Bad Connection


Things were going pretty well until Dean Winchester called her Baby Doll.


Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine, but I'd make Dean wear his boots if they were. Always.
Pairing: Dean/OFC
Rating: M ( Language, angst, adult situations and two cell phones )
Spoilers: Technically, this takes place after "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" and through to the aftermath of "Simon Said" but there are references to things mentioned in later episodes. I'd say up to "Born Under a Bad Sign" to be safe.
Miscellaneous: This is the sequel to Dizzy.

Betas: My lovely brain twin, wenchpixie, not only commiserated with me when Penny Hillsworth hijacked my plot...but she also made certain I got control back. As always, she sprinkled this with pixie dust and everything that rocks in this piece is because of her. The mistakes? Those are all me.


Dean Winchester had a voice that could make toes curl.

And he knew how to use it. The man would whisper things when was has inside of her, slowly pulling against her with words calculated to make her tremble. Any attempt to respond to him – his low voice hitting her right in the belly with a cadence he'd spent years perfecting – came out as a breath or a sigh before devolving into a whimper. Penny could lose herself in it, the way his voice dipped down like his fingers rippling through her, and she held onto it like a lifeline whenever she let go; first a quiver and then a shudder, until her back arched and she wasn't talking at all.

"Are you ready, Penny?"

Penny blinked, following it up with a slow swallow. "I…think so." Her cheeks were already flushing. There was something about the way he asked things that made her feel like she was seventeen all over again.

Dean chuckled. "Everyone's a little nervous their first time."

"You ass." Penny's breath came out in a huff and she shifted against her headboard, pillow at the small of her back. "The next thing you're going to say is that you'll walk me through it," she added.

"You took the words right out of my mouth, Short Stuff."

"Do you want to do this or not, Agent Han? Because I usually hang up on jerks who call me Short Stuff."

She heard a rustling noise before Dean laughed, like he knew she wouldn't go through with it. "You're killing the mood here, Baby Doll."

"Baby Doll?"

"Look, sweetheart, I've got a whole list of names for you. Don't even get me started." Dean Winchester's goddamn voice was nearly a purr and Penny could hear his self-satisfied little grin wrapping around the words.

"And each one is more annoying than the last," Penny retorted. It was hard to keep her own voice even, her mouth twitching as soon as she heard Dean's intake of breath. "Do you want to get spanked?"

"Jesus…" There was a hitch in his throat. "You're making me fucking hard with your goddamn little mouth."

"Isn't that the point?" she asked, pitching her voice as low as he did. If it made her crazy, maybe it would make him crazy, too – hearing nothing but desire and wanting in the way the words were strung together. Dean could probably make her come by reciting the telephone book; the one time he started speaking in Latin, Penny pinned him to the bed for hours.

"Hell, yeah." Dean's smirk had replaced the surprise. "So are you lying down?"

"No," Penny replied, shifting her feet up. She could feel the rumble like he was teasing her with his tongue and his fingers and lessons learned from the road. "I'm sitting here missing you, Dean Winchester." She licked her index finger and rubbed a nipple, skin cooling from a gust of air from her ceiling fan. "How it feels after you've sucked on my breasts, the way my skin cools down when it's slick from you."

Dean swallowed. "Are you sure you've never done this before?" His voice was ragged.

"What happened to walking me through this, Shotgun?" Penny's hand moved down her abdomen, stroking her left thigh. She closed her eyes, hearing the rhythmic jerk of skin against skin in the background – another harsh gasp in her ear. "Are you touching yourself?" she asked.

"Fuck," he whispered. "You know I am." Penny slipped her hand lower and she arched her back with a moan of her own. "God, I wish I was there," Dean added. "Holding you open and watching you squirm. Seeing how many times I can make you moan before you come."

"This was your idea, Dean." The pressure was building and damn if her toes weren't curling already – pushing into the comforter. "But I love it when you hold me open, making me come harder than anything."

Dean didn't say anything to that, just erupted with a hard groan that shot through her chest and made Penny roll left. Bucking against herself, missing the rough scrape of his skin and the width of his fingers. She never wanted it more than with him and suddenly she was jerking and her entire body stiffened.

"Damn," came his voice, a smile that sounded raspy. "Was that good for you?"

Penny laughed, stretching her entire body. "You're just slow."

"Got all the – " Dean started. "What the fuck!" Penny might have responded to that but there was an insistent beep in her ear. She pulled the phone away from her head and stared at it, her cousin's name flashing across the LCD right before her brother's name replaced it. "…damnit, Sammy," Dean muttered.

"I'm getting called, too." Penny shifted her legs, hopping off the bed and walking across the floor. It felt good to stretch, to let her muscles relax. "But it's two hours before we're supposed to meet them."

"Maybe they're trying to give us fair warning." Dean chuckled. "We were late for dinner yesterday."

"That's your fault," she retorted. "Latin makes girls crazy."

"Crux sancta sit mihi lux," Dean whispered, a pulse pounding when the vowels registered. "Non draco sit mihi dux." His breathing sped up and Penny decided she had had enough, listening to him groan and hearing the rustle of fabric every time he moved. The slide of skin against skin, his where it should have been hers.

Penny flung open the bedroom door and stalked down the hall, spotting him in her arm chair. His eyes were closed, muscles clenching and covered in sweat. Dean Winchester was beautiful, completely lost in the moment, and that voice was a sibilant murmur; syllables she dimly recognized as her name repeated in her ear. Wanting her had done this to him and it hurt; he'd be gone tomorrow and there were no guarantees. "I'm still missing you, Dean Winchester," Penny said, forgetting to speak into her phone.

