Title: Wearing and Tearing
Characters: Dean, John
Rating: PG-13 for language and mature themes
Spoilers: None. Pre-series
Summary: With Sam at school, John and Dean must find a way to connect and survive. When John is hurt on a hunt, Dean is forced to pick up the pieces. However, when ghosts threaten to take Dean down, it's up to his father to keep him from fading.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Story title from Led Zeppelin song of the same name.
She sniffed and nodded, heading to the doorway. She paused just outside the bar, but spotted the Impala. Dean grinned at her memory and followed her, unlocking her door before climbing behind the wheel.
With a tight voice she told him which way to go and he pulled out of the parking lot, working to control his breathing. He felt himself twisting up inside, and couldn’t separate the rush of an almost-fight from the desire of an almost-lay.
“I thought you had a job,” she said softly.
“I did,” Dean replied, shifting uncomfortably in the seat. “It, uh… kinda went south.”
“That why you’re still here?”
Dean nodded. “Yeah. My Dad got busted up pretty bad.” He worked his lips over his teeth, trying to figure out what to say next.
“You’re okay, though?”
Dean tossed her a sideways grin. “I’m always okay,” he replied.
“Your face is bruised,” Marissa stated flatly.
“Well, I might’ve gotten banged up a bit,” Dean allowed.
She turned slightly, drawing one knee up onto the seat so that she faced him. “You didn’t even remember my name, did you?”
“Sure I did.” Dean protested a little too quickly. “It’s Marissa.”
“Uh-huh,” she nodded. “I wrote it on a napkin and slid it into your pocket. The name Teller isn’t hard to find in the phone book. But I guess if you were just looking for some fun that night… it’s no surprise that I didn’t hear from you.”
Dean groaned inwardly. Teller.
“You related to Jake Teller?” he asked.
She looked over at him, surprised. “He’s… was my brother. Why?”
Dean closed his eyes briefly. “I kinda knew him,” he revealed. “I was… uh… there, y’know when…”
“Oh, God,” Marissa whimpered, covering her mouth. “Turn here,” she instructed, her voice thick with tears.
“I’m sorry,” Dean said softly, wanting to reach out and pull her close, and simultaneously wanting her out of his car and away from his world as quickly as possible.
“Can you… can you just pull over here?” Marissa asked.
Dean did as she requested, noting the fact that they were in a rather well-to-do neighborhood, but not directly in front of any one house. He shoved the gear into park and stared at the dash. After a moment of silence where he wished he’d thought to turn on the radio before pulling out of the parking lot—because it would be awkward now—Marissa turned to him.
“I hated him.”
Dean blinked, then looked slowly askance at her. “Your brother?”
“I’m glad he’s dead,” she said, her tone hollow, her lips trembling.
“You don’t mean that,” Dean said, looking fully at her porcelain skin glowing in the cast-off beams of the streetlight.
She nodded, but her head shook a bit. “Yeah, I do,” she asserted. “He was… evil. Do you know he didn’t even cry when they found Annie?”
Dean shifted uncomfortably, trying to face her on the bench seat, but finding his body rebelling the forced flexibility. “Well, everyone deals with grief diff—“
“Bullshit,” Marissa spat. “That’s just bullshit. He never really cared about her anyway. Not really.”
“How do you know that?”
Marissa shook her head. “Little ways. Like, how he’d leave her for weeks on end to go to some conference—leave her with me if her mom wasn’t around. She’s a doctor, too, y’know. He made her grow up so fast, and when she disappeared, he kept working.”
Dean licked his lips, looking down. “He could have still loved her,” he offered lamely, hearing the doubt in his voice. “I mean, she was his kid.”
“He didn’t love anyone but himself.”
“So, you hate him because he didn’t love his kid?” Dean asked, catching Marissa’s eyes with his own.
“No,” she shook her head and he saw those blue eyes—exactly like her brother’s, he now realized—pool with tears once more. “I hate him because he ruined my one chance at happiness just because the man I fell in love with wasn’t white.”
“Oh?” Dean blinked, watching her.
“He was from the Quileute tribe, up north a bit. He was leaving this area—got accepted to Stanford,” Marissa sniffed, not catching Dean’s wince. “He wanted me to come with him, to get away from this life. To… to just be normal, y’know?”
“But Jake said no. He’d been put in charge of my welfare,” she spat out the word, “when our parents died. He managed to get the dean at Stanford to listen to him—if I left with him, no scholarship.”
“So, you stayed,” Dean guessed.
Marissa nodded. “What else could I do?”
