The patter of raindrops splashing down onto the roof of the impala soothed Dean’s anxious nerves as he and his brother settled in for a long night. Massachusetts was chilly this time of year, so the older hunter bundled up in the same leather jacket he’d been wearing all day and the tattered blanket he kept alongside his shotgun in the trunk. Age had caused the fibers to fray and soften and it smelled comfortingly enough of salt and the earth to help Dean get to sleep at night. But as Dean laid across the front seat of the impala, long legs scrunched close to his chest by the frame of the car, the light bouncing off the walls in the backseat made it near impossible for him to get the shuteye he so desperately needed.
“Do you mind?” Dean asked, throwing an arm over the back of the seat to prop himself up and give him a better look at his little brother.
“It just doesn’t make sense.” When Sam spoke, Dean knew exactly what he’d been watching back there on his phone. It was the very reason the two of them were in Coeur d’Coeurs in the first place, and as Sam sat up in the back and leaned forward, showing his phone to Dean, the hunter was once again baffled by what was presented to him.
The video was a string of security footage lifted from a morgue right there in Coeur d’Coeurs. In the video, sent to them through Bobby by a couple of hunting buddies that had passed through the area, a man taps a murder victim on the shoulder, asks him how he was murdered, and less than a minute later taps him once again, sending the victim straight back to their grave. It was ridiculous, of course. Impossible. But that was the Winchester brothers’ line of work, cracking cases of the absurd and keeping normal folks safe, and that was exactly what Sam and Dean intended to do. Crack the case. That is, if there was any case to be had in the first place.
“This guy operates like a reaper, but everyone can see him. I haven’t seen anything in the lore that operates like that,” Sam continued on, the worried look on his face winding him so tight Dean thought his brother might implode. Reaching a thick, calloused hand towards the back, Dean snatched up his brother’s phone and threw it in the glove box. “Hey!”
“You’ll get that back when I wake up. You can go nuts in the morning.” Dean groaned as he plopped back down on the leather seat, ignoring Sam’s protests as he finally relaxed once again. Just a little sleep. Then the two of could get back to doing what they did best. But even as the cool waves of sleep washed over Dean, allowing him to rest until the morning light peeked over the horizon and past the windshield, not even Dean could escape Sam’s pressing question.
What in the hell was he?
Finding the man showcased in the video didn’t exactly take a genius. A couple of well placed questions to the right people pointed the Winchesters in the direction of the Pie Hole and one very special pie maker. Turns out, there weren’t very many insanely tall, socially awkward men hanging around the sleepy city. And he made pies to boot. God, Dean hoped he wasn’t a bad guy.
Stepping through the doors of the Pie Hole with a smile, Dean inhaled the sweet scent of molten sugar and what he thought was fresh fruit. The room itself was whimsical, like something he’d seen out of Scooby Doo. The green and white tile, the low lighting, the large, industrial windows—it all gave Dean a sense of fantasy that made him feel like a child again, before his mother had died and his father had gone off the deep end. It wasn’t often that Dean felt like he was home, but… this? This felt like home. The closest to home that Dean had felt in a long, long time. It was time to order some pie.
Sliding into the booth across from his brother, the two of them were quickly greeted by a bubbly blonde waitress. She was tiny compared to the hulking Winchester brothers, demure in appearance with a wide smile and rosy cheeks, and as she bounced up to the both of them it seemed that Dean caught her eye. There was a flirtatious glint in her gray eyes, and Dean caught her gaze as she looked him over and handed them a set of menus.
“Welcome to the Pie Hole, as in shut your. Or in this case, open your, because our pies are just that good!” she began with a tinkling laugh, one hand on her hip and the other pressed firmly to the linoleum table. “What’ll it be for you two tall drinks of water? Today I’m recommending rhubarb.” Returning her playful attitude with one of his own, Dean smirked and took a look at the menu.
