SPN fic: Red 6/10

Oct 31, 2006 22:36

What it is: Gen, PG-13. Can’t throw a brick at this one without hitting swearing, oblique and sometimes disturbing sexual content, violence of the Dean-shredding variety, and one nasty-ass Wolf. WIP, will be 10 chapters.

Read Chapters 1-5



Big small print: Mutilate, agitate and titillate. Don’t own ‘em.

Blessed are those: I say it every freakin’ time and it begins to sound rote, but really. lemmypie and jmm0001 rock my world and if you like what you read, thank them, not me.

--

Seattle WA, 1992

Well, that qualified as the shittiest shift on record, ever. Tomorrow morning, swear to god, I’m handing in my notice, going back to Evergreen, finishing that art program, and making candles on the San Juans. Swear to god.

Every sugar jar empty, what the hell were those kids doing with them? Just pouring sugar into their pockets? Shit. The boss was going to have a fit. Julio already gone, second job working janitorial at a downtown office, already stuck here till past midnight. Busy, mindless, end of shift work: all the jars topped up, and the salt and peppers, cloths soaking in the bleach water, day’s take counted, ready for Tanya to put in the office safe.

Shitty shift, shitty night. Forty to the left, 21, all the way around, seven, seven. Money in, slam door, twirl knob, back out. She banged her head against the desktop backing out from under it, where the safe was. Mind snagged on the word ‘safe’. Head rang, but she was out of tears tonight. After the boy - Dean, she reminded herself, not some random kid, but one with a name, one who mattered - had left, she’d gone to the bathroom and had a cry, the kind where you got hiccups.

So, no more.

Tanya wanted a drink. She was meeting Tobi at her place, half an hour, had told her to make sure the beer was cold and invited herself overnight because she wanted nothing more than to get completely anaesthetized, fall apart, and sleep. Don’t think about it, she told herself. She closed the cupboard under the office desk, looked out the office door into the kitchen. Julio had left it clean as a whistle, no flies on him. Boss should give him a raise, or he’d be hauling ass to some other joint soon.

Where did she leave her bag? Oh, there, under the pass-through. She’d go out the back door, nearer to where she’d parked her piece of shit Dodge Dart.

The front door rattled furiously, someone trying the handle with unmitigated desperation. Shit, who wanted a cup of coffee that badly? Couldn’t they read the closed sign?

She was looking through the kitchen into the front diner when the restaurant’s plate glass front window splintered and smashed, shards of glass flying like a burst of grasshoppers in a summer meadow. Beautiful, her artist’s eye noticed, not putting it all together, the glass and the shimmer of streetlight, not yet reasoning why the glass might be shattering.

Just one second, though, because she wasn’t a dummy. One hand to pick up the phone on the desk, dial 911. The other to reach under and grab the gun that the boss kept there, for reasons just like this. Fucking cracked out junkies looking to score.

I’m not a violent person, she protested. She knew how to load it, though, and did. Clip over there, in the cardboard box on top of the filing cabinet. Took her five seconds. Screw Julio, I’m the one who needs a raise. Except I’m quitting. Didn’t talk in the receiver as she heard the operator say, “9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”

Mostly because the boy, the kid, Dean, was standing in the doorway, staring at her and the pointed gun.

He was slicked with blood and his t-shirt, which had some kind of local team’s logo on it, the kind they gave out free at community center events, was splattered and torn. Face skim milk blue, freckles peppered on, buckshot random. Eyes so big and so wild and he didn’t say a word. Only one second and she lowered the gun.

She didn’t want to scare him, he was already there.

Oh, baby, she thought. Shit. She picked up the phone and said, softly, “Police. Now.” And put it down on the desk, but didn’t hang up. Then she ran over to him, grabbed his shoulders, saw that he had a knife in his bloody hand and didn’t know if calling the police had been the brightest idea, but she’d work it out. If he’d killed that trick, it had been self-defense if anything.

Blood not just on him, but from him too, long scrapes along his shoulder and neck, blood running down his face from some wound on his scalp.

He looked over his shoulder to the broken glass and the rain washed street beyond, a warning in the gesture. Not alone.

“Out the back,” she whispered, and he looked behind him again. Tanya tried to see outside to the street through the window Dean had smashed to get in, but couldn’t see anything in the rain and the night. A bad angle too, but she didn’t want to go out into the dining area. In the kitchen, she had light. Had a way of escaping. Of allowing him to escape.

She didn’t say anything else, just pushed him toward the heavy back door, a relic of the 1930s, rum running times, the gun still in her hand. The cops would be here soon. She didn’t fault them that; they usually showed up fast, even if they didn’t care when they got here. Maybe the kid had killed the guy; he probably deserved it, the creep. Maybe the trick had followed him here, was outside the front, looking for revenge. In either case, Dean had his little brother to think of, and Tanya didn’t want to bring the cops down on him.

The bolt on the backdoor was jammed; she slammed her hand against it, realized as she did so that she was close to freaking out. Be strong, she said to herself. He needs someone to be strong. He was shaking so hard she could see it, but his knuckles were white around that knife.

More tinkling of glass from the front. Oh, shit. Tanya sensed something moving outside rather than saw it, the lights in the front of house already dimmed for the night, the neon sign flashing closed the only thing illuminating anything and that was close to useless.

From beyond her line of vision came a harsh long breath, wet and rasping. Fucking hell, what was that?

She shoved Dean hard out the door and he stared blankly back at her, beyond any reasoning, or words of comfort, rain sluicing the blood down the shirt like a nasty attempt at tie-dyeing. She held up the gun, showing it to him, felt like something out of a movie. Don’t worry about me. What the fuck did she know about this? Nothing, nothing at all.

