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Supernatural Fanfiction: pour a little salt, we were never here, part 1/2

August 21st, 2012 (09:14 pm)

Title: pour a little salt, we were never here
Author: Ygrawn
Chapter: 1/2
Fandom: Supernatural
Genre: Futurefic
Timeline/Spoilers: Takes the idea of Season 5, but doesn’t really commit to the canon finale and goes its own way from there. Oh, you’ll work it out.
Rating: R
Word Count: 15,000
Summary: “Not everyone gets trapped halfway between life and death.”
Author’s Notes: Title from Bon Iver’s Skinny Love. I started this forever ago, which is why it doesn’t incorporate any of Seasons 6 or 7. Frankly, I’m a little amazed I managed to finish it at all!



PART ONE

********

It’s cold when Dean’s alarm breaks the silence of the morning, and for a moment he flirts with the idea of an extra half hour of sleep. But ten seconds after it begins its incessant beeping Dean flicks the alarm off and rolls out of bed. He dresses quickly, reaching for his sweats and socks by memory, fishing his sneakers out from under the clothes he wore yesterday, piled at the foot of the bed. He doesn’t stop to put them on but creeps barefoot out of the bedroom.

Behind him, he hears Lucy migrate into the middle of the bed and he knows she’ll have cocooned the covers around her body.

Susie meets him at the top of the stairs with her happy golden eyes and beats him to the bottom with her eager strides. She turns impatient circles while Dean double-knots his sneakers and zips his hoodie. He retrieves Susie’s leash from the hook beside the backdoor and traps her between his knees while he clips it to her red collar. The circular disc bearing her name and Dean’s cell number catches the dull morning light.

“C’mon girl,” Dean murmurs, when they’re finally sorted.

The minute he closes the door behind them Susie is off, dragging him down the front steps and along their drive, out onto the street. She’s a smart dog though, and at their gate she hesitates a moment, waiting for Dean to choose their direction. He never runs the same route two days in a row, never drives the same way to work more than twice a week. Old habits don’t die, is Dean’s motto.

Today he swings left and lets Susie have her head down to the T-intersection at the end of their street. By the time they turn on to Pendelbury Drive Dean is at full pace, Susie running beside him rather than ahead of him. When they reach the end of the street they’re in Pendelbury Park, sharing the criss-crossing gravel paths with other runners and walkers and a handful of cyclists.

Lucy doesn’t run. She never has, claiming she can’t co-ordinate her body that way, that she can’t find the necessary rhythm for running. She is a creature of water, swimming twice a week at their local public pool, her easy freestyle beautiful to behold. For a long time Dean let his wife believe that he couldn’t swim as well as her, until one summer holiday in North Carolina he went for a swim early one morning, churning out four miles with barely a break. When he strode out of the ocean Lucy was sitting beside Dean’s towel. She’d obviously been watching him for a while because she said in her studied, quiet way, “I really can’t run.”

Dean has never lost his rhythm, never lost the ability to find it, to force his body into it until his stride becomes easy and free. He doesn’t and can’t listen to music when he runs, in part because he wouldn’t be able to hear somebody coming up behind him, but also because the different beats mess up his rhythm.

Today is no different, his breathing even and steady, no strain to his stride. He loops a two-mile course around the park and back home, and by the end, Susie is beginning to lag.

“You’re getting old, Miss Sue,” Dean tells her when they pass the gatepost. Susie pulls up short and stares at him with hurt eyes. Dean bends to unhook her leash, indulging her for a moment with a full body hug and a firm scratch behind the ears. She indulges Dean too: presses her muzzle into his chest and makes happy huffing noises.

Susie (officially Susannah, sometimes Miss Sue, occasionally Susan, and very rarely Black-Eyed Girl) is Dean’s oldest living family: she’s nearly thirteen, four years older than Zoe, and although that isn’t old for a border collie, she is starting to slow down. In winter Dean only takes her running twice a week, three times a week the rest of the year. The children and Lucy take it in turns to walk her the other days; slower ambles that keep Susie exercised. Dean knows she’s happiest when it’s just the two of them in the early morning, just as he knows that when she eventually leaves him she’ll take a piece of him with her.

Now, Susie makes tracks down the drive and disappears around the rear of the house, pushing through her flap in the backdoor. Dean can see the low glimmer of the kitchen light, and he guesses that R.J. is awake, chattering to himself at the kitchen bench and waiting for someone to make breakfast for him.

But when he steps through the back door – stopping to check that Susie has fresh water – he finds Lucy instead. She’s at the sink with a mug of coffee, looking out into the garden. There’s a fresh cup of coffee waiting for Dean on the bench, and he knows Lucy put out the water and food for Susie, too.

“Hey,” he says, stepping up behind her and wrapping an arm around her waist.

“Sweaty,” Lucy says, but there is little protest in her voice and she leans back into him. They rarely have time to themselves. “I don’t know why you still run every morning.”

“I worry you’ll leave me for a younger man.”

“You should.” Lucy finishes her coffee, places the cup in the sink. “One of the new paralegals is very cute. Skin like coal and the longest damn legs you’ve ever seen.”

“He’s probably got a crush on you,” Dean declares. “I’m told the senior associate in pro bono is a hottie.”

“Yeah, a forty-four-year-old hottie with stretch marks.”

Dean shifts his hand lower, smooths Lucy’s robe across the soft swell of her belly. “I love your stretch marks,” he says quietly, with conviction.

“You and no-one else. Every day I’ve known you, you’ve gone running. Don’t uniforms chase down the bad guys?”

