She wasn't the kind of girl you'd expect sitting behind the desk of the Hoedown Motel.
NOTE: This is an abandoned WIP. I have no intentions of finishing the story, for reasons I explain at the end of Chapter Two. For all that, it's a cool little story - even if it ends rather abruptly - and I didn't want it languishing forever on my hard drive.
Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine, but I'd make Dean wear his boots if they were. Always.
Rating: M ( Language, sex, mild violence and a little gore )
Spoilers: Mentions characters up to "Hollywood Babylon."
Miscellaneous: This was written for the Beginnings challenge at spn-het-love. ysbail once again provided the push I needed to make the plot internally consistent while making me laugh. Beta(s): noirbabalon tuned into the wavelength of the characters and pointed out things I needed to tweak. misskatieleigh kicked my muse in the ass and ensured that I put the "original" back into my OFC and read more passing e-mails about this than I should admit in public. Everything in this story that rocks is because of them. The mistakes? Those are all me. Especially in Chapter Two, which was posted as I found it on my hard drive.
Chapter One: I saw a face in the shower door
She wasn't the kind of girl you'd expect sitting behind the desk of the Hoedown Motel.
Sam imagined someone wearing a cowboy hat, boots up on the counter to show off the white stitching against the red leather. A girl who matched the décor, with its landscape of fake cacti and the tackiest couch he'd seen in months. The walls were covered with a cowboy and lasso motif, the colors so loud that they were winning the war against the allied forces of the storm rumbling outside and the country music piped through the room with overhead speakers.
She was wearing a blue vest with the Hoedown Motel logo on it, along with a nametag, but otherwise she looked like someone he might have passed on the way to class. The girl was cute, with a set of red lacquered chopsticks holding up the loose coil of black hair piled on top of her head and a splash of freckles across her nose that matched the ones on her arms, but nothing that would have stopped traffic across the quad. Dean raised an eyebrow appreciatively at the cleavage peeking over her white lace collar, becoming more pronounced when she stretched her hands over her head and yawned.
The girl didn't even greet them with a loud 'Howdy' backed up by a grin that matched the man's face on the hokey sign outside; as soon as she finished yawning, the girl turned her attention to the counter, her dark eyes flicking back and forth like she was reading something. Sam slowed down, getting ready to say something when Dean grabbed his arm and pulled him forward. Double-spaced papers littered the workspace in front of her, pages meticulously marked with a red pen; scratched out paragraphs competed with new sentences that were scrawled into the margins, some of them pushed onto the back with loopy arrows.
She could have been writing a term paper.
They had been passing through Texas, heading north past Lubbock on Route 84, when Dean saw the billboard advertising the 100th Annual Texas Ladies' Man Festival in Bula. The grin on Dean's face was a dead giveaway before he even turned off onto County Road 54 but that didn't keep him from snorting when Sam's breath came out sharply. The grin got wider when the outskirts of town rolled into view and a huge sign with a busty blonde cowgirl announced that the Hoedown Motel and Lounge was a mile away. There was nowhere else in town that Dean wanted to stay after seeing that sign off the side of the road.
The girl flinched when the door slammed shut behind them, a counterpoint to the lightning flashing through the windows. Dean leaned against the counter on one elbow, peering down at her with a grin. "Evening, sweetheart."
"Looks like you've been racing the storm and the storm won," the girl said brightly, going pale when thunder rattled through the room, but she returned Dean's grin with one of her own. "You boys are a little early for the hose down. It doesn't start until nine." Her voice was a soft drawl, eyes measuring them up and down. "And it's in the lounge, that large building on the right-hand side of the parking lot with all the neon signs." She sounded like she'd made the same speech at least fifty times in the last hour, coming out like a soft song. "Drinks are a two for one special right now." The girl glanced at the clock. "But only for the next forty-five minutes."
"We're here for a room," Sam said.
"Last time I checked, we've got those too." She inclined her head towards a coffee maker sitting on a small table against the wall. "There's some coffee and hot chocolate over there if you need to warm yourselves up a bit. I can get you some towels."
"The sign outside wasn't kidding when it said this was the friendliest little motel in Texas." Dean didn't move and his eyes started that slow burn, the one where he was starting to pour on the charm as he peered down at her nametag. "You're pretty damn friendly, Beth."
"World would be a better place if we all were," she returned lightly, a ghost of a smile in her eyes. "One room or two?"
"One room," Sam returned. "Two beds."
She pulled out a reservation book. "You boys surprised me." She opened the book and started flipping through pages. "I thought you were here for the wet t-shirt contest."
"This place has a wet t-shirt contest every Friday night and an annual Ladies Man festival?" His brother's eyes widened. "I freaking love Texas!"
"Well, you're deep in the heart of it now," Beth observed, looking up to smile at Dean while she scribbled on a piece of paper. "If you're staying for the festival tomorrow, does that mean you'll need the room for two nights? Don't want to miss the Ladies' Choice dance tomorrow night." Sam expected a smart-ass comment but just Dean nodded, returning her slow smile. "The parade isn't until Sunday morning after church and there's the evening picnic," she continued. Brown eyes traced the length of Dean's jacket before she looked at Sam and cocked her head. "You boys like picnics?"
Dean's grin devolved into a smirk but Sam spoke first. "There's a parade?" He couldn't keep his voice low. His goddamn brother had brought him to the Southwestern equivalent of Stars Hollow.
