Disclaimer: see Chapter 1
Hellhound Puppy Series: IV
THE FIRE BURNS WITHIN
Dean re-enters the bedroom in fresh T-shirt and jeans, his cheeks faintly pink from shaving, and deeply inhales yet again the delicious smells of hamburger, crispy bacon and hot, melting cheese intermingled with fried potato products, salivating anticipatorily as he savours sinking his teeth deep, deep into thick, juicy meat and bubbling cheese perfectly offset by the salty bacon tang.
But then Dean stops dead at the sight of what Sam has done in retribution for Dean's deliberate hogging of the bathroom for an hour despite being aware that Sam's bladder is overfull of gas-station coffee. The luscious scent of the double cheese burger is all that remains of it, an empty wrapper mocking him as it sits next to an equally empty super-sized cup with a couple of desolate drops of coke clinging tenaciously in the bottom, while two crumpled fries huddle, lonely and forlorn in a corner of the take-out carton that should be overflowing with cholesterol-soaked scrumptiousness.
As Dean stands outraged, the culprit walks in, Sam bold-faced in his calumny and raising an eyebrow tauntingly at his gaping brother. Sam is unprepared for Dean's howl of fury and raises his arms defensively as Dean yells his 'j'accuse!' in the form of a rant that starts: "Dude! I can't believe you ate my food!!..."
"Are you nuts?!" Sam retorts, slicing through the irate yelling, "A - I went to the diner's men's room before I got the food and B - I wouldn't touch that heart-attack-in-waiting crap if you paid me; I got myself a pasta salad and fruit juice you jerk!"
There is a moment of silence as the brothers lock eyes – outrage and indignation butt heads, but both also see unflinching honesty in the other's gaze. Like two marionettes on the same string, their heads turn to look at the bed, where a third, ignored suspect sits.
Small and black bar a small brownish smudge across his muzzle, his fur all stuck out in tufted spikes – which gave him his name – their recently acquired Hellhound puppy sits dejectedly. His ears are drooping, his stubby little tail is still, his muzzle turns down, and even his glowing fire-red hell eyes are a dull ruby. Faint tremors wrack his small puppy frame and of immediate notice is his unusually and grossly distended belly. Four paws and fur not withstanding the overwhelming impression is solidly that of a little boy who has sneaked into the pantry, scoffed down every scrap of candy he can find, and is now deeply, deeply regretting it.
Dean's glare gives a deadly warning.
Sam, with the absolute confidence of a baby brother, cheerfully ignores it, "Your dinner's in the dog."
Dean's eyes spark and decisively he plucks up the hapless puppy by the scruff of its neck. Though always the tiny creature's champion, Sam doesn't so much as twitch even microscopically, knowing Spike isn't in any real danger. Even in ire, Dean's movements are smooth and graceful, and as he lifts the puppy with one hand, his other is instantly and carefully placed underneath its rump to support it gently.
At face level with Dean-person, whose dinner he has gobbled, Spike's already failing Hellhound credibility flatlines by virtue of increased shivering and shrinking into a smaller huddle. Dean's intended growl escapes as an exasperated huff of air and unable to berate the tiny, trembling thing, he turns on an easier, tougher, unwisely grinning target, declaring that since Sam ought to have had the sense to keep pup and temptation separated, he can go out and get fresh supplies for Dean's hollow stomach.
Sam declines, forcefully.
Once again, their confrontation is diverted. The puppy shudders and with a soft, almost apologetic whimper, belches a short but intense gout of flame that precisely sears off Dean's eyebrows and flash-blisters his forehead but does not – by some miracle – ignite the gel-slathered inferno-waiting-to-happen that is his hair.
For a microcosm of time, the Earth stops turning.
Even in this, Dean's control is flawless – the clenching white of his knuckles as he grips the puppy's ruff is the only reaction as he remains stunned into absolute rigidity.