“Sure, but it’s good for my ego to still be faster than most of ’em.”

“I thought the point of making detective was to pull rank and go all dark and brooding.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “Violet wouldn’t let me.”

“Maybe you keep yourself fit for her. Should I be worried?” Lucy asks in an even tone.

Dean drops a kiss on top of her head. “Violet still likes women like I like women. You’re stuck with me.”

“Go shower.” Lucy unwraps herself from his arms. “And make some noise while you’re at it.”

Dean finishes his coffee and heads upstairs to shower and make enough noise to wake his children.

He’s glad Lucy didn’t push about the running. He didn’t bother with regular exercise until he was nearly thirty-five, and sober enough to run without getting sick. He’s forty-six now and can still run a quarter mile in under a minute, which is precisely what he can’t explain to his wife: that all these years after he got out of the family business he needs to know that he could still run if he had to, and that he’d be fast enough not to get caught.

********

When Dean returns to the kitchen, it resembles its usual morning picture: Zoe is eating a banana while Lucy attempts to tame her dark curls; R.J. is telling Zoe about his class pet; Susie is sprawled in front of the fridge ignoring Grace, who is poking the dog in the stomach and giggling. Dean grabs a fistful of Grace’s pink pyjamas pants and hoists her up in the air one-handed. “Kitten, remember how we don’t poke Susannah?”

Grace twists her neck and gives him her best innocent look. “It’s funny, Daddy.”

“Not for Susie, it isn’t.”

“She say not anything,” Grace argues in her endearing four-year-old grammar.

Dean rights his youngest daughter and plants her on a stool next to R.J., then nudges Susie away from the fridge. “That’s because Susie is a good girl. What’re you having for breakfast, Gracie Marie?”

It takes another forty minutes to co-ordinate them all. Zoe changes her shoes twice. R.J. insists on telling Dean a story he made up yesterday about the adventures of two matchsticks, and dressing Gracie takes two threats and the saintly patience of her mother, who takes over halfway through the process when Grace decides she wants to wear her fairy dress to kindergarten.

His wife manages to dress Grace, prompts R.J. when he forgets part of his story and tells Zoe that if she changes shoes again she’ll be sent to school barefoot, and still manages to straighten her own hair and walk out the front door in an impeccable black suit and a pair of stilettos. Sometimes, he’s convinced his wife is supernatural.

Lucy has Grace, and Dean has R.J. and Zoe’s school run, but as he’s getting into the car Grace makes a break from the front stoop, crossing the lawn to wrap her arms around his leg. “Sorry I poked Susie,” she says, kissing Dean’s wrist. “Sorry, Daddy. I love you.”

Dean exchanges a look with Lucy – a look they’ve exchanged a thousand times about their children being strange and hilarious and wonderful – but he never tires of it. He bends to give Grace a kiss. “I love you too, kitten. Have fun today.”

R.J. finishes his story shortly before they reach their school, and as he tumbles out of the car he promises Dean he’ll think of a sequel during maths class today, because he already knows how to do fractions and decimals.

Dean says to Zoe, “Make sure to…”

“…hold R.J.’s hand when you cross the road,” Zoe chimes in a sing-song voice. “You tell me every morning, Dad.”

“He’s younger than you and…”

“…I have to look after him,” she chants again. “I know, Dad.”

“Okay, I’ll shut up. Learn something today,” he tells them both.

Zoe and R.J. wave goodbye, but Dean watches them walk to the zebra crossing and smiles when Zoe takes R.J.’s hand. Lucy says Dean he puts too much pressure on Zoe to look after R.J. and Grace. Dean doesn’t disagree.

********

Violet is holding court at Dean’s desk when he arrives at work. She can’t sit on her own desk for the stacks of files, piles of paperwork and other crap she accumulates with little effort. Instead, she sits on Dean’s cleared desk with her feet on his chair, telling a story he’s heard before about the time her old man busted a clown for solicitation and when they got his make-up off, he turned out to be the junior Senator from New York.

Violet’s father and grandfather were decorated detectives with the District P.D., highly respected and known by just about every cop from Maryland to West Virginia. Vi’s well-known surname – Lucarelli – could’ve been a curse if she’d worn it badly, but she wears it with good grace, proud to be a third-generation detective. Her father died of lung cancer a year after Violet made detective, two months before she was partnered with Dean.

Dean had never done well with his partners for reasons that are obvious to him and a mystery to his superiors. But Violet was different. Dean felt an immediate affection for her noisy, blue-collar, gum-popping, chip-on-her-shoulder personality that he hadn’t felt for his pervious partners. The fact that Violet is his first and only female partner speaks volumes he chooses to ignore.

He thinks meeting Violet so soon after her father’s death, when she was not quite herself, worked in their favour. Violet let Dean in, which she doesn’t do often. On the surface Violet is the same with Dean as she is with everybody else: tough, with lashings of bravado and rebellious streak. Her body – which could’ve be a handicap if she wore it that way – is distinctive enough to have earned her the nickname Heidi in boot camp, after Heidi Klum. But underneath the performance art, Violet is quieter, subtler, more thoughtful than her hard-ass personality suggests.

He can’t – and doesn’t want to – imagine working with someone else. The one time Violet was nearly shot during an arrest that went bad, Dean just about ripped their elite tactical team a new one until Violet told him to can it. Later, after a doctor checked her over and gave her the all clear, Dean drove her home, shared a six-pack and a steak with her and then hugged her in the middle of her kitchen until she told him she couldn’t breathe and he should cut it out. He knew she didn’t mean it.

