As She Hit the Open Road
Before the accident, Lia's biggest problem was finishing her Sociology of Consumption term paper after she helped Jeannie with her laundry but an oncoming truck knocked Lia straight out of her body and into a twilight nightmare - and now some thing from one of her mother's bedtime stories wants her heart.
Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine but I'd make Dean wear his boots all the time if they were.
Rating: M (Language, sex, angst, violence, noncon)
Pairings: OFC/OMCs, Dean/OFC (Het)
Warnings: There are no spoilers for the show but the story is dark. It includes scenes of violence, gore, and non-consensual sex with undertones of incest. Based on what I used as the big bad, it's AU - although few things would make me happier than for one to show up in canon. No dates are specified in the fic but I'm certain the events take place after the series run is over. Given that I wrote it for a Women of Supernatural challenge? Expect OCs. The boys do make cameo appearances throughout the piece, however, but the challenge was specifically designed to focus on a female character.
Miscellaneous: This was written for the spnxx challenge comm on Livejournal, based on the following prompts:
Sleeping Beauty waking herself up, Cinderella trading her slippers for something more comfortable, Snow White taking up metalwork.
"And though she be but little, she is fierce." - William Shakespeare
Apparently, these prompts only made sense in my brain after I added "Inanna's Descent into the Underworld" to the mix.
Beta: misskatieleigh provided just the right amount of tough love required to keep me on track whenever I started pulling out the flowery stick for no good reason. zelostmind provided me with lovely insights regarding the villain of the piece, how to make more sense out of the pivotal scene and many kind reassurances when I freaked out about my OCs. vaznetti reminded me of the most fundamental requirement for a hero's quest and provided additional help with plotting. Special thanks to embroiderama, without whom this would not have been possible; she picked up the pieces when the harder bits drained me completely. Everything that rocks in this story is because of them. The mistakes? Those are all me.
Every morning she was polished like a jewel.
Her bruises were softened with a mint salve and her cuts caressed by something that smelled like olive oil and crushed herbs. Rion washed her hair himself, white fingers a gentle massage against her scalp, and twirled each curl around his fingers until they fell soft and shining around her shoulders. It was longer than she'd ever worn it, another inch every time the hummingbird whirred. He even gave her a dress, all white gauze and shimmering layers that laced tightly up the front.
She endured his touch the same way she endured his arrogance. It wouldn't last long. Rion had given her forty days and forty nights, just the length of time it took to ride the roads to the Twilight Lands through a river of blood, to prepare herself for the ritual. Your shrivening, he had had called it. As though you are a knight of old preparing for your vows.
The trick required sacrifices or the three trials meant nothing.
Rion even gave her the semblance of freedom and a room set off from his apartments. He continued taking pleasure from her pain every time he shifted into the face of someone who should have been a stranger; slivers that sliced through her chest like the wishing bowl. The trick required that, too — a trust gained by her submission. She wore a ring that marked her as his and it let her pass beyond most of the wards but she rarely left her room. He would tease her about that over dinner, crushed fruits and sweet wines that curdled in her mouth, and she made herself smile so that he would believe that she was his.
He never returned the three things he had stolen.
The ritual did not require them. It did not require her purity, merely that her heart was whole and the bowl was given freely once its spilling edge cracked through her chest. Wishes required no less than complete submission.
She didn't know if she would be able to go through with it.
But every time he pushed between her thighs with a pounding that throbbed, it was easier to put together the words. Every thing you have stolen and every agreement that you have sealed with someone else's misery shall become your burden and no one else's; you will be the only one to pay the price for your bargains. She spelled them out on the back of her eyelids, sweating underneath Rion's clammy white skin while she bit her lip and memorized them until she spoke them aloud in her dreams.
Even the wish could not fill the constant ache when she was alone — Alexander Thomas Newbery was the one name she would never forget and she should have let him go but it was the final midnight.
She invoked the charm upon the ring with a careful twist, slipping out the door and down the stairs that led to Hell. The guards did not even see her, a phantom in her white dress and loosely curled hair sneaking through shadows and gliding through a crack into the greenish gloom.
