A/N: This is my first attempt at a chapter fic for this slash. It'll borrow heavily from several mythologies. Sorry ahead of time for the eye-dialect. I've never been any good at it. Hope you enjoy!
Dad's ETA is three hours when the doorknob jiggles. Dean's just finished brushing his teeth, has already gotten Sam to bed, and is leaving the bathroom when he hears the sound. It's not dad early, he knows that much, because dad is always on time. Always. The sound is easy to identify, Dean's heard it a million times as his father patiently tells him what he's doing right and what he's doing wrong, so he crosses the room on silent bare feet and shakes Sammy once very softly. His brother wakes with an open mouth and blurry eyes, little fists rubbing the sleep away as he looks up at Dean. It's rare for Dean to wake him, so Sam doesn't ask any questions out loud. His little brother is as close to high alert as he can get when he's this tired, and Dean's damn proud of him. He leads Sam across the room, opens the little cabinet beneath the sink and pushes him in before closing the door behind him and re-crossing the room. When he reaches the bed he picks up the gun his father left them and disengages the safety.
Human or monster, no one is supposed to come in when it's just him and Sammy.
When the door finally swings open the man on the other side is a complete stranger. The light from the bathroom is enough to highlight the square shape of his face, the bulk of his shoulders, and the grim set of his mouth. He's so focused on the task of being quiet he misses that Dean is standing there with the gun aimed until it's too late. He's crossed the salt line though, and that gives Dean a moment of pause. He's been trained to handle every evil thing that they hunt, and they don't hunt humans. Still, Sammy is in the cabinet. Sam is there and he won't stay there long because he's Sam. So Dean has to scare this guy off as quickly as possible.
The man grins, mouth curled into something that suggests more cruelty than joy, and then he holds up one hand and speaks in a heavily accented voice. Dean recognizes the accent, has heard it in James Bond movies and countless Star Trek episodes. "You vouldn't shoot me vould you leedle boy?" Russian, and not long off the boat by the thickness of it. He tries to figure out what this could possibly mean. Dad's not chasing anything Russian. They're here to go after an incredibly run of the mill poltergeist, and there's no way this man is connected to that.
Dean raises the gun a little higher and goes over every single one of the things his dad has taught him in the last few years. The first and most important lesson keeps repeating in his head. Don't pick up the gun unless you plan on firing. He waits for the man to take another step and then cocks the hammer back. "Mister I'll shoot you. Leave now."
The man isn't smiling anymore, isn't even pretending to care about begin nice. Instead he keeps both hands in Dean's sightline and glances around the room. "You vouldn't shoot me. I am just a man. Put the gun down."
He takes the next step and Dean doesn't hesitate. He keeps the gun pointed at the ten ring just like his dad taught him and pulls the trigger. It's not easy, but it's necessary and he can do it. Can do whatever it takes because Sammy's in the damn cabinet and there's no telling when he'll come out. Honestly despite crossing the salt line, despite what he said, Dean still kind of expects the man to stay up. To keep on his feet and keep coming just like the monsters are always supposed to. Instead the man crumples to the dingy and cigarette burned carpet, and Dean's left standing there with a gun in his hands and a murdered man on the floor.
There's a heavy silence now in the aftermath of the gunshot, and Dean has time to think that there's going to be a silence hanging over him the rest of his life before the second man rushes through the doorway and grabs him by the throat. Whatever the first guy was, this one doesn't even look vaguely human when he lifts Dean off the floor. He's dizzy, dizzier than is warranted for this short of a choking and his legs kick helplessly at the man as one broad hand grips Dean's small throat. His eyes travel over the man's angular face, past his thickly muscled shoulder to land on the cabinet. He sees the door open, sees Sammy peeking out at him, and has just enough strength to shake his head.
Of course Sam doesn't listen. He charges out of the cabinet at top speed and begins to punch the man with his tiny fists. Dean is both exasperated with and proud of Sam in that moment. Sam's face is screwed up in rage, and he hits ineffectually shouting the whole time, "Let go! Let go of my brother!"
As the light dims, as the world slips away from him Dean sees Sammy go flying, and his heart seizes in his chest as blackness claims him.
When he wakes up it's dark and he can't figure out why for a moment. There's the familiar sensation of movement, tires eating up the road as a car speeds along its path. He's woken to that sensation so much that it takes him a little bit to know that it's off, wrong. There's no Sammy pressed against him, no leather seat beneath him, and no sound of dad's music softly playing on the stereo. His throat hurts a lot, and he goes to rub it but finds that his hands are tied behind his back. This is bad, as bad as it's ever been, and he peers into the darkness trying to decipher where he has woken up. He can just make out lines, and he feels with his bare feet to find a slightly fuzzy texture that is somewhat familiar to him. This is a trunk. The size of it suggests a luxury sedan instead of the classic car he's used to, and the sound is too smooth to be the Impala's engine. He tries to use his feet to find the handle that newer cars often have, the last line of defense for car-jacking victims, but if it was ever there it's been removed. There's nothing in the trunk with him, he's unarmed, so he's on his own here.