Beth nodded, cheeks actually turning red. "With floats and a couple of marching bands." She leaned forward. "The shop class at the high school's even got an animated float. God alone knows why they'd want to animate that but my uncle says that even bad publicity brings reporters…" Her voice trailed off and then her mouth twisted, both hands flat on the counter. "Are you paying with cash or a credit card?"
Dean pulled out his wallet and slipped a credit card across the counter. She looked at the card with both eyebrows raised before snapping it sharply on the countertop. One hand rested on top of the telephone, fingertips tapping across the handle of the receiver, and she was staring hard at Dean. She must have found the answer she was looking for because she shook her head and grabbed one of the credit card receipts, writing down their information as painstakingly as she had her margin notes. "I'll need you to sign here, Mr. Van Helsing," she said after she'd run the receipt through the machine.
Dean scrawled a name on the receipt and pulled out the carbon and customer copy. "Can't be too careful these days."
"I reckon that's true." Beth filed the receipt quickly, keys jingling from somewhere underneath the counter. She pushed the paper she'd been writing on earlier in front of him. It was a map. "You're in room 134. It's stumbling distance from the lounge." She circled a room and then drew a line to it with an arrow from the bar. "Just in case you get lost." She put in another line with an arrow. "And here's how you get to your room from the lobby."
"Thanks," Dean said. He still hadn't moved, leaning down and staring right at her chest while he pocketed the map. "It's been a real pleasure, Beth," he added as she handed him the room keys, voice going so low that Sam wanted to snap something about giving them some time alone so that Dean could finish stripping her in private – the only thing that kept him from doing it was the fact that the girl was trying to do her job.
"Check-out is at eleven on Sunday morning."
"What if we decide to go to that picnic?" Dean was grinning. "Might meet a girl tonight who likes fried chicken and potato salad," his brother added.
"Just call the front office by ten and we'll set it to rights for you." Beth coughed into her fist and Sam could have sworn she was hiding a smile behind it. "Anything else, Mr. Van Helsing? Some extra coffee packets for your room or extra pillows? A hammer and some stakes?" She held out the credit card with an ink-smudged hand.
"No, thank you," Sam stammered, snatching Dean's credit card from Beth's hand. White embossed letters stared back at him. Steve Van Helsing. The bastard had actually done it. He stomped out the door, turning to glare at Dean as soon as the door slammed shut behind him. "She recognized the name, idiot! We're just lucky she decided not to call the cops or something."
That was all they needed; maybe Henricksen's shadow hadn't made it as far as Texas but one phone call from a suspicious motel clerk would be enough to get his attention, especially since Dean was adamant that they weren't ditching the car. Anyone who knew what they were looking for could hear the Impala coming from two states away and it wasn't exactly inconspicuous.
"I was being literary, Samuel. She totally dug me – a hammer and some stakes. I'd like to stake her." Dean snorted. "Come on. Sooner we get unpacked, sooner we can go watch hot chicks getting hosed down at the Hoedown." He whipped open his door with a cackle. "Hey, that was classic and you're not even laughing! I fucking rhymed, Sammy."
Sam shook his head, looking back over his shoulder. The girl was huddled over whatever she was writing, pen tapping against her lips. She jumped when another crack of thunder echoed through the sky, shaking her head with a rueful smile as she said something to herself.
A cute little blonde was dancing on the stage, squealing in time to the backbeat of the music whenever some overweight redneck yahoo sprayed her with water.
The way she shimmied didn't make up for the fact that they were sitting in a bar listening to goddamn country music but the beer was cheap – and the expression on Sam's face would have been worth the non-existent cover charge. His little brother was sipping on his beer but Sam's eyes got buggy when the girl lifted up her shirt with a wink and a promise in some lucky idiot's direction. Sam's mouth started working when Dean raised his fist in the air and hollered along with the crowd.
"Enjoying yourself, Sammy?" Dean grinned. Sam looked like he wanted to slam Dean's head down on the table when he wasn't pushing his left-over taco salad all over his plate with a fork and glaring at Dean like he wanted to poke out an eye or two. "You never went to a strip club back at Stanford?" Dean started to raise his hand when a waitress wandered by, hips swiveling as she passed, but he saw a face he recognized in the crowd when the disco ball overhead started spinning.
It was the girl from the main desk. She was sitting by herself, staring into space as she leaned backwards in her chair and tapped her lips absentmindedly with the pen she was holding. She had ditched the Hoedown Lounge vest, revealing a nice rack underneath that scrap of crappy polyester. Dean guessed she wasn't the kind of girl who'd go up on a stage and shake her ass for the dubious honor of two hundred bucks and a kiss from the old man who owned the place.
A pretty girl like her, wearing a white lacy top and a tight denim skirt with a slit up the side, should have been in some late-night coffee shop discussing politics and beating on a bongo drum. Beth dressed a lot like Cassie's college roommate – something Diane had called 'vintage' with a sneer when Dean didn't know that had something to do with combining older clothes with jeans or a jacket and a pair of clunky boots.
Beth's boots were damn sexy, black leather up to the knee.
If he'd seen them back at the motel, there was no way in hell Beth would have been sitting at that table alone, unhurriedly sipping on a beer and writing in a notebook. She had an elbow on the table with her chin in her hand; a little smile playing on her face when her pen stopped tapping. When Beth stretched, a black curl falling down her neck as she gracefully arched her back, she ended up looking right at him. Her face lit up when their eyes met and she shifted in her chair but an old man walked up and said something to her.