One, surely she was allowed one. One kid. She could save him, couldn’t she? Not all of them, but maybe this one.

Go, she mouthed, and slammed the door shut, sliding the bolt home.

--

Quasilit Valley WA, 1997

If this was Uncle G’s idea of a sick fucking joke, Brent Proctor was having none of it. Because, really -- Dino? That little fucker was a cocky bastard, and it was only a matter of time before they all saw it, paintballs be damned.

And scratched the place on his forehead before he realized that Dino was looking at him with that little crooked grin. Wipe it off his fucking face, that’s what I’ll do.

Uncle G had made Brent and Dino partners for the rest of the week, informed them that they should work out their falls between them, back each other up, keep a lookout for the other. That Brent should quit with his asinine pranks; leaving the Kid out on a mountainside at night to walk back to camp was apparently a bad idea, mostly because Uncle G was the one who’d had to drive all the way back to get him. Maybe, Brent thought, maybe the boss thought putting them together would be a bonding experience.

He’d like to bond Dino’s ass to a barbed wire fence.

But no, now he had to make nice with the Kid, because Uncle G was watching, as was Lori, who made sure that Dino always had more food, and now had figured out back up meals so that no matter what manner of shit Brent cut the Kid’s food with, he always had another meal. Like Dino would starve. Right.

This job wasn’t a normal stint, no way, not with all the favoritism that was being shown. Not with the boss and the camp cook all cozy with the Kid.

And even aside from the Kid, Brent didn’t know if he liked working the Quasilit Valley. Too many protestors this year, stupid little owls. Secretly, he hoped they didn’t set up a road block. He didn’t like running blockades; it felt a little like going through a picket line, he didn’t like that either.

And just two days ago, while the Kid was still walking down the mountain from where Brent had left him, the planting boss had swung over, asked them about another AWOL planter, wondered if they’d seen her, given any little hairy-armpitted hippie chick a ride down the mountain. Shit. What was that this year alone? Four maybe? The crew boss had mentioned bear, or maybe wolf given the tracks they’d been finding, but Brent knew better. Nothing more than sore hands, sore back, reality unromantic as hell.

More little city assholes thinking that they had business being up in the bush. Not like him; he’d grown up here. Dad a logger. Uncles loggers. Had two half-brothers that logged up in Alaska. Christ, even his brother-in-law was a bush pilot.

No one had cut Brent any slack when he’d been coming up, so why should he? Would toughen the Kid up, or scare him back down to town where he could get a job as a busboy in some trendy restaurant. And too cocky when you were a faller was just asking for it.

That was when the tree - not a big one, okay, but still a ton of wood falling forty feet, splintering with the yowl of cat getting stepped on - dropped two feet from him, making the ground bounce beneath his boots, wood shrapnel flying like something out a Hong Kong chop-socky movie. Misty rain all around them and the whoosh of tree and the spray of water from the branches of a small Doug fir falling, almost killing him.

Brent turned, and Dino choked his chainsaw - the big Stihl that Uncle G never let anyone borrow - and smiled hugely. “Wow,” the Kid said, slipping his ear protectors onto his shoulders. “Close one.” A beat and they stared at each other. “Sorry.”

Brent was too stunned to say anything. The dumb-ass little motherfucker. Trying to kill him now, was he? Even though Brent knew Dino had a damn fine sense of how a tree fell, where to pitch one exactly, this was just…crossing a line.

Uneven ground, fern and slash and Dino grinning big. No way Brent was going to charge him and start a brawl, although that’s what he felt like doing. He’d seen the Kid move on the paintball field; played tough and would probably take him in a fair fight. Brent had rarely wanted to clock someone as much as he wanted to beat the shit out of this little asshole. He didn’t say anything, looked up, gauging the wind. “Over there,” he said, “Cocksucker,” under his breath.

Two could play this game.

Dino wanted to live on the edge? He’d show him the fucking edge. Took a Humboldt undercut to the Doug fir - a big one, don’t fuck it up because it was worth some - looked up for widowmakers, the rain steady now, saw the dance of the limbs, felt the wind shift. Not good, looked round the incline, calculating gravity as best he could. A snag at the west side would bump it some, wind changed slightly, then died. Good. Brought out a wedge, looked round to see where Dino had gone to. Damn, he’d moved, way out of the way, was doing his own calculations.

Except he wasn’t looking at Brent and his tree; he was looking at something in the screen of underbrush, was bending down a little, then suddenly brought his Stihl around, for all the world like he was going to start it up, although there was no tree big enough to cut right around him, only huckleberry and fern.

It was a long moment: Dino standing steady, looking at something Brent couldn’t see, the Stihl in one hand, the other curled around the pull cord. And then Brent noticed something else about the Kid: he was talking, either to himself or something that was in the bush. Brent’s chainsaw was too loud to hear whatever the Kid said, but Brent saw his lips move.

What the fuck could be more interesting that a huge tree coming down not a hundred feet away? Then Dino turned round and he wasn’t grinning anymore. He looked…young, for a second. Scared.

Afraid of me and my big tree, are you Kid? You should be, asshole.

Brought out a rubber hammer, smacked in the wedge, looked up, rain in face, smacked the wedge, get the fuck out of the way, Kid. Shiver in the branches, smack, shiver, and the tree slowly tipped, groaned. Pulled the cord, the chainsaw jumped in his hands, another cut, plume of saw dust, smell of heat and wood and wet and rain and something else that made the hair in his nostrils curl.

