Lawrence, Kansas

Fandom: Supernatural

Category/Rated: Slash, PG-13

Year/Length: 2007/ ~8070 words

Pairing: Dean/Sam, Ensemble

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, only having fun.

Summary: Major AU. Wild West Time Period. Law student Sam runs away to the West and gets introduced to a whole new world, and one gun slinging Dean. Wacky hijinks ensue.

Series: Western 'Verse

Author's Notes: This...this got away from me. Big time. It was supposed to be all of three pages long and silly and light-hearted. Stupid Sam had other plans. I blame him for this monstrosity that ate my life until I finished it. Western!Crack!Fic!

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He uses his last dollar buying his way onto a mail coach heading to Lawrence, Kansas. There were three other options, but Lawrence is the farthest out that he can afford, and so that's where he goes.

The ride is hot, bumpy, dusty, and generally as uncomfortable and disagreeable as it is possible for any one thing to be. The driver is silent, aromatic in the way that only men who spend weeks at a time in the flat hard mid-land of America can be. He also stares.

Samuel wonders why no one thought to tell him, back in Maine, that this was what running away to the West was really like. He feels vaguely resentful that he spent his entire childhood being fed lies about how beautiful and untamed and pure the land was, how sweet and good-tempered the people were. He also wonders why no one told him about horses. Noble animals, his ass.

The big, angry mare that leads the coach tries to bite him every time he comes near it.

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Lawrence is everything he had thought it might be and more.

The streets are hard-packed earth, without even the occasional spot of mud to break the monotony. The buildings are all two stories, roughly square in shape, and though they probably started out white or gray or some other equally bright and vibrant color, they've all been painted the same brown-red as the surrounding dirt. Everything within a hundred miles has been the same damned color.

Ah, the Mid-West. Land of opportunities.

Samuel stands in the middle of the street, all his worldly possessions in a bag at his feet, and wonders how his life has come to this point. And then he remembers, and winces. He glances once more around the town, praying that something resembling actual civilization has appeared in the last five minutes, and can't even bring himself to feel disappointed when nothing manifests.

He supposes that this is as good a place to hide as anywhere.

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Springtime in Kansas turns out to be warmer than he ever remembers it being in Maine, and he moves his sorry self into the saloon when the unrelenting heat and light start to make him feel a little lightheaded. The saloon is-surprise-dusty and smells faintly of horses and men and what he assumes must be something passing for food. It is also, blessedly, dark and cool.

He collapses into a rickety chair, buries his face in his hands and tries to figure out what to do now that he's run out of money. He wonders what one does when the only thing they've done to this point in their life is attend a prestigious law school and they then find themselves on the lam without a dollar to their name.

The girl who marches up to his table is small and blond and very bubbly. She is also very much not what he had been expecting a tavern wench to look like. She is, in fact, wearing trousers and not showing an inch of skin from her neck to the soles of her feet. There is not a hint of rouge anywhere on her person. She calls herself Jo and gives him an amused, knowing look when he declines refreshment of any kind.

He finds himself missing her presence when she marches away from his table to greet the older man that bangs his way into the saloon.

Five minutes later he is surprised when the man sits down next to him, knocking him in the shoulder with a hand dirty and scarred with years of manual labor. The man wears a hat pulled low on his forehead, with sharp, intelligent blue eyes peering out, and a full beard of brown shot with white. He says, in the same tone that Samuel's favorite uncle used to speak in, "Son, my name's Bobby, and I understand you might be looking for some work."

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It turns out that broke law students fleeing prosecution make damn good farm hands.

Not that farm work is anything like what he'd been expecting. For one thing, even after two months he can count on one hand the number of times he's ridden a horse. For another, there is much less yelling at cows and chasing off bandits and much more feeding chickens and checking crops than he'd expected in his wildest imaginings.

Bobby lives alone in his little brown-red-was-once-white farmhouse. But the other farm hands, three brother's who sleep in the barn with him and all look almost identical, say that he had a family once. A wife and two baby girls. No one ever mentions what happened to them, and Samuel doesn't ask.

Not even after he finds the three little crosses set under the only tree on Bobby's property. They're well maintained and there's a old worn chair beside them. Each one is adorned with flowers and bright glass beads and wisps of silk. He stares at them a long time the day he finds them and then makes sure his path never takes him near them again.

Two months into his sojourn into farming he catches himself smiling while patting a cow on the ass and realizes that he actually enjoys it here. That he doesn't even mind having to be up and about before the sun, working till every muscle and joint in his body hurt, falling asleep at night with hay poking and jabbing at him and dust in his nose.

Samuel stops thinking about how much money he wants to have saved before boarding a coach again, and starts saving it for some nameless future that he's just daring to imagine.