His eyes opened when Penny touched his hand, pulling it aside before she straddled him. Dean's eyes widened, so close to hers he could probably blink and she'd feel his lashes on her eyelids; she began flicking her tongue across his freckles, a sprinkle of cinnamon across the bridge of his nose. His hips jerked once and Penny moaned; he'd never been so swollen before and she was spilling all over him like the pulp from an orange – juicy and ripe and wishing he'd drink her all in. Her toes began curling again when his hips jerked a second time.

Dean snapped his phone shut and tossed it onto the couch before grabbing her hips. "I'm right here, Penny Hillsworth." His mouth slammed into hers forcefully. Penny's phone dropped out of her hand, landing on the floor; his tongue was fucking her mouth and she grabbed the back of the chair behind his head to steady herself. He was thrusting so hard that Dean was lifting them both up from the seat of the chair and she was crashing right back down against his hips, all in time to the blood pounding in her ears.

It lasted longer than she thought it ever could, her body bucking until she stiffened against him at the same time he groaned her name into the curve of her neck. Penny could feel the bruises forming on her hips; his hands had kept her from falling backwards, keeping her safe, but she knew there was always a price for that. Things he needed to do to keep people safe. So she kissed him while she still could; Dean Winchester tasted sweet, like something to cool you down on a summer's day.

Penny shifted, curling up onto his lap and leaning her head against his chest. She listened to Dean breathe as his arms came around her and he rested his chin on her head. "You really suck when it comes to phone sex, Penny," Dean said, his chuckle echoing through her entire body.

Penny wanted to tell him that they were going to have enough goddamn time to practice phone sex when he wasn't actually there but then she just looked up at him and brushed his cheek with her hand. That broke something because Dean's smile disappeared and his mouth started coming down on hers; maybe he realized what she was thinking without her having to say it because the kiss was soft and slow and the only thing that ended it was a beeping noise on the ground.

"If you'd like to make a call," a mechanical voice said, "Please hang up and try again."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The girl had definitely redeemed herself after the Indian place but that still hadn't kept Penny Hillsworth from making a crack about chicken being chicken no matter what you cooked it in after Dean started arguing with Sam about the different kinds of sauce they were ordering with their wings. Twelve different kinds and Sam wanted to taste all of them, even the hot and spicy crap that made Penny's eyes widen and Tommy Hillsworth grin at his little sister. The beer was good, if a little bitter – reminding him of a local brew Ellen kept on tap at the Roadhouse.

Even the music kicked ass.

Dean hummed 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' while he took a sip of his beer, watching Penny surreptitiously pull out something from her purse and poke her finger with it. Penny usually did her tests in the bathroom where no one could see. She frowned when she read whatever showed up on the monitor. "I'll be right back," she said, sliding down off her stool and grabbing her purse.

"You okay?" Sam asked.

"Yep," Penny nodded. "Just need to give myself a shot." She looked at her cousin. "Would you mind ordering me some tea if they've got some that's unsweetened?"

"No problem," Lynn returned.

"Thanks." Penny grinned. "And we better ask for some extra carrots and celery with the wings." She winked at Dean before she sauntered away; Penny Hillsworth sure as hell wasn't wearing baggy jeans around him anymore and he almost thought about following her and finding a utility closet or something because her skirt should have been illegal.

Sam poked him in the side with an elbow. "Dude!" Dean snapped, slamming down his beer on the table. "What the – " And that's when Dean noticed the waitress standing next to their table, pad in hand to take their order. She raised an eyebrow at him. "Uh, I'll take the twelve piece basket to start with the chipotle barbecue sauce," he stammered. His stomach growled. "Better make that the twenty-piece basket."

"Long day with my little sister?" Tommy asked, pouring himself a pint from the pitcher. The waitress had moved on to take the rest of the order from Sam and Lynn.

Dean chuckled. "We went to Shedd's Aquarium." He shook his head. "And your little sister's a freak, man. I had to swear to never eat shrimp again."

"That's not so hard." Sam snorted. "Have you ever even tried shrimp."

"Fuck, no. Fish swim in their own crap." Even Lynn Lucas had turned to stare at him when he said it. "I only ate fish sticks when we were growing up because Dad said so." Dean's eyes narrowed – Penny's head had just appeared on the other side of the bar and some blonde guy started tailing her back to the table.

"Haven't seen you in awhile, Hillsworth." The blonde spoke with clipped syllables, sounding just like Mr. Prancy Dancy from Cassie's favorite movie. His grey eyes were hard and his hand encircled Penny's arm. Dean was off his stool, getting ready to grab the asshole's shoulder, and Sam was right there with him – suddenly hovering at Penny's side.

"Unless you want to remove your testicles from the back of your nostrils," Penny said calmly, "You'll let go of my arm." The blonde ignored her, smirking like he didn't expect her to follow through on the threat. Dean knew better.

"You should listen to the little lady. She'll slam that fist she's making right into your crotch, Chuckles." Dean leaned in and the blonde looked down at Penny's hand. "When Penny puts you down, I'm going to be first in line to mock the prick who thought he could take her." The asshole looked up at him then and the skin around his eyes actually paled.

"Are you the one fucking her," the blonde barked, "Or are you the one who takes the pictures?" But he let go of her arm with another flash of his grey eyes and stomped away, pushing into Sam. The blonde smirked once over his shoulder at Penny Hillsworth.

Penny was trembling, body ramrod straight and her arms hanging at her sides; both hands closed into fists. "Who was that?" Sam asked softly.

"My ex-boyfriend." Penny's breath was ragged and she looked like she wanted to run, especially when her eyes met her older brother's. "Maybe coming here was a bad idea. I should leave."

