AN: GUESS WHAT, GUYS? NEW STORY! AND JUST IN TIME FOR A VERY SPECIAL OCCASION!

KATHEY! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GIRL! (See, now, I was going to apologize for caps lock abuse, but you always tell me to never apologize for caps lock.) So, I'm not going to do a whole big embarrassing speech like I did last year. I just want to say that you're awesome and I love you for putting up with me (and also for writing Ruby/Cas, because oh my god Ruby/Cas) and I hope you have a great birthday! And I know you're busy with school and real life, but don't forget to breathe, babe!

Just a note: In this story, Dean did not go to Lisa at the end of season five. Instead, he went off on his own and eventually wound up shacking up with another woman (named Elizabeth ''Lizzie'' Williams) who will possibly make an appearance in some way or another.

Also, this is NOT a part of my Lila Bray 'verse. This is a Lila Bray 'verse AU. Just a different way things could have worked out if circumstances were different, I suppose.


Title: the fire, of course, is you
Summary: When Dean and Sam return to a small town in New Jersey that they once lived in, Dean is forced to face the past that he has tried to run from and the secret he has been keeping for over fifteen years. Lila Bray 'verse AU. Case fic with some other substance.
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Dean Winchester. Sam Winchester. Ruby. Lila Bray (OFC). The Daniels Family (Original Characters). Past Dean/Ruby, possibly some pre-Dean/Ruby. Past Dean/OFC. Minor Lila Bray (OFC)/Alex (OMC).
Genre: Angst/Suspense.
Rating: T for safety.
Timeline: Takes place in late March of 2012. Season six. Somewhere in between ''Mommy Dearest'' and ''The Man Who Would Be King.''
Spoilers: Blanket spoilers for everything that has been aired so far.
Warnings: Teen pregnancy, childbirth, sexual situations, cursing, alcohol abuse, thoughts of suicide, pretty heavy gore, canon typical violence, violence against a minor, kind of a gruesome description of decomposition, something that could probably be seen as sexual assault, bodily fluids, teenage Dean is kind of an asshole, and also: if you like John Winchester or if you think he was a good father then this probably isn't a story you would enjoy. I think that's it, but if you see anything throughout the story that you think needs a warning, just let me know!
Notes: Title taken from a letter written by Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor. The excerpts at the end of the chapters comes from the book Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger.

Disclaimer: I own none of the characters you recognize nor any of the songs, poems or book excerpts featured in this story.


the fire, of course, is you

Written by Becks Rylynn

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Chapter One

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''you are the hole in my head

you are the space in my bed

you are the silence in between what i thought

and what i said''

- florence + the machine; no light, no light

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March, 2012

Dean hates New York City. He hates it with a passion. There are too many people and too many cars and everyone in the godforsaken city is a giant douchenozzle. He prefers small towns. He got enough of big cities during his year in Dallas. Which is precisely why he is so relieved to be finished with the rugaru case that, most unfortunately, took place in the awful aforementioned chaotic rat's nest. He's so happy to be out of Gossip Girl that, for a minute, he doesn't even care that they've been dealing with back to back cases with barely any time to come up for air. But then he yawns and the exhaustion comes crashing back down on him.

It's official. He is a workaholic. There was the case of the bratty abiku in Scranton, Pennsylvania (which, despite being the home of The Office, is a painfully dull city), there was the nasty rugaru in NYC and now they're headed to New Jersey to flush out a supposed nest of vampires.

He's so fucking tired that he can barely see straight. He hasn't had a decent night's sleep in...

Well...

Admittedly, that may not be because of work.

The point is, he's tired and edgy and his body is so stiff and sore that it's making him extra cranky. This is what all of those late nights at the office are doing to him. He ain't a farm fresh chicken anymore. He's thirty three years old (and he thinks his right knee might be permanently fucked up a little bit 'cause the fucker hurts like a mother when it rains) and he feels like a grumpy old man. And not a hilarious Walter Matthau grumpy old man either. A straight up get-off-my-lawn-before-I-throw-rocks-at-you grumpy old man. Frankly, he's hoping that this vampire nest is just a bunch of rumors, because he seriously needs a day of rest and relaxation. Or at least a day full of binge drinking. He'd be okay with that, too. Dean is focused on one thing and one thing only as he drives through the rain: Getting this case over with so he can drink himself into a coma for at least a day and half. His focus is so intense that he doesn't even realize where this case is.

About thirty minutes outside of New York, he figures he should probably get that information. ''So,'' he flicks a brief look at his brother, ''where are we headed anyway?''