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Jo greets him with a smile when he stomps through the door, and he smiles back. Tips his hat at her and slouches against the bar.

Flirting with Jo has fast become a favorite pastime, and he likes the way her cheeks and the tips of her ears flush when he leans a little into her space and lowers his voice. He also likes the fact that she absolutely refuses to treat him seriously. He's not sure if she's already got a sweetheart or just has a broken heart, but knowing that she's not really expecting anything from him makes him even more comfortable with her.

He's in town to get supplies-the few things the farm doesn't provide for itself: salt, sugar, the chewing tobacco that he's contemplating trying. Still hasn't properly adjusted to the fact that the town's pastor also runs the general store, but no one else seems to mind. Pastor Jim isn't exactly the average holy man, in any case.

Samuel would never have even imagined the preacher that he had confessed all his sins through childhood to wearing so much as a slingshot. Pastor Jim wears a six-shooter on each hip and keeps a rifle behind the counter of his store-and rumor has it there's one under the libations as well.

Flirting and nursing the beer in his hand goes slightly sour when Mr. Walker storms his way in, his brother and cousin on his heels. He's not exactly sure what Gordon has against him, but is more than willing to bet it has something to do with the smoldering looks the older man is always sending Jo's way.

He gulps the last swallow of alcohol, leans into Jo and whispers nonsense into the shell of her ear just to get Gordon hot and bothered, and leaves. He's all of three steps out of the bar when the hand closes on the back of his shirt and he's jerked around just in time for his chin to meet the fist swinging towards him.

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Samuel has never been hit.

Not once. Not in twenty-two years of his life.

Therefore, it's not his fault when everything goes black for a few seconds. When the color creeps back in he's on his knees, blinking dumbly at the ground, wondering at the star burst of pain in his jaw. He's just registered what's happened when a boot connects with his ribs and-oh-this is what it feels like to get the shit kicked out of you.

He thrashes out with the vague intention of hitting whoever is hitting him or at least deterring them with flailing limbs. But the tell-tale click of a hammer drawing back makes him go still, and he can feel incredulity sneaking up the back of his skull. Is he really about to be shot for, what, flirting with a pretty girl?

"Drifter," Gordon's voice is strange, tight and flat and not threatening at all. Samuel opens his eyes, not sure when he closed them, and finds himself staring at unfamiliar boots so old and beat to hell that they are at least three different colors of brown, along with white and black. "Hadn't heard you were in town."

The man's pants are in about as bad shape as his boots, torn and mended by inexpert hands, and so threadbare that Samuel thinks he can almost see skin through them in some places. The man's bowlegged, but then so is almost everyone else that he's met here.

He's got a holster on each hip, and both of them are empty.

His shirt is faded blue, thin and patched with red and green and yellow. Sleeves rolled up to bare arms that are tanned and toned, and each fist holding a revolver. They're strange guns, covered in symbols that Samuel doesn't recognize, that hurt a little to look at. "I know how you love surprises."

The low thick drawl snaps Samuel's eyes to the stranger's face. He blinks, blinks again and reminds himself to breathe.

The man's not wearing a hat, which is a bit of a shock all on its own, but not enough to justify the sudden clench in his stomach. The stranger's got a profile out of some kind of painting, all cheekbones and jaw and the curve of his lips into a half-smile. "You son of a bitch." The man's smile falls away at Gordon's words, replaced by something hard and cold enough that Samuel squirms backwards.

"That's enough. All of you."

Ellen, in the doorway of the saloon, shotgun cradled in her arms. Not pointed at anything and somehow managing to be pointed at everything. And just like that the hostility dissipates. Gordon and his kin fall back, the stranger holsters his guns, and Samuel lets himself relax. Pushes himself up off the ground.

"Got some more packages for you, Drifter."

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The Drifter ends up sitting with his back against the wall in one of the corner tables of the saloon.

Samuel makes excuses to stick around the bar, staring at the stranger as he opens and looks over the half-dozen packages Ellen had handed him. Jo stares with him, wearing a soft little smile that appeared the minute the Drifter stepped through the door and hasn't gone away since.

Ellen's voice is sharp as a knife and right in his ear when she speaks, "I know what both of you are thinking, and you just wipe those thoughts right out of your mind. Ain't nothing but heartbreak there."

And she's right. Ellen has a funny way of being right when you most want her to be wrong. Samuel doesn't even bother trying to flirt with Jo on his way out, because she's still focused on the man in the corner, drinking in every movement he makes with wide, hungry eyes.

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The next morning there is a horse that Samuel has never seen before stabled in the barn. The mare is amazing, the finest horse he's yet seen. She's all long, strong legs and neck, short and lean body. She's got fire in her eyes and a coat black as sin. When he presses a hand to her neck, unable to help himself, her skin jumps under his hand and she nudges him with her head.

