Cuts You Up
Black River Falls hadn't changed in fourteen years.
Disclaimer: Just playing in Kripke's sandbox.
Pairing(s): Lots of pairings in the background (Sam/Jo, Dean/Jo, Dean/OFC) and a pairing that never quite made it to the page (Dean/with the main OFC)
Author's Notes: So in the middle of Season Two, I came up with this idea for a multi-chaptered story to write after I finished By Gaslight and Beneath the Hollow. Given that I'm still waiting to finish them, there's no way in hell I'm ever going to really get started on this. So, yeah. This is me abandoning a WIP. It's really a collection of snippets I wrote for a present-day section of the overall story I had originally envisioned, trying to get a handle on Dean and the primary OFC.
Spoilers/Warnings: Everything up through Season Two is fair game. Implied character death. Dub-con.
Beta(s): I haven't even edited this one, except for putting in .html tags for formatting purposes. It's coming to you not-so-live but straight from my brain and right onto the metaphorical paper - which probably explains the cringe-worthy scene involving lemons. I'm sure the usual suspects would have called me on the lemons.
No sound to break no moment clear
When all the doubts are crystal clear
Crashing hard into the secret wind
The first image is also the last.
The splash of something salty, rich and cold, on your forehead. A golden nimbus surrounded by the spit and the crackle, a hissing that matches the silent scream. The pressure of being held, the movement as the hissing and the crackling gets closer. And the presence of the one who carries you into a safe place, where the air is cool and you are not alone.
Everything you are is in this moment.
Black River Falls hadn't changed in fourteen years – down to the three old coots sitting in front of The Hitching Post, all looking up from their newspapers as the Impala roared past them.
The first thing he did was rent a room at the Kokapelli Inn, still the cheapest place in town. They had stayed there when Dad was investigating the kidnapping of some local businessman's son. Turned out that kids were getting kidnapped and killed until Dad stepped in and fixed things.
Dad was always stepping in and fixing things. Made the man a hero – and that opened doors if you talked to the right people.
LaMere's Repair Shop was Dean's second stop in town. He needed some kind of money and Black River Falls wasn't exactly a place where he'd be able to support himself hustling pool. It was a place for him to lay low for awhile, lick his wounds until he figured out what to do next. Whether it was worth it to do that physical therapy crap Bobby was always nagging him about and get back in the game, or just walk away.
Hell, it was more like limping anyway.
Walter LaMere didn't recognize Dean when he hobbled into the store. You're John Winchester's boy, the man asked – looking like a ghost was standing before him, instead of a flesh and blood man. Dean had seen the look often enough on Jo the last time he was at the Roadhouse, blonde hair covering her face whenever Dean caught her looking. Dean knew he didn't look good, a little hollow around the eyes. Hair longer than it had ever been in his life. Fuck, half his goddamn face felt like it was missing and it was stiff no matter how much of that wild yam salve he rubbed on it.
Dean wasn't having a banner year with Lady Luck, but there was a sign in the window saying that Walter was looking for some help, and Dean knew there wasn't much he couldn't repair. Might be good to slow down for awhile, since running hadn't done anything but take him back to all the places where he could still see them – his father laughing against the car, Sam sitting with his nose stuck in a book in the backseat – wherever he went. Black River Falls seemed as good a place as any to stop for awhile. Of course, that was dependant on him getting the job.
As soon as the man realized it was John Winchester's son was standing there with his 'Help Wanted' sign, it was pretty much a done deal.
He was hunkered down over an old sewing machine – eyes narrowed almost to slits as he peered into the case. He pulled his work light down closer to the bobbin case and frowned. Emma had never seen anyone concentrate so much on such a small thing, and he brought in a tiny screwdriver and tapped it so unerringly she could almost hear the 'pop' as the case shifted back into alignment.
The way he said it surprised her, followed up by a self-satisfied grin that wouldn't have looked out of place on a six-year-old, and Emma laughed out loud. It even brought a smile to Mira's face. The woman was standing next to her, unwilling to relinquish her Kenmore even though Emma had tried three times to convince Mira that it was her job and was about to start in on the fourth – except she'd been stopped dead in her tracks by a stranger working at Walter's back table.
He turned and looked right at her when she laughed, hazel eyes shadowed seconds before Mira inhaled sharply. There were white scars, three vivid lines that ran from his left cheek bone clear down to his jaw line; so deep, they were noticeable underneath his stubble – almost too big for his thin face. Whatever had made them applied enough pressure to rend through the muscle. Mira's head whipped towards the counter, but Emma's mouth curved into a smile and she hoped like hell that the sick feeling in her stomach wasn't showing on her face.