“That’s okay. I think I’ll take the Kahlua and Cream Cheese, miss..?” Dean paused, finding the waitress wore no name tag.
“Olive Snook. It’s a pleasure.” Reaching out and shaking Dean’s hand, Olive continued to look him dead in the eyes. Her gaze only darted away when Sam politely declined ordering anything, which caused the waitress to furrow her brows. “Nothing? Oh come on, you can’t just get nothing. I’ll grab you a slice of rhubarb. You like rhubarb? How about a la mode?” Sam was dazed by the chatty barrage of questions, but Dean shook his head and answered for him, causing the talkative young waitress to scurry off.
“Don’t forget what we’re here for, Dean,” Sam cautioned him, as if he thought Dean would get carried away with the promise of pie and a pretty face. Dean simply huffed in response, crossing his arms as he pushed the subject of their investigation.
“Look, I figure we ask to meet the chef once we’re done. It’s an easy in, and I get to eat my damn pie. And maybe hook up with that hot waitress later.” Chuckling to himself as Sam rolled his eyes, Dean quieted down as Olive returned with their pie and ice cream. Staring down the mountain of Kahlua and Cream Cheese before him, topped with a dollop of rapidly melting vanilla ice cream, Dean felt his mouth water. The aroma was so fresh. So sweet. So creamy. Dean couldn’t wait to dig in.
For a moment, Dean saw stars as he brought his fork to his lips, tasting the sweet ambrosia on his tongue. The cream cheese topping melted in his mouth, sinking into the crumbling cookie crust and complimenting the heavenly, saccharine chocolate and bitter coffee tastes. It was truly his pie in the sky, and as he gobbled up the last of his pie and the last of his ice cream he pointed to Sam’s mostly untouched plate.
“You gonna eat that?” When Sam shook his head, Dean gladly polished off his rhubarb, which was just as delicious as the Kahlua Cream Cheese. Tart, but just as delicious. The moment he finished Dean waved Olive down, handed her one of their fraudulent credit cards, and asked to see the chef. There was a twinkle in the hunter’s eye. Pie had always been special to him, a comforting memory when nothing else would suffice, and somehow this pie maker had mastered the craft. This had to be some sort of magic.
Dean didn’t know what he’d been expecting when Olive walked him and his brother back and into the kitchen. Sure, he’d seen their culprit on the security footage, but he hadn’t expected him to be this… tall. He was even taller than Sam, all sharp angles and thick eyebrows. Even from where he was standing several feet away, Dean could feel the social anxiety radiating off of him in a constant thrum, pushing everyone away either subconsciously or not. Dean figured waking the dead with a simple touch would do that to someone. It didn’t seem to bother Olive any, however, because despite the pie maker’s closed off appearance and the sight of his hands wedged firmly into his pockets, the bubbly little waitress still marched right up to his side and insisted on making contact with his arm.
“These two very nice boys wanted to tell you how much they liked your pies,” Olive said, rubbing his arm as if to calm him, but it looked like it only caused him to bristle further. He soon shooed her out as politely as humanly possible, likely to lower the count of bodies in the room.
“Fox Mulder. This is my pal Dan Scully,” Dean said with a smile, reaching out to offer the pie maker a hand to shake and hoping he wouldn’t get the reference. He looked at the hunter’s hand for a moment, regarding it as if holding out a hand in such a friendly manner was an alien gesture, but after an indecisive moment of contemplation he decided to shake Dean’s hand.
“Ned. My name is Ned.” Upon further observation, Dean realized that Ned was covered in flour. Not from head to toe of course, but there was a splotch here and a pinch there that implied that the Winchesters had caught the pie maker in the middle of baking a pie. And if that mouth watering cherry scent meant anything, that labor of love was in the oven. Without warning a timer began to ring, causing Ned to jump. “Oh! Excuse me a moment.”
