Title: Unchartered Waters
Characters: Dean, Sam, OFC
Pairing: Hint of Dean/OFC
Warnings/Spoilers: Set between Hunted and Playthings
Disclaimer: Don't own them, making no money from them
Summary: "It should have been me! The parnock attacked me. But Dean deliberately got in the way, and it took him down instead. Stupid, overprotective jerk! He doesn't deserve this, Caitlin. He doesn't deserve to die."
Author's Notes: This is the first time I've attempted a fic that could be categorized 'het'. I love writing about the boys and the dymanic between them, but I wanted to try something different and introduce a female character who may, if this series continues, become romantically involved with one of the boys. Your opinion on this venture would be much appreciated!
The story should run to around 7 chapters and all being well, I'll be posting a chapter every few days.
Ginormous thanks to my beta, stealthyone, who's sweated over this and put up with my whining and insecurities.
From her position near the end of the stained wooden bar, Caitlin Connor surreptitiously observed the dozen or so patrons of the Harvelle Roadhouse. A rough, dangerous-looking bunch, the lot of them, full of character. She itched to take out her camera and snap some candids of these people. It would make a fabulous series for a biographical work. But she'd learned that hunters kept a low profile and shied away from the limelight - understandably, considering their line of work. It was a shame, though. From what she'd discovered so far, they were all heroes in one way or another.
She picked up a cloth and the final beer glass, paused for the tenth time in as many minutes to brush hair out of her face, and wondered if it was time to seriously consider chopping off the shoulder-length mop of tangled curls. Maybe she'd go skinhead or Mohican. Alternatively, maybe turn the whole mess into dreadlocks. She grinned to herself at the thought of her mother's reaction to any of the above options. It would almost be worth it just to see the expression on her face…
Hearing raised voices, she turned her head to the other end of the bar and watched in frank admiration as Ellen Harvelle dealt briskly with a couple of recalcitrant patrons who had already imbibed one too many whiskeys.
Caitlin had great admiration for her no-nonsense, tell-it-as-it-is aunt, as different from her own mother as any person could be. She felt a kinship with Ellen that she had never felt with her own flesh and blood. She sometimes wondered if some kind of cosmic mix-up twenty-six years ago had resulted in her being born to the wrong woman.
She stacked the glasses back on a shelf beneath the counter and began to wipe down the wooden surface. She was slowly beginning to find her feet and definitely felt more comfortable than when she'd moved into the Roadhouse three weeks ago. She'd certainly learned more about this alien world of hunters in that short time than she'd picked up through the whole eight years since she'd found out the truth behind her aunt and deceased uncle's unusual lifestyle.
She had yet to decide if she wanted to live in this world, or run from it.
Caitlin jumped as the phone beside her uttered a piercing trill.
Ellen glanced across at her. "Caitlin, can you get it?"
Caitlin picked up the receiver. "Harvelle's."
"Who's this?" a voice demanded abruptly, and she imagined a frown on its owner's face.
"Why don't we start with, 'Who are you?'" she countered sharply, instinctively reacting to the curt tone.
"I'm sorry." The voice had softened, and Caitlin identified a tinge of anxiety in the tone. Not deliberately rude, then, just worried. "I didn't mean to be rude, but I need to speak to Ellen right away."
"She's tied up at the moment."
"Please… it's important. Tell her it's Sam Winchester."
Caitlin had heard a great deal about the Winchester boys from her cousin Jo, and not all of it was complimentary. Scratch that. She didn't remember Jo saying a lot about Sam, except that he was a nice guy and incredibly tall. But she'd had plenty to say about his elder brother. Oh, yes. Enough to make Caitlin very curious to meet the famous Winchesters.
"Hold on." She called, "Ellen, it's for you. It's important."
Ellen frowned but walked over to Caitlin, an eyebrow raised.
Caitlin said in a low voice, "It's Sam Winchester." She had learned that not only did hunters keep a low profile, they were also very reticent about sharing their business with anyone. She figured it was safest not to shout Sam's name for the whole room to hear.