Dean looked away when he started yelling, the old man gesturing as wildly as Beth was, and he saw the old man stalk away out of the corner of his eye. Beth's cheeks were red enough to spot from across the room. The only thing to do when a girl looked like that was to try and make her laugh.
"You should at least watch the next chick," Dean said, standing up from the stool. He picked up his beer. "She's got guts. A freaking Hello Kitty t-shirt in Texas?"
"How the hell did you know that was Hello Kitty?"
Dean snorted. "I'm a renaissance man, Sammy." He topped off the bottle and put it on the table. He inclined his head towards Beth. "I'm going over to say hello now, maybe get her to make me some hot chocolate or something."
"Why do you want to go and annoy her?" Sam glanced at her over his shoulder. "She did us a favor."
Dean shrugged his shoulders. "She's so cute you can almost forgive the Chinese take-out she's sporting as a fashion statement." He handed Sam a couple of ten-dollar bills. "If Hello Kitty comes over here, buy her a drink. You might get lucky."
Sam was still shaking his head when Dean walked away, the same expression he always got when he didn't understand something that he wanted to; when Sam was a kid, Dad used to laugh and pull Sammy onto his lap when he looked like that, patiently answering every question that Sam would ask but Dad was gone and Dean wasn't that patient.
The road had rules that Sam had forgotten, rules he wished that Sam didn't have to relearn, but Sam should have known already that the blonde wriggling around on stage was an easy fuck – useful when all you needed was a fast workout for the adrenaline, to stretch out the humming in your muscles. Girls who could give him that were a dime a dozen in places like the Hoedown Lounge.
Some nights, even Dean Winchester wanted more than that.
Usually she was the quiet girl sitting with her friends, talking and laughing and happy for the attention, but sometimes she was the one who stood out the most from the crowd. The trick was to find the words that made her melt soft and sweet against his mouth and his fingers, pulsing hot around him with each cry until she popped like a firecracker. On the nights he was lucky, the girl whispered into his neck and shuddered hard against him with fingers running up and down the muscles of his back; the best parts of Cassie all over again.
Dean never had to make any promises for just one night – and the lies were little ones.
He ordered two more beers from the bartender and sauntered over to where Beth was sitting, hunched over her notebook. Dean set both beers down on the table, sliding into the seat next to her. Even her profile was cute and she was just as stacked as any of those girls up on the stage, despite the fact that she'd jammed goddamn chopsticks in her hair. When she didn't even turn to look at him, just kept writing in her notebook in a script so small it was illegible, Dean coughed and placed a hand on her arm.
"Forget it, Uncle Walter. I'm not going up there!" she snapped before her brown eyes settled on his face. "Uh…"
"The name's Van Helsing," Dean said. "Steve Van Helsing." It made her smile. He pushed one of the bottles closer to her other hand. "It's time to take a break, Beth." He made a show of looking down at her notebook. "You sure spend a lot of time writing crap."
"Well, the theory behind this little exercise is that the more I write, the better chance I have of it not being crap," she retorted, a big old grin on her face as she shut the notebook. "But you're probably right. Real people's stories are always more interesting." Beth took a sip of her beer. "Bet you've got some fascinating ones."
"There's an understatement." Dean grinned.
"Like why a good man's traveling under false pretenses."
"It's one of the oldest stories in the book," Dean returned, leaning back in her chair. Beth's mouth was twitching as she turned towards him, right foot drumming the air while she waited. "My little brother and I are making our way the only way we know how, Beth. Some days, that's just a little bit more than the law will allow."
She covered her mouth with both hands and laughed, eyes twinkling while she watched him. "You must think I'm some gullible country girl whose grandma isn't addicted to bad television shows."
"Didn't fool you?"
"It might have gone differently if you didn't quote the lyrics verbatim. My grandma's been singing Waylon Jennings to me for years."
Dean couldn't help but laugh; she looked so earnest, trying to give him pointers on some story he was using to keep her talking. Her accent could drive a man crazy, the drawl slow on her tongue. "But you've got to admit that show's got plots as crazy as any story you can come up with where I'm a good man."
"Here's where you're really going to think I'm a gullible country girl." Beth wasn't laughing at all. "You didn't break eye contact with me," she continued. "There's a difference between honest and good." And her smile wasn't forced when she leaned forward, knee closer to his than it had been before she started talking.
"You've got a strange definition for the word good." Dean watched her take another sip of her beer, playing with the napkin when she set it back down. "So now it's your turn to tell me a story," he said.
"Which one do you want to hear?"
"The one where some gullible country girl learned how to size up strangers."
Beth lowered her head. "That's an old story, too." She brought her brown eyes up to meet his, the disco ball flashing against her chopsticks, and her freckles were standing out on her nose. She was cute as all hell even when she wasn't smiling. "My grandpa was the best poker player in the tri-county area. You don't watch a man play poker for ten years without picking up on his tricks for figuring out a bluff."
Dean was still smiling at her when she finally looked away. "Sounds like a true story."
"It was," Beth said lightly. "I do have something I'm curious about, though. Why didn't you use the last name Harker?"
