Silver Ruffin (and if you haven't read her Dog series, you're missing out) requested a post L&D Dean and Hillary fic. I couldn't help it. Here it is! Since I haven't finished L&D yet, I'm really hoping it fits. Thanks as always to charis-kalos for her mad editing skills!!
A Walk in the Park
Dean breathed in deep; scents of fresh-cut grass, blooming flowers, and wet dog filling his nostrils. He grinned at the sight of Hillary swimming through the broad lake towards him. All around them people tossed balls and Frisbees for their dogs to chase, off-leash. Whoever thought of these bark parks was a freaking genius. They even had poop disposal stations with free little plastic baggies available, but Dean was hoping not to need one.
Hillary lumbered out of the lake, dripping wet, bright orange ball clutched in her jaws. Once her body was clear of the water, she gave a massive shake. Droplets of water pierced the air, causing a shimmering rainbow to appear around her for a split second. The big dog walked straight up to him and dropped the ball by his hand.
"How long are we doing this?" Dean asked as he picked up the water-logged tennis ball. Hillary's answer was to nudge his arm. "I'll tire you out yet," he threatened with a grin, "we still haven't gone running." With a snap of his wrist, Dean sent the ball sailing out into the center of the artificial lake. Off like a shot, Hillary made a bee-line for the ball.
"Wow," a woman's voice said from behind him, "now that's a big dog."
Dean shaded his eyes as he looked back. A woman, within ten years of his age, stood behind him. She wore a solid colored t-shirt and loose shorts, more for comfort than looks. A visor shaded her face from the sun as she watched Hillary swimming. Next to her stood some kind of fluffy thing with a pink tongue hanging out.
"Hillary's a Mastiff," Dean replied, still staring at the fuzzball. "Who is that?"
She smiled as she sat next to him. "This is my Suzie-kins. She's a Pekingese." The woman scooped the little dog up in her arms to rub noses. "We haven't seen you here before, have we, Suzie-kins? No we haven't."
Dean tried to withhold his opinion on the woman acting like that, knowing how odd some people found him talking to Hill like a person. But at least he talked to her like a grown person, not some mentally deficient two year old.
"We're just passing through town," Dean told her. "We try to check out the local dog parks when we can."
"Really? Are you on the road a lot? That's not a good life for a dog, you know. They prefer their own yard, their own territory." The woman's gaze was strong. "It's better for the dog. You should consider settling down."
Dean felt his eyes widen at her audacity. "She used to have her own territory, complete with a house and yard," he told her, though he wasn't sure why he felt the need to defend himself, "but she chose to come on the road with me. What's wrong with that?"
The woman rolled her eyes skyward, but Dean was pretty sure nothing up there would help her out. Not right now. "A dog can't make that kind of decision," she argued in a voice which reminded him strongly of Sam. "You made it for her."
"No," Dean argued back. "I wasn't planning on having a dog. Period. Until she..." A wet orange ball plopped in his lap with a squishing noise. Wrinkling his nose in distaste, he glared at the big dog. "What happened to dropping it beside me?"
Hillary grumbled at him, telling him if he would pay freaking attention to her, she wouldn't need to drop wet balls on him. Dean rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, yeah," he grumbled as he sent the ball sailing off again.
"Yeah, yeah, what?" the woman demanded.
Dean leaned back on his elbows to watch Hillary, determined not to find the next wet ball in his face. "She doesn't like not being the center of attention," Dean explained. "This is kind of her day."
"Her day?" The woman's voice lost its hard edge. "Is it her birthday?"
Dean chuckled over the question. He didn't even celebrate his own birthday. "Nah. It's one year to the day since she jumped through a window to stake out my car." He glanced over at the woman's wide eyes. "She kind of adopted us, not the other way around," he added in a severe tone. His eyes darted back to the wet dog swimming in his direction. He chuckled as the memory of Hillary stretched out over the hood of his car came back with startling clarity. He considered telling the freaking busybody the rest of the story, but he didn't see why he should.
The woman didn't say anything as Hillary approached them, dripping wet. Hillary dropped down to his right side, not touching him. She rolled on to her back with the ball still in her mouth, enjoying the spring sunshine.