Dad's taught him how to tense himself when he gets tied up, to makes sure that when he releases he'll have enough room to wiggle out of his rope, but he was unconscious when the kidnapper bound him so the ropes are too tight for that. Instead Dean runs his fingers over the material and is surprised to find they're made of hemp, plaited instead of wound, and that's pretty goddamn old-school. Desperation, the memory of Sammy being thrown down, forces him to begin struggling. It's a careful balance of keeping his energy and expending it to get free. Dad's taught him the best thing is to prepare yourself, wind up like a spring, and then when they open the door you surprise them. He can feel the ropes rubbing his wrists raw, feels blood and is silently thankful. Lubrication will help him slide free.
The right wrist comes out first, and Dean leaves the left wrist bound so he can use it as a anchor and the rope as a weapon. He stretches it taught and crouches down as best he can, preparing for when the trunk opens and he will strike. The car turns, right, right, left, and then comes to a slow stop, and Dean hears a garage door rumbling shut. When the trunk lid pops he waits, waits to see the man's legs through the slit, but they never come. He stays crouched for what feels like forever, is probably six or seven minutes, and then pushes the trunk lid up and looks around. The garage is empty of everything except the Cadillac he's just come from. He looks in the backseat and the front, but there's no kidnapper crouched down and no Sam. No Sam anywhere. The door to the outside has three locks on it, all deadbolts, and Dean has no tools to pick them with. To make matters worse there are no windows, and when he lifts the liner of the trunk up to look into the well there's no jack and no tire iron. Not even a spare. He grips the rope a bit tighter and heads for the only door that's there, the one that is open just a bit. It leads into a brick-floored room with shelves filled with boots and coats. As far as Dean can tell from size and style they all belong to a woman, and he moves low to the ground and quiet just like dad taught him. He hears bubbling, the sound of water boiling in a pot, and a grumbling male voice speaking in what he assumes is Russian.
When he steps through the next open door he finds himself in a big and well-lit kitchen. The man that took him is sitting at a table, rubbing his neck and looking ashamed. The woman standing in front of the stove though, she's Dean's main focus the minute he sees her. She's dressed in an old-fashioned gown, ankle-length and heavily decorated. She's got an olive complexion, eyes so dark blue they could be black, hair to match, and angular features that swim somewhere between beautiful and severe. She purses dark red lips as she considers Dean, and then drops a few items into the pot before turning to the man at the table. She speaks in the same language, just as heavily accented as his, and her words carry the tone of a disappointed school-teacher to her least favorite student. When the man stands up and takes a step forward Dean feels dizzy, nauseous, and he steps back and slams into the wall behind him.
The woman tilts her head, almost smiles when Dean lifts the rope again in warning, and then holds a knife out to the big man waiting for him to take it so she can turn back to the pot and whatever it is she's boiling. The man takes one more step towards Dean and he grips the rope tighter. If he's going to die here he'll go down fighting, but first he needs to make sure Sammy is ok. He's about to speak, to force words through his abused throat and demand they show him his little brother, but before he can another woman steps in and shouts a harsh word in Russian. There's silence in the kitchen now except for the water boiling, and Dean sees the dark woman look towards the window and narrow her eyes at the slight lightening of the sky outside.
The girl in the doorway is younger, maybe just out of her teens, and dressed in a similar fashion to the lady at the stove. She's pretty in a softer way, skin smooth and porcelain colored, lips pale pink, and a bushy mass of golden hair swarming around her face. She looks like she just woke up, hands rubbing at her golden eyes and mouth moving in a yawn before it forms words. She speaks in English the second time, her accent slight and soft, rolling the vowels out a little too long. "I claim him."
The man with the knife looks in between the two of them, indecision written in every line of his expression. The dark lady steps forward, one finger pointing and her words in English now too, but hard and harsh. "You are making a mistake. Ve vill kill him and then take care of the other one."
Dean realizes what this means, and there's a flood of relief mixed in with his fear. They didn't get Sammy. They didn't get him, but they're planning to. He grips the rope and steps forwards, but the dizziness washes over him hard and he hits the wall again. The golden-eyed girl looks him up and down and then turns to the kidnapper. "Blud. Leave immediately. Your time is done."
As if it was a magic spell the man disappears, the knife clattering to the floor, and Dean snatches it up before either lady can go for it. His nausea and dizziness it already gone, a fading memory leaving him with nothing but desperation. He lets the rope trail and holds the knife up in the Hammer grip his dad taught him. Dean takes a second, swallows hard against the lingering pain in his throat, and then gestures at them with the knife.
"Nobody hurts Sam." He can barely speak above a whisper, and it shouldn't be heard over the boiling of the pot but it is. The golden girl smiles softly, the dark woman's lips sneer, and Dean's in so much agony after only that he's pretty sure they made him swallow glass while he was asleep.
"Fine. No one hurts Sam. I will claim both of you." The golden girl smiles as if this is the perfect solution, but Dean's pretty sure he doesn't want to be claimed. The dark woman's reaction is immediate, violent, and she throws her spoon down and tips over the pot. The soupy mixture inside of it goes hissing across the burner and the stove, there's a minor flare-up of fire, and then she's standing in the boiling liquid with her chest heaving and her finger pointed again at the younger woman.
"How dare you. How. Dare. You. Daz vill never allow this." She waves one hand and begins speaking in rapid Russian, her dark eyes moving between Dean, the golden girl, and the window where the sun is rapidly rising. She stops mid-sentence, all the fire going out of her almost instantly as the sunlight becomes full morning instead of dawn. She's holding herself up by the countertop as her eyes roll back to the golden girl and rest on her. "Daz vill never allow this." There's no strength left in her voice now, and the golden girl moves forward and takes her elbow gently before leading her away from the stove and the spilled soup.