“Hey,” Violet greets Dean, finishing up her story as he crosses the squad room. She hops off his desk and shoos away her audience. “Weird Al wants to see you. You abandoning me?”

Dean shrugs. “Don’t know yet.”

“I hate it when you’re gone. They tag-team me between Vulpic and Wong and I don’t know who’s worse: Vulpic’s hyena laugh or Wong trying to get me to spill about girl-on-girl action.”

“Vivi, I don’t get seconded to the FBI on purpose. And Vulpic’s okay.”

Violet moves a bag of cookies from a pile of field reports to her overflowing in-tray. She surveys her desk. “I don’t know why I bother. No comment on Wong?”

Dean can tell she’s been waiting for an opportunity to tell him about Wong. “Just wait ’til our next sparring session. He’ll only be able to dream about girls having tea parties after I’m finished with him.”

Violet throws the cookies at his head with an eye roll and a relieved smile. She knows Dean will find some way to make Wong back off, in part because Violet’s way usually involves broken limbs and an official write-up, while Dean’s way involves nobody seeing or hearing anything, but everybody being very clear about what they can and can’t do or say to Violet Lucarelli. His colleagues’ debauched attitude towards Violet’s sexuality always riles Dean, even though he’s quite vocal in telling her it’s a waste of a gorgeous body.

Unlike Violet’s brothers, her mother, her host of uncles, and her rotating dance card of girlfriends (and occasional boyfriends, because Dean knows lying to Lucy is sometimes a smart choice), Dean knows Violet can look after herself. He’s never treated her like she needed to be looked after because she’s a pretty girl. He treats her like she’s his partner and he has her back.

Dean catches the cookies one-handed and dumps them on Vulpic’s desk as he heads for the Captain’s office. “Heads up,” he says. “I think you’ll have Heidi for a few days.”

Vulpic rolls his eyes. “Great, a firecracker going off in my face all day.”

“I’m sitting right here,” Violet says.

Dean closes the Captain’s door on their exchange, nods at his boss, then fixes his gaze on the room’s other occupant.

“Weird Al?” the man asks, with a wry smile. “It’s better than G-man, I suppose. Hello, Winchester. It’s been a couple of months.”

“You’re the one who doesn’t write, Garvin. You don’t call. What’s a girl supposed to do? Sit at home and cry?”

Special Agent Alexander Garvin doesn’t smile, but Dean can tell he’s amused because his ears lift slightly. As far as Dean can tell, the Bureau surgically removes each cadet’s sense of humour at Quantico.

“We need a consult,” Garvin tells him. “A day job, reviewing an active file. Can you manage it before the end of the week?”

Dean looks at the Captain. “Friday should be fine. Captain?”

“Fine with me. As long as you and Violet get your reports on that Barnes murder finished by Thursday. The prosecutor’s been riding me. And don’t make Lucarelli write yours again. It’s cute how she includes your spelling errors, but you were the lead on the case.”

Dean holds his hands up in surrender. “Message received. J. Edgar?” he asks Garvin

“No, Quantico. Nine o’clock. Don’t be late.”

“Am I ever?” Garvin and Captain Wallace both stare at him. “So punctuality isn’t my thing,” Dean admits, as he saunters back out to the squad room. Violet looks up from her desk. “Not getting rid of me today, Vivi.”

Violet takes two quick steps over to Vulpic’s desk, retrieves the cookies and tells him, “You won’t need these, then.”

********

Violet eats the cookies before lunchtime and gets crumbs in the front seat of their squad car. Dean tidies the mess, muttering under his breath about it.

Lucy once told Dean about a psychological theory that in any close relationship if one party chooses a particular role, the other will compensate by taking the opposite position. Lucy used it to explain why she was so tidy when Dean was so messy at home: because Dean chose to be messy first, Lucy has subconsciously elected to be the tidy one. It’s also Lucy’s explanation for why, at work, Dean is the tidy one: Violet is so messy Dean is forced to be neat. It sort of makes sense, but Dean’s never had much truck with psychology.

They spend most of the morning going from one hardware store to another, tracing a lead on duct tape. It’s a case going on for a year old now, the taskforce long gone, just Violet and Dean doing their thing. Every few weeks they take a few hours to follow-up on leads gone cold, keeping in mind that an elderly woman was tied up with duct tape and beaten within the last inch of life, the killer then leaving her to die a slow, painful death through the night in an abandoned warehouse.

Most homicides get solved; more than Dean realised when he was an outsider. But a few times a year Dean and Violet watch an investigation dwindle to nothing, before the resources dry up and it gets labelled a cold case. It’s a bad day when that happens: Dean goes quiet and Violet gets noisy but between them, they muddle through to the next day.

The duct tape lead goes nowhere, so it’s burgers for lunch and then back to the station for the afternoon. They help Vulpic and Wong take witness statements from a bunch of Georgetown trust funds kids who get up Violet’s nose something terrible. Dean isn’t particularly interested in them, other than watching Violet take wild swings at them.

Three generations of cops and public service means the Lucarellis aren’t rich and never will be, and that suits Violet down to the ground. It’s probably the reason Lucy and Violet have never gelled: Lucy isn’t showy about her privileged upbringing but she exudes it in the unconscious way that moneyed people do, which makes Violet all the more determined to play up her working-class roots in front of Dean’s wife. Lucy once commented that Violet doesn’t like her because she’s black and Dean raised his voice defending his partner, because Violet doesn’t have a racist bone in her body. Lucy wasn’t happier with the inadvertent revelation that Violet doesn’t like her because her parents were rich. It doesn’t change Violet’s mind that Lucy’s father left the family when Lucy was twelve, taking all the money with him and leaving Lucy, her sisters and her brother to earn everything they have now.

