SPN fic: Red 4/10

Oct 21, 2006 01:56

Ownership Issues: St. Francis of Assisi said ‘it is in giving that we receive’. So, here you go. Merry fucking Christmas. These words are mine, but CW owns the rest of the marbles, and they rule the playground.

Rating: This story is what it is, but if I must: Gen, PG-13 for grown up situations faced by children who ought not to have to face such things. WIP, will be 10 chapters.

Credit Where It’s Due: The sources are too numerous to number, really. HOWEVER, a lot of the research here comes from John Vaillant’s excellent non-fic on logging history, The Golden Spruce. I’d also direct you to read Carole Roy’s The Raging Grannies, but only if you don’t have Grannies in your immediate family because it’s way more fun just hanging with the girls at a protest. There’s a lesson to be learned in growing old disgracefully from these dames.

Thanks: To Lemmypie and jmm0001 for providing the necessary strokes and slaps. [pause] That came out wrong, didn’t it?

Read Chapters 1-3

Read new chapter:

Story Thus Far:
Three intertwining stories about the wolves that hunt in the dark, whether in mountain forests or urban diners. Seattle, 1992: After John doesn’t return from a hunt, Dean and Sam are living on their wits and dumb luck, both of which are failing rapidly. At a diner frequented by rentboys and their tricks, Dean is fed by a kindhearted waitress, but also marked by a predator. Five years later, Dean endures a rough initiation in a logging camp while Sam stays obliviously in town, tending to their injured father. At the camp, high in the mountains of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Dean runs into the timber scout, Ludovic. Memories begin to surface, which Dean ruthlessly suppresses. In the present day, Dean and Sam are once again drawn to the Quasilit Valley by reports of vanishing treeplanters. Sam takes a job with the planters, while Dean resumes old friendships and conflicts at the logging camp. Slowly, Sam is coming to understand that Dean knows more about what’s hunting in the forest than he’s letting on…


Aberdeen WA, present day

Sam wondered if Dean had been working on his pity-face while he’d been up at the logging camp, then decided no. Dean didn’t feel pity, period. He wasn’t made for it, not even for Sam. Dean abandoned his empty beer bottle on the chipped formica countertop next to the sink and the toothbrushes, turned Sam’s hand over to examine the cuts, the missing fingernails, and grimaced. Sam’s fingers were tacky with duct tape residue. A twist of the mouth: That’s so fuckin’ gross.

“Don’t go making any Palmolive commercials, dude,” Dean said shortly, reaching into his shaving kit for a tube of Neosporin. “The shit they spray on clearcuts is fucking toxic, man.” And handed him the antiseptic.

Not that Dean was any walking advertisement for logging as a healthy lifestyle choice, Sam thought. The strident fluorescent light of the bathroom illuminated a long bruise across Dean’s cheekbone and his arms were lashed with cuts and bruises. They looked like hell, the both of them. After only a few days in the bush.

Sam followed Dean out of the bathroom, daubing his cuts, vaguely disturbed at the thought of chemicals eating their way into his skin. Dean opened another two beers from the case next to the TV, gave one to Sam. “So, find out anything?”

Sam shrugged, dropped into the room’s only armchair like a sack of Century Russets and sighed mightily. The bedsprings twanged as Dean stretched out, stacking the pillows against his back. He bent one arm behind his head. Winced, but didn’t say anything else. Was quiet, unnaturally so.

Just tired? Sam wondered. “Well, I now know that nettles, dandelions and salmon jerky are technically edible, that I can’t really tell the difference between texturized vegetable protein and ground beef when it’s in spaghetti sauce, and that soy milk tastes okay, but only if it’s chocolate.”

That elicited another smirk, but Dean’s attention was on an especially cloying landscape screwed to the wall, another excellent exhibition at the Motel 6 Museum of Fine Art. He was listening, though, because his sober gaze swung back to Sam. “Eat like a king up there.” He sounded wistful, of all things.

Sam peeled off his shoes and socks, looked at his blistered feet, thought about soliciting Dean’s opinion on the best method for building up calluses fast. Nah. That was just asking for it. He uncapped the Neosporin again.

The rest of the planting crew had gone into town to party, to blow a significant portion of their accumulated wealth on liquor and weed. How they had the energy for it was beyond Sam. It was already eight o’clock on a Friday night, and he was due to go back to the treeplanter’s camp tomorrow afternoon; it didn’t leave much time. Ruby had asked if Sam wanted to hang with them, had beckoned, but Sam had declined with a smile and an apology: meeting up with his logger brother, he’d said, which had put her off.

Not that Dean had done much more than grunt at him since he’d arrived at the motel room an hour ago.

How the hell did he get a blister under his toenail? Shit, he was going to lose that nail, wasn’t he? Sam woggled it back and forth like a second grader did a front tooth, slightly nauseated. “There was one guy on the crew who looked…” he floundered for a description, “…just off, you know, kinda weird.”

“Yeah,” Dean breathed and Sam glanced up. Dean’s eyes were closed, the beer bottle cradled against his chest at an angle that was going to soak him in a minute.

“Dean?” Sam got up, trod gingerly over to his brother and slipped the beer bottle from his lax grip. He sighed. They didn’t have much time for strategizing. On the other hand, they weren’t exactly sharp as fucking stakes right now. Sam set his alarm, because there was the distinct possibility that they’d sleep half the day away.

