SPN fic: Red 7/10

Nov 05, 2006 21:36

Red, Chapter 7/Little Black Raincloud

What is it? Gen, PG-13, mature and disquieting content, bucketsful of swearing, blood, chainsaw accidents, character mutilation, a creepy sexual predator, and obligatory angst (these are the Winchesters we’re talking about). WIP, will be 10 chapters.

Disavowals: Eh, who can say they really own anything these days? But as far as it goes, the words are mine, the canon characters I borrow. The rest I make up.

Beta’d by the best: A thousand kisses -- jmm0001 and Lemmypie.

Read Chapters 1-6

Story Thus Far:
A predatory Wolf has Dean in its sights: in 1992, John Winchester fails to return from a hunt, forcing Dean to a difficult decision about how to make ends meet. Dean narrowly escapes the horrific attention of an obsessed monster, though his supportive waitress friend does not. Five years later, the family is again in difficult financial circumstances and Dean takes a job in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, where he comes face-to-face with the same Wolf. Injured in a logging accident, Dean is taken home by the camp cook, Lori. A decade later, Dean realizes that his nemesis is again hunting the woods of the Olympic Peninsula. He and an unsuspecting Sam immerse themselves in the world of loggers, treeplanters, and environmental protestors; Dean is using himself as bait, and Sam is gently protecting Ruby, a fellow treeplanter. An elderly protestor chains herself to a tree; when Sam and Dean investigate, Dean is spotted by Lukas, the present-day incarnation of the Wolf. Dean is resolved in his intention to become bait; Sam is infuriated by his brother’s refusal to tell him the whole truth of his past encounters with the Wolf.


Tacoma WA, 1997

Damn, it’s sunny.

Squinted, headache damn near unbearable, sun actually warm. Hot, even. Then Dean registered that the sheets smelled peculiar, not of pinesap and exhaust and sweat, but of…goddamn…feral pubescent boy. He raised his head a little, wrinkling his nose, but it hurt, so he put his head back down onto the pillow.

Something was going on outside the door. He almost felt it before he heard it; it made his shoulders hunch up with something very similar to fear or anxiety. Sam’s voice, hissing, trying to keep it down.

His father’s rumble, louder, not trying to keep it down.

“Dad,” the hiss came again, a warning and a plea.

A-rumble-rumble. Funny, how Sam’s hiss was more intelligible than Dad’s angry mutters.

“No,” Sam said, voice rising. Getting mad. Oh man, here we go. “No, you’re not.” And a soft thud on the door: Sam leaning against it. Blocking it.

More rumble-rumble.

“I didn’t. You needed those meds. Doctor said.” A pause, and Dean could almost feel Sam’s weight against the door. “I wouldn’t have knocked you out on purpose, it was a prescription, Dad.” Like John Winchester didn’t know what that word meant.

Oh, that attitude will get you far, Sammy.

“Step away, Sam.” That good and clear. “He’s slept long enough.”

Scraping noise, Sam moving or being moved, Dean didn’t know. He tried to get up, but his right arm was in a cast and it caught his attention, mostly because it had flowers drawn all over it in colored marker. What the hell? Flowers, hearts - a unicorn, for fuck’s sake - and in curlicues, in Sam’s careful lettering, I luv u and Metallica sucks, and a big question mark with the word: Score! Followed by an arrow running from his thumb to the outside of his forearm, where a different hand, in ballpoint pen, had written: Call me - Lori, and a number.

His head felt like heated wires held it together - badly - and his mouth tasted of wet newspaper and bile. From the tight hard knot on his temple, he had a few stitches sewing him a new scar. Daylight, Tacoma, apartment 3B. City, no Wolf.

A Tacoma hospital, slumping in the chairs, Lori’s small hard hand rubbing a groove in his back like an old record, puking in a hospital bucket. Drugs. Setting the arm. Didn’t remember much else. Didn’t remember getting home, saying hello or goodbye.

Second try, sat up in the bed, still in jeans and a t-shirt; someone had taken off his boots. Sam. The doorknob rattled and something harder than cloth or ass hit the door, elbow maybe. It was going to get physical; he should stop it.

Sam’s voice, aggrieved. “Dad, please. He’s sleeping. C’mon.”

“Son,” and now John was not muttering. “He’s been sleeping for eighteen hours. I should know, I was here when he came in, not you. Stinking of booze, held up by a little blonde, probably been in a barfight for all we know. Took off when I was down for the count, leaving us notes while he played paintball, Sam. You can’t just feed me drugs until I calm down.”

A superhuman effort spurred by that tone in his dad’s voice, and Dean was on his feet, straightening. The door opened a crack and the first thing he saw was Sam, crooked grin, skinnier than a greyhound on methamphetamines. Sam’s eyes darted to the cast, proud of his handiwork. Happy to be blocking dad, even if it was only for a second or two.