Not going to think of smells when I got a coupla tons of old growth about to come down.

Top branches twirled, twisted, and Brent wished he hadn’t gotten so drunk last night because this was a shitty job to do hungover. Branches weren’t twirling because that meant torque, dammit…goddamn it, no, they were, and Brent Proctor didn’t have a fucking clue which way this tree was going to fall.

He killed his chainsaw, jumped away, cause this was just the sort of tree that would kick back, a subway train to the chest, and that was not how Brent wanted to leave this life. Backed up, ran, helmet falling, yelling to the Kid, move it move it move it!

And then the tree fell with the sound of humpback whale being dropped from a great height and everything went black.

Next he knew, he was face up, branches all around him, and his whole fucking leg was one big scream. The woods were silent, though, couldn’t hear a damn thing. Except that weird noise, that whimper. Oh, goddamn it, that’s me. Fuck it, stupid noise. Man, this hurts.

“Proctor?” he heard then. Damn, the Kid. Brent tried to move, but the tree not only blocked his view of everything except branch and sky, a big barrel of a trunk within touching distance, ridged and furrowed, two hundred years old at least. The branches were on top of him, one big around as his waist laying right across his chest. Hurt to breath. Goddamn.

“That you, Dino?” Brent yelled, but that hurt too.

“Yeah. You okay?” Dino called back. He was close, on the other side of the tree.

“Trapped. Think my leg’s busted. Can you get to me?”

Silence from the other side. Shit, was the Kid hurt? Finally, “Nope.” Dino said it quietly, like he didn’t want to wake anyone up.

And then Brent heard a growl. A huffing, grunting kind of growl.

“What the fuck is that?” Brent shouted. Man, that was a strange noise. Was the Kid trapped too? He had the radio, didn’t he? Where was Brent’s safety whistle? Shit, as if he could reach his belt anyway.

Dino didn’t say anything, but Brent heard the growls some more, only word for them, really, through they sounded like garbled words, like a guy with his tongue cut out trying to have conversation. He couldn’t see what was going on, but heard the crack of breaking branches. Something big was moving over there, on the other side of the downed tree.

“Can you reach your chainsaw?” Dino yelled. “Can you reach it?” he demanded a second time, before Brent had even opened his mouth.

What the fuck? “No, I fucking can’t because I can’t fucking see my chainsaw because I have a fucking tree on me. Is that…” Oh no, shit, what kinda luck would it be to get hit by a tree and then -- “Is that a bear?”

Dino didn’t get jammed up easy, as Brent has reason to know, but he sounded worried. “Um,” Dino said more loudly, not answering. “Yeah, I’m pinned, too. Don’t know where my chainsaw is, can’t cut myself out.” And something in Dino’s voice triggered a deep fear in Brent. A shiver, primeval, original. Run, it said. Run.

Can’t run, trapped under a tree, Brent replied to this ancient voice. Thanks for the warning, though.

“Kid, don’t piss it off, okay?” Then remembered. “Treeplanters have been going missing, I heard. They think a bear might be involved. It probably…” Fucking maneater, maybe. It probably likes the taste of human, he thought, but didn’t want to freak the Kid out further. Who the fuck was he kidding? Freak himself out.

A pause and the sound of a big body crashing through the bushes became crystal clear. On Dino’s side of the tree. Brent also heard the rumble of the Kid’s voice - he had a distinctive deep tone, mature - talking, slow and soft, like Brent wished he sounded like when he was trying to get a girl to leave the bar with him. What the fuck was the Kid saying? He wasn’t talking to Brent, that’s for sure. To the bear. The Kid was talking to the bear. It was surreal.

Shock, that’s what this was. Just pain and shock. Probably had smashed his leg all to shit, lost a bucketful of blood somewhere, maybe even knocked his head. Brent wiggled the fingers of one hand, trying to get to the whistle.

The Kid’s voice kept going, lulling, at once calming and eerie. Smooth, man, so smooth. Brent couldn’t make out the words, but the bear’s rustlings halted, and Brent imagined the bear sitting there with a happy smile on its snout, listening.

Goddamn.

“Keep it up, Kid, I can almost reach my whistle. Just keep it up, keep talking to the bear, don’t let it…” and he couldn’t finish that because he’d been about to say, ‘eat me’, and that just made him sound like a complete pussy. Finally, the whistle came loose in his hand, released from his belt loop. His fingers were numb, but he managed to get the whistle to his lips and blew. Hard. More than once.

All the while, the Kid’s soft rumble kept going up and down, and so gentle and sweet and musky Brent Proctor almost felt like he wanted to marry the Kid himself.

--

“No fucking way.” Dean didn’t even look at Uncle G, just shook his head, adrenaline not yet fading, buzzing like a mild electric current along his nerve endings. “No.”

Dave had put an emergency blanket around Dean’s shoulders, but he was still shivering. The rain fell without cessation, blown by the thupping blades of the oncoming helicopter, and he was cold, but that wasn’t why he shivered. God, he couldn’t even think about what he’d seen, about what he’d done, but if he didn’t figure it out he would be dead.

It hadn’t come as Ludovic this time, it had come as itself, shuffling deceptively through the undergrowth like it was ungainly, keeping screened until it had been close enough that Dean had seen the blue glowing eyes through the mist. Reminding him of something only seen in the back of a Cadillac, claws and teeth in him, making contact. Wanting him then and now, but playing at the same time, extending their time together as though it was precious.

Yes, Uncle G, I would love to be off this fucking mountain, yes I would.