He tugged off Dean’s boots, threw a nappy yellow blanket over him. Dean shifted, one hand flailing in the air, a mutter of vowels, but he didn’t wake up. Sam smiled deeply. “’Night,” he sighed, wishing for everything horizontal and silent and dark.

He snapped off the light, crawled into bed and right then it was closer to heaven than beer, a well-stocked library, or burying your face in a girl’s just-washed hair.

Sam slept, dreamed darkly of trees and something that slid between them. Chilled and silent, the woods breathed venom in the tune of desire. A primal need unmet. A moon hung in the sky, an arctic drum of stretched skin, thrumming, wanting. Then the dream was shredded by a howl, one that rent the air like a bandage torn from a wound, harsh and bloody and unexpected.

“Sam!” came a shout beside his ear and he was shaken so hard his teeth rattled. Light streamed into his eyes: the bedside lamp must have been armed with a 100-watt bulb. What the hell did they do at this motel? Interrogate prisoners?

Dean had a fist twined in Sam’s shirtfront, and it took Sam a good few seconds to recognize the expression on his brother’s face, which was fear combined with worry, disguised as don’t fuck with me. He’d had that expression in his arsenal for a long as Sam could remember.

“What did I do?” Sam pushed Dean’s hand away, sat up like he was taking Hamburger Hill in a wheelchair. The drapes were closed, and no light paled behind them. Peered at the clock: four-thirty. Wide awake.

Dean rubbed a hand over his eyes. Scratched his chin and the pissed-off expression softened slightly, right into sarcasm. “You started yammering about a big purple dinosaur and singing that friggin’ song, man. Thought I was gonna have to cap you with the lamp to make you shut up.”

So that meant he wasn’t going to say. Great. This communication thing is awesome, Dean. “Sorry, man.” Sam swung his bare legs off the bed. Dean looked around, grabbed his room temperature beer from the bedside table and took a swig before handing it to Sam, who tipped it back after only a moment’s hesitation. It actually tasted pretty good, all things considered.

“You should get more…” Sam gestured to Dean’s rumpled bed, but his brother was already pacing around the small motel room.

“Nah, I’m good,” he said, watching Sam finish the beer with something that might have been surprise in his round eyes. He blinked once and grinned. “You need to learn to relax, Sammy.”

Sam grimaced. The dream…something about a moon and a forest. Didn’t take a genius to figure it out. Nothing psychic, he was just in the habit of dreaming loud. “Maybe I should have invested in the kilo of Maui Wowie Tommy’s gone to pick up. That would have mellowed me out.”

Dean chuckled. “Don’t get mixed up with those freaks, man. Next thing you know, you’ll be popping ‘shrooms and having some kinda tantric convergence with…hey, how’d things work out with that chick?”

Sam smiled tepidly, willing to let the dream drop. Wanting to forget the sticky longing of it, the hunger. “Not my type.”

Dean bent over his disgorged duffle bag, but looked up, alert, like a kid with a slingshot was alert. “So your type, loser.” The grin faded a little. “You know, the laundry room here will be so free right now, and you stink like a Pepé le Pew eating Mexican from a dumpster. C’mon.”

Dean was right; the motel’s laundry facilities were free, but only because they were locked. He took one look at the knob and gestured to Sam, who popped the lock without a second thought. Dean sat on the dryer while Sam sorted clothes from their bags.

“What else you notice up at camp?” Dean mumbled. He looked ridiculous, mostly because he’d pulled the fuzzy yellow blanket around him so he could wash everything in his possession. Thanks to CSI, Sam knew the typical body fluid content of motel blankets. He didn’t point that out to his brother, who was, of course, oblivious to appearances at five a.m. in a motel laundry room with only Sam around.

Sam shifted, stuffed a load of darks in the washer. The laundry room was unheated; he shivered, and gave his slightly reeking sweatshirt a reprieve from the wash. He used the act of pulling it over his head to form his words, because he didn’t know what would make Dean clam up. “There was one guy who seemed suspicious. Only met him the first night; he’s on a different crew than me. I only see him in the mess tent. Even camps up the mountain side, away from the others.”

Dean’s eyebrows rose incrementally and he pulled the blanket closer, making Sam cringe. “Yeah?”

“Name’s Lukas,” still not getting anything from Dean. Sam fished around in the daypack, looking for his phone. Found it, turned it on, scrolled till he found what he was looking for and handed it over. “That’s him on the far left.”

“What? This guy with rasta braids and the bandana?”

Sam grabbed the phone back. The picture wasn’t a very good one; Lukas was across the tent, the light was bad and other people were standing around. And the picture was on a phone, for chrissake. “No, behind that guy. The tall blond guy.”

Dean peered at the tiny screen. He was silent, his lips pursed. He shook his head so slightly Sam could barely see it, let alone decipher what it meant. “You recognize him? From before?”

The shake this time was definite. “Could be the guy from Siegfried & Roy, Sammy. The blond one -- that Siegfried or Roy? Or maybe it’s that chick from Red Sonja…Brigitte Rambo-Balboa. You’re working with a bunch of D-list celebrities up there. Expect Danny fucking Bonaduce to show up on the cut block.” And tossed the phone onto the washer as Sam dropped quarters into the slots.

Sam’s mouth compressed into a thin line, despite his best efforts not to. Maybe Dean noticed because he blinked once, looked away. “Sorry. The picture’s not good enough. Could be him. I suppose. Maybe.” He had to speak over the sudden whoosh and rhythmic bump of the washing machine.