His mouth gave a little twitch, lopsided to the right, and he nodded at her before snapping the front plate on the sewing machine back in place. She waited a couple of seconds after he looked away before turning and following Mira, who was shuffling towards the counter and already calling out a greeting to Walter.
At least she was able to wrest the Kenmore from Mira's grip while Walter flirted with her.
The last time the Winchesters hit Black River Falls, Dean hooked up with some hot little blonde cheerleader who could do some pretty damn amazing things when she bent backwards. This time around, he'd been picking up a different chick every couple of nights at The Hitching Post – managed to side-step a couple of fights when the chicks were taken, and the Winchester charm was still on its game. A limp and a couple of scars hadn't changed that.
And Missouri said the scars didn't look as bad as they did. The way she said it – like she needed to believe it more than Dean – was the only reason he was still putting on that salve she gave him. He knew it was guilt that made her so pushy, that she should have warned him about whatever she saw the last time they showed up. Dean guessed she knew exactly what was going to happen to Sam, what he needed to do to gain his freedom from a destiny Sam Winchester never sought but had thrust upon him anyway the night a demon burned up his mother. Probably knew that Dean would end up in bum-fuck Wisconsin, too.
Like knowing that would have changed what happened – the whole sad song, down to the coda Dean was singing now.
It was hard at first, getting used to the down turned eyes and the sympathetic 'did it hurt' crap that kept happening every time he tried just talking to some chick in a bar. But that whole thing about chicks digging scars was true, even when the scar was right on your face. Staring back at them the whole time. And when the lights were off, and they were getting horizontal, it didn't matter what the hell he looked liked.
Chicks still screamed whatever name he gave them like it was a benediction, not even realizing he was just going through the motions. Hell, those chicks were so caught up in themselves that they didn't even realize that he'd just roll off of them when they were done, and stare up at the ceiling while they did all the different things chicks do to come down from that high. Wondering why he kept trying.
Because a woman's laugh could still jumpstart the pulling and the pain deep in his groin, the instinct Dean Winchester had developed when he was old enough to notice that girls always smiled back at him – even when he could do jack shit about it, when he was minding his own business and fixing a sewing machine.
He turned towards that laugh like a moth caught in flame, feeling his cheeks widen as the grin kicked in. An old woman in a purple polyester pantsuit took one look at his face and made the 'he used to be so handsome' face with pursed lips and heavy breathing and the inevitable look away.
The black-haired chick right behind her actually surprised him. Same kind of shock written ten different ways all over her face, hazel eyes going round and flickering down his cheek – but then she just smiled at him. None of that false sympathy he got wrapped up in a miniskirt, when he was making promises he could always deliver out in some alley or a back room. It was a kind smile that made his throat ache. He gave her a nod and then pretended to get back to work on the machine.
Walter grinned at him from behind the counter when he noticed Dean watching her ass, but Dean couldn't tell what it looked like under her baggy sweatpants. Dean shrugged his shoulders. Some habits probably were never going to die, no matter what the hell he did.
Emma sat in one of the window booths at the Twin Sisters Diner – staring out the window at the people passing by while she drank her coffee and waited for her French toast. Billy was supposed to meet her for breakfast, but he'd called her at the last minute to reschedule – 'Erin came home with me.' And he was whispering into the phone when he said it, which probably meant that whoever Erin was, he didn't want her to know he was talking to someone else on the phone.
It was hard to stay angry at Billy – given the trauma she had put him through when she was six, and made him play Ken to her Barbie with her Dream House – but Emma would have slept in had she known the man was going to indulge his over-active libido. But she was already awake, so she hopped on her bicycle and headed to the diner anyway.
It wouldn't be the first morning she sat in that same booth with nothing but her journal and a cup of coffee to keep her company – and there was a lot to be said for people-watching on a Saturday morning.
The man from the repair shop walked by the window, wearing a plaid shirt and a pair of jeans that had definitely seen better days; both looking like they might have fit him thirty pounds ago. Whoever he was, he walked with a limp and he held his shoulders like they carried the weight of the world on them – not so much resentment but a burden he carried so long that he didn't know how to get rid of it, the knowledge of something that marked his face as clearly as whatever had hurt him.
He looked completely alone.
