Predictably, Mandy was arguing with Dean when it happened.
"I don't see why they'd come through this pass – the cowboys never camped in this area. Too many flash floods down this low," Mandy said impatiently. Mandy was a couple of years younger than Dean, and at least a foot shorter than him, but that didn't stop her from giving him hell at every available opportunity. "That thingy must be wrong." She jabbed a finger at Dean's EMF detector, which was lit up like a Christmas tree and crackling to boot.
"Well, my equipment don't lie, sweetheart. They've either been here recently, or they're going to show up soon," Dean retorted, trying and generally failing to keep his temper in check. Mandy seemed to have that effect on him.
She mumbled something distinctly sarcastic about his "equipment" while he scanned the barren Wyoming hills, looking for danger. He and Sam had been out here – on Mandy O'Malley's ranch
in BFE, Wyoming - for ten days waiting for the phantom mustang herd that had run down three cowboys over the past two years, killing two of them and crippling the third, to appear.
Sam suggested that Mandy accompany them, since she knew every inch of this desolate country, but then the fucker ducked off to investigate a southern arroyo on his own, "just for a few minutes."
An hour later Sam still hadn't returned, the EMF meter started going haywire, and the phantom herd appeared in broad daylight.
Dean had a lot of experience with ghosts. Hell, he'd been doing this for practically his entire life. But he'd never had a mass of ghostly mustangs – hooves flashing, thundering, and trampling – bearing down on them. In his haste to shove Mandy clear, he jammed his foot between two boulders. His body went one way, but his knee stayed put, wrenching his hip joint and twisting his trapped knee so violently that he fuckin' screamed until he ran out of air.
Which didn't take all that long, really.
"Dean!!" A very angry, panicked someone yelled in his face. "Deeeeeeeeean!"
"What!?" He exclaimed, jerking back to awareness.
"Oh, God, don't do that to me," Mandy reprimanded.
She was kneeling next to him, lips parted to reveal those perfect white teeth. One of the front teeth on her lower jaw was slightly crooked. God help him, but he found that utterly adorable. Which quite possibly meant that he was hallucinating. Or insane. For Christ's sake, pull yourself together, Winchester, he told himself.
"What happened?" He asked. Which was just a stupid question. But whatever. Agonizing pain messes with a person's thought processes, doesn't it?
Mandy glanced at his trapped knee, paled visibly, and looked him in the eye again. "You, uh … your leg is mangled."
"Mangled?" He lurched over to observe said manglement, but the motion made him twist his knee and the world grayed out again.
Okay. Note to self: sudden movements equal agonizing pain.
Mandy was on her hands and knees next to him, breathing like she'd just run a hundred meter dash with fifty pound weights. The end of her thick dark braid, strands of hair sticking out willy nilly, rested on Dean's neck, tickling it.
It took her a moment to sit up, resting on her heels. She looked really, really pale, now.
"Are you gonna puke?" Dean asked incredulously.
"Shut … up." She sounded positively weak.
"What the hell …?"
"I can't stand watching people in pain, okay?" She snapped. And damn if that girl didn't have a mouth on her. But she also had a pretty good rack, which balanced out her surly disposition.
"It's a thing I have, okay?"
Dean made a noise of disbelief down in his throat. "You're a piece of work, you know that? You were castrating a horse the first time I met you."
The look of silent misery she gave him actually shut him up. He didn't really want to bring up the subject of castration while he was helpless around her.
"Let's try to move the rocks, all right?"
They tried for the next fifteen minutes, until Mandy was sweating, filthy, and bleeding from broken fingernails. Dean tried to help, but every time he shifted his weight he jarred his knee. Keeping the whimpers at bay took a lot more energy than he would ever admit to. Finally, Mandy disappeared into a nearby stand of stunted pines and kicked around until she came back with a sturdy branch as wide as her arm and just a little longer than it. A lever. Good idea.
"I'm stronger, let me handle it," Dean said. Mandy hesitated briefly, seeming to decide against arguing with him, and handed the branch to Dean. He wedged it between the two rocks trapping his knee, then tested the lever, found it firm and ready for a good hard tug.
"All right, I'm going to pull on the lever, and you yank my leg out. On the count of three."