The other reason the two women in his life don’t get along is something Dean, Violet and Lucy don’t talk about, mostly to save Violet’s fierce self-pride.

Dean finishes up early enough to catch a nasty snarl of traffic, but it’s still light out when he gets home. R.J. is the first to greet him, and when Dean asks after his sisters, R.J. shrugs and says, “Doing girl stuff upstairs with Rose.”

“Oh, hi, Mr Winchester.” Rose enters the living room on cue, her hair mussed and her skin flushed with activity. “I didn’t realise you were home.”

“Just walked through the door. And it’s Dean.”

“Uh…okay.” Rose has never called Dean anything but Mr Winchester, despite looking after the kids for nearly three years now. “So, do you need me to stay until Lucy gets home?”

“No, Rose, you can go home. Update your Facebook status while pretending to do your maths homework.”

“How did you guess?” Rose laughs as she grabs her knapsack from the kitchen. Dean walks Rose to the front door. She calls goodbye to the girls, performs a complicated handshake with R.J., and says, “See you later, Mr Winchester.”

Grace thumps down the stairs as Dean closes the front door. “Daddy! You are home.”

“I am home,” Dean confirms.

The children follow him into the bedroom while he exchanges his jeans for sweats. Susie’s asleep on the bed – which is expressly forbidden by Lucy and expressly permitted by Dean – and she wakes up long enough to check she can stay.

Dean starts dinner while R.J. does his maths homework at the bench and Grace and Zoe keep doing girl things in Zoe’s room. With Lucy’s patient training Dean has managed to master a handful of meals. None of them are particularly complicated, but they get the job done and he hasn’t burnt anything for years.

When he hears Lucy’s car pull up in the drive he says to R.J., “Quick, run upstairs and get Susie off the bed.”

“Da-ad,” R.J. moans, even as he’s climbing down off his stool.

“Hurry up, Robert John or you’ll know why not.”

Lucy walks through the door moments before Susie clears the stairs and R.J. winks slowly at his father as he follows the dog into the kitchen. Dean has been teaching R.J. to wink and he’s getting better at it, but fortunately Lucy has her back to her son or she’d have seen the signal immediately.

“Hi honey,” she says, leaning in to kiss Dean as she passes him. “I need a drink.”

“That bad, huh?”

“Mm. I’ll tell you about it later.”

Dinner is a noisy affair. Dean has grown used to the chattering music of his children. It’s a sound he misses when he goes out of town for the Bureau and eats alone at diners or has take-out or room service. Dean hasn’t forgotten how to be alone – he suspects his aloneness is engraved in him, always accessible, constantly rupturing the surface of the life he has built – but notices the silence in a way he didn’t before.

********

Lucy usually reads in bed, but never work, always a book. Tonight, Lucy only reads for ten minutes before she marks her place and flicks off her lamp. Dean does too, knowing Lucy will want to settle into the darkness before she talks about what’s bothering her.

Dean is curious about other married couples he knows and often has to restrain himself from interrogating them. He didn’t grow up with married parents, never saw a married couple up close and he wonders if it’s the same for other couples, talking at night with the lights out, checking in with each other, discussing their days, arguing intensely about small things. There’s a particular rhythm to the way he and Lucy communicate at night and he wonders if it’s all their own, or if other people feel this way: startled and grateful to know somebody is beside them, listening to what they say, caring about it.

“Ettie rang this afternoon.”

Dean inwardly curses. Lucy and her older sister learned to argue with each other before they learned to walk.

“Oh?”

“About us visiting Mom in the first two weeks of July. She and Morgan want Mom to go stay with them then. I reminded her I sent an email last month saying we’d be going up to Attica then. Ettie suggested we could go another time.”

“Well, we could,” Dean reasonably points out.

“That’s not the point,” Lucy fires back. “Ettie only wants to see Mom then because we want to.”

“Did you tell her that?”

“Of course. And I pointed out they live an hour away from Mom and neither of them work and they don’t bother seeing her anyway. You and I don’t have that option.”

“And?”

“Oh, this was my favourite part. She told me I was selfish and cruel and always talked down to her because she was a housewife and how dare I belittle her choice to raise her children properly.”

Dean winces about the word properly, because he can guess what happened next.

“It degenerated into an argument about Morgan being an overpaid corporate hack and me having married a cop, and Mom playing favourites and…well, anyway.”

“It only degenerated at that point?” Dean jokes. He’s rewarded with a small laugh. “Lu, your sister’s the one who feels insecure about her choices. I know you know that.”

“It’s not an excuse to be a bitch. Ettie never thinks, she never acknowledges she’s done the wrong thing. I don’t know why I bother with her!”

“Because she’s your sister. And in the morning you’ll call Phoebe and she’ll call Ettie and think of some way to fix it and it’ll be fine.”

“Why do I feel like I’m being dismissed?” Lucy asks in a prickly tone.

“You’re not,” Dean automatically denies. “It’s just…you and Leticia argue all the time.”

“So it doesn’t matter?”

Dean begins to sigh, but catches it in time. “You push each other’s buttons. She wants to get a rise out of you, and you let her.”

“Oh, you don’t know what it’s like.” Lucy realises her mistake and says quickly, “That’s not what I mean. I meant…it’s been a long time since…” she trails off.