Lynn snorted. "Peter is an ass. I told you that when you were dating him." She leaned forward, her voice suddenly gentle. "And you took your medication, Pen. You need to eat something or you're going to be sick."

"And we ordered you wings with the spiciest sauce," Tommy added.

Penny smiled, a small flicker across her lips, and slid up into her stool. "You're a bad brother, Tommy Hillsworth." Her voice was subdued and she suddenly glanced in Dean's direction, trying to smile at him before taking a sip from her water glass. She looked flushed and her body was still shifting like she wanted to fling herself off the stool.

Sam squeezed her hand and Penny relaxed. Dean wished his little brother hadn't decided to comfort her because Dean wasn't about to do something like that to a girl in public. It got worse when Sam stared at him and then down at her other hand, sitting on the table next to her water glass. And Penny saw it, too. The look Sam flashed him and Dean's quick shake of the head. Her jaw clenched and she took another swallow from her water glass, staring straight ahead at some place behind her cousin's head.

Fuck…

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The only thing she wanted to do was climb into her shower and blast herself with as much hot water as the heater could muster, scrubbing hard with a loofah sponge just to get rid of the memory of everything she did after her mother died. Maybe then Dean would be able to look her right in the eyes instead of everywhere but her face. It hurt more than she thought it should when he didn't even touch her hand like Sam did, his eyes burning at her when he thought she wasn't looking.

Dean Winchester didn't know the mess he was getting himself into by keeping an eye on her. Hell, her family didn't know what really happened after Mom died, the things Penny had done just to get through another day; not even Lynn, who knew enough to worry about any man now who came within her cousin's periphery. The last thing Dean needed in his life was a fucked-up girl like Penny Hillsworth.

Penny expected Dean to grab her by the arm the moment her apartment door closed behind her. She tried to walk away as quickly as she could but Dean Winchester was fast, whipping her back towards him. What she didn't expect was the way he wrapped his arms around her, holding her so tightly against his chest she could feel his heart beating on her cheek.

"You should have punched that asshole in the balls," Dean said. "He was out of line."

She swallowed. "Peter wasn't really out of line, Dean." Penny wriggled out of his arms the moment he started loosening his hold, taking a step back. Dean looked as startled by what she said as much as by how she said it, her voice calm and matter-of-fact. "I did lots of things after my mother died."

"We all get a little crazy sometimes, Penny."

And Dean Winchester had no right to be looking at her like she was some victim who needed protection. A part of Penny always knew what she was doing at those parties, the things people slipped into her drinks and it never bothered her until the next morning after she woke up in a tangle of limbs and sweat and strangers. And the mornings never kept her from finding another party that night, no matter how much Penny could feel her mother's disappointment every time she crossed a new threshold.

"Really?" Penny's nostrils flared and Dean could only stare at her. "I don't see you screwing around with complete strangers! Cheating on your boyfriend. Giving up on your life and fucking up your dreams just because your mother died!" Dean's head moved backwards like she'd slapped him. "I was selfish," she added, throat suddenly sore as her eyes burned. "Not like you. You help people. I just wanted to feel, so I took from whoever would let me."

She didn't realize she was crying until his fingers brushed her cheek. Penny shook her head sharply, wiping away tears herself with both hands. "There's one thing you need to know," Dean said, his eyes heavy with something she couldn't identify. "Any number you can come up with, I've done more. Stupid things to get you through the next day? I've got a list so long we'd run out of paper trying to write it all down. I wasn't a monk before my dad died." His voice cracked at that last part. "And I went a little crazy myself. That wasn't so long ago now, Penny. You're the…" Dean looked away.

Her throat hurt but Penny grabbed the left sleeve of his jacket in her hand, feeling the leather as supple as butter between her fingers. "So are you," she said simply, a small cough past the ache. "But I'm not sure why you'd pick me. There are lots of girls out there."

"None of them have a bathtub as big as yours." Dean grinned at her again. "And you don't skimp on the bath stuff. Nothing but the best for your cute little ass." Penny intertwined his fingers with hers and squeezed. "Even if your taste in men really sucks," Dean added.

Penny finally recognized the look in his eyes; it was the same one she saw every morning when she was brushing her teeth. "So we're not really all that different," Penny said softly and she knew it was true – both of them trying to figure out why they were the ones still there. Trying to figure out how to live after being tossed out to sea without an anchor. Sometimes people leave you halfway through the wood. And neither of them had any clue why the other would want someone who couldn't even figure out answers to the basic questions.

"Nope." Dean snorted. "I'm pretty sure my taste in men really sucks."

"But you do have excellent taste in bathtubs," Penny replied. She started walking back towards her bedroom, dragging him behind her. People make mistakes, holding to their own – thinking they're alone. "And I've decided you need someone to keep an eye on you, too," she added, stopping right inside the door. Penny let go of his hand and turned to face him, reaching up to slide his jacket off his shoulders. "It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it."

"That's because you're always trying to jump me."

"Or maybe it's because you always smell like barbecue sauce." Penny scratched at a dried spot on his chest with one finger. "I think the only way to make sure you're really clean is to do it myself." She reached into the waistband of his jeans and pulled his shirt up as high as she could before he had to take over.

"If you're making me take a bath, sweetheart," Dean retorted, "I need to be really dirty first." He pushed her backwards onto the bed, pinning her down with his hands on either side of her head. Penny snaked her arms past his to brace herself on his shoulders, hitching herself up to kiss him. Dean managed to roll her onto her side and start taking off her shirt before he pulled back. "Penny," he said softly.

"Yes?"