He was laying on the stone floor with his face towards the wall. Even Matthew was giving him a wide berth, hunched in on himself in the farthest corner of the room. She swallowed and picked her way across the floor, the hem of her dress brushing against stone and claws and furry limbs until she was kneeling beside him. His breathing was ragged and he started when she touched his bare shoulder; if he were sitting, she would have been crawling onto his lap before he could blink.
Stretching down, she swept her mouth against the pulse beating in his neck — fighting the instinct to flick the tongue that was no longer there, tasting what she could of Alex. His jeans were ragged and his hair was greasier than she remembered but she trembled all the same when his fingers gathered in her curls and he breathed deep off the curve of her neck.
"The guards said…it's happening tomorrow." It was a whisper. "Is that true? She pulled away from him long enough to nod before drawing one hand down his cheek. Alex put his hand on top of hers, eyes darkening as he frowned. "Jesus, Lia." He scrambled into a sitting position.
She crawled up into his lap, not even caring about the dress, and tilted up her head. She wanted to kiss him long and slow and sweet but she was afraid of the way the stump in her mouth would taste — all clotted blood and burned flesh even though it was forty days later; she settled for pulling his free hand up to her mouth and running her lips across it, resting her head on his chest.
"He's got you dressed up like a goddamn doll," he said. Her breath came out in a huff, the closest to a laugh she could muster, and she shifted to straddle his thighs.
You going to give Daddy your heart, baby doll?
It made her shake, the pressure bulging up from the fly of his jeans; the rabbit screamed not my daddy not my daddy not my daddy but it was Alex and it was the last midnight and he didn't smell like old varnish or dry dusty flowers full of rotting bananas. He was sweat and songs and the only regret she'd have when she was gone.
"You don't have to do this," Alex said softly when she suddenly looked away. "He still uses you, doesn't he?"
She swallowed. She had stopped fighting after the first time because the trick required her to feed Rion's ego or the rest of it didn't matter. Alex twisted her face to look back at his with a hand on her chin, mouth coming towards hers. She shook her head before she pushed him slowly backwards, hands on his shoulders, until he was lying on the floor. She leaned into his hands, trembling as he started unhooking the laces on her dress. He moaned when she worked the button loose on his jeans; stopping only to let him pull the dress up over her head.
The room was an orchestra of moans and sighs, the green light going dim, but she could still make out his features; every line of his face, the way his mouth quirked up when she brushed herself along the length of him and the catch in his throat when he thumbed the peaks of her breasts. The groans they both made when he took a nipple between his lips made her back arch and the girl she was might have been ashamed if it were anything but the last midnight.
That girl just lay down with a sigh when he rolled her onto her back and slipped a hand between her thighs. His murmured 'shh' didn't keep her from jerking as she waited for the low chuckle and the shift into a face that made her heart bleed but his breath gave Alex away as she started rolling against his hand; loose-limbed slow shudders poured through her when he replaced hands with lips and it was the one time she wasn't afraid of letting go with anyone, bathed in a green gold glow and feeling the tips of her fingers brush against the cool stone as her pulse went warm against his mouth.
There was nothing but Alex when he slipped inside her, thrusting fast and slow and his hands kept her from falling while his tongue traced the tracks of old scars. He was bending against her like a bow and his pulse fluttered inside of her with a soft 'I'll never forget you' that made her scratch his back until she knew why Gwyneth's wish was to say one name and her body fluttered back before a slow sleepiness drew her deeper into the dark of the last midnight.
Rion's sharp cough awakened them both at the same time, wrapped around each other like Hermia and Lysander in a patch of light more gold than green. Only the tic in a white cheek marked her betrayal, the clench of a jaw that spurred her to reach up and kiss Alex on the shoulder — her eyes closing to hide the tears when his whispered 'Lia' cracked louder than a metal gauntlet being slapped across Rion's face.
"Her heart is still mine," Rion said within the stillness that followed, smiling when she smiled back at him.
It was true. She was going to give Rion everything bottled up inside, every drop of the one wish that he'd never expect. Guards pulled her to a stand, roughly slipping her discarded white dress onto her body with no care for her cuts and bruises, and dragged her away. She looked at Alex once, over her shoulder as her toes slid across the cool stone, and hoped that he would always remember her name.