“I was thirty-four when Sam died, Lu. I lived more of my life with him than without.”

It took Dean a long time to get this point now, where he can say Sam’s name aloud, where he can speak of Sam’s death in an even tone: a year of silent, drunken misery, followed by sober misery and a quiet tenderness whenever Lucy veered near the topic, through the years of their children being babies, until Zoe asked Dean why he didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and Dean had to tell her that he did. He had the kind of brother he hopes Zoe will have in R.J., and as he’d told her about Sam, Dean had been startled to discover his tone was steady and unbroken.

His heart is not steady, or unbroken. Not then and not now.

“I’m sorry,” Lucy offers unequivocally. “Sometimes I think you’ve forgotten the darker side of a sibling relationship. Because Sam is gone you can just hold onto the good.”

Dean has a sudden, vivid memory of a screaming match on the side of Route 35, somewhere between nowhere and fucking nowhere, Sam berating Dean about his deal with the crossroads demon, Sam incandescent with rage, stinking with fear, Dean just taking it, hating Sam, loving him in the same breath. He has no idea how to convey any of it to Lucy, who only knows that he and Sam had a nomadic life as private investigators. The lie fell easily from Dean’s lips on their fourth date, after Lucy told him about her privileged upbringing in Manhattan, her mother’s bipolar disorder, her father’s lifetime of drinking and philandering, the family fortune he took with him when he left their mother, the half-brother they only found about after their father died in a car accident when Lucy was nineteen, and then she’d looked at Dean expectantly. It was the first – but certainly not the last – time Dean realised he didn’t want to disappoint this smart, elegant woman with her flashing brown eyes, her crooked smile, her skin like coffee, her springy black hair and her lovely, colourful soul and her not-entirely whole heart.

“Dean?” Lucy gently prompts, and he realises he’s drifted.

“Maybe you’re right,” Dean says. “God knows Sam pushed my buttons the way Ettie does yours.”

The conversation concludes naturally there, but for a short exchange two minutes later, when Dean says, “Babe, Morgan does have a job.”

“Shut up. And don’t call me babe.”

********

Dean and Violet catch a burglary turned homicide the next day and Dean gets home late, the children finishing their baths as he wearily climbs the stairs. He has story time duty with Gracie and R.J. while Zoe reads to herself in her room. Dean was quite wounded when Zoe informed him, shortly after Christmas, that she could read perfectly well to herself now and didn’t need him to read to her anymore.

He supposes it was the last part that hurt him. He is struck with a wrenching melancholy whenever he thinks of Zoe growing up, something he doesn’t feel to the same degree about his younger children. Zoe might be his first child, but she’s his baby, the girl he panics about at two a.m. in the morning, the one he feels afraid for, the one he feels elated for when she masters a new task, when she achieves a milestone.

Zoe is naturally shy and quiet where here siblings are noisy. She always needs extra encouragement, a little more support, something he tries hard to give her. R.J. seems unperturbed by the people around him, secure in himself and his intelligence, happy in his own universe. Grace is fearless, certain that she can conquer every situation. Dean can tell that even at four she’s inherited his recklessness and his command. Where the other two are more self-sufficient, Zoe is sensitive to the outer world, a contemplative child, always analysing and thinking, absorbing the moods and undercurrents around her.

Perhaps Dean’s attachment stems from the knowledge that Zoe is the child he will have to let go of first, the one who will venture out into the world first. Dean knows intimately what evil that world holds so he figures he’ll still be panicking about her when she’s forty. Perhaps it’s because until the moment she was born, Dean was unconvinced he would ever love somebody so fiercely again after Sam, but then she was there and that was all.

Dean tucks R.J. in, then wanders down the hall to Zoe’s room. “Hey you,” he says softly, standing on the threshold of her room. “What’s Anne of Green Gables up to?”

Zoe holds up her book. “I’m reading about Emily of New Moon now.” She marks her place and puts her book on her dresser. Dean takes his cue and settles next to her on the bed.

“What’d you do today at school?”

“We talked about names, where they come from. Miss Anderson asked if any of us were named for a special reason.”

“Shouldn’t you be learning algebra or something?”

“Dad, I’m nine!” Zoe’s eyes – his eyes – fix on him. “Why are you called Dean?”

“True story: I was named after my grandma. Her name was Deanna.”

“And your brother?”

“Sam was named after our grandpa, Samuel.”

“When Miss Anderson asked I realised I didn’t have a story. R.J. is named after Uncle Bobby and your Dad. And Grace is named for Mom’s aunt. I’m not named for anybody.”

“No, you’re not.”

“So why Zoe?”

“We liked the name.” Dean can feel the paucity of his answer; he can sense Zoe’s feeling of exclusion. “Actually, I liked the name. Your Mom liked other names – Bethany, Charlotte, Ruby. I didn’t like any of those names, but I didn’t tell her. The only name I liked was Zoe. I waited until you were born before I suggested it.”

“Why did you like it?”

“It means daughter.” Dean drops a kiss on Zoe’s forehead. “And I liked that it was a new name. Just yours – the first thing I’d ever give you. I liked the idea that you could be the first Zoe.”

Zoe smiles, pleased by Dean’s story and he wishes that all her hurts will be this easy to solve. “Was Sam annoying like R.J.?”

“Oh, worse, baby.”

“Nobody’s more annoying than R.J.”

Dean shakes his head. “Sam was like R.J. times a thousand.”

“Was he smart like R.J.?”