Sam, rubbing the bridge of his nose and wincing, like he does when he has a headache, shakes his head and blinks, turning his focus to Dean. He looks tired in the morning light, the late night hunt putting bags under his eyes and a barely noticeable five o'clock shadow on his face. Somehow, it makes him look younger. Makes his eyes look bigger. It reminds Dean, briefly, of twenty two year old Sammy. ''Uh,'' Sam clears his throat and sits up straight. ''Middlesex County. Highland Park, to be specific.''

Something unpleasant crashes down onto Dean; it sends waves of nausea rolling through him and makes his vision blur. There is a nervous pulsing in his head and it takes him a moment to work out that it's the sound of his heart beating, hammering, in terror. ''What?'' It comes out in a croak, his mouth suddenly dry. His fingers clench around the steering wheel tightly, tighter, tighter still, until his knuckles are white and his fingers tingle. His eyes remain firmly on the road. ''Highland Park,'' he repeats.

''Yeah,'' Sam nods, eyes on the road. He doesn't notice - or perhaps he's trying not to notice - the way Dean is starting to come apart, unraveling like a poorly knitted sweater right beside him. ''We used to live there, remember? Back in '95-'96. It was one of the places we stayed for longer than a few weeks. Hell, I think it was - ''

''Five and a half months,'' Dean gets out raggedly. His stomach leaps into his throat. His hands are unsteady. He attempts to shake it off. ''We were there for five and a half months. We got there in mid November. Left the last day of April.''

''Right. Five and a half months.'' Sam nods again and smiles, laughter in his voice. ''I liked it there. We had a home. Friends. Do you remember the Dani - ''

''Yes,'' Dean grinds it out through his teeth. ''I remember the Daniels family.'' They are hard to forget. They are impossible to forget.

Sam goes silent momentarily, staring at his brother with his head tilted to the side, blinking rapidly. He opens his mouth to speak, most likely to ask Dean if he's okay, but then he clamps his mouth shut and looks away, back to the road. Dean tries to relax his grip. ''Was it that bad of a break up?'' Sam asks.

Dean can't help it. He lets out a slightly manic sounding burst of laughter and then he has to blink. The break up was the least of his problems. ''Bad break up,'' he drawls. ''Something like that.''

Sam doesn't believe him, that much is obvious. ''You know, you never talk about her.''

Dean shoots him a warning look. ''Then maybe you shouldn't either.''

Sam stares at him, eyebrows raised. ''Wow,'' he laughs. ''She really did a number on you, didn't she?''

''It's not about...'' Dean shakes his head. He reaches over to turn up the radio. ''Drop it, Sam. It doesn't matter anymore.'' And then he smirks. It's a little unsteady, but it's convincing enough, he decides. ''Look, they've got a vampire problem and I think we're pretty good problem solvers - ''

''Yeah,'' Sam mutters sarcastically. ''We're great.''

''So we get in, get out, and they'll never know we're there. It's not a big deal. I'm fine.''

Sam doesn't answer, but he does audibly suck in a breath and give Dean a flat look.

Dean widens his cocky smirk into a toothy grin. ''I'm fine,'' he says again. ''It was a long time ago. People move on. It's not like she was some great love of my life,'' he scoffs. ''She was a fling. She was just a girl.''

Sam laughs at that. ''You're a good liar, Dean,'' he says, ''but you're not that good.''

Dean swallows.

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The truth, as painful and torturous as it may be, is that she was a lot of things.

But she was never just a girl.

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November, 1995

''Okay. Come on, Dean. She's just a chick.''

Standing in front of a bay of lockers in the empty hallway, just to the left of Mrs. Pearson's English class, an almost seventeen year old Dean Winchester is trying desperately to psyche himself up. There really is no reason to be so nervous. She's just a girl. He could have any fucking girl he wants. He's hot. He's a freaking stud. He's cool. But this girl... She's just so fuckin' hardcore gorgeous that she makes batshit crazy look sexy. That's something to be admired.

He blows out a breath and bounces up and down, shaking out his nerves. ''Okay,'' he says again. ''Okay, I can do this. I can totally do this.'' He stares at the bathroom doors in front of him and narrows his eyes in determination. They've been flirting since day one and he knows she's been checking out his ass. This is the next logical step. And he's been with plenty of girls, so... This really shouldn't be that hard. ''Eye of the tiger,'' he reminds himself.

Ready and willing, he strides straight towards the door...

...and promptly chickens out, changing direction and pushing into the boys' room instead.

The boy sitting perched on one of the sinks shakes his head. ''And strike three.''

Dean scowls. ''Shut up.''

Sammy grins. ''You're kind of like...a little dorky, aren't you?''

A sudden burst of anger rushes through Dean. ''Know what? Fuck this shit,'' he kicks the garbage can over in a fit of pathetic teenage rebellion. ''I don't need this crap. I don't need her.''

