A/N: I saw the title (yeah, Eddie Murphy's next movie, huh?) so I jacked it. I also blame those blue season one publicity promos of Jensen/Dean in the desert for this. Heck, I gotta blame somebody. Written quickly and totally unbeta'd so you know who to blame. Part of the dialogue was inspired in part by "True Grit," and yeah, the names of the bad guys were taken from that same movie. Warnings? Violence, and cussing. (Thank you, Dean.) This takes place during Coyote's Tale. Oneshot AU. The boys wouldn't tell me exactly when. The soundtrack for this one? "Hair of the Dog" by Nazareth.
Disclaimer: I don't own either Dean, or Sam. And nobody owns the Old Man. So there.
Summary: There was something different about this place. A sense of wrongness that rattled his nerves.
He was soo screwed.
They came at him out of nowhere, and everywhere around him. Dean managed to hold onto the shotgun but it really didn't do him a hell of a lot of good when fists and boots were flying at him in every possible direction. A fist with the weight of a cinderblock crashed into the side of his face and everything went blinding white for a moment. He tightened his grip on the trigger and nearly smiled when he heard the blast and felt the recoil, but it didn't stop anything.
Didn't look nearly as cool as it did in the movies. Eastwood could set his jaw and battle his way out of a mess like this. Bronson would blink, pull out his pistol and drop three guys in quick succession. One thing for damn sure, this wasn't the movies, and Dean had this sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that the calvary wasn't gonna arrive in time to save the day. Not this time.
He was thrown onto his back as they swarmed on top of him. The air was filled with dust and the sun strobed white and blinding overhead. Didn't matter, he was gonna go down swinging, so he kicked and punched, but nothing he did worked. His hands and feet went through them like smoke and he was the spirit instead. They could reach out and touch him all they wanted, and he couldn't return the favor.
The only good thing about it was they didn't get Sam. He didn't know where Sam was, not at the moment, but he wasn't here, and that was all Dean could've asked for. He and Sam had salted and burned the remains they'd found back in that tourist trap of a ghost town, but somehow these things had found a way to get around that. The things they hunted followed set rules. You do the research, you pretty much knew what to expect. That was the only comforting thing about it.
He'd felt twitchy from the moment they set foot in this valley. The Joshua tree cactus all around looked deformed somehow, like something inside was trying to claw its way free. The sky didn't look right. It was too bright, too blue, fake and cheerful. It wasn't Dean's first trip to New Mexico. Hell, he loved the wide open places when he and John first came out here years ago. There was something different about this place. A sense of wrongness that rattled his nerves.
It was time to go, and he never thought he'd be so damned happy to leave.
Dean stood at the trunk of the Impala with the trunk open. He still didn't know why he reached for the shotgun. Hairs at the back of his neck raised up, stiff and painful, and he couldn't ignore it. When he put the trunk down he saw Sam standing frozen in the doorway of Cabin 4B, his duffle in his hand. Sam stared wide eyed at something directly behind Dean. Dean knew that look.
We are so screwed.
Dean heard this sly dark laugh behind him and turned around to see what the hell was so damn funny.
When he glanced back over his shoulder Sam was gone. Everything else was gone. He was here, with them. And he didn't know where the hell here was. His time sense was all fucked up in this place. It could have been hours ago, days ago.
They whooped and hollered and crowded in over him, around him, and all Dean could see was rotting grey skin, yellow teeth, smell graveyard dirt ground into that black denim and worn leather dusters they wore. He nearly screamed out when he felt the thick blunt heel of that cowboy boot grind into his wrist , but he wouldn't give 'em the satisfaction, and he didn't give up the shotgun.
Never give up your weapon, son, Dad had told him. He never had before, and he was damned if he was going to give it up now.
God, he could hate New Mexico almost as much as he hated Florida.
The lead spirit put his rotting mouth right within kissing distance and laughed, and Dean grimaced as the wet heavy stink of decomp blasted him full in the face. Dude had been dead for a hundred years at least, so how the hell was there anything left inside the bastard to stink like that?