“Well, that’s definitive,” Sam muttered, collecting the phone and punching it off.

“What do you want, Sam?”

“A straight answer? How about that, Dean?”

Dean, swaddled in the blanket, bare feet dangling off the edge of the dryer like a four-year-old, was not exactly occupying a position of power, not with Sam towering over him. Still, he wasn’t budging, not much. Sam recognized the miniscule signs of give, though: a twitch, two fingers raised. Have a seat.

Sam settled on the washer and edged closer to Dean, because the machine was louder than the Impala and Sam wanted to hear every word his brother was going to speak.

“Like I said, back in ‘97, his name was Ludovic. He was a timber scout. Came and went, I never knew when the fuck he’d be around.”

“This Lukas said he used to be a timber scout.” Sam bit his lip, knew that he should leave a silence for Dean to fill, but they didn’t have enough time and he had to be sure. “He has an accent. Weird. Can’t tell what it is.”

“Serbian,” Dean supplied, looking down at the scarred lino. “Think it’s Serbian.”

“We know any Balkan wolf lore?” Sam prodded, careful not to scream why the fuck didn’t you tell me this sooner? They only had a couple of hours now to come up with something, and they’d get nothing accomplished if Dean stonewalled him. So he didn’t scream.

Dean stared quickly at Sam, bristling. “Don’t you think I kept my ears open, over the years? Don’t drink out of their footprints, that’s all I got.”

“I take it,” Sam said slowly, “that you haven’t done that?”

Dean suddenly sighed explosively, and the washer violently altered its cycle under Sam’s ass, almost in complement. “Shit, no Sam! I haven’t done anything to…” His voice petered out, and the small windowless room was filled with Dean’s silence, louder than the washer’s strenuous complaints.

It took a fucking shine to me.

This time, Sam shut up, left it open for Dean. When his voice came, it was soft and Sam had to strain to hear it. “It kills the women from rage, I think. From being…denied.”

Still, Sam said nothing. Dean’s attention was on the floor, one hand clutching the blanket, the other wrapped around his waist like he had a stomachache.

“I don’t know what it’s after.” Dean didn’t look up, kept his face angled away. Masking, not with the opaque stare, or the pissed off one, but with an out-and-out lie.

“Bullshit,” Sam said, though it might shut Dean down. He was done dancing around this.

This thing was after Dean; he’d said so himself. And Dean had always attracted attention, he was attractive in every sense of the word. Attracted trouble and luck and danger and desire. Sam’s dream: awful need, sharp and deadly as a blade. It came back to Sam with force, and he knew what Dean wouldn’t admit.

This close, he could see the bruise jump on Dean’s face as he flinched. Could see the swallow he took before saying, “Yeah. Well.”

Sam’s head swam. He needed more sleep, even if Dean didn’t. The fluorescents in the laundry room were unforgiving, made them both look like zombies. But as usual, he couldn’t pick the time when Dean might actually tell him something useful. Maybe because it was still so early, or because Sam had been having a nightmare, or because they’d be back out in the bush in a few hours. Take your pick. This was the opportunity Sam got.

“Doesn’t come after guys with axes, you said. How do you know that? And why did it come after you in ‘97, if you were one of the guys with a big fucking axe?”

His voice was light, was trying not to antagonize. Dean wasn’t cooperating, however.

“You wearing those Bama socks? ‘Cause they really would help with the…” Dean gestured to Sam’s feet, hanging off the side of the now-spinning washer. “Hope you’re screefing front to back. You’ll really fuck up your knee if you do it side to side.” Dean tried a useless smile. “Loggers screef sites, too, you know. Get better purchase for -- ”

“Dean,” Sam warned.

The smile dropped and he looked away. “I can’t explain it, Sam. It just shows up around this area, hungry. It’s got my scent. Last time, it didn’t seem to matter that I was with the loggers.”

And ‘last time’ didn’t sound quite the same as ‘first time’, but it was said so fast that Sam couldn’t quite catch it, not before Dean continued.

“I scared it off,” and Dean waved a hand. “Had a chainsaw, and that’s a pretty powerful statement of intent. But…” His voice faltered. He’d been looking at Sam, a pitiful earnest expression on his face, obviously trying to make him understand and at the same time trying to allay Sam’s fears. It so wasn’t working, not on any level. Now he looked away. “That’s when it started to go after the treeplanters. And…our camp cook.”

Sam recognized what colored Dean’s words and it made him ache. “You haven’t mentioned…her?” Dean nodded. “You haven’t mentioned her.”

Dean sighed, rubbed his face again. “Didn’t know until this week. She looked after me, up there.”

And Sam knew what Dean wasn’t saying: Logging was a pretty brutal gig for an eighteen-year-old, even one used to hunting ghouls and ghosts.

Dean smiled. “She was a real sweetheart. But three weeks after I left the camp, she got herself killed. Dave said all they found was blood,” his voice dropped even lower, “and body parts. Cops thought it was a bear. With the planters, they just disappeared. But with Lori…” and his voice disappeared altogether. He chewed his lip for a moment. “It tore her apart.”

“Maybe it was a bear,” Sam suggested softly.

