Pairing: None, though, I think there's a reasonable amount of implied/hinted at Henricksen/Dean, though I don't think it's the central focus of the story by any means.
Summary: Henricksen decides a career change is in order. Or: Henricksen becomes a hunter and he's pretty damn good at it.
I had to convert this from html, I think I've gotten everything, but apologies if I haven't.
Blue Rose Road
He gets into it by accident.
He's investigating a string of violent murders in the basement of an apartment complex. All the victims are female; pretty young things with sad brown eyes and faces that all remind him a little of his niece. The cement floor is still sticky with drying blood when he heads down to check it out, go over the forensic reports for himself. He's usually good at getting inside the perp's head, he's only ever been wrong once, and ever since then he's found himself wondering the nature of monsters and man, how they fit into the grand scheme of things. He wonders, with dread like a sick lump in his stomach, knotted over and hard, how many good men were put behind bars because the justice system is miles behind the things that live in the dark.
The air smells bitter of iron and decomposing blood. He hates the scent of death, the foul sweetness, salt and flesh and fluids rotting over. The odor makes him think of that night at the police station, the bodies of honest, decent men strewn about, throats slit and bloody, massacred worse than anything he's seen. There was a mass suicide case that came close but the bodies weren't as outright terrible, they were peaceful looking, mothers curled around their babies, bottles half filled with poisoned Kool-Aid held limply in their hands. That day was awful, but the night at the station was worse.
A chill hits him suddenly, a draft that creeps in and makes him cold to the bone. He's reminded of the demon that was inside his head, the iciness in his marrow that contrasted sharply with the inhuman burn, the thick taste of sulfur in his throat. It's not just a draft, he knows instinctively, even before a figure flickers in front of him, pale and bleeding from both wrists. The blood dribbles down her arms, the flow steady, and her white pajama bottoms are stained permanently with that dark, dark blood.
"He left me," she says, softly and sadly, staring in a devastated way at her thick thighs and hips.
If this were anytime before the incident, before he knew the truth, he'd think she was attempting suicide and he'd rush to her to bandage her wrists and call it in. The radio clipped to his pants hisses with static, phantom voices, but he doesn't bring it to his mouth. "He left me for girls like them, so they have to pay." Her eyes flash without a lick of humanity in them, and she's on him before he knows it, her blood-slicked hands curling around his throat.
He keeps packets of salt on him, has ever since, just in case. He tears one open and dumps it on her, praying to God that it'll work. It does, she dissipates and he doesn't stick around to see if she'll come back, runs his ass up the stairs faster than he ever did when he ran high school track. He doesn't know much about ghosts and what he knows about demons he could fit in the palm of his hand and squeeze tight.
He uses the computer, searches through pages and pages of lore, over a dozen sites and pours over Dean and Sam's old files looking for clues. Salt and burn, the websites say, and the grave desecration charges for the first time make sense. Dean was never a necro getting it on with a corpse, never taking out his uncontrollable rage on people who couldn't fight back. Dean and his brother were getting rid of ghosts, plain and simple.
The ghost is Kelly Gamboa. She was twenty-three when her boyfriend left her and twenty-three when she died. She went to her ex-boyfriend's apartment building, broke in through a basement window, and cut herself from the wrists all the way up to the elbow; excessive, but it more than did the job. The database says she's buried at a local cemetery in a family plot beside a baby cousin who died of pneumonia when he was three. It feels wrong, more than fifteen years of police work and obedience of the law grinding painfully against him as he digs up her grave, gloves on his hands and brand new pair of boots he'll toss out as soon as he hits the highway, just in case. Her bones light up beautifully, brilliant and orange, luminous in the moonlight and he almost wishes he had time to sit and watch her burn, his first successful hunt end in glowing embers and ash. He waits, heart in his throat, and waits over a month to be sure there are no more murders, that the basement will never be covered in blood again.
That's how it starts.
He asks for time off after a potential ghost pops up a state over, possibly connected to murders that stretch half a century back. Children go missing and end up floating in the river, face down and bloated, reeking and soaked to the core.
His captain thinks it's a great idea, clasps him on the shoulder powerful and warm.
"I think that'd be best Victor; after what you saw, I think what you need is a good rest." The captain's been worried about him for the last three months in his silent way, stoic and gruff. He buries him in paperwork to keep him out of the field, schedules him mandatory meetings with the department shrink. When Victor comes to him with the news, he looks relieved to see him go. "Let me know when you're ready to come back, you always have a place here."