Sam rolls his eyes and hops off the sink. ''Whatever, loser. Can I go back to class now? You know how I feel about skipping.''

''No.'' Dean points a finger at him and stands in front of the door. ''You have to stay and give me moral support. And also, I can lift you over my head and throw you, so be careful what you call me.''

''Fine,'' Sam grinds out impatiently. ''Shall we try take four then?''

Dean remains frozen where he is. ''Ugh,'' he pinches the bridge of his nose. ''I hate this bitch. She's driving me crazy. You know what? I think she might be a witch. I think she's done something to me. We should tell Dad.''

''Holy crap, you're sad. Listen,'' the little runt sneers. ''I know you're damaged and all, and I know you usually have a gross tendency to hit it then quit it, but it's okay to like a girl. I mean, really like. Not just in the sex way. I promise you, the world won't end just because Dean Winchester has a crush. That's life.''

''Fuck you,'' Dean spits out defensively.

Sam has no reaction. ''Real mature, dickwad.''

''Hey.'' Dean's eyes light up and he struts forwards. ''Tell me I'm hot.''

''Um.'' Sam blinks. ''What?''

''Build me up.''

''I'm not going to stroke your ego for you! Geez! You're so gross. Suck it up, get in there and ask - ''

The bell rings.

It seems like it barely even takes ten seconds for the bathroom to fill up with bushels of teen boys. ''Oh, well, that's just great,'' Dean gripes.

''Sorry, bro.'' Little Sammy reaches up to pat his brother's shoulder. ''That's my cue. I've got a math test next period and I don't want to miss it.''

''Seriously?'' Dean's lips turn downwards. ''You're so friggin' weird. Who doesn't want to miss a stupid math test?''

''People who are invested in their future,'' Sam tells him plainly.

''Whatever you say, brown noser.''

Sam, looking affronted and disgruntled, turns to his brother and opens his mouth to toss back what will most likely be a subpar insult, but he never gets the chance.

The creaky bathroom door swings open and there's a sudden influx of chaos and frantic zipping up as the gaggle of gangly and awkward teenage boys react to the surprise presence of a girl in their sanctuary. At the sight of the current object of his affection standing in the doorway with a small amused smile on her face, Dean goes slack jawed. She locks eyes with him for a brief second, a spark of fire flaring in her eyes, and then she looks away. She looks around the room full of stunned silent boys and then says bluntly, and with a distinctive air of authority, ''Scatter.'''

They listen.

She rolls her eyes and tosses out a parting insult of, ''Mongrels'' to the departing students.

Somewhere in the manic flurry of grumbling Fast Times at Ridgemont High rejects, Sam disappears with a final pat on the shoulder and a murmur of, ''Good luck, dude.''

After the last few stragglers have vacated the bathroom, Dean finds himself standing alone in the midst of wet paper towels and globs of cheap soap. With the school's resident smoking-in-the-bathroom-in-the-middle-of-class loner chick (aka the female version of him). Instinctively, because he is unwilling to let his nerves show, he folds his arms and paints on a smirk. ''Darlin','' he greets. ''If you wanted to get me alone, all you had to - ''

''I have been waiting all day for you to ask me out,'' she drawls lazily. ''I have literally been sitting in that bathroom for thirty five minutes. Do you know how many cigarettes I have burned through?'' Her voice is quiet and nonchalant, completely unconcerned and unfazed. Possibly even a little amused. She slips over to the row of sinks and drops her bag down beside it. Even the way she moves says she doesn't give a fuck. She's just oozing confidence and grace, this girl. And she's always like that; exuding so much strength and seemingly so comfortable in her own skin. She is unflappable, and Dean would like nothing more than to find something that will...flap her. ''What's the matter?'' She breathes. ''Couldn't pluck up the courage to face me? Am I really that scary?'' Of course, she then cackles like a sexy evil mastermind.

Yes.

She is that scary.

''Wait, wait. Let me get this straight,'' he pipes up, licking his lips. Somehow, he manages to at least mimic her apathetic tone of voice, watching as she fixes her hair in the mirror. ''You spent all last period in the bathroom because you were waiting for me to come in and ask you out?'' He clicks his tongue and his smirk widens. ''I don't know, babe. That's a little clingy. Almost bordering on desperate. Wouldn't you say?''

His cutting remark doesn't even touch her. She hops up on the sink and crosses one leg over the other. Her eyes go to her nails as she inspects her chipping black nail polish. ''You spent the entire period singing Eye of the Tiger in the hallway and chickening out of talking to me,'' she says without looking at him. ''Who's the real desperate horny loser here?'' She pops her gum loudly.

