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The Hand That Reaches for God

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-8 Hours Before-

One of these mornings, it won’t be long, you’ll call my name, and I’ll be gone.  
Oscar Isaac


    The house smelled like medicine.

    Growing up, Emerson always felt like her house smelled like some kind of baked good. It always smelled like cinnamon sugar cookies, and hot lemon tea. Her mother was a terrible cook, but she knew how to bake. Emerson thought it was a miracle that her and her identical twin sister, Ophelia, weren’t unbearably overweight. Especially Pheli, with her inability to say no to just one more cookie.

    Pheli was the kind of girl that everybody liked. She was made of sugar and breadcrumbs. She looked like the kind of girl that lived among the flowers. Growing up she was always the class favorite. Her smile would light up a room, where Emerson’s bad attitude would get her sent to the principal office so frequently that she had a chair with an imprint of her ass on it. She frequently was jealous of her sisters wiles. Ophelia seemed to have the ability to bat her eyelashes, and move mountains. It didn’t seem fair, but Emerson would soon learn that almost everything in life was unfair.

    The house didn’t smell like baked goods, or lemon tea, or the flowers from Pheli’s hair anymore. Now it smelled like medicine. It smelled like sterile bed sheets, and oxygen. It smelled like pre-death.

    The Maklen sisters changed their last name when their father left, in solidarity, to stand with their mother. The girls were no longer the Wilson’s. They didn’t fit in the mold that Carl and his mustache left. The two tween girls and their mother burned all of the belonging’s he left in the house ceremoniously. They danced around the flames, and consumed an entire bottle of red wine.
   
    Both girls adored their mother, from her kind eyes, to her full laugh. They thought she was the most beautiful woman to walk the planet Earth. All the girls could hope for when they grew up, was that someday they would be half the woman their mother was and twice the cook. They didn’t expect to have to say goodbye to her so soon, but then again, saying goodbye was never something that can be planned for. It always seemed too soon, even if there was all the time in the world.

    The house smelled like medicine, because their mother was dying. Her MS had gotten so bad that she was on a ventilator. She couldn’t move, and she had a permanent live in nurse. Emerson was convinced that she wasn’t even there anymore.

    “She’s a husk, Pheli. We should just be done. Don’t you think she’s suffered enough?”
   
    “How could you say that?”

    “Look at her!” Emerson gestured to their mothers slumped body in hospital bed in the living room. “She doesn’t go to the bathroom by herself. She doesn’t eat. She doesn’t talk!”

    “She’s our Mom, Em.” Pheli said weakly, her hands dropping to her side.

    “I know who she is.”

    Ophelia forced Emerson to be the logical one. To be the harsh one. Emerson liked to think it was because she was the big sister, even by two minutes. It was her duty to carry the difficulties for both of them.

    I took a lot of talking, crying, and shouting to finally come to an agreement. It was time. It was time to let her go. So they packed up their bags at the beginning of Summer break, during their senior year of college, and decided to come back home.
   
    They came back to the town they grew up in, to the green grass, and lazy people lounging on their front porches with an early afternoon beer in hand. Emerson went away to college to escape their old neighborhood. To escape the people who still saw her as the stringy haired girl with braces. The one who beat up all the boys. She wanted to escape their stares, and their jokes, but most of all she wanted to escape him.

    So, imagine her surprise, when the girls pulled up to their childhood home, just to see Dean Winchester waltz out of his front door to grab the newspaper, of all things. “Sam.” Emerson hissed, eyeing Ophelia’s boyfriend, and Dean’s younger brother, in the rear view mirror. “What is he doing here?”

    Sam shrugged, and ran his finger through his shaggy hair. He was trying to grow it out for a man bun, and Ophelia supported the idea. She was always trying out new kinds of braids, and was excited to have someone to practice on. “Dunno, Em.”

    Liar, Emerson thought. She knew the boys kept in pretty constant communication. They were almost as needy as she and Ophelia were.

    Dean was four years older than the girls and Sam. He seemed to always be around when she was growing up, but the older they got the more annoying he was. He’d bring bimbos to their hangouts, and he always ended up smoking pot or sneaking alcohol into their basement.

    “Dean you’re going to get us in trouble,” Ophelia complained as he lit up a cigarette.

    “God you’re such a girl.”

    “That's offensive, ass.” Emerson said, punching his arm.
   
    “Sammy, you seriously gonna let them talk to me that way?”

    Sam shrugged. “Probably.”

    The four of them were always stuck together. The boys were inseparable, just like the sister’s, and once Sam and Pheli started dating, the four of them were laced and tangled together. No matter what Emerson did, she couldn’t shake Dean Winchester loose. He was always there, seemingly lurking around the corner.

    “This is just not what I need this weekend.” Emerson complained, quietly.
   
    Pheli reached for her sister and squeezed her arm. “Hey, don’t worry about him. This weekend is about us. It's about Mom.” She said softly. “Don’t let anything else distract you.”

    Em sighed, letting out all the breath in her lungs in a single huff. “You’re right. I know you’re right. I’m sorry.”

    The girls smiled at each other warmly, as Emerson parked the car.

    Sam ducked out of the back seat stretching his arms into the air. “That drive will never not suck.” He complained gently, before resting his arm across Ophelia’s shoulders. He was almost an entire foot taller than her, and sometimes when they were together it was almost comical.

    Dean was still standing in the driveway, looking dumbfounded in his pajama pants and ratty AC/DC t-shirt. He gave Emerson a half wave, and she wiggled her fingers back at him.

    When she was a junior in high school, and he was twenty-one he decided to join the military. He was gone for so long that she barely remembered what he looked like, that was until he came home for his first Christmas back. She was home from her first year at college. His hair was short, and he had developed muscles that she didn’t know existed. He was wearing his camouflage uniform, buttoned and steamed pristinely, as he waltzed up to her door.

    “Hey Em.”
   
    “Dean.”

    “Hm.”

    “What?” She asked, crossing her arms.

    “Just not used to people calling me that. I’m just Winchester in the military.”  He was standing up completely straight, and there was little snark to his voice.

    Emerson raised her eyebrow. “Yeah, I guess they would, wouldn’t they?”

    “It’s pretty weird.” He said, scratching the back of his head.

    “Did you need something?”

    “What? Oh… no. I don’t.” He said curtly. “Just letting you know I’m home.”

    “Cool.” She said awkwardly, leaning against the door frame.

    “Well, guess I’ll see ya later.”

    “Guess so.” She said, slowly shutting the door. His hand slipped in, catching the door before she could shut it. “What?”

    “Merry Christmas.” He said, before letting the door click shut.

    He looked different now. His hair was longer, not long like Sam’s, but longer than she saw him with in awhile. He looked tired, his shoulders were slumped and he had purple half moons under his eyes from lack of sleep.

    “This weekend is about us. It’s about Mom. Don’t let anything else distract you.” Her sisters words echoed in her head. She was right, of course she was.

      Emerson pulled her bag out of the backseat of the car and walked up the steps, unlocking the door to the house. She instantly got a whiff of something musty and her nose curled up. “Phel, go open up all the windows?”

    The nursing staff had taken their mom back to the hospital per Emerson’s request. She didn’t want to have to take care of the body once they pulled the plug, if they were in the hospital the staff did that. She knew she would have bigger things to worry about. She knew Pheli wouldn't handle it well. She was such a delicate flower.

    “Sure.” She went to go open up the windows, and Sam followed her like a puppy. He’d been doing that his whole life, and if Emerson was being honest, it was beginning to lose its charm. Maybe she was just turning into a cynic.

    Their mothers hospital bed was still in the middle of the living room. A flimsy mattress on wheels. Medical supplies were covering every spare counter space. An IV bag still hung on its pole over their mothers bed, the tube swinging in the fresh air that rushed through the house.

    This is going to be such a pain to clean up. Emerson started to make a mental checklist of everything she had to do. She had to return all of the medical supplies, call the funeral home, set up a service, call the lawyers… her thoughts rattled off, only being interrupted by a rap at the door.

    Christ, what now?

    She drug herself to the front door, swinging it open. “Yes?”

    Dean grinned back at her. She looked him up and down, noticing that he decided to change into some real pants, even if the jeans did have holes in them. “Wow, so chipper, Em.”

    “What are you doing here, Dean?”

    He shrugged, pushing past her. “Just noticed you guys pulling up. I’m going to this party tonight, if you guys want to come.”

    “A party? Seriously?” Her eyes followed him, locking on his bare skin poking out from his short sleeved shirt. “Did Sam not tell you why we were here?”

    “No?” He groaned, hopping up on the counter.

    Emerson rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. She eyed the six foot tall man that was now swinging his legs like a child off the edge of her mothers countertop.

    “But I did forget that you’re boring. You’d never go to a party. Can’t have any fun.” He teased, his green eyes challenging her.

    Emerson rolled her eyes. “Get a fucking grip, Winchester. We are here for Mom.” Her tone hit him like a truck, causing him to suck in his breath.

    “Mom… is Jana okay?”

    “No. She isn’t.” Emerson said harshly, even though she shouldn't have. He obviously didn’t know.

    “What’s wrong?”

    She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose, before gathering up her long blonde hair, and twisting it in to a bun on the top of her head. “We are letting her go, Dean. She’s been on the vent for a year. It’s time.”

    His eyes softened, his lips parting to let out a whoosh of air. “What? Shit… I’m so sorry I didn’t know.”

    “Of course you didn’t.” She snapped. “How could you know? Not like we talk anymore. All you’re worried about is the fucking party. So go would you?”

    He winced and hopped down off the counter. “Fine. Don’t have to ask me twice. Tell Sammy to come by and see his big brother.” He said before pushing out into the yard, slamming the door behind him, causing the frame to rattle.

    “What was that?” Ophelia called from the back room.

    “Nothing Phel!” Emerson called back, before pressing her back against the door, and slowly sliding to the floor. She captured her face in her hands and let out a low scream, tears stinging her eyes. It was all just too hard. Too damn hard. She let her head hit the door, hoping for a little clarity that didn’t come.

    Maybe she should go to the party after all.


-4 Hours Before-


    Sam was being unsurprisingly helpful. He was able to reach everything on the top shelf, and he and Pheli weren’t even being as flirtatious as they usually were. They’d been cleaning, and organizing, and making calls for the last four hours and Emerson just about had it. She fell back onto the couch and stared at the ceiling fan.

    “Sam?”

    “Sup?” He asked, poking his head out of the kitchen, holding a glass of water.

    “The fan is so fucking dusty. I doubt anyone has cleaned it in ten years.” She commented, staring at the fluff that was poking over the edge of the fan, threatening to float down, directly into her face.

    “I’m on it, boss.” He said with a grin. She didn’t see it, but she heard it in his voice. She rolled her eyes.

    “I’m getting a headache.” Pheli complained. “Can we get something to eat? Take a little break?”

    “Oh that sounds awesome.” Sam agreed.

    The couple poked their heads over the side of the couch, and Emerson slowly opened her eyes to catch them staring at her. “What do you say, Em?”

    “We have so much to do, Phel.” Emerson sighed. I’m the bad guy, again.

    “I’m sure you need a break, too.” She said quietly. “Come on. Look at you, you’re wiped. We have all Summer to clean the house... it doesn’t have... it doesn’t have to be done before we go to the hospital in the morning.”

    Emerson watched her sisters fingers go into her mouth, as she bit at her cuticles. It was an anxious habit that their mother had tried to break her of, but she never quite could. Emerson didn’t bother mentioning it in that moment, though, it wasn’t important. Not really.

    “But I did forget that you’re boring. You’d never go to a party. Can’t have any fun.” Dean’s voice entered her head at that moment. Maybe she couldn’t have any fun, but that didn’t mean Pheli didn’t deserve some. She was about to lose her mother, after all. Emerson pressed her lips together, making a decision that she was sure she would regret.

    “Fine. Let’s have fun tonight.” She swung her legs over the side of the couch. “Dean mentioned a party to me earlier.”

    “You talked to Dean?” Phel asked, raising her eyebrows.

    “Do you want to go, or not?”

    “Yes!” Ophelia said quickly, eyeing Sam. He shrugged in response. “Call him, tell him we’re in.” She looked excited, her face lighting up. It was enough to make Emerson stand up, and walk right over to the Winchester house and knock.

    “I got it!” She heard Dean shout from behind the front door. The lock clicked and the door swung open. His green eyes widened in surprise. “Oh, Em, hey.” He scratched the back of his head, exposing a bulge of muscle under the skin on his bicep.
   
    She shifted uncomfortably, tugging on a hair that was coming out of her bun. “I talked to Pheli, and she is interested in the party... so do you have the details?”

    “You want to go to a party?” Dean asked, flustered.

    Emerson raised an eyebrow, confused by his reaction to her. Maybe it was all the time that had passed, or maybe it was the fact that he knew that her mother would be dead in less than 24 hours, that was making him squirm. “Not me, but Pheli, and well, where she goes I go.”

    “Right, I’m just surprised.”

    “I can see that.” Emerson smirked. “You going to give me the details, or not?”

    “Actually... not.” Dean said, his eyebrow quirked upward.

    “And why the fuck not?”

    “Relax, Maklen.” He laughed lightly. “I just don’t think that party is a good idea, but I do have something else in mind. I’ll pick you up in an hour? Tell Sammy to come over here. I want to talk to him.”

    He shut the door before she could argue. Her lips were hung open, her jaw slack. She let out a huff of air and turned on her heels, marching back to her own front door. He is so fucking annoying. She shook her head, not believing she agreed to spend her last night before the worst day of her life with him, of all people. You’re spending the night with Pheli. Not him. She reminded herself.

    “So, what’s the four-one-one?” Pheli asked, anxiously, the moment Emerson walked in the front door.

    “Well, we aren’t going to a party.” She began, and watched her sisters face melt in front of her.

    “Oh.”

    “Hey don’t give me that. We aren’t going to a party because Dean Winchester has something else in mind for tonight.” Emerson pursed her lips. “So if you’re wanting to risk that, then he is picking us up in an hour.”

    Ophelia’s face lit up again. “Sweet! I’ll get changed.”

    “Oh, and Sam, he wants to see you.” Emerson added before pointing to the front door. “So, I guess we will see you in an hour?”

    “Guess so.” Sam offered, with a shrug, before kissing Pheli’s forehead and walking out the front door.

    The girls went up the stairs to their old, shared bedroom. It was all flowers and sheer curtains. Lanterns were strung over their beds. Clearly Ophelia was the interior designer, and Emerson was just living in it. “So...” Pheli started, as she lowered herself in front of her vanity. “When did you see Dean?”

    “In the yard.” Emerson said, dumbly, sitting on the edge of her bed. She had no intention of changing out of her jeans and t-shirt to hangout in some mysterious location with the boys next door.

    “I was with you in the yard, he didn’t mention a party. So try again?” Her sister asked her, eyeing her in the mirror as she let down her own blonde hair.

    “He came by after that. When you were opening all the windows.” Emerson said, nonchalantly.

    “Oh, sure. That’s not worth mentioning.” Ophelia rolled her eyes, before running a brush through her hair. “Then what happened?”

    “He came inside and was an ass, like usual. He invited us out, and I told him we weren’t exactly here to party.”

    Pheli sat her brush down and turned on her stool. “Ah, Em. You told him about Mom.”

    Emerson pinched the bridge of her nose and shrugged. “Guess I did.”

    “I know you guys don’t get along, but do you really think he’s that big of a monster that he would just gloss over that fact once you told him?”

    “Kind of.” She admitted with a sigh. “I don’t know, maybe I just wanted to knock him down a peg. He is so... infuriating. You know? Cocky.”

    “Cocky.” Ophelia echoed.

    “That’s what I said.” Emerson said, her cheeks heating up.
   
    “I know.” She grinned back at her sister. “Just making sure you heard it, too.” She shrugged.

    Dean Winchester had always been a lot to handle. Between his car and women, the only reason she could deal with him at all, was the way he was with his brother. He never let anyone bully Sam growing up, and in turn, never let anyone mess with the girls, either.

    “You know, you two are freakishly similar, right?” Pheli added, as she touched up her makeup.

    “Excuse me?”

    “Oh come on, don’t tell me you don’t see it? Even after all this time, you’re both the same.” She rolled her eyes.

    “What the fuck does that mean?” Emerson asked, standing up. She crossed her arms.

    “Okay, I guess we have to do this now.” Pheli said, finishing her lipstick. She glanced at herself one more time before turning to her sister. “Ever since we were kids you’ve both liked each other. Don’t bother arguing, I’m your sister. I have twinsense. I can tell who you like, even if you’re too stubborn to see it. When he came home for Christmas from Afghanistan he was here to see you. Now you just have to decide how you feel, because watching this dance is honestly exhausting.” She stood up and walked to her sister. “Now lets get you changed, because I’m not letting you go to this thing wearing jeans and a t-shirt.”

    Emerson rolled her eyes, but didn’t bother arguing. She never bothered with Ophelia. She could talk her face blue, just to get the person she was arguing with to give in. Emerson didn’t see the point in trying to prove someone wrong who refused to listen to reason.
   
    Ophelia dressed Emerson in a black dress, and let her hair down. She slid into her ankle boots, and hid behind her red plaid flannel, before meeting the Winchester brothers on the front porch.

    Dean leaned against his Impala with his arms crossed. He wore a flannel that was pretty similar to Ems, over his AC/DC shirt, jeans, and boots. Sam had a blue button up, and looked like he finally brushed his hair. Ophelia leapt into his arms and he spun her around, kissing her. Emerson walked to Dean. “So, where are we headed?”

    “It’s a surprise, Em. Don’t you know how to relax?” He asked with a cheeky grin.

    “No.” She said, before opening the back door and sliding into the back seat. She watched the scenery fly past them as they sped down the road. The world blurred like sidewalk chalk in the rain.

    “Here we are.” Dean said, pulling up to the pier.

    Emerson raised her eyebrow. “Please tell me we aren’t going fishing.”

    “No.” Dean laughed, shaking his head. “Better.” He pulled out the keys and slid out of the car. The girls eyed each other and Pheli shrugged, taking Sams hand.

    The brothers lead the girls to the end of the dock where a large sail boat was  tied. Dean gave a goofy grin, before hopping up on the deck. “All aboard!”

    “Do you day that to all your dates?” Sam asked with a smirk.

    “Whose is this?” Emerson asked, watching Sam hoist Pheli up onto the boat. “Dean Winchester, whose boat is this?”

    “One of my officers, relax. He’s still overseas, and I clean it for him.” He shrugged. “He’s fine if I take it out.”
   
    “You never cared about sailing before.” Emerson said, pursing her lips.

    Dean rolled his eyes and offered her his hand. “Like you said, we don’t talk anymore, so you don’t really know what I’m into. Just trust me.” There was something about the softness to his green eyes that made her groan and rest her hand in his. He pulled her up, whipping her into his arms. ”Hey there, Sweetheart.” He murmured, his face close to hers.

    “Let me go.” She said shortly, and he released her from his grip.

    “Alright, folks. So we have refreshments down below, I hope you are all ready for the most epic goodbye party I could come up with in an afternoon.” He grinned widely and started to untie the boat from the dock.

    Emerson met her sister at the front of the boat, while Sam helped Dean get the boat out of the harbor. “Do they know what they’re doing?”

    “I don’t know,” Pheli admitted. “But it sure is beautiful, isn’t it?”

    “It is.” Emerson admitted, letting out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. The girls watched the boat leave the harbor and Emerson suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. She turned her face away from Pheli. She promised herself a long time ago that she wouldn’t cry around her sister. There was only one emotional Maklen sister, and it wouldn’t be her.

    “Phel, come here! I got you a drink.”

    “Duty calls.” Her sister said with a grin before walking back to her boyfriend.

    Emerson gripped the railing and felt the tears sting her eyes. She blinked a few times, urging them to leave her, like the boat left the dock. “Hey.” His voice invaded her space, causing her to jump.

    “Shit, Winchester.” She exhaled, eyeing Dean.

    “Got you something.” He said, offering her a beer.

    “May need something stronger.” She admitted as she took the beer from him. She took a swig and wiped a tear from her cheek. If he noticed it, he didn’t mention it, and she was grateful for that.

    “Got that too.” He grunted, pulling a flask from his pocket.

    “Thank god. Your wild ways are finally worth something.” She said, taking the flask from him. She unscrewed the top and took a swig, letting the warm whiskey roll down her throat.

    “Damn.” Dean laughed, as she took another swig. “Maybe I was wrong about you after all.”

    She eyed him. Could she be wrong about him too? “Maybe you were.” She handed him back the flask, and he met her eyes as he took a swig himself, replacing the cap.

    “Don’t put it away so fast.” She said softly, her voice almost lost in the wind from the sail.

    “Keep pace, Sweetheart.”

    “I’m not your Sweetheart.”

    “I know.” He said, his eyes traveling from her eyes to her lips. “Trust me, I know.”

    “Good.” She said, peeling her eyes away from his, and back out to the ocean. “It’s endless, isn’t it?”

    “Sure seems that way, sometimes.”

    “I like it.” She admitted. “I hate endings.”
   
    “I know what you mean.” He said, leaning over the railing. “But sometimes an end can be a new beginning. One door closes another opens, and all that.”

    “Where’s the other door for this?” Emerson asked him. “Where’s the way out?” She turned to him, catching him staring at her. Her blonde hair blew in the sea breeze and he reached forward pushing a piece behind her ear.

    “This time it may be a window. Sometimes you gotta get creative.”

    “You think you’re so fucking cute, don’t you?”

    “Do you think I’m cute?” He wiggled his eyebrows, and suddenly she was shot back to reality.

    “No.” She took a swig of her beer and focused on the horizon again. “Skys beautiful.”

    “Sometimes, when things are real shitty, I look up at the sky.” He said with a shrug. “Sort of makes everything else seem small. All my problems, what the fuck are they compared to the sky?”

    “They feel pretty big from down here.” She admitted.

    He cracked a sad smile. “I get what you mean.”

    “Why are you back, anyway?” Emerson asked, eyeing him. “Where’s the famous Lisa that I’ve heard so much about?”

    Dean’s jaw tightened at the mention of her name and he turned to Emerson. “We aren’t exactly friends, Em. Maybe we should just keep the talk to the sky, and the sea. Not get too serious.”

    “You invited me here to... what? Get fucked up before I have to kill my mom in the morning? Not exactly a time to be telling me what I’m allowed to talk about.”

    He ran his fingers over his face, almost as if he was trying to wipe away the growing frown on his lips.

    “You know your face is going to get stuck that way if you keep that up.” We’d tell him when we were kids.

“Yeah, fuck you, too.” He’d cleverly retort.

    “I heard keeping shit bottled up makes you have premature wrinkles.” She said, running her fingers over her own forehead where his had deep thoughtful, frown lines.

    “There’s nothin premature about me, baby.” He said, looking at her through perfectly curled eyelashes.

    “God.” She groaned, turning away from him. “I don’t know why I even bother.” She pulled her flannel together, suddenly feeling over exposed. “You’re exactly the same as you’ve always been. You’ve never said a single thing that’s real in your entire life! Have you?”

    “And you do?” He laughed, turning toward her. “We all have defense mechanisms. Mine is humor. Yours is bitchiness.”

    “I’m sorry, bitchiness?”

    “Did I stutter?” He asked, inching so close to her that their chests brushed gently.

    “I do not hide behind bitchiness.”

    “You’re doing it right now.” Dean laughed, gesturing to her. “You’re too busy worrying about how Phel’s doin that you don’t even let yourself be sad about your mom. That’s thirty levels of fucked up.”

    “And what about you? Sargent Dean Winchester with the US Army, back at home at twenty-seven living with Mommy and Daddy? What the fuck is that about? Where’s your fiancé, Dean?”

    “That’s none of your goddamn business.” He stared down into her golden eyes, challenging her. “You offered up the information about your mom, I didn’t pry. So stop weaseling into my business.”

    “Whose hiding behind bitchiness now?”

    He made her crazy. She wanted to punch him, like she did when she was eight and he pissed her off. She broke his nose. It was a life highlight for her. She wanted to hit him, but there was something else. He smelled like pine soap, and the whiskey he was drinking. His face was damp from the sea spray, and the sun had finally dipped below the sea. She could see him clearly in the silver light of the moon. Every fleck of gold in his green eyes. Every hair that pushed through his skin on his cheeks and chin. Every freckle on his nose that could make constellations like the endless night sky. He made her crazy. Dean Winchester was made of something entirely different from anyone she’d ever met. He was made of oil, car parts, sass, and a honey so sweet it made her teeth ache. His tongue darted out of his mouth and ran over his bottom lip, so quickly, that if she hadn’t been staring at his mouth she may have missed it, but she saw it and it made her stomach flip.

    “Guys?” Sam said, coming up behind them. “Not to interrupt or anything but...”

    The two turned to look at Sam, breathing heavily. He held Pheli’s hand in one hand, and pointed out past them with the other. Ophelias hand was covering her mouth, and even in the silver glow of the moon Emerson could tell that her sister was pale. Sam’s eyes were wide, as he stared past them. Their chests were still touching as they followed his pointed finger out toward the shore, where in the distance an orange glow lit up the sky. “What the...”

    The world shook. The sea collapsed over itself, sending the four young adults slamming against the railing, and barely keeping the sail boat upright. Seawater sloshed aboard, and into their shoes, across their shins. Emerson tumbled over the side of the boat in a single, fluid motion, the rail slamming into her stomach. She groaned in pain, as Dean grabbed ahold of her hand at the last possible moment. His grip was tight, even in the spray from the ocean. She hung freely over the edge, gripping at his hand, trying to pull herself back on board, as the wave rocked the boat back upright. Dean hoisted her small frame up easily, back over the rail. He wrapped his arms around her instinctively, his feet planted on the deck, as if the simple force of his stance could keep them from capsizing. They turned back to the orange light, white clouds seeming to rush up from the ground.

    “Is that...?” Pheli asked, her voice trembling.

    “It’s a mushroom cloud.” Dean confirmed. His eyes were focused off in the distance at the explosion. The clouds of dust, or smoke, curled up like a hand toward the sky. It was gripping for God.

    “Is it a bomb?” Pheli gripped Sams chest, and he wrapped his arms protectively around her.

    “Dean, maybe we should go under?” He asked, quietly.

    Deans hands still gripped Emersons wrist. Her eyes traveled from the explosion to Deans solid expression. She could see him working out a plan.

    “Yeah.” He said suddenly. “Let’s go under. We can try the radio, and see if anyone’s talkin. We need to get some kind of cover, because if its a terrorist attack they may strike again.”

    “Terrorist?” Pheli started to cry. “Oh my god.”

    “Hey,” Emerson said, turning her attention to her sister. “It’s okay. We are okay. Look at me, we are okay. Dean knows what to do.”

    Pheli pulled her fingers up to her mouth and bit down on some loose skin around her thumb, but she nodded at her sister. She believed her. What other choice did she have?

    “You three go down, I’ll get the sails back up and get us a little further out to sea.”

    “Do you need help?” Emerson asked, eyeing him.

    “Not safe.” He grunted. “Go down. Now.”

    She nodded. “Okay, but hurry. If it’s not safe for us, it isn’t safe for you either.” She took her sisters hand and let Sam lead them down below. She made her way to the radio next to the bed. Sam lowered his girlfriend to a seated position, she looked like she was losing it. Other than the tears rolling down her cheeks she seemed pretty catatonic, staring blankly forward, past Sam, at nothing.

    Emerson clicked on the radio and flipped through the stations. Click. Click. Click. Buzz. “Nothing. Fuck.” She said to herself.

    She met Sams eyes and shook her head. All of the stations were dead. The air on the other end was empty air. It was like the smoke reached up, and ripped God straight from the sky, leaving it empty, void of communication. Pheli gripped the cross around her neck and mumbled some kind of prayer. Emerson moved her eyes from Sams to her sister. She didn’t have the heart to tell her that she didn’t think anyone was listening, not anymore.
   

Chapter Text

-5 Years Before-

 

The night sky was starless and inky black. Emerson leaned against her window on the second story of her childhood home. She found herself, more often than not, climbing through her bedroom window and resting on the flat portion of her roof. She could see Ophelia and Sam in his window studying, and making eyes at each other. She found her eyes flickering to Deans window that sat nestled next to Sam’s. It was dark in his room, a blue black shadow inside of the pane. 