"Jonathon Harker. Mina's husband in the book." Beth's breath came out in a huff. He didn't have the heart to tell her that he named himself 'Van Helsing' after a Hugh Jackman movie. "People never remember the normal guy just trying to save his wife," Beth added.
Dean recoiled, eyes narrowing as she looked back at him. Beth said it like she believed it was true and the kicker was that she didn't even know she was right. Beth touched his arm.
"Hey, you alright?" she asked. "You're looking like your hair should be turning white right about now."
"Yeah." He returned the grin. "Are you always so fucking nice?"
"Depends on who you ask." Beth laughed. "But it's only polite to be sociable with any chucklehead who buys me a beer."
"You really know how to charm a man." Dean shook his head.
"If I were charming you, it wouldn't be in a place with a disco ball. Bula's the romance capital of the world, you know."
"I'm beginning to figure that out, what with your Ladies' Man festival and all."
"Don't forget our weekly wet t-shirt contests." Beth snorted, glancing over at the stage where Hello Kitty was gyrating in front of some coot with the hose; the same asshole that was bugging Beth earlier. "I could tell you the story about a stranger who drives into town and rescues a girl by being able to carry on a halfway decent conversation that doesn't mention the local rodeo circuit."
"What do you expect, sweetheart? You live in the sticks."
"Someone's got to keep an eye on the place." Beth stared right up at him, eyes searching his face like she was trying to figure out what to do next; looking for all the world like she was asking herself whether or not Steve Van Helsing was really as good as she thought he was. "My yahoo idiot uncle's trying to get me to compete in his wet t-shirt contest so he doesn't have to give away the prize money this week." She took a breath. "Here's where you tell me that I've appealed to your chivalrous nature and you're going to rescue the girl."
"That depends. What's in it for me?" Dean pitched his voice low.
"I'll buy you another beer if you stay with me until the contest's over."
"Add some chili cheese fries and you've got yourself a deal."
"Deal." And suddenly she was reaching out with her hand; she had a strong grip for a girl who looked like she'd stepped out of one of those old-time movies that Cassie used to make him watch. "Hey, Gillian!" Beth called out to the waitress walking by. "Can I get two orders of chili cheese fries and some more beer?" She smiled at the waitress, who nodded and strode back towards the bar.
"If your uncle owns this place, that means you're getting the food for free," Dean observed. Beth nodded, hand still intertwined with his. "Doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice on your part."
"You want me to sweeten the pot?" She asked the question while they both watched their hands come apart, her palm brushing slowly against his. "I could probably swing a barbecue pulled pork sandwich if you ask me nicely enough."
"You drive a hard bargain, Beth."
"Never make a deal with a Hughes. First rule of doing business in Bula." She was smiling, leaning towards him, but a shadow crossed her face. "I'll even hand-feed you fried chicken if you stay for the picnic. How's that for sweetening the pot?" Her hand dropped down to his thigh, a quick test of the waters; her body relaxing when he brought his knee in closer to hers. He could feel the hunger coming off of her like a windstorm, touched for a second by a loneliness he didn't expect when she lowered her eyes and brushed the top of the table with her other hand.
It was a careful dance – between pushing too much and not pushing enough – and there were ways to decide what they both wanted; how he was going to lay her down and see what the curve of her neck tasted like, how she was going to press burning lips against the small of his back. It was an unspoken negotiation, one night without promises.
And the only lie he gave her was a name.
Dean put his arm around her neck, loosely enough to make it relaxed, but she was already settling backwards against him. "Really," he whispered, feeling her shoulders shiver when his breath brushed across her earlobe; lips so close that he could feel the hair prickle across the skin. "Because I'd pretty much do anything to a girl who feeds me fried chicken and lets me lick her fingers."
"Then I'm your girl." Beth tilted her head up towards his just as the air started humming between them. "I'm sorry," she said, disentangling herself from underneath his arm and pulling a cell phone out of the purse hanging off her chair. "Hey, Nana." Beth's hand was back on his thigh but the rest of her was telling a different story. "I didn't realize that was tonight. You taped it?" She was nodding. "Sure. I'd love to watch it with you. A promise is a promise and we're only as good as our word. Love you." Beth's mouth twisted as she slowly closed her phone.
"So…" Dean took a sip of his beer, set it down on the table. "Get calls from your Nana often?" He didn't know whether to laugh or just leave, scanning the crowd to see if anyone was watching their table. Not even Sam seemed interested – the little bastard was watching a leggy brunette with something besides shock – and he doubted that the girl was in cahoots with his little brother. "Or are you just being nice?" His voice was angrier than he intended. The girl had played him, hadn't even used a recognizable tell, and that didn't happen often.
You don't watch a man play poker for ten years without picking up on his tricks for figuring out a bluff.
"Being nice?" Beth's face fell. "If it were up to me, I'd already be halfway out the door with you." Dean felt her hand tracing circles on his thigh. "And I'd stay until you kicked me out. It's just… She's my grandma, Steve." She took another breath and slid to the floor. "Go ahead and tell Gillian to put the food on my tab tonight, okay?" She opened the notebook and pulled out a piece of paper, splitting it in half. She scribbled something on it and pressed it into his hand. "That's my phone number. Call me in the morning?"
"Yeah. Sure. Whatever." He stuffed the paper into his pocket. "Thanks for the fries and the beer."
