Demons of Her Own
It all went to hell when Mom died.
Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine but I'd make Dean wear his boots all the time if they were.
Overall Rating: T (Adult themes, Language)
Characters: An OFC, more OMCs than you can shake a stick at and appearances by Agents Ford and Hamill. (Gen)
Author's Notes: Written for the Women of Supernatural Gen Flash Fic challenge over at spnxx on Livejournal. I selected Prompt #1.
Miscellaneous: No spoilers for the show. There are adult themes, however – including references to sex and drug use.
Betas: embroiderama, arwensouth and emgrace4
You do know you shouldn't be walking around by yourself, don't you? Girls are getting killed!
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Penny Hillsworth had never been afraid of boys.
It used to bug the hell out of her friends in junior high, how she could just walk up to a boy they saw sitting in the food court at the mall and start talking to him. And she knew all the right things to say – she could talk hockey better than football when she wasn't giving advice on cheat codes or arguing about the Enterprise versus the Death Star. Penny didn't even have to resort to flirting to keep a boy interested, although it probably didn't hurt that she never mentioned mitochondria or the fact that she spent most of her free time reading bad romance novels out loud to her mom during chemotherapy.
She blamed her brothers.
Boys were supposed to be mysterious, sometimes even dangerous when you saw them hanging out after school in little pockets of cool or playing soccer out in the park and whistling at you when you walked by giggling. After you spent hours sitting around the grill in the backyard listening to your brothers take turns belching out the alphabet to see who could do it the longest, the only thing mysterious about boys might be the color of their underwear – but only if your brothers didn't like mooning each other between hamburgers.
By high school, boys weren't as important as her GPA and getting into the bioengineering program at University of Illinois. Penny had no illusions; she didn't think she'd be the one to crack the cancer problem and come up with some miracle cure that kick-started the healing process but she owed it to her mother to try. College brought a steady boyfriend named Peter – an intern in her father's law firm – and the road map to life beyond her bachelor's degree: a doctorate, a family, a good job in a reputable laboratory working in their cancer research program.
Then the cancer came back.
And it all went to hell when Mom died.
Penny fell into her own long sleep the day they planted Cecily Hillsworth into the ground – an endless recitation of restless days filled with anger and grief and waking up in tangles of limbs, with vomit on her breath and a body covered in marks made from fingers and teeth. A collection of mistakes all made to feel something, stolen from boys who thought they were pulling the wool over her eyes when it was the other way around, with her years spent knowing how they thought and what buttons to push. Penny used them to rush straight towards a mother and child reunion the only way she knew how, until Penny stared death right in the teeth and realized Mom would have been the first one to kick her ass if she let go.
Even picking herself up out of freefall, there wasn't much about men that surprised her.
Dad was appalled – the daughters of respected lawyers didn't end up in hospitals, full of drugs and three different men's semen – but he managed to cover up the scandal with a few well-placed phone calls.
Peter took one look at her when he stormed into Penny's hospital room, nostrils flaring like she was the most disgusting thing in the world, and left without a word.
Her brothers were stuck between supporting her and hiding their disgust at how she'd been found.
Tommy came around first, his hand slipping into hers five minutes after she woke up – careful not to touch her IV but never letting her feel completely alone, moving to sit next to her on the bed when more Hillsworths crammed into the room. Joe demanded names because he knew the fraternity where she'd been and nothing was keeping him from enacting a little Hillsworth justice. Daniel didn't show up for a week and, even then, he had nothing to say; Evan made up for it by talking about everything but the fact that his sister ended up in a diabetic coma after a frat party, including some lame crap about the last Star Wars movie. Bill went out of his way to tell her about all of the things he'd done when he was in college, even the secret of the baby no one ever knew about back when he was a college senior. Patrick stopped being anything but a psychiatrist, bombarding her with questions of 'why did you do that' and 'how does that make you feel.'
Life had become gray, with everything in its place and a rhythm that didn't jar.
