Disclaimer: You know the drill. I don't own them. Have no rights. Get no money. I only get the pleasure. And, oh, the pleasure I get.
A/N: This takes place after Head of a Pin. This story also takes place in flashbacks during three different time frames when the boys and John stayed in a bar that is also used as the backdrop for the current story setting. I have never really written John before so it is new for me.
Since we are dealing with many emotions, anger, and booze, the chapters are all titles of drinking songs.
Also, I felt this is a bit of a heavy fic and so I have divided my usual chapter length in half so the reader wouldn't feel so overloaded.
Most of it is already written and I think it will be a total of 12-ish chapters. I have ten written thus far.
Thanks: To my Masta-Beta, MAZ 101. You keep my on my feet and my commas in the proper spots.
Chapter One: Whisky Bent and Hell Bound
They stood across from each other, taking in the familiar surroundings of their life. Neon lights, flashing beer logos – some with letters missing. A worn wood floor, sawdust gracing the top – proof of a decent night. An old jukebox, flipping '45's on its turntable – currently stuck on B.B. King. A pool table in the corner, sticks and cues in disarray – all smeared with blue chalk from grubby fingertips.
One man lit a cigarette and inhaled quietly. He leaned across the bar and looked at his brother, sitting on the barstool. The cushion was ripped out and he couldn't help but smile as he watched the younger man tug at the yellowed stuffing falling out. His fingers keeping rhythm to B.B. plucking on Lucille's strings.
The thrill is gone baby/The thrill is gone away from me
"Don't pick at that," the one behind the bar grouched to the other. The blondish bangs stuck to his forehead as he shook his head.
The other man didn't flinch. Just kept picking.
The fingers stopped. Jeff let out a deep sigh and blew his long brown hair out of his face. He looked up across the counter and watched the other man take a couple of drags off his Camel. He waited.
"I could be somewhere better right now," he muttered.
His brother pushed away from the counter. His black t-shirt sporting This is Spinal Tap was stained with numerous alcohols, drippings from finger-foods and sweat. His eyes blinked vacantly at the closed door.
"What are we doing?"
Jeff smirked. "I can see that, shit-head. I mean, what are we waiting for?"
"Not a what. A who."
There was another sigh released and the younger man smiled. It wasn't in frustration. It was a sweet smile. Understanding and tired. "Ben-"
"Don't trust your big brother anymore?"
A hand went up in protest. "No, no. It's not that. It's just-" Jeff looked over his shoulder at the large clock on the wall. Stroh's was proudly gracing the background. "It's after three a.m."
Ben took a long drag this time, the glow of the burn almost reaching its end. "Got someplace better to be?"
"Well…" He stopped. His eyes revealed the lonely truth that his mouth didn't. Just a cold bed. And Ben knew he would stay because he had asked him to. He hadn't asked him for anything is a long, long time.
"I was just thinking about Valentina." Jeff hinted. "She'll be waiting up for you."
"She's not waiting up tonight." Ben paused, feeling eyes landing on him. "Got her some medication. Seems to be working. Or, I don't know, at least it's letting her sleep."
Jeff nodded. "God, I hope this is the magic pill."
"You and me both, brother."
"She say anything else to you?"
A quick glance and then back to the door, watching. "About what?"
"You know what."
There was a long pause where Ben just held the cigarette to his lips, not inhaling, just holding and he almost smiled. "It's not real, Jeff. None of it is real." He placed two fingers next to his skull and thumped it hard. "It's all in her head."
"Ramona and Angel… they're doing okay?"
The older brother shrugged. "Sure they are. They're kids. I hired Jen Ryan to stay with them at night. You know, for now. Until Val's on her feet. Then she can… try again."
"To be a good mother."
He felt Jeff staring at him. Blinking questions that he wouldn't ask. He stamped his used cigarette butt out in the full ashtray and shoved it away, silent curses blowing out of his mouth along with the smoke.