Mandy's face lost what little color it had. "Why, uh … why do I have to touch your leg?"
Dean just looked at her.
"I told you, I have a thing about people in pain!" She cried.
"I wouldn't ask if I didn't need it, Mandy girl. You can do this. I know you can," Dean urged.
Mandy closed her eyes, and swayed a little. Oh shit oh shit, Dean thought. Don't faint on me now, sweetheart. I need you. After a long moment, when she just breathed, she swallowed visibly and said, "I'll … I'll do it. Just don't call me 'Mandy girl.' It makes me sound like a dog."
Dean let his head fall back, looking up at the sky for strength. He had to chew on his lip for a long moment to keep back the almost involuntary frustrated retort. She was scared, he knew that. And for good reason. There was no way of knowing when the ghost herd would reappear; the lone surviving witness reported that he'd seen the heard three times in one day before it had finally run him down. Dean could only hope that Sam had been gone so long because he'd found the bones and burned them. Because if he managed to get himself hurt, too, well … No. Dean wasn't even going there.
She placed her thin cold hands on either side of his knee. Their eyes locked.
"Okay, on three," he repeated. She nodded her head. Dean swallowed. Damn, this was going to hurt. "One … two … three!"
With all his strength, he wrenched the lever downward and she yanked his leg free. He couldn't help it. He screamed. The white hot lightning flash of pure pain made his vision disappear. The world skewed and darkened.
He came to a moment later, Mandy's hands on his cheeks, her anxious face directly above his. "Dean?" She was saying, warm puffs of her breath on his lips.
"Oh, thank God!" She breathed. She rested her forehead on his in relief.
"I'm okay," he soothed, panting raggedly.
The blinding agony in his knee had receded enough to keep him from screaming out loud, so he was technically telling the truth. Mandy gave him a moment to recover, hands on her thighs as she sat on her heels scanning the hills. He lay on his side under the gray sky, hip numb from the cold ground. The barren hills and scrub brush offered little in the way of cover, making him feel exposed and vulnerable.
"Can you get up?" She asked.
Normally, Dean was all about shouldering through pain and injury. But there comes a point when even he couldn't do that, and he figured he'd passed that point about half an hour ago. Still, he put his hand on her shoulder and tried to rise. His knee promptly gave out and his ass met the ground with a resounding thump, and he rocked back and forth, keening in agony. Not his proudest moment.
"Okay," she said, pulling off her leather vest and wadding it up to slip it between Dean's head and the boulder he was somehow leaning against. She wore a blue checkered Western shirt, the first three buttons undone just enough to give him a glimpse of soft white skin and the gentle curves of her breasts. What? There were some things he was duty-bound as a hot-blooded American male to notice even at death's doorstep. "I'm going to find Sam. You just wait here. I'll be right back."
"No!" He said, catching her by the wrist. "It's too dangerous. The herd – it could come back at any moment. Go to the house. There haven't been any attacks in that direction."
"That'll take too long. You're in danger out here, too," she reminded him.
"It's going to be all right, Dean. I won't let you down." Then she leaned down and kissed him, sweet press of soft lips on his, before she was off, hurrying in Sam's direction just to spite him.
The wind started blowing harder, cold biting swirls that held the promise of snow. He huddled down into his leather jacket, drawing up closer to the hard rock and trying to concentrate on anything other than the knives stabbing repeatedly into his knee.
When Sam tossed the match on the neatly stacked pile of mustang bones he'd managed to find at the bottom of the cliff, the wind shifted suddenly, causing the flames to nearly singe his eyebrows away.
"Fuck!" He shouted, scrambling backwards and tripping in a gopher hole as he did so. The resulting fall on his ass set off a round of sailor talk that Dean would have been hard pressed to top.
Dean. He and Mandy were probably already back at the ranch house, having bickered the entire way there. Their constant sniping was why he'd taken off as soon as he could to begin with. What was it about Dean that caused some women to fall all over him and others to give him the verbal smackdown at every available instance? Oh, yeah. Probably his leering, smirking, and general smart asshattery.