"Don't mention it." Beth threw on her shawl, grabbed the notebook along with her purse and turned on her heel; stomping away from the table with another shake of her head. He glanced up, saw the outline of her body in the doorway as she stepped into the rain outside; watched her tuck the notebook between her shawl and her shirt, their eyes meeting again when she looked back at him before the door closed behind her.
He realized too late that she'd meant every word she'd said.
He was off his chair and halfway to the table he was sharing with Sam before Dean even realized what he was doing. "Don't wait up," he said, grabbing his jacket and slipping his arms into the sleeves. He'd watch that freaking TV show with Nana if he had to before dragging her granddaughter to a place where he could lick every square inch of her.
Sam opened his mouth and then just took another swig of his beer. "When do I ever?"
Dean cracked a grin and headed towards the door. The rain was coming down hard, the pavement slick as he stepped into the lot. There was a shimmer of moonlight across a man's back out of the corner of his eye, shifting jerkily around the corner of the building towards the small dirt road that Beth was walking down; head still bent over. She jumped when another flash of lightning blasted through the sky.
The man flickered in the rain, suddenly ten feet closer to her as he shifted through the shadows.
Dean's eyes narrowed. The man was wearing a leather duster, as black as his cowboy hat, but the dark couldn't hide the hole blasted through its back – edges glowing red, even in the moonlight. Blood. It slithered, undulating sideways, as it turned onto the dirt road. The pearl handles of his guns reflected the light of the moon. The only thing brighter was the gaping hole in the thing's chest, marked with the same red glowing blood as the exit wound on the thing's back.
"Hope." The man's voice was a hiss, undercut by a chill that had nothing to do with the pouring rain. "Wait for me." Two more seconds and the thing was ten feet closer to Beth, sliding and flickering from shadow to shadow as it followed her, and she'd begun to pick up speed. "Please wait for me, love." It should have been a whisper but the sound rang through Dean's head like a bell, strident and jagged against the fall of the rain, and he shook his head sharply.
"You can stop following me right now." Beth's voice carried over the rain. "I know my Uncle Walter's making you do this."
The only gun Dean had on him was a .45 but when Beth had stopped, shoulders hitching roughly, Dean started pounding ground. She turned around slowly. "It's all for the publicity. More reporters mean more rented rooms." Beth's voice was calm until her eyes centered on the thing's chest and then she was screaming a descant over the ghost; he was still begging her to wait, calling her things that Dean would have been embarrassed to tell anyone. Suddenly, she stopped screaming and turned on her heel, fleeing down the road at a dead run.
She didn't even stop when she dropped the notebook.
"Don't leave me!" The creature roared, feet off the ground as it flew through her and disappeared.
Beth skidded across the ground, arms in front of her as she fell. She rolled onto her back when Dean reached her, entire body shaking as she tried to sit up by herself. She'd almost managed it, lurching to the side. "Easy now," Dean said, trying to hold her steady; she was shaking so hard there was nothing do but wrap his arms around her until she was done, feeling her shiver while the rain slowed down. "I'm here, Beth," he murmured. She slumped against his shoulder. "You're safe now."
Her eyes focused up on his face. "Steve?"
"Yeah." She'd lost her chopsticks, hair falling limp and wet around her shoulders. Dean tried to brush it back, wanting to wipe the mud off her face at the same time, but she wasn't waiting around before she started to stand. He didn't blame her for wanting to be doing something. "You live right down this road?" he asked softly. Beth nodded, holding tight onto his arm. "Then I'm getting you the rest of the way home."
Beth slipped her hand down to his and steadied herself. "I'm not crazy." Her face crumpled, breath still sharp in her chest as she brushed something out of her eyes; fingers so cold around his wrist that the skin was going numb. "You saw it, right?" She didn't stop shivering. "Please say you saw it."
It sounded more like a prayer than a plea.
"Come on, sweetheart. Let's go."
Dean took his jacket off and wrapped it over her shoulders. She whipped her head back towards the parking lot, and Dean didn't know if she was just worried about the notebook or sensing the itch go up her spine; the feeling that they were being watched by something. Beth's mouth was a thin line as they started walking, the mud so thick it was like slogging through a swamp, and she looked more angry than anything.
Beth was still shaking when an old house came into view, set off the dirt road. There was a white-haired woman rocking in a chair on the front porch, the mosquito zapper making noises as she hummed.
It wasn't part of Uncle Walter's publicity stunt.
She couldn't figure out a way to blame him for what happened, no matter how hard she wrapped her head around it; he was behind the shop kids making that grotesque float, hoping the negative publicity would bring more reporters to the motel. If she were a betting girl, she'd put money on the notion that he'd shelled out two hundred dollars he didn't have to those kids instead of saving it for his wet t-shirt contest.
So when she first saw it, a flimsy shadow hanging around the periphery, Beth had figured that her uncle had hired some yoo-hoo to impersonate Percival Watts – adding a little more fuel to the fire the float had caused. It wouldn't be the first foolish thing he did after Grandpa made him part owner of the business.
But Walter Hughes' unsavory business practices couldn't explain the blizzard that ripped ragged tatters through her chest when that thing bull rushed her or the way it shuffled towards her like the light hurt and shadows were all that it could embrace. Beth almost felt sorry for it, with so much loss wrapped up in that melancholy voice. She'd have been more kindly disposed to whatever it was if it hadn't been spending the last couple of days catching her unaware when she was alone near the motel, glimpses of the duster out of the corner of her eye and a voice saying 'Hope' like it was all he needed to breathe.