Dean looked down at his hand, rubbing his silver ring with his fingers in a gesture he’d often caught his father doing when deep in thought. “But… Jake’s gone, now…”
“Doesn’t matter,” Marissa whispered. “I haven’t heard from my boyfriend in over a year. I can’t… can’t find him. I’m free, and now…” Her voice caught on a sob. “I’ve got nowhere to go.”
“I’m sorry, Marissa,” Dean turned and before he could catch his breath found himself with an armful of woman. “Wait—wait, Mar—“
“You’re not staying around here,” Marissa whispered, her whiskey-flavored breath hot against his mouth, her slim body working to fill the space between his and the steering wheel. “You’re going to be leaving soon.”
Her hands where everywhere, in his hair, along the side of his face, slipping up beneath his layers of shirts. Her mouth found his and he let himself be pulled into her, feeling her tongue sweep the inside of his mouth. His belly loosened, his groin heated up, and he felt himself grow hard as she wiggled into a better angle on his lap.
“Wait,” he whispered against her mouth, letting her push his hands away, letting her seal their mouths with desperation.
“Take me with you,” Marissa pleaded, her swollen lips against his ear. “Just… take me with you. I can be good to you. I can take care of you.”
“Marissa, wait,” Dean said, hardening his tone, though every cell in his body cursed him. He caught her wrists gently and held them in a loose grip so as not to hurt her. “You don’t want to do this.”
“Hell, yes I do,” she growled, diving in once more and pulling his tongue into her mouth.
He groaned at the sensation, his hips thrusting upward in a primal, instinctive rush as his body yearned to be close to hers. He wanted for just a moment to lose himself in passion, to give her what she was asking for, to forget obligation and orders, to sink into flesh and thrill at the rush pleasure offered.
He wanted so badly to just forget.
Marissa’s hand pressed against his ribs and pain cut through his haze with a lightning-quick snap, causing him to inadvertently cry out. Marissa froze at the sound, recognizing pain when she’d been after pleasure.
“Get… get off,” Dean gasped, pushing weakly at her, needing space suddenly as desperately as he’d wanted escape. His ribs throbbed, beating his pulse behind his eyes with a harsh reminder that the last hunt still dogged his heels while the next hung over his head like a guillotine.
“You okay?” Marissa asked as she disengaged her legs from his lap and landed in a heap on her side of the car. “Did I… hurt you?”
“Got a couple cracked ribs,” Dean said through clenched teeth. “Wasn’t you.”
“I’m… I’m sorry.” Marissa leaned forward, hiding her face in her hands. “God, I have to look so stupid to you.”
“No,” Dean shook his head, resting his hand on the back of her neck. “No, you don’t. Listen. Hey, listen to me.” He squeezed her neck gently. Marissa peeked up at him. “You don’t need a guy to get you out of here. You want to go find your man? Just go.”
“What? Just like that?” Marissa sniffed, straightening up. “But… what if he’s really gone? What if… what if he isn’t gone and he doesn’t want me?”
“You gonna find out any of those answers here in Brinnon?” Dean challenged. “Listen, if I’ve learned anything in this messed up life it’s that you gotta go after what you want. Go after it and if you find it, man, you don’t let go. No matter what.”
Marissa looked at him, as if trying to find a hole in his argument. Dean wasn’t sure where his words came from, but he remembered telling his brother something similar when he’d found the acceptance letter to Stanford in Sam’s bag. The idea of Sam not going to school because of them—because of this life they led—sat like acid in his gut for days before he’d confronted him. He missed the kid like hell, and his whole life was inside out because Sam was gone, but he wouldn’t retract those words under threat of torture. He’d meant them then and he meant them now.
“Okay,” Marissa said, hesitantly, as if she wasn’t sure of an appropriate response to the flurry of words he’d lobed her way. “Okay,” she repeated, wiping the tears and smudges of mascara from beneath her eyes. She looked over at him and huffed out a small laugh. “This is never gonna happen, is it?”
Dean grinned. “Doesn’t look like it,” he sighed. “Just my luck.”
Marissa put her hand on the door, then paused. “Y’know… Jake really did deserve what happened to him.”
Dean tilted his head. “What do you mean?”
“This town is cursed. He knew it and he mocked it. He… challenged it. And I don’t care what anyone says about faulty construction… the curse killed him.”
Dean’s brows met over the bridge of his nose. As he was forming a coherent question, wanting more information from her, she opened the door. “Wait,” he protested. “I can actually take you home, you know.”
She pointed across the road. “You did.”
Leaning quickly across the seat, she pressed her lips to his cheek. “Thanks,” she whispered, her eyes catching his in the darkness. “You really are my hero.”
Dean felt his lips bounce in a surprised grin, then watched her climb from the car and cross the street. He didn’t pull away until she’d climbed the steps to the large porch and disappeared through the ornate front door.