Dean grinned as he scratched under her wet chin. Hillary wriggled under his touch, just soaking it all up.
"You can drop it," Dean told her, "I won't throw it if you're taking a break."
Hillary spat out the wet ball and relaxed, all four legs waving up in the air. He looked back over at the woman still seated next to him. "So that's Suzie-something, huh?"
"Suzie-kins," the woman replied in a soft voice. "She, uh, picks up her own toys," she said, rubbing her dog's neck. "She's really very smart."
Dean kept one hand on Hillary, so she wouldn't get jealous, as he leaned a little closer to the small fuzzball. "That right, fuzzball?" he asked softly. "You like picking up your toys?"
The fuzzball barked at him, a high pitched noise that sounded more like a toy than a real dog. While the fuzzball loved her 'pet', she said her human was such a clean-freak if she didn't pick up her toys she wasn't allowed to play outside. Dean chuckled.
"Well, that's one way to keep 'em in line," he told the woman. Dean turned to Hillary. "Hear that? I'm not supposed to let you go play until you pick up your toys."
Hillary snorted and wriggled again on her back.
"How about I get you some toys out of the trunk to pick up first, like the fuzzball?" Dean asked, highly amused.
Hillary's massive head lifted to regard him with one eye. She shook her head with another loud snort as she plopped back down on the ground.
"Her name is Suzie-kins," the woman stated firmly.
Dean eyed her for a moment. "She prefers just Suzie," he told the lady.
The woman rolled her eyes.
"Seriously. Watch." Dean sat up and patted the ground in front of him. "Suzie-kins." He patted. "Suzie." He patted again and the little dog jumped out of her person's lap to come sit in front of him.
He leaned down to talk to the dog. "If you want her to drop the 'kins', stop coming when she says it," he whispered. The little dog gave a yelp of acknowledgment.
Hillary grunted at his side and a large wet head rested on his thigh. "Jealous much?" he quipped as he stroked the wet fur. Hillary grunted about him cheating on her, as if he would.
"Suzie-kins," the woman said in a tight voice, "come!" The little dog stared at her owner. "Come, Suzie-kins!" The woman slapped her palms on her thighs.
The dog glanced over at Dean. He shook his head slowly, wanting the poor fuzzball to stand firm. If she gave in now, that woman would never quit calling her by the stupid name.
"Suzie!" The little dog bolted from her spot to land in her person's lap. The woman had an odd look on her face as she stood up, the dog in her arms. "Well, you have a nice day. I think we've had enough of the park."
The fuzzball barked her thanks as the woman carried her away. Dean returned his attention to the wet head on his leg. "Ready for that run?"
Hillary sprang to her feet, ready for action. Dean stretched first, knowing better than to just take off running with Hillary cold. "What do you think?" he asked conversationally as he stretched. "Once around the park?"
Hillary's whole back-end wagged with joy at the suggestion and she turned in a tight circle. Dean waited until she was done celebrating to rub her head again. "All right. Let's go."
He let Hillary set their pace, she was pretty good at choosing a pace which gave them both a good work-out but didn't strain his back. Running at an easy lope, they circled the park once without incident. When they came back to their spot near the lake, Hillary's orange ball was gone.
She sniffed all around the area, searching for it. "It's all right," Dean assured her, "we have another one in the car. Let's go get it."
Hillary ignored him, continuing to search for the missing ball. Then she froze, sniffing the ground intently. Her head snapped up and she took off at a solid run.
Dean raced after the big dog, hoping she didn't kill some little mutt over a stupid tennis ball. She could be a little unreasonable when it came to 'hers'. They rounded the lake at top speed, Hillary bearing down on some kid and his puppy playing near the water. Dean saw a flash of orange in the air and if he hadn't been running full tilt, the sight would have made him cringe.
Hillary slid to a halt in between the kid and the puppy. Teeth bared, she approached the puppy demanding her ball back. The kid started yelling and screaming "Get away from my dog!"
Man, they couldn't spend one quiet day at the freaking park?
"Hillary!" Dean snapped, as loudly as he could. "Knock it off!" He stopped short of the whole incident. "Get over here!"