Their eyes locked and Dean swallowed, mouthed the word, thanks, meant to say it out loud, but his mouth was suddenly too dry because goddamn it, John Winchester was pushing Sam out of the way, balanced on crutches like they were a new and untested kind of weapon, and he wasn’t pleased.

“Dad,” trying for something that felt like normal, but it just wasn’t coming. “How’s the…”

But he didn’t get a chance to ask, because his father had moved past his own injuries, had maybe forgotten them, except as an inconvenience. John stood tall, glaring at his son, and they were of a height, but Dean was leaner, hadn’t grown into the good bones John had given him.

I was working, Dad. I quit school. I was trying to help…Jesus, Dad, there’s something bad on that mountain and it scares the shit out of me. I need to go back up there and -

“Dean, Sam, pack your things.” The weight of those dark eyes said it all: we’re pulling up stakes and it’s because of you, Dean.

“But, Dad!” Sam came into the room, all elbows and scruffy hair and voice that jiggled worse than Daytona at Spring Break. “Dad, I’ve still got a week to go, and exams and…”

“You heard me,” John warned, very low, but not looking at Sam, because Sam didn’t matter, wasn’t part of this. It was between the two of them. Sam sighed like a soap diva, in the way only an ill-done-by thirteen year old can. He was probably rolling his eyes too, but Dean wasn’t going to chance a look, because he needed to keep an eye on John.

John wasn’t in the habit of giving reasons, but that didn’t mean his eldest didn’t understand them: the risk of exposure, this long in one place, two Winchester visits to the hospital in one month. Social services had been called before for less. And maybe, I wear the pants, this is my house. Excepting, of course, that they had no house anymore, no home, and absence - loss - blew through Dean like a passing bullet.

“You’ll have to drive,” John continued, didn’t make it a request, or an order, even. Just a statement of fact, obvious as Sam’ll be tall or ectoplasm is bad. Leg still in a cast, John looked worse than Dean, possibly felt worse, but Dean would never know it, not in a million years. “Unless a paintball’s scrambled your wits.”

One word now and Dean could make John go nuclear. Sam would do it; Sam was never afraid, never looked past the immediate fight.

Instead, Dean nodded, didn’t say anything, mostly because there wasn’t anything to say. Except for what he wasn’t going to say. So he nodded again, no argument, would shoulder whatever guilt or responsibility John had on offer.

And that was that.

Sam did most of the heavy lifting; he had to. Though Dean thought several times that he might pass out from the headache, they were experienced at this, knew how to pack up their meager things in hardly any time at all, their dad going through a rote checklist of phone calls so that no one got concerned: school, outpatient services, one to Pastor Jim, another to some other location that had to do with a hunt, Dean suspected.

As angry as he was with the cut and run, Sam kept an eye on Dean, wordlessly passing him a nearly-empty bottle of their dad’s painkillers when he found Dean leaning against the Impala’s top with his forehead pressed against his broken arm.

John kept his own silence and his two sons moved through it like a bad winter until they were on the I-5, heading south, Dean driving in the watery sunlight, John stretched out on the backseat commanding silence like an invading general directed his troops. Slumped disconsolately in the passenger side, window cracked open a little, drawing patterns on the glass that no one else could see, Sam was tending his own grievance as though it would grow flowers if he treated it right. A little black raincloud hovered over his head, ready to water the wrong until it blossomed in its own season.

From time to time, Dean glanced across, hoping to catch Sam’s eye, hoping that he’d understand I’m sorry. But Sam didn’t look up, not once.


Quasilit Valley WA, present day

Ruby smiled all slow at him, waking up to the banging of Pablo’s pans and Sam’s ropy warm arms. Dark eyes and her red hair loose across his chest. Nice, he decided. He couldn’t really take ‘nice’ as a concept much further, because she sat up and he’d sortof forgotten that she’d not been wearing much - hell, anything - when they’d fallen asleep and this was more than nice, was something else altogether and he didn’t mind for a minute that she caught him looking.

This. This he might be able to do, one day. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon, sooner than he’d have expected or wished for. He had never imagined anything more than Jess, anything after Jess, and now maybe he could.

The voice in his head was always Dean’s. Ooh, well that was great, way to dampen the mood, Sammy.

He slid out from under the spread sleeping bag, the tent stuffy with their sleep breathing, pulled on a hoodie, tried not to watch her dress, but did anyway and she knew it.

At least he wouldn’t have to worry about Ruby on the cut block today. They emerged from the tent together, and she immediately declared that she was going to chain herself to a tree. Some of the other planters - Tommy, especially - mocked her for giving up on decent wages, but most of the others wished her well. She made Sam promise to come down when he was finished for the day, to come see her.