The FBI will always hold a special place in his heart but there are always new recruits coming in to the bureau. More men are willing to get a badge than take up rock salt and a gun. That's how it'll always be.
The job turns out to be the ghost of a woman. He first hears about her in the Latino section of the city, where mothers clutch children to their breasts and warn of La Llorona, the woman who will come to snatch them away if they're out in the night. He inquires about her to a group of kids playing at the park and they laugh at him more than they give him answers.
"She's scary." A six-year-old with a long dark braid hanging down her back whispers into his ear, sharing her frightening secret. "She takes you away."
"To eat you?" He has no idea why a ghost would want a child. This is new to him. He can rattle off Miranda rights while drunk, shoot a target in the chest from a sixty yards, get into the head of a psychopath so easily it frightens him sometimes how well he can get to know them, how he can slip into their skins. But this, all this crazy supernatural shit; he doesn't yet understand.
"No, stupid." One of the boys, a rough looking urchin of about eight who tries his best to sound tough even though Henriksen saw the pink princess Band-Aid on his elbow, snorts. "She takes you to live with her because she killed her kids. She threw them in the river."
"Did you guys know the girl they found in the river last week?" The kids respond to him and he thanks his years of training for making this part easy, for the badge he can flash that isn't a fake, that won't get him arrested.
"Yeah," another girl tells him, her pixie haircut bobbing as she nods her head. "Her name was Carla, her momma sent her to the store and she never came back. La Llorona got her for sure."
They all agree and then ask him to play with them, to join their game. If they were still shy around him he would, because the fastest way to get kids to open up to authority figures if to play with them. There's no need for that now, though, so he politely declines, and they all wave to him as he gets in the car and drives off.
He checks into the story the children told him. La Llorona is a specific ghost in a generic story, a woman who murdered her children before killing herself, overcome with regret so horrible her heart must have ached. The English version is called a woman in white, yet the story is the same; murderous mother, bastard father, dead children. He finds a woman that fits the description, one who drove her car intentionally into the river with the windows down, her babies in the backseat, sound asleep and drugged with sleeping pills crushed into their milk. Her body was cremated but he checks in with relatives and finds that her mother kept her daughter's first braids, cut off and tied neatly with ribbon in a glass case that sits on the mantel of her now elderly younger sister's house. She gives them to him when he lies about evidence and DNA. He sounds so official, because he used to be, he still is, deep down he's the same eight year old boy who played cops and robbers more seriously than the game was intended, who was a cop every Halloween, who graduated with a degree in criminology and minor in psychology to help him get into the academy.
The braids are thin, delicate things, baby-soft and silky. They burn quickly, eaten alive by flames. His car stinks afterwards, the burnt smell of hair on the seats. He should have burned them outside, but he was caught up in the urgency of the situation. It's a rookie mistake he'll never make again. He dumps the ashtray out the window, thinks of little Carla Zumaya and the other sixteen kids in their watery grave, and he doesn't feel a lick of pride at a job well done. It's the same hollowness he gets after solving a murder, after the satisfaction of watching the bastard hauled off to jail the melancholy settles in, 'cause the victims never get any less dead and the families never feel any better.
He formally retires in May, a week and a half shy of the start of summer. No one seems to be surprised, in fact, they seem to have been expecting it, worse than that, they all seem to understand. He's heard what they say about him, that he's not quite right now, hasn't been since the massacre, since his prime suspects went down in a chopper accident before he had a chance to bask in the glory of their arrest. They call him broken, others mention PTSD, and a smaller minority says he's earned his retirement, seen enough and saved enough to call it quits. They don't know the half of it, they don't know that he's trading in his badge for ratty motels and endless driving and late nights spent digging up graveyards. He's not taking his pension to go out and golf on a beach somewhere, he's not going to spend more time with the wife and the kids. He's going on a new mission, a new hunt, a new life. He's a new Victor, hardened and amateur and ready to learn.
A demon takes to wearing five year old Jasinda Martin like a five dollar suit. He didn't set out to get a demon, just kind of happened upon it by a strange coincidence of fate. He manages to tie the struggling child down, little ankles and wrists tied to her bedposts.
His Latin is shitty at best and the demon laughs at him in an adorable child's voice.
"I'm glad you're sending me back." It hisses, biting Jasinda's tongue hard enough to draw blood that leaks red from the corners of her mouth. "Do you want me to say anything to Dean for you?" He pauses mid-reading, cold and disbelieving. Dean's a good man and he isn't dead, he isn't.