"Hoo boy, well, it's sure been fun playin' with you like this." Dean glared at him as the other five spirits or whatever the hell they were pressed down on his shoulders, arms and legs. They'd opened up a six pack of whoop ass on him and he couldn't stop it.
"We need flesh to make it outta here, but you look pretty sturdy to me." It grabbed Dean's chin with rotting fingers and pulled his head up and from side to side as he studied the young hunter's face. "I guess all of us can fit in there."
"What…what the hell are you?" Dean gritted out.
"Name's Ned Daggett," it nodded. "That there's my younger brother, Hiriam." The one with his knees dug into Dean's shoulders nodded and tipped that battered brown cowboy hat of his. Dean glared at him.
"We know what you do for a living, boy. You're a hunter. We got friends in low places that know all about you. You might have made that deal for yer baby bro', but you ain't goin' downstairs just yet. You may as well know who's gonna be drivin' that body of yours from now on, young'un. Pete's my half brother, and so's Virgil over there."
It grinned, flashed those jagged yellow teeth. "Papa was a rolling stone, all right. Rolled over half the state. Them two others ain't related but they fit in just the same. Emmett Finch and Hank Parmalee."
"Geez," this deep, smooth voice drawled from behind. "I would have said you were the Butt Ugly Brothers, but that shows you how much I know."
Dean managed to lift his head in the direction of the voice. Damn if it didn't sound familiar, but he couldn't place the voice. It was bad enough getting some lame ass civilian dragged into this. The situation was embarrassing enough as it was.
The sun was mid day high behind the stranger's back, and at first Dean didn't know what he was looking at. He saw this dog at first, standing about ten feet away. It stared at them alertly and right then and there he noticed its eyes were bright green. Second thing he noticed was this mutt wasn't like any damn dog he'd ever seen. It was Hollywood handsome, with long dark eyelashes and perfect thick grayish brown fur. This damn thing was huge. Maybe it was all the blows he'd taken to his head, 'cause he struggled to put a name to the beast, until the right name came to his addled mind.
Coyote. That was it. Damn thing was a coyote.
Right next to it stood this big black horse outfitted in western gear. It seemed bored by the proceedings, because it just stood there with its ears flicking back and forth. It pawed at the ground with its left foreleg.
Dean shifted his eyes up to the rider. Dude wore blue denim, and that long brown leather duster looked vaguely familiar. When Dean looked at the dude's face that was when he knew he'd taken one too many punches to the head.
He saw sunbleached spiky blond hair, and green eyes. This kid was one extremely handsome devil, and he winked when he saw Dean staring at him.
Oh, this was just great, just frigging great. Dean huffed wearily. What was it about him that made every damn fug want to copy him? The only 'shifter in the neighborhood must've decided to show up and join in.
It was like he was looking in a mirror, because he was looking at himself.
"Well now, ain't this nice? That your twin brother, boy?"
Dean didn't answer.
"Well, it don't matter." Daggett got up and dusted his rotting hands on his jeans. "We'll take him too."
Dean tried to muscle his way up and the air around him thickened like river mud. The rest of the bastards pressed down on him even harder.
"It's good to have a matched set. The more warm bodies the better, huh, boys?" The others laughed like everything was so damn funny. "Nice horse. Might be able to use the mutt too. He's got some meat on 'im, at least."
The coyote snort-chuckled.
Dean's eyes narrowed. What the fuck--
"I think we're done here," the 'shifter said calmly.
"Oh, you think, so, huh, young fella?"
"Six against one, and I'm not even counting your little puppy there."
Puppy? The coyote looked insulted.
"We already kicked your brother's ass." Daggett jerked his head in Dean's direction.
"He's not my damn brother – " Dean bit out roughly, and he gagged and choked as one of the spirits clamped its decaying hand firmly over his mouth.
"That's better. Children should be seen and not heard." Daggett turned back around. "What's your intention?"
"Gonna drop kick your sorry asses all the way back to hell." The man on horseback smirked as he leaned forward, his arm resting casually on the saddle horn.
"I call that bold talk from some pretty boy punk."
The double straightened up in the saddle. "Fill your hands, you son of a bitch."
It all went to hell rather quickly after that.
