Fic: Never Say Die (3/16)
Title: Never Say Die (3/16)
NEVER SAY DIE
When John emerged from the bathroom, he was wearing his t-shirt and briefs, nothing else. The rest of his clothing was neatly folded. He laid the clothing atop the dresser and turned to look toward the bed.
Ellen was already in bed, the comforter covering most of her body. Only her head and shoulders were visible, and she wore a pale grey nightshirt. She'd told the truth when she said it was a big bed. But as he walked toward the free side of it, John couldn't help remembering the last time they'd shared a bed. It was the night before he and Bill left for California, all three of them in the bed together. John held her in his arms, kissing her mouth, her neck, her breasts, while Bill made love to her. While she came, crying out. By the time he slid into her, she was whispering his name over and over...
Thirteen years ago. She had moved on. He should, too.
John bent down to fold back the comforter.
"John, wait." Ellen said. She slid across the bed to his side, pushing the comforter away. She was gazing at his body. At first, he thought she was looking at his groin, but her eyes moved lower and her look wasn't sexual at all. She reached out to touch his thigh. "I think that blows the time travel theory," she said thoughtfully.
John looked down to the place she touched. It was a large, round scar on his thigh. He had noticed it at the hospital. It appeared to be a recent injury; the skin around it was pinkish and thin. But he didn't recall the injury. "I have several scars I don't recognise," he told Ellen.
"Turn around," she instructed.
John didn't move, because he knew what she wanted to see. "There's no exit wound," he said. "I know what you're thinking."
She circled the scar with her fingertips, exploring the skin around it. "It looks like a high calibre bullet wound, close range impact, but if that's it, there should be an exit wound."
John's body reacted to her touch, his cock swelling. He hoped the t-shirt was long enough to conceal it. "If it were what it looks like, Ellen, I'd be missing a leg. From the angle a bullet would have gone right through the bone."
"Mm, you could be right. Maybe it was special ammo, like safety rounds."
John had no idea. Ellen knew he had no memory of it. But John didn't say it. What he did say was, "Sweetheart, you are fucking up my noble resolutions."
Ellen withdrew her hand, but she didn't get up. "I noticed," she said softly.
John took a step backward. "Damn it, Ellen!" She was the one who asked him to stay. She was the one who made it clear this was only platonic.
Ellen moved back, making space for him on the bed. She looked up at him. "It's been a long time, John."
John slid into the bed. The sheets were cool against his skin and he lay back, trying to pretend his hard-on wasn't an issue. He shifted onto his side, facing her. "It's only a long time for you."
She didn't understand. How could she? Ellen was older, her hair was different but she was still the same Ellen.
Almost against his will, John reached out to brush a lock of hair back from her face. Ellen turned her face toward his touch, closing her eyes. That small gesture told him everything he needed to know. It gave the lie to her earlier words. John slid his fingers into her hair, cupping the back of her head as if in preparation for a kiss. But even then, he held himself back from her.
Ellen leaned into him, anticipating.
"Ellen," John said quietly, "Bill is barely cold..."
Her eyes opened and a small frown creased her brow. "It was thirteen years ago."
"Not to me, Ellen. Don't you see?"
Ellen moved toward him, her body not quite touching his. "John, I understand. It took both of us to fuck up what we had. If this is a second chance..."
John nearly asked what she meant. It took both of us to fuck up. What happened between them? Did it matter?
"It won't kill you to quit being stubborn," Ellen smiled.
"It might," John answered, and kissed her.
Ellen closed the space between them, her lips parting beneath John's kiss. He could taste the whiskey on her tongue. John probed her mouth gently, using his tongue to part her lips further. He ran his tongue over the smoothness of her teeth, into the roof of her mouth, exploring. John breathed her breath and Ellen moaned into his mouth.
Her hands slid down his back from his shoulders to his waist. She gathered his t-shirt into her hands and raised it upward. John broke away from the kiss long enough to pull the t-shirt over his head. He lifted Ellen's nightshirt; beneath it, she was nude. Ellen raised her arms and he stripped the nightshirt off her. He threw it to one side. He gazed down at Ellen's nude body. She was older, but as beautiful as ever.