He's already half-dazed when he steps out into the gray chill of the pre-dawn world, and for a moment he just stares, not quite believing his eyes. The stranger is on the roof of Bobby's little house, bent intently to the task of repairing holes that Samuel hadn't even known existed.

He's still staring, open-mouthed, when the brothers shove their way out around him. The three apparently know the stranger, because they call greetings to him and he shifts to look at them and wave. His shirt hangs unbuttoned and Samuel feels his fists clench, grinds his teeth. And then the stranger shifts this eyes to Samuel, and his smile goes from friendly to something just on the wrong side of wild and feral.

He doesn't wave at Samuel, just smiles for a long, lazy minute before turning back to his work.

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The man's still there at lunch, and Samuel finds him sitting in the shade of an old wagon, eating an apple. For a second Samuel debates walking on, pretending he didn't see the other man sitting there, but only for a second. Then he sinks down to the ground beside the Drifter, leans his head back against the wagon and cuts his eyes towards the man.

The man produces another apple from the satchel at his feet, tosses it to Samuel, and he takes that as permission to speak. "Name's Samuel Montgomery," he says around a bite of sweet, firm apple. They're smaller and sweeter than what he's used to, and he takes another big bite, trying to identify what makes them taste so different than other apples.

There's a long pause, and then there's a rough callused hand extended towards him, warm and firm when Samuel shakes it. The man has an iron grip, and holds the contact just a second to long, as though he's not exactly sure how long a handshake is supposed to last. "Folks call me Drifter or Hunter, but my momma named me Dean. You can call me that."

He says it like it's an honor that's bestowed on only a lucky few. Samuel says it a few times, testing it out on his tongue, mixing it with the lingering sharp sweet taste of the apple.

"Word is you're a big shot doctor or lawyer from back east." It's not phrased like a question, but obviously is one, and Samuel hesitates a moment trying to figure out how to reply to it. Finally settles on something close to the truth.

"I was a student, actually."

Dean grunts, tossing the core of his apple and catching it over and over again. Samuel wonders if that's the end of the conversation. He's beginning to see that there's something off about everything Dean does, the way he talks, moves, interacts with the world around him, but he's not sure what exactly it is yet. "I'm going to teach you how to fight. I'll find you when your work is done."

Dean stands, brushes the dirt off of his pants, and stares down at Samuel for a minute. Samuel's vaguely sure that he's supposed to offer to teach Dean something in return, but he's not sure what it's supposed to be. Instead he just stares back until Dean turns on his heel and walks off without so much as a backward glance.

That's just as well, because Samuel's not certain that the man would take very well to just how intently Samuel's watching him walk away.

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Dean is good on his word. Samuel's just finishing slopping the pigs when he realizes that someone's breath is dancing across his neck. He jerks and twists and finds himself staring down at the shorter man. It's strange, because he knows he's got inches and at least twenty pounds on the stranger, and he still feels smaller.

There's no greeting save for the broad, wild smile that flashes across Dean's face. The next three hours pass in a blur of adrenaline and pain and the hard ground rushing up to meet him time and again. It's embarrassing, and made even worse by the fact that he can tell Dean is holding back, pulling punches and not really trying to hurt him.

But he does learn. How to guard his face, how to read the way a shoulder drops and an arm flexes. How to duck and weave and move without tripping over his feet.

And in the end, standing under the big, red moon, laughter caught up in his throat, he tackles Dean. It seems like the right thing to do, and he likes the surprised rumble in the other man's chest, the firm hardness of his body beneath Samuel's for a moment before they're twisting.

They grapple with the stars and pigs looking on, kicking and jabbing with elbows and chins, breathless with laughter and exertion. And then Dean pins him, all strong limbs holding him down, mouth warm over Samuel's neck. They are still, for just a moment, and then Dean nips him, hard on the underside of his chin, and rolls to his feet. Leaving Samuel shaken and confused and wanting something he can't even name.

"You learn fast, Sammy." Dean helps him to his feet and he wants to clarify that his name is Samuel. Just Samuel. Not Sam, and certainly not Sammy, but the words get all tangled in his chest.

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Two months later he crawls out of the hay and shimmies down the ladder to find Impala gone.

The lost, upset, abandoned feelings bubbling in his chest must show on his face, because the brothers all give him smug, knowing looks that he'd like to wipe off of their faces. He pretty sure that he could, if he wanted to. Two months of Dean teaching how to fight and he's certain he could take all three of them at once. Doesn't seem worth it, though.

Bobby finds him in the chicken coup gathering eggs with rather more vehemence than is strictly necessary.