“In another life, Dean,” he said to himself. Dragging the gear down to drive, he turned the Impala in a tight circle, heading back to the motel and another night alone.
wwwDr. Rice was true to her word.
The wheelchair had arrived Monday night, and after some finagling and a fair amount of heavy cursing, John had figured out how to get from his bed to the chair with the leg extension lifted. The best part had been no more catheter.
He was amazed at the difference in pain levels just being in the chair caused. He’d tried to tough it out for the first transition, but after that, he’d remembered to time movement from the bed to the chair with his next dose of pain meds. Dean had called Tuesday morning, but their conversation had been brief and stilted, mainly due to the fact that he gave the kid no safety zone.
Dean had resorted to his usual Yes, Sir and bullet-like report of his daily activities. He’d yet to start work at the construction site, and while John felt the undercurrent of tension riding Dean’s voice like a wave at the thought of another day without income, he was relieved that the kid had a little more time to heal before getting down to business. He’d informed John on Tuesday that he was heading to a town called Sequim, about a half-hour away.
“I can use Dwayne Hick’s card to get some gas and supplies. We picked that up out of the PO Box before we left for Arizona. It’s got plenty of room on it,” Dean had said.
“How did you know I got that?” John asked, frowning into the phone. He always retrieved the mail and it was on a need-to-know basis only that he’d informed the boys what he’d brought back.
“Dad, I’ve been alone for like three days now,” Dean replied tiredly. “I got plenty of time to find your secret stashes.”
“You don’t need to be looking around in my truck, Son,” John bit out.
“Think maybe it’s time you started trusting me a little more?” Dean asked, then hung up saying he’d be by to visit later.
John had woken from a late afternoon nap to see that Dean had indeed been by, but he hadn’t stayed. A bag of items including pencils for the journal, red licorice, a Road and Track magazine, and a bag of peanut M&Ms sat next to a note saying that Dean would call him tomorrow. He expected to go back to work on Thursday and wanted to check out the site to see if the salt lines had made a difference.
…I fixed the EMF. Sam left a few tools and some ideas for why it wasn’t working in the trunk of the Impala. Turns out the kid’s not so bad with electronics, even though you get him around a car engine and he turns into a girl. I’m going to take it over to the site tomorrow night when the scaffolding people clear out…
John balled up the note and started to throw it across the room before he thought better of his actions. A nurse finding that… no way to really explain EMF to a civilian. He reached for the foil packet of pain pills and swallowed two before taking a breath and reaching for the arms of the wheelchair. Sweat broke out on his brow and the cold shiver of pain worked its way up to his hip socket, settling comfortably there until he was situated in the chair, his broken leg positioned in the extension.
Wheeling himself out to the nurse’s station, his eyes found the red-headed nurse he’d been building a rapport with.
“Hey, Luce,” John called, drawing the girl’s green eyes. “Need to talk to you a minute.”
“Why’re you out of bed? And why didn’t you call for help?” Lucy stood quickly and moved around the desk.
“Who do I have to sleep with to get a wheelchair to go?” John said, looking up at the young nurse through his lashes.
“Ah, I told you,” he interrupted. “Call me John. Never did care for Elroy much.”
“You’re not leaving.” Lucy shook her head.
“Listen,” John dropped his voice and his chin, compelling her to lean close to hear him. “If I could walk outta here, I’da signed out AMA two days ago. But this leg isn’t working with me. So I need crutches or a wheelchair or something, but I am leaving.”
“John,” Lucy crouched low so that she looked up into his eyes. She laid a hand on his forearm. “Think about what you’re saying. You had a very bad break—“
“I know exactly what I’m saying,” John said. “You have until tomorrow. If you or Dr. Rice can’t figure out a way to get me one of these things to go, I’ll call my kid and he’ll pick me up. We’ll figure it out on our own.”
Leaving Lucy to gape after him, John wheeled himself back to his room. It took a bit of adjustment and some odd angles, but he made his way into the bathroom, standing in front of the sink with his leg propped onto the seat of the wheelchair to keep it elevated as much as possible. Turning on the water and letting it heat up until it steamed, John regarded himself in the mirror.
His dark eyes looked hollow, shadows ghosting the undersides. His cheeks had thinned out until he could see the bones bending the skin ever so slightly. Using the straight razor Dean had brought him, he trimmed up the edges of his wild, wiry beard until the hair clutched at the frame of his jaw line. Foaming up a lather in the palm of his hand, he spread the white cream over his lower face, then running the blade beneath the hot water to clean off the excess hair, he lifted it to his face and slid the razor slowly down the side of his cheek.