Emerson peeled her eyes away and looked forward. During the day, if she squinted far enough she could see the ocean, but at night it was all just blackness. In a world so dark, she felt so small.

“Hey, scoot over.”

Emerson almost jumped out of her skin at Deans voice below her. She glanced down, past her feet to catch a set of hands pulling themselves up onto the roof. “Christ! You scared me.” Her heart was pounding, from the startle, she assumed.

“Just saw you up here. Thought you looked lonely.” He grinned, his teeth glowing against the cool darkness. Emerson’s eyes landed on the strain of his bicep as he hoisted himself onto the roof, settling next to her.

“I’m not lonely.” She complained quietly.

“Well, Phel is at my house, so I don’t really believe that.”

“I don’t need to be with her all the time.” Emerson said curtly. 

Dean laughed at that, shaking his head in the darkness. “Yeah, okay.”

“Coming from you.” She snapped. “You and Sam are practically conjoined. You’re more codependent than we are! What would you even do if you were away from him for more than an hour?”

Dean was quiet, staring into the distance. “Guess we’ll find out.” 

She looked at him in the darkness. The subtle sweep of his nose, and the way half of his face succumbed to shadow he was still beautiful, even against the weight of the night sky pressing down on him. “What does that mean?” Her voice came out much softer than she expected.

She watched his Adam’s apple bob in his throat, like he was considering whether to say out loud whatever he was thinking. “Just… don’t freak out.”

They weren’t friends. He was just the boy next door. The annoying older brother of the boy who followed her sister around. He was a gnat in her breathing space. Why would she freak out? Why would she care? “Spit it out.”

“I enlisted today.”

Her stomach dropped. 

He ran his tongue over his bottom lip anxiously, his eyes darting to hers. They looked gray. Like all the color had been sucked away. “You did what?” She asked dumbly, like she didn’t hear him. 

“I joined the army.” He said slowly, carefully.

“Why in Gods name would you do that?!” She found that her voice was rising at an alarming rate. Her pulse raced in her chest. 

“Hey! I told you not to freak out.”

“I’m not.” She halted her voice, it shook beneath her lips before she balled up her fist and hit his arm. “I’m just… are you fucking crazy?”

“No.” Dean avoiding her eyes, looking at his lap. “I’m just tired of being worthless. I want to make my Dad proud.”

“If he isn’t proud of you already, he’s an idiot.” Emerson didn’t know where the words were coming from. She’d always thought Dean was a pain in the ass, a trouble maker, because he was. He was always getting in fights and drinking too much. “You don’t have anything to prove.”

“Em,” he sighed. “I have everything to prove.”

 

-30 Minutes After-

 

The boat was no longer shooting forward, it was now just a subtle sway and groan of the waves, and Emerson looked up to the stairs, catching Dean jogging down them with her eye. “Anything going on up there?”

“It’s quiet.” He admitted quietly, looking at Ophelia who was asleep on Emerson’s chest. Her face was swollen from crying. “Looks like some fires on the mainland, though.” 

“What’s the plan?” Emerson whispered, her eyes moving between the Winchester brothers. “You do have a plan, don’t you?”

“Did you get anything on the radio?” He asked, avoiding her question.

She pressed her lips together in a fine line, and gave a swift shake to her head. 

Deans jaw twitched, and he crossed the room, crouching in front of the radio. Click click click. Nothing but static. Emerson wanted to be annoyed that he didn’t trust her, but more than anything, she wanted to be wrong about that. She wanted someone else to be out there. 

She reached out, and gripped the sleeve on his shirt. Her fingers curled into the fabric. His head turned and their eyes met. There were a thousand things she wanted to say. A thousand things she couldn’t. “Please tell me you have a plan.” 

“We need to wait it out.” He said quietly, after a moment. “We have some supplies. I don’t think I’ll have an idea of what we’re in for until the morning, it’s too fucking dark out there.” 

“Okay.” Emerson said quietly. 

“Try to get some rest.” 

As if it were that easy. 

 

-3 Hours After- 

 

Emerson woke with a start, her heart pounding. She didn’t know when she fell asleep, she only remembered gently rocking Pheli as she cried in her sleep. She tried to be brave, even though she was terrified, too. She squinted in the darkness to catch Sam cradling Pheli in his arms. He was asleep, with his mouth open slightly, and his face buried in her hair. They were finding comfort in each other. In the wake of her hammering heart, Emerson wished she could share in that comfort. 

She sat up slowly, alert, as she caught what woke her. The steady pitter patter of rain against the deck above her head. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and walked to the stairs, where Dean was slumped over, asleep. 

“Hey.” She whispered, touching his shoulder. “Wake up.” 

His eyes shot open in alarm, and he reached next to him, blindly, for something that wasn’t there. He blinked a few times before whispering, “Em?”

“I think it’s raining.” 

He squinted into the darkness and after a moment of quiet, he seemed to recalculate where he was in his mind and he stood up slowly. His face turned up toward the ceiling. “Let’s check it out.” 

He climbed the stairs, and opened the door to the front deck with caution. He stood in front of Emerson, blocking her way, protecting her. Instinctually she wanted to slap him away, he was an independent woman, after all. But the moment that door opened, she flinched behind him, grateful that he was there.

The smell was the first thing they noticed as the door opened. It was burning, almost chemical. It was nothing like a normal rain on the ocean that smelled fresh, like salt, and sweet Summer kisses. This was something else all together. Emerson had to cover her nose to keep the sting from almost burning away the hair inside of her nostrils. 

She peaked around Deans large form to get a better look. The rain was at a roar. Water seemed to fall from the sky like a bucket being dumped off the side of a fishing vessel to chum the water. It was thick, angry, and deep, blood red. Emerson sucked her breath in. Everything was red. It was like she was staring into a single side of an old pair of 3D glasses. It was hazy, and a pink fog seemed to rest on the top of the water. 

“What the fuck?” She whispered.

There was a sizzle to the train as it landed on the deck of the boat. A sizzle like water on a hot stove. Without thinking, Emerson stuck her hand out past Dean into the red veil.

It stung like a motherfucker.

When Emerson was eight she put her hand on the burner on the stove. Palm flat on the iron swirl. She was a curious child. It had occurred to her a dozen times before that she shouldn’t touch it, but the call was still there. The call to learn, despite the consequences. 

That moment was kind of like this one.

“Emerson, Christ!” Dean said, yanking her hand back. Her palm had three tiny blisters from where the droplets fell before he could yank her back into him, back into reality. 

“Sorry.” She exhaled.

“It’s already blistering.” He complained. 

“It was really hot, Dean. Scalding.” Her eyes met his. She wasn’t worried about the sting, or her skin boiling off her bones, or the overwhelming scent of his skin when he stood that close. “What is going on?”

He shook his head, his eyes never leaving hers. “I don’t know, Em.”

 Her hand still rested in his palm, comfortably. 

He released it after a moment and clicked the door shut. Dean settled into a seated position at the top of the stairs, and Emerson sat two down from him, with her back against the wall and her legs curled into her chest so she could look up at him. She couldn’t see him in the darkness, but knowing he was there gave her some comfort, so she pressed her socked toes against his boot. 

“How’s your hand?” He asked, his voice a whisper. 

“It’s fine.” She curled her fingers into her palm and counted her heartbeat with the gentle throb from her burns. “Do you remember the night you told me that you enlisted?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Why’d you tell me? You hadn’t even told Sam yet. I never understood that.”

She could hear him exhale in a hiss. “Sam was gonna be mad. He would try to talk me out of it, and I don’t know, guess I didn’t want to be talked out of it.”

“I tried to talk you out of it.” She laughed a bit. Her laughter sounded breathless and hoarse. 

“I didn’t expect it.” He admitted. “I figured you wouldn’t care.”

“I figured I wouldn’t either.”

“But you did.”

“But I did.” She pressed her head against the wall. “Life isn’t quite what we expect, is it?”

“No, it sure isn’t.” He laughed curtly, and quick, like an after thought. 

The rain wasn’t letting up, and thunder roared in the distance, like a threat, or a warning. “How did Sam react, when you told him?”

“That I was going away?”

“Yeah. I saw how he was when you left…” How they all were without the snark and big presence that was Dean Winchester. 

“I told him the day I shipped off to Basic.” Dean said, his voice far off, like he was somewhere else in his mind. “I was a coward. Part of me worried that if I told him with enough time that I wouldn’t go, but I couldn’t take it back. It was too damn late.”

“You… you said you had something to prove. That’s why you joined.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, did you? Did you prove it to your Dad? To yourself?”

He snorted. 

“What, Dean? You got something to say?”

“Just… are we ever done trying to prove shit to the people we love? I figure we die tryin.”

Theres something to that, Emerson thought. “Insightful.” She snarked. It was easier than being kind, than being open. Especially since the world was collapsing around them. Maybe it’d always been collapsing around them. 

 

-5 Years Before- 

 

“So you’re really going?”  Emerson asked him, or maybe she was asking the night sky, the starless, empty existence. The world that could rid her of Dean Winchester for good. 

“That’s what enlisting is. I’m gonna be a mechanic, so I probably won’t see any action. Just fixin tanks and cars.” He shrugged like it wasn’t still a sacrifice. Like it wasn’t a big deal. 

“Aren’t you scared?”

Dean glanced at her. He wanted to say that he’d been scared for years, but instead he chose a joke. Like he always did. “Of what? Some officer askin how tall I am? Six foot one, Winchester? Didn’t know they piled shit that high!”

Emerson smiled humorlessly. “Guess that’s it, then.”

“You sound disappointed.” Dean chucked. “You gonna miss me Maklen?”

“You? God no. It’s a relief, honestly.”

He leaned in close to her, he was only a breath away, his lips hovering over her pulse point on her neck. She could almost feel him smile. “Whatever helps you sleep at night, Sweetheart, but we both know the truth. You’ll be lost without me.”

 

****

 

“So.”

“So?” Emerson snapped, looking at her twin from her side of the room. “Say what you want to say, or go to sleep.” She grumbled.

Pheli sat up and threw her pillow at her sister on the darkness. “I saw you on the roof with Dean Winchester.”

“I’m not listening to this.”

“Come on, Em! Don’t leave me hanging, I’m your sister.” 

Emerson groaned and opened up her blanket so Ophelia could climb in. “Come here.” 

Pheli snuggled in next to her sister. they laid on their sides, nose to nose. “You were on the roof with Dean Winchester. What was that about?”

“Don’t tell Sam.” Emerson whispered.

“I can’t lie to him.”

“It’s not a lie. Chicks before dicks, come on. Sister pact.”

“Fine.” Pheli exhaled in a single puff, sending a toothpaste breath into Emerson’s nose. “What is it?”

“He enlisted. The army.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“No.” Emerson whispered.

“When?”

“He leaves at the end of the Summer.”

“How… how do you feel about that?” Pheli asked.

“It’s going to be weird not having him around.” 

“Sams going to be devastated.” She was quiet for a moment before she whispered. “No offense, Em, but why did he tell you?”

“I don’t know, Phel, but it was… I don’t know. He seemed different, for a second.”

“Different how?”

Emerson pressed her lips together and rolled onto her back. How could she describe it? The way he moved close to her. The way he admitted he wanted to prove himself to his father. The way he looked gentle in the moonlight. The way she was going to fucking miss him more than she could ever admit. 

“Brave. He was brave.” 

Chapter Text

-8 Hours After-

 

The rain had stopped sometime during the night, leaving the boat oddly quiet. It barely rocked with the movement of the sea, and if there was any commotion outside, the group didn’t hear it. Sam and Pheli were still asleep, curled together like a fist protesting god. Emerson’s head was on Deans lap, and his fingers were in her hair. He fell asleep absentmindedly stroking her blonde hair. They kept finding themselves like that, unknowingly stuck in an intimate gesture.  

Dean woke with a start. His eyes trailed down to Emerson sleeping in his lap and he smiled a little at her. She was less of a pain in the ass when she was sleeping. She almost seemed peaceful. He snorted, because he knew better. There was no peaceful bone in her body.

He turned a bit, the circle window on the door was letting the morning sunshine into the stairwell. He squinted, and considered the possibility that everything that happened the night before was a really bad dream. It wouldn’t be the first time, after he came back from Afghanistan he had constant nightmares. Sometimes he just didn’t sleep at all.

Emerson looked up at him with a sleepy expression, her eyes still heavy from the night. “You okay?”

Dean shrugged in response. “Yet to be determined. Let’s check out the deck.”

“Okay.” She sat up and stretched, her elbows popping in response. She was sore from sleeping on the stairs, but she knew that she was lucky for being able to get any sleep, no matter how terrible it was.

The two stood up and Dean slowly opened the door. The sun spilled over them, surrounding them in an almost holy light. Emerson covered her eyes to block out the bright sunlight. Maybe it was from laying in the dark cabin for so long, but the sun seemed brighter and harsher than it had the day before. The deck was covered in standing blood red water, which had yet to be evaporated by the suns blinding rays.

Dean crouched down and touched the water with his index finger. “It’s not hot anymore.” He said cautiously, before stepping out onto the deck.

Emerson followed behind him. “God, does the sun feel brighter to you?”

“Yeah, actually.” Dean squinted. “Wasn’t even this hot in Afghanistan, and fuck that’s sayin somethin.”

Emerson pressed her lips together. Dean never talked about his time in the military, not even to Sam. She turned her body toward the shore and squinted. Black plumes of smoke danced toward the sky. The world was on fire. The ocean looked like it was bleeding from the rain, everything was red as far as her eyes could see, and when they reached the shore… everything was ash and fires. The world was hazy from all of the smoke, it was like the smoke was behind her eyes, in her nose, her lungs. She gasped. It was too much. Her mother was over there, helpless. She couldn’t reach her. Emerson didn’t realize how close she was to passing out until Dean grabbed ahold of her arms. “Hey, I’ve got you.”

Her head rolled to the side, resting on Dean’s chest. “Dean.”

“There’s something in the air.” He said, confirming her thoughts. He wrapped an arm around her and pulled her back into the safety of the space below deck.

“Em?” Pheli called sleepily from below deck, before a little more urgently. “Emerson?”

“We’re over here.” Dean said, as he helped the half-conscious Emerson down the stairs.

“What happened?” Ophelia sat up on her knees on the bed in alarm. Her usually perfect hair was sticking out on one side, and flattened on the side that was snuggled against Sam.

“Dean?” Sam asked, his eyes mirroring his girlfriends.

“She’s okay.” He said through clenched teeth. He laid her down. “Right, Em?” He leaned over her, pressing two fingers to the pulse point on her throat.

“I feel a lot better now that I’m inside.” She agreed weakly. “What the fuck was that?”

“There’s something in the air.” Dean said quietly.

“Why weren’t you effected?” She asked, trying to sit up.

“Hey, cool it.” He pressed a hand to her chest, urging her to lay back down. “I was effected.” He said quietly. “Just assuming it takes more for me since I’m bigger than you.” He pushed her hair behind her ear. “So just relax.”

“What do you mean there’s something in the air?” Pheli asked, moving to Emerson’s side. She took her sisters head and rested it in her lap. “Like poison?”

“Or a toxin, from the bomb.”

“So what now?” Sam asked. “We obviously can’t go outside.

“It may not matter. We are still breathing the same air.” His eyes flickered to Emerson’s.  “Last night it rained blood red, hot rain, and I’m talking Mom’s dishes water hot.”

Sam’s eyes widened. “How is that possible?”

“I don’t know.” Dean admitted. “I really don’t.”

Pheli grabbed Emerson’s hand. “What are we going to do?”

“I think we have to go outside.” Emerson said, sitting up. “We are sitting ducks in here.” Her throat was a little raw and she cleared it a few times.

“How? Look at you, Em! You were barely outside.” Pheli’s voice was small, and weak.

“Hey.” Emerson smiled, touching her sister’s cheek. “We will figure it out. Right Dean?” Her eyes flickered to the older brother. She wasn’t sure what moment they became partners, but it was clear that they had.

“Yeah.” He offered a weak smile. “Of course we will.” He met Sam’s eyes. His younger brother didn’t look too convinced. Dean made a mental note to reconvene with Sam once they had the girls secured. He didn’t plan on this being a permanent set up.

“Maybe we just need some kind of filter to protect us from the air?” Sam offered. “Like a gas mask?”

“That could work.” Dean admitted.

“I don’t think we have gas masks in a sail boat.” Pheli said weakly. She looked afraid, and she brought her finger to her mouth and bit on the skin around her nail.

“No.” Emerson said, looking around. “But we may have surgical masks in the first aid kit.”

“It won’t work as well, but fuck, Em. You may be a genius.” Dean grinned at her.

She shrugged in response, before hopping up to help him look for the first aid kit. “Bingo.” She said, pulling the white box out from under the bed. She opened it up and pulled out a plastic bag full of surgical masks. “What about hats? The sun was so hot. We will sunburn really quickly.”

Dean got up and opened the closet door and rifled through it before pulling out some clothes. He tossed a pair of rain jackets at the girls. “Ready to forge forward?” He grinned widely.

“May as well.” Emerson said, slipping into the jacket, and taking her sisters hand. “Don’t worry.” She murmured. “We got this.”

 

-7 Years Before-

 

Ophelia sat with her legs crisscrossed on the porch swing on the front porch of her house. It rocking gently back and forth as she stared intently at the book in her hands for school. Out of the two Maklen sisters, Pheli was not the most studious. It took her twice as long to finish things as it did for Emerson, her head was always in the clouds. She was reading Jane Eyre for class, and while it should be entertaining for her, being the romantic she was, all it was doing was causing her head to spin out of control. She was imagining her own Mr Rochester.

She folded the corner of her page down to mark her place when she noticed Sam Winchester slowly approaching, with his hands in his pockets. He was the short, scrawny boy who lived next door to her her whole life. He seemed really shy, and despite being her neighbor, he had barely spoken to her. “Hey.” She said, cautiously.

“Oh, uh, hi.” His face was bright red and Pheli grinned in response. Even at age fourteen she was a bit of a narcissist.

“Can I help you?” She asked, batting her eyelashes.

“I was…no.. that’s okay.” Sam turned on his heels to leave and Pheli quickly stood up.

“Do you want some lemonade? Mom made some. She has cookies too.”

“Sure.” Sam pushed his hair behind his ears. It was shaggy. He looked at her from the bottom step of her porch, his dimples popping up on his cheeks.

“Come on.” She gestured for him to step inside. “I hope you like cinnamon sugar cookies.”

“I do.” He smiled even wider. “It’s cool that your mom bakes, mine can’t cook at all.” He laughed dryly. “She buys them from the store and pretends she baked them.”

“My mom can’t cook either, but she can bake.” Pheli said handing him the plate of cookies. She went to the fridge and pulled out a pitcher of lemonade. “Ice?”

“Okay.” He reached forward and took a big bite of cookie. “Holy crap, thats delicious.”

Pheli grinned proudly, and handed him the glass of lemonade. “Here.”

“Thank you.”

She leaned on the counter across from him and took a bite of her own cookie. “Emerson said I’m going to get fat if I eat too many of these.”

“Is that your sister? I’ve seen her around.”

“Yeah.” Pheli chewed, and eyed him suspiciously. “You’ve seen her around?”

“Mmhm.” He mumbled, before swallowing his bite of cookie. “Outside, around school.” He shrugged. “I have her in biology.”

“What? Are you in love with her or something?” Pheli asked suddenly, before covering her mouth with her hands. What the hell is wrong with you?!

“What?! No!”

She wished she could curl into herself and disappear. She’d seen Sam around, too, and his older brother. “Just making sure… because… uh… I think she likes your brother and that’d be weird.” Pheli said. It came out like word vomit, she didn’t mean to say it, and her sister would kill her if she found out. They’d never talked much about the boys next door, let alone liked either of them. So why was Pheli being so dramatic? Why was her stomach flipping now that she was in the same room as the younger Winchester?

“She does?” Sam asked, his eyebrows shooting up in surprise.

“Yeah. He’s all mysterious. She eats that stuff up.”

“Huh.”

“But don’t tell him! She will be so mad at me!”

“Right, I won’t.” Sam promised. He reached for another cookie, but the plate was empty. They’d eaten the entire thing while they were talking. “Wow, I see what you mean. These things are addicting.” He grabbed a crumb off the plate and stuck it to his tongue.

“That’s an understatement.” Pheli laughed nervously, biting at her cuticle.

“You were reading when I walked up. What book was it?”

“Jane Eyre. It’s for class.” Pheli took a sip of her lemonade. It was a little too sour, and her nose wrinkled in response. “Why did you walk up?”

“I…” Sams cheeks turned even more red. “I’ve been trying to get the nerve to talk to you for awhile.”

“Really?” She squeaked.

“Yeah.” He laughed, taking a sip of his own lemonade just to have something to do with his hands. “Wow, that’s really sour!”

Ophelia busted into a fit of giggles, covering her mouth. “Yeah, it is really bad!”

Sam laughed in response. Every time they would slow down they’d meet eyes and roll into another fit, until they were both holding their stomachs and begging the other to stop.

“Told you she was terrible at everything other than baked goods.” Pheli said breathlessly.

“You weren’t wrong.” Sam agreed, wiping the tears away from his eyes.

She grabbed both glasses and dumped them down the sink. “Why… why were you afraid to talk to me?”

“You’re intimidating, Ophelia.”

“You can call me Pheli.”

“Okay.” Sam said, softly. His eyes were glued to his lap.

“I’m not.”

“Not what?” His eyes flickered up to hers.

“Intimidating.”

He laughed lightly. “Yeah, you are.”

“You can talk to me any time you want, Sam.”

“It isn’t just talking… I actually had something to ask you.” He let out a breath.

“Okay. What is it?”

“I don’t know. It’s probably stupid, forget it.”

“Just ask, sam.”

“I… ugh, fine okay.” He looked like he was going to pass out before he quietly mumbled, “Will you go to homecoming with me?”

A grin grew on Opehlia’s face. It almost hurt to smile that widely, but when he met her deep brown eyes he saw the night sky in them. They sparkled like they were full of stars. “Yes! You cute little idiot. I’d love to!”

 

****

 

“Was that Sam Winchester in our house earlier?”

“You saw that?” Pheli asked, from her bed. She had her book light on, trying to catch up on her reading before her due date the next day, but in reality she was day dreaming out homecoming.

“Yeah.” She laughed. “I was coming downstairs for a drink, and I figured I should leave you two alone.” She shrugged, rolling over onto her side on the bed so she could get a better look at her sister in the darkness.

“He asked me to homecoming.”

“What?” Emerson sat up. “Really? Have you ever even talked to him before?”

“No.” She laughed. “Not really… but he’s cute, Em. Really cute.”

“I guess.” Emerson laughed quietly and rolled her eyes.

“What if he is my Mr Rochester?”

“That book is kind of dysfunctional, Phel.”

“I think it’s romantic.” She cooed in response. “He could be my Romeo. We could be soulmates.”

“Phel, they both died. That’s not really romantic… it’s tragic.”

Ophelia shrugged in response. “He has a brother, you know. It’s always been my dream for us to marry brothers. We could have a double wedding!” She sat up with a wide grin. “You have to take Dean Winchester to homecoming.”

“I would rather eat Mom’s pot roast than take Dean Winchester to homecoming.” Emerson said flatly. “He wears too much Axe, and I’m pretty sure he smokes. No way.” She flipped over to face the wall to go to sleep. “I will never like Dean Winchester, so you may as well let go of that dream now, Phel, before you get too disappointed.”

 

-8 Hours After-

 

The group looked ridiculous in their boat hats, rain jackets, and surgical masks. Dean went up on deck with Sam to sail back to the mainland, leaving the Maklen sisters below deck.

“I can’t believe this.” Pheli said, plopping on the bed, with her face in her hands.

“We will figure it out. We have each other, that’s all we’ve ever needed.” Emerson said, resting her hand on her sisters shoulder.

“I need a distraction, or I’m going to start crying.” She sucked in her breath before her eyes flickered to her sisters. A perfect reflection of herself. “What was going on with you two on deck last night? Before everything happened. It looked intense.”

“It… it was a little intense.” Emerson admitted, leaning against the wall. “He is a little intense.”

“What were you talking about?” Pheli asked, quietly, glancing at her sister.

Emerson looked far off, as if she could see through the walls of their tiny cabin. “The sky.”

“The sky?”

“Yeah.” She glanced down at the tiny blisters on her palm, before curling it back into itself. She wasn’t much of a talker. She wasn’t a romantic, like her sister. She didn’t watch the stars, or find shapes in the clouds. She didn’t dream about a boy who would sweep her off her feet and change everything. She didn’t believe anyone had that power, and if anyone could, it was God, and he’d obviously left the building.

 

Chapter Text

-9 Hours After-

 

The Earth was quiet. It was almost eerie, alien. The Winchester brothers stepped off the boat first on to the dock. They wanted to test it to make sure it was sound, so the girl’s wouldn’t fall into the ocean. Pieces were broken from when the earth shook. The dock splintered, as if it’d been hit by an angry fist. Sam lifted Pheli off the boat, effortlessly, pulling her against his chest. “You look cute.” He whispered to her through his surgical mask. She hit his chest playfully in response.

Dean offered a rubber gloved hand to Emerson. She could see the crinkles around his eyes from where he was grinning widely under his mask, but there was something else. His pupils were dilated and his eyebrows seemed locked in position. He was afraid.

Emerson rested her gloved hand in Deans and let him pull her up onto the dock. “Where are we going?” She asked him quietly.

“I have some supplies at the house, then I thought we could check the hospital and see about your mom.”

Pheli turned at that and met Emerson’s eyes. Their mother. They were going to let her go. It was already decided. What was the likelihood that she was still alive strapped to the machine that was breathing for her? What was the likelihood that anyone survived? In the wake of the explosion, would it even be safe to travel downtown to find out?

Dean squeezed Emersons hand. She hadn’t noticed that she was gripping his fingers for dear life. She didn’t want to need his support, but he was strong, and his hand was warm within hers. “Come on.” He said. “Let’s get to the car, it’s not safe to be out here even with the precautions.”

She pulled her hand from his and adjusted her hat, even though her skin was still covered. She could feel the heat from the sun baking down on them, and her skin was starting to sweat under the rain jacket.

“I feel like a baked potato.” Pheli complained as Sam zipped her jacked up to her chin.

“Better safe than sorry.” He said, poking her nose through the mask.

Ophelia was meant for drama, and Emerson had always thought that. Growing up, Pheli was always dressing up, and doing performances for the family. She would sit her sister and their mother down and do a dramatic reenactment, or a song and dance. The older she got, the more drama was involved in their regular life. She would cry over boys, and romanticize the smallest moments.

She wasn’t being dramatic then, though. Emerson felt that the baked potato metaphor was unsettlingly fitting. The ground seemed to be steaming; most of the red rain was gone from the ground, evaporated into blood red clouds that floated threateningly above them.

“Thank God.” Dean whispered as the four reached the car. “My baby is okay.” He ran his fingers along the car with a relieved smile.

Emerson rolled her eyes as he unlocked the car. Her vision was fuzzy along the edges. “Dean I’m not sure these masks are working.” She exhaled slowly, eyeing Pheli as Sam helped her into the car. “You feeling okay?”

“A little woozy.” She admitted.

“Me, too.”

“Alright, lets book it.” Dean said quickly, sliding into the driver’s seat.

The sisters laced their fingers together in the backseat. Emerson rubbed small circles on the back of Pheli’s hand. Their eyes flickered out the window as they watched the town they grew up in fly by in a blur of color. “Oh my god.” Pheli whispered, her hand going to her mouth.

Everything looked like it’d been picked up and shook. Buildings had collapsed, some still on fire. The flames licked up toward to the sky. Cars had crashed into each other, causing Dean to slow the Impala for fear of a collision. Bodies were lying in the street. “Christ.” Dean whispered. His back was tense under his flannel. Emerson wanted to reach out and touch him, but she refrained. It wasn’t their way, after all. “Fuck.” He stopped the car.