Sam wondered what kind of protection she’d get at the protest camp. He was planning on talking to Astrid, but didn’t know how he was going to stress protective measures without provoking a lecture on the patriarchal hegemonic practice endemic to all capitalist post-colonial social constructs. Oh, yeah, this was going to go just fine.

She didn’t even wait for breakfast, just kissed him hard and fast and caught the company super as he was heading out, begged a ride down. Sam was left standing, dazed, the only word for it, watching the truck’s taillights disappear in the morning mist. He huddled down further into his hoodie, thought about what gear he’d need to bring out with him this morning.

Only one thing he truly needed, though: the machete.

Breakfast, and Lukas kept his distance across the tent, appearing once everyone was settled down, sitting with the other highballers, joking with them about who was having the better week, what the tag counts were, how many times they’d had to bag up in a shift. Sam talked to the crew chief and managed to get himself on Lukas’s crew for the day, so they’d be working the same section.

He tried to get in the same truck as Lukas, the one driving them up to the block, but Tommy leaned out the canvas-covered back, said they were full. Sam swung into the next available truck, fretting. It was a hairy half hour drive, and the rain had started already, fine and inseparable from the mist.

Cold now, and being wet would make it colder, but as Sam geared up, wrapped the fingers of his left hand with duct tape and pulled on bike courier gloves - a gift from Ruby - he knew he’d be warm enough if he went fast enough. It wasn’t about the trees, though. Screw the trees. With Ruby off the block, and Lukas warning Sam away from him - from Dean, for fuck’s sake - Sam focused. He had a job to do and needed to get to it first, before Dean had a chance to.

He jumped out the back before the truck had even come to a full stop, shouldered some others out of the way at the cache, grabbing the bundles of seedlings - fir, spruce, pine today - and bagged up. It was instinct now, every movement deliberate, fast, mind already on the next thing, the innate pride of being efficient beyond all reason.

There - Lukas, already bagged up, no raingear, just the Stanfields and the cut-off jeans, not even calk boots, because he’d move faster without them, though he’d risk slipping on rain-slicked moss, would be more prone to injury from screefing. Only the very professional went without, and Lukas was one of the elite. Fingerless leather gloves, duct tape, a favorite worn planting shovel. A heavy load of trees, roughly double what Sam had carried out his first day on the cut block.

And he was off. Sam followed, the day intermittently bright in the way it could be when the air held more water than oxygen, light refracting like crazy when the sun broke free. Weirdly hot when the sun actually shone. Flies a torment.

Like the other planters, Sam had left his daypack at the cache, but his planting bags were deep enough to conceal the machete between the baby spruce and fir. So, armed, and with a very good chance to get Lukas alone, if only he could keep up with him to the back end, where the three-year old clear cut met second growth, maybe thirty years old. Far enough away from anyone else that whatever needed to happen could happen.

There was no way Sam could go fast enough.

All morning, losing sight of Lukas in the fog and out to the back end, doubling back, bagging up again - where the hell was he? Sam bagged a full load, calculated by linear foot how many he’d need to the back end and the return. Two trips, almost lunch; he was starving.

Lunch. And there was Lukas, grinning at Sam across the cache, both drenched in sweat and rain, Sam’s muscles singing with effort and stress. Tommy and Theresa and Lorenzo comparing tag counts, chain-smoking, antsy to get back out into the slash so they could do it all over again.

Sam followed Lukas down the barely-there trail to their section, determined not to lose him this time.

He’d planted beside Tommy and Theresa, and been humbled by their speed. But this? This was insane. Lukas didn’t stop for anything, was in constant motion, head bobbing like a robin listening for worms as he screefed with both foot and shovel, digging at the same time, hand a mere blur as he plugged the tree. Fast and even and just so damn precise - no slutting the density with an overfill, no seedling lamely hanging out, dying in the sun and the rain. Technique, that’s what it was all about and Lukas had his down pat.

Even so, Sam sensed that Lukas wasn’t going as fast as he could. Sam worked his way down his line, watching Lukas even as the sun departed behind a cloudbank and the air cooled. He couldn’t see the valley floor; it was enveloped in thick fog, and it was rising, he could actually see it moving.

Glancing back from the giddy angle, he froze, surprised. Lukas had stopped, maybe fifty feet away, hard to tell now where the back end was, because the clouds had wisped into the trees like heavy snow, were obliterating Sam’s sense of elevation and distance.

Lukas waited for Sam to come near. Steady, leaning on his shovel, one hand on his belt. As Sam walked carefully through the jagged angled slash, he dropped his right hand into his bag, felt for the handle of the machete.

Found it.

The eyes were cold and glittering as a glacier-fed stream, but things like that didn’t deter Sam, not when the threat was so real and so powerful. He slowed his pace as he came nearer to Lukas, stopped when he knew his reach and the machete combined could take Lukas’s head off. He wondered how hard he’d have to strike, had never decapitated anyone before.