Stroke after stroke lifted away hair and with it the heaviness he’d been carrying with him since the night Sam had left them. Watching his youngest walk out on them, John's harsh words of don’t you think about coming back still hanging in the air around them all like anvils ready to fall, had pressed down on him with a weight he’d not felt since Mary had died.
He’d tried to drink the weight away. He’d tried to work it away. He’d tried to let the job take him, wanting with some perverse sense of right and wrong to be erased by the world of darkness that had turned him into the man he was. All he’d done was make himself heavier.
And through every step, every hunt, every empty bottle, every wicked morning after, Dean had been there. Standing next to him, in front of him, behind him. Standing where he’d needed to stand so that he could catch his father when—not if, but when—he fell.
And now Dean was out there, alone, looking for a solution to a hunt they shouldn’t even have been a part of. And John had a mission. He scraped his face clean, splashing the steaming water on his flesh to remove the shaving cream. Patting his cheeks dry with a nearby towel, John looked at himself once more, finally recognizing someone in that reflection.
Lucy had listened to him. Either that, or Dr. Rice had finally tired of his displays of anger. He was informed on Wednesday morning that he’d be free to go as long as he returned every other day for physical therapy, and stayed off his leg for another four weeks. He’d called Dean, waking him.
“Kinda,” Dean yawned. “Went to the bar, cleaned out the townies in about three hands of Texas Hold ‘Em.”
“Thought you said you had to be careful when you played,” John frowned into the phone.
“I was careful,” Dean said, grunting. John surmised he was sitting up; the tension in his son’s voice increased through the next few sentences. “Just ‘cause I got supplies over at Sequim doesn’t mean I didn’t need cash quicker than Gus could pay me.”
“That motel owner giving you a rough time?” John asked, his mind circling through ways to get Dan Glover to back off.
“Hey, he’s got a kid to feed, Dad,” Dean replied. “Not his job to carry us.”
“Never said it was,” John replied, cringing inwardly that all of his conversations with Dean seemed to go down this way.
Dammit, boy, he sighed rubbing his eyes. We just need a break, you and me.
“You okay?” Dean asked, and John heard him suck in a quick breath of air.
“Nothing a hot shower won’t fix,” Dean replied.
John was about to tell Dean that he’d been cleared to leave and needed a ride when Dean spoke up again.
“Hey, Dad, it’s been a long few days… if you’re okay, I’m gonna go grab a bite to eat. I’ll catcha later.”
“Yeah, sure, Son. Watch out for yourself,” John said, clearing his throat when he heard Dean’s extension click. Paging Nurse Lucy once more he asked a favor.
“Any way one of your off-duty ambulance drivers could give me a ride?”
Armed with antibiotics and pain meds, John hitched a ride in an ambulance, knowing the insurance for his hospital stay was going to come after poor Elroy MacGillicuddy with both barrels. When he eased into the wheelchair from the back of the ambulance, he saw Dan Glover and his boy, Aaron, standing in the doorway of the manager’s office. He lifted a hand in a wave as the driver set his bag on his lap.
“Thanks, man,” John nodded at the driver.
“No problem,” the driver replied, looking up at Dan Glover. “You here to give him a hand?”
Dan looked startled for a moment, then quickly recovered. “Yes, I can do that, sure,” he nodded.
Aaron scampered over to John. “Hi, Sergeant.”
“Hi, kid,” John replied.
“You back for good?”
“Until this leg heals,” John nodded at his left leg.
“Need some help with your bag?” Aaron asked, practically bouncing in his excitement to get to do something.
“Yeah, that’d be great,” John smiled.
“I’ll just… unlock your room,” Dan said, taking the crutches from the ambulance driver, then waving as he turned away.
In one glance of the parking lot, John could see that the Impala was missing.
“You see my son lately?” John asked, wheeling his chair behind Dan.
“Not since this morning,” Dan shook his head. “Thought he was going to see you, honestly.”
“Let’s hope not,” John muttered, knowing that surprising Dean might not be high on his Good Ideas list.
Dan unlocked the door and Aaron stepped inside, dropping the bag just inside the door. John saw a fine spray of salt brush away from the threshold of the door at the breath of motion from Aaron’s entrance.
“Move on outta the way, Son,” Dan grumbled at his son, stepping around behind John’s chair to push him through the door way.
“Dad, look at all this stuff,” Aaron was saying in wonder.
John winced, unsure what Dean had left behind in what should be a safe zone. Really not the best idea you’ve had lately, John. Dan pushed him completely through the door and then stopped to stare. The first thing John was aware of was the music emanating from somewhere in the two-bedroom suite. The second was that he’d trained his son exceptionally well.