"God, Ellen," John groaned as he rolled on top of her. He bent to kiss her neck, his unshaven cheek rubbing the sensitive skin. He tasted the salt of her skin, nibbling her neck. Ellen held his head to her, gently guiding his mouth lower. John obeyed her urging, kissing the small hollow at the base of her throat, licking along the tendons of her neck. He bit down gently on her collarbone, a small scrape of his teeth.
"John," she breathed, and again, "John..." She moved her hips, rubbing herself against him, teasing.
John cupped her breast with his free hand and felt her nipple harden within his palm. He worked her nipple between his fingers, just to hear her moan. He loved knowing she was feeling good...knowing he was making her feel good. He let his hand drift to the perfect valley between her breasts and spread his fingers wide, enjoying her warm flesh under his hand. Ellen arched her back, pressing into his touch, wordlessly encouraging him.
Thoughts of guilt over Bill were far away as John slid his hand lower over her stomach. He found the familiar ridge of a scar just above her navel. She had told him it was the reason she left the hunting to others, but had never explained that. Maybe she thought the existence of the scar spoke for itself. John rubbed the scar gently, relearning the texture of her skin.
Ellen's hands roamed John's bare back, and she was doing the same thing he was: her fingers finding old scars: the small depression of an old bullet wound; the pale line where a werewolf nearly split his spine in two; a scar across his scapula that he didn't remember. She slid her hand beneath the waistband of the underpants and squeezed his buttock. "Take these off," she ordered.
John kissed Ellen's breast. He circled her nipple with his tongue and heard her whisper his name again. He savoured the taste of her flesh, drawing her nipple into his mouth. He sucked, brief but hard. Only then did John release her and sit up to discard the underwear.
Ellen curled around his body from behind, worming her way beneath his arm, kissing his stomach, her hand sliding between his thighs. John lifted his legs back onto the bed and lay back, stroking Ellen's hair, anticipating. Ellen moved to straddle his legs. She looked up the length of his body a gleam in her eyes as if he were a delicious meal. She stroked his cock, a teasing smile playing around her lips. John closed his eyes, enjoying her touch. He felt her hair fall like a soft curtain around his groin and her warm breath on his skin. Then she was sucking him into the delicious heat of her mouth. John threw his head back, gasping. Ellen took in as much of him as she could hold, then slowly, slowly drew her lips up his shaft, creating a strong suction, her tongue working the underside of his cock. It was exquisite. John balled his fists in the sheet beneath him, fighting the urge to thrust, to fuck her mouth, hard and brutal.
"Ellen! Oh, please..."
She raised her head, flipping back her hair to look at him, her eyes questioning.
"Turn around," John begged her. "I won't last, Ellen. Let me..." He wanted to taste her. He wanted to bring her off with his mouth, taste her orgasm on his tongue.
Ellen licked her lips. "Maybe later." She crawled further up the bed, over his body. Her breasts brushed his chest and he raised his hands to caress, pinching her nipples. Ellen leaned down to kiss him and whispered against his lips, "Fuck me, John."
He grinned back. "Well, if you insist." He grabbed her and rolled them both over so she was on her back and he on top. Ellen wrapped her legs around him, opening herself to him and John entered her in one long thrust. He kissed Ellen as he began to move inside her. Ellen met his every thrust, her body and his matched in a perfect rhythm. She turned her head to one side, breaking the kiss, panting for breath.
John knew he wouldn't last much longer. He buried his face in her neck, breathing in the scent of her. Ellen cried out, not his name this time, but a wordless cry of pleasure, her hips thrusting to meet his as John climaxed with her, filling her at last.
After, John held her in his arms, stroking her back gently until she slept.
Ellen woke up alone. Her mind still heavy with sleep, at first she found nothing strange in her solitude. She turned onto her side and noticed she was nude. The memory came back in a rush. John Winchester showing up at her door. John making love to her. She ran her hands through her sleep-tangled hair. Jesus, she must be really desperate if she was conjuring up a ghost so she could get laid.
She blinked, shaking off sleep and sat up in the bed. Her gaze fell to the pillow beside her. The pillow bore a dent in the middle, as if someone had slept there. Ellen leaned over and looked more closely. She found a few dark hairs on the pillow.