But not with a Wolf in the woods, because he’d been raised with the father he had and you didn’t walk away from something like this. Call Dad, he’ll know what to do. Right. Say what, exactly? Dad, could you please drag your ass out of bed and kill this thing that I’m afraid of? This thing that wants to fuck me or eat me or maybe both. And Dad, high on painkillers, what would he do except get himself killed? Not even taking into account Ludovic himself, once John had found him. The Wolf could tell John Winchester what his son had done five years before, could bring up what Dean had never talked about, not once, not to anyone.

He shivered harder, so hard it hurt, so hard he wished he could stop, because he could barely say anything and if he didn’t appear even a little with it, the paramedic and Uncle G would see right through him, force him into the fucking helicopter.

The paramedic finished strapping Brent into the basket stretcher, and Brent’s head wobbled round to look for Dean. Found him. “You were fucking amazing, Kid.” His beady eyes were glassy; the paramedic had given him a big shot of morphine. “You shoulda seen him, Dave, Uncle G. Had that bear eating outta his hand. Never heard anything like it.” This was about the fourth time he’d said this to them, more maybe. The helicopter had taken a long time to come. Brent had a story to tell, and he was going to tell it. As many times as it took.

Dave shook his head, smiling at Dean, who looked away, stared at his boot-tips, tried to ignore the lightning twinge every time he moved his right arm. The paramedic had looked at it, looked at the cuts on his head, said he should come with them to the hospital in Aberdeen. Not if it meant riding in that thing, he’d told him. I’m okay, had played down how bad his arm felt, already swelling. Just a sprain, he’d told Uncle G, pleading.

“Hey Dino,” Brent shouted, but his voice cracked. “I’m sorry about the piss. Really…” and drifted off. Dean smirked, and Dave laughed out loud.

“Man, I’d have let the bear eat that mean motherfucker,” Dave said, passed Dean a cup of coffee from his thermos.

Dean took it in his left hand, the one that didn’t hurt. He gulped it, glad of its relative warmth. Too milky and laced with rum. The alcohol hit his stomach like a hand grenade. “No you wouldn’t have.”

The helicopter’s blades throbbed in the air overhead, and the concussive whup-whup hurt in a deep way, married up with the shivering, seemed to come from the same core, or resonated there. The paramedics ran Brent out into the too-small clearing, twigs becoming shrapnel in the dust-up. They clipped the metal rescue stretcher to the cable, winched up. A paramedic had said that they could put a loop round Dean, haul him up into the ‘copter.

Dean, sitting on a stump, one side of his face running with blood and haphazardly patched up with a field bandage and adhesive tape, looked at the helicopter and knew he’d have to be unconscious before they ever got him into one of those things.

The drive down to camp was bumpy and the windshield wipers played a lullaby, and Dean stretched out in the back of Uncle G’s truck, felt safe for once, and fell asleep or unconscious, wasn’t aware of which it might be.

He woke to darkness and the sudden wrongness of a stopped vehicle. A familiar voice cried, “Oh my god, what did Brent do?” and Lori was shining a flashlight into the back of the cab. He felt like he’d been beaten, which in a way he had, because he’d had a fucking tree fall on him, hadn’t he? The adrenaline was gone, replaced with leaden pain, everywhere.

“S’okay,” he blurted out, tried to lever himself up, then sucked air between his teeth as he put pressure on his injured arm. The cab’s interior lurched to one side, but that was just his vision and he was shivering again. Lori frowned, slid a hand under one shoulder, helped him out. She pulled his left arm around her small shoulders and she was warm and so strong and Dean was perfectly okay with all of this. He leaned on her more than he liked, but couldn’t help it, not really.

“I have some soup on, that’ll go down good, yeah?”

Uncle G lifted the mangled Stihl out the back and by the camp’s lights, Dean could see the expression on his face: resigned. Then looked up at Dean, smiling. “You looked better up the mountain, hero. Let’s see how you’re feeling in the morning, okay? If you’re not doing any better, one of the guys’ll drive you down to get checked out at the local hospital.”

Camp bravado: suck it back, princess. Fit perfectly with Dean’s usual philosophy, which he’d studied at the John Winchester School of Pain Management.

“Sorry about the saw,” Dean said, and he felt Lori sigh under him. Hey, that was an expensive piece of equipment, and it getting busted up while he was using it wasn’t anything to shrug off.

But that’s just what Uncle G did. “No worries. Engine’s still good. A new bar and we’re laughing. Get yourself some soup, then you and Dave can head for the motel.” He took a few steps, and Dean had the feeling a mountain of paperwork awaited him. Then Uncle G turned, took the cigarette out from behind his ear, lit it. “Think she’s got a bottle of something hard under the stove; get her to pull it out.”

And that’s the first thing Lori did, poured him a huge whiskey into a coffee mug, pushed it into his hands as he slumped at the table. They were the only ones there, the rest of the crew had already gone down to the decrepit loggers motel in the nearby shithole village. It must have been eight at night, dark now, and rain coming down heavily. Though the crew usually slept in the motel, Lori stayed up at camp in a small trailer, she and Uncle G minding the equipment; Lori had an early start to the day, cooking breakfast starting at four. This was her domain.

She looked at him closely, small eyes even smaller from worry. “What happened?”

Dean would have shrugged, but it hurt. The rye burned something awful, but he wanted the warmth right now. He gulped it steadily, wondered if alcohol was such a good idea, getting hit by a tree, probably a broken arm, maybe in shock. Fuck it, he didn’t care. The shivering was still there, just dulled by sleep and the rye and the…oh, god. He’d talked to it. He’d talked and talked to it and he felt the sudden overwhelming need to throw up.