Ellen shot her a concerned look, took the receiver, and turned away, speaking quietly. "Sam? Something wrong?"
Caitlin hovered nearby, keeping one eye on the bar while blatantly listening in on Ellen's side of the conversation.
"He's what? Sam, I told you … What the hell happened? It should have been … two? The hell there were! … Okay, I get it, there were two of them. … No, I swear, I've never heard of them hunting in pairs before. … Yeah … yeah. … Calm down, Sam. Are you hurt? … Are you sure, Sam? … Okay, okay." Ellen paused, running a hand through her hair.
She looked rattled, which surprised Caitlin. Ellen was usually so calm and collected.
"Listen," Ellen went on, "you remember what I told you about the venom? … Yes, I'm sure. No painkillers, no medication of any kind. That's really important, Sam. You'll just have to wait it out. … I know. … I know, Sam, but honey, Dean's strong … Yeah. … I know. All right, I'll look through Bill's journal, see if there's anything that could help. Where are you? … Yeah, I know it. All right, you keep in touch, you hear? Try to stay strong, Sam. … Okay, honey. 'Bye."
Ellen placed the receiver back on its cradle, her expression grave.
"Ellen? What's happened?" Caitlin asked hesitantly.
Ellen's lips thinned. "Something bad."
"Anything I can do to help?"
"No, honey. There's nothing any of us can do." She paused. "Although, it might help Sam if he knows exactly what to expect. Maybe I should drive out there… Damn it, I can't!" She looked searchingly at Caitlin for a moment, and then walked around the bar and bellowed, "Ash!"
The tow-haired computer genius looked up from his position at the pool table.
"Ash, I need you to keep an eye on the bar for a while."
"Aw, come on, Ellen, I just need a minute to make this shot."
Ash jumped visibly at the strident tone and hastily put down the pool cue. "I was on a winning streak, there, Ellen," he grumbled as he took his position behind the bar.
"You never win, Ash. I've probably saved you from a whitewash."
Caitlin bit back a grin at Ash's affronted look. Ash was an enigma she knew it was going to take more than three weeks to figure out, but so far, she'd at least worked out that she liked him.
"Keep an eye on things," Ellen went on. "And if Tom Wight tries to order another drink, sling him out of here. I need to go out back and talk to Caitlin."
Ellen gestured for Caitlin to follow her and Caitlin did, wondering what had happened and what it had to do with her. Her aunt had made it plain that she was welcome to stay on at the Roadhouse for as long as she wanted, but didn't want her to get involved with what she called "the life". That was fine by Caitlin. She was curious, of course she was, but she had no inclination to get involved in what seemed to be a dangerous and very strange world.
The two of them walked out through the kitchen into the living room. Ellen firmly closed the door behind them.
"Ellen? What's going on?"
Ellen turned and faced her, expression serious. "Have I mentioned the Winchester boys?"
"Once or twice. Jo's told me a bit about them."
Ellen rolled her eyes. "I'll just bet she has. Well, despite what Jo may have told you, Dean Winchester's no God, and he ain't the Devil incarnate either, but what he is right now is in deep trouble."
Caitlin nodded. "I overheard some of your conversation. I'm guessing something went wrong on a hunt, right?"
"Yeah. The boys were hunting a parnock."
She must have looked blank, because Ellen explained impatiently, "It's a vicious creature, a killer. Most people think it's an urban myth, but it exists all right, though this is the first one I've heard of in years. Should have been an easy hunt – those boys know their job. And they killed it all right, but it turns out there's two of them." She paused, shaking her head. "It doesn't make sense. I've never heard of them hinting in pairs. Anyway, the second parnock got its claws into Dean and drew blood."
That was a strange way to put it. "And that means?"
"It means he could die, Cait," Ellen stated bluntly. "The parnock's claws inject deadly venom into the bloodstream. Bill encountered a few in his time, and we know of other hunters who were infected. Very few of them lived."