Dean had pinned a map of Washington State on the wall, marking certain areas with thumbtacks and threading those areas together with red yarn. Around the outer edges of the map were photocopies of pictures, articles, excerpts from newspapers, everything he’d amassed over the last several days. To John it was an immediately recognizable pattern and the planning of a skilled hunter. To the Glover’s, however, it must’ve looked like the plotting of a madman.
John forced a laugh. “Man, that kid is always up to something. Probably helping his brother with a term paper. Hey, kid, thanks for your help with the bag. I think I got it from here.”
“Is that… that looks like—“
John rotated the wheels counter of each other and turned his chair quickly to face Dan. “It’s nothing, I’m sure. Dean’s been telling me about this paper his brother is working on. Kid thinks in pictures. Has to map it all out. So, yeah, thanks for your help!”
Dan took one step backwards, reaching for his son’s shoulder. “Dean paid me through next week,” he said, sounding as if he regretted accepting the money. “You, uh… you need anything, you… you just call the office. I’ll set your crutches here,” he said, propping the wooden supports inside the door. “C’mon, boy,” he tugged Aaron’s shoulder.
“Sergeant?” Aaron whispered, his head the only thing visible through the door. “You’re planning another mission, ain’tcha?”
John swallowed, then nodded.
“You just let me know,” Aaron said, a gap in his front teeth showing as he grinned. “I’m ready to head out when you give the word.”
“Thanks, kid,” John said, watching as Aaron pulled the door shut.
He rubbed his face, sighing. “I need a drink,” he muttered, wheeling himself into the small kitchenette area and opening the fridge. Inside he found half a six-pack of beer, bread, lunch meat, butter, mustard, and milk. A small smile teased John’s lips as he closed the fridge and opened the lower cupboard, knowing without looking that he’d find Lucky Charms and Mac’n Cheese.
What surprised him—and gave him a small shudder of relieved pleasure—was the fifth of whiskey two shots shy from full sitting next to the cereal.
“Atta boy,” John mumbled, reaching down for the bottle.
Without bothering for a glass, John unscrewed the cap and took a swig. Setting the bottle between his legs he rolled through the living room to get a better look at the map. The door to Dean’s bedroom was open and John glanced in, realizing that the music he’d been hearing was coming from that room. He pulled his head back in surprise.
On the spare bed, Dean had laid out what had to be every gun they owned. Below each weapon was a magazine of ammo. He wheeled himself further into the room, hampered by the tight space between the bed and the dresser. The motel had not been set up for wheelchairs.
“Boy, you… you damn well are a soldier, aren’t you?” John muttered quietly under the music. Annoyed at the incessant sound, he leaned as far over as he could and gathered the radio closer with the tips of his fingers. As he did so, however, he caught sight of the mirror out of the corner of his eyes.
Scrawled in Dean’s blocky handwriting was something of a ‘to-do’ list. John blinked up at it in surprise, taking in the half-sentences, the hidden meanings. It wasn’t like Dean—he’d never needed… lists or notes to keep his thoughts in order, to stay the course.
He’d always just done his job.
“What’s going on with you, boy?” John wondered aloud. He tilted his head, looking at the last note. Check on Sam. John narrowed his eyes. “You can’t hunt if you’re head’s not in the game, Dean,” he muttered.
Reaching once more for the radio, John paused when the unfamiliar voice managed to cut through him, catching him in the solar plexus with meaning.
“But you always find a way to keep me right here waiting… you always find the words to say to keep me right here waiting… and if you chose to walk away, I’d still be right here waiting…”
Feeling his lip curl in a snarl, John pulled the radio from the wall, and dropped the now silent box to the floor.
wwwDean had felt Kwaiya’s eyes on him since he exited the car, but he took Gus at his word that he was harmless. Still, the dark eyes hovering above the scarred face trained on him had the hairs on the back of Dean’s neck at attention.
He’d spent the day driving. The Impala was a gas hog, but she was one of the only places he found peace. The autumn weather had warmed over the last few days and he’d been comfortable with the windows down, filling his still-sore body with some healing breaths.
He’d ended up at the bar, finding it emptier than it had been on Monday. Three beers and a shot of whiskey later, he left, wanting more—wanting to get blind drunk and just forget about this life of his for at least a night—but knowing he had no one to watch his back, no one to haul his ass out of there when he couldn’t drive back to whatever he was calling home for the moment. After driving slowly and carefully enough even Sam would have teased him, he’d pulled over at the constructions site—the newly-built scaffolding reflecting the fading sun like a beacon—and retrieved his cell phone.
He’d programmed John’s hospital room in the day he’d left his father there. Scrolling down the list he paused at his dad’s number, then rolled his lips against his teeth.