Started shivering in earnest again, took a shaky breath, because without a chainsaw, trapped under that tree, he’d had nothing but his voice and talk and that motherfucker had enjoyed it. Had stolen something else from him today.

Lori sat beside him, one hand on his shoulder, rubbing. Finally, he put the empty cup down. She refilled it. He looked at her. “Tree fell. Got trapped. Smoked Brent.”

“The guys were talking about a bear.” She looked at him and he didn’t feel like lying. He was too tired and too sore and he remembered everything and goddamn it, he wished his dad was here right now.

He shook his head. “It wasn’t a bear, it was Ludovic.” And couldn’t go on.

He didn’t know how to do this; maybe his dad did, knew how to talk to ordinary people about extraordinary things. Maybe you were just supposed to blurt it out. Maybe you needed some kind of proof. But Dad had made a point of telling them always, always to shut the fuck up about the supernatural, and even a cup of rye whiskey and a broken arm didn’t mean he could break that rule.

So they looked at each other for a long moment before Lori turned to get him some beef barley soup and a spoon.

The wind picked up and swept through the tent, and Lori went to the open flap, determined to shut it, turning on the overhead heaters. The heating toggle switch snapped and then he heard the click-click-click as she adjusted it, then she stopped and Dean heard her say, “Too late tonight, Ludovic. Kitchen’s closed.”

Oh, fuck, he thought, trying to dig deep, trying to find something inside to use. Gutted. Just done, nothing left in the tank. Drinking on an empty stomach when it was still out there and wouldn’t Dad be proud of him now.

Despite this, not knowing how, not knowing if he’d pass out if he tried it, Dean struggled to his feet, felt every bruise on him, his head pounding, leaned heavily against the table with his good hand, and turned.

Ludovic brushed past Lori, whose eyes were big as saucers, round face white. Walked right past her to Dean, glanced at his soup bowl and cup of grain alcohol, and sat down. “Just got back in from surveying the northwest quadrant; it’s going to be a bitch to get in there. I earned my pay today.” He looked up at Dean, still standing, holding his arm by the elbow, bandage on his face. “You look like shit, kid,” he said conversationally, then cocked his head at Lori. “Seems like the kitchen’s still serving.”

Licked his lips.

And smiled back to Dean: See what I can do? Behave yourself, boy. Gestured to the seat across from him, then flicked a glance meaningfully at Lori.

Dean sat slowly, trying to buy time, not knowing what was coming next. So calm here, Ludovic, just like normal, just himself. The timber scout, in from one of his frequent independent forays into the woods, gone for days on end, just reappearing when he’d mapped whatever it was he was keeping track of. Normal.

Not what he could become, all sinew and tooth and claw. And those blue eyes and Dean thought about what Ludovic had taken from him, both today, in the woods, and in a Cadillac in Seattle. In a diner there.

It’s afraid of saws, it can be killed. He looked around for a weapon, anything with an edge. Kitchen knife, maybe, but they were all put away and he didn’t know where Lori kept them.

Lori glared at Ludovic, but got him some soup, slammed it down in front of him. She didn’t hover, but she didn’t go far, just to the griddle. This all felt more dangerous than being pinned under a tree with Ludovic prowling the bushes, glimpses of teeth and fur and raw desire. Because it wasn’t just him and piece of shit Brent Proctor. It was her, and he wasn’t going to run this time.

Nothing, nothing to use. Hot soup? That could be a deterrent, but not a weapon. He could barely stand without falling down, could barely move his arm now the swelling was bad, and the rye swirled in his stomach like acid. Every reason to know how fast this thing was. God, he wanted to kill it, but how?

“A treeplanter went missing this afternoon, while that stinking excuse for human skin was getting airlifted out.” Ludovic’s voice was low, didn’t carry past the table, was all grinds and harsh things, a bag of broken glass.

The rye turned bilious in Dean’s mouth. “What?”

Ludovic shrugged. “Just disappeared off the cut block.” He leaned forward, every angle to him sharp and designed to hurt. “Not what I wanted, of course, not what’s needed…”

“Shut up,” Dean whispered, and his heart was going too fast and this was where the blood was, and he remembered from before what this thing was capable of, the claws and the teeth and what drove it.

Ludovic smile uncertainly like he barely remembered how to do it, the eyes glittering. He picked his teeth, shoved the soup away as unsuitable, or inedible, or most simply, not what he wanted. “They’re slow, the girls. Don’t taste right, don’t sound right…” His hand came across the table and Dean leaned back, away, instinct kicking in at the same time as a new rush of adrenaline. “Talk to me again, just…”

Dean stood, no weapon - a fucking spoon in his left hand, for god’s sake - and the whole tent blurred black. He couldn’t pass out now, he thought, but then the endorphins were back, steadied him slightly.

Above the buzzing, he heard Lori’s shaking voice. “Get out of here.”

Without moving his body, or his head, he slid his gaze over to the serving area: Lori, with a shotgun. She cocked it, a pointed mechanical sound over the howl of the wind and the rain. “Go on.” She was used to bears, and she was a woman who worked around men, and there wasn’t much that she was afraid of. She was afraid now, Dean knew, but she didn’t let that stop her from doing what needed to be done.

Ludovic’s eyes didn’t leave Dean’s, and he reached out again, almost against his will, unable to stop himself, but Lori took a step towards him, lifting the gun to her shoulder. Gun that size would probably knock her right over, Dean thought.