When the smirk on his face slips, she grins at him. He narrows his eyes at her. ''You - ''

She rolls her eyes and lets out a groan of annoyance. ''God, Winchester. Let's just get to the fucking point already. I can't stand all this,'' she makes a face, ''word foreplay.'' She slides off the sink, heels clicking as she jumps to the ground. ''Dean, we've been flirting obnoxiously since you got here, you're always staring at my ass, and I'm willing to bet every penny I have that you picture me while you're jerking off in the shower. Let's just fuck already.''

''Here?'' He eyes the bathroom. ''Now?''

''Well, I have Mr. Sorenson next period,'' she shrugs. ''And he's stark raving mad. So why the hell not?''

He pauses. ''Well...'' His lips twitch. He wonders, momentarily, if there is something else he should say or do, but he comes up empty. There's not a whole lot to say in this situation. ''Yeah, okay.''

She beams like a giddy child and pops her gum out of her mouth and onto the tip of her finger. She lets loose a laugh as he comes towards her, wild and free, and when he kisses her -

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Present Day

Hey. Hey.

Listen.

Dean doesn't like to think about his time in Highland Park or the things he left behind (read: the things he ran away from). It hurts. It fills him with an unimaginable guilt and he's got enough guilt as it is. He doesn't like to think about what went down all those years ago. He does, because at times it's all he can think about, but he doesn't like to. His motto for this case is going to be, Keep Your Mouth Shut, Dean. No use upsetting the fragile balance. He's going to lay low, handle the vampires and get out. That's his plan. It's a good plan.

Unfortunately.

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It's raining in Jersey, a fairly substantial drizzle pelting the exterior of the Impala as it makes its way down rain slicked streets. It's a gloomy day with dark gray skies and thunder rolling in the distance. Vampires would love this weather. With all the information Sam could get his hands on in tow, they find a small little bakery and prepare to dig in. Dean is even more on edge than he was before when he steps out of the Impala and into the chilly March air.

Outside of the bakery, directly in front of the door, two teenagers are making out under an awning. She is young and blonde. He is wearing a leather jacket and ripped, faded blue jeans. There are unnerving similarities and yes, Dean has flashbacks. Totally not in the mood to deal with Joanie and Chachi over there, he comes to stop in front of the couple and decides to put his newfound grumpy old man-ness to good use. First, he clenches his jaw and pointedly clears his throat. When that has no affect, he throws a look over his shoulder towards Sam and grunts impatiently. ''Hey,'' he snaps. ''Make a hole, Ryan and Marissa.'' The two teens part like the red sea and he pushes in between them quite rudely. ''And use protection,'' he adds on in a sneer.

The girl, cheeks flushing a deep red, meets his eyes as he starts to turn away and there is a sudden and inexplicable tightening in his chest. He ignores it and enters the bakery. The bakery is quaint, with a pleasant homey feel to it, the walls painted a deep purple with fresh flowers on every lace tablecloth adorned table. It smells like fresh baked cookies and roses. It's like walking into a stereotypical grandmother's house, warm and welcoming and kind. It's not busy right now; the only customers are two little old ladies gossiping over two cups of coffee and a young woman with a baby attached to her boob, which is just...

Well, to put it bluntly, Dean does not think he and his brother and their ''thug-like'' wardrobe are the target audience for this place. In a place like this, he and Sam are going to stick out like sore thumbs. He pinches the bridge of his nose and lets out an exasperated sigh. This is why he doesn't let Sam pick the restaurants. Lips pressed together tightly, he turns to Sam to suggest maybe finding somewhere more their speed, but Sam is already at a table by the window and his eyes are lit up like freaking Christmas lights. ''Dean,'' he chirps. ''Their Wi-Fi is insane.''

Dean sighs. Again. ''I'll get us some coffee.'' And pie. If he's gonna sit in friggin' Grandma's Cottage, he's gonna get himself some fucking pie. He approaches the empty counter, looking around for an employee. He cranes his neck to search for someone willing to take his order. There is a clanging coming from the back, but there's no one there. He suppresses a yawn and pulls out his wallet to make sure he has enough cash on him. A shadow falls over him from the other side of the counter and he opens his mouth to speak. ''Can I get two cof - ''

''You.''

Oh.

Fuck.

He lifts his eyes slowly, as if doing it in super slow motion will somehow change the outcome. It does not. The achingly familiar woman is still staring at him with wide glassy eyes filled with terror and rage and surprise. ''You can't be here.'' She throws a petrified look over his shoulder, like she's waiting for something. Her voice trembles ever so slightly, full of shock, anger and maybe even a little hurt.

''Wait,'' he tries.

