his plate.

Is that nervousness real, or is he still playin’ me?   John scrutinized his son, noting the fine tremor in the hand holding the fork.   No, he’s really that  nervous.  What’s he afraid of?

“What did you have in mind?  A little target practice?  Conditioning? Grappling?”

“All of it?”  Once more his eyes flicked to his father’s, then away.  “Just feel like…”  He shrugged.  

“You’d like to stay sharp?”  Caroline offered.

Dean nodded.  “Yeah.  Always room to improve, too.”

John took a moment to finish chewing.  “Wouldn’t think a guy who took down a freakin’ ghoul bare-handed would see much need to improve, Dean-o.”

Dean squirmed at the unfamiliar praise, fidgeting with his fork.  “We should probably go back there, make sure there aren’t more of them and stuff.”

John looked to Caroline.  “Well, Doc?  What’s the verdict?  Can I steal him for a day?”

Caroline closed her eyes around her final bite of ambrosia.  “Mmmmm….”  She opened them to smile at her patient.  “Yeah, I think he’s earned a break from me.”

Dean visibly relaxed, eyes smiling into first Caroline’s, then John’s.  “Awesome.  Thanks.”



 

 

Sam and Bobby combined their research findings over lunch.  

“Looks like a pretty standard summoning spell,” Sam offered.

Bobby grunted.  “A pentagram and three protective circles.  To keep the succubus in, or other things out, I wonder?”

Sam leaned over, studying the sigils.  “Looks like a little of both, actually.”  He went back to his own research.  “I don’t know, Bobby.”  He shook his head.  “I don’t think this is a great idea.”

“Whatcha mean?”  The older man had a lot of respect for his young counterpart’s intelligence, including his instincts.  He leaned in, wanting to see what had caught Sam’s attention.

“Well, look,” Sam began, pointing to his laptop screen.  “This wording is pretty vague.  If not for the insertion of a name, you could be summoning any demon.”

“Huh.”  Bobby went back to the books he had open in front of him.  “Guess that explains the three protective circles.  If we’re puttin’ out a general call to get demon attention, then trying to pull just the one we want into the circle, makes sense to keep the others out.”

“Especially since Meridiana may not be popular with her own kind.”

Bobby cocked an eyebrow at him.  “Whaddaya mean by that?”

Sam shrugged one shoulder.  “You said she was known for helping people.  That isn’t how ‘Cubi normally behave, so I gotta assume she’s a bit of an outsider with her own kind.”

“Huh.”  Bobby shook his head on a smile.  “You are one of the smartest idjits I ever met, Sam Winchester.”

Sam choked on the bite of stir fry he’d just taken, chuckling while his eyes watered.  “Uh, thanks, Uncle Bobby.  I think.”

The older man grinned, clapping the other on the back.  “Don’t talk with yer mouth full, Sam.  Might choke.”

 


 

Dean realized, a little surprised, that he was enjoying the hike out of the woods.  They’d cleaned up the mess in the cave -- well, enough to make it look like the work of a wild animal; they would put in an anonymous call to the authorities to make sure the bodies were recovered.  They hadn’t found any signs of more ghouls, and the best part, from Dean’s perspective, was that they hadn’t talked about anything.. Awkward… all day.

He’d actually gone minutes at a time without thinking about it at all.

Dean tossed the weapons bag into the bed of his dad’s truck before settling into the passenger seat.  “Where we gonna train?”

John gave him a rare, dimple-enhanced smile.  “You’ll see.”

Dean raised his eyebrows.   He’s got a surprise he thinks I’ll like.  I’ll be damned.  The young man couldn’t remember the last time he and his father had shared a moment like that.  

John must have been thinking the same thing, because he cleared his throat, a sure sign that he was about to say something that bordered on sentimental.  “I been thinkin’...” he shifted in his seat, another sign that he was uncomfortable with his topic.  “We oughta cut back a bit on the hunting.  I mean, I know it’s me that’s doin’ it, that’s pushin’ us so hard, so I guess it’s really me that needs to cut back.  But I should just make sure we get to do more than just hunt, you know?  We used to have fun together, all three of us.  Been a long time since we just…” his voice trailed off.

“Yeah.”  Dean worried his lower lip with his teeth.  He tried to remember the last time they’d all just laughed together about something, and couldn’t come up with anything.  He chuckled.  “Be fun to kick Sammy’s ass again.”

John shook his head, but the dimples were still on display.  “At what?”

“Sparring, grappling, shooting….”

John’s rolling laugh kindled a warm glow in Dean’s chest that he hadn’t felt in way too long.  “One of these days he’s gonna win, Dean-o.  Then where will you be?”

Dean chuckled.  “By that time I’ll be ready for a  nursing home or a grave, so no worries.”

John’s teeth flashed.  “Such a cocky bastard.”  He pulled up in front of what looked to be an old factory of some sort.  “Good thing I’m here to keep ya humble.”  He threw a wicked grin and a wink at Dean as he turned off the truck.  “We’re here.”

Dean’s gaze swept over the building.  “For what?  An exorcism?  Place looks haunted.”  His voice sounded skeptical.

John’s smile never faltered.  He retrieved a duffel bag from behind his seat before motioning with his head.  “C’mon.  You’ll like it.  Trust me.”

Dean whistled in appreciation at the space that spread out before them.  Grappling mats, heavy bags, speed bags, free weights, open space with unfinished hardwood floors littered with jump ropes and  other random equipment.  

No chrome, no weight machines.  The walls were unpainted, the floors bare wood.  Ceiling beams were exposed.  The lights were fluorescent, set in twelve-foot ceilings, and the single clock on the wall was protected by a wire cage.

A boxing ring stood in the far corner of the room.

Dean hummed to himself, long and low, scanning the few human occupants, all engrossed in what they were doing, faces serious.  

“Not a single pair of Spandex pants or terry cloth wristbands to be found.”

John chuckled.  “Knew you’d like it.”

“Damn.  It’s like freakin’ Heaven for hunters!”

“Shh.”  John glanced around.  “The owner’s a guy I’ve worked with a time or two, but it’s a fight gym.  Mixed martial arts, mostly, but some just box or grapple, not both.”  He paused, head tilted as he considered his son.  “They’re lookin’ for someone to help teach a women’s self defense class.”

Dean stilled, inhaling long and deep through his  nose, holding it for a slow count of three, then blowing it out slowly through pursed lips.  He nodded, almost to  himself.  “Maybe.”

John bent to the duffel, pulling out a pair of bag gloves.  He slapped them against Dean’s shin.  “I’m thinking speed bag, jump rope, heavy bag, ropes -- “ he gestured to the thick, knotted ropes suspended from the ceiling -- “hand targets, grappling...hit the ring when it’s open, and repeat it all until we can’t walk.”

Dean laughed.  “Oh, yeah!  I like the sound of that!”

And if the professional fighters and hopefuls snuck looks at the two Winchesters as they trained, father and son had the grace to pretend not to notice.

 


 

Three protective circles meant that the only place in the house that was large enough for their little experiment was the thick-walled, steel-doored "safe room" in the basement.

“You sure it’s not too warded?”  Sam asked, a question he’d repeated enough that Bobby straightened from the sigils he was drawing to plant his fists on his hips and glare at the younger man.

“Right, right.  Sorry,” Sam mumbled, returning his focus to his own symbol rendition.  “I’m just…”

“Worried.  Yeah, I get it.  But at worst, it’ll just prevent everything from getting in, including Meridiana.  Then we just start takin’ wards down one at a time, tryin’ until we get Meridiana here.”  He stretched his back a bit before returning to his work.  “This is safer, so quit frettin’.”

Sam nodded.  “Think she’ll tell us anything?”

Bobby shrugged.  “Probably.  Maybe even without meanin’ to, ya know?  Just like any FBI interrogation we’ve ever faked.  Sometimes what they don’t say tells ya more than what they do.”

Sam sighed.  

“I know it still makes ya nervous, Sam, but I been doin’ this a long time, and I’m still kickin’ around.  It’ll be fine.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, brushing long hair out of his eyes, but he sounded unconvinced.

They finished their preparations in silence.

 


 

A lustful moan passed Dean’s succulent lips as he stepped into Caroline’s kitchen.  His father’s broad back obscured his view, so the younger man stopped, inhaling noisily instead.  “Is that steak I smell?”

Caroline’s laugh tinkled in simple joy.  “John told me what he planned; I assumed you’d need some protein.”

The man under discussion dropped onto a bar stool.  “Damn, woman!  I’d kiss you if the boy weren’t watchin’.”  He winked at Dean, who answered with a laugh.

“You don’t, I will, old man!”

Caroline turned to face them, meat fork raised in mock defensiveness.  “Don’t either of you dare!”  She lowered the implement on a slow, seductive grin.  “Until after you’ve showered, that is.” She dropped a wink that somehow managed to encompass both men before turning back to the stove, leaving father and son speechless.

 


 

 

John himself called first dibs on the shower.  When he returned, hair slicked back and smelling of cologne, Dean yawned, wincing his way through a few stretches, and announced his intention to go straight to bed after supper.  Which, he decided on his third soap-and-rinse cycle, wasn’t such a bad idea, at that.  Clean, dry, and comfortable in sweats and a t-shirt, he returned to the kitchen to see his father and Caroline already seated, waiting for him.

 


 

 

“So, how was your day?”  Caroline inquired, her tone expressing more than a merely clinical interest.

“Almost as good as this steak.”  Dean closed his eyes, enjoyment radiating from him.

John chuckled, agreeing.  “Yeah.  We need to do more of that.”  He slanted a glance at his son, noting that the look of rapture still blinded the boy, and rolled his shoulders with a grimace towards Caroline, mouthing “But not too soon.”

She choked on a laugh, coughing into her fist to cover it.  “Where did you go again?”

“Old gym on the far side of town.  Heard about it from a guy I know -- a hunter.  They train fighters, professionals as well as up-and-comers.  ‘S got a nice, serious feel to it.”

Dean nodded.  “They had everything from heavy bags to ropes and grappling mats.  It was awesome.”  He used a forkful of baked potato to cleanse his palate after some green beans, and followed that with another piece of steak.  “Good thing Zell healed me.  I’d’ve hated to miss out on that.”

John sobered.  “Yeah...Still makes me uncomfortable.”

Dean regretted bringing it up.  “Lore says Meridiana helps people.”

“And the lore never lies,” John snorted, dripping sarcasm.

“Lynne hasn’t hurt me yet.  Hell, she’s healed me twice!”  Dean sipped the beer he’d snagged from the refrigerator earlier.  “Doesn’t make sense to do that if she wants to kill me or something.”

“Unless she plans on something that she needs you alive for.”

Dean looked up, interested.  “Like what?”

John rolled his eyes as he spread his hands slightly.  “How the hell should I know?  Make you a slave, capture you and sell you to the highest bidder, use you to learn about hunters so she can take a bunch of us out.  I can think of things.”

Dean focused on his food, chin low, face hot.   Doesn’t trust my judgment.

“Succubi are known for their ability to seduce whomever they choose,” Caroline offered.  “I suspect that no one is immune.  Didn’t you say that Meridiana...ah...visited….Bobby?”

“Yeah.  Damn fool said it wasn’t the first time, either.  Guess she used to ‘visit’ pretty regularly before he and his wife got together.”  John snorted in disgust.

“Judge not, John Winchester,” Caroline chided.  “For all you know, I could be a succubus.”

John coughed into the Branton’s he’d been sipping, and Dean laughed out loud, sending a mental thank you her way.

Caroline winked at him, picking up on his unspoken gratitude.  “And she never hurt Bobby?”

John frowned, considering that.  “No, she didn’t.”

Dean nodded to himself, attention only partially diverted from his food.  “I thought they were supposed to, like, feed on their -- “ he stopped ‘victims’ before it left his lips “ -- partners’ energy, but I was stronger after Zell, not weaker.”

John set his utensils down, fastening cold eyes on his son.  “What’s your point?  You gonna tell me I should just let her at you whenever the mood strikes her?”

Dean felt his cheeks and ears burn.   His hands stilled, but his eyes remained on his plate.

Caroline sat quietly, observing.

“I asked you a question, Boy.”  John’s voice was harsh.

Caroline’s lips tightened.

“No, Sir.”

“‘No, Sir,’ what?”

“No, Sir, you shouldn’t just let her at me.”  His voice was so quiet, the words barely carried across the otherwise silent room.

“Then what’s your point, Dean?”  

He cleared his throat softly.  “Just that...we haven’t done much of anything for a month now.  And maybe that’s her end-game.”

John sat back, anger fading to surprised thoughtfulness.  “Huh.  Hadn’t thought of that.”  He straightened, cutting a bite of steak for himself.  “Makes a whole lot of sense.  I’ll give Bobby a ring later, talk it over with him.”  He filled his mouth, glancing at his son.  “Finish your food, Dean.”

He waited until his son complied before turning to Caroline.  “So, did you enjoy having your home back for a few hours?”

 



Dean read between the lines when John offered Caroline his son’s assistance with clean-up while the two of them retired to the other room for an after-dinner drink.   They’re gonna talk about me.  He resisted an almost overwhelming urge to eavesdrop, finished the dishes and wiped the counters down efficiently, then retired to the room he shared with his father.  He replayed the table conversation, chiding himself for letting it happen.   Day was almost too perfect.

Closing the door firmly but quietly, he stretched out on the bed, slid a pair of headphones on, and drifted off with James Hetfield crooning in his ears.

 


 

 

“So, what was your impression of your day at the gym?  How was Dean?”

“He said ‘no’ to grappling.”

“Is that unusual?”  Caroline cradled a mug of tea in her hands.

“Yeah, sure as hell his.  Grappling used to be his favorite thing.  Long arms and legs, wiry, fast: he’s good at it, and he knows it.”

“And grappling is, what?  Wrestling?”

John nodded.  “Yeah.”

“So the goal is…”

“When we’re practicing?”

Caroline spread her hands, an “interpret it as you will” gesture.

“In practice it’s to get your opponent to tap, but in application it’s to gain control of your attacker.”

“And you accomplish that through….”

“Choke holds, arm bars, stuff like that.”

“Hmmm.”  She sipped her tea, eyes thoughtful.  “During practice, do you tap when you are rendered helpless?”

John shrugged.  “Pretty much.  Yeah.  It’s like a checkmate in chess: you’ve got no moves left.”

Caroline nodded, face somber.  “He can’t tolerate feeling helpless yet.  Or risking that feeling.”

Ice chinked against glass as John drained his bourbon.  “I hate it that he’s going through this.”

They were silent as he added more whiskey to his tumbler.

“He’s doing extremely well, John,” she offered.

He snorted.  “Sure.  Only tried to kill himself outright twice, not counting taking off alone at night with no weapons, practically inviting some monster to take him out.”

“And yet, when faced with death, he fought.  Not only fought, but won.”

John leaned his back into the inviting leather couch, pushing his breath out hard, willing the residual fear to be carried away with it.  “Still can’t believe that.  I don’t know anyone else who’s fought a ghoul bare-handed and won.  Bare-handed and injured, for Christ’s sake.”  He drained his glass, leaning forward to refill it.

Caroline nodded.  “He is very impressive, and his will to live is strong.  He can beat this, John.  He will beat this.”   She paused, loath to interject any negativity into what had so far been a surprisingly good day, yet feeling duty-bound to address the incident at the dinner table.    At least he’s starting out in a good mood.  But she had seen first hand how quickly the hunter’s mood could change.   And Dean is somewhere in the house.  But would he step in if John threatened her?  It was an interesting question -- one that she hoped to never learn the answer to.

“Your interaction with Dean about the succubus tonight: would you say that is fairly typical of your conversations with him when you are angry with him?”

John looked startled.  “I wasn’t angry with him.”

“You certainly seemed so to me.  To Dean, as well, judging from his reaction.”

John shook his head, waving a hand dismissively.  

Caroline began ticking off points: “You raised your voice and deepened it; you leaned toward him; you glared at him; you called him ‘Boy’; you expressed displeasure at what was merely an observation on his part. Those were all threatening and domineering actions. Dean, in turn, stopped eating, dropped his eyes, addressed you as ‘Sir’, and lowered his voice, all signs of submission.  Or fear.”

John glowered at her.  “In case you haven’t noticed, he has a habit of putting himself in harm’s way.”

“And by inciting fear, you hope to prevent that?”

John shook his head, eyes averted, muscle in his jaw contracting.  “I wasn’t trying to scare him.”

“And yet you were extremely intimidating.”

John shifted, huffing out a disgusted breath.

“When you first came to me, John, it was because you had injured Dean badly in a fit of rage.”

John looked down at his hands as if seeing the battered knuckles and remembering how he had damaged them.

“I know that right now Dean’s situation takes precedence, but we can’t lose site of our other goal.  What I saw tonight could easily have escalated, and likely would have had Dean not responded to you the way that he did.  His submissiveness diffused the situation.  But at what cost?”

John chewed on his lower lip, refusing to meet her gaze.

“It appears that he needs to be on guard at all times, choosing his words carefully, unable to openly express opinions or curiosity, at least about certain topics.  Is that really how you want your relationship with your son to be?”

“He can say whatever he wants.”

“And risk your anger, which we know can become violent,  often with little warning.”

Despite the bowed head, Caroline saw the man’s jaw clench, felt the tension building in him.

“I also don’t think that frightening him away from dangerous situations makes a lot of sense.  He’s been hunting long enough that I have to assume that he realizes when his proposed actions will put him at increased risk of injury, yet he will still take what you consider unnecessary risks.  Clearly he sees them as necessary.  Is that because he’s trying to heed your command to always put Sam first?”

“Not always.”  The hunter’s voice was gruff, forced from him reluctantly as he felt compelled to come to his own defense.

“If you demanding that he not take excessive risks actually works, it tells me that he is more afraid of the harm you will inflict on him than he is of whatever monster is being discussed at the time.”

John exploded from the couch and Caroline flinched back.  “Jesus Christ,” he muttered, turning away.  He ran both hands through his hair, gripping his skull for a moment as he contemplated the ceiling, then tucked them in the front pockets of his jeans.  He paced over to Caroline’s fireplace, and she wondered whether he was staring at the framed portrait hanging above it or his own reflection in the glass.

He hunched his shoulders, resting his forehead on the mantelpiece.  “What do you want me to do?”  

His voice and posture screamed ‘defeat’.

Rising, Caroline crossed to the hunter slowly, knowing that he heard her approach, giving him time to react.

He remained motionless.

She rested her palm on his shoulder, feeling the strength and tension there.

“He needs you now, John, probably more than he ever has before.  He needs to know that you value his intelligence, his judgement, his strength.  So talk to him, calmly.  Ask his opinions.  Let him give you input on how a hunt should go.  Recognize when you are becoming defensive or intimidating, and reign it in.”

His shoulders rose on a deep inhale, falling as his breath left him in a heavy sigh.  “Mary would kill me if she knew how badly I’d fucked that boy up.”  His voice was heavy with shame.

Caroline rolled her lips between her teeth, closing her eyes, feeling his pain wash over her.  “You haven’t ‘fucked him up’, John.  He idolizes you, and you’ve kept him alive, made him strong.  You haven’t been perfect, but who has?  And you are here , trying to get better.”  She paused. “Mary would love you for that.”

He turned, startling her, and dropped to his knees.  Wrapping his arms around her waist, he buried his head in her stomach, silent tears bleeding into her shirt.

 


 

Bobby lay on a thin mattress, arms and legs spread out on the points of the pentagram.  He’d insisted to a dubious -- but grateful -- Sam that nowhere in the lore did it state that he had to disrobe for this summoning to work.  Instead, he had traded his usual jeans and flannel for a more comfortable pair of sweats and a perfectly aged t-shirt.

He repeated the words of the incantation, eyes closed, enjoying the feel of the ancient syllables on his tongue and the confident reverberation of his voice in his chest.

 

The last vowel faded into silence.

 

A soft breeze caressed his face, skimming over the stubble like the hands of a lover.

“Meridiana?” he questioned quietly, eyes still closed.

A  heavy weight dropped onto his chest and icy fingers wrapped around his throat.

“Yesssss,” came the sibilant whisper, and the old hunter’s eyes snapped open, mouth following suit, desperate to warn Sam.

His face reddened in the relative silence as the demon effectively stole her summoner’s breath.



Chapter Text


 

The face staring down at him was hideous, horrifying, even to a seasoned hunter, and Bobby fought the panic rising in his chest as he realized that his body was paralyzed.

Unable to draw breath enough to call for help, still his mind shouted a frantic ‘Sam !’

As if it could hear him, could feel his terror, the demon’s lips drew back in a sadistic rictor.  Saliva so hot it burned dripped from jagged fangs to land on his cheek.

Adrenaline surged through him, shrieking at him to move, to get away, and he tried, muscles contracting desperately but in vain.

The demon’s pupils widened, lust-blown, and it began to grind its pelvis into him, thighs compressing his pelvis in a vise-like grip that had agony shooting from his lower back down both legs.

‘Sam !’ he bellowed once more, the plea reverberating in his mind, never leaving his mouth.

The demon leaned closer, forked tongue snaking across fractured teeth, rancid breath fanning across  his face, and Bobby’s vision began to gray around the edges.   ‘Meridiana .’  It was a last, despairing cry, and as the thing above him cackled in obvious delight, he knew that it would not be answered.

Sam.  I’m sorry.

 


 

“You want a partner?” one of the men asked, and Dean answered with an easy smile.

“Sure.  Name’s Dean.”

“Jeff.”

They reached to shake hands, and Jeff pulled him in, opposite hand slipping behind Dean to glide over his hip.

Dean’s eyebrows shot up, and Jeff smiled.  “Damn.  That is a really nice.”  He squeezed, then pressed, forcing their bodies closer.  “So firm.”

Dean smiled, releasing Jeff’s hand to twine his fingers in the hair at the back of the other man’s neck, steadying him for the onslaught of Dean’s hungry mouth.

Jeff moaned, grinding his erection against Dean’s

 

“No!”  He shouted as he jerked up right, unaware of ripping the headphones off as his eyes darted frantically around the room.

His chest heaved as he took in the empty space, washed silver in the moonlight.  He blinked, respirations slowing as he came back to himself.  Terror abated slowly, soaking into the mattress as his body sagged.

Lust remained, tainted with an edge of panic.

He gripped himself through the cotton of his sweat pants, squeezing his hardness to relieve the ache.

What the hell?

His breathing was slowing.

What the hell was that , Winchester?

He ran a shaking hand through sweat-spiked hair.

His erection wasn’t fading .

Did you seriously just almost have a wet dream about a guy who –

Even in his head he couldn’t verbalize it.

What the fuck is wrong with you?

He eased down onto his back, struggling to call memories of Zellynnexia to mind.

As if that’s really what you want , the self-loathing side of him sneered.

Fuck you.  It is what I want.

Really?  I mean, it’s just us here, so let’s be honest: is that really what you want?

Dean shifted uncomfortably.  Just shut the fuck up and go to sleep.

No.  You heard what Caroline said.  You need to face this shit, get it worked out.

Shut up.

Dreams are your subconscious, asshole, and you know that.  Integrating, right?  Just like Caroline said.

Dean clenched his teeth, rolling onto his side, tucking an arm under the pillow.  Fine.  I’m going back to sleep.  Integrate all you want, Dream Boy.

You’ll dream about Jeff again.

Dean’s breathing picked up.

Weren’t there any women in that bar, Dean?

 

     Classic rock, the solid thwock of a stick tapping a cue ball, ice rattling in glasses.  

     Women in tight shirts and even tighter jeans, not afraid to catch your eye.

 

But you didn’t hit on any of them.  Why is that?

None of ‘em seemed interested.

Bullshit.  That has never been the case with you.  Try again.

Fine: None of ‘em were hot enough.

And, strike two.  You can say whatever you want to everyone else, but we’re the same person, jackass.  I know that it’s the smile, the eye contact, the warmth that gets you.  Remember Cherie?

 

    He slid both hands under her shirt, wanting to keep his eyes on her face, needing to know that he was making her feel good,

    but she was soft, oh god, so amazingly soft, not just her skin but her flesh,

    and he had just enough time to register her shame before his eyes closed on a moan.  

   “God, Cherie.  You feel so good.”  He opened his eyes to find her biting her lip, tears ready to fall.

   “Do I really?”

   The fear and hope in her voice damn near broke his heart.

   He took her hand, slowly drawing it to him, pressing her palm to his erection.  

   " I may lie sometimes, but he never does.”  

   And he’d lowered his head, taking that lip she’d already bruised between his own, 

   lost in the sweetness of her, the softness, wanting so much to make her see herself the way he did.

 

He rolled onto his back, sliding his hand into his sweats, stroking his erection.  Yeah.  She did feel great.

She couldn’t believe that a stud like you would want to be with her.  So self-conscious about her weight, always on a different diet.

Shut up, man.  You’re ruining my groove .  He went back to focusing on how she had felt under his hands, how she had tasted, the noises she made.

You didn’t go all the way through with it though.  Or we didn’t, or whatever.  Remember that?

Doesn’t mean I can’t pretend I did.  Or just remember the things I did let her do.

 

    You don’t have to.  It’s okay.”

    “I want to, Dean.  Please let me.”

    She looked up at him, brown eyes liquid and lust-blown, teeth white against her lower lip.  

    From between his knees she reached for his belt,

    and the anticipation threatened to choke him as he watched her work to free him from his clothing,

    her eyes darting from her hands to his face and back again, cheeks flushed,

    her own breath speeding up as she neared her goal.

 

His hand was moving faster beneath the blanket, body tensing as the pressure built.

You really ought to go into the bathroom.  What if Dad walks in?

I haven’t been this close in almost two months.  I ain’t stoppin’ now.

Wouldn’t be the first time he caught you, anyway.

Shut up, man.  I’m trying to concentrate.

 

    Her lips were always so full and soft, so inviting, just like all of her, and those eyes,

    the way she looked at him as she lowered her mouth to him, his first time, and hers, and --

 

   soft-moist-sucking warmth, and his back arches as he groans, and it shouldn’t feel so good,

   he can’t remember why but it shouldn’t, and he tries not to let it,   

   and his skin is tingling and his heart is racing and he feels the build and he knows it’s coming 

 

“No!”  He sat up on a gasp, jerking his hand away, because Cherie’s face had somehow, impossibly, become Jeff’s.

 

Nausea struck, and he stumbled to the bathroom, breath coming in too-rapid gasps.  He hit his knees, hugging the porcelain bowl, fighting to slow his respirations as dizziness set in.

Calm down, man.  It’s not that big a deal.  You’ve known gay guys. They weren’t monsters or aliens.  Quit freakin’ out.

I’m not gay! And that's not --

Aren’t you?  You sure about that?

I like women. I’ve only ever been with women.  Can’t be gay, especially for a guy that...did what Jeff did.  Even in his mind, his voice sounded weak.

You like to fuck women.  That ain’t what being gay is all about.

What are you talking about?

You know, Dean.  You know.

 

He squeezed his eyes shut tightly, pressed the heels of his palms into his ears, but how do you shut out the sound of your inner voice?

 

There were women at that bar, plenty of ‘em, and more than one tried to catch your eye.  But you weren’t there for that, were you?

Shut up.

Sure, sex is great, but it doesn’t fix it, does it?  

Shut. Up!

You remember why you were there?  Remember what you felt, what you were looking for?

 

     He didn’t need to hustle tonight; he needed something he didn’t bother trying to put words to,

    but he knew that a couple games of pool where it didn’t matter if he lost would feed that vague hunger.

 

That’s right.  And what was that hunger, Dean? Or better yet, what IS that hunger?  Because it hasn’t gone away,  has it?  If anything, I’d say it’s gotten worse.

 

He sat back, wrapping his arms tightly over his face, and began to rock.

 

C’mon.  This is what Caroline would ask, what she says you need.  What was the hunger, Dean? Where did it come from?

 

    He knew more than Sam realized, and that -- all of that: where Sam planned on going and what he was willing to give up to get there;

    what their dad would do about it -- that had been rolling through Dean in an uneasy cloud for weeks,

    sometimes in his stomach, other times in his chest

 

That’s right, buddy: Sam.  Sam and Dad.  All we’ve ever had, all we’ve ever been, and Sam is leaving.  He’s leaving, and he’s gonna make you choose, choose between him and Dad.  Hell, he already has.  And when Sam’s gone, and Dad knows that you knew it was coming but didn’t tell him, what’s going to happen to you?

Please.  Stop.  Just stop.

 

He rocked harder.

 

C’mon, man.  It’s been here, rolling around, fucking us up, and we need to haul it out into the daylight so we can salt and burn it. What’s gonna happen to you?  Who’s going to need you when Sam’s gone?  What will you be good for?

 

Without giving it any conscious thought, Dean swung, left fist connecting solidly with porcelain.

Something in his hand shattered, b ut he was too deep, too far gone, and the pain barely penetrated.

Shut. Up.  Each syllable was punctuated by a blow, and crimson smeared the pristine porcelain.

You didn’t go looking to get laid, Dean, and we both know it.  You wanted to connect.  You wanted something to fill that black hole in your chest.

No.  I’d need a woman for that, anyway.  And hunters don’t do girlfriends, or wives.

Especially you, Dean.  You love women, sure.  Love the way the feel, the way the smell, the sounds they make.  But you have no idea what it’s like to be loved by a woman, to love her back, to know that she knows and accepts you for all of your faults, looks at you and sees more than a pretty face and a tight body --

Shut up.

The only people you’ve ever been close to, bonded with, even come close to confiding in, felt accepted by and safe with -- they’ve all been male, Dean.  Dad, Bobby, Sam.  That’s it.  

 

His hand had begun to ache, a distant song offering escape, too quiet to be effective.

 

You watched Jeff, you wanted to connect.  You weren’t looking for a good time.  You were looking for someone to replace Sammy.  To replace Dad.

No.   He pressed a thumb into a fractured knuckle, the pain sudden and biting, something to focus on, to ground him.

Gay ain’t about sex, Dean.  It’s about love.  Your dick doesn’t care who touches it or the gender of whatever it gets stuck in.

 

     it shouldn’t feel so good, he can’t remember why but it shouldn’t, and he tries not to let it, but it does

 

He rubs, hearing bone grind on bone.  A sharp burn lances through his entire hand, all the way to his elbow.

You winked at him, Dean.  You watched him, and you felt that hunger grow, and you walked over and turned on the charm.

 

    “You want a partner?” one of the men asked, and Dean answered with an easy smile.

     “Sure.  Name’s Dean.”

     “Jeff.”

 

You know how people react to you, guys and chicks both.  You’ve always known.

No.  Dean pulled himself to his feet, coherent thought gone, just desperate to get away.

 

     He lets them take his jacket, and his flannel

 

And you let them because it was Jeff.

No!

 

He careened out of the bathroom, eyes darting around the room like a trapped animal.  Seeing his father’s duffel bag, he lurched to it, dropping to his knees to paw through it frantically.

 

     Hands on his jacket, and he thinks there might be something wrong with that,

     and he tries to resist, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal.  “We gotta get these off of you, get you comfortable so you can sleep it off.”

    And he lets them.  He lets them take his jacket, and his flannel,

    and when he is swaying there in jeans and a t-shirt, Scott kneels.  

    Dean feels someone tugging on his boots, and he mumbles “No,” or  he thinks  he does, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal.  

   “Cowboys don’t really sleep with their boots on, Dean.”

 

You started to fight, but then you quit, because it was Jeff, and he looked at you like he cared.  Like he saw something more than a tool, a useful machine, a soldier.  He saw you, and he cared.  That’s what you thought, wasn’t it?  Because that’s what you wanted to see.

Weapons.  Where are his weapons?  There’s gotta be at least one .  He up-ended the bag, emptying the contents, pawing through them disjointedly.

What was the worst part, Dean?  Was it how much it hurt, or was it that part of it felt good?

Gun.  Should be a gun under his pillow.   Dean lurched to his feet, nearly falling on the bed, movements uncoordinated as his chest heaved in rapid, sobbing breaths.

Or was it neither of those?  Was it really the betrayal?  Jeff’s betrayal?

 

    And Jeff bunches Dean’s shirt in his hands, from hem to neck,

    and he pulls it up and forces it between Dean’ teeth, and he is not paternal at all.

    through the blur of tears and lash-shuttered eyes he sees Jeff kneeling on one of his bare arms and Jeff’s face is feral 

 

The sheet beneath the pillow was military-smooth and empty.

Dean spun, eyes panicked, face wet with tears that he had no idea he was shedding.

He moved to the door.   Can’t stay  here.

He moved down the hallway, limbs shaky and weak.   Need to leave.

Where are you going to go, Dean?  Who are you going to run to?  Who will want to hear that after all these years of harassing Sam about being a princess and having chick-flick moments, the great Don Juan himself is actually a --

“Shut up!”

He didn’t even realize that he’d spoken out loud.

And that’s the problem, isn’t?  You’ve known gay guys, even couples.  Watched them.  And I know, because we’re the same damned person, that you were curious.  Curious, and a little bit envious, weren’t you?

He moved down the stairs, gripping the railing tightly.  “I watched  hetero couples, too.  Felt the same things.”

But you never could imagine it, could  you?  You tried, but you couldn’t picture yourself talking to a woman the way you talk to Sammy, or Dad.  You always knew, deep down inside, that you’d never have that kind of relationship.  Didn’t you?  Don’t you still?

His chest heaved as if he’d been running, and his lips tingled as if that run had been at a high altitude.

“I can.  I will.”

How, Dean?  You have no idea how, and besides, how could you bring a woman into this life?  You need someone who can have your back, someone hard, because seeing soft flesh injured, that’s too much, but a guy...Yeah, it’s bad seeing Sammy get hurt, but you know he’s tough, he can take it, that’s what guys are built for.  You know you never expected a wife, or even a serious girlfriend.  But a guy?  A partner?  That you could see.

“No.”

Oh, yes.  I know, buddy.  We’re both you, remember?  You didn’t picture sex, but you sure as hell have been picturing a partner.  Ever since you found out that Sam had been applying to colleges, you’ve started fantasizing about it.

“Shut up.”

He moved to the kitchen, started searching  the drawers.

Looking for knives.

And that’s the real problem, isn’t it?  Sam’ll be gone, and you want have anyone to watch over, anyone to protect, and then will Dad still need you?  Maybe, at least until he ganks that demon, but then what?  Will he quit hunting?  Will you?  What’s going to happen to you, Dean?  Who are you going to be?

He’d been quiet.  As the voice continued to flay him, his motions took on a desperate quality.

“She cooked steak.  We had knives.  Where are they?”

He’d put them in the drying rack himself, but it was nowhere to be seen.

He pulled out another drawer, motions rough, uncontrolled, and it crashed to the tile.

He kicked through the contents.  “Knife. Knife. Knife.” He was unaware of his chant.

You gotta find somebody, Dean.  Gotta stop being a tool, start being someone that someone, somewhere, cares about.  Listens to.  You need someone who values your opinions, likes your music, loves cars --

“Shut up, you son of a bitch.  Just. Shut. Up!”  The last came out as a venomous bellow nearly drowned out by a deafening crash as he ripped a drawer from its seat, spraying utensils across the floor.

A light snapped on, and he staggered back, shielding his eyes.

“Dean!  What the  hell are you doing?”

Oh, shit.  He’s pissed, Dean.  You wanted to hurt?  Well, congratulations: I give you pissed off John Winchester.  

He felt a familiar wash of fear and resignation flow through him.  “‘M sorry,” he mumbled.  He pulled his shirt off as he turned, dropping it to the floor before resting his palms on the counter.

John stared, frozen.  “Dean…”  His voice had dropped to a near whisper.

“I left Sammy.”  Dean’s voice was dull.

John took a step towards him.  “What are you talking about?  Sammy’s with Bobby, remember?”

“The other day. You went to get supplies, and Sammy was in the shower, and I left.”

John shook his head, struggling to understand, easing closer to his son.  “The night you...the night I brought you here?  Is that what you mean?”

Dean nodded.  “Yeah.  I left Sammy, Dad.  I’m sorry.  I left him alone.  You need to punish me.  I disobeyed.  I let you down.”  He couldn’t slow his breathing.  It was getting hard to think.  “Something could have hurt Sammy. I failed.”  His breath hitched on a sob.  “You gotta fix me, Dad.”  His voice was raw.  “Teach me.  Make sure I don’t forget.”

“Dean.”  He placed a hand on his son’s shoulder, feeling the deep trembling there.

“Please, Dad.  Please.  It’s okay.”  His breath had dropped to a whisper.  “I need it, Dad.  Please.”

 

And Caroline was there.  She’d followed John, prepared to make a run for the carefully secured weapons if the noise were an intruder.  Or take over if it was, as she had feared it would be, her younger patient.

She placed a hand on John’s arm, showing him the syringe she held, a question in her eyes.

He nodded, and his grip on his son tightened.

“It’s okay, Dean.  I’m not mad, and I’m not going to punish you.  You’re going to be alright.”

He turned his trembling, hyperventilating son into him, crushing the boy into his chest, holding him until Caroline’s injection eased its way into Dean’s veins, quieting his mind.

And he caught the muscular young hunter as the boy’s body went limp and his own knees gave way, folding to the floor with his son in his lap, rocking him as helplessness and raw agony drained his strength.








______________________________________________________________________



Chapter Text


 

Consciousness had nearly fled when a shriek like nails on a chalkboard cut through Bobby’s brain.  The pressure on his chest eased, and he sucked in a breath, struggling to the surface of awareness the way a drowning man fights to get his head above water.

Two beings occupied the small space within the circle, both humanoid but winged, faces hideous, voices even worse.

Nails and teeth flashed, wings pulsed, and black liquid splattered.  Bobby rolled, fighting the agony in his chest to turn onto his side, curling into a ball, trying to protect himself from the maddened creatures using him as their battle ground.

Suddenly burning talons wrapped around his throat and he felt  himself lifted from the ground, coming face to face with the demon that had nearly killed him moments before.  She screeched, nightmare-inducing mouth open wide, and slammed his palms into his ears, writhing as the sound skewered his brain.

Then the second one was there, and Bobby was certain that they would split him half and divide the bounty, but instead he was torn from the first one’s grasp and thrown across the room to collide with the wall and slide down, stunned and breathless.

The door slammed open, and the innocence of Sam’s smooth features contrasted starkly with the horror in his eyes.  “Bobby!”

The agony in his chest would not allow the older hunter to breath.  He motioned weakly to Sam, trying to get the boy to leave.

Sam charged into the room, dropping to his knees beside  his friend.  “Bobby!  We gotta get you outta here!  Can you move?”

Damned Winchesters.  All a buncha reckless idjits.

He gripped the shoulder of Sam’s flannel with one hand, the other pressed hard to his own sternum, and nodded.  

He had yet to take a full breath.

Sam wrapped an arm around him, standing slowly, sliding his shoulder beneath Bobby’s.  Keeping his eyes on the howling creatures in the summoning circle, Sam eased them both out of the room, then hastily lowered Bobby to a sitting position on the floor while he closed and bolted the door.

He turned his back to it, sliding down beside the man he called ‘Uncle’, blowing off the terror that had knotted in his chest.  He rolled his head to look at Bobby.  “No wonder you call it a ‘Safe Room’.”

Bobby wanted to smile, to encourage the boy and thank him, but agony and rigor had not abated.

He still couldn’t breath.

Sam took in the wide, desperate eyes, swept down to the fingers digging into the man’s  own chest, and realized that something was very wrong.  “Bobby!”  He spun to his knees, pulling the hand away, frantically slipping fingers into a gash in the old, soft cotton to tear Bobby’s shirt away.

Aside from the black-purple mottling of the skin, he could see no reason for the man’s paralysis.  Not knowing what else to do and acting purely on instinct, Sam pinched the older man’s nose closed, sealed his mouth over Bobby’s, and breathed.

Bobby immediately gasped, then began coughing, face twisting into an expression of sheer agony as his palm returned to press tightly against his sternum.

Sam hovered on his knees, on the verge of panic, unsure of what to do should the man stop breathing again.

Bobby pressed  his back into the wall and groaned.  His features eased as his chest moved, taking short, shallow breaths that were just this side of a  pant.

The discordant wailing continued on the side of the door, unabated.

Sam relaxed marginally as Bobby continued to breath, though the older man was clearly in a lot of pain.  

Pulling out his phone, Sam dialed the only person that had a  hope of fixing this.



 

 

“He may sleep through the night now,” Caroline offered.  “Let’s get him to the couch.”

She helped maneuver the heavy young man off of John’s lap, cradling him against her shoulder until Dean’s father could get enough of a grip on him to lever the boy to his feet.  Once Dean was up, she slid under his arm on the opposite side of John.

“No,” Dean’s voice was weak and nearly incoherent.  “Pu’ me down.”

“Gotta get you to the couch, son.  You need to sleep it off.”

 

    Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal.  “We gotta get these off of you, get you comfortable so you can sleep it off.”  

 

He began struggling, movements sluggish, lacking both power and coordination.  “Jeff...no.”

“It’s not Jeff, son, it’s me.  Your dad.  We’re just gonna put you on the couch.”  They were only a few steps away.

“Aren’t any couches…”   Eyes won’t open.

“I got him,” John released Caroline as they neared the sofa, turning Dean’s body to lay him on his back before stooping to lift the boy’s legs.

 

      Dean feels someone tugging on his boots, and he mumbles “No,” or  he thinks  he does, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal.

 

“No!”  Dean kicked feebly.  “Jeff, don’t!  Don't let them!”

“Jeff isn’t here.  It’s just me and Caroline.” He put a hand on Dean’s chest, trying to soothe him.  “No one’s going to hurt you, Dean.”

 

   he sees Jeff kneeling on one of his bare arms and Jeff’s face is feral 

 

Dean struggled, and now there were tears leaking from beneath closed lids.  “Please, Jeff.  Lemme go.  Don’t let them.”

John shot a pleading look at Caroline.

“Dean?” She knelt beside the couch to card her fingers through his hair.  “It’s Caroline. Can you hear me?”

His brow furrowed, but his continuous, though languid motions did not falter.  “They’re gonna….can’t….”

“Remember those pancakes you made me?  With fruit and pecans and agave syrup?”  

The furrow deepened, and his movements slowed.

“You remember, right?  They were the most delicious pancakes I’ve ever tasted.  You made  those in my kitchen just this morning, remember?  You’re in my house, with your dad, and you’re safe.”

He stilled, only  his chest continuing to rise and fall rapidly.  “Drugged.”

“Yes, and I’m sorry about that.  You were having a flashback, and I was afraid you would hurt yourself.”

His breathing  had begun to slow.  “They...hurt…”

“I know.  They won’t do it again.  You’re safe now.”

Abruptly his respiratory rate increased to a near-pant, and turned his head.  “Dad?”

John leaned in, gripping his son’s hand.  “Right here, kiddo.  I’m right here.”

“Don’ leave.”

“I won’t.  I’m right here, and I’m not going anywhere.”

His body relaxed, but he gripped his father’s sleeve in white-knuckled fingers.  “Don’ leave. Me.”

“I won’t, Dean-o.  I’m gonna sit right here while you sleep, okay?  Just get some rest  now.  We can go train again in the morning, alright?  Would you like that?”

“Yeah.”  His voice was fading.  “Jus’ don’ lea’ me.”



 

 

John was startled awake by the vibration of his phone.  He lifted his head from the couch, blinking his way to awareness as he struggled to pull the buzzing device from his pocket.

“Sam?”

“Dad.  Bobby’s  hurt.  We need you.”

John straightened, fully alert.  “What’s going on?”

In the hesitation John heard an ungodly, high-pitched noise screaming down the line.  “What the hell is that racket?”

“I...demons.  Succubi, I think.”

John lurched to his feet.  “What the hell, Sam?”

“Sammy?”  Dean mumbled, turning toward his father.

“Bobby and I tried to summon Meridiana.”

“Jesus Christ, Sam!  What the hell were you thinking?”

“We just wanted to talk to her, ask her some questions.”

“And now you’ve got two shrieking demons, where?  Where are they, Sam?”

John was pacing, running his hand through his hair repeatedly, clearly agitated.

“Dad?  Wha’s goin’ on?”  Dean was struggling to push himself into a seat position.

John held his hand out in a shushing motion.

“They’re locked in the safe room.”  There was a moment of silence.  “Looks like they’re still inside the protective circles we made.”

John exhaled audibly.  “So you’re safe, at least.  Not under attack.”

“No.  They seem to be trying to kill each other, but they can’t get to me.  At least not yet.”

“You said Bobby is hurt.”  John had lowered himself heavily onto the end of the couch.  Dean was upright, gripping the the edge of the couch cushions tightly.

“His chest.  He’s having trouble breathing.”

“He conscious?”

“Yeah.”

“Lemme talk to him.”

“Winchester,” the familiar voice was strained.  “Don’t go bustin’ my balls.”

“Later.  How bad?”

The older hunter coughed.  “Been worse.  Crushed my chest.  Mighta broken my breast bone.”

John dropped his forehead into his hand.  “You know I’m a good six hours out.  You want me to call an ambulance?”

“With that shriekin’ goin’ on?  Hell, no.”

“Anybody closer than me?”

Another cough.  “Not that I know of.”

“Shit.”  John leaned back, staring up at the ceiling.  “Alright.  I’m on my way.  Sit tight.”

Bobby’s snorted laugh was truncated by another cough.  “Guess I got skip the break dancing class tonight.”

John chuckled.  “Can’t be too bad.  You’re still bein’ an ass.”

“Yeah, well --” more coughing swallowed the man’s words.  “Don’t take yer time.”

John stood, slipping the phone back into his pocket.  “Sam and Bobby tried to summon Meridiana, and Bobby got hurt.”  He was looking at Caroline as he spoke.  “I gotta go.”

Dean pushed himself unsteadily to his feet.  “I’m comin’ with you.”

“Dean --”

“Dad...:” His eyes looked a little frantic.

“The drug will have worn off completely by the time you get there,” Caroline reassured him.

“So you think this is a good idea?”  John sounded incredulous.

“I think it’s the lesser of two evils.”  

John opened his mouth to protest, caught the mix of fear, shame, and self-doubt in Dean’s eyes, and closed it.

She put a hand on John’s arm.  “Go. We’ll talk later.”

 


 

Dean dozed through the trip, rousing only with difficulty when they pulled to a stop in front of Bobby’s house.

“Dean.  We’re here.”

“Mm...Yeah.”  He sat up, shaking his head.  “I’m up.”

“I don’t hear any screaming.”  John pushed out of the car.  “Hope that’s a good thing.”

Dean met him at the trunk, and John tossed a weapon’s bag to him, retrieving the first aid kit for himself.  “Let’s go.”

They entered the home, moving carefully, listening intently.  

The house was silent.