“Don’t you touch him, or I swear to god…”

The Wolf’s eyes latched onto Lori, and Dean felt like throwing up again. Oh, god, he thought, remembering. Don’t do this Lori, he won’t forgive it.

“Shoot it,” Dean growled. Ludovic smiled at Dean, and Dean didn’t care how ludicrous it sounded. “Lori, shoot the sonofabitch!” Because that’s what this thing deserved and killing it was the only way to stop it; the gun wouldn’t do it, but it would buy time, maybe to find a knife. “Give it to me, then!”

Her call, though, not his. She glanced at Dean and he could tell from her expression that she thought he was crazy. Then back to Ludovic, gestured with the gun to the tent flap. “Get the fuck out of here before I do what he wants.”

And Lori let the Wolf leave the tent, the unwanted soup cooling on the table.

Once he was gone, she lowered the shotgun. Her face was gray. “C’mon.” She wasn’t letting go of the gun, and wasn’t going to give it to Dean, because he was going to go shooting up the camp like an insane person. “C’mon.”

He made a noise low in his throat, unable to warn or to thank or to cry and he wanted to do all three. “Where?”

“I’m getting you out of here,” she said, throwing on her coat and grabbing her keys.

As soon as they were in the truck, she told him to lie down in the back, stretch out, get some rest. She made him take the bottle of rye, told him to finish it, because she was fairly sure his arm was broken, and the road down was really rough; better if he passed out in the back. Where are we going? he asked again.

She didn’t say at first, but then, as the rye kicked in and the road became steeper, she radioed Uncle G: ‘loaded pickup approaching bridge at 18.4’, loaded in the sense of ‘heading out’.

Heading out because she was going to Tacoma, hospital then home, and if she ever saw him up here again, she’d tell Uncle G that he was only eighteen and he’d get thrown out on his skinny ass.

But she was crying as she said it and Dean was past trying to understand any of it.

--

Quasilit Valley WA, present day

They drove slowly back to the planter’s tent city, Ruby leaning against him, radioing their position even as Sam listened for Dean’s coordinates, recognizing his brother’s voice roughly calling out his progress up the opposite side of the valley through the static and the coded language. He reached his camp five minutes before they reached theirs.

As they pulled in, Ruby brought up the Granny, talked about what she was doing, of how their little efforts at re-planting were a drop in the bucket, that some of the clear-cuts were so big they could be seen from space. That Granny had the right idea, she said. Maybe I’ll join her.

Sam looked at her and shook his head, grinning. She’d do it, too. She was the sort. It was one of the things he liked about her, the conviction. The truck’s interior was warm and they talked for a few minutes, reminding Sam that he was capable of having conversations that didn’t involve supernatural lore, or gun talk, or classic rock. Their father, or demons, or wacky paranormal powers.

He could just sit and talk politics, and protest, and economic realities in the natural resource sector.

The planter’s camp was in full party mode; the mess tent lit up with plastic lanterns, bins of chips and popcorn out, a bong, loud music, sounds of sex coming from various areas around the planter’s tents. Sam saw it all with a Wolf’s eye, and it looked like some cheap horror movie, complete with over-sexed coeds in the ominous wilderness. All they needed was some dude in a hockey mask and they’d be set.

Not the Wolf’s MO, though, to pick the planters directly out of the camp, seemed to prefer them alone on the mountainside. Sam sighed and Ruby looked at him. “What’s up?” she asked. “You don’t want to go in?” And she sounded so hopeful.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like her - hell, it had been a long time, after all, and up here it was difficult to imagine the ritualized courting patterns of campus life. Just, do you want to screw? Yeah? Excellent. End of story. The planters hooked up, separated, went back to the cut block and tried to outplant each other the next day. Bragging rights were all about tag counts, not sexual partners.

So it wasn’t that.

They got out of the truck and he put an arm around her shoulders, smiled, decided to go into the mess tent, where there was noise and movement and company. Maybe she’d find someone else for the night, which would be enough to keep her safe, Sam thought regretfully. Maybe it would be him, but he didn’t think so. Still too sore and not right and flapping around like a stupid bird with a broken wing.

Not really okay, him, not when it came to women. Not yet. But better than he’d been, which must qualify as healing, in some therapist’s books. Dean would have smiled - leered, actually - and pushed him to the tents, given him a condom and completely unwanted and unneeded advice, for god’s sake.

Oh, thank god Dean wasn’t here. Bongo drums and dope and guitars, singing and dancing. Hacky sack and Frisbees and granola. Dean would laugh himself sick.

Or not. Sam was thankful Dean was miles away for many reasons, not the least of which was coming back from the latrines, just loping along, distinctive sly movement, graceful and somehow alien. Graying blond hair tied back, same as before down at the protest camp, he had somehow gotten back up here at the same time, or before them. It was a new moon, werewolves would be dormant during this period. It made no sense.

Sam told Ruby he’d meet her inside, pushed her gently to the tent. He didn’t want Lukas anywhere near her, didn’t want her to spot him. Ruby liked Lukas, thought he was handsome, for an old guy. Lukas was heading straight for them, and Sam felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand. He braced his feet apart, had a good half-foot on this guy, wasn’t scared. Was furious, as a matter of fact.

“Evening,” Lukas said, watching Ruby walk away into the tent. He looked like he’d just remembered a good joke, had a half-smile on his face. Sam couldn’t quite tell, not from the far lights, exactly how far the joke went. Not far, he was betting. “Just back from the Granny tree?” Lukas started to edge around Sam, kept himself angled so he was facing Sam, exquisitely balanced, poised.