Not yet… wait ‘till you have something that’s not just a guess.
He scrolled further until he saw Sam’s name and rode out the quick jolt that it gave him. For as much as he complained about having to watch out for his kid brother, for as annoying as Sam’s proclivities could be, he missed the hell out of the little bastard. Closing the phone, he stepped out of the Impala, the creak of the door a familiar companion, and found himself caught in the strange net of the big man’s stare.
Dean saw Kwaiya standing at the far edge of the construction site as if in the act of guarding the building. He raised a hand in greeting, but Kwaiya didn’t move. Nodding to himself, Dean pulled the EMF reader from his jacket pocket and approached the first opening of the building. Stepping through the plastic-covered space between the stud supports, Dean flicked on the meter, resisting the urge to look over his shoulder and locate the figure of the man standing guard.
At first, the reader was silent, and Dean was reassured that the lines of salt he’d spread around the building had done what they were designed to do. He continued further into the empty building, however, his steps taking him across the painted protection symbols. He moved deeper into the building space, his vision hampered as darkness grew outside and shadows thickened inside.
The red lights on the EMF reader stayed dark until he reached the far end of the building. As he parted the heavy plastic that created a make-shift wall, the light bounced, once. Frowning, Dean stepped from the building toward the back where he and Gus had seen Kwaiya run off toward the ocean earlier in the week.
The wind lifted slightly, brushing across his forehead like a caress. Dean moved two steps away from the building, peering into the twilight. The lights on the EMF reader spiked, drawing his eyes and the squeal was startling in the silence.
Dean found his breath coming in short bursts, unaccustomed to feeling fear in these moments. The alcohol’s buzz enhanced the feeling of solitude and he shivered in the dark, too aware of his vulnerability for his own comfort.
“Okay, so… salt, good idea,” he muttered to himself, turning and sweeping the area around him. The meter continued its squeal until, unexpectedly, it stopped.
The silence jarred him almost as much as the noise had.
“You took care of her.”
“Jesus Christ!” Dean exclaimed, stumbling backwards and nearly dropping the small box. He turned toward the building, searching the gathering shadows for the source of the voice.
“You took care of her,” the voice repeated.
“She’s a nice girl. Someone needs to be nice to her.”
Dean approached the figure, feeling slightly out of his element. The man was taller than Sam, but stooped slightly. His frame was solid, muscular, but his scarred face reminded Dean of a child’s countenance.
“Yeah, man,” Dean said, tucking the EMF back into his pocket. “I took her home. She’s okay.”
“Too many sad people,” Kwaiya sighed.
Dean narrowed his eyes. “You know what’s going on around here, don’t you?”
Kwaiya looked past Dean, toward the building and the first room decorated with protection symbols. “Too many sad people,” he said again, his voice barely audible.
“Why are they sad?” Dean asked, standing up on his toes to try to get in Kwaiya’s line of sight. “Do you know why they are sad?”
Kwaiya’s dark eyes met his and for a moment Dean couldn’t breathe.
“Be careful,” Kwaiya warned. “Be careful.”
“I’ll—“ Dean started, but the big man turned and slipped into the night as silently as if he’d never been there. “—be careful…” Dean finished. He shook his head. “What the hell is going on around here?”
By the time he returned to the motel, he was starving and exhausted and more than a little tense. He knew he should see his father, but didn’t know if he had the energy for it. Everything with John took effort these days. Even a simple how you doin’, Dad was a chance for a potentially argumentative encounter. It seemed the days when they moved in step, working as a unit, operating as a team, were gone.
And he missed it. Because not only was his world out of whack with Sam gone, his dad was off his game and Dean had neither purpose nor mission. He had to figure both out on his own, and he wasn’t sure he knew how to do that.
He thought about calling Sam—just to hear about something other than his own issues. He thought about looking up Marissa to finish what he’d started twice over.
But the part that won out reminded him of a bottle of whiskey and a bed waiting for him back at the motel. He wanted nothing more than to slip into sweet oblivion for the space of a night and rise in the morning to face whatever awaited him.
The silence in the room alerted him to the danger. That radio had been his constant companion for days. The disturbed salt line had him reaching for his gun, drawing it from the small of his back and flicking off the safety as he pointed the barrel through the opened door way. Pushing the door further open with his elbow, his eyes lit on a figure standing, slightly slumped, across the room holding what appeared to be a flashlight.
His first thought was that there was no way Kwaiya had made it from the construction site to his motel room before him. His second was that he really didn’t want to have to kill someone in his room on top of everything else he was dealing with.
Pointing the barrel of his .45 at the figure, he growled, his voice low and menacing, “You have exactly two seconds to tell me what the hell you think you’re doing here, or I open you up.”