Coldly wondered why he wasn’t bothered by needing to do these sorts of calculations.

“Well, here I am,” Lukas said. “You’ve been going fast for a newbie. Gotta goal?”

Yeah, I got a goal.

Lukas’s eyes glanced down at Sam’s right hand, and he looked up smiling razors, grimaced in a way perhaps meant to be comical. “A goal-oriented boy. Gotta like that in a young person.”

“Why him?” Sam asked, hadn’t meant to. But he hated secrets, hated that Dean had his neat trick of appearing open while constantly holding back, didn’t let Sam in, provided no jimmie for his many locks.

Lukas shook his head. “I don’t owe you an explanation.” Then got a look on him that Sam understood, had time to brace himself for. The look that said, I’m trying to figure out what I can say that will hurt you most. “Just got under my skin. A beautiful boy. The smell of him.” A pause and Sam watched as Lukas dragged his tongue across his lips, pale. “How he sounds. How he --”

“Shut up,” Sam choked. He’d asked. He had. He slowly drew the machete out, wondered if he’d asked because he’d known the answer already and needed to be this angry to hit hard enough.

The blue eyes were the same, but other things were changing. Lukas took a step back, but it was wrong, the way his knee moved was wrong - it hyper-extended, literally, and Sam halted, machete in hand. Lukas cocked his head to one side, and Sam saw that his neck was longer than it had been seconds before. Realized that he was about three steps too far from where he needed to be.

“You can put that away. I’m not coming for you.” Lukas said, but it sounded as though his tongue was too big for his mouth, or that it’d been clipped like they did to mynah birds to make them talk. “That little redhead though. She likes me just fine. Couldn’t do much with her, though, could you?” At Sam’s expression, Lukas laughed, dirty and foul, slurry from a pig farm. “Yeah, I was listening, looked in on you. Cute.”

Sam raised the machete, was not quite ready to go, was surprised more than angry at the moment, and that wasn’t good. “You sick sonofa-“

Lukas was taller now, and stepped quickly to one side, a disconcerting, sickening motion not human at all. The laugh, cut-tongue garbled. “I’ll take them both if you’re not quick.”

And then moved.

Low to the ground, Lukas knocked Sam from his feet. Sam’s grip was so tight on the machete - I can’t drop it, I can’t let go - that he came down hard as a cut tree, only breaking his fall with his hip, which rang like a struck bell.

Rush of body weight on him, fleeting, too swift to get a grip, a smell, even a look, and it was gone. Sam sprang to his feet, knew he was fast, knew he would not be fast enough. He stood in the foggy cut block, rain coming down harder now, seedlings spilled everywhere.


Lukas’s bag and shovel were still on the ground. Sam turned in a slow circle, holding the machete up, ready, knowing in his heart he didn’t have to be, that there was no reason to be ready. Lukas was gone.

The fog sucked in sound, the wet air thickened and it poured. Sam stood, light raingear no match for this. The sound of it was incredible, first the smack of drops against the slash, building to a roar of percussion, so quick it became a wash of sound, then the gurgle of water running down the mountain, merging within a few minutes to the rush of a waterfall.

Sam stood until a figure in yellow appeared, waved him over. Rain hard enough to pull them from the block, no more use planting this afternoon, might as well call it a day. The crew chief wondered only half-heartedly where Lukas was, because it was just like Lukas to drop off his tags at the cache and take off into the mountains. They might not see him again for days; lucky that asshole was so good, otherwise he’d be fired.

Sam remained silent, ignored the offer of hot coffee from a thermos, unbound his fingers in the back of the truck while Tommy and the others moaned about the shortened day, brightening somewhat as they hit camp, the prospect of beer and a joint enough to elevate the mood.

Again, Sam was the first one out, practically ran to his tent, slid in like it was home plate, reaching for the phone. He played with it, fiddling with the signal, but heard only static. Five minutes of this, then ten, and he threw the phone down on the padding. He ran his fingers through his wet hair. The rain was now a hush of white noise over the tarps, soothing.

Sam wasn’t soothed, not at all. His heart hammered big and he wondered if the crew chief would lend him a truck or if he’d have to steal one. He stopped long enough to change his boots and socks, throw on a set of clothes that wasn’t soaking wet, then found the chief, got a set of keys. Was chatty, how he got when he was worried, explaining that he was going to check on Ruby, make sure she was okay, then continue on to see his brother, might not be back for a while.

The crew chief told him to grab some food, both for himself and for Ruby, say hi to her from them. If she changes her mind…let it go with a shrug that Sam didn’t pay any attention to.

He kept the machete on the seat beside him.