She'd somehow managed to drag Steve, or whatever he was calling himself, into the whole thing. Nana had taken one look at both of them, Steve hauling her up the stairs while the blizzard still raged inside her stomach, and sat them down at the kitchen table for hot chocolate spiked with rum. Steve had opened his mouth to argue but no one raised their voice to Nana when she got that look in her eyes, even a complete stranger tracking mud through her kitchen.
Only God knew what they were talking about by themselves.
Beth didn't want to be alone after coming face-to-face with some creature of the night dripping entrails as it chased her down the road home and her grandma was family in a way no one else was but Nana insisted they both clean themselves up. There was no way in hell Nana'd let her join him in the shower so Beth sat with her while Steve spent some quality time in the guest bathroom, sipping on more hot chocolate with rum to the point where she was calm enough not to flinch when she closed her eyes and all she saw was that gaping hole.
And Steve cleaned up just as nicely as Beth anticipated he would, ambling back into the kitchen with shoulders glistening from drops of water falling off of his closely-cropped hair. Nana had given him a pair of Chuck's jeans and they were tight enough that she could make out the edges of his boxer shorts underneath the denim. There wasn't much left to her imagination when Steve looked at her, a crooked grin that made her want to screw him on the stove, and the only thing keeping her from doing it – doing him – was the look on Nana's face when she saw what Beth was staring at and screeched 'Bethany Amelia Hughes.'
Bodies had a way of going back to the essentials.
She'd been running hot water all over herself for twenty minutes – mind trying not to scream whenever she closed her eyes and remembered the look on its face as it held out both hands to her, blood dripping down past a flying eagle belt buckle – but her body knew what it needed. Steve Van Helsing should have followed her up the stairs, no matter the glare on her grandma's face, because the only way she was going to get warm was being skin to skin, pinned to the mattress with his hazel eyes staring right down into hers.
When she was roaring underneath him, ankles locked at the small of his back, she'd be showing that thing what two real bodies could do.
The water splashed against goose bumps left by the memory of Steve's husky chuckle as she sauntered out of the room, the weight of his eyes on her backside. Maybe she'd put a little too much sway into her hips while she was leaving but it was the only question Beth could ask him while Nana was sitting there watching their mating dance like an overprotective hen. Beth shivered, reaching for the conditioner; mouth curving into a smile when she heard footsteps, slow and careful, clicking against the linoleum.
A jagged breath outside the shower curtain was the answer to her question.
"You can help me wash my back." Beth placed her hand on the wall, right outside the shower curtain. Steve was breathing faster now. "If you play your cards right, Mr. Van Helsing, I'll let you wash my front." He placed one cold hand on top of hers. A tingle across her fingers and she was shivering all over again, a blizzard in her belly.
Oh, holy Christ.
She pulled the shower curtain back without warning, just enough time to catch a glimpse of a black leather duster before it shimmered and faded from view. Percival Watts might have died in one of the worst ways possible but he'd made her scream like a girl in front of the first man to catch Beth's attention since she'd come back to Bula. And now he was in her grandma's house.
It'd have to go through her to get to Nana.
Beth turned off the water with a quick twist of her wrist and padded out the door, stepping into her bedroom. Nana wouldn't be so happy about the fact that she was dripping all over the carpet but the only thing standing between Bethany Amelia Hughes and her Wildcat 22 was ten feet of floor. She pushed aside some of her shirts and snagged the rifle; it didn't have any ammo in it but she was hoping the memory of something that ripped a hole in Percival Watts' chest over a century ago would do the trick.
"Come and get me now, you dead bastard!"
Beth waited, twisting the gun at every noise the house made while it settled. She could hear the television going downstairs in the living room, hearing the World Wrestling Federation theme song; Nana was probably forcing Steve to watch the show she'd taped. When footsteps started pounding down the hall, Beth froze – aiming the rifle at the door.
There was a rush of air and Steve Van Helsing, still wearing nothing but Chuck's jeans, was pointing a shotgun right at her through the open door. He looked ready for battle. "Where is it?" he asked, his voice sending shivers down her back that had nothing to do with the way his eyes appraised her, naked and dripping wet with a rifle in her hands. It was the sound of something that could scourge Hell, a slow burn.
"Gone, I think." Neither one of them were lowering their weapons and her breath was sharp, chest heaving as their eyes met over the sight of the rifle. "Nana?"
"She's okay. Sam's keeping an eye on her." And Steve must have realized she was okay because he was definitely keeping both of his eyes on her, marking his attention with a bite to his lower lip and a shake of his head. Better women than her had succumbed to that combination of lopsided grin and hungry eyes.
"Sam's your little brother?"
"Called him when you started your shower." Steve shrugged his shoulders when she didn't say anything, just lowered the barrel of her Wildcat. He cocked his head. "You realize your safety's on?"
"I figured that bullets wouldn't work but Percival Watts was killed by a rifle. Maybe that'd scare him. About time I got a piece of my own back instead of screaming like a yoo-hoo. He made me lose a month's worth of journal exercises." Hazel eyes widened and that crooked grin erupted all over his face when the words registered. "You got something in that shotgun that works better?" she asked.
"Rock salt." And she noticed his safety wasn't cocked. "You know who the ghost is?"