"Are you going to use the Honey Harvest Extra Foaming Bubble Bath?

"Only if you're really dirty."

"Right." Dean launched himself off the bed, giving her a stern look over his shoulder. "Stay right there." Penny heard his footsteps followed by the sound of the refrigerator door opening before he reappeared in the doorway. "Winchester boys are always prepared," he added when Penny narrowed her eyes and looked at the bottle he was carrying in his right hand.

"Oh, no…"

"Oh, yes!" Dean set the bottle on her nightstand before sitting her up and pulling her shirt up over head. "No girl can resist me after I cover her in chocolate sauce." Dean was pushing her backwards, hands undoing each hook at the front of her bra while his mouth dipped down to lick a stripe down her cleavage, and Penny wound her fingers through his hair.

But she wasn't ready yet to tell Dean Winchester that she couldn't resist him, the way he laughed with his whole body when something struck him funny or the look on his face when he was calling his younger brother 'Geek Boy'; Dean couldn't hide how proud he was of Sam no matter how annoyed he sounded. She wouldn't tell him that every morning she watched sunlight spill past the curtains and build dappled shadows across his freckles, that she wanted to wake him up by kissing each and every one – but he looked so peaceful in those stolen moments that she let him sleep.

"Dean?" she asked softly, fingers still in his hair.

Hazel eyes focused on her face. "Yeah?" He began tracing lazy circles on her abdomen with his fingers.

"Thank you." She swallowed as Dean began kissing his way back up to her mouth. "For not thinking any less of me for what I did."

"I'm the world's biggest screw up," Dean answered right before his mouth came down on hers. Penny didn't think he'd ever believe her if she told him how he mattered, that every mistake he'd ever made would always be outweighed by the good he did. So she tightened her arms around his neck and let him start unzipping her skirt, hoping he'd listen if she spoke with her hands and her mouth and the soft parts of her where their bodies met.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Saying goodbye was one of the hazards of the gig.

He should have been used to it given the number of times they just up and left someplace. Dad would pull them out of school without a warning, parking the Impala near the playground during recess and Sam and Dean knew that meant they should gather their things and meet him in the car. They always left little pieces of themselves behind, like when Sam lost Mr. Whiskers at a truck stop or saying goodbye to Cassie Robinson after she actually believed him about the job.

Hell, even Dad was just ashes; all Dean had left was the journal, an old shirt and the last words his father would ever tell him.

The demon's got a plan for your brother. You've got to try and save him, Dean. But if you can't, you're going to have to stop him. And the only way to do that is to kill Sam. Remember that.

Dean woke up to the sound of a keyboard – keys clacking like they always did when Sam got up early to get his girly coffee and work on some research. Except that it was Penny Hillsworth sitting beside him, her face illuminated by the monitor as she balanced her laptop on a breakfast tray, and Dean couldn't make heads or tails of the diagrams she was looking at on her screen. He brought himself up just enough to kiss her shoulder and she brushed his cheek with her hand before turning her attention back to whatever she was working on, some kind of equation that almost looked like the alchemical stuff Dad had stumbled across a couple of years ago.

"It's my lab summary," she explained. That's when Dean remembered Penny had decided not to go to her class that morning so that she could spend the rest of the day with him before the Winchesters had no choice but to leave. As soon as she sent an e-mail to her professor and her lab partners, Penny put her laptop back on her desk and crawled back into bed with him; Dean curled around her as she fell back asleep, content just to hear her breathe.

And he remembered what Pastor Jim used to say about intersections, how lives crossed and criss-crossed each other because God was making sure people got what they needed to live and to heal. Dean didn't believe in crap like that but even he couldn't explain how being hit by some crazy girl with an umbrella turned into finding something he knew was lost but never though he'd get back, how that cold spot eased a little when Penny Hillsworth rested her head on his shoulder and he could smell the lilacs in her shampoo.

Sam was the one who always managed to turn goodbye into see you later, keeping track of his old friends' e-mail addresses and updating his list of their phone numbers. He'd just call one of them out of the blue, talking like he was still seeing them at school. Dean was the one who said goodbye and never looked back because the job meant you didn't get close to people; compassion didn't even require you to let them in. Dad had taught him that and Dean had tried to teach it to Sam right after they left Stanford.

The little bastard had rubbed off on him instead.

Dean tried to slow things down – making Penny another pancake breakfast and feeding her pizza rolls one at a time for lunch – and he'd even come up with the crazy idea of checking out her door and windows for locks. He took Penny to a hardware store and replaced two of her deadbolts, full of plans about the other things he needed to fix up; Sam still showed up in time for dinner, telling Penny that Lynn and Tommy would come by to see her later. After we're gone. Sam didn't add it but they heard it all the same.

He had no freaking clue how the damn thing was supposed to work but Dean snuck into her bedroom while Penny and Sam were cooking dinner and put some things he wanted Penny to have underneath her pillow. He left them both huddled over a wok, throwing in some chicken and tortellini and some green sauce with garlic in it that Dean decided to try because Penny Hillsworth was making him dinner. When he came back into the kitchen, Sam was flipping the stuff around like that Yan guy on TV and Penny was chopping up tomatoes. Dean started setting the table and if she guessed where he had gone, Penny didn't say.

It was raining outside when they took Dean's things downstairs. Penny stayed on her stoop, underneath the awning – hands rubbing up and down her arms because she didn't bring a jacket. Sam practically lifted her off the ground when he engulfed her in a great big shaggy bear hug, blushing a little when she kissed his cheek, and promised that he'd stay in touch. Dean passed Sam on the way back up the stairs after slamming down the trunk of the Impala.