She was ready.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
It was going to end with a whimper.
The guard led her to a small room with black walls, a blood-stained altar and a white marble floor. The gleaming bowl, as white as the floor, was set on top of the altar. It sparkled, looking just like every white porcelain bowl her cousin had bought from a pottery booth at the Renaissance festival — except for the sharp spike that was inset at a cardinal point along its lip. The spike was concave and Rion laughed when she touched it reverently with her fingers. "It is shaped to catch the blood," he explained. "The more blood it captures, the more powerful the wish."
It worked for her.
She understood the particulars — he'd spent forty days explaining what would be required — but the wishing bowl made her stomach muscles clench. It was lovingly crafted by Rion's own hand to pierce her heart and capture every wish inside. Blood was the catalyst, a miracle that could be swallowed, and all she was to him in the end was a bowl full of wishes.
"It is time, little one," he said.
She swallowed, feeling like a idiot in her pretty white dress with her pretty curled hair, but her feet were as bare as a penitent and each step towards the altar was a careful one — a slow exhalation of breath as she touched her heel down upon the white marble. She couldn't see a difference between the color of her skin as her toes spread and the floor itself and that probably should have scared her, that she was as gleaming and cool as the floor and the bowl she would catch herself in, but she continued walking until she stood in front of the altar.
The bowl was warm in her hands, a tiny flutter against her fingers as she grasped it. All that was left was to slide the spike into her chest and wait until the bowl overflowed with her heart.
It was what she had left.
She centered the spike right under the edge of her heart. Rion's crimson eyes turned hungry, his tongue flicking against his lips through teeth as white as the bowl and her marble-like hands against its fluted edge. She couldn't tell where she left off and the bowl began when she sucked in a breath and pushed.
There was a price for every miracle.
The spike cracked her open like she was nothing but vapor and a delicate smile crept over his face as he watched the blood spilling into the wishing bowl. The girl he'd stolen everything from was giving her heart for him.
But her heart was her mother's heart, and her mother's mother's heart; a slow pulse full of green eyes and identical smiles, of girls full of luck with six older brothers and curly nut-brown hair.
It was more than that, swirling between her hands.
The bowl was filling up with scuffed boots and a big black car that roared into the driveway, the patter of bare feet rushing across the carpet in the foyer when the door opened and Daddy stepped inside, being pulled into his arms while Uncle Sammy laughed. There were jack-o-lanterns and the way she felt every time Mom stood in front of her class and made that dumb joke about how old cells could be retrained to perform new tricks and bedtime stories, knowing Gwyneth was as much Mommy as she was a girl in a fairy tale. It was full to the brim with touch football in the backyard and fighting to make mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving and eating as much junk food as they could during the Evil Dead movie marathon every Christmas Eve, bowls of buttery popcorn and Aunt Sarah's gooey brownies.
The bowl was overflowing with Lia, a collection of ever-changing stories passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter and every single one said the same thing — that, sometimes, the princess scrapes herself up off the asphalt and saves her own ass with her blood, her sweat and her tears; the three trials that every hero endured to claim the prize.
It was always her wish and, while the rules stated that she could give it away, wishes could never be forced.
Lia turned the blood in the bowl clockwise with her finger. Once for my grandmother, her hair covered by a bandanna and tired eyes smiling through the tears that no amount of pain medication could mask. Once for my mother, another clockwise circle full of a girl who danced in sweaty back rooms overflowing with sin and sorrow and suffering. And once for me, her blood swirling into its third circle as her heart pumped itself out onto the bright red stain spreading across her breast.
"You dare," Rion hissed, body jerking like he was trying to move and was rooted to the floor. "Do not taunt me, my sweet Hermia." All of his glamour was stripped away and he was nothing more than a dry dusty corpse staring at Lia Winchester with a sharp-eyed stare that hurt more than the spike still lodged between two of her ribs. His crimson eyes narrowed. "Do not cross me. I will kill the bard."
But they both knew he was lying. She had invoked the rules by remembering a bedtime story, looking hard enough to find the truth.
