Bound to Burn the Wilderness

She was no stranger to losing something precious in a fire, for all that hers started with a whoop and the squeal of tires down a dirt road.

Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine but I'd make Dean wear his boots all the time if they were.

Rating: T

Characters: John, Missouri (Gen)

Warnings: Everything through Season Three is fair game, although this is technically pre-series.

A/N: Written for the Women of Supernatural Gen Flashfic challenge at spnxx on Livejournal. I selected prompt # 18: "To a light a candle is to cast a shadow." – Ursula K. Lequin

Beta: embroiderama

She was no stranger to losing something precious in a fire, for all that hers started with a whoop and the squeal of tires down a dirt road.

Still didn't change a thing when it came to the smoke in your eyes as you ran upstairs through the crackling heat, trying to rescue all that was left of the people who mattered most until someone dragged you back through the hole in the front window.

Maybe that's why she didn't turn him away when he showed up on her doorstep carrying troubles she didn't need and begging for answers she couldn't give, his voice husky with month-old ash and the shadow of his motherless boys staring at her through the screen door. God knows she wanted to. The man was angry enough to give anyone pause, let alone when his fingers twitched at his side like he was already holding the gun that was never his to use.

He'd spend the rest of his life looking for it all the same.

She didn't envy him that long road, or his sons either – fate already scratching sacrifices and bargains into their tiny bones, powers only a fool would mess with. The little one would be heart-sore soon enough without her help, something dark that wasn't hers to see working its magic in that baby's veins.

Setting ghosts to rest was a life-long penance.

Probably didn't matter if the ghosts were her own or someone else's, no matter that hers swirled around him; Elsie's dark braids and Granny's laugh whittled into her ribcage, both of them dead because Missy Guthrie sparked with the wrong boy at the old railway depot – a rising tide of pale limbs and dark that burned more ways than she could count.

It was the price she paid to stay breathing, letting a stranger overflowing with ragged grief sit in her living room; pouring himself out without even saying a word. Whole stories wrapped up in the way that man twisted the wedding ring on his finger or the clench of his jaw when he stared hard at the wall, so loud it would take a month just to sift through the flashes.

Most folks who knocked on her front door wanted to hear nothing but good news, looked at her wide-eyed like she was the answer to a lost prayer, but he was sitting there wanting to know the truth. Waiting for the gut punch that knocked his shoulders back and sent him barreling down back country roads in a car that howled like the Devil, a trunk full of guns and rock salt and two boys raised to be soldiers in the war that was theirs to finish.

But that was her fault as much as it was his, thinking something good might come out of a fib; bolstering it with a trip to that house she never should have stepped foot in, working out the words of a mother's forgiveness. She told herself that it was for the boys, to keep the hounds from howling at their heels – the same way she told herself that one dream of fire didn't mean a thing when a pretty boy's mouth pressed kisses on your neck, even when you heard angry voices hollering out both your names before the curtains ignited.

The truth had a way of bubbling to the surface, just as fierce as the nose bleed when she crossed the threshold and the way her eyes rolled up into her head before she woke up in a hospital covered in thick black oil that only she could see. A taint that no amount of scrubbing would ever wash clean.

When her eyes blinked open and she saw him standing there, a baby in one arm and a goofy-looking kid holding his otherhand, she begged him to go back to his garage; a tumble of words that only made him scowl and walk away without saying anything back.

He didn't want to hear any truth but his own.

And telling him that was just the pot talking to the kettle.


The title of this piece is a lyric from the spiritual "Run, Mary, Run." All things considered, I felt that it was highly appropriate.