He was stuck in Charles Dickens' Yuletide wet dream – as close to Hell as someone could get with gas-powered lights hung on the walls and tables full of food. There was even a goddamn fire roaring in the fireplace and people standing around a piano singing freaking Christmas carols.
Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine but I'd make Dean wear his boots all the time if they were.

Rating: M (Language, angst, sex and a four-poster bed.)

Pairings: Dean/OFC, Dean/Jo (Het)

Miscellaneous: This is the sixth story in the Gobsmacked 'verse and follows directly after Black Bird. This installment contains more angst than is normally found in the stories and I am serious about the rating, particularly in the second half of the story - which contains a mild bondage scene and very light knife play, all consensual. While that might ruin the plot for some, I do not wish anyone with issues regarding such activity to be hurt by it when it happens. That being said, I worked very hard to make the scene integral to the psychology of the characters involved and every beta felt that the scene achieved the purpose for which I wrote it - that it wasn't included for the shock value. Within the arc of Season Two, this takes place after "No Exit" but before "The Usual Suspects."

Beta: merioddities wrangled my run-on sentences and gave me the best pacing advice the story could ever have been given. vunidiwai, as always, was gracious and supportive of my story and all of my characters. iamentheos went through both sections so quickly I was able to start editing ahead of my schedule and also kept me company on IM when I was stressing about Part Two. embroiderama suffered another week of random spammage whenever I freaked out about Dean's POV, Penny's POV, the smut, the plot; in short, everything. misskatieleigh sent me notes (even if she said it wasn't a real beta) on both parts and also put up with my more spastic moments. Everything in this story rocks because of them. The mistakes? Those are all me.

Part Two: So Many Dreams on the Shelf

Dean was standing next to the fireplace, back against the wall as he warily eyed the room.

He was stuck in Charles Dickens' Yuletide wet dream – as close to Hell as someone could get with gas-powered lights hung on the walls and tables full of food. There was even a goddamn fire roaring in the fireplace and people standing around a piano singing freaking Christmas carols.

Experience should have taught him to believe in Penny Hillsworth because every single person at the party was wearing some kind of old-time outfit, down to the little kids dancing around her while she doled out punch. Part of him thought she was pulling his leg about the costumes because fantasies – even the fucked up Freudian ones – had a way of falling by the wayside when you were a Winchester but there she was, sporting a tight yellow dress that should that should have been illegal to wear in public. The skirt was so wide, a man could do things underneath it and no one would even know he was there.

Sam was standing next to her, passing out punch and helping Penny refill the glasses, both of them smiling at everyone who stopped by to grab something to drink. Geek Boy loved Christmas enough to dress up like an ass for it.

Dean snorted. Sam had gone whole hog into the Dickens' thing, even parting his hair down the middle of his head and slicking it flat with hair gel. He'd used a frigging ruler to fix the part and all he needed was a straightjacket and some glasses and Sammy could have passed for Renfield in that Mel Brooks' movie – except that Sam was making easy conversation with every person who took a glass from his side of the table, entire body at ease as he laughed at a stranger's jokes.

The only thing keeping Dean in his Prancy-Dancy monkey suit was a pretty girl in a corset.

Penny smiled at him and he grimaced back, tugging on his collar. The whole thing was a stupid idea, thinking he could fit in by dressing up like some reject from a historical chick flick. His goddamn jacket stopped two inches from his wrists and even Joe, the older brother dressed like a chimney-sweeping Mary Poppins' reject, had laughed when Dean waltzed into the living room next to Penny and Sam.

Girl's an accident, son. A distraction. You're just wasting time when you should be saving your brother.

He fit in her world worse than she fit in his.

Dean gulped, striding across the room and neatly sidestepping a group of older women who had been watching with hungry eyes and loose-lipped smiles. He walked right up to the punch table, picked up a glass and drained it without saying a word. It actually tasted pretty good for some Sprite Sam had slapped a box of sherbet into and Dean coughed, putting the cup out in front of him with a grin and a glance at his little brother.

"Please, miss," he said loudly when he had Penny's attention, "May I have some more?"

She grabbed his glass with one gloved hand and bent over the punch bowl, green eyes narrowing when she realized exactly where Dean was staring. He couldn't help himself; Penny's goddamn corset pushed her tits up into all the right places and she was just lucky he wasn't ramming her against the wall and licking a stripe down her cleavage in front of the entire room. That'd take their minds off of everything but each other, just like they'd been doing since he crawled into her bed blizzard-chased and bone-tired.

The voices were always quiet when it was just the two of them, no promises to break and no vows needing to be forgiven – just the sound of her breathing and the way her eyes looked when she laughed.

Dean took the glass back without a word and one of those kids whose names he'd already forgotten was staring up at him like he was the Antichrist. "You didn't thank Auntie Penny," she said in a strained voice.

Sam chuckled. "That's because Dean is a philistine, Jenna."

"Don't confuse the kid with big words only you understand, Geek Boy," Dean retorted. He smiled down at Jenna. "You can tell him that he talks too much. I do it all the time." Jenna didn't return the smile, just glared at him with a variation of those green eyes that marked every single one of Penny's siblings as part of a pack.

Jesus Christ.

Dean sighed. "Thank you, Auntie Penny." Jenna smiled brightly, watching Dean take a sip of his punch. He stuck out his little pinky just like the white-haired old lady standing next to him was doing, winking at the kid when she giggled behind her hands. Sam made a strangled noise in his throat but Penny's eyes made up for the momentary discomfort of looking like a jackass.