It wasn't a dream. It was real.
Then why was she alone?
Ellen found her nightshirt on the floor and pulled it on over her head. She left the bedroom wearing only the nightshirt, the wooden floor cool against her bare feet.
She found John in her living room. She waited in the open doorway for a few moments, silently observing him. John was examining her research and notes. He had moved most of her paperwork and sorted it into several stacks on the coffee table. He was engrossed in an article clipped from a newspaper. He tapped a pen against his lips as he read, and wrote something across the top of the article before laying it down on one of the piles of paper.
Always the hunter. What else would he be doing?
"I can hear you breathing," John said without looking up. He picked up another article.
"How long have you been in here?" Ellen asked.
John did look up then. "A while," he answered, and she thought that, maybe, she detected a hint of an apology. "I got up for some water and..."
"You got distracted?" she suggested with a smile.
He didn't smile back. "How did it get so bad, Ellen? All this is... The last I remember, we were holding a line. Maybe not winning, but holding. Now this...it looks like a war. It looks like we're losing the war."
Ellen moved into the room at last. Things had been getting steadily worse for years, and went downhill fast after the devil's gate opened a year before. But of course, John had no memory of those years. So she answered simply, "Yes."
"I know Jim Murphy died. Who else have we lost?"
Ellen sat on the arm of John's chair. "I can give you a list of dead hunters, John, but that isn't the problem. Not a lot of hunters live to get old. We've always had losses."
"Then what is the problem?"
"Last year an army of demons escaped from Hell. Two hundred or more of them. Dean killed their...their king, or general, but - "
"My Dean?" John sounded genuinely surprised.
Ellen smiled. "Oh, yeah. Your Dean. He's a hell of a hunter, John, you'll be proud of him. He bought us time to get the word out and start the fight, but what we had was an army of demons with no leader. Chaos, rivalries, with innocent humans caught in the crossfire. And while hunters go after the demons, the less apocalyptic stuff is getting missed."
"I never dreamed it could get this bad," John said quietly. He laid the article he held aside and stood up, facing Ellen. "If it's true that I died...Ellen, why am I alive now? Did something bring me back to fight this fight? Why me? Why not Bill or Jim..." his voice trailed off.
"Or Mary," Ellen said for him.
John looked down at his hand, where his wedding ring should have been. "Yes," he agreed.
"I'm sorry, John." Ellen felt some empathy for his grief, but it was one way in which they were polar opposites. When Bill died, Ellen's grief was no less than his for Mary. The difference was that Ellen had learned long ago to put grief aside and move on. She didn't stop loving Bill, Jamie, Ash or anyone else she'd lost. She would always miss them. But she wouldn't allow the dead to run her life. John, she thought, had never really recovered from his losses. They grew heavier, a burden on him, instead of lighter with the years.
She knew that John had loved her, for the short time they had been lovers, but she would never be his Mary. She would never even come close.
John's expression became grim, his eyes flint-hard. "The dead should stay dead, Ellen. We both know that. Whatever brought me back had some purpose."
"We'll find out, John," she began reassuringly. "We've got a lead to this man, Hunter..."
John shook his head. "That's a distraction. All this..." he gestured at the carefully sorted research, "is what matters."
Ellen nodded agreement. This was the John Winchester she remembered. When they talked the evening before he had seemed unfocussed, unsure of himself. She hadn't been surprised, all things considered. Looking at him now she saw the determined, obsessed hunter he had always been since she met him. He had made a decision and what they shared last night would mean nothing at all. But Ellen was the wife and mother of hunters. She wouldn't expect anything less from John.
"What's your plan?" she asked.
"Do you have a car I can borrow?"
That depends where you plan to take it. "I have a car," she answered carefully. "Where are you going?"
"I've got - " John stopped, then corrected himself. "I used to have a lockup in Lincoln. I bought a twenty year lease so it should still be there. I've got weapons, tools, some books."
She nodded again. "So you get your arsenal back. Then what?"
"Find my boys. Then get back in this fight." John moved toward her. "You said last night that you don't know where my boys are. But you know something, don't you?"