"I'll give him a kiss for you. I'll make him scream."
More smoke erupts from her throat than he thought such a tiny body could hold.
"You don't know what you're getting into."
He meets his first hunter in Michigan. They're both going after the same thing, something that steals hikers off trails and doesn't leave a trace, only a trail of drag marks that end abruptly like the creature has all of a sudden up and flown away.
"You do?" He sips from his cup of coffee and waits for Rufus to speak. He's been reading up about black dogs and skinwalkers, wendigos and werewolves. He brought silver bullets and homemade torches just to be safe.
"Wendigo." Rufus mops up the last of his eggs from his plate with a piece of soggy toast. "Worst thing you can find in the woods in Michigan is a wendigo."
"I'd had a feeling." Wendigo had been his first choice and he's set to memorizing the ancient symbols that can keep him safe, that'll keep the wendigo at bay.
"You ever hunted one before?"
"No." He can, he was planning to, only Rufus showed up out of the blue and now they're eating breakfast at four in the morning, sitting in red vinyl seats sticky with syrup.
"I'll give you a hand." It sounds like a suggestion but he knows it isn't. Rufus isn't going to steal this hunt from him.
He drinks more coffee; Rufus keeps on buttering his toast.
The bad side of hunting with two people is that someone inevitably ends up as the bait. Unfortunately, when a wendigo is involved, at least according to Rufus, both of them are bait, and setting a trap is about as useless as shooting the wendigo in the face. They stick together, loud as they can be; stomping and swearing and shouting, trying to attract its attention, get it interested. He can't imagine either of them would be tasty, too much muscle, not enough sweetness or fat. Rufus tells him wendigos are more interested in what's beneath the skin and muscle. The knowledge makes him think about Dahmer, about what he did, the cannibalism and psychological profile he studied for hours at his kitchen table. Wendigos are more noble, he decides, they have an excuse, there's no real malice behind what they do, only instinct. They don't eat people to keep them from leaving, their minds don't warp into something depraved and sick. Wendigos only want to fill their perpetually empty bellies.
The wendigo doesn't come until sunset, when the sky is pink and orange through the tops of the trees. It looks nothing like the pictures he's seen, the crude drawings. The wendigo is gray skin stretched over elongated bones, claws sharpened to points, curved and crusted with blood. He's seen terrible things in the last few months but nothing like this, mostly ghosts and other vengeful spirits, mummified and decomposing bones. The wendigo is beyond any of that, it's large and fast and smells like putrid flesh and blood. He hits it in the arm with the torch too late. He's not used to the way the wendigo moves, the inhuman speed. He gets a slash to the chest for his troubles and then he and Rufus are spraying it in the face and chest with fire, smelling the fry and hearing the sizzle as it burns. "It always like that?"
Rufus drives because he's holding a t-shirt against the claw marks on his chest to stop the bleeding.
"No." Rufus glances at his chest before turning his attention back to the road. "That was easy."
"Easy." His wound stings and he tastes the salt and copper of his own blood. "Right."
As strange as it is, he finds that he doesn't mind having a partner. He's used to sharing the workload with someone, having someone to watch his back. He can see why the Winchesters don't work alone, prefer to have each other. No one likes to be wholly, numbingly alone. "You know the Winchesters by any chance?" It's a shot in the dark but he's curious, needs to know.
"Everyone knows the Winchesters. They're good hunters, good boys too from what I remember. Dean had great taste in scotch."
"Last I heard Dean was dead, has been for a couple months."
His chest aches and the gashes have nothing to do with it. Dean seemed indestructible, incredibly gifted as can be at evading everything from the law to demons and death itself. He flashes back to the shrieking little girl, her dark promise, pushes the thought aside. Demons lie about everything. Demons always lie.
"How?" Dean saved his life, there's debt in that, a macho kind of repayment. A blood oath is a blood oath; his father told him when he was young. A life for a life. He can track it down and kill it if it's a monster, pull some strings and a little influence to arrest the person of it isn't. He owes Dean that much.
"Loved his brother too much." He thinks of the brothers he chased for months and months, every single sheet of paperwork, and that about sums it up to a T.
He spits blood, licks it from his lips. The taste is oddly sweet; he's getting used to it.
"Steaks to celebrate?"
"If you throw in something expensive and strong to drink."