The figure shifted, awkwardly, and light from the flashlight slipped across his face.
“Well, I think I’m following your investigation,” John replied.
Dean slipped the safety back on. “Dad?”
www“You got a lot of good intel here, Son,” John said, shining the light back on the map Dean had pinned to the wall.
Dean was still gaping at him, his gun lowering by inches. “What the hell?”
“Just not sure where you’re heading with it,” John continued, shifting on his crutches.
“How… the hell did you get here?”
“Bummed a ride from an ambulance driver,” John replied truthfully. “Push that thing over here, will ya? My leg is killing me.”
Dean put his gun in his waistband and pushed the wheelchair from the corner of the room over to John, taking the crutches John offered as he sank slowly into the seat with a sigh of relief.
“I couldn’t get a close enough look at the map from the chair,” he tried to explain.
“Dad,” Dean blinked, his mouth opening and closing, silently.
“What? I told you I’d be getting out of there,” John said matter-of-factly, watching as Dean crossed to the lower cabinet and opened the door. “It’s not in there.”
“Where the hell is it?” Dean snapped.
John gestured to the table and the bottle of whiskey he’d set there earlier.
“Why is it so dark in here?” Dean demanded, crossing to the light switch and slapping it into the ‘on’ position. Nothing happened. “Oh.”
“I was gonna call Glover for a bulb, but it was hard enough explaining all this when they helped me in here.”
“You let them in here?” Dean said, unscrewing the cap of the whiskey bottle and taking a long pull. He coughed a bit, catching his breath, then drank deeply once more. “What the hell, Dad?”
John watched him, an odd mixture of concern and irritation rolling up behind his heart. “Well, I didn’t expect you to have our arsenal on display—let alone the schematics of every murder in this county in the last six weeks.”
Dean glared at him, crossing the room with the whiskey bottle still gripped in his hand. “You could have called.”
John nodded, wheeling himself around to follow Dean’s motion. “Yes. You’re right. I should have called. But… all I could think about was getting out of there… about you out here and what you were up against.”
He watched Dean pick up the radio, frown at it, then toss it on the spare bed. With sure, deft movements he began to reassemble the weapons and roll them up smoothly into a towel. “You don’t know what I’m up against,” he muttered. “Hell, I don’t know what I’m up against.”
“Which is exactly why you need me,” John shot back, feeling off-balance and out of place. He sat in the darkened living room area, facing the lit bedroom where Dean stood looking worn and wary.
“I don’t know, Dad.” Dean shot him a sideways glance. “Been doing pretty good gathering intel on my own last coupla days.”
John bit back his automatic angry retort and took a breath. “Tell me,” he ordered.
Dean stopped wrapping up the guns and turned to face him. He seemed to be weighing something inside, but John couldn’t reach him, couldn’t fathom what it might be. He sat on the edge of the bed he’d obviously been sleeping in and took another drink from the whiskey bottle. John blanked his face, working to keep judgment at bay.
He knew his boy could hold his liquor—and John was the last to talk when it came to drowning sorrows. What troubled him was the fact that Dean seemed thirsty. He seemed to want something—anything—to numb whatever it was burning him from the inside out.
“It’s all kind of in… pieces. I haven’t put the puzzle together yet.” Dean hung his head, rolling his neck. John saw his body shudder slightly as left-over pain seemed to slip through him. “The town has some kind of curse on it—something happened around twenty years ago and it marked the town and everyone in it.”
Dean lifted his head and John simply nodded, waiting.
“Someone knows about what happened—and whatever it is has to do with the buildings that are currently under construction—and they want people to pay.”
“Uh-huh,” John said.
Dean narrowed his eyes and took another drink. “There’s this guy… he’s not a Native American, but he was, uh… was raised by them… he knows something, but… it’s like talking to a little kid.”
“No one’s died since I put salt lines around the site… ‘course site’s been shut down…”
John pushed his lips out, watching Dean watch the floor.
“So, what you’re telling me is… you have a whole bunch of guesses,” John summarized.
Dean pulled his head up sharply. “No! That’sss not what I’m saying,” he slurred, blinking his eyes with effort, as if to clear his vision. “I got the fuckin’ EMF to light up like a Chrissmass tree earlier.”
“So… you have EMF. Anything else?” John ignored the pang the sight of Dean’s eyes searching for focus cut through him.
“The wi-wiccan symbols,” Dean pointed out.
“Think, Dean,” John snapped. “What else?”
“Hell, I don’t know!” Dean yelled, standing up so quickly he swayed, then pushing past John’s chair to stalk into the kitchenette area. He thunked the bottle down on the counter and started to step away. Apparently thinking better of it, he lifted the bottle again and drank deeply, dropping the nearly-empty bottle into the sink. “That’s what you wanted t’hear, right? That I need y’help?”