"You're quite welcome, Dean," Penny replied airily, "But you're not much of a philistine if you can quote Oliver Twist."

"Oliver what?" Dean scratched underneath his ear. Even the old lady was looking at Dean like she was interested in what he was saying. "That was just something from a freaking musical Samantha was in back in grade school. You wouldn't know it to look at him now but Sammy was quite the twinkle toes in his ballet slippers. He could even yodel like a little pipsqueak before his voice changed."

Sam sighed loudly. "Bite me, Dean."

Dean ignored him, pitching his voice high. "Consider yourself part of whatever the hell it is," he sang in a falsetto, making it sound as off-key as he could and smashing the syllables together to approximate the tune. "That song just gets me every time, Sam. Right here." He thumped a hand against his chest.

Penny leaned up against the wall with her arms wrapped around her stomach with a laugh that could have raised the dead. "Oh, God!" she whimpered, stopping just long enough in her laughing fit to stare him right in the eyes. "You…are a philistine!" She doubled over with a belly laugh that blew right through him. "That's Oliver!"

"So?" Dean asked when their eyes met. The way you look in your corset better be freaking worth it. But damn if she didn't make him feel like himself when she pursed her mouth all of a sudden.

"Oliver is the musical version of Oliver Twist, you moron," Sam said, not able to hide his grin.

Dean snorted. "Don't be such a frigging drama queen, Sam."


"Bi – "

"Penelope!" A voice roared across the living room, cutting Dean off, and the crowd parted around Winston Hillsworth as he made his wove his way to the punch table.

"Crap," Penny muttered. Dean hoped he was imagining the way she looked at him, a flush creeping up her cheeks and eyes going wide when her eyes focused on the two inches of bare skin above his sleeve.

"We're out of cheese," her father said when he stumbled into earshot. His cheeks were just as red as his daughter's, set off by the gray hair of his wig fringing around his neck and collar. "Why don't you fill up the trays for me?"

"Couldn't you ask Lynn?" Penny's breath came out in a huff and Dean recognized the glimmer of disappointment in Winston Hillsworth's eyes when they flashed at her. "I don't want to leave my friends, Dad."

"I'm sure your guests can manage serving punch by themselves," Winston retorted. "They both look like capable boys." The damn idiot was giving them the once over with a sneer and Penny's head shot up so quickly, Dean heard the snap in her neck.

I don't know how long Sam and Dean can stay and I'm not putting them through that. Dad's questions after the barbecue were bad enough.

Her chest was heaving as she took a breath but Dean didn't need Penny to defend him. "The last person to call me – " Dean began. Sam's cough sounded harder than a bullet – that noise and the kid staring up at him like he was killing something made him shut his mouth with an audible snap.

"I can handle the punch," Sam said gently, touching Penny's fingers while they rested on the ladle.

"I never doubted it, Sam." Penny's voice was softer than he'd thought it should be, given the way she looked like she wanted to kick her own dad's ass. She walked around the table and linked her arm loosely through Dean's. "Would you do me the great honor of fetching the cheese trays with me, Mr. Winchester? I suspect that you are more adept with cutting implements than most men in this room can boast." She brushed her fingertips against his wrist. "I would be doing the party a grave injustice if I were I to leave you here unattended. How could I live with myself were you to begin singing once more?"

Winston Hillsworth recoiled almost as much as Dean did when she stood up to kiss Dean's cheek, everything the man wouldn't say locked in a grim frown and a father's eyes.

"There's already someone waiting to help you." Winston's frown deepened, his cheeks going a bright red that had nothing to do with the glass he plucked off a passing tray. "All you need to do is swallow your pride, Penny." His voice dropped to a whisper. "Peter wants to start over," he added, flashing a sly glance at Dean.

Dean had been judged enough times to know he'd been sized up and discarded.

And her father was right. He had seen Penny with her nieces and nephews, the way she'd pick those kids up in her arms and laugh or tell stories on blankets during a barbecue or dance around the punch table with them. It's not like he was some kind of prize – with all those promises he couldn't keep and the secrets he kept too well hidden – and the only difference between Penny Hillsworth and Cassie Robinson was that it was taking Penny longer to figure it out.

You know what? I'm a realist. I don't see much hope for us, Dean.

But Dean didn't resist when Penny snorted at her father and dragged him behind her, smoothly disentangling their arms and stacking empty cheese trays in his hands while her father watched.

"My dad is a jerk even when he's not drinking," she apologized, saying it over her shoulder as soon as they hit the hallway into the kitchen. Penny shook her head, fake curls falling down onto the curve of her neck. She had pinned it up with tiny white roses, their scent mingling with the lilac perfume she always wore. Dean swallowed. "I can't believe he invited that asshole," she continued.

"Wait a minute…" Dean's eyes narrowed, remembering a pansy accent. Are you the one fucking her, or are you the one who takes the pictures? "That's the ass from the wings place. You want me to take him out to your playhouse and beat the crap out of him?"

"Only if he misbehaves," Penny returned with a lopsided grin.

Dean stooped to kiss her himself but she was already handing him a knife and pulling blocks of cheese out of the large refrigerator. When she was done, the door slammed shut and Penny brought one hand up to a smiling woman's picture – her hair the exact same color as her daughter's, except that it was tinged with gray and starting to thin. Penny was standing behind her, arms thrown around her mother's neck with her nose burrowed into the curls and both eyebrows raised.