John stopped at the door to the basement, hand up, stopping Dean.  He leaned in close, holding his breath.  Hearing nothing, he flicked a glance at Dean, then pulled the door open.  “Sam?  Bobby?”

“We’re down here,” Sam’s voice came back.

“Sounds calm,” Dean observed.

John grunted.  “Stay alert. We don’t know yet that it’s really Sam.”

Dean raised his eyebrows, but followed his father’s lead.

They reached the bottom of the stairs.  Bobby leaned against the wall, a blanket covering him to his chin.  Sam had stood, waiting for them.  “He’s stable, I think.  Just in a lot of pain.”

John moved to his old friend.

“Hey, Sammy.”  Dean had stopped on the lowest step, looking uncharacteristically unsure of himself.

“Hey, Dean.”

“So...ah...you guys tried to summon Meridiana?”

“Yeah.  Yeah, we did.”  Sam turned to see what John was doing.

Dean moved to stand beside him.  “So...what happened?”

Sam shrugged.  “Not real sure.  I was sitting out here.”  He slanted a glance at his brother.  “I mean...she’s a succubus, you know?  I didn’t really want to be in the room when she and Bobby...ah...met.”

Dean snorted, remembering his time with Zellynnexia.  “I dunno, Sammy.  Might learn something.”

“Jesus, Dean!”

I’ve missed that bitch face.  “Oh, yeah, I forgot: you don’t watch porn.”

Sam shook his head.  “Anyway...I heard some horrible, loud, high-pitched noise, and then something hit the wall so hard it made the wall shake.  I went in, and Bobby was there, up against the wall.  I pulled him out, slammed the door.”

“So what was making the noise?”

“Two disgusting winged things.  I don’t know what they were, but they bleed black and they were trying to kill each other.”

“Huh.”  Dean walked over to look through the window in the safe room door.  “Where’d they go?”

Sam joined him.  “I don’t know.  I didn’t want to open the door without some back up here.”

Dean turned to his father.  “How’s Bobby?”

“I’m right here, ya idjit.  And I’m fine.”

Dean grinned.  “So I hear.  Can I take a look?”  He gestured toward the now-silent room.

John looked up.  “Why don’t we get Bobby upstairs first.”

Dean shrugged, turning away from the door.  “Sure.  Whadda ya think?  Want us to make a litter, carry him up?”

Bobby’s protest was drowned out by John’s acquiescence.  

John stabbed a morphine syringe into his friend’s thigh.  “Shut up, Bobby.”

 


 

 

Since Dean had just come off of a six-plus hour nap, he tasked himself with putting the safe room back in order while everyone else sacked out upstairs.

He was scrubbing a black, sticky substance off the floor when Zellynnexia appeared before him.

“Shit!” he startled, jerking back as if stung when she materialized inches from his face.  “Jesus, Zell,” he panted, settling back on his haunches.  “Don’t do that.”

She dropped to her knees, reaching for him.  “Dean.  I need you.”

He felt his face flush.  “Um...that’s...ah...that’s flattering and everything --”

“My mother is hurt, dying.  I need your help!”

“Gees, Lynne!”  He stood, dropping the sponge into a bucket.  “Why didn’t you say so?  I’ll go get the kit --”

“No, I don’t need --”  She shook her head impatiently.  “Energy.  I can heal her myself, but I need your help to create the energy we need.”

The heat returned to his cheeks.  “Oh.”  He thought for a moment.  “I wanna help, really I do, and I’ve done some pretty kinky shit in my life, but I don’t know if I can...you know...in front of your mom.”

Lynne blinked at him, puzzled.  

Dean shifted his feet, refusing to meet her eyes.

“Oh!”  Understanding dawned.  “No, it’s not like that.  We’ll meet in the Veil -- you did it once before, in the hospital.  Your body will be here, asleep.  Mine will be with my mother.  Our energy will be channeled into her through me.”

“Yeah, okay. How was she hurt?”

“Here.”  Zellynnexia spread her hands to indicate the area that Dean was cleaning.  “Your friend called to her, but when she arrived, another was already here, hurting him.  They fought, my mother and the other.”

“Did your mom win?”

“When ‘Cubi fight, no one wins.  One lives, the other dies.  It is a loss for all.”

Dean snorted.  “Seems like a win for the one that lives.”

Zell shook her head.  “Our numbers are small.  To lose one life is a loss to us all.”

Dean didn’t agree, but decided it wasn’t worth arguing about.  “Okay.  How do we do this?”

“I would suggest lying down.  Then you need to reach for me, the way you did before.”

“How?  I mean, I didn’t even know I did it then.  I thought you were actually there with me.”

“You’ll figure it out. Quickly.  She’s dying.”

He moved to the cot Bobby had installed in the room.  “Do I have to take my clothes off?”

“No.”  She made an impatient gesture with her hands.  “Just lie down and close your eyes.”

He obeyed.

 


 

 

Within moments she was there, straddling him, and they were both nude.  “Come to me, Dean,” and he strained, fighting a sense of paralysis to reach for her, sighing as his palms slid over hot, incredibly soft skin.  He sat up with her on his lap, arms gliding around her back, holding her to him as his mouth sought hers.

“Zell,” he breathed, and her fingers threaded into his hair.

“Yes, Dean.  Yes.”

He flipped them over, keeping their mouths locked, bracing himself to avoid crushing her.  His lips left hers to slide along her jaw, kissing and teasing at her neck, her collarbone, before visiting each breast in turn, nearly dizzy with the feel of her on his tongue.

“Dean,” she moaned, gripping his hair, trying to bring his mouth back to hers, but he resisted, travelling lower, hot breath fanning across already heated skin, lips teasing, a gentle bite on her hip bone making her writhe in pleasure.

He continued down her thighs, first one, then the other, hands leading, mouth following.  He nipped gently along the soft skin just above her knee, smiling as she keened, and continued his exploration.

When his hot, wet mouth closed over her toe, her body curled on a gasped, “Dean!” that nearly drove him over the edge.  He slid up to mouth the arch of her foot before moving higher, wanting to taste her sweetness.

“Enough!”  She placed her palms on either side of his face, holding him still as she panted, desperate for control.  “Wait...just...wait.”

He held himself braced so that he could watch her, seeing the look of deep concentration replace the lust that he had so carefully built.

She opened her eyes.  “She’s better.”

He moved to lower his head, and she stopped.  “No!  Please!  It’s too much!”

A warm, seductive smile was her reward.  “I’ve heard that before.  It’s never been too much.”

His head dipped again, tongue reaching, and she pulled him away.  “Not here!  Not with both of us in the Veil!  It will be too much.  Too much energy.”  She tugged on him.  “Please, Dean.  Please.”

He rested his weight on his forearms, brow furrowed as his eyes roved  her face.  “You’re afraid.”

She nodded, biting her lip.  “You’re too powerful. We, together, are too powerful.  I don’t know what would happen.”

“But outside the Veil?”

“Outside the Veil, it’s just a dream.  The power, the energy, they are both diluted.  They can’t hurt us.”

“But your mother?  She’s alright now?”

The young succubus nodded.  “She will need a little time before she is fully herself, but she will live.”  She carded her fingers through Dean’s short hair.  “Thank you for this.”

He chuckled.

“What?”

“Nothing.  Just….the girls always say that after.  Like I didn’t enjoy it just as much, you know?”

She smiled.  “I meant for helping my mother.”

He laughed.  “Okay, well, that’s one I haven’t heard before.”

Zellynnexia’s brow furrowed.  “Why did Bobby summon her?”

“To ask about….um...when you...that time in the hospital.”  He rolled off of her before sitting up.  “He and my old man are all freaked out because you took my…”  he waved his hand.  “DNA.”

“Oh.  That.”  She pushed herself into a sitting position as well.  “I didn’t mean to.  We didn’t expect you to be able to break through the Veil, to actually make physical contact. Most humans can’t.”

“So that was like this?”

“Almost.  You weren’t fully through.”

He shrugged.  “Enough for you to...um…”

“Take something of you away with me?”

He nodded, face flushed.

“Yes, but my mother had to pull me away.  If she hadn’t, you and I may both have been destroyed.”

“You’ve said that before, but I don’t get what it means.  Destroyed how?”

“It’s energy, Dean.  That much can’t be contained.  We could have exploded, or imploded, or immolated, or something.”

“So those people that spontaneously combust, they may have died from an intense succubus orgasm?”

There was laughter and awe in  his voice, but she remained solemn.  “Yes.”

He sobered.  “Damn.”  He glanced down at his lap.  “Well, that was a buzz-kill.”

She smiled.  “You should get back.”

“Yeah, before someone finds me, laying there with a boner and a smile on my face.”  He grimaced at the thought.  “Hey, before I go: what did you do with it?”

Her brow furrowed.  “With what?”

“My...ah... DNA.”

Her eyes sparkled as she grinned at him.  “Why?  Did you want it back?”

“Ew!  No!”

She laughed, laying her palm gently against the side of his face.  “I honestly don’t know what happened to it.  I was...a little distracted when Mother pulled me back.  I assume it was destroyed by the energy we produced.”

Dean examined her face closely.  “Huh.”  He shrugged.  “I told Dad I thought they were over-reacting.  I’ll let him know what you said.”

“Thank you.”

His face fell.  “And I’m really sorry we got your mom hurt.”

“No, it’s not your fault.  I understand why Bobby was concerned, and besides, you helped heal her.”

His slow, lazy smile lit a spark in her loins.  “So you’ll keep coming around, then?”

Her return smile was coy.  “Maybe.”

He licked his lips.  “Soon, I hope.”

“Maybe,” she repeated.  “But now we need to get back.”

“Yeah,” and his regret was tangible.  “How do I --”

 


 

 

His eyes opened on the safe room.  “Shit.”

He sat up, swinging his feet to the floor, and took in the mess of smeared black muck, herbs, and salt.  With a heavy sigh, he got to his feet.  “Better fix the sigils first.  Lucky it was only Zell who busted in on me.”

Thoughts of Zellynnexia kept a smile on his face despite the tedium of his task.





Chapter Text

 


"So 'it was an accident' and 'it was destroyed'? That's the party line?" Bobby sounded irritated. "Whadda they think we are, a buncha idjits?"

Dean shifted uncomfortably.

John spoke up. "Dean's theory was that they were planning something and this was a distraction. Keep us runnin' around in circles, chasing our tails, while the real deal is going down elsewhere."

Bobby grunted noncommittally.

Dean kept his eyes averted, face hot.

"Why did she save you, Bobby? If they're up to something sinister, and they want us out of the way or distracted, why did Meridiana show up to fight off that other thing?"

Thanks, Sammy. Dean was reluctant to speak up, and was relieved that his father and brother were voicing his thoughts for him.

"How certain are we that it was actually her? Or that she didn't let the other one come first? Maybe the whole damn' thing has been staged to get us to trust them, let our guard down." Bobby was an expert at playing Devil's advocate.

I do trust them. Shame and doubt burned through Dean. Trusted Jeff, too.

"Did you actually see Meridiana, Dean?" John's voice was surprisingly gentle.

Dean glanced up before shaking his head. "No. Just Zell."

The silence lengthened while Dean's uncertainty rose, suffocating him.

John broke the spell. "I dunno, Bobby. I've turned this thing around every which way, and I just can't see anything that makes me think it's worth our time to keep chasing down this path."

"They're monsters, John. What more reason do you need to track 'em down and end 'em?"

John raised his brows. "You really want to kill something that you've had sex with multiple times over the past few decades? That nearly died saving your dried-up old ass?"

Dean's eyes flicked from his father to Bobby to Sam, noting the irritation on John's face, the barely suppressed smirk on Sam's, and the embarrassed frustration on Bobby's.

"They were just dreams, John, and we have no proof that it was Meridiana in that panic room, or that she wasn't just ending something she herself had orchestrated."

Bobby didn't drop the hick dialect and start talking like a college professor unless he was close to losing his temper.

John huffed out a breath, crossing his arms and all but rolling his eyes at the old friend he had, on occasion, nearly come to blows with. "Do what you gotta do, Bobby, but I'm dropping this one. There are bigger fish to fry." He turned his head, biting his lip.

They all knew he was thinking about Mary and the monster that had taken her from him.

Bobby visibly relaxed. "Yeah, you're right. I'll keep it on a back-burner, though. File ain't closed yet."

John nodded curtly.

"Hey, you need anything, Bobby?" Sam asked, placing a hand on the older hunter's shoulder as he rose. "A bottle of water? More pain meds?"

Bobby shifted on the couch, wincing slightly. "Nah, I'm good."

John rose, following Sam. "I'm gonna make a supply run. Back in a few."

Dean moved as if to stand.

"Kid."

He settled back down. "Yeah, Bobby?"

"You doin' okay?"

The flush returned to the younger man's cheeks. "'Course."

"That Caroline - she helpin'?"

Dean looked down at his hands, fingers twisting together in his lap. "Yeah." What does he know?

"Good." He closed his eyes. "Known your dad a long time. He's a good man, but he ain't perfect." He slitted one eye, keen gaze boring into his young friend. "You ever need to talk, or get away, or whatever, I'm always here."

Relief flooded through him, so strong it left him giddy. He doesn't know. Thinks it's just about Dad. He smiled. "Thanks, Bobby."


"Alright." In deference to the injured party, they had gathered in Bobby's living room, propping the grumbling man up so he could enjoy a burger with them. "The plan is for me to take Sam back to finish out the school year while Dean stays here and helps you out. That work for you, Singer?"

John had adopted his drill sergeant tone, and the question was largely rhetorical.

"He's better at fixin' cars than you are, Winchester. I'll take 'im."

Dean grinned at his father's irritated look, but he was relieved. Need to get away from it, stop having to talk about it and think about it. Time to forget and move on.

Dean's favorite way to cope.

Thank god for Uncle Bobby.


It only took two days for the bloom to fade.

"Damn, Bobby, how do you ever get anything done?"

Dean flopped into a chair, running a hand through sweat-spiked hair before digging a folded sheet of paper from the chest pocket of his over shirt. "Those damn phones were ringing off the freakin' hook."

"Yeah, I heard 'em in here, too."

"Well, I handled most of 'em, but there's a couple you gotta call back." He handed the list over. "I'll get the right phones. You wanna beer while you do that? Pain meds?"

"Beer'd be great." He groaned as he fought to right himself. Dean was there instantly, sliding an arm around the older man's shoulders to lever him up.

"I ain't an invalid."

"I know, Bobby. That couch a' yours is a man-eater, though. I slept on it enough to know: thing is damned hard to get out of."

Bobby grunted.

"I'll get the phones."

He left Bobby to fight through the agony that sitting up had caused, gifting the gruff older man with his dignity.

"Don't forget my beer!" Bobby called out.

Dignity preserved.


"You could take pity on an injured old man and let him win a game, ya know."

Dean chuckled at his mentor's grumbling. "Not my fault. I had a good teacher."

Bobby snorted at the compliment. "Beginning to wish I hadn't taught ya."

"Check," Dean announced.

Whatever snark his partner had prepared to let loose with was cut short by the ring of one of Bobby's many telephones.

Dean watched him answer, thankful that it had only taken five days of convalescence for the older man to feel up to the task. Never knew someone to get so many damned phone calls in a day. He must know every hunter in the country.

"Travis. What can I do for you?"

Dean studied the chess board, planning out his next moves on this game as well as a few options for the next one.

Bobby's grunting and "ah-ha's" barely registered, but, "Hang on. I'll ask Dean if he's up for it," got his attention immediately.

"Travis is working a salt-n-burn about an hour away from us. Out digging up the grave, got his arm broke. He can hold a salt gun, but he can't finish uncovering the bones. You care to help him out?"

Dean shrugged. "If you're okay without me for a few hours, sure, I'm game. I could use the exercise."

Bobby rolled his eyes. "You been puttin' yerself through one a' yer dad's crazy-ass PT routines every damn day, so I doubt you need more exercise. A change of scenery I'll believe, though." He put the phone back to his mouth. "Yeah, he'll do it. Where should he meet ya?"


Dean rolled up to the cemetery, not moving from his seat until the last reverberation from the Impala's throaty purr had faded into stillness. Then he patted the steering wheel affectionately before getting out. Damn, I've missed that. Back in a bit, Baby. Looking forward to the ride back to Bobby's.

Travis slid out of his pickup truck, shotgun in his left hand, cast glowing a fresh white on his right.

"Dean." He nodded in lieu of a handshake. "Thanks for comin' out."

"No problem." He popped the trunk and extracted a shovel. "Alright, Trav. Let's go burn this bitch."

They were both on high alert as they approached the grave. "You sure you can pull the trigger on that thing?"

"Yeah. I tried it out before I called ya. Sure as hell wasn't gonna ask someone to come do my dirty work if I couldn't even keep the damned ghost off 'em."

Dean grinned. "Dirty work is honest work. And someday I may need you to return the favor, so we're all good." He buried the shovel in the turf, then glanced up. "Just don't shoot me while you're at it." His tone was light, but the awkward grip his temporary partner had on the gun wasn't exactly reassuring.

"No worries. I practice with both hands."

Dean started to snicker at the double entendre, realized that Travis hadn't caught it, and smoothed his face.  Just like fricken' Sammy.  Am I the only hunter in the northern hemisphere with a sense of humor?  He nodded once, then bent to his task.

Halfway down he stopped, stripping off his over-shirt, armpits and chest of his t-shirt soaked through and sweat runnelling into his eyes.

In typical ghost fashion, the thing left Dean to work undisturbed until there was a mere foot or so of dirt between his shovel and the coffin.

Then all hell broke loose.

He saw his breath at the same instant his EMF meter started shrieking. He spun, shovel raised, and found his face pressed against the chill of a pale, wrinkled, mutilated-looking specter. It gripped his throat, fingers as hard and cold as ice, and rose, bringing both of them out of the grave to hover three feet off the ground.

Dean dropped the shovel to scrabble uselessly at the hands that choked him, vision fading as the desperate need to breathe consumed his mind.

Travis pulled the trigger.

Dean landed on his back with his lower legs hanging in the freshly dug grave, watching with too-wide eyes as the ghost dissipated above him.

He still couldn't breathe. Relax relax relax. Just got the wind knocked out of you. Don't panic. It'll let go in a second.

He'd lost his wind plenty of times, but the pervasive aching burn in his chest: that was new.

From far off he heard Travis calling his name, but it wasn't helpful, so he ignored it.

Hurts. Fuckin' hurts. His body had locked itself rigidly against a suffocating agony, and Dean wondered, not for the first time, how this insurmountable paralysis could possibly protect anyone from further damage. But the body would always try to keep itself alive, no matter what, so Dean reasoned that the state he was in must do something good.

Whether distracting his mind with such obtuse thoughts allowed his muscles to relax or it was just that enough time had passed, he didn't know, but suddenly time started moving again, he could see and hear normally, and he involuntarily sucked in a huge lungful of air.

Too huge, it turned out, and he grimaced as the misery that was his chest ramped up to a nearly unbearable state, causing him to twist onto his side and curl into a ball.

He pressed his forehead into the cool grass, struggling to take slow, shallow breaths as his mind flirted with the temptation of surrendering consciousness.

A hand on his shoulder forced him to his back, and Travis's face swam in and out of focus.

The other hunter was pale, eyes impossibly wide. "God, Dean! Are you okay?"

Dean coughed, grimaced, and pressed a hand to his chest.

It came away wet.

"What the hell?"  The words clawed their way out of his throat.

"I...I shot you." Travis ran a hand through his hair, voice distraught. "You were behind her, and I shoulda known it'd go right through her, but I didn't even think, I just panicked!"

"'S alright," Dean rasped. "Jus' a li'l rock salt." He closed his eyes, fighting nausea, fighting the awareness of agony. Just warm. Doesn't really hurt, just hot. Be okay.

"There was...I put consecrated iron pellets in with the salt."

Christ. But it was coming under control. The threat of unconsciousness had receded, his stomach was settling, and he was convincing his mind that what it felt was not excruciating pain, but heat. A strong, soothing heat.

He rolled to his belly, movements guarded, and slid back into the grave. "Gimme my shovel."

Travis looked horrified. "Dean, damn, I just shot you! We gotta get you to a hospital, get that checked out!"

Dean rolled his eyes, hand outstretched. "I'm fine." He gave a lop-sided grin and adopted a very poor British accent. "It's just a flesh wound."

Travis was locked in a state of horrified catatonia.

"C'mon, man. Kick it over here, then get your ass back on ghost duty. But don't fuckin' shoot me again."

Travis blinked, closed his mouth, and slid the shovel over until Dean was able to wrap his fingers around it.


The next time his EMF went off, Dean immediately hit the ground.

His fingers brushed wood through a thin layer of soil, and he smiled grimly as rock salt and iron pellets rained down on him.

His meter fell silent, and he broke through the casket with a sigh of relief. "Salt and kerosene, Travis!"

He fought back a groan as he levered himself out of the grave. Travis dropped a book of matches into it, and they both stepped back as the bones burst into flame.


 

Dean resisted the urge to rub his chest as they headed back to their cars.

"I'm really, really sorry, Dean."

And that's exactly why I haven't rubbed it. "It's no big deal, Travis. The damned thing was choking me, and that was a hundred times worse than this. Just let it go."

"We need to get you checked out!"

"Dude, I'm no worse off now than I was half a grave ago. It's just superficial shit. Bobby'll take care of it when I get back." Except I'm not telling him about it.

"Are you sure, man? Because you just flew, and you're fucking bleeding -"

Dean had reached the Chevy, close enough to rest his palm on the roof. This is all I need. "Seriously, Travis, I'm fine." He turned away, hiding his grimace as damaged muscles contracted to pull the door open. He slapped the other hunter on the shoulder before settling himself behind the wheel of his home. "I'll call ya when I get back to Bobby's, alright? Or I can have Bobby call ya, since you probably won't believe a damn thing I say, anyway."

Travis scanned him critically, then moved away with obvious reluctance. "Yeah. Okay. If you say so." He shook his head. "I heard you were as stubborn as your old man. Guess the rumor's true."

Dean chuckled. "I'll take that as a compliment." He turned the key, smiling as his baby rumbled her greeting. "Watch yourself, Travis. Good seein' ya again."


Half an hour later Dean pulled over at a twenty-four hour pharmacy. He tipped his head back against the seat, allowing himself to feel the pain, sweat, nausea, chills, and weakness through three slow, deep breaths. Then he resolutely forced himself to his feet, pulling his flannel on and buttoning it over his bloody t-shirt.

He retrieved a prescription pad from the first aid kit, carefully writing himself an order for Augmentin.

The pharmacy technician who took the 'script didn't bat an eye. In Dean's experience they never did with antibiotics.

Narcotics were another matter entirely.

While they filled the order, Dean moved through the aisles collecting peroxide and bandage materials. Back at the pharmacy window, he asked about coffee.

"Not here, but there's a gas station on the next block that'll have some."

Dean nodded his thanks.

The gas station did have coffee, as well as a clean, well-lit bathroom with a lock on the door. Standing in that empty room, he dropped an antibiotic tablet into his mouth, washing it down with a swig of coffee, chasing that with a pair of Tylenol and a double-dose of ibuprofen.

Breakfast of champions.

Then he stripped to the waist, leaning close to the mirror over the sink to assess the damage.

Looks like someone tattooed a giant purple flower on my chest. Black, blue, and violet colored his skin from collarbones to navel, with red lines running down like streamers.  Mardi Gras, anyone?

He hesitated, then snapped a picture with his phone. Morbid, I know, but damn. It's kinda pretty.

He'd never admit that to anyone, not even Bobby. Or Sam.

He poured his purchases out on the counter and tucked the edge of the plastic bag that had held them into his waistband, draping the rest over the edge of the sink. Don't wanna ride home in wet jeans. Hate that feeling. Gritting his teeth, he poured a bottle of holy water - Just in case some of the ghost got carried in with the salt - over his battered flesh.

It stung more than it should have, and he hissed through clenched teeth, realizing what was happening: there was salt in the wounds, and it burned as it dissolved.

"Shit."

He'd brought the irrigation syringe from the first aid kit, and he filled it with sanctified liquid. Gritting his teeth, he began flushing wounds, stopping only when his head swam so much that he had to grip the sink to keep from falling.

"Breathe, Winchester. Breathe."

When he ran out of water he switched to peroxide, gasping with the first shocking sting, then settling into a rhythm: exhale, flush, inhale, repeat.

When he'd cleaned out each wound as thoroughly as he was able, he took a break, leaning both palms on the edge of the sink, breathing hard.

He let his head hang and his eyes slide shut. His mind drifted, shying away from the up-coming task.

He let it.

 

     “You want a partner?” one of the men asked, and Dean answered with an easy smile.

     “Sure.  Name’s Dean.”

     “Jeff.”

 

Jeff thought I was funny.

They'd settled into an easy camaraderie, laughing at each other's jokes, teaming up to harass the other players, trading quiet words as they strategized over a game.

I liked him.

The admission was painful.

Think about something else.

Done huntin' succubi.  Sammy's finishing school, gonna leave for college...I don't know when they do that.  Is it like, right away?  Do college kids have to take classes in the summer?  Does he even know which one he's gonna go to?  How the hell is he gonna pay for it?  He can't use scammed credit cards.  Not for that.  I may have to up my hustlin' game.

His tortured body finally relaxed, trusting him again.

He picked up the tweezers. "Alright, iron pellets. Where are ya?"

He set the instrument down again and scrubbed his hands thoroughly, then coated them with hand sanitizer. When that had dried, he poured rubbing alcohol over the forceps, holding them until it evaporated.

"Alright, Dean. No more stalling."

The sensitive pads of his fingers explored one of the more prominent holes, pressing the tissue.

A hard object nestled there, just below the surface. He squeezed on either side of it, intending to stabilize it so he could grasp it with the forceps.

To his surprise, it oozed to the surface, and he was able to flick it away.

"Well, hot damn. That was easier than I thought it'd be."

The next one didn't come so easily. He left it, moving on to the next, and continued that way, squeezing out all of the easy ones before going back for those that were more deeply embedded.

By the time he actually had to press the tweezers into one of the punctures, the pain medication he'd taken earlier had started working.

The extraction still hurt like hell, first pressing metal into a raw wound, then allowing the jaws to spread, forcing sensitive flesh to stretch, then advancing, closing, pinching raw meat but also feeling a hard resistance that denoted success, pulling, gasping as something inside tore free, looking to see that he'd caught a piece of himself along with the pellet, but he'd removed that at least, and it was one less foreign object lodged in his body, carrying infection and keeping him bleeding.

He found himself sitting on the floor, jaw slack, a strange buzzing sensation consuming his brain, with no recollection of how he'd come to be there.

He closed his eyes, and woke up on his back, shivering in a blood, water, and peroxide-dampened puddle glinting dully on cold tile.

His phone was vibrating against his thigh.

It took him a moment to figure out what that meant, and what he should do about it.

"Bobby?"

"Where you at, ya idjit? You were s'posed to call me when the deed was done!"

"Aw, shit, Bobby, I'm sorry. Travis was fallin' all over himself, thanking me and apologizing, and I just forgot." He struggled into a sitting position. "Anyway, I stopped to get some food. Be on my way shortly. I'm about...hour-and-half out, give or take."

"It go okay?"

He glanced down at the forceps still clutched in his fingers. "Yeah, fine. Just a simple salt-n-burn. Nothin' to write in the journal about."

He heard Bobby's snort. "I'll be asleep when you git home. Don't wake me up."

The line went dead.

Dean pushed himself to his feet. Four more. He thought about it, then shook his head. Can't afford to pass out four more times.

He smeared antibiotic ointment on six large, non-stick gauze squares, effectively gluing them to his colorful torso. Then, with ease that can only come with practice, he wound disposable stretch bandages around his upper body from waist to armpits. He slipped into his button-down shirt, cursing himself for not remembering to grab another undershirt from the trunk.

He collected everything he'd brought, wiping down the sink with peroxide, then alcohol, and scanned the area.

Nothing left behind to make anyone suspicious. No DNA either, because you never know.

The bag of trash went with him.

He refilled his coffee before sliding back into his car and roaring his way home.

Chapter Text

 

 


 

Dean debated just staying right where he was. Slept in my baby before. He replayed the memory of Zellynnexia visiting him in a dream the last time he'd crashed out on the bench seat, and smiled. Maybe I will just stay here.

But the text he'd sent Bobby earlier: "Waitress. Don't wait up" didn't quite cover sacking out in his car right on Bobby's doorstep.

He didn't bother to stifle his wordless sounds of pain as he unfolded himself from the driver's seat, but by the time he stepped through his friend's front door, all evidence of discomfort had been carefully hidden away.

He went straight to the kitchen, digging out Bobby's supply of narcotics. He shook two of the small, white pills out into his palm, thought about it, then put one back. Stuff's hard to come by.

He snagged a beer from the refrigerator before moving to the living room to check on his surrogate father.

Bobby was in his familiar position, flat on his back on the couch, snoring softly.

Satisfied that all was well, Dean popped the tablet of oxycodone into his mouth, washing it down with half the bottle of beer, then made his way slowly up the stairs and into bed.

 


 

"Need ya on a hunt tonight, Sam." John spoke without even looking at his younger son, maneuvering out of the school's parking lot before Sam had even closed his door.

"Hey, Dad. Yeah, school was good. Thanks for asking." Sam settled into the passenger seat, backpack nestled against his sneakers.

John ignored the boy's snark. "Couple guys I've hunted with before found themselves a vamp nest. It's an hour drive. We'll eat on the way."

"I have classes tomorrow."

"You'll be back in time."

"In one piece? And with how much sleep? And when am I supposed to get my homework done?"

The enormous black truck swerved abruptly onto the gravel shoulder to the accompaniment of blaring horns, and Sam felt his chest constrict.

Before Sam could even throw up an arm, his father's fist was in his jacket, yanking him across the seat until they were nose to nose. 

Dean!

Sam realized too late that he'd never pushed his father like this without his big brother there to run interference for him.

He couldn't breathe.

"I agreed to let you finish out the semester because I know this shit is important to you, Sam." The words were a low growl, not controlled so much as choked by rage. "It is not important to me. People dying, that's what's important to me. You got it?"

No wonder Dean's not afraid of monsters. "Y-yes. Yes, Sir."

John shoved him away hard enough to bruise Sam's shoulder blade as it impacted with the door.

"Good." He checked the mirrors, then pulled back out onto the road. His knuckles were white on the steering wheel, muscles in his jaw clenched tightly. "Do your homework."

Sam's hands shook as he slowly began to pull what he needed from his backpack.

 


 

They met in a hotel suite redolent with the adrenaline of four other hunters.

Six of us on one hunt. Must be a big nest. Sam hoped that he didn't look as young and terrified as he felt.

"This is my son, Sam," John offered.

"Where's Dean? He's the one I told them about." A bearded hunter assessed the younger Winchester, face and voice skeptical.

Sam licked his lips, feeling inadequate and wishing he knew what the man had said, what these hunters expected of John Winchester's son.

"Dean had to go help Bobby with something."

"Singer?"

John nodded shortly.

Another hunter gave Sam a speculative look. "He's big enough. How old is he?"

"Same age Dean was when you hunted with him last." John's glare bored into the man, daring him to impugn a Winchester.

The man subsided.

"So tell me about this nest." John Winchester took control of the room, his innate authority unchallenged.

Five seasoned hunters and one neoteric youth gathered around a wall decorated with all of the intelligence that had been gathered, and planned their attack on the unsuspecting vampires.

 


 

"Remember: the stakes just paralyze them," John lectured. "Deadman's blood weakens them. Only way to kill 'em is decap."

Not my first vampire hunt, but it was his first time going into a nest. Sam swallowed hard, covering the nervous gesture with a nod. "Yes, Sir."

"You're last in. Hang back, get the lay of everything, make sure none of the bastards are waiting to flank us, then jump in where it looks like you're needed." John dragged his eyes from the road long enough to skewer them into his son's brain. "Don't take any unnecessary risks. You are not Dean."

What does that mean? But John's focus was back on his driving.

They followed a dirt road, turning to mud beneath their tires in the unexpected rain, and stopped the vehicles behind a thrust of trees. Six hunters emerged from two pickups, closing the doors quietly.

Beyond the screening vegetation Sam knew there would be a derelict old farmhouse, with a rotting barn sitting off to one side. Half a barn, actually, as the other half had collapsed onto itself.

They all checked their weapons. "Everyone remember their entry point?" John made certain that each hunter nodded in the affirmative. "Wait to go until you hear the explosion, unless a gunshot or a scream comes first. Got it?" His eyes swept them once more before he gave a terse nod. "Let's do this."

They moved silently in the rain-muted night, dark clothes rendering them nearly imperceptible.

They had debated on waiting until daylight, a plan even Sam would have agreed to, despite it requiring him to miss a day of school. Vampires are just as deadly by day, but they're typically resting, so are at least easier to surprise.

Their intel told them that this nest had a habit of maintaining a low profile by preserving a collection of feeders that they'd replenish as needed. The vampires had been careful about who they abducted and where they acquired each from, so it wasn't until one of their victims managed to escape that this group fell onto the hunters' radar. According to the survivor, two of the others were in bad shape, and there was already talk of replacing them.

To John that meant there was no time to waste.

"Stay here," he hissed to Sam, positioning his son alongside the steps giving access to the front porch. Sam crouched, pressing his shoulder into the siding, and watched his father glide silently to the front door.

Father and son waited through a slow count of sixty, giving the other hunters time to get into position.

Then John stood, slammed a booted foot hard into the door, and tossed a flash-bang through it as the entryway burst open.

Sam covered his eyes, protecting himself from the blinding light, listening to the screams of rage from both hunter and hunted as their little group visited justice on the monsters inside.

The sounds died down as the fight moved deeper into the building, and Sam stood, scanning carefully for an outside sentry as his father had instructed.

Seeing none, he moved up the steps, heart hammering in a way that he knew had to be audible to any nearby vamps.

He moved into the foyer, stepping lightly. His foot slid in something viscous and he slapped a hand to the wall, catching himself.

He'd nearly stepped on a decapitated vampire.

Swallowing bile, he continued on, checking each room he came to, determined to follow his father's directive and not allow the hunters to be flanked.

Sam's apprehension grew as he moved deeper into the house without finding bodies or encountering another living being, either monster or human.

Nearing the kitchen, he realized that the sounds he'd been trying to ignore were coming from beneath him.

Crossing the threshold into that final room, Sam stopped, paralyzed by the spectacle of the dead hunter seated against the wall beside an open basement door.

The man's head had been nearly torn from his body, falling to the side to reveal a severed windpipe ringed with pink foam.

He breathed for a little while like that.

Without warning, vomit geysered from Sam's face.

He dropped to his knees, panting as he fought for control.

The creature descended on him so silently that Sam lost consciousness without even realizing that he needed to scream.

Chapter Text

 


"Where is he?"

Dried blood freckled his face while fresh crimson dripped from the knife in his fist. There was nothing human about John Winchester at that point. Nothing at all.

The vampire's scream reverberated in its head, nearly obliterating the hunter's voice. "D-don' know."

It coughed, misting blood onto its tormentor's chest.

There was no change in the hunter's expression as he drove the knife into the quivering monster's torso once more, twisting it cruelly as the beast howled, its body convulsing on the six inch blade.

John waited for the shriek to die down to a breathless keening before using a fistful of the vampire's hair to force its head back, giving the pathetic beast no choice but to stare into the eyes of the man who was torturing it.

"Where. Is. My. Son?"

"Don' know. 'Wear I don' know."

John released the de-fanged monster's head with a snort of disgust. Stepping back, he drew his machete.

Moments later a viscid thud announced the decapitation of the last vampire from the nest they had just cleaned out.

The hunter looked around at the men who had stood in mute witness to a father's panicked ferocity. "I need to find my boy." His voice betrayed his desperation.

"He -" one of the men began, voice choking to a halt as that maddened gaze shifted to him. "D-does Sam have a - a cell phone?"

John nodded.

"I can - I can triangulate the signal." He swallowed audibly, gesturing to the stairs. "Laptop… in the car."

The psychotic glint dimmed in the fabled hunter's eyes. "Alright." He jerked his head toward the staircase. "Let's move."


"Hunter hunter hunter. Got me a hunter!"

The sing-song voice wasn't loud, but it was piercing enough to stab into Sam's consciousness like dull blades in the backs of his eyeballs.

He fought to keep his breathing slow and even, muscles loose, disguising his growing awareness while his sluggish brain ground its way to full capacity.

Vampires. Dead hunter.

That's all he could remember.

God, my head hurts.

Liquid ice sluiced over him, and his startled gasp turned into brain-splitting coughing as he inhaled some of what tasted like pond water.

"Wake up, hunter!"

He groaned. Why is that thing's voice so high?

A second barrage of ice water hit him, and he leaned back, blinking rapidly to clear his vision. "S-stop. I'm awake."

The thing cackled, adding to the din by tossing a metal bucket to the bare concrete of the floor, and Sam grimaced. Concussed. Bet I'm concussed.

The monster squatted before him, placing one hand lightly on each of Sam's knees.

The flesh felt cold through the worn denim of Sam's jeans. Undead. Vampire?

It smiled, and Sam's suspicion was confirmed.

"Hunter hunter hunter! Got me a hunter!" it sang at him.

Sam closed his eyes, feeling saliva fill his mouth in preparation for the vomit that was climbing up his chest.

"No no no, don't sleep yet, my hunter! I have to tell you!" Nails the length and thickness of talons dug into Sam's flesh, and he forced his eyes open.

The vampire smiled, eyes dancing.

I think it's insane.

"You don't have to be afraid, hunter! Oh, no no no, not afraid of John Rulloff, no no no." He rubbed his palms briskly up and down Sam's thighs. "I have plans, such plans for you! My precious hunter!"

Apparently unable to contain himself, the maniacal creature jumped up, nearly dancing as it prattled on, words dropping like hail onto Sam's overly sensitive ears. "I freed that boy, see? To bring the hunters here, ja? So I could capture one!" He clapped his hands excitedly. "And do you know why, my hunter?" He jiggled close, bending forward to nearly touch his forehead to Sam's, maddened eyes wide, fetid breath awakening Sam's dormant nausea. "To breed!"

He jerked back up, giggling, livid with expectancy as he awaited his captive's response.

Sam squinted up at him. "B - " He could barely hear himself. He cleared his throat. "Breed?"

"Yes yes yes, my hunter! I will bring females, different females, and you will breed them, breed them all! And then, and then, when their bellies start to swell, to swell to SWELL!" He danced around in a circle, and Sam flinched. "I will turn them! All at different times, you see, one early, one middle, one late, to see see see what becomes of the child!" He stopped twirling to clap his hands gleefully once more. "And some I will not turn, but I will breed breed breed a herd, yes a herd, my own herd. So I can feed, and no one will bother, no one will come to kill John Rulloff, because I will not be a murderer, no no no, not a murdering vampire to stab and stake and behead!" The prancing resumed, voice the ringing chant of a children's tune: "I will only eat mine mine mine! My herd, my brood, my flock! My livestock!"

He circled behind Sam, one yellowed nail trailing over the young man's shoulders. "And you will be my bull, my boar, my cock! Breeding breeding breeding, and it's not a bad life, no not a bad life!"

His dance had brought him full circle, and he beamed down at a horrified Sam.

"I can't...You're saying...I'm not going to rape women for you! So you can turn their babies into vampires, or foo-"

A hand closed around his windpipe, high against the curve of his jaw, nails digging into tender flesh, forcing his head back.

"You will. You will breed them." The face moved closer, eyes still insane, but now sadism had replaced merriment. "Because you are a hunter, and hunters will not allow innocent people to die. You will breed them, you will rape them, at my command, because if you don't, I will kill them."

He pressed harder, lifting Sam from the chair he was bound to until the ropes holding his limbs pulled taut, fibers burning his skin.

Need. to. Breathe.

The pressure in Sam's lungs was a nearly overwhelming distraction, and that on his eyeballs threatened his vision.

"Do you understand me, hunter?"

Necrotic breath pulsed against his face, and Sam struggled to nod against the frozen vice around his neck.

Abruptly, John Rulloff dropped him.

"You stay," the vampire commanded, as if Sam had a choice. "I will select a female for you. Your first female."

Sam held himself very still until he was certain that the monster was gone, and then he began to shake.


He'd managed to fall to his side in the chair and was jerking and contorting in an effort to force himself along the floor when the sound of wood shattering terrified him into paralysis, eyes clenched tightly shut.

He's back and I can't...I won't be able to...and she'll die, he'll kill her, and I'll have to...I'll hear it… I won't be able to stop him...it will be my fault.

"Sam." The voice, strong and gentle as the touch on his shoulder, jolted him.

"Dad!"

And to his horror, he was sobbing, with no hope of stopping the flood.


"We can't leave," he insisted, voice crystalline in the stillness.

The other hunters averted their gazes, feet shifting nervously, each awaiting the eldest Winchester's reaction.

Sam stood toe to toe with the man who had so recently terrified him, and his eyes were unyielding. "It is bringing a girl back - or a woman. And the thing is insane." He clenched his jaw, mimicking the action of his fists. "Leave if you want, but I am staying. John Rulloff has to die."

John Winchester kept his features even, but the pride glowing in his chest was reflected in his gaze. "You heard him," he said to his followers, stare entangled with that of his son. "Set up a perimeter, but let the vampire through. We'll take him right here."

The two maintained their pose, neither softening in any way, until the room had cleared.

Sam blinked, not knowing if the tears that suddenly burned him were relief or residual horror or just the natural response to corneas dry from the prolonged eye contact with his father.

John pulled his son into a tight embrace. "I am so proud of you, Sammy." His voice was growled into Sam's ear, low and sure, brooking no argument.

They parted, and the elder Winchester nodded to the younger. "How do you want to play this, Son?"

"Tie me loosely in the chair with a machete under my leg, blade to the back. When he comes in, you get the girl away. I get Rulloff."

There was no hesitation as the seasoned hunter deferred to his son.


Half an hour into the drive back to the motel, John broke the silence. "You alright, Sam?"

Sam turned from gazing out the window to level hardened eyes on his father. "It was going to try to force me to breed women. Wanted a herd of humans to feed on. Said if I didn't breed them - didn't rape them - he would kill them."

John sucked in a breath before darting a glance at his son. "That's...you were right, Sam: that thing needed to die."

"He set the feeder free on purpose to lure hunters in. He knew he wanted a hunter, because he said we'd do anything to save a human life. Even if it meant raping that human to save her."

John shook his head. "Jesus." He flicked his eyes at the man beside him. "I'm sorry you had to go through that, Sammy."

"It's 'Sam'." He turned back to the window.

He's grown up. Shit. I won't be able to hold him much longer.

The matte black of the starless night mirrored John Winchester's grieving soul.

Chapter Text


 

John groaned at the sound of his younger son's alarm. Sheets rustled and bedsprings creaked before the annoying tone was silenced.

Maybe he'll go back to sleep.

But the quiet sounds of waking continued, the brush of bare feet on carpeting unmistakable in their intent.

John cracked one eye open. "You can't just take one day off?"

"It's Friday. I've got a final exam."

The older man sighed heavily, the events of the night before pressing him into the worn mattress. "Make it up next week," he suggested.

"Next week is the last one for seniors. No time."

The bathroom door closed, sealing John's fate.


Pain, sweat, and fear heralded his return to consciousness.

The pounding of his heart paralyzed him as Dean struggled to untangle reality from dreamland.

Bobby's guest room.

And with that realization, everything else fell into place.

The awareness that the pain in his upper body was real, not something that would fade with his latest dream, nearly drove the young hunter to bury his head beneath his pillow and chase down oblivion for a little longer.

The brightness and heat in the room were unfamiliar enough to pique his curiosity to a level that transcended physical discomfort. He raised his head, stifling a groan, and squinted at the radio alarm on the nightstand.

Coulda sworn I set that damned thing before I crashed.

No numbers glowed and no sound could be heard from the small device.

What the hell?

Face contorting first with the expectation, then the reality of extreme discomfort, Dean forced himself to roll onto one side.

Sunlight streamed in through the west facing window.

"Well, son of a bitch."

He pushed into a sitting position only to stall, hunched on the edge of the bed, nausea clawing at his throat while the room seemed to spin around him.

When he felt that he was able, Dean rose slowly to his feet, listening carefully to see how his body would protest.

Nothing happened.

Sighing deeply, he left the room to find - and apologize to - the man that Dean was supposed to be nursing back to health.


"Welcome back to the land of the living, Princess."

Dean blushed. "Sorry, Bobby. I thought I set the alarm, but I don't think the clock's working."

"That's 'cause I unplugged it, ya idjit. Siddown, I'll get ya some coffee. Hungry?"

Dean waited until the older man turned away to get the coffee before he pulled out a chair, wincing at even that small contraction of his pectoral muscles, and sat down. "Why'd you unplug it?"

Bobby set a mug in front of Dean, then moved to the refrigerator. "Eggs and bacon? It's mornin' for you."

Dean ran a hand over the flat plane of his abdomen. "Not really feelin' too hungry yet, Bobby." What he felt was nauseous, but he wasn't going to tell his surrogate father that. "You didn't answer my question: why'd you unplug the clock?"

"'Cause you were up all night on a hunt." Bobby had crossed behind Dean to rummage through his pantry. "Figured you needed the sleep. How'd that go, anyway?"

"Wasn't a hunt, just a salt-n-burn. Went fine." He lifted the mug to his lips, closing his eyes to savor the hot liquid.

"Uh-huh." Bobby came back around with a can of tomato and rice soup in his hand, holding it out in front of Dean. "This do ya?"

Dean grunted. "Yeah. That'll work."

"Good." Bobby patted him on the chest, and Dean flinched away with a small cry. "'Went fine,' huh?" He slapped the can down on the table and glared down at the younger man. "Next time ya plan on lyin' to me, ya might not wanna tell the guy you were with to call me and check up on you."

"Oh, shit," Dean groaned, and he would have covered his eyes with his hand if it didn't hurt so damned much to raise his arms. "Travis called you."

"Yeah, he did. Shirt off, now."

"Bobby…" He's not in any shape to force me, but do I really want to push him so hard that he makes some kind of threat? He sighed heavily. 'S not worth it.

He kept his eyes closed as his fingers worked the buttons on his flannel shirt. Glad I don't have a t-shirt on. Bobby'd have to cut it off.

"Don't freak out, okay, Bobby? I cleaned it out already, and it looks worse than it feels."

He opened his eyes as he pulled the shirt open. Bandages covered him from armpits to waist, but the part of his chest above that level was mottled purple and black.

Bobby shook his head. "I said, 'off', Dean. That means bandages, too."

Dean looked away, face heating under the older man's obvious disgust. I don't think I can, but he stood, trying not to wince as he shrugged the soft cotton off his shoulders, letting it slide to the floor.