"Did you get the cookies I packed for you?" Penny asked.

Dean nodded. "You didn't have to do that." Even on the step below her, Penny was still shorter than he was.

"Of course I didn't," she replied with a little smile, "But since I'm the reason you're driving all night, you're leaving with enough calories to stay awake."

"I'm not telling Sam you baked me cookies naked. Or what you did to me while they were in the oven."

"Thanks," Penny returned wryly. Her eyes softened and she grabbed the collar of his jacket with both hands and pulled his mouth down to hers. "You stay safe, Dean."

"Always do." He let out a sigh as Penny pressed her forehead against his. "You keep getting good grades, Penny," Dean managed in as serious a tone as he could muster and he kissed her softly when it made her laugh. "I don't want to hear that you're on academic probation or something because of me."

"Do I get punished if I'm on academic probation?"

Dean snorted. "I think I can come up with a punishment or two that you won't enjoy."

"Like making me listen to you sing in the shower?"

"Being cute is only going to get you so far in life, Short Stuff."

"I know." Penny still hadn't moved to go back inside. She sighed. "This goodbye thing only works if you leave, Agent Han."

"I know." Dean took a deep breath and leaned down to whisper in her ear. "I left you something."

"You didn't have to do that."

"Yes, I did," he said quickly, "So you'll believe that I'm coming back." Penny's eyes were sparkling from the light of the nearby lamppost as he stepped away and she brought her hand up in the same wave she used the first time they said goodbye.

Sam was already in the driver's seat, eyeing him curiously as Dean walked around to the passenger's side. Sam leaned over and unlocked the door and Dean might have been okay if he hadn't looked up at the stoop right as he swung open the passenger door. Penny was watching him and she wasn't moving. His throat ached as he slid into the seat and slammed the door closed.

Sam turned the key in the ignition and slipped in a tape. Metallica started blaring from the speakers, almost in time to the windshield wipers flipping rain off the front window. Sam looked like he was going to say something then thought better of it, pulling the car out onto the road. When Dean looked up into the rearview mirror at the end of the block, Penny was still standing on the stoop watching the car drive away.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tommy and Lynn had been taking turns checking in on her and it was her own fault.

Both of them had been over when Penny found the Metallica t-shirt Dean Winchester had tucked underneath her pillow, along with a list of things he thought that every girl needed to know – like laying salt lines to protect her apartment or the symbols she could inscribe on her windows with holy water. He'd even given her the name of a nearby store where she could get supplies.

She'd been fine until she saw the list of contacts, written out as meticulously as Dean's list of instructions. There was a man on it named Bobby Singer that she was supposed to call if she hadn't heard from Dean in over a month. Ellen Harvelle apparently owned a bar in Nebraska and she would know whether or not the Winchesters could be reached if she needed to find them. Not to mention the post office boxes scattered across the country, all under different names.

Penny never doubted the Winchesters once Lynn had told her about the pouka but reading the comments next to Bobby Singer's name made the whole thing real. She set the list gently on top of the folded t-shirt and went back into the living room where Tommy and Lynn were playing Halo.

Tommy noticed that she was upset but all he did was hand her a game controller. He didn't leave until Penny had kicked their asses three times. Lynn spent the night, stroking her hair while Penny cried into the pillow Dean used. Her cousin couldn't tell her who protected the Winchesters.

Dean had called her when they pulled into Raleigh and again a couple of hours later to gloat about getting a 'fancy book' Sam had wanted for less than three bucks at the auction but that was the last she had heard from either of them in the week since the Winchesters left Chicago. It was hard not to be worried, to wonder what they were fighting and if they were as safe as she was – locked up tight between the new deadbolts that Dean had installed before he left and the salt lines she was still learning how to do.

But all of that hadn't prepared her for what their life was really like.

The phone call woke her up. She used to leave her cell phone out on the coffee table but now she kept it on her nightstand and it was always plugged into its charger. "Hello?" she croaked into the mouthpiece, hoping that she had opened the phone properly.

"Penny!" Dean didn't even wait for her to respond. "We've got a gig!"

"A gig?" Penny blinked, sitting up.

"Yeah. Some small town called Guthrie in Oklahoma. Sam got a vision about a guy buying a gun and blowing people away so we're going to check it out after we get some more information."

The strange noise was coming from her throat. "Vision?" she asked weakly.

"Uh…" Dean's voice suddenly sounded evasive. "Sammy's been getting visions for awhile now." And he gave that chuckle he used when Dean was getting ready to change the subject. "Didn't I tell you that?"

"I think I'd remember if you told me Sam was a psychic, Dean" Penny gave a small laugh, hoping it would keep her voice steady. "You two really are Han Solo and Luke Skywalker," she added.

Dean snorted. "You're taking this pretty well, Short Stuff." He sounded impressed.

"The old stories are full of people with special gifts," she returned. "If the pouka is real, why wouldn't the rest of it be true?" Penny pitched her voice low, trying to ignore the panic in her chest, and she wished she were drunk. She wasn't about to start screaming but being half-asleep didn't even come close to dulling the shock. She took a breath. "Are you boys leaving in the morning?" Penny asked. It was a normal question.

"Nope," he returned. "If it's what we think it is, we'll be leaving as soon as we can. I'm not sure how long this one is going to take, Penny. Might be some complications." And Penny didn't like the way Dean Winchester said that, a sick sensation blooming in her stomach. "But I'll call you again as soon as I can."

"It was good to hear from you, Dean." Penny smiled.

"You doing okay?" Dean's voice was soft when he asked the question.