As Ned turned away and bent down to retrieve his pie from the oven, Sam and Dean began to case the place from the spot where they stood, searching for anything that seemed to be out of the ordinary. But as soon as Ned whirled around, eyes meeting just shy of their gazes with the pie in hand, Sam and Dean snapped back to the perfect picture of inconspicuousness. All smiles, hands folded in front of them as the aroma of that new pie rushed their nostrils. Cherries with a hint of… was that chocolate?
“Hey, I just wanted to say what a great job you’re doing here, man,” Dean began, doing his best to find the right words to speak. Judging by just how cagey the pie maker was, if the two of them wanted to make any headway they were going to have to tread carefully. Normally, Dean would have let his brother do the talking, but the older hunter was so motivated by the scent of pie and the homelike atmosphere around them that he decided that maybe it was his turn to carefully coax the information from their skittish informant. Though, it wasn’t often they went straight to the source.
“Mind if we take a look around?” Sam asked, jumping in and stepping forward. Dean wanted to lean in and pull him back, but it was too late. Ned was already recoiling, setting the pie on the cooling rack only to wring his hands together.
“I, uh… I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.” Hmm. How suspicious. “I-I mean, there’s nothing to look at, you know? This is the kitchen and the kitchen is it. No secret doors or hidden passageways or secrets to uncover behind any locked, um… well, doors.” The moment Ned began to spew word vomit at the brothers, the two of them began to look around. Why didn’t he want them to go searching through the space? Ned’s words drew their attention to what did indeed look like a large and imposing locked door, bolted to the wall with a heavy duty deadbolt. The Winchesters had been in the business long enough to know that if something or someone you were hunting had a big, scary locked door, there could never be anything good lurking behind it.
Without warning, Sam charged off in the direction of the door, obviously finished dealing with the pleasantries of their encounter. Dean reached out, telling Sam to wait, but it was too late. Sam was already grabbing the nearest heavy metal pie pan and slamming it down over and over again onto the lock, much to the pie maker’s horror. The look on Ned’s face—Dean shouldn’t have been as entertained as he was, but nonetheless he kept a straight face, arms crossed as Ned continued to panic. What was he hiding in there? A body? Multiple bodies? Terrible images and thoughts of necrophilia came to Dean’s mind, causing a shiver to run down the hunter’s spine.
Why did it have to be the pie guy?
“No! No, you don’t… have to go in there. Nothing to see here! Only fruit and yeast in there. You wouldn’t want the yeast to get an infection, would you? A… yeast infection. It doesn’t do well once its been exposed to the open air.” But it was too late. Sam had already busted the lock right off of the door and thrown it wide open, only to find rows upon rows of dead and rotting fruit.
For a moment, Dean was relieved. There were no living dead hidden away, lying in wait to jump out and end their lives in one fell swoop. There were no ghouls or murdered men, just piles and piles of fruit well past their expiration dates. That relief was short lived, however, when Dean remembered the rhubarb pie he’d eaten moments before. He should’ve just made Sam eat his own pie.
The more he thought about it, the more Dean realized it was like he was living a scene from a horror movie, an experience he was all too familiar with. The unwitting protagonists swing open the looming chamber door, only to scream in terror when they found the bodies of friends and family lying in horrendous and bloody disarray. Except in this case, the bodies were fruit and the gore was rot, though Dean still felt like he’d gotten to know that rhubarb all too well when it graced his tongue and he still wanted to scream all the same.
“What the hell?” Dean asked, more insulted in the name of pie and disgusted that he’d very likely just eaten a pile of rotting rhubarb… A very delicious pile of rotting rhubarb. “Please tell me I didn’t just eat a bunch of dead fruit.”
“Well, technically it would have been dead anyways. Eventually, since it was off the vine or the tree or whatever plant any and all of these different fruits came from. And—And rhubarb is a vegetable, too, so...” Ned began, sighing inwardly and slipping between the two brothers to get into the refrigerated room. His shoulders reached all the way up to his ears, hands cemented in his shallow pockets. “I can assure you that you didn’t eat any dead fruit or veggies, Mr. Mulder. I have a process that… maybe it would be better if I just showed you.”