The room rang like a bell as Lia pulled the spike from her chest with a gentle smile. She raised the bowl to her lips and drank deep; it tasted nothing like the bitter tang that ran across her tattered tongue when her voice was stolen. The bowl fell from her loose fingers and it smashed to the ground, blood running in black rivulets along the cracks on the marble floor.
She took a deep breath and blew out the candles.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
And they all lived happily ever after.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Her back arched with a heaving breath, eyes blinking open, and she coughed around the plastic tube that had been slipped down her throat. The only sound in the room was someone weeping until Lia's back slammed into the mattress, followed by the steady beat of the machine tracking her heartbeat.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The light hurt every time she cracked open her eyes, too bright stabs bleeding past the breaks through her eyelashes whenever she recognized a voice or a shape in the glimmer. The pulse of the machines kept time to her heartbeat but every noise jarred — the hard clicking of pens fighting with the soft sounds of murmured breathing or the shift of fabric against fabric as a body moved in the chair next to her bed.
The first face Lia pulled out of its fluorescent nimbus was her mother's, curled up in the chair next to her bed with a magazine on her lap. Mom held her hand, thumb slowly stroking against Lia's palm, but their eyes met when Lia stirred. She tried to smile past her mother's searching gaze, wincing as the magazine rustled to the floor. Mom leaned forward and touched Lia's cheek, heedless of her bandages and careful of the tubes.
The dry spiders scrabbling through her rib cage stopped singing, chasing a slow smile that screamed in her dreams, but every secret Lia tried to hide was laid bare all the same; her mother's eyes, so much greener than the light in Rion's dungeon, recognized the hummingbird wings beating through Lia's veins.
Mom's sad smile stayed with her until she drifted into a dreamless sleep.
Your mother broke them entirely, with the help of a trickster and more than a little luck. It was a fool's bargain.
A snore burst through the sibilant tongue burning between her thighs, her cry cut short by wooden legs slamming onto the floor as Dad's chair balanced abruptly underneath him. His eyes were wild, throbbing above new scrapes and his bruised left cheek, and he tensed — ready to fight whatever monsters danced through her dreams.
Lia raised her hand, touching his lips. Every piece of her still hurt, brought back to the moment the truck slammed her into the road, but she held the touch as long as she could before her hand fluttered back onto the bed.
Not once did he press her about what she'd seen, though she saw questions in the clenched fists on her bedspread. Lia had questions, too; ones she would never ask her father no matter how often they teased her in dreams — fragments all but forgotten the longer she stayed awake.
Did you never ask what he did, all those times he returned in the middle of the night with new cuts and bruises?
Lizzie was there, once, when Lia woke up — curled around her on the bed despite the tubes and wires, breathing slow and easy just like Matthew did when he slept. Lia swallowed. She remembered the sound of his breath and the press of his legs around her side, the way one claw would trace the length of her nose with a touch so light, Lia wondered why she was ever scared of him. The prettiest skins hid cankers underneath their smiles and the darkest boasted gentle hearts.
I used to be like you.
Alex was a phantom ache, soft edges that hurt no matter how gently his fingers brushed across her abdomen — just a bowl of water and ripped tatters of his t-shirt soothing the wounds Rion had left behind. His voice was always there, telling her stories, but it was Uncle Sam sitting in the chair next to her bed. He was reading out loud to her from her battered copy of Alice in Wonderland, his calm voice dancing around Cheshire Cats and playing cards.
"Hey," she said. It wasn't the voice she remembered, a hot fissure full of lava that cracked and warbled up from her lungs with a wheeze, but her tongue flicked across the back of her teeth — no longer a bloody stump within her mouth, a burning dead weight.
"Lia!" Uncle Sam's index finger pressed into the book as it closed around his hand. He was already standing. "I'm going to get your pa — "
"No!" She lifted her head up off the pillow, sweat beading across her forehead. "I need…" A straw was pressed to her lips before she could think and Lia sipped slowly while Uncle Sam's brow furrowed and blue-green eyes shimmered. It even hurt to push the cup away when she was done. "I need to know something."
"But your parents…"
He thought she was asking about herself, the broken thing laying in a hospital bed that used to be Lia Winchester — a myriad of questions spilling out between them. How badly was she hurt? Would she ever get out of bed again or be able to hold a fork on her own so that she could feed herself? Lia tried to breathe but she managed to grab hold of Uncle Sam's wrist, fingers working just enough to cup around the curve of his cuff.