"She's been scaring me." Ben's words floated out into the air, over the music playing and hit Jeff off balance.
Jeff followed his brother's eyes to the door. "Oh, God, is she coming over here now?" His voice elevated an octave and he pushed off the sad chair.
"Calm down. She's not coming here. I told you, she's sleeping."
"Who're we waiting for then?"
"Just some guy."
The flick of the lighter brought Jeff's gaze back to his brother as he lit another cigarette.
"You've seen her," Ben took a quick puff. "I'm just… I'm just trying to keep my family together, okay?" Green eyes skimmed over once and then back again. "I don't know what else to do."
Jeff was nodding. The older brother could always count on him. Didn't matter if it was to stay and clean up the bar. Or borrow money. Or keep a secret. He could count on him.
And so Jeff was nodding. "Anything I can do-"
"I'm always here."
"Not going anywhere."
There was a rumble from outside. A distinct motor. A car coming to a stop, idling and the ignition being turned off.
"Think he's here." Ben stamped his cigarette out.
Jeff walked across the distance of the bar to the door and looked out the window. "Funky-ass car. Big, black old Chevy. Got mud all over it." Jeff glanced back at his brother. "Who is it?"
"I told you," Ben answered. "A guy." He could see movement from outside the big picture window.
The groan of car doors sounded left and right and The Guy was turning around and walking towards the building. He was tall and rugged and Ben felt something churn inside. He got the impression that he was not one to be messed with.
He could see the realization dawn on Jeff's face. "A hunter?" He backed away from the window. "Ben, that's a goddamn hunter."
"Who is he?"
Ben lifted a shoulder up and down. "I don't know. Never met him."
"You never…" His brother's voice trailed off as he stole another glance through the glass as the man approached the door. He looked huge in the black of the night, bulky and threatening and like he could take on two men with his hands tied behind his back. "He looks like Andre the Giant."
The front door to the bar was warped with scrapes and scuffs from brawls broken up and a few holes where heads had quickly diverted fists. It always stuck, always scratched across the bottom of the floor, always tried to fight back as someone was trying to get it. But this time, that old door opened smoothly, almost gracefully as The Guy they had been waiting for engulfed the area with his presence.
He pushed on easily, standing tall in the center of the bar, his body all wrapped in a black coat and smelling of oil and grease. His hair was dark, his eyes were darker. He looked old and young, even though he was probably just a little older than Ben.
The stranger nodded once at the man behind the counter. "Ben?" His voice was from the throat, a burn like whiskey but velvet like Sauvignon.
Ben nodded. "Yeah. Caleb called. Said you'd be rollin' in tonight."
"Caleb?" Jeff called over. His voice sharp. Accusing. "When'd you talk to Caleb?"
One shot of Ben's green eyes, though and his brother shut his mouth.
He diverted his attention back to their guest. "Caleb said you needed a place to crash."
Ben watched him. He stood absolutely still, his hands were on the inside of his coat, apparently wrapped around his middle. Ben's eyes fell down to the salt-loaded shotgun behind the counter. He hadn't left his position – his post – just in case Caleb was sending him a troublemaker. He'd had to use his old sawed-off too many times before to shoo away guests that were Whiskey bent and Hell bound. Staring at this man staring back at him though, Ben wasn't sure exactly what to expect. He was dark but he held a light about him and that just made him too complex to trust. He felt a cool bead of sweat roll down his temple. He was missing something.
"What's your name?"
The Guy smiled and he instantly looked younger, probably in his early thirties. His eyes wrinkled at the corners and his cheeks revealed hidden deep-lined dimples. "John. Winchester." He said it like he had never been more proud of anything else in his entire life.
The older brother felt his body ease then and he nodded, his bangs still stuck to his forehead. "My name's Ben Timmons. This is Jeff."
John nodded once to the speaker and again to the watcher. "Caleb said you were brothers."
"Right," Ben continued.