“What?”  Emerson asked, scooting into the middle seat so she could get a view of the street. There was a large light pole that had fallen in the road. There was no way around. “Shit.”

Fuck!” Dean shouted, slamming his hands against the steering wheel. He gripped the steering wheel tightly, his knuckles white. “We are going to have to walk.” There was oil in the street from the car wrecks. Fire. It was dangerous to stay, but they had no idea if they would survive the walk back to the houses. The girls were already feeling a light headed from the toxin in the air, and they’d barely been outside.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay.” Sam promised, his hand on Pheli’s thigh. He was reaching around from the front seat.

She nodded. She believed him. She didn’t have any other choice.

“Dean, the gas…”

“I know.” He said sharply before letting out a sigh. “I have supplies at the house. All Dad’s old military shit. I think he may have some masks. We just have to get there.” He turned, meeting Emerson’s eyes. “We will have to hustle.” He turned to Phel. “Can you do that?”

Both girls nodded. They knew the only answer was yes. They had to move, or they would die, and the latter wasn’t an option. It couldn’t be.

 

-7 Years Before-

 

“What in God’s name are you doing here?”

Dean leaned against the doorway wearing a black button up lazily tucked into a pair of slacks. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, and a cigarette was in between his teeth. He held a single rose in his fingers. “Homecoming, Em.” He wiggled his eyebrows.

Emerson stared at him blankly. Fucking Ophelia! I’m going to kill her.

“Shit, put your murder eyes away.” He raised his hands in surrender.

“You’re too old for high school homecoming.”

“Probably right, but Sammy needs a wingman.” He offered her the rose with his best smile.

All it did was piss her off. She reached up and pulled the cigarette from his lips and broke it. “I’m not going anywhere with you if you have cigarette mouth. It’s disgusting.”

“Why do you care what my mouth tastes like?” He taunted with a smirk, clearly loving getting a reaction out of her.

“I don’t care.” She snapped before turning to walk back inside.

“So, you gonna change?”

She stopped dead in her tracks and turned to him. She was wearing a pair of leggings and a t-shirt. She was so distracted by him showing up that she didn’t even realize. “No. I’m not going to homecoming.”

“Yes you are!” Pheli said from the top of the stairs.

“Oh I don’t want to hear it from you!” Emerson snapped at her sister who quickly disappeared back into her bedroom.  She turned on her heels and her chest brushed against Dean’s.  

“I don’t want to go either, by the way.” He said quietly.

“Cool.” She said. She didn’t back away from him. “So why are you trying to go?”

He shrugged. “I put on a shirt.”

“Right.” Emerson snorted.

“Just come with me, Em.”

“Why should I, Dean?”

“Because you want to.” He said sheepishly with a mischievous grin.

“I don’t.”

“You’re a liar.” He grinned widely. “Fine. Come because it’ll be fun. We can watch Sammy and Ophelia be all squirmy and awkward. It’ll be great.”

Emerson opened her mouth to argue more, but she pressed it shut. She knew she should go to be there for her sister. It was her first date with Sam. Her eyes met Deans green ones. He was grinning. He already knew he won. “Fine, but this isn’t a date. We are going for our siblings.”

“Yup. Totally.” He chucked low. “I don’t date anyway, Em.” He shrugged.

“Right.”

 

****

 

Dean was surprised by how nice Emerson cleaned up. She took a step on the top of the stairs and Ophelia cleared her throat, maybe to signal Sam to look at her, or perhaps to signal Dean to look at her sister.

He wasn’t blind, he knew Emerson was beautiful. Both Maklen sisters were often the talk of the school, and even though he was long graduated, he wouldn’t forget the look of the other seniors when the two blonde twins walked into the school on the first day of their freshman year. They were beautiful and typically attached at the hip. Sam had begged him to take Emerson to the dance.

“Please, Dean. You owe me!”

“For what, pray tell?”

“Two words: pink panties.”

“Alright, you got it. I’ll take the cranky sister to the dance.” Truth be told, he would’ve taken her anyway. She was hot and mysterious, but more than anything Sam asked him. He couldn’t say no to his brother.

“Thank you.” Sam exhaled.

“You’re really nervous, aren’t you?”

“Am I that transparent?”

“Yes.” Dean laughed. “You actually are.” He grabbed his brother and ruffled his hair. “Little Sammy! Don’t forget to pack condoms.”

“What? No way!” His face was bright red and hot.

Dean laughed and let him go. “Go in with confidence, my man. It makes a world of difference.”

Sam ran his fingers through his hair to fix it. “Is that what you’re going to do with Emerson?”

The older brother shrugged and flipped his lighter in his hands. “It won’t be like that.”

“Why not? If it works with all the other girls.”

“Well first of all, she’s sixteen.” He said, flicking Sam’s forehead. “Second of all, I don’t know. She’s not like other girls.” He shrugged noncommittally.

Her hair had a subtle wave to it as it spilled down her shoulders. Her dress was simple, maroon, and strapless, showing off her smooth collarbones and flawless shoulders. It hit her mid-thigh, and for once she wore combat boots. His eyes landed on her full lips, which were painted a nude color. More than anything, though, she looked fucking annoyed.

“You look amazing.” Sam gushed at Pheli. She was wearing a pink dress that hugged her curves. It had a shimmer to it, and the straps crisscrossed across her chest. She wore a pair of silver heels that caught the light. She put a lot of work into her appearance, and Sam noticed.

“Thank you.” She blushed, red creeping up her neck. “You look handsome too.” She took his hand, and he offered her a corsage. “Wow! It’s stunning. Did you pick it out yourself?”

Dean turned to Emerson and grinned. “Wow, you clean up nice.”

“I know.” She forced a wicked grin.

“You look nice, too, Dean.” He said in a girly voice. “Wow, thanks Em. You’re a peach.”

“Was that supposed to be me?” She laughed.

“I think it was a spot on interpretation.”

“I guess.” She rolled her eyes, but took his arm when he offered it. “Okay love birds, let’s get this thing over with.”

The dance was impressive, but no one should’ve been surprised. Pheli was on the planning committee. The gymnasium at the high school was transformed by twinkle lights, and clear balloons covering the floor. Everything was low light and sparkling. It felt like they were inside of a glittering snow globe just waiting to be shaken.

“You out did yourself, kiddo.” Dean glanced at Ophelia. She smiled widely, knowing that any compliment given from him was one to cherish.

“Sam let’s go get our picture taken!” She squealed, pulling his hand. The couple disappeared into the crowd to go get a professional photograph taken.

“She’s intense.” Dean commented.

“That’s an understatement.”

He glanced at her. “Do you want a drink or something?”

“What? Like punch?”

“Sure.”

“Okay.” Emerson raised an eyebrow. He put a hand on her lower back to lead her through the crowd.

He got them both a glass of punch and to her surprise he didn’t pull out a flask. They walked away from the table and took a seat. She took the glass from him and eagerly and took a sip. She made a face. “This is so watered down.” She laughed.

“Yeah, I never liked dances.” He agreed with a laugh. “They always felt lame and forced.”

“Pheli loves them, and I love watching her love them. Ya know? Even if I hate them.”

“Don’t teenage girls usually love dances?”

“That’s a stereotype.” Emerson raised an eyebrow.

Dean chuckled. “Yeah, guess it is.”

Emerson picked at her nails uncomfortably, and Dean couldn’t stop staring at her. The way her blonde waves fell in her face. The focus of the deep brown of her eyes. The way her bottom lip moved as she let out her breath. He pleaned in. “Okay, one time offer.”

She raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“Want to dance?”

She almost spit her drink. Was Dean Winchester seriously asking her to dance? “Are you kidding me?”

“Nope. Going once… going twice…”

“Fuck you.” She went to fold her arms across her chest in protest, but instead he grabbed her hand and pulled her up.

She was so surprised that she was easily pulled on to the dance floor. He spun her around effortlessly, her hair whipping around her. The song was faced paced, and she was surprised by his dance moves. He wasn’t grinding against her leg, he was actually dancing. His hand was pressed to her lower back and he lead her around the dance floor. “How did you learn this?” She asked, breathlessly as he pulled her against him.

“Mom.” He said with a shrug. “She loved to dance, and Dad had two left feet.”

“You’re actually pretty good.” She laughed as he spun her out and back in again.

“You sound surprised.”

“I am.”

“Maybe I’m not what you think I am.” He asked as he pulled her a little closer, his eyes meeting hers intensely.

Maybe he wasn’t. It hadn’t ever occurred to her that the guy next door could be more than he appeared. The song changed to a slower one and she started to pull away, but his grip tightened on her. “Just a little longer.” He murmured, and she wasn’t really sure if she was intended to hear it, not really, so she didn’t comment on it.

They swayed slowly together to the rhythm of the music. She let her body relax against him, and she rested her head on his shoulder. “This doesn’t last forever.” He commented quietly.

The song? She knew that, but somehow she didn’t think that was what he meant. “What doesn’t?”

“High school.”

She nodded against his shoulder. “I know.”

“It sucked for me, too.” He laughed breathlessly. “But it really is just a blink and it’s over.”

She knew that, but there was comfort in hearing it from someone who lived through it. From someone who wasn’t like Pheli, who often cried at the thought of high school ending.

“Not everyone is Sam and Ophelia.” Dean commented, as if he could read her mind.

“That’s the truth.” She pulled away to look at him. “Why aren’t you always like this?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know… real?”

He shrugged. “When people think you’re one thing, sometimes it’s just easier to live up to it. I’d always rather be underestimated. Then you can surprise them, and you never let anyone down.”

Emerson pressed her lips together. Part of her wanted to kiss him, but then she remembered that she didn’t kiss guys like Dean Winchester. She didn’t kiss guys period. She was thinking, again, despite what she was witnessing, that he was one thing. That he was bad, but people are more complicated than that. More than anyone she should know that. “Want to get some air?” She asked him instead.

“Sure.” He shrugged, dropping her hand to walk outside.

She somehow felt empty, without having him touching her. They pushed out into the cool Autumn night. His back was pressed against the brick of the school as he pulled out a cigarette. He held it between his lips and lit it, inhaling the smoke. His eyes fluttered closed, his face relaxing.

“Why do you do that?”

He shrugged, opening a single eye to look at her. “Part of me has always known I’m going to die young. May as well help it along. Should smoke two at once.” He laughed, letting out a gray breath.

She eyed the cigarette, glowing orange in the night air. “That’s tragic, Dean. You know that, right? Life isn’t about dying. It isn’t about getting to the finish line.”

He turned his body to look at her, his expression serious. “Of course it is, Em.”

They weren’t like Sam and Ophelia. Wrapped up in bliss and possibilities. Flowers and butterfly kisses. Emerson and Dean were snark, longing looks, and inhaled smoke despite the fact that it fucking hurt. They stood in the dark behind the school, listening to the muffled pulse of music through the wall into the gymnasium. There were people that went to dances and fell in love under the twinkling lights, and then there was Dean Winchester. He wasn’t the guy to fall in love with. He was dangerous. He had bad habits and little to no respect for himself. But he also danced with his mom and looked out for his little brother, and the way he looked at Emerson through the smoke in the darkness made her question everything she knew. Maybe that’s what relationships were all about. Questions and answers.

Emerson grabbed the cigarette from him and stepped an inch away from him. “I refuse to believe that you are living just to die. What is the point? If you don’t have something to live for, Dean, it’s time to find one. You think you’re worthless, but the only thing making you worthless is you.”

His eyes flickered to the cigarette with his mouth opened. Her words hit him like a bullet to the chest. He half expected her to stomp out the burning embers, but instead she brought it to her lips and took a deep breath in, sucking the smoke into her lungs, her eyes never leaving his.

 

-9 Hours After-

 

They were running, dodging flames, cars, fallen trees, dead bodies… Emerson bent over in a coughing fit. Even through the surgical mask the air was too much. The toxin and the smell of burning flesh had almost completely blinded her. Everything was fuzzy. She had only been pulled forward by Ophelia, who was being almost drug by Sam. They jumped over a fallen woman, and Emerson released Pheli’s hand. She doubled over, coughing into her mask.

It was worse than that first cigarette. She coughed so much she almost threw up. It had lessened the impact of her statement to Dean, turns out Ophelia wasn’t the only Maklen girl who had a flare for the dramatic.

“Em!” Ophelia turned back when she felt her sister release her grasp. “Dean!”

He turned and muttered a curse under his breath. He turned on his heels and ran to Emerson, effortlessly scooping her up. His arm went under the bend of her legs and behind her back. “I got you.” He told her, holding her against his chest. “Keep going! I’ve got her!” He yelled to his brother and Pheli.  

Emerson looked up at Dean weakly. She was coughing more, her throat burning. She tasted pennies in her mouth. “Dean.” She whispered between coughs. Her lips were wet under the mask.

“You’ve got it. Just hold on a little longer, Em. We are almost there. We don’t live just to die, remember?” He asked quietly, wiping a tear from her eye. “So you aren’t dying today. I won’t fucking lose you. Not now.”

Chapter Text

-9 Hours After-

 

The sound of boots on asphalt was all Emerson could hear. She felt Deans arms tighten around her, as her fingers loosened on his shirt. “Stay with me, Em!” Dean said down to her as he held her tighter.

 

There was something about the fight, the pressure that motivated Dean Winchester more than anything else in the world. Someone to save. The fight was even stronger after he joined the military. Suddenly there was a real life pressure to live and to fight, but holding Emerson in his arms, running, was different than that. Somehow it was bigger. He saw his street in front of him just as she went limp in his arms. “Sammy go get the door!” He shouted, tossing the keys to his brother. The younger Winchester caught them easily and pushed toward the door, Pheli on his heels.

 

Sam was able to easily open the door and get inside just as Dean stepped on to the porch. He shut the door behind him. “Get to the basement.” He instructed the couple.

 

Dean made it down the stairs to his bedroom and laid Emerson down on the bed carefully. He leaned his head down to listen to her breathing. It was shallow and labored. “Shit.” He whispered.

 

“Dean, what’s going on?” Ophelia asked from the door way.

 

“It’s uh…” This is my fault . He thought desperately. “Her breathing isn’t good. I think her oxygen level is low.”

 

“What are we going to do?” Sam asked desperately, his hand on Pheli’s back.

 

The blonde stood up a little straighter. “Dean we have all of Mom’s medical stuff at the house. We have a lot of oxygen tanks and IV’s. We hadn’t returned them yet. Do you think if I got it it’d help Em?”

 

Dean grinned widely. “You’re a genius Maklen.”

 

“I’m dating your brother, Dean. You don’t need to try to seduce me with compliments.” She flipped her hair, but he could see behind her dark eyes that she was terrified. “Sam and I will make a run. Stay with her. Protect her. Okay?”

 

“I promise.” He said with a nod.

 

Ophelia adjusted her face mask and left the room, Sam following her.

 

Dean lowered himself to sit on the bed next to Emerson. He looked at her. Her eyes were closed, but he knew they looked like chocolate, and in the sun the glowed golden. “You asked me why I told you that I was enlisting. I lied.” He said quietly, pushing her hair out of her face. He slowly removed her mask, to see blood trickling down her mouth.

 

His parents were paranoid, specifically his Dad. After John got back from the Marines he opted for the expensive air filter system for their home, and for an impenetrable basement level on their home that was stocked with canned food a backup generator in case of emergency. In case of exactly what was happening.

He took off his gloves, already feeling better now that he was in the air filtered house. He checked Emerson’s pulse, pressing two fingers to her throat. Weak, but it was there. “I wanted to tell you, because I wanted you to be proud of me. Didn’t really want to be the same old fuck up I’d always been. What I knew you thought I was. Don’t really know why I cared what the kid next door thought.” He laughed humorlessly. “Maybe that’s a lie, too.”

 

-5 Years Before-

 

Dean threw his duffle bag over his shoulder. He thought about leaving in the middle of the night. Maybe it’d be easier to just disappear into the darkness. He saw the way Emerson reacted to him leaving, surely Sam would feel the same way. If not worse. He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. It wasn’t what he wanted, not really. Suddenly he had the urge for a cigarette.

 

He sat down the bag and dug the carton out of his pocket along with his lighter. He unlocked his window and slid out of it to have one last smoke before everything blew up. His window ledge wasn’t like Emerson’s. It wasn’t flat or easy to sit on, but it did hang fairly close to her window. A tree was the only thing separating the two roofs.

 

He leaned against the wall, putting the cigarette in between his lips. Two flicks from his zippo and he sucked the smoke into his mouth. He closed his eyes and thought about the weight of the dog tags around his father’s neck. He thought about Sam begging him to take Emerson to homecoming. He thought about how his little town would be so much better without him.

 

“You disgust me, boy.” His father said, his fist connecting with his chin.

 

Pain shot through Dean’s face as he stumbled back, grabbing for anything to stop himself from falling. He failed. He looked up at his father towering over him. “I… I’m sorry.”

 

“Bet you are. Only sorry that you got caught.”

 

There were many different kinds of monsters in the world. At that point, Dean just preferred the ones that he knew would be shooting at him. He didn’t like surprises, and the first time his father hit him was a fucking surprise.

 

After the first time it was a dodging act over and over again. What would set John off, and how could Dean keep himself as the focus. John never went after Sam or their Mom. After a while Dean wondered if it would be better if he disappeared.

 

“You don’t steal from me, boy.” His steel toe boot connected with Dean’s temple. “I don’t know who the fuck you think you are.” John hissed, looking down at his oldest son.

 

Dean looked at him through the blood that trailed into his eye. “I don’t know what kind of question that is.” He said, deciding to be brave. To be something he wouldn’t be ashamed of in the morning. “Who are you? Someone who kicks the shit out of their own kid?” Dean couldn’t help the tears stinging his eyes.

 

“You’re no kid of mine.” John spit down at him, and Dean could smell the alcohol in the saliva dripping down his cheek.

 

There was money missing from John’s wallet and he blamed Dean, of course he did. There was no one else to blame, and even though Dean didn’t steal the money, he would take the beating. He wouldn’t let anyone else get the blunt force of John’s boot.

 

He opened his eyes as he heard a creak across from him. Emerson climbed out of her own window and settled on the roof, just like he was. He smiled at her in the darkness, letting out a breath of smoke.

 

She was bathed in darkness, but part of her face was illuminated from the moon. She wore a pair of pajama pants and a tank top, her hair was braided to the side. Dean wondered what she was doing out there. She hadn’t noticed him, and he considered the possibility that he could still disappear without saying goodbye. He considered it, but he knew he didn’t have the strength. He sucked in another breath of smoke.

 

“Fancy meeting you here.” He said with an exhale.

 

“Jesus Christ Winchester! You scared the shit out of me!” He could see the whites of her eyes in the darkness.

 

He couldn’t help but laugh and shake his head. “God you’re so fucking easy.”

 

“Screw you.”

 

“Aw, if you insist.”

 

She narrowed her eyes at him from across the empty space between them. “Why are you lurking up on the roof?”

 

“Could ask you the same thing.” He shrugged.

 

“I just... I needed some air.” She admitted, leaning her head against the back wall again.

 

“Me too.” He held up his cigarette.

 

“Still a nasty habit.” She said, eyeing him.

 

“I know.” He took one last puff before extinguishing it. “Want some company?”

 

Emerson pulled her knees to her chest. “No.”

 

Dean raised an eyebrow and laughed. “Yeah, okay.”

 

She rolled her eyes and scooted over, signaling for him to join her. He nodded and stood up, grabbing ahold of a branch so he could hop to her roof. “I hate when you do that.” She complained.

 

“Whatever.” He laughed, sitting next to her.

 

They sat in silence for several minutes, just looking at the moon. “You leave tomorrow.”

 

“Tonight, actually.”

 

“What?”

 

“Tryin to disappear in the night before anyone can miss me.” He wiggled his eyebrows to show it was a joke, even though Emerson knew better.

 

“Dean you need to say goodbye.”

 

“Don’t want to see Sammy cry.”

 

“I know.” She bumped him a bit.

 

“What about you? You gonna tell Phel you got accepted to that fancy university in Scotland?”

 

“How did you know about that?” She turned to him alarmed.

 

“Figured that’s why you were up here.”

 

She’d told him about it after she applied. Last time he’d come up on her roof. “I’m not going.”

 

“Why not? You should.”

 

“Phel needs me. I’d miss her.”

 

“She doesn’t need you, Em. You need you.” He poked her nose. “You gotta do whats good for you.”

 

“Rich coming from you.”

 

“Yeah, well I’m damaged goods, don’t take me as an example.”

 

“Mhm.” She turned away from him, staring out at the ocean in the darkness. “I want to go. I want to get out of this town and never fucking see it again.”

 

“What’s stopping you? I’m leaving.”

 

“You’re not a factor.” She said smoothly.

 

“Didn’t say I was. You projecting Maklen?”

 

“What? No.”

 

“Guess we’re both liars.” He chuckled to himself.

 

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” She turned all the way so she was looking at him.

 

“You won’t tell Phel, and I still haven’t told Sammy I’m leaving. We both have some real fucked up ideas of what our siblings need. You realize that, right?”

 

“Maybe.”

 

“But we aren’t going to change, because we’re the same.” He turned away from her, propping his arms on his knees.

 

“You’re probably right about that.” She said, sadly.

 

Ever since Sam had gotten with her sister, Dean Winchester was going out of his way to be the most annoying human being to Emerson. Moments like that one made it worth it, though. He would surprise her, and swing up to her roof. In between puffs of smoke he would say things that’d make her heart flutter. He challenged her in the best and worst ways. She wouldn’t let herself feel anything, though, because she still believed in her heart that he would hurt her.

 

“Part of me thinks I’m gonna die out there.”

 

“I thought you were going to be a mechanic?”

 

“I am, but I don’t know. I’ve got a gut feeling.”

 

“Well can you do me a favor, and I don’t know, not die?” Emerson asked, almost looking annoyed.

 

“Aw, Em, your heart is showing.” He reached forward and poked her chest, right above her heart, before realizing that he was touching her boob. His face immediately flushed and he pulled his hand away.

 

“It is not.” She huffed, batting him away. “I don’t care okay?”

 

“Doesn’t look like it.” He mumbled before sighing. “Not surprised, though, other than Sammy I think I could just leave and no one would notice.”

 

“Dean quit with the pity party shit, okay?” She took his face in her hands. “I’m only going to say this once, okay? And don’t you ever fucking mention it again, or I swear I will shove you off this roof. Got it?”

 

“Uh, got it.” He said, his heart pounding. He could feel her breath on his lips because she was so close.

 

Emerson let out a quick breath. “I know what it feels like to be the one overlooked. I’m twins with Pheli for Christ sakes. That doesn’t mean you aren’t worth it, Dean. You want me to fucking say it, don’t you? I’d miss you. You’re so annoying, you have a shitty smoking habit, and you’re the biggest smart ass I know. But you fight for your brother, and you listen. I’m not here to be your cheerleader or 6your mom. It’s time that you start learning your own worth, Dean. No one can change your mind but you.” She said softly, her eyes flickered to his. “You see me, Dean, and I see you.”

 

-9 Hours After-

 

Pheli and Sam entered the basement with two duffle bags each of medical supplies, in addition to some items that Pheli thought the girls may need. They weren’t gone more than ten minutes. “How is she?”

 

“Stable.” Dean grunted, moving his hand off hers. “You got the oxygen?”

 

She nodded and pulled the can out of her bag along with a face mask. Dean rested the mask over her face and turned on the oxygen, holding it there. Pheli moved around to the other side of the bed. She held her sisters hand after removing her face mask.

 

“You take some, too, Phel.” Dean said, handing her another mask.

 

She nodded and pressed it to her lips, her eyes never leaving Emerson. “Come on, Em. This is not how our story ends.” She said quietly. Sam pressed his palm to Deans shoulder. All three sets of eyes were on Emerson. “We are supposed to die together, remember? Into the world together and out together. You’re not dying today, Em. I won’t allow it.”

 

“She’s going to be okay.” Dean said, he had to believe it.

 

“Dean can we talk?” Sam asked, eyeing his brother.

 

“What? Yeah, okay.” He stood up and followed Sam out to the basement living room.

 

“What’s going on out there, Dean?”

 

“I don’t know.” He rubbed his face.

 

“Do you have a plan?”

 

“Honestly? No. It was about getting here... and now that we’re here I don’t know. I guess we could wait it out. Wait for the inevitable government clean up.”

 

“Are you sure that’ll happen?”

 

“No. I’m not sure of anything.” He admitted. “All I know is that something  really fucking bad is going down, Sam. Our only options are to hide or fight.”

 

“Which are we gonna do?”

 

He turned his face to look at the door where the girls were. “Doesn’t feel like we have much of a choice.”

 

“Dean!” Pheli said calling from the bedroom.

 

He rushed past Sam back into the bedroom, expecting the worst. He pushed through the door and stopped in his tracks. She was propped up slightly with her eyes open. The oxygen mask was still over her face. She pulled it down to reveal a big, weak smile. “Somebody looks happy to see me.” She said breathlessly.

 

“Put that back on.” Pheli instructed, her voice sharp with annoyance.

 

Emerson rolled her eyes and placed the mask back, her eyes never leaving Deans.

 

They had no choice. It wasn’t just Dean and Sam anymore. The Maklen sister were theirs to protect, and Emerson was right. He was so fucking happy to see her. He planted his feet on the ground to resist the urge to go to her, because he knew he shouldn’t. He knew she would be better off. She had to be.

 

Chapter Text

-1 Week After-

 

Emerson sat in the shower. Her knees were pressed to her chest as she let the warm water run over her. Her hair was matted to her head and her forehead rested on her knees. They’d been in the Winchester’s basement for a week, with no sign of life anywhere. No one had come knocking. The phones were all dead. No radio signal. They were on a backup generator at the house. Emerson slept every night on the couch, staring at the ceiling until sleep finally caught up to her.

When it did, all she had was nightmares.

Pheli would reach up from her pallet on the floor and grip her sister’s hand. They slept close together like the always had, but this time Sam’s large body curled around protectively around Pheli as she slept. Most of the time she woke up bright and shiny as ever, which was probably the only reason Emerson hadn’t had a complete breakdown yet. How could she when her sister was singing show tunes?

Emerson turned her face into the stream of water, letting it wash over her. It rained every day since the explosion. Red and hot like the first time. Sometimes she would lie on the couch and listen to the rain, and pretend it was a summer night. She pretended it was the time before.

She reached forward and turned off the water. The immediate chill from the house covered her damp skin, causing her hair to stand on end. She let herself rise on shaky legs, and towel off. She twisted her blonde hair up in the towel and stepped into Dean’s robe, closing it around herself. She took a deep breath of the scent. It smelled like this body wash. It was so much harder to ignore him when they were living under the same roof, but she was trying. Especially now that their immediate sense of danger was muted.

She wiped away the fog on the mirror, and was assaulted with her own reflection. A set of dark, tired eyes. She leaned forward and let the heat of her breath steam up the mirror again. It was just another place to hide. It was just another mask.

She went out into the living room to get her clothes. She pulled out a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. “Is that mine?” Dean asked, leaning against the wall. He gestured to the AC/DC shirt that was curled in her fingers that was indeed his.

“Guess so.” She said, tossing it up to him. “This place is a pig sty. No wonder some of our stuff is getting mixed.”  

“Keep it.” He tossed it back to her gently.

She caught it in one hand and unconsciously pulled it to her chest. “Fine, but only because I don’t hardly have any clothes here.”

“Mhm.”

“Where’s Phel and Sam?”

“Probably getting busy.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

“Gross.”

“Eh, carpe diem and all that.” He eyed her robe suggestively.

“Turn around, Winchester. You don’t get a free show.” She spun her finger and he complied. She untied the robe, lowering it to the floor. She watched his back tense as the sound of fabric landing hit his ears. If he turned toward her he would see everything, and it was a little paralyzing. She stepped into her shorts and slid his t-shirt over her bare skin, cutting the tension between them. “You’re good.” She whispered.

Dean turned back around cautiously, almost as if he expected to find her still standing there before him completely naked. He swallowed hard as he saw her. She removed the towel from her hair and ran her fingers through it.

“Dean.” She murmured, her eyes never leaving his.

“Yeah?”