“It wasn’t a bear.” So sure, still plenty left unsaid. Trying to get the straight goods from Dean was like cutting a diamond in the back of a bouncing pickup truck. “Yeah. The planters, though.” Glanced up, one second, then back down. “Be careful around Lukas, Sam. I don’t think it’ll go for you…watch the girls, though.”

“If it doesn’t go for me, why the fuck would it go after you, Dean? You probably taste gamey as hell.”

Followed by silence as Dean made a scientific study of the lino. Fear grabbed hold of Sam with a Rottweiler grip, hard, painful. Went in like icewater, came out like molten lead. “You want it to find you.” His voice flattened. “Look at me.”

And Dean looked at him.

“You want it to find you,” he repeated, sure of Dean’s attention.

Dean shook his head. “I don’t want any of this.”

“So, you know how to kill it?” Okay, his voice was rising, but there wasn’t much he could do about that. “Any ideas - at all? Dean, I’m not a little kid. This is what you always do, man! ‘Sam, get the children outta here, I’m gonna get an electric shock that’ll near kill me.’” It was a half-decent impersonation, but Dean wasn’t laughing. “That’s why you brought me up here? To protect the hippy chicks while you ring the dinner bell?” That prod was deliberate and it had effect.

Dean ran a hand across his head, absently rearranging his hair into spikes. “I gotta chainsaw, Sam. Thing’ll have a hard time eating anything when it’s missing a head.”

“That’s it? That’s the idea?” And held up two hands, palms out as Dean looked murderously at him. “I can keep Lukas busy, make sure he doesn’t know you’re on the mountain until we’ve got a plan. If he’s got it in for you…What the hell did you do to get him so interested in you?” Stopped, wanting an answer to that question.

The shrug, when it came after a lengthy silence, was infuriating. “I don’t know Sam. It’s not my fault, I didn’t ask for it.”

And that was as close to the truth as they’d come all night. Sam nodded. Dean never asked for it, and he always asked for it. “You don’t need to face this alone, man. Lukas doesn’t know you’re on the mountain, not yet. We can stall a little, maybe do some research…”

Dean sighed like Sam was suggesting a knitting bee. “There’s nothing to research, Sam. If it’s a werewolf, it’s operating on the world’s weirdest moon cycle. We stall and more girls get killed. We got bait,” and he put one hand on his own chest, “all we need is a working chainsaw. It’s why I came up here, Sam. I’ve been thinking about this for years.”

And clamped his mouth shut, hard. That’s it, Sam thought. Admit it. This has been scaring the shit out of you for years. How many years, Dean? More than ten? How can I ask that question and have you stay in the room?

Sam pushed himself back against the wall, the washer now rocking back and forth like a funfair ride. “Big bad wolf,” he said, trying to keep eye contact.

“Big purple dinosaur,” Dean fired back, not amused. “You’re fucking obsessed.” This time, he jumped down from the dryer, needing to move. Sam was getting to him and both knew it.

“No,” Sam complained. “No, listen. It has to come from someplace, right?” But Dean had already rolled his eyes and was back to pacing, wrapped in his Easter-chick yellow serape.

“I’m not going to discuss fucking fairy tales, Sam. This is what we’re stuck with.”

“Aw, jeez, man, listen to yourself. Look at yourself. Half the things that end up dead because of us are fucking fairy tales. Credit where credit’s due, dude.”

Dean had perfected oblivious forward motion as a debating skill. “I want you to pack some weapons in that little sissy backpack of yours. Don’t know that a gun will kill it, think we’ll probably have to take off its head. The machete…”

“The machete,” Sam repeated incredulously. “I’m going to strap the machete to my pack.”

Dean nodded, entirely serious. “Probably this Luke guy -“

“Lukas,” Sam corrected.

Dean’s face said whatever more eloquently than words. “Better to be prepared Sam. You’ll probably be safe unless you go getting in its face, so stay away from him. He’ll come across as pretty smooth,” and right there, right there, something shifted in Dean and he stopped cold.

Oh man, Sam thought. He’s faced this thing more than once. More than once and he’s not telling me. He knew Dean better than anyone, knew that if he asked directly he’d get a slammed door for his troubles.

“You keep calling it a wolf, Dean. Did it change? Did you see it change?” Jesus, surely that wasn’t a difficult question? Simple yes or no.

Shrug, one shoulder, like it hurt. “Maybe.” Sam was about to say something else, but Dean for once, beat him to it. “I don’t remember, okay? Some of it…” and his voice trailed away just as the washer lurched into a loaded silence. “Stay the fuck away from him, okay? Just protect the girls-“

“How?” And that was the trick, wasn’t it? A whole mountainside covered in rough terrain, deep slash, a dozen women at any given time, spread out over it. Only one way to protect the girls, which was exactly what Dean was proposing.

Ring the bell.


Outside Olympia WA, 1997

“You getting out here?” Uncle Goodenuff asked around the unlit cigarette jammed in the corner of his mouth. It didn’t move, no matter how much Uncle G talked, which was a lot.

Dean had discovered this on the ride down from the Quasilit Valley, when he’d sat in one of the jump seats in the back of the king cab and Uncle G had regaled them with stories of fights, and drunken binges, and women you loved and ones you stayed the fuck away from, and the best places to catch Coho without a license.

Uncle G talked non-fucking-stop, as a matter of fact, which was a lucky thing, because it meant that Dean didn’t have to say a word. He didn’t feel like saying anything, not with Brent Proctor sitting next to him, and especially not with Ludovic the fucking Transylvanian Scout-eater in the front passenger seat.