It was painfully obvious that the last thing Ned wanted was to show them the secret to his pie baking success, but the betrayed look on Dean’s face and the stoic one on Sam’s were wonderful motivators. Slowly but surely, Ned took a wilted strawberry into his hands and the boys watched as it sprang back to life, as if by magic. Dean’s eyes widened in surprise, though Sam didn’t look shocked in the slightest. He simply stood there, arms crossed as he shifted his weight. Everything always seemed so predictable to Sam.
“So those hunters were right. The footage wasn’t doctored,” Sam said rather bluntly, figuring there was no use in holding the charade up any longer.
“Hunters? And… what footage? Footage of me touching—oh no.” Realization slowly set in on Ned’s face as he made his way to one of the seats by the kitchen island and sank into its leather cushion. “The morgue has security cameras, doesn’t it? God, I am so stupid.” At that, Ned leaned on the counter, head in his hands as he wallowed in his mistakes. Dean felt a pang of guilt as he saw Ned there, obviously deeply disturbed by the fact that these two strange men had found out his deepest, darkest secret. “Wait, are people coming to hunt me?”
“No, no. We’re the hunters. No one else will come for you,” Sam reassured him, but Dean caught from the fact that Ned shied away from the taller brother that Sam was only making him nervous. So, walking up to his brother and patting him on the shoulder, Dean leaned up to whisper in his ear.
“Why don’t you let me handle this one? He’s harmless. I’ll just set his nerves at ease, maybe have a little more pie. You wait in the car. Sound good, Sammy?”
“Yeah. Yeah, okay. Just don’t make me wait all night.” Without so much as a second thought, Sam took the keys and whirled around, marching straight out of the kitchen. Dean took that as his cue to slide in beside Ned, not getting too incredibly close to him. Though by the time Dean had sat down, Ned had grabbed himself a fork and had set to work eating the pie straight from the tin, making sure to eat around the cherries.
“Not a fan of fruit?”
“It’s not that I don’t like fruit. I love fruit, but because I brought these cherries back to life, they’d rot the moment they touched my tongue.” The pie maker let out a long, sad sigh, then taking a big bite of chocolate.
“So you’re a pie maker, and a great one at that, but you don’t eat your own pies?” There was a tone of sadness to Dean’s voice as he spoke, grabbing a fork for himself and scooping up a whopping serving of Cherry Ganache. “That’s kinda sad. If I were a pie maker, I’d probably have gotten fat off my own product by now.”
“That big a fan of pie?”
“Oh yeah. You might even say pie’s one of my favorite foods. Definitely my favorite dessert.” Sharing their mutual love of pie caused Ned to smile, and as Dean swallowed another bite of cherry pie he became distracted by it. Ned had a wonderfully radiant smile. The hunter thought that it would be nice to see him smile more often. But as he was distracted by the pie maker’s pretty smile, Dean dropped his entire forkful of pie onto his shirt.
“Ah, shit,” the hunter grunted, setting his fork down on the counter with an annoyed look etched into the chiseled features of his face. Dean was surprised by the speed with which Ned had grabbed a napkin and began dabbing the cherry off of his flannel.
“You, uh… wouldn’t want this to stain.” Ned cleared his throat and pulled away. The shirt was still remarkably sticky, a sign that the pie was indeed delicious. A sticky-sweet pie was a good pie, in Dean’s opinion. Even if the pie was sure to stick to his gut as well as his shirt.
“Thanks, Ned.” But even as Dean thanked the pie maker for helping him clear the offending chunks of pie from the surface of his shirt, the thought remained that the residual sticky mess would likely get all over the Impala on the way home, and getting Baby all dirty was a crime that not even Dean would suffer through. But then he looked over to Ned. He was taller than Dean, but more on the slender side as well. Maybe Dean could squeeze into something of his. “Do you have a shirt I could borrow? I promise I’ll return it. I just don’t wanna make a mess of the car.” As Dean spoke, Ned didn’t look too sure of his answer. “I’ll fix your lock in the morning when I come to bring the shirt back. How’s that sound?”