“How long is this generator going to last?” The thought had been plaguing her mind every second since she woke up in his bed conscious again. How long did they have? The storms still raged outside, she could hear the angry booms of thunder and the insistent pattering of rain against the roof.

“I don’t know.” He admitted.

“What about your parents? What about our mom?” She knew she couldn’t ask Pheli’s opinion. She couldn’t take away her positive attitude, and if Sam and Dean were talking about it, they weren’t doing it in front of the girls.

“I don’t have the answers, Em. I’m sorry.” He said weakly. His chest ached. He wanted the answers. He was supposed to have them. He was the fucking soldier, after all. If he didn’t have them then who did? He sold a chunk of his life to a government that was going to let them boil alive under a blood red rain. He wanted to hit something. He wanted to break something, but instead he just let his blunt nails dig into his palm as he curled his fingers in on themselves. He tightened his fist as much as he could.

Emerson stepped toward him, and took his fist in her fingers. So much for avoiding him. “Don’t be sorry.” She whispered. “Hey, look at me.”

His eyes flickered up to hers.

“You don’t have to have all the answers.”

“Of course I do.”

 

-6 Years Before-

 

“Alright, the game is Bullshit.” Dean said, shuffling the cards. His cigarette hung out of his lips.

“I bet you’re great at that.” Emerson said smoothly.

They were laying in the backyard in the grass. Pheli’s head was on Sam’s lap, her toes in the grass.

“How do you play?” Pheli turned to look at Dean. Sam was placing dandelions in a braid on Ophelia’s hair.

Dean passed out cards to each of them. “So the game works like this.” He plucked two cards from his hand. “We go in order. Aces are low. I’ll say, I’ve got two ace’s.” He said, waving the two cards. He sat them face down with a bright smile.

“And then?” Phel asked, suspiciously.

“Bullshit.” Em said smoothly, her lips pursed.

“Well fuck me sideways.” Dean smirked, flipping over the cards. “You got it.” He had a queen and a king that he’d placed down. He took the cards back into his hand.

“So we just call you on your shit?” Ophelia asked with a grin.

“That’s the game.” He laughed.

“Been waiting my whole life for this.” Sam added with a laugh. “Let’s do it.”

Not all afternoons were like that, unfortunately.

“One three.”

“She’s got an honest face.” Sam smiled brightly, kissing Pheli.

Dean lit his cigarette and pulled the smoke in to his lunges. Emerson caught herself watching him. They were always looking at each other when the other was looking away.

“Two fours.”

“Bullshit, Sammy.” Dean let out a smoky laugh.

“Fuck you.”

Deans lip was busted and he had a cut right above his eye that was healing. They didn’t talk about it, but Emerson knew. She’d seen John through her window. He slammed Dean against his car. She didn’t know why he did it, but it didn’t matter. No one knew. No one but her, and it wasn’t her place to know. It wasn’t her place to say anything.

“Em, it’s your turn.” Pheli touched her sisters leg gently, trying to pull her out of her daze.

“Uh, sorry.” Her eyes met Deans, then flickered back to the cards in her hands. They looked blurry. “I’ve gotta go.” She stood up suddenly, dropping her cards in the grass.

“Where are you going?”

“Don’t worry about it, Phel. I just… I forgot I have something I have to do.” She jogged back into the house, letting the back door shut behind her.

Not every day was like that. Not every day was calm and full of laughter. Her mom dropped a bottle of wine the night before. She said it was an accident, but Emerson wasn’t blind. Her hand just stopped working. She lost her grip and the entire bottle of merlot crashed to the ground. It was a sea of red covering the kitchen floor. Green tinted glass sat in the pools of red.

“Shit!” Jana exclaimed.

“Mom!”

“Emerson, honey, stay back. I dropped the wine.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” She waived her hand.

She knew better. Her mother wasn’t fine, and she probably never would be again. It was the beginning of the end. “Let me help you clean this up.” She offered.

“No, I can do it myself.”

“I know you can… I just thought…”

“No, Emerson” She snapped her fingers weakly, pointing to the stairs. “Go make sure your sister is doing her homework. I’m fine here.”

Everything was falling apart, and Emerson didn’t think she could handle it anymore. She’d been so wrapped up in herself that she didn’t hear the door behind her open. “Em.” Dean said, his hand resting on her shoulder.

She flinched away from him. “God, why are you always sneaking up on me?”

“Sorry.” He moved his hand. “You just seemed upset.”

“I’m not.”

“Right.” He said, wiping a tear off her cheek with his thumb. “You can tell me.”

“I don’t want to.” She said, eyeing his healing lip. It’s you. On top of everything else, I’m worried about you.

“Okay.” He looked around before grabbing her hand. “C’mere.”

“Where are we going?” She asked as he pulled her out the front door and across her lawn.

“My place.”

“What?” She could feel her cheeks heating up. “Dean I…”

“It’s okay. It’ll help.”

She swallowed hard. She could feel her heartbeat behind her eyes as he unlocked his front door and pulled her inside. They walked down the stairs and into his bedroom. This is Dean Winchester’s bedroom! She wanted to look around, to take it all in, but she couldn’t because she was too fucking nervous.

He moved his hand from hers and held her face in his hands, brushing away any wetness that was left. “Stay right here.” He murmured.

She nodded. It was all she could do. Her mouth was so dry, she was afraid it would crumble if she tried to produce any string of words. He turned away from her and started digging in his drawers. She watched him. The way his back curved as he bent over, the way his jeans hugged his legs just enough. Her face was so hot, she worried she’d start sweating.

“This helps me.” He explained. “When the world is too fucking much.” He turned around, holding a glass figurine. It was an angel, pretty, and delicate.

“Are we going to… pray?” Her nerves were quickly replaced by confusion.

“No.” He laughed and placed the figurine in her palm. “Break it.” He said quietly, their hands still touching. “It’s therapeutic.”

“You want me to break this.”

“That’s what I said.”

“How?”

He shrugged. “Dealers choice.”

Emerson held it in her hand, letting it catch the light of his bedroom before she curled her fingers around it. Destruction doesn’t solve anything. Pain breeds more pain. But yet, she really wanted to break something. She wanted to break John for hurting Dean. She wanted to rip apart the doctors that diagnosed her mother. Even though it wouldn’t change anything. She’d still be sick. She’d still be dying. The angel in her hand stared up at her, and it looked so pious she couldn’t help but pull it back and throw it against the wall as hard as she could.

She let out a yell as it crashed against the wall, exploding into a dozen pieces. There was something deeply satisfying about watching the pieces crash to the floor. It was different than the bottle of merlot. It was purposeful. Her body wasn’t failing her, it was helping. She grinned wildly, her heart pounding in her chest.

“Another one.” He said, opening his palm to reveal another angel.

She took it eagerly and threw it a bit harder. It bounced off the wall and hit the book shelf before exploding. The colorless glass sprayed out into the carpet, and even though it’d be a bitch to clean up, Dean offered her another, and another until she was weak at the knees.

He wrapped an arm around her, and lowered her to a seated position next to him on his bed. “I’ve got you.” He said, quietly.

She looked at her trembling hands. Hands that destroy. She curled her fingers in on themselves and looked up at Dean. “Thank you.” She whispered. “I’m not mad anymore.” She was just sad. She was heartbroken.

“You’re welcome.”

She reached up her finger and ran it over the cut on Dean’s lip. “Why didn’t you hit him back?”

Dean winced, but he didn’t back away from her. Maybe he suspected she knew the whole time. “Would you believe me if I said violence wasn’t the answer?”

Her eyes flickered to the glass shards covering his room, and the small dents on his wall from repeated throws. “Not even a little bit.”

He rubbed circles on her arm, looking off somewhere else. “ I guess I don’t want to lower myself to his level. I want to be better than him.”

“You are.” Emerson promised him. “You’ve always been better than him.”

“You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

“No. I wouldn’t do that.”


“Not even Pheli? Sam doesn’t…”

“No.” She cut him off. “It wasn’t my secret to tell.” She stood up, moving out from under his arm, and she leaned down and pressed her lips to the cut above his eye. “If he’s ever coming after you, you can stay with me. If something happens to you I don’t think I could forgive myself.”

Dean stared at her, his mouth open slightly, before pressing his lips together in a line. He nodded. The realization that Emerson Maklen could care about him was dizzying. “Bullshit.” He whispered with a slight smile.

“What?”

“I said, bullshit. You could forgive yourself, because it wouldn’t be your fault. It’d be his. Don’t let other people’s mistakes sit on your shoulders. The only thing we can be responsible for is our own actions.”

“How about you practice what you preach, Winchester?”

He reached up and touched her cheek. “I’m trying.” He promised. “I’m really trying.”

 

-1 Week After-

 

Emerson ran her fingers along the dents in the wall of Dean’s bedroom where she’d thrown the figurines.

“What were you so upset about that day?”

She turned to look at him. “Mom’s MS was finally showing symptoms, and then I saw where John hit you and I just...”

“How’d you know, anyway?”

“I saw him. Outside of my window one night. It was horrible, Dean.”

“It was.” He said, between gritted teeth. “He was a marine, so he knew how to dish out a beating.” He laughed dryly.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” He said swiftly. “Plus. For all I know he’s already dead.”

“Do you believe that?”

“I don’t know what to believe.”

“Hey dorks!” Pheli asked, popping her head into Dean’s bedroom. “I’m not interrupting, am I?”

“Nope.” They both said at once, causing her eyebrow to quirk up.

“Uh huh. Sam and I were about to start an exciting game of Bullshit.” She grinned widely, waving the cards. “You in?”

“I don’t know.” Emerson groaned.

“Would it help if I said we were playing... strip bullshit? With alcohol?” She held out her other hand exposing her bottle of tequila.

“Fuck it. I’m in.” Dean grinned, swiping the tequila.

“You’re serious?” Emerson asked her sister.

She shrugged. “We are stuck in this basement for god knows how long, and I’m sure you’re as bored as I am. We need to wind down, and I figured what better than a little drinking game.”

“That involves nudity?”

“Only if you’re bad at lying.” Pheli said innocently.

“Yeah.” Emerson rolled her eyes. “I’m so sure.”

The four of them made it into the living room and got in a seated position. Pheli dealt out the cards. “Okay, so the rules are the same. The only kicker is that if you call Bullshit and you’re wrong then you can either take the cards, take a shot, or lose an item of clothing. If you’ve put more than one card you get more than one punishment. So if I put out three cards I can either, take three shots, take two and an item of clothing... you get the point. Oh, and if you call bullshit and you’re wrong, then you have to take whatever punishment the wrongly accused gives you.”

“And who wins?” Emerson asked, suddenly wishing she was wearing more than her pajama shorts and Dean’s t-shirt.

“The winner happens when they completely run out of cards. Like Uno. If you’re naked, then you just have to do shots or take cards.”

“Maklen I’ve called you a genius before, but now I think you’re an evil genius.” Dean grinned, but he wasn’t looking at Pheli at all. His eyes were on Emerson, and this time she wasn’t looking away.

“Alright let’s get started.” Sam laughed. “Phel you’re first.”

Turned out that Pheli was really bad at Bullshit. After five rounds she was sitting in her bra and panties, and she was starting to slur.

Dean was only wearing his jeans, his bare chest exposed. His dog tags rested on his chest. He looked at her under hooded eyes. He’d taken two shots, but still seemed pretty comfortable. Relaxed.

Sam matched his brother pretty well, his skinny chest exposed. Pheli drew little hearts on his chest with her fingers.

“Okay.” Pheli said sitting up. She held up four cards. “Four queenssss.” The S on the Queens hissed a little too long.

“Bullshit.” Em said, looking at her sister over her cards.

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you!” She pointed at Emerson. “Read em and weep, sister!” She flipped over her cards to reveal all four queens.

Emerson swallowed hard. She’d managed to avoid any real consequences up until that point. She’d gotten lucky and gotten all good cards. “Be nice, Phel.”

“Get naked, sister.” She giggled. “I own you!”

Pheli never could hold her alcohol. She got sloppy over a few wine coolers, and even then she was a little vindictive. She never quite knew the line, and Emerson was feeling it.

“I only have two pieces of clothes, Phel.” She met her sisters eyes, feeling heat crawl up her neck.

“So I guess you’ll be taking two shots as well!”

“Are you kidding me?” Emerson hissed.

“She doesn’t have to...” Dean began before Pheli waved him off.

“Yes she does! That’s the rules.”

Emerson took the bottle of tequila and took two big swigs, closing her eyes. She hoped it would give her some liquid courage, because she could feel how red and blotchy her skin was under her t-shirt.

She sat down the bottle and Pheli scooped it up, taking a few drinks herself as she eagerly watched her sister’s embarrassment grow.

Dean peeled his eyes off of Emerson, to try to give her some privacy as she pulled off Deans t-shirt from her torso. She sucked in her breath as the cool basement air hit her bare breasts. She sighed and shook her head, as she pulled off her shorts. She sat her pile of clothes in front of her. “Okay. Dean it’s your turn..”

His tongue darted out of his bottom lip, and Emerson could tell he was doing everything in his power not to look at her. To respect her space. Her heart flipped.

“I’ve got uh... two kings.”

“Bullshit!” Pheli sang.

“Nope, sorry.” He said awkwardly.

“Uh oh! Guess you’re seeing both twins no nos!” Pheli giggled as she tried to fiddle with her bra.

“Nope.” Sam said, shaking his head. “No fucking way.” He stood up and threw Pheli over his shoulder. “We are going to bed. Night guys.”

“Sam you’re no fun!” Pheli complained.

Dean handed Emerson the blanket from the couch, his eyes flickering to her for just a second as she wrapped the blanket around herself. He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t always wondered what she’d look like naked. He’d seen her in a bathing suit but nothing could compare to how beautiful she was. Her face was pink from embarrassment, and her nipples alert from the cold. Her blonde hair spilled over her pale shoulder, and he wanted to kiss her.

“I’ll give you some space.” He said, standing up.

“You don’t have to go.” She said quietly, looking at him.

Her blush was starting to recede.

“Yeah I do.” He said quietly, and he went back into his room. He closed the door behind him, leaving her sitting in the living room alone. He pressed his back to the door and tried to calm down. His body and his mind where racing toward a finish line. Emerson Maklen. The woman he couldn’t want. The one he could never have. Major national disaster or not. He was still him and she was still her. No amount of card games would change what he already knew, he would never be with Emerson, and never is a long fucking time.

Chapter Text

-12 Days After-

 

The sisters didn’t need to be told how bad it was when the power started to blink in the basement. The water had shut off on day ten, and the air stopped blowing at day eleven. On day twelve everything went dark.

They couldn’t stay there, not anymore. They were out of options.

“So we go.” Emerson said, her arms folded across her chest. “We can’t stay here.”

“Go where?” Sam asked quietly, Pheli was asleep on his lap. She’d been up crying again, it was harder for her to keep it together the longer that they were stuck in the basement. The longer that no one came for them.

They talked in candle light. The room smelled like cinnamon sticks and vanilla. Emerson watched the flames dance in Deans eyes.

“I don’t know. There’s gotta be somewhere. A safe house. We just have to find it. We can get supplies, and move out.” Dean said, his voice low.

“But the air isn’t safe.” Emerson countered.

“We have the oxygen tanks, and gas masks. We can make it. We have to try.”

Her lips were in a tight line. What other choice did they have? They couldn’t sit in the dark forever, waiting for someone to rescue them that may never come. For all that she knew everyone was dead already. Her mom always taught her that it was up to her to make her own destiny. “Save yourselves, girls. It may be romantic to think that you can be saved, to wait around for Prince Charming, but instead of waiting for someone to come along, solve your own problems. Be your own Prince Charming.”

“Okay.” Emerson agreed. “When do we leave?”

“I think we should pack our bags and head out in the morning before the day gets too hot. If it’s anything like it was, the bulk of the day will be scorching. We can’t really risk leaving at that time.” Dean explained.

“Guess we should get some sleep then.” She said quietly.

“Good idea.” Sam said, leaning back on the couch, closing his eyes. “Em you can take my bed, Phel is out like a light.”

“Okay.” She said, standing up. She leaned in and blew out one of the candles, then another, leaving them in darkness.

She pushed into Sam’s room and lowered herself on to his bed. She snuggled under the covers, but stared into the darkness of the bedroom. When they were teenagers, the boys bedrooms were on the upper floor, but when they got older they moved to the recently finished basement. Emerson wondered what the upstairs rooms were turned into when the brothers moved out.

She couldn’t sleep. She didn’t know what the day would bring. She didn’t know what it would all mean. She hadn’t been outside. She’d barely talked to anyone in the last few days, she was reading through Sam’s book series on his shelves. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones. The classics. All they had was time, at least until that day. Until everything changed.

“Emerson?” Dean asked from the doorway.

“Yeah?”

“Can you sleep?”

“What do you think?” She had been avoiding him since the strip Bullshit situation. It was easy, because he seemed even more embarrassed than she was.

“Want some company?”

Old habits die hard.

“Okay.” She scooted over to make room for him. She turned on to her side and he slid into bed next to her. He laid flat on his back, with an arm behind his head.

“I never slept in Afghanistan. No more than thirty minutes at a time, at most. This isn’t any different.”

“I can’t stop thinking about the what if’s.”

“There are a million of them, it’ll drive you crazy.”

“That isn’t the only thing driving me crazy.” She admitted. It was easier to tell the truth under the veil of night. Blackness made everything less distinct. Fuzzy and nondescript.

“Oh yeah? What else?”

“Dean.” She whispered, waiting for her eyes to adjust. “It seems like… it seems like we aren’t getting rid of each other, right?”

“Doesn’t look like it, Maklen.” She felt him turn on his side, and scoot a little closer to her in the full sized bed. She was now completely aware of his body near hers, his warm breath tickled her face, and the bed dipped toward him.

“I’m sure there’s a million people you’d rather be here with.”

“Not really.” He said nonchalantly. He reached up to her cheek and brushed it with his fingers. “You’re not the worst company in the world.”

“Dean Winchester do you actually like me?” She gasped dramatically.

He snorted a bit, his fingers traveling from her cheek down her neck and arm. “To put it mildly.”

She thought he might kiss her. The air felt thick between them, palpable. There was a pressure, a pull, making her want to scoot a little closer to close the space between them. “You’re not the worst company either.” She admitted.

She was afraid, there was no denying it. She was afraid of what was outside waiting for them. She was afraid of dying, of making the wrong choice, and it’d be easier to let Dean hold her up. She knew he was capable. He had strong arms, and an even stronger disposition, but there was something else in the back of her mind. A question she couldn’t shake. The same one that she asked him twelve days previously, back when things were easier.

“Where’s the famous Lisa that I’ve heard so much about?”

He moved closer to her, their breath mingling, and chests brushing. “Guess its a good thing we got stuck together then.” His nose bumped hers gently, almost as if asking permission.

“And what about you? Sargent Dean Winchester with the US Army, back at home at twenty-seven living with Mommy and Daddy? What the fuck is that about? Where’s your fiancee, Dean?”

“Em.” He breathed. He was close. Maybe he needed her as much as she needed him. They could lose themselves in each other, like Pheli and Sam did. Maybe the weight wouldn’t be as heavy if they were together. Or at the very least maybe she would feel better, safe, even for just a second.

“I need you to tell me about Lisa.”

But nothing was ever that easy, was it?

He sucked in his breath. “Fucking hell.”

“What am I supposed to say?” Emerson spilled. “Am I supposed to ignore the fact that you’re engaged?”

“I’m not engaged.” He said swiftly, with a sigh.

“How convenient.”

“You want the truth?”

“That’s all I’ve wanted to hear since day one.”

“Fine, you got it.” He said between gritted teeth. Emerson’s eyes were adjusting to the darkness and she was finally able to make out his strained expression. His jaw was tight and his eyebrows were together. He wasn’t looking at her. “When I got back from Afghanistan I was pretty fucked up. Sammy didn’t wait up for me, he was away at school. You were gone, and I’d seen some shit. I was messed up. Physically and mentally, and then I met Lis. She was…. she was kind, and she dealt with a lot of my shit. I was drinking way too fucking much. She didn’t deserve the shit she put up with, but I loved her.” He was quiet for a minute, and Emerson let him gather his thoughts. His voice shook a bit when he continued. “She was pregnant. A little boy, and I was so fucking excited. I thought I found my way out of the dark, ya know? Like I’d see god in the face of that baby. Then I caught her with some guy. Turned out I wasn’t the father. She was fucking someone else the whole time. So I left, and came back home.”

Emerson winced. “Shit Dean I’m sorry I…”

“Sorry for what, Em? For prying? That’s all you do! Why don’t you just let me tell you when I’m ready? Why can’t you just trust me when I tell you to leave it alone?”

“Dean I…”

“Just leave it, Em.” He sat up, swung his legs over the side of the bed, and walked out of the room. The door slammed behind him, leaving her more alone than she’d felt in weeks.

 

-13 Days After-

 

They stepped out the front door into the bright Summer morning. Dean avoided Emerson completely, by taking the lead for the group. She couldn’t gauge his emotions from under his gas mask. She could hear her own breathing inside of her mask like Darth Vader and it was making her unnecessarily anxious. Or maybe it was necessary.

They each had a large pack on their backs, with an oxygen tank, medical supplies, non perishable food items, a few changes of clothes, and bottled water. Her back was already sore from the weight of the pack.

“Here.” Dean said, passing them each a hand gun.

“What? No way!” Pheli said, pushing it back.

“We don’t know what we are getting into out there. We may need them.” Dean said, seriously.

“Not me. No way. Someone else take it.”

Emerson felt the weight of her own gun at her hip. It felt heavy. She was on Pheli’s side. She didn’t like guns, but Dean was right. They had no idea what they were walking into.

Everything looked just as they’d left it when they entered the Winchester house. Cars wrecked, decayed bodies in the street. The major difference was the plant life, everything was red and menacing from the rain, growing jagged and angry toward the sky. The flowers, grass, and weeds were all growing out of control.

They stepped through them, and the plants tickled above the knee. They decided that they’d go toward the hospital to see if there was any news about the girls mother. They weren’t hopeful, but Ophelia wouldn’t leave until she knew that their mom was at rest.

They walked in a line, carefully, not sure what to expect.

There was no real sign of life. Anyone who had been there were long gone. The world was quiet.

Dean put his fist up to signal the group to stop, and Emerson glanced around to the front of the group, and she put her hand out to stop Pheli. There was a sixteen foot long snake that slithered in front of them. It was black, sleek, and way too fucking large. It was the thickness of Emerson’s thigh at least. Her heart pounded in her chest. Ophelia’s hand tightened around her sisters arm as the head of the snake turned to expose a second head. It was all fangs, it’s maw opening and exposing long black teeth with a hiss.

Dean pulled out his gun, clicked off the safety, pointed it at the snake and pulled the trigger blowing it away. Two shots, one for each head. The long body laid lifeless on the ground, spewing thick black blood out of its open neck holes.

Dean raised his hand and waived them forward again, but Emerson couldn’t move. The Maklen sisters were frozen, staring at the snake on the road in front of them. Emerson wondered if it escaped from the zoo, but she hadn’t recalled seeing anything even that large there. Especially not with two heads.

Sam turned to the girls, wordlessly, and placed his hand on Pheli’s. He gave her a reassuring nod, and she slowly released her grip from Emerson’s arm. The couple laced their fingers together and moved forward. Emerson had no choice but to follow them. Dean didn’t come to her.

 

-1 Year Before-

 

“I’ll have a vodka soda, make it a double.” Emerson offered a weak smile as she lowered herself onto the bar stool. She came to think. To try to wipe away all of the thoughts that were dancing around her mind.

“We can’t put her on that machine, Em! It’s cruel!”

“She can’t breathe like this, Phel! It’s over. Okay? It’s over!”

She was the bad guy, again. She was always the bad guy. She had to point out what her sister couldn’t. She had to make the decision.

She took the glass in her hand an downed the drink, signaling for another. The cheap vodka stung her throat and made her head pound a bit. She welcomed any numbness it would bring. Anything to quiet her thoughts.

“Hey.”

Her eyes flickered next to her to find Sam Winchester lower himself next to her. Her sisters boyfriend. She tilted her head to see if Pheli was on his heels like normal. She wasn’t. “Where’s Phel?”

“Still at the hospital with your Mom.”

“Did she send you?”

He shook his head. “No. I wanted to check on you. I was worried about you.”

Emerson and Sam hadn’t ever been close. Not explicitly. He’d always been there, but more of an extension of Ophelia. She never saw him much individually, even though part of her ached for his friendship.

“I’m fine.” Emerson said, but she could admit that it sounded a little strained.

“You don’t have to pretend around me, you know.”

“Yeah.” She sighed. “I think I do know that.” She spun her straw in her glass before plucking it out of the liquid. She took a swig straight from the glass.

Sam watched her expectantly, giving her time to process her thoughts.

“How’s Dean?”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “You’ve never asked me about him before.”

“I know.”

“He’s good.” Sam said carefully, not sure what all to say to her. “He’s getting married.”

She pressed her lips together in a tight line. Of course he was. She couldn’t expect for him to be single forever. It wasn’t how life worked. Nothing was quite how she thought life should work. “That’s good. I’m glad he’s happy.”

“Are you happy?”

Emerson smiled weakly. Her lips tugging at the corners. “Happiness is relative, Sam.”

“I know that.”

“I guess we both know a lot, then.”

Sam reached for her hand at the same time that she reached to finish off her glass. His hazel eyes bore into hers. “Emerson you don’t have to face everything alone.”

“I’m not facing everything alone. I have Pheli.”

“But you’re sugar coating things for her. I watch you do it.”

“I didn’t do that today.”

“No.” He said quietly. “You didn’t, and you’re punishing yourself for it.”

The bar was quiet, it smelled like musty sea breeze. Like molding alcohol. Like it’d been shut up for too long. Emerson wondered if that’s what her heart would smell like if she cracked it open.

“You’re not letting yourself mourn.” Sam said intensely, his voice barely above a whisper. “You need to let yourself feel, Em. She isn’t here for you to protect, not right now.”

Her chest felt like the air right before a rain. It tingled with electricity, her breath pushing itself out of her mouth like a gust of wind. She was bubbling over, like the waves during a storm. She crashed into him before she could stop herself, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face in his shoulder. The rain erupted in a thunder of sobs as she cried into his shirt. His arms went around her and he rubbed her back. “Shh, I’m here.”

Her Mom wasn’t there anymore. She was sedated. “We can keep her comfortable, Miss Maklen.” She didn’t look comfortable. She looked like a shell.

“I can’t believe you’re giving up on her, Emerson.” Ophelia said through gritted teeth. “I’ll never forgive you for this.”

She was made Power of Attorney for a reason. Why me? She’d asked herself a thousand times. She wanted to scream. To walk into the ocean and never come back out. She wanted to drown in something else. Anything else.

She would never forget her moms fingers twitching at her side as the medication took over her. The urgency of the staff to put the tube down her throat. The tape on her dry lips. Who would be there to put chapstick on her? She hated dry lips. The hospital smelled sterile. Like medicine. She shouldn’t have to be around that smell. She should always smell like cinnamon. Like baked goods.

Emerson couldn’t breathe. She was gasping, her fingers curled in Sam’s shirt. He pulled back from her, his palms on either side of her face. “Are you okay? Hey, look at me.”

She couldn’t make out his face through the tears, but she grabbed his cheeks anyway. She leaned forward, her lips ready to grab his. To close the space between them. To distract herself. To drown in him, but he stopped her before she got too close.

“Em.” He whispered, pressing his forehead to hers. “I’m not the one you want to kiss.” He said quietly, wiping her tears.

He was right. She knew that. Sam wasn’t the one. He never was the one.

 

-13 Days After-

 

The hospital was picked over. It’d clearly been looted, which gave the group a little hope that there were survivors. “She’s on the third floor.” Emerson lifted her mask for a moment to tell them.

They nodded and followed her to the stairs. The emergency lights were barely illuminating the hallways. Gurneys were overturned. Papers littered the floor like a great wind had blown through. There were no staff or patients to be seen, but most doors were still closed.

Emerson scanned the halls, looking for any sign of danger. She stopped in her tracks as her eyes landed on a red smear on the wall. She reached forward and touched it with her gloved hand. Blood. It was wet. She picked up speed. Her heart was pounding. She pushed into the stairwell and climbed, up, up, and up.