A last minute shock, that Ludovic had asked for a ride down. Dean got the impression that Ludovic had been waiting to see which vehicle Dean had jumped into before hitting up Uncle G for a lift to town. The whole ride, the tall man been quiet, flicking his cold blue gaze to Dean in the back, fast like a snake’s questing tongue, testing the air.

Catching a scent.

Dean had one other distraction: Brent Proctor. Screw Tacoma; you should hang with the guys, Dino. What, like you have something better to do? D’ya have a girl to get back to? Young buck like you? Must, eh? Maybe not, not with that baby face. C’mon, stick with us, we’ll show you a good time.

So fucking annoying Uncle G had finally told Brent to leave Dean alone. Dean tried very hard not to say anything, but not because the asshole was getting to him, Brent he could handle. But Ludovic, European accent crematorium-soft, hands like the blades of a ceiling fan. He was something else altogether.

The truck pulled off the highway ten miles out of Olympia.

Uncle G skidded into a dirt parking lot, the kind that collected potholes and puddles that could swallow a Toyota whole, where several pickup trucks parked according to whim. Loggers leaned against the motley fleet, smoking, laughing. Many of them had weird-looking semi-automatic rifles in their hands and wore full camouflage gear.

The rendezvous point was Splatt Field & Supply, where Dave, Brent and about twelve other guys from the crew were going to spend the afternoon trying to kill each other with paint and then drink the night and probably the next day away in Olympia.

Uncle G was heading into his Tacoma office and would give anyone who needed it a drive; the crew’s bull bucker was going to Seattle if anybody wanted to go. Uncle G stood beside his truck, eyed Dean as he got out. “So, Dino, where do you need dropped off? Or are you staying with these morons?”

Make up your mind, Winchester.

Ludovic stood near, too near, long body resting against the door of Uncle G’s white company truck, arms crossed, waiting to hear where Dean was going, what he was doing. He would come right to his doorstep if Dean showed him the way.

Only one thing to do. He shrugged, not looking at Ludovic, but glancing over at Brent. “Think Proctor’s got a good idea. I’ve never been to one of these places before.”

Ludovic sighed, pushed himself off the truck to hook up with the Seattle-bound bucker.

Dean released his breath slowly, turned back to see Uncle G reach into the truck, take out an overflowing binder. “Guess you want your pay, though,” Uncle G smiled, face creasing like a cheap tablecloth, eyes buried in folds. “Cash okay?” A joke, that, and he handed over a thick envelope.

It wasn’t sealed; unsure of etiquette, he peered inside. Uncle G laughed long and hard, likely at the expression on Dean’s face. “You’re doing good work, Kid. Keep it up and you’ll be earning three times that in a couple of months.”

Dean took out a fifty, then tapped the envelope once against his palm. “Can I ask you a favor?”

It was soon done, and Uncle G pulled out of the wet parking lot and Dean tried not to watch him because that was not only painful, it was pathetic. The Seattle-bound truck soon left with Ludovic and a few family men, and their departure meant that Dean’s ass was effectively in the hands of this dog-eared crew, one of whom had made a point to rattle Dean’s cage as loud and often as possible.

All right, Dean thought, following the crew into the Splatt Paintball office and seeing a wall of semi-automatic airguns hanging behind the counter. The guns had names like Eclipse E-Blade, ULE Automag and Matrix LCK. Autococker, for fuck’s sake.

“So,” Brent came up beside Dean, laid a hand on his shoulder. He smelled of rye whiskey already, had a huge gun against his shoulder, and several canisters of paintballs and compressed air attached to a crossed bandolier. He pumped the rifle’s action once, seeming to enjoy the sensation. He looked like an idiot. “Think you can handle one of these babies?”

Uh-huh, Dean thought. Abso-fucking-lutely.


Tacoma WA, 1997

Sam slid the backpack from his shoulder; it was heavy with substantial, serious books - Chaucer (incomprehensible), Beowulf (fucking excellent) and the collected works of John Donne (depressing as hell). It was past five o’clock, weekend calling Sam’s name, but he had an essay due on Monday, so he knew what he’d be up to.

Outside, the sky was gray, but it had been like that all week, shedding rain intermittently, making everything chilly and unpleasant. The landlord kept the apartment building cold and Sam walked around with a coat on most of the time. Some spring. In California it would be…don’t think about California. Or Arizona, or New Mexico, or any of those places that Dad rarely took them. Supernatural stuff always seemed to live in the cold and damp. One more perk of the world’s worst job.

So don’t think about the sun.

Think about Dad, and whether he’d taken his meds, or whether he was getting well enough to refuse them. It was easier when he took them, Sam knew, because his father would be sleepy and confused. Would have no appetite, which fit conveniently with the fact they had next to no food.

When he was all doped up, John Winchester didn’t usually notice that Dean had been gone for almost two weeks. Didn’t ask, Where the fuck is he?

He’s out, Dad. Gone to the store. Had some stuff to do after school. Finally: He had to go away, Dad.

He didn’t want to. Sam had added that, for all it mattered to John. It mattered to Sam, somewhere deep down where he put all the things that he wanted to ignore. He’ll be back. He’ll be back soon. He said.