He ignores the older man, wishing he would just go away, but he doesn't. Just stares until Sammy has no choice but to settle the eggs on the ground and turn to face him. Bobby's got a revolver in his hands, cradling the battered gun gently as he can with his thick fingers and big knuckles. Sammy starts, because he'd recognize that gun anywhere, and the only place he's ever seen it before was on Dean's hip.

"Here. He said you should watch this until he got back."

The wooden grip is smooth and warm in his palm, the barrel long and icy even in the summer heat. It's the first time Sammy's ever held a gun, and for a long time he just stares down at it, trying to understand. "Where'd he go?" Sliding the belt around his hips, rubbing at the leather where it's curved to the shape of Dean's body. Cinching it tight.

"Don't rightly know. Jo rode out here like the devil himself was on her heels late last night with an urgent telegraph."

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When he walks through the door Jo stares at the gun at his hip for a long, long moment before finally raising her eyes to his and giving him the smallest, saddest smile he's ever seen. It makes him hate himself, just a little, though he couldn't say why.

"Where'd he go?" And he can hear the irritation, the white-hot anger, in his own voice. He knows he should be ashamed of himself for acting this way, but can't help it.

"A town called Memory, up north."

"Why?"

She shifts against the bar, uncomfortable and suddenly unable to meet his eyes. Because that's one of the subjects no one ever talks about in regards to Dean. What he does. Where he came from. Who exactly he is. Well, Sammy's had about e-goddamned-nough of that mess.

"Because someone thinks they might have found the thing that killed his parents." Ellen's voice, coming from the kitchen and followed by the woman herself. She stares at the gun for a moment as well, some indecipherable emotion flickering across her face fast as one of the tornados that Sammy watched tear across the plains last week.

"The thing? Like...what, a bear?" Ashamed because he had never even asked what happened to Dean's parents. Never even really thought about it. Wants to ask what happened to them, when they died, who raised Dean. A thousand questions. But Ellen's face has closed off, went hard and cold and blank.

When she says, "Something like that," it mostly sounds like goodbye.

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A month later and Sammy is sitting in the bar, drinking and thinking deep thoughts. Thinking about what he's doing here, and his family back home, how his parents must be worrying about him. Thinking about the way that everyone treats him a little differently now, moving slower and more carefully around him. Thinking about how he wears the gun Dean left him every second of every day.

Jo sinks into the seat beside him for the first time since Dean left, her hand tiny and pale on his arm.

And that's when the door to the saloon slams open.

No one slams the door to Ellen's place. No one has the balls to tempt death like that. Sammy knows that for a fact, and yet there it is. The door hits the wall, bounces off, starts to swing back closed when the first of the group pushes past it into the room.

The man is short and compact, dark complected like Lawrence's butcher, who had moved up from the Texas area years ago. He steps right up to the bar, long easy strides without so much as a glance around the place, and the others follow him.

A dark haired woman with a hat pulled low over her face and a skirt indecently short swirling about her thighs. A big dark skinned man who does look around the bar, scowling, lip curling up with distaste. And then, arm in arm, a man and woman both pale skinned with dark hair, winding around each other with each step they take.

Into the hush that falls over the bar the first man that entered slams his palm against the bar, "What's a guy got to do to get some service around here?"

Jo is pulling him to his feet before he can react, hissing into his ear that he needs to go into the back and get Ellen right now even as she sways her way over to the crowd at the bar. Sammy obeys, his skin crawling with the way they look at her. It reminds him of nothing so much as the way that the coyote Bobby had shot a week ago had been staring at the chickens.

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Ellen is bent over a large wooden chest when he finds her, ripping through it, mumbling to herself as she picks up and discards item after item. When she rises and faces him she's got a long, thick blade in each hand. The naked steel glimmers and sparks in the weak light of the room, and Sammy feels some answering twist low in his gut.

When she speaks her voice is hard and low and offers no argument. "You get over to Bobby's right now. Tell him to get himself and those boys gone. Tell him... Tell him I..." she trails off, mouth working though she's no longer speaking. He moves to extend a hand towards her, and she jerks away, mouth snapping closed, an iron curtain falling behind her eyes. "Take one of their horses. They'll be faster than anything we have here."

And when he hesitates, wanting to protest, to demand some explanation, she snaps, "Go. Now, damnit."

He goes.

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He takes a dappled gray mare, and she flies beneath him. The graceful extension of bone and muscle and flesh that he's to goddamned scared to properly appreciate. Just leans closer to her neck, whispers into her skin and urges her faster till he feels like her hoofs aren't even touching the ground anymore.