"Daz will have to allow it sister. They are both eligible, and this is my time. I am within my rights. Go to bed Vecher. To bed. It is very late for you." Her voice is soothing, soft, and the dark woman lets herself be led to the doorway and then released. She totters down the hall and then it is only Dean and the golden girl.
He watches her cross back over to the fridge and pull out a bottle of water. She places it on the table and then steps back and gestures at it. "Please. Sit Dean Winchester, and we will discuss what all of this means for you."
Dean stares at her warily and then goes to the bottle of water, never relinquishing his grip on the knife even as he fumbles with one bloody hand to unscrew the cap and drink. It's cold, and wonderful, but he keeps it to small sips just as dad taught him. When he's done it's a little easier to speak. "I want Sam."
Her eyes are sad now, and so bright it's almost hard to look at them. He does anyway, keeps his gaze locked with hers because he'll be damned if she'll lower his guard and then sneak up on him. "I know you do. I know you do sweetling but you cannot have him. You can never return to your brother."
Dean wants to cry. It's the first reaction and the hardest to resist. There's so much finality in her voice that he can't stand it, but he pushes forwards anyway, eyes wet but no tears dropping. "Why? Is Sammy gonna be alright?"
She pushes herself up so she's sitting on the countertop, her legs swinging from it and her feet tapping lightly against the cabinet doors. "Sam will be just fine. I have claimed him as my own, and no one will touch him. It is the same with you. As for the why…do you know what destiny is sweetling?"
Dean nods and then sits. He doesn't have enough fight left for much more. If she comes at him, or her crazy sister comes back he'll use the knife as best he can. In the meantime he needs to sit. His throat still hurts, his wrists are burning, and he's working hard to look tough. She lets him get by with just the nod and watches him swallow more water before she speaks.
"Destiny is intent that your brother is going to be a part of something very important. Something my sister and I are supposed to stop that something. My sister believed that the way to do this was to kill your little brother."
She stops as if she's expecting it, and if she was Dean doesn't disappoint. He pushes up from the table and drops the knife in his anxiety. "She can't-you can't let her-I gotta get to Sammy. He's alone." The panic is overwhelming, so much so that it takes him a while to realize that if the sun is coming up dad has long since arrived. They must be looking for him. Dad will probably find him any minute. Which is when it occurs to Dean that the best course of action is to wait for that. He may not like the idea of being rescued, but if it's his only option then he'll let it happen.
"She will not kill your brother. I have claimed him for my own, like I told you, and he is under my protection now. Which is why it will be my plan we now implement. We will keep you away from your brother. This, I believe, will stop your brother's destiny."
Destiny. It's a heavy word and it has Dean sitting again. What could Sammy possibly be destined to do that would concern them? Sammy's tiny, innocent, and so sweet it hurts sometimes to think what the world will do to him one day. What will happen when he knows the truth about what's around him.
"What's Sammy gonna do? Why are you gonna stop it?"
At this she pushed off the counter, landed lightly on her bare feet and crossed the room so that she could sit across from Dean and put her chin in her hands. It made her look much younger, and Dean was fairly certain she was the prettiest woman he'd seen since mom. "I will tell you a story sweetling. It is fairly long, but very important. When I am done we will see if it has answered your questions."
She tapped her jaw once thoughtfully and then nodded, eyes focusing in on him as he took the next swallow. "A long time ago there were two little girls. They were sisters, and they were different as night and day. Once they were old enough their father gave them a terrible task. A burden that was to consume their lives entirely, but both sisters believed in their father, and they believed in the work he wanted them to do…"
When the story is finished Dean goes to take a long swallow of his water and realizes he's finished it somewhere in the middle. He understands what she's hinting at, gets the implications just fine really, but applying it to Sam is a little harder. "Sammy would never…that couldn't happen."
She tilts her head and stares at him for a long time, her face considering and open. Whatever she sees makes her smile once and then nod and lower her hands to the table. "I believe that this is the way to stop this outcome. I also know it is the only way to keep Samuel safe. It is ultimately your decision whether or not you go back to him, but if you do he will never be safe. My protection can only exist while the two of you are apart. Eventually someone outside my family will come up with the same plan my sister had."
Dean thinks about that for a while. It has more than a ring of truth, and so far the girl has been nothing but nice and considerate. That doesn't mean she's good, it just means she's easier to get along with than her bitchy sister. If she's right though… Dean doesn't want to say it out loud because it feels like a betrayal, but Sam's come first for seven years, and Dean's not willing to change that habit now. "But if…without me Sammy only has dad. Dad's-" He swallows hard, and she looks so damn sympathetic and understanding it makes him a little angry.
Her fingers stroke the table idly as she considers this. "I am no prophetess, no seer of visions, but I would imagine your father will leave your little brother with someone who can care for him properly. I can keep an eye on him for this purpose, and if he does not we can do something about it. Would that ease your fears Dean Winchester?"