"Describe that thing to anyone in town and you'll get the same name. He's a local legend." Beth leaned her rifle on the armchair near her bookcase. "It figures that your last name is Van Helsing." She shook her head sharply, wishing his big hands with their blunt nails were all over her instead of the shotgun. Beth was damned if she was going to start shaking all over again. "You didn't think I was crazy because you already knew ghosts were real. And you stayed here to keep me safe."
"Not just to keep you safe." Steve shut the door behind him, setting the gun carefully on her nightstand. He never checked the safety – Beth didn't know if that was making her stomach turn circles around itself, that he expected Percival Watts to come back and he was keeping the gun ready, or whether it was those eyes running the length of her legs. They stopped everywhere she started getting goose bumps.
It might have been because a man named after the most famous vampire hunter in literature class had waltzed into her bedroom knowing something about rock salt and ghosts that the rest of the world had never been taught but Beth's money was on the catlike way he moved, flexing his muscles just so that she could watch.
Beth took a deep breath, Steve's hands going down to the button at his waist. "You promise your baby brother's keeping an eye on Nana?"
"I wouldn't do anything that would put your grandmother in danger, Bethany Amelia Hughes," he replied, grinning when she jumped at the scrape of the zipper. Steve's eyes softened, though, when their eyes met. "You've got to trust me."
His pants were falling to the floor, pooling around his feet with his boxer shorts. She swallowed. He would have been more than beautiful if it wasn't for all the scars and, even still, it was hard to breathe just looking at him; he was so damn comfortable in that skin of his, wore it proud like a badge. His naked body was a dare, waiting for her to make the next move for all that he was the one who barged in on her when she was as bare as the day she was born.
"I don't even know your real name," Beth said softly. It wasn't a protest, just a statement of fact. She was already planning on taking him into her bed long before Percival Watts showed up, when he was watching her back at the Lounge instead of Janey Wilkins butchering a Garth Brooks song and flashing her tits at her boyfriend du jour.
And Beth had made a promise – if he stayed long enough to take her up on it, she'd honor it regardless of the name he was using. The little lie never changed the bigger truth on his face when he came barreling into her room with a shotgun full of rock salt.
It was the easiest thing to grab his wrist, pulling him right along with her as she tumbled onto the mattress.
She expected something hard and a little rough like the scratch of his stubble when their mouths met but he kissed her lightly; hands brushing her wet hair away from her face before resting on her shoulders. "It's Dean," he said against her mouth. "Dean Winchester." And that's when he started pushing her backwards, mouth tracing her chin and coming back to her lips; sliding his tongue inside as fingers curled in her hair, breath hot. Teeth clicking against hers, kisses furiously memorizing the way she tasted so that it'd last after the sun rose.
"Trust your hunt to a Winchester," Beth whispered, willing her hands to slow down. Fingers touching his muscles, the fluid way they moved, and wanting nothing more than to stroke all of him. But if she went too fast, she wouldn't brush up against the shudder when her hands trailed down his back. If she went too fast, she would never learn that his breath caught when she licked a stripe down his neck, right underneath his left ear – or that nipping a line down to where the curve of his neck met his collarbone would make him scratch from her shoulders down to her elbows with a groan that shot straight to her belly.
"Something like that," he breathed, pulling his head back to smile at her. "You sure you're okay with this?"
"Not exactly thrilled about being haunted," she returned, snaking her arms around his neck while Dean made a slick trail down to her right breast. The swirl of his tongue, nipping a little with his teeth while he sucked, detonated another pulse in her stomach. "But I'm not chucking you away because of it." She gasped when one hand slipped down, nails digging into his shoulders because his tongue was going fast and slow in time to his fingers – small enough tremors to move against his hand, breath coming out in a hiss that made him laugh. "I'm lucky you showed up, come to that," Beth managed.
It was true in more ways than one.
Dean's mouth slid back up to her neck and Beth raised herself up on her elbows, watching the weight of him sprawled out on top of her. She planted her feet on either side of his waist, toes curling up into the quilt as he kissed her again hard enough to make her breathless and quick enough to keep her wanting; using his mouth with a careless grace. Maybe she was nothing more than a random girl but he convinced her that she mattered – had her believing that all he wanted was their bodies working together in the oldest dance the world knew.
Beth moved backwards slowly, the rough cotton of the quilt underneath her, before placing a hand on either one of his hips and pulling them towards her. Dean went straight for her mouth, pushing between her lips slowly and growling when her tongue flicked.
"Shit," he muttered, quivering against the friction of movement. Dean pulled back and wrapped his fingers in her hair. "Give a man a chance to catch his second wind." The crooked smile was back on his face when she leaned across him, reaching for the dresser and opening the drawer. Beth pulled out the first condom her hand touched, stashed away for weeks since she made her decision, but Dean closed his hand around hers when she nudged the drawer shut. "That can wait, sweetheart."
He put the packet on the dresser next to the shotgun barrel and settled her against the headboard, knees resting on his shoulders as he began kissing the inside of her thighs. Dean's hands stroked her hips and he was saying something so low Beth couldn't make out the words with his lips peppering her skin but she entwined her hands in his when his tongue made a quick pass; back arching as his lips zeroed in like an arrow zooming to a bulls eye.
She let go of one hand, pressing her fingers to the back of his head so that she could push his head down towards all the right places. There had been almost two years between New York and Bula; the longest dry spell in her life was being broken by some beautiful drifter.