Hillary snapped her jaws at him, determined to get her ball back.
It was a kid and a puppy, for crying out loud! Dean stomped his foot at her and pointed to the ground by his feet. "Now!"
Hillary's head hung low as she walked slowly over to him. She sat in front of him and lowered herself all the way to the ground, head resting on her front paws.
The kid, a boy maybe ten years old, stood watching with wide eyes and an open mouth. "Whoa," he breathed. "That was really cool."
Relieved, Dean was able to take a deep breath. "Sorry about that," he apologized. "She's kind of possessive about her ball. You found it on the other side of the lake?" Dean motioned to the orange ball on the ground near the floppy eared puppy.
The boy's gaze flicked over to the ball and back. "Uh, yeah. I thought somebody just forgot it. Sorry." He jogged over to retrieve it. The kid held it tentatively out to Dean, over Hillary. When Dean had the ball, the boy jumped back to a point he felt safe. Dean didn't have the heart to tell the kid he would need to be about ten feet further away.
Dean gave the kid a reassuring smile as he knelt down next to Hillary. "Here, you possessive mutt. Happy now?"
Hillary bounded back to her feet, snagged the ball from his hand and wagged her whole butt again. Dean ran a hand affectionately over her head as he stood.
"Hey, kid. Tell you what. I have a whole package of balls back in the car. Want one?" Dean grinned at him. "To make up for Hillary trying to scare you half to death."
The kid glanced around and shrugged. "I'm not supposed to leave this area," he explained.
"You have smart parents," Dean replied. "I'll go get one and bring it back. That all right?"
The boy's face lit up. "Sure! That'd be great!"
Dean slapped his thigh as he walked away, Hillary falling into step beside him. She glanced up several times, the orange ball practically glowing in her mouth. He wanted to be annoyed with her, but he couldn't. It wasn't her fault she acted like a dog. She was a dog.
"Picking on puppies now?" he teased as they made their way back to the parking area. Hillary grumbled around the ball in her mouth.
"Yeah, yeah, teach 'em young, right?" Dean laughed. He opened the trunk. One half was still devoted to the weapons locker and various hunting paraphernalia. The other half housed a case of bottled water, an opened bag of dog food, two steel dog bowls, a rolled up matt for Hillary to sleep on, and various brightly colored dog toys. Dean took out one of the steel bowls to set on the ground. He opened a bottle of water from the case in the trunk and poured the contents in the bowl. Then he snagged another bottle for himself, downing it in one. A container of multi-colored tennis balls was near the top of all the dog stuff, so it was easy to find. Dean opened it and let two balls roll out into his hand. That left them with two more, for when Hillary lost this one. He waited while Hillary lapped up the water in the bowl. When she was finished, she grabbed her ball in her mouth again. Dean shook out the water bowl before replacing it in the trunk. He grabbed a couple more water bottles before slamming the trunk lid closed.
They headed back into the park. The kid and his dog were rolling on the grass now. The puppy nipped at the boy's hair and clothes as they wrestled.
"Don't even think about it," Dean warned as they approached. Hillary snorted, denying she would be so undignified. Dean doubted it, but he knew there was no way he would be able to get off the ground after rolling around like that, especially with a dog who weighed about as much as he did. His back felt so much better these days, he wasn't about to push his luck.
"Hey, kid!" he called out. The boy jumped to his feet. He looked like he wanted to run over, but was afraid to. Dean threw one ball in the direction of the puppy, who took off after it. He walked closer before tossing the second ball at the kid followed by a water bottle.
"Thanks!" the boy shouted. He glanced around the park before jogging closer. "Thanks for the balls and water, mister."
Dean smiled at him. "It's Dean," he replied. "This is Hillary," he motioned to the happy dog on his left.
"I'm Jim and that's Bob," the boy replied.
Dean arched an eyebrow at him. "Jim Bob?" he asked.
The kid's grin flashed blindingly bright. "That's us. Pretty good, huh?"
Dean laughed, he couldn't help it. Then a soft yellow halo appeared around the kid and his stomach clenched. He was pretty good at not showing his anxiety these days, though, so he managed to smile through it. "I like it," he replied, his grin widening. "So did your parents drop you off or are they around here someplace?"