He nods once and she smiles brightly. Her delicate little hand comes out, and Dean sees how the sunlight seems to catch her eyes. How it reflects back like two little miniature suns staring at him. He winces from the light and then it's gone. He considers her hand for a long time before he takes it, and when they shake she lifts his hand afterwards and kisses the palm. "We must clean these wounds. I think-"
A hard male voice calls from beyond the doorway, something in Russian that Dean can't understand, and she stands abruptly before leaving the table without a word. She's gone for several minutes, and Dean can hear the conversation fairly clearly although it doesn't do him much good. She says the name she and her sister said earlier, Daz, several times. When she's finished she comes back into the kitchen and her face is slightly paler. Her smile has a tight quality Dean recognizes all too well, diplomatic and strained with no feeling behind it.
"I am afraid your wrists must wait a little bit longer. We are to leave immediately. This new place will be our home, and you will be safe there. Is that alright with you?"
Dean studies the way her hands tremble at her sides, how lost and unsure she looks, and for some reason it makes him feel much the way he feels when Sammy has that expression. "You're in trouble." He doesn't have to be an adult to see that or to understand it. He's been in trouble enough times as it is. "You're in trouble because you're helping me."
She glanced once at the doorway and then settled her eyes back on Dean. "Yes. Let us leave now before the punishment is worse than banishment."
So Dean leaves with her. They take the same Cadillac, and Dean is relieved when she turns the radio on and it plays classic rock just like dad would. She sings along sometimes, voice low and sweet, and Dean feels himself drifting off somehow. Despite the intensity of the situation, despite the weirdness of it, he's ready to simply lay back if that's what's required. If she's telling the truth about checking up on Sam then maybe this will be alright. Dean's not sure about her claims, about Sam's destiny, but he remembers the night of the fire well enough to know that there's something about Sam that carries a weight.
There's nothing easy about not being with Sam though. No one knows how bad his little brother's nightmares get, and they won't know how to soothe him. They won't know that he has to be held, head to heartbeat, and that he has to be rocked while you rub his back counterclockwise. It's almost a science between them at this point, and Dean knows the entire ritual so well he can do it half-asleep. They won't know that sometimes Sam likes his milk on the side of his cereal, or that he can't have his food touching other food. On top of all of that is the longing Dean suddenly feels, strange and heavy, to simply see Sam one more time. To know that he's alright, that the man didn't hurt him too much, that he understands what Dean is doing for him. He can't stand the idea that Sam will think he abandoned him. As if she senses it, the golden girl pulls over at a gas station and picks up a pay phone handset. She dials a long string of numbers and then offers it to Dean without a word.
The phone rings twice and then Sam answers. It's like a damn miracle. His little brother sounds tired, strained, and infinitely sad. "Winchester."
Dean swallows the sudden onset of tears and looks over to her bright and shining eyes. "Hey Sammy. It's Dean. How are you kiddo?"
"Dean? Dean where are you? Dad's looking for you!" Sam's voice is instantly brighter, full of hope and love. It makes holding the tears back that much harder. He can see Sam in his mind's eye, still dressed in his over-sized sleep shirt and bare foot. Sam twisting the phone cord around one tiny finger and smiling in that way that makes the world a little more bearable every time.
"Can't tell you that Sammy. Can't tell you much of anything other than I'm alright, and I've gotta go away. Listen kid if I-I love you Sam. More than anything. Don't ever forget that ok? But I gotta do this for everybody. Tell dad I'm sorry."
There's silence for a moment, and then a harsh intake of breath that Dean knows is the precursor to tears. "Dean? Dean was I bad? I'm sorry I hid! I'm sorry! Please don't leave I'll be-"
He has to cut Sam off, has to, because every word is a new knife in his heart. "No. No Sam you weren't bad. You were never bad. This isn't your fault ok? It's mine. I gotta do this to keep us both safe. Don't ever think it's your fault Sammy 'cause it ain't. Now tell me you love me."
Sam sucks in one wet breath before the next, and then says thickly, "Love you Dean. Always. Always."
He rubs at his eyes and feels about a hundred years old and lower than dirt. "You too kiddo. I'll be watching out for you. Always."
He hangs up before anything else can be said, before Sam breaks his resolve to stay away. The golden girl seems to understand, doesn't try to touch him or comfort him. Instead she gets back into the car, and pointedly looks away while Dean sobs and bangs his fist against the pay phone. When he gets back in the car with her he's dry-eyed and resolute.
"Where are we going?"
"Maryland. A town called Finksburg." Her fingers tap restlessly on the wheel as she turns off the major highway and gets onto a smaller one. "We will have to stop at nightfall. I am not my best during those hours."
"What'll we be doing there?" He watches her fingers, watches how sometimes she pats and sometimes she strokes, watches her face for clues as to how she's feeling. He's not getting a whole lot off of her, and he's usually pretty good at reading faces.
"Running a bar. It will be hard work, but I believe that we can do it. Is that alright with you?"
It's not the first time she's asked this question, and Dean's torn on how to answer. It isn't, not really, because anything that requires making Sam cry isn't alright. Still, it has to be because there's nothing else to do. Because maybe she's right, and him staying will put Sam into danger in the future.
"What's your name?"
She smiles once, bright and fleeting like the sun peeking out from behind a cloud. "You may call me Utre. It is close enough for government papers."
Dean bites back a laugh and looks ahead to the road sprawling in front of them. Watches the clouds race through the sky and the trees buzz past. "Work. Close enough for government work Utre."
She waves her hand in a noncommittal gesture. "Whatever."