He could almost hear them both laughing.

"You know," Penny said gently, brushing the picture with her fingers, "Mom would have loved you." She grinned suddenly. "Hillsworth women are hot for heroes. I'm just lucky you don't like blondes," she said flippantly.

Dean raised his eyebrows, staring right back at her.

"Okay…" he breathed finally. "She's a hunter's daughter, Penny. She knows…the life…and, well…it's something we share." Someone must have spiked the goddamn punch because there was no way in hell his mouth would just start talking like this independently of his brain; he'd kept secrets too long to be taken in by a pretty girl's green eyes going so dark that it made his chest crack. "I didn't screw her… Just used…my fingers."

It was more than he was going to say and suddenly all he could do was start chopping cheese as fast as he could because he'd just fucked up the whole goddamn thing, broke it into so many pieces even he couldn't glue it back together like he did with his dad after Sammy left for Stanford or with Sam when Jess died.

"I was talking about Lynn." Dean could barely hear Penny over the tock of the knife into the cutting board. She flexed her hands in front of her on the counter, her shoulders sagging as she lowered her head. "But that explains why you look at the wall every time I say her name."

"That – " Dean slammed down the knife and grabbed her wrist. Penny didn't even try to tug away, just stiffened her arm before her hand relaxed under his grip. "Jo and me?" He shook his head sharply. It didn't even sound right thinking it, not anymore. "That was…before…you."

"Oh." Penny glanced at him with a ragged breath before staring down at her other hand, nails scratching slowly against the counter. "But then why are you acting like…" Her voice trailed off.

"I told her something about my dad." The words ripped themselves past his vocal chords.

"And?" Her voice actually trembled but Penny turned to look him full in the face.

And she fucking took him away from me.

Dean took a breath. "And that's not enough?" he demanded. Penny looked like he'd slapped her when the words registered. "Made a promise," Dean began. He coughed. "When I took your keys. But she caught me off guard and I…"

"Dean…" Penny was holding her stomach, rubbing her upper arms as she watched him. "It's just that we never…" She turned to stare at something out the window. "I'm not really good…with trust…"

"Maybe that's the smart thing." Dean Winchester was probably going to have to kill his baby brother some day, or he'd be breaking a promise made to his father on the day he died. And if he killed Sam, he'd be breaking the one he made to his mother while she burned to death in a big green house. "Maybe you shouldn't trust me," he added.

"Maybe we should go home," Penny returned softly. "If you can forgive me."

Dean let go of her wrist. "For what?" he asked but it was Cassie he was hearing when he closed his eyes.

Oh, whenever we get – what's the word, close? Anywhere in the neighborhood of emotional vulnerability, you back off. Or make some joke, or find any way to shut the door on me.

But goddamn Penny Hillsworth had given him the key to the door and he'd still played her false in all the ways that mattered, in how much she wasn't really getting; it wasn't her fault for being smart enough to pick up on it. His laugh was hard when it came out of his throat. "For what,Penny?"

"For…" she started, bringing one hand behind his neck. Dean felt her draw up beside him, leaning into his chest, before her lips brushed against his.

He should have just pushed away because things had already gone too far but his hands started circling her waist all on their own. The next thing Dean knew, he was picking her up and slamming her onto the counter, tongue fucking her mouth as fast as he could while Penny moaned into his. The clang of metal collided with the cutting board but Penny's arms were snaking around his neck and he had a straight shot down her corset; the curve of her breasts was so close he dipped his lips down between them – licking the stripe he should have dared in the living room.

Anything else they might have said was lost in the way her fingers dug into his arms and he started pushing his tongue down between the taut fabric and her skin just to taste her.

But neither of them realized the cheese was on the floor until a screech echoed throughout the kitchen, telling anyone within two blocks that Penelope Cecilia Hillsworth was an embarrassment two years running.

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

The first time Dad caught her kissing someone, Penny was fourteen.

Mom had collapsed when they were visiting the Dells and their vacation had turned into days and nights spent in a Pepto-Bismol pink waiting room, all of them taking naps in the hospital chapel. Lucky for her, there'd been some guy there named Mark who was hanging around smoking out in a back alley when she stumbled outside, sick of listening to the doctors talking to her dad. It turned out that Mark's father was in an accident and misery loved company.

After three days of sharing cigarettes and sunburns and bottles of iced tea together, kissing him didn't seem like that big a deal. It wasn't like he was the first boy she'd ever kissed – even if he did things that made her heart skip a couple of beats – and there wasn't any way she was letting it go farther than that.

But Dad had turned a corner to find them clutching each other like they were the last two teenagers in the world, Mark's hands cradling her back from underneath her shirt while she straddled him on the stairs.

Dad had actually been more pissed about the cigarettes scattered around them when he dragged her back to the waiting room, telling her he shouldn't have to explain to her that smoking caused cancer and Penelope Cecilia Hillsworth knew enough about that not to be so stupid.

If you substituted a dead mother for a dying one and sex for smoking, it was pretty much the same speech – except that Dad was swaying due to one too many cocktails and the only urgency in his voice was from embarrassment. Penny slipped off the counter and walked away, dragging Dean behind her before Dad could bring him into the argument; Daniel and Bill were there to run interference and Penny headed upstairs to get their coats out of her old room while Dean went outside to warm up the Impala and round up Lynn and Sam.