Sam watched the bones burn – from a safe distance now – the black curling smoke spread thin by the cold wind. Damn, but the wind never seemed to stop here. He liked the remoteness of Mandy's ranch – there were only cows, snakes, and coyotes for fifty miles in any direction. But the wind? Not so much.
When the bones were fully engulfed in flames – and when he was relatively sure that he'd cleared enough brush around the fire to keep from starting a wildfire – he gathered up his jacket and the camp shovel he had optimistically thought to bring along.
A far off voice called his name.
He looked up. Mandy, waving as she ran toward him, long dark braid snapping in the wind. Mandy. Alone and panicked.
Twilight was dwindling by the time Mandy led Sam to the cairn of boulders where she'd left Dean.
Sam's stomach seized up at the sight of his brother, leaning flush against the boulders, body curled into a fetal position. Tufts of dark blonde hair stuck up from where his head was buried in his jacket collar, making him look oddly vulnerable. Mandy made a low sound of distress in her throat upon seeing him.
Sam dropped to his knees beside Dean's chalk-white, motionless form. "Dean, hey."
Dean blinked slowly, dazed. "Sammy?" He said, seemingly confused.
"I'm here, Dean. We're going to get you to help."
"She's here, too. I burned the bones – no more phantom horses to worry about. Okay, big brother?"
Walking was out of the question for Dean. And getting Dean up onto Sam's shoulders was … bad. Sam had never heard his brother scream like that. Thankfully, he passed out after half a mile.
Sam pretended not to notice the constant stream of tears bathing Mandy's cheeks as she walked beside him.
The hospital's visiting hours started at 10 am, but Mandy didn't want to seem too desperate to see how Dean was doing. She showed up at 10:20, even, though, well – she could admit it – she was kind of desperate to see him. She'd already talked to Sam on the phone six times since dropping Dean off at the Emergency Room the prior evening. She would have stayed alongside Sam for the entire night, except that the horses needed to be fed and watered, and someone had to check on Bessie the Cow who was due to birth twin calves any day now, and Old Fred—her only companion on the ranch during the off season—couldn't hear the telephone ringing (and refused to buy a hearing aid) so she couldn't just get him to do what needed to be done. Besides, Sam insisted that she go.
It had also been nice to run a brush through her wind-snarled hair and sluice the sweat off her body in a quick shower. Anyhow. She paused outside Dean's room for a moment, trying to still the frantic beating of her heart. She squeezed her hands into fists, willing the trembling to go down as well. With a resolute breath, she pushed the door open.
Wilton General Hospital had a total of three rooms for full time patients. Since Dean was apparently the only patient, he had a room to himself. He looked … God, he looked so much better, despite the fact that he was laid out on his back with a bowling-ball-sized bandage swaddling his knee. His skin had regained its color and his features were no longer pinched in constant pain.
Sam stood up from where he'd been sitting in a hard plastic hospital chair at Dean's bedside. He wore the same wrinkled plaid shirt he'd been wearing when she'd dropped them off last night. Evidently, he'd caught a few hours sleep in the waiting room. He jammed his hands in his pockets, and smiled at her.
"I'll, uh – I was just on my way to get a cup of coffee. Can I bring you something?"
Mandy shook her head. She'd already had two cups this morning – probably the reason she was shaking so much to begin with.
Sam ducked out the door. For such a tall guy, he never seemed to fill the room up as much as Dean did. Dean, who looked warm and rested and at ease.
The resulting silence made her profoundly uncomfortable. She cleared her throat. "You look good."
"Right back at ya, sweetheart," he said, winking.
Her heart gave a little leap and she looked aside, determined not to dissolve into one of the giggling, hair-tossing bimbos that Dean was undoubtedly accustomed to using such lines on.
"I'm sorry I couldn't stay with you last night--" She opened her mouth to give a rambling and no doubt incoherent explanation of all the tasks that had demanded her attention when he interrupted.
"S'okay. I didn't really want you to see me all drugged up anyhow."
She looked at his knee. "That bad, huh?"
He shrugged. "I've had worse. Doc says that the muscles are torn, which is why it hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. Nothing was broken, though. The nurse is trying to find me a set of crutches big enough right now."
She moved restlessly around the room, pausing to fiddle with the horizontal blinds covering the dirk streaked window.
"Have a seat," he said.