Bobby stopped him as he raised a hand to try to find the end of the disposable elastic bandage. "I'll get some scissors."

"Thanks. Finding the end of this thing'd be damn near impossible."

The first aid kit was already out on the counter. Bobby held up a pair of bandage scissors, and Dean grunted appreciatively.

"Probably hurt less if I cut down the back," Bobby pointed out, and presently Dean felt cold metal slide along his spine as the constricting material parted.

The gauze was stuck to him where the punctures had bled, and Bobby peeled it away with uncharacteristic gentleness. "Gettin' awful tired of seein' you beat all to hell and back, boy."

Dean hung his head, fear and shame raising goose bumps on his skin. "Sorry." I know I keep fucking up. Please don't give up on me.

"I didn't mean it that way, Son." Bobby's tone was as gentle as the fingers working on Dean's wounds. "I meant I don't like you gettin' hurt. You don't deserve it." He had removed the last of the guaze and leaned in, scrutinizing the area closely. "Travis told me how this happened, and weren't any part of it your fault." He glanced up, seeing that Dean had his eyes closed, face lined with pain. "Whadja clean it with?"

"Holy water and peroxide."

"Well, ya did a good job. Doesn't look infected." He straightened. "You get all the shot out?"

Dean shook his head, face grim. "Some of it. Some was too deep."

Bobby moved to the freezer. "You got any antibiotics in ya?"

Dean opened his eyes. "Yeah. Got a 'script filled last night." He looked down at his chest, at first awed, then repulsed at the totality of the bruising. I look like a monster.

Bobby returned with several ice packs. "Didn't ice it, I imagine."

"No."

"Well, siddown and git to it." He dropped his offering onto the table. "Wounds are sealed, so we'll leave the pellets alone for now. If they start to fester, we'll have to dig 'em out, but chances are they'll just be a good excuse to avoid metal detectors."

Dean sank gratefully into his chair, bringing a bag of ice to his chest with a groan. "Thanks, Bobby."

"Don't thank me yet. 'S bad luck." He picked up the soup can. "I'll heat this up; you can have some narcotics as an appetizer."

"Then can I thank you? 'Cause you toss a few hydrocodone my way, and I might even kiss you."

Bobby chuckled. "'Thanks' 'll do just fine, ya knucklehead."


"Stanford University. How may I direct your call?"

Sam glanced around, more out of habit than any rational concern that his father might over hear him. John had never entered one of their schools while classes were in session. Not unless one or the other of the boys had been called into the principal's office for something.

"I just received my acceptance letter, and I'd like to set up a time to come and tour the campus."

Chapter Text

 


 

Their Clint Eastwood movie marathon was, not surprisingly, interrupted by a phone call.

 

Dean hit ‘pause’, listening to Bobby’s end of the conversation.

 

“Yeah….Whoa, whoa, calm down!  Just tell me what happened.”  Bobby pantomimed writing something down, and Dean pushed himself to his feet to find the man what he needed.

 

“Uh-huh….Yeah, I been there once or twice...Sure sounds like it --”  He snatched the paper and pencil from Dean’s hands, locking the phone between his shoulder and ear as he began writing furiously.  “What’s that address again?”  He checked it against what he had jotted down.  “Alright, you just hang tight….No, don’t!  You’ll just git yerself killed!....Yeah, I’ll give Winchester a call.”

 

Dean cocked an eyebrow.

“Coupla guys I know that hunt together.  Went after a vamp, stumbled into a nest.  One of ‘em got taken.”

“You think he’s still alive?”

Bobby’s look was grim.  “Depends on how you define ‘alive’.”  

 


 

“I’m not going.”

John growled in irritation.  “For Christ’ sake, Sam!  A hunter is missing, and it’s the goddamn weekend!  What is your deal?”

 

“Hunter hunter hunter!  Got me a hunter!”  

Sam folded his arms over his chest to hide a shudder.

“I’m done with it.  I told you that.  Just because you refuse to believe it doesn’t make it any less true.”

 

“You are coming with us!  That’s an order, Sam!”

The lanky teen shifted his stance, widening his base.  “Make me.”

John started towards him, and Bobby reached out, laying a hand on his bicep.  “John --”

The enraged father jerked his arm away violently, and Bobby gasped as the motion ground the two halves of his separated sternum together.

A sneer flickered across John’s face and was gone again, the arm continuing its motion, fist headed toward his younger son’s insolent --

Dean stepped in front of his brother, shoving Sam back as he raised an arm to block his father’s blow.  “Dad --”

He barely had time to drop his elbow, shielding his ribs from a left hook, plowing forward with a forearm curled over the side of his face as another right came at him.  He wrapped around his father, driving with his legs, forcing the man across the room and away from Sam.  “Dad!  Calm down!”

He meant to sound commanding, but the panic that chased through him at what he well knew could be the imminent dissolution of his family twisted his words into a desperate plea.

He stopped short of slamming his father into the wall, pressing his hands to the older man’s chest instead.  “Maybe we should --”

 

Pain exploded inside his midsection as John crushed his son’s testicles with a well-placed knee.

Dean’s torso folded in on itself as his legs buckled, and John kicked him in the chest, sending the injured man onto his side, retching.

 

The sound of a hammer being cocked dropped like a bomb in the middle of the room, and everything stopped.

 

“You touch that boy again and I’ll be saltin’ and burnin’ your body within the hour.”

 

Bobby’s voice was as steady as his aim.

 

John took a step back, palms raised.  “We need him, Bobby.  It’s a whole nest.”

“No, we don’t.  An’ we don’t need you, either.  Get out.”  He gestured toward the door with his head.

“Bobby --”

“I will shoot you, Winchester.”

 

John’s eyes flicked to Dean, who had pushed himself up to a sitting position to lean against the bed, legs sprawled, one arm across his stomach, the other hand cupping his groin.  “Dean.”

Bracing his palm on the top of the mattress, the younger hunter lifted himself slowly to his feet.  “Yes, Sir.”

 

“You don’t have to go, Dean,” Sam’s strident voice called to him.

 

Tortured green eyes  focused on Bobby fleetingly before settling on his younger brother.  “They took a hunter, Sam.  I gotta.” And I need to get Dad away from you before he does something I can’t fix.  He licked his lips, eyes flicking to Bobby once more, then away.  “I’m sorry.”

 

He followed his father out the door.


“Jesus Christ.”  Bobby lowered the pistol, arms shaking, and nearly fell into the frail chair beside an equally questionable table.

“You okay, Bobby?”  Sam’s voice was small.

The frazzled hunter set his gun down to wipe a hand down his face.  “I could use a drink.”

 


 

All Dean wanted was for the people he cared about to get along.   What the hell was Sam thinking?  And Bobby!  He drew a fucking gun on my dad!  Would he really have shot him?  What the hell is happening to this family?

 

“Are you sure you’re up to this, kiddo?”

 

Dean was fairly certain that was the closest his father would come to apologizing for kneeing him in the balls.

He also knew that John didn’t expect an honest answer.

“Yeah.  I’m good.”

He turned his head, watching his father in the reflection of the passenger window as they sped down a dark highway.

“I just don’t know what gets into your brother sometimes,” John offered.

Dean reached for the olive branch tentatively.  “He’s just not like us, Dad.”  He hesitated, not sure how volatile his father still was.  “Maybe we tried a little too hard to keep him safe, ya know?”

He felt his father’s ire, knew to change the subject.  “He’s only got a week of school left.  Maybe he’ll settle down after that.”

John grunted, but his grip on the steering wheel relaxed.  “You sure you know where we’re headed?”

“Yeah.  Heard Bobby say it, but I also watched him write it down.”  He paused.  “I hope we make it in time.”

And the big car rumbled on.

 


 

Sam handed his surrogate father a bottle of beer and a pair of Tylenol.  “I’m sorry, Bobby.”

“‘S alright, kid.  You got a right to find your own way.”

The tall young man dropped into a chair, suddenly appearing much younger than his seventeen years. “I can’t do it anymore, Bobby.”

The older man kept his eyes on the bottle turning deliberately between his fingers, waiting.

“That last hunt...this crazy vampire kidnapped me.”  Sam swallowed, and Bobby caught the residual horror in his voice as he went on, “He was going to make me rape women to build a...a herd of feeders.”

“Christ, Sam.  No wonder you refused to take on another nest.  I don’t blame ya, son.”

Sam blinked back tears.  “Well, clearly my father does .”

“He’s obsessed, Sam, you know that.  Has been as long as I’ve known him.”

“What do you think he’s going to do?”

“As pissed as he is right now?  Probably clear that nest single-handed.”   I just hope to God he doesn’t take out Dean, too.  Why’d I let that boy go?

Sam shook his head impatiently.  “No: I mean when he gets back.”  He shifted, eyes flicking to the gun resting on the table between him.  “You threatened to shoot him.  Don’t you think he’ll do something about that?  Aren’t you afraid?”

“Ain’t the first time I’ve threatened to ventilate your father, boy.  The man is the most bull-headed idjit I ever met.”  He raised the bottle to his lips, closing his eyes as the cold brew washed down his throat.  “He’ll get over it just as quick though.  Long as this hunt goes good, that is.”

“Maybe.”  Sam picked at a mark on the battered table top.

Bobby chuckled, breaking the sound off to wince and press a hand to his chest.  “Betcha twenty bucks he walks back through that door and  pretends nothin’ ever happened.”  He couldn’t tell the boy that it wasn’t himself he was afraid for.

Sam relaxed enough to throw him a wan smile.  “I don’t have twenty bucks.  Make it a nickel?”

And Bobby laughed.

 


 

“You think they’re Bobby’s friends?”

Dean was examining the room, avoiding the mangled bodies that had decorated it with a thick coat of crimson.   Why do vamps spill so much blood instead of drinking it?

John squatted down, pushing a dismembered corpse over to fish an ensanguined wallet out of the back pocket.  He flipped it open, examined the contents briefly, then held it out to Dean.

“Game warden?”  Dean cocked an eyebrow.

John leveled his eyes on his son, face solemn.

“Oh.  Fake I.D.  Got it.”  Dean shook his head.  “We were too late.”

John stood, wiping his palms on his jeans.  “We were too far away.”  He scanned the derelict warehouse they were standing in.  “Better take care of them.  Keep an eye out, though.  Never know if the blood suckers are layin’ a trap for us.”

 

 

 


 

They stopped at a rest area to catch some sleep just as the sun was coming up.

 

A hunter’s funeral -- wrapping the body in cloth soaked with salt water, then placing it on a pyre and watching it burn --  took some time.

They’d found the bodies of two decapitated vampires, as well.  Those had also been burned, but with much less ceremony.

“Eye for an eye?”  Dean posited, and his father just shrugged.

Whatever the case, the vamps were still out there, and the hunters’ deaths needed to be avenged.

Dean hoped that would be enough to make his father forget the incident in the motel room the previous evening.

 

Or at least pretend to forget.

 

It was, after all, the Winchester way.

Chapter Text

Dean hunched over a mug of passable diner coffee. He wasn't sure if he was trying to strangle his fear or bolster his courage - or whether there was really any difference.

Enough stalling. Spit it out, Dean. "I was thinking - "

"Never a good sign," John quipped.

Dean flashed a ghost of a smile. "Wouldn't it be better to go after that nest while the trail is still hot?"

John's coffee cup was suspended from his steepled hands. He gazed at his older son across it. "Just the two of us?"

Dean's grin was feral. "Whaddaya mean 'just'?"

John laughed, and the tight band that had been riding Dean's chest for what felt like days finally loosened. "I'll call Bobby - "

His eyes shot to his father's face, but the older man had immersed himself in the local paper. "Mm-hm."

Bought them some time. If we're lucky we'll get back just in time to watch Sam get his diploma, and this'll all fizzle out.

The steam from his coffee made a poor substitute for blowing a bit of dandelion fluff, but Dean closed his eyes and breathed out his wish anyway.


"Dean. You a'right, boy?"

Sam raised his eyes from his homework, casting an inquiring look at Bobby. He hadn't heard the older man's cell phone ring.

"Yeah, I'm good. Are you okay to stay with Sam 'til we get this nest cleaned out?"

"'Course. That asshole father a' yours ain't hit ya anymore, has he?"

"No." Dean lowered his voice. "It's better when we're away from Sam."

"Well, that don't make a lick a' sense."

"Yeah, well...We need some intel on these vamps."

"I don't know nothin' I didn't already tell…" The older man's voice tapered off.

Dean waited, not wanting to have to say the words.

"Vamps?"

"Yeah, Bobby. I'm sorry. They were both…" He swallowed against a throat gone suddenly dry. "They were dead by the time we got here. We took care of them."

Bobby covered his eyes with his hand.

Sam's look grew concerned.

Dean cleared his throat. "Did...did you know them well?"

Bobby wiped his hand down his face. "Nah, not too." He shook his head, tucking the pain away to be dealt with later. Or not. "So, the thing is, I don't know much. Sent 'em there on a whim, not sure there even was anything, let alone what that 'possible' supernatural creature could be. Just noticed a few more unsolved murders and disappearances showin' up in the local news. Well, local to that area, anyway. All different MOs, but people disappearin' in ones or rarely twos. Bodies found decomposed and floatin', or not found at all."

Sam had lost interest, turning once more to the text and papers spread out before him.

"Sent Brian and Toby to check it out, 'cause they were closest. Didn't know they even had a hint of anything 'til Toby called and tol' me about the vamps taking Brian."

"We found them at the address Toby gave you. Two dead vamps outside, two hunters inside. Nothin' else, so we either gotta wait for them to start droppin' bodies again, or we gotta hunt 'em down."

"Wish I could tell ya more, kid, but I ain't got squat."

"These guys were carrying game warden badges. That mean anything to you?"

"The last disappearance was a pair of hikers. Been other nature-lovin' types, too. Campers, a bird-watcher, couple hunters - the regular kind, lookin' for critters, not monsters."

"Got it. What about the others?"

"There's quite a range. Homeless folks, may or may not be part of it. Runaway kid here or there. A couple strippers. Guy workin' alone at an all night convenience store just disappeared, no sign of struggle. This is all just stuff I'm rememberin' off the top a'my head. I brought the stuff with me; I can go through it and give ya a call back with some specifics."

"Sounds good. And text me any addresses we might wanna visit, if you've got 'em."

"Will do." He glanced over at the younger Winchester. "I s'pose you got no idea when you'll be back."

"Hoping to make it to Sam's graduation." Dean's voice had gone quiet again. "That's next Sunday, right?"

"Yeah. Noon. Try not to show up bloody."

Yes, Sir."

The line went dead.


"Bobby didn't know much."

John glanced up. "Huh. That ain't like Singer."

Something inside Dean eased marginally at the compliment to their friend. Whatever harm had been done, it wasn't irreparable. "He said when he sent 'em it was just on a vague hunch. He wasn't even sure anything was here, just thought there were a few more unsolved disappearances and deaths than usual. Singles and pairs; only thing in common was they were all pretty isolated when they disappeared. Some in the woods, hence the game warden badges. He mentioned runaways, homeless folks, strippers. A guy working overnight at a convenience store. Said he'd put some stuff together and give me call in a bit."

"So, basically, we're starting from scratch."

Dean shrugged. "Pretty much."

"Police station or library?"

"Library." He had a not quite rational fear of Detective Hedley looking for him, intent on forcing Dean to testify.

His chest throbbed, objecting to the stress his sudden tension created on damaged tissue, and he rubbed it absently.

John observed it all, then chose to ignore it.

"All right, then. Meet back here around one?"

"Yes, Sir."


"Make some space for an old man, young 'un."

Sam grinned, dimples prominent.

Sure does remind me of his dad. Bobby watched the younger Winchester brother organize his studies into a smaller space, and for a moment, his heart ached. Must be hard havin' 'em grow up and leave home. The sense of loss and disconnection that had begun with Karen's death ran like white noise in his soul, always present, and it only needed a tiny spark for the volume to rise, sometimes to a crescendo so piercing it drove him to his knees.

He could only imagine what John was feeling, the unreasonable terror and desolation of imaging this boy, Mary's baby, living a life without his father at his side.

"Don't make it right," he muttered, and Sam glanced up.

"What, Uncle Bobby?"

"Nothin'. Old folks mutter to themselves. Best not to call attention to it."

Sam laughed. "You're not old. Not yet, anyways."

"Alright," Bobby grumbled, setting his research down, "I know an angle when I hear one. What are you after, kid?"

Sam licked his lips, flicking a glance at his 'uncle's' eyes, then away. "I...uh...I want to go tour a college campus."

Bobby settled into a chair with a grunt. "Just any college, or ya got a specific one in mind?"

Sam's gaze leveled on the worn face of his world-weary friend. "Stanford. They offered me a full ride."

Bobby's eyes shot wide. He stared, waiting for Sam to laugh, say, "Gotcha, Uncle Bobby!", but it never came.

"You got a full ride to Stanford?"

Bobby'd never seen the boy smile so widely.

"Yeah." He shrugged, self-deprecating as always. "Guess my test scores were pretty good."

Bobby pushed his cap back, clearly astounded. "Well, damn, boy! That's just….Damn!"

Color rose in Sam's cheeks. "I guess being a geek pays off."

Bobby stood, laughing. He took a step, hauled the laughing teen to his feet, and wrapped his arms around the boy's shoulders. "Goddamn, kid! I am so proud of you!"

Sam hugged back, mindful of his surrogate father's healing sternum. "Thanks, Bobby." His voice was full.

Bobby released him, turning away to wipe tears from his eyes, knowing full well that Sam was doing the same. "We need to celebrate." He moved to the cracker box that passed for a refridgerator in places like that and pulled out two bottles of beer. Handing one to Sam, he asked, "Yer pa know?"

Sam accepted the other man's offering, smile fading. "No."

Bobby nodded. "He's got noone to blame but himself for that." He allowed half the bottle to run down his throat before adding, "Dean?"

Sam ducked his head, biting his lip. "No."

Bobby sighed, then finished the bottle in one long pull. Now's not the time, Singer. Celebrate first, get 'im to do what needs doin' later.

"So, you said you wanted to tour the campus. Well, hell, boy, so do I! So when do we leave?"

The young scholar's smile was back. "They asked if I could come on Monday."

Bobby nodded, teeth against his lip as he thought. "Well, we could drive it, but you'd miss less school if we flew." He nodded to Sam's laptop. "We best find us some plane tickets."

He stood just off of Sam's shoulder, watching the younger man work.

Little Sammy Winchester, heading off to Stanford. On a full scholarship, no less!

He tried not to allow the warmth of his pride in the brother that was moving on to succumb to the cold fear he felt for the one who would be left behind.

Chapter Text

Dean glanced around as he mounted the steps to the classically designed old library, fighting a vague sense of unease. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he nevertheless took note of the people around him, knowing full well that some of the most dangerous monsters wore human faces.

A few even had human souls.

No stranger to libraries - he was, in fact, the one who had initiated Sam's fondness for them, spending hours perfecting his cartoon voices while reading to the giggling little boy - Dean located the periodicals section without having to approach any of the staff.

He settled at a table in a corner, his back to an emergency exit, sighing at the stack of newspapers under his hand. I hate research. Until someone started indexing local print media, there was no way to find what he needed quickly, but he had it down to an artform: front page, police reports, obits. He started with the most recent date and worked his way backwards, because oftentimes an entry in one of those locations - obituaries were gold - would send him back a few days, and he'd search the smaller articles for a gem that wasn't quite news-worthy enough for the front page.

Despite the level of concentration Dean devoted to his work, his level of disquiet continued to grow. He caught himself shifting in his chair even more frequently than was usual, and realized that he was scanning the area so often that he looked like he was casing the place.

Or suffered from paranoia.

He found reasons to scout his surroundings: trips to the bathroom, the drinking fountain, the vending machine. He'd return papers, carrying a smaller and smaller stack back to the table he had designated as his every time. He marked other visitors' faces and locations, paying attention to what they were reading and how fast they were getting through it.

By lunchtime Dean had acquired five pages of notes and what felt like one bitch of a stomach ulcer.

He winced as he stood, collecting the remnants of his research to return to its proper location: just one more way to keep what they did under the radar. He ran a hand down his chest and across his belly, unaware of the grimace that accompanied the motion.

He inhaled deeply as he exited the building, absorbing the increase in the bright afternoon's foot traffic with an unwelcome spike of anxiety. He jogged down the steps, shoulder blades drawn tight as if expecting a blow to the spine at any second.

He didn't exhale until he pulled away from the curb. I hate libraries.


John had brought back street-fare: hot dogs, chips, and sodas.

Dean raised an eyebrow. "Pickle relish?"

"You need some vegetables."

Dean chuckled as he crammed the end of an overloaded sandwich into his mouth. "Sammy would not approve," he mumbled around the partially masticated bite, "but I do."

"What did you find?" John was in full-on hunter mode, and Dean sighed to himself.

No time for humor. Or maybe I'm really just not funny. He thought of all of the giggling females he'd encountered in his life. Nah. I'm hilarious. Hunters are just sour-pusses.

Dean wiped his hand on his jeans before opening his notebook, turning it towards his father. "Pretty much what Bobby said. Got a list of locations, figured we'd map it out, see what we can come up with."

John flipped the pages while he ate. "Good work. I've got the exact locations of some of these. Checked out the bodies, and I can't be certain that any of them were vamp feedings. Either these guys are covering their tracks really well, or we've got more than one type of monster operating."

"Shit. Hadn't thought of that." Dean popped the last bite of dog into his mouth, brushing his palms together to dislodge any stray crumbs. "You thinkin' of anything in particular? Werewolves? Ghouls?"

John flipped a manila folder in front of his son. "Got some photos. Crime scene and autopsy."

Glad I already ate.

Dean scrutinized the photos, immune to the horror of mangled human flesh, searching for the types of injuries he had come to expect from certain supernatural beings.

"Lots of damage here."

John grunted. He was comparing Dean's notations to his own, combining information.

"They've all got punctures, though."

John shrugged. "Everything's got teeth. They were all outside, too. Animals got to them."

Dean's brow was furrowed, and he leafed back through the photos, choosing several to lay out side-by-side. "Yeah, but look: the areas with the most damage are right over big vessels: neck, inside of the elbow, on top of the femoral artery."

John looked where his son was pointing.

"There's punctures underneath the scratches. See?" Dean pointed, and John nodded in agreement. "Like they were trying to cover it up."

"So: vampires, but smart. Know how to throw hunters off."

Dean shrugged. "Or some other blood sucker. But we know there was a vamp nest here, so that makes the most sense."

John sighed, pushing back from the table. "Problem is how to find them. They got flushed out. No telling if they'll assume that Brian and Toby alerted other hunters and went to ground, or whether they know we're a bunch of independent assholes and figure they've eliminated the threat, and are back to business as usual."

"If they're as smart as they seem, they had their old lair staked out, saw us come in, watched us salt and burn the bodies. Know we're hunters."

John rubbed his face, blowing out a breath. "So either they're laying low or they moved on."

"Or they're coming after us. Hunting us, or laying a trap."

John lifted his eyebrows, nodding thoughtfully. "I hope you're right, son. Make our job a helluva lot easier."

And get us back in time for Sammy's graduation, too.


Bobby could feel the excitement like static electricity coming off of his near-son. The boy drank in every word from the young woman assigned to show them around campus, while at the same time his eyes darted everywhere, trying to see everything at once.

Happiest I've ever seen him.

On the plane back home the kid was still so juiced Bobby was afraid the guy sitting next to Sam

]\was going to throttle the boy.

"Did you see the library, Bobby?" As if he could have missed the enormous edifice with its four story columns and vaulted ceilings. "And that's just one of them! She said there are more than twenty!"

Sam's eyes danced. "And the lecture halls. Man, you could just feel the wisdom there, you know?" He literally bounced in his seat, earning a glare from the man to his left. "And I'll have a roommate. Living in the same place for at least a year, with someone other than Dad!"

Bobby chuckled, knowing he didn't need to say a word, savoring this rare moment of unadulterated joy.

God knows we earned it.

He refused to let his mind drift to the Winchester patriarch. He would not let John sully his happiness. Not today.


John glanced at his ringing phone, then held a finger up to his son. "Agent Walker."

He picked up his pen, and Dean read as his father jotted notes.

Body

Male

Cauc

"Suicide? And you called me...Uh huh."

Wrist  punctures

"Yeah. I'm on my way. Thanks for calling."

Dean waited expectantly.

"Got a body on the ground. Young guy, in an alley behind some apartments. Thought it was a suicide but there wasn't as much blood as there shoulda been. One of the officers noticed that the knife marks on the wrists looked odd, and found a pair of punctures."

"Well, that answers a couple of our questions: they haven't left, and they haven't gone to ground."

John stood, shrugging into his suit coat and checking his pistol. "I'll go see what else I can find out. Get ahold of Bobby, see if he can round up some reinforcements."

Dean lifted an eyebrow. "Since when do Winchesters need reinforcements?"

"Since we have no idea how many are in this nest and they've already offed two hunters." He flipped his Fed ID case open, nodded to himself, and tucked it into his pocket. "Back in a bit."

"Yes, Sir."

Dean rubbed a hand absently over his chest as he watched the door close behind his father.


Dean carried his phone into the bathroom with him, frowning when his call to Bobby went immediately to voicemail.

He peeled his t-shirt off, wincing with the motion. He ran his hand over the discoloration on his chest while he dialed his brother's number.

His frown deepened. Right to voicemail. Why do they both have their phones off?

He set the phone on the edge of the sink and leaned forward. One of the punctures on his chest was more tender than the others, and although it was hard to tell against the background of purple-black, he thought it might be more red than the others, too.

He pressed it gently, pulling his fingers back with a sharp hiss as pain spiked through him, feeling like it drilled all the way into the underside of his shoulder blade. Son of a bitch. Damned thing's infected.

He glared at the lesion like a teenager addressing a facial pimple on Prom night. I should probably get the pellet out.

He gritted his teeth, palpating once more. Still can't feel the iron. He pressed the back of his hand to his forehead. Don't think I have a fever. Not feelin' too bad yet.

He decided to let the abscess mature, hoping his body would push the frustratingly small piece of metal closer to the surface.

Satisfied with his decision, Dean palmed his phone and turned away from the mirror to rest his hips on the sink. He texted both Sam and Bobby: Where the hel r u guys? Call me - then pulled up his 'contacts' list, scrolling through it until he found Pastor Jim.


He'd left two voicemails and five more texts before Bobby got back to him.

"Geez, Bobby, what the hell? Why'd you have your phone off?"

"I know this is gonna come as a shock to you, boy, but occasionally I do need to give my full attention to just one thing, and not be answerin' a phone every five seconds."

"Yeah, but Sam's went right to voicemail, too -"

"It's Monday. He's at school, ya idjit."

"And you couldn't wait until he was home before turning yours off? I mean, I couldn't get him and I wasn't too worried, but then yours was off, too, and - " Realization hit. Sam at school, Bobby not wanting to be interrupted. Got it. "Brushing up on your Japanese bondage techniques?" he suggested around a smirk.

"Watch your mouth, boy."

Dean sobered. "Seriously, though: Dad asked me to see if you could find us some back up."

Bobby was unfazed. "Yeah, I figured that as soon as I heard about Toby and Brian. I put some calls out already, but most everybody's in the middle of a hunt. Martin's on his way, but he's still at least a day out. Caleb's still laid up from that rugaru he tangled with last week, and Pastor Jim's runnin' some couples' retreat or some such this week. I still got some feelers out, but so far I'm comin' up dry."

Dean rubbed his chest distractedly. "They dropped another body."

"Already?" Bobby swore. "They're baitin' you."

"Looks like."

"Me an' Sam -"

"No." Dean looked around the room as if confirming that his father was not present. "Sammy's got plans. He needs to finish and graduate and alla that." He leafed through the crime scene photographs absently. "We'll be alright. I was surprised he even asked me to call you."

"You tread careful, boy. This is a whole nest, smart enough to stay off our radar for what looks to be decades, and they already took two of our'n. Don't underestimate them."

Dean heard the familiar tone of his father's big diesel engine as the truck pulled up outside the door. "Dad's back. Call ya back in a bit."

He opened the door, smiling when his father dropped a heavy paper bag in his arms. "How'd it go?" He reached into the bag, expecting to pull out a fifth of Jack, and frowned at the jar of blood he held. "What's this?"

"The kill was fresh."

"Deadman's blood?"

"Yep."

John sat down at the table, opening up his laptop. "Looks like the vamp got interrupted. Kid wasn't bled out: he had his neck broken."

Dean set the jar down on table. "Damn."

"Yeah." John had his eyes on the computer screen, fingers working laboriously to force the machine to his will. "Body was still warm. Got the coroner's assistant to pull that for me. Told him I was lookin' for a new date rape drug that disappeared from the blood within hours."

"Nice."

"Hey, I'm a Fed. I get whatever I want."

Dean chuckled. "So what are you lookin' for?"

"Detective on the case is pretty sharp. Said this kid was in college, but earning his tuition on his back."

"Is that...you mean like a prostitute?"

John's brow was furrowed, eyes flicking from the keyboard to the screen and back again. "Yeah. Guess they call themselves 'escorts'. They gave me a website to go to, said it's how the escorts find...uh...customers."

Dean pulled up a chair, intrigued. "Isn't that illegal?"

"Yeah, sort of. The guys get paid for their time, supposedly, not sex, so they get away with it."

"Huh."

John shot him a glance. "Don't even think about it."

Dean's face colored, shame flooding him.

"Okay, I got it." John's fingers stilled. He squinted at the image in front of him. "The kid's profile is under something called 'Twinks'."

Dean smiled a little.

"You know what that is?"

Dean cleared his throat, shifting a little on his chair. "Young guys, slender, not a lot of body hair."

John's eyebrows shot up, and Dean shrugged. "It's a porn thing."

"Ah." He rolled his eyes, then turned his attention back to the screen. "Jesus Christ."

"What?" Dean leaned over, trying to see what had caught his father's attention.

"This was just posted an hour ago." He squinted, reading from the webpage. "You: six foot, brown/green, athletic. Me: Bear, similar build, nice teeth. Let me be your daddy. Interest in hunting and muscle cars a plus."

Dean concentrated on not letting his heart race. "Cheeky bastards, huh? 'Nice teeth'." He forced a chuckle.

"They're sure as shit callin' us out. What does 'Bear' mean?"

"Older guy, hairy, probably heavy-set."

John sat back, wiping a hand down his face. "They took this kid during the day. I don't remember any of the other victims being in the sex trade."

"So they wanted to get a message to us, get our attention, and knew this was a good way to do it. Why not just drop in on us?"

"They must not know where we are."

Dean looked skeptical, but did not voice his doubts. "So...what now?"

"Well, the ad's got a number. I say we call it, get this ball rollin'."

"What about back up? Bobby's still tryin' to drum somethin' up. Martin can be here tomorrow, I think."

"Since when do Winchesters need reinforcements?" John threw Dean's words back at him with a wolfish grin.

Let me be your daddy. Dean's chest felt tight.

Shit.

Chapter Text

 


"Dad, look." Dean pointed to a single word at the bottom of the advertisement: 'Hits'.

As they watched, the digit following that lone syllable changed from a two to a three.

"What the hell?" John furrowed his brows.

Dean scrolled up and down the page. "All the ads have it. I guess it lets the escorts know how much competition they've got."

"So three - shit! Four civilians could be walking into a trap?"

 

A sickening dread for the fates of those unsuspecting young men rose painfully in Dean's chest.

 

"Shit, shit, shit!" John stood, rubbing his chin forcefully as he paced.

"I gotta call right now," Dean insisted. "Let 'em know I'm the hunter, the other guys are just civilians -"

"You really think that will help?" John rounded on him, head lowered like an angry bull. "All you'll be telling them is that the appetizers are on the way and the main course is comin' up, red hot and rare!"

 

Dean swallowed audibly, willing himself not to retreat in the face of his father's growing rage.

 

A flush of shame softened John's features, and he turned away abruptly. "We have to use it. It's the only advantage we've got, and it's a damn slim one." His frenetic pacing had brought him to a wall. He leaned his forehead on the smooth surface, shoulders hunching as he tucked his hands into the front pockets of his jeans.

 

"I don't like using you as bait."

 

The fear and pain that rode that admission hit Dean like a blast of cold water, stunning him into mental inertia.

"I know I've done it before, but I've always hated it. Hated myself for doing it." His voice was congested with the effluvium of regret.

A bitter-sweet agony twisted in Dean's gut, and he blinked back tears. "Dad…" His voice was strained, no more than a whisper. He wanted to go to his father, to say whatever it took to stop the blistering confession, but he couldn't.

The moment consumed them, encapsulating both men in a crushing weight that rendered them paralyzed and mute.

I love you, Dad. I would take on this entire nest with nothing but my bare hands for you.

"It's okay, Dad. It's my choice, not yours, and I can't let someone else die when I'm the one they're looking for." He took a step forward, wanting to offer everything: forgiveness, comfort, understanding, unquestioning devotion.

Love.

"I'm a Winchester, Dad. This is what we do."

Before Dean could do more than register the presence of tears on his father's face, John had crossed the room, folding his older son into a desperate embrace that barely left the young man room to breathe.

Dean brought his arms up, tentatively returning the unprecedented display of affection. "Dad?"

"I'm sorry, Dean. I'm so sorry."

What the hell? He rubbed the older man's back soothingly, feeling the heat of his father's pent-up emotion emanating from him. "It's okay, Dad. It's not your fault. It's okay."

"I love you, Dean, and I'm so fucking proud of you, and I never should have -" his voice caught, and Dean just wanted to beg him to stop talking " - never should have made you feel like...like it was okay to risk you like this, like you're just a soldier, a pawn. That's not how I see you, not how I've ever seen you. I made you grow up too fast, and I -"

"Shhhhh, shhhhh. Stop, Dad, please. You're killin' me." Dean buried his face in his father's neck, the stiff collar of the man's 'Fed suit' abrading his skin as he coated it with his tears. "Any good thing I am, any good that I do, it's because of you. There's nothing to apologize for." He tightened his embrace, willing the physical contact to draw his father's pain out, draining it into himself instead. "I love you, Dad. I love you."


Recovery is a long and broken road, but the two men were on it, and they were on it together.

Chapter Text


In the end they had decided to maximize their advantage by maintaining the facade of Dean as an escort for as long as possible.

"You drive up in that monstrous Chevy and they're gonna know right away you're the hunter they saw at the warehouse. We'll hotwire something less conspicuous."

"Alright. But that ad has fifteen hits already." Who knew there were so many tall, green-eyed twinks in this town? "What if I call and they don't want me?"

"We'll cross that bridge if we come to it. Make the call."

 

Dean took a deep breath, trying to calm whatever was doing the Electric Slide in his guts. I don't know anything about being a male prostitute. Or a hunter trying to pretend to be a male prostitute. What am I supposed to say?

"Hello?" the voice on the other end of the line was rich, cultured.

Sounds like old money. Something else I know nothing about. Great. "I'm calling in answer to your ad.  I...uh...I'm the guy you've been looking for."

John shot him a warning glare, and Dean ducked his head, avoiding the silent censure.

"Oh, really? You sound awfully sure of yourself."

He turned his back on his father, quashing his embarrassment under concern for the lives at stake if he screwed this up.

"I'm six-one, a hundred-eighty pounds of lean muscle." He moved away from John, dropping his voice into a seductive growl. "Short brown hair; green eyes." He kept going until he was in the bathroom, behind a closed door. "Barely old enough to shave."

"What's your name, boy?"

Shit. Do they know who we are? Have they heard of the Winchesters? "De -Deacon."

A low chuckle carried across the line. "Are you religious, Deacon?"

"Uh...not really. Do you want me to be?" He tried to project both confusion and a willingness to please into his voice.

"It's not necessary. Have you been in the business long, Deacon?"

"No. Just...on my own all of a sudden." He made sure that he swallowed loudly enough for it to carry to his quarry's ear. "Your ad said 'Let me be your daddy.' I don't have anybody." He made his voice shy, hopeful. "I'd like a daddy." Solitary victims that society wouldn't miss seemed to be this nest's m.o.

The man all but purred on the other end, and Dean started to wonder if he and his father had been wrong about the ad being written by a vamp. Maybe this guy really is looking to get laid.

"And do you like hunting, Deacon?"

"Yeah. Every chance I get." It sounded more threatening than he had intended. Cool it, Dean. You're a desperate orphan, remember?

"How are you with pain?"

Dean swallowed again, and this time it took no extra effort to make the action audible. "It'll cost extra."

"How much extra?"

"Depends. How much pain are you talkin'?"

"Just enough to mark you as mine."

Dean licked his lips. Jesus Christ. People actually do this shit for a living? And I thought my job was terrifying.

"I get half a grand an hour for the kinky stuff."

"Half a grand, eh? That's pretty steep for someone who has yet to establish a reputation My in this community."

Dean closed his eyes, steadying himself in preparation for his next line. "Believe me, this virgin ass is worth it."

"Virgin? Really?" Apparently he didn't require an answer, because the pause was brief. "Alright," the man conceded, and Dean wasn't sure whether the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach was disgust, relief, or fear. "I'll text you an address. Payment for an hour of your companionship will be in an envelope on the counter in the bathroom."

"What time do you want me there?"

"Seven o'clock."

"Tonight?"

"Yes, tonight."

"Alright, Sir. I'll make you happy. I promise."

"I'm sure you will, Dean."

A chill shot down the young hunter's spine. "Deacon."

"Of course: Deacon. My apologies."  There was a slight pause, and Dean wondered if he was expected to respond.  "I'll see you soon."


Dean rested the heels of his palms on the edge of the sink, leaning his weight on them so that he could rock forward to examine his face in the mirror.

He knows. I'll be walking right into a trap.

If Dad finds out he'll call it off.

He filled his lungs deeply, emptying them slowly: once, twice, three times, watching the terror drain from his eyes incrementally with each deliberate exhalation. You've got this, Dean. It's going to be fine. Gonna gank a whole nest of vampires, go down in hunter history.

I just hope to hell that sick fuck doesn't try to make me his bitch first.

He walked back out into the hotel room, projecting nothing but confidence as he entered the arena of his father's laser-like scrutiny. "We're in. Seven o'clock tonight." He tossed the cell phone across. "Address is in the texts."

John snagged the device out of the air. "You sure you wanna do this? We can wait until we've got back up. Singer oughta be functional in another week, and Sam'll be free -"

"And how many more innocent people will be vampire food by then?" Dean shook off his own reservations. "Give 'em a week and we may never find them again, but we sure as hell know where they'll be at seven tonight. We're doing this."

Pride that John refused to voice nevertheless shone out from his eyes, bathing Dean in warmth, banishing the last reluctant ghost of fear.  "Since when do Winchesters need back up?"

Spoken with a wolfish smile, it had become their father-son tag line.

John's return smile bordered on feral. "They ain't gonna know what hit 'em." He motioned with his head to the project he had spread out on the table. "Let's get to work."


The address the mark had given them was a hotel. Studying the website for the business had John shaking his head. "I don't like this. Not likely the whole damned nest is living somewhere so public, which means he's plannin' on taking you to a different location." They had also started a search for abandoned buildings, and John toggled between the two screens, frowning. "He's got you goin' to the dying side of town. Way too damned many possibilities for nest sites over there."

Dean's brow was furrowed as he leafed through the photos of bodies and crime scenes. "Didn't you say all of the bodies were outside? And had been floaters?"

"Not the last one."

"No, but that one doesn't really count. All the other ones were though, right?"

"Yeah. Assholes must know how bad water screws things up for us."

"Which means they have to be close to a river or a lake. Gotta be, 'cause the farther they have to carry the bodies before they dump them, the more likely they are to get caught."

John grunted. "Well, that does narrow it down."

Dean leaned his knuckles on the table, examining the screen over his father's shoulder. "Still leaves...three close to the motel."

"And there's no reason to trust that the nest is all that close to the meet."

Dean went back to the reports on the bodies. "Were they all found in the same area?" He moved to a map on the wall, dotted with pinned flags, finding the answer to his own question. "Yeah. Big river cuttin' through here, obvious dump site." He examined the dots, went back to the computer screen, returned to the map. "Looks like the farthest upstream they made it was here, which means your two most likely locations are the warehouse we were already at and this foreclosed farm." He lifted an eyebrow as he addressed his father. "You think they had the balls to stay at that warehouse?"

John sat back. "Sure could have." He drummed his fingers on the table. "We checked that place over pretty damned thoroughly, though, and didn't find anything that looked like it'd ever belonged in a vampire nest."

Dean folded his arms over his chest, winced, and dropped his hands to his lap. "Maybe they were set up in the old farmhouse, and now they've moved to the warehouse."

"Or maybe this is all bullshit, because all those bodies were dropped in the river before Brian and Toby tried to roust them." John's voice was rising, and Dean shifted one foot back, ready to move quickly. "Which means they could have relocated any-fucking-where since then, which means that if they put you in a goddamn car, I'll have no fucking clue where they're taking you!" He slammed his fist on the table with the last word, rattling a nearby window.

Dean licked his lips. "I need a beer. You want one?"

He took John's growl as a 'yes' and crossed the room, shoulders tight in anticipation of another episode of violence.

"I can leave my cell phone on in my pocket. You could follow the signal and hear what's goin' on." Dean was across the room, ostensibly gathering drinks for the two of them. It was also a safer distance for making suggestions that may not be well-received.

"Unless they take it. Or strip you."

A bolt of fear shot up Dean's spine.

- He lets them take his jacket, and his flannel -

"We've got a couple of those animal-tracking tags we acquired the last time we pulled the 'game warden' card," John offered.

Dean had returned to the table. He handed his father a slim brown bottle. "Hey, I forgot about those! That oughta work." He frowned. "You don't have to stick the thing through my damned ear, do you?"

John eyed him sourly. "Might." He snorted, then shook his head. "I can't believe..." He scrubbed a hand down his face, pausing with his palm over his mouth just long enough to exhale deeply. "You're going in as a by-the-hour fuckboy. Any clothes we put the damn tracker on might not make the trip."

- somehow his jeans are gone, cool air on skin that should not be bare -

Dean's face flushed and his breath came in short, hard spasms. "I can't -"

"No," John agreed, voice quiet but firm. "You can't." The force of his indomitable will surrounded Dean with a subliminal promise that he would never allow his son to be violated in that way again. "Clip it through the waistband of your Jockey's, though, just in case."

Dean nodded, forcing his respirations to slow.  It won't get that far.  Vamp's lookin' for a hunter, not a date.  'S not gonna happen.

"I want to inject you with deadman's blood."

"What?" The suggestion had come out of nowhere, and Dean wasn't prepared for it.

"In case one of 'em gets a bite in," John explained, unnecessarily.

"Yeah, I know why, I just...isn't that dangerous? I mean, the kid was a prostitute. I could get AIDS, or gonorrhea, or something."

John chuckled, shaking his head. "The cops got his medical records: he stayed clean. Routine screenings every couple months; last one was two weeks ago. Should be safe."

"Okay, but it's still deadman's blood. I mean, vampires get sick as hell off of that shit! What's it gonna do to me?"

John shrugged. "First of all, I already tried it, and I'm good so far. Second, I've done it before, as a field medic." He looked down at his hands. "Not all that uncommon to have a dead guy layin' right beside the one you're tryin' to save. It's why dog tags have the soldier's blood type on 'em."

It was rare for his father to talk about his experiences in 'Nam, and Dean knew not to ask for more than what was given. "Okay. I mean...I'd actually love to see the thing's face when it gets a mouthful of that."

He grinned, and the look was anything but cheerful.


John had gone broody and silent while he injected Dean, a change that went largely unnoticed by the young man who was grimacing dramatically, preoccupied with his hatred of needles.

"I gotta make a run. I'll be right back." John had completed the injection and stood abruptly, reaching for his jacket.

"Huh?" Dean was poking at the needle mark inside his elbow and barely noticed the closing of the door.


John returned an hour later, awkwardly juggling a large paper bag and a pair of crutches. "I've got an idea."

Dean raised an eyebrow, skepticism giving way to amusement, then respect as he listened to the older man talk. "Damn. That's genius."

His father smiled. "Bastards will never know what hit 'em."

Chapter Text


Dean muttered to himself as he maneuvered out of the driver's seat, hopping clumsily to the back door to retrieve his crutches. He didn't have to fake a wince as the pressure those instruments placed on his battered chest caused a spike of discomfort. "Fuckin' hate crutches."

His entrance to the hotel's lobby did not go unnoticed. He had to transfer one crutch to the other hand, hooking it with two fingers so he could still maneuver the other, weight-bearing encumbrance, then grip the door handle with the hand he'd had just emptied so he could hop backward to get the heavy glass entry open far enough to slip his body through sideways, good leg leading -

The door closed on both his casted ankle and the carried crutch, and the young man loosed a string of colorful invectives that would have made a sailor blush.

"Allow me."

Dean recognized the voice, and the chill that ran through him was matched by the frigidness of the man's palm as it took Dean's elbow in a firm grip.

He looked up, noting the deep brown eyes and dark complexion, the black hair with grey at the temples, the carefully manicured beard.

"Thanks." 

Hey there, Angel.  Does Spike know you're here?  Wouldn't want to make him jealous.

"Deacon, I hope," the mellow voice intoned, and Dean forced a tentative smile.

"Yeah. Had a little accident after we talked. Almost had to call and cancel."

The potential opponent helped untangle Dean from the door, leading him one hopping step away before resettling the compromised hunter on both crutches.

"Oh?" One shaped eyebrow rose.

Dean shrugged. "Helpin' out. Family business, ya know? It was a stupid accident. Messed up my ankle. No big deal."

"I thought you said you were on your own."

The younger man loosed his best lascivious smirk on his mark. "I'll say whatever you want me to, Daddy."

The gentleman tilted his head, appraising his companion. "Hm. Is that so?" He turned and started down a hall. "This way."

Dean followed, swinging along with practiced ease. Never thought I'd be happy about knowing what having a busted leg is like.

They stopped at a bank of elevators. "Glad we don't have to take the stairs."

His silent guide bowed slightly, extending one arm in an elegant gesture that swept the encumbered young man in before him. He followed, using a key to first depress, then turn an unmarked button on the elevator's console.

Noises that Dean found alarming accompanied the descent of the ancient contrivance.

"I didn't catch your name," Dean prompted, hoping to distract himself from a budding claustrophobia.

"Antonio." The man proffered a slender, long-fingered hand. Dean took it, noting again the dead frigidity of the inelastic flesh, and squeezed harder than politeness dictated.

The skin around the older man's eyes tightened even as he smiled. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Dean Winchester. We've heard so much about you."

Least I can stop trying to play Rent Boy.

There's always a silver lining.


"I would like to apologize for the unfortunate deaths of your fellow hunters. The parties responsible were rogue, their actions unsanctioned by the Collective. I trust you found their bodies?"