''No,'' she shakes her head adamantly, mouth twisting into a truly pissed off frown. ''No. You need to leave.'' She practically flies out from behind the counter to grasp at his sleeve. ''Get out now. Before - ''

''Just - ''

''No.'' Her eyes flash with fire and she glares heatedly at him, drawing herself up to her full height, which is still not very tall. ''You listen here,'' she grips his shirt in her tiny hand and looks at him like he's the dirt beneath her shoes. ''You are not welcome here, do you understand me? Whatever you're here for, whatever you're trying to do, just forget about it. You made your choice.'' She lets go of him and steps back, eyes glistening.

''Victoria,'' his voice is a quiet, barely audible rasp. ''I'm not here to - ''

''I have the right to refuse service to - ''

''Will you please just let me explain?''

''No. Just get out,'' she shakes her head at him. ''Get out and don't you dare - '' she points a finger at him. '' - Don't you dare go near my girls.''

Dean clenches his jaw and looks around the small space, where everyone is staring at him. He wisely decides to listen.

Fuck, he hates his life. Is it impossible to have just one. Good. Day?

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April, 1996

''Pack up, boys. We're leaving town.''

Dean sinks heavily into a chair as his father's gruff words play on repeat in his mind. Today has not been a good day. Not at all. Not even a little bit. He can barely see straight right now, he's so lost. How is he supposed to do this? How is he supposed to do any of this? He can't be the man she needs him to be and he's not sure, anymore, if he even wants to be the man Dad is trying to turn him into. He gnaws on his thumbnail nervously, lost in thought, oblivious to the looks he's getting from his brother across the room. Which way is he supposed to turn now? He's got two paths laid out in front of him and each one is dark and twisty and full of traps.

Jesus Christ.

There is no simplicity to this life, is there?

He stands abruptly and rakes his hand through his hair. He can't just leave her. He can't abandon her. Not now. Not when -

Unless.

He stops.

He has somehow managed to tune out the screaming match that has fucking exploded between his father and his brother, and he is thinking. If he leaves, he will be an asshole. An asshole without any chance of redemption. The lowest of the low. He'd be a special hell kind of asshole. But he'd be an asshole with a way out. One might call it the coward's way out, but it is a way out all the same. And they would be safe. They would both be safe. More than anything, that is the one thing eating at him. Theoretically, he could stay and do the so-called right thing. But what happens if he stays and then somewhere along the way, a big evil slimy bastard decides to use them to get to him? That would be on his shoulders. It would be his fault. So, if he left...

It would be better. It would be for the best.

His uneven breathing smoothes out and his tense and rigid body relaxes. A strange sort of calm washes over him and he releases a long, slow breath. It's for them, he reminds himself. It's all for them. Perhaps he shouldn't make any rash decisions. Perhaps he should think this over just a little more. Think of the consequences. But he doesn't. He never has been one to think things through. He's a teenager. What kind of teenager thinks things through?

''Dean.'' The sound of his father's voice snaps him out of his stupor and he whirls around. His father studies him carefully, eyes narrowing slightly. ''Did you hear a word I said?''

''I - '' Dean scrubs a hand over his face and swallows the lump in his throat. He glances over Dad's shoulder to Sam, who's scowling, sitting at the kitchen table with his arms crossed, pout on his face. ''N-No. Sorry, I must have zoned out for a minute there.''

''Aw, hell,'' his father rumbles. ''You're not gonna get all pissy on me too now, are you? Dean, I know you and that girl have gotten close but - ''

''No,'' Dean interrupts. ''I mean, no... No, sir.'' He shakes his head. ''We've been here too long. I think it's best we leave. Tonight, even.'' He sucks in a breath and nods strongly. He hopes he looks convincing enough. ''The sooner the better,'' he says with a lopsided smirk. ''Besides, she was just,'' he laughs, kind of hysterically. At the table, Sam arches a single eyebrow and scrunches up his nose. ''We weren't that close.''

Dad stares at him like he's got two heads. ''Right.''

''And hey,'' Dean smirks. ''Those evil fuckers ain't gonna hunt themselves, right?

Dad says, ''Watch your mouth.''

Dean ducks his head and gives a nod. ''Sorry, sir.''

Dad seems to hesitate for a moment, like he can't quite believe what his son is saying to him. Like he knows. Dean feels a swell of panic in his gut and bites his tongue. There is a nervous sweat breaking out on his forehead and a confession bubbling in his throat. But then Dad smiles, one of those tortured, quick, all too forced smiles, and claps him on the shoulder. ''Good boy,'' he says, and Dean's heart plummets. Dad pauses before he walks away. Gives Dean a onceover. ''You okay, kid?'' Dad asks. ''You look a little pale.''

''I'm fine,'' Dean forces a smile. ''I'm great. I'm just... Sick of this place.'' He nods. ''I'm ready to go.''