All those questions to ask and never the important one.
"Did…" Lia licked her lower lip, thirsty all over again. "Did Dad ever kill a pouka?"
He sat back down in the chair, the weight of him bearing down with a snap. "Lia…" Uncle Sam looked down at the hand on his sleeve, wrapping his fingers through hers as he shifted the chair closer to the bed. "How did you find that out?"
She sucked in a breath, his fingers warm against her skin. "Rion." Lia tried to squeeze, her hand trembling in his like a dying bird. "He took me, Uncle Sam. A dying daughter for a murdered son." The tears came, the ones she refused to shed because they meant she'd been beaten, even if she'd escaped from the box where he kept all of his toys. "He took me…away. He left a changeling here to die." There was nowhere to hide from her uncle's blue-green stare while words tumbled out of her mouth like frogs. "Because Dad killed his son. So…"
"You wanted to know if it was true?" he asked. Uncle Sam always had a way of looking right into her heart and, after Rion, that should have bothered her. All that remained of her heart was a fragment of crimson hair falling like a stone through her fingers while she slept; nails leaving welts that puffed on her thighs and her arms, rotting inside just from his touch.
But Uncle Sam had never punched through her like she was full of cotton candy.
"There was a pouka murdering girls at the University of Illinois campus a long time ago. The police thought it was a serial killer. I thought it was a werewolf until the moon changed and the killings didn't stop." Lia's hand jerked. Uncle Sam made it sound so real, like it wasn't crazy. "Penny was walking home from the lab by herself when we were scouting the campus and Dean followed her."
"He said he met Mom because of a pouka but I thought Dad was just making fun of Mom's stories." Lia sighed. "That he made an ass of himself teasing her about it and she got pissed. Dad always gets horny when Mom gets pissed." Uncle Sam didn't say anything. "But you were both gone so much when we were growing up and it made sense after Rion told me…about his son. You fight the Unseelie."
"Not just the Unseelie," her uncle replied. She'd always known that Winchesters didn't do things by halves but even Lia was surprised by what he said next. "We've been doing a fair share of hunting trying to figure out what was wrong with you after Penny had a friend at the lab review your charts." There was a whole list of things they'd done bristling in his eyes but he caught himself all the same. "Rion…" Uncle Sam paled and Lia saw bruises as fresh as her father's around his wrist. "That pouka Dean killed was an Unseelie prince? We never thought…" He shook his head sharply, teeth biting into his lip. "This Rion? Did he call you an eraic?"
"A blood price."
"He was going to use me to bring his son back." It was the kindest way of putting it, the cracking of her heart — a bowl full of wishes that Rion had tried to steal. Uncle Sam finally let go of her hand and it flopped in the air while the nerves jumbled in her brain; just so many twitches that never stopped.
"That son of a bitch is as good as dead."
"No…" Lia closed her eyes. "That's not why I asked, Uncle Sam. Don't tell Dad," she whispered. "Please." And she wasn't about to tell him that Rion was worse than dead, the final eraic for every person he had ever hurt etched into his dusty flesh and pulled like pins out of his crimson eyes. She heaved her hand onto the bed, feeling the warmth of the cotton against her sweat-covered palm. "I just needed to know if it was true. Because…"
She swallowed again, a sluggish eddy of air swirling around her when the mattress dipped and she was sitting up and some man had an arm around her. He smelled like sweet spices, falling into crimson sighs bitten against her neck, and he wasn't Alex. Lia jerked, tried to fumble away but she was too weak to move and she was trapped in another one of his illusions with wires and tubes pouring out of her arms and legs, spilling her heart open and letting everyone drink.
Her body still wasn't her own but her brain remembered and suddenly it was just Uncle Sam holding her while she bawled into his shoulder. "Because," Lia managed between sobs. "Because if it's true, then…" She lifted her head from his shoulder.
"Then what, Lia?"