She admitted it. "They've been working with..." she stopped herself before she let Bobby's name slip, "...another hunter. I know where he lives. They might not be there but he'll know where they are."
John must have noticed her caution, but he simply nodded. "You'll take me there?"
"Damn it!" Jo swore, then closed the telnet window quickly as another customer in the internet café glanced over. Another firewall she couldn't get through. She sipped her coffee and struck another lead off her list.
At times like this, she really missed her brother. Ash was a spaz and a pain in the ass, but he could hack into anything. She had been searching for "D. Hunter" since the café opened and kept coming up blank.
Her mom told her the man she was looking for may have served in Vietnam. Jo found a record of a Sergeant David Hunter in the US Marine Corps who did indeed serve in Saigon and was discharged (honourably) from the Corps after the US withdrawal. But she could find nothing else in his service record, no beginning of service, no details of engagements.
She figured maybe he was CIA and those records were sealed. So she tried for more mundane details. What she found was almost frightening. Sergeant David Hunter had never been born, never attended school, never held a drivers' license and, so far as she could find, never married or died. It was as if he existed only for the few years he served in the Marine Corps.
Obviously, the name was an alias or a cover. Jo tried a wider search for the name: Lexis Nexis, news services, DMV records, phone directories. Hunter wasn't an uncommon name so she got a lot of hits. Patiently, she sorted through them and whenever she found a D. Hunter of approximately the right age, she tried to follow the trail. She got nothing.
The man was either a spy, a master criminal or someone else with a lot of practice staying off the grid. Someone like a hunter.
The computer Jo was using beeped an alert and her IM window sprang open. She glanced at it, intending to shut it down. The message window was blank but there was a username, as if someone deliberately messaged her with nothing.
The username was HunterD.
Jo thought about it for a moment, then typed Hi.
Where is John?
Jo frowned. She typed: Who? Who R U?
You know my name. Where is John Winchester?
Jo stared at the message for about thirty seconds. The question made no sense. Everyone knew by now. Finally, she simply answered the question. John's dead.
Why are you looking for me?
Jo didn't answer. When no further message came, she shut off the computer and headed out of the café. She wanted to put some distance between herself and that place before she called her mom.
Who was David Hunter? And what on earth did this have to do with John Winchester?
Dean laid the two sacks of food and supplies on the hood of his car and reached into his pocket for his keys. He might have overdone it a little: he'd bought far more than they were going to need. He wanted to take care of Sam for as long as he could. Who knew what Sam was going to do when Dean was gone? They'd talked plans, but Dean knew that would mean nothing when it all went down.
He loaded the supplies into the Impala's rear seat and climbed in. He slid his keys into the ignition and ran one hand over the wheel, caressing. Dean had spent so much of his life in this car. In some ways she was more companion to him than the living people in his world.
Dean pulled the cell phone from his pocket. He scrolled through the stored numbers. Girls he barely remembered (and one or two he wished he didn't), some other hunters and a very short list of people he truly cared about: Sam, Bobby, Lisa... He stopped at Lisa's number. The urge to call her was almost overwhelming, but what could he say to her now? Lisa knew nothing about his fucked-up life and she was better off that way.
He called Bobby instead.
"Hey, Bobby, it's Dean."
"Dean!" Bobby sounded genuinely happy to hear from him. "I was just about to call you. How are you both holding up?"
Subtle, Bobby. Real subtle. "We're...okay," Dean answered. "I'm just calling because...we're gonna be out of touch for a few days."
"Why? Where you goin'?"
"There's a place in the mountains. High enough that there's no cell signal. We're takin' some time off."
There was a long silence on Bobby's end. Dean stayed quiet. He knew Bobby would understand that he'd called to say goodbye.
The cabin in the mountains was a place they spent a few summers when they were little kids, before Dad decided Dean was old enough to watch his little brother while he went hunting for weeks at a time. Dean had no idea who owned it: it certainly wasn't their dad, but he knew no one had lived there between the summers when John had used the place. Amazingly, the old cabin was still standing, though it looked as if no one had used it since the last time they were there. Dean and Sam were going to hole up in the cabin until the Hell hounds came for Dean. If demons were good timekeepers, that would be two nights from now.