Jim looked around again. "I'm not sure," he said slowly. "Usually Mom sits over there watching me," he pointed out a park bench, "but I haven't seen her in a while."
Dean lowered himself to the ground, no longer afraid of not being able to get up on his own. "Tell you what. Hillary and I will hang out right here, playing ball, until your mom shows up. I want to be sure she doesn't get mad at me for giving you a couple of tennis balls."
He pushed out feelings of ease, comfort, and trust. City kids grow up not trusting strangers, for good reason. Dean found this was one of the better ways of dealing with it. Put himself in a non-threatening position and give the kid every reason to trust him.
"Oh, she won't," Jim replied with a smile. "We find balls out here all the time."
"Just the same," Dean replied with a shrug, "I'll feel better if your mom says it's okay." He held out his hand and Hillary dropped the still wet orange ball in it. When the wet, slimy ball hit his hand, he must have made a face because Jim laughed at him. Dean slung it out in the field, away from the lake. Hill needed to dry out before they headed back to pick up Sam.
He and the kid played ball with their respective dogs for a while, but that halo around Jim didn't go away. Dean was starting to get a little nervous about it. Between throws he started looking for the potential danger to Jim. No one jumped out at him, but that didn't mean anything. The kid's mom still hadn't shown up yet either, which Jim kept saying was unusual.
Finally a man appeared by the park bench and yelled out for Jim. "Oh, that's my dad. You can ask him about the balls," he said.
"Okay." Dean pushed up and whistled for Hillary. They had to jog to catch up with Jim, who was talking excitedly with his dad. Another halo, a deep, blood-red one this time, shone around Jim's dad.
"And he gave me these balls," Jim was saying excitedly. "We've been playing with the dogs and talking about cars. He knows almost as much about cars as you do, Dad."
Dean stuck out his hand. "Name's Dean," he said in a strong voice, still projecting feelings of calm and trust. "Great kid you have here."
"Give the balls back," Jim's father snapped.
Dean could smell the hard liquor on his breath and how dilated his pupils were. He turned to the kid. "Hey, Jim? You better go get Bob over there." Hillary blocked the puppy's route, giving Dean the perfect excuse to get the kid out of hearing range. "I think Hillary is playing protective aunt or something."
Jim raced away shouting, "Oh, man! Be right back, Dad!"
Dean moved into the father's path, one hand out to stop him. "Sir, how about I give you and your son a ride home? I think you know you shouldn't be driving."
The father scowled at him, knocking his arm away. "Get the hell away from us!" he shouted, making Dean wince. "You don't know nuthin' about nuthin'!"
Dean moved into the man's personal space. They were about the same size, though the father probably had a few pounds on him, pounds of fat. Dean allowed the glow to grow in his eyes, just enough to make him intimidating. "Actually, I know a lot about something, and about nothing." He studied the man, the rage seething just below the surface. "There's a reason his mother isn't here, isn't there?"
The father deflated, grief washing over his face. "Last week," he choked out, tears appearing in his eyes. "Car wreck."
Dean nodded as he rested a hand on the poor schmuck's shoulder. "Dude, you get behind the wheel now, and you'll be completely alone. As drunk as you are, you'll have a wreck and your son will pay the price. You want that?"
When the man looked over at his son, who was having massive problems getting around a certain Mastiff, he had a look on his face. Dean recognized it, he had seen it on his dad's face often enough, but he had been a teenager before realizing what it meant. It was despair and desperation. That boy was all this man had left in the world worth living for.
"At least let me call a cab for you," Dean went on in a soft voice. "Risking your life is one thing, risking his is another."
"I need to get my car home, I have to work tomorrow," he said softly.
"Done." Dean pulled his cell out of his pocket, pressing the call button.
"Dean?" Sam asked. "What's up? I thought you were planning to hang out at the park all day."
"Something came up, and I could use a second driver," Dean told him. "How quick can you grab a ride over here?"
"Uh, pretty quick, I guess. What's going on? Is it one of your jobs?"
"Yeah. Just get over here now," Dean said before hanging up. He smiled at the father. "My brother is on his way. We'll take you and your car home. That work for you?"