"And your parents…"
"Were hunters. Well, our dad was. But he… got out of it. Owned a junkyard for a while. Now I guess I do. That shit hole and this one." He stopped, realizing that he was rambling about information that wasn't being asked from him in the first place.
John nodded again, his eyes shifting quickly around the room.
Checking for another exit, Ben thought. Wondering where our salt lines are…
"They're both dead."
John's eyes fixed back on Ben. He took in a deep breath and then let it out. No apologies or condolences. Just the look. And it said more than any "I'm sorry" ever had.
Ben noticed the man readjusted his arms and seemed to grab at his waist. Then he remembered. "Caleb said you'd need a coupla days to hole up. Said you're sick or something."
"Yeah," John shifted. "Well, actually, my kid is."
"Your kid?" Ben's eyes narrowed.
John dropped the coat off his left shoulder, letting it fall to the dirty floor below. There, tucked high against his left chest was a six-year-old child and near his right, he held a toddler.
"Holy shit," Ben breathed.
"He's not a giant," Jeff gasped. "His arms are full of babies."
The brothers moved fast. Jeff had offered his own arms in exchange for one of the youngsters, but John had refused. "I got it," he responded. Then the brothers scattered like mice around the bar, grabbing things they thought the small family might need: glasses for water, extra towels for hot foreheads, a bottle of aspirin, and a puke bucket.
Jeff made a gagging sound when he looked inside the bucket. No, not a good choice for a kid. He looked up and grabbed a silver-mixing bowl.
Ben waved his arms through the air, trying to clear the room of the fresh and musty smoke that was captured there, moving back and forth like low-lying clouds. "Sorry," he mumbled, but the hunter didn't say anything back.
Jeff was taking his supplies to the back of the bar, motioning John to follow him. They walked down a narrow hallway, a bathroom was off to the left, another door was off to the right, but Jeff kept going straight to the end of the corridor where he opened yet another door and flipped on a light switch.
The backroom was small and dark, even with the glow from above. There was only one twin size bed, it's blankets showing signs that it hadn't been used for a while. The walls were covered in dark paneling, with one small window in the corner, blinds drawn closed, a black filthy film covering them. There was a three-drawer chest, a card table with two folding chairs and a tiny, private bathroom off to the right.
It was exactly what John thought it would be.
Ben stepped in, following the men from the hallway. "Sometimes I let guys stay here… when they've had too much to drink." He swallowed hard. "Sorry it's… small."
John smiled. "It'll be just fine." He eased the older child onto the bed. It was the first time the brothers were able to see that it was a boy, dark blonde hair, freckles galore. The small body rolled over to his side as his father readjusted him in the bed, tugging the covers out from under him and pulling them up to his shoulders.
He then smoothed out the surface next to the older boy and removed the extra pillow. He pulled back the baby blanket that had been draped over the other child. Another boy. Older than the brothers expected, though. Not much of a baby any more. They watched as the man settled the smaller body next to the bigger one and covered him back up with the baby blanket.
Then John's eyes rested on the floor. "You guys don't happen to have a couple extra covers by chance?"
Jeff shuffled quietly to the meager dresser. He pulled out two thinning blankets. Thread count long past their life cycle. "Sorry, man," he whispered, "it's all we got."
John graciously took the small bundle from him. "It's enough."
"Are they both sick?" Ben asked.
The young father shook his head. "No. Just the baby. Got a pretty high fever."
Jeff handed over the bottle of aspirin and John stifled a chuckle. "It's okay. I have what he needs."
Ben started to exit and then stopped. "You want a… a quick drink first?" He ticked his head to the left and John's eyes traveled on through the door and down the hallway. Back into the open bar. Into another time.
John's eyes cast down to the sleeping bodies in the warm bed. A smile ghosted his face for a quick second. Ben wondered what was going through the man's mind. Stories of the past. His firsts in life. His lasts. Jobs he'd held. Reasons for leaving. Reasons for starting. The feel of his favorite gun in his hand. His favorite girl in his arms. Wherever she was. Left or Lost.