"The Collective? You some kind of vampire Borg or something?"

Antonio's smile was tolerant. "'Or something', yes."

He turned the elevator key, bringing the car to a shuddering halt. He pivoted, pupils dilating as his eyes roamed the length of the wary hunter. His tongue licked out to capture his lower lip, pinning it with his teeth.

Dean shifted, uncomfortable with the hungered scrutiny. "That reminds me: What happened to the other guys who answered your ad?"

Antonio shook his head softly. "I turned each of them down, though I admit, several were quite tempting."

Dean cocked an eyebrow, curious but not entirely certain that he wanted to know more.

The vampire stepped closer.

Dean forced himself to remain still despite the panic that fluttered in his chest.

Antonio reached out slowly, analyzing the reaction of his prey as he slid his fingers beneath the the lapels on the hunter's jacket, stroking the cloth suggestively. "You're not a very good actor, Dean. Although I know better than to expect innocence from my little rent-boys, your voice lacked that certain lust edged with fear that I always hope for."

The panic was becoming more insistent, and Dean struggled to keep any sign of it from reaching his tormentor.

The fingers stilled, and the vampire pinned the hunter with a resigned stare. "Your tone held a challenge, by which I knew that I had already been judged, ergo you were the Hunter that we had been seeking." His hands dropped, and he stepped back. "As much as I would love to have arranged to meet at least one of the other boys, duty must take precedence." He smiled, licking his lips. "Perhaps when this is over…."

You'll be dead.

Antonio's eyes narrowed. "However, I must again offer my regrets, as we cannot proceed any further until I have reassured myself that I have minimized the threat you pose to the Collective."

Dean tensed, ready to either fight or endure something unpleasant.

"I need to check you for weapons. May I have your jacket, please?" He held out a hand.

Dean licked his lips, mouth suddenly dry.

....They took his jacket, and his flannel

Ignoring the burn in his chest, he shrugged out of the garment, motions uncharacteristically stiff. He held it toward the vampire, dangling it by the collar on one crooked finger. "Knock yourself out. Just don't drop it; I've got a beer in the pocket."

Antonio accepted the offering, a faint look of distaste coloring his features. "A beer?"

Dean crossed his arms over his chest, wincing slightly. "Yeah. Heard your stick-up-the-ass voice, figured you'd offer me wine or some shit." He shrugged. "Makes this party a 'bring your own' affair."

The vampire gave him a long look - Reminds me of one of Sam's bitch faces - before turning his attention to his stated task. He checked the contents of each pocket, confiscating nothing, then felt the garment itself. He nodded, draping the article of clothing over his arm and extending his palm once more. "Flannel, if you please."

"No. I don't do strip searches."

"It's either that or I frisk you." Antonio smiled languidly. "Honestly, I believe I will enjoy either option equally."

Dean swallowed with difficulty past the lump lodged behind his sternum. "I'm not taking my clothes off for you."

The vampire had become distracted. He sniffed the air, turning in a circle, scanning the confines of their limited space. "What is that odor?" His eyes raked the hunter, this time with suspicion rather than lust. He leaned in, inhaling deeply near the man's chest.

Dean pulled back, frowning. Can he smell the deadman's blood?

"Remove your shirts, please." Despite the civility, it was clear that the vampire had issued a command.

Dean glowered at him. "I said I'm not going to strip for you."

"I need to know where that offensive reek is coming from. Remove them, or I will do it for you."

The infection! I bet he can smell it. "I got shot, okay?" He allowed irritation and embarrassment to creep into his voice.

"Show me."

Dean shrugged out of his flannel, not bothering to hide a grimace of discomfort. He dropped it to the floor, then gripped the hem of his t-shirt, raising it to the level of his collar bones.

Antonio's eyes widened. "What were you shot with?"

"Rock salt."

The vampire bent at the waist, drawing closer, inhaling deeply. He glanced up at Dean. "Just rock salt?"

The hunter rolled his eyes. "No. There were pellets made of consecrated iron mixed in with it." He shrugged at the look Antonio gave him. "'Nother hunter. It was an accident."

"Is that what is lodged here?" He reached out with the precisely manicured talon on the last digit of his right hand and pressed it into inflamed flesh.

Dean jerked back on a hiss as an incisive sting lanced through him, followed by the sensation of heated liquid creeping along his skin in a slow ooze.

The vampire brought his long, pointed fingernail to his nose, and for a bizarre instant Dean was certain he was going to snort the pellet off of it like it was cocaine.  Instead he merely sniffed daintily before turning away, his entire face crumpling in a look of disgust. "Yes." He retrieved a white cloth from his pocket, wiping the pus from his nail with exaggerated thoroughness. "That is what I was sensing."

Wordlessly, he returned the hunter's jacket, then faced away.

The elevator resumed its unsteady downward trajectory.

Dean shrugged back into his coat.

Here we go.


Dean breathed a sigh of relief when the ancient conveyance jolted to a halt, doors opening onto a comfortably lit but oddly institutional corridor painted a soft shade of gray. "Would you like to abandon that facade, or do you actually require the use of those crutches?"

Dean leveled a hard gaze on the vampire, rising to his full height, quivering with tension. "The shotgun blast wasn't my only injury. I need them." But don't be stupid enough to think that makes me vulnerable, his body telegraphed.

Antonio tipped his head, acknowledging the unspoken declaration. "You are safe here, Mr. Winchester. Our aim is to educate you in hopes that you will act as an emissary on our behalf."

Dean snorted. "Not likely."

The vampire smiled, matching his stride to the injured man's. "I hope to change your mind. You see, we have existed here, undetected, for nearly five decades."

Dean looked more closely at the walls and ceiling around him. "Huh. Doesn't look that old."

"We take pride in our home. It is well-maintained," he paused at an open door, "its inhabitants well cared for."

The door gave entry to what appeared to be some sort of commons area, or maybe a cafeteria. Men and women of various ages sat at tables or lounged on couches. Although they were not dressed identically, there was a similarity in both the simplicity and apparent comfort of their unstructured attire.

Dean observed, cataloging details: while some were occupied with typical nursing home-type activities like board games or puzzle assembly, others were staring off into some middle distance. No one wore watches or jewelry. Though all of the inhabitants appeared to be clean, the women's faces were devoid of make-up, and noone had styled their hair.

A glacial flush of realization flowed over him. "They're feeders."

Antonio smiled, leaving the doorway to advance further into the recesses of the structure. "Yes. Every society has its lost souls, Dean. Ephemeral creatures that exist on the edges of communal awareness, a parasitic blight that strives to go unnoticed."

They had reached an ornate set of wooden doors. Antonio spread them open grandly, sweeping his arms wide. "Please, enter. My family is eager to meet you."

Dean halted in the threshold, his own heart suffocating him as roughly a dozen figures stood as one, bowing to him from their positions at a long mahogany table surrounded on three sides by wide, generously padded benches.

Oh, shit.


"Come, sit. We are honored to have you here with us."

Antonio led Dean to a seat at the near end of the triclinium. He graciously moved the chair several feet away from the larger furnishing to accommodate his guest's crutches.

Dean lowered himself carefully, the flex of his jaw and a slight tightening around one eye the only indications he gave that the movement had caused him discomfort.

My fucking chest is killing me. Infection's getting worse.

He stretched the casted limb out, rubbing his thigh absently. Damned thing is heavy. Hope we aren't too far underground for the tag to work. It had been John's idea to embed the tracking device in plaster, knowing that there was little chance that the monsters would think to remove it.

"May I get you anything, Dean? Whiskey, perhaps?"

"No thanks. I already told you: I brought my own." He pulled a can of beer from the expansive depths of one coat pocket. "Not sure I'm gonna open it, though. I don't plan on stayin' long."

Antonio settled on the bench closest to Dean. The remaining vampires followed his unspoken directive, draping themselves languorously along the lush settees.

"As I was saying: each society has its fringe civilization of unwanted beings. Cast-offs. Strays, if you will. They are a blight on humanity, a parasitic encumbrance to that portion of society that strives to advance." He gestured around the council board. "This company of elders gathered many years ago and discussed the nature of the relationship between Vampyre and man." He leaned forward, his tone earnest. "Hunters had driven us to near extinction, you see. And yet, we understood: we were taking your kind, depleting your population, threatening your civilization. And though there were some who argued for a world dominated by Vampyre, those of us seated here realized that such a hierarchy would never be sustainable. We could not destroy our source of nourishment and expect to survive, nor could we reasonably expect mankind, with its elevated intellect and highly developed sense of self, to submit to our rule in a way that could ever be considered peaceable."

He sat back, studying his audience, nodding at the comprehension that he read in the hunter's features.

"We agreed to take only those that your society had discarded. We feed them, clothe them, shelter them. We see to their needs in a way that their own kind had not, and in return, they feed us." He spread his hands, tipping his head, and his smile was self-deprecating. "It is a mutually beneficial relationship."

"Symbiotic," Dean grunted, and the vampire's smile widened as he nodded, mistaking the hunter's sarcasm for acceptance.

"Exactly so."

Dean pulled the casted ankle up to rest on his knee, grimacing as he massaged the area of his calf that the plaster rubbed against. "So why the bodies on the ground? Why the two dead hunters?"

Antonio shrugged, his expression aggrieved. "Like you, we have to reproduce in order to replenish our society. Newly created Vampyre can be...difficult. They need to be confined, trained to control their appetites so that they may live safely among men." He pursed his lips. "A mistake was made. Brothers were turned, and they escaped from our confines. Turned rogue." He spread his hands. "We went after them, of course: they were our responsibility. Your hunters were caught in the crossfire." The sincerity had returned to his demeanor. "We deeply regret the loss of your comrades, and have no wish for further bloodshed. We had been living in harmony with humankind for nearly half a century!" His tone was equal parts boastful and pleading. "We wish to return to that state. That's all we're asking of you today."

Dean stroked the cool, smooth aluminum shaft of his crutch absently. "The people you showed me in that commons area: why were they all so…"

"Complacent?" Antonio supplied.

"Sure. For lack of a better word." And where's my six foot Gigantor of a thesaurus when I really need him?

"We have perfected the art of prefrontal leucotomy."

Dean blinked at him. "Full-frontal what?"

"We perform a surgical interruption of the nerve tracts leading to and from the frontal lobe."

"You give all your feeders lobotomies?"

Antonio spread his hands, palms rotating upwards. "Yes."

"Jesus Christ."

"The procedure is painless, as are our feedings. All of our residents' needs are met. They have friends here, a family of sorts. They are happy."

"Happy?" Dean rose with unexpected grace to his full height, glaring down at the recumbent blood-suckers. "They're mindless freakin' zombies! You took away their free will, their ability to think and reason and choose how they want to live! You took away their freakin' humanity! And you think we're just gonna sit back and let that ride?"

Antonio's face had turned cold. "We know you are, Dean Winchester. Well, not you, maybe," he conceded, "but your father, and by extension, the rest of the Hunter community."

"Oh, really?" Dean had fitted the crutches to his axillae, palms resting on the handpieces. "How do you figure?"

"Because," and the Collective rose as one, "we have you as collateral."

Chapter Text


 

Dean laughed. Head back, mouth open until his breath left him, then bent over, hands on his knees. Eventually he straightened, wiping a tear from the corner of each eye. "Oh, my god, you guys are hilarious!"

Antonio's expression would have rivaled Sammy's most sincere bitch face. "Do you know how many parent-sibling hunting teams I have encountered in my fifty-odd years of existence as a vampire, Mr. Winchester?"

"Well, your head is still attached, so I'd have to guess 'not many'."

"One." The word resonated throughout the room.

Dean rolled his eyes. "Bullshit. I know lots of hunters whose parents hunted, too."

"But not together. They split up, lest objectivity be lost. Family provides leverage. Creates vulnerability."

"So, what, you're going to hold me hostage? 'Leave us alone, or we kill your son'?" He chuckled, shaking his head. "And you actually think that will work?'"

Antonio lifted his chin, narrowing his eyes.

"I'll tell ya what's gonna happen, genius: my father is going to round up every hunter he can find, and they are going to bust in here and burn this shit-show down." He glared around at the assembled monsters, meeting each one's gaze in turn. "That's after beheading all of you, of course."

"He would risk your life to destroy us? I highly doubt that."

Dean laughed, a sound devoid of mirth. "You don't know my father. If our situations were reversed, and he were the one sittin' here being used as some sort of bargaining chip, he'd expect me to do what needed to be done. So, yeah, he'll risk losin' me to take out all of you." He raised his unopened beer. "It's why he sent me in here with this."

With both hands he twisted the can, withdrawing a cylindrical object from the hidden compartment within the faux-beverage. He tossed the incendiary device his father had crafted onto the middle of the table, then dove for the floor.

While the explosion that ensued was loud, it was far from deafening, and Dean used the swearing and shrieking of the injured vampires to keep track of who was where as he manipulated the crutches, readying his father's other surprises.

A back roll over his left shoulder had him on his knees, firing a rudimentary approximation of a shotgun into the largest mass of vampires.

"It's more like a captive bolt device," his father had explained, working to disguise the modifications he had made to the crutch. "It won't be accurate at all, but the pellets should spread out pretty good.  It's a one-shot deal -- the heat warps the aluminum barrel too much for it to keep firing -- so make it count.se "

He dropped that crutch, pivoting to his left as he smoothly retrieved the other, firing into the second mass of undead flesh.

A sharp tug on a nearly invisible metal tab netted him the final prize: a thick but narrow blade, secreted into the hollow shaft of one crutch.  It would not be quite as efficient as a machete, but still sufficient.

All around him blood suckers writhed and hissed, their strength steadily waning as the deadman's blood coating both the pellets from Dean's crutch-guns as well as the shrapnel from the beer can-hand grenade leached into their bodies.

The hastily manufactured blade worked beautifully in removing Antonio's head, and the hunter worked his way down the line of poisoned blood-suckers, teeth set in a determined rictus as he did what needed to be done, taking no pleasure in it.

From beyond the double doors a familiar shout of "Dean!" drew his attention, and he looked away from the fanged monster at his feet just long enough to call back, "In here!"

It wasn't much of a distraction, but it was enough.

The creature struck with a force that Dean had not encountered from a vampire in the past, carrying them both in a roll of tangled torsos and limbs until they had crossed the room, ending in a corner out of direct line of sight from the room's entrance.

A fetid hand covered his mouth like a block of ice, and Dean felt himself lifted to his feet, the vampire's free arm curling around his solar plexus with enough strength to drive the air from his lungs and prevent them from re-expanding.

Time slowed in ironic mimicry of every action movie Dean had ever seen, the two doors splitting at their seam to admit one flannel-clad shoulder, a head of shaggy hair, and the double barrels of a shotgun, all suspended in midair as John burst into the room.

His back was to his son and the powerful figure currently crushing the life out of him.

Desperation for air was fading as consciousness tunneled away. Dean did not feel the monster remove its hand, and was only dimly aware that what had been dry and cold was now wet and pressing insistently against his lips, as if demanding entrance.

The arm around his abdomen loosened, not to allow the young hunter the gift of breath, but only to shift higher, the steel band compressing Dean's ribs in an agonizing grind that separated cartilage and forced bone ends to abrade nerve-laden facets.

Dean's mouth opened in an airless scream.

The nauseating esthesis of copper and rot flooded his senses even as the vampire's fangs penetrated his flesh, the predatory jaw working as it sought, then found, the fragile wall of Dean's jugular vein.

Chapter Text


Assuming that the writhing mass of bodies on the far side of the triclinium included his son, John crossed the room in two long-legged strides, launching himself onto the table with the third.

Across the room Dean's jugular vein popped like a ripe grape beneath the vampire's fangs, flooding the creature's mouth with tainted blood. The monster bellowed in rage, hurling the insensate hunter across the room to collide brutally with the edge of a thick wooden door. The young man's body dropped to the ground, where he landed on his side, boneless.

John whirled in time to see an enormous creature exiting the room, and the deafening roar of a shotgun blast added to the bedlam.

"Dean!" His expression was agonized as his head swiveled from his son to the still-living monsters within his sight and back again. An inarticulate cry of utter torment was torn from his soul as he returned to his self-appointed task of permanently incapacitating the fanged threats to humanity spread out around the room.

When each blood-sucker had been decapitated and no longer capable of posing any danger to a distracted human, John stumbled over the collected bodies, falling to his knees and crawling across the floor to reach the nearly motionless form of his son.

He's breathing, and fresh tears cleared twin paths down the father's blood-streaked face.

"Dean." He lowered his cheek to the floor, reaching for the pulse in his son's neck, feeling the boy's panted breaths - too short, too fast - on his skin. "I'm gonna look you over, okay? Just hang on."

The pulse he sought was thick with congealed blood, and John retrieved a handkerchief from his hip pocket, securing it efficiently around the wound.  Lucky the damned thing missed his jugular -- or worse, his carotid artery.  As if the place weren't already a fuckin' bloodbath.

And suddenly the room became a battlefield

    The screaming and gunfire are incessant,  and he ducks low over the man he hopes to save

    a soldier whose fatigues are so covered in blood  that the reluctant medic doesn't know where to start

    and for a moment the horror and helplessness  break through the rugged shell of the United States Marine

    and the soft young man inside shatters apart

    until a voice reaches out to him - "Winchester! What do you need?"

    and he sees hands reaching,  competent hands holding bandages and morphine, a nd he realizes that they are his own,

    and he does know what to do after all

"Dean." His voice was sure now, a solid anchor in the present chaos. His hands moved with confidence borne of experience, assessing, triaging. There was little blood to be found, but the obvious respiratory distress spoke to the gravity of his son's situation, and he cupped the boy's face in his palms. "Dean. Wake up, buddy. We gotta get you outta here, and I'm afraid to try to carry you." He patted one flaccid cheek, first gently, then harder. "C'mon, Dean. Gotta go!"

He felt the low moan vibrating in his palm before it turned into a muted cough. Tears pricked his eyes as Dean's face contorted, relief at his son's burgeoning consciousness loosening the coil of fear in his own chest.

"Dad," he panted, then: "Hur's."

"I know, buddy, I know. We gotta get you out of here. How bad are you hurt?"

"Don'. -. know." Each word was propelled by a single breath. "Breath'n. -. hur's."

"Breathing hurts? Hurts where?"

Dean's right arm moved, sliding over to cover his side where it had struck the edge of the open door.

"Lemme see." John carefully removed his son's hand, pushed the canvas of his jacket aside, then gently eased the cotton of his shirt up. He palpated gently, wincing at Dean's sharp cry. "Sorry, sorry. Broken, but it doesn't feel like there's air under the skin. Lung's probably ok." Except I've seen Dean with broken ribs before, and he didn't pant like this. Pulmonary contusions? Don't usually develop this fast, unless he hit harder than I thought. "Does it hurt to breath, or is it hard to breath?"

Dean had been on this end of his father's professionalism before, and he knew why John was asking, what the distinction meant. "Hur's. Locks. -. up."

John nodded his understanding. Still bad, but maybe not life-threatening-in-the-next-ten-minutes bad. "You got something sticking through you somewhere?"

"Do'n. -. know." He grimaced, tears wrung from clenched eyelids. "Back -" The word was a pained grunt.

"Hang on. I'll take a look."   He started by running his palm carefully over the wrinkled canvas of Dean's jacket. Finding neither blood, impaling objects, nor fresh rents in the fabric, he set about removing the garment, pulling the sleeve off of the right arm with infinite care. The t-shirt beneath was equally unblemished, and John felt the pressure in his own chest ease. "Gonna lift your shirt a little, okay?"

He hopped nimbly over the recumbent man's legs before gently easing the soft cotton up, baring the side of Dean's torso from waistband to shoulder blade.

Jesus. When did he get so damned thin?

His son's ribs stood out starkly, skin stretched tight over bone with little obscuring flesh between, and pain at the realization of Dean's silent suffering hit him hard, followed closely by shame at his failure to protect the boy from whatever internal hell was literally consuming him.

He shook his head. Now's not the time. Focus, damnit.

A band of contusions mottled Dean's side, extending over his back. There was something not right about the shape of his spine within that purpling band, and John felt his own breathing quicken. "Dean. Move your foot."

The response was immediate, and John blew out a breath. "Hang on. Something doesn't look right. I'm gonna palpate, but I'll be as careful as I can, okay?"

"'Kay."

John closed his eyes, drawing his focus to what his fingers were telling him as they ghosted over the odd protuberances. "Dislocated for sure, maybe broken." He allowed his fingers to cross the ridge of spinous processes, inspecting the other side. "Here, too." Shit.

He climbed back over Dean's denim-clad limbs, stretching out on his side until they were face to face. "Hey, kiddo. You in there?" He raked his fingers through the hair at Dean's temple, and was rewarded with the sight of two bloodshot green orbs blinking slowly as they struggled to focus on him. "Hey. There you are." He smiled, the tenderness he felt nearly overwhelming him. "Broken, bruised, and dislocated, but I don't think there's anything that's gonna kill ya, okay?"

Dean nodded, a short, stiff motion that did nothing to disrupt the choppy pattern of his breathing.

"We need to get you out of here, but I don't think I can carry you without hurting you." He looked around, a thought having just occurred to him. "Maybe if I got you lying on your side on a litter -"

"I. -. can. -. walk." He started to push up, left arm taking his weight as his right curled in protectively against his damaged side, then changed his mind, drawing his right knee up and rolling onto it. He bent his other leg in, then paused there, shaking, sweating, and fighting nausea.

John returned to his son's less damaged side. "Let me know when you're ready."

In response Dean's abdomen convulsed, fingers digging into the antique rug beneath him as his jaw stretched, black liquid mixed with bile dripping to the floor.

He shuddered there, struggling for control, and John knelt beside him, aching for his son.

The trembling eased, and Dean pushed back, balancing on spread fingers and the balls of his feet. "Rea. -. dy."

John slid his shoulder into the cup of his son's armpit, arm draping around him to provide a solid support against the boy's shoulder blades while gripping the handhold provided by a well-developed latissimus muscle. Dean draped his left arm over his father's shoulders, and John tethered his wrist securely.

"Up?"

At Dean's nod, John rose in a slow, fluid motion, bringing his son with him.

They stood while Dean fought for equilibrium, his body sweat-slick and hot where it touched John's, the trembling constant.

When the tension had eased somewhat in the tortured hunter's frame, John rubbed the wrist he held. "You ready to blow this joint?"

"Yeah."

John grimaced. "Wait. You don't happen to know where the keys to the elevator are, do you? I had to kick through some drywall to get to the stairs. Idiot at the front desk told me this place didn't have a basement."

"Vamp. -. by. -. chair."

The pair shuffled over, stopping above Antonio's decapitated form. "This one?"

Dean nodded. "An. .- ton. -. 'o."

"Not anymore." He released the wrist he'd been holding to place the boy's palm on the top of the chair back. "Can you hold yourself up for a minute?"

"Yeah."

John dropped to his knees, reaching for the body.

"Coat," Dean directed. "Right."

John plucked the keys from the deceased vampire's pocket, not at all surprised that his son had paid attention to where the creature stashed the things when they had exited the elevator.

He resumed his duty as his son's human crutch. "Alright. Time to go."

He traded the keys for his phone, appreciating the reassuring weight in his own coat pocket as he dialed a familiar number.

"Bobby? Dean could use some help."

Chapter Text


“He needs a hospital, Bobby, chest x-rays, but how am I going to explain --”

 "He’s got pellets in his chest.”

“What?”  John realized that he hadn’t gotten a good look at the upper half of Dean’s torso.

“Travis accidentally shot him tryin’ to get a ghost off Dean’s back.  Apparently he mixes consecrated iron pellets in with his rock salt.”

“Jesus Christ.”  He ran a hand down his face.  “So he’s got a bizarre crushing injury I have no way to explain, and a healing shotgun blast to his chest.  That won’t call law enforcement down on our heads.”   Fuck . Are we lookin’ at a choice between death and jail here?

John glanced over at the man currently balancing himself carefully in the passenger seat, doing his best to keep his back and side from touching anything.

He continued to breath in short, strained pants, but did not seem to be getting any worse.  

Easy way to settle this: I’ll ask him.  He agrees to a hospital, then I’ll know he’s in bad shape, and I’ll just take my chances with the cops.  “Hey, Dean.”

The younger man turned his head, looking over the arm he had braced on the dashboard.

“Hospital’s only about ten minute out, okay?”

Bobby chuckled.  “Puttin’ him to the test,  huh?”

John grunted in reply.

Dean shook his head.  “No. --. ‘Osp’al.”

“C’mon, kid.   You can barely breathe.  We need to get you x-rayed --”

Dean lifted his hand long enough to flash his middle finger. “Gett’n. --. Better. --. No. --. ‘Ospit’l.”

John turned back to the phone.  “Y’ hear ‘im?”

Bobby sighed into the phone.  “Yeah. Stubborn ass...but it’s hard t’argue this time.  There’s a guy about half hour from you, on the way outta town, headed back this way.”  Bobby paused long enough to prompt John to check the screen, thinking the call had been dropped.  “You met him already.”

“Really?  When?”

“That time Dean left Sammy alone to go buy groceries.”

John closed his eyes briefly. Shit.  May end up in jail yet.  Still can’t believe that guy didn’t call social services on me .  “Text me the address, and let him know we’re comin’.”

“On it.”

 


 

The doctor was standing out in his driveway when John pulled in.  He moved immediately to the passenger door, opening it without waiting for John to turn the engine off.

“Do you remember me, Dean?”  He snugged the ends of a stethoscope in his ears, not waiting for a response.

 

Dean had spent the drive figuring out exactly what speed and depth allowed him to expand his lungs the most before pain caused his entire rib cage to spasm in suffocating paralysis.  As a result his breathing had slowed and deepened from the hyperventilatory pant he had resorted to initially, and he no longer felt light-headed or dizzy.

He wasn't about to waste his breath making polite conversation, though.

Never-the-less, he kept his eyes closed in anticipation of pain as Dr. Gant -- he had recognized the man’s voice -- moved the cold bell of his instrument to various spots on Dean’s chest and back.

 

The doctor completed  his auscultation and wrapped the stethoscope around his neck like a scarf.  “Good breath sounds,” he informed both men.  “May I palpate your ribs, Dean?”

Dean grunted, following that noncommittal response with a nod.

“Just a quick exam,” the doctor explained to a tense John.  “I know that you’ve already done this, but I feel the need to convince myself that it is safe to move him before actually doing so.”

 

Dean lifted his arm, the movement strained, muscles trembling, and rested his palm against the back of his skull, giving the doctor access.

 

He started at the top of Dean’s chest, pads of his fingers assessing the shape and location of the left collarbone, then sliding across to the right, dropping to the first rib to trace right to left across the young man's torso, and continuing in a methodical fashion until every millimeter of skin from Dean’s chest to the waistband of his jeans had been subjected to Dr. Gant’s touch.

Although not lacking in compassion, he did not suffer the same emotional investment in his patient that John did.  Finding abnormalities had prompted him to press harder, probe deeper.

Dean had tensed, fingers of his left hand digging into the fabric of the dashboard, right curling desperately into his own short hair, sweat coating trembling muscles in a cold sheen, breath once again reduced to suffocating pants...but he had not made a sound.

“There are multiple fractures and separations, but I’m not finding any evidence of internal injuries.”  He looked away from the older hunter’s stark concern to address his patient.  “Dean, are you ready to go inside?”

 

The young man’s entire being was focused on breathing without screaming, on staying conscious until he was certain that it was safe not to, and the doctor’s words did not register.

 

John pulled himself away from his spot at Dean’s left side only to appear at the doctor’s back, shouldering him out of the way.  “I got him.”  He leaned into the car, bracing his son’s head with one broad palm while he pressed his forehead to Dean’s temple.  “Hey, kiddo.  We gotta get you inside, alright?  Doc’s got the good drugs in there.  It’ll stop hurtin’ soon.  I promise.”

 The trembling increased in anticipation of the agony that attempting to move would bring. “Can’. --. Breathe.”

 John pulled back enough to meet Dr. Gant’s eyes.  “Can’t you give him something now?  Some morphine, or something?”

 The doctor looked startled, then chagrined.  “Yes.   Yes, of course.  I’ll be right back.”

John ducked back into the car.  “He’s gonna get you some morphine, ‘kay, bud?”  His fingertips brushed through the sweat glistening at Dean’s temple.  “You’re gonna be okay.  Get you cleaned up, patched up, breathin’ right...you’ll be in a warm, soft bed in just a minute, okay?  Gonna be alright.”  

 

The litany was as much a comfort to the father a it was to the son.

 

John backed away as soon as he heard the scrape of the doctor’s shoes on the driveway.  

“I need to inject this in a vein.”  He wasn’t certain that his patient was capable of comprehending anything that was being said to him, but the tightly coiled arm loosened, extending out to him stiffly. “I remember now how remarkably stoic he was as a boy.  I see that hasn’t changed.”  

He administered the opioid efficiently, watching his patient’s body relax as he withdrew the needle, grateful that the drug hadn’t induced nausea as it so often did.  

Dean’s torso sagged, and John nudged the doctor out of the way.  “I think he’s ready, Doc.”

 


 

The uncompromising lighting in Dr. Gant’s improvised examination room made stark shadows of Dean’s mangled ribs and pulled every dark hue from the contusions decorating his torso.  John lowered his battered son onto the wooden chair they had been directed to, facing him backwards and draping the boy’s forearms on the chair back for support.

 

Dean started to rest his head on his arms, reversing the motion when he found that it impeded his breathing.

 

Dr. Gant squatted in front of him.  “I’m going to collect some vitals and put an oxygen mask on you.  If I determine that it is safe to give you more medication, I will.  There are some ribs that have become dislocated along your spine, and I believe they are the cause of your respiratory distress. Though exquisitely painful, they are not life-threatening. I’d like to reduce those luxations first, then place you on your back to tend to your more serious injuries.”

“‘Kay.”  Dean’s glassy, unfocused eyes led the doctor to doubt that his patient had actually understood what he’d been told, but the information had been for the father’s benefit, as well.

 

“I was a medic for a while.  I can help.”

 

Dr. Gant gave the disheveled man an appraising look, then nodded.  "The oxygen tank is in that cupboard."

Between the two of them they completed the minor tasks quickly, and the doctor nodded in satisfaction.  “His oxygen saturation is good.  Heart rate and blood pressure are, of course, elevated, but he is showing a surprising lack of internal damage.”  He frowned as he prepared two injections.  “I wish I was able to obtain radiographs -- x-rays," he amended. 

He held the syringes, balanced on his palm, in Dean’s line of sight.  “I’m going to give you a muscle relaxant and a sedative, then correct your luxations.”

As before, Dean stretched out an arm, offering his doctor a vein.  Dr. Gant directed John to be prepared to catch his son, then completed the injections.

Dean blinked heavily, then, as predicted, sagged sideways, rolling into his father’s arms.  “Ideally he would be positioned on his stomach for this, but I’m afraid that would put an uncomfortable amount of pressure on his rib fractures.  Can you hold him?”

“You tell me what to do, Doc, and I’ll do it.”

The compromise they reached was to position John on a straight-backed chair with his son on his lap, face tucked in against  his father’s neck, oxygen mask held in place by the angle of John’s jaw.  He had threaded his arms through Dean’s armpits, grasping his own forearms behind the boy’s back to steady him.   If he were awake he’d kill both Dr. Gant and I for even suggesting this.

 

Dr. Gant squatted behind his patient, brow furrowed in concentration.  He rested his fingertips on Dean’s back, thumbs brushing the abnormal protuberance of one displaced rib end.  “There is an actual joint where each rib rests against its own facet on a vertebral body of the spine.  The cartilage there is rich with nerve endings -- more so than even the periosteum sheathing the bones themselves.  That’s why this type of dislocation can result in a higher level of pain than actual fractures.”

That’d be interesting if I actually cared.  Get the fuck on with it.

The doctor inhaled deeply, and John realized what the chatter had been about: the man was stalling.

“He may feel this.”

John watched over Dean’s shoulder as the doctor pressed with both thumbs, his face contorted in a sympathetic grimace.

 

Dean reacted as if he’d been tagged with a cattle prod, back arching, legs kicking out so hard he nearly tipped them both over in the chair. His shocked keen was muffled by the mask, but in its wake John could hear “Don’t. Please. Don’t,” sobbed out with each desperate pant.

 

John held him tighter, whispering, “It’s okay, kiddo, it’s okay.  He’s helping you.  Just a couple more like that, and then it won’t hurt anymore.  Okay, Dean?  You’re going to be okay.”

“We’ll give him a minute to let the drugs take him back under,” the doctor offered.

John closed his eyes, feeling the dampness of his lashes against his cheeks.  “How many?”

“Just three more.”

Jesus Christ.  “I think he’s out again.”

 

But either he was not as deeply sedated this time or the next rib was more sensitive, because with the press of the doctor’s thumbs, Dean stood, hands scrabbling as if he were doing everything in his power to climb over his father and get away.

John fought to hold him, his frantic assurances of “It’s okay!  He’s helping you!” going unheard as the oxygen mask became dislodged and Dean’s cries of “No! God! -- Stop!” overrode his father’s gentle voice.

 

“Dean!  Stand down!”

 

The command reverberated in the abruptly silent room as Dean immediately submitted, trembling in his father’s arms, stifling his sobs against his mentor’s neck.

Tears streamed down John’s cheeks.  “Can’t you give him something else?  Or more of something that he's already had?”  As a former medic he was pretty sure he knew the answer, but as a father, he had to ask.

The doctor’s face had paled.  “Not without knowing more about internal damage, and not with my limited supplies.  It’s just too risky.”  He glanced away, licking his lips nervously.  “We could transport him to a hospital…”

“He’s got pellets in his chest.” Reading the doctor’s puzzled expression, John added, “Salt rounds, but the hunter who shot him mixes consecrated iron into his loads.”

“I see.”  He rubbed his hands over his thighs.  “We’ll wait a bit longer than last time.”

 

John pulled his trembling son in closer, rocking them both the way he had when Dean was an affectionate little toddler trying to convince his dad to let him sleep -- Right here, Daddy!  Right here! -- in the rocking chair, on his father’s lap, instead of in his crib.

 

His mind drifted to Caroline, and the choice he’d made.   Told her I’d risk losing the boys to avenge Mary’s death.  Never imagined this.  Would never have chosen this.   He turned his head, pressing his lips to his son’s temple.  And I can’t...I can’t risk losing them, either.

 

I was wrong, Caroline.  I was wrong.

 

But he didn’t know  how to make it right.

 


 

 

Chapter Text

 


 

 

“One more, buddy, just one more.  You’re doing so great.”

 

This time Dean had not tried to stand but had, instead, curled inward, breath escaping in a scream so tight and airy it was nearly a whistle, fingers tightening on John’s shoulders in a bruising grip, forehead grinding in desperate agony against his father’s collar bone.

 

John grimaced, wanting to scream right along with him.  

“Dad --”

The choked sob prompted him to shift his palm to the back of Dean’s head, rocking him.  “Shhh, shhh.  Almost done.  You’re going to feel so --”

He felt his son’s body convulse and pulled Dean’s face away from his chest just in time to prevent the boy from inhaling his own vomit.

 

Black vomit that burned John’s skin.

 

“Doc?”  The lone syllable vibrated, telegraphing John's sudden fear.

He turned Dean’s head to show the physician the dark liquid clinging to the young hunter’s lips.

The doctor shot to his feet, gripping his patient’s chin, tilting his head back and lifting each eyelid in turn.

 

His once-green irises were shot through with red.

As Dr. Gant watched in horrified fascination, the red darkened to black.

 

“Mr. Singer told me that Dean had been injured while fighting vampires.  Is that true?”

 “Yeah, but the black --”

 “Vampire blood.  His body is trying to turn, but something’s --”  He returned to Dean’s back.  “I’ll finish this.  We need to get him on the table and strapped down before he turns.”

He squatted, positioning his thumbs at the last displaced rib-head.  “If he tries to stand this time, let him.  We’ll use the momentum to get him on the table.”

 

John blinked, his mind struggling to catch up.  “Turns?”

 

He wasn’t prepared when Dean screamed, rocketing to his feet, and the young man’s shoulder struck John under the jaw, driving his head back.  He staggered, legs tangling in the over-turned chair, and tumbled backwards.

Dean spun, whites of his eyes shot with red, fingers curled into talons, and shrieked at Dr. Gant, an inhuman sound that froze the stunned man’s blood in his veins.

 

“Dean!”

 

The feral hunter turned at the commanding tone, an act of instinctive obeisance.

John pointed to the table, willing his hand not to shake.  “Lie down on your back.  Now!”

 

The red eyes swam to black, then green.

 

Dean blinked twice.  His brow creased as his gaze swept from the physician, now sitting on the floor with his mouth open, to his father, also on the floor but looking extremely angry, to the examination table that his father was pointing to.

 He closed his eyes against the sharp slices of pain radiating from his fractured ribs, curling his arm against his side protectively.  He inhaled, luxuriating in that simple pleasure, then turned to do his father’s bidding.

 

John rose to his feet, moving to stand beside his son.  He placed one hand on the boy’s bicep, the other on his forehead, noting how cool that skin had become.  It’s just because he was sweating so much.  He’s not...he’s not turning.

 

Dr. Gant joined them.  “We’re going to strap you down, alright?  You may experience convulsions, and we don’t want you to get hurt.”

Near-frantic eyes sought John’s. “Dad?”

John rested a hand on Dr. Gant’s wrist.  “He really hates being tied down.”

The doctor searched his face, wondering at the threat in the man’s voice.  “But he --”

“I’ve got him."  The low growl held death in its abrasive tones.  "No restraints.”  

 

The doctor licked his lips.

 

The hands that reached for the bandage around his patient’s neck were shaking.  “What’s under here?”

“I don’t know.  Went to feel his pulse, got a handful of congealed blood.  Seemed to have stopped, but I didn’t want a clot to dislodge and start him bleeding again.”  John bent closer.  “Hell, I don’t know for certain that he ever was bleeding.  Might be vamp blood.”

Dr. Gant stepped way, returning with a shining stainless steel bowl and a bottle of disinfectant.  “Could you turn your head, please?  I need to clean this up so we can get a look.”

Dean did as the doctor had asked, rotating his face toward his father, who gifted him with a warm smile.

“You are one tough son of a bitch, Dean.”  He ruffled his son’s hair, an act Dean had not allowed since the day he started putting gel in it, but Dean just twitched his lips in a weak approximation of a smile.

 

“Were you bitten, Dean?”

 

The hunter closed his eyes, trying to remember.  “I don’t know.  It was crushing me.  I couldn’t breathe, started to pass out.  I did hear it scream, though, right before it threw me.”

Dr. Gant looked up at John.  “There’s a bite here -- a nasty one.  Tore through his jugular vein.”

Dean’s eyes widened, and he started to lift his head.

“Easy, Dean, I need to look a little more.”

His eyes shot to his father’s.  John gave him a reassuring nod -- I got you, kiddo -- and he relaxed.

“It’s sealed.  Part burnt -- cauterized -- and part scar tissue.”  He shook his head.  “I can stitch the muscle and skin, but the vein...well, that doesn’t need anything.”  He looked up at the famous hunter standing across the table from him, hoping the man could provide some answers.  “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Vampires heal,” he muttered, voice low, but it carried, and Dean’s eyes widened in alarm.  John shook his head, fingers spreading in a negating wave.  You’re not.

The doctor produced a pen light.  “May I see your eyes, Dean?”

 

The young hunter turned obediently.  He winced, squeezing his eyes shut with the first lancing illumination, but then opened them again. Black rivulets drained from his irises.

 

“Did you see that?”  Dr. Gant directed the question to his patient’s father.

John licked his lips.  “Do it again.”

The doctor snapped his penlight off.

“Dean, close your eyes.”

Confusion and apprehension were not enough incentive to disobey his father, and the brilliant green irises disappeared beneath thick lashes and reddened lids.

John held a hand up, stilling the doctor’s motions.  “Okay: open.”

 

Red streaks marred the natural verdance.

 

“Light,” John demanded quietly.

Dean jerked, squeezing his eyes closed as he turned his head away, then returning to the position his father had placed him in, opening his eyes reluctantly, submitting to the stabbing beam.

 

Black had replaced crimson.

 

As the two men watched, that, too, faded.

 

“What the hell?” John breathed, and fear spiked through each of them.



Chapter Text



“I’m gonna call Bobby.”  John started to walk away from the table as he pulled out his cell phone, and Dean caught his wrist.

 

“Don’t...don’t leave.”

 

John read the terror in his son’s eyes and placed a hand on the boy’s forehead.  “I won’t.  I’ll stay right here.  Singer!”

Bobby, recognizing the number, had picked up immediately.

 

Dr. Gant drew Dean’s attention.  “I need to look in your mouth.”

Dean drew a shaky breath before opening obediently.  The doctor shone the light around, introduced a tongue depressor which he first used to examine his patient’s vocal folds -- “Say ‘aaahh’” -- then slid under his upper lip, raising it carefully.

Dean waited until the doctor straightened.  “See any fangs?”

The physician shook his head, and Dean exhaled, releasing a grip on the edge of the table that he didn’t even know he'd had.

 

John slapped his phone closed.  “Deadman’s blood, consecrated iron, and salt.”  He waved a hand, gesturing at his son’s prone form.  “He’s got all of that in  him.  Bobby thinks it’s messing with the vampire blood, fighting it off, but we need more if we’re going to make sure he doesn’t…”

Dean swallowed.  “So how do I….”

John held up a shotgun shell.  “I’ve got a couple left.  The iron’s not consecrated, but it is coated with deadman’s blood.  We can dissolve some salt in holy water, inject that like a saline drip….”  He looked to Dr. Gant for confirmation.

“I...I don’t know.  It won’t be sterile.  We could introduce infection --”

“Or I could turn into a freaking blood sucker!  Fucking infect me, damnit!”

“Or sepsis, Dean, which is deadly!”  Dr. Gant chewed his lower lip, fingers drumming on the table.  “Vampire blood can heal...and the pellets in your shotgun shell can’t go into a vein.  Let’s pack the wound in his neck with the contents of one shell; we can replace it every hour or two until we run out.  How long did Mr. Singer think it would take for the vampire blood to run its course?”

“He doesn’t know.  Hell, we don’t even know if this is going to work, or even needs to be done!  He says there’s no cure once the vamp blood is in  you, and the only reason he can see for this to be happening is that Dean had that other stuff in him before the vamp blood was introduced.”

“Remind me to thank Travis for shooting me.”

Dr. Gant’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, and John chuckled.  “Feelin’ better, son?”

“Yeah.  I can breathe.  Feels pretty amazing.”

 

John’s smile faded.

 

“What?”

John shook his head mutely.

“Your eyes are red,” the doctor supplied, voice choked.

“Light!” John snapped, and the other two men jumped, startled.  “Your light made it clear up, remember?”

“Geez, Dad, it’s already bright as balls in here.”

“But maybe the wrong light -- the wrong wavelengths.  Light doesn’t bother vamps, sunlight does!”

“It’s a long way ‘til dawn, Dad.”  Dean had closed his eyes and brought an arm up, draping it over  his forehead.

Ignoring him, John turned to the doctor.  “What other lights have you got?  Anything that’s not fluorescent?”

“I -- I’ll see what I can find.”  He turned to go, then turned back.  “Fill that wound!”

“Good call.”  He moved around the table to gain access to the right side of his son’s neck.  

Dean had his wrist against his mouth, fingers dangling over the bite wound.

“Turn your head, kiddo.  I gotta --”

 

Dean complied, curling onto his side to empty the contents of his stomach onto the floor in a violent, blue-black fount.

 

He lay back, right arm pressed to his side, sweat standing out on his brow.  “Jesus Christ, that hurt.”

John shook his head.  “I bet.  Let’s hope this freakin’ cure works fast.”  He opened the shell.  “Sorry.  This probably won’t hurt as bad as filling it with salt would, but I doubt it’ll feel good, either.”

 

He dumped the contents of the specially prepared round into the rent in his son’s flesh.  

 

Dean immediately stiffened, gripping the sides of the table with both hands, tendons standing out in his neck as he strained against a scream.

A dark, gelatinous material was developing in the wound, crimson tendrils of smoke rising from it.

Dean’s hand shot toward his neck, and John caught it.  “Burns,” he moaned, but John held on.

“That means it’s working.  Let it go.” He pushed Dean’s arm back down, pressing his fingers around the edge of the table.  “Just hang on, Dean.  Hang on.”

John quickly wrapped a bandage around the area to secure the contents.

 

Dean was rigid, every muscle straining, sweat once again sheeting his skin.

 

Dr. Gant returned with a pair of table lamps and one floor lamp.  “Plug these in.  I’ll get the saline ready.”

“You have holy water?”

The physician spared an annoyed look for the ragged hunter.  “I’ve been treating our kind for the past fifteen years.  Of course I have holy water.”

John turned on all three lamps, wishing he could see his son’s eyes, but they were screwed shut, his face contorted in a rictus of pain.

Will this poor kid every catch a fucking break?

Dr. Gant returned, sliding a catheter easily into a vein distended from exertion.

 

The small amount of hemorrhage the puncture created was black.

 

John’s mouth went dry.

 

The physician ignored all of it, connecting the tubing leading to a fluid bag that he had hung from an IV stand.  

“That looks like a regular bag of fluids.”

“I recycle,” Dr. Gant offered.  “Save the empty bags.  It takes forever to refill them; I have to inject through the port -- “ he touched the rubber disc near the bottom of the bag -- “and I can only do sixty cc’s at a time.”  He checked to see that everything was running properly.  “I boil the holy water first --”

 

He broke off as the scream that started behind Dean’s teeth erupted in a strangled shout, ending abruptly as his back arched and his heels began drumming on the table.  

 

“He’s having a seizure!”

John threw himself across Dean’s torso, preventing him from falling off of the table, and Dr. Gant scrambled to pull fluid from a dark bottle into a syringe.

“Pentobarb?”  John asked through gritted teeth, naming the anticonvulsant he’d been taught to use.

“No, I don’t  have any, damnit!  It’s just diazepam!  Valium!”  He injected half the contents of the syringe, watching as Dean’s movements slowed, weakening.  A few more cc’s, and the young hunter had relaxed entirely.  “It doesn’t last as long as a barbiturate, but it is usually effective in the short term.”

John straightened in cautious increments, alert to signs of an impending convulsion.  “I wish we knew --”

 

He reached for Dean reflexively as his son lurched onto his side, spilling more blue-black fluid onto the floor.  

 

He rested a hand on Dean’s shoulder, thinking the spasm was over, prepared to console him, when Dean groaned, curling in on himself as vomit geysered from his nose and mouth.