He's at Bobby's porch, sliding off the horse and trying to get his legs accustomed to the ground, lunging and half-falling up the stairs when he realizes he was followed. He almost to the door anyway when an unfamiliar hand twists into his hair and there's a press of icy sharp metal dancing against the thin skin of his neck. The voice that whispers in his ear is low and velvet rough. Almost a purr.

"Really, did you think we'd just let you run off for assistance? Please." The hand in his hair twists, setting his scalp on fire, and the blade presses closer to his skin. "Now tell me, boy, where'd he put it?"

"Who? What? I don't under-" his mouth snaps shut when the knife slides up, resting right under his ear. He can feel the beat of his pulse against the metal.

"Do. Not. Play. Dumb. With. Me."

Sammy barely hears the man, mostly because he's desperately trying to keep from laughing in relief. He's not sure when or why he began to recognize Dean's presence, it doesn't seem important. All he knows is that he recognizes the burn up his spine, the ozone sharp tingle in his fingers.

The other man must pick up something of the change to, because his grip loosens and he jerks his head away from Sammy's. When the man speaks again there is a sharp, gloating lilt to his words, "Drifter. I know you're there. You can't sneak up on us. Once we get a scent we never lose it, you know."

"Leave him go." Dean's closer than he thought, his low growl can't be more than a foot or two away. Standing somewhere to the left in Sammy's blind spot. He man behind him laughs, adjusts his grip on Sammy and presses the knife into flesh till his skin starts to split. The blood that slips out is warm and thick and uncomfortable, curling in the hollow of his throat and itching.

"Where is it?" Stony silence. "Where is it, or I kill him."

"I don't know. I haven't had it for weeks." Silence. And then an incredulous snort of laughter that jostles the blades against his skin and he tries very hard not to swallow. " Don't hurt him." And then, so soft that Sammy barely hears it, voice broken and ragged, "Please."

"Oh, I'm not going to hurt him. No. Not at all. I'm going to take him so high he'll never come down." Sammy's not sure why that should sound particularly threatening, but it does. The words are a low murmur right against his neck, accompanied by the smooth slip-slide of teeth. "And then I'm going to let him hurt you." Mouth sliding lower, settling low on his neck, tongue slipping out to lap at the blood gathered there. Words a low, thick growl, "So sweet."

And then the knife is falling away from his neck, the man's body jerking rigid and then limp, a sudden hot explosion of what he can only figure is blood spilling across his face and neck and body. He stumbles forward, jerking away from the sudden dead weight behind him, only half aware of the wet thump that is the man's body hitting the ground. The man's head rolls down the stairs, thunk, thunk, thunk.

Dean slams the machete in his hand into the railing of the porch, leaves it standing there and is on him before Sammy can move. Pushing him back against the wall, hands pushing and jerking at his chin, poking at the wound. No words from Dean, just a low, agitated growl in his chest. Sammy finally finds words of his own, pushing away at Dean's hands for all the good it does. "Dean, what the hell-"

His words get swallowed by Dean's mouth under his, hot and open and taking without asking. Any protestations get overwritten by the fact that Sammy's been wanting something like this since the first time he saw Dean, sprawled on his ass while the other man grinned, cocky and gun-sure. He pushes down into the kiss, works a hand into Dean's shirt, around his hip, pulls him tight and sure against him.

Dean kisses like he does everything else, wild and barely restrained. Feral. It's all teeth nibbling on Sammy's bottom lip, warm tongue sliding like quicksilver through his mouth, lips curling into a grin. Hands moving with purpose, curling around the back of his skull, fingers wide and splayed against his stomach.

And then it's done, Dean's mouth off his, nipping at his jaw and ear and neck with three quick sharp bites. Still pressed close and tight, staring up at him with eyes almost black with the night, mouth infuriatingly far away.

"The rest of the pack. They're close by."

Sammy finds the willpower to nod, makes his jaw work, "Harvelle's. They showed up earlier this evening, Ellen sent me here to-"

Dean's already moving, springing over the corpse cooling next to them, down the steps, crossing to Impala standing calm and ready in the yard. He swings astride her with practiced ease, turning her with his knees. Locking his eyes with Sammy's once more, his face hard for all that his eyes are wild. "Wake Bobby. Tell him what's going on." A pause. "Tell him I said to take care of you."

Then Impala's turning, muscles coiling in her powerful legs before she leaps from a standstill to a full out run back towards town.

For a moment Sammy stands on Bobby's porch, staring down at the headless corpse at his feet. And then he says, "Fuck it," sprints down the porch and over to the mare he rode in on, flinging himself into the saddle and pounding after Dean's retreating form.

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Impala's the fastest horse he's ever seen, and there's no way he's going to catch her.

When he arrives back at Harvelle's, his own mare lathered and panting beneath him, Impala is calmly drinking from a trough. She eyes him with dark-eyed intelligence, almost seeming to laugh at him. He's to busy worrying about sneaking as quietly as possible up close to the bar to get to paranoid about Impala's apparent mockery of him.