There was no way in hell she was putting Dean through one of Winston Hillsworth's drunken tirades.

The whole thing in the kitchen was her fault, between Dad finding them and Dean looking like he was going to shatter into so many jagged pieces because she was a screwed-up girl who couldn't stop being jealous about some blonde barmaid in Nebraska. Tommy was always telling her that Karma was a bitch and it seemed pretty fair, looking at her scorecard, for Penny Hillsworth to be on the receiving end of what she'd done to Peter Harcourt.

And Dean had acted so guilty – going white whenever she said Jo's name and dragging her to bed at every opportunity – that it seemed like the obvious conclusion no matter how much Penny tried to convince herself otherwise. Maybe it'd be different if they'd said something. It's not like they really made any promises. There were no expectations, really, even if he'd given her a protective charm and she'd given him a set of keys and she might have said she loved him but that didn't seem to mean much in her fucked-up brain.

Made a promise. When I took your keys. But she caught me off guard and I…

Penny shook her head sharply and grabbed all four of their coats. Two sharp taps echoed through the room and Penny trotted across the bedroom as the door opened; she didn't want him to see all of the awkward things her mother had kept since Penny was in high school – Cecily Hillsworth's shrine to a girl who stored every science project and bought the biggest periodic table she could find at the museum. "Dean – "

It was Patrick, looking chagrined in his middle class gentleman's outfit. "Expecting someone else?" he managed. Patrick was using the voice that he pulled out most recently on Lynn, when she was shaking in the hospital and crying into his shoulder about things that crept across campus.

Penny's eyes narrowed. "Are you here as my brother or in a professional capacity?"

"Penny…" He frowned. "Dad's downstairs working his way to another heart attack. Did you have to bring…them?" Patrick spat out the word like it was something dirty, something to get over with before moving on to the rest of the conversation.

"Yes!" Penny frowned right back at him. "Sam and Dean are my friends and they're staying with me while they're in town. Tommy invited his new boyfriend and Dad didn't invite Chuck." Her breath came out in a huff. "But that didn't keep him from inviting Peter. He even wanted me to ditch Sam and Dean at the punch table while Peter helped me with the cheese."

"So your way of getting back at Dad was to start making out with your friend Dean in full view of his grandchildren?" His eyes softened but his voice was hard. "Is he another one of your…"

"One of my what, Patrick?" Patrick looked down at the ground. They both knew what he was asking; the only difference between her brother and her father was that Patrick wasn't crass enough – or just wasn't drunk enough, he was a Hillsworth – to finish it. "Is Dean one of my boys?" Someone she followed into dark rooms, college boys with enough drugs and alcohol to last until morning in their private little pocket of sex and sweat and suffering.

He didn't answer.

"Here's a news flash," she snapped. "There haven't been any boys since the hospital. Not one. And Dean?" Penny didn't care if Patrick saw the tears in her eyes but she sure as hell wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of actually crying. "He's the first decent man I've known."

She didn't deserve him.

Even now, almost one year gone from the girl who woke up from her own long sleep, Penny Hillsworth didn't deserve him. She'd somehow managed to throw herself back into life but she wasn't using any kind of compass to guide her. Dean Winchester just appeared out of nowhere, showing up with rain and thunder at his back to save her. And how did she thank him? With a home run swing that knocked him into a tree.

Maybe Dean was right and she was already running – just not for the reasons he thought.

"So you two are serious?" Patrick's eyes widened and he looked like he did every time Jenny pulled off another surprise birthday party.


They were as serious as two people who met because of a pouka could be, never making promises in words and only seeing each other when he'd blow into town unannounced or she got scared and chased him to Nebraska. She laid salt lines every night so the demons couldn't come into her apartment and she waited for phone calls in the middle of the night that never came. He made her pancakes with chocolate chips in them but he always kept a gun on the nightstand and a knife underneath his pillow while he slept.

Penny took a breath, hitching the coats up in her arms so that she could smell Dean's leather jacket.

"That wasn't a trick question, PenPen."

"Fuck you, Patty!" Penny wanted to throw the coats right at his face, wiping away his smug little smile. She was sick of being told that he was the oldest and that meant Patrick David Hillsworth was always right. "You don't think I want more?" If someone gave her a bowl full of wishes, all but one would be for Dean. "You don't think I wish that things were different?" She'd start with the demon, the one that killed his mother; the one that killed all those mothers, six generations back if Sam's research was true. "There are so many things I would change if I could change them," she added. "But – "

There was a brisk knock on the door and it slammed open. Patrick started when the doorknob slapped into the wall and Dean was staring into the room at them. At least Patrick had the grace to blush but all Penny could do was swallow. There was no telling how much he had heard, white-faced and clenching his fists.

"Car's warmed up," Dean said. "Your cousin's ready."

"Okay." Penny clutched their coats tightly. Dean turned on his heel and stomped down the hall. She gave Patrick one look over her shoulder and followed Dean down the hall. Maybe her brother was trying to figure out what kind of man warmed up the car for his baby sister but Penny doubted it, remembering the glower on Patrick's face before she left the room.

"Hey," she said softly. "Do you need anything before we leave?"

"I just need to get the hell out of here," he muttered, stalking down the stairs.

Penny would have dropped the coats if she thought she could reach him in time but he was already turning to meet her father's voice as it roared out of the foyer by the time she reached the top of the stairs.