Dad makes some half assed comment about getting some sleep before they head out later tonight and Dean nods numbly. Eventually, Dad leaves. Dean lets out an odd noise between a moan and a sigh. He tries to swallow. He's, like, seventy seven-ish percent sure that he's probably gonna throw up. He licks his lips.

Now all he has to do is tell her.

He can't imagine that's going to go well.

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It's not like he expected to run into her!

Honest.

The last time he saw Victoria Daniels, she was a labor and delivery nurse. Really, how could he have known she would have changed career paths?

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Present Day

Dean is going to focus on the case, okay? That's really the only thing he has the mental capability to handle right now and even then, it's a little iffy. Currently, he is sitting in another nondescript motel room with another bottle of cheap scotch, poring over yet another case file.

So far, three teenagers have been murdered on the grounds of Highland Park High School. The police have written the deaths off as animal attacks and have told people to keep their pets inside and to be extra careful when out after dark. Dumbest fucking thing ever, if you ask Dean. The three kids that have died were all found outside, on the front lawn, bodies strewn on the grass almost like the killer was attempting to make art with their corpses. Like he was trying to send a message. Harold Chang, Stephanie Beasley, and Garrett Rossetti. All were well known and popular. Harold was a seventeen year old football player, Stephanie was a cheerleader, barely sixteen, and apparently eighteen year old Garrett was quite the entrepreneur. He dealt pot and ecstasy. According to the always ''completely truthful'' internet, all three teens had something else in common as well, aside from their high school status. On a memorial Facebook page for the three fallen teens, the ugly truth has come out.

They were all, as crass as it may sound, smarmy little dipshits. There's a freakin' war going on between the haves and the have nots in the comment section. Teenagers are really disturbing. Dean does not approve. They're so disgustingly fickle. From this new information, it doesn't take a genius to figure out the pattern amongst the victims. They were all bullies. Someone is targeting the high and the mighty.

Dean sits back and takes a gulp of what has to be the world's worst scotch he has ever had. Seriously, he can deal with a lot of bad liquor. As long as it's alcohol, he's okay with it. But this shit just tastes like watered down soap. It's embarrassing. He feels embarrassed for the liquor store he bought this at. It is not doing a good job of helping him forget about what happened today. He rubs at his eyes and pours another glass. It's shit, yes, but it's all he's got.

''Okay, I'm sorry, but are we just not going to talk about what happened today?''

Dean doesn't even look at Sam. ''That was the plan.'' He tosses a yearbook photo of Stephanie Beasley aside, keeping his eyes peeled for an article about the first death. ''How sure are we that this is a vampire? Could be a trickster. The victims do kind of fit the profile.''

''Dean.'' Sam pushes his chair back and rises to his feet. ''Your ex-girlfriend's mother beat the shit out of you with her words. In public. That wasn't a normal occurrence. You don't think we should maybe address that?''

Dean still doesn't look up. ''Not really.''

Sam crosses his arms. He looks suspicious. Dean can't even look him in the eye. ''Man, what really went down back in '96?''

''It was a bad breakup,'' Dean hisses through his teeth, blatantly ignoring how tight his chest feels. ''That's all.''

''Bullshit.''

''Damn it, Sam.'' Dean slams his glass down and hopes his brother doesn't notice how breathless his voice is. ''Leave it alone.''

''She eviscerated you, Dean. What could you have possibly done to her daughter...?'' He trails off, looking uncomfortable.

When Dean flicks his gaze upwards, there is a certain gleam in Sam's eyes, a spark of something, an epiphany, and Dean can see the distress written all over his brother's face. He's not sure if Sam has figured it out or if he's come to some other conclusion, but either way it has just become obvious that one way or another, the truth is coming out today. He sighs heavily and looks away. Suppose he should have known. Secrets don't stay buried, especially if you're a Winchester. He opens his mouth to attempt to say something, to lie, to tell the truth, anything, but nothing comes out. He swallows another mouthful of the pitiful scotch instead and stares down at the table. ''Why don't you tell me,'' he begins in a low, barely audible hum. ''What it is you think I did, Sam?'' He raises his eyes slowly, eyes dark and closed off. ''Those gears in your head seem to be working overtime. So, come on. What's your theory?''

Sam looks stricken. Somewhere halfway between frustrated and wary. ''I don't know,'' he squirms. Narrows his eyes. ''You didn't...'' He pauses, frowning deeply. ''I mean, you couldn't have... It's impossible...'' He shakes his head vehemently, tripping clumsily over his words. ''I would have known.''

Dean stands. ''Would you, though?'' He keeps his voice low and calm.