The man's thin shoulders hunched suddenly, and he stopped in his tracks – slowly moving his head around like he could sense her watching him. Emma's eyes widened when he actually shifted in place and met her gaze in the window. His eyes widened, too, when he saw her, that flash of recognition passing between the panes of glass. She raised her hand and smiled at him, watching his hair brush his shoulders in the breeze.
After a couple of seconds, his mouth twitched again and he nodded at her. He started walking down the street, his limp more pronounced the slower he walked, and she almost thought he was going to come into the diner – saw him actually turn a little towards the door before shaking his head and going on his way.
"Dated him once," Missy said at her elbow. Emma started. Missy smiled at her, dark blue eye shadow a smear across her eyelids, and set down the platter of French toast she was balancing on her arm. The waitress grinned at her. "I was sixteen," she added. "It was right before you moved to the city."
"I don't remember him." Emma scowled – she shouldn't be talking to Missy Walters about the man; it seemed like prying to ask about a man who so obviously guarded his privacy.
Missy shook her head. "Family was just passing through. He sure was a pretty boy, then. Not so pretty now." And she made a 'tsk' sound in the back of her throat. "I didn't even recognize him when he came in for breakfast until he said my name."
"I wonder what happened." Emma's best guess was an accident. And it must have been a fairly recent one, because the scars were too angry and fresh to have been healing for a long time. The lines reminded her of how the scar across her abdomen looked a couple months after the hysterectomy.
"I'm guessing some bar fight somewhere, maybe a broken bottle across the face," Missy said. "I always got the feeling he was a little reckless, the places he'd take me to…" Her blue eyes went soft at the thought, and she smiled. "But, back then, he never would have been on the receiving end of a fight." She tossed her blonde curls, and Emma could see the girl inside that probably attracted the man – well, boy – in the first place. "He sure could make you feel like you were the only girl in the world. And he sure was pretty."
"What's his name?" Emma asked.
"Dean…" Missy shrugged. "Dean something." There was a ding from the bell near the pick-up station, and the waitress just smiled at her again and went off to get another order. "Didn't really spend time talking about our last names," she called over her shoulder.
It was a start.
The morning had been busier than usual – a couple of televisions, a radio, another sewing machine. Even a typewriter. Dean decided to let Walter deal with the delicate work, and grabbed the radio. Dad had taught him some simple electronics back when he was ten. Sam probably never realized how much stuff Dean would take apart and put back together when his little brother went to bed early, and Dean was supposed to stay up and keep watch.
It kept him from going bug-fuck crazy, and it was easier dealing with Dad being angry for you staying up late instead of giving you that look because your little brother almost died while you were playing video games.
Dean sighed, unscrewing the back off as easy as breathing. 'It's like riding a bike', he heard Jo's voice say, 'you're not done yet.' Ash was turning up the jukebox for whatever reason and Ellen was trying to get him to drink more Jack like that was going to help whatever ailed Dean Winchester. He stumbled off to the room Ellen gave him for the night to sleep it off, and Jo woke him up – her mouth clamped on his cock. Next thing he knew she was riding him hard, guttural moans pouring out of her as she came. And there were tears in her eyes when she realized Dean hadn't.
He should have told her it had nothing to do with her. It wasn't just the fucking Roadhouse, even though being there and seeing them reminded him of why he couldn't stay in the first place. He was as dead inside as any Winchester, and if he'd been sober enough he would have stopped her before it got that far – it was Jo and she was never his girl and part of him thought that maybe he could feel something with her because she probably missed him as much as he did. She seemed to need it – even cried out 'Sam' a couple of times before the end. Dean figured he was the next best thing, which wasn't saying much in the end.
Jo was just as lost as Dean was. Just as lonely. But he wasn't Sam – and neither was she. And the ache was bad enough without ripping it open just for shit and grins. Dean took a breath.
"Hey, Walter." His voice sounded a lot rougher in his ears these days. Didn't have much of anyone to talk to except for his boss. And all those chicks he'd been picking up didn't require much talking once tongue and fingers came into play. Missouri still called him once a week, always asking 'are you okay' and 'when are you coming back' but he'd make some lame excuse to get off the phone as quick as he could whenever she began trying to get him to open up about Sam.
Walter looked up from the typewriter. "What's on your mind, son?"
"That woman who came in last week?" Dean swallowed because Walter was looking at him like Dean Winchester was an idiot. He shook his head sharply. "The one helping that old lady with the sewing machine?"