Dad was yelling at Tommy for not keeping his twin sister from embarrassing the whole family by screwing her latest boy on her dead mother's antique cheese trays.

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

Penny wasn't used to silences that ached.

When Hillsworths fought, they screamed until there was nothing left to say and then yelled some more in case something new came out of their mouths – an accidental insult that won the argument. Dean hadn't said a word since they pulled out onto the road, folding up into himself and leaning down to turn on the radio. The only sound in the car once they hit the highway was the way their breathing acted as counterpoint to the Metallica echoing back at them off the windows. She didn't even hear other cars outside.

She guessed Sam and Lynn weren't saying anything because they were silent witnesses to everything, when Dad went crazy and when Dean wouldn't even touch her hand on the way out.

And when Penny stumbled getting into the car, it was Sam who grabbed her elbow.

She sighed, resting her head on the window. The lights outside were a blur and Lynn snuck out her hand, wrapping it around Penny's arm. She tried to smile back when Sam turned around and smiled at her, pointedly looking at his brother before he faced the front window. Dean just clenched his jaw and his hands held onto the steering wheel like it was a lifeline. He kept his eyes on the road – couldn't even look at her like that night in the bar, when Peter started telling the truth about Penny Hillsworth and the parties she liked to attend.

That was nothing compared to Dad cornering them in the foyer.

I just want a daughter I can be proud of again, Penelope. Is that too much to ask?

She hadn't seen Dad that angry since she'd collapsed in his living room and ended up in the emergency room – red and livid and accusing her of not taking care of herself again, even though she had a record of a month's test in her blood sugar monitor. He wasn't like that before, even when Mom was dying and Penny went on sabbatical – when Penny put her future on hold to help him take care of Mom, hours reading those romance novels Mom loved so much while Mom clutched at her hand; only taking pills for the pain when even touching hurt.

Some days, Penny wondered why she still didn't have the bruises.

They dropped Lynn off at her place and Penny wasn't surprised when Sam suddenly hopped out after her with an apologetic glance at Dean. The way Dean was still staring out the front window, Penny figured Sam was just getting the hell out of Dodge before the storm in Dean's lean frame let loose.

Dean was quiet until they were standing in her bedroom, following her down the hall with a measured cadence to his breathing that sounded more relaxed than he looked when their eyes met. She couldn't say anything. How could she? Penny Hillsworth had all but accused him of screwing Jo Harvelle for three days. He had every right to look at her like that.

"Fuck this," he said finally, voice so sharp that it cut. "I…" His voice trailed off as Dean turned his gaze to the ground. "I don't blame you."

"Blame me?"

"The whole Jo thing." Dean said it without stammering, the words getting louder as his fists clenched. "You shouldn't trust me." And they way he suddenly stared at her, Penny knew it was a warning – wild and roaring through her chest when he knelt down and started putting the clothes he'd strewn all over the floor into his duffel bag. "Don't even trust myself, Penny. Why should you?"

Maybe that's the smart thing.

"Because I'm an idiot!"

"No arguments there." He sounded so tired, shoulders sagging, but he didn't stop shoving his clothes into place. "Giving me keys."

"Jackass!" It came out like a shotgun shell, rough enough to land right between his shoulders. Dean's back stiffened but he swerved his head up to look right at her, eyes narrowing when he saw her face. "I was jealous, Dean. And I'm the one who fucked anything that asked when I was dating someone else. If you had screwed Jo in Philadelphia, I deserved it." Penny wished her voice didn't crack but that didn't keep her from stopping. "Punishment."

Dean's body shifted, like he was getting ready to grab her, but then he looked away again; zipping his bag closed. "Didn't trust you enough," he said, voice so gruff it ached against each rib. "Not about the things that mattered. Because you had fancy parties and your electron microscope and those six brothers who protect you." He stood up, slinging the duffel bag over his shoulder. "All I've got are twenty guns and a forty-year old car and my baby brother."

It was everything she expected to hear some day, that she wasn't good enough because she couldn't tell a ghost from a goblin. Penny took a breath, waiting for the prickle that followed the hair standing up on her arms; waiting for her father's voice in her head to tell her she messed up again. But none of that mattered. Dean Winchester was getting ready to walk out of her bedroom and there was nothing she could say that was going to make him stay.

I just need to get the hell out of here.

Penny stumbled backwards when Dean started rummaging in his pocket, her hands stopping on the top of the dresser by her bed. She scrabbled to open the top drawer, seeing the glint in Dean's hand, and pulled out the Christmas present she tucked away for him there while Dean was taking a shower earlier.

"I should…" His voice trailed off to the jingle of two keys.

She pitched the coil of rope right at Dean's chest, heard the keys drop as he instinctively brought both hands up to catch it. "Use it, Dean." Penny couldn't take her eyes off his face, wishing she could cross the room and start kissing his jaw line. "On me."

It was fucked up as all hell and she goddamn knew it.

Patrick wouldn't tell Dad anything if he knew that his baby sister had just told a man to tie her up and screw her senseless but he'd look at her with their mother's eyes, wondering if she was still laying broken on a desk in Sigma Chi's study having three frat boys filling up every empty hole that still bled inside. And Dr. Tripasian could feature Penny Hillsworth in her latest book, doing something with her scribbled notes and unending litany of questions, but all those words were just getting in the way of the important ones – why Dean and why now and what the hell was she going to do if he left.