''Yes.'' Sam squares his jaw. He looks so sure of himself - so sure of his brother. So completely convinced that Dean would never do something like that. That he knows every inch of every secret. He just looks so sure. It hurts. It physically hurts. ''You would have told me.''

Shadows dance on Dean's face and regret clouds in green eyes. ''How can you be so sure?''

''Jesus, Dean,'' Sam sighs. He runs a hand over his face and fidgets in anticipation and frustration. ''Look, you're starting to freak me out, okay? Quit dicking me around and tell me what you did!''

Dean's mouth works silently to get the words out, but he remains silent, throat closing up, mouth bone dry. ''I...'' He closes his eyes and scrubs a hand over his face. ''I made a mistake, Sam. With her. We were... We were stupid. We got careless. And I was an asshole.''

''What did you do, Dean?''

For the first time in nearly sixteen years, it all comes spilling out. ''I got her pregnant.'' The admission is quiet. It does not come out with a bang or a fist to the face, but rather it slips out softly, regretfully, into the silence, and it hangs in the air between them. Dean holds himself steady - barely - and meets Sam's eyes. ''And then I broke up with her and I ran. There. That's what I did. ...Is that what you wanted to hear? Is this something you wanted to know about your big brother?''

Sam doesn't say a thing.

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April, 1996

She's not acting like herself.

That's the one thing on Dean's mind as he pulls into a parking space at Donaldson Park, a favourite spot of theirs simply because it's not where all the other horny teenagers go. She has been acting strange all day, avoiding him at school and dodging his calls all evening until finally calling him up and asking him to come and pick her up at nine thirty. Usually so calm and collected, she has been a bundle of nerves since he picked her up, full of coiled fear and barely restrained tears. He looks at her out of the corner of his eye, frowning in concern. In the moonlight, she looks unnervingly pale.

He's not sure what her problem is tonight. He knows she has some issues with her sister and, like every teenage girl, she gets into the occasional fight with her parents, but this is something completely different. He can tell. Her default setting is bitch. When she's dealing with shit at home, she turns into a catty, chain smoking, hardcore sex craving harpy. She doesn't get scared. That's just unheard of. The only thing he can think of is that something happened to her dad. Her father is still a part time hunter, after all, and he knows how much that stresses her out. But she never mentioned anything about her dad going on a hunt. He cuts the engine and slides his gaze to her. She is staring out the window, eyes vacant, one arm curled around her stomach. He tilts his head to the side curiously and presses his lips together. ''Is your dad okay?''

She nods wordlessly.

''Your mom?''

Another nod.

''Your sister?''

Nod.

''Are...you okay?''

The floodgates open. She shakes her head no and her face twists and contorts. A dry sob passes through her lips and she leans over, burying her face in her hands.

Oh, crap. He panics and grimaces, eyes darting around anxiously. ''Shit, babe,'' he curses. ''Don't - Don't do that.'' Awkwardly, he reaches out to put a hand on her shoulder, which, as it turns out, is a gigantic mistake.

The second his hand comes into contact with her, she flips out. Her entire body jerks and she sits up, slapping his hand away and sending him a nasty withering glare. ''Don't touch me!'' She screeches through gulping sobs.

He reels back in surprise. ''Whoa, hey!'' He holds his hands up in surrender. ''What the fuck is your problem?''

''You are my problem!'' She screams. ''You did this!'' She lunges at him then, fists flying wildly. Despite the fact that he almost immediately blocks her unwarranted attack on him, she does manage to get one punch in. Her fist comes into contact with his cheek and his tooth digs into his lip from the unexpected force of the punch. He tastes blood. Somehow, he manages to grab her wrists, keeping them tight in his grasp. ''Let go of me!'' She yells, struggling and glaring and still crying.

''Not until you calm down,'' he snaps. ''Fuck, woman. You're a fucking psycho. What's your damage? You're acting like a goddamn brat.''

Surprisingly, instead of a slew of insults and verbal abuse, she wilts. Her body goes slack and she lets out another pain filled sob. ''I'm sorry,'' she whispers shakily, once he has let go of her. ''I'm sorry.'' She wipes at her eyes with trembling hands, but the tears just keep falling, running down her pale cheeks and leaving silvery marks that glisten in the moonlight. ''I don't know what I'm doing,'' she confesses. ''I don't know...'' She rakes both hands through her already mussed hair. ''God, Dean,'' her voice cracks, ''we messed up.'' She looks at him almost apologetically, watery eyes meeting his. ''We messed up really bad.''

Feeling strangely jittery and on edge, he finds himself a little defensive. ''What the hell are you talking about?'' He spits. ''What do you mean we messed up?''