"Because then it's all true. About Grandpa John." His eyes widened and he recoiled like she'd slapped him. "I have to believe that it's true, Uncle Sam. That Winchesters are strong enough to claw their way out of Hell." Her body still wasn't her own, trembling as his smell seeped into her pores, and all she wanted to do was scream — to cut away every part of herself that had been violated but she couldn't even hold the knife.
"It's all true," Uncle Sam whispered into her hair. "Every single word."
Her body still wasn't her own.
But, someday, it would be.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
There is more to the story that women tell.
No one blamed Gwyneth for Deiniol's partial transformation, the one swan's wing that marked him as a creature between both worlds, although she would carry the guilt of her mistake for the rest of her life. Her virtue was restored by the Kindly One's themselves, her years as a wildling forgotten the moment Gwyneth restored her brothers and two brave men killed the Dark One's daughter.
Gwyneth missed her forest — the call of the birds, the sound of the stream — but with her brothers free and her protectors proclaimed good men in her father's service, there was not much for her to do but clear out her mother's herb garden and begin preparing it for planting.
The magic had not been hers, in the end, but returning to her old life after being touched by a myth was a line difficult to cross. Five of her brothers managed easily enough, returning to the lives they had before their curse. Deiniol lived in solitude, ashamed of the wing; still trapped in the story. She had always thought that Wynfor would trade in sword and spell for a judge's mark once their task was done but he chose, along with Griffin, a life guarding those who stumbled into the dark.
Since they would not accept positions within his household as a reward, her father declared a holiday and held a feast in their honor.
Griffin found her sitting on a log in her mother's herb garden, rough hands in her empty lap. He never asked the question but Gwyneth answered it all the same when he picked up her hand and brought his lips down to her scarred palm. They lay down together under the stars, with nothing but air between them. Every brush of his hands across her flesh was gentle, and she shuddered wherever his cool fingers touched. He never flinched from the press of her coarse hands, arching into them as she scratched down his back, crying out his name during the push and pull that was their gift alone.
There was enough magic left for him to stare at her awestruck, followed by a sly smile. Griffin began dragging his name out of her with well-placed kisses and fingers that marked his territory, making up for every word she could not speak in so many long years.
The next morning, the brothers left — but not before Griffin spoke to her father about building a house in a forest clearing full of nettles. Her brothers wanted to prepare the land for building themselves but Gwyneth was undeterred. The hard work kept her occupied, building the house where they would live — big enough for six boys with Griffin's hair and a green-eyed daughter that Wynfor would take under his wing.
Unlike the endings that men give, every day was not happy — between the waiting and the worry — but every day was their own.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
It was the beginning of August before Lia realized that she had missed the Fourth of July.
Maybe it was because fireworks would never be the same again after seeing them bloom behind her eyelids when her tongue was ripped out, of feeling those fingers shudder down tracks of veins and piercing them just enough to maim. Nothing shimmered around her like the dreams. She didn't mention them to anyone, the ones marked by a slick smile she had stopped remembering when she was awake — just like she never told her father that she knew his secret.
She was beginning to forget.
Uncle Sam had warned her about that the afternoon the truth tumbled out but that never protected her from what crept back into her nightmares. Uncle Patrick told her she would remember in time, that her mind was just blocking out the trauma of the accident, and he slipped Dad the name of someone he thought could help. Dad had scowled but he took Lia to her weekly appointment with Dr. Offerdahl as faithfully as he took Lia to every physical therapy session.
She still remembered him, when the sharp edges pushed and the brush of air prickling the hair on her arms ached. Lia marked her afternoons with the catalogue of every one-sided conversation but the last thing she ever wanted was for Alexander Thomas Newbery to see the broken girl stuck in her wheelchair. She wasn't even able to wipe her own ass because she couldn't stand up by herself.
But stories have a way of winding towards their inevitable conclusion and Lia wasn't surprised when Dad announced that they were having a family reunion in the backyard. Mom smiled at Dad after he said it, her fingers touching the scar at the corner of his mouth; Dad smiled back when she said they'd earned another perfect day and Jacob groaned because their parents were six seconds away from making out in the middle of breakfast.
Lia wasn't looking forward to it.