The father's face hardened. "We don't need your charity."
"Course not," Dean agreed readily. "Have a seat. I'd like to tell you about my dad." Dean sat on the park bench, motioning for Jim's father to do the same. "My dad was the greatest guy. In the world. He was like a superhero to me, you know?" The other man nodded slowly as he sat, so Dean guessed some of what he was saying was able to penetrate past the alcohol. "Well, my mom, ah." He swallowed hard, this had never been easy to talk about, much less with a stranger. "She died when I was a kid. Sammy, that's my brother, he was just a baby.
"After Mom died, Dad changed. Now don't get me wrong, that's pretty much when he became a superhero, but he drank more. A lot more. I think it made things easier for him, maybe, I don't know. But I'll tell you what I do know about it." Dean paused, hearing the way his voice cracked. He pushed on, because it needed to be said now. He knew it, felt the pressing need to spill his guts to this man. "It made life a whole lot harder for me."
He found some sobriety emerging in those drunken eyes. "Harder how?" the father demanded.
Dean cleared his throat, although he knew that wouldn't make this any easier. The pressure to talk was stronger now, an overwhelming need. "Well, I learned to cook. How to change diapers. Taught my little brother to read. How to swipe stuff from convenience stores, grocery stores."
Now the guy's brow creased and his eyes narrowed. "Why would your dad drinking make you steal?"
Dean cleared his throat again. "He used to leave us, to work. Sometimes he didn't leave enough money behind for food." He shrugged like it was no big deal. "Uh, but that's not the point. The point is, just being there for Jim, even if you don't feel like you're doing a damn thing, means the world." Dean chanced a look in the father's eyes. "Honest. I can't lie."
Jim's father looked away, his gaze locking on his laughing son. "He can't accept it," he said in a strained voice. "Jim keeps talking about when his mom comes home. I don't know how much more of it I can take."
"Try to be patient," Dean told him. "Believe it or not, this is probably harder on him. He can't see what it does to you. Just from the little time I spent with him today..." His voice cracked again, kept giving out on him. Stupid emotions. Why did people have those things? They just made life more difficult. "He's a great kid," Dean repeated. "I don't think he'd keep pretending his mom's coming if he knew how much it hurt you." He shrugged. "But I don't know what to tell you. About that."
Jim's father sighed deeply. "He is a good kid," he said slowly. "The past few days, maybe I forgot. Just a little. How hard this is on him." Tears leaked from his eyes, trickling down his face. "My wife was a wonderful mother. Knew exactly what to do and when. I don't think I can do it alone."
Dean nodded towards Jim. "You don't have to. Figure it out together." He stared at the kid laughing at Hillary, trying to push a dog who was twice his weight out of his way. "He just might be stronger than you think."
"Hillary!" Sam's voice rang out across the bark park. "What are you doing?"
Hillary looked around rapidly, located her ball and scooped it up in her mouth. She ran to Sam, bouncing around as excitedly as Jim's puppy.
"Dean!" Sam demanded as he walked up to the park bench. "Did you see that? I can't believe you'd let her..." his voice trailed off and a worried look crossed his face. "Who are we driving home?" Now that was the Sam Dean knew so well, Mister Suspicious.
Dean quickly swiped at his eyes, just in case, before standing. "Sam, this is Jim and his dad. I thought maybe they'd like a ride home in a real car. We figured you could drive his dad's car home."
"Really? Dad, Dean was telling me all about his car. Can I ride home in it? I promise to do whatever he tells me, I'll behave. Honest," Jim pleaded as he bounced with excitement. "Can I? Please?"
His dad stared at him for a long time while Jim bounced up and down with excitement. "Sure. Why not?" His smile looked forced, but at least it was there. "Let's go."
Dean slapped his thigh. "Hillary, you're with me," he called out.
"Keys?" Sam demanded, standing in Jim's father's way. If there was one thing Sam could pick out, it was someone who'd had too much to drink. He was like a freaking bloodhound when it came to stuff like that. Jim's dad slapped them into Sam's hand and pointed out his car.