I carry your heart with me…

Penny took a deep breath when his fingers closed around the coil, knuckles white. As white as the knuckles on father's hand, the first thing she saw when she woke up in the hospital; clenched into a fist but broken all the same. Here is the deepest secret nobody knows. She swallowed, waiting, but the only voice she heard inside was her mother's. And this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart. I carry your heart. Dean's eyes softened and the duffel slid off his shoulder and down to the floor when he threw the rope onto the bed.

I carry it in my heart.

Dean slammed his mouth down onto hers, hands fumbling at the trail of buttons down her back. "Screw this," he whispered against her lips, finding the button at her waist and pulling it off with a pop. Her skirt rustled to the floor and Dean didn't waste any time pushing the underskirt off, slipping one hand between her leg and a garter before tugging at the bottom of her bodice. He ripped, a shower of fake pearls hitting walls and thumping onto the carpet around them.

He pushed her backwards. "Get up near the headboard," Dean commanded, whipping a switchblade out of some hidden sheath secreted away under the stupid outfit they had borrowed from Tommy. The cuff on his sleeve didn't even come down to his wrists. Penny did as he said, pushing towards the headboard by shimmying her hips until he smiled. "And put your hands over your head." The lights from outside glinted against the small handle, the entire knife dwarfed by his hand when it was closed.

Dean measured out a length of rope, the blade snicking open and through the braid. He knotted the rope around both wrists, instead of separating them like she expected, and raised her arms so that he could loop the rope around the central ornament on her headboard – half-raising her torso from off the comforter. Then he was pressing her ankles together, keeping her boots on and knotting another piece of rope so tightly the leather squeaked when her feet twitched.

He drew the blade down the leather from ankle to heel, slowly, and his mouth pursed; eyes going wide when she smiled up at him. The blade came up, whisking through the first cross of the cord in her corset. Dean brought his lips down, kissing the exposed skin before running his tongue up underneath the next cross. He cut each one, taking his time as he pressed knees down on hers and licked his way up to her neck; pulling open the corset once each stay was cut and she arched up to feel more than just the millimeters of skin passing with an ache across hers.

The hilt of the knife was warm in his hands, trailing down between her breasts and across her belly until it hit the waistband of her underwear. It had been Lynn's idea to wear the garter belt, with a knowing wag of her eyebrows – and a comment about Dean, his boots and a hallway. Penny gasped when she heard the rip of the blade through the elastic, felt the first hint of air as Dean pulled the ruined scrap away from her body.

A spray of goose bumps rained across her abdomen, springing up all along her thighs, when the tip of the hilt touched down. "Lower," she murmured, eyes locked on his as she pressed her knees down onto the mattress.

"Jesus, Penny…" His voice was rough. "You'd let me…"

Here is the deepest secret nobody knows.

Penny smiled, the only offering she could make when his eyes shimmered like they were going to fracture.


She gave a sigh but the knife was just a thump on the floor replaced by three fingers. Dean's lips were tight on hers, capturing every groan she made with his mouth. Penny thrust her tongue against his in time to his fingers, hitching up against the rope with a small cry when he started pulling away; trying to grab his lower lip between hers, whimpering when his breath was hot against her.

"God, Penny." Her eyes were sparking, holding steady to the light because his tongue was suddenly snaking past the folds. "I'm not done with you yet," he added, with a deliberate suck that bent her backwards and the scream in the back of her head was her own voice; hands groping at the ceiling like they were trying to catch something when his tongue replaced his fingers, a muffled moan shooting right into her as she bucked and shook and quivered, He pushed her knees into the mattress with his elbows after she jerked down hard on the rope and twisted, holding her hips with another low chuckle right against her pulse. "I'm not even close to done."

She heard a metallic scrape as Dean's lips and tongue worked against her, another orgasm pouring through her in time with the flickering swirls, until there was something hard brushing against her and he slipped inside the second another scream scraped its way out of her mouth – swallowed up by a kiss that tasted like her.

Dean rammed against her with a four-beat tempo that matched every tattered moan he was drawing out of her. His hands on her knees kept pressing down on the mattress and she was coming and coming like ripples in a pond, every thrust a measured drop. She was one long scream and the stretch from the rope pushed her breasts up for his teeth and his tongue. She ached from the pull and the push – with each whispered 'fuck' against her neck – until he stiffened and groaned into her mouth.

"Jesus, fucking…" he said, eyes unfocused – looking down at her with pupils so wide that he looked just like she'd clocked him on the mouth all over again. "Fucking love you," Dean whispered, head bending suddenly. He was still throbbing inside, pulse beating against hers.

The strain in her arms ached, the rope rough against her wrists with a twist she'd probably regret when the feeling tingled back into her hands, but Penny hitched herself up and slammed her mouth against his so he couldn't take it back.

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

Dean brushed his fingertips against the pink, roughened circle around Penny's right wrist, and she shivered. It was a light friction burn, her skin color turning back to normal slowly with some aloe vera slathered judiciously around her wrists. She rested her arm across the length of the bathtub edge, leaning back against the far edge with the points of her nipples peeking through the bubbles from the Honey Harvest Extra Foaming Bubble Bath she snuck into the water when he wasn't looking.

"I tied the knots too tight," Dean said. Penny didn't say anything, just continued to watch him like he was some moron from another planet. She'd been doing that ever since she slipped into the tub, crossing his knees with her own as she settled into the water opposite him. It was hot enough to leave their skin as pink as the circle around her wrists. "Do you have any idea how freaky you look right now?" he demanded.