“He was smart like you. It’s a good thing you kids got your smarts from your Momma, because you sure didn’t get them from me.”

“Dad, they don’t let dumb people be detectives.”

“See? See how smart you are?” Dean glances at his watch. “It’s definitely past your bedtime, ladybird. Have sweet dreams.” He covers her face in wet kisses until she giggles and pushes at him.

“Daddy!”

Zoe rarely calls him Daddy now so Dean’s pleased to get his full title out of her. He winks at her before he turns out her light and leaves her door ajar. He navigates his way back to the stairs by the low glow of Gracie’s night light.

********

Dean leaves Susie at home and runs an extra quarter-mile in the morning, only remembering he’s due out at Quantico when he’s halfway through his shower. He dresses in double time, shoving gel through his hair as he bolts down the stairs.

Lucy eyes his suit and frowns. “You didn’t say anything about going out of town.”

Dean swipes a piece of Lucy’s toast, kisses her forehead with crumbs and garbles, “Day job, Quantico.”

Gracie zooms into Dean’s knees with her arms at full-stretch. “Daddy, look, I’m an aeroplane.”

“I’ve got those work drinks tonight – I told you about it last week.”

“Daddy!” Grace butts him again and makes what she probably thinks is a flying noise, but it sounds more like the garbage chute when it jams.

“I remember,” Dean lies, swallowing his mouthful. Lucy’s eyebrows tell him she doesn’t buy it. “I’ll be there on time, in my nice suit with a charming smile and a willingness to listen to boring legal talk.”

Grace tries again. “Daddy!”

Dean smooths her hair. “I see, Gracie Marie. You’re an excellent aeroplane.” Since becoming a parent Dean thinks he’s said stranger things than many of the incantations he chanted when he hunted.

“And no bringing your surname tonight!” Lucy calls to his retreating back.

“No surname,” Dean agrees.

The word is their code for Dean’s sidearm. Lucy hates guns and doesn’t like to even refer to them in front of the children. The day is fast approaching when they’re going to have an argument about it; Dean thinks their kids would be better served to learn proper firearms safety and respect for weapons. In part, he will be having the argument with himself. Half of him thinks his children don’t need to know the things his Dad taught he and Sam because that’s not a life they will ever lead. The other half thinks they should know these things just in case.

********

The drive out to Quantico is as bad as Dean predicted, but he’s only seven minutes late, something Jefferson Penn refrains from commenting on when Dean tracks the man down in the kitchenette across from his office. Penn is the agent Dean deals with at Quantico; Garvin call the J. Edgar Hoover building home.

“Detective Winchester,” Penn greets him.

“Agent Penn.”

Penn is a fussy, formal, Ivy League thirty-something with fast track golden boy written all over him. How he ended up working the Spook Group is something Dean has never asked; Penn’s cool taciturnity rebuffs any personal questions. He’s good at his job, listens respectfully to Dean’s advice and if he thinks his work is a joke it never shows on his face.

“Agent Garvin will be here shortly. Apparently, there’s been a development in the case.”

“What case?”

“The file is on my desk. Coffee?”

“Who made it this morning?”

“I did.”

“Okay. Last time I was here Garvin made it.”

“And you lived?” Penn asks, displaying a rare sense flash of humour.

Dean grins. “It was a near thing.”

They load up and then cross the hall into Penn’s office. If an office can be prim and proper Penn’s is. He doesn’t have any personal items in sight – no photographs, no sports trophies, no hideous inspirational desk calendar his aunt gave him for Christmas. Not even framed degrees.

Penn hands Dean the file and turns to his computer screen. Dean takes the coffee, the file and an amused smile out into the hallway and past the water cooler to the conference room he uses when he works out here.

The file is thick enough that he needs another cup of coffee before he’s halfway through it and he finishes reading it with his last sip of his second cup. He looks around the conference room and decides that aside from a lick of paint – a charming shade of industrial beige – not a thing in the room has changed since he first sat in here eleven years ago.

We aren’t the X-Files, was the first thing Garvin said after he slammed Dean into a brick wall. Had Dean been sober – if he’d even remembered what sober was – he’d have retorted by returning the favour and breaking some of Garvin’s ribs to boot.

But he’d been drunk for close to a year and Garvin kept him pinned to the wall and said, “We aren’t the X-Files.”

The sentence didn’t make sense until three days, a keg of coffee and forty-eight hours of sleep later. How Garvin got him from the alley behind the bar to a hotel room Dean doesn’t know, but he suspects Garvin drugged him. He woke up two days later with a headache he still can’t describe. Garvin was fully suited, sitting ramrod straight in an uncomfortable chair at the foot of the bed. He had painkillers, clothes, coffee and a blank stare. He turned his back while Dean dressed, then shepherded him across the road to a diner where he supplied more coffee and eggs. He waited for the eggs to be deposited before he slid his shining badge across the Formica.

When Dean made to leave Garvin snaked out and grabbed his wrist. “I’m not going to arrest you.”

Dean couldn’t manage scorn, just a croak. “That badge says otherwise.”

“I’ve just watched you sleep for forty-eight hours. This diner doesn’t look much like a prison cell, does it?”

“So you get your kicks watching other men sleep. You’ve got ten seconds to let me go. Or those things you’ve read in my file? You’ll get a live show.”

“You won’t make it half a block without puking. At least put some food in your stomach, then leave.”

“What, you’re my mother? I’m not fucking around here.”

“I’m not going to arrest you,” Garvin repeated.

“I don’t trust you.”