Caitlin knew enough by now not to be surprised by anything her aunt might throw at her, even mythical monsters and deadly venom. Still, this wasn't the Dark Ages. "If it's venom, they can treat it in the hospital, right? They have antidotes to most venom these days."
"Sam can't take Dean to the hospital," Ellen said firmly. "Too many questions, for one, but mainly because he can't let them try to treat this. Painkillers, antibiotics – any kind of medical treatment reacts violently with the venom and accelerates death. No one's worked out why. But try explaining that to the medical staff. Sam can't take that risk."
"So what can he do?"
Ellen shook her head. "Just make Dean as comfortable as he can and pray he's strong enough to get through this. It'll all be over one way or another in less than twenty-four hours."
Less than twenty-four hours? Caitlin struggled to get her mind around the implication of Ellen's words and the fact that this was real. She searched for some words of comfort, but in the end all that came out was a feeble, "That's terrible," and she chided herself for the inadequacy of the words.
Ellen smiled grimly. "Welcome to the wonderful world of hunting, honey."
Ellen spoke in her usual matter-of-fact tone, but Caitlin saw her jaw working and could tell that she was really shaken at the news. It looked like the Winchesters boys meant a lot to her, and Caitlin wondered why.
"We need to look at Bill's journal," Ellen went on. "I keep it locked in the safe in the cellar. Give me a minute."
She disappeared, and Caitlin sat down at the table, feeling a little numb. This was so outside of her experience she wasn't sure how to react.
Ellen returned a few minutes later with a worn leather-bound book in her hand.
"Here we go." She quickly thumbed through it, stopped at a page around a third of the way in and looked up. "Here it is. Bill made notes, everything he could find about the effects of the parnock venom, just in case we ever encountered another. There may be a detail in here that'll help, something I've forgotten." She started reading. "Yeah, it's just as I remembered." She paused, snagging her bottom lip as her brow furrowed. Then she looked up. "The best thing is to get this to Sam. At the very least it'll prepare him for what Dean's about to go through."
Caitlin nodded. It made sense. Then she remembered Ellen's earlier words. "Wait. Didn't you say you can't drive out there?"
Ellen nodded. "There's someone coming in later I need to see. I know it's a lot to ask, but would you drive out there for me? I'm not sure Sam was telling the truth when he said he wasn't hurt himself, and if he is, he's going to need help looking after Dean."
"Me?" Drive to a motel in the middle of nowhere to help nurse a man she'd never met who was dying from the venom of a mythical monster? She felt a flutter of panic at the thought.
I'd send Ash, but I'll need him here later." Ellen looked her straight in the eye. "And there's no one else I trust. Caitlin, I feel responsible – I was the one who sent the boys on that hunt. And Sam sounded like he was on the edge. I don't want him to go through this alone."
Caitlin sighed. Knowing that she had Ellen's trust meant a lot, and deep down a part of her really wanted to impress her aunt. She didn't want Ellen to think she was pathetic and incapable, like her mother. "Sure, no problem," she said firmly, wishing she felt as confident as she sounded. "Just tell me where to find them."
Ellen looked relieved. "They're in a small town called Jackville, around two hours' drive north of here. Just get onto the highway and keep heading north. You can't miss it. Sam said they're at the Sunset Inn, on North Main. Look out for a black Chevy Impala."
"I have a map in the car. I'll find it."
Ellen put the journal in her hands. "Those boys…" She swallowed. "Cait, they're real close. If Dean doesn't make it – Sam's going to take it hard. There's no telling what he'll do."
Great. This was getting better and better. "And you think I could stop him doing whatever he likes? Ellen, I don't even know him!"
Ellen put her hands on Caitlin's shoulders. "I know. But I know you, and I trust you. You'll know how to help if it comes to it. Now go, and call me later."
Caitlin nodded. "I will."
Ellen left and Caitlin deliberately allowed herself no time to think. She raced upstairs to her bedroom, threw a few items into an overnight bag, just in case, then snagged her purse from the chair and her jacket from the hook on the door.
Within five minutes she was on the road, foot down hard on the gas, heading into the unknown.