"I should get a goddamn mirror," Dean retorted. He kept his hand near her wrist, watching her lean forward enough to touch the top of his hand and then gawk up at him like she was seeing him for the first time. Dean sighed, just as loudly as he intended, and shook his head. "Son of a bitch! This is because of that thing I said, isn't it? You can stop staring." He snorted. "And if you say something hinky like 'It's the best Christmas present ever, Dean,' you're getting spanked."

"It's okay," Penny said lightly. She wasn't smiling, exactly, and her voice was breathy. "I won't hold you to something you said during sex," she added, drawing out the words carefully.

"You're one perverse chick," Dean returned sourly. Penny closed her eyes, another shiver going through her as his fingers brushed the burn one more time, but said nothing. It wasn't any easier when she stopped looking at him, because then he had to wonder if he'd said something wrong. "If you're going to hold me to anything, it should be something I said during sex."

"But sometimes we say things we don't really mean." Penny's voice was gentle and she wasn't smiling at all, the planes of her face almost white as they reflected off the water. "We get so caught up in the moment that words just come out, promises we don't mean to make."

"That makes me feel better," Dean grunted. "Because you were so in control while you were sucking me back at Bobby's." He sure as hell wasn't going there with the rope and the knife and the way her eyes sparkled when she fucking said 'yes.'

Penny's eyes shot open, body shifting enough to splash water across his chest. "That was different."

"Yeah?" Dean snorted, spitting away some of the bubbles that started going up in nose from the way she moved. "Maybe you should explain it to me in small words so I can understand."

Her cheeks flushed and she frowned. "That was different because I love you, Dean. It had nothing to do with the sex."

"You're a hypocrite, Penny." Dean folded his arms across his chest. Her eyes widened and she opened her mouth like she was getting ready to snap something back, back straight, but then Penny slumped back against the tub. Fuck it. "You can say anything you want during sex and it means exactly what you said, even when I've got you hogtied like a heifer. But when I'm the one fucking you, it's just a mistake or something?"

"So you did…" Her voice trailed off before Penny finished the question and she sunk down suddenly so far into the water that Dean could only see her eyes over the top of the bubbles. Penny popped back up after he tried to stare her down, waiting for her to look away first. "You meant it," she said simply, in the smallest voice he had ever heard her use.

That wasn't a trick question, PenPen.

Dean's throat hurt – Penny Hillsworth wasn't supposed to be some tiny little girl, a will-o-the-wisp thing that didn't even believe the truth when she heard it. He could still hear her father's voice yelling after them as they left the party, telling her not to come back until he had time to forgive her and how her mother would be rolling in her grave by how much she disappointed both of them.

Winston Hillsworth could lay down disappointment as well as John Winchester.

I sent you here to keep an eye on the bartender, Dean. Not to fuck a waitress in the bathroom.

"Yeah," he said, his voice gruff, and if she was surprised by the fact that his fingers suddenly started entwining with hers – instead of the other way around – Penny didn't show it. "Even if…" Dean shook his head, hearing his father's warning sending off sirens in his head. Even if my dad would think you're the biggest mistake I could ever make. Dean swallowed and let go of her hand. "I meant it."

Penny raised her arms over her head slowly, turning her head to look at the wall. She'd pulled her hair back into a ponytail and the fake hair she'd been wearing earlier had been tossed onto the dresser in her bedroom, but there were still a couple of small white roses blinking back at him. The arc of her arms did something to her breasts behind the bubbles that made Dean want to pick her up and throw her back down onto her paisley green comforter but Penny's sigh kept him from moving at all.

"I'm sorry my dad said those things about you," she said finally. Penny coughed, bringing her arms back down on either side of the bathtub.

Men like him put you into the hospital. Haven't you already learned your lesson?

"It's not true." She took a deep breath. "I was the one who did those things… Hurt myself. Things I'm not really proud of doing." Penny shut her mouth abruptly and then shook her head. "I woke up in a hospital bed on New Year's Day after a party. Things got out of hand. Alcohol, drugs and unprotected sex with multiple partners aren't ingredients for a happy diabetes cocktail."

"Penny…" Dean couldn't think of anything else to say, just brought his hand up to touch hers. Every word was slicing right through him. "You don't…"

She ignored him, giving a hard laugh. "I didn't know I had diabetes. I wasn't…a total screw-up hell-bent on killing myself and the unborn child I thankfully didn't conceive that night." Her voice took on her father's tones and Penny pushed her fingers through his, squeezing as hard as she could. "But my dad was right about one thing. Mom would have kicked my ass if she were still alive, would have told me to pick myself up because I was the only one who could." Penny's throat worked. "It wasn't her fault that I was just going through the motions of living because she couldn't anymore."

Dean closed his eyes, wanting to say something, but he knew too much about how losing mothers – and fathers – cut a little too deep to the bone; things lost that you could never get back. He'd been just as numb, looking for something to fill the gaps and going through every bar they stopped at just to sink himself into some willing chick – some willing piece of skin that gasped and moaned and twitched – so that her screams could drown out the ones that were always burning through the back of his head.

"But then I met you, Dean," she said softly.

He snorted, shaking his head. "I think you got me mixed up with some other knight in shining armor."

"This might come as a surprise, Agent Han, but I remember the face of every idiot in a leather jacket that I hit with my mother's umbrella." Penny's eyes were shiny. "Especially when they get blood all over my favorite scarf," she added.