Dean remembered seeing Daggett pull his pistol. Damn thing looked something like the Colt, the special Colt, but it wasn't. His heart actually sank when he saw his own Colt 1911 in his double's hand. Then he realized that the gun just came out of nowhere, followed by an identical Colt in the dude's left hand, and that only reminded him that he was surrounded by fugly, so Dean started to move.
He heard gunshots, felt Hiriam above him jerk from the impact. Dean glanced up. Hiriam had a fist-sized hole in his chest, and things weren't going his way, not at all, because the hole looked pretty damn solid, and instead of blood or some other decaying gunk the hole was getting bigger.
The round was burning a hole in him. Hiriam started screeching, a high-pitched sound that dogs over in the next county probably heard. The edges of the hole expanded, washed over Hiriam's head and shoulders, his lower body and legs, and he fell apart like he should have done over one hundred and twenty years ago.
Emmett and Hank let go of Dean and turned to run.
The coyote brushed by Dean, moving so fast it was almost a blur. Its green eyes blazed with this yellow glow in the center, and it looked like a wild dog on a mission.
Emmett and Hank didn't get very far.
Dean kicked out at Pete, and sonofabitch, he actually felt his foot connect with the bastard. Sweet.
Pete stumbled backwards and Dean aimed his shotgun at the bastard. When he pulled the trigger Pete went all to pieces.
Another couple of shots, and Virgil went the way of Hiriam, all burnt and crispy around the edges. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Dean didn't have any time to react before Ned grabbed him, jammed his arm tight underneath Dean's windpipe. Large black spots bloomed in Dean's vision and he was dragged backwards, stumble-stepped as the bastard pressed into him from behind.
"Shit! Get off me. Get the hell off me," Dean snarled.
The big black horse danced sideways a little, excited by the noise and the commotion. The rider had dropped the reins and guided the animal with pressure from his legs. He had both guns aimed at Daggett and his aim didn't waver.
"All right now, I think that's enough," Daggett grated out. Daggett held Dean as they went backwards at an angle, and that was when Dean saw the coyote as it slinked towards them, feral and shifty-eyed. "Look what you did to my boys. Look what you did!"
"Let him go," the 'shifter said flatly.
"You must think I'm some kinda fool, huh? I don't know what you are, but we're not done here. Not by a long shot."
Daggett turned to grayish brown smoke in a heartbeat, curving in the air around Dean, and as soon as the smoke touched his skin everything really started getting hazy. He was losing himself as the damn thing pushed its way into the pores of his skin. It pushed him down, pushed him back, deep in his skin…
Everything was fading, spinning away. He could barely keep his eyes open.
One moment the rider was eight feet away, the next moment he was right there, and Dean could feel his arm around his waist holding him up, and a hand pressed against his chest, and when the dude who looked just like him pulled his hand away in one smooth motion the spirit came with it, smoke somehow caught in his fingers.
Dean could hear it screaming, and it sounded like the bastard was in pain, but damn it, so was he.
I'll take him with me. I will, the Daggett-thing shrieked, and the pain in Dean's chest seared bright and hot as the spirit hooked itself around his heart. This was worse than before, worse than that time he'd fried himself with that taser going after that rawhead. His back arched painfully, and he couldn't catch his breath.
Dean was fading, sinking slowly into soft dense blackness. He couldn't stop himself, and the last thing he remembered was his double's face, that sad look in those wide green eyes, and the way the center of those eyes glowed golden.
Dean laid there, halfway between heaven and hell, and listened to him talk about himself.
He was still tethered to the earth, to his bruised body, but he didn't know for how long. It was all right. If he'd heard hounds baying in the distance he wouldn't have flinched. And he sure in the hell was not gonna run. He'd made the deal for Sam, and if he had to do it all over again, so be it.
He remembered his mom telling him that angels were watching over him. Well, he didn't know who or what these two were, but it was a sure bet they weren't angels.
Damn Powers That Be are gonna stop us from doing this, you know that, the first voice growled, rough and amused. It was his voice, but it wasn't. Rougher, deeper, more of an animal growl to it.