"No, no – I'm fine as I am."
"You nervous about something?" He sounded mildly curiously.
"Why would I be?" She answered, perhaps a bit too hastily.
"No reason. Hey, Sam told you that he took care of the whole phantom herd problem, right? Good news."
"Yeah, awesome. I just wish you hadn't gotten hurt."
"Hazards of the job. I'm just happy it isn't broken."
Silence descended again. Awkward. Nerve wracking.
Mandy gave a nervous little laugh. "What? We don't have anything to say to each other if we're not arguing?"
He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Sam wants to hang around for a few days, give me a chance to get back on my feet. Maybe give him a chance to catch up on some shut eye. That okay?"
"Of course. Stay as long as you want." She had offered them the foreman's house adjacent to her ranch when they'd first showed up a week and a half ago, sent by Bobby Singer – a friend of her late dad's. She hadn't really believed in his claims of paranormal activity, but he was a good enough friend that she trusted him when he sent Sam and Dean to her door. Of course, that was before said ghost horse had tried to run her down.
Silence fell again. Dean drummed his fingers on the empty food tray in front of him. "So, out there. What did that mean?"
Mandy froze, heart dropping into her stomach. No, no, no. They were not talking about this. She tried to sound casual. "What did what mean?"
"You know what I'm talking about."
Oh, God. "Dean, you were practically delirious. You probably hallucinated all kinds of things."
Dean's mouth twisted wryly. "I didn't hallucinate the fact that you kissed me."
She actually felt the blood draining from her face.
"Look, I just wanted to say--"
"Let me guess," she interrupted, her voice rather more shrill that she had intended. "You want to say that you understand. After all, it was just a matter of time before I fell all over you, right? But why stop there? Why don't you just ask me if I'll blow you right now in your hospital bed, since I obviously can't control myself. Well, I got news for you, buddy, I told you that I can't stand people in pain. I was a little hysterical and didn't know what I was doing. That's all it was. Don't fool yourself into thinking it was something else."
Dean's face stilled and grew hard throughout her rant. At the end, he seemed to have paled a little. Quietly, he said, "I was going to say that I liked it."
And that, right there? Hit her like a ton of bricks. She gaped at him, blinking a couple of times, then opened her mouth to say something, but no words would come out.
Instead, she turned on her heel and rushed out of the room, face burning.
Sam brought Dean back to the foreman's house later that afternoon. From behind her kitchen curtains, Mandy watched Dean hobble clumsily out of the Impala on the hospital crutches. He was saying something to Sam, head ducked and glimmer of a smart-assed smile on his face. Her heart squeezed. God, he really was beautiful. He glanced over at the house, then, eyes fixing on the kitchen window so that she froze, certain that he had seen her. He looked away a moment later and she drew back, head spinning.
It took her until night fell to work up the courage to slip on her sheepskin jacket and cross the yard to the foreman's front stoop. Long streams of pearly white clouds streaked across the night sky, partially obscuring the waxing moon. The sound of her knuckles rapping on the door was loud in the stillness.
Maybe Sam would answer the door. Yes, tall, gentle Sam with his understanding eyes and inoffensive demeanor. She could apologize to him – have him pass her words along to Dean and be off the hook that way –
Dean answered the door, crutch tucked in his armpit, blue flannel shirt untucked and partially unbuttoned, drawing her eyes up, up, up to his perfect jaw and plush lips. His eyes widened slightly upon seeing her, and his expression shuttered suddenly, distant and cold. She swallowed.
"Hi. Can I come in?" Her voice sounded squeaky and hesitant.
He gave a half-shrug, moved back jerkily. "It's your place."
She came inside the tiny living room. A fire was crackling in the hearth, a Hot Rod magazine lay open on the end table. No Sam in sight. Great.
Okay. There was one way to do this: fast. Blurt it out and then escape. You can do this, girl. She cleared her throat and said, "So, uh … I came to say ... what I mean is that I wanted to explain, you know. About before, in the hospital."
He was leaning a hip against the sofa, hands jammed in his pockets, knee on his injured leg bent. "Explain?" His mouth twisted. "Oh, I think you explained yourself pretty clearly."