She sleeps like the dead at night, and it occurs to Dean that if he wanted to he could run. The problem is that the longer he stays near her the more he believes that she's right. That Sam has a destiny, and that it's not good. It hurts, it hurts like he always imagined dying would, but he has to do it. Has to protect Sam. So he stays up at night staring at the phones in the motel rooms they're in and wondering what Sam's doing. What dad's doing. What everyone is doing, and if his phone call only incited his father's concern, or if it lessened it just a bit.
He wonders if dad will start training Sam. If Sam will one day be the hunter Dean always thought he would be. It's unlikely really, but more importantly Dean doesn't want it to happen. He wants Sam to stay Sam. Big eyes all full of brimming child-like wonder. He wants Sam to stay as untouched as he possibly can. Some nights it's so hard to not call them that Dean has to clench his fists and sit on his hands, bouncing in place to keep himself from moving just those few feet to the phone. When she wakes in the morning, always morning just as the sun begins to rise, she'll look at him without asking. Whether it's because she knows the answer, or if she just trusts him not to Dean never asks. He wants it to be the second, but he suspects the first is equally true.
The last day of their trip, as they're crossing the border into Maryland, Dean leans over and turns down the volume on Foghat. "What did you mean when you said Sam and I qualified to be claimed?"
She taps the wheel for a few seconds to the beat of the song and then glances his way once. "You are warriors. Warriors fall underneath my purview."
"Your what?" Dean hates and loves it when she uses these words. Hates that he has to ask, and loves that he can file them away to use in the future. Dad always taught him that sharpening your mind was as important as sharpening your knives.
"Purview. My domain. I am in charge of caring for and paying attention to certain things, and warriors are one of them. Because you are both warriors I can claim you and protect you." She smiles once, almost wistfully, and then her mouth straightens as she changes lanes to go around an accident on the side of the road. Dean watches the lady from one car shout at the lady from another, and then turns his attention back to what she's saying.
"Wait. Ok. I can see me, but how's Sammy a warrior?" He pictures Sam again as he usually does these days, little scrawny legs and chubby cheeks drowning in cotton.
"Are you familiar with the concept of loopholes sweetling?"
He frowns at the nickname even though he's gotten to like it a bit. "Yes. Ways around a rule. Dad uses them all the time."
Her grin is contagious. "Yes. Very good. Well I had a loophole. Your father gave your brother a gun to shoot at the monster in the closet. Sam took up a weapon in his defense, and that is the trait of a warrior."
Dean has to laugh, can't help it, and her smile broadens when he does. "But there wasn't anything there. And Sammy never fired he just held the gun and cried."
"Ah yes, this is so, but is it not also so that he looked into the closet while he held it?" Her eyebrow arches as she asks, turning onto another backroad and speeding up a bit.
"Well…yeah he did. Does that really count?"
"For the purposes of this, yes it does. I was not challenged, so I do not have to argue it much. Once the claim is cemented it cannot be undone."
Dean watches road signs fly by for a while without talking, but she doesn't turn the volume back up. He's fairly certain she expects the next question. "How's he doing?"
If she talks to anyone about it Dean's never seen it, but he knows by now she doesn't lie to him. Not even when he wants her too. Her answer proves that to be true.
"He cries a good deal. Your father has left him with a woman named after a state. A psychic I believe. Still, he is physically unharmed and receiving meals on a regular basis of much better quality than before. She knows that he requires distance between each food item." Her face is grim as she turns again, and the road stretches out before them like every road always has in Dean's life.
They ride together quietly, and Dean turns the volume back up to show he's done. If it pleases or upsets her she never says, and he can't tell.
When they finally reach the place they're supposed to stay she parks in the back and leads him around. They don't have luggage, he's not sure when he'll be able to change out of his pajamas or what's waiting for them inside. The building is old and grand from the outside. The heavy oak door has an ornate knob, and she pauses once on the step and looks up at the sun burning brightly above them. Her face is sad, thoughtful, and Dean doesn't bother holding in the question.
"What's wrong Utre?"
She continues to stare up at the sun, and then her mouth firms into a line and she touches the doorknob. He watches the door swing open without a sound, and cold air from inside the building whooshes out to greet them. It smells vaguely stale, and Dean has to consider that this place has been empty for a long time.
"I am committing this sight to memory. I may never see it again." The words are heavy, slow, and she steps through the doorway the way movie characters walk to their own executions. Dean glances once up into the sky and then follows her in. The bar is broad, spacious, and filled with places that need repair. There are no windows, and the wood floor is old and badly scarred. The bar-top is in a similar condition and Dean gets a splinter running his fingers over it. He tries to squeeze it out while he finally responds to Utre.
"Why do you think that? You'll see it when you go outside to get stuff."
She takes his hand and gently works at the splinter. Eventually it comes out enough she can use her nails to pluck it totally from his skin. "That will be your job I am afraid. I am not allowed to leave this place. It is a provision of my punishment. Come, let us go and see what there is to see here."
Punishment. He knew that her being sent away from the grand house they were in was something bad, but he never considered that she would be a prisoner where they were headed. It lends a new angle to her, makes her less Dean's keeper and more his equal. He's almost ashamed at how glad that makes him. Still, if she wants to ignore it he won't force her to get emotional about it. He's ok with letting things slide in the interest of avoiding conversation. Perfectly skilled in pretending everything is alright.
"Ok. Let's do that."