Ben knew that for hunters the story always ended the same.
John looked back at the brothers, standing in the doorway. "Think I'll have to pass this time, guys."
"Yeah. Okay." Ben smiled. "Maybe tomorrow."
John waited by the door, a pillow clutched in his hand. "Maybe."
Ben took one more glance at the sweet babies and for a few heartbeats he felt sorry for the guy. "If you double up the blanket, it'll be more comfortable on the floor," he said helpfully.
The guy was still smiling. "I'll manage."
And the door shut quietly leaving the two brothers staring at one another in the quiet hallway.
"Going home?" Jeff asked, his eyes holding more, but choosing less.
Ben sighed. The house. The kids. Valentina. His favorite girl in his arms. "Yeah."
The bed behind the door creaked as he started to turn away. Ben could hear a young father hushing a small child and the boy asking a sleepy question.
"No, Dean. There are no monsters under the bed."
And Ben followed Jeff away from the door and through the bar.
Dean watched as the streetlights passed by over the windshield. One chased the other in a stationary game none of them would win.
He was counting. Counting the minutes ticking on his watch, the minutes passing by just as fast as those damned streetlights. It was slowly aggravating him. He tried not to watch the second hand spin, tried to keep his mind on other things happening around him. That was the big fucking problem, though. It was just him and Sam and the loneliness of the still highway. So there wasn't much else to do but count. And wait.
He yawned heavily. He felt his jaw click shut and the water quickly come and go to his eyes. He needed sleep. Well, his body needed sleep. Craved it, actually. But Dean wasn't ready to relinquish the reins. He'd been behind the wheel for hours now, driving from Iowa, headed east and wasn't in the mood to stop. He already had rolled the window partway down, drank enough coffee for three days, turned the radio up a notch, and then up again. He sang Jim and Jimi and even a little Mick at the top of his lungs until his voice started to turn raw.
Yep, he'd done everything he could do to keep himself awake. Everything except talk to his riding companion.
That was also something he wasn't ready to relinquish either, though. His eyes slid across the seat to his brother sitting next to him.
Sam wasn't sleeping. He'd spent the past few hours with a flashlight and a map, tracing roads with his eyes. Then he'd exchange the map out for different books. Books Dean hadn't seen before, but he wasn't going to ask about them. Sam would just say he got them from Bobby, which could very well be the truth. But Dean wouldn't believe him even if it was.
He had finally shut the light off and was now just sitting. His head was turned, his eyes stared drearily out the window. His reflection in the glass staring back at both of them.
Dean wondered what his brother was thinking about. He wondered when Sam was going to open his mouth and let it all fall out between them. He hoped his heart could bare it. Hoped his instincts could handle it. Hoped he could accept it.
Trouble was, he never really did have a lot of faith in hope.
"Are we just planning on driving 'til dawn?"
Dean rolled his shoulders once. His head titled to the left and then the right. "Maybe."
Dean smiled. It was petty. Still felt good to get under his brother's skin, though.
"I'm tired, man."
He saw Sam's head turn out of his periphery. Decided a shrug may be the way to go with this one. "Backseat's plenty warm."
Sam's eyes rolled to look at the darkness of the back of the Impala and then back to his brother. "Well, there's not plenty of room for me. And I'm tired of sleeping back there."
Dean pressed his lips tightly together. He held still for a long moment and waited as the sudden heat in his face cooled. It wasn't the words. It wasn't the request. It was the person. He knew Sam felt it, too. He was just better at pushing it down, back into whatever vault Sam was keeping his secrets locked away in.
"What do you want to do?"
Sam made a gesture that Dean didn't see and couldn't make out, but it was followed by a sound that he hadn't made since he was a kid. He was getting impatient. Finally after a deep breath, Sam answered him, very controlled, "Mo. Tel."