"Look, I was a complete bitch. I'm sorry. I just can't seem to help myself around you. Ever since the first time we met, with your swaggering and smirking and talking to my chest instead of my face, I—no. I'm not going to justify my actions. I was way out of line. You got hurt trying to help me, and you didn't deserve to be treated that way. I'm really sorry, Dean."
His eyes flickered from her chest to her face. "I talk to your, uh …"
"My boobs?" She asked, trying not to sound sarcastic. "Yeah. You're pretty obvious about it."
"Oh. Sorry about that." He seemed surprised. Which was better than pissed off, she supposed.
"Can't we just forget that the whole thing happened?" She asked, hoping that she didn't sound as whiny outside of her head as she did inside it. "I promise to be polite for the rest of your stay here. Really."
Dean didn't say anything. He just looked at her, his expression unreadable. She found herself making fluttery gestures like she always did when she was nervous, and stammering, "Look, I've got some ... stuff to do so I'll just leave you alone now." She moved toward the door.
"Oh no, you don't," Dean said. He pushed away from the couch and hobbled toward her.
"You … um … you shouldn't be moving around. Should you?"
"Oh, don't you worry about me. I can move just fine," he said. And he was, smiling?
She swallowed. He just kept coming closer, and she was trembling like some virgin schoolgirl. And then he was right up against her, taking her in his arms and God, he smelled so good, so clean and musky and male.
"Stay," he murmured, pressing soft kisses along her jaw, his voice a low smooth rumble, his warm breath in her ear pushing her into sensory overload. "Please. Don't make me beg, Mandy." And the way he said her name, with the little choked hitch, and the thick, heavy, sweet note of desire, made her ache with need for him.
"Yes," she heard herself saying, turning her face to his and kissing her way across his cheek to his warm wet mouth. "Yes, yes, yes ..."
At 10 pm, Sam put the book down and rubbed his burning eyes. Translating medieval Latin tended to give him a headache. Especially when he'd been doing it for … what? Five hours now?
He stood up and stretched his aching back. He'd told Dean he wanted to stay here so he could get some sleep, but like usual he felt too wound up for that. A sudden desire for hot cocoa overcame him. It had always helped him sleep when he was a kid. Maybe it would help now, too.
He made his way down the hall to the kitchen. Outside Dean's room he paused, hearing the low murmurs and sighs, the squeak of a bedspring. A woman's voice – Mandy. He smiled, feeling a bittersweet twinge when he thought of long hours in bed with Jess.
He shook off his melancholy after a moment. He was happy for his brother. Really. Dean had always found comfort in women, and Mandy--well, she was real and alive and a match for Dean in terms of wit and brains and temper.
He sighed and turned back around to his bedroom, suddenly overcome with the need for sleep. For the first time in months, he crawled between the sheets and drifted off immediately.
Mandy had only ever been to bed with two other guys in her life -- both long-term boyfriends, and frankly, the first time she had slept with both of them it had been … bad. Fumbling. Awkward. She remembered how she had wanted it, despite her nervousness, remembered how tense she'd been, and how much it had hurt despite how gentle both had been.
But with Dean, it was nothing like that. It was all sighs and heat and slick wet pleasure that waxed and waned like some sort of rapidly cycling alien moon.
In the morning, she felt him get up and go to the bathroom, knock around in there, brushing his teeth and washing his face. Then, he slipped back in bed with her, sighing as he wound his arm around her, breathing warm and contented into her neck. She woke a while later and took a trip to the bathroom herself. She wanted to kiss him awake, and there was no way she was going to inflict her morning breath on him. She found some Listerine in the cabinet under the sink and swished it around in her mouth even though that damn stuff was so strong that it made her eyes water.
Looking in the mirror, she saw her tousled hair and swollen lips. God, she looked like she had been thoroughly fucked. Which, okay, she had been. The memory made her feel warm inside.
She opened the door quietly, not wanting to wake him yet. But he lay in bed looking at her, his elbow bent so that his palm fitted under his skull. He smiled at her.
She slipped into the welcoming circle of his arms, pressing herself against the whole hard length of his body. They kissed, long and slow. She let her thighs fall open, unable to stop herself. He accepted the invitation with a little growl of pleasure, slipping his clever, callused fingers inside her, working her clit and cunt skillfully.