Dean hadn’t wanted to go, and Sam felt bad about how he hadn’t even said a proper goodbye. You’ll be back soon, and then I can stop feeding Dad your crappy excuses, Dean. Get your ass back here.

Sam slid a finger down the crack in the door and peered in. His father was a dark hump on the bed, position defined by the white length of cast. Almost time for the next round of meds, which were running out faster than their meager food supplies. Sam looked over his shoulder to the kitchen-dining-living room. No TV to distract, no cable even if they had one.

He was getting a helluva lot of homework done, though. Had read a lot, sometimes even out loud to John. Sam secretly delighted in picking books he knew John would ultimately hate: A Farewell to Arms, and Flowers for Algernon.

Sam got a glass of tap water and decided he could at least get dinner together. He was almost used to being hungry, but he’d rationed two slices of bread from the freezer and a couple of bologna rounds for dinner and he thought that now was as good a time as any to eat. Sam flicked on the pendant lamp over the table, thankful that utilities were included with the rent.

You’ll be back. With money. Dad would freak if he called Pastor Jim. We’re not a friggin’ charity, Sam.

A knock at the door and he startled. Fuck, not Kilcannon, abusive and grasping, wanting his money, wanting it now. Sam reckoned that Dean must have used every ounce of his considerable sweet-talk reserves for the landlord to be giving apartment 3B such a wide berth. The rent was coming up to a month overdue.

Too soft to be the landlord, Sam decided. He didn’t bother checking the peephole - if it was a fucking zombie or other monster, Sam reckoned he’d direct it to Dad’s bedroom and let them work it out.

Not a zombie, but a wiry man, face lined like a sailor’s, cigarette tucked behind one ear, scraggly brown hair in a ponytail, whipcord arms in a white t-shirt like he didn’t feel the cold. If he was collecting for some charity, he presented a pretty disconcerting front.

“Hi,” the guy said, rummaging in his back pocket. “You Sam?”

“Why?” Sam asked, a little taken back.

“If you are, your brother asked me to drop something off.” Direct stare, open. Just asking.

Dad would flip, which was one more reason to do it. “Yeah, I’m Sam. Where’s Dean?”

“Oh, just goofing off with the guys. Said you needed this,” and handed him a business-sized brown envelope with coffee stains decorating the outside. “He said that he’d try to come back next off-weekend, maybe two weeks from now. Wanted to know how your dad’s doing.”

Waited, but Sam said nothing, mostly because his heart was in his fucking throat. Until this second, he didn’t actually realize how much he’d been missing Dean, not just having food, or someone to coddle Dad through the worst of his tirades, but just…Dean.

The skinny creased guy was forced to ask again, more directly, like Sam was slightly dense. “Your dad’s okay?” Sam nodded in surprise. “Okay, see yah ‘round, kid.” And left Sam in the doorway holding the envelope awkwardly, without enough presence of mind to say ‘thanks’.

The envelope contained over a thousand dollars.

For a moment, Sam fingered the money, then he spread it out on the kitchen table, counting it again, wanting to be sure. Staring at the unfamiliar faces, touching them with one forefinger. Slipped between the bills was a note hastily scrawled on the back of an advertising flyer, bright splats of color. A paintball place in Olympia. Goddamn you, Dean. Dean’s messy handwriting scrawled on the back in green pen.

Go buy some food.

Sam didn’t need to be told twice.


Quasilit Valley WA, present day

The sit of his belt was all wrong and it itched something fierce, so Dean cut the chainsaw’s engine, pulled up, set the machine on a stump and glanced around: nothing but green and wet and the strong smell of two-stroke exhaust dissipating into the pervasive mulch of woodrot and loam. The ground was springy beneath his boots and he couldn’t tell if it was sweat or rain that sluiced down his face until some found his eyes and it stung.

Pulling off one leather glove with his teeth, he dug around the belt, adjusting. Took a moment, hearing the distant sound of another chainsaw down the hill, to assess how close the next guy was and where his tree was likely going. He took off his helmet and his goggles and wiped his forehead with his chainsaw rag. Probably have grease all over my face now.

For the last few days, since he’d seen Sam in Aberdeen, he’d been half-working, half-wondering when the wolf was going to show up. Sam had called on the satellite phone last night; Lukas had wandered off, apparently, hadn’t shown up to work in a couple of days. No one was worried; he did this all the time, Sam had found out. So, what did that mean? Both of them wondered, Sam out loud, Dean to himself.

Keep your eyes fucking peeled, that’s what it means, Winchester.

“Hey!” and he turned to see Dave coming up the hill, safety vest glowing in the diffuse gray light of a midday pixilated with rain so fine you could hardly see it. “You okay?” Usually someone came looking if they hadn’t heard your chainsaw for a few minutes. Dean had taken too long; most of the guys - with the exception of Willy, who was a lazy bastard - were careful about safety. Shit, they could get hammered and drive a fucking derelict truck across a goddamned minefield without seatbelts, but on the job? Different story.

“Fine,” Dean said, noticing the expression on Dave’s face. He wasn’t here because Dean’s saw was quiet. “What’s up?”

“We gotta problem,” and Dean’s heart sank. Someone was dead. “They’ve taken to the trees.”

Dean blinked his incomprehension. Then, relief. “What? You’re joking.”

The next cut block over, closer to the head of the valley where two mountains loomed over the river, the land was especially steep, not the protected patch of old growth, but the section right next to it. Apparently, close enough to some goddamned owl’s nest that someone, somewhere - probably in a Seattle coffee shop - had decided that a good stiff dose of direct action was called for.