He coughed on the end of the stream, twisting onto his knees, right arm tight against his side and gripping his abdomen, his whispered “Dad” so desperate and weak that it broke John’s heart.

And then he was vomiting again, wave after wave of abdominal contractions bowing his torso, jaw opening so wide John would swear he heard it crack, dark blue fluid erupting from him in waves until it covered the floor.

 

If that had been blood, he’d be dead.  Where does all that volume come from?

 

The spasms finally released him, and Dean slumped weakly to the table, elbow still pressed against his shattered ribs.

John placed a hand on the boy’s sweaty back, only then realizing that what he thought were tremors was actually sobbing.

 

He braved the foul liquid to squat down by his son’s face.

 

“I’m sorry, Dad.  I’m sorry.”  He fought to control his breathing.  “Just hurts so fucking bad, and I’m tired, and I want it to be done.  I’m sorry.”

Jesus.  John took one of Dean’s hands in his own, pressing his lips to the boy’s knuckles as he stroked his fingers through his son’s hair.  “You got nothin’ to apologize for, Son.  You are the toughest son of a bitch I’ve ever seen, puttin’ up with all of this and barely making a sound.  Ain’t anybody but you and me here right now, and it’s okay to cry.  Just let it go.”

Dean groped blindly for his dad’s lapel, pulling himself across the few inches that separated them to bury his face in the warm comfort of his father’s neck, and sobbed  until there was nothing left.


Exhaustion kept him complacent as the older men cleaned the pellets from the wound in his neck, clapping one another on the shoulder when a new application of that portion of their antidote did not produce the burning black gel that it had previously.  

Once Dean had passed the penlight test -- no light sensitivity, no red-shot irises -- they let him drift while they cleaned him up.

“I’d like to move him to an actual bed.  He’d be more comfortable.”

John lifted his son’s head, sliding a pillow beneath it.  “Let him sleep.  I’ll stay with him.”

Lactated Ringer’s Solution replaced holy water and saline in the IV drip.  “He’ll need at least two liters after all of that,” Dr. Gant observed, gesturing at the still-wet floor.  “Three certainly wouldn’t hurt.”

“I’ll keep an eye on it.  Just leave a couple bags out.  I know how to change them.”

They had pushed the examination table up against one wall, and a recliner was snugged up along the other side.  John leaned back in the comfortable chair, sighing, his right hand wrapped around Dean’s wrist.

“Are you certain you don’t need anything else?”  The combination of playing both host and physician had Dr. Gant feeling distinctly uneasy at leaving his guest and patient in such unsatisfactory accommodations.

 

John squeezed his slumbering son’s arm.  “Got everything I need right here, Doc.  Thanks.”

He closed his eyes, a rare expression of peace softening his features.

 

That vamp got away, and I forgot about the damned feeders in that basement.

John’s habitual lines of tension returned.

Chapter Text


 

Exhaustion coupled with a hefty dose of morphine kept Dean comfortable enough to sleep all the way to Caroline’s.

“He needs rest, and good food.  And I need….”  John broke off to run a  hand over  his face, pressing the tears back before they could fall.  “I hit him again.”  Shame fractured the words.

“How bad?  Does he need a doctor?  A hospital?”

“No, no.  This isn’t from me.  We took out a vampire nest; one of them messed him up pretty bad, but he’s been given the all-clear to travel by the doc I took him to.  IV fluids, pain meds, antibiotics...we spent the night there.  He just needs rest now, and time.”

He could hear the relief in her words: “Good, good. I told you I’d take my hunters when I could get them.  I’ll  have the guest room ready; you’re welcome to stay as long as you need to.”

He had to clear the emotion from his throat before he could speak.  “Thank you, Caroline. I owe you.”

“We’ll talk about that when you get here.”  

His chuckle was low, deep, and sensual.  “Yes, ma’am.”



 

 

“Jesus, Bobby! How long?”

Bobby lifted his cap, raking his fingernails over his scalp before settling it back into place.  “I dunno, kid.  Couple days.”  

“Dean almost freaking died, or worse: got turned into a vampire, and I don’t even get to see him?  He’s my brother, Bobby!”

“I know, kid, I know.”  He shook his head.  “And I know it don’t feel like it, Sam -- sure as hell didn’t to me when I damn’ near shot him to keep him offa you two -- but your dad is really tryin’.  Caroline’s is the place for that.”

Sam turned away, brushing tracks of anger and frustration from his cheeks.  “One of these times he is going to die, and I won’t be there.”  He gripped the back of a chair, shoulders hunched.  “I can’t do this, Uncle Bobby.  I can’t live like this.”

Bobby stood, placing a warm hand on the teen’s shoulder.  “I’ll text your pa, have him get Dean to give you a call as soon he’s conscious.”  The older man smiled.  “Hopefully with the morphine still in him.”

Sam laughed, an involuntary bark that sounded as pained as it did amused.  “He is pretty funny when he’s lit like that.”

“God, don’t tell ‘im that!  He already thinks  he’s the king of comedy.  Don’t want that goin’ to his  head!”

Sam inhaled, holding it for a moment before releasing a long, shuddering breath, carrying some of his tension with it.  “Thanks, Bobby.”

“‘Course.  Now back to the books, kid.  You got a final exam tomorrow, and I’ve got a huge fuckin’ mess to clean up.”

Sam gave him a quizzical look.

Bobby shook his head.  “This one’s a doozy: those vamps had a whole complex underneath a hotel.  Get this: they took people they thought no one would miss, gave ‘em lobotomies , and kept them for food.”

Sam’s eyes widened.  “Oh my god.”

“Yeah.  So yer dad and brother left a mess of beheaded vamps and a bunch of mindless people wandering around a basement that the hotel staff apparently didn’t even know was there.”

“What?  How is that even possible?”

Bobby grunted.  “Folks see what they wanna see, Sam -- and refuse to see what they don’t want to.  Remember the Holocaust?”

Sam nodded.  “So how did Dean find it?  And Dad?”

The old hunter pushed his hat up to scratch his head, wondering how much Sam needed to know.  How much he deserved to know, and how much would just wound him for no reason.  “Well, Dean got taken there -- elevator, needed a key to access the lower floors, and the panel it went in wasn’t marked.  Your dad went in lookin’ for him, got in the elevator to go check the higher floors, and found Dean’s flannel layin’ there.  Front desk didn’t know nothin’ about a key or  a basement.  Your dad hit the stairs, came to a blank wall at the bottom, kicked his way through it.”

The whole thing ran through Sam’s head like a scene from a movie.  

“According to your dad, Dean was in some sort of conference room with about a dozen vamps, all writhin’ and screamin’ from the dead man’s blood they’d had shot into them.”  Bobby had explained that little detail the night before after Sam overheard some of what John and Bobby were discussing on the phone.

“Coating the pellets was a pretty brilliant idea.”

Bobby grunted.  “Ya think that brain of yours was some kinda mutation?  Yer dad may be a plumb asshole sometimes, but he’s smart as hell.”

“Dean, too.  Maybe not with school, but he’s got Dad’s kind of smarts.”

The older man nodded.  “Trouble is, one of the vamps -- a big one, from what your pa said -- got ahold of Dean, messed him up pretty bad.  He was havin’ trouble breathin’, so they had to leave a roomful of beheaded monsters behind and get Dean some help.”

Sam shook his head.  “So if any of those people wandered upstairs, or someone found the hole Dad made…”

“Yeah.  Cops find a monster every now-and-then; it’s pretty impossible to prevent.  But a dozen of ‘em?  Beheaded?  And a buncha invalids wanderin’ around, actin’ like zombies?”  The hunter sighed heavily.  “I don’t think it’ll come down on us directly, but it sure could make life interesting for a bit.”

Sam chewed his lip, running scenarios through his head.  “Dad’s retired military: his prints are on file.  And there may have been cameras in the hotel, especially the elevator.”

“Not the elevator,” Bobby corrected.  “Unless the vamps were the only ones to ever see the footage.  And probably not the lobby, either, if they were bringing their feeders in through there.”

“Good point.”

“Hard to pick up useful prints from a public place, so that part don’t worry me too much.  Mighta left somethin’ in the basement, though, and that would be bad.   Real bad.”

“So what are you going to do?  Should we go...I don’t know.  Clean up, or something?”

“I got Martin on it.  He was already on the way.  Countin’ on that lone blood-sucker to have high-tailed it outta there, but I’m worried.  Don’t want Martin gettin’ killed -- or arrested.”  He checked his watch.  “He’s s’posed to call me when he gets to the hotel.  Should be hearin’ from him any time  now.”

Sam sat down to an open textbook.  “Well, keep me in the loop.  I’ve got a final tomorrow, but if we have to go help keep Dad and Dean out of jail, we’ll go.  I’ll figure out how to make up the test.”

Bobby patted him on the shoulder.  “Yer a good kid, Sam.  Stanford don’t know how lucky they are.”

 


 

 

Caroline opened the door to an exhausted father with his wobbly son’s arm draped over his shoulders.  “Hey, Caroline.”

Dean unleashed the full Winchester grin on her.  “You are really hot, you know that?”  He swirled his finger around the back of his head, indicating her bun. “Got that whole librarian thing goin’ on.  Sexy as hell.”

John’s face was as red as his host’s.  “He’s...uh...got a lot of morphine in him.”

Caroline smiled. “We better get him into bed, then.”

“Oh, hell yeah!”  He winked lasciviously at the older woman.

“Dean.”  John’s voice held an unquestionable, if gentle, censure.

Dean’s face fell.  “Yeah.  Sorry.  Prob’ly couldn’ get it up right now anyway.”

John muttered “Jesus” under his breath, casting an apologetic look Caroline’s way.

She chuckled.  “It’s alright.”  She stepped back, gesturing them in.  “There’s a guest room on this floor: down the hall, second door on the right.”

“Thanks.”

Dean winked again as he staggered past his counselor.





Chapter Text

 

“Alright,” Caroline began, settling onto her stool with her hands wrapped around her customary mug of tea, “tell me what’s on your mind.”

 

John sighed heavily.  “Well...aside from Dean nearly getting turned into a freaking vampire and getting beat to hell by one, too...I hit him again.”  The last was spoken very quietly, the hunter’s head slung low between hunched shoulders as if expecting a blow himself.

 

Caroline waited.

 

John turned his tumbler in his fingers, watching the amber liquid rush to keep up.

 

Caroline sipped her tea delicately.

 

I hate how she does that.

 

John sighed again.  “Sam didn’t want to go on the hunt.  He was --  he outright challenged me.  Said, ‘Make me.’”  John sipped at his Blanton’s.  He set the glass down, shaking his head.  “I lost it.  Just...saw red.  Went after Sam, and Bobby stepped in.  I brushed him off -- he got hurt by some evil succubus.  He tell you that?”

 

Caroline shook her head.

 

He shrugged.  “Anyway, next thing I know, Dean’s between us, blocking my punches, pushing me away from Sam….”  He tossed back the whiskey, then poured himself another shot.  “I decked him.  Dean, not Sam.  Kneed him in the balls.”

 

Caroline set her cup down carefully.  “What did Dean do?  How did  he react?”

 

John shrugged.  “He just...I don’t know.  Caught his breath, then left with me.  We went off to take care of the vamps, Bobby and Sam stayed behind.”

 

Caroline chewed her lip, thinking.

 

“What?”

 

“I don’t remember you ever telling me about a time that you almost hit Sam.  Has that happened before?”

 

John looked away, shrugging.  “I shook him a little once.  Didn’t hit him, though.”

 

“Oh?”

John sighed.  “We were on our way to a hunt.  He didn’t want to go, kept talking about not missing school or being to tired and needing to get homework done.”

 

“When was this?”

 

“Last hunt he and I were on.”

 

“And where was Dean?”

 

“At Bobby’s.  Bobby got hurt, not too bad, but he needed someone with him for a bit.”

 

“Had Sam balked at going on hunts before this?”

 

“Yeah, but usually I don’t need him.  I know he doesn’t like to go, so I don’t ask.  He just does research for us.  He likes doing that.”

 

“I see.  So he objected to going on a hunt, and you…”

 

“Just shook him by his jacket, shoved him against the door.  Didn’t hurt him.”

 

“And did he go on the hunt?”

 

“Yeah.  Vampire nest; there were some other hunters there, too.”

 

“Did anything significant happen?”

 

“Yeah.”  John poured himself another whiskey.  “A vamp took Sam.  Was going to use him to build a herd of feeders, apparently.”

 

Caroline’s eyebrows shot up.  “They do that?”

 

John shrugged.  “They must.  The nest Dean and I just busted up was doing the same thing.”

 

“That’s highly disturbing.”

 

“Tell me about it.”

 

“So, did Sam get hurt?”

 

“No.  Just shook up.”

 

“And this last hunt, that was the first one since Sam’s experience of being kidnapped, and it also involved a nest of vampires?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Caroline stared at him through three ticks of the clock on her kitchen wall, then blew out a loud breath.  

 

“What?”  The hunter was clearly irritated.

 

“I just....You’ve been doing this for way too long, John.”

 

“Whaddaya mean?”

 

She shook her  head.  “Sam was kidnapped, John.  He didn’t want to go destroy this nest.  You forced him to.  He went with you , someone he has always trusted to keep him safe, and he ended up in a position where he was taken away from you and could have been killed.”

 

John stared down into the amber comfort of his drink.

 

“And your answer to that was to try to make him charge into another nest of vampires?  With you?”

 

“Dean was going this time,” he offered lamely.

 

She sighed heavily.  “This obsession...I know you said that you were choosing to avenge Mary’s death, and that you knew it might cost you your sons, but these vampires didn’t kill your wife, John.”

 

He glowered at her.  “No, but they were killing other people!”

 

“And doing something about that is your passion.  It’s  not Sam’s, and to ask him to risk  his life and well-being for something that he doesn’t believe in...that can’t end in anything but death or disavowal.”  She leaned forward.  “Do you hear what I’m saying?  If you continue on this path, you are going to lose him.  You will either get him killed, or he will leave to go his own way, most likely severing all ties with you.  And, since his older brother is painfully loyal to you, he will very probably lose touch with Dean, as well.  And I don’t know if Dean will survive that.”  

 

She sat back.

 

“He’s going to leave no matter what I do.”  The man’s head was bowed so low his bangs brushed the edge of his tumbler.

 

Caroline allowed her voice to take on a gentler tone.  “What do you mean?”

 

“Sam’s gonna leave.  Been seein’ it comin’ for a long time.  He hates this life.  Always did.  And somehow...I don’t know.”

 

She waited, watching him.

 

“I guess I just...always knew.”  He slid the tumbler on the countertop, spreading the condensation that had pooled around the bottom of the glass.  “We got him out of that house.  Me and Dean.  And somehow I always knew that it would be me and Dean, trying to make the world safe enough for Sam to...be who  he was supposed to be.”

 

“That’s a pretty heavy burden to place on Sam.”

 

John looked up, startled. “What?”

 

Caroline spread her hands.  “You’ve forced him to play the master, with you and Dean as his servants.  That’s a heavy responsibility for someone so young.  And a terrific burden of guilt for the sacrifices you, and even more so, Dean, end up having to make.”

 

John shook his head, frowning.  “That’s not...Sam doesn’t…”

 

“How do you know?  Have you asked him?”

 

John licked his lips, eyes shifting as if he were looking for an escape route.

 

“How does he react when Dean gets hurt on a hunt?  What did he say about Dean dropping out of high school?  Has he encouraged Dean to do things other than hunt, or asked his brother what Dean would do if he weren’t a hunter?”

 

John glowered.  “Well, yeah, he’s done all of that, but that doesn’t mean…”

 

Caroline remained expressionless as she waited, watching the emotions play across the hunter’s face as he processed the conversation.

 

He turned his head, but not before she saw the glint of tears in his eyes.  “Fuck.”

 

“He is above the two of you, yet an outsider in his own family.  Now you’re trying to force him to join you on the same level that Dean has, but Sam is has not been mentally groomed for that the way Dean was.”  She placed her hand on John’s wrist.  “You’re right: he is going to leave.  And I don’t see any way to change that.”



Dean stifled a groan, not wanting to wake his father.

 

Like he’d even hear me over his own damned snoring.

 

He lay still for a moment, listening to his body scream for attention.

 

He focused on each wound individually, trying to decide which one hurt the most.  He touched the bandaged bite wound gently.   Neck still burns.  Back not too bad.  Probably be better if I wasn’t layin’ on it. He ran his hands over his chest.   Salt-n-burn not bad.  I can ignore that.  His left hand slid over, cradling  his right side gently.    Ribs.  Ribs are definitely the worst.  His right hand drifted down, cupping his testicles.   Pretty good below the waist.  Balls barely ache anymore.

 

He sighed.   I really don’t want to get up.  But his bladder had delivered an ultimatum, and he really didn’t have a choice.

 

He tucked his elbow in tightly, protecting the worst of his injuries while he rolled to the left until he could drop his feet to the floor.  He pushed himself into a sitting position, breathing carefully to push the dizziness and nausea away.

 

When he was able, he lifted his head, scrutinizing the space he found himself in.  One queen-sized bed, one grandmotherly padded chair.  Window.  Door.   I don’t recognize this room.  Caroline’s, I remember that much.  Not where we stayed before.

 

His bladder reminded him insistently that they had a deal, and pushed himself to his feet.  

 

He recognized the hallway and turned right, leaning on the wall for support as he shuffled into the bathroom.

 

It seemed to take an incredibly long time for his bladder to empty -- How many bags of fluids did they give me?  Christ! -- but the urine was a normal color, something that he was surprised and relieved to see.  

 

He shook off, then moved to the sink, avoiding his reflection as he washed his hands.

 

His next stop was the kitchen.  He was rummaging through the pantry, hoping for a can of soup, when Caroline entered, peeling a pair of cotton gardening gloves from her hands.  “Well, hello, Dean.  It’s good to see you again.”

 

He had already decided that he would pretend not to remember what he’d said to her when he arrived that morning.  “Hey,  Caroline.  How have you been?”

 

She smiled, and her eyes glinted.  “Good.  Reading a lot.”  She winked, and Dean felt his cheeks heat up.  “Can I help you with something?”

“I...uh…”  

 

Her smile deepened, and she nodded toward the pantry.  “Are you hungry?”

 

“Um...yeah.  I was...I was looking for some soup.”

 

“Have a seat. I’ll get you something, okay?”

 

“‘M ‘kay.”

 

He watched her, liking the way she moved, the flare of her hips off of a narrow waist --

 

She turned, and he looked away hastily.

 

“Tomato rice, right?  Your dad told me that’s a comfort food for you.”

 

Dean swallowed, feeling like his throat was too dry to form words, and nodded.

 

She set the can on the counter, then retrieved a glass, filling it with ice water.  She set it in front of him, and he smiled wanly.  After the first sip, he muttered, “Thanks,” not looking at her.

 

They were silent as she transferred the contents of the can to a saucepan.

 

I would’ve just nuked it, but when the warm smell drifted to him from the stovetop, Dean figured he knew why she’d taken the more traditional route.  The soup may remind me of Mom, but Caroline sure doesn’t.

 

She placed a bowl and spoon in front of him before setting the pan down on a trivet.  As she turned to retrieve a bowl for herself, she said, “It’s perfectly normal, you know.”

 

Oh, shit.  Here it comes.  He inhaled deeply as he ladelled liquid comfort into his dish.  “What is?  Liking tomato rice soup?”

 

She laughed.  “That, too.”  She settled onto a stool around the corner of the island from Dean.  “Feeling attracted to me.”

 

Cold mortification was followed by an even hotter shame.  “I...it was...morphine kinda…”

 

She chuckled, filling her bowl to provide a comfortable excuse for not trying to make him look her in the eye.  “It’s actually extremely flattering.  But it’s common with therapy, and it will pass.”  She looked up at him then.  “Honest.”

 

Think I’d rather talk about being raped.  Christ, this is humiliating.

 

“It’s perfectly normal to experience an increase in your sex drive, too, which may be a contributing factor here.”

 

Yeah, well, not too useful when the equipment won’t work.  And did I just say I’d rather talk about being raped?  I lied.

 

“Sexual assault effects each person differently, of course, but alterations in sex drive are pretty common.  Most people cycle through celibacy to near-nymphomania and every state in between.  Exhibitionism is common.  Most prostitutes and exotic dancers were victims of sexual assault before they began their careers.  Well, female exotic dancers, at least.  I’m not sure about the males.”

 

“What about the male prostitutes?”

 

“Yes, particularly those that begin their careers as minors.”

 

Dean swallowed a spoonful of soup.  “I had to pretend to be one.”

 

“What?”  Caroline set her spoon down with a clatter.

 

Oh, damn.  She looks pissed!

 

“Explain, please.”  She folded her hands in her lap, giving him her complete attention.

 

“The vamps -- how much do you know about the hunt we just came off of?”

 

“Pretend this is the first I’m hearing.”

 

Geez.  She is pissed.

 

He chose his words carefully.  “We got word that two hunters had gone missing.  Went out to where they’d been, found them dead alongside a pair of decapped vamps.  We knew there was a nest, but didn’t know how to find it.”

 

He sorted through the memories as he refilled his bowl.  “Well, they wanted to flush us out, so they killed a guy who turned out to be a ren-- a prostitute.”

 

“I’ve heard the term ‘rent boy’ before, Dean.  Please don’t feel the need to censor yourself.”

 

“Sorry.”

 

She waved a hand.  “You were saying?”

 

“A detective on the case showed Dad a website that this kid used to find hookups.  We were looking at it, and we found an ad under the ‘want to rent’ section that...well, it basically described me -- physically, I mean.  Said interests in hunting and muscle cars were a plus.”  He shrugged, avoiding her eyes.  “I called, arranged to meet the guy, he took me to meet the family, and we killed them.”

 

“That simple, eh?”

 

He shifted uneasily on his barstool.  “Well...I mean, I got beat up a little -- “

 

“Ribs broken, torso crushed, and -- oh, yes, I remember -- almost turned into a vampire yourself.”  She glowered at him.

 

Dean swallowed.  “I...uh…”

 

“I heard that it was your idea to answer the ad, to go meet the one who had placed it, and to go alone.”

 

Dean shrugged, eyes on his bowl, hands still.

 

“Were you hoping to die, Dean?  Suicide by vampire?”

 

His eyes shot to hers, startled.  “No!  God, no!  I just wanted to take them out before anyone else got killed, and they forced our hand!”

 

She leaned forward, eyes burning him like twin lasers.  “You. Are. Not. Expendable.”

 

Yeah, I am.

 

“That’s not...Dad had a good plan, and there were only two of us, so we had to think outside the box, take some risks.  But I didn’t take any more than I absolutely had to, you know?  I had deadman’s blood and weapons to get it into a lot of them all at once from a distance.  I had a blade.  I had two tracking devices on me, and Dad was right behind me in that lobby.  It was as safe as we could make it.”

 

“Do you enjoy hunting, Dean?  Do you enjoy the lifestyle?”

 

Dean groaned.  “Jesus.  You sound like Sam.”

 

“Sam asks you that?”

 

He rubbed a  hand down his face.  “All the freakin’ time.  If I get hurt, if Dad is late gettin’ home and doesn’t answer his phone, if we find cockroaches or worse in our hotel room: all the time.”

 

“And what do you tell him?”

 

Dean shrugged.  “We save people.  We’re heroes.”  He spread his hands.  “I ain’t gonna get many opportunities to do that as a mechanic.”

 

“And if there were no monsters?”

 

The skin around his eyes tightened, and every trace of humor drained from his face.  “There’d still be  human ones.”

 

“And you would go after them?”

 

He allowed his expression to be his answer.

 

“Why did you get between your father and your brother?”

 

The change in subject matter startled him, and he answered without giving it any thought.  “He was going to hit Sammy.”

 

“So?”

 

He gave her an irritated, ‘well, duh’ look.

 

“It’s okay for your father to hit you, but not Sam?”

 

Back to this again.  Why can’t everyone just mind their own damn business?

 

“It’s no big deal.”

 

“Maybe it wasn’t that time, but it certainly has been in the past.”

 

“Still not.  He doesn’t mean it.  He always feels bad afterwards.  I could stop him if I really wanted to, and  he knows it.  I almost always win when we spar, assuming I’m not injured.”

 

“So why don’t you?”

 

“Stop him?  Because.”  He shrugged.

 

She waited.

 

He sighed, shaking his head.  “He’s my dad, and that’s how he teaches me, okay?  I’m not always the brightest bulb, and I can be stubborn.  Sometimes that’s just what it takes.”

 

“So you deserved the beating he gave you that landed you in the hospital, you deserved to suffer a knee to the groin for protecting your brother -- oh, and you also told me you deserved to be raped.  Tell me, Dean: what did you do to deserve all of that?  Did you kill someone?  Rape a child?  Kill a puppy?”

 

He stood, carrying his bowl to the sink.  He began to wash it, keeping his back to her.  “I don’t know what’s….it’s just...I’d rather it be me that gets hurt than someone else.”  He turned the water off, then put his spoon and bowl in the strainer.  

 

He leaned against the sink, and she watched him closely.

 

“Why would you rather it be you, Dean?”

 

“Because I know I can take it.”

 

“Can you?  Can you take it?”

 

He turned to face her.  “I’m still here, aren’t I?”

 

“But you almost weren’t.”

 

He shrugged dismissively.  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  He picked up her bowl, intending to wash it for her.

 

“So, you’re stronger now?”

 

His tongue snaked out, catching his lower lip, pulling it in.   Eyes on hers, he let it roll slowly back out, gliding along his upper teeth suggestively.  “Try me.”

 

It was her turn to blush and look away.  “I said it was normal, Dean.  I didn’t say it was advisable.”

 

He chuckled, returning to his chore.  “Did I tell you I’ve still got a book I checked out when I was in fourth grade?” He glanced at her over his shoulder, eyebrows bobbing suggestively.  “Bet there’s quite a penalty for that.”

 

She stood abruptly.  “I should change.  I was weeding in these.”

 

She left the room.

 

Thank god.  Had about all the chick-flick moments I can stand.   He dried his hands, then scanned the cupboards before crossing to a drawer in the cabinet beneath a wall-mounted telephone.  He pulled out a thick directory, rifling through the pages until he came to a section headed “Bars/Taverns”.  Time for a test drive.

 

Look out, Ladies: Dean Winchester is back.







Chapter Text


 

Dean had showered and changed in the upstairs guest room that he and  his father had inhabited on their previous visits.  He gelled his hair for the  first time in months.  He scrutinized his facial hair, finding it a little too long and thick to pass for the sexy scruff he’d been hoping for. This looked like a failed attempt at a beard.  He shaved, hating the baby-faced effect it left him but preferring it to the alternative.

He managed it all without ever looking himself in the eye.

 

Caroline was nowhere in sight, so he left a hastily scrawled note propped in the center of her counter, a place where it would be clearly visible to both her and his father.

 

Time to get back on that horse.

 


 

The first place he went to was the type of bar he generally enjoyed: a well-used exterior that kind of reminded him of Bobby; gravel parking lot; more four-wheel drives and Harleys than cars.

He didn’t even bother to pull in.

 

The next was the opposite: the outside looked brand new, and bright yellow lines stood out in stark relief against the ink-black asphalt of the parking lot.  The closest thing he saw to a Harley was an enormous Honda touring bike with a little trailer on the back.  

He circled the building, making note of where each potential egress was located, and what obstacles would stand between it and his car if he had to leave quickly.

He parked next to some douche who’d managed to use three spaces for his prissy little Porche 911.

Dean almost keyed it on principle.

Popping the Impala's trunk, he rummaged through the clothes he hadn’t taken into Caroline’s yet, swapping out his t-shirt and flannel for a button-down and casually loosened tie.  The Fed coat seemed a bit much, so he kept his comfortable old leather.  

“Better not be some yuppy wine bar.”

He felt the uncomfortable squirm in his chest that heralds fear, and frowned.  “Jesus, Dean!  Since when are you afraid of walking into a freakin’ bar?  Get it together, man!  This is pitiful!”  

He forced himself to walk to the door.  He wiped sweaty palms on his jeans.  His tongue scraped over his lips like fine grain sandpaper.  

He stepped inside.

 


 

He wasn’t expecting it to be so bright.

 

The floor was old wood, dark and worn but  polished to a high sheen.  A bar formed an ellipse in the center of the large, open space, wrapped around a mirrored wall that was lined with liquor bottles.  The barstools had backs on them, and were widely spaced.  High-backed booths lined the walls on two sides, with longer tables at the front flanking the door.  A small stage dominated the back wall, and a man with a guitar stood at the microphone, singing something blues-y that Dean didn’t recognize.

Wow.  So this is how the other half lives.

He was by far the most underdressed patron in his line of sight.  

He was debating going back out to the Impala and changing into his Fed suit when a woman approached him.

Tight jeans, v-neck t-shirt tucked in behind a tooled leather belt, cowboy boots.  Kind eyes and a sexy smile.  “Hey, you look lost. Can I help you?”  She had the round tray that all cocktail waitresses seemed to carry tucked under one arm.

“Uh...just trying to figure out if there’s a dress code or something.”

She laughed.  Her eyes roamed his body, and he watched the color rise in her cheeks.  “You look perfect to me.”

Just like that, his mouth was no longer dry.  He held out a hand.  “I’m Dean.”

She shifted her tray to complete the ritual.  “Tina.  It would be my pleasure to serve you today, Dean.”  Her pupils were wide, lips slightly parted, palm warm and soft against his own.

Holy shit.     

He felt the laughter dancing in his chest, a mix of joy and relief and lustful anticipation that had become alien to him, and a smile broke out on his face.  “I could say the same, Tina.”

Her eyes flared and her grip tightened briefly before releasing him.  “Follow me, please.”

Her ass in those jeans as she walked away was a thing of beauty, and he felt himself hardening.  Thank god!  Houston, we have lift off.

She looked over her shoulder, caught him staring, and smiled broadly.  “Do you have a preference on where  you’d like to sit?  I’ll put you anywhere except the bar.  I don’t get to work the bar.”

Anywhere that lets me watch that ass.  “I like to watch people.”

“Front corner it is.”

She led him to the first booth against the wall, and  he slid into it, grateful for the clear line of sight he had to the door as well as a nice view of the majority of the room.  “This is perfect.”

She licked her lips, and he followed the motion with his eyes.

“There’s a menu there,” she pointed to the condiment rack on the far end of the table, “and a drink menu as well.  Do you need a few minutes, or do you already know what you want?”

He caught his lower lip, releasing it slowly while he watched her face.  “I do already know what I want.”

Her breath stuttered, then sped up.  “My shift ends at ten, but I get a break in an hour.”

“How long is your break?”

“Fifteen minutes.”

He smiled.  “I can work with that.”




 

 

He ordered one of the local microbrews, keeping it light, not wanting to risk this opportunity.  He truly did enjoy watching people, and he listened, as  well, discovering that the majority of those around him were lawyers -- explains the suits --  and that there was a courthouse nearby.

Apparently there was a major trial going on, and although no one within hearing distance seemed to be directly involved in it, they were all talking about it.  

“Be a cakewalk to prosecute -- “

“Got Abramson.  Must have pooled their resources --”

“Hope the officers dotted their ‘i’s and crossed their ‘t’s --”

“She’s insane.  Have to go after some technicality.  Can’t see any other way --”

“Female attorney to defend men on multiple rape charges.  That was a brilliant play in and of itself.”

“I couldn’t do it.  Couldn’t look those witnesses in the eye and try to get those psychos set free.”

“Male and female vics.  Don’t think I’ve ever heard of that before.  Like a gang-thing --”

 

The bottle slipped from Dean’s sweat-slick palm, and Tina was there, towel in hand.  “Go into the men’s room.   Boss asked me to clean it.”  She wiped the table in circular motions.  “The door locks.”

Dean rubbed his palms on his jeans, struggling to control his breathing, to get the laughter back and smother the cold nausea that threatened to envelope him, making his head spin.

“Are you alright?”

He glanced up at her, forcing a smile.  “Yeah.  Yeah, I’m fine.  Broke some ribs and they aren’t quite healed yet.  Hurt sometimes.”

A maternal concern that he knew how to exploit softened her features.  “Oh, I’m sorry!  Are you sure you’re okay to….”

He chuckled.  “I can work around it.”  He let the tip of his tongue show, a teasing glimpse, before running it along the back of his front teeth with his lips parted just enough for her to see it.

She swallowed.  “Okay.  I’ll be there in about five minutes.”

 

He removed himself from the booth immediately, trying to ignore the words flowing around him as he made his way to the back of the bar.

The men’s room was empty, and probably the nicest he’d ever been in.  It had the same elegantly aged feel that the rest of the bar did, and smelled like some sort of spicy after shave.  The urinals were clean, the stalls fully enclosed, and a padded bench against one wall offered a place for the more inebriated to wait their turn if needed.

Dean leaned his palms on the edge of the sink, head hanging, breathing deeply as he fought to get back to his happy place.

They weren’t talking about --  his mind struggled to find an identifier that didn’t horrify it -- Jeff’s group.  Not talking about you .

He turned the cold tap on, filling his cupped hands to splash water onto his face.

Remember what her face looked like when she said she wanted to serve you, and how she reacted when you threw it back at her.  That ass in those jeans.  Her lips.  Those eyes.

His tension began to ease.

He pushed off from the sink, glancing around the room.  A large basket sat on the counter near the door, and he pulled it towards himself, rummaging through it.

Samples of mouthwash, disposable toothbrushes, after shave, and something called ‘Dude Wipes’.

A variety of condoms.

Damn.  I’ve been going to the wrong bars.

He used some mouthwash and had just picked up a package that had “Magnum XL” emblazoned across it when he heard a knock on the door, followed by Tina’s voice.  “Anyone in here?  I need to clean it, but I can wait if you need a little more time.”

Dean pocketed the condom and stepped into the closest stall, hidden from view of any patrons that may be in sight of the door.

He heard the distinctive sound of a cart rolling on hard flooring, then the snick of a lock.

“Dean?”

He stepped out and she smiled, looking simultaneously nervous and relieved.  

“Hey.”  She looked lost -- probably the same way I did when I first walked into this bar -- and Dean approached her with an easy grin.  “I like the rubber gloves.  Kinky.”

Her laugh was a little too hysterical.  “Appearances, you know?”  She pulled the gloves off.  “I...uh...I’ve never done this before.”

He brushed a tendril of hair back from her face, fingers lingering, carding through it gently.  “Sex, or sex with a stranger?  Or sex with a stranger while you’re on the clock?”

This chuckle was more relaxed.  “The last one.”

He cupped her face, tipping it so she was looking at him.  “We don’t have to do anything, you know.  We could talk, or just make out, or I could help you clean.  It feels good just to know that part of you wants to.  That can be enough for now.”

He saw the tears fill her eyes and knew that they were washing away her reservations.  “My god.  Could you be anymore perfect?”

He chuckled, thumbs tracing her cheekbones.  “I’m far from perfect, Tina.”  His eyes roamed her face.  “You are beautiful.”

She stood on tiptoe, wrapping her hands around his neck, and closed the distance between them.

Her lips were soft and he ran the flat of his tongue over them just before their lips met, tasting cherry chap stick.  Then her tongue was pushing into him insistently, her pelvis pressed hard against him, surprising him with the intensity of her hunger.  He slid his hands down her sides, loving the shape of her, bringing his palms together to cup that mesmerizing ass.  She moaned into his mouth, grinding against him --

 

Hands, so many hands

 

And he squeezed her tighter, chasing her tongue back into her mouth, intoxicated by the heat and the softness, exploring her --

 

Soft-moist-sucking warmth

 

Her hands were roaming over his shirt, and she broke away enough to fumble with the buttons, and he untucked hers, skin like silk under his palms.

She gasped, hand coming up to her mouth, expression horrified.

“Tina?”

He looked down at  himself.  Damn. Forgot.

He tipped her chin up.

Her eyes were wide, mouth a shocked ‘o’.

“It’s okay.  It looks worse than it feels.”

“What happened?”

“Well...it’s kind of embarrassing, really.  I surprised a buddy, scared him.  He shot me full of rock salt.”

She clamped her hand back over her mouth.  “Oh my god.  That must have hurt!”

He shrugged.  “Could have been worse.  Could’ve been a real shell.”

She looked from his chest to  his face and back again, nodding slowly.  Then she reached out tentatively, eyes shooting to his, and touched her fingertips to his skin.  “Does it hurt when I touch you?”

He shook his head.  “No.  Happened a week or two ago.  Doesn’t hurt at all anymore.”

“But before you said it did.  Something about your ribs.”

“Oh.  That’s different.”   He pulled his shirt aside, showing her the darker, more recent bruising curling around his right side.  “Car accident. Got t-boned.  I was in the passenger seat. Broke two of ‘em.”  He turned his head, pulling his collar aside, showing her the bandage taped there.  “That’s where I got this, too.”

She traced her fingers along one unbruised bone, following  it to his ridged abdomen, stroking lower --

 

They are holding him and stroking him and scratching him

 

She stopped with her hand on the snap of his jeans, stretching up to touch her lips to his once more.  “Are you accident-prone, or just incredibly unlucky?”

“Both.”  He sucked her lower lip into his mouth, trapping it with his teeth so he could stroke it with the tip of his tongue.  She moaned, one hand twined in his hair, while the other traveled lower, stroking him through his jeans.

He pulled away.  “Um...the pain meds...uh...they have some annoying side effects.”

She looked down at the palm cupping his softness, then back up at him, licking her lips.  “Maybe if I…”  Both hands moved to the top of his jeans, ready to release him, even as she began licking and kissing her way down his torso.

 

the sharp nip of teeth and slick glide of tongues all over his skin, and before he can wonder if this is a vampire nest, someone is devouring his cock, soft-moist-sucking warmth

 

He cupped her skull with both hands, tugging her up.  “No, you don’t have to.  It won’t work.  Not my first time on morphine.  Believe me: nothing works.”

“But it could still feel good  --”

He dropped to his knees, hands on her belt buckle.  “I’d much rather make you feel good.”

“But that’s not fair --”

He pulled her shirt up with his teeth, lips seeking naked flesh.  He growled, “Fuck fair,” and felt her tremble.

“Dean…”  The word was breathless, her hands in his hair offering no protest, and he pushed into her, forcing her back towards the bench as he followed on his knees, opening her jeans as they moved.

Her legs hit the edge of the seat, and she dropped onto it with a startled “Oh!”

The movement brought them back to eye level, and he slid his hands under shirt.  She raised her arms, and he peeled the soft cotton off of her, groaning at the lacy bra underneath.  He buried his face in it, tonguing and biting at her nipple through the thin cloth even as his nimble fingers worked at the fastening behind her back.

Her fingernails wove electric lines along his scalp, and she cried out softly when his teeth closed on the hardened nub of the nipple that he had just bared.

“Dean…”

He eased her down gently, mouth on hers as his hands explored her body, sculpting her breasts, alternately stroking and twisting her nipples, then dipping between her thighs, pressing into a heat so strong that it radiated through her jeans, taunting her in way that made her arch up into him with a desperate moan.

“Dean!  Please!”

He growled again, lips leaving a wet trail down her body as he moved down, crouching at the end of the bench, framed by her thighs.  He tugged her pants and panties down as one, removing her boots deftly before freeing her of her clothing.

Starting at the edge of one ankle-sock, he kissed his way up her leg, stopping to lick and suck and bite every time he heard a gasp or felt her jerk under his hands.

He reached the apex of her thighs and dove in with no hesitation, tongue unerringly spearing her erect clitoris, and at her sharp cry of, “Oh, God!  Dean!” he sucked it between his lips, trapping and teasing it the way he had worked  her lip earlier.

He wrapped his arms under her, lifting her hips, settling her thighs over his shoulders, then sat back, drawing her with him so her hips were on the edge of the seat.

He licked and sucked and growled into her, lost in the sweetness and heady musk, the incredible smoothness and heat, her cries and trembling.

“Dean!”

She sounded desperate, and the nails raking his scalp while the other hand went from holding  his ear to gripping the bench let him know that she was on the edge, ready to fall.

He stopped long enough to wet two of his fingers, then returned to fucking her with his mouth while he slid those digits into her, pressing and rocking against the front wall of her tight space.

Her shocked “O-o-oh Dean!”  let him know that he had found what he sought, and he pressed harder, fingers rocking side to side against that magic knot of nerves while his mouth worked her straining nub like he was sucking on the world’s smallest penis, and she came apart beneath him.

He felt her contract around his fingers, tasted her sweet, citrus-y musk as it flowed out of  her, listened as wordless, mindless sounds of pleasure rolled from her shuddering body, and maybe he hadn’t been able to get hard or cum  himself, but this was better than that, it was the best part of sex, the thing he craved more than anything else.

 

It’s what made him Dean fucking Winchester.









Chapter Text


 

Dean helped Tina with her clothes, then cleaned the bathroom while she recovered.

He finished before she did, and he knelt beside her, running his fingers through her hair.  “Hey, Sleeping Beauty.  You probably ought to get back out there and collect some tips.”

Her eyes were glazed, and she blinked owlishly at him.  “Not sure my legs work yet.”

Dean chuckled.  “Sorry ‘bout that.”

She smiled, resting her fingertips on his cheek.  “Somehow, I doubt that.”

He laughed.  “C’mon.  I don’t want you getting in trouble.  Who’ll bring me my beer?”

He helped her into a sitting position, and she fell into him bonelessly.  “Do you have plans tonight, Dean?  Or, you know, for the rest of your life?  Because I really need to spend some time with you when you don’t have morphine in your system.”

He held her, rubbing her back, affection such a harsh throb in his chest that he was sure she must be able to feel it.  “Accident-prone, remember?  I’ve nearly always got morphine in me.  But I’d love to see you tonight, after work.  You’re done at ten, right?”

“Mmmmm.”  She nuzzled into his neck.  “I’ll give you my address.  And my phone number.  All my credit cards. My first-born child.”

He smiled into her hair.  “You have a child?”

“Not yet, but keep that up and my uterus is gonna jump out and follow you home.”

He pulled away so that he could kiss her, using something other than words to show her how good she was making him feel.  “So, meet you at your place is what you’re telling me?”

“Yes, please.”

“Eleven?  Or later?”

“Eleven is good.”  She pulled an order pad from her pocket, scribbled on it, tore off the sheet, and handed it to him.

He kissed her once more as he tucked the scrap into his back pocket.  

“There’s a back door -- “ she started to say, and he smiled.

“I know.”

 




Six hours to kill.  He blew out a sigh, giving his uncooperative dick a none-too-gentle squeeze.   She seemed okay with it, but it’s embarrassing as fuck.  I need to get this fixed by eleven.

He pulled into the park a few blocks from Caroline’s house and headed off into the woods.

 

The stream was easy to find, and he started calling out to her in his mind as soon as he spotted it.   Zell!  Zellynexxia!  You out there, Beautiful?  I need you.

He stopped when he reached the spot that he thought was theirs.  “Zell?”  He kept his voice quiet, but it still startled the birds nearby into a silence that Dean strained into, waiting to hear footsteps or a gentle voice.

Does she only come if I’m hurt?  

He pressed the heel of his palm against his broken ribs, wincing at the sensation.

He turned a full circle, senses on high alert.   Zell?  I know it isn’t exactly life or death, but it is right up your alley.  I need you, Babe.  I promise it’s safe.  Nothing’s trying to kill me right now.

There was nothing.

Shit .

He closed his eyes, deep breaths marking his countdown: Three...two...one --

He slammed the side of his fist into his fractures.  The resultant spike of agony dropped him to his knees.  His lungs locked and cold washed over him from his head to his feet, leaving beads of moisture like condensation in its wake.

His breath came back in a rush, bringing new torment.  Dean’s right arm curled against his side, and he fell forward onto  his left, blinking back reflexive tears.

Zellynnexxia... Please !  I need you!

There was no answer.

 




Dean retrieved a throw-away cell from the Impala’s glove box, dialing a number he had memorized after countless aborted attempts at making this same call.  He’d always been too afraid of the answers to ask the questions.

Even though he thought he’d be okay with the answers this time, Dean was pulling the phone from his ear, ready to end the call, when a gruff voice answered.

“Hey, Detective.  It’s Dean Kayser.”

“Dean!  How are you?”

“I’m good.”  He shifted the phone to his other ear.  “I was just wondering...umm…”

“We got ‘em.”

Dean hadn’t even realized how tight his chest was until it loosened.  “Yeah?”

“Yeah.  The packet  you gave us was excellent, by the way.  You’d make a great detective.”

Dean smiled at the irony in that.  I don’t think career criminals do well in law enforcement.

“We had enough to get a warrant.  Searched the place, but did it careful.  Collected evidence, corroborated your information, but tried not to leave a big, tell-tale mess behind.  With that we were able to get permission to plant some surveillance devices plus start tailing these guys.  Caught ‘em red-handed.  Right now they’re looking at two forty-year terms each, with  more to come.”

Dean felt his knees go weak.  He leaned against his car.  “So no parole for how long?”

“At least twenty years.  By the time we’re all said and done, more like eighty.  I don’t know whether to thank stupidity or arrogance, but re-using that house was a god-send for us.  So much DNA, so much evidence.  We’re having trouble tracking all of the potential vics down, but a few had prints or DNA on file.  We’ve already charged them with two -- you and a woman -- but we’ve got five more that are solid.  Be filing charges on those any day  now.”

“That’s awesome.”

“Well, it’s thanks to you, Dean.  So far the others have said they didn’t come forward because they didn’t remember what happened, or if anything did happen.”  

Dean thought back to how much pain he’d been in when he woke up, how much...dried fluid had caked his skin.  How long he’d bled.  How could they not know if anything happened?

As if reading his thoughts, Detective Hedley spoke.  “Apparently they weren’t as brutal with everyone as they were with you.”

Dean grunted.

“I assume since you do have some memory of the incident and you were treated more aggressively that either the drug didn’t hit you as  hard or they didn’t give you enough of it.  You may have put up more of a fight than you realize.”

“Yeah.  Maybe.”  Not enough of one.

“I’m sure I already know the answer to this, but would you testify if needed?”

“No.”  The answer was knee-jerk.

“Even if not testifying meant they could walk?”

Dean chewed his lip.  I’d know where they were. They wouldn’t walk for long.

The silence stretched out, a yawning void that seemed to pull the air from his lungs.

“We shouldn’t need you, Dean.”

He exhaled slowly.

“Anything else I can do for ya, son?”

“No.  I just...Thanks.”

“Stay safe, Mr. Kayser.”

“Yeah.  You, too.”

 

He flipped the cheap cell phone into the park’s trash barrel and drove off.







Chapter Text


 

The smell of baked chicken that greeted him when he stepped through Caroline’s door wasn’t enough to lighten his mood.  Both the counselor and his father watched him pick at his food and exchanged glances.