John sighed, shaking his head. “No, Dean. I want you to think about what you’ve found.”
“Quit pushin’ me, Dad,” Dean said. “Just… stop pushin’ all the damn time.” He stumbled away from the sink and faced his bedroom, taking in John’s presence between him and a refuge. “I tryin’… You act like I’m two seconds away from leavin’… but I haven’t quit yet.” Turning away, he headed to the door. “So how ‘bout givin’ me a fuckin’ break?”
You always find a way, to keep me right here waiting…
“Dean.” John felt panic whip around him at the thought of Dean walking away—he needed more time. He needed time to learn how not to hold on so tightly.
“I need a minute to fuckin’ think,” Dean said, his voice slow and thick with alcohol. Enough so that John knew he’d started long before the shots John had witnessed that evening.
“Do not walk out of this room.”
Dean leaned his forehead against the door, his palms flatted on the wooden surface. “Or what?” he asked softly.
“What?” John asked, confused.
“Or what, Dad?” Dean repeated, his voice still muffled by his proximity to the door. “I walk out, I shouldn’t come back?”
John closed his eyes briefly. “No, Son. You walk out you could get hurt, condition you’re in.”
“Somethin’ you should be familiar with,” Dean said, rolling his head along the door until he’d rotated his body, his back to the door, his eyes on the middle distance between himself and John. “Guess turn-about’s fair play, huh?”
“Dean,” John started, a frown digging a heavy crease into his forehead as he watched Dean slide down the door to sit in a heap, his legs sprawled out before him.
“He’s just a kid, Dad,” Dean said, his words choked with emotion and unresolved anger. “You made this our war… but you never asked us if we wanted to fight it.”
John felt his throat close as he watched his son struggle to find words.
“It was always just what I was supposed to do, y’know? Watch out f’ Sammy. Can’t… can’t remember a time when I didn’t wanta… wanta be you.”
John closed his eyes, looking down into his lap.
“But Sam… he’s just trying to figure it out. Just wants to figure it out… and you couldn’t even let him do that.”
“That’s not true, Son.”
“If you say so, Sir,” Dean sighed.
“I just want you and your brother to… to be safe,” John tried, moments of near-misses and open wounds of his boys—his boys—flashing before his eyes. “I never… wanted this life.”
Dean blinked up at him, his eyes hooded and blood-shot. His lips barely moving, he whispered, “Yeah, well… we’re all stuck with it.” With that, John watched Dean’s body sag, sliding sideways until his shoulder met the wall and the liquor did the job he’d apparently wanted it to do.
“Ah, Dean,” John shook his head, swallowing.
Wheeling his chair close to his son, he reached down and tugged on his shoulder. Dean’s head slid limply to the side. There was no way John was moving him, not stuck in the wheelchair. And he could barely maneuver himself on the crutches, let alone his son’s dead weight.
“All right,” he sighed. “All right, then.” He wasn’t going to leave his kid in a heap on the floor to sleep off a drunk he’d so desperately needed.
He grabbed the jacket Dean had shucked soon after entering the room. Shifting carefully from the chair, John lowered himself to the ground, wincing as his leg was jarred with the impact of the floor. The Velcro air-cast held tightly to the bandages wrapping around his wound and kept the bones and the screws holding them in place immobilized, but he still felt each movement, each flinch.
Scooting backwards on his rear, using his hands as leverage, he maneuvered himself next to Dean. Reaching out, he gathered his son close, pulling Dean’s head onto his lap—careful of his son’s wounded side—and covered him with the jacket. Leaning his head back against the wall, John rested his hand on the side of Dean’s face, feeling the warmth there, his kid’s breath against the tips of his fingers.
They would both be stiff and sore in the morning—and he wasn’t sure how his leg would react to not being elevated for so long—but John wasn’t leaving. They had a fight ahead of them, and it was big enough it was going to take a focused effort to figure out what was going on.
But for tonight, he wasn’t a hunter, or a soldier. He wasn’t avenging the death of his lover or searching for a reason she was taken from him. He was simply a dad holding onto his son through a storm. He ran a finger along Dean’s hairline, following the path of his ear, listening to Dean’s heavy breathing.
“Sleep it off, Son,” John whispered. “I’ll be here when you wake up.”
wwwa/n: Thanks for reading! As I said, action is still to come. Have to do a bit setting up the mystery, right? Hope you come back for more.
Fire in the Hole by Steely Dan
Those Shoes by Eagles
Right Here by Staind
Part 4A can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/69374.html