Dean broke Garvin’s hold on him easily and was satisfied to see his surprise. He strode off, two booths away when Garvin spoke again. “You can’t hunt alone – you were part of a two-man team for too long. But you’ll never stop the need, and I can give you a job doing what you were trained for.”

Dean paused, and more than a decade later, he knows it was the pause that sealed it. And Garvin knew it too, because he sat pretty while Dean ate his eggs, picked invisible lint off his dress pants and drank his coffee in short swallows without blowing on it to cool it. When Dean’s plate was cleared he began talking in a low, steady voice, explaining what he did for the FBI in the most unofficial terms imaginable, and what he wanted Dean to do for the FBI on the same unofficial terms.

Dean had been drunk for over a year. He’d broken every rule of hunting, hadn’t bothered to hide his trail, showed his back to doors, used his real name, split without paying bills, driven when he was barely conscious and drank enough every day that he couldn’t have defended himself if he’d wanted to. He’d ignored every pleading message that Bobby had left on his cell and had waited – hoped – that somebody or some thing would put him out of his misery.

Nobody had, and if someone had told him an FBI agent would be the monster hiding under the bed, he’d have laughed. If somebody had told him that FBI agent would save him he’d have killed them for being such a liar.

Because Garvin did everything he said he would. The FBI file on the Winchesters disappeared as though it had never existed. Dean got a Social Security number under his actual name. He got a bank account and a driver’s licence. He got into the training course at the MCPD, become a patrol officer, started running every day and rented a rundown two-bedroom house with enough yard that Susie wouldn’t go stir-crazy. He met Lucy at a party, let her court him, realised that she thought he was a good guy and that running away from her wouldn’t work, got married, bought a house in the actual suburbs, worked his way up the ranks in the Metro PD despite his maverick tendencies (which was as much a surprise to Dean as anybody else), made detective, had three children, started getting grey hairs and woke up one morning some time after Grace’s second birthday and realised he was living a life he had never actually dreamed possible, both before and after Sam died, and all the while he consulted with the FBI about every kind of evil out there, co-ordinating hunters and hunting himself when he was needed.

None of it was that easy, but none of it was as hard as Dean had imagined it would be, and that’s largely because Garvin gave Dean a clean slate to start from. Garvin did everything he said he would and then some. He – and his secret department – have done well out of it. The things that go bump in the night are well-documented by the Bureau and often well-corralled before they become a problem. The hunters that used to live off the grid still get to, but not because they’re afraid of the law, but because it’s easier to hunt that way.

Dean has proved an excellent resource, but never a tool, never a weapon for Garvin to wield as he wishes, and Garvin knows it. Garvin might have done everything he said he would, but Dean still doesn’t trust him.

********

Dean’s reverie about Garvin is broken by the man himself. Bearing a cup of fragrant espresso coffee from God knows where, Garvin eases into the seat opposite Dean.

“Read the file?”

“Cover to cover.”

“And?”

“Shapeshifters aren’t for the faint-hearted, so this was definitely the work of a trained hunter. My guess is there were two of them. I honestly can’t tell from the paperwork whether the civilian was killed accidentally or not. Autopsy still pending?”

“Sometime tomorrow, I believe.”

“Penn said there’d been a development.”

“We traced the motels in the area, led to a woman with a hunting background. We detained her in Pittsburgh last night, flew her down here to be interviewed.”

Garvin hands Dean another file. The jacket photo is all he needs. “You sure it’s her?”

“Positive ID from the motel clerk who says she was travelling with an older man. You okay to interview her?” Dean gives Garvin the flat, hard stare he inherited from his father; harder and flatter now that he’s earned the years. “She was your lover.”

Dean shrugs. “If I couldn’t interview any of my ex-lovers it’d be a pretty short list of hunters I could interview.” Garvin remains unmoved, uncurious about whether Dean is talking trash or truth, or the gender implications. “I’ll be fine. She still a blonde?”

“Was she ever?” Dean makes a face and Garvin says, “What, you think I can’t joke?”

“Eleven years, Garvin, and until then you hadn’t.”

“She’s a brunette now. Why do you want to know?”

“Curiosity. Killed the cat, don’t you know?” Dean collects both files and stands up. “No eyes or ears.”

“Can’t do that, Dean.”

“Yeah, you can.”

“We have official procedures for a reason,” Garvin hardballs.

“For a department that doesn’t officially exist? No eyes, no ears. I’ll get you what you want, then you can record it.”

He walks off before Garvin can mount another argument. He knows Garvin will shut off the recording devices, but only because he’ll be watching from the observation room.

********

Dean closes the door to interrogation and leans against it, the files tucked under his arm. He stays silent while she looks her fill. He looks his.

Amy’s brunette is as much a bottle job as her blonde was. It’s too dark to be her real colour, which Dean guesses is mousey brown. He doesn’t remember much of their months together but he remembers the deep citrus smell of her hair and the silken feel of it through his fingers.

Dean met Amy Anderson maybe three months after Sam’s death. Her family were the victims of a poltergeist; Dean destroyed it, and ended up with Amy following him around like a lost puppy. She wanted to help him. She told him she could see his pain, but Dean was pretty sure everybody could see his pain. Amy tried, she really did, but there was nothing for Dean to give her, and eventually he left her in a motel with $200.00 on the dresser, and the memory of a man who treated her like a whore. But it made her tough; she started hunting herself and hasn’t made a bad fist of it.

Amy opens the proceedings. “So you retired from hunting?”

“Yep.”