Her body was moving on its own, catching the rhythm of fingers and lips in concert against her, and she might have recognized her own voice screaming if she wasn't lost in the tide of his tongue – waves flinging her against a shore while her entire body shuddered and bucked. There was nothing more necessary than skin and lips and the slow pulling apart in her belly when her pulse shattered against his mouth.
Her sigh was a quiet afterthought.
Dean still had one hand in hers, skin white around where her fingers pressed, and he gave a sigh himself when she brought the hand up to her mouth and kissed it lightly. He didn't stop her when she reached over and grabbed the condom a second time, rolling onto his back and waiting for her to slide it on. He was just as swollen as she was, wanting him to burst inside of her, and her hands trembled before she even managed to get the packet open.
All pretense of patience disappeared when she finished and suddenly his hands were on her shoulders, rolling her over onto her back and Beth was staring up into his hazel eyes. Dean's knees opened her thighs; hips already rushing up to meet his as Dean rammed inside, ankles locking behind his back. She braced herself with her hands on his back, head curled against his neck as the mattress shook underneath her; the headboard of her bed cracking into the wall with each thrust deep inside.
There was heat and there was fire, finally warm in her belly, spreading out to the tips of her fingers and toes and his mouth tasted like her and like chocolate and like something spicy which was all Dean when they kissed.
"Dean," she whispered into his neck as her body let go, spasming around him while her fingers scratched down his back. Dean was crashing into her like a strike against the spark, roaring from deep in his chest before his entire body stiffened. She rocked against him, listening to the sounds he made when the aftershocks eddied around them. She wanted more, ready to take as much as he was willing to give, but his mouth twisted sheepishly and he brushed his lips against hers. "Don't have to stop, Dean."
"I'm done." Dean didn't move, bracing himself on his elbows. He was bright red. Beth wrapped her arms around him and pulled his head down onto her chest, brushing his hair while his breath returned to normal. Her own was still coming out ragged but she didn't care – felt a little like something supernatural herself, taking this man inside and making him look like he was barely sixteen. "Guess all it takes to get me off is one naked chick and her Wildcat," he added, his voice a rumble against her breasts.
Beth laughed, waiting for him to move or say something else but all he did was look up into her eyes. "If I'd known that, I'd have pulled out my Wildcat back at the bar." The theme music for the World Wrestling Federation was still wafting up from downstairs, the fire in her belly spreading to her cheeks when she realized that Nana – and Dean Winchester's little brother Sam – had heard every sound she'd made. "Oh, God, we're both going to hell…"
"Sweetheart, I've been going to hell since I was four." His arms tightened around her. "What did we just add to my list?"
"You made me come hard enough for my grandma to hear me shrieking like a banshee in the bed where I was born."
"Not like a banshee," he said. "Maybe a wailing wanderer," Dean added. The look on his face when he said it didn't instill confidence in the comparison. "If it makes you feel any better, my dad walked in on me a couple of times when I was in the bathroom. Thought I had a stomachache or something because of the noises I was making." His smile stretched the skin around his eyes and Beth brushed her fingers against it. "Usually I was just whacking off to a magazine I'd picked up at Circle K but once there was a chick I'd picked up at a diner."
They'd just moved beyond sex with one tiny glimpse into his life, setting off alarms in both their heads if the shocked look on Dean's face was any indication, and Beth couldn't leave him hanging out there by himself.
"Never knew my daddy," she said. "Mama told me he was just some drifter passing through town the summer she was fifteen and warned me against taking up with men who have no homes." She touched his smile even though it hurt. "But sometimes drifters are just good men doing things that need to be done."
His breath came out in a huff and his skin was hot to the touch, one giant flush. "Jesus, you're – " Dean began and then just hitched himself up, plastering her mouth with his. Her body wanted to open up all over again, hands tracing the length of his biceps, but he pulled away. "Sam and I need to get to work on this Percival Watts thing." He kissed her shoulder. "But I bet we've got time to get cleaned up before we go back downstairs."
"The hot water's probably ready again by now." Beth didn't protest when Dean disentangled himself from her arms and legs. She grinned at him. "You're just hoping my grandma gives up and goes to bed before we slink downstairs."
"Hell, yeah," he returned, eyes looking right into hers. "You think I'm looking forward to the wrath of Nana?" Dean chuckled. "Given all the things that Sam and I have faced, that's saying something, Bethany."
It probably should have bothered her that he'd moved on to Bethany like he'd always known her family name – the way it should have bothered her when he pulled another condom out of her drawer before picking up his shotgun and bringing it with them into the bathroom. But Dean Winchester's smile made her want to believe in something bigger than her life in Bula and she could pretend that it was a true story.
Even if it was just until the road called him again.
As always, I tried to downplay the verbiage during the love scene. If it still needs work, let me know.
This is what happens when you respond to a prompt and listen to Concrete Blonde entirely too much. I've always thought that the song "Ghost of a Texas Ladies' Man" would be an excellent jumping point for a Supernatural fic, except I made the back story much darker than the song. The title is a lyric from the song, too.
A careful reader will note that I've watched The Dukes of Hazzard entirely too much for one lifetime.
The Wildcat 22 is a Winchester rifle. "Trust your hunt to a Winchester" is a marketing campaign for, yep, Winchester rifles. Seriously. I can't make stuff like that up…
Chapter two is forthcoming.