Caroline cleared her throat.  “So...how did it go?”

Dean shrugged, eyes on his plate.  “Okay, I guess.”

She tried waiting him out, but John didn’t have the patience.  “Where’d you go?”

Dean glanced up.  “Yuppy bar.  Turned out I liked it better than I thought I would.  They had a basket of stuff on the counter in the bathroom: mouthwash, condoms.  All free.”  He shook his head.  “Always thought rich folks were too prissy for bar hook-ups.  Guess I was wrong.”

He shoveled a forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth, hoping to end the conversation.

“Did you hook-up, then?”

John choked on his whiskey, and Dean blushed.

Caroline glared at both of them.  “It’s important from a clinical standpoint.  A critical step in the healing process.  So: did you?”

Dean stirred his peas.  “Sort of.  Yeah.”

John muttered, “That’s m’ boy,” under his breath, earning another irritated scowl from Caroline.  

“Can you elaborate on ‘sort of’?”

John put both hands up.  “Really?  We’re eating,  here!”

Caroline sighed.  “Fine.  After dinner, Dean?”

He closed his eyes.  I think I’d rather donate a kidney. Without anesthetic.

“Dean?  Answer the lady.”

Maybe she can help.  He sighed.  “Yeah.  Sure.”



This time John volunteered to handle clean-up, and Caroline led Dean to the sitting room.

“So,” she began, settling on a couch with her legs tucked in beside her, “tell me about your afternoon.”

Dean shrugged.  “Went to a bar.  Met a waitress.”   My god, this is humiliating.  “Messed around in the men’s room.  Got her phone number and a date later tonight.”

Caroline was beaming.  “That’s excellent!  Congratulations!”  She sobered.  “You don’t seem as happy about it as I would have expected.”

He sighed.  “We didn’t...I couldn’t….”  He waved a hand at his lap, then stood, pacing away from her.

He stopped in front of the framed painting over her fireplace, hands tucked into his front pockets, shoulders hunched.

Caroline waited, watching him settle.

“That’s perfectly normal, you know.”

“That supposed to make me feel better?  I’m twenty-two freakin’ years old. I’m not supposed to have to worry about this shit for a few decades, if at all.”

“It is generally temporary, and the more positive experiences you have, the better.  There are medications --”

“Great.  Do I get to be on Saturday Night Live?”  he sneered in self-deprecation.

Caroline sighed.  “Dean...it’s been, what, a month?  Almost two?”

He flinched as if struck.  “Feels like it’s been forever.”

“Well, a lot has happened between then and now.”

“What can I do that’ll help tonight?”

“Well, you could start by telling her -- what’s the woman’s name?”

“Tina, and I’m not fucking telling her that I got gang-raped by a bunch of dudes.  Christ.”  He paced farther away from her, shoulders tense.

“I was going to say ‘tell her that you want to take it in stages’.”

“Oh.”  He relaxed marginally.  “Sorry.”

“And then just take it slow.  Enjoy whatever comes, and don’t try to force it.  Pay attention to things that might be bringing back memories or putting a damper on the activities and take note of them so we can address them.”  She thought for a moment.  “Avoid alcohol and any other depressants.  Be wholly present, focused on each minute detail of the experience like you’re trying to make it a permanent memory.”

“I told her I was taking pain meds for my ribs, and that they messed with my...mojo.”

She smiled.  “Well, from a moral standpoint, I really shouldn’t condone lying, but I think in this case I’ll make an exception.  Stick with that, because frankly, it’s a brilliant excuse, because it’s flexible: if things go better than expected, fantastic, but as it stands, there are no expectations on her part, which means you are under no obligation or pressure to perform.”

He turned to her, hands still in  his pockets, a smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth.  “Well, I wouldn’t say no expectations.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“I...uh…”  HIs cheeks were so hot they almost hurt.  “She couldn’t move for like, fifteen minutes or something.”

Caroline’s face reddened as well, but she laughed.  “Well, in that case, I can’t see what you’re worried about.  Just go and enjoy yourself; enjoy her.  Heaven knows you’ve earned it.”

He crossed the room, dropping a kiss on the startled woman’s cheek.  “Thank you, Caroline.”


 

Tina's laugh warmed  him like the sound of the Impala's pur.  “Chocolate and roses?  I didn’t peg you as a traditional romantic, Dean.”

He smiled.  “Hey, it wouldn’t be traditional if it didn’t work.”

She laughed again.  “How about it we make what you did in the bathroom our version of ‘traditional’, okay?”

It was his turn to laugh.  “Should I leave these by your neighbor’s door, then?”

She took them from him.  “Of course not!  I’ll give the roses to my mom, earn some brownie points.  I have a feeling we’ll need the energy burst from the chocolates later.”

She took the roses, placing them in a vase of water, inhaling deeply and smiling.  “I’m only kidding, you know.  They are beautiful, and I really do appreciate them.  I’m just not used to getting flowers.  I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do.”

He opened the box he carried, revealing strawberries bathed in chocolate syrup.  “I don’t know about the whole flower thing, but I can give you some ideas about what to do with these.”

“Oh. My. God.”  She licked her lips, swallowing loudly.  “I think I just came in my pants.”

Dean laughed.  He set the box on the table and wrapped her in his arms.  “You have no idea how good you make me feel.”

She snuggled into him. “Maybe not, but I do know how good you make me feel.”  She pulled away, hooking a finger in one of his belt loops.  “Let me show you my bedroom.”  She took when step, then turned back. “Don’t forget the strawberries.

 

Chapter Text


 

"Wow. This is….wow." It wasn't often that Dean felt intimidated when it came to sexual experiences.

This was one of those times.

The rest of Tina's apartment was conservative. Spartan, even. So when she said "bedroom", he'd pictured a modest queen-sized bed on a frame, no headboard, with neutral-colored bedding. A dresser, maybe one chair piled with unfolded clothes. The way his bedroom would look, if he had one.

Apparently the only room she spent any money on was this one.

The walls were painted a deep burgundy with some sort of metallic gold wash over it. The ceiling was a thick version of that gold. Sconces on the walls held real candles, their rich glow reflected and magnified by the sheen on the walls and ceiling. The carpeting was a dark burgundy, as well.

And the bed.

Dean licked his lips. You've got this. You're Dean fucking Winchester. You've got this.

The bed was an enormous four-poster, only the posts were rough-hewn pillars, marked at intervals with cast iron rings, giving the whole thing a somewhat medieval feel. The sheets looked like spun gold, and the duvet was the same rich burgundy that Tina obviously preferred.

It was the restraints attached to the posts that had him starting to sweat.

"Well...I don't normally…" Tina fidgeted, and he wondered if she were actually blushing or if the color in the room just made it appear so. "I've got a guest room that I usually…." She looked up at him, expression hopeful. "But you were so 'take charge' earlier, and you're so confident...I just thought that maybe…."

He laughed, pulling her into him, her chest warm against his. He tilted her face up so he could look into her eyes. "You want me to tie you up?" He brushed his fingertips over her temple. "Do naughty things to you all over your body, and you won't be able to do anything about it?"

She shuddered and her pupils shot wide just before she closed her eyes, melting into him. "Yes. That's exactly what I want." She opened them again, anxiety evident. "Is that okay? Is it too much?"

His chuckle vibrated through them. "It's absolutely perfect."

He leaned in to kiss her, and she pulled back. "Wait. There's more."

His eyebrows lifted, but he let her go. "I have...toys," she explained over her shoulder. She opened the double doors on an armoire that he had barely noticed, and turned to him with a flourish. "Come see. You don't have to use all of it, but...you know."

Holy shit. 'Toys'? I am so out of my depth right now, it's not even funny.

Lingerie dangled from clothes hangers inside the armoire, while a variety of implements were suspended from hooks on the inside of each door. The feather ticklers and padded restraints Dean recognized. There were also masks, a variety of floggers and riding quirts, and a whole lot of things that he couldn't put a name to.

What the hell have I gotten myself into? She seemed so innocent!

"There's more in the drawers." She pulled the top one open. "Gags, hoods, stockings, gloves."

She closed it, opening the middle drawer. "Um….lube and oils and...ah...things that don't require batteries." She pushed it closed. "Bottom drawer all does need batteries."

Dean inhaled as deeply as his damaged rib cage would allow, holding it while he surveyed the display. He exhaled, hoping he didn't look as overwhelmed as he felt, and turned to her. "You could open your own porn shop. This is….well-stocked."

Her smile was timid. "You don't have to use all of it."

His gaze returned to the items hanging on the doors. "I don't think I can hurt you. Even if I know you like it. 'S not my thing."

She took his hand, pressing his knuckles to her cheek. "I didn't think you'd want to, but it's fine. I like contrasts, that's all. Hot and cold, soft and sharp, tender and rough."

Ideas were forming in Dean's head, and he nodded. "Alright. I can work with that."

She smiled, anxiety draining away. "I'm sorry. It's a lot to spring on you-"

He turned to her, eyes hard. "Yeah, it is. Now strip and get on the bed."

Her eyes opened wide, mouth a surprised 'o', trying to read him.

He winked at her, and she smiled, a flush of anticipation warming her. "Yes, Sir."


He stripped down to his jeans, wondering if the extensive bruising on his torso made him look more intimidating, then decided it didn't matter. He sifted through the options for bondage - How the hell does this even work? - discarding the more complicated pieces in favor of silk ties and hemp rope, planning on starting with one and ending with the other.

Contrasts, he reminded himself.

He crossed to the bed, dropping most of his selections beside it.

Tina was on her back, arms at her sides, ankles together, skin golden and perfect in the candlelight.

Her eyes were luminous, lust edged with fear shining out at him as he sat beside her.

He held up a wide, soft cloth, stretching it out between his hands.

He lowered it, covering her eyes, and she lifted her head obediently to allow him to secure the blindfold in place.

"Leave it."

He moved away, returning to the armoire, choosing his tools, making plans.

She was lying very still when he returned to arrange his chosen items on her nightstand, and he smiled, wondering what she must be thinking.

He knelt beside her, mattress shifting under his weight, but he didn't touch her. Instead he drank in the sight of her: thick, soft hair spread out on the pillow, lips parted on a quiet pant, tiny elfin chin, slender neck, rounded shoulders, prominent collar bones. Her arms were slender but with a hint of muscle definition. Her breasts were modest and firm, tipped with dusky pink nipples. Her abdomen was smooth, hip bones visible but not cutting, thighs strong and full, calves delicately curved. Each toenail was painted a different bright color, a sight that almost made him chuckle.

She is innocent.

He allowed his eyes to travel back up, noting the fine dew already collecting between her thighs, and the barely visible tremor in her body.

The suspense must be killing her.

He dangled the silk ties over her, allowing the cloth to caress her abdomen, and she gasped, startled.

He smiled.

He used the silk in his left hand to tease her, the touch so light he knew she'd have to strain to feel it, which would amplify the perception of anything stronger.

He trailed the silk against her inner thigh at the same time that he brought the flat tongue of a patent leather riding quirt down on her belly with a satisfying slap.

She gasped, curling toward him, fingers fisted in the sheets.

He scooped up one of her arms, sucking a finger into his mouth, and she moaned his name. He slapped the quirt down onto her thigh while his tongue worked the tender flesh on the side her middle finger, and her other hand rose to his shoulder on a squeal.

"Oh, no you don't," he growled, and in seconds the silk was looped around both of the girl's wrists, arms bound to a cast iron ring in the headboard.

Contrasts, he reminded himself, and coarse hemp secured each ankle to a ring on the pillars at the foot of the bed, leaving her spread wide.

Vulnerable.

Completely at his mercy.

He slipped out of his jeans, erection stiff and aching.

He left Tina trembling in anticipation while he moved to the nightstand, picking up an odd little spiked wheel on a stainless steel handle.

He ran it over his own thigh, testing it out. Sharp, but not painful.

He was as hard as he'd ever been. He looked over at the beautiful woman on the bed, considering.

He slipped out of his boxers.

Returning to the bed, he crawled over her, arms and legs framing her nude form.

He leaned down, bringing his mouth close to hers.

She strained upward, lips parted.

He pulled away, teasing her.

His mouth took over for the tantalizing silk, breath ghosting along her skin, lips sometimes touching lightly, calling every nerve ending to quavering attention.

When he got to her left foot he brought the wheel into play, running its sharp spikes over her tender arch while his tongue licked out, stroking the sensitive skin between two toes. Her cry of "Oh, God! Dean!" drove him on, and he worked his way up her leg, wheel leading, mouth following, while she gasped and twisted in her restraints.

He reached the top of her thigh, deliberately ignoring her swollen core, and she writhed, trying to position herself under his mouth. He smiled against her as he trailed his lips to her hip bone, sucking the taut skin there gently before closing his teeth over the protuberance even as he ran the wheel across her lower abdomen, right at the edge of her pubic hair.

"Dean! Please!" She pulled against her restraints, and he lay down beside her, body pressed to hers, allowing her to feel, for the first time, the effect that she was having on him.

She moaned, trying to push her thigh into his hardness. "Please. I need you. Please."

He chuckled against the point of her jaw, and she trembled. "Am I going to have to gag you, little girl?"

"No. Yes. I don't know," she panted, fighting her restraints. "Please…"

He took her mouth, driving his tongue into her, and slid his palm over her mons, not dipping between the hot folds there, just holding her.

She bucked up into him, wanting more, and sucked on his tongue desperately.

He pulled away, moving to her neck, and the begging began once more. "Please, Dean. Please! You're killing me here!"

He chuckled, pinching a nipple sharply with his teeth, and she cried out. He slid lower, allowing her to press into his palm but giving her nothing more. "You can still talk," he murmured against her ribs. "You're not ready yet."

"Dean!" His name was a frustrated sob, and he smiled.

Damn, this is fun!

He sat up, keeping his hand tight against her, and surveyed the few items left on the nightstand. He chose a small flogger, the handle studded with sharp rhinestones, delicate chains forming the striking end. He slapped his own thigh, and she convulsed under his hand, whimpering. "Oh my God. What do you have?"

He was surprised at the intensity of the sting that the beautifully innocuous chain flogger delivered, but noticed that it didn't last long.

He held it over her breast, allowing just the first two links of each chain to touch her, twirling it gently. "What do you feel?" His voice was sex-rough, his own ache not quite insistent enough to distract him.

"Feathers," she breathed, and he smiled.

He continued to tease her, chains tickling along her skin as she squirmed, still trying to get more friction from his hand.

She is so wet.

He slipped his middle finger between her folds, pressing unerringly on her swollen clitoris at the same time that he brought the flogger down across the soft skin of her upper arm and armpit.

The sound she made was wordless, and he grinned. Almost there.

He shifted his hand, two fingers sliding inside of her, pad of his thumb replacing his middle finger to stimulate her clit, and brought the flogger down across both breasts.

She contracted around him with another mindless sound of bliss, and he repeated the move, fingers stroking the bundle of nerves he had located for himself earlier in the day while the flogger struck rhythmically, and her cry came in a continuous roll as she contracted around his fingers repeatedly, thighs trembling with the strength of her orgasm.

He left her, panting and dazed, just long enough to fish the condom he'd snagged from the bar's restroom out of his pocket. He slipped it on, biting back a moan, and positioned himself between her thighs.

He rested the weight of his upper body on his left forearm. He licked her lips, and she turned into him, "Dean" whispering across his skin in an appreciative sigh.

He gripped his shaft with his right hand, stroking her with the head of his cock, and she moaned.

"Is it okay?" he asked, sure that he'd lose his mind if she said 'no', but ready to pull away if she did.

"Yes. Oh, god, please - yes!"

He sealed his lips to hers, groaning into her mouth as he entered her, forcing himself to take it slow, a steady press and lethargic glide rather than a single violent intrusion, and he had to pull his mouth from hers, burying his head against her neck, body shaking as he fought off his orgasm.

Hot tight wet -

She arched up, taking all of him, and he gasped, "Tina, don't!"

"I wanna feel you cum. Please." She slipped her hands from the loops he had placed around her wrists, hands skimming down his back to press his hips into hers as she thrust up, muscles contracting around him.

Dean was the one to lose his words this time as an exquisite bliss overwhelmed him, whiting out his mind, washing through him in wave after wave until he collapsed, trembling and spent.

He rolled off of her, pulling her head in to tuck it beneath his chin, and even though his tears were a mix of relief and triumph, he was grateful that Tina's blindfold didn't allow her to witness them.

No flashbacks, and Jeff's group had not crossed his mind even once.

I'm back.

Chapter Text


 

"Can I take this off?" Her fingers travelled to the knot of the blindfold.

"Hmmm…" he stroked her skin, enjoying the softness. "Not sure I'm done with you yet."

"Oh, yeah?" She jumped on him, knees landing on, then sliding off of his ribcage, framing him. "Maybe it's my turn."

A sharp agony cut through him, and his lungs locked with a crisp grunt. His hand rose to her left knee, pushing it away.

"Oh my god, I'm sorry!" Tina moved off of him as she rid herself of the blindfold to stare down at his face.

Dean's eyes were tightly closed. Sweat beaded on his upper lip.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah." The word was strained. His entire body had tightened against the pain. "Jus' gimme a minute."

She ran the ball of her thumb through the wet track coming from his right eye. "I'm so sorry! I forgot about your ribs!"

He rubbed at her leg, letting her know that he understood.

She watched until he started to relax, then carefully snugged up against his left side. "I'm really sorry. You don't act like you're hurt, and I totally forgot."

"'S okay. I wanted you to forget."

"Did you bring your morphine? Do you need some?"

He chuckled carefully, opening his eyes to watch his fingers comb through the warm silk of her hair. "No and hell no. Don't want the equipment malfunctioning before I'm done with you."

She traced a fingernail around one of his nipples. "Maybe I should take the lead this time."

A small coal of anxiety ignited in his chest. "I...uh….Get a little claustrophobic with restraints."

She lifted up on her elbow, examining his expression closely. "I thought you were new to all of this! You've been tied up before?"

He looked away. "Not for fun. Not my fun, anyway."

Her brow furrowed for a moment before her eyes widened. "Someone tied you up and...and hurt you?"

He closed his eyes, and he could feel his t-shirt abrading the sides of his face, the pressure of denim-clad knees on his arms, the mattress buttons biting into his skin. "I...it's not something I can talk about."

Her brow furrowed. "Why not?"

He thought rapidly. "It was a work thing. Confidential."

"Are you CIA or something?"

His mind filtered through several possibilities before finding one that she couldn't fact check but that also seemed realistic. "Bodyguard to the rich and-or famous." He turned his head, making eye contact. "You know when you see someone famous and there's guys in suits or whatever, being real obvious about their job?"

She nodded, eyes rounded with interest.

"Well, we're not those guys. They're important, because they give the bad guys someone to focus on, but my family and I, we're different. We blend in, fit in with the crowd, see things the suits don't have a chance to see. That's why it made me nervous being in your bar, dressed differently. We don't want to be noticed, pretty much ever."

"Oh!"

"Yeah. It's more boring than it sounds, most of the time. But every now and then…." He shrugged the shoulder she wasn't lying on. "Things go sideways."

"So the bruises and the broken ribs -"

"Well, my buddy really did shoot me, but the car accident: that was a work thing."

"And your whole family does this?"

"Me, my dad, my brother. Dad was-" His cell phone started ringing. "Shit. I gotta get that."

Tina sat up, allowing Dean to move. "A call this late is never good."

Dean grunted. "Especially since only two people have this number." He winced as he sat up, forearm pressed against his ribs, and retrieved his phone from the nightstand.

"Dad?"


"John." Bobby cleared his throat. I ain't afraid a' the guy. Just don't like deliverin' bad news. "I know you're at Caroline's and Dean's all stove up, but I need you here." He exhaled loudly. "Sam's missing again."

"What?" It was less a question than a warning snarl.

That man can go from zero to murderous quicker than anyone I know. "I dropped him at school, watched him walk in, went to pick him up, and he never came out."

"Jesus Christ, Singer!"

"I found his phone," Bobby interjected. "There's a message on it."

The ragged breath that carried down the line told Bobby that John was fighting for control. "What was the message?"

"It's a text: 'You took my family. I'm taking yours.' No signature."

"Shit. The vamp."

"That was my first thought, yeah." Bobby sighed again. "There's one other thing: I ain't heard from Martin, either."

"Shit. Shit shit shit!"

Bobby absorbed the rising anger. "I'm callin' in every favor due me, and some that aren't. We'll get a posse together, make this thing regret the day it was turned. We'll find 'im, John. We'll get him back."

"As what, Bobby? Damned thing almost turned Dean, and Sam don't have the shit in his body that kept Dean human. Dammit!"

"We'll cross that bridge if we find it, alright? You said they told Dean they were gonna keep him as collateral, and they only tried to turn him when that all went to hell. I'm guessin' this message is tellin' us they got the same plan for Sam: collateral. He won't be in real danger until we get eyeball-to-eyeball with the blood sucker, and by then there'll be too many of us." He paused, listening to the other man breathe, trying to gauge his mental status. "We'll get 'im back, John. I swear to God, we'll get him back."

"We better," the father snarled, "because this one's on you."

The line went dead.


Dean walked through the door in time to catch a weapon's bag to the chest.

"Sam's missing."

That's all his father needed to say.

Chapter Text


 

Dean was pacing like a caged lion, his mind racing.  It’s gonna turn him.  Fucking vamp's gonna turn him.  “Where is he?”

“Bobby’s callin’ in some favors, getting a big group of hunters together--”

Dean slammed his father up against the wall.  “Where. Is. Sam?”

John blinked.  “Albuquerque.”

Dean shoved away from his stunned father and went straight for the door.  “I’ll meet you there.”

“Dean --” Caroline called, but he was already gone.

She turned to John.  "Has he --?"

John shook his head.  "No.  I've never seen him like that before."

Caroline turned to the door, hand over her mouth as she watched the Impala disappear around a corner.  "It's his idea of a perfect death."

John closed his eyes, walling off his tears.

 


 

 

“Bobby.”

“Dean? You okay, son?  You don’t sound like yourself.”

“That vamp texted you on Sammy’s phone, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, text it back.  Tell it I’m on my way.  I  need a place to meet.”

“Dean, you can’t --”

“The hell I can’t, Bobby.  Just fucking do it, or I’ll find a more public way to get the son of a bitch’s attention.”

 


 

“I got an address.”

“Alright.  Tell it I’m offering an even trade: me for Sam.  I get out of my car, Sam drives off, I go without a fight.”

“Dean --”

“Text me the address.”  He ended the call.

 


 

 

He pushed the classic muscle car, her determined growl perfectly matching his own.  It was normally a ten hour drive, and even cutting that down to eight gave Dean time to think.  To plan.

He stopped and bought a few things.  Made some adjustments to his personal arsenal.

He’ll give my brother back or die bloody.

 


 

The sleek black vehicle rumbled to a stop outside a deserted gas station on the edge of town.

Dean stepped out, vibrating with tension, every sense on high alert.

“I know you heard the car, asshole.  C’mon out!”

A dark shadow moved, and the enormous vampire stepped into the light, tall enough that the younger Winchester looked like a child beside it.

“Sam!”  Dean took a step forward, then forced himself to stand still.  “Are you alright?”

Muffled sounds came from beneath the hood on his head, and Dean realized that not only did Sam have his face covered, he was also gagged.

The vampire removed the hood, and Sam looked up, eyes luminous in the still night.

His arms were behind his back, and though his face looked pale, there were no marks that Dean could see.

Dean stepped further away from the car.  “Let him come to me.  I’ll give him the keys, he drives away, you get me.”

Sam started  shaking his head, clearly protesting despite his inability to form words.

“You have given me no reason to trust you, Dean Winchester.  Come closer.  When I have my hands on you, he can go.”

Dean took another step, pulling a beer can from his pocket.  “Remember this, asshole?”  He shook the can, and a metallic rattling could be heard.  “My daddy’s special invention.  I set this off, it’ll hurt Sam, but it won’t kill him.  The deadman’s blood it drives into your sorry ass will put you down enough for me to behead you, though.”  He pulled a machete from the sheath beneath his arm, and his tone turned deadly.  “Let him go.”

“And how do I know that you won’t just use that as soon as he is no longer acting as a shield for me?”

“You don’t.  But I’ll tell you this: you keep him, you die.  You kill  him, you die.  You try to turn him?  You die.”   The young hunter's lips split in a feral smile, and his teeth glistened in the moonlight.  “This is the only chance you’ve got to get back at the man that killed your family.”  He took another step forward.

“When your brother gets to you, you will give him your weapons, your jacket, and your over-shirt.  I need to know that you come to me unarmed.”

“Deal.  Now let. Him. Go.”

The vampire shoved the young man forward, ignoring his protests.  Sam staggered, caught himself, then started walking.  He knew enough to move to the side, staying out of Dean’s line of fire.

He stopped when he reached his brother.  Dean used the machete to cut Sam’s hands free, keeping his eyes on the vampire the entire time.  Sam pulled the cloth out of his mouth as Dean shrugged out of his coat.  “Dean, you can’t --”

“Shut up and take this.”  He handed over his beer can, then sheathed his machete before handing that over as well.  He unbuttoned his shirt, tugging the flannel off.  “Happy birthday.”  He smiled wolfishly as he delivered the still warm, not exactly minty fresh garment to his baby brother.  “You thought I forgot, didn’t you?”

“Dean --”

He pulled Sam into a brief embrace.  “It’s gonna be okay, Sam.”  He released him.  “You got a graduation to go to and college to attend.”  He pushed the boy’s shoulder.  “Now git.”

“Dean!”

Eyes on the vampire, the determined older brother strode away.

 

He didn’t look back.



 

 

Dean melted into the shadow occupied by the vampire and disappeared from sight.

Sam spun out of the lot, tires skidding before gripping the pavement, and sped down the highway.  

A cell phone lay on the passenger seat, and he knew that Dean had left it for him.

He hit ‘1’ on the speed dial.

“Dad?  It took the trade.  I’m free, but it has Dean.”

 



Dean had offered both wrists as soon as he was in touching distance of the vamp, and did not protest the ziptie that was fastened down until it bit into his skin.  He submitted to the pat down, muttering, “Watch it,” only once: when the vampire ran a palm over his groin.

He listened for the sound of his Baby, smiling to himself as he heard the distinctive rumble fade quickly in the distance.  Sammy’s safe.  The rest don’t matter.

But he asked anyway.  “So, what’s next?  You gonna try to convert me to your fandom like Antonio did?  Use me as a pawn to get hunters to leave you alone?  Try to turn me again?  ‘Cause that worked so well for you last time.”  Dean sneered, praying that his attempt at bravado was enough to cover the scent of his fear.

“You took my family from me.  Now you’ll help me start a new one.”  

A hood came down over Dean’s face, and he had just enough time to register how much it smelled like Sam when something struck the back of his head and the world went away.

Chapter Text

 


 

He blinked awake, staring at a dim light seeping through the black cloth encasing his head.

He was aware of three things simultaneously: he was lying on his back on a hard surface; there were straps at his wrists, elbows, ankles, knees, and waist; and he was nude.

Panic set in immediately --

     somehow his jeans are gone, cool air on skin that should not be bare,

     and he tries to fight but he can’t,

     and  he tries to think but he can’t,

 

No no no no no no no

In his head he was screaming, but he didn’t make a sound.

He knew that he was hyperventilating, felt bile burning its way up his chest, but  he couldn’t stop it, couldn’t organize his thoughts enough to fight

No no no no no no no

A constant litany

He couldn’t do this again, he couldn’t -- not a thought: an instinct.

“Shhhhhh.”  A soft hand stroked his chest, and he convulsed away from it, tears coursing down the sides of his face to soak into the hood.  “It’s okay, Dean.  Just relax.  I’m not going to hurt you.  Promise.” She adopted a teasing tone. “Pain’s not my thing.”  Her hand moved lower, fingernails scraping gently

 

     they are holding him

     and stroking him

     and pinching him

     and scraping nails down his ribs

 

Against his will, a tremulous moan escaped him, and she stopped.

Her hand left his abdomen, moving instead to drape across his forehead.  He had a sharp but brief memory of his mom doing that to check for a fever, the image there and gone in the space of a heartbeat, but it calmed him.

She pressed, quiet and very still, as if listening.

“Oh!”  She drew her hand away.  “Dean, I am so sorry. I didn’t know.”  She removed the hood.  “Let me tell you what we’re doing here, and then maybe I can unstrap you, okay?”

He blinked in the sudden brightness, wishing he could wipe the evidence of his weakness from  his face.

“I’m not here to hurt you.  Our master does not want you damaged in any way, actually.  You’re very valuable to him, you see.” She folded the hood, setting aside before offering him a warm smile. “You’re here to breed .  He wants Winchester children -- grandchildren to your father -- that hunters won’t want to kill.  Winchesters to turn into powerful vampires; Winchesters to use as strong, resilient feeders.” She took one of his hands in her own, stroking it.  “It’s a great life he’s offering you, actually.  Much better than the one you’ve been living, judging by the memories I just peeked in on.”  She brushed a tear from his face before sliding her fingers into his hair. “No more pain or fear or loneliness.  You’ll be pampered here, Dean.  A prince, with your own stableful of concubines.”

Dean blinked, struggling to keep up.  “You...what?  I’m not...I can’t….”

“Oh, don’t worry.  We don’t actually expect you to do all of the work yourself.  I’m a succubus, you see.  A special kind of succubus: I can take a female form to collect from you, then transform into an incubus and impregnate multiple women.”  She winked at him, cupping his testicles in one soft palm.  “How many depends on you, but judging by the packaging, I suspect I can get up to ten before I need a refill.”

“I don’t….”  He broke off, part of his consciousness still trapped in the nebulous reality of a flashback.   

     he knows it’s coming

     and it shouldn’t

     and it is

     and he can’t

     and it’s wrong

 

“No!”  He lunged against the restraints, and she placed a hand on the center of his chest in a placating manner.  Her other hand rested on his forehead, and she pressed him gently back down onto the wooden table.  

She leaned close, and she smelled like whiskey and car wax, and she looked like his favorite Busty Asian Beauty model, and she lowered her mouth

If she tries to kiss me I’m gonna bite the bitch

And she smiled.  “I can read your thoughts, Dean,” but she didn’t sound angry, only amused.  “Such strong stock. No wonder he chose you.”  

Her lips parted.  The hand she had placed on his chest rose to his jaw, and she squeezed, forcing his mouth  open just enough.

A liquid orb glittered in the golden light, hanging on the tip of her rolled tongue for a moment before dropping onto his.

“Succubus venom,” she explained, her voice an erotic murmur against his ear.  “It’s going to make you feel so, so good.”

 

And in moments the restraints had turned to silken ties, the table to a firm mattress covered in satin sheets. He couldn’t identify the scent in the air, flowers and melting wax mixed with something musky and intoxicating, and with each breath he felt the delicious buzz in his body grow stronger, and this woman who was with him was beautiful, her skin the palest beige, eyes dark, long lashes dipping seductively, and he tried to raise his hands to the full, heavy breasts that were so tantalizingly close, but the silk held him in its gentle embrace, and he would have moaned in frustration, but she sealed her mouth to his, nipples pebbling against his chest as her tongue licked into him, and he was hard, so achingly, impossibly hard, and something was niggling at the back of his mind, something about that being important, but he couldn’t think of what it was, because she was lowering herself onto him, and she was hot -- he groaned -- so wet, and she began to move, and he couldn’t think, it felt amazing, each stroke sending a jolt of electric pleasure down his legs to rebound at his curled toes before shooting back up through his torso to fuzz his brain and he was close, so close, he needed more and faster and deeper and her head was back and her eyes were shut and she was breathing hard and she was close too and oh god that is so fucking hot I want her to cum I want to feel her cum while I’m buried inside of her and his arms were free and he wrapped them around the backs of her shoulders pulling her into him as he thrust up with his hips, growling into her neck

 

Her eyes went wide, her mouth forming a horrified ‘o’, and he felt her contracting around him convulsively as her orgasm struck --

 

A sheet of white blew him off the table into a wall, and he fell to the floor, stunned.

 

He instinctively curled into a fetal position, arms over his head.

What the hell just happened?

 

He strained into the unadulterated silence.

 

The room had been cleared of any odor.  He opened his eyes slowly, surveying the area around him.

There was a table, leather straps torn and dangling.

Nothing else.

The succubus, the vampire that Dean had been vaguely aware of standing off in one corner, two unidentified humanoids that everyone in the room had ignored: gone.

He pushed himself to his feet slowly, testing out his limbs, then prodded his ribs.  As was his experience with Zellynnexia, his time with this succubus seemed to have healed him.

He searched the room, but there was no trace of the other beings to be found.  Not even ashes remained to mark their passage.

He moved to the heavy iron door, sliding it open onto a poorly lit and debris-littered corridor.

It was empty.

 

They’re gone.  What the fuck?

 

Chapter Text



Dean scoured the room he was in one more time, hoping to find his clothes.  Or any clothes.  Hell, even a towel would do.

Other than a some fine grit that collected on the soles of his feet, there was nothing to cover his nakedness.

Shit .

He eased out into the hallway, automatically crouching, making himself small.  

Over the sound of his own careful breaths and his pulse pounding in his ears, Dean began to make out other noises: the creaks and groans of an unoccupied building lamenting its fate; the surreptitious skittering of rodent feet.  

The lighting at each end of the corridor was equally dim. The dust on the floor was scuffed randomly on both sides as well.  He scanned both halves, and with nothing else to go on, chose the one with the least amount of debris littering the ground.

Might as well try to avoid cutting my damned feet while I’m at it.

He put his ear to each door that he came to before trying the handle.  The first was a storeroom, shelves mostly empty, with nothing on them that he could use.  The second was stocked with toilet paper and cleaning supplies, and he made note of it in case he needed to improvise some sort of explosive.  The third was a locker room, and he shook out a pair of gray coveralls, checking carefully for spiders or worse before sliding them on over his bare skin.

He hoped that whoever had worn them last had at least worn underwear beneath them.

Finding work boots in his size would have been amazing, but Winchesters never have that kind of luck.  He did locate some cumbersome rubber things that were too large, but better than nothing.

The one flashlight he came across didn’t work.  He found a pipe wrench with a nice heft to it, and kept that.

The next door he came to led to a stairwell.  It led down as well as up.

Dad said Martin is missing.  Last time I came across this vamp, it had set up an underground fortress in the basement of a hotel.

Down it is.

The stairwell opened onto a boiler room.  The smell of decomposition hit him immediately, and he tucked his nose into the lapel of his coveralls.  I hope that’s not you, Martin.

He moved around the perimeter of the room, struggling to step quietly in his borrowed footwear.

The odor faded the farther he got from the first boiler.

He reached a door and peeked out quickly, drawing his head back almost immediately to process what he’d seen.

It had been a large room, again with little light penetrating from outside, boxy structures scattered around.

He completed his search of the boiler room, locating neither the source of the necrotic odor nor any trace of Martin.

He slipped into the second room, wrench up and ready.

The first boxy structure he came to looked like a metal storage pod that had been converted into a mobile office.  He had seen similar objects on construction sites, always up on a trailer, and knew them as the place to go to when you needed to question a foreman.

He put his back against the cold metal, reaching for the door  handle.

Locked.

Each window was covered in some sort of metal mesh, the glass painted black.

Something told him it was occupied.  Friendly or unfriendly, he couldn’t tell.

He moved on to the next one.  This one opened easily, and he was able to confirm his initial guess as to the purpose of the box: it was a portable office.  He searched the desk, hoping for scissors or a letter opener which may or may  not have contained any real silver, but was at least somewhat sharp.   Once again, he was disappointed.  A pair of paperclips went into his pocket, useful for picking locks, even if they wouldn't remove a vampire's head.

The rest of the room was taken up with stacked wheelbarrows and bags of concrete mix, a pile of shovels and rakes, and a box of brand new  hard hats.

He went back to the first container.

Since there was no way to get into it easily, and picking the lock would make enough noise in this silence to give him away, he decided to opt for expediency.

The pipe wrench took the entire doorknob off with one blow, and a well-placed kick threw the door back, wrenching the deadbolt from the wooden frame.

He flattened himself to the wall beside the now-open door, waiting.

He couldn’t make out any of the words being whispered, but the voices sounded anxious, strained.  Not like blood-thirsty vampires or calculating succubi.

He crossed to the other side, glancing in quickly as he moved.

There  was nothing to see, and nothing came at him.

He risked ducking his head in, pausing only long enough to sweep from left to right with a trained gaze before plastering himself to the wall once more, allowing the images to form in his brain.  

Nothing to the right.

Pale, frightened faces to the left.  Four or five.  Human.  Or at least, they looked  human.

He entered in a dive roll, coming up with his back against the far wall, crouched low, wrench high.

Muffled screams and shifting bodies greeted him, but they were trying to get away, not coming towards him.

He looked more carefully, wishing he had some sort of light.

Three men, two women.  All dirty, clothes ragged.  All frightened.

“Hey,” he began, and one of the women squealed.  “My name is Dean Winchester.  I was...I was kidnapped and brought here, to a room upstairs, but I got away.”  He waited, but they continued to stare, and he wondered if they spoke English.  “What about you guys?  Were you locked in, or locking something out?”

“V-vampires,” one of the men whispered.  He stretched out his arm.  Two dark, jagged-edged circles were visible against his pale skin.

“Just one?”

The bitten man shook his head.  “Three.  The big one is the leader. The other two are n-new.”

“Did they feed on all of you?”

He watched as each one nodded.   Shit .

“They killed some,” a woman offered, voice hoarse, either from screaming or disuse.  

Explains the smell in the boiler room.   “Did you see a man named Martin?”

They had not.

“I don’t suppose any of you has a cell phone?”

They did not.

“Alright.  We need to get you guys out of here, okay?  We’ll get you somewhere safe, and I’ll come back and look for Martin.”  Five pair of wide eyes stared at him, offering nothing.  Great.  This is only marginally better than leading a bunch of kindergartners from a burning building.  How the hell do I get myself into these messes?

“Just do exactly what I say right when I say it, okay?”  They nodded collectively, and he sighed.  “Alright.  Follow me.”


Dean had to admit, the extraction went much more smoothly than he had expected it to.  The people were completely silent, followed him closely but in single file, and never questioned a thing.

It was kind of creepy, truth be told.

They flattened against the side of the building at his command, and Dean surveyed the scene.  

They appeared to be on the compound of some sort of manufacturing plant, buildings spread out around a large central parking area.

Train tracks ran along one edge of the property, and a blue light glowed on a pole that Dean knew marked an emergency call box.  He pointed it out to the first man in line, the one that had told Dean about the vampires.  “See the blue light?”  He waited for the man’s nod.  “There’s an emergency call box under it.  I want you all to go over there, make the call, then crouch down and stay out of site until help comes.  Okay?”

“Okay.”

“I’m going back in to look for Martin.  Go.”

He watched the group scurry off, bodies low, eyes darting.  They reminded him of sewer rats, and he shuddered, shaking off the image.

 

They had just disappeared into the shadows on the far side of the parking lot when a vehicle swept into the lot, headlights pinning Dean to the wall.

He ducked back through the door, staying low, hoping he'd draw enough attention to keep the feeders from being noticed, knowing that it was highly unlikely.  Doesn't have to be bad news, Dean tried to reassure himself.  Could be security guards or police, just coming to check on the place.

The lights went out just before two car doors slammed.

“There’s no point in trying to hide, you know,” a laconic voice called out.  “We can smell you.  Rich, living blood, bursting with flavor.”

Shit.  A monkey wrench won’t do jack to a vampire, and there are two of them.  Plus I still need to find Martin.  

Son of a bitch.

Dean figured his best chance at hiding from the vamps was to find something that smelled stronger than he did and get lost in it.

He headed for the stairs.

 

The stench seemed strongest around one of the boilers and Dean clambered up it, gaining the top just in time to see a tall figure enter from the stairwell.

He flattened himself against the steel structure, suppressing a gag.  The smell was horrific.

“Here, little human!  Come out, come out, wherever you are!”  the vampire called in a sing-song voice.  “I’ll give you some candy!”  He laughed at his own wit.

A second voice joined the first.  “Why don’t we just lock it in here and wait until it gets hungry or tries to leave?  Be a lot easier than chasing the damned thing around.”

“Because chasing them down is what makes it fun!  And the adrenaline makes their blood so sweet.”

“Whatever.”

“C’mon, little brother!  You’re always such a spoil-sport!”

Must be a little brother thing, Dean thought.

The blood suckers were right beneath him.

“Well, we’ve got work to do, and I don’t even smell it anymore.  Let’s just lock it in, see what the master wants us to do with this one, and then come back for it.”

“Work, work, work.  You are so freakin’ lame.”

“You carry him, then, dumbass!  He’s getting heavy!”

A sound that could only have been a limp body hitting concrete reached Dean, followed by a low moan.

“Just hang here a sec and watch the door.  I’ll look around, see if I can suss the other thing out, then come back here.  If I don’t find the other one, I’ll carry this guy the rest of the way.  Deal?”

“Yeah, sure.  Whatever.  Just hurry it up.  I’m getting hungry.”

Dean could hear the smile in the older vamp’s voice.  “Hopefully I can rustle us up a snack.  Hang on.”

 

Dean was trying to decide whether or not it made sense to try to take out the vamp below him before the other one came back when something heavy landed beside him, and a familiar voice shouted, “Gotcha!” triumphantly.

The hunter kicked as he rolled, sweeping the older vampire’s legs out from under it, bringing the pipe wrench down on its head with a sickening crunch.  A thin coil of wire rested on the boiler near him, and Dean wrapped it around the vamp’s neck twice, securing it to a handle near the edge of the boiler before kicking the stunned creature over the side.

As he’d hoped, the vamp’s body weight coupled with the narrow diameter of the wire acted as a guillotine, effectively removing the creature’s head.  

 

Needing every advantage he could get, Dean didn’t hesitate: he dropped down onto the remaining vampire, landing on it just after the first vamp’s body hit the ground with a bloody thump, followed closely by its dismembered head.  

The creature beneath him twisted, and Dean brought the wrench down repeatedly, riding the thing like a it was a mechanical bull, both combatants screaming in fear-fueled rage, equally desperate for survival.

Although it wasn’t exactly a decapitation, bludgeoning the vampire’s brain into an unidentifiable pulp was apparently the equivalent, because eventually the thing stopped moving.

Dean sat back on his heels, panting, and looked for a clean place on his sleeve to wipe the blood off of his face.

He ended up having to use the vampire’s shirt instead.

He staggered to his feet, still shaking with the flood of adrenaline in his system, and moved to the man that the younger vampire had been guarding.

 

It was Martin.


Dean dropped to his knees, hands immediately roaming over the man, triaging his injuries.  “Martin.  Can you hear me?  It’s Dean.  Dean Winchester.”

The man groaned.

Dean was compiling a list of suspected problems.  Concussion.  Bite wounds on his arms and neck, so significant blood loss.  Rope burns around both wrists; left looks broken.  He slid his hands underneath the other man’s shirt.  Busted ribs, no surprise.  He slid his palms down each leg.  Both knees are fucked.  “Jesus, Martin.  What the hell did they do to you?”

The only answer was another moan.

Dean turned from the other man, patting down both dead vamps, looking for a cell phone and coming up empty.

Shit.

“Martin.” He had returned to his fellow hunter’s side, and patted his cheek lightly.  “C’mon, buddy.  You in there?  Martin!”

One eye opened; the other was swollen shut.  “D-Dean?”  

“Yeah, it’s me.  You’re gonna be okay, but I need to get you out of here.”  He glanced around, trying to remember if he’d seen anything that could be used to make a litter.  “Your knees are a mess.  I’m guessing you can’t walk?”

The beaten man shook his head.  “They broke ‘em.”

“Jesus.  Look, I’m going to grab some stuff, put a litter together, but I’m probably going to have to carry you up the stairs.  Are your back and neck okay?”

“Yeah.  Shoulder’s out.”

“Shit.  Which one?”

“Both.”

“Fuck.”  That’ll make getting him into a fireman’s carry a real bitch.  “Okay.  I’ll see what I can do.  Right back, buddy.  Hang tight.”

 

He returned with an armful of rakes and a coil of rope.  He looked over the collection of clothing available -- his coveralls, what the two vamps had on, Martin’s clothes -- and sighed, realizing that the coveralls would make the most effective sling for a hunter as tall as Martin.

He grimaced as he stripped the jeans off of the least bloody of the two vampires, relieved to find that this one, at least, did not go commando.  “Can’t believe I’m doing this,” but he shed the coveralls and tugged on the vampire’s pants.  “Makes my skin crawl.”

He threaded one rake handle through the arm of the coveralls, a second through the leg on the same side and lashed them together using laces stolen from a vampire’s boot.  He repeated that on the other side, then nestled one side against Martin’s back.  “I’m going to roll you onto a homemade stretcher, okay?  Hang tight.”

Martin didn’t make a sound as he was moved, and Dean pressed his fingers against the man’s carotid artery.  “Weak, but there.  Stay with me, Marty.  We’re gettin’ you some help.  Don’t give up now.”

He removed the rake heads from the foot ends of the improvised stretcher and started pulling his fellow hunter to safety.

 

He made it into the stairwell and set the end of the litter down, trying to figure out his next move.  The stairs took a turn, as most did, and he could look straight up to the landing he needed to get Martin to.

He jogged up to the first landing on the second floor, threading the rope around the railing, then dropping it to land beside the injured man.  He trotted back down, gripping the dangling rope and hanging on it, testing it against his weight.

It held, as did the old railing.

He spent more time than he liked getting the ropes around the litter and its occupant.  “Okay, buddy.  Going up.  Don’t fight it.”

He went back to the first floor landing, gripping the end of the rope that he’d left free, using the section above him as a pulley.

Dean winced every time the unconscious hunter collided with the stairs on the way up, but he reasoned that since Martin wasn’t responding, it had to be less painful than a fireman’s carry would have been.

He was covered in sweat by the time he tied wrapped the rope around his forearm, swung the litter over the railing, then unwound the rope and lowered the improvised stretcher to the ground.  

He cursed the rope as he fumbled to remove it, knowing that the more time he spent in one place, the more likely they were to face another attack.

His hands were shaking when he finished, and he lifted the ends of the litter, anxious to get away from that part of the building.

 

They’d made it halfway across the edge of the parking lot, Dean doing his best to remain in deep shadow, when three cars came screaming down the drive.

With nowhere to go and no time to get there, he could do nothing more than bolt towards the cars, hoping to prevent them from discovering the helpless Martin, lying senseless and bleeding in the weeds.

The lead vehicle skidded to a stop, graveling pinging off of the undercarriage.

The door opened.

 

“Dean?”

 

It was his father.




Chapter Text


 

“Dean!”  John wrapped his arms around his son in a brief but tight embrace. “We gotta go.  Cops are right behind us.”  He turned back to the truck.