“Really? The Feds arrested me, and tell me an expert will interview me. And in walks Dean Winchester as I live and breathe. Sure, he’s got a wedding ring and some grey hairs but he still looks like he could kill a vampire nest and go three rounds with a good-looking woman without breaking a sweat.”

Dean shrugs. “Not sure about the three rounds with a good-looking woman.”

“No?”

“My wife’s more terrifying than any demon I ever killed.”

“How conservative.”

“Looks like you got in over your head on this one. Tell me what happened.”

She takes a long time to answer. “What can I say? Some of us haven’t given up.”

Dean takes his time crossing the space between the door and the desk. He places the files at a right-angle to the corner of the desk, satisfied when Amy’s gaze darts to them. “Amelia, I consult with the FBI, who unofficially acknowledges the big bad out there, mostly because they got tired of cleaning up the messes I kept making. I’m the foremost expert on supernatural matters in the whole damn country. If there was college course in this thing, I’d be teaching it. I don’t hunt every day, but I sure as hell haven’t given up.”

‘You don’t know what it’s like out there anymore,” Amy says scornfully.

“And you do? You think I haven’t kept tabs on you? You don’t hunt – you dabble. You got a diploma in criminology. You’ve had two failed marriages, you work for Red Heart, a victim’s rights group in Chicago and maybe twice a year you hunt something small because it allows you to pretend you’re still in the game. But you bit off more then you could chew with this and you’re in the shit now, Amy. If you want me to get you out of it, you better start talking.”

And she does, begrudgingly. It takes nearly an hour to get her story out, how she was approached by an old-timer, Jeb Jackson, who told her there was a shifter loose in Phoenix. They hunted together, Jeb killing a parking attendant whose form the shifter had taken before. Jeb fled and Amy finished the job herself, tracking the real shapeshifter. She doesn’t know where Jeb is. She can tell him where Jeb’s last hide-out was but she doubt he’s there now. She has no way of proving she didn’t do it except her word, and the look on her face says she knows how little that’s worth.

Dean tells her another agent will take a recorded statement. Amy arks up about a lawyer until Dean tells her that he doesn’t exist, she doesn’t exist, the department doesn’t exist and the statement she’s about to give doesn’t exist, so there aren’t any lawyers.

“Or fairies,” he adds. He slaps the case file shut and gets up to leave.

Amy leans forward. “You got kids, Dean?”

Dean isn’t sure about her play. “Why do you want to know?”

“I don’t have any.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“You write that file on me, Dean?” Dean’s silence is her answer. “Of course you did. I bet you’ve written files on all of us. They must love you around here – the things you know, the things you lived through. Must seem like a goldmine. So, what’s in it for you?”

“Why, little lady, I get to ride back to the Ponderosa ev’ry night, eat my grits and feel satisfied I done good in this world,” Dean drawls.

“Why are you being so cagey? We used to hunt together.”

Cruelty spears up through him from where he pushes it down most days, hiding it beneath layers of capable work, dogged baiting of suspects, camaraderie with his co-workers, genuine affection with Vi, love and respect for his wife, love and patience with his children. It’s only here, doing this work, that Dean sheds the layers of the life he’s made and returns to what he knows best: power, death, pain and cruelty.

“No, you used to tag along and annoy the ever-loving shit out of me. The things I lived through Amy, you don’t know anything about it. And that’s not my life anymore. You’re not my life, anymore. You never were. You were just a way to stop the grief for a time.”

But that’s when Amy makes her play, licking her lips, dipping her gaze down to the table with hesitation. Then she says, “Jeb told me about a rumour he heard from another hunter. About a psychic in Montana. The real deal.” She checks that he’s listening, returns her gaze to her hands. “He’s a hermit, lives completely off the grid. He has power.”

Dean doesn’t say a word. She flicks her gaze back up to him. “Jeb said his name is Sam.”

Dean plants his hands on the table and leans across until he and Amy are inches apart. “His name is Sam Covington. He’s twenty-two. He’s not the real deal – he’s a very sick boy.”

“Dean…” Amy breathes. “You came back from Hell…”

“My Sam is dead. You can go out and tell every hunter you know, if you like. Start that rumour. He’s been dead for years, and he’s never coming back.”

“But Sam…”

“But nothing!” Dean yells, slapping the table. Amy jumps and Dean feels only satisfaction. He exhales, hard, three times, before he pulls back. “Don’t ever talk to me about Sam again.”

Dean leaves her then, a brunette woman with nothing in her heart for him but hatred, and Dean knows there is a trail of people that he and Sam used, ignored, saved, left behind, frightened or bullied, a trail of women they hurt on purpose, women they hurt with every good intention in their hearts, a trail of people who ultimately didn’t count because Sam and Dean had each other and nothing else mattered.

End of Part One

Part Two

A/N: For the record, I called my character Robert John before Episode 6.02 gave us Bobby John. I really,really did!

Comments

Posted by: roxymissrose (roxymissrose)
Posted at: August 22nd, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
road goes on...

omg, where's the rest of it!!

I love this. I love the turn Dean's life has taken, I mean, if we can't have Sam then this is very, very good. I imagine Dean's family and figure they must be beautiful. I like that he seems happy, content, in what for him, must be the odd direction his life has taken. I can see it. Also, what a brilliant take on life after hunting. It makes wonderful sense and I'd love to see something like this on the show.

When I came to the end of this part it was really startling, that's how deep I was into the story.

Posted by: greenthumb421 (greenthumb421)
Posted at: August 25th, 2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
crossroads2

Please, post the second part! I'd love to see how this continues, very engrossing so far.

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