Until the night some idiot in a leather jacket followed her in the middle of a thunderstorm, yelling about girls getting killed on campus like Penny lived under a rock and didn't know there was some freak out there ripping her classmates apart. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from crying out, a sharp tang pooling in her mouth along with the jagged edge of fight-or-flight roaring through her belly when Penny warned him off and he kept coming right at her.
It wasn't her fault that the moron didn't understand English.
Penny pulled back her umbrella for a home run swing and smacked the idiot in the mouth, knocking his head backwards into an oak tree just when a shaggy-haired sasquatch calling himself Agent Hamill showed up from out of nowhere, waving something in his hand that glinted underneath the street light.
They both stared down at the idiot, rain splattering into his face from the storm and washing off the blood pouring out of the gash on his forehead. He kept blinking and Agent Hamill told the man – Agent Ford – to follow his finger while Penny used her scarf to press down hard against the gash. When the idiot's eyes finally focused on her face, he was looking up at her with blasted pupils and a shit-eating grin. He smelled like leather and blood and the lilac fabric softener on her scarf – and that stupid grin never left his face when he slurred his way through some crack about arresting her the next time Penny Hillsworth used baseball to interfere with a Federal investigation.
It was impossible not to smile back, even if sticking around to flirt with the idiot while his gargantuan buddy lurked in her peripheral vision was a stupid idea. She wasn't going to be out of the ballpark until she was unlocking the front door of her apartment building and scooting inside.
Penny knew that she was luckier than she deserved when neither of them bull-rushed her on the way to the door; she breathed a sigh of relief as she turned around to peer at them through panes of glass.
They were still standing underneath the street light when she curled up on her armchair, peeking out past the curtains of her living room window. Agent Ford started staggering down the street until Agent Hamill grabbed his arm, holding on until Agent Ford swatted his hand away and staggered two more steps down the road. The edge of her scarf dragged behind them, wet from the rain and muddy from the grass, but it was too dark to see the stains that matched the streak on her right palm.
She gingerly brushed her tongue against her cheek, tasting rust as the adrenaline pumping through her veins turned into a memory.Penny twisted her hand at the wrist, feeling the strain from the shock that had howled up her arm when the umbrella cracked into the idiot's head. The stitch in her side ached but the old hitch in her chest, the weight that kept her spinning in a whirlpool while she paddled her oar just to stay upright, was gone – the blustery voice that bellowed 'your mother would die all over again if she saw you now' and a personal Greek chorus of 'we want our little sister back' all blown away by her own voice.
Go ahead, asshole. Take one more step, and you'll be eating plastic!
The umbrella was broken and it should have pissed her off that an idiot was walking away with her favorite scarf but Penny figured that it was a fair trade when she started laughing, remembering those green eyes going wide and his cackle about being knocked down by a move some chick learned in P.E.
She rested her chin on folded arms, watching their backs until they turned the corner, and shook her head.
Growing up with six older brothers had never prepared her for two Star Wars-loving weirdoes. She'd probably never know what in the hell they were doing before she smacked one of them into a tree – but Mom always said that accidents were just fortunate discoveries waiting to happen, even if it took you time to figure out exactly what you were supposed to find.
And remembering that, for the first time in months, made Penny smile.
The title of this story is a twist on a lyric from "Prince Charming" by Jim's Big Ego. If you're looking for a song about female empowerment, you could do a hell of a lot worse than to check out JBE. This is the same song that I used for the title of "As She Hit the Open Road" – along with a lot of the inspiration for the main character.Using the same song here was a deliberate choice.
This story does take place in my Gobsmacked 'verse. In fact, it's really a teaser for the entire thing - a character study of my illustrious heroine prior to the initial story in the main storyline. However, I chose not to post that in my header notes because I truly felt the story did not require any 'verse knowledge whatsoever.
I deliberately made the decision to make the narrative POV from the perspective of a civilian. I wanted to write a story where Dean and Sam help someone with a "personal" demon without even realizing it, and this was a good setup for that.