The screams, rising the next second, overwrite any need for silence he might have had. He pounds around to the back of the bar, pushing through the door and darting a quick look around to confirm that the kitchen's empty before moving further into the saloon. A woman is screaming, her voice unfamiliar, "Luther, you-you-you killed-you killed-"

He finds Jo and Ellen and the three men that had been in the bar when he left bound and gagged in the storeroom. He's bending to untie them before he can think about it, tearing the gag out of Jo's mouth, slicing through the ropes around her wrist with a knife he grabs from the kitchen. And then she is pushing him away, big eyes all wide with panic. "Go, Sammy, I'll cut the others free. He can't do it himself."

He doesn't ask how she knew Dean was here, just nods and makes his way towards the main room of the saloon.

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There are bodies everywhere. Blood splattered across everything. He counts six bodies, which means that the original five he had seen had been joined by another group. All the liquor bottles behind the bar have been crushed, most of the furniture laying in splintered pieces on the floor.

And in the middle of the chaos, both his arms restrained by strange men that he hadn't seen earlier, bleeding from a gash of his forehead, cheek, and lip, is Dean. In front of him is the woman that had came in wrapped around the man, snarling through tears.

"I'm going to peel your skin off. I'm going to cut your fingers off one at a time. I'm going to carve open your chest and eat your heart while you beg for me to kill you."

"Promises, promises."

Her leg striking out is nothing more than a blur of movement and then Dean's head snapping backwards, the sound of his teeth hitting one another a loud crack. She kneels in front of him, wrapping one hand around his neck in a facsimile of intimacy. " Think I'll tear that tongue of your's out to. Before or after I break every tooth in your mouth, I haven't decided. What do you think?"

"I think that I'll kill you if you touch him again." Sammy's surprised to hear his own voice answer, to find that he's drawn the gun at his hip and aimed it for to woman's head all without conscious thought. They all jerk to look at him, Dean blinking before he snorts and smiles.

The woman rises, aggression written in every line of her body, her hand sliding up Dean's face to rest on top of his head. "A gun? What exactly do you expect you're going to do to us with a gun?" She sounds disgusted, turns away from him, slides her hand down to cup Dean's cheek and digs her nails in hard enough to draw blood.

Gunshots are a lot louder than you think they'd be when you're holding the gun.

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The gun jumps in his hand when it goes off, startles him enough that he almost drops it.

The woman blinks, swaying on her feet, jerkily raising one hand to the dark, wet spot above her ear. The wound appears to be glowing, which seems odd, because as far as he knows most bullet wounds do not glow. And then she crumbles, ankles, knees, hips, till she's laying still and loose-limbed on the floor.

He shifts his aim to the men holding Dean, pulls the hammer back and tries to swallow with his suddenly to dry throat. "Let him go." And they do, scrambling away from him as though they've been scalded, stumbling through the blood and gore and out of the bar, the door slamming after them.

Dean's scrambling to his feet, eyes focused on the door, snatching his machete off of the ground and stalking after them. Sammy doesn't remember crossing the bar, but then he's in front of Dean, baring his path, so he must have. For a moment Dean just stares up at him, Sammy not sure if he's even seeing him. And then something in Dean's shoulders shifts, relaxes. He lets the machete clatter loudly to the floor.

"You're hurt." He is. He's bleeding from a dozen wounds, and there's a piece of glass sticking out of his chest. "I'll patch you up. Come on." Another moment of silence and then Dean shrugs, gives in, pushing past Sammy and up the stairs to the rooms Ellen keeps upstairs for when one of the patrons is to drunk to find their way home. Sammy follows, wading through blood, stepping over a severed hand and trying not to feel the electric tingle all along his nerves.

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Dean lets Sammy sit him down on the bed. Sits still and quiet as Sammy pulls the glass out of his body, gently as he can. Doesn't say a word or so much as twitch when Sammy tugs off his blood soaked shirt. No comment when Sammy disappears for a minute before returning with a bucket of clean water and an armful of cloth. Not so much as a hiss of indrawn breath when Sammy cleans the blood that's painted on his skin off, looking for the wounds beneath.

He just stares, animal-sharp green eyes following every movement Sammy makes.

Sammy ignores the stare, cleaning and soothing till the water in the bucket has gone from clear to pink to red. And then he pushes it aside, and traces his fingertips across the twisted maze of scars and wounds that is Dean's body.

There's a old burn stretching from his right shoulder blade up and over his shoulder and down onto his chest. There's a perfect, slightly dark, puckered circle just below and to the right of his sternum, and a matching one on his back. There's a half-dozen healed gunshot wounds, three on his left arm, one two inches below his collar bone, one in the middle of his back, one cradled against his right hip bone.