He hears through the grapevine, through the contacts he's slowly accumulating one by one in a black address book, that Dean Winchester is alive. It's not the first time he's thought Dean was dead only to find out he's alive and kicking. Dean's good at dropping off the radar when he needs to. He considers going to find Dean, tell him what he's been up to, but there are demons going crazy across the country and rumors of the apocalypse are spreading fast as pollen in the wind.
He keeps hoping he'll run into them, that the three of them will show up for the same hunt, but they never do, and so he never does.
The apocalypse stops one day, smooth and abrupt as a summer rainstorm, raging briefly and then gone in the blink of an eye. There are more rumors that may be based on fact or may be the things hunters let themselves dream up late at night, bottles in their hands, crowded around tables in deserted bars. That's where he is when Garth Davis, the biggest gossip that ever thought to pick up a gun and hunt, mentions Dean Winchester getting out of the game, settling down. Garth says it condescendingly, like he knows there's no such thing as normal lives for hunters, like he knows from personal experience that Dean's an idiot for trying. Victor doesn't know what to make of it. Dean never struck him as that kind of guy, never seemed to want a nine-to-five job or a permanent place to go home to at night.
"You're shitting me." Garth's a gossip and a drunk but not a liar.
"Honest truth." Garth takes a swallow from his beer, wipes his mouth with the sleeve of his jacket. "Heard it from Singer, ain't a guy who knows more about the Winchesters than Singer." He hasn't met Bobby Singer himself, only knows of him, and knows that if you fuck with the Winchesters you're fucking with Singer too.
His hand has warmed the glass bottle of his beer but inside the liquid is still cold. "You take care of the thing over at the reservoir?"
"Kelpie." He chews on a stale peanut, tastes salt, sharp and distinct. "It's gone."
"It give you any trouble?"
What Garth means is you didn't need help?. There's prejudice among the hunters, older guys testing the strength of the new guys. He isn't so green, not anymore, his reputation is slowly growing. It's like working his way up the ranks of the justice system, uniform to detective to captain, inspector to special agent and beyond. He doesn't know half of what Garth knows, barely even a fourth, he'll get there someday if he lives long enough. He had a run in with a Fenrir that nearly bit a chunk out of his shoulder and a vampire that drained a good two pints of blood from him before he got enough leverage to sink his machete into its neck.
"Went down easy."
Garth grunts, and it's as much of a compliment as Victor is going to get.
"You interested in a string of demon possessions down in Louisiana?"
He's done his best to avoid demons the last two years. He can't forget the burn of sulfur in his throat, the thrum of consciousness that wasn't his own pounding alive inside his skull. What he can't get over is the things it whispered, all the horrible, vicious things it said it was going to do, told him to do to Dean. Cut, fuck, kill the mantra stuck on repeat.
"You don't want it?"
"Got a demonic cemetery thing up in Maine."
Garth is offering him the job because he thinks he can do it. He's going to take it and the words are trying to come out of his mouth before he's finished his latest swallow of beer.
"I'll leave tomorrow morning."
Garth slides him a folded up piece of paper, presses it beneath his fingertips.
"Look up Dean Winchester if things get too rough, see if he's really gone straight." Garth wants to know if the rumors are true, no more, no less. He can hear the implied you better call me, Henricksen.
Garth pays for the drinks and Victor eats peanuts one by one until the salt stings his throat worse than the demon in him ever did.
He doesn't wait to see if he gets in over his head. He goes straight to Dean. There isn't a man in the world he'd rather hunt demons with than Dean.
"Henriksen?" Dean gapes at him, all wide eyes and open mouth.
"Dean." Dean's wary for a second, looks around for handcuffs, for a waiting car. Victor hasn't had any of those things for a long time, two years and counting. "I think this is the first time I haven't tried to arrest you."
Dean grins at that and clasps his hand, draws him in for a quick hug, a strong slap on the back. It's nothing special but to Dean it is, the hug means he's a friend, that they've been through shit together.
"It's good to see you." Dean stands back, invites him in. There's a boy playing video games in the living room, grinning as he presses brightly colored buttons on a small plastic guitar. "We're having dinner soon, you gonna stick around?" Dean doesn't look like himself, not the Dean Victor knows, the Dean he spent months searching for convinced he was the worst thing to ever roam the night. To think about it now it seems obsessive, stalker-ish even. Dean has bags under his eyes and he's wearing a button up shirt, his hair is combed differently, and his breath smells like alcohol when it's barely five o'clock.