Ten miles north of the Washington-Oregon border, 1997

Dean reckoned they’d stop eventually, and he was right: at the appearance of a roadside diner so tired it couldn’t even spell ‘home-made’ right on its sign, John grunted something about a cup of coffee and Dean took that as instruction to pull over.

Sam jumped out first, didn’t wait for the Impala to roll to a complete stop, seemed entirely too pleased to put distance between them, even if it was for the two minutes it would take for John to extricate himself from the backseat. Dean was watchful, stayed near enough to lend his dad a hand - not that it would be asked for, of course, just expected - and to pass him his crutches once he was out. He made some lame excuse about wanting to check the oil, and watched his dad thump purposefully into the diner, strong hands gripping the crutches, leg swinging like it was going to kick something into submission. John Winchester made being a cripple look like winning a prizefight.

Probably not a good idea to leave Sam and their father alone for any length of time.

Thought about that with a stupid thudding heart, because isn’t that exactly what he’d just done? Isn’t that exactly why his dad had said maybe three words to him in the last day, two of them being ‘coffee’?

They sat at a table, general, rookie and grunt, Sam staring out the window the exact same way he had in the car, John scanning the menu like it revealed the enemy’s battle plans. Wave after wave of anger came from both of them, so strong Dean was surprised they were all just sitting. A normal family. If you didn’t count the broken bones and bruises.

He sighed and John looked quickly at him. Dean wouldn’t meet his eyes, swallowed hesitantly. The smell of bleach and the clatter of cutlery thrown into the plastic trays, the way the waitress called ‘order in’ and ripped the paper from the pad, all of it was too much. A diner, one of a million they’d eaten at over the years, and he was suddenly thinking of broken glass, and the smell of grease when you were so hungry you thought you’d pass out, and the thud of a body against a closed door.

Finally, he couldn’t stand it anymore, stood without a word, got the hell out of there.

The pay phone was down a corridor in the back, near the toilets. Dean was courting disaster if Dad found him here, receiver in hand, trying to turn his arm to an angle that didn’t hurt so he could read the number. Strange area code, maybe a cell. He ducked his head into the corridor, a doorway into the restaurant with a view assuring him that John and Sam were seated, were still there. Weren’t openly brawling in the aisles.

“Hey,” the voice unknown.

Dean cleared his throat, kept it quiet. “Lori?”

A moment, clatter of noise, didn’t quite know what he was hearing, then identified it as ‘kitchen’ and a voice, this one familiar and relief flooded through him, glass of water on a hot day great. “Yeah?”

Dean was so overwhelmed for a moment that he couldn’t say anything, just leaned against the wall, out-of-date posters for rodeos and fishing derbies papering the hallway, and closed his eyes.

“Hello?” she repeated. “Hello?”

“Hi,” he said finally. Nothing more.

“Dean?” she said, and he felt foolish suddenly. Not for long, though. She had that way of not letting you stay there for long, not unless you deserved it. “I am so glad to hear your voice. Where are you?”

He told her and then he heard the pleased assurance in her voice. Stay away. Go with your family, drive the fuck away from here and don’t come back. She had pushed him out the door and he had let her. She talked on, soothing his silence with words.

“Well, Uncle G is fit to be tied. The protestors have managed to get a court injunction for the Valley. Stopped all logging for a week at least. He found Ludovic and fired his ass, shoulda known about the birds, I guess. Maybe.”

Maybe. Not much got past Uncle G, especially if Lori had warned him about Ludovic. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “Where are you?”

“With Bob, here at his resort. Man, they need someone to run the kitchen. But if they open up the camp again, I’ve signed on with Uncle G for the season. We’ll see how it goes.”

He swallowed, looked through the doorway, across the counter to the restaurant, where he could see the back of his dad’s head, Sam across the table from him, leaning into his hands now, studying the tabletop, brows knitted together. Both so angry.

“I should go.” And abruptly hung up, not knowing how to say what he wanted to.


Quasilit Valley WA, present day

She was dead before he had the cast off, Dean thought, and pushed away the plate of eggs and beans, stomach churning.

The mess tent was virtually the same: white canvas, beat up mismatched fridges and tables that wobbled on the plywood foundation. He wrapped both hands around his coffee mug, hoping for warmth. He hadn’t slept well the night before and felt shaky, like he needed both sleep and coffee; the caffeine and the weariness would just have to fight it out. He hoped the caffeine would win.

He hadn’t even seen Ludovic or Lukas or whatever the fuck he was calling himself nowadays, and this is what he got. Sam. Good lord, Sam. Better stay the fuck away from the guy. That shouldn’t be a problem: Dean had given the fucker a good look last night, made sure he kept in clear sight. He’d come. His gut twisted around what he’d eaten and he grimaced.