There's a long hallway behind the bar that smells mustier than the main room did. Three doors split off of it, one has steps leading down into darkness, and the other two are storage, refrigerated and normal. She finds a light for the stairs, and they're confronted with a giant brewing apparatus that has gone tarnished and dull over the years of neglect. Dean's seen enough of them on beer commercials to be able to tell her what it's for, and he gets a little thrill out of being the knowledgeable one for once.
There's a flight of stairs at the back of the hallway that lead up, and above the bar is an apartment. The living area has a ratty couch, no television, and still no windows. Dean frowns at that, realizes it's probably on purpose. Four doors lead off the living area, and she immediately goes to the one that looks different from the others. The wood is so dark it's almost black, and the doorknob is done in the shape of a wolf's head. She stares at it for a long minute before turning back to Dean.
"This door, sweetling, must never be opened. Can you promise me that? It is an extension of our purpose here, and opening it would cause great harm." Her voice is somber for once, serious, and Dean nods. He can resist temptation. He's not one of those stupid kids from fairy tales that always has to go where he's told not to. He thinks of Blackbeard for a moment, remembers how badly it scared Sammy the first time he heard it, and almost grins.
The other three doors are the openings to two bedrooms and a bathroom. Dean stares distrustfully into the bathroom for a while, and then turns back to her. "Does this place even have running water?"
She shrugs, tests one of the beds, and then sits on it and looks around. "We have a fund for bringing it back to life. Some of the work though we must do ourselves. Are you opposed to hard work?"
Dean shakes his head and looks around. "Not even a little. But we're gonna need supplies."
Every evening as the sun begins to set he sits across from her at the table and asks about dad and Sam. Every night she gives him a report that varies from very good to somewhat bad. Sam takes a long time to adjust to Dean being gone, cries a lot, but after three months it seems he's settled into his life with Missouri. Dad is working hard to both find the demon that killed his mother and to find Dean. Utre says that he is taking fewer life-threatening hunts in the interest of focusing more fully on those two things. Dean's glad.
It takes four months to fully restore the inside. Dean spends a lot of time on the internet looking up techniques and tips, decorating ideas, anything and everything necessary to run a bar. Utre stands over his shoulder occasionally and shakes her head as he moves from webpage to webpage. He checks books out of the library when he thinks the websites don't go into enough detail, and it doesn't take long for Dean to meet everyone in town.
He tells them all the same story, that he is Utre's son, that they moved there from Kansas, that she's not well and so she can't go out much. When several ladies in the town bring pie to welcome them and check her out in person Dean works very hard not to laugh. He and Utre devour each pie in a matter of days. They have to call in for some things. No one local has a sander the size Dean requires to work on the floors, and the local hardware shop only has so many types of varnish and paint. Utre lets him make the majority of the aesthetic decisions, and in between scrubbing, painting, varnishing, and sanding she gives him lessons. He learns more with her than he ever did in the many schools he's attended over the years.
Dean teaches her slang, corrects her every time she messes up old sayings, and makes sure that she gets to bed every night when the sun goes down. It always surprises him how quickly she flags when the light leaves, as if there's a timer in her body set for it. Despite how small she is Dean watches her do things even his dad couldn't do, but when the sunset arrives she's weak as a kitten.
At the end of four months they order the supplies to brew their own beer, she follows his instructions to order the rest of the bar stock, and the squabble about whether or not to serve food. She's for the idea, but Dean isn't too pleased at the prospect of being her short-order cook. She has to hire someone to run the bar at night because he still looks too young to be in charge of such a thing. The day before they open she sits him down and runs her fingers over the tabletop as she considers what she wants to tell him.
"The daytime will be special. For special guests. The nighttime will be for people. When you are old enough we will put you in charge of some of the nights. Until then you must stay close to me, or else the people in this town will complain. We cannot afford attention from bureaucracy. You understand right?"
Dean nods. He's familiar with avoiding the sort of attention that comes from government agencies. They've spent years avoiding child protective services in so many states it's hard to count them all. "So we're sticking with the story that I'm your son?"
Her eyebrows go up, big eyes widening impossibly further, and Dean realizes he's never told her what lie he used on the townspeople. "My son? You are wishing to be my son?"
He feels a blush rise, fights it off, and fails miserably. "Well-I mean it's just a story Utre. It's no big deal."
He sees the way her smile brightens, how her eyes go liquid and soft. "Of course. No big deal. Yes that is true." But the hand she places over his is tender, and suggests that she isn't taking it as just a lie. Dean's kind of ok with that.
The daytime patrons are almost universally hostile towards him at first. There are a few exceptions, but most connect him to the destiny they are trying to avert or to her punishment. He's only guilty on the one thing, but he lets them work out their aggressions as long as they never cross any lines. When he turns fifteen one of them says something denigrating about Sammy, and Dean grabs the back of his head and slams it into the bar top. The whole place went silent, Utre appeared silently behind him, and the blond Irishman stared at Dean for a long time. The silence had stretched out, the longest seconds of Dean's relatively short life, and then the man had begun to laugh, and the rest of the bar followed suit. He held out one hand and Dean shook it and tried to mask his confusion.
"Ho boy, a good one on me. Good one indeed. I'll be watching me mouth from now on." He ordered another beer and wandered off with a wink and a smile. Dean waited until he was fully gone before turning to Utre.
"What the fuck was that?"
Her grin was overwhelming as always, and she rubbed at his short bristly hair before turning back to pour a glass of whiskey. She held it out to him and nodded in encouragement when he took a drink. "That is your becoming of a man I believe. They will watch their mouths now. It is a certainty."