Room 315.

If there was blood that meant someone was alive. Someone. Miracles happened sometimes. Didn’t they?

“I read about this time that a MS patient who was able to be weaned off the vent! Maybe after she gets her strength back…”

“It’s not about strength, Phel. It’s her muscles. It’s… she doesn’t work right. Her body is betraying her. No amount of rest can fix something that is so fundamentally broken.”

Maybe she was wrong. Maybe she was a fucking cynic. She turned the doorknob.

The room was surprisingly cold against the summer heat outside of the closed window. It was dark, but a shape could be made out on the bed. It was unmoving.

Pheli ran ahead of Emerson to the side of the bed.

It was Jana. The tube was still down her throat, but all of the machines were off. She laid lifeless, just like the last time they’d seen her. Her arms were folded across her chest, and her hair was swooped across her head.

A miracle didn’t happen. She was gone. They knew she would be dead, deep down. Even if the bomb never went off. It was why the girls came home. They were going to let her go. Somehow, it all was so much harder. Emerson pulled off her gas mask, and Dean stepped toward her back. Sam reached out an arm to stop him.

She moved closer to her mother. “Hi Mom.” She whispered, removing the tape from her chapped lips. She tilted her chin, and slowly pulled the tube out. She let her lay back again, and she finally looked at rest. Her eyes were closed and her muscles relaxed. She could’ve been sleeping.

Pheli removed her gas mask and let herself lay across her mother in a hug. She let out a single sob. “I thought… I really thought…”

“I know.” Emerson said, holding in her own tears. “So did I.” She could feel the familiar sting behind her eyes as she watched Pheli fall apart.

Sam moved toward Pheli, removing his own gas mask, and he pulled her into his arms. She allowed him to take her, then. “She’s gone.”

“I know, baby. I’m so sorry.” He held her, his hand supporting her head as she melted against him. He was there, again, to comfort her. He was always there.

Emerson stood alone, again. At least she thought so, until she felt Deans arms snake around her. She turned to look at him and was met with his green eyes. Her bottom lip trembled and he pulled her closer. “It’s okay, Em. You can fall apart, I’ve got you.”

Somehow she knew that he did. That he always would. So she cried. She fucking bawled. For once in her life she didn’t feel so alone.

Chapter Text

-5 Years Before-

 

“I can’t believe I agreed to this.”

“Come on, Cranky. Just smile. It won’t hurt, ya know?” Dean chuckled from the front seat, his sunglasses resting on his nose.

“Nobody asked you, Johnny Cash.”

“I know that was supposed to be an insult, but I take it as compliment.” He chuckled and started to whistle Folsom Prison Blues.

All of the windows of the Impala were down. Ophelia’s hand was out the window, rolling in the waves of air. “He’s right, you know!”

“Nobody asked you.”

Sam laughed and turned back to look at the girls. “Come on, Em.”

“Don’t come on me.” She huffed.

“She’s allergic to fun.” Pheli said, leaning forward to kiss Sam from the back seat. “Ignore her.”

“Jesus, you two! Not on the leather.” Dean laughed swatting at the couple.

It was three months until Dean left for the military, and the four of them were spending as much time together as possible, even though the twins were the only two who knew. In turn, Emerson couldn’t stop staring at him. She’d started having pretty graphic nightmares of him stepping on land mines, or coming home with only one leg. She would run to him, but she would never reach him in time. She would wake up with his blood on her hands.

“Em?”

“Hm?” Her eyebrows raised at the sound of his voice.

“You getting out of the car?”

She looked around and noticed that they stopped. She opened up the door to the Impala, and immediately heard the screams. They came from all directions. The roar from the carts climbing up the hills. Steel on steel as the rides screeched to a halt at the end of the tracks.

“I love Happy Fun Land!” Pheli screeched, bouncing up and down, her hand gripping Sam’s. He laughed in response and kissed her head.

“Such a terrible name.” Emerson complained.

“Come on, Grumpy.” Dean said throwing an arm around her to pull her forward.

“Back off, Winchester.” She batted him away, but kept pace with the group.

It was Ophelia’s idea to spend the day at the amusement park. Summer had officially began and it was just what the doctor ordered. Maybe if the doctor ordered torture and spending too much money, but who was Emerson to deny Pheli a day of fun? It wasn’t really in her. So she bought a ticket and hopped in the back of the Impala.

“Alright so what’s first?” Sam asked, curling his finger around one of Pheli’s braids.

“I want something fried!”

“Phel you can’t eat something fried before you go on rides, you’ll throw up.” Emerson said, bumping her sisters hip.

“I will not throw up!”

“Throwing up is half the fun of the amusement park.” Dean teased.

“You’ve never seen her puke.” Emerson raised an eyebrow. “It isn’t pretty.”

“That’s Sam’s problem.”

“It’ll be all of our problems if she throws up. Trust me.”

“She’s right.” Sam chuckled.

“You all suck.” Pheli complained.

“You love us, Maklen, admit it.” Dean grinned.

“I think you’re thinking of Emerson.” Phel laughed, skipping ahead of the group. “We are going to have fun today! It’s a royal decree!”

 

-15 Days After-

 

They made their way back to the Impala after the hospital. The girls slept in the backseat, cuddled together. Emerson’s head was in Pheli’s lap, and Pheli’s head rested against the window.

Sam glanced back at them and smiled. “They’re out.”

“Finally.” Dean said, his eyes flickering to the rear view mirror. “Em’s barely slept.”

“Who does that sound like?”

“Shut up.” Dean gripped the steering wheel, his knuckles white. They’d spent the night in the hospital. The girls needed to say goodbye.

There wasn’t any movement in the hospital that he could detect, and he would’ve known. He was up all night with his finger on the trigger of his gun. It wasn’t any different than being in war. He got used to the constant callous on his trigger finger. He told himself, when he was discharged, that he wouldn’t touch another gun. But the situation they were in was the perfect excuse to break his own rules. No matter what guns made him into.

“It’s looking stormy.” Sam commented, squinting through the windshield.

It did. The sky looked angry. It was dark, to the point that it almost looked like night time ahead of them, but it wasn’t. It was the early morning. White licks of lightening shot across the sky in a jagged line. Thunder boomed, shaking the road beneath them.

“Maybe we should find cover.” Sam offered, as if it hadn’t occurred to Dean. He shot his younger brother a look.

“There’s nothing for miles.” He gestured to the trees. “And after that fucking snake, man, we don’t know what’s out there.”

“Wait, what road is this?” Sam squinted at the signs that they were speeding by on the highway. They hadn’t seen any other cars. It seemed that everyone tried to evacuate taking the other highway out of town. “Shit, Dean. You know what’s on this highway?”

“I don’t know, Sammy. Some gas station that sells nerd merchandise?”

“No, you cranky asshole, Happy Fun Land!”

Dean was tempted to slam on his breaks immediately and make Sam get out, but the whole impending doom of a storm kept his foot steadily on the gas. “We are not going to Happy Fun Land, Samuel.”

“Aw, come on.”

“It’s not like it’ll be running.”

“Well, yeah, but they have tons of buildings. We can find shelter there.”

“You’re no different than when you were ten.” Dean grumbled glancing at the billboard advertising the amusement park. His fingers itched at the memory in the back of his mind from the last time that they went together. “Fine. You’re right, anyway. Not sure what else is out here.”

“Hell yes! Phel will be so excited.” He grinned widely.

“You’re so fucking weird.”

“Am not. Nostalgic, yeah, but not weird.”

“Sure thing, kid.”

 

-5 Years Before-

 

“Who is down for a roller coaster?” Dean asked, wiggling his eyebrows at the group.

“Me!” Phel said, jumping up and down. “Sam, will you hold my hand?”

“Of course I will.” He winked at her.

“My protector.” She purred, lacing her fingers with Sams.

Emerson rolled her eyes and Dean took a step closer to her. “Guess it’s just you and me, Em.”

She shook her head. “No way. You can’t pay me enough to get on that.”

“If not payment,” He began, stepping even closer. Pheli and Sam were kissing and didn’t notice the older Winchester approaching her. “Then what do you want, Maklen?”

“Nothing from you, Winchester.” She said, her voice hitched in her throat.

“Mhm.”

“What the fuck is your problem?”

“Come on.” He said quietly just to her. “Just ride it with me one, and if you hate it then I’ll sit out with you on the rest of the rides.”

“No you won’t.”

“Scouts honor.” He held up his three fingers together, batting his eyelashes.

“You weren’t a scout.”

“No, but Sammy was.” Dean grinned widely. “Come on today is supposed to be fun!”

“Fine! I’ll go just... stop being so annoying.” She pushed past him, trying to get the heat that was climbing up her neck and onto her cheeks to calm the fuck down.

Dean smirked, watching her walk away, knowing he’d won at least that small battle.

The four of them settled into their seats on the roller coaster. “You’ll protect me?” Pheli asked, one more time, to Sam.

“From anything.” He promised, kissing her.

“Will you protect me?” Dean asked Emerson, doing a perfect Ophelia impression.

She couldn’t help but bust into a fit of giggles. “Fuck off, Dean.”

“Hey, that isn’t your line.”

She winked at him, and the rollercoaster shot forward, immediately creeping up a hill. Emerson felt her stomach drop. She could feel her pulse in her ears. She gripped the arm bar tightly, her knuckles white.

“You okay?” He asked her, as the crept toward the top.

“Yes!” She said, her voice a little too high pitched. “I can’t fucking believe you talked me into this.”

He smiled at her a little, unable to hide how adorable she looked with her eyes wide and her cheeks flushed. He ran his tongue along his bottom lip before offering his open palm to her. “I actually will protect you, ya know that, right?”

“Shut the fuck up.” Her eyes were clamped shut tightly. “Just tell me when it’s over.”

“I think you’ll know when it’s over.” He teased, his eyes never leaving her.

Then they dropped over the edge. They plummeted down, and her eyes shot open, her hand immediately grabbing Deans. He curled his fingers around hers and let her squeeze.

They rounded a corner and she slid against him, screaming, tears streaming down her cheeks. He laughed, and he felt a little mean for it, but he couldn’t help it. She was so fucking adorable. The cart traveled the hills, around tight curves, through the trees. Emerson screamed the whole way, digging her nails into the back of Deans hand.

They came to a quick stop. He expected her to shoot him an angry look for laughing at her, but instead she turned her body and buried her tear streaked face into his chest.

“Hey, you good?” He asked, wrapping an arm around her. The cart jolted forward so they could get parked and exit.

“Fuck you, Dean Winchester.”

“Hey.” He lifted her face and wiped her tears. Her eyes were red and her mouth was open, letting out ragged breaths. Dean held her face in his hands and he offered her a smile. “You hated it, didn’t you?”

“How can you tell?”

“Em, are you okay?” Pheli asked from outside of the cart, but Emerson didn’t look at her sister. Her eyes didn’t leave Dean’s.

“I’m sorry I made you come.” He said softly. “I’ll sit out with you for the rest of the day.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Yeah I do. A deal’s a deal.”

 

-15 Days After-

 

The sky was looking even more menacing as the black Chevy Impala pulled into the parking lot of the amusement park. There were more cars than expected, but it seemed empty, just like everything else.

“Twins.” Dean said, glancing back at the girls. “Aye, we need to get cover. Looks like rain’s comin.”

“Hm?” Pheli asked, opening her eyes. “Shit, where are we?”

“Look around.” Sam said with a smile.

“Oh my god!” She squealed, causing Emerson to shake awake.

“What the fuck?” Emerson asked with a yawn. “What’s going on?”

“They took us to Happy Fun Land!” Pheli squealed.

Emerson sat up and squinted out the window. “Is this a joke?”

“I wish.” Dean laughed. “But no. It looks like the weathers about to get bad, and we needed some more protection than Baby can give us.”

Emerson offered Dean an exhausted, tight smile. “Back on with the masks.”

“Yup.” He said as he grabbed his.

The four of them slid their masks on and grabbed their bags from the trunk. Dean took the lead, like usual, but this time Emerson was on his heels. Jana’s death had wrecked her, and she didn’t want to stay behind anymore. It was time for her to take control.

They pushed into the park, to find a place to take cover. Everything was dark. All of the rides had been disabled. It looked so much less magical not all lit up. Trash was pushed by a gentle wind, and danced along the cobblestone pathway.

Pheli’s grip tightened on Sam’s hand. It wasn’t the way she remembered it. She knew that things were bad, that was pretty clear, but it was hard to find the magic when Happy Fun Land looked so crushed.

The sky growled it anger, thunder rolling over their heads. Dean glanced around before spotting a diner. He waved them forward and they pushed into the restaurant. It was all glass walls and windows, but the back portion was covered by thick walls, in case they had to take cover.

The tables were still covered in food, molding fries and burgers sat, covered in dried ketchup, right where their owners had left them. Dean picked up the red baskets from a long booth and threw them out before settling in.

 

-5 Years Before-

 

“Burgers? Really? We can have burgers anywhere.”

“Yeah, but they’re always good.” Dean grinned.

“I want something weird. A funnel cake?” Pheli grinned, batting her eyelashes at Sam.

“You got it.”

“And then we are doing the roller coaster that goes upside down!”

“Perfect.” Sam grinned widely.

“I’ll stay with Dean.” Emerson said before the two couples parted ways.

“Wow, volunteering to stay with me? What’d I do to deserve this honor, m’lady?”

“You were being nice. Don’t fuck it up.” She said before going up to order a set of cheese fries.

Dean ordered a bacon cheeseburger, duh,  and a root beer float. They sat across from each other in a booth near the window. People chased their children down the cobblestone path outside of the window , couples held hands and shared ice cream cones, everyone was living their life, but yet Dean was staring at her. “What? Is there something on my face?”

“Yeah.” He said, reaching forward, brushing her bottom lip with his thumb. “Got it.” He murmured.

She pressed her lips closed. She felt like she was looking at him for the first time. His eyes were green. Green. Like the apples she’d eat in the fall after they were dipped in caramel. His lips were full, and they looked soft like a fresh peach. He had a sky full of stars of freckles on his nose and cheeks. She wanted to reach forward and connect them all with her index finger. To find a picture in him like Pheli did when they looked at the clouds. “What’s this?” She asked, reaching forward, across the table, and plucking at the necklace around his neck.

“Sammy gave it to me when we were kids.”

“And you still wear it?” She ran her fingers over the weird, misshapen metal face around his neck.

“Of course I do.”

Dean Winchester danced with his mom, he sat out with her when the roller coaster was too much, even though he wanted to go, he wore some ugly necklace for years just because Sam gave it to him. “You know, you’re more than what you seem to be, Dean Winchester.”

“So are you, Emerson Maklen.”

She leaned forward, to reach for his touch again before something came over her. He was a good man. He was leaving. He was going to Afghanistan in three months. She recoiled back to her seat and shoved five cheese covered french fries into her mouth.

 

-15 Days After-

 

Emerson looked out the window with her arms crossed. She spent so much time trying to be what she was supposed to be according to other people, according to herself. She went to the college that Ophelia wanted to go to, because they were expected to do everything together. She went to homecoming with Dean, because Pheli wanted her to. She said no to Dean countless times, because he wasn’t right for her. She didn’t even know why she was always resisting. It was fucking exhausting being so self righteous all the time. Being so bottled. The sky shook above them with an angry clap of thunder. She understood how it felt. She wanted to scream, too.

The rain came down a few droplets at first. No one seemed to notice, but Emerson. She noticed. She stepped closer, pressing her gloved hand to the glass on the window. “My god.” She whispered inside of her mask, before turning, and running toward the door.

Her index finger worked its way inside of the glove on her opposite hand, peeling it away. Both were falling to the floor. Her fingers curled under the chin of the gas mask, pulling it up and over her head. It crashed to the floor as she pushed out into the rain.

“Emerson, no!” Dean shouted inside of his mask. The three that were left at the table scurried to their feet, they ran after her only to find her standing in the middle of the cobblestone street, with her face looking toward the sky and her arms open. Clear rain poured over her. Clear. She laughed and spun in a circle.

Dean pulled off his own mask, Pheli, and Sam followed.

“Come on in, the water’s fine!” She laughed, spinning in circles.

Ophelia didn’t need to be asked twice. She stripped herself out of her jacket and ran into the warm, Summer rain. She locked hands with her sister and they spun around, their hair getting soaked. Emerson pulled her into a hug and ruffled her hair.

“Fuck it.” Sam said, dropping his own mask. He ran into the middle of the two girls, picking Pheli up. He threw her over his shoulder causing her to squeal.

“Come on!” Emerson said, waving for Dean to join them. She looked beautiful in the rain. “You’re more than what you seem to be, Dean Winchester.” She pushed her soaked hair behind her ears, laughing as Pheli kicked barely missing her head. “You see me, Dean, and I see you.” She did see him. She always did. “You think you’re so fucking cute, don’t you?”

So he ran to her. He dropped his fucking gas mask in a puddle and he ran to her, pulling her into his arms. He was always going to run to her. She wrapped her arms around his neck. “Fancy meeting you here.” She murmured, her nose brushing his.

He blinked the rain out of his eyelashes. “Small world.”

“Mhm.” She mumbled before holding the back of his head in her hand, and pulling him closer, closing the space between them. His lips were the way she always expected them to be, soft and warm, despite the cool wetness from the rain. She could feel the surprise in his lips, his mouth opening slightly when her lips pressed to his. Then he smiled, his eyes fluttering closed, and he kissed her back. He put his hands under her thighs, hoisting her up. She wrapped her legs around his waist and held his face in her hands.

His scruff scratched against her face but she didn’t care. She was kissing Dean Winchester! He ran his tongue along her bottom lip, asking for permission. She opened her lips to let him in. She was letting go. It was raining, and they weren’t burning. They weren’t red. Things were finally looking up.

Pheli smacked Sam’s shoulder when he put her down and they booth applauded. “Fucking finally!” She laughed, wrapping her arms around Sam’s waist.

Emerson pulled back from him, panting, her forehead pressed to his.

“Does this mean you actually like me?” He asked, his shit eating grin taking up most of his face, but his eyes were soft, vulnerable.

“To put it mildly.” She murmured, just loud enough for him to hear.

His smile softened, his teeth disappearing under his lips. His eyes closed and he slowly lowered Emerson back to the ground, her feet splashing in the puddle below them. His hands never left her, and she was still pressed against him. She looked up at him with a smile. She never thought she would be one of those girls to kiss in the rain. It seemed more Pheli’s style, but yet. But yet...

“What was that?” Sam asked, turning and squinting into the rain.

It was a miracle that they heard it at all under the roar of the downpour. It was a single groan at first, and sounded a bit like Dean when he was woken up too early. Then it was more like a sea of groans, and foot steps.

“What the...”

They were close enough to be seen then, with their mouths open, and hands gripping, reaching for them. They were soaked, their eyes glowing red in the darkness. People. Twenty of them at least, their skin looked like it was burnt, bubbling and red. Their mouths hung open, their heads titled in curiosity as they walked through the rain, seemingly careless about the water. The first in the group looked up and made eye contact with Emerson. The creature looked like it was once a woman, from her small stature and long stringy hair, but now she was something else all together. She opened her jaw to let out a horrible, blood curdling scream as she pointed a bony, burnt up, fleshy finger at the four of them.

“Run.” Emerson said, as Dean curled his fingers sound hers. “Fucking run!”

Chapter Text


-15 Days After-

 

Dean Winchester was no stranger to violence. To blood. To the chase. His dog tags slapped against his chest as he ran, his eyes always glancing back to make sure Emerson was catching up. He reached out a hand for her, lacing their fingers, he wouldn’t leave her behind.

The rain pelted their hair, the ground. Their feet splashed in the puddles that covered the cobblestone pathway. They hadn’t thought it through, their weapons and supplies were in the diner, far behind them. Dean scanned their surroundings for anywhere to take cover. They came up on the Ferris wheel and he made a split second decision. “Come on!” He shouted, and he began to climb, his hands slick on the metal.

“Dean I don’t know if I can climb that!” Emerson shouted up at him over the downpour.

“Yes you can!” He shouted back, his feet landing on a solid, horizontal piece. He reached a hand down to her, his other hand wrapped around a bar to keep him steady. “‘Mere I got you.”

Sam was doing the same, hoisting himself up high, and reaching out for Pheli’s hand. The creatures groaned behind them.

Emerson met his eyes, squinting in the rain, and she knew that she could trust him. She had no other choice but to trust him. “Alright, okay.”

“Good girl.” He said as their hands clasped together. He lifted her up with one arm, groaning in response. He pulled her against his chest, their lips an inch apart, but it wasn’t the time to be thinking about kissing. “Alright, put your hands in those grips and start to climb, I’ll be right under you.”

“Dean…”

“I won’t let you fall, but we need to get higher. Come on, they’re gaining.”

Emerson nodded, and reached up to put her hand in the dip of the metal. Dean’s hands were around her waist as he hoisted her upwards. They didn’t have time to argue. The groans were getting louder, and she wanted to look back, but she didn’t. She had to believe that they’d be okay.

“See that top seat? That’s what we are going for.”

“Okay, yeah. I can do that.” She said through gritted teeth. Fuck it’s so slick. She curled her fingers around the metal and let Dean push her upwards. Her feet landed on a bar, and she made sure she was solid before turning and offering a hand to him.

“Not gonna pull you down.” He grunted before jumping like a fucking mad man, and grabbing the bar. He pulled himself up easily, swinging his legs next to hers. It never occurred to her, before that moment, how strong he really was. She couldn’t see the bulge of his muscle under his canvas jacket, but she knew it must be there. He was a solider, and he probably worked out every day. She swallowed hard. There was so much she still didn’t know, and in the wake of everything, all she could think was that she didn’t want to die before she got to find out.

“Sammy?!” Dean called.

“We’re good.” Sam said, they were about sixteen feet up and still climbing on the opposite side of the wheel. “You?”

“Still good.” Dean shouted with a nod. He turned and caught a glimpse of the hoard coming their way. Groaning bodies, pushing past them at a fast walking pace. They were squeezing into the gate. He quickly assessed the situation. There were twenty-two of them. People, or something that used to be people, covered in melting flesh and pus covered wounds. He watched a man run his arm across a woman, her flesh peeling away like butter. He wanted to throw up, but he swallowed down the bile that came up his throat. It wasn’t the time. One foot in front of the other. He just hoped to hell that they couldn’t climb. “Let’s keep going, Em.”

“Dean I…”

“Hey.” He said, grabbing her face in his hands. She looked fucking terrified. Her brown eyes were wide, her pupils almost taking over the entirety of her iris. Her lips were trembling, and turning blue from the rain. “I’ve got you. You don’t need to be afraid, because I am not letting anything happen to you. No fucking way. I don’t break promises, Em. You know that, don’t you? I’m not losing you today. We have too much catching up to do.”

She sucked in her breath and grabbed the back of his neck to pull his face down to hers and she kissed him, urgently and quick. “Okay. Let’s go.”

He moved his hands to her waist and spun her around. “Grab there.” He instructed, and she followed. One arm up and he lifted her to her next position, then swing up to meet her. They were half way up to the top, and the creatures below were gripping, and climbing over each other, but not making any other progress. Dean made a mental note that they couldn’t problem solve. “Okay, Em, I’m going to push you up, and I need you try to get into the cart, okay?”

She glanced back at him and nodded. “Okay.”

He picked her up, hoisting her upward toward the cart, one hand on her waist and the other under her ass to push her up high enough for her to grab. Emerson’s hands grabbed for the seat, but it was soaked from the rain. She wasn’t able to get a grip, so she slid. Her hands left the seat just as quickly as they were placed there, sending her free falling off the side of the Ferris wheel.

 

-5 Years Before-

 

“So you’re willing to go on the fucking Ferris wheel, but not rollercoasters?”

“It goes in a slow circle, Dean. Yes I’m willing to go on the Ferris wheel.” Emerson narrowed her eyes at him. “Does that mean you won’t go with me?”

“Hey.” He put his hands up in defense. “I never said that.”

“Just checking.” She shot him a wide grin. “Let’s go then.”

They settled into the seat, the lap bar locking across them. Their thighs brushed from the close proximity. They’d been at the park all day, and the sun had finally dipped below the horizon. The stars were coming out like speckled glitter. “Full moon.” Emerson commented.

“Yeah.”

“It’s beautiful. It feels a little hopeful.” She squeezed the bar. She was so fascinated with the sky that she didn’t catch him looking at her.

“Yeah, it is.”

The wheel started to turn, just a bit, to allow the next couple on. Emerson instinctively grabbed Dean’s hand. “Sorry.” She said with a quick exhale as she released his hand. “Still a little jumpy from the roller coaster.”

“It’s okay.”

“You seem quiet.”

“Nah. Just enjoying the view.” He said, his tongue shooting out to wet his bottom lip.

“It’s a good one, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

The wheel turned, but this time she kept her hands to herself as they went toward the sky. The higher they went, the more they could see. All of Happy Fun Land. The ocean in the distance, dark and tempting. It felt like they were the only two people in the world. “Do you know your deployment date yet?”

“Nah. I go to MEPS in about a month to get checked out and then they’ll let me know. By the end of the Summer at the soonest. Then I have Basic…then I don’t know. I may just stay on a base. There’s really no telling until after Basic.”

“Are you scared?”

Dean smiled a bit and turned to her. “What do I have to be afraid of, Em?”

“Saying goodbye?”

“We all say goodbye at some point. It’s just a part of life.”

“How insightful.”

“You’re young.” Dean said, quietly. “You’ll see.”

“You’re not that much older than me, Dean. You know that, right?”

He raised an eyebrow. “I wasn’t sayin…”

“You were, and it was condescending.”

He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Sorry.”

“If I’m such a child then why do you always want to hang out with me?”

“You aren’t a child.”

“Just immature? That’s a lot, coming from you.”

“Christ, why are we fighting right now?”

Emerson crossed her arms and looked back out to the park. She watched the rides light up, the rollercoasters spin in the darkness. “I’m sorry.” She sighed. “I know we aren’t friends, Dean.”

“We aren’t?” He chuckled. “Then what are we, Maklen?”

She turned toward him. “Two people. If it weren’t for Sam and Phel we wouldn’t hang out. You know that.”

“You don’t think we would?”

She pushed her hair behind her ear, and looked up at him.  She could see the reflection of the moon in his eyes. “You wouldn’t have looked at me twice.”

“You’re pretty blind, aren’t ya?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve always been lookin at ya, Em. I’d be an idiot not to.”

 

-15 Days After-

 

Dean reached for her, wrapping his arms around her waist, his own foot slipping, causing his head to hit the bar behind him as he pulled her against him. Her scream was muffled by Dean pressing her face into his chest. “Hey, I’m sorry, I’ve got you. I’ve got you, Em.” He mumbled, his lips and hands in her hair.

“Em!” Pheli shouted.

He could feel Emerson against his chest, calming down, before she pulled back to yell at Pheli. “I’m okay, Phel!” Sam had his arm wrapped around her; they were already secured in their seats.

“Hey.” Dean whispered, looking down at her.

They’d been up on the wheel for only a matter of minutes, but it felt like an eternity.

“Dean.” She whispered.

“I know.” He pressed his forehead to hers. “You hold on here, I’m going to go up to the seat and pull you up. Okay?”

“Is your head okay?” She moved her hand to the back of his head where it hit the bar. Her fingers came back tinted red with his blood.

“Don’t worry about me. Just hold on here, okay?”

She nodded and wrapped her arms around the bar, feeling the absence of him immediately. He reached up and grabbed the lap bar, the seat groaning and swinging in response. He pulled himself up and over, sliding his legs in place. He reached out a hand for her, swinging the seat down.

“Come on, Sweetheart, I’ve got you.”

She closed her eyes for a second. All the times that he swung over to her roof came to her mind. “You look lonely, Em.” How did he know? He always said the exact wrong thing. He always said the exact right thing. His hand extended to hers, wet from the rain. His fingers reached as far as they could, his face serious. He was Dean Winchester. He was the bad boy. The guy that left. He was the thought on her mind as she laid alone in her dorm room, staring out the window at the moon as it grew in the sky. She opened her eyes and he was there, like he had been until the night he left. She settled her feet and pushed off, reaching her hands out for his. Her fingers curled around his forearm. He held onto her with his free hand and pulled her up and over the bar. She settled in next to him, but she didn’t let go. “What now?” She asked, her voice small.