Across the table, Brent grinned wide, teeth broken in a lacrosse game last year, he said, and never fixed. “Hey, the beans are great! What are you bitchin’ about?”

Beside him, Goodenuff Dave pulled Dean’s plate to him, started cleaning it up. Around the mouthful of beans, Goodenuff said, “Weather report says fog’s moving in, we’ll have work around it. If it starts raining hard we might have to wait it out.”

He looked at the men sitting at the table. Dean knew that Dave had a good sense of how to run things, trusted him. Dave was sizing up his crew in light of bad weather, figuring out who would keep their head when visibility dropped to zero and you were bringing down trees without being able to see their tops.

Goodenuff paired Dean with Willy, and Dean didn’t really like that, because Willy was a lazy bastard with old-school notions about hazard and risk, a cowboy. Dave probably knows that it’ll make me more careful, Dean thought, getting to his feet and nodding to the cook, who grinned through his beard.

He stood a moment, remembering. A cleared throat at his shoulder and he turned to see Dave looking at him slantwise, his big cheery face somber. “Not as good as Lori’s beans,” he said softly.

“Nope,” Dean agreed.

“Knocked the heart clean out of Uncle G, what happened,” Dave continued, turning his ear protectors over in his blunt hands. “Sold me the company, bought a fishing guide outfit on the coast.”

Dean didn’t want to talk about it, suddenly, didn’t want to remember, and so he turned away, walked out the tent flap and into a fog so thick he wondered if they’d even be able to find the block, let alone the trees.

It was terrifying work. Dean listened for Willy’s saw, and twice he had to go find him in the slash, twice Willy was just having a smoke and grinned ear to ear, asked Dean if he was bearhunting. Supposed to call out if you’re taking a break, Dean thought, marching back to his section, double-stamping each step to make sure he didn’t slip on the mold-slicked logs. Supposed to check on you if I don’t hear your saw, asshole.

Still, as the day progressed into afternoon and the rain started, Dean was glad of Willy’s slackness when it came to safety spot checks. The woods were dark, rain and fog blurring edges to gradations of gray and charcoal and rust and fawn. The movement of the fog made him jump and he was stopping his saw to listen far more often than usual. And it wasn’t as though he could be watchful all the time, either, because a tree falling at a bad angle would kill you quicker than any fucking supernatural wolf.

What had Sam called it? Big Bad Wolf. Right. Just some weird Balkan take on the usual run-of-the-mill werewolf, one with a fetish for…

Shut himself up, concentrated on the tree he was bringing down.

Once done, he took a break, blew the short signals on his whistle which Willy probably didn’t hear or wasn’t listening for. Great. He sat down on the stump, brought out his coffee thermos. He was sweating, felt it run down between his shoulder blades and he wiggled his shoulders slightly to reduce the tickle.

The rain started just then and he looked up and swore. Sometimes, rain was gentle, almost like mist, like ocean spray. Other times it was like a crappy motel showerhead, a half-hearted drizzle. This was a five-star luxury hotel rain, water pressure like a fire hose, belting down with enough force that Dean got up and sought shelter.

Under the lower branches of a young cedar, Dean finished his coffee, heard only the drum of rain, surveyed his next tree. If he felled it to the west, which was the way it wanted to go anyway, they’d need to bring the hauler up that incline, which was a good open area only populated by ten-foot green saplings. Easy, he’d sweep out the saplings, make room for the hauler, fell the tree and they’d be set. Enough time to do that before Dave called it quits, because this damned weather wasn’t going to let up anytime soon.

He pulled on helmet and goggles, the ear protectors, scanned the fog, couldn’t see anything worth worrying about. Pulled hard on the Stihl, and it jumped to life, as powerful as the Impala after a tune-up. Pressed the safety catch and engaged the chain. With a machine like this, cutting the saplings was like slicing through butter with a hot knife. Essentially a supercharged weedwacker, the chainsaw mowed the saplings down about a foot off the ground, and they stood up at an angle: pig’s ears, the loggers called them.

Methodically, he took out a wide swathe of them, then throttled down, disengaged the chain, surveyed his direction, looked to his tree.

It had disappeared.

While he’d been concentrating on the immediate job of taking out the saplings, the fog had crept in around him and he could barely see twenty feet, let alone across the clearing to his tree. The rain drummed down in spite of the fog. Christ, what weather, he thought, pushing back his helmet and resting the ear protectors on his shoulders while the engine idled.

The Wolf was loud enough to hear above the low chug of the resting engine.

A rasping pant, a huge animal with a mutilated tongue, moving in the fog. Dean stood very still, not thinking of anything, only the sound of it and the direction and the likely range. Remember how fast it is. He had a saw in his hands, an edged weapon, technically, very, very tiny edges that could move like lightning.

But he had to let it come inside his reach.