Penny was petrified but she wasn't about to tell him that. She took a deep breath, relying on what she knew. "Well, I've been trying to use a couple of different gas-foaming methods as the scaffold for the cells I'm using in my thesis project but they're really tricky to work with. I might have to resort to solvent casting and particulate leeching instead."

"You do know that science talk makes me hot."

"But I bet you're not alone," she retorted.

Dean chuckled. "Wish I were, sweetheart, but a Winchester's work is never done. I should probably go. Sammy's starting to look bitch pissy." She heard a woman's voice in the background, husky above the music and the low murmur of several conversations underneath it all. There were parts of his life she'd probably never know. "Goodbye, Penny."

"Goodbye, Dean."

They didn't hang up immediately and Penny didn't know how long she listened to him breathe before she closed her phone. It dropped from her hand as Penny brought her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. Dean's t-shirt smelled like leather and the aftershave he swore he used because it made his skin look good but, even with her eyes closed, she couldn't convince herself that he was there. That's when she realized that she had already memorized the number for Singer Salvage Yards.

I'm not sure how long this one is going to take, Penny. Might be some complications.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sammy didn't know how close he came to getting his ass kicked. Dean knew what they were up against – even Sam had no fucking clue that he might turn dark side and Dean was supposed to kill him if that happened – but that didn't keep goddamn Ellen from lecturing him about wars and something big that was coming after Sam spilled the beans. That something big was gunning for his little brother and all the kids like him. Dean was sick of people thinking they could help when they knew jack.

And then Sam had to drop the bombshell that the pattern they'd been using to track the kids didn't always ring true, that there were kids running around out there that only that yellow-eyed fucker knew about. Drinking himself into a stupor and picking a fight with Sam seemed like the best way to deal with that, hoping like hell that Jo didn't have 'Riding the Storm Out' in her freaking jukebox because that would just be the perfect topper to a crappy-ass day.

Every job you walk away from is a good one, Dean.

Even the ones where the bad guy almost made you blow your own head off with your sniper rifle.

Dean pushed his shot glass away from his hand. "Hey, Ellen." The older woman turned away from where she was talking low with Sam two seats down and just stared at him. He coughed. "You got room for us to stay tonight?"

"Same two rooms as before."

"Thanks," Dean returned, standing up as slowly as possible. His whole fucking head hurt and all he wanted to do was find a quiet place. "I think I'll go crash."

"You want some company?" Jo asked. Dean narrowed his eyes. She looked innocent enough and her mom was watching the entire conversation. Besides, if I ran off with you, I think your mother might kill me. Probably not the best joke he could have made under the circumstances. "Just to talk," she added.

"Thanks, but no," Dean returned, wobbling across the floor and down a small hallway. He'd had too much goddamn whiskey and that didn't make the stairs an easy thing to navigate.

Dean opened the door to the nearest guest room and locked it behind him. It wouldn't keep Sam out – hell, it probably wouldn't keep anyone out in that damn Roadhouse – but at least it would get the message across. He pitched forward onto the bed, feeling the pinch of his cell phone in his pocket. Dean was pressing the speed dial button before he even realized it, holding his breath until she answered.

"Hello?" Penny had that same sleepy lilt to her voice he remembered every time she climbed back into bed after coming back from the bathroom.

"Hey, Short Stuff."

"Dean!" Penny couldn't quite hide the edge in her voice when she recognized his, even though Dean guessed she was trying to. "You and Sam are okay?"

"All things considered," he answered sourly.

"Are you still in Guthrie?"

Dean rolled so that he was lying with his head on the pillow, staring up at the ceiling. "Nope. We're back at the Roadhouse."

"That bar in Nebraska?"

"You did your homework, Penny Hillsworth."

There was a hitch to her breath that she couldn't hide either. "It was all I could do." Penny gave a small laugh. "I even made Lynn take me to Alchemy Arts, although the cashier there thought I was pretty knowledgeable when I went in there with that list of stuff you gave me. Told me I didn't need the books on the list if I knew about something called a Devil's Trap."

"That stuff will keep you safe." Dean grimaced. He could hear Dad's litany in his head, about not getting involved with people. How women who crossed a Winchester's path always came to a bad end – and that was before that yellow-eyed freak threw Jessica Moore up onto the ceiling just to prove some fucked-up point to Sam. "Did you put that seal on all the windows and doors like I told you to?"

"I used holy water, just like you said."

"And you cast out any spirits using the bell, book and candle ritual I wrote out for you?" His voice sounded hard, even to his own ears. "Before you used the seal?"

"I've come amazingly far in life for someone who can't read," Penny retorted. "But you'd be amazed at how easily a hundred monkeys on typewriters can crank out a feasible master's thesis."

Dean remembered all the times Cassie used that same smart-ass tone, followed by strange looks when she caught him surveying her place for problems. He sighed. "I just worry about you."

"I know."

"No, you don't. You have no idea what kind of trouble I brought to your doorstep!" The words poured out of him, fueled by whiskey and the part of him that was sick of lies – the dutiful son sworn to protect a dead man's secret. And the part of him that remembered Cassie Robinson was screaming at him to stop but Dean was going to see it through. "You don't know about my Mom or the fire, how I ran out that burning house carrying my baby brother the night that the demon marked Sam."

"Demon?"

"When I was four, a demon pinned my Mom to the ceiling of Sammy's nursery and slit her belly open right before the fucker made her burn." Dean's throat was raw and his father's eyes stared back at him, even when his own were closed. "And that demon's been looking for kids, Penny. Kids like Sam with psychic powers. That was the pattern. Burn the mother and mark the child. Only it wasn't a pattern at all. There are kids like Sammy out there killing people for kicks because we were fucking duped by a demon." He took a ragged breath, feeling the burn in his eye sockets. "Just like I fucking duped you into thinking I was a hero, instead of a son of a bitch just out for revenge."