She blushed with some dorky ass little smile on her face and stared down at her hands making traces in the water. His own cheeks were burning in counterpoint, fists clenching and unclenching as he watched her. Fuck me… Penny Hillsworth had turned him into some goddamn emo idiot – all he needed to do now was start growing out his hair and listening to all that chick rock that Sam would hum when he thought Dean wasn't paying attention.

Like he even wanted to know the words to Tori freaking Amos.

Dean coughed – his goddamn hair must have started growing of its own volition because he was never scratchy, fingers suddenly flicking at both of his ears when he wasn't twitching at the way his hair felt when he moved. He didn't even trust himself to do anything but watch her hands because who knew what frigging thing he was going to say next. Probably something about going out later for Chardonnay and picking up Beaches at the video store after a dinner at some goofy restaurant called Piccadilly where the food came with a wine list pairing and ten different kinds of forks.

Lucky for him, Penny loved listening to the sound of her own voice.

"Do you believe in serendipity?" she asked.

"Serenwhatippity?" Dean chuckled. "You're talking about that chick flick, aren't you?"

"A little." Penny sighed. "My mom believed in it. I think she was serendipity's biggest fan. She used to say that accidents were just fortunate discoveries waiting to happen, showing you something you needed to find even if you didn't know that you were looking for it." She was blushing again, so red it had to be more than the steam that was still piling up off the water. "Like me hitting you with the umbrella."

"See, here's where John Winchester would disagree. Accidents are your own damn fault." Dean was grinning in spite of himself, could hear his father's calm litany about watching your surroundings and being sure not to piss off the wildlife unless you wanted your leg bitten off by something bigger. "Like me mouthing off and not believing that some shrimp with an umbrella was actually Babe Ruth in disguise."

That made Penny laugh, one of her big belly laughs that shook the water so hard Dean had to laugh right along with her. She wiped her eyes with the back of one hand, still chuckling. "I guess it was my own damn fault for bringing you upstairs after you showed up with coffee."

"It was your own damn fault because you called me back." The words poured out before Dean could take them back and Penny was watching him sharply with narrowed eyes. You're a little young to understand this, Dean, but saying thank you is more than good manners. Maybe it was the shock of coming face to face with humanity's worst nightmares but the number of people who actually thanked the Winchesters were fewer than even he used to expect – and that was saying something.

But it wasn't just that Penny Hillsworth said thank you. The girl had understood the value of family, the one lesson that John Winchester had hit home so hard Dean could recite all the reasons why he needed to protect Sam by the time he was five. I should have known you were a big brother. It wasn't even that she had understood something about how he felt when the crowbar was in his hand and he was beating the fuck out of the one thing that was as much him as his own skin. My mom died last year and I…went a little crazy.

It was her laugh, seeping through the cracks and soothing every ache Dean didn't know that he had the very first time he heard it. He needed to convince himself that it was a one-time thing, a fluke because of the beer he'd been drinking and that it was nothing more than just a phone call from a girl he missed the chance to screw. One less opportunity to lose the scream in someone else's skin for awhile, to breathe on his own without wondering why he still could.

"My dad was a big fan of duty. He'd say that the only value of thank you was how you said you're welcome," he managed. Dean hoped like hell he could pass off the flush as steam from the water; Sam would be laughing his ass off if he were watching their little conversation. "He taught us that Winchesters pay our debts in full. So when you called and said you wanted your scarf back, I brought it."

It was a test, to prove to himself that he was wrong, and it worked for about fifteen minutes – until she stood on tiptoe and kissed him for the first time. He shook his head; Penny was watching him again, a gift blooming in her eyes as the words registered.

"Jesus Christ," Dean snapped, breath coming out in a huff. "What now?"

"That's the second thing you told me about your dad."


Penny clasped her hands in front of her chest. "It's the best Christmas present ever, Dean," she chirped. She managed the straight face for about five seconds before she pushed a wave of water towards him.

"You bitch!" Dean yelled, swallowing a mouthful of soapy water. "This is so on!" He splashed her back but Penny burst right through the water like she didn't care, rushing forward to straddle his thighs, and suddenly he wasn't thinking about the fact that a mouthful of Honey Harvest Extra Foaming Bubble Bath wasn't as tantalizing as the name would suggest because she was slick and soapy and throwing her arms around his neck with another laugh that trickled right into his bones and stayed there for awhile, putting its feet up on the coffee table.

"Fucking love you," Penny whispered against his cheek.


The title of this story is a song by Tori Amos. There's a lot of lovely imagery in it about growing up and a father's expectations; this idea suited Dean and Penny – both of whom currently define themselves based on their fathers' judgment of them. The song also references several fairy tales, which fits the "feel" of the 'verse to me.

As always, I did my best to tone down the adult situations. If more work is needed in that regard, please let me know and I will be happy to make changes. I am very cognizant of the fact that the type of activity performed in this specific installment might not be everyone's cup of tea but it was included to so that the characters could demonstrate trust in each other when everything else failed. Both characters express their deeper emotions through physicality and, with that in mind, I tried to be as sensitive as I could in its portrayal -- going for plot and character development versus shock value.

Embroiderama and I couldn't find any pictures from the pilot which were light enough to make out the color of the Winchesters' house so we opted with the green we all saw in "Home."

Penny's inner commentary right before the bondage scene are all lines from the poem i carry your heart with me by e.e. cummings.