“Still got your gun?” He asked, pulling his off the holster on his thigh.

“Yeah.”

“Seen The Walking Dead?”

“I have.”

“Let’s try for a headshot.” He grinned, taking off the safety. “Sammy?”

“Yeah?”

“Got your gun?”

“I do.” Sam shouted back.

“You were always good at Call of Duty. Put those skills to use.”

Bang. One down. Right between it’s eyes. Dean was a killer shot, but that was no real surprise.

Emerson held her own gun in her hand. 

“Watch out for the recoil.” He said gently. “It’s a bitch.”

She nodded and closed one eye. Bang. Her shoulder shot back, hitting the back of the seat. “Shit.” She mumbled. No dice. She missed.

Sam took out two. Pheli’s eyes were buried in her hands. She hated guns and violence, and if Emerson could guess, that would be the last time they went to Happy Fun Land.

“I got it.” Dean said with a smile, as he patted her thigh. “Don’t worry.” He focused then, his jaw tight and his eyes unwavering. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Emerson watched the creatures fall over each other, pushing the fallen out of the way. Their mouths opened, showing black and rotting teeth. Their eyes were hollowed and dark under red blistering skin. One grabbed another, trying to climb over, its mouth biting at nothing. They were starving.

It wasn’t long before they were all picked off, but Sam and Dean used all the rounds in their guns. Sam missed a few, and there were a hand full that didn’t go down with one shot. It wasn’t until the final one fell that Emerson let herself lose it. The tears stung her eyes and she felt a burning in the back of her throat. “Em?” Dean asked, alarmed.

He wrapped his arms around her before she could collapse. “Shh, I got you.”

“What the fuck, Dean? What the actual fuck?” She was sobbing, snot and all. “Everything is falling apart.”

“I know.” He whispered into her hair. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“We could’ve died.”

“We didn’t.”

“How are we going to survive this? A bomb went off... a fucking... bomb.” She was starting to hyperventilate, her heart rate was through the roof.

“Listen to me, Emerson. You need to breathe. Look at me.”

She followed his instruction, meeting his green eyes, that looked more grey against the rainy sky. A drop fell off his nose, his eyelashes littered with pockets of water. “Breathe in.” She did. “Breathe out.” She did.

They breathed like that for what seemed like an eternity, their eyes locked. She breathed in when he did and out when he did. After a dozen breaths she was feeling a little better, a little more centered. She didn’t have a lot of breakdowns. She kept herself tightly coiled, but eventually everything comes undone. It always does.

“We kissed.” She said with her last exhale.

“We did.”

“Twice.”

“Want to take it back?”

“No. Do you?”

“No.” He smiled a bit in the rain. “Just took the fucking end of the world.”

“It can’t be the end of the world.” She gasped, feeling her heart start to race again. Her jaw trembled.

“Are you cold?”

“I... I don’t know.”

“Here.” He shrugged out of his wet canvas jacket, and draped it over her shoulders.

“You’re going to freeze.” She commented, eyeing his t-shirt.

“I’ve been colder.” He promised, wrapping an arm around her. “I’d like to kiss you again. Maybe when we aren’t running for our lives.”

“You may be waiting a while.”

“Emerson Maklen.” He laughed and shook his head. “What have I done, after all this time, that would make you think I wouldn’t wait for you?”

She looked up at him and cupped his cheek in her hand. “You know, I was thinking the same thing.”

 

Later that night

 

They found a place to camp. A nurses office that seemed more like a waiting area for people who got injured or sick on the rides. There were a couple of single beds that had a blanket and a pillow. They’d all changed into dry clothes and were settling in.

“Sam and I are going to do a perimeter check.” He said, sliding his clip on his gun into place. “You girls get some rest.”

“You won’t be gone long?” Pheli asked, mid braid, looking up at Sam with wide eyes.

“You won’t even have time to miss me.” He leaned down and kissed her. “I’ll be back soon.”

“I’ll be waiting. I don’t think I can sleep without you.”

“Try.” Sam smiled down at her before he nodded to Dean. They walked out the door, letting it click behind them.

Emerson ran her fingers through her own hair, it was finally drying, and she couldn’t even begin to imagine what it looked like. “You okay?” She asked Pheli.

“I... I don’t know, Em, honestly. Probably not so much.” She forced a smile. “This is crazy. I feel like it’s a bad dream.”

“Me too.”

“And not to be totally... well, me.”

“What are you talking about?” Emerson sat down on the bed opposite to Pheli and pulled her knees to her chest.

“You kissed him.”

She wiped her cheeks as if it would make the growing blush disappear. “I... I did.”

“Finally! How do you feel?”

“This is really what you want to talk about right now?

“Opposed to zombies? Fuck yes.” Ophelia said, tying her braid at the bottom. “You kissed Dean Winchester!”

“Twice.” Emerson exhaled with a smile.

“Oh my god! For the first time, right?”

“Yeah.”

“This is fucking wild. I mean, the apocalypse is terrifying, but this is crazy. I never thought this would happen.”

“You practically shoved us together every chance you got.”

“Yeah, but you’re like an old maid. I never thought you’d give in! Even though you’re perfect for each other.”

“Phel, listen...”

“Don’t do it! Don’t say what you’re going to say.” Pheli begged. She literally begged, with her hands clasped together up on her knees.

“What am I going to say?”

“That it was a one time thing. It wouldn’t happen again. It was a fluke.”

“It wasn’t a fluke.”

“What?”

“I like him. I think I’ve always liked him, and I definitely want to kiss him again.”

Ophelia flew across the room, throwing her arms around Emerson’s neck. “I can’t believe this! You’re falling in love!”

“Don’t be extreme.” Emerson laughed, but maybe she was. Maybe she always had been. Falling in love with Dean Winchester felt taboo, especially given the circumstances, but maybe that was exactly why it was the right time. Maybe they needed death to stare them in the face to get over themselves. Or maybe she was just finally able to admit that she didn’t want to die alone.

 

-5 Years Before-

 

“So,” Dean began, awkwardly. Sam had walked Pheli to the door, but Dean and Emerson stayed, leaning against the Impala to give their siblings some space. “Tonight was fun.”

“It was.” Emerson agreed.

“Ah, she finally admits it.” He laughed. “Thought we were gonna have to torture some fun out of you.”

She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “Be careful or I’ll take it back.”

“Take it back, but I’ll know the truth.” He bumped against her gently. “You had fun. You had fun with me.”

“Yeah, yeah, throw a goddamn parade.”

“Maybe I will.”

“That I’d like to see.”

“Em?” He glanced at her.

She looked up at him. “Yeah?”

“I am scared.” He admitted. “Scared of sayin goodbye. To Sammy, to you... I... Shit. Maybe it makes me look like a girl, but I’m gonna think about today for a long time. Gonna keep it close, because shit’s gonna suck in Basic. I already know that.”

“You’re brave, Dean.” She met his eyes. “But you don’t have to worry about saying goodbye to me. We aren’t going to say goodbye.”

“We aren’t?”

“No.” She smiled a bit. “We will see each other again. You’ll live to annoy me another day.”

“Now there’s something to look forward to.”

“Yeah, keep that in your pocket.” She patted his chest, above his heart. “Keep it close.”

“I will.” He promised, as he pushed a chunk of hair behind her ear. “Goodnight, Emerson.”

“Night, Dean.”

He watched her walk away, across his yard, into hers. He couldn’t imagine the ache that he would feel saying goodbye to her, because fuck, the one he got when she walked away burned. His chest pulled to her. He would keep her with him more than she would know and more than he would ever admit. Emerson was like a beacon. She was the North Star, and as he would learn in Basic Training, he could always use the North Star to find his way home.

 

Chapter Text

-15 Days After-

 

“So, Emerson.” Sam said quietly, his gun up as they secured the perimeter of the nursing station.

“What about her?”

Sam raised an eyebrow and laughed lightly. “You kissed her.”

“She kissed me, technically.”

“Right.” They walked around the corner. “So do you…. like her?”

Dean glanced both ways before waving Sam forward. “Why’re you askin me questions that you already know the answer to?”

“Just want to hear you say it.” Sam grinned.

Dean rolled his eyes as they circled around the last section of the building. “Clear.” He said with a nod. “Yeah, man, I like her. Okay? Always have.”

“Fuck, I knew it!”

“Proud of yourself?”

“Immensely.”

Dean lowered himself to a seated position. It had finally stopped raining, and the clouds were parting to a clear, starless night sky. Sam sat next to his brother. “You don’t seem like you’re jumping for joy. What’s wrong?”

“I just feel like she’s only giving in because shit’s going to hell, and I’m here. Not that I blame her.”

“You really think that?”

“Why not?” Dean asked, checking the rounds in his gun. “She’s never been interested in me.”

“Are you fucking blind, dude?”

“What?”

“You should’ve seen her in college. Did you know that she never dated?”

“I didn’t know… why?”

“Why do you think, dude? It’s you.”

“I never asked her to do that.”

Sam turned to his older brother. “You didn’t have to.”

“She was supposed to go to Scotland for college, did you know that?”

“No. Phel never mentioned it.”

“I don’t think she knows. Em didn’t go because she was convinced that Pheli needed her. She’s always doing shit that she thinks is right even when it isn’t.”

“Who does that sound like?”

“Shut the fuck up.” Dean grumbled, resting his head against the building. It throbbed gently in response from where he hit it earlier.

“You’re worried that she’s being with you because it’s what she thinks is the right thing?”

“I don’t know, man. Kind of.”

“What about what you want?”

Dean looked at the star sky thoughtfully, trying to pull it all together. Trying to figure out the words to say. How could he describe to Sam what he was feeling? It wasn’t like how it was with him and Ophelia. It wasn’t simple or easy. Emerson was complicated, like an aged scotch. She was full of snark, and she challenged him more than anyone had ever challenged him in his life. What were the words that said he wanted to hold her hand, or watch her wake up in the morning all sleepy? He wanted to talk to her under the stars. He wanted to kiss her a million more times. He wanted to find heaven. “I want to be with her.” He said finally, but even that wasn’t enough.

“So why don’t you give her some credit and believe what she’s saying to you?”

“I guess I just don’t feel like I’m good enough.”

Sam smiled and slapped his brothers shoulder. “I’m sure she doesn’t think that, but if you do… well then I guess you should just try to prove it wrong. Prove you are good enough. Spend every day making yourself worthy. That’s what I do with Phel, and it’s worked so far.”

Dean grunted in response and raised an eyebrow. “Since when are you the one giving me advice? The world must be ending.”

“Yeah.” Sam laughed and glanced up at the sky. “Speaking of that… what are we gonna do, man? Those things today? Are they just gonna be running around? Because we don’t have that many rounds.”

“I know.” He said quietly, his voice barely above a whisper. “I have a bad feeling that this is just the beginning.”

“So what’s the plan? I think we need one before we go back and face those two. You know they’re gonna want to know.”

He did. There was no way Emerson would be able to just be along for the ride. It wasn’t her style. He rubbed his face. Only one thing came to mind, and he wasn’t sure if it was the right answer. It was a fucking long shot at best, but it was all they had. “Alright, fuck. So when I was in Afghanistan some of the guys, and I made a pact.”

“A pact?”

“We decided that if shit went dark that we would all meet up. Hold up together.”

“Did you think this could happen?”

“Not this exactly, but shit was bad over there, Sammy. It was hard not to worry about it happening here.”

“You never talk about it.”

“I don’t like to think about it.” Dean sighed.

“You think this is our best bet?”

“Right now? I think it’s our only option.”

“Then we’ll go. We will head out in the morning.” Sam said, standing up. He offered a hand to Dean. “We should get some sleep, too. We can barricade the door.”

“Right.” Dean said, taking his brothers hand. He let Sam pull him up, and they walked back into the nursing area. The girls were each on a bed, cuddled under the single blanket. Sam walked right to Pheli, sliding off his shoes and he slid in behind her, wrapping his arms around her and nuzzling into her neck.

Dean looked at Emerson. She was asleep and damn it if she didn’t look peaceful. In another life he could picture himself seeing her like that in the morning. He would get up early and make her breakfast in bed. Coffee just the way she liked it. He made a mental note to ask her how she liked it.

He looked at the ground, and was about to settle in when Sam’s words echoed in his mind. “Why do you think, dude? It’s you.” Her back was against the wall, leaving him just enough room to lay on the edge of the bed facing her. He lowered himself down, leaving his shoes on in case they needed to make a quick escape. His nose brushed hers and she groaned in her sleep.

She opened an eye and met his in the darkness. “Is everything okay?” She whispered.

“Yeah.” He whispered back. He rested an arm on her waist, and he waited expectantly, for her to push him away. She didn’t. She snuggled closer.

“Okay.” She breathed, resting her face against his chest. He could feel his heart pounding, and he was sure that she could feel it, too. “Are you okay?”

“Right now? I am.”

“Get some sleep, Dean.”

“You’re not my boss, Maklen.” He teased, his lips against her hair.

“Feel like a big boy telling your big boy lies? I’m the boss, and I always have been. Now go the fuck to sleep.” She yawned, closing her eyes.

“Yes ‘mam.” He said, but he didn’t sleep a wink.

 

-18 Days After-

 

They were in the car for days, driving toward the check point that Dean mentioned. During the drive the boys often got out of the car, siphoned gas out of other cars that had been abandoned on the highway, the keys still in the ignition. Dean refused to abandon the Impala. So they’d get in the cars and pushed them out of the way and into the ditch. The same with the rotting, broken bodies on the street, but there weren’t many of them. It made Emerson’s skin crawl thinking about where they all went. It was the middle of nowhere and no one could’ve survived the rain. Maybe it didn’t reach that far. Maybe they got out. It was her only hope.

They were down to the last bit of food that they’d found along the way, packed in cars. Someone must’ve gotten out because the food was far and few between.

The last time they were out of the car Sam moved to the backseat so Pheli could sleep on his chest. Emerson figured that he just missed touching her. She moved to the front seat and was lulled to sleep by the endless road and the quiet sound of rock on the radio. She didn’t realize that her head was on Deans shoulder, his arm around her shoulder.

In that moment things were quiet. They were peaceful, but it didn’t last long. It couldn’t. Not in the world they were driving toward.

“Fuck.” Dean mumbled as he put the Impala in park.

“What’s going on?” Emerson asked with a yawn. She sat up completely and got a good look at the road ahead of her. “Oh no.”

“What’s going on?” Sam asked, blinking the sleep from his eyes.

The highway was full of cars. Hundreds at least, were all piled up and abandoned. One after another, like a rush hour traffic jam that never moved. The cars looked off from the blood rain, rusted and a little warped. The Impala was even looking worse for it, and Dean wasn’t happy about it, but there wasn’t time to cry and scream. So he didn’t. Not yet at least.

It felt empty, and hollow. A world void of lives. Void of other people. “Do you think they found what they were looking for?” Emerson asked, quietly.

“I don’t know, Em.” Dean admitted quietly. “But it doesn’t look good.”

Emerson forced a smile, and wished to all hell that he would’ve lied to her, she supposed that she should’ve woken up Pheli if she wanted some glowing positivity, but maybe it was too late for that, too.  

“Where’s the check point?” Sam asked.

“Right outside of the city.”

“So we have to go through.” Emerson said through gritted teeth.

“Looks like it.”

“Guess we are walking, wake up my sister.” Emerson said, flinging the door open. She needed some air. She walked out to the edge of the highway and lowered herself to a seated position on the asphalt. She picked at the red grass at her ankles.

“Hey, you good?” Dean sat next to her. Damn, he didn’t waste any time.

“Yet to be determined.”

He put his finger under her chin and turned her face toward him. “Hey, look at me.”

“Hmm.” She could see every freckle on his face. The golden flecks in his eyes. He looked thin, dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep.

“I’ve got you, Maklen.”

“I know you do.”

“Do you wanna kiss me?” He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

“Kind of.” She smiled slightly, her eyes flickering from his eyes to his lips.

“Do it.” He held her face and pulled her lips to his in a soft kiss.

Somehow things felt a little better when they were so close. Emerson pulled back from him a little and pressed her forehead to his. “What happened to not kissing until the world wasn’t imploding?”

“The world seems pretty quiet now.”

How could she argue with that logic? With his eyelashes fluttering and his bottom lip poking out. He was handsome, and she spent so much time thinking about him. So much time trying not to think about him, and there he was. Next to her. “It does.”

 

-4 Years Before-

 

“Merry Christmas.” Dean said as the Maklen front door clicked shut.

“Who was that?” Ophelia called from the kitchen. She was icing cookies while Jana sat in the rocking chair that the girls had placed in the kitchen. Even though she wasn’t getting around so well, she was still able to boss them around while they baked the Christmas cookies.

“Solicitation.” Emerson called back. She rested her back against the door. Dean Winchester was at her house. After all of this time. He’s back. He’s back and he’s safe.

“Will you come help me?” Pheli called again. “Moms being a nightmare.”

“You’re the nightmare, Ophelia!” Jana groaned.

Emerson laughed and shook her head. “Yeah, yeah, I’m coming.”

“I’ve got the buttercream made.” Pheli said, holding up the icing covered spoon.

“Make sure that it isn’t too sweet.” Their mother said as she waved a hand toward Ophelia.

“I will.” Emerson said, approaching the bowl. She stuck her finger in it and licked the icing off of it. She made a face. “Way too sweet.”

“Oh come on! You two don’t like it sweet enough.” Pheli grabbed the bowl away from Emerson. “You don’t deserve my icing.” She pulled the spoon out of the icing and put it directly into her mouth.

“You’re sick.”

“No way. It’s delicious.”

“We need to start over. Grab the extra powdered sugar from the garage, and I’ll get the food coloring.”

“Fine.”

“Emerson, honey come here.” Jana waved her over.

“What’s up, Mom?” She walked to her mom.

“Closer.”

Emerson leaned closer to her moms face.

“Did I hear that handsome Dean Winchester at the door?” She whispered against her daughters ear.

“Mom!”

“Well he was there, wasn’t he?”

“He was.” Emerson agreed.

“What do you feel? Do you want to talk to him?”

“He’s on leave from the military, Mom. He’s leaving again. I don’t think it matters what I want.”

“Did he look good?”

Emerson smiled to herself. “He did. Different.”

“Okay I got the powdered sugar. Why do we have so much in the garage?”

“Big sale.” Jana grinned.

“You’re not allowed to go shopping anymore, missy.” Ophelia said with a wink.

Emerson laughed and turned toward the sink to grab the food coloring. Large snowflakes were floating down from the sky outside her window. Past the flakes, her eyes caught Dean leaning up against the outside of his house smoking. He was still in his uniform. She glanced down at the food coloring and grabbed it, sliding it in her pocket. “Hey, looks like we are out of food coloring. I’ll go get some.”

“We’re out? I thought we still had some there…”

“Nope.” Emerson cut her sister off. “We are all out. I’ll be back soon. Go easy on the sugar, Sweets.”

The air was cold, and Emerson pulled her coat together as she crossed the yard. “Hey Winchester.”

“Who, me?” He raised his eyebrows.

“Yes you.” She crossed her arms as she approached him.

“Well, color me surprised. Emerson Maklen wants to talk to me.”

“Guess that was a mistake.” She turned to leave, but he reached for her.

“Hey, it wasn’t a mistake.”

“Oh, it wasn’t?”

“No.” Dean smiled softly, his cigarette burning in his fingers. “I’m glad you came over here.”

“Don’t speak too soon, I may be here to yell.”

“Are you?”

“Yes.” Her eyes flickered to his. The snow was picking up, and against the white flakes his eyes looked even greener. “No. How are you?”

“I’m…” His mouth hung there like he wanted to say something that was getting caught in his throat. “I’m fine.”

“Good.”

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, too.” She offered him a weak smile.

“You look cold.”

“Right back atcha.”

“Em I…” He reached for her hand and she backed away.

“I think you’re right. This was a mistake… I’ll uh… have a good Christmas.” Emerson turned on her heels and jogged back to her house ignoring him calling after her. She entered the front door to her house, her heart racing. Why did she go over there? Wasn’t the last time she saw him enough? Didn’t she learn?

“Em is that you?”

“Yeah Phel it’s me!”

“That was fast.”

Emerson pulled the tubes of food coloring out of her pocket and stared at them. She rolled them in her hands. “I was wrong. We had what we needed here all along.”

 

-18 Days After-

 

“Alright, we’ve got the packs! You two lovebirds ready to go?”

“God, lovebirds? From Phel? I think it’s time we reassess.” Emerson laughed lightly, as she stood up.

“Definitely.” Dean laughed and offered her a hand and she took it reluctantly. There was a lot that was still unsaid between them, but she took his hand anyway.

The Winchesters stood between the Maklen twins with their bags flung over their shoulders. They only had enough that they could carry into the city. “Baby, I’ll be back for you.” Dean promised the Impala.

“Maybe there will be more people in the city.” Pheli said. Her voice was characteristically hopeful, as she pushed a braid off her shoulder. “Maybe things will be good here. They have to be, right?”

“Right.” Sam said, giving her hand a squeeze, but his eyes were on Dean’s, and they were less than believable.

“Alright ladies, I hope you wore your walking shoes. And yes, I am talking to you Sammy.”

“Shit, should I put my high heels away?” Sam asked with a dramatic gasp.

“To the debutant ball with you.” Emerson joked weakly.

They were all hanging on by a thread, but together they walked forward, between the cars and on toward the city. Toward Dallas, where the buildings reached toward the sky, still perfectly in tact, at least from that distance.

“Maybe we should play a game?” Ophelia offered.

“Like what?” Dean asked, sounding half curious.

“I don’t know. Two truths and a lie?”

“We won’t get far with that.” Emerson laughed. “I know everything about you, and the two of them know everything about each other.”

“Never have I ever?”

“Without alcohol?” Dean laughed. “No thanks.”

“You guys are no fun.” Pheli pouted.

“How about twenty questions?” Sam offered to Ophelia.

Her eyes darted between the group. No one had any immediate arguments against it, so she cleared her throat. “Okay, I’ve thought of something. Who has the first question?”

“Is it alive?” Sam asked.

Ophelia grinned widely at him. “Let’s say… for now, for arguments sake that it is.”

“For arguments sake?”

“Yes, Samuel, it’s alive. What’s the next question?”

 

Chapter Text

-18 Days After-

 

What does it mean to be alive? Was it the sweaty feeling of Emerson Maklen’s fingers inside of Deans? Was it the ache in his leg from war, which still hurt after a long drive, or before the rain fell? Was it the sound of Pheli and Sam’s rapid fire guesses on twenty questions? Was it the fresh air and blood that pumped through Dean Winchester that kept him moving? What did it mean? The questions were the same that plagued him his whole life. 

Why was his father so cruel? Why wasn’t Dean the smart one? Why couldn’t he ever be fucking good enough, no matter how hard he tried? He glanced at Emerson who was laughing at something that Ophelia had said. Emerson Maklen, the girl that he never thought he would deserve.

He remembered watching her, curled up on the porch swing working on her homework. She looked studious. She worked hard. She was beautiful with her study glasses sliding down her nose and her blonde hair falling into her face. She was effortless, unlike her sister who put in endless effort in her style and makeup. Emerson was unlike anyone he had ever met.

“Do I have something on my face? Dean I swear to god…”

“Nah, nothin like that.” He said with a shrug. If he hadn’t been staring at her mouth he may have missed her statement all together.

He didn’t want to introduce her to his war buddies. His memories of them were all dirt, dicks, and filthy jokes. “Got a girl back home, Winchester?” He would shake his head, no, because he didn’t. But more than anything he said no, because he saw the way the guys dug into Garth about his lady. Asked how fuckable she was. Asked to borrow a photo. He couldn’t imagine them getting their cum covered hands all over one of Emerson. No fucking way, he was keeping that to himself. Not that he had one to show, anyway.

“That’s reassuring.” She said, wiping at her face anyway.

Growing up, their father always said that life was war. There was always something to fight for and someone to fight against. Dean just didn’t think John got the message that he wasn’t supposed to fight against his children. That beating his own pain out of his fists wouldn’t solve any of his problems, just create new ones. It was easier to blame John for all of his issues. There was no way around the fact that John was ten shades of fucked up. His time in the marines had done him over. More so than just making him a yes sir, no sir kind of man. He was jumpy. He was cruel, and he was paranoid.

 

-15 Years Before-

 

One night Dean woke up to John shaking him. His strong hands were on Dean’s shoulders. “Wake up son, wake up!”

“What? What’s goin on? Dad?”

John’s eyes were bloodshot. “Get up.” He grabbed the comforter in his hands and threw it off the side of his bed. “Come on.”

“Where are we going?” Dean asked, rubbing his eyes.

John grabbed ahold of his sons arm and pulled him along with him. He pulled his son down the stairs and out into the back yard. There was madness in his eyes, and Dean noticed for the first time that John’s feet and hands were covered in dirt. He was holding a garden shovel. “What is this?”

They loomed over a large hole in the ground. It was the length of the shovel and only a few feet wide, not much wider than John’s shoulders. “Get in.” He said hurriedly.

“What?”

“Get in the fucking hole, son!”

“Dad I…”

“That’s an order!”

“Yes sir.” Dean squeaked. John gripped the shovel in his hands again. He was white knuckled against the wood, and as Dean talked back he watched the shovel rise higher in the air. John would kill him if he hit Dean with the shovel. Dean knew that, so he complied, and climbed into the hole. He sat at the edge of the hole and dropped himself into it. His bare feet hit wood at the bottom of the hole. There was a box. It was crudely put together, and when Dean turned his foot caught a loose nail causing him.

“Sit down boy.”

“Yes sir.” He followed instructions, lowering himself to a seated position.

“This is important soldier so listen… listen… do you hear me?” He was rambling, pacing back and forth. He held the shovel like a gun.

Dean felt blood trickle out of his foot and his palms started to sweat. He couldn’t call out for his mother without being reprimanded or injured. Plus, there was a huge risk that John would shove his wife into the hole right next to their son. Or Sammy. Dean couldn’t risk it. He swallowed hard and tried to keep his hands from shaking. He had to be strong.

“They could come for you. They will come for you at some point. Who knows what kind of torture they’ll put you through. Bamboo under your nails, cuts, or they could bury you alive. I can’t have you tellin secrets to the enemy. Do you understand? I need you to be able to get yourself out. To not be afraid. Lay down.”

His back scraped against the wood, against the nails and he bit down on his tongue so he wouldn’t cry out in pain. He couldn’t make John angrier.

“Shut the lid.”

He couldn’t make his arms move, they were made of concrete, stones, they were heavy and stuck to his sides. He was shaking more now despite the sticky humidity of the Summer night air. “I won’t be able to get out.” He whispered.

“If you have the will to live you will. It is amazing what the human body can do. You’ll see. I made the boards loose. I won’t pack down the dirt. It will be easy the first time.” The first time.

Dean couldn’t do it. He started to cry. He knew that John always hit him for that. Men don’t cry. But he wasn’t a man, he was a twelve year old boy who needed to not die alone in a damp fucking hole.

“Shut the fucking lid!” John’s voice was enough to startle Dean out of his tears. He grabbed the lid and allowed it to fall shut above him. Everything was dark. All he could hear was his heavy breathing and the pitter patter of dirt falling on top of the make shift casket.

He was going to die before he ever made it to high school. He was going to suffocate before he ever kissed a girl. He couldn’t remember the last thing he said to his Mom or Sammy. Sammy. Who would protect his brother if he was dead? He started to scream, finding his voice again. He could take whatever John threw at him, but damn it, he had to be alive to take the punishment. He clawed at the lid, trying to break through, but his fingers were weak from fear and sleep. His nails broke and blood ran down his fingers. He kicked at the lid and screamed louder. It felt disjointed, like he was watching himself from above. Maybe he was dead already, just replaying the moments before his lung filled with dirt, and the worms buried deep into his skin. “Help!”