You gonna sit there and jaw, or you gonna tell me something constructive? The second voice was harder to ignore. It was him. His voice. There was worry and concern and that wasn't right. Didn't seem right for anyone other than Sam to sound that way about him.
Listen, kid, this one made the deal for his brother. Last time I checked, deal's legal and binding. Free will, remember?
You telling me you can't find a way to break this deal, Old Man?
Nope. Dean could practically see this sly grin in that voice. There's not a deal out here that I can't break, boy. I'm workin' on it. Couldn't have picked a better spot for this, though. Place ain't called Nowhereland for nothin'. They don't even know he checked out and we brought 'im back. If they knew you can bet that bitch and her damn hounds woulda shown up already.
There was a pause, and then that rough voice spoke more gently, softly. We can't save everyone, niño.
I know. But I wanna save this one.
The pain lifted away first. Dean breathed in and out, and it was hard as hell the first couple of times, like he'd forgotten how and had to learn all over again. He was lying on his back on something soft, and he could feel a breeze skating over his skin. It was nice and comfortable and he could stay there for a while. He wanted to. Until he remembered.
He opened his eyes with a jerk and sat right up. To hell with playing possum.
The double was there, decked out in denim and that brown leather duster with the collar turned up, complete with leather gloves and spurs on his boots. Dude was really into that cowboy gear. He looked comfortable sitting in that overstuffed green easy chair, reading the latest issue of Busty Asian Beauties. "'bout time you woke up, princess. You okay?"
Those yellow highlights in those green eyes might have been reflected sunlight coming through that slotted roof above, but somehow Dean didn't think so.
Behind him the coyote paced back and forth. It looked up at Dean and sat down with a thump on its haunches. His eyes narrowed whenever he looked at the damn thing. It was fugly. The size of the thing, those eyes, that perfect look all screamed fugly, something that he and Dad and Sam would have hunted down in a heartbeat.
Dean looked up. They were in this large wooden shack that was really little more than an open air box with three closed sides and a roof. That big black horse cropped grass peacefully several feet away.
"What…" Dean took a deep breath, lowered his voice. "What the hell is this?"
The double shrugged. "Dude, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"What's your name?"
Dude quirked an eyebrow at him as he closed the magazine. "M'name's Dean. Dean Michael Winchester. I'm not your evil twin. I'm not a 'shifter. This isn't a rehash of that junkyard scene in Superman 3 -- which sucked big time, by the way--"
Dean frowned. "I liked it."
"Dude. You did?" He shook his head. "Huh. There's no accounting for taste, then. Oh well." The magazine vanished into thin air.
"Well, it's been real. It's been nice and all, seeing the sights, interacting with the local...whatever the hell you guys are," Dean made a weak handflap, "but I really gotta get back." He swung his legs over the side of the bed. His head bitched about the change in position and everything started turning around him in a slow tilt-a-wheel.
"Yeah, I know. Sam's probably worried sick about you."
Dean's face hardened as he pushed himself off the bed with both hands. "You don't know anything about Sam."
"Yeah, I do."
"No, you don't. I'm outta here."
The double shrugged. "Fine. Suit yourself, hardass." He sat there and watched as Dean staggered over to the open wall. Damn shotgun in his hand felt heavier than it had before. He was having a hard time walking. The ground was further away than he thought it would be.
Seems like he'd forgotten that trick too. Fuck.
His head was swimming and to top it off there were bright spots of light dancing all around. Dean was pretty sure it wasn't faeries or Tinkerbell getting ready to show up, although the way things were going he wouldn't have been surprised if they had shown. His knees wobbled so much he put an unsteady hand out and leaned heavily against that thick wooden post.
"Uh," the double said mildly, "That motel you guys were staying in is that way." He hooked his gloved thumb in the opposite direction. "One hundred fifty miles in that direction."
Dean stared at him wearily. "All right. All right. On a scale from one to ten this is a thirty. Definitely."
The dude laughed.
"No, I take that back." Dean puffed out a breath and shook his head. "This buries the needle. I mean it. This place is totally fucked up, and you're some kind of Ghost of Christmas Past or Future or Present and I don't know which but I'm tired and I really don't give a crap. No offense."