Ned was left blinking for a few choice seconds as if he were mulling his decision over like a fine wine. Testing out the taste on his tongue before making any sure decisions. So long as it wasn’t a wine Ned made himself, Dean thought, lest the grapes rot and sour on his tongue. But soon enough the skeletal pie maker was left nodding at Dean, a kind look in his eyes. Much kinder than the look he’d given Sam, though Dean was not the one that had busted down the door to Ned’s secret storage room. Ned’s affirmation made Dean’s heart jump, perhaps a little too much for comfort, though Dean chalked that up to the promise of more of the Pie Hole’s delicious pies.
“Follow me. I don’t have anything on hand, but I live right upstairs.” When he finished speaking, Ned nearly catapulted over the counter. “Olive? Can you close up for me? I’ve got something I’ve gotta take care of.” Ned didn’t wait for an answer before indicating Dean follow him, leading the hunter over to the elevator and up to his apartment.
The apartment was much nicer than anything Dean had been afforded the opportunity to stay in or to call his own. Even though the fixtures in the hallway didn’t speak to extravagant wealth, Dean figured Ned must be doing pretty well for himself if he could afford an apartment this nice in the city.
The rustic colors and warm lighting made Dean feel at ease as Ned fumbled for his keys, ushering the two of them into his apartment. An apartment that was much more than a couple of rooms with a kitchenette and peeling drywall like Dean was used to. No, instead Ned lived by what Dean saw as much grander means, his multi-room apartment decorated with maroon striped wallpaper and leather furniture. Hues of dark green and a muted yellow scattered themselves through the space, but over it all was this beautiful shade of dark red. He had Dean’s favorite leather furniture. His favorite colors.
Eyes following Ned as he walked over to his dresser and pulled out a simple black t-shirt, Dean noticed that the handsome pie maker also looked good from behind. But as he caught himself finding the pie maker handsome, Dean shoved the feeling deep down inside. He had gone years being more than a little terrified of feelings that he’d once held for Castiel, but as those came and went it was eventually too late to act on them. They had been buried so deep that the only proof that they’d even been there in the first place were the few furtive gazes he and the angel occasionally indulged in. Dean was good at locking away his emotions. He’d been doing it all his life. The hunter wasn’t about to break now.
“That shirt should be big enough. Its been through the wash a couple of times and got all stretchy, so it should be able to uh… cover all your very, very big muscles.” Ned stumbled over his words, eyes going wide as Dean unbuttoned his flannel and slipped it off his shoulders. If Dean were more observant, he would have noticed the blush blossoming across the pie maker’s cheeks and the way his gaze was drawn to the anti-possession tattoo on his thick chest.
The shirt itself fit alright. A little tighter than Dean was used to, perhaps, as it hugged his curves and muscles tight, leaving little to the imagination. But it would certainly do for the drive home, barring any questions from his little brother. Dean really hoped that Sam would keep his mouth shut, but even he knew better than to expect that.
“Thanks. I’ll bring this back tomorrow.” Dean smiled, awkwardly folding his flannel so that the stain faced the inside. He needed something to keep his hands and his eyes busy.
“I’ll hold you to that. See you tomorrow, Fox.”
“Actually…” Dean sighed as he rubbed the back of his neck, trying to think of the best way to explain that his name was not actually Fox Mulder. “The names Dean. Dean Winchester.” Ned nodded his head, not seeming all too surprised.
“I figured. I’ve, uh… I’ve seen the X-Files,” Ned said with a chuckle, smiling rather brightly at Dean. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, Dean.”
“Yeah. See you tomorrow.” The hunter’s visage was bright as he nodded his head, then turning and tracking his way back to the Impala.