"Emma?" Walter scratched his head. Fuck if I know… Dean must have been looking at him strangely, because Walter frowned and added, "Dark hair in the ponytail? With the sweat pants?"
"Yeah, that'd be her." Dean remembered her ass swimming in her pink pants.
It was Walter's turn to sigh. "That's Emma Jackson." His breath came out in a hiss, and he sighed again. "She's Mira Wilson's companion."
"She's doing it with that old lady?"
"Some days I swear your brain is broken, boy." Walter snorted. "Emma was hired by Mira's son as a live-in caretaker. She takes Mira to appointments, makes certain she has groceries, gets Mira to take her medication. That kind of thing. Except now that Mira's gone to visit her son for the summer, Emma takes care of the house."
"So what's her story?" It was something to talk about, anyway. A life story that didn't begin with 'I lost my mother when some demonic cocksucker burned her up in a fire' and end with 'I lost my brother in some cosmic showdown and I didn't even get a body to bury' – not to mention the whole 'my dad sacrificed his soul for my sorry ass and now he's burning in hell' chapter somewhere in the middle.
"Not really much to tell, Dean." Walter looked like he was going to say more, but something closed him down; Dean could tell guilt when it was playing across someone's face – had seen it often enough with Dad and learned to recognize it for what it was with Sam. Had seen it often enough in his own eyes, lately; when he was staring in the mirror and trying to figure out what the hell he was really doing in Black River Falls. In fucking Wisconsin.
Dean shrugged. "Seemed kind of nice the way she treated that old lady."
"It's her job," Walter returned, a thoughtful expression on his face as he suddenly looked at Dean. Really looked at him – just trying to figure out what Dean was really asking him. Fuck me… Walter's eyes softened. "But she's going to the town picnic this weekend – she's helping with the bake sale the kids from my church are putting on."
Dean had heard about it – apparently, a goddamn picnic was the Second Coming in Black River Falls – but he hadn't planned on going. Picnics had never really been high on the Winchester list of things to do; closest they ever got was cooking hot dogs while waiting for bones to finish burning. He planned on spending the day in his room watching TV and drinking some beer, maybe watch that Godzilla marathon.
Dean took a deep breath. "Well, maybe I'll see her there, then."
Walter said nothing – but if Sam had been the one to shoot Dean that grin, he'd be smacking him across the back of the head.
When she volunteered to help with the bake sale, Emma thought she'd have someone besides the pastor's kids to help set up the table. Just about every woman in town seemed to drop off a plate or basket of baked goods, all touting their family recipes passed down from untold generations of Black River Falls women, but not one of them stayed to help. It reminded her of International Day when she was a teaching assistant, being stuck at the table with a bunch of grouchy kids who'd rather be playing games while their mothers gossiped amongst themselves and bragged about their dishes.
International Day quickly became Emma's least favorite school function – and she always made certain that her teaching assistant had a full complement of parents when setting up her classroom's buffet table.
She cut the brownies with a sigh, directing Joey and Elsie on where to put the cookies and the lemonade; they had less than fifteen minutes before they were supposed to start selling to the crowd. Joey was adamant that the cookies needed to alternate between the peanut butter, the oatmeal and the chocolate chip – and he was painstakingly slow in getting them on the platter. Elsie wanted to know why the lemonade was pink. Emma looked up from the brownies and was just getting ready to tell her how lemonade was made when someone interrupted her.
"Because the fairies kissed the lemon."
Emma knew who it was without even turning around – the man's voice had that same playful tone she remembered with the sewing machine. Elsie turned to him with a shy little smile on her face, as he knelt down so that he was at eye-level with her. "And the lemon blushed," Dean added, giving Elsie a wink like this was an answer everyone knew and all she had to do was just remember it. And the little girl did, her smile suddenly no longer shy, and Emma could see another question waiting to be asked.
"Why would the fairies kiss the lemon?"
Emma tried to choke back a laugh because Elsie was staring at the man with such conviction, like this was a secret long forgotten – in a way that only a five-year-old could muster. Emma covered by looking over her shoulder. Joey was still alternating his cookies on the tray, carefully lining them up.
"Have you ever eaten a lemon?" Dean asked. Elsie shook her head. His smile brightened his entire face when he added, "Well, they taste bad. So fairies kiss them to make them sweet for lemonade." Dean winked at the little girl again. "At least that's what my mom told me when I asked her the same question."
"Oh." Elsie thought that over, and then frowned. "But what about yellow lemonade?"