Once the dogs were in the backseat and Jim and his father were settled in the front, Dean turned the engine over. It roared impressively before settling into a smooth purr.
"Huh?" Dean asked his young passenger. "What'd I tell you?"
"Sweet!" Jim chimed in enthusiastically.
Dean grinned before glancing around for Sam. Sam pulled up in some boring sedan. Dean quirked an eyebrow at the father. "Dude, you could trade that in for something with personality."
Jim's dad shook his head. "One thing at a time. I'll add it to the list. At the bottom."
Dean flashed him a grin. "Fair enough. Let's rock." He turned up the music before backing out. Using mostly hand signals and by shouting over the music, Jim's dad directed Dean to a typical suburban house with flowers blooming out front. Dean cut the music as he pulled up.
"Let me guess," he said to Jim. "Racecar theme in your bedroom? Or robots?"
Jim laughed at him. "Dogs."
Dean smiled broadly. "Man after my own heart. Right, Hill?"
The big dog let out a loud bark that had Jim and his father covering their ears. Jim's father laughed with them before opening the door.
"Son, take Bob up to the house. I'll be right there, after I talk to Dean for a sec. Okay?"
Jim beamed at both of them. "Okay, Dad. Dean, hope to see you and Hillary at the park again!" He waved before racing his dog up to the house.
Jim's father leaned in the window, forearms resting on the door. "Look, I don't know you, or your dad, but I do appreciate the ride. But why would you do this? For a complete stranger?"
Dean felt Sam approaching the car. He allowed his eyes to flare bright green before settling into the most comfortable level for nighttime, despite the fact the sun was still up. "It's my job," he informed the poor guy. "And I really hope I don't get another call for Jim, 'cause that would piss me off."
"And the last person you want to piss off is my brother," Sam said. He opened the door and Jim's father moved quickly out of the way. Sam dropped into the seat and yanked the door shut. "Trust me."
"Cool it, Sam," Dean warned. He pointed a finger at Jim's dad. "Just remember what we talked about."
The man nodded, backing away from the car and looking distinctly unsettled. Dean drove away, casting the occasional glance in the rearview.
"Back to the park?" Sam asked. "I wouldn't mind throwing a soggy ball around some."
Hillary's head hung over the seat and she made dog-grumbling noises at them. Dean could feel Sam glaring at the dog. "I do not throw like a girl!"
Dean chuckled as Hillary grumbled again.
"What?" Sam demanded. "Horn in? What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
A sharp spike shot through Dean's forehead as Hillary grumbled louder at Sam, followed by a short bark.
"Oh, Dean, I'm sorry. I, uh, forgot." Sam growled at the dog, "You can shut up."
"C'mon, you two, knock it off," Dean pressed his palm to his temple until the pain subsided. "How about we all go out for some steak, huh? Steak work for everybody?"
Sam chuckled as he settled into the seat. "Neighborhood place or a ritzy downtown joint?"
Dean shot his brother a grin. "Well, it is our anniversary."
Sam rolled his eyes. "As long as you promise me that we're not going in through the window."
Dean laughed, his heart lighter than it had felt in years. "No problem, little brother. I think the waitresses are gonna love Hillary, don't you?"
"Don't they always?" Sam asked. He scratched Hillary under the chin. "See if you can score us some dessert this time."
Hillary made some pleased dog mumbles as she leaned into Sam's touch, which made Dean laugh again.
"What?" Sam asked. "What'd she say? I didn't catch that one."
"Nothing. Just something along the lines of the fact you pet better than you throw," Dean told him with a wink at Hillary.
"Oh, you bratty dog," Sam growled as both hands went on Hillary's head, rubbing hard and shaking her back and forth until slobber landed on Dean.
Dean shook it off of his hand. "Great," he muttered as he rubbed his hand dry on his shorts. "Bobby could've warned me about the slobber."
A huge wetness slopped against the side of his face and Dean nearly drove off the road. "Hill!" He jerked the wheel to realign the car in the road. Dean used his shoulder to shove the big dog back off his seat. "You try that again, and no broccoli with your steak!"
"Yeah, right," Sam laughed at him. "You know you can't say no to her." Sam shoved her head against the side of Dean's face. "Can you?"