More dirt. More blackness. Pieces of dirt and rock fell between the cracks of the pieces of wood. He felt around for the nail that cut him down by his feet. It caught his already bloodied fingers and he pulled. He pulled and yanked. Maybe if he could get it out of its place and break through the lid. His fingers were wet from blood. The nail kept slipping out of his grip. He couldn’t get it. Tears soaked his face. Dirt fell into his open mouth as he screamed for help. He coughed at the dirt in his throat. He screamed and screamed, his arms finally giving up. He had no more in him. Nothing left. No more energy to claw at the lid of the box. He was a shell. “I’m sorry, Sammy. I am so sorry.”

It felt like an eternity before the lid opened again. His mother leaned over the box in her white nightgown, covered in dirt. “Oh Dean!” She screamed, pulling him out of the box and against her. She was sobbing and he could faintly hear his father murmuring in the background.

“I’m sorry, Mary. I didn’t… Dean is okay. He is okay. I’m sorry.” He was crying, as if the motherfucker deserved to cry. As if he deserved the sympathy. As if he was the one hurt.

It was the last straw. At least for a little while.

 

-18 Days After-

 

Dean never intended to be like his father. John had court mandated therapy after the incident, and they never spoke of it again. Dean didn’t sleep for a week until he started sneaking his father’s whiskey. It would knock him right out. Just a few sips and he was sleeping, dreamless. They never told Sam. Deans many wounds from being inside the box were blamed on a fight at school. It was easier than explaining the truth.  Dean was always getting into trouble, after all.

He didn’t want Afghanistan to fuck him up, but he didn’t always get what he wanted. Frankly, he rarely did. It just wasn’t in the cards for a guy like him.

“Is it a giraffe?” Sam asked Ophelia, looking serious.

“No! Try again!”

“Damn it. You’re cheating, you have to be.”

“I’m not!”

“Dean are you okay?” Emerson whispered to him as his fingers tightened around hers. “You seem like you’re somewhere else.”

“I’d like to be somewhere else.” He said quietly. He didn’t mean her. Of course he didn’t, but she looked away nonetheless. He didn’t tug her hand back, because his mind was still swimming. He was walking toward that past that he worked so hard to put behind him. The past that Lisa helped bury, and this time she wasn’t there to do the heavy lifting. He couldn’t expect Emerson to do that for him. it would be too much. It was too much the first time, and this time he knew better.

“I think,” Pheli said, hopping up on the median that separated the two highways. They were close to the city at that point, within a quick sprint of down town. “That you’re really bad at this. Maybe you don’t know me at all Sam… maybe.”

She slipped. At least that’s what it looked like at first. The others didn’t see the red blistering fingers reach up from the other side of the median. They wrapped around her ankle and yanked hard, sending her falling over the median to the other side of the highway. “Phel you klutz.” Sam laughed, shaking his head.

“Sam!” She screamed in response. It wasn’t out of anger, or pain. It was fear.

“Phel?” Sam called, hopping up on the median. “Shit, Dean!” He shouted before jumping down.

There was a creature. Once a man, but now he looked more like what he would expect a man that went through a garbage disposal to look like. Its skin was red and limp, falling off of its face as Pheli scratched at him, screaming at the top of her lungs. Its black teeth were biting lazily at her, its white eyes were hazy with no life left in them. Its legs were broken in an awful way that kept it from standing, like maybe it had been ran over by a car. That didn’t stop it from crawling and grabbing at Ophelia with its bony, fleshless fingers.

She kicked at it, her boots slushing in the wet skin. It peeled away with the lightest touch. Both of her hands were on its shoulders holding it at bay, just out of biting distance. They didn’t know if the bites would do anything worse than a normal bite, but it wasn’t worth the risk.

Sam’s feet landed on the asphalt. He grabbed the creature by the shirt and yanked it away from Pheli. He pulled out his gun as quickly as he could and pressed it to the back of the creatures head. He pulled the trigger. The sound of the bullet echoed, cutting through the still air. 

Ophelia didn’t stop screaming until Sam pulled her into his arms, the body of the creature was disposed in a crumple on the ground, its face blown away. Ophelia’s face and clothes were splattered with the dark blood of the creature.

“Hey, I’ve got you.” Sam promised.

It was all so fast. By the time Emerson got over the median it was over. She ran and crouched to her sisters side. Ophelia turned to Emerson and hugged her. “I thought I was going to die.” She cried into Emerson’s shoulder.

She held her sister tight. “I won’t let you die. Not like this. We die together, remember? It’ll just be you and me. We will die on the same day. Today isn’t that day.”

“Today isn’t that day.” Ophelia was slowing down on her tears, matching her twins breathing.

“That’s right. Today isn’t that day.” Emerson repeated, pulling back so she could wipe the blood away from her sisters mouth and eyes. “You’re okay.”

“I’m okay.” She repeated. “We are okay.”

But they weren’t okay.

“Ladies, not to break this up but we need to go.” Dean said, his thumb gesturing toward the city.

The gun shot must have alerted them. “Shit, Phel get up.”

“What?” Her eyes were still full of tears.

“Get up now, we have to run!” Emerson said as her eyes caught a hoard of creatures making their way through the cars. She couldn’t count, there were so many they were pushing together and climbing over the cars.

Emerson pulled up her sister and Pheli cried out in pain when she pressed on the ankle that the creature had grabbed. “Shit, you good?” Dean asked.

“No… I…”

“Come on.” Sam said crouching so Pheli could climb into his back. Sam gripped her legs, while Dean and Em grabbed their bags. “We need to go.”

They ran. Thankfully Sam had long legs so he was able to keep up. Emerson knew that Dean was going slower on her account. He was always a good runner. She remembered him jogging around the neighborhood before he deployed. He would make effortless laps through the streets for a good hour or two.  

The group ran on the emptier side of the highway, the creatures noticing the rapid slaps of their feet on the concrete. They drug themselves toward the median, up and over. Their groans and screams filled the empty air, the sound of flesh sloshing off of skin, and the sound of shoes gaining on them. Dozens of feet hitting the asphalt. The group didn’t have advantage this time. They weren’t on high ground. They were surrounded.

“Toward the city!” Dean instructed. “We need to get inside, out of view.”

They pushed forward, Emerson felt a pair of fingers brush her back and she pushed forward faster. The creatures climbed over to her right, falling over the median, some falling right at her feet. She jumped over them, and fuck she didn’t even know she could jump like that. They bit at her like the plants from the old Super Mario game. She jumped, and they reached for her. One slip up and she was down. The brothers couldn’t stop for her if she fucked up. They’d have to go on, and leave her to be dinner, or whatever the creatures wanted from her.

Entering the city felt like jumping over a line into another world. The tall buildings hovered over down town. It looked so much worse close up. The doors were boarded up. Spray paint covered the windows and walls. Cars were abandoned, trash everywhere, and bodies feasted upon in the streets.

Dean turned for a place to hide and in the pivot his knee twisted. “Fuck.” He said automatically as he fell to the ground. Pain burned and shot up through his leg. Sam didn’t notice his brother fall and he and Pheli were at doors, trying to bust them down.

“Shit, are you okay?” Emerson immediately crouched next to Dean.

“No I…”

More groans. The squish of hurried flesh. They were close.

“Come on, get up.” Emerson reached through his arm and tried to help him up. He got steady, but the moment he put any pressure on his bad knee he collapsed back into a ball at her feet. “Dean…”

“I can’t. Fuck.” He reached for his thigh and unholstered his gun. He tossed it to her and she caught it easily. “Go.”

“Yeah right.” She frowned, and stood over him, clicking the safety off the gun. “I’m not leaving you.”

“Don’t be an idiot.”

“Yeah, back atcha.”

“I’m hurt. I’m a liability.” Dean insisted. He knew how bad his knee was. He would just slow them down. It wasn’t just that. The wall he built in his head was quickly crumbling around him. “Go, Em. Come on.” He hissed.

“Pheli is hurt too, and we aren’t leaving her.”

“Because Sam can carry her, and unless you’ve gotten stronger lately I don’t think you can piggy back me.”

“Well, then I guess we die together.”

Dean frowned, his eyebrows coming together. “You don’t mean that. You’re supposed to die with Phel. In a long time. Remember?”

“She has Sam. She will be okay.”

Sammy.

Dean tried to lift himself up, his body crying out in response. Black peppered his vision as he tried to keep from blacking out. He ran on the leg before. He had to. He thought back to the creature on the ground with its two broken legs. He couldn’t be that sad son of a bitch. He couldn’t lay there and die if Emerson refused to leave him. He couldn’t let her die, too. He couldn’t leave Sammy with the responsibility of taking care of things alone.

“Hey I’ve got you.” She said, quickly grabbing his arm. He was heavy, but her feet were apart and her legs were steady. She put her arm under his like a crutch. “Don’t put pressure. Let’s go.”

It was too late. They took too long. The mob came around the corner to their left. “Fuck, let’s go!” Emerson said, dragging him to their right. Sam had turned then, they were quite a bit forward, still pushing on doors. He finally must have found one that wasn’t locked, because he stood there with his mouth hanging open and his hand on the handle. Between them, another group came around a corner. Another dozen or more.

They were surrounded.

“Dean..” Emerson gasped, her grip tightening on his waist. “We can fight them all. There aren’t enough bullets.”

They shuffled closer. The moans white noise. They were a buzzing in the air like coming up on a bee hive. The air was palpable, moving. She could smell them, the burning, rotting out flesh. It stung her nose. Bile rose in the back of her throat, but she wasn’t sure if it was from the smell or that it may be the end. It was all about to be over. There was no way out. No last stitch effort that either Emerson nor Dean could see.

She pulled him against the building. They couldn’t run, but with Deans wounded leg they couldn’t run anyway. At least now they couldn’t be attacked from behind. She quickly pressed his back against the building. With her hands pressed to his chest she opened her mouth to let out the words she was swallowing all those years, but her breath hitched in her throat. She couldn’t. No matter how much she wanted to. So she turned away, with her back pressed to his front. Her arms were extended, holding her weapon. Despite the terror growing inside of her, her arms didn’t shake one bit.

Dean wrapped his arms around her to help her aim. They were able to take out a hand full as they came closer. One head shot. Another missed. In the throat, then again in the head. They didn’t have enough ammo. How many monsters were out there? They’d never have enough. Dean glanced around for something long and blunt to hit them with. In the middle of a city they were falling short of sticks or rocks.

She pulled the trigger and it just clicked in quiet response. She kept pulling and it continued to click back at her, empty. Dean sucked in his breath and held her by her hips, flipping them as quickly as he could manage on his bum knee. He hovered over her, his hands on either side of her head, shielding her from the hoard. “Should’ve left a bullet for me.” He mumbled, his breath close to her lips. “You shouldn’t have stayed, Em. Really fuckin dumb move.”

“You would’ve stayed for me.”

“I’m dumb.” He shrugged, forcing a smile. He could feel the heat on his back from the creatures behind him. They radiated like he was standing too close to the oven.

“You’re not.” She promised, touching his cheek. “That night Dean, on the roof… I’m…”

“Hey.” He stopped her with a shake of his head. “We ain’t doin that, okay? No chick flick moments. No need to go out like that.”

She sucked in her breath, but nothing could stop the tears that were steaming down her cheeks. He held her cheeks and kissed her as softly as he could manage. They had enough things that hurt. Enough harshness. Things with Em always made him feel light, and fucking hell if he had to die he could go out kissing her like that.

There was a noise behind them, a rumble, crushing bones, and screams from the creatures. He braced around her only moments before a hand curled around his shoulder. He sucked his breath in, and turned slightly out of instinct to look.

“Em.” He whispered, his mouth open.

It was a Jeep. A dark green Jeep had plowed through the hoard, some still reaching out, broken, from under its tires. A person was inside, dressed in layers, a black canvas jacket, dark jeans, boots, a scarf, a rimmed hat, and a gas mask. The person reached out a gloved hand for them. So much for no last stitch efforts.

 

Chapter Text

-18 Days After-

 

Dean grabbed the hand without question and allowed himself to be pulled into the Jeep, before reaching for Emerson’s hand. What was his choice? Stranger in a Jeep or a bunch of fleshy monsters that were trying to bite their faces. It was an easy decision, if he thought at all about it.

“We have two more. My brother and her sister. They’re just ahead.” Dean pointed to where Sam and Pheli were when he and Emerson got settled in the Jeep.

“Thank you.” Emerson said softly. “We were dead out there.”

The person, who’s build lead them to believe was male, gave them a big thumbs up. Nothing else could be made up behind the mask. It was all too eerie, but so much better than the alternative.

The Jeep pulled forward, over more bodies, easily crunching over their bones. Sam and Pheliwere behind the glass door of the building, curled together. Sam’s eyes lit up when the Jeep door flew open and Dean waved them in.

“I thought we lost you, man.” Sam said as he helped Pheli in. they were hurrying, the groans of the creatures were too close for comfort.

“You almost did.” Emerson said, wrapping her arms around Pheli’s waist.

“Whose this?” She asked, eyeing the driver.

“We don’t know.” Her sister whispered.

The man turned toward them and after what seemed like some careful consideration before removing his gas mask. He revealed messy dark hair, sparkling blue eyes, and a perfectly straight white smile.

“Holy fuck.” Dean whispered. “Holy fuck.”

“Hello, Dean.”

A grin grew on Dean Winchester’s tired, pained face. A real one, not the kind that he had become so familiar with that was painted with regret and fear. “Cas.” The two men pulled into a tight hug. “Holy shit it’s good to see you.”

“Likewise.” Cas said into Dean’s shoulder. He pulled out of the hug and looked Dean over. “You’re not hurt, are you? Any injuries? Bites? They didn’t bleed on in you, or gas you, did they?”

“What?” Dean asked, alarmed. “No, uh, we are good. Fucked up my knee, and Phel over there got grabbed and hurt her ankle.”

“But they didn’t bleed into you? Your mouth? A wound?”

The group all looked at each other and shook their heads. “No.” Emerson said quietly. “Why?”

“You don’t know, do you?” The dark haired man asked. His chin was tight as he put the Jeep in gear. “We need to go.”

“What do we not know?”

“I thought it was why you were here.” Cas licked his bottom lip. “We will talk more when we get to the base.”

Emerson reached for Dean’s hand and he laced his fingers with hers. He trusted Cas. “It’s okay.” He whispered against Emerson’s ear. If someone was going to pick them up he couldn’t have picked a better person. She nodded back at him, her other hand on Pheli’s knee.

He drove quickly, taking unconventional turns to lose the creatures on their trail. The Jeep crunched easily over bodies and the trash in the street. Before they knew it, they’d lost the creatures on their tail, and were back on the road to the base.

It was right outside of town, just like Dean had mentioned. The perimeter of the base was a tall fence made of different items that seemed to be procured from the city, and then lined again by barbed wire. Cas leaned in and grabbed his walkie talkie and pressed the button. “Castiel Novak reporting in. I have four recruits with me. There are no level red injuries that I can see.”

“I hear ya loud and clear Hot Wings.” A gravely Southern drawl met Castiel’s through the walkietalkie.

“You won’t believe who I found.”

“Lookin forward to it, Brother.” The voice said as the gates in front of them were pushed open by men in military uniforms.

Dean felt his chest tighten at the sight of the men in their ACU’s. He unconsciously tugged at his dog tags around his neck. Castiel pulled the Jeep forward. “Alright, first we will get you to Medical to get checked out. Have you eaten?”

“Not in a while.” Pheli squeaked, suddenly hyper aware of her empty stomach.

“We will get some rations for you and set you up with a place to rest.” He put the Jeep in park. The area seemed to be sectioned around an old strip mall. There were units that had new spray painted signs of their uses. They stopped in front of a shop that had a big sign that was painted Medical in dripping red spray paint. “The guys will be happy to see you, Dean.”

“Me too.” He grunted.

Castiel swung his door open and got out of the car, the rest of the group followed his lead. Pheli leaned on Sam for support. Emerson jumped out before Dean, and held out a hand. He winced as his bag leg touched the ground, but he didn’t lean on Emerson. “You good?” She asked him softly. He shrugged in response.

Cas waved for them to follow him into Medical. The door chimed, perhaps the bell was left over from when it was a shop. It looked like the shop used to be a clothing store, the walls were still lined with garments, but the rest of the racks were taken out and moved. There were folding tables scattered intermittently that were covered with sheets to be used as exam tables and beds for the injured.

“You’re back!” A small woman said, looking up from her table. She was organizing medical supplies. “Hello Clarence.” She almost purred, moving from behind the table toward Cas.

“Meg.” He said, his blue eyes studying her. “I have some patients for you to look over. New residents. No level red injuries.”

“Have they come into contact with any Rogues?” Meg asked, pulling her dark waves into a ponytail.

“Swarm of them in the city. My timing was impeccable.”

“Rogues?” Dean asked with a frown.

“Not your turn to talk, tall dark and handsome.” Meg snapped, before turning back to Castiel. “You’re okay, Clarence? No close calls?”

“I’m fine.” He assured her.

“Good.” She exhaled before turning toward the rest of the group. “Name’s Meg Masters. I’m the resident doc around here. Just got lucky I guess. Take a seat. We will do physicals first, and then assess injuries. I know you told Clarence over there that you haven’t been bitten, but I’m still going to need to do a once over. Not worth the risk, ya hear me? Whose first?”

“Can you look over my girlfriend first? She hurt her ankle…” Sam asked, gesturing to Pheli.

“Sure.” Meg shrugged. “Bring Princess over here.”

“Cas,” Dean began, grabbing his arm before he could leave. “What do you know?”

“I don’t know if this is the right place, Dean.”

“I think anywhere is the right place. Rouges?”

He sighed in response, and pulled Dean away from Emerson so they could talk a little more privately. “It’s what we call the creatures that you encountered.”

“We came from out East, Cas. We saw the explosion. How were there effects way out here?”

“You really don’t know. Didn’t you go report when things went down?”

“I’m out, Cas. I’m a civilian. Not exactly anywhere for me to report to.”

“There were explosions everywhere. All over the US. A lot of bases were attacked. From what I understand the Capital is completely down. We haven’t received any communication or orders so we came here. Just like we all discussed.”

“It’s all dark?”

“That is how it appears.”

“Why are you so concerned about bites?” Dean frowned, his head spinning, but being back there across from his former brother in arms was bringing back old habits as he stood practically at attention.

“From what we can gather the Rogue’s were created from the blast and the red rain.”

“You had that here, too?”

“Haven’t in a while, but yes.” Castiel said with a sigh. He crossed his arms. “Things are bad, Dean. Our resources are good, but they won’t last forever. The Rogues are multiplying faster than we can pick them off.”

“Multiplying? I thought they happened from the blast.”

“That’s one way. From the intel that we’ve gathered, there are two levels. First level are the ones you saw. Nasty mother fuckers. They have the bubbled and burned flesh, and they are unbelievably hot to the touch. They’ll burn your skin right off if they grab ahold of you, and then there’s level two. These are the ones that have been infected.”

“Infected.” Dean repeated. “You’re saying this can be caught? Like a damn disease?”

“Exactly like a disease. Without a scientist or a real doctor it’s hard to be sure, but we think it is spread through bodily fluids. Saliva and blood are the big ones. Some of the Rogues also deplete a gas that is toxic. It’s unsure if this will cause an outbreak of the disease or not. No one has escaped the gas yet.” Castiel explained grimly.

“Christ.”

“You’re telling me.” He forced a smile. “It’s good to see you, Dean. It really is.”

“You too, Buddy.”

 

-2 Years Before-

 

“Winchester, do you need something?”

“Captain Novak, permission to enter?” Dean asked, standing at attention in the entryway to Castiel’s tent.

“Granted. What can I help you with?” Castiel scribbled at his paperwork on his desk, not looking up at Dean.

“Can I speak freely, sir?”

“Personal or business?”

“Personal.”

“Granted.” He finally looked up at Dean and smiled widely. “What can I do for you, Dean?”

“Morale is shit, Cas.” He said casually. “I was wondering if we could take some of the guys into town? You know, to have some fun.”

“I’m not sure if that would be wise. You do know these people want us dead, right?”

“I’m aware.” Dean said smoothly. “Or maybe a movie night? The guys are in a shit mood, sir.”

“Don’t sir with me right now.” Castiel waved Dean off. He’d been recently promoted, and there was no hiding that the two men were close friends. It still felt weird pulling rank. “But you’re right. I heard Garth crying in his bunk again. He’s a sensitive one.”

“He is.” Dean agreed. “Benny is down, too, Cas. He’s worried about his niece. I just think a distraction is in order.”

He pursed his lips in thought. “Okay, fine. We will arrange something. You’re due some fun, too, Winchester.” Castiel promised. “You head out tomorrow to work on those Humvee’s right?”

“Yup. Headed that way at oh-four-hundred.”

Cas grinned at him. “Up before the sun, I’m sure you’re thrilled.”

“Yup, jumping for joy over here.”

“Alright, Winchester, get out of my fucking face so I can get some work done. Dismissed.”

Dean gave his friend a loose salute and turned on his heels before exiting the tent.

“What’s the news, Brother?” Benny asked, a cigarette hanging out of his lips.

“He’s going to work something out.”

“Strip club?” Charlie asked, wiggling her eyebrows. She was a tiny thing, pale with red curls that always fell out of her tight bun at the base of her head.

“Aw, you wish.” Dean caught her around the shoulder and rubbed the top of her head.

“Get off, you ass.” She laughed. She always looked at Dean as a brother and he felt the same. She was brilliant and nobody could deny her computer skills. She was a fucking genius, and why she was out in the dirt with a bunch of men was beyond him. “So what, a football tournament again?” She complained.

“He didn’t really say.” Dean shrugged. “But you know Novak, he’s good for his word. Now get back to work, you lazy assholes.”

He moved forward, back to the tank he was supposed to be tinkering with, his mind far away. “Dean, hey you got a second?”

“Hm?” He turned back to Charlie.

“Don’t leave without me in the morning, I’ll be heading out with you. They’re having some technical difficulties, and I’m going to see what I can do to help.”

“Sure.” He shrugged. “We leave at oh-four-hundred sharp, don’t be late. It’d be a long ass walk.”

“Heard.”

 

-18 Days After-

 

They wrapped Pheli’s ankle and applied burn cream from where the Rogue got a little grabby. She would be good to go in a few days, she just needed to stay off of it. Dean’s knee was out of place, before Meg popped it back in. She warned him that it could happen again, since she didn’t have the resources to fix it permanently.

The sun was going down on the camp, the orange sky causing the tents and people to seemingly glow. Some were washing clothes, hanging them up on a line; others cooked over a fire in the center of camp.

“No fucking way.” A deep drawl came from behind them. Dean turned, recognizing the sound immediately.

Benny?!”

“Hey, Brother.” The man said, pulling Dean into a hug. He wore a dirty Henley, and a gray hat over his dark peppered hair.

“Damn, it’s good to see you.” Dean grinned. “Oh, uh, guys this is Benny he was a buddy of mine from Afghanistan. He was in my unit. Benny this is my brother Sam.”

“So good to finally meet you.” Benny said, offering him a hand.

“This is his girlfriend Ophelia.”

“Call me Pheli, everyone does.”

“And her sister, Emerson.”

“Nice to meet you.” Benny said, kissing both girls hands. “Not very often we get pretty girls in here.” He grinned widely before turning back to Dean. “We are going to play some music by the fire tonight, like old times. We have to keep it low because of the Rogues, but one of our own is back. That’s cause for celebration.’

“Aw, man I don’t know. We are kind of tired, I think.”

“It’s okay.” Emerson said softly, touching his arm. “Benny is right. We almost died today, we should celebrate.”

Dean looked at her for a moment before nodding. “If you’re sure.”

“I am.”

“Alright. Fuck, I guess we’re in.”

“Great!” Benny said, slapping Dean’s shoulder. “I’ll see you at the fire after dinner.”

“You got it.”

“Dean!” Castiel called, waving at the group. “We have your quarters set up for the night. We don’t have an extra tent at the moment. We can do some shuffling tomorrow, but it’s a nice night so we got you and Sam set up under the stars.” He gestured to the set up that was under a tree. “The ladies can follow me. We have some extra space with Meg and me.”

Emerson replaced Sam on Pheli’s side. “We will go get settled and meet you.” She promised the boys before following Castiel to the tent.

Dean leaned on the makeshift crutch that Meg made him. “Fuck, man.”

“You’re popular here.” Sam said once they were alone. He grinned widely. “Want to go sit for a bit? You look beat.”

“I feel beat.” Dean said, before scanning the camp. “I think I saw a sign for coffee on our way over here.”

“Sounds good.” Sam agreed.

“Why don’t you go settle our stuff, and I’ll grab a cup of joe.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I want to get a lay of the land before we get too comfortable.” Dean said with a nod before hobbling toward the coffee counter. It was a small stand, set up with just a table and a crudely painted sign. She had a small fire behind her in a metal ring that kept the coffee heated. His stomach ached for food, but his head throbbed from exhaustion. Caffeine would have to do. He didn’t want to know the kind of nightmares he would have if he closed his eyes.

“Heard you’ve got the caffeine.” He said as he approached the brunette behind the table. She was turned away, fiddling with the fire. “We will be seeing a lot of each other.” He laughed dryly. He knew it was smart to befriend the person supplying him with coffee or booze. He was always very chatty with his bartender.

The woman laughed and turned to him. “That’s me. I must say, ever since I took over this position I’ve been very popular.” Her dark eyes caught his as she turned; her pink lips opened in shock. “Dean.” She murmured.

“Lisa.”

Chapter Text

-20 Months Before-

 

After one glass of Jack Daniels, neat, Dean Winchester felt the familiar warmth. He felt the fog rolling off the water first thing in the morning. It was a comfort, an old friend.

After two glasses of Jack Daniels, neat, he felt tingling in his arms down to his fingers. It was the way his body felt during a concert when he stood too close to the speaker. He could feel the base booming through his veins.

After three glasses of Jack Daniels, neat, he almost forgot about the jagged scar down his knee and Tiny Tim’s walking stick that leaned against the bar. Almost.

“I should cut you off.” The pretty brunette bartender said after serving him the fourth glass of Jack Daniels, neat.

“But you never do.” He slurred just enough, and shot her the best smile he could do when he was feeling so down. It wasn’t impressive, but he was handsome and weathered, and that was exactly her type.

“I’m Lisa.” She said, leaning in.

“I know.” He pointed at her name tag above her left breast. “I can read.”

“It would be appropriate to tell me your name.”

“You don’t want to know me, Lis.”

Lisa rolled her eyes. “Why not? Because you’ve had a bad time of it? We get a lot of Vets in here. I know the drill.”

Dean narrowed his eyes. “You get a lot of Veterans, but yet you still don’t know to leave us the fuck alone? You’d should move along, sweetheart, you don’t know shit about war.”

“I had two older brothers die while in service. I know a little about it.” She said, flatly as she wiped down the bar top.

“Shit.” Dean ran his fingers through his hair. He was an asshole. He was a crippled asshole.

“You all think that you own your pain, I’m just telling you that there are people who get it. There are people who could help you.”

“What? People like you?”

Lisa laughed and shook her head. “Me? Fuck no. You’re attractive, but you’re an ass.” She said, handing him his tab. “I’ll take that whenever you’re ready.”

After his accident everyone walked on eggshells with him. They did worse than that most of the time. Most of the time they avoided him all together. It was nice to be called out, because she was right. He was an ass, and he was wallowing. He pulled out some cash from his wallet and laid it down, deciding right then and there that he would be good enough for her one day. He had to be, because the alternative meant that he would be his father, and he would be damned if he ended up anything like John Winchester.

 

-19 Months Before-

 

“Lisa, the guy is here again.” One of the wait staff from the bar said.

She rolled her eyes and ate the last bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He was like clockwork, every day. “Dean.” She said when she reached the bar.

“Shit, am I late?”

“Late for what?”

“Your break. You usually take it at this time and well…” He held up a paper bag. “I brought you dinner.”

She eyed him. “What’d you bring?”

“Bacon cheeseburger. It’s my favorite.” He shrugged, handing her the paper bag. “You can have it, anyway.” He stood up from the stool.

“Where are you going?” Lisa asked, eyeing him, the bag in her hand.