There was an old stump to his left, one cut maybe ten years prior, overgrown with mosses and dark with mold. An old cedar, the center of which was brick red, would crumble in your hands like sand. If he got on top of that, he’d have the high ground, could sweep down on this thing at an angle, just like he had the saplings, because the Wolf might be big as a grizzly. Hard to say what size it would be this time, but he’d rather be on top of it than underneath.

Far in the distance, he could hear Willy’s saw. Stupid dumbfuck wouldn’t notice any of this. Just as well, because Dean was fixing on making some noise. No way it gets away this time, he thought. No way.

The idling saw in his hands, seventeen pounds of sudden death, Dean took the steps required to jump up onto the stump. Higher than he’d first thought. Good. Fog still obliterating anything more than twenty feet away, a rustle now in the undergrowth, not making itself quiet, too big to be quiet. Too fucking sure of itself to be quiet.

Dean balanced there for only a moment, his weight and the weight of the saw, and the sudden unanticipated swing of his heavy belt throwing him off just enough. He lifted one foot to compensate, immediately set it back down again as all this weight continued its shift to the side - belt, saw - and didn’t screef his spot, no time to, and his foot slipped.

He’d heard the guys talking about what it was like to have a sudden accident on the job. A bump, that’s how they described it. A bump and you looked down and you were missing a leg. A bump, the chainsaw kicks back and there goes your hand. A bump, the chain breaks on the drag, whips round, and severs your arm.

This wasn’t like that, not at all.

Overbalanced, Dean toppled backwards off the stump, landed flat on his back, the saw tumbling to the side, taking one quick bounce into the slash. Dean didn’t bounce, not even once.

This was no bump; this was the most amazing, appalling pain he’d ever felt in his life, which was saying something. This was such a complete, encompassing shock that he lay there for a moment, unable to breathe, unable to release anything, not a whimper or a scream. The sky was red and the blood pounded in his head and he was actually afraid to look. He wanted to curl up in a ball, but his whole body was rigid.

The red sky brightened to pearl above him, cleared with his sudden intake of breath. He let out a thin hiss of air as he raised his head to look at what he’d done to himself.

Oh god, and felt the nausea creep up his throat. Oh, god.

There, emerging from his right side in the wide soft space between the last rib and hipbone, dark with his blood, was one of the pig’s ears. Sharper than a vampire’s stake, he had fallen at such an angle that it had pierced him from behind and came straight through skin and clothing and godaloneknew what else to point up at the sky like an angry preacher showing him God.


His head dropped back to the ground, the rain splattering his face, cold. Trying not to jar anything, he swallowed, grit his teeth and turned his head to the side. He couldn’t even see his saw.

And what are you going to do with the goddamn saw, Winchester? Cut yourself out from this? Wander around with a stake through your side like a fucking Popsicle?

He started laughing at that, stopped himself quickly because it hurt too much and it was too close to losing it completely. Took measured shallow breaths, concentrating on what he knew. Whistle. He should get his whistle. It was in the pouch on his utility belt, right hand side - but his belt had twisted when he’d fallen, and the pouch was now in the small of his back. Maybe I can get my hand back there.

Tried it and blacked out.

Didn’t take long to come to. At least he didn’t think it was long; no way to tell, really. It was the voice that yanked him back, brought him round with a thundering sense of danger more abruptly and suddenly than smelling salts under his nose.

“Hi there, kid,” the Wolf said, crouching next to him, hands dangling loosely over bent knees, a knowing smile playing on his lips, eyes traveling the length of Dean’s literally pinned body, finally resting on his face. Close enough to touch. “Thought I’d find you up here.”

A pause and Dean could see that the Wolf was excited, though it appeared very still and contained, a shaken bottle of champagne ready for the New Year countdown to midnight.

My, what big fucking teeth you have, Dean thought, dancing just on the edge of hysteria.

The Wolf shifted slightly, reached out a trembling taloned hand, then withdrew suddenly, a child overwhelmed by the amount of presents under the tree.

“Talk to me,” the Wolf said.


Seattle WA, 1992

Third time lucky.

The first phone had no receiver, the next no connection. Third one, Dean got a dial tone, which qualified as luck tonight. No money of course, not even a quarter, covered in blood, rain coming down in earnest now. He glanced around. This was the shittiest part of a shitty neighborhood, several blocks from the diner, closer to the tracks, maybe a ten minute run from Sam if he went flat out, fifteen to the old motel in the opposite direction.

Certain that the phone worked, Dean left it off the hook, came out of the booth, found a fist-sized rock in the adjacent parking lot. Wound up and let fly and it shattered the streetlight with a satisfying pop. He stood breathing hard for a full minute, allowing his eyes to become accustomed to the sudden darkness. The parking lot was back from the road, and the phone booth further still, traffic at a minimum, the occasional wet swoosh of rubber and rain. He didn’t want anything sneaking up on him.