"Sometimes the lemons are naughty," Dean returned automatically, "So the fairies won't kiss them. Those lemons get made into lemonade with sugar, and there's nothing magic at all about yellow lemonade." The little girl's eyes brightened, a knowing look that told the world every story about fairies was true because a man named Dean knew the secret of pink lemonade. "So that's the difference between magic lemonade and the normal stuff," he added.
"Cool," Elsie breathed, and then frowned again. "Did a monster hurt your face?" she asked suddenly. Dean's shoulders stiffened at the question.
"Elsie…" Emma's voice trailed off.
"Sorry," the little girl mumbled.
"It's okay, Elsie." And his expression was so solemn, Emma could almost believe what he was saying. "There was a monster once that wanted to hurt a lot of people. And I was one of them. But the monster didn't get me." He grimaced. "That's not what hurt my face." Dean said it so quietly that Emma wondered what he was remembering, what he had lost.
"Oh." Even Elsie couldn't think of a question to ask after that, and she suddenly reached out to hug the man before scampering off, screaming something about the secret of pink lemonade, how some cool guy told her the secret and she had to tell everyone else, and wasn't it cool that he survived being attacked by a monster. Dean shivered when her voice carried back towards them – 'and I hoped he killed it!' Joey took one look at his little sister's retreating back and rushed off to follow her.
"Cute kid," Dean said while he stood up, face working a little as he began laying out the rest of Joey's cookies. "Yours?"
"I don't have any children," she replied automatically, the rote answer accompanied with a smile that never reached her eyes. Sometimes, Emma could convince herself that it didn't hurt but then she saw someone fix a skinned knee or make a little girl laugh with a story about lemon-kissing fairies and she knew she was missing a secret as important as pink lemonade, something the doctors had cut out of her right along with her uterus. Emma swallowed. "You?"
"Nope." And he flashed her a grin that would have looked just like the one he'd given the sewing machine back in the store – if it wasn't so brittle that it made his face look like a mask. "Can't imagine the world would be safe if I spawned," Dean added.
Her nose itched suddenly, and she rubbed it with the top of her right hand. Set the plate of brownies out on the table and began rummaging in the cooler underneath for the carrot cake that needed to go out next. Listened to him breathing as he continued plating the cookies, feeling like the hole inside of her was growing so big it would capture them both.
Dean was done with the cookies when she re-emerged with the carrot cake, and he'd already set the tray out next to the brownies. He was fidgeting with the cups near the lemonade pitcher, half-turned away from her – body shifting like he was getting ready to leave. She could see the side of his face without the scars, his jaw clenching because he was just as damned uncomfortable as she was to be standing in a park making small-talk to some stranger about kids.
Kids they were never going to have.
Emma coughed, setting the cake down on the table. He turned to look at her then, and she wondered what could have happened to the man for his eyes to look like that at the thought of a family. "You know, I've seen you around a lot lately," she said, holding out her hand. "And it's nice to finally meet you, Dean," she added. He looked like he wanted to crawl under the table himself, so she smiled. "Dean something."
"It's Winchester. Dean Winchester," he returned, his hand engulfing hers as he returned the shake. He was stronger than she expected, given how frail he looked. "You've been doing your homework, Emma Jackson."
"Apparently not as well as you have."
That earned a laugh that sounded like it'd been bottled up inside of him for months.
The title is a song by Peter Murphy.
And, yeah. About the actual story. It was going to be my attempt to weave together essentially three storylines – what happened when Dean and Sam and Emma were teenagers in Black River, what's happening with Dean and Emma "now" in Black River...and some very obscure snippets about what's happening "now" with Sam. In a psychiatric ward in Chicago, where I've kept him comatose while being led on a spirit retrieval ceremony by a Ho-Chunk shaman since 2007.
Didn't get past some of the "now" snippets I was working on and one obscurely written passage from Sam's point of view, all of which I have preserved for posterity.
I was somewhat proud of the actual case file, though. It's sitting pretty in a thirteen-page document. At the end of every season, I figure out a way how to revise it so that "now" wasn't completely Joss'd. I thought about it again at the end of Season Five because, like every other season, the finale presented another hook that I could use. It was going to be glorious. The Harvelles would still be with us. Missouri was going to be a major character in the "now" as time went on. And a woman who couldn't have babies would end up with the one guy who wanted to raise as many kids as they could adopt with her.
That last part is of particular interest to my id-driven fantasies when it comes to writing Dean Winchester.