Sam uncrossed his arms, ready. “Thought I saw you there.” No point in dissembling.

Lukas shrugged, arms bare to the night, muscles like Iggy Pop - old, twisted like the muscles on a burned body, on a mummified animal. Eyes catching light, almost reflective. Not quite human in the half-light, but maybe that was Sam’s imagination. “I like the action sometimes. Gets lonely up in the mountains.”

Sam glanced into the dark skies - no stars, overcast. “New moon,” he murmured, trying to get a reaction.

Lukas smiled deeply, creases forming around his mouth and eyes. “Clean slate.” He followed Sam’s gaze up to the sky. “We’ll have fog tomorrow. Cold.” He paused, and for the first time Sam saw that the hesitation wasn’t deliberate. The hard fingers played with his belt buckle. “That was your brother, down there.”

Said in a voice flat as Kansas. Statement, not question: I know that’s your brother. An undercurrent of…ownership, maybe? Has his claws in and isn’t going to let go, whether he’s my brother or not.

A prickling sensation rippled Sam’s spine, pure fear. On its heels, though, more anger. “Stay away from him,” Sam whispered. He had no threat, no ‘either-or’, because he was planning to kill this thing, and he wasn’t about to lie to Lukas and tell him he wasn’t. And Lukas, he could see, had no intention of staying away from anybody. It was all useless posturing.

Don’t get in his face, Dean had said, had meant it. They’d seen and fought and killed plenty of strange shit, scary motherfuckers that ran howling in the night. What was it about this one? Dean didn’t spook easy, didn’t duck for cover when things went wrong. Dean didn’t get truly angry about much, either, would flare up and burn quick, couldn’t hold a grudge to save his life.

And this Wolf had been plaguing him for years.

Lukas’s bright gaze rested on the tent flap for a moment, eyes darting with the movement of people, dancing, leaving the mess tent for the privacy of the sleeping tents. So much life and warmth, catalogued, observed, calculated and measured.

“You knew him from before,” Sam tried. “Ten years ago, this valley.”

Lukas smiled, as if his attention was on the tent, not on Sam. His voice sounded dreamy, half asleep. Far away. Remembering. “Is that what he told you?” Long slow smile, lingering, and Sam suddenly didn’t want to know, knew that it would hurt, maybe more than he could bear. Lukas didn’t continue, though Sam saw the planter’s breath quicken, the sudden rise and fall of his chest.

The eyes were back on Sam, edged with hatred and cold murder. The words he spoke easily could have been Sam’s. They were the same words Sam was thinking, anyway. “You stay away from me. And from him.” He took three experimental steps away, just out of Sam’s reach, in case he tried anything.

The machete, Sam thought uselessly, is in my tent.

Lukas waved goodnight and continued into the mess tent, full of thirty people or more, leaving Sam standing in the dark, woods moving uneasily around him, wind shifted and moonless. Ruby was in there, but Sam had more pressing business now.

His tent was just as he left it, bedroll neatly set out, bags ready for the next morning’s drive up to the cut block, machete under his pillow. He made sure it was still there, then took out the phone. It was a tricky thing, finding the connection, but luck and a well-situated satellite were in his favor.

Dean answered on the first ring. “Sam.”

“It’s marked you,” Sam replied, not softening it. “It saw us together, knows that we’re brothers.”

A delay. The phone? Or Dean?

“Imagine my surprise.” Dry. Accepting, and Sam couldn’t be, not with this.

“Dean, this isn’t the time to be a fucking superhero.” Tried to think of what he could do, of what was actually possible. “I’m coming up there.”

Pause, a definite delay. “--you’re not. You’ve got a camp full of nubile young tree hippies to protect. That Ruby, for one. Seems kinda sweet on you…”

“No, you don’t get to do this, Dean.” Sharp, words cut with precision. Fuck it, he was mad now. “Lukas said that a new moon was a clean slate. What does that mean?”

Another annoying pause and Sam didn’t know if Dean was deliberately being evasive, or if it was just the phone. “I have no idea.”

“Really?” Still angry. “Clean slate, can start over - start over what? Killing people? Hunting you? What?”

The pause made Sam feel like he was arguing with a brick wall. Maybe he was.

“--said I don’t know, Sam!”

“You don’t get to lie to me and …”

“When did I lie to you?” and now Dean was getting angry; Sam could hear it, despite the thin crackle of static.

“When was the first time you ran into this thing? Really? ‘Cause it wasn’t ’97, Dean.”

The pause actually told Sam a great deal, was more than the unstable connection. Dean could hold silence like a shield, and Sam got it. Because this was the only thing Dean could do, sometimes, when he couldn’t speak, couldn’t tell. Couldn’t name something hurtful, or shameful, or so bad, so lacerating, it would kill him to say it.

Dean’s throat would close up, and he just quieted, ran deep like a WWII submarine, listening for the depth charges, hoping that he didn’t get hit. Like he could will himself invisible if he just held still.

“Dean,” Sam breathed. “Dean?”

He heard Dean clear his throat, signaling his intentions. “Trouble is, if he doesn’t come for me, he’ll keep picking off the planters. So I gotta let him come close enough. I can’t scare him off, Sam, and neither can you. He’s got to come inside my reach.”

“You have to let me help, Dean.” Sam hated that it sounded like he was pleading. But he was; that’s what it was. “If he’s inside your reach, he’s close enough to rip you to shreds.”

“Not if…”

“Not if you take off his head with a chainsaw,” Sam answered back. “I know.”

“Axe might do it.”

“Machete?”