He jammed his hands in the pockets of his jeans, worried what was there like lucky charms, the knife, the knife thank god, a piece of paper. Pulled both out as he went back into the booth, opened the knife just in case.

He took a deep breath and dialed operator, whispered the numbers quickly, over and over like a mantra, nothing more than that, not his name, no pleasantries.

Slid down the side of the booth when his legs decided that they’d had enough. He didn’t much care how many drunks had used this booth as a toilet, or how recently, he just collapsed on the cement, so cold now nothing much mattered. The knife in one hand, the thick paper in the other. He narrowed his eyes in the half-light of far neon, wondering what the paper was, what kind of receipt or note.

Half a hundred dollar bill.

Over the tinny reception, he heard the connecting line ringing several times before a young female voice picked up - United Mission Helpline -- and he heard the operator say I have a collect call from Seattle, Washington. Will you accept the charges?

The voice repeated - Seattle? like she’d never heard of it before, like it was the name of a city in Uzbekistan or Mongolia. There was a lengthy pause, the word Seattle passed around the helpline’s basement room like a bowl of candies, then the voice he’d been waiting for.

“Yes! Yes, I’ll accept the charges,” the voice said, slightly breathless, but deep and even, like the snow in that Christmas carol.

Dean swallowed again, looked at his bloody hand, folded the ripped bill over and over. Only dark stains on his fingers and a line running down the back of his hand to his wrist, drying now, but he rubbed his fingers against his jeans, holes in both knees, drew them up to his chest. Christ, he was cold.

“Dean? Dean, is that you?” Not so much demanding as relieved, and Dean’s breath came out shaky as all hell. He bit the inside of his mouth, worried the spot where he’d already chewed it bloody. Earlier that night. Don’t think about that. Banged his head back against the thick plexi of the booth, once, hard enough to hurt. There, that steadied him a little. Still couldn’t say anything, wasn’t even sure he wanted to. Wasn’t this enough? That he was here, had asked the operator to dial?

“It’s okay, Dean. Oh, thank God. We had no idea where you were. Hold on, I have your dad on another line--

He couldn’t help it then. He couldn’t. He tried to hold it in, tried to hang on to it, because it had kept him going for twenty-five days, but his resolve suddenly turned to butter in his hands, slippery and warm. He banged his head against the plexi again, just to stop the huge thing in his chest from getting out.

He put away the knife, afraid he’d use it. Instead, he slowly took a corner from the bill, ripped it off, let the wind and rain take it away.

“Dean, listen to me,” and Pastor Jim’s soft voice filled the line again, and the minister had never sounded so calm, “Your dad’s frantic. He’s been in an Oregon hospital for a couple of weeks, in a coma, no I.D. That nest he went after - well, they had him for awhile, but he’s fine now-“

Dean ripped another piece off the bill, then another until it was scattered in tiny pieces at the bottom of the fetid phone booth. The only thing he could hear was distant traffic, his own breathing, the hollow noise of a church basement a thousand miles away. His breathing was wonky, so he tried to make it even. Jesus, he was going to scare the pastor. He had scared him. Them. Just breathing. Concentrating on that. Dad was alive. That would be enough.

“I have him on the other line; he’s about an hour out of Seattle, been driving all day. Phoned the schools, the motel, you guys haven’t been there for awhile, have you?” Nothing of accusation in it, but it still stabbed through Dean like a knife.

Oh god, what have I done?

Pastor Jim was still there, quietly waiting him out. “Dean, I’m going to put the phone down for second. I need to tell your dad that I’ve got you. That you’re safe.” A pause, and Dean knew that the pastor was gathering together his words, assembling them like a tricky model airplane. “Is Sammy okay? Please-”

And that’s what did it.

Fighting though a strangling tightness in his throat so hot it burned, the thin keening noise hardly seemed like something so mundane as crying. It was the sound some voiceless creature made as it was throttled to death.

Distantly, he could hear the pastor talking to someone else. Dad. Oh god, and he drew a long breath meant to steady, but he couldn’t control it anymore, not at all.

Finally, he choked out where he was, the cross-streets, that was all. He could voice that much for Sammy, it was necessary. But that was all he was going to say on the subject of these twenty-five days, ever.


Go to Chapter 8

a/n: Okay, gotta say it - the lovely betas also write their own fic, you know. And both of them have been so incredibly incredible with giving me their ideas and their words and, dammit, their hearts. I hope both of them know this…and put the same energy and enthusiasm back into their own work. Lemmypie has loaned me big chunks of one of her fics for Red, all about when and where and why Dean would keep a particular sort of silence. Can’t steal it anymore, sweetie…you need to go write it, okay? And JM? Gypsies. Can’t go wrong.

red, supernatural, fanfic

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