All across his shoulders are the puckers of lash marks, to many to count. Four long jagged tears on his right arm that Sammy would swear were from a bite if he didn't know that there were no animals big enough to cause them. All of them old and healed, a thousand stories that Sammy doesn't know if he could bear to hear. No one body should be battered this much. And now...

The glass has left behind an angry red half-circle that will someday fade to smooth white scar tissue.

He presses his lips to the wound, an apology for sins that aren't his, blood like absolution on his tongue and in the back of his throat. Dean rumbles, the first sound he's made, and one word slips from his lips, landing on Sammy's ears even as Dean's hands land on his shoulder, jerking him up, mouth meeting his.

"Mine."

hr

Dean leaves again two weeks later, after Jo arrives one afternoon with a package that came in from the mail coach. Dean doesn't offer to share what it is, and Sammy doesn't ask or feel any desire to read the newspaper clippings and the faded letter. They still don't talk about what Dean does, though sometimes things slip out and Dean never seems particularly concerned when they do. He even leaves the package laying out in their room.

Sammy thinks that Dean probably wants to tell him, or at least doesn't really care at this point if he knows or not. The only problem is that Sammy doesn't particularly want to know anymore than he already does.

Vampires attacked the saloon and would have eaten everyone inside. Ghosts. Werewolves. Spirits that try to drown people or string them up like a cow left to drain. Things with abilities that are inhuman and unnatural. Things that Dean hunts down and kills. It all leaves a cold knot of fear low in Sammy's stomach.

So he doesn't ask, and he wraps his own secrets tighter and buries them deeper every day.

hr

Summer fades to fall fades to winter like that.

Dean comes and he goes, always bringing back new wounds that Sammy tends to as best he can. It takes him longer than it should for him to realize that he's the only one Dean lets treat his wounds. Asking around on one of Dean's trips reveals that no, he's never left anyone else patch him up.

Sammy stays on with Bobby, though he rarely if ever sleeps in the barn anymore. No one really says anything about the room he and Dean share at the saloon, but there's a tension that wasn't there before. Jo doesn't flirt anymore, and the three brothers move from smugness to full on leering anytime they're in Sammy's presence. Ellen is the only one that doesn't treat him any differently, but then she'd always treated him like a stray dog that she wasn't particularly sure she was fond of.

He insists that Dean teach him to shoot, even though Dean insists that he's a damn good shot already. Sam still wonders sometimes what he's supposed to be teaching Dean in return, but the other man never asks for anything. Just holds him desperately tight when he sleeps.

All in all things are going well.

And then the nightmares start.

hr

Dean leaves on the third of January, in the middle of the night, leaving Sammy with a kiss that leaves him terribly awake and a warm empty bed. Sleep is elusive, and when he does grasp it, he wishes he hadn't.

He dreams about a man he's never seen before in his life sobbing, kicking and screaming even as a noose lowers over his neck. He sees the cord pull tight against the man's throat, watches the skin turn angry and red when the rope snaps tight. Can see every twitch in the man's fingers as he pulls and tugs desperately at the robe digging into his neck.

He watches a man die from involuntary suicide, and wakes up in a cold sweat, a scream caught between his teeth.

He almost cries, because he had prayed so hard that he had left this behind in Maine. Had dared to believe that he had escaped. Had left nine months of peace grant him the false hope of believing that this was all over. And now all he can see is Jessica's body pined to his ceiling, her soft sweet face framed with flames. Her screams in his ears.

He runs, packs all of his things and boards the first coach out of Lawrence. Doesn't even realize that he still has Dean's gun strapped to his hip till he's miles down the road. Feels guilty for taking it, but can't bring himself to consider giving it back.

hr

He chose his route at random, doesn't even inquire about what town they've stopped in when night falls. Just crawls into some unfamiliar bed, curls up around a pillow and prays there will be no dreams.

He dreams about another man he's never seen, moving around a ramshackle little cabin. Watches the man stumble around half-drunk for awhile. Watches the pail of milk that the man had brought in with him tip itself over and spread. Watches the man turn and slip. Watches him fall. Watches his head hit the sharp corner of the chest that he's sure wasn't there a minute ago. Watches the blood mix and swirl with the milk.

He has a splitting headache the entire day, stays cooped up in the room, hiding from sunlight and the world in general.

hr

The dreams the next night are infinitely worse than any thus far. Mostly because the first thing he sees is Dean. Dean talking to some weeping blond woman, asking her some question that Sammy can't hear. Her voice is clear enough, high and desperate, " No, no, nothing like that. This is Memory, for goodness sake. We're not some wild place."