“Wait!  I found Martin!  We gotta carry him.”  Dean turned to go back the way he  had come.

“Shit.”  John followed at a trot, the distinctive sound of sirens growing louder with each step.

 

“Put him in the back!”  John directed, and Dean rested the rake ends on the tailgate before vaulting in himself.  

“I’ll stay with him.”

“Keep your head down.”

John circled his hand over his head, one finger raised, then pointed to an exit at the opposite end of the compound from the railroad tracks.

Red and blue lights were striking the sides of some of the buildings as the three vehicles rolled out of the lot.

 

Dean cradled Martin’s head, doing his best to keep the other man from bouncing too violently as the big diesel sped along poorly maintained back roads.

By the time they finally stopped moving, he was feeling both nauseous and battered himself, and was thankful that the injured man had not regained consciousness.

He was surprised to see the number of hunters that came boiling out of the other vehicles.  Some he recognized, others he didn’t.  He lifted a hand to acknowledge Caleb, helping his friend and another man lift Martin, still in his litter,  out of the truck bed.  He hopped out himself, and smiled at Pastor Jim, who patted him on the shoulder on the way past.

He submitted to a patting down by his father.  “I’m not hurt, Dad.”

John continued his examination.  “Yeah, right.  Like you’ve never lied to me about that before.”

Dean couldn’t deny it, so he stood, legs slightly spread, arms out the sides, and endured.

 

Satisfied that his son was truly in one piece, he stepped back, blistering the young hunter with his glare.  “You are a goddamn idiot.”

Dean dropped his arms on a sigh.   Here we go .  Several responses came to mind, but for once his brain was ahead of his mouth, and he kept quiet.

“What the hell were you thinking, offering yourself like that?  Going in alone, unarmed?”

A hunter Dean didn’t recognize moved past them, and Dean dropped his eyes, feeling heat creep up his neck.  

John shoved his shoulder, and Dean staggered back a step to catch his balance.  “I asked you a question, dammit! Answer me!”

Dean knew that anything he said would only feed his father’s wrath.  “It had Sam.”  I thought it was going to turn him.  Couldn’t stand the thought of maybe having to behead my baby brother.

“Jesus fucking Christ!”  John threw both hands up, paced off a tight circle, then came back, fingers combing through his hair roughly.  He pulled a key on a large plastic fob out of his pocket.  “We’ve got a separate room.  One-thirteen.”  He pointed in the opposite direction that the flow of hunters had gone.  “Go wait for me.”

Dean swallowed hard as he accepted the key.  “Yes, Sir.”  He’d been given that command before.   He’s gonna beat the living shit out of me again.  But Sammy’s okay, so maybe it won’t be as bad as the last time.

He kept his head down as he trudged to the room.

 




Exhaustion won out over fear, and Dean was asleep by the time John returned.

He was a light sleeper, even in the worst of conditions, and the sound of his father’s key in the lock roused him.  The gruff, “Dean, I’m coming in,” confirmed that it really was John at the door.

Dean rolled to his stomach, pushing the covers down over his hips, not baring himself completely, but making it obvious that he had prepared for his punishment.  He pulled a pillow over his head, securing it with both arms, lacing his fingers together.  His ankles were crossed, and he was as ready he could make himself.

“Dean!  Cover yourself, for Christ’ sake!”

Dean lifted the pillow, peering out from beneath it.

Caroline was standing beside his father.

“Caroline!  Hey...uh...sorry.  I thought --”  He fumbled for the covers, tugging them up as he rolled into a sitting position.  He hugged the pillow to his chest.

“You thought what, Dean?”  She moved past John, taking a seat at the small table near the foot of the first bed.

Dean stared down at the pillow, wishing he were anywhere else.

“Dean!  Answer the lady!”

Dean flinched at his father’s tone. Closed his eyes.  I don’t want to do this.  I can’t win. “I just...Can we do this later, Caroline?”  He looked up at her, eyes pleading.  “After I get some sleep, maybe?”  He dropped his chin to rest it on the pillow he held bunched in his arms.  “I’m just really, really tired.”

“We are doing this now, Dean.   This is the same damned behavior --”  

Caroline stood, cutting  him off.  “You thought he was going to use his belt on you again, didn’t you, Dean?”

His grip on the pillow tightened.  Have to answer, or it’ll piss him off.  What can I say that won’t make this worse?  “I ….”  I hate stripping in front of you, Dad.  It’s humiliating.  “I just thought, you know….It’d save time if I was….”  He closed his eyes, trying to breathe away the hard knot of fear and sorrow in his chest.  “Wanted to show you that I was sorry.”  Was hoping you’d go a little easier if I did everything right before you started.

“See?”  John rounded on Caroline.  “I told you: he knows he screwed up.  We have rules, Caroline.  It’s how we survive.  And he broke about a half dozen of them, going in alone, no weapons, no back-up, no intel --”

“To save Sam, which is your number one, over-riding rule.”  Caroline met the man’s rage with cool logic.

John took a step forward, looming over the woman, and Dean tensed, ready to stand.

“We were getting a group together, gathering information, and we were on our way.  You know that, Caroline!  You were there!”

“Yes, John, but Dean wasn't.”

“Because the dipshit left before I had a chance to tell him anything!”

“His brother was abducted by the same vampire that nearly turned him right under your nose! Do you really think --”

 

Dean stood, bringing the bed linens and pillow with him.  “Caroline.”  

 

The calm steel in his voice caught their attention, and they both turned to look at him.  “You should go.  This is family business.  Let us take care of it.”

She folded  her arms over her chest, leaning back in her chair defiantly.  “No.  I will not walk out that door, knowing he’s going to hurt you as soon as it closes behind me.”

“It’s okay, Caroline.”  I’ve had worse.  “It’s what we do.  I’ll be fine.”

Caroline turned to John.  “This is exactly what you came to me to try to prevent.”  Her tone changed, softening, pleading.  “Think about what you are planning to do.  Is this really what you want?  Will it change anything for the better?  Or will it just drive your sons further away than it already has?”

Dean watched his father closely, ready to put himself between John and Caroline should the need arise.

John’s neck and ears were a dark red, and he stood so close to Caroline that his knees nearly brushed her chair.  He stared down at her, unblinking, with his hands curled into fists.

 

Caroline held his gaze, the pallor in her face betraying her fear while she continued her refusal to back down.

 

The older hunter spun on his heel abruptly. Two long strides carried him to the door.

He slammed it with enough force to knock a framed print off the wall.

 

Dean sat down wearily.  “You shouldn’t have done that.  I was sure he was going to hit you.”

Caroline smiled weakly.  “So was I.  But I couldn’t let him do this to you again.”

You  haven’t prevented anything, lady.  And now it will be ten times worse.  

This was not a situation where Dean felt that ‘honesty is the best policy’ applied.  “Thanks.”  He lay back on the bed, covers resting at his waist, and  slipped  the pillow under his head.  He left one arm up, knowing that the position showed off his bicep and chest.  “I’m going back to bed.  Care to join me?”

She stood, color suffusing her cheeks.  “Um...that’s not…”  She turned away. “I need to go.”

He grinned.   Knew that would work.  No sense of adventure, that one.  “See you later, Caroline.”






Chapter Text


 

“Hey, Dean.”

His father announced himself before opening the door, and Dean moaned into his pillow.  I was having such a good dream.

He sighed.  Sooner we get this done and move on, the better.

He buried his head under the pillow, using his feet to kick the blankets down.

The door clicked shut.   “Cover up, Dean."  

Shit.  He bring Caroline back?

Dean peered out from beneath his pillow.

John was alone, unloading a paper bag.  "Caroline talked some sense into me.  I’m not going to….” He shook his head.  "Just get dressed and come eat."

Dean sat up.  Food.

John glanced over.  “You hungry?”

Dean nodded, trying to read the other man.  Is he really not going to come at me, or is he just putting it off until Caroline leaves town?

John turned, retrieving a duffel from the floor.  He tossed it towards Dean.  “Brought your clothes.”

Dean caught the bag.  “Thanks.  Had to take those jeans off a vamp.” He shuddered.  “How’s Martin?”  He slipped into a pair of boxers while he talked, then pulled on a t-shirt.

“He’s a mess.  Caroline and Pastor Jim took him to a hospital.  She’s pretty sure he’ll need to spend some time doing inpatient counseling.”

“Damn.”  He found a pair of sweatpants, sniffed them, then slid them over his legs.  “What happened to him?”

“Apparently the vamp -- it called itself Angus, by the way -- tortured Martin for information about every hunter the guy knew.  Especially us.”

'Shit.”  Dean moved to the table, lured by the smell of grilled onions.  

“Fed off him, too.  Made him watch while it raped and drained a pair of women. Other stuff he couldn’t or wouldn’t talk about.”

“Jesus.”  John handed him a paper-wrapped burger, and Dean licked his lips, stomach growling.  “Thanks.”

“Yeah.  He’ll be out of the game for a while.”

Dean took a huge bite of his loaded bacon cheeseburger, moaning his pleasure.  He chewed very briefly, swallowing with difficulty, and washed the partially masticated food down with a swig of beer.  “How’d you find me?”

“Heard the feeders’ call over the scanner.  Busted our asses; beat two ambulances and at least one cop car to an intersection.  Knew they were going to the call box by the tracks, so we were able to take a direct route to the factory.  Barely beat them, as you saw.”

Dean spent a little more time on the second bite, savoring his meal.  “Glad you showed up when you did.  Who did you bring?  Lotta hunters there.”

“Yeah.  I know most of ‘em, but not all.  I swear, Bobby knows every goddamn hunter in the whole freakin’ country, and most of them seem to owe him something.”

Dean grunted, swallowing.  “His fuckin’ phones ring off the hook.  He’s always givin’ advice, playing someone’s supervisor, rounding up help for people.  He’s pretty amazing.”

“Huh.”  John unwrapped his own burger.  “I know he’s done a lot for us.  Didn’t realize he was spreadin’ it around.”

“So Bobby got all of them to come after Sam?”

“Yeah.  ‘Til it turned into you we were tryin’ to save.”  John’s voice was hard, and Dean shifted in his chair, as if he had recently felt the bite of his father’s belt.

“You wanna tell me what happened?”  It may have sounded like a question, but Dean knew it was a command.

He set the remainder of his burger down.  “You already know I got Bobby to set up a meet for me.”

John snorted.  “Yeah.  I had a talk with him about that.”

Dean winced, hoping his surrogate father hadn’t taken a beating for something Dean forced on him.  “I didn’t exactly give him a choice.”

“I know.  He told me.”

Dean swallowed, sending a silent apology out to his older friend.  “I stopped off, made a fake bomb.”

John raised an eyebrow.

“Filled a beer can with shot.  Told the vamp it was another deadman’s blood grenade.”

John offered a grudging smile.  

It faded quickly.  “So you went to meet an unknown number of vamps, armed with a fake homemade grenade.”

Dean shrugged one shoulder.  “I had a machete, too. And I figured there was a good chance this guy was on his own.  Antonio said they’d been living in that hotel for fifty years.  Sounded like they kept themselves pretty isolated.”

John grunted.

“And I figured he had to want me bad, you know?  I killed his family, made him homeless, plus he bit me but I didn’t turn.  He had to want to know why, plus get revenge.”  He shrugged again, spreading his hands.  “He took the deal, so I guess I was right.”

John glowered at him.

Dean moved on hastily.  “He cracked me on the skull, and I woke up strapped to a table.”  Nude, but he didn’t plan  to add that little detail unless it was completely necessary.  “There was a succubus there, said the plan was to turn me into a breeder.  Said the vamp wanted Winchester offspring to keep the hunters off him.”  He didn’t see any reason to add the rest.

John watched his son as he ate, waiting.

“So, the succubus….”  Dean paused, paring the experience down to the most relevant details.  “She used something she called venom to...I don’t know.  Mess with my mind, I guess. And then she...uh….” He looked down at his plate, face hot. “She did what you thought Zell did.”

“Collected you?”  John prompted.

The heat in his face spread to his ears.  “Yeah. But when she...at the end...there w-was this big flash, and I ended up on the floor.  Alone.”

“Huh.”  John chewed while he thought.  “You got any ideas on what happened?”

Dean picked up his burger.   “Zell and I talked about it." His eyes shot to his father's, alarmed.  "I mean, not about what just happened.  I haven't seen her in a while.  But we talked about it after that thing where we helped her mom out.  She said we,” his eyes returned to his burger, “create energy.  When we’re...you know... together.  And if we ever...ah...weren’t careful, outside the Veil, the energy would be too much. She didn’t know for sure what would happen, but she thought it would kill us both.”

“The Veil?”

Dean shrugged, buying time to chew and swallow.  “She didn’t really explain it.  Some other dimension, I guess.  She said ‘cubi can take someone’s soul there, leave their body behind.  Do their thing, feed off the energy, send the soul back.  You think you’re dreaming, but you’re not.  Not exactly.”

“Hmm.”

“But to...collect...that means you both have to be corporeal.  So that’s what’s dangerous.  I guess this other succubus didn’t know that.”

“So it basically created an energy bomb, and what, disintegrated them?”

“I guess so.  Clothes, shoes, everything.  I mean, I searched as soon as I could get up, and there was nothing.  So unless I was out for longer than I thought, there was no time for them to leave the room.  Or maybe they were like, teleported or something.”

“What about you?  Why didn’t you disappear?”

Dean shook his head.  “No idea.”  He thought for a minute.  “Well, maybe...I’d have to ask Zell...but the thing came.  I mean, she...had an orgasm."  Jesus, this is humiliating.  "I didn’t, but I was close.  Maybe  her energy became the bomb, and mine...shielded me, or something.  The straps they had on me were still there, even though their clothes and shoes and everything disappeared.”

“Interesting theory.”  John crumpled up his wrapper.  “You done?”  Dean nodded, and John cleared the table.

Dean waited.

“Danny Elkins wants to talk to you.”

Dean’s brow furrowed.  “About what?”

“The vamps from the hotel back in Rawlins.  How you managed to survive drinking the thing's blood.  The vampires you killed here.”  John shrugged.  "He's kind of an expert on the things.  Pretty much the only kind of monster he hunts."

Dean sighed.  “Can I see Sammy first?”

John raised his eyebrows.  “First?”  He shook his head.  “I ain’t lettin’ Elkins anywhere near you. Any questions I can’t answer, I’ll pass along to you, funnel your thoughts back to him.”  He tipped a bottle to his lips, drinking deeply.  “I need Bobby here to help clean up some loose ends.  Sending you back with Sam."  He smiled, face softening in a look Dean rarely saw: pride.  "Kid’s graduating this weekend.”

Dean relaxed, an answering smile spreading over his face.   He’s trusting me to watch Sam while he’s out of town.

 

I’m back.  I’m really fucking back.

Chapter Text


 

Dean was doing an inventory on the contents of the Impala’s trunk when Bobby backed into the parking space beside him.

Sam unfolded himself from the dilapidated old truck, and Dean’s smile broke like the first ray of sunshine after a winter storm.  

“Sammy!”

Dean stepped forward, but Sam hesitated.  “How bad?”

Dean frowned.  “‘How bad’ what?”

Sam glowered. “You broke a shit-ton of Dad’s rules.   How bad did he --?”  The question ended with a vague gesture.

Dean rolled his eyes.  “I’m fine, Sammy.”

Bobby  had joined Sam, leaning against the passenger side of his pickup with his arms folded over his chest.  

They think I’m lying, but Dean knew he only had himself to blame for that.  “Oh, fine!”  He huffed out a breath, glancing around the parking lot to make sure they were unobserved.  Then he turned away from his two skeptics, reaching over his head to pull his shirt up, revealing a broad expanse of relatively unmarked flesh.  “See?”  He asked, twisting to look over his shoulder.  “I’m good.”  He dropped his shirt, facing his brother again, and spread his arms.  “Now do I get a  hug?  I’ve missed you, bitch!”

The answering “Jerk!” was lost in the solid warmth of Dean’s shoulder as Sam wrapped his arms around his older brother, burying his damp eyes against Dean’s neck.  “I can’t believe you did that.  I thought for sure it would kill you this time.”

Dean chuckled, holding tightly to his sibling.  “And miss seeing you walking around in a floor-length dress and that stupid square hat?  No way, lil’ bro.  Not gonna happen.”

Sam laughed wetly, and his words were congested with unshed tears.  “It’s called a ‘gown’, you idiot, and it’s actually a long robe.”

“So you’ll be walking around in a bathrobe.  That’s much better, Sam.”  Dean turned his head, bringing his lips close to his brother’s ear.  “Haven’t you figured out yet that there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you, little brother?" I'd sell my soul for you, Sammy. You are the best part of my world.  

Dean promptly shifted his weight, trying for a half-assed hip throw which Sam countered efficiently, and what could have been a much too tender moment rapidly dissolved into a wrestling match.

“Boys!”  John’s voice ended the cheerful melee, and Bobby stepped forward, arms folded over his chest, face hardened into a scowl.  

“Let ‘em play, Winchester.  It’s not like they haven’t earned it.”

John slanted a less-than-friendly look at the other hunter.  “They got a long drive ahead of them, and there’s a few things we need to talk about before they go.”

Both boys stood, brushing the dirt and gravel off one another, trying to hide their smirks as they ‘accidentally’ bumped into or slapped each other.

John handed each of his sons a vial of deadman’s blood.  He held up a box of shotgun shells.  “Pellets are coated in that,” he nodded toward the vial in Dean’s hand.  “Don’t know how long it stays potent once it dries, but it’s still shot, so even if it doesn’t poison a vamp, it’ll slow one down.”  He tossed it to Dean.  “Bobby?”

The older man pushed himself away from the truck, unfolding his arms and opening his fists.  A pendant on a black cord dangled from each hand.  He stood in front of the boys, holding the necklaces up at eye level.  “Supposed to keep ‘Cubi away. Don’t know if they work or not, but it’s the best we got.”  He handed one to Sam.  Dean dipped his head, and Bobby slipped the charm over the young man’s neck.  

“Drive straight through,” John interjected, “and when you get to Rawlins, pick a different hotel.”  He handed Sam a pocket-sized notebook.  “There are sigils, recipes, and incantations in here.  Do the usual salt lines, then add this.  Should keep you off the radar.”

“What about you two? When are you coming back?”

“We’re gonna stick around for a day or two, make sure Martin’s gonna be okay, see if we can get some sort of an idea about what happened to the others that were in that room with you.”  Bobby’s tone was grim, and his arms were back over his chest.

“And find out if we need to do some damage control.”  John scowled at Dean, and the young man’s face flushed.  “You left two dead bodies behind, one decapitated, the other just…”  John shook his head. “No telling how much of your own DNA got scattered around.  I’d like to keep you off the FBI’s ‘most wanted’ list long enough to grow hair on your chest, at least.”

Dean ducked his head, hot with shame, and missed Bobby’s irritated head shake and eye roll.

“Why do you have to be such an asshole?”  Sam was less subtle than  his surrogate father.  “Dean saved my life plus Martin’s and a bunch of civilians’.  He took out two vampires with no real weapons to speak of.  Have you ever done that?”  He was standing, straight and tall, chest out, openly defying their father.

In front of Bobby, who, although he was close to being family, was still an outsider in John’s mind.

Dean felt the rage emanating from John before it breached his father’s poker face, and he stepped in front of his impetuous younger brother.  “So, we’ve got everything we need then, right?”

John halted his forward movement, anger mottling his face and fisting his hands, eyes boring into Sam’s over the barrier of Dean’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” Bobby answered, stepping forward to clap Dean on the back, further separating the oldest Winchester from his youngest son.  “Let’s git you idjits on the road.  Keep wastin’ time and you’ll miss your graduation all together, Sam.”

Dean kept his eyes on his father, even as he felt his brother move away.  “Do you think you two will make it to the ceremony?” he queried, tone mild.

John’s eyes flicked to his older son, and he let out a hot breath.  “Maybe.  We’ll try.”  He looked down at his feet, shaking his head.  When he raised them again, his eyes were still hard.  “Stay safe.”

“Yes, Sir.”  

Dean nodded to both men before making his way between the two cars.  He thumped a knuckle on the passenger window, crossing his eyes and sticking out his tongue when Sammy startled into looking, and chuckled as he crossed to take his place behind the wheel.  

He backed the one-and-a-half ton vehicle out slowly, mindful of the two men leaning against the rusted Ford truck beside them.  He straightened her out, stuck an arm out the window in a jaunty wave, and sprayed his spectators with gravel as he smoked his way out of the lot.  

Bobby chuckled at John’s look of disgust.  “He’s resilient.  Gotta give him that.”

“Disrespectful is what I call it.”

Bobby rolled his eyes again.  “Quit bein’ such a hard-ass.  He’s been through hell these past few months, and there’s still some kid in him.  I think that’s worth celebratin’."  Asshole.

John’s jaw clenched, and he turned his head slowly, only to have his death-stare met by an equally lethal glare.  “You’re not Sam,” John warned.

“No, I’m not,” Bobby answered.  The unspoken challenge was clear.

“Hey, guys!”  Caroline called out, and the moment dissolved into the fading dusk.  “The boys just leave?”

“Yeah,” Bobby answered, eyes following the oldest Winchester as the man brushed past Caroline, entering his motel room and slamming the door.

“Did I interrupt something?”  Caroline asked, making no attempt to disguise her knowledge of the tension that she had shattered.

“Nothing important,” Bobby muttered.  Then he sighed, pushing his cap up as he ran his fingers through is graying hair.  “I know yer makin’ progress with him, but, damn.  In some ways he seems worse, ya know?  It’s not just aimed at Dean anymore, and it’s comin’ more frequent.”

She crossed her arms, unconsciously mimicking the wizened hunter’s posture.  “It’s counseling, Robert.”  She shrugged.  “You remember what that’s like.  It always gets worse before it gets better.”

“Well,” Bobby countered, unfolding his arms and tucking his hands into his back pockets, “better not get much worse.  I got a lot of experience gettin’ rid of bodies.”

Caroline’s smile was uncertain.  “Um...What’s a lady have to do around here to get a guy to take her out to dinner?”

Bobby laughed.  “In this decade, I think you are supposed to take me to dinner, Caroline.  Or ain’t you a liberated woman yet?”

She tucked her arm through his, laughter tinkling in the dimming twilight.  “Define ‘liberated’,” she teased.


 

John peered through the curtain, watching his oldest living friend and the woman who was his some-time lover drive off into the night.




Chapter Text



“Hey, Dean, I -- “

Shit .  Dean grinned wolfishly at his baby brother even as his long, lightly freckled  arm snaked out to crank the volume on the stereo.  

Highway to Hell blasted out of the speakers.

Dean mouthed the words -- maybe even sang them, though no one would have been able to hear him over the thunderous music -- and Sam laughed.  He reached for the volume knob, and Dean slapped his hand away without taking his eyes from the road, bobbing his head in time to the chorus.

Sam kept trying for three successive songs, then finally gave up.  He lay back in the seat, resting his head on the window, and closed his eyes.

Dean turned the music down.  “You gonna take a nap, little brother?”

Sam opened one eye, slanting a look at his chauffeur.  “Might as well, since you won’t fuckin’ talk to me.”  He closed his eyes again, snuggling in.  “Not like I haven’t seen you for more than like, two seconds, in couple of fucking weeks.”

Dean sighed.  “Alright, alright.  Enough with the guilt trip, man.”

“Not a guilt trip,” Sam muttered, voice petulant.  

“Yeah, well, your ovaries are clearly in a bundle about something, and I don’t wanna sit here with you pouting for the next couple hundred miles.”  Dean’s irritation was a mask for his anxiety.  There was too much he didn’t want to say, and his brother had a way of weaseling things out of him.  Those liquid eyes were like a truth serum sometimes.

“I just wanted to thank you --”

“Dude!”  Dean chuckled.  “Seriously?  No need, baby bro.  I got your back.  Always.”  Without looking, he reached over and patted his brother’s chest.  “You’re college-bound, man.  Goin’ off and makin’ us proud.  No way was I gonna sit back and let some vamp ruin that.”   No way could I live through him killing you.

Or turning you.

“How do you...how much do you…”

“College?  Dude, you holed up in Flagstaff .  What the hell else is there in friggin’ Flagstaff besides a college?”  He glanced over at his brother, confirming his suspicion.  “And you talk about college, like, all the time, ever since you were way younger than you are now.”  Dean shrugged, focused on the long and empty highway stretching out in front of him.  “It’s what you’re supposed to do, Sam.”  His voice was soft.  Resigned. “I can feel it.”

“Does Dad know?”

Dean shook his head sadly.  “What he knows and what he’ll admit are two different things, bro.”

Sam licked his lips.  He looked down at his fingers, picking nervously at the seam of his jeans.  “I can’t believe he didn’t kick your ass back there.”

Dean grunted.  “Yeah.  I sure as hell earned it.”  His eyes flicked to his brother, then back to the road.  “Even if he had, it wouldn’t have stopped me from doin’ the same damn thing all over again if it needed to be done.”  I’d take a beating for you any day, Sammy.   He refused to look at his brother as he added, “You’re worth it, Sam.”

“Jesus, Dean.”  Sam bit his lip, swiping the back of his hand over his eyes.  “And you’re not?”

Dean blinked, turning his head to stare for a fraction of a second, then faced forward once more.  “That’s not what I’m…”  He pursed his lips, brow furrowed.  “Some people are just…”  He shook his head.  Never tried to put this into words before.  “Some people are meant to live in this world, Sammy.  To work and thrive and raise families and all of that.”  He shrugged one shoulder.  “And other people are meant to make sure that can happen for them.”

“So that’s it, then?”  Sam turned in his seat, squaring off against his brother, face hot with indignation.  “You’re expendable, and I’m not, because of what -- fate?”

Dean scowled.  “No!  Not fate.  I don’t believe in that shit.”  He flicked a glance at Sam and sighed.  “I’m not trying to make you mad, Sammy.  I’m just telling you what I see, and you know we aren’t all the same.  Some people do great things, and some people do mediocre things, and some are just...background.  Fillers.”  His hand twisted on the steering wheel, textured leather massaging his palm.  “Me and Dad, and people like us -- soldiers, police officers -- we’re here to make sure the rest of you get to be great or mediocre or fillers.  That’s our role; it’s what we’re made for.”  He smirked a little, remembering Tina.  “And it’s got it’s perks.  I ain’t complainin’.”

“Oh, yeah?  Then why were you at Caroline’s?”

Cold rushed over Dean, and his breath caught in his chest.

He couldn’t move.  Couldn’t look at his brother.

What does he know?

“Bobby told me,” Sam accused.  “Said Dad was --”  He stopped, and Dean risked a glance at him.  “That’s why  he didn’t beat you, isn’t?”  His voice was triumphant.  “I saw Caroline go into the room with him.  She stopped him, didn’t she?”  

Dean didn’t answer, fighting for mental equilibrium as relief replaced terror.   He doesn’t know.  Thank god, he doesn’t know.

“I mean…” Sam faltered, uncertainty rushing back like a tide.  “That’s what...Bobby said Dad figured out...he was going to Caroline because he wanted to…”

Dean chuckled.  “Geez, Sam.  You’d think we were talking about a whore house or somethin’, the way you’re all tongue-tied!”  He blew out some of his tension.  “Dad’s tryin’ to change, and Caroline is helping.  She’s a psychotherapist.”  He grinned at  his brother.  “Bet you’re jealous.  Took a lot of schoolin’ to get that many letters after her name.”

Sam rolled his eyes.  “So, is it helping?”

Dean raised his eyebrows at Sam.  “Dude.  Before I came to get you, I bounced him off a wall to get him to tell me where you were.”

Sam’s eyes went wide.  “What’d he do?”

“Nothin’.  Just told me you were in Albuquerque.  Didn’t even try to stop me when I left.”

“But after you came back --”

“I was like you: sure he was gonna beat my ass.  He told me to go ‘wait in the room’.”

Sam grunted, knowing what that phrase meant.

“So I got ready, you know?  But then he came in, and Caroline was with him --”

“Dude!  She saw you?”

Dean rolled his eyes.  “Don’t get too excited there, Fantasy Boy.  I was on the bed, covered up.”   Mostly .  “But she lit into him anyway, and then they both left, and when he came back, he just chewed my ear off.  He never hit me, not once.”

“Huh.  So it’s working, then.”

“Seems like.”

Sam shook his head, awed.  “Damn.  She’s good.”

Dean snorted.  “In more ways than one, I think.”

Sam’s eyebrows rose, disappearing into shaggy bangs.  “You?”

Dean barked out a short laugh.  “No: Dad.”

Sam widened his eyes dramatically.  “Seriously?”

Dean canted his head to the side, half nod, half negation.  “I think so.  I mean, I never caught them at it or anything, but...I’m pretty sure.”

“Wow.”

“How ‘bout you?  You seein’ anybody?”

Sam looked startled.  “Me? No.  ‘Course not.”

Dean glared at him.  “Why ‘course not’?  There some new rule I don’t know about, says you gotta be virginal ‘til I’m too old to tease you about gettin’ laid?”

Sam chuckled.  “No.  Jerk.”  He shrugged.  “I guess I’ve just been so focused on getting into college that I just...haven’t really tried, you know?”

Dean nodded.  “Best to go into it single, anyway.  Don’t wanna be tied down to one when there’s a whole damned campus full of female nerds to choose from.”

Sam punched him in the shoulder, and Dean yelped out a laugh.  “Seriously: I bought you a pack of condoms for your birthday, but the rate you’re going, they’ll expire before you even open it!  Might as well keep ‘em myself, get you some Vaseline and Kleenex instead.”

“I’m not the one spending two hours alone in the bathroom every morning,” Sam countered, cheeks and ears reddening.

“Shit, dude, you have no idea.”  Dean’s body hummed as memories of Tina filled his head.  “I met this chic, sweet little thing named Tina.  Seemed innocent as hell -- “

“Dean!” Sam groaned, covering his ears dramatically.

“I won’t go into details.  Promise!  But I gotta tell somebody, and you’re the only friend I’ve got!”  He turned emerald puppy dog eyes on his little brother.  “Please, Sammy?   Please ?”

Sam closed his eyes as he leaned his head back, palms slipping away from his head.  “I am so going to regret this.”

Dean chuckled.  “Actually, you probably would’ve laughed  your ass off if you’d been there.  So this chic is so innocent I swear I can almost see her halo, right?  But she walks me into her bedroom, and it’s like a frickin’ dungeon in there, and she’s got all this bondage stuff, and what she called ‘toys’ --”

Sam’s hands were back over  his ears, and he was chanting “Lalalalala” at the top of his voice.

Dean laughed.  “You don’t let me tell you now, I’m gonna wait ‘til we stop for food, and it’ll be in a much louder voice with a whole lotta people around us.”

Sam rolled his eyes, but he moved his hands to his lap.  “That’s emotional blackmail.”

Dean grinned.  “I know.  Ain’t it great?”  He patted  his brother on the chest again.  “I was gettin’ to the part you’ll like though, Sam: it was intimidating as hell!”

Sam cocked an eyebrow at him, skeptically.  “Really?  Something involving sex intimidated you ?”

Cold washed over Dean, running from head to toe as if a bucket of ice water had been up-ended over him.

The fog is lifting and he knows what’s next  and this “No!” is panicked, louder, and he arches his back, bucks his hips, desperate to escape --

“Dean?”

He startled, frantic eyes darting to Sam, chest heaving, knuckles white against the steering wheel.

“Dean!”  Sam leaned forward, concern edging his voice.

Dean shook his head.

Blinked.

Smiled.  

“Sorry.  Just strolling down memory lane.”  He rubbed his palm along his thigh, transferring clammy fear to concealing denim.  “She taught me some things, Sam.”  He chuckled.  “Gotta say, it was pretty awesome.   She was awesome.”  He had his breathing under control, but his heart still thrummed painfully in his chest.  He smirked at his little brother.  “I’ll have to ask her if she’s got a sister who likes young, overgrown geeks.”

Sam groaned, dropping his head back onto the window.  “Please don’t.  Saving myself for those Stanford girls, remember?”

The news did nothing to calm Dean’s panicked heartbeat.  “Stanford, huh?  So you decided?”

Sam smiled, righting himself.  “More like they decided: full ride scholarship, baby.  No tuition or books for the entire four years.  All I gotta do is maintain a good GPA and cover room and board.”

Dean’s mouth gaped.  “Seriously, Sammy?”

“Eyes on the road, Dean!”

The older brother blinked, eyes flicking from the road to his younger sibling and back again.  “You’re not pullin’ my leg?  You seriously got a free ride?”

Sam glowered.  “What, you think I’m not smart enough?”

Dean blinked, jerking his head in surprise.  “No!  Hell, no!  I mean, I know you’re a freakin’ genius!  It’s just….”  He slapped his palms on the steering wheel, and his face split in a huge grin.  “Holy shit, Sam!”

Sam laughed, and the look in his eyes reminded Dean of the time he’d surprised his little brother with fireworks.  

“That’s just….that’s awesome, man!  I mean, I been tryin’ to figure out how to make enough to pay for all of this, because there’s no way you can get by with credit card scams, not in college, and we all know how well hunting pays --”

“Wait, wait, wait:  You were going to pay for me to go to college?”

Dean’s eyebrows furrowed.  “Of course.  What did you think would happen?  I’d let you go, act like I’d never had a brother, expect you to sink or swim on your own?”

“Well...yeah.  I mean...that’s...I didn’t really think it all out, but I did sort of….”

Dean glanced out the side window, willing his tears not to form.  “I don’t know what Dad’s gonna do, Sam, but ‘look out for Sammy’ has always been my rule number one.  That don’t change just ‘cause you grow up, dude.”  He swallowed, and it was painful.  “Way I see it, you’ll need me more than ever.   You won’t be able to watch your own back.  Not with all the studying you’ll have to do.”

“So you’re coming with me?”  Sam didn’t try to hid the hope in his voice.

Dean bit his lip.  “No.  I can’t leave Dad alone.  No telling what he’d do.”  He flicked a glance at Sam.  “But I’ll be checking on you, a lot , and I’ll always be just a phone call away.  Any time, any reason, you just gotta pick up the phone.”  He cleared his throat.  “‘Kay?  You got that, bitch?”

Sam didn’t bother trying to hide his tears.  “Yeah, jerk. I got it.”





Chapter Text


 

 

Dean insisted that Sam get some sleep -- “You’ve got school in a couple hours, genius” -- leaving him alone with his thoughts.

Which was usually not a good thing.

He forced his mind away from anything to do with Tina.  Sitting in a car for eight hours with an erection he couldn’t do anything about would keep him awake, but he’d be sore and pissy by the time they reached their destination.

Unless, of course, he couldn’t get one, in which case he’d be less sore but more angry.

Still can’t believe Dad let me off the  hook.  

Was he right?  Should I have waited?

Dean thought about what about Angus had done to him.  Imagined Sam in the same scenario: waking up strapped to a table, offered up like a pig on a spit for some damned succubus to chow down on.

“I don’t think he’d handle that very well.”   At least I’ve had practice being someone’s less than enthusiastic sex toy.

Maybe they wouldn’t have done that to him -- wouldn’t have tried to force Sam.  Could’ve tried to finesse it instead.  Maybe it’s just you that --

Dean scowled, reaching over to turn the music up, counting on the heavy bass beat and screaming guitars to drive that annoying voice back into the hole it had crawled out of.

So was I right, or was Dad?  I went in unarmed, uninformed, no backup, no plan….  Coulda gone sideways, coulda gotten Sammy killed.  No idea what the thing had planned for either one of us, how many fuglies I’d be dealing with.  What kind of shape Sam would be in when I got there.

What if he’d been dead?

Or turned?

He pictured that: making his deal with Angus.  Sam meeting him.  Leaning in for a hug, only to feel his little brother’s fangs sink into his neck.

“I wouldn’t have fought him,” he admitted.   Couldn’t kill Sam, even if he wasn’t really Sam anymore.  Even if he was trying to kill me.  Couldn’t live with myself if I did that.

No matter what scenario he came up with, Dean could not think of a single one that would have made it okay for him to wait for his father to get all of his arrangements made.

Dad’s never wrong, though.  Hell, the man’s a freakin’ legend with those other hunters.

I must be missing something.

But he knew that even if his dad was right, Dean wouldn’t change a thing.

 




Sam jerked up-right, a strangled “No!” declaring his panic.

Dean glanced over at him, hearing the long, slow slide of released tension, seeing the characteristic swipe of a large hand through too-long hair.  “You alright?”  His voice was mild, offering a shoulder or space, whichever his little brother needed.

Sam shuddered, wrapping his arms tightly around his chest.  “I don’t know how you do it.”  He was staring out the window, denying Dean the opportunity to read his face.

“Do what?”

He heard Sam swallow.  

Shit.  I know it’s bad when he won’t talk.  “Is this...that vamp.  Angus.  Did he do something to you?”  There was an edge of danger to Dean’s voice.

“No.”  Sam shrugged.  “But he...I know what he was going to do to you .  And when you were gone…”

Dean waited, flicking glances at his brother.

Whatever the kid was seeing, it had nothing to do with the window that his eyes were locked onto so intently.

“Gone which time?” Dean prompted, voice soft.

“With Bobby, and Dad stayed so I could go to school.  We went on a hunt.”

Dean waited.

“Vampire nest.  I got taken.”

Tension etched itself into the lines of Dean’s face, the corded muscles in his forearms.  Dad didn't fucking tell me.

“Didn’t want to be on the stupid hunt, anyway.  Dad made me.  And it took me, and said...it said….”

Dean pulled onto the shoulder, slamming the engine into park, then gripped his brother by his shirt, drawing him in against his chest.  “It’s okay, Sammy.  It’s going to be okay.”

He rested his chin on the top of his little brother’s head, rubbing a hand along his back, chest aching with the sounds of his brother’s anguish.  “You’re safe, okay? Whatever happened, we’ll talk about it, make sure it never happens again.  Okay?  I got you, buddy.  You’re safe.”

Sam pushed away, wiping at his eyes angrily.  “It already did  happen again, Dean!  The one that took me was going to make me a breeder, like Angus tried with you!  Said he was going to bring me women, and if I wouldn’t….breed them, he’d kill them.”  His voice cut out on a sob.  “And then Martin showed up, said Bobby was in trouble, and I ended up with Angus, and it was the same thing -- “

Martin showed up?  That’s how the thing got you?”  Son of a bitch.  And I saved the asshole.

“Yeah, but that’s not the point.  It’s happened twice, it could happen again, and you’ve been through even worse, and just...how do you do it, man?  You keep almost fucking dying!  How do you do it?”

Dean leaned back against the door.  Easier when you don’t care if you live or die, lil’ brother.

But he knew he couldn’t say that.

“I don’t know, man.”  He shrugged.  “I guess it’s just...it’s like I said before: this is what I’m supposed to do. But it ain’t what you’re supposed to do, Sammy.  It’s really not, and that’s what makes it so much harder for you.”

Dean could see that the explanation had done little to cool the storm raging in the other man’s mind.

“How do you think I’d feel if Dad forced me to go to college, Sam?  I mean: just picture that.  Me, on a college campus, backpack full of textbooks, sitting through some boring lecture.”

He’d watched his brother’s face softened as he drew the picture for them, saw the corners of his lips twitch upward.  

“I’d be panicked, wouldn’t I?  Confused, gettin’ lost all the time, feeling like a fish out of water.  And you now why?”

Sam looked at him, obviously knowing what was coming; needing to hear it anyway.  

“Because it’s not me.  It’s not what I’m supposed to be doing.”  Dean exhaled loudly.  “This is easy for me because it’s my life.  What I’m here for.  We get you into college, get you doing what you’re here for, and that will be -- well, not easy.  I’m sure it’s a crap-ton of work.  But it won’t be so hard you can’t do it, because it’s where you’re supposed to be, Sammy.”

Sam was nodding to himself, hint of a smile tugging at his mouth.

“We good?  Can I keep driving now?”

"Yeah.”  He looked up, love and appreciation and trust glowing in his eyes. “Let’s get back.”

Dean flashed a smile at his baby brother before moving the shift lever to drive and easing back out onto the highway.

Sammy’s going to Stanford.

Dean felt like he was drowning.




 

 

By the time the boys got settled into the new motel -- salt lines and sigils placed with exquisite attention to detail -- it was time for Sam to get to class.  Dean dropped him off, then found that he couldn’t bring himself to drive away.

 

Sam got taken from this school.

 

On an intellectual level Dean realized that the boy had been lured away by Martin, a hunter they knew and trusted but who was no longer a threat.  He reminded himself that the vampire behind the abduction was gone, most likely forever, and that the hunter it had employed was now ensconced in a mental institution, trapped inside his own head.

Dean still couldn’t shake the feeling that his brother was vulnerable without him.

He backed into a space in the far corner of the faculty lot, black vehicle somewhat camouflaged by the large shade tree overhead, and rolled all of the windows down.  He texted Sam: “Right outside if you need me.  Don’t leave with anyone else” . then settled down to nap.

 

His sleep was restless, but light enough that he could take control of his dreams, preventing them from becoming nightmares.

An hour into it, he shrugged out of his coat, feeling the sweat dampening his shirt.  

Another hour, and the overshirt went, too.  He was tempted to remove his boots, but fighting in socks had always seemed like a bad idea to him.

He left them on.

After the third hour he decided he need provisions.   “Be right back.  Don’t go anywhere” he sent to Sam, then pulled out of the lot.

 

Half hour later he was back, styrofoam cooler on the seat next to him, end of a popsicle stick protruding from his orange-colored lips.

 

He hummed Motorhead’s Ace of Spades to himself, fingers tapping out the rhythm on the steering wheel.  He finished his frozen treat, debated tossing the stick out the window, then dropped it into the full cooler instead.

He leaned back, closing his eyes.

This time he drifted deeper.

 

Hands, so many hands,

Zell and Tina and Jeff

“Succubus venom. It’s going to make you feel so, so good.”

 

He jerked awake, rubbing his hand over his face as he blinked away a confusing rush of lust and dread.  What the fuck was that all about?

He looked at his watch.  Sam should be out soon.  He texted, letting his brother know where he had parked.  

He got out.  

Stretched.  

Paced.  

Leaned his hips on the side of the car, arms over his chest.  

Looked up into the tree.  

Thought about climbing it.  

Saw a branch that looked a little like a mermaid, and admired its woody breasts.  

Looked at his watch.  

Sighed.  

Paced some more.  

Fished a bottled water from the melting ice in the cooler.

Drank it, tossing the empty bottle into the backseat through an open window.  

Took out his phone.  “U about dun in there?  Getin bored out here.”  But he hadn’t seen any students come out yet.

Pictured his long-legged brother folded into a too-small desk, face intent as he looked up at his teacher.  

Going to Stanford. All the fucking way to California.

Shit.

If Dad hadn’t been such an ass, maybe Sam would’ve stayed closer to Lawrence.   Or Sioux Falls.

He shrugged as he pocketed his phone.  “Too late now.”

He wondered what their father would do.   Gonna be a blow out of some kind, I”m sure.  

Won’t let him hurt Sammy.

Won’t let him make Sammy stay.

He retrieved a slightly soft Popsicle from the cooler.  Green this time.

He might kill me.

Dean found the thought oddly comforting, and pushed it away.

If he takes off, I’ll relocate to Cali myself.  Stay close, keep an eye on Sam.

He swirled the cold sweetness in his mouth, caressing his tongue with it.  If he doesn’t take off, I’ll talk to Bobby.  Make sure we got Sam covered.

 

Students began pouring out of the doors of the school.  They reminded Dean of killer bees shooting out of a hive, bent on a rampage.

 

He had just finished his icy treat when Sam’s lanky form distinguished itself in the crowd, raising a smile on Dean’s face.  He tossed the used popsicle over his shoulder, shot it a guilty glance -- At least it’s biodegradable -- then bent to retrieve the cooler from the passenger seat.

He balanced it on his hip as he watched Sam approach.  

“Dude, is that beer?  On school grounds?”

“‘Course not!  Well...not just beer.  And I didn’t drink any, so it doesn’t count anyway.”

Sam was peering at him intently.  “What’s wrong with your  lips?”

“My what?”  Dean crossed his eyes, contorting his face in an attempt to see what his brother was talking about.

“They’re green.  And orange.”

“Oh!”  Dean’s face lit up.  He popped the top off of the cooler.  “Popsicles!  Want one?”

Sam rolled his eyes, but he chose a treat anyway.  “Are you ever going to grow up?”

Doubt I’ll live long enough.  But Dean had turned away to place the cooler on a backseat, and his voice carried none of the suffocating blackness that was his soul.  “‘S over-rated, Sam.  Way over-rated.”  

 

Heads turned as the sleek black car rumbled out of the parking lot.



Chapter Text

 


 

Dean’s chest ached.

 

Surrounded by a sea of strangers, he felt entirely alone.

Sam was rows ahead, just another flat blue cap in a sea of flat blue caps.

Bobby was on Dean's left.  His dad was on his right, in the seat on the aisle.

 

Sam’s going to Stanford.

 

He was assaulted by images of dressing the kid when he was younger, pouring his cereal, holding him when his little brother was sick or sad or scared.  Remembered the games they’d played quietly on long car rides, the pillow fights and tickle fights and wrestling when they were allowed to make noise.  Popcorn and bad motel TV. Serious talks about Dad and life and school and girls and monsters. Waking from a nightmare, lying in the dark and listening to his brother breathe.

 

That’s all over now.  Sam doesn’t need any of that from me anymore.

 

But you still do.

 

He clenched his jaw.  Hated that voice. Wish he knew how to silence it, once and for all.   Doesn’t matter.  Sam needs this. He deserves it.  I’ll be fine.

But it was a lie, and he knew it.

 

Dean’s whole existence was shifting.

 

He would be alone or with Dad, which was almost the same thing.  Living for the days when he could check up on his little brother.  Hear Sam’s voice. Reaffirm his own reason for being.

He was terrified, and there was not a single soul that he could talk to about it.

 

Sammy’s going away.

 

His soul bled.

 


 

“In honor of our new grad and birthday boy, we’re going on a family vacation,” John announced, pleased at the stunned looks on his sons’ faces.  

“What? Where?”  Sam found his voice before Dean could.

“Place in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee,” Bobby supplied.  “Owned by some friends a’ mine. Retired hunters. Got a swank, all-inclusive resort for rich folks, and a smaller but equally fancy spot for hunters.  Warded to hell an’ back.” He cast a meaningful glance at Sam and Dean. “Safe enough to let yer guard down.”

“That sounds awesome, Bobby -- “ Sam began, only to be interrupted by his brother.

“So there’ll be hot, rich chics there?”

Sam rolled his eyes, John scowled, and Bobby chuckled.  “I didn’t ask. Want I should call and put in a request?”