Lisa is a gorgeous, intelligent woman, gracious as she hugs him, gushes about how nice it is to meet a friend of Dean's. She made potatoes and roast for dinner, serves him a thick, dripping slice of beef, tells him to help himself to the gravy. It's one of the best meals he's had in weeks, hearty and hot, he can see the appeal in this, in a family. Objectively he can understand why Dean's here, but there's a tug to his heart, the one that thinks of possessed little girls and stains of blood, that says the lives he saves are worth the personal sacrifice. Truth be told, he misses having nights like this.
"So, how do you know Dean, Victor?"
He doesn't know how much she knows, how much the boy beaming at Dean knows about the things in the dark.
"We're in the same line of work."
"Ah." She clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth; she knows.
"No." He knows what Dean's thinking, he thought it himself for the first year, couldn't wrap his head around the thought of straight and narrow Henriksen, pride of higher law enforcement, out digging up graves and killing monsters in the night.
"I needed a new kind of excitement, I guess." Dean nods a nod that says they'll talk about it later, talk about it in depth. Victor sits and listens to Ben tell them a story about how he hit a triple in baseball practice and hates that they have to make things out of clay in art class because making vases is so lame and boring.
"Victor and I are going to go talk out on the porch, okay?" Dean kisses Lisa's forehead, tender and sweet.
"Go ahead; I'm going to help Ben with his Algebra homework."
"I'll be in to say good night to you later, buddy." Dean and Ben touch fists, the gesture clearly loaded with meaning.
Dean brings out the whiskey as soon as Lisa and Ben head up the stairs. Victor doesn't say a word, but Dean had a beer both before and during dinner, and the recycling bin is nearly full of empty bottles. It's Dean's business, however, not Victor's place to ask, so he accepts the whiskey and watches the amber liquid reflect the last rays of sunlight.
"You're serious about being a hunter?"
"Reeling in a tax cheats and white collar criminals wasn't enough. I wanted to do more."
Dean tips his head back, downs the last of his drink, throat muscles tensing as he swallows.
"Did you come here to tell me that?" He's not sure why he came here, only that he's glad he did. He wants to thank Dean for opening his eyes and showing him everything the world really is. Instead, he says:
"I'm investigating a demon possession fifty miles south." He has no right to ask Dean to leave his family, he just puts the words out there, lets Dean form the question himself.
"I don't hunt anymore. I gave it up. I'm trying out this whole domestic thing."
Victor imagines Sunday dinners, playing catch with Ben on the front lawn in the summer, the sizzle of bacon and eggs in the mornings, a peck on the cheek on his way to work.
"How'd Sam take the news?"
Dean is suddenly quiet, and he knows he's picked the wrong thing to say.
"Sam." Dean sounds like he's dying, like he wishes he was already dead. He doesn't say anything at first, just swirls whiskey around the bottom of his glass. He's staring out into the darkness rather than at Victor, grief stretching across his face like shadows. Victor has never seen Dean like this. The Dean he's always known is cocky and charming, white teeth and brilliant smiles. This is Dean alone and vulnerable, pain so open in his face it hurts Victor too. "He's fine with it; you could even say it was his idea."
"In case you change your mind, I'm staying at the hotel over on Lincoln."
He waits and for the first time in a long while, he watches the sun rise. He doesn't take enough time to appreciate the smaller things in life; good cups of coffee, a pretty woman in a bar, a fresh bag of rock salt. The early morning sky is gray that lightens to blue, sun perched low in the east. The scene is a dozen kinds of beautiful, something out of a painting, brushed out in water colors.
Dean pulls into the parking lot at twenty past six, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, a tan fishing vest, silver lure dangling from the front pocket. He isn't driving the Impala, and when Dean opens the door to step out, he sees Ben asleep in the passenger seat wearing a vest that matches Dean's.
"I promised him I'd take him fishing." Dean says it sheepishly but there's pride in his voice, a strange sadness too.
"Yeah." Dean grabs something from the back of his pickup truck; Victor catches a glimpse of a sliver flask tucked into his pants pocket. "You said you're going after a demon." Dean puts a shotgun into his hands, a shotgun he remembers, the shotgun Dean taught him to load with shell cases filled with salt. "Thought you might want this."
He has a shotgun of his own, of course, and from now on this is the one he is always going to use.
"Thanks." He wants to ask, because hunting is so much better with a partner, with someone to watch your back.
"See you around, Victor." He won't see Dean around, he's almost positive he'll never see him again. His chest is a little hollow at the thought.
"Goodbye Dean." He watches Dean go, then loads up his car.
He has work to do.