She sniffles and bites down on her bottom lip. She looks hesitant; reluctant to let Dean in on whatever it is that's got her so upset. ''I...'' Her voice trembles dangerously and she squeezes her eyes shut. ''I need some air.'' She fumbles for the door handle, wrenching open the door and stepping out into the cool night air.

Dean, eyebrows furrowed, heart beginning to hammer nervously, does not bother wasting time waiting for her. Muttering under his breath about his nasty habit of falling for high maintenance chicks, he climbs out of the car and makes his way around to the other side. She is leaning heavily against the passenger side door, arms wrapped around her middle as she kicks at a piece of gravel with her booted foot. She's not looking at him, staring intently at the ground, but she's still sniffling. His patience is quickly waning. If she's not going to tell him what's wrong, he's not sure what she wants from him. He lets out a sigh and purses his lips. ''Are you going to tell me what's wrong?'' His voice comes out quiet but a tad more exasperated than he had originally intended.

''...Yes...'' She looks up at the sky, clearing her throat. ''I just...need a minute.''

He gives her the time she asks for, but when that minute is up and she only seems to be even more upset than before, he steps in. Now, admittedly, his comforting skills are a little rusty. It's possible that they're not precisely up to par with what she needs right now. He's not a big ole' softie. Comforting people who are under duress is just not something he usually does. (Maybe it's because being comforted is not something he has really ever had the luxury of experiencing.) ''Hey.'' He steps closer to her, keeping his voice as gentle as possible. ''Look at me,'' he urges, bringing his hands to her arms. ''Just tell me what's going on, sweetheart.''

''I, um...'' She shrugs his hands off of her and side steps him anxiously, refusing to meet his eyes. ''...I'm pregnant,'' she says, and everything just stops.

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.

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Present Day

Dean Winchester is nothing if not a self-loathing masochistic bastard.

That is a fact.

It's a personality trait that has learned to grudgingly accept over the years, because it sure as hell doesn't seem to be going away. He is constantly putting himself into emotional and physical situations that he knows will hurt like hell because he feels it's something he needs to do. Because he thinks he deserves it. Here, now, in this place, with all of these memories - both good and bad - creeping up into his headspace... It's no different.

Sitting at the table in the shitty motel room, he listlessly jiggles his leg and taps his finger on the mottled wood. His mind is racing - flashes of the past and the present all running together in his head and creating a confusing, painful mess - and his heart is thudding against his ribcage. He is so close to her. To both of them. She could be anywhere. He could've walked right past her without even knowing.

If he could just see her. See what she looks like, what her smile is like, if she's got his eyes or his smile.

He jumps to his feet and pushes a hand through his hair. No. No, that's ridiculous. He's lived without her for years. He can last a few more days. He closes his eyes tight. Just a few more days, he tells himself. A few more days and then I can get the hell out of here. It doesn't work. The flashbacks keep coming, blurred and noisy in his head, and his eyes snap open. A sharp intake of breath. A beat of his heart. It's getting hard to breathe in this town.

He flings his gaze to the closed bathroom door. He inhales sharply and exhales slowly, trying to calm himself down. His tired body sinks into his vacant chair and his fingers inch towards the half empty bottle of bad scotch. The bottle clinks against the glass as his shaking hand pours the liquor into the tumbler. The liquid spills onto the hastily put together case file. He doesn't even make an attempt to mop it up. He raises the glass to his lips, fully intending to drink away the memories, something he has been trying (and subsequently failing) to do for years. And then he stops. He picks up a picture of Stephanie Beasley, a pretty blond teen.

The tightening in his chest becomes excruciating. Just once. Just one look. Just this one time. This time, he can't talk himself out of it. Roughly slamming the glass down, he tosses the photo back on the table, sends one last look at the door separating him from his not-mad-just-disappointed brother, and then he grabs his keys and bolts out the door.

Self control, you realize, has never really been his thing.

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After Antony abandons his soldiers to follow Cleopatra's departing barge at the disastrous Battle of Actium, all he has left is his shame. When his remnant of an army finally deserts him and he and Cleopatra are defeated by Octavian, Antony can find no one to dispatch him with an honorable death. He cries out, ''The ultimate desertion? I from myself! Is that what I aimed for all my life? Will you finish me now?''

In art and in life, Burton would often feel he had made the ultimate desertion: ''I from myself.''

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end chapter one


AN: Okay, so here's the skinny: I'm already pretty far along on this story and I've even got a posting schedule worked out for it (new material every ten days/two weeks, just to make sure I have enough time to finish up and edit chapters in between real life concerns and Everything You Want) so I'm looking forward to this being my new epic story! I'm having a great time with it so far, and I hope you all enjoy. Thanks for reading!

And one more time: Kathey, I hope you have a great birthday!

Up Next:

Dean meets someone special.