Before the accident, she would have been part of the tangle of activity in the backyard; whirring from the party tent to the picnic tables to the kitchen, where she always made punch with ice cream and no one messed with her decorations. The moving truck had relegated her to a shady spot on the path near the oak tree. Lizzie sat on a blanket next to her, reading A Wrinkle in Time out loud, before a parade of uncles with concerned eyes and aunts who breathed their worry converged on them.
Her cousins did their best not to look at the puppet with her cut strings before her brothers brought her potato salad and Uncle Joe's ribs and enough lemonade to raise the Titanic. Johnny pulled her out of the wheelchair and onto the blanket with them like there was nothing wrong with her at all, like her legs still worked and they were just sitting around drinking beer after touch football and she could exhale.
"Is there room for me?"
It was a New York accent.
She looked up, telling herself that the shock was just the sun shining off of his clean hair, and shaded her eyes. Alex was taller than she remembered and she couldn't even pick herself up off the goddamn blanket, watching a white spider crawling against a black desk while Lake Michigan glittered over a pin-striped shoulder and she shrank even smaller under a crimson-eyed stare.
Alex had a guitar slung over his back that he set in her wheelchair before sinking down next to her on the blanket, in a shady spot that seemed to be waiting just for him. Samuel made a gagging noise when Lia's hand stayed on Alex's cheek, making a crack about how she was just like Mom, but Uncle Tommy snorted and said that it was time to play football. Uncle Daniel was even blowing a whistle to get everyone's attention before the family started choosing sides.
They were alone.
"You do clean up nice," he said. "And the not puking is a definite plus."
Lia finally moved her hand back down to her lap. "How…" she began to ask, with a shake of her head. Her hands twitched in her lap, the words stopped up in her throat.
"How did I find you?" Alex grinned at her. "There's only one Dr. Winchester in the Chicago branch of Rice Laboratories."
"No…" She shivered. He smelled like the best part of a dream she had when she was ten but he scared her all the same. What little she still remembered was enough to wake her up with screams, like that time she had the nightmare about the Virgin Mary picture over her friend Maria's bed coming to life with a snarled face and a claw. "How did you convince my dad to let you in the backyard?"
"I convinced your mom." His voice was light. "I… I have an internship starting this fall at Rice Labs." Alex was blushing. "Not on her project," he added when Lia's eyes widened. "But I made myself talk to her when I came out last month for my second interview. I told her that I met you when you were on a trip and she thought I was talking about some trip to Europe you went on two years ago with your French club. I simply chose not to correct her assumptions after she invited me."
"I don't believe this. You're a stalker!" She leaned forward, one hand fisted in the blanket. Her arms were too weak to pull herself up into his lap and it didn't help that Alex was watching her like she was crazy. "A little help here would be nice."
"It'd be easier if I knew what you were doing."
"I'm trying to kiss you but my skinny arms are weak as hell and my chicken legs don't work at all and I figured it be easier to kiss you if I was sitting on your bony thighs."
Alex's hands settled around her hips. She'd stopped flinching when it was Mom or Dad touching her there but it was Alex and Lia didn't even feel panic quiver in her chest when his hands dragged her up onto his lap. "Better?" he asked.
He sighed when Lia looped her hands around his neck, resting her head on his shoulder. "That night…" Alex's voice trailed off as her hands trembled, fingers clutching his hair. "You were saying goodbye."
"I… I think so." All that remained of that night was the soft flush of his fingers around her shoulders, the way his mouth felt along the tracks left by Rion's nails. "I don't remember much anymore. Just you. Matthew's name. And my wish." Alex's lips were on her forehead. "And I didn't want you to see me like this. Broken." She sucked in a breath. "All I've got to offer you are nightmares."
"That's not true."
"It's not." His arms were tight around her waist. "I…remember everything. I tracked down everyone Rion kept. Some of them died a long time ago but Matthew's in his seventies. He's a retired CPA in upstate New York. Whatever you wished for, it saved a lot of people."
"I wished that every price Rion exacted for his bargains came from himself instead of his victims. Uncle Sam said that caused something called a reality quake. I mean, I've got my voice back and everything. But…" Lia brushed her fingers against his neck, tilting her head up.