She wandered off, and left Dean to figure out what the full implications of such a thing were.
She lets him take the bar over at night when he turns seventeen. Dean has spent the last six years dividing his time between helping her, learning, and using the cadillac to go outside of city limits late at night and train the way his father taught him too. Some days she closes the bar and they move the tables out of the way to spar, but Dean's always torn between the need to win and the need not to hurt her. It takes a while to figure out that he can't. Not in the daytime anyway.
He's finally stopped growing, and has built the muscles necessary to intimidate the majority of the patrons that come in. It's strange that time passes, but Utre never changes. She was delicate before, she's like a doll now, and he often looks down at her and wonders if this is how it will always be. Sometime he rests his arm on her head and tells her how perfect her height is for just such a thing. She splutters sounds at him and bats lightly at his arm, but her smile never lessens.
Dean likes manning the bar at night. Gets along with a lot of the locals, enjoys the banter and the gossip. He's a big favorite of most of the ladies there, and it doesn't go unnoticed by their husbands or boyfriends. He gets along with the men just fine though, has no issues with most of them, and those that start trouble find themselves booted out the door. As time goes by he finds that the bar work is easier than he ever thought it would be. Sometimes he hustles pool the way his dad did, some nights when he's only helping the part-timer he plays cards with the locals, and usually he cleans up.
The stories about Sam keep pouring in. Utre tells him how Sam is achieving more in school than anyone could have predicted. How he's skipped a grade and entered high school a year early. She relates a tale of Sam handing some bullies their asses, and Dean can't contain the "'Atta boy Sammy" that slips out of his mouth. Utre's smile is fond and sweet. Dean eats the stories up, spends the night running them over and over in his head as he tries to imagine what his little brother looks like now that he's growing up. He asks Utre if she can get a photo but she's fairly certain she can't.
In the meantime Dean keeps busy, and when he suggests to Utre that he may want to do a hunt that's come up nearby she looks at his research thoughtfully for a long time. "You will be careful sweetling? No dangerous heroics?"
Dean nods like an overeager kid, enthusiastic at the idea of keeping up with the work his father started when he was only four. She taps the research he's printed out again and then sits back and holds up both hands. "Who I am to say this is an idiot's errand? By all means, go to your hunting."
It's her way of telling him she approves, and he stands and kisses the top of her bushy hair gently. "Fool's errand Utre. It's a fool's errand."
"That is what I was saying yes."
His first hunt alone goes spectacularly bad, and he returns with a wide variety of injuries, but a victory against the ghost that had been killing local bankers. Utre studies each of the injuries carefully, hands smoothing over them and bandaging them without a word. When she's finished Dean watches the way she looks at him before trying to keep the defiance to a minimum. "I'm going to do it again. It's good work."
She nods once and stands, lips pursing tightly as she looks off into the distance. "Yes of course you will. I knew that. It is my bedtime Dean. Good night."
He makes it up to her a few weeks later, has workmen come in at night while she is dead to the world and install his present. When she gets up the next morning and sees it her eyes go hazy for a long second, and then she turns and pulls him into a tight embrace. He always forgets how strong she is until these moments. "You wonderful boy. You wonderful, thoughtful, pig-headed boy. How I love you."
He shakes his head once, hugs her back, and then steps away. "We talked about this. No chick flick moments."
She wipes at her eyes and takes in his smile. "Yes. Yes of course. Go to bed now sweetling. It is my turn to man the bar."
They fight sometimes, loudly and with great abandon. When the report of Sam comes back and Dean finds out that his father took Sam on a hunt that ended with Sam in the hospital Dean shouts at her to let him visit Sammy. To at least let him call the kid.
"He's my goddamn brother. He's gonna wonder why I'm not checking in on him. You told me he'd be safe!"
She shakes her head angrily and pushes her way up from the table, the setting sun taking its toll on her. "I told you he would be safer. I did not promise he would go through life unharmed. If you are allowed to throw yourself into the fire why is Sam not allowed the same freedom?"
"Because he's a fucking kid Utre! Because he's not-damn it he's not like me. He's not made to hunt evil sons of bitches alright? He's made to be smart and successful. Why can't dad see that? Why won't you let me at least fucking call him?" He has to clench his fists to avoid attacking, to avoid going too far because his anger is so intense he can barely see straight.
"He is older than you were when you started this path. If he wishes to not hunt things he will not hunt things. As for calling him, this is not the time in which you should be doing this thing. I will not argue this with you further Dean. I am going to bed."
"Fine. Go to bed. Maybe I'll just take the goddamn car and go myself. How'll you like that?" He watches her eyes narrow, and then she looks away and uses the wall to hold herself up. The sun has been set for half an hour now, and it's like all the life has drained out of her.
"You will do what you do. I cannot stop you. Good night Dean."
Dean doesn't go, but he does get into two fights with local men. The first is simply verbal, but the second is incredibly physical. He breaks the man's nose for pushing a girl, and when the battle is done he comes away with busted knuckles, a black eye, and bruised ribs. When she sees the damage in the morning she surveys it all with a wary eye and lets it go. They don't talk about it again.