The other one nodded. "None taken."
"I need to get back to my brother."
The double smirked. "Well, since you asked so nicely." He whistled and the horse walked over.
After a moment's hesitation the coyote did too.
"So, you really into this cowboy thing, huh." God, that was really lame, but Dean couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Yep. We're out here on a hunt. Me, Sam and Dad."
Dean stopped short.
Dad was around here somewhere? Dean looked around anxiously. He knew it was damned stupid of him, but with everything else that happened out here, why not?
The other one didn't seem to notice. He walked over to the horse, gathered the reins, swung into the saddle easily, then turned and put out his hand.
Dean eyed the out-stretched hand uneasily. "Can't you magick up a set of wheels?" he said raggedly. He didn't even realize he had his hand over his chest, right over his heart.
"Out here? No cars or trucks allowed." The horse snorted impatiently, took a few steps to the left. "Only flesh can leave, and you leave the way you came in, with what you came in with. Sorry." The corners of this Dean's mouth twitched upwards in a grin. "You can ride side saddle if you want."
"Uh, yeah…" Dean fidgeted in place and the kid snort-chuckled.
"What, in your condition you think you're gonna just walk outta here? Come on, dude. None of us is gettin' any younger out here."
Dean took the hand and swung up behind. He scowled as he tentatively snaked one arm around the dude's waist. Hell, this was the girl's position. The kid smirked. "You can hold on a little tighter than that. I don't bite. Much."
The coyote snickered loud enough for Dean to hear.
"I'd let you ride up front, but my girl wouldn't like that." The big black mare snorted, nodded her head in apparent agreement. They started off at a slow, stately walk. Dean found his balance soon enough. It was like riding a motorcycle. That was the kind of horsepower he could relate to.
Twenty feet away he felt energy churning in the air at his back, and when Dean looked back the shack shimmered away into nothingness.
Dean was not surprised.
He had a pretty good view of the back of the dude's head. Looked just like his head, his hair, only lighter, from the sun. Tanned skin, even had freckles on the back of his neck. Dean tried not to stare, but he couldn't help it. Smirk? Check. Stubble? Yep. Same face, same body, but different somehow.
He could accept evil dopplegangers. Had no problem with 'shifters. Track 'em down and then gank 'em, make sure they didn't hurt anyone else. This wasn't anything like that, so hell yeah, he was confused. This wasn't the usual gig. He couldn't think of this man as another version of himself, from somewhere else, and Dean guessed that was a defense mechanism on his part. That golden glow in the kid's eyes reminded Dean too much of Azazel, and that was damned awkward. When he thought about it, though, this was a purer, cleaner color. Thinking about him as a kid, someone younger, was bullshit too. They looked exactly the same, but if that was the only way Dean's mind could deal, then so be it.
At one time he would've dismissed all this as fugly. Now Dean wasn't so sure.
"So you're me."
"And you're a trickster. You and him together. Coyote, the Trickster God."
"Guilty as charged."
"Since birth. We were split and were supposed to merge. Two into one. Didn't happen. I'm driving now. Hey, don't sweat it. This new age crap makes my ass hurt, too."
Dean gestured at the coyote ranging around in the brush ahead of them. "And he's inside your head."
"So, you guys uh, get along okay?"
That eye roll was pure Dean. "First three days he was out we tried to kill each other."
All around them the Joshua tree cactus shivered and shook as they rode by. The branches reached out for them, and the wind picked up. Dean could swear he heard voices, thin and faint.
...such beautiful boys...
...come here, please...
The kid stared straight ahead. "Ignore their sorry asses. And whatever you do, don't answer 'em back."
Coyote circled this one large cactus, snarling, his ears laid back, his eyes gone stone yellow.
"You don't like him."
"You reading my mind now?" Dean said flatly.
"Don't have to. I'm keying in on your face, your body language. Same stuff you do when you hunt. You read people like that anyway. I just take it a little further."
Once they got past that plain with the joshua trees the overall level of weirdness went down. Slightly.
The mountains in the distance changed shape.