The eternal second passes. His eyes huge saucers in his face, Sam acts as decisively as his sibling. Reaching out, he plucks the puppy from the statue that is Dean, turns on his heel and leaves the motel room, his long legs eating up the blacktop as he clutches the small animal to his chest and approaches a run. Behind the motel is the tree-line and Sam halts so he is hidden from casual view by the foliage; placing the whimpering puppy on the grass, Sam frantically strips off his windbreaker1 with frantic, fumbling fingers. Rolling it up as tightly as he can, Sam stuffs the material into his mouth as an improvised, self-inflicted gag and curls in on himself.
Then he gives into hysterics, rocking and shaking with hilarity endlessly until finally he wilts into the grass. His lungs labour to suck in air, his limbs are as weak as wet spaghetti, and even now spasms of giggles skitter through his body like earthquake aftershocks. He is nowhere near laughed out, just too exhausted to move. Feebly he turns his head to where Spike, looking a bit less woebegone, perks up at his favourite person's regard and gives a tentative tail-wag to test the waters. Sam notes the less bloated stomach the wisps of grey smoke, and screws up his face at the dinner-plate sized patch of smoking ground at the trunk of a nearby tree, the smoke caused by the literally sulphuric stomach acids of a mystical hellhound reacting with the oxygen in the air after being regurgitated along with semi-digested burger, fries and large coke.
There is movement near the tree line and Sam is acutely aware of how his current physical limp-noodleness makes him completely vulnerable, but the figure moves in an intimately familiar, predatory stalk, and Sam, uniquely amongst human beings, relaxes rather than tenses when he spots it.
Dean comes up to them out of the shadows. He is wearing one of those woollen winter hats, though not an actual beret, that you can pull down around your ears – and forehead. It covers his forehead and his eyebrows effectively and inconspicuously.
Sam doesn't mind, as the possibilities to subtly torment his big brother are now assured. Payback will be as big a bitch as Spike's mom was, but sometimes it's just worth it.
Slowly Sam stands up and makes a show of brushing himself down, a non-verbal declaration of truce – for now. Dean says nothing but the slight relaxing of his shoulders answers for him. Sam now folds his arms and raises his eyebrows at where the puppy has stopped moving and is looking the wrong side of anxious again.
With a long-suffering sigh, Dean declares, "Infernal mutt."
Spike perks up at the words. Tone is all, and Dean was speaking in that soft, gentle tone he used when he allowed Spike to snuggle up in the crook of his neck under the warm, warm bedclothes – something Spike was only usually permitted to do when Sam was sound asleep…and so all was well in the Puppyverse.
Sam bites back a grin as Dean growls an order for him to grab the seat-cover-in-waiting so Dean can finally get some food, deciding he's pushed it far enough for today, but both men pause when Spike suddenly stops and tilts his little head to one side, wearing an expression of intense concentration and focus.
In an instant they are both poised and alert. A second goes by and then another, and then Spike relaxes and lifts his tail slightly, expelling a small ball of flame from his ass.
Two jaws fall open and two pairs of eyes bug out and two heads turn to gape at each other. "He farts fire??!!"
© 2006, Catherine D. Stewart
1 In Britain, a 'windbreak(er)' is a large, collapsible cloth/plastic & wood screen that is put up on a beach to act as a buffer from any wind, blowing sand, runaway donkeys, the nearest children who aren't yours, and having to look at the egomaniac yutz who insists on stripteasing into his/her swimming gear on the beach instead of beforehand because of course your sole desire is to admire his/her pasty, knobbly, flabby frame and saggy or shrivelled (depending on gender) genitalia … ahem
Anyway graceunderfire beta'd and changed it to windbreaker from windcheater, which I thought was the correct term, but what I mean is that light, shower-proof jacket/hoodie thing that "Sam" often wears – whether it's part of the show's costume store or Jared Padelecki's real attire, (like "Spike's" eponymous leather duster in Buffy was really James Marsters' own coat he wore to set one day), I don't know, but I'm sure you know what I mean.