The day of Dean's twenty-first birthday the special daytime customers make a huge deal out of it. One of them, a woman with curves for days that Dean is told to call June, brings in the biggest cake he's ever seen. Utre gives him a car of his own, as the Cadillac is old and he complains often about it. She can't see his reaction when he lays eyes on it for the first time, but she's there when he comes back in and sweeps her up. She's light, and he swings her in circles for several revolutions and then pulls her in so tight he hears creaking. She's laughing and pushing at him, and he sees many of the regulars laughing and smiling right along. He knows them all from when he was young and helped her during the day, and he's started to think of some of them as family. It feels good.
Vecher makes sure to ruin that feeling. She comes at night while Dean is drinking with two of the local men, cards spread out in front of them and a fair amount of money on the table.
Larry looks her up and down before turning back to Dean and wiggling an eyebrow. "Why do all the ladies love you Dean? It's not fair."
Dean can't even make himself laugh, manages a sickly smile and waves Larry off, forfeiting the hand, "That's my aunt."
Larry looks her up and down for a moment before letting out a low whistle. "Just as pretty as her sister." He gathers up the remains of the card game and disappears into the crowd. Vecher takes Larry's seat and stares hard at Dean until he can't take the silence anymore.
"Come to wish me a happy birthday?" He looks around, but there's none of the daytime crowd visible. Just Vecher, himself, and a bar full of humans. Utre is too far gone in sleep to possibly wake up for this.
"If I had my vay you vould not be celebrating this day. But my opinion is of no consequence is it Dean Vinchester?"
Dean keeps his face relaxed even as his hands tighten. "I have never understood why you have to be such a bitch all the time. It ain't a family thing if Utre is any indication."
He watches her nostrils flare, dark eyes going momentarily black hole heavy and then she leans over the table and practically hisses. "You have no idea vhat you are saying do you? You have no idea what leedle Dean Vinchester is. Of course not. She babies you and you play with her emotions. Vhat do you think calling her mother does? You say it so casually, but it is a heavy thing. You vill be the death of her. The death, and here you sit making funny as if it is nothing."
That gives him a moment of pause, and he considers her even as he weighs her words. "What are you talking about you crazy bitch?I would never hurt Utre."
She sits back, face victorious and ugly in its smile. "How good of her to hide it from you. How sweet. But if it vas the voman who gave it all away, who has done everything for you against your precious leedle brother which vould you pick? Ask her vhat taking you in really meant. Vhy she is locked here out of the sun. Ask my sister vhy she took you in, knowing you are destined to kill her."
With that Vecher stands, flips her long dark hair over her shoulder like the female bully in a teen movie, and strides out of the bar without another word. Dean waves Larry off, heads to the bar, and orders more whiskey.
When he stumbles into the apartment upstairs he's so drunk he can barely find his feet. The sun is rising and he finds his way to her bed without having to try too hard. She wakes instantly, eyes bright as she rubs the sleep from them.
"Sweetling? What is the matter?" Her voice is curious, soft, and it makes him remember Vecher's accusations even more clearly. He manages to kneel beside the bed and look her in the eye.
"Vecher says I'm gonna kill yah. Says it's destiny. 'S that true? Am I your death Utre?" It hurt to say it. Hurts to ask, but goddamn it he has to know. Because that one statement haunts him. if it was Utre or Sammy, his sort of mom or his little brother, then he'd pick Sam. Pick Sam each and every time and damn the consequences.
Her eyes go big and soft, and she curses quietly in Russian. "My sister has a big mouth and little concern for the wounds her words cause." It's not a denial though. Not even a little bit and Dean knows why. Utre won't lie to him, has never lied to him. Apparently she won't start now.
Unbidden he pushes her shoulder hard and she falls back into the pillows. He's over her, straddling her and gripping her tight, shaking her to punctuate each word. "Why? Why me? Why?"
It isn't until she touches his face that he realizes he's crying. That ten years of fear and pain and bottled up emotion have finally broken loose. "Shhh, shush sweetling. It is alright. You are alright. You are just very drunk, and this is making you emotional. Lie down sweetling, lie down and sleep."
"I don't want to kill you. I don't want it." He sounds so petulant, so childish, but Igoddamn it/I why does this have to happen? Why does it always have to be him?
"Destiny," she sounds like she's repeating a half-remembered truth, "is like a spoiled child. She pushes and pushes to have her way. We do not have to let her have it. Do you understand Dean? I do not believe that we are doomed to follow her orders. So stop crying sweetling. I trust you. When the time comes you will make the right choice."
He lets her lead him down, buries his face in her shoulder and lets it all out. The guilt that he is apparently her death sentence, that already he's had her banished and imprisoned. The guilt for leaving Sammy, the worry that Sam will be hurt when Dean isn't there to protect him, and the fear of what his love for Sam might make him do. What he is destined to do for it. He lets her stroke his hair, takes a deep watery breath, and sounds more like a child than he has in all of remembered history. "Utre, I'm sorry. You really are like my mom but-it's Sammy Utre. It's Sammy."
He shakes his head once, smells the sunshine and summer scent of her even in the cold bedroom and feels how heavy it all is. Leaving Sammy ends one terrible destiny and starts another. What will stop the second one?
She makes those soothing noises for a bit longer, and just before he falls asleep he hears her speak again, voice sorrowful and sweet. "Oh sweetling, I know. I know. I wouldn't want you to feel differently."
It all changes when the supplicant arrives. Everything gets thrown out of whack and Dean's left trying to figure out what happened to his semi-orderly life.