When he looked right at them they were just mountains, but when he didn't look at them directly Dean could see the rocks move, form into shapes and pictures. One looked like a cougar curled up on its side, resting. Another an eagle in flight, wings spread wide and majestic.
"I brought Dad back from Hell," the dude said quietly.
He shook his head, his eyes suddenly hooded. "No. It's not allowed. If I think about that for too long, I might do something stupid."
They rode along in silence for another couple of minutes or so. Dean felt stronger than he did when they first started out. Might be a little gay sharing the saddle with the dude, but he was okay with it. Really.
He was having a hard time wrapping his head around this stuff. Alternate Universes. That was heavy stuff. Not that he wasn't smart enough to understand any of it, but Dean believed in what he could see. He'd said that more than once. It was a hell of a lot harder not to believe when the evidence walked up to him wearing that battered brown leather duster, looked at him with that face and those yellow eyes.
He didn't notice how far they had come, figured one hundred fifty miles "in that direction" would take a while, but he wasn't that surprised either when it was over way too soon.
"Okay. This is where you get off," the kid said as he reined the mare in. They came to a stop in the parking lot. Dean looked back and saw that the coyote stayed in the brush at the edge of the lot.
"Sam's probably had a baby by now."
"If he's anything like my brother," Dean the second snarked, "Samantha's had triplets. Moe, Larry and Curley."
Dean grinned as he dismounted and the other Dean laughed.
The Impala's sleek black frame fairly glowed underneath the sunlight. Dean took a step towards her and then stopped. "What's with the horse? Where's your girl?"
The kid reached back and patted the horse's rear twice, gently, just above the brand on her flank.
Dean stared at the brand for a moment, and his eyes got large.
"Dude. You…you morphed the Impala?"
The big black mare arched her neck like a warhorse, tossed her head. Damn right he did, junior.
"Yep. This life does have its perks." The mare started dancing in place, joyous, impatient to get on the move.
"See you around, Winchester." He nodded at Dean, just as cool as Steve McQueen would have done. The mare half reared, but the kid kept his seat. They turned in a quick tight circle, and just like that they were gone. It was a velvety smooth move, something you'd see in the movies.
Dean stood quietly there for a moment and laughed to himself. Some things never changed. No matter where, Dean Winchester always did know how to make an exit.
"He didn't like me," Coyote grumbled as they walked along.
"So?" Dean shrugged. "You really care about that?"
No answer. Coyote plodded along with his head down, staring at the ground.
"You do!" Dean's eyes widened. He stopped short, and the mare tossed her head angrily. He stroked her neck soothingly. "I'm sorry, baby."
Then to Coyote: "Damn, you are such a girl!"
The Old Man looked miserable. He stood there with his head down, tail between his legs.
Dean sighed. He was stepping into something here. Didn't know how Coyote was gonna take it, but it was better to get this damn chick flick moment over with. Dean hated leaving the damned things hanging over his head.
"Even if he doesn't like you," Dean said slowly, "I do."
Coyote stared up at Dean. "Really?"
"I know you do." Coyote crowed. "I just wanted to hear you say it."
He leaped from the ground onto the saddle in front of Dean. "Hold me, man. That was so damn beautiful!"
"Crap, get off me!" Smirking, Dean pushed at him hard, and Coyote fell off laughing.
He was nearly gone today, and he would have been gone for good if those two hadn't shown up. One more day with Sam, one more precious day. Yeah, it was girly, damned emo, as a matter of fact, but right now Dean didn't give a rat's ass.
Sam must've been working that sixth sense, because the door to Cabin 4B opened just as Dean stepped onto the welcome mat.
Sam engulfed him, hugged him tight and Dean leaned into the touch.
"Dean?" Sam said quietly. "What the hell happened? Where'd you go?"
Okay, Dean thought to himself. Five seconds until the patented Sam Winchester bitchface emerges in all its glory. I wanna see this.
I have to see this.
Best way to make that happen was to make Sam wait for it.
Five, four, three, two…one…
Sam pulled back, and his eyes narrowed. The bitchface broke over Sam's features like the morning sunrise.
Dean shook his head tiredly. "Sammy, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."