The dream jerks, slip slides lightning quick to a different time, in the same room where Dean just was. Only the woman's there now, the woman and some young man, his eyes red with tears. Sammy can't hear their conversation, all the sound keeps getting eaten up by the rhythmic slice-pound of the woman's knife through the vegetables she has arrayed before her.

But the boy is getting increasingly agitated, and the woman puts down the knife, turns to face him, and the knife... Just lifts up by itself. Swings towards her. And Sammy watches, helpless, as she backs up against the wall of her own home, pleading and begging with words he can't hear. Crying. And then the knife jerking forward, sliding through her skull as though it offers no resistance at all and embedding itself in the wall behind her.

The dream flashes again, one jump after another. Dean slamming through the door. The boy twisting. The woman being stabbed through the eye. The woman and Dean talking. The boy watching the man from last night's dream bleed out all over his floor. The woman's voice saying, "This is Memory, for goodness sake."

Sammy's out the door before he's completely awake.

hr

Turns out that he picked the right coach that morning in Lawrence.

This is, as luck would have it, Memory.

The sun is barely cresting the horizon and he's not sure how he's going to find the house he's looking for. Just knows he has to. Has to find Dean and get him away from that boy and that woman.

He spends hours looking for the front door he saw Dean kick in, growing increasingly desperate and frustrated when the dreams hit him while he's awake. He's just walking when pain arcs up his spine and embeds itself in his brain, like someone plunged a white-hot knife into his skull and started stirring the contents around.

Through the nauseating pain he catches Impala in front of a whitewashed house, looking mournfully at the front door-the woman, pined to the wall, a knife through her skull-the boy standing in front of her, smiling-and he jerks out of it to find himself leaning into the side of a horse, which promptly twists its head around and tries to bite him.

He stumbles away, looking for a whitewashed house with a big black horse in front of it.

hr

The next time the dream hits him its changed. It's Dean and the woman again, but this time Dean's standing in front of her, arms spread in a protective stance. Teeth bared. Sammy can hear him rumbling. And there's a gun pointed at his head, just...suspended in the air. Pointed at Dean's head.

He almost screams, clawing at the air in front of him, trying to make the images go away. Make them un-happen.

And then he realizes that he's staring at a whitewashed house, Impala looking mournfully at the front door. He charges forward, pounds on the door, not understanding how it could be closed when he saw Dean kick it open earlier. Kicking and banging and pounding on it himself. Swearing when it doesn't even so much as tremble.

The dream swims up behind his eyes. Dean and the woman. Dean in front of the woman. Snarling in the face of death. The bang of the gun going off, the perfect little circle between Dean's eyes. The slow slide of blood down his forehead. The crimson spread of it across the wall behind him.

Sammy screams and pushes with everything he has.

And the door opens.

hr

The trigger pulls just as he steps inside the door, but he must have startled the boy because the shot goes wide. Dean is looking at him like he's unsure what to make of the situation, and the boy is weeping and the there's another shot, and the boy falling limp and boneless to the ground. There's still a spray of blood all over the wall, but it's not Dean's.

Sammy doesn't realize that he's got a gun in his hands, that it was him that put the bullet in the boy's head, until they're out the door. Doesn't really comprehend it until Dean's pushing and shoving him onto Impala's back, pulling himself on close behind Sammy and getting them the hell away. And then he looks down at the gun, still in his hands, and carefully slides it back into the holster.

They ride until Dean deems that Impala can't carry them anymore. And then Dean has him on the ground, pined, his breath hard when he speaks. "You want to tell me what's going on, Sammy?" Sammy would exalt in the fact that it's the first time he's ever heard Dean properly intone a question, but that will have to wait.

Instead he takes a deep breath, and tells Dean everything. There's a lot to tell. His mother dying when he was a baby, in some kind of freak fire. His father abandoning him to an orphanage. Jessica burning to death on his ceiling, after he had dreamed about such a thing happening for weeks beforehand. The law assuming that he had somehow killed her and burned the body to cover up for himself. And when he's done he stares up into the stars and waits for the inevitable death blow.

When it doesn't come he shifts, clears his throat. " Are you going to kill me?"

Dean rumbles, shakes his head where it rests against Sammy's shoulder. "Have to get you a horse."

Sammy tries to follow where this conversation is suddenly headed and fails. Says, "What? Why?"

"You're coming with me from now on." And that's it. Conversation over. Dean's mouth is sliding over his skin, trailing familiar nips and soft touches. But the kiss tastes like desperation and loss and Sammy wonders, laying beneath the stars with Dean moving over him, if there's any possible way for this to end well.

Somehow, he doesn't think there is.

::go to 'Dodge City, Kansas' —>::

::back to index::


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