A quick ride in Dave’s pickup truck up an incline that defied engineering norms, and Dean could see for himself what the problem was. Tipping his head up, if he stood right under the enormous red cedar, he saw the patterned soles of a pair of hiking boots. A chain. Flounced floral print, a Guatemalan woven hammock strung between two branches. About fifty feet up. Shit.

A group of twenty protestors stood around the tree, some with signs. Dean looked at Dave, who grinned back. “A problem,” Dean said. “Yeah, I’d say that’s a problem.”

Brent Proctor and Pasquale huddled together, nursing steaming cups of coffee. One of the protestors had made a small fire and had a pot over it. Behind the cedar, several tents declared their intentions of staying put. Brent was already chatting with one of the squatters, a teenaged girl with long braids and a dozen friendship bracelets looped round her skinny wrists. All Dean could see was more wolfmeat.

“So, Dino,” Brent broke away from his conversation, which was probably a pick-up, though Dean knew Brent’s chances were slim to none. “Whatcha gonna do?”

“Me?” But Dave had come to find him. Had brought him here. A reputation was about to catch up with him, first signal being the name ‘Dino’ coming from Brent.

The ratfaced man, scraggly beard patched like a dog with mange, grinned crookedly. “Hey, you’re the one with the golden tongue. Do your thing with the treehugger.”

Dave stood beside them, tall and bluff. With two coffees, one of which he passed to Dean. Until the reporters and the company bosses showed up, there was no need for posturing and polemics. “Yeah, so Dean. How ‘bout you earn that paycheck?”

Dean gulped the coffee - which was pretty damn good - and gave the empty mug to one of the protestors, turned back to Dave’s truck, undoing his heavy utility belt and dropping it onto the front seat. Fifty feet up.

Thank god it was a cedar, not a fir, because it was fairly easy going. The calk boots helped; the cedar trunks weren’t as heavily ridged as fir, were slippery, but the branches started lower down. One hand slipped. He should have used a safety harness, but if the damned protestor had got up there without one, he sure as hell wasn’t going to disgrace the guys by bothering. And until a suit showed up to make him do otherwise, he was going to handle this his own way.

Dean grabbed the branch more tightly, looked three moves ahead, made sure he was heading in the right direction, had a clear path. “Hey!” he shouted when he was halfway up.

A face turned and looked down at him. An older woman, maybe in her late sixties, a straw hat festooned with plastic flowers battened to her head, and a bright purple rain poncho. She smiled at him and waved.

Dean cursed under his breath. One of those fucking Grannies, the ones that worked the protest circuits, sang goofy songs and generally caused mayhem at nuclear plants, military installations and logging sites. He remembered them from before. Must be into owls now. Hand over hand, up a few more feet, knowing this was a fruitless mission. He wasn’t the right mediator for this. He wasn’t a mediator in any sense of the word, in fact. Sam…now, Sam would have had a better chance, but he was across the valley, wasn’t he?

Finally, if he stood on one branch and hooked an arm over another, he could look the Granny in the eye. She appeared happy to see him. “I’d offer tea,” she said, opening a tartan-patterned thermos, “but I should really make this last. Besides, you just had a cup of coffee, didn’t you?”

So she could see everything down below, wasn’t nearsighted. Dean smiled, wondered how long he’d have to hang out here before he could go back down and report to Dave that his storied powers of persuasion weren’t cutting any mustard with this old dame. “I’m Dean,” he said.

“Eileen.” The Granny poured, pulled a ziploc baggie filled with Fig Newtons from a canvas sack hanging beside her. Offered him one. “You been logging long, son?”

Oh, please, he really didn’t want to get into an ideological discussion with her. He shook his head and she snapped back the cookie. “Not long,” he replied, watching her sip the tea from the thermos’s plastic lid. “I don’t suppose you want to come down? I could help you.”

She shook her head slowly. “Will you and your friends put down your chainsaws?”

Lady, have you seen what’s in the woods today? Dean shook his head, a rueful grin not far away. “Not my decision.”

“Of course.”

From this high up, Dean could see across the valley, saw the wide swath of destruction, land torn up like WWI Belgian trenches. “Had to ask,” he explained.

“Well then.”

“Listen, Eileen,” because he actually wasn’t all that interested in trees at the moment, “it’s dangerous up here-“

“Dangerous for you and for other living creatures. The big companies don’t care about you guys. They care about the profit margin.” Her shrewd blue eyes bore into Dean, still merry, but also grave.

“Yeah, I know all that. The contractors down there,” and he gestured with a thumb, not really minding the drop. He might hate flying, but it had nothing to do with heights. “They gotta make a living too.” Shit, he was getting drawn into it. This isn’t why you’re here, Winchester.

“When all the trees are gone, there will be no more living to be had. And companies like Weyerhaeuser? They’ll move on to the next thing, leaving you guys behind.”

Lady, lady, lady. He wiped the rain from his face with one hand. “Yeah. Well, I’m a little worried, to tell you the truth. Some treeplanters have gone missing. And you’re up here, all alone…”

Her look became stern. Okay, wrong tactic. Jesus, where was Sam when you needed him?

“Eileen,” he pleaded, voice going soft, “you should come down. It’s wet and cold and there are things worse than loggers around here.”