"I…" Penny's voice trailed off and she coughed.

"Speechless? I have that effect on all the girls." Dean looked up at the ceiling, seeing Penny staring down at him instead of Jessica Moore – a silent scream as she reached down for him and there was nothing he could fucking do. Telling her the truth would make her run but she'd be safe. Dean could live with another hole next to the shadows of everyone who left him for that. "And I haven't even told you the punch line. Sammy had a girlfriend back at Stanford. The demon killed her, too."

"The same way it killed your mom?" Her voice was barely a whisper. Dean didn't say anything and a choking noise erupted from Penny's throat. "You think that's going to happen to me?"

"You're a smart girl, Penny. Look at the odds."

"I am," she said. "Statistically, I've got a better chance of getting raped coming home from the lab than I do of being killed by a demon."

"You go ahead and just keep using logic to try and explain this," Dean snapped. "Only you'd bring that crap up anyway just to keep yourself from running."

"Screw you, Dean! I never said anything about running. You just told me I'm going to get killed by a demon and I'm still talking to your sorry ass."

"Girls like you always run in the end," Dean explained, making his voice sound patient. He was going to tell her that he understood her position, that running would let her have a life, but the snort in his ear cut him short.

"Just watch me fucking run," Penny said, right before Dean heard dial tone.

Dean threw his cell phone into the wall.

Fuck!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The flicker from the neon sign greeted her as Penny turned Lynn's car into the parking lot. The bright green Volkswagen Bug looked out of place next to the scattered motorcycles and mud-spattered trucks and she almost thought about turning back until she spotted the car she was looking for right near the front door.

Some blonde girl with a bare midriff eyed her up and down the moment Penny stepped through the door, unbuttoning her coat. The blonde's hair was perfect and she looked like she stepped out of the pages of some calendar; even carrying a tray full of half-finished drinks, the girl made Penny feel like she should be hiding under a box – with her tangle of curls and bloodshot eyes, Penny didn't need some blonde stranger confirming that she looked all cried out.

There was an older woman standing behind the bar, wiping down the counter and looking at her with wary eyes. Men and women at other tables were looking in her direction, too – some dressed in old leathers and others in denim – and Penny guessed every single one of them was trying to figure out if she was trouble. Given the number of snorts and rolled eyes, she probably looked as soft as she felt standing there in her pea coat and the first pair of sweatpants she could find.

Penny walked towards the bar. "Where's Dean Winchester?" she demanded.

The woman laughed. "Around here we've usually got time for small talk." She looked amused.

"But she's awful small," came a man's lazy drawl. Penny stared at the idiot; some hick with a mullet. "I'm Ash." He extended his hand and Penny shook it as quickly as he could. Ash inclined his head towards a backroom. "Dean's in there."

"Thank you." Penny managed a short smile before turning on her heel and stomping into the room. It was filled with some pool tables and she saw Sam, leaning against his cue and chalking the end of it. Dean was stretched out across the table from his little brother, lining up a shot. The blonde girl had sauntered into the room after her, hovering at a nearby table talking to some older guy in a cowboy hat.

Sam's eyes widened when he saw her. "So Penny just hung up on you?" A smile flickered across his mouth.

Dean grunted. "I said I didn't want to talk about it, Sam."

"You must have done something to make her mad, Dean."

"I've got a fucking list of things to read her the riot act about," Dean retorted, pulling back his cue. He shrugged his shoulders. "Not that it matters. She's not going to talk to me anytime soon."

Penny waited for Dean to pull the cue back. "I wouldn't be so sure about that, Agent Han," she said, just as Dean pushed the stick forward for his shot. The end of the cue bounced into felt and skidded a couple of inches before tapping into the cue ball. "Nice shot," she added.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Dean's cue stick fell to the ground and he didn't even try to catch it.

Penny crossed her arms. "Wondering why I didn't kick your ass when the obvious target presented itself." That made Sam laugh outright and even the blonde girl smiled a little.

"You drove all this way just to insult me?" The ghost of a smile was in his eyes.

"I drove all this way to teach you an object lesson," she snapped.

Dean snorted. "And what lesson is that, Short Stuff?"

"Some girls don't run away, Dean." Penny swallowed. The whole goddamn room was watching them and Sam got a stupid grin on his face when Dean made a sharp hacking noise deep in his throat. She was probably the only one who saw that wall in his eyes crumble, even if it slammed right back up again when he realized what she'd just said.

Dean tried to cover it by coughing. "You hungry?" he managed, scratching his ear.

"A little," Penny answered. She hadn't eaten anything but Twinkies and Fritos, which wouldn't make her doctor happy. Dean pushed her backwards out into the main room of the bar, Sam's laughter following them as the blonde girl leaned down to pick up the fallen cue stick. Penny made a beeline for the counter, seeing the older woman serve up a hamburger and some fries to Ash, but Dean pulled her down a hallway and up a flight of stairs before shoving her into a room with a twin bed.

Dean slammed the door shut and locked it. Penny slid out of her coat and looked for a place to put it, throwing it on top of his duffel. She barely had her sneakers off before Dean fell onto the bed, dragging her with him in a twist of limbs. "I can't believe you fucking drove thirteen hours…" Dean began before their eyes met; his were so full it hurt to look into them.