A smile smirked across Dean's face. He wanted to pull off onto the side of the road and take his foot and kick his brother out the door. Tell him to go take a hike. Call up that bitch Ruby and catch a ride with her on her flying broomstick. Knowing Sam, though that's probably exactly what he wanted, too.
You're holding me back.
Even in his anger, Dean knew when to pull back. It was the second the road curved and everything started to skid and crash together with his swerving fear. And that wasn't something he was ready to lose control of yet either.
I'm a better hunter than you are.
So he released a stale breath and thought about it. "Well, we're in Ohio."
Sam's head turned in his direction. Okay, conversation. "So I've noticed."
"We're low on money."
That silenced the car for a minute. Hard times fell hard on everyone right now. Even demon fighters. They had to conserve their money. They had to watch the credit card spending. It was getting harder and harder to obtain good aliases with good credit these days. They had both agreed it would be best to reserve what they had for the bigger jobs down the road. Working for angels didn't pay much in the way of cash.
No, they wanted something much bigger than hundred dollar bills in return for their dirty work.
"Yeah, I've noticed that, too," Sam quietly spoke up, but didn't have anything to offer.
Dean's eyes narrowed. He turned his head slightly and came dangerously close to actually looking at Sam. "Hey, how far's Chesterhill?"
Sam's face pinched into a fast frown. "Chesterhill?"
"Yeah." Dean looked back to the road, watching the streetlights speed up as his foot found a way to release his energy. He reached next to his hip and tossed the used map back across the seat.
Sam caught it in his right hand and fisted the map into a crumpled mess.
"Can't be too far," Dean quipped.
"What an hour? A half hour?" He waited and listened as Sam shifted in his seat. He could feel his brother turn to him every so often, his mouth opening and closing and then swallowing the unspoken words back down his throat.
Then the map was being smoothed out and the flashlight was being turned back on.
Dean looked out to the driver's side window and grinned. Still had the upper hand.
"It's about forty miles away." Sam wrinkled the map again and threw it behind his shoulder.
"To the north, right?" He already knew.
Sam gave a quick nod and bit his bottom lip, giving it one more try. He pushed his back up against the passenger door, turned and looked over to his brother. "Hey, Dean…"
But his brother was done talking. The decision was made and he wasn't turning to look at him. Dean kept his eyes straight a head, his hand reaching for the volume on the radio. He turned it up and started strumming his fingers on the steering wheel, growling out how he drank alone right along with George Thorogood.
Sam scratched at his head and rotated around on the seat. He looked away, too. Dean caught his brother watching the night outside speed by in a blur of dark trees and bushes. He thought he saw Sam's hand resting on the door handle for a few seconds and wondered if his brother was contemplating rolling out of the moving car. If he survived, he could just spend the night in a hospital.
Dean figured he'd probably have a better time there anyway.
He let his gaze wander back to the black hood and didn't acknowledge anything but the road and the music. One, which was making his eyes heavy, the other making his voice hoarse. He squeezed the wheel tight and readjusted his focus. If he were to give in and really look at Sam, he would be forced to listen to another story or fall into another lie. And he wasn't in the mood for either one so he turned the front of the car north. But he couldn't help himself, it was a part of him. He stole a hasty scan in his brother's direction. He knew Sam was unwilling. He knew he was hesitant. Places could be like people sometimes. Warm and inviting, loving and embracing. Or they could be menacing and poisonous. Too quick to burn memories in the back of the mind that one would rather forget. Or wonder if the memory was even real in the first place.
Dean reconsidered the suggestion of looking for a cheap motel. Really, really cheap. Chesterhill may not be the best place for him and Sam right now, but then… Chesterhill did have two things Dean needed – that Dean craved – and his mouth watered.
Free bed and free beer.
Playlist: The Thrill is Gone performed by B.B. King
I Drink Alone performed by George Thorogood
Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound performed by Hank Williams, Jr.
A/N: If you're here, thanks for reading. Like my other stories, I will post a new chapter every two to three days. Thanks again.