"Wanna make you come," he said.
Oh. She hadn't, last night. And she had been hoping that he hadn't noticed.
She felt her cheeks heating up. "I ..." She cleared her throat, pulled back a little to look him in the face. "Don't take this personally, but I just ... don't. I've never ... it's -- well, I guess not every woman can, right?"
He gave her a positively wicked grin. "Oh, baby. You just have to learn what works for you. Don't you worry, I'll help you."
Then he started doing this thing with his fingers, oh, this wicked thing where he rubbed and twisted and she felt herself go slick and wanton, aching for the thick length of his cock inside of her. But he made her wait, teasing her with kisses down her throat, with light nips on her breasts, first swirling his tongue over one nipple and then the other. She was practically sobbing for him by the time he reached for a condom.
The brief removal of his hand brought some sense back to her. She caught his arm, heart pounding and throat squeezing with nervousness.
"I'm on the pill. And I'm clean. Are ... uh ... are you ... ?"
He smiled. "Clean? Yeah. When I was in the hospital they did blood work. Guess they wanted to make sure I didn't hurt my knee from too much sex."
"Smart ass," she admonished fondly. Then felt the blush rise again. "I don't want there to be anything between us. I want to feel your skin." Her voice sounded hoarse.
She couldn't quite look him in the eye yet, but she could feel his eyes on her. "Yeah," he murmured. "Me, too."
His words filled her with unexpected relief. She looked at him, sliding her hand across the smooth skin of his back, over his flank and around to grasp his already-hard cock. He hissed in pleasure, his eyes widening and lips parting. She searched his face, fascinated at the intimacy, at seeing every flicker of emotion, magnifying the intimacy by untold degrees. There was no curtain of darkness hiding them from each other right now. It was terrifying and erotic and amazing.
He shifted his hips, settling between her legs, his cock hard against her thigh. Eyes fixed on his, she guided it to her entrance. She grasped his firm ass, marveling at the smooth skin, the powerful muscles beneath it.
He slid inside her slowly, eyes never wavering from hers. She saw the pleasure make his features go tight, saw the way his eyes darkened, heard the moan he couldn't seem to keep from letting out.
He moved with agonizing slowness, thrusting and pulling back, in a steady, controlled manner. Delicious friction created a wave of pressure building up inside of her. She felt it gathering, surging and rolling.
"Dean--" she gasped, lifting her hips, trying to urge him to go harder, move faster. She was burning – she needed this like she needed air --
"Trust me," he whispered, voice breaking a little. "Just trust me."
She nodded, unable to speak, made herself relax a bit. He kept up that maddening rhythm as she just hung on. She felt the tension all through his body, saw it mirrored in his face, that control and the desire to make it good for her. It made her feel … not just special, or grateful – although she felt those things as well -- but worthwhile.
Somehow, those feelings made the pressure inside her strengthen. She rode the wave, higher and faster, hips bucking, breath gasping. This time Dean responded, thrusting harder, panting raggedly. The wave peaked, then, and an orgasm scissored through her, all jerking motions and intense sensation. She heard herself cry out, felt Dean stiffen and pulse inside of her immediately thereafter.
She put her hand on Dean's face, smoothed back his sweat-soaked hair. He kissed her palm.
A little while later, as she lay with her head on his shoulder, drowsy and contented, she said, "When are you leaving?"
He sighed, gave a little shrug. "Sam's looking into a hunt in West Virginia. Pissed off coalminers or some shit."
"Oh," she said. Well, it was probably for the best. She had stables to clean and hay to order.
"I think he needs to double check his research first, though."
"I'm not arguing."
"Well, there's a first time for everything."
She kissed his neck, beneath his ear, in a place where he was quite sensitive. "Yeah. Thanks for that, Dean Winchester," she teased. "You really taught me a thing or two."
He moved lightning-quick, rolling her over onto her back, looking down at her with mischievous eyes. "Let's make it three."
He kissed her, long and lazy and sweet. And the hay and stables? Well, they were just going to have to wait.
Author's Note: This is the first time I've don't a romantic fanfic like this. What do you think? I'm curious whether it worked or not! Thanks for reading!