His green eyes met her brown ones. “I was just here to drop that off.”

“You’re not going to stay?”

Dean shook his head. “I’m not ready, Lis. I’m only going to ask you out when I’m good enough for you.” He leaned on his cane to take the pressure off of his bad knee. “So for now… take the burger as a peace offering.”

He walked to the door and opened it. “Dean?” She called after him.

“Yeah?” He turned toward her.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He nodded and pushed into the night.

 

-18 Months Before-

 

Dean brought Lisa dinner every night that she worked. He brought her doughnuts and coffee when she worked the day shift at the bar, and quickly learned her food preferences. The more he went to see her, the less he felt the self-loathing that plagued him.

He brought in her turkey bacon club with extra guacamole and spicy french-fries from the local place on the corner. He pushed into the bar. “Hey, Lance, where’s Lis?”

“She told me to have you meet her out back.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. He expected at some point that she would be sick of him, and he sighed, gripping the bag. He pushed too hard. He walked through the back door to find Lisa sitting alone at a single table with two plates, and a glass of water in front of her and the other empty seat. “Lis?”

“Hey, Dean.” She stood up with a smile. “Are you ready yet?”

“What?”

“You said you had to wait until you were ready to ask me out and well… I decided that I’m ready. I got you a bacon cheeseburger, and I was wondering if you’d want to have dinner with me… for real this time.”

Dean smiled a bit and nodded. “Yeah, I think I’d like that.”

 

-16 Months Before-

 

“Dean, babe, wake up.” Lisa said quietly. He sat up, sweat covering his chest, back, and face. Lisa’s hand was over his heart. “Your pulse is racing.”

“Sorry.” He exhaled, trying to catch his breath and slow his heart. He clamped his eyes shut. You’re okay. You’re okay.

“You don’t have to be sorry. Do you want to talk about it?”

He shook his head. “No… I…”

“It’s okay.” She assured him, wrapping her arms around his middle. She placed a kiss on his jaw. “I’m here to talk when you’re ready.”

But he would never be ready. He still saw the look on Charlie’s face. How wide her eyes got. How she was laughing right before.

“You’re seriously telling me you have no one at home? Even I left some ass behind.”

“You’re vulgar.” He laughed, shaking his head.

“And you’re a prude, Winchester.”

Dean shrugged with a laugh. “I’m not, actually. I just don’t have anyone at home.”

Charlie narrowed her eyes. “Maybe it isn’t a girl… oh my god, Dean are you gay?”

He rolled his eyes. “Christ, no. I am not gay.”

“It’s okay if you are, you know. I am.”

“I’m aware.” He grinned.

“I’m just surprised, I guess. You look like a fucking supermodel. Your face is perfectly symmetrical. It’s kind of creepy. You really don’t have any girls coming after you?”

“Hey, my face is not creepy.”

She laughed. “Deflection. Nice, but yeah it is kind of creepy.” She poked his cheek. “You don’t even look real.”

Dean always expected that being buried alive would be the thing that would haunt him forever, but life was funny like that. Life was real fucking hilarious, and he was the butt of the joke. It wasn’t the child size coffin, or dirt in his lungs that haunted him. It was something else altogether.

The smell of burning flesh. The sight of Charlie’s arm off her fucking body. His knee completely twisted so his foot was facing the wrong direction. The sight of her empty expression looking up at him from his lap.

“It’s okay, I’ve got you. It’s not that bad. It’s not that bad, you’ll be okay.” He pressed his hands to the space where her arm used to be. They always teased her about being pale, but fuck she was so pale. “I’ve got you.” He kept whispering. They were alone. There wasn’t a medic. There was no one. Just Dean Winchester holding Charlie Bradbury as she died in his arms, bloody and alone.

“I’m here, Dean. I’ll always be here.” Lisa promised, hugging him tightly. Dean wished that people wouldn’t make promises, because there was no way they could be kept. Charlie died, Lisa left, and he was broken. He probably always would be.

 

-18 Days After-

 

“Lisa.”

“Oh my god.” She murmured, her eyes immediately spilling over. “I thought… This whole time I’ve been so terrified. I thought you were dead.”

“Not dead.” He said blankly. It was like he was shot back into time, back into her bed, into her arms.

“I’m so glad.” She exhaled quickly, running around the coffee cart. She wrapped her arms around his neck before he could stop her. “You have no idea how good it is to see you.”

He instinctively wrapped his arms around her waist and hugged her back. As bad as things ended between them, he was glad that she was okay, too. “Where’s uh…”

“Greg is gone.” She said quickly.

“Gone?”

“He left after Ben was born.”

“Ben.” Dean said slowly, trying out the name on his lips. He felt sick to his stomach.

“That’s my son. He’s beautiful.”

Everything crashed and burned. My son. Dean let go of the hug. “I’m glad you’re okay, Lis.” He said before turning on his heels and walking right back to Sam, leaving her standing alone next to the coffee cart.

“Where’s the coffee?” Sam asked. He was sitting with his back against a tree with his legs stretched out in front of him.

“The what?”

“You good?” Sam asked, eyeing him.

“Lisa is here.”

“Wait, like your Lisa?”

Dean nodded quickly. “Yeah, she was running the fucking coffee.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.” Dean sighed. “What are the fucking chances?”

“Did she say anything to you?”  

“She hugged me.”

“And?”

“And her boyfriend dumped her after she had the baby. Ben.” Dean said quietly. “Fuck, I never thought I’d see her again.”

“But you don’t want to be with her, right? You’re with Emerson.”

“Right.” Dean said with a nod. “I want to be with Em. Shit, this just surprised me.”

“I’ll say. Relax, dude, just tell her you’re not available, and don’t drink her cool aid. It’ll be okay.”  

“Right.” Dean said again, his heart rate finally slowing back down. “Just brought back some shitty memories.”

“Maybe you should sit down?”

“Yeah.” He lowered himself to a seated position. “Have you seen Em?”

“She’s still with Phel getting settled. I hope they’re getting some rest.” Sam said, elbowing his brother. “We should get some rest, too. This is the safest we’ve been in day’s. We should take advantage of it while it lasts.” Then Sam closed his eyes and crossed his arms.

Dean was exhausted, but sleep was reserved for the guys that weren’t juggling an ex-fiancée and a childhood love in the same fucking camp.

 

****

 

“My hair looks fine.” Emerson swatted her sister’s hand away. “Quit Trying to braid it.”

“Please! You haven’t washed it in days.”

“Neither have you!”

“Yeah, but you can’t tell because of the braids! Just let me do the front. Dean will love it.”

“You don’t know what he’d love.” Emerson complained.

“You’re right.” Pheli put her hands on her sisters knees. “What does he love?”

“It’s all so new, Phel. Am I crazy to try to start this during all of this? During the fucking end of the world?”

“If not now, then when?

“The next life?” Em offered weakly.

“Come on, what do you have to lose?”

“Everything. I could lose everything.”

“You’ll only lose everything if you let him see your nasty hair.” Ophelia teased. “Now let me braid the front!”

“You are terrible at pep talks.”

“Or am I really good at them?”

“Whatever just braid it before I change my mind.”

 

****

 

Benny sat by the fire as it licked up toward the moon. His acoustic guitar sat on his knee. “Say you’re leavin on a seven thirty train and you’re headin out to Hollywood. Girl, you been givin me that line so many times it kinda gets like feelin bad looks good.”

Dean laughed and Benny nodded at him.

“That kinda lovin turns a man to a slave. That kinda lovin sends a man right to his grave.” Garth joined in, singing off key, just like old times.

“I go crazy, crazy, baby I go crazy. You turn it on, then you’re gone. Yeah you drive me crazy, crazy, crazy for you baby. What can I do, honey? I feel like the color blue.” Benny and Garth sang together. They sounded like a pair of coyotes howling at the moon, but it reminded Dean of when things were good.

“Is this what is was like?” Sam asked him, leaning against the tree.

“Was what like?”

“Your deployment.”

“Kind of.” Dean said with a smile. “Sometimes.”

Castiel joined in, strumming on his knee completely off beat. He waved Dean over, and Dean finally rolled his eyes and walked right up to the group. “You’re packin’ up your stuff and talkin like it’s tough, and tryin to tell me that it’s time to go. But I know you ain’t wearin nothin underneath that coat.” Dean sang with his gravely voice, his boot on the stump next to Benny.

“Crazy, crazy, baby I go crazy…”

Dean’s eyes locked with Emerson across the camp as she exited Castiel’s tent. Pheli had braided her hair out of her face, but the rest spilled down her back. Her flannel was tied around her waist, and his breath hitched in his throat when she reached up to stretch and the space between her shorts and her tank top met the firelight.

“I need your love, honey, yeah. I need your love.” The men harmonized, without Dean. His mouth was completely dry. She did that to him, caused his head to spin, like nothing else in the world mattered at all.

Garth handed Dean a beer. “They’re far and few between.” He winked. “But we’re celebrating, right?”

“Right.” Dean exhaled, his eyes still on Emerson as she walked toward the fire.

“Dean!” Lisa said, as she jogged over to him. She had an infant in her arms.

He swallowed hard at the sight. Holy shit. “Lis.” He breathed, her name barely a whisper.

“I wanted you to meet Ben.” Her eyes flickered up to Sam’s. “Oh, hi Sam.”

Sam narrowed his eyes. “Lisa.”

“It’s nice to see you, Sam.”

“Likewise.” He said through gritted teeth.

“Look at him.” Dean said, distracted by the child’s chubby cheeks. He had Lisa’s dark hair and her lips. His tiny thumb was in his mouth as he sucked away. He didn’t notice Lisa snake an arm around his waist to bring Ben closer. “Wow.”

“He’s incredible.” She agreed.

Little Ben gave a sleepy sigh and a few baby babbles, causing Dean’s heart to squeeze. He never let himself admit how much he wanted that. Not until he almost had it. He loved Lisa, and he loved her pregnant. When he left he knew it would be better. He wasn’t made to be a father, but that didn’t mean he didn’t secretly wish for it in the deepest parts of his soul. “Hi, Ben. I’m…”

“Dean.”

His eyes flickered up. “Em, hey.”

The Maklen twins stared at him. When they were young he used to think they were creepy. There was always something creepy about twin girls, especially when they stared at him. He stopped thinking that, the older he got, but in that moment Ophelia had a murder look in her eyes and Emerson’s jaw looked tight. “Uh, Em this is Lisa…”

“Lisa.” Emerson repeated.

“Yeah, uh Lis this is Em my…”

“Friend.” Emerson said, smoothly. “Our sibling’s are dating.” She added quickly. “This is Ophelia.” She tapped her sisters arm.

“Nice to meet you.” Pheli said with equal parts aggression and sugar. She was good at that.

“I was just helping her over to Sam since she hurt her ankle. I’ll see you guys later.” Emerson said before turning away.

Dean stared at her and didn’t stop her as she walked away and sat on a log right next to another guy who was sharping a blade. He pressed his lips together and just watched.

“Dean you fucking idiot.” Phel hissed. “Go after her.”

He watched her lean in to him, asking questions about the knife, he assumed. Friend. Our siblings are dating.

“I think I need to lay down.” He said, offering Lisa a weak smile. “See ya later, Lis. He’s a cute kid, really.”

“Thanks.” She said, looking confused as he made his way back to the tree that he and Sam were using for camp.

He looked at the full beer in his hand that Garth gave him. He stared down the neck of the bottle before pressing it to his lips, and welcoming the warmth. It wasn’t Jack, but he’d be happy if it helped him sleep. Anything to quiet the noise in his head, and blank out the image of some other guy’s baby in Lisa’s arm, that guy’s hand on Emerson’s thigh, and the life draining from Charlie’s eyes.

Chapter Text

-18 Days After-

 

Emerson walked toward the fire. Her head was spinning. “This is Lisa…” The ex-fiancée? The same Lisa that fucked another guy? Was that the other guys baby? They did look chummy. She thought, sadly. She needed a drink, or ten.

They were just friends, after all. They never discussed more. They never specified. So of course he had the right, but that didn’t mean that she wanted him to. Her eyes scanned a place to sit, and found an empty log. She lowered herself to it, and closed her eyes. It was all too much.

Emerson didn’t date. That was always Ophelia. Em didn’t date. She didn’t fall in love. She didn’t get hurt. Hurt was a feeling specific to those that care, and she made it clear a long time ago that she wasn’t going to care. She wouldn’t get her feelings hurt or stay up crying over a guy. No way. She had bigger problems.

The same was true then, as she sat by the heat of the fire. They’d almost been taken down by a group of Rogues. Actual monsters were roaming the world, and yet she was feeling down about some guy.

The fact that the guy was Dean Winchester, should’ve made it ten times worse. She did not feel hurt over Dean Winchester. Not anymore. She put up that door a long time ago. Lock and key. No entrance granted. Her heart was secure. At least it was.

She was kicking herself for letting him weasel his way in. It was a slow assault, calculated. She cared, and she fucking hated it.

“This seat taken?” A deep voice asked.

Emerson opened her eyes to meet the eyes of a man. His skin was deep brown and his hair was cut short. He offered a charming smile. “No, all yours.” She said, making room for him.

“I’m Gordon.”

“Emerson.”

They shook hands, even though Em felt like it was a little weird.

“Can I get you something to drink? We don’t usually partake, but everyone is celebrating. Some old war buddy rolled in and everyone is feeling like a party.”

 

-5 Years Before-

 

“Can I get you a drink?” Dean asked, leaning against the railing of the pier. It was the end of the Summer party at the beach. They had it every year, but this was the last time Dean would go to one, and it had Emerson in a weird position.

“I already have one.” She said, wiggling her flask.

She did not drink at parties. Dean was only offering as an excuse to bug her. To poke. To talk to her. He left in a week, and he knew his time was limited.

“Oh, uh, well good.”

“You’re very articulate.” Emerson raised an eyebrow, and for the first time that night he really looked at her. Her lips had a tint of shine from lipgloss, and her hair was curled. She wore a sheer black top over a pair of ripped shorts. He could see her bikini tie coming out from the neck of her shirt. It was against her no swimming around drunk people policy.

“Did Pheli kidnap and dress you?”

“You don’t like it?” She twirled a curl in her finger, and suddenly he had to wonder if he was looking at the wrong twin.

“Em?”

“Yes, Dean?”

He squinted a little harder at her. Her cheeks were pink, flushed. It was dark, but he could make her out perfectly in the reflection of the moon on the ocean. “Are you drunk?”

“I don’t know mom, am I?”

“Emerson Maklen is drunk at a party. Fuck, now I’ve seen it all.”

“What?” She crossed her arms. “I’m not allowed to have fun? Everyone else does! I’m about to be a senior in high school. Then after it’s just life. I’ve never had fun a day in my life. What better time to start than now?”

“Can’t really argue with that logic.” He admitted. “So, what is this? Girls Gone Wild?”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“Hey, I’m not the enemy here.” He put his hands up in surrender, with a small smirk. “But, yeah, I’d probably enjoy that.”

She reached forward and smacked his arm. “You’re obnoxious.”

“Ah, she’s back!”

Emerson rolled her eyes, and put the flask back to her lips.

“So, you’re just having your rebellious stage late?” He asked, holding the neck of his beer. He swirled it around a bit before taking a swig.

“It’s not rebellious.” She turned her body away from him, sliding her flask in her back pocket. She put her hands on the railing and looked out at the ocean.

“Okay.” Dean walked to her and rested his hands next to hers. “Then what is it?”

“Sometimes the future feels really final.”

“How do you mean?”

“Like I was always going to end up at the same finish line no matter what I do.”

“We all die eventually.”

“Jesus, I wasn’t talking about dying.”

Dean laughed lightly and tugged on one of her curls. “Damn they’re bouncy.”

She swatted his hand away. “Do you believe in fate, Dean?”

His laugh quieted, and he stared out into the empty blackness of the ocean. He couldn’t tell where it stopped and the sky started. “Sometimes.”

“This isn’t a party subject.” Emerson said as she pulled out her flask again. She finished the whole thing with a wooo and a shake.

“And what is a party subject?” Dean mused.

Emerson’s eyebrows came together in thought, as if she wasn’t always the wallflower at parties ignoring everyone and making sure Pheli made it home with all of her pieces of clothing.

As if his thoughts inspired her, she touched the hem of her shirt and pulled it over her head, exposing her pale stomach.

“Christ, Em.” Dean said, averting his gaze out of politeness.

She giggled, shaking her head. “You’re such a prude.”

“Me?” This got his head to turn in surprise. “I am not a prude.”

“Good, because if you can’t handle a girl in a bathing suit then I don’t know how you’ll ever lose your virginity.” She teased.

“Fuck you.”

“Dean Winchester.” She said, unbuttoning her shorts. “You’re going to have to ask a lot nicer than that.”

All of his breath lost his body as she wiggled out of her shorts. They hit the wooden planks of the pier, and she smiled devilishly up at him through her loosening curls.

“Are you just going to watch?” Emerson asked softly. She approached him, closing the space between them.

“What are you doing?” He asked, once he was able to look over her shoulder long enough to form a cohesive thought.

She rested her palms on his chest and ran them down his stomach before she gripped the hem of his shirt. “Arms up.” She instructed as if she was talking to a toddler, and just like one, he raised his arms up. She peeled his shirt off of him and smiled at his skin in the moonlight.

“What are you doing?” He repeated, pushing a hair out of her face. He was out of breath and fuck, she had him. He would put on her bikini if she asked him, but she didn’t.

She turned away from him, giving him an impossibly perfect picture. She rested her hands back on the pier. “How high up do you think we are?”

“I don’t know.” He said, his feet planted where he stood. He tried to memorize the way her skin looked in the moonlight. He knew he’d want to remember when he was in a tent with twenty other sweaty guys in the middle of the dessert.

“I think it’ll be fine.”

“What will?”

She moved before he could process. One foot on the lower railing and then the other, until she stood on the fucking handrail like some kind of acrobat.

“Emerson what the fuck?” His feet moved then as he rushed up to her, but he didn’t get too close. He didn’t want her to fall.

She turned and looked over her shoulder at him with a big smile. “Let’s go swimming.”

“Let’s not go swimming instead. Get down.”

She waved him off and looked back out to the ocean. “I’d never do this.”

“Yeah let’s stick to the status quo, come on.”

She swayed slightly, perhaps from watching the ocean or maybe from the alcohol making its way through her veins. “Maybe that’ll scare fate. Maybe it’ll change things. Oh.” She lost her footing, making Dean’s heart about jump out of his throat before she got her balance back with a giggle.

“Emerson get down now! Don’t fucking make me come get you.”

“Take the leap, Dean. I can’t. You know that, right? It’s too hard.” She closed her eyes, feeling her world spin. “I need you to…” She swayed again before her eyes shot open. “Follow me.” She instructed, and he reached for her, but not fast enough. She was airborne, screaming.

“Fuck!” Dean shouted, climbing over the edge. He dove down after her, and she hit the water only moments before he did.

It was cold, but thankfully the tide wasn’t pulling them too hard. It was easy to stay in place with simple treading. She popped up in front of him gasping. “Oh my god.”

“Are you okay?” He held her face in one hand, his eyes searching hers.

She opened her mouth and laughed. “That was amazing!”

He met her laughter. “God, you’re fucking crazy.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck, her eyes still hooded from the alcohol. She petted the back of his neck with her fingers. “You followed me.”  

“Didn’t want you to drown.” He grunted.

“Dean.” She breathed. It sounded a little more like bean from her drunken slur. She pressed her forehead to his. “I think I…”

“Shh.” He cut her off, pain cracking his voice. “Not now.”

“What?” She sounded confused, her voice raising a she titled her head to the side, pulling back from him. “Why not?”

He ran his thumb along her bottom lip, staring at her mouth before meeting her eyes again. “Because when we… I want you to be sober. I want it to be real.”

 

-18 Days After-

 

“Why not.” Emerson said, smiling at Gordon. He was nice, and all of his flesh was still on his body. Those were the only two requirements she had for company at that moment.

He came back with two beers and handed her one. She popped the cap and took a long sip. It was warm, but the buzz from lack of food and alcohol for weeks had her tingly. “Thanks.”

“See a pretty girl give her a drink.” Gordon shrugged, taking a swig of his own beer. “That’s the rule.”

“Oh is it?”

He grinned widely. “Or so I’ve heard.”

“You heard right.” She said with a nod.

“I haven’t seen you around before, and it’s a small camp.”

“Just rolled in today.”

“Just you?”

“Me, my sister, her boyfriend, and his brother. The brother is the war buddy you mentioned.”

“Huh.” Gordon grunted. “He seems well liked.”

“And he knows it.” She agreed.

“What were you doing, before.”

“School.” Emerson said dreamily. It wasn’t long ago, but it felt like a lifetime. “You?”

“I was a bounty hunter.”

“Wow.” She said, glancing at him. “That’s a really interesting career choice.”

“I like bringing in the bad guys.” He shrugged. “Gives me some sort of peace. Guess it prepped me for this. My favorite new pass time is taking down Rogues.”

“They’re terrifying. I’d rather never come in contact with them again.”

“If only we were so lucky.”

“Right.” She glanced over his shoulder and caught Dean staring from his tree.

“So, not to be forward, but you don’t have a boyfriend out there, do you?”

“No.” She said quickly, looking at him. “What about you?”

“Nah. Just my sister.” He shifted uncomfortably. “She turned..”

“Shit. I am so sorry.”

“I took her out myself.” He said, a tint of darkness in his voice. “It’s what she would’ve wanted.”

She took his hand in comfort and met his eyes. “I don’t think I could do that.”

“You’d be surprised what you can do when you have to. It’s usually you or them. When it’s put up like that it’s a pretty easy decision.”

“My sister is everything to me. She’s my identical twin. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

“Ah, so I wasn’t seeing double.” He grinned widely.

“No.” Emerson laughed at the poor excuse for a joke. “There are two of us.”

“That’s kind of the dream.”

“You wouldn’t say that if you knew Pheli.”

He shrugged. “Maybe not.” He eyed her beer. “Need another?”

“Are you trying to get me drunk?” She asked, with a quirked eyebrow.

“What if I am?”

She shrugged and finished her bottle. “Guess we’ll find out.”

 

-5 Years Before-

 

Dean wrapped Emerson in a towel and they sat at the end of the pier with their feet dangling, waiting for the sunrise. The party had died down to a few other couples chatting, but most people were passed out in the sand.

“That was reckless.” He commented. “You could’ve drowned.”

“I know.” Emerson was getting more sober by the hour.

“I won’t always be here to keep you safe.”

“I don’t need you to keep me safe, Dean.” She pulled her knees up to her chest.

“I know that.” He pushed a hair behind her ear.

“Great.” She moved his hand away by shrugging her shoulder.

“I’m just saying I won’t be here for much longer…”

She turned to him completely, her eyebrows together and her jaw set. “I know that, Dean. You don’t think I know that? You’re leaving. Great. Just fucking leave me alone about it.” She stood up, dropping her towel and picking up her clothes.

“What just happened?” He asked standing up.

She didn’t answer, walking away from him. She stood a little quickly and it made her head pound, but she didn’t wait for him to catch up.

“Emerson stop!”

“Why should I?” She asked, whipping around, her eyes were filled with tears. “You put it all out there. You said it all. You’re leaving. We aren’t friends. We never have been. We have been playing along with Sam and Pheli all of this time, and you’re leaving so we don’t have to anymore. Honestly, Dean, it’s a huge relief.”

She built the wall up around her heart again brick by brick. She trapped herself inside, away from any risk of additional pain. The fuzzy memory of her almost confession had left her completely. Their time in the water felt like a dream.

“You don’t mean that.”

“I promise that I do.” She said sharply, before turning away again.

“Don’t do this. Don’t end it like this.”

“End what? What is this, Dean?”

“It’s…we’re…” He was lost for the words. He stood there, as the sun rose behind him, staring at her with nothing to say. He had no words on the tip of his tongue. There wasn’t a way to translate his thoughts out into the air in a way that she would understand. It was too late, anyway.

“It’s nothing. There’s nothing to end.”

 

-18 Days After-

****

 

Emerson had been drinking with Gordon for two hours when she finally needed to call it a night. He was a cool guy, but it was all very surface level. It was a nice change from her usual heavy weight that came with being around Dean. It felt easy, but it felt a little wrong, and in the wake of the all the beers, her head was spinning. She found herself glancing in Dean’s direction to see if he was watching her. Half the time he was, but he didn’t come over. He didn’t correct her deceleration of friendship. Some things never changed no matter how much time passed.

She stood up, with a little bit of sway. “It’s getting late. I should probably go to bed.”

“Hey there, unsteady.” He said with a laugh standing up next to her. He caught her as she stumbled again. “Maybe I should walk you. Just to make sure you get back okay.”

Emerson shrugged and looped her arm in his. “Thanks.” She breathed. “I’d appreciate that.”

“Anytime, m’lady.”

They walked, swaying back and forth toward the tents. “Tonight was nice. It felt good to just be.” She said, leaning on him since the ground was tilting. “I’m up here in Castiel’s tent.”

“He’s a nice guy. I had a good night, too.” He stopped in front of the tent entrance, glancing in. They were alone. The majority of the camp was still crowded around the fire enjoying the merriment. He stood a little closer to her, his breath on her lips.

“Gordon I…”

He closed the space between them, pressing his lips to hers.

Her head was fuzzy, tingling from the beer. Her head spun, like the earth was off its axis. He backed her through the flap of the tent.

“Gordon.” She tried again, putting her hands on his chest to push him further away, but in the fog from the alcohol she struggled to push out of his tight grip around her waist.

“Let’s just be.”

She tasted the beer on his tongue, hot and slick against hers. She felt bile come up her throat, but she choked it back down. She fell backwards, her back hitting her bedroll causing all of the breath to escape her chest.

Gordon’s fingers fumbled with the button on her pants, kissing her too hard, his teeth biting into her lip, and she was finally able to pull her mouth away. “St…stop.”

His fingers hooked in her pant loops and pulled down.

“Gordon stop.” She said again, struggling against his weight.

“We had a good time, Emerson. You said it. Don’t over think it. Time is short. It’s the end of the world.”

“I didn’t… I don’t… Stop!” Her voice shook and she tried desperately to raise her voice, but it was stuck in her throat. It barely raised above a whisper. Yell. Scream. Hit him!She couldn’t move. Hot tears ran down her cheeks as his palm pressed against her mouth to silent her struggle.

She tried to find a place far away as his weight settled over her. She was weak and drunk and he was bigger than her. She scratched at his back, but it didn’t seem to bother him. It made him groan deeply. Her hands dropped at her side, and she stopped struggling.

In her mind she was far away, on the pier. She didn’t feel the pressure as he forced her legs apart and pressed into her. She was watching the reflection of the moon in the water. She was feeling the spray of the ocean. Her eyes were closed tightly, and she tried to focus on the sound of the waves.

It wasn’t a pain like she felt before. It was detached, like she’d left her body. Like she was a shell, and deep in her soul she knew that she would never be the same again. He was mumbling against her neck. She didn’t understand him, and she didn’t need to. She didn’t want his words of affirmation, or the sound of his climax. She would never be healed. There were some wounds that stayed open inside. The wall she built around her heart didn’t prepare her for this. It felt like she forgot to protect a side. She was so focused on keeping Dean out that she wasn’t paying attention. She wasn’t watching all sides. She was a woman and she knew better. But they always do, don’t they? Predators didn’t discriminate.

She heard a zip as he fastened his pants back up. He left quickly after, not bothering to cover her up as he grunted a good night. She felt sharp aches throughout her legs and inside of her stomach. There was a lot of wetness between her legs that she didn’t dare check. She couldn’t look at her bedroll. It’d make it too real, and she hadn’t reentered her body yet, and she didn’t want to. The longer she was numb the longer she wouldn’t have to face it.

She sat up slowly and pulled up her underwear. She pulled the blanket over herself. Her hands shook, as she couldn’t get the smell of the fire and beer sweat of his skin out of her nose.

The entire time they’d been traveling she was afraid of the Rogues. Of the dripping flesh and their black teeth. Monsters were real, but the most devastating part of it all was realizing that the worst monster’s weren’t the Rogues. They were people.