Alex didn't say anything, just brought his lips down on top of hers. She recoiled when his mouth opened slightly, a flash of fire blossoms in her eyes as Rion's teeth came down on her lip before he sucked her tongue inside and swallowed it whole, but then she felt Alex breathe and tightened her arms around his neck, bracing herself against him with her elbows locked underneath his hair. His hands clutched at her sundress, pulling her as tight against him as he could manage.
"I'm pretty screwed up, Alex." It was a whisper against his neck.
"We're all screwed up."
"I'm the kind of screwed up that wakes up screaming and I can't even change my clothes by myself." If she had one wish left, it would be that he'd stop looking at her like she was going to break if he breathed on her too hard. "The only thing I'm not in therapy for is an Electra complex."
"The nightmares aren't going to scare me," he returned seriously before a broad smile lit up his face, "And I can probably force myself to help you change your clothes. That's nothing compared to the number of times you've puked on me." He had the grace not to mention the number of cuts he had cleaned, the bruises he had cooled with water.
"Has anyone ever told you that you're a glutton for punishment, Alexander Thomas Newbery? You moved to Chicago for some screwed-up girl with chicken legs that don't even work."
"It's a family curse." Alex said it lightly but he was serious again, the ghost of a memory flickering in his eyes. "That's why Rion came to my father." And there was a wild sound in his voice, the way his vowels stretched full of green growing grass and the sun washing over their skin through the leaves of the oak tree. "And it's why I still remember, Lia." Alex had one hand on her calf, stroking gently; tingling right up into her spine. Lia shivered. "Hey," he asked softly. "What's wrong?"
"I…felt my leg." Lia shivered again when Alex brushed her thigh lightly with the tips of his fingers, raising more prickles that made her want to laugh because she could feel it, but she tightened her arms again around his neck instead — just enough strength left to hitch herself up and kiss him.
There were screams and yells from the field, a whirlwind of voices underneath the summer sky as her brothers and her cousins squared off against each other, and giggles coming from the old swing set. Uncle Joe had put another slab of ribs on the grill, cooking it slow with sweet molasses and honey before he slathered it in barbecue sauce. Dad's cackle rose over it all and Mom's smile when she joined in made her look just like the picture on the refrigerator.
Even Alex was chuckling, a low rumble against her side as she let her head rest easy against his shoulder.
As she held on.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
You're gonna have to be your own prince charming.
Gonna have to ride your own stallion.
Gonna have to find your own castle.
Gonna have to raise your own sail
and there's gonna be a happy ending
but that's only the beginning.
This ain't no fairy tale.
I did my best to downplay the adult content in this section. If more work is needed in that regard, please let me know.
I selected two prompts for the spnxx challenge:
1. Sleeping Beauty waking herself up, Cinderella trading her slippers for something more comfortable, Snow White taking up metalwork.
2."And though she be but little, she is fierce." William Shakespeare
The title of this story is a lyric from the song "Prince Charming" by the incomparable Jim's Big Ego. The lyrics quoted at the beginning and end of the story are also from "Prince Charming" by JBE.
I really wanted to write a story about the character's coming of age and fairy tales are perfect in that regard. "Prince Charming" is about just that: a woman coming into her own, marking the beginning of her story. Not to mention that it all comes about because of a car accident thanks to a literal interpretation of the lyric.
The one I selected specifically was Sleeping Beauty. The first prompt reflected this idea, how the victim becomes the heroine, and I had an inkling as to how to accomplish that. The second prompt was what cinched it for me – it's how Sam describes Lia's mother and was the second link to fairy tales. When I realized that the prompts together are the perfect combination to describe a girl raised by Dean Winchester and Penny Hillsworth, my brain went ping and here we are.
So, I decided to set the story within my Gobsmacked AU. To this point, there's been nothing in canon to preclude the existence of faery but that AU was deliberately written to incorporate the idea of them by turning existing fairy tales on their head. I have this thing about fairy tales as modern myth, variations on older stories, and I can see versions of them within modern American folklore and urban legends. Unlike other stories within the 'verse, however, this one wanted to sound like a fairy tale – so it's heavy on the imagery and more deliberate in its symbology even though Lia's inner voice sometimes sounds like a dock worker.
(See, not even a word about the Descent into Hell... ;-P I slacked on the notes, yo.)