She heard the words he didn't say out loud. I can't believe you fucking drove thirteen hours for me. Penny started pulling his shirt out from his jeans, kissing up his chest while they both dragged it over his head. "Just promise me that you'll be closer the next time we have a fight," she said and he flashed that shit-eating grin of his; it was hard not to grin back. Penny cocked her head, looking down at him critically while he began unbuttoning her shirt. "Because I absolutely refuse to have make-up phone sex," she added.

"Yes, ma'am," Dean replied, slipping her shirt off her shoulders. He brought his hands up to cup her breasts. "Look who came ready to get some." Penny tried not to blush when he started inching her sweatpants down past her hips, giving a sigh instead when Dean slid his hand down between her legs. Her arms trembled as he moved his fingers slowly; he let her moan before pulling his hand away with a chuckle. "Didn't even wear goddamn panties. I know you've got a whole basket full of clean ones."

"Someone kept me too busy to put them away." Penny slid her finger down the zipper of his jeans before she undid the button at his waist. Dean was already hiking down his pants as she unzipped them, bringing his boxers along with them. Penny shifted down to kiss him before moving up to straddle him but Dean knotted his hands in her hair and said her name like it was a prayer. She stopped when his hands clutched the comforter.

"Someone could have said something about that," Dean managed, followed by a breathless hitch when Penny kissed his hip. The small things always left him unguarded, the way she touched his cheek or the shy smile he'd give right before she wrapped her arms around him and buried her head in his chest. He never expected her to kiss his hip or his shoulder or the curve of his neck, staring at her wide-eyed when she did, and that realization hurt. "I might have even helped you put them away," Dean added.

"There's only one thing you helped me put away," she answered. Dean snorted and they rolled to their sides. Penny scooted up so that she could touch his forehead with her own. "Just so you know…" She shivered and his hands settled on her hips, his mouth kissing her neck gently. "I'm scared about the demon. About what you two do for a living. I – "

"Penny – "

"No, Dean. Let me finish!" She kissed him to soften the harsh edges of her voice, hands in his hair as Dean shifted her carefully onto her back – taking care not to fall off the bed. Penny pulled back. "I know it's not going to get any easier and I'll worry," she said. Dean was working her legs open with his knees and she arched her back as he pushed inside of her, fingers tracing the muscles of his back. "But you don't need to worry about me running."

Dean didn't say anything to that but his smile made Penny feel like she was someone's good luck charm all over again. He dipped his mouth down to her breasts, moving from one to the other with slow circles. She let herself go when Dean started talking, bending into him and scratching his back – slowly at first until he started thrusting faster and she couldn't feel enough of him no matter how much of him she touched. The moment her teeth grazed his shoulder and Penny was bucking underneath him, Dean groaned and rammed up inside her. Once. As hard as he could.

Penny's toes curled and her arms flung out to the sides as she pushed her hips up against him, taking all of him inside with a cry that ripped through the small room. She could feel him pulsing inside of her when he came, small aftershocks in her belly, until Dean relaxed and they both fell back down onto the mattress completely tangled up in each other. She brushed her hand through his hair and smiled up at him.

"I've been missing you, Penny Hillsworth."

"I'm right here, Dean Winchester."

The way he looked at her when she said it made Penny wonder how anyone could run from him, no matter the things that dogged his heels, because all she could do was wrap her arms around his neck and hold him tight – opening her mouth under his with a breathy sigh while Dean cradled her face in his hands, a touch so gentle it felt like feathers flickering across her face.

Dean groaned, followed almost immediately by a snorting laugh. "Jesus, Penny!" he exclaimed, just as another rumble wound between them. "Why didn't you tell me that you were actually hungry?" he added.

"I tried to get a hamburger," Penny retorted. She couldn't even try not to blush when her stomach growled a third time.

"At least you didn't burp or something when I was kissing you," Dean observed, "Because that would have been all kinds of sexy, Baby Doll." And the bastard smirked at her.

"If you buy me French fries with my hamburger, I'll tie you up when I spank you." Penny said it softly, lips so close to his that she could feel his lips curve into a smile. "I know you've got rope in that big old car of yours."

"Winchester boys are always prepared," Dean purred into her ear.

She shivered when hot breath made the hairs on her neck stand up and her toes were already curling again before Penny even noticed that Dean was leaving a trail of kisses back to her mouth. Penny rolled him over to try and pin him underneath her, forgetting they weren't in her bedroom, and they both tumbled onto the floor – but that didn't stop either of them.

When Dean opened the door a couple of hours later to sneak downstairs, someone had already left them a tray of food.


A/N:

I honestly did my best to remove some of the more explicit scenes without sacrificing plot elements. Please let me know if more work needs to be done, as I would be happy to do so.

The title of the story is a song by Yaz. I really liked the imagery of it, given that this story addresses some of the issues that could make or break the relationship; it's new territory for Dean and Penny and the whole thing could have imploded before it really started. And, come on, it's Yaz. (Yep, that dates me…)

A Sondheim scholar will recognize lyrics from "No One Is Alone" (my favorite song from Into the Woods) scattered throughout the story.

I'm not a bioengineering student so I am certain Penny's discussion of gas-foaming delivery methods as part of her thesis could be horribly misleading and wholly wrong.

"Riding the Storm Out" is a song by REO Speedwagon. Yes, I em am /em the evil twin.

I feel compelled to point out that Penny Hillsworth is a force of nature that cannot be denied and she sabotaged the original plot by high-tailing it to Nebraska. So it goes without saying that it's not over yet; I've already got an idea of what's coming next. However, I do have some older stories which I've been neglecting and I desperately need to focus on the j2bigbang story that I am writing with lj userwenchpixie . I suspect the next story in the 'verse is two or three weeks out...so I made this one a little longer as an apology for the delay.