A laugh. “Only in self defense, Sam.” And now Dean was going to extract his own promise. Sam didn’t know if Dean ever saw the irony in conversations like these. “Promise me you won’t go after him on your own, Sam.”

Why bother fighting? It’s not as though either of them believed the other. “I won’t.” And Sam could almost see the grimace Dean must have given.

“I mean it.”

“So do I, Dean.”

Static pouring through a bad connection. Sam didn’t know if he was missing words, but he was missing something and he wanted to get in the truck and drive up there right now. Just across the valley, not so far as the crow flies, but a good forty minutes drive. “I’ll call tomorrow,” Dean said, clearly, the vocal equivalent of his don’t fuck with me face, except under it, as always, worry. King of fucking false bravado.

“Not if I call first,” Sam said shortly, and hung up. Code, they were speaking in goddamn code. Did an honest word ever pass between them? Only if you squinted, he supposed. He looked up, mouth twisting with frustration. Then his eyes locked with Ruby’s, bent down in the flap, half smile on him, eyebrows lifting in question.

“Doorbell’s busted,” she said, not making it a question, even with the brows. “Was that your brother?”

Sam nodded, unable to speak for a moment.

“You sounded mad,” and she came in. The tent was a good two-man pup, but not big; you had to crouch, and so she crawled in on hands and knees and despite his worry, something big and heavy lurched to the side of Sam’s ribcage, a bad dancer out of practice. Might have been his heart. Protect the hippie chicks. Goddamn Dean for being right.

“I am mad,” he replied, making room for her.

“Mind if I stay?” she asked, open. Easy, in the best sense of the word.

The alternative to staying being…? Alone in her tent, or worse, with Lukas, and Sam didn’t think he could send her out into the darkness.

“You should stay,” he said, moving the machete from under the pillow. Her eyes followed that, registered the weapon. Not scared, knowing that there were bears around. He had a large double-sized mat and down-filled bag, because he was a big guy. Dean had groused about the extra expense, maybe not calculating that Sam would be entertaining.

Was that what he was doing? She settled beside him. “You know, I think I’m going to go to the protest camp tomorrow. I’ve had enough of working for the enemy. Astrid said if I wanted to have some effect, then I could.”

He smiled at how her eyes shone. It hurt, he realized, feeling this, noticing things like shining eyes. He’d been avoiding this for a long time, it seemed. A family trait, apparently, avoiding things that hurt too much. “You’re going up a tree?” he asked instead.

She slipped an arm through his, eyes still shining in the glow of the electric lantern, maybe for a different reason. “How about a back rub? I give a really good rub down, took some shiatsu at the health co-op,” cajoling and he wanted to say yes, so paused.

After a moment, he shook his head slowly. He owed her an explanation, though. “I lost someone…a while ago,” he began.

That was as far as he got, though, because Ruby stripped right down and unzipped his sleeping bag so it could cover them both. Took his lantern, switched it off and by the time Sam’s eyes adjusted to the gloom, she had pulled him unresisting to the pad.

He took both her curious hands away from him, but stretched out next to her, pulled her close, because he wanted someone close to him tonight. She stopped moving then, just buried her face into his shoulder and he kissed the top of her head. They fell asleep like that, the both of them, not waking until Pablo banged his wooden spoon against a blackened pan, signaling breakfast.

--

Seattle WA, 1992

Three gunshots in quick succession and that stopped him cold. He turned back. Came quietly to the door, rested his open hand against it, the knife still in the other. It was a thick door, but he had good ears and what happened next was loud.

She only screamed once, and he staggered back from the door like it was electrified. The scream was cut off by the sound of snarls, the thick wet noise of a raw chicken carcass being ripped apart. At that horrific inconceivable sound, all the strength went from Dean’s legs and he sank to his knees in the wet alleyway, then put out his hands, lowered his head into his cradling arms, tried to breathe.

It’s going to move fast; it would come out the front and trap him here if he didn’t leave. This is what he told himself, some reasonable voice that had nothing to do with begging or complaining or screaming in terror.

He rocked to his heels, listening, rooted to the ground. Far away, he heard police sirens, coming closer.

An edged weapon. That’s what’ll stop something like this. Not a bullet, not even if it was silver, because the moon cycle was wrong for a werewolf. He heard a thudding against the door, maybe the large body of the Wolf throwing itself against it, or something worse, and he couldn’t think about that. She didn’t have a chance, even if she’d been holding the gun right, which she hadn’t been. He wiped blood or rain out of his eyes, breath coming too fast. Slow it down, Winchester, or you’re going to pass out.

She had pushed him out the door and he had let her.

He had gone with that thing to his car. Had taken partial payment. Been willing. And now he couldn’t move and the rain came down and it was late March in the Pacific Northwest and wet as an ocean and he was so incredibly cold. Shit, he’d be a sight, and if the cops got a look at him, they’d be all over him and Sam was sick at the garage, clutching a gun he knew how to use, but not knowing what was going on.

It wasn’t as though either thing didn’t matter - they mattered more than anything, really - but Dean was here now, and she had pushed him out the door and he had let her, even though bullets wouldn’t kill the Wolf and she hadn’t been holding the gun right anyway.

So he put the knife in his pocket and edged around the alley’s corner so he got a clear view of the restaurant’s broken front window, and that was when the first cop car showed up. Dean backed away three steps, then four, then turned and started to run. Once started, he didn’t stop, not for a long time.

--

Go to Chapter 7

--

ETA: because Evergreen State College, in its wacky hippiness, doesn't offer an MFA. Mea culpa.

red, supernatural, fanfic

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