She reached over, put a hand on his. It was warm. Of the two of them, she was the better equipped to spend a couple of days chained to a tree. “We’ve phoned the Seattle papers; the reporters will be coming soon. So will the company men, I should think. With their PR people. Pretty soon it will be nothing but rhetoric and invective, but we’ll know the truth, won’t we, Dean? I know you’re not the enemy. Do visit again.”

And that was that. He’d been dismissed from a tree.

On the way back down, Dean decided that this might be a good thing. Someone high up a tree at the crux of the valley, someone with sharp eyes and a reason to be watchful.

Then, unbidden, Sam’s words: Big Bad Wolf. Fuck. But really, c’mon: it was unlikely an old bird like that would attract the attention of what hunted in this valley. As far as Dean knew, that thing was interested in him, and in taking out anything young and female if Dean was otherwise unavailable. Eileen would probably be safe enough up there with her tea and cookies, as long as that chain held and she didn’t fall out of her hammock at night.

Jumping down the last few feet, he shook his head at Dave and the protestors clapped. When they started singing, Dean asked Dave to take him back to the section they were working, because although he appreciated Eileen’s spunk well enough, if the others started in with “We Shall Overcome”, he’d have to spark up the chainsaw and bring that tree down himself, Granny or not.


Seattle WA, 1992

Exactly twenty-five days now and one of two things had to happen. The first of those Dean sorrowfully struck off the list: three Fords, a Buick LeSabre, and a Jeep Wagoneer. No Impala. The sheeting rain and eleven o’clock gloom couldn’t disguise what wasn’t there.

Which only left the other thing.

He pulled up his collar and sniffed. A cold, on top of everything else. No fucking wonder. Sam was running a temperature and Dean had made him stay away from school. Then the little runt had tearfully informed him that Mrs. Legris would be more worried, because she’d said she was already very concerned, and all of this left Dean with just two roads, one of which closed as of right this second.

I don’t have a choice, he thought, wiping his nose on his sleeve. Only one reason Dad hadn’t come home, and it was the same reason Dean hadn’t phoned Pastor Jim, because he didn’t want to know. There was knowing and there was knowing. He didn’t want to be the one that told Sammy. His eyes prickled hot, and he bit the inside of his mouth, his Keds leaking, socks soaked, toes so cold he couldn’t feel them.

Move it, Winchester, keep moving. Enough of this.

Maybe one of those cars - he could smash the back window and…what? Grab a handful of CDs. Great fucking plan, shitforbrains. Even if he found a buyer, he’d make about five dollars, which would feed exactly a hamster. He kicked away a blown newspaper that tangled round his feet. He didn’t feel hungry anymore; he knew that was probably not a good sign.

Worse yet, though, was that hacking cough of Sam’s. He didn’t mind so much being kept up at night with it, or that it meant school was out, that place where Sam at least would be warm and dry. It was just that it signaled ‘time’s up’ in a way Dean could no longer ignore, meant that he had to do something, couldn’t keep telling himself that Dad would be back.

He thought he was wandering aimlessly, but he wasn’t, not really, because his mind was made up and all it required was setting pride and squeamishness at the door, stepping up and taking it like a man. Or something. He couldn’t think about it too much, he knew, otherwise he’d never do it and he had to, so he thought about how cold he was and about how much he hated raccoons, because last night they’d made off with a perfectly good package of hotdogs Dean had stolen from the supermarket.

Couldn’t do much more stealing, because he couldn’t afford to get caught.

Eventually, as he knew he would, Dean approached the diner, hoped that Tanya wasn’t working, because he didn’t want to disappoint her, and didn’t want to get talked out of the inevitable. Hadn’t come for a free salmon burger. Damn it, think of something else, Winchester.

So he thought about the wad of cash in Anthony’s hand, fifty bucks, more maybe, of how those assholes were taking care of themselves, no adult to help them, how they at least paid for their food. Didn’t answer to anyone, called their own shots. Somewhere in his gut, he knew those were all lies, but he needed some cash to buy time, until he had the nerve to make the call, or the Impala showed up in the motel’s parking lot.

But he couldn’t wait anymore, so he pushed open the door and heard the bell overhead and tried to think about precisely nothing.


He didn’t even meet her eyes, didn’t wave hello, or come to the counter. As soon as Tanya saw him, she knew things had changed, that he’d crossed some line, or was about to, and it was like watching a car wreck in slow motion, watching that kid cross the diner floor. He left a trail of water, was soaked all the way through, lips a little blue.

Not looking at her, going straight to the table where Lamont and Noodles played cards for dimes, stood there, dripping on their menus.

“Hey!” she called, imagining her voice like a lasso, something that she could rope round him to drag him away. “Dean!”

But real life didn’t work like that. Lamont looked up, said something that she couldn’t hear, and she saw Dean’s shoulders straighten. Fighting so hard.

It wasn’t going to work, not the lasso or the fighting or the lure of hot food on a cold night. Why is no one looking after this kid? she thought, so angry and hard it was actually painful.

Because that tall fucker, the one that was all howl, that was ravenous, was sitting in the corner, quiet. Waiting, like always, cold eyes darting around, searching.

Dean hadn’t even sat down before the man unfolded, stood, came over. And Dean turned and Tanya couldn’t look anymore, couldn’t watch as he went with the man out the door into the night.


Go to Chapter 5


red, supernatural, fanfic

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