“You can do that?”  Dean sounded awed.

Sam groaned.  “That was sarcasm, Dean.  He’s being ironic.”

Dean looked disappointed.  

“Are you coming, Bobby?”  Sam asked, his tone making it clear that he both expected and hoped that the older man would answer in the affirmative.

He shot a glance at John, whose face looked grim.  “I’ll come out the first coupla days. Maybe the last ones, too.  But ya’all know I got a lot of hunters relyin’ on me. Can’t be away from those damn’ phones for too long.”

Dean grunted, remembering how frustrated he’d gotten try to manage all of that while Bobby had been laid up.  “Pretty sure the entire North American hunter population would fall apart if you took a week off,” and unlike Bobby, there was no irony in Dean’s observation.

The older man shot him a grin, acknowledging the compliment.  

“I suggest you boys do whatever you need to do.” Family vacation or no, John’s Marine corporal attitude was still in full effect.  “We leave in thirty.”

“Caroline coming?”  Dean both hoped and feared that she would.

“No.”  John’s answer was clipped.  He scooped up his bag on the way to the bathroom, closing the door firmly on any further questions.

Dean turned to Bobby, eyebrows raised.

The older man shook his head.  “Don’t ask. But I don’t think you’ll be seein’ her for awhile.  Or maybe ever.” He glanced at the closed door, the sound of running water announcing to all that the oldest Winchester had decided on a shower.  “That man can hold a grudge like no other.”

“A grudge about what?”  She was helping.  

“Me.”

And that’s all the gruff older man would say.

 


 

“We’ll stop in Lawrence.  It’s about the halfway point.  Catch a couple hours sleep, then push through.”

Sam and Dean shared a look.

Their father typically avoided Lawrence.  Rarely even said the name.

Dean shrugged one shoulder.  “Sounds good.”

 


 

John made sure the boys were settled and comfortable, Sam sharing a room with Bobby, John himself bunking with Dean.  He waited until Dean was asleep before slipping out the door.

 

The sun was just starting to rise, bathing the headstones in a delicate rose glow.  He hadn’t admitted it to his boys, but John had visited this particular cemetery so frequently that he could have woven his way to the gravesite in the dead of night.

 

Mary Winchester

1954 - 1983

In Loving Memory

 

He’d always wished that it said more.  That strangers could stop by and know that she’d been beautiful, and intelligent, and loving, and fun.  That she’d been strong and fierce.

 

That she’d tried to make him a better man.

 

He stared at the inscription, hands fisted in the front pockets of his jacket, shoulders hunched in pain.

“Hey, Mare.  I know I haven’t been by in a while….”  

The headstone blurred as tears filled his eyes.

 

Might as well have buried you yesterday. When does it stop hurting?  

 

“I can’t stop missing you.”

Without warning,  he was on his knees, hands folded over the gravestone, forehead resting on his knuckles.

“The boys -- “

His voice broke, and he fought for composure.

“They’re growing up, Mare, and you’d be so proud.  Sammy’s smart, real smart, graduated at the top of his class.  And Dean…”

He sat back on the dew-coated lawn, curling in on himself.

“I gotta be honest, Babe: you’d be pissed at me.  Dean...he’s broken, Mare. So broken. And it’s my fault.”

He rocked, more vulnerable at that point than he had ever been.

“I just...I got so caught up in it, you know?  Finding out who or what killed you. Making sure the boys would be safe.”  He wiped a hand across his face, clearing the way for more tears to fall. “And I made him grow up too  hard, too fast. Made sure he’d always keep Sammy safe. And now he...he thinks that’s all he is, all he’s good for, and he -- “

 

How do I tell her that her son's been raped?

 

“Something happened...not monsters, just horrible, evil people...and I don’t think he cares anymore.  I don’t think he cares if he lives or dies. It’s just Sam keeping him here, keeping him fighting, and I just don’t know, Babe.  I just don’t know what to do.”

He wormed his way forward until he could lean one shoulder on the headstone.  “I might lose him...might lose them both...and I’m not even over you yet.” He wiped his face against the shoulder of his jacket.  “Please...help me out? Send me something. A dream, or something. I just need guidance. Just need to know what you would do. What you want me to do.  Please?”

He hunched into the cold marble, needing with every fiber of his being, every fragment of his tortured soul, to feel her touch.  Hear her voice. Press his ear to her warm chest, listen to her heart beat, and know that it would all be okay.

 

Pink had given way to a merciless gold before John finally forced him to rise and return to his sons.

 

Chapter Text



Bobby led them up the mountain at a leisurely pace, and Dean felt his tension ease a little more with the completion of each curve.  He was in his baby, his brother snoring softly beside him, window down with the scent of dew and pine needles wafting in, looking at an entire week of pretending that evil didn’t exist in the world.  What could be better?

The contrary voice that he hated so much tried to provide some answers to that rhetoric, but he mentally bludgeoned it into silence.

They topped a rise, looking down on a tree-studded valley, and Dean brought the Impala to a halt.

 

Clouds caught in the branches like alcohol-soaked cotton in a three-day growth of beard.  The rising sun painted the top edge in water-colors of pink and lavender and gold, and the beauty of the new day carried so much promise that it brought tears to Dean’s eyes.

 

Without removing his gaze from the wonder before him, Dean reached over and patted his brother’s chest.  “Sam.”

The younger man startled awake, sitting up, rubbing his eyes.  “Are we there?” And then he looked to where his brother was pointing.

The beauty momentarily paralyzed him, and he half sat, half reclined, right hand curled near his face, mouth open in a wide ‘o’.

“Dean,” he finally breathed.  “It’s beautiful.”

“Yeah.”  His brother’s voice was gruff, and Sam glanced at him, noting the pink and gold reflecting in the line of moisture on his brother’s cheek.

“Dean?”  It was a rare moment of vulnerability from his always-stoic older brother, and Sam would never let him suffer that alone.

 

The moment was lost when John rapped on Sam’s window, startling them both.

Sam rolled his window down, answering their father’s inquiring look with a sweeping gesture at the vista spread out before them. “Sorry, Dad.  We just had to stop for a minute.”

John chuckled.  “Gorgeous, isn’t it?”  He squatted, leaning a shoulder against the door.  “Good reminder of…’ his voice trailed off, and he deliberately did not look at either of his sons.  

The rumble of an engine heralded the approach of Bobby’s old pick up as he backed down the winding road.  The older man’s face could be seen in the side mirror, watching them, and he broke into a smile as he parked.

He stepped out, then came to lean against Dean’s door.  “Kinda restores your soul, don’t it, boy?” he queried gently, having caught Dean’s expression.

Dean licked his lips, and his swallow was embarrassingly audible to all present.  “Yeah. Never seen anything quite like it before,” and he knew the lame excuse would be accepted, because that’s the way they were. Tearing up because you’ve been confronted with unexpected beauty was still manly.  Tearing up because you’ve just realized that maybe, just maybe, you’re going to be okay, you’re going to survive gang rape and near death experiences and your brother leaving and your whole reason for being changing -- that was too much like a chick-flick moment.  

 

You might be shattered, your whole everything may go dark and silent, but the world will keeping turning and what you become tomorrow or the next day, it may be --   his gaze swept the scene before him one more time, and he breathed in Bobby’s engine oil scent and Sam’s deodorant and the crisp, unpolluted air --   awesome.

Maybe.

But that wasn’t something he could say, or that any of them -- except maybe Sam -- would be able to hear.

 

He wiped his eyes with a rough fist.  “We should prob’ly get goin’, huh? I bet this place serves one helluva breakfast.”

Bobby patted him on the arm, then squeezed gently, letting the boy know that he understood all the things that went unsaid.

 

The caravan continued, weaving past the entrance to some fancy resort -- “Rich chics, Sammy!  Bored and horny, guaranteed!” -- before turning onto a barely noticeable track through densely packed pines.  

They pulled to a stop beside an enormous log cabin.  

“Whaddaya think?  This good enough to call ‘home’ for the next week?”  Bobby’s beard split in a wide grin.

“Seriously?”  The surprised pitch of Sam’s voice made him sound younger than he was.  “It’s -- “

“Who else is stayin’?”  Dean interrupted. Any of them female?

“It’s just us,” Bobby clarified.  Catching Dean’s look of disappointment, he added, “but there’s four-wheelers in the shed and we can go down to the main resort whenever we like.”  

Dean’s smile rivaled the sunrise, and John glowered at him.  “You are expected to behave like a gentleman and not call undue attention to yourself, Dean.”

The harsh tone didn’t touch him.  “Yes, sir. Always.” He winked at Sam, then went around to pop the trunk and grab his duffle.  “Let’s get this party started, boys!”

John shook his head, hiding a smile, but Bobby chuckled and Sam let out a whoop.  “Our first vacation!” He clapped Dean on the shoulder, earning a grin from his older brother.

“It’ll be epic, Sam.  I guaran-damn-tee it.”

 



“The lodge is fully equipped,” Bobby explained as he led them around.  “Full kitchen, each bedroom with its own bath, pool table, couple arcade games, foosball.  Got a jacuzzi on the porch. Everything’s warded up the yin-yang, here and at the resort. They got it cleared of supernatural critters all through the areas that tourists like to go, and about a mile radius around this cabin.”  He paused, failing to hide a smirk. “Once we get some groceries, should be no reason to leave here. Ought to be able to get a nice, big dose of family bonding time in over the next week.”

Dean looked appalled at the suggestion, and Sam laughed.  “Gee, Bobby, that sounds awesome! We can all go for a hike first thing in the morning, catch those sunrises, come back and cook breakfast together, maybe play a little foosball --”

“Stop!”  Dean held up a hand.  “Know what my goal is this week, Sammy?”

“Getting laid?”  his younger brother drawled, somehow managing to convey both boredom and irritation in those three syllables.

Dean shrugged.  “Well, that’s my goal every week.  No, my goal this week is to get you laid, Saint Samantha.”

That was the start of their first wrestling match of the holiday.

 



They took the Impala into Gatlinburg to stock up on supplies and get some breakfast.  

Dean was his most charming with every female he encountered, eye contact and a seductive smile freely given to any woman who appeared to be of legal age.  

Sam noted the surprised looks and pleased blushes and rolled his eyes.  “Dude,” he hissed at one point as the two passed a matronly woman whose reaction to Dean’s interest was to drop the cantaloupe she’d been inspecting, “could you tone it down a little?  You’re going to start a riot!”

“Can’t help it, Sam.  It’s a brand new day, and the possibilities are endless!”

“Yeah, but she’s somebody’s mother.  Show some respect!”

Dean stopped to give his brother a surprised look.  “How was that disrespectful, dude? I just smiled!”

Sam rolled his eyes.  “Yeah. Whatever.”

“Seriously, I wanna know: how was that anything but nice?”  Irritation edged his voice.

“Did you see how flustered she got?  Clearly there was more in your ‘smile’ --” he punctuated the word with air quotes -- “than a simple ‘hello’.”

Dean rolled his eyes, examining a wrapped head of lettuce with a look of distaste before dropping it in the cart.  “Older women have experience. And all those soft curves….” He trailed off, eyes losing focus, and Sam snorted.

“That’s exactly what I mean.  Perv.”

Dean shook his head, still smiling at some memory that he was tempted to torture Sam with.  “Still not disrespectful, Sam. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: I respect the skills she’s worked so hard to learn.”

Sam sniffed a bundle of fresh spinach, nodded to himself, then pulled a thin produce bag from a reel.  “Skills that you assume she's earned," he corrected.

Dean rolled his eyes.  “Trust me Sam: she has them.  I can tell.”

Sam glanced around at the mostly female shoppers populating the produce section.  “Whatever,” he conceded in a whisper. “Let’s just finish this and go before a group of them forces you into a supply closet or something.”

 

A dirty living room, furniture replaced with mattresses

 

The image was there and gone, leaving Dean breathless and cold, heart thudding in his chest.

“Yeah.”  He flicked a glance at his brother.  “Wanna get back and kick your ass at Donkey Kong, anyway.”

Sam rolled his eyes even as he chuckled, relieved to turn the conversation to something that wouldn't get them kicked out of the grocery store if others overheard.  “As if!”

If he noticed that Dean kept his eyes down for the remainder of the trip, not even acknowledging the young cashier who tried so hard to capture his attention, Sam chose not to mention it.

 



Sam was looking forward to the Donkey Kong tournament on the arcade game in their lodge, but Dean begged off, reminding Sam that he’d been driving all night while his princess of a brother snored in the seat next to him.

Sam was just as happy to take a book out onto the wrap-around deck, settling into one of the lounges with a contented sigh.  After all, he had an entire week to humiliate his brother with his unrivaled arcade skills.

 



hands, so many hands --

“You’re here to breed.  He wants Winchester children” --

straps at his wrists, elbows, ankles, knees, and waist --

silk was looped around both of the girl’s wrists, arms bound to a cast iron ring in the headboard and coarse hemp secured each ankle to a ring on the pillars at the foot of the bed, leaving her spread wide --

“Please...please.” But he didn’t even know what he was pleading for, only that his entire body was aching with need, straining to reach her --

“Please, Dean.  Please! You’re killing me here!” --

suddenly his hospital gown was gone, and his body was tight, coated with a thin sheen of sweat, eyes squeezed tightly closed, braced for some sort of punishment --

what the fuck?  Dean slowly lowered himself to one knee, forearm pressed to his side and abdomen.  Jesus, that hurts --

"Someone else is going to go through this because you’re too stubborn or stupid --"

the restraints had turned to silken ties, the table to a firm mattress covered in satin sheets --

she was lowering herself onto him, and she was hot -- he groaned -- so wet, and she began to move, and he couldn’t think, it felt so good, each stroke sending a jolt of electric pleasure down his legs to rebound at his curled toes before shooting back up through his torso to fuzz his brain --

someone is devouring his cock, soft-moist-sucking warmth, and his back arches as he groans, and it shouldn’t feel so good, he can’t remember why but it shouldn’t --

a part of Dean was distantly aware that his father was whipping him with the buckle-end of his belt, that the metal was tearing his flesh, and the warm liquid he felt on his skin could only be blood --

Dean was stretched, every muscle taught, sweat once again sheeting his skin --

the scream that started behind Dean’s teeth erupted in a strangled shout, ending abruptly as his back arched and his heels began drumming on the table --  

Dean groped blindly for his dad’s collar, pulling himself across the few inches that separated them to bury his face in the warm comfort of his father’s neck, and sobbed  until there was nothing left --

he mumbles “No,” or  he thinks he does, but Jeff is there, and he sounds paternal --

“You think a blow job is worth more than your brother’s life?”

 

Dean jerked into a seated position, hands fisted in his blankets.  He was gasping, covered in sweat, the beat of his heart a painful stricture in his chest.

Frantic eyes darted around the room as his head swam, visceral memories of blood and agony and naked bodies and intense pleasure and terror all vying for dominance while his conscious mind sought to assert itself, to put a halt to the nightmare and bring Dean back to reality.

 

Lodge.  Family vacation.  He swallowed hard, closing his eyes, focusing on his breathing.   Safe.  Sam’s safe, Dad’s safe, Bobby’s safe. You’re safe. Everyone is safe .

 

He eased back onto the pillows, one arm draping over his eyes while the other pushed the blankets down to his waist.  He pulled the ever-present t-shirt up, baring his moist abdomen to the cool air.

Nightmares weren’t new to the young, yet seasoned hunter.

After a time he sat up, swinging his legs to the floor.   Not gonna waste this whole day on bad dreams.

He headed to the shower, determined to chase down that pink and gold sunrise and make it his own.



Chapter Text


 

“Whatcha readin’?”

Without raising his eyes from the page, Sam opened his mouth to answer, only to have Dean cut him off with a raised hand.

“Nevermind; I don't really want to know.  Whaddaya say we hop on those four-wheelers out there, Sam?” He slapped his little brother on the thigh, trying to draw his gaze.  Or an eye roll, or an irritated glare. Anything that broke the spell that the damned book had on him would do.

Sam's brow was furrowed, focus marred but unbroken.  "Maybe later.”

Dean groaned, throwing himself back in the deck chair dramatically.  “Come on, Sam! You get to read all the time!” The whine in his voice made him sound like the younger brother for once.  “This is a vacation! We're supposed to be doing vacation things!”

Sam looked up, keeping his novel open.  “'Vacation things’, Dean? Do you even know what those are?”

“Yeah!” He sounded mildly offended.  “They're the things you can't do when you're not on vacation. Like ride four wheelers and meet hot chicks.” He flashed his best carefree and lascivious grin.

Sam's eye roll ended on the words lying in wait on his lap.  “You chase hot chicks all the time. You don't need me for that.”

Dean shifted, a tenuous disquiet clouding his sunrise like the threat of snow.  “Okay, I won't try to pick up a girl.” His face brightened once more. “But I can help you bag one! That isn't something you normally do!” He held his hands out in a winner’s flourish.  “Voila! Vacation-y!”

Sam sighed, lowering his book so that the words were smothered against his chest.  “I don't want or need your help getting girls, Dean.”

The older sibling read his brother's signals and knew that his prey was starting to weaken.   “Please, Sam?” His voice was quiet, all trace of playfulness gone. 

Sam held his gaze, searching.

He found what he was looking for in the flash of guilt-edged pain that Dean turned away to hide.

I just don't want to be alone yet.  “Nevermind, Sam.  I can find something else to do.” He got to his feet, and Sam groaned.

“Alright,” the younger man conceded, slipping a receipt between pages to mark his place.  “Let's go do 'vacation things’.”

 

The brightness of Dean's smile could have rivalled the sun.

 


 

They entered the lobby grinning and breathless, riding the wave of adrenaline brought on by an impromptu race down the mountain that both brothers agreed had ended in a draw.

“Four wheelers are awesome.”

“Better than the Impala?”

The look Dean shot his brother was nothing short of scandalized.  “'Course not! But they are a close second.”

Sam laughed.  “Agreed.”

“Hey, why don't you use that big brain of yours to figure out a way to talk Dad into getting a pair?  Be great on - “ he shot a look around the sparsely populated lobby, lowering his voice as he finished -”hunting trips.”

A guilty shift of the eyes was the only indication Sam gave that he'd caught the reference to Dean and their father hunting as a duo in the near future.  “I'll get right on that, Big Brother.”

Dean flashed another high-watt smile, patting his sibling on the shoulder.  “Awesome!” His eyes swept the lobby, taking in everything: the people, the furnishings. Exits, stairwells, windows, bank of elevators.  Rack of brochures advertising local attractions. Signs naming the functions of the various desks scattered around the periphery of the space.

A backhand slap landed on Sam's chest before an attached digit pointed, directing the younger man's gaze.  “Guest Services.” Dean looked to his brother, a familiar expression of anticipatory licension broadening his smile. “Let's go see if we can get serviced.”

“Vacation things, Dean,” Sam chided, earning yet another wicked grin from his older sibling.

 


 

 

The brunette's head was bowed as the young men approached, her attention absorbed by the sheets in front of her.

Dean leaned one long, muscular forearm on the counter, deliberately placing himself within her peripheral vision.

The young woman’s response was as predictable as the sunrise: first a startle, followed by a dilation of pupils, brief flare of nostrils, flick of a nervous tongue over dry lips, and a pink flush starting at the collar of her shirt before working its way up.

The glow of interest in Dean’s groin was equally predictable.

An impatient huff of breath on the back of his neck was a silent reminder from Sam of what they were there for.

Vacation things, Dean chided himself.  Things we don’t do when we aren’t on vacation.

I haven’t done her before.

Things we can do.  Me and Sam. Together.

Well, we could --

No.  We couldn't.  End of discussion.

 

He toned down the wattage on the ‘knock-’em-dead-Dean' smile.  “Hi. I’m Dean; this is my brother, Sam. We’re here on our first ever family vacation, celebratin’ his eighteenth birthday and high school graduation.”

She pulled her eyes from Dean’s, sweeping them over Sam’s face before flicking along what she could see of his body, then returning them to where they had started.

She shifted her feet, brushing a lock of hair over her shoulder.  The tip of her tongue appeared briefly, then was gone. “Dean. Sam,” she acknowledged, and her body language told Dean that at this point, it was a toss-up as to which brother had the better chance of bedding her.  “My name’s Alesia. What can I do for you today?”

So many, many things.

“Well, like I said, it’s our first vacation.”  He spread his hands, allowing himself to appear just a little lost.  Barely in need of rescue. “We’re looking for things to do. Vacation-y things.”

 An image flashed through his mind of warm sand and hot skin; his fingers deftly sculpting a nude female form; soft flesh tipped with a firm nub filling his mouth; his name a frantic cry on her kiss-bruised lips --

“Things we don’t normally do at home,” Sam interjected, the needle edge of his irritation popping the bubble on Dean’s fantasy.

“Yeah.  What he said.”  Dean shuffled his feet, ostensibly making space for Sam at the desk, but in reality hoping to shift his contorted erection enough to relieve some of the pressure.

Sam stepped forward, conveying his aggravation through the controlled violence in his motions as he shouldered his way past his brother.

Dean smirked.

“Well, we do have a list of activities that we offer.”  Alesia held a sheet of paper out toward Sam.

Dean snatched it from her hand.  “I read; he talks.” He smiled at her.  “Normally it’s the other way around, but we’re on vacation.”  Although his words were directed at her, the snark in his tone was all for Sam. 

Her eyebrows dipped, and an uneasy smile failed to cover  her confusion.

 “He’s super smart," Dean recovered, remembering his goal.  "Got a full-ride scholarship to Stanford.  You don’t get that without doing a whole heck of a lot of reading.  Right, Sammy?” He slapped his younger brother on the shoulder, allowing pride for his sibling to dominate the moment.

Sam colored.  “Dean -- “

“What, Sammy?  You worked hard.  You should be proud of yourself, man.”  He tipped his head at the speechless client services representative.  “Vacation-y things, Sam. Listen up.”

Sam cleared his throat, offering an apologetic half-smile to the flustered girl behind the counter.  “Sorry. He’s…” He twitched one shoulder in a helpless shrug. “He’s my older brother.”

Alesia's smile relaxed as she found herself back on familiar ground.  “I have one of those, too.”

The two younger siblings shared a moment, dimples matching dimples as a tentative bond was formed.

Dean noticed, but was careful to keep his attention averted.

C’mon, Sammy!  She took the bait, now set that hook!

“So...You’re going to Stanford?”

“Yeah.  In August.”  This was comfortable territory for Sam, but he was still unsure of his audience.

Dean’s focus tightened, the printed words before him temporarily losing their meaning.   August.  Two more months.  He could see it coming at him like a steam-roller, moving fast.

“Have you visited the campus yet?”

Dean sensed the tension ease in his brother as the girl steered him to increasingly solid footing.  

“Oh, yeah, just a couple weeks ago. It was amazing.  There was this one library….”

 


 

 

Dean turned, leaning his shoulder blades against the wall, ‘Activities’ page gripped between the thumb and curled forefinger of each hand.

The letters on the paper blurred, and Dean opened his eyes wide, rolling them to dessicate the slow build of tears before they could spill over and embarrass him.

He gave the list before him more attention than it necessarily warranted, compiling a mental list of possibilities.

Water aerobics.  I don’t do swim trunks in public, but I might go watch.

Bear claw necklace!  Wonder if it’s a real bear claw?

Leather bracelet would be cool.

Some guided hikes, sharing of ‘settler lore’, and a tribute to female country singers all caught Dean’s eye.

 

“Sammy!”  He snapped away from the wall, gripping the shoulder of his brother’s shirt, tugging excitedly.  “Wooden snakes, Sam!”

The younger man jerked loose from his brother’s grasp, exasperated.  “Wooden snakes?”

“Yeah!”  Ignoring his sibling’s tone, Dean poked a finger at the page he gripped in his fist.  “It's one of the activities!  We can paint a wooden snake, Sam!” He turned to Alesia, who had begun to look bemused.  “Are they the kind that move? The jointed ones?”

In answer, she reached beneath the counter, settling a toy replica of a coral snake on the smooth surface in front of her.  “They are just like this, only unpainted.” She maneuvered the tail, and the artificial body undulated.

“Sam!”  Dean looked to his brother, eyes wide with a child’s fascination and hope.

“Dude: it’s a kid’s toy!”

“I know, man!”  Dean reached out, laying his forefinger on the counter so that the wooden tongue brushed his skin as Alesia animated the creature.  “I got you one once. For your birthday, I think. Fourth or fifth.”

“It was Christmas, I was six, and that was from you?  It said ‘from Santa’ on it. Thought Dad bought it.”

 “See!”  Dean crowed, eyes still on the wooden toy as he slapped the back of his knuckles against his brother’s chest.  “You remember! Because it was cool!”

Sam crossed his arms over his chest, scowling with his entire body.  “Really?” His voice was sardonic. “You told me it was a baby toy, remember?”

Alesia had removed her hand, leaving Dean to manipulate the serpent, bringing it to life.  “Yeah, well, that’s because I didn’t have one.”

He looked up at Sam with the rare vulnerability of a ten-year-old who found nothing but ammunition and spare underwear in his Christmas stocking.  “Please, Sammy? Can we make them? Please?”

 

The brothers locked eyes, and Alesia looked away, inadvertent witness to an exchange that she didn’t understand.

 

“Sure," Sam relented.  "We can make the snakes.”

“Good!”  Alesia beamed at the disarmingly attractive pair.  “That’s actually one that I lead, and it’s free. Just meet back here in a hour.”

Dean nudged Sam with his elbow, earning a look of confusion for his troubles.  

“Maybe Sam here could get your phone number?" He flashed her a muted version of his panty-dropping grin.  "You know: in case we get lost or something. This is a big place.”

The girl’s cheeks flushed, and her chin dropped fractionally so that when she looked up at Sam, it was through the partial concealment of her eyelashes.  

Sam was staring, open-mouthed, waiting for her response, having no clue that she needed confirmation from  him.

Dean rolled his eyes internally.   Don’t  need my help getting girls.  Riiiiigggghhhhhtt.

He tapped Sam’s ankle with the toe of his boot.

“Oh!  Yeah, that would be...you know...we’re new to the area….”  He trailed off, face flaming, and Dean coughed to disguise his chuckle.

“Sure.”  She held her lower lip between her teeth as she wrote quickly but neatly on another of the activity listings.

Dean watched Sam stare at that lip, and laughter bubbled in his chest.  Not gonna send you off to college a virgin, are we, Sam?

And maybe while he’s gettin’ laid, I can, too.  Kinda like doing something together. Different chicks, different rooms or whatever, but in the same time frame.  So...it counts. Kinda.

If it meant he got to have sex, Dean would find a way to rationalize it.

“I smell coffee,” he broke in, interrupting the soundless exchange of pheromones that was occuring between the brunette and his brother.

“Um,”  Alesia pulled her eyes away from Sam’s with obvious reluctance.  “There’s a little cafe-type thing through those doors, right next to the pool.”

“Awesome.”  He tugged the elbow of his little brother’s sleeve.  “C’mon, Sammy. I need java.”

He pushed the younger man ahead of him, winking at Alesia over his shoulder as they moved away.  “Thanks.”

 

Not just the day, but the entire week glowed with promise.


Chapter Text


 

 

“So...which building are you guys in?” Alesia had adopted a casual tone and what Dean was certain she believed to be an expression of unquestionable innocence.

Dean smiled to himself.   Hook, line, and sinker.  Atta boy, Sammy.

Sam shot a look at him, clearly relying on the more experienced hunter to take the lead.

“We're actually up at the lodge,” Dean admitted.  No one told us to keep it a secret.

“Oh!”  Her face changed, something Dean couldn't quite identify shading her eyes.

“What?” His tongue curled against his lip as he worked with bright yellow paint on a black surface, intent on getting this one detail perfect the first time .

“It's just...well...I've never met any of the lodge people before.”

Sam chuckled.  “'The Lodge People’?  Sounds like the title of a really cheesy horror flick.”

Dean was uncharacteristically quiet, bent low over his creation, features tight with concentration.

Alesia smiled, pink suffusing her cheeks.  “Well, I don't know what else to call the people who stay up there.” She shrugged, a quiet discomfort still evident.  “We get a whole lecture on that place: only certain employees are allowed up there; don't expect to see any of those guests; if you do, don't ask questions.  Don't talk about the lodge or who you may or may not have seen there. Don't fraternize.”

“‘Don't fraternize’?” Dean raised an eyebrow, but didn't look up.

“Yeah,” Sam began, “it means --”

“I know what it means, Geek Boy.” He glanced at Alesia.  “So, no gettin’ friendly with us, huh?”

She shrugged almost imperceptibly, clearly unhappy with the suggestion.

“What if you aren't the one initiating the collusion?”

Sam's eyes widened, and Dean chuckled.  “Don’t hate me because I'm beautiful, Sam.”

He was rewarded with a snort.

Dean grinned.   Point goes to me.

“I don't think it matters,” Alesia offered. “I think that if the bosses found out, I'd lose my job either way.”

Or your life if something comes for us and you get caught in the crossfire.

“In that case, we better keep any fraternizing clandestine.”  Dean smirked triumphantly at his younger brother, and Sam shook his head, smiling.

“So close, Dean.  So close.”

“What?” Triumph gave way to irritation. “We can't all be giant human dictionaries, Sam.”

“You mean thesauruses?”

“No!  That sounds like some wild animal you’d find in Africa.  I meant what I said, because all the synonyms in the world don't help if you don't know what they mean.  You always know what they mean, Dictionary Boy.” He kept his eyes on his project, hating the feeling of humiliation that crept up his throat. I'm a good hunter and chicks dig me.  I don't have to be smart, too .

He glanced up, feeling the weight of two sets of eyes on him.  “What?”

Sam closed his mouth before shaking his head.  “Sorry...I just...what you just said about synonyms... you're right.  I mean, that was spot-on. And you had the meaning of ‘clandestine’ right, it’s just not the way…You know what?  It doesn’t matter. It’s fine.” He shook his head. “I thought you hated English?”

Dean looked down, willing the flush growing in his skin to remain below his collarline.  “My fifth grade language arts teacher was kinda hot,” he mumbled. He held his snake aloft.  “Finished! I give you: Batsnake.”

Sam's mouth had fallen open again.  “'Batsnake’?”

“Yeah,” Dean confirmed, turning his creation so he could admire it from every angle.  “He's Batman's pet.”

“I'm pretty sure Batman does not have a pet snake.”

“So?” He glared at his younger brother.  “It's called 'creative license’, Sammy. Besides, it's a comic.  Work in progress. They could write one in any time, and when they do, you and I will both know that I was ahead of the game.” He turned the snake so that the bat symbol on its forehead undulated in his little brother’s face.  “'Creative license’, Sammy. Look it up.”

At that moment a boy who looked to be about ten stopped at their table, eyes wide.  “Is that a Batsnake? Cool!”

Dean high-fived the kid, shooting Sam a smug look.

“You have reached the pinnacle of social greatness, Dean: ten-year-olds think you're cool.”

“Shut up,” he muttered.  “I am cool.”

Alesia laughed.  “Wow! You two really are brothers, aren't you?”

“Careful,” Sam warned, “we're also scary Lodge People.  No matter how ordinary we may seem, it still isn’t safe to fraternize with us.”  He smiled, and Alesia blushed.

“Well...I suppose a little fraternizing won't hurt.  As long as we're discreet.”

“You got it.  Discretion is my middle name.” With that pronouncement, Dean raised his snake high in the air, exclaiming in a radio-announcer voice: “Is that the bat signal I see?  Don't worry, Batman, help is on the way!”

Batsnake swooped through the air, and Sam dropped his forehead to his palm.  Tilting his head, he peered at Alesia one-eyed through the curtain of his bangs.  “Do you happen to have any other activities you could suggest? Maybe something geared toward an adult -- ” he watched his brother, smiling at the uncomplicated joy that his older sibling so rarely displayed.  “Nevermind. This perfect.”

 

 



Sam bought himself a pair of swim trunks and the boys spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging around the pool, Sam in the water, Dean sheltered under an umbrella drinking mai tais.  

“Really, Dean?  Mai tais?”

“Well, Sam, I can switch to moonshine if you like, but you’ll be driving me  home.”

Sam pursed his lips, nodding.  “Good point. Stick with the girly drinks.”

Dean grinned around a colorful straw.  “Will do, Dad.”

Sam just shook his head, but he made sure that his cannonball into the pool had the right trajectory to douse his smartass brother.

 


 

 

Dean realized quickly that this resort paid people to basically hang out and play.  One had approached Sam just a few minutes after his spectacular pool entry. Dean had expected the guy to bitch his brother out -- that kind of drop into a crowded pool could be dangerous for someone with less situational awareness than Sam possessed -- but instead, the guy seemed to be trying to organize a water volleyball game.  He obviously sold the idea, because it was soon in full swing.

Dean watched his lanky brother sail out of the water like a dolphin to spike the ball viciously over the net.   Maybe shoulda warned them that the boy is a bit competitive.  He smiled into his drink.   They’ll figure it out soon enough.

He shifted in the plastic chair, grimacing at the sticking dampness of his sweat-soaked shirt.  He’d been tempted to get into the pool with his brother, or at least take his t-shirt off, but his dad had told him to maintain a low profile.

Some of his scars were too fresh to go unnoticed.

 

More than that -- and he refused to acknowledge the fact at all -- the thought of baring the majority of his body to a bunch of strangers left him feeling shaky and a little breathless, like he’d just run five miles uphill at a high altitude.

 

He downed an ice water between each mai tai, but eventually the heat got to be too much.  He got Sam’s attention and signalled that he was going inside, mouthing the word ‘bar’, then motioning as if uncapping a bottle and raising it to his lips.  Sam nodded his understanding of the Winchester sign language. Dean leveled a sweeping glance around the area, reassuring himself that his brother was safe before slipping into the blessed relief of the air-conditioned lobby.

 


 

The bar was both larger and darker than Dean had expected, with walls made to look like large, rough-hewn logs, a bar covering one short wall, a pair of pool tables, and a smattering of tables over what looked like it was meant to serve a dual purpose as a dancefloor.  Band equipment was set up on a stage that covered the wall directly opposite the bar.

At this time of day Dean had the place to himself.

He glanced around, feeling the sweat cool on his skin and an odd tightness develop in his chest.

“One of the bartenders can play pool with ya, if ya like.”

Dean licked his lips, swallowing back a sudden dryness in his throat.  “Nah. ‘S okay. Just wanted to cool off.” He offered a weak smile. “‘S hot outside.”

The man behind the bar smiled back.  “You like a drink?”

Dean felt a fine tremor in his fingers and rubbed them on his jeans.  What the fuck?

“Uh..yeah.  What’ve you got in a bottle?”  He wasn’t listening. Didn’t really care.  “The first one’s fine,” and his eyes never left the bottle as it was deftly uncapped and handed to him.  “Thanks.”

“Run a tab?”

Dean scanned the empty room nervously.   Hot as hell outside.  “Yeah.  Sure.”

 

He took a seat with his back to a wall.  From there he could watch the door, the pool tables, and most of the room.

His tension eased as he pulled the cold comfort of some brand of dark ale into his throat.

The barkeeper came over, setting a frosty glass of clear liquid on a napkin in front of him, then offering a remote.  “brought ya a glass a' ice water.  Got the TV all to yourself if you want it.”

“Thanks.”  Beats sittin’ here with nothin’ but my own thoughts.

He flipped through channels, feeling simultaneously restless and tired.  He watched part of a sitcom and an entire black-and-white Western before Sam came wandering in.

Dean left a news channel on, not really interested in it but not clear yet on whether they were going or staying.

“You want a beer?”

Sam raised his eyebrows.  “Can I?”

Dean shrugged.  “We’re Lodge People.  I don’t think they’re allowed to ask for I.D.”

“Do they know that we’re Lodge People?”

Dean shrugged.  “Can’t hurt to ask ‘em.”

Sam reached out to wrap long fingers around the neck of Dean’s bottle, pulling it toward him.  Dean suppressed an unexpected rush of anxiety, eyes locked on the mouth of the bottle, even when it settled against Sam’s lips.  

The younger man dipped his brows, tilting the beverage away until it was no longer touching his mouth.  “Are you okay with this?”

“What?  Yeah, of course.  Help yourself.”

Sam took a long pull, observing his brother’s reaction.  

He set the bottle back on the table, noting a slight hesitation before Dean curled his fingers around the sweating glass in a loose fist.

“You okay, Dean?”

“Yeah.  Why?”

Sam shook his head.  “I don’t know. You just looked…”  He shrugged. “Nothin’. Forget it.”  He turned to signal the barkeep, and caught the man walking toward them.  “Hey. Can I get a beer?” He kept his tone confident, but lowered his voice a few  notes. “And a glass of water, please. It’s hot out there.”

“No offense, but you look a little young.  Can I see some i.d.?”

Dean pinned him with an emotionless stare.  “We’re staying up at the lodge.”

“Th -- Oh.  Yeah. Right.”  He shifted his weight, darting his eyes to the table, a chair between the two young men, his own hands -- anywhere but at their faces.  

“I’ll have what he’s having,” Sam supplied helpfully, and the man answered with a jerky nod.

“Yes, sir.”

“You can put it on my tab,” Dean added, holding his chuckle until the man had stumbled out of earshot.  “Too bad he got so shook up,” the hunter observed, sipping his water. “He was actually really nice before that.”

“Probably thinks we’re Mafia assassins or something.”

Dean guffawed.  “Yeah, right, because that’s exactly what you look like, Sam: a Mafia hitman.  Baby Face Nelson, reincarnated.”

Sam chuckled.  “Guess that makes you Pretty Boy Floyd, then.”  

Dean grinned.  “Rest of this week, I’m introducing us to everyone as Nelson and Floyd.”

“What, no rockstar names?”

“Not this week, Sammy.  I mean ‘Nelson’. This week we’re Lodge People….”

 

A face on the television screen caught his attention and he froze with the bottle part way to his lips.

Sam was busy reading through the descriptions in the extensive beer menu, and didn’t notice.

 

“The charges against the five men recently accused of multiple acts of rape have been dropped.  A statement released by the district attorney cites a lack of plausible evidence and eye witness--”

 

“Did you know they have their own microbrewery?” Sam cut in, turning a page.

 

Living room, not too clean, mattresses instead of furniture --

hands, so many hands --

and  now there is heat and wet, too, and the sharp nip of teeth and slick glide of tongues all over his skin --

his torso folds and his orgasm erupts and  tears cringe down his face --

he struggles and the men hold tighter --

vomit erupts in his throat and it fills his nose and saturates the cotton in his mouth --

dried something on his skin, making him itch --

t-shirt pushed up around his neck, front soaked with spit and snot and bile --

he winced at the feel of something wet slicking down the inside of his thigh --

T-shirt discarded on the floor of the dirty bathroom --

 

“Dean?”  Sam turned in his chair, straining to see what had captured his brother’s attention.

Dean clicked the power button.  “We should get back.” He cleared his throat roughly.  “Dad and Bobby oughta be awake by now.” He stood, fingers snaking into his hip pocket in search of his wallet even as he strode with his usual feline grace up to the bar.

 

But Sam had seen the tremor in his brother’s hand when he set the remote down.  Sam looked from the innocuous device to the television, then to his brother’s retreating figure, then back again.

“Sam!  You comin’?”

The young man breathed out a deep sigh before pushing himself away from the table.  “Yeah. But we gotta try out some of these microbrews before the week’s up.”

 

Something skittered away from the toe of Sam’s shoe.  He glanced down, then bent, brow furrowed.

 

Batsnake’s front half rested incongruously on the immaculate floor, its yellow-on-black symbol calling out to him like a beacon.

 

Sam held it on his palm, frowning down at the ragged break that had resulted in the toy’s demise, then tucked it into his pocket before following his big brother out the door.









Chapter Text


 

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.


 

Chapter Text


 

Dean’s plan for getting black-out drunk in order to earn a dreamless sleep went a little better than he'd planned.

 

He awoke to sunlight stabbing him in the brain, mouth dry and rancid, stomach lurching halfway up his throat.

Emptying it in the cozy bathroom did little to dispel the misery of an epic hangover.

He bent, drinking straight from the tap, hoping the tepid water would stay down.

He was leaning over the sink, trying to convince himself that going back to bed qualified as vacation-y, when Sam knocked on the frame of the open bedroom door.  “Hey, Dean. You okay?”

Dean staggered from the bathroom, squinting at his brother through eyes that felt too large and too sensitive to be real.  “I think I had a good night.”

Sam chuckled, keeping it soft.  “Anything I can do?”

“Water?”  Dean asked hopefully.  “Aspirin? Maybe promise to kick my ass if I ever do anything that stupid again?”

This laugh was harder to keep quiet.  “I’m going to remember you said that, you know.”

Dean sank down onto the bed with a groan.  "Promises, promises." He cradled his head in his hands.

“Just wanted to let you know that Dad had to take off, but he should be back late tomorrow.”  Sam pushed away from his spot on the doorframe. “Be back in a sec with your hangover cure.”

“Wait!”  Dean winced as his own voice reverberated like a gong in his head.  “What did you say about Dad?”

“He took off early this morning.  Left a note about going to a funeral.”

 

Son of a bitch.  Shit fucking hell!

 

“Can you bring the note, too, Sam?”  His head was back in his hands, muffling the anxiety in his voice.

Sam’s quick “Sure” sounded more puzzled than concerned.  “Be right back.”

 


 

Dean chased a pair of aspirin with an entire bottle of water before he could bring himself to focus on the words scrawled on paper that had obviously been torn from his father’s journal.

 

“Buddy I served with just passed away.  Going to pay my respects. Back in a day or two.”

 

That was it.  No name, no location.  No mention of how he was getting there, who he was staying with, or exactly when they could expect him back.

 

Dean flipped his phone open, lying back on the bed like there were raw, unbroken eggs beneath him as he listened to it ring.

“You’ve reached John Winchester.  If that’s who you meant to call, leave a message.”

The harsh beep was like an icepick in his ear.

Dean couldn’t think of anything to say.

He flipped the phone closed.

 

Son of a bitch.

 


 

John dunked a stained towel in the melting ice of the cooler, rung it out, and draped it over the back of his neck.

Feels like a fuckin’ jungle in this dump.  Only thing missing is the mosquitoes.

He snagged a beer from the inadequate styrofoam box, leaning his hips against a derelict piece of cast-off machinery, eyes clouding with memory.

 

“I wasn’t trained for this.”

“Don’t matter, sir.  War is war, and we gotta know.  This is the only way to find out.”

"It's not a war, Private. It's a 'police action'."  

The soldier's gaze didn't falter.  "Same thing, Corporal."

John looked from the blade in his hand to the terrified man bound to a post in the center of the village.

"I know, Private.  I know."

 

John looked down at his empty palm, turning it over, half expecting to see a mix of fresh and dried blood coloring his flesh.

 

He tipped the bottle to his lips, watching the man across the room through the curtain of his lashes while he drank.

 

Wet eyes pleaded with him over the gag.

 

Shaun, John reminded himself.  Look at you, begging.  How much mercy did you show my son, Shaun?

 

He straightened, draining his beer.

 

He looked down at the bottle, turning it in his hands.

 

He lifted his gaze, raking it over the cowering rapist tethered to a central beam of the long-forgotten warehouse.

 

A slow smile pulled John’s lips away from his teeth, and he started forward, taking the bottle with him.

 

A dark stain appeared on the crotch of Shaun’s jeans.

 

Third time’s the charm.

 

What had been a long night was shaping up to be an even longer day, but judging by Shaun's reaction, John was fairly certain that he’d be done by nightfall.

 


 

Dean snored softly, legs hanging off the bed, phone  caught between his chest and a lax hand.

 

Classic rock, the solid thwock of a stick tapping a cue ball, ice rattling in glasses.  

My kinda place. My kinda people .  

 

“You want a partner?” one of the men asked, and Dean answered with an easy smile.

“Sure.  Name’s Dean.”

“Jeff.”

 

“Finish yer drink,” a bearded man from their group admonished, holding Dean’s tumbler out to him.  “Ain’t polite to leave it when we’s the ones hadta buy it.” He smiled when he said it, and Dean chuckled.

 

“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 jerked awake.

 

He checked his phone, frowning at the lack of new messages.

 

Fuck.

 

His skin felt simultaneously sticky and too dry.

 

He left the phone lying on the bed as he made his way to the shower.

 



John squatted before the sobbing man, video camera cradled loosely in  his palm.

“You know you’re gonna die here tonight, Scott.  How long and how bloody is up to you.”

“I don’t -- I don’t know what you want from me!”  

The self-pitying whine ground on nerves already worn thin by sleep deprivation and a father’s righteous obsession.  “You didn’t hear me talking to the others?”

Scott squeezed his eyes shut, turning away from the pile of unrecognizable flesh that had once embodied the men that he considered his closest friends.  

“But I -- I never touched him!”  He opened his eyes again, pouring his memories out, desperate to reach the father’s soul.  “He -- he bit me! I had to go to the hospital before I --” he broke off, eyes suddenly frantic, realizing that he had just made a fatal mistake.  “I was only there! I didn’t hurt him. I swear!”

“Then why’d he bite you, Scott?  More to the point, how did he manage to get his teeth into your dick?”

“I….I….”  He had no answer.  The man before him had already heard the story, every last moment of that night detailed in drawn out screams and dying gasps.

“This is your last chance to repent, Scott.”  John held up the camcorder, waggling it enticingly.  “Deathbed confession, on tape. Admit what you did -- not just to my son, but to all the others, as well.  Do that, and I’ll put you down fast.” A long, wide blade shifted in his other fist, too gore-encrusted to reflect light.  “Or don’t.” His lips curved, teeth glinting in the near-dark. “So far I’ve had a lot of fun with ‘don’t’.”

 

Scott sobbed.

 


 

The smell of roasting flesh had all but dissipated by the time Scott ran out of words, the pile of bodies behind him reduced to bones and coal and ashes.

 

John held a shotgun levelled on him, but halfway through his confession, Scott’s remorse had become real, his guilt unbearable.

 

It took no coaxing at all to get him to raise the pistol to his chin, pressing exactly where John had shown him earlier, and pull the trigger.

 

John watched the body fall, noting exactly how each part landed, especially the gun and the hand that had held it.

Never know when I might need to stage another murder-suicide.

He backed away on silent feet, boots tucked securely under his arm, while the camera on its tripod recorded the languid spread of fresh blood from a blown-out skull.

He paused outside the door to slide his feet into his Timberlands.  He scanned the debris-strewn lot, reassuring himself that his borrowed vehicle and those of the corpses inside were the only ones present.

He glanced at his watch.

 

Just enough time to shower and eat before I catch my flight.

 


 

Two hours later John relaxed into the firm embrace of his assigned seat, tipping his head against the window and ignoring the flight atten