Dean expected they would keep hunting right up to the end, but he'd changed his mind two weeks earlier. A hunt went south, a few people died. It made Dean realise that if they were working a job when his deal came due, more people could die than just Dean. He wasn't about to take anyone else down with him. When he told his brother what he was thinking, Sam asked, If we could go anywhere in the world, do anything at all, for your last... What would it be? Smart-ass answers involving Vegas or Mexico came to mind but then Dean thought of the cabin. They'd spend happy times there. They'd been a family there. And it was isolated: no other people around to get caught in the crossfire.
Bobby's voice broke into his thoughts. "Do you boys have some plan?" He sounded hopeful.
Dean hated to squash that hope, but he answered truthfully. "We've got one last shot. It's always been an option, but... I'm not gonna let Sam take it."
"Why the hell not?" Bobby demanded. He sounded shocked.
"Oh, I want to. You have no idea how much. But if we try it, Sam dies. That's the deal and I...I can't do it, Bobby."
He heard Bobby sigh. "Yeah. I hear ya, son."
Dean swallowed, hard. "Bobby, take care of Sam for me. If he'll let you."
Bobby made an impatient noise. "I woulda done that anyway, you ass."
"I know," Dean said.
Silence fell between them once more. There were a hundred things Dean wanted to say. He couldn't say any of them, not out loud. But maybe Bobby understood anyway.
Dean was about to say goodbye when Bobby cleared his throat gruffly. "Uh, listen. I know you and your brother have other things on your minds, but I had a call from Ellen Harvelle this morning. She wants to talk to you boys."
"What about?" Dean asked, glad for the change of subject.
"She didn't say. Sounded important to her, though. You, er, might want to let Sam know."
And there it was again. Dean nodded. "I'll tell him. Goodbye, Bobby."
"Yeah. Goodbye, Dean." There was a click as Bobby hung up his phone, and Dean was left holding a dead line.
Dean let the phone fall from his hand. He drew in a deep breath. He remembered his dad at the hospital, just before he died.
Is this really you talkin'?
Yeah, it's really me.
Why are you sayin' this stuff?
Dean had his answer, now.
Dean pushed a tape into the stereo, turned the volume up as loud as it would go, and started to drive.
It was a long drive up to the cabin, and for the last mile and a half there was no road. When he finally saw the cabin ahead, Sam was outside, standing on a box in front of the door. He turned around when he heard the Impala and waved. There was a paintbrush in his hand.
Dean parked the Impala beside the woodpile and shut off the music just as the opening bars of Highway to Hell split the air. He grabbed the shopping bags from the back seat and walked up to the cabin.
It was a two-room timber cabin. There was no electricity. Heating came from an old iron stove which miraculously was still working. There was a well out back for water and a lime pit for waste. The two beds were intact, though the mattresses were old and damp. But some waterproof canvas sheets and sleeping bags would make it comfortable enough. The place was primitive, but Dean loved it.
He looked at the symbols Sam had painted in white above the door. "Nice paint job," he called.
Sam jumped down from his box. I put salt down everywhere and a devil's trap inside the door. It should keep us off the radar until..." Sam stopped. He'd been doing that a lot lately. Sam would start to say something and he'd just cut it off when he realised he was about to refer to Hell, or to demons, or to how much time Dean had left. It was as if he thought not mentioning it could keep it from happening.
Sam came down the three steps from the cabin and took one of the bags from Dean. "You bought a lot."
Dean grinned. "Beer, whiskey..."
"I had a call from Bobby," Dean said, hoping to change the subject before one of them had to joke about the condemned man's last meal.
The sudden hope in Sam's face was painful to see. "Bobby? Did he...?"
Dean shook his head sadly. "No, Sammy."
Sam turned away from him, heading back up to the cabin. "Oh. Right." He walked through the door into the dark interior.
Dean pressed on. "He said Ellen's been trying to reach us. I told him I'd give you the message."
Sam spun around quickly. "Ellen?"
Dean walked past him to put the bag he was holding down on the rickety table. "Yeah. We can drive into town and call her if you..." He caught sight of Sam's face, then. "Dude, what? You look like you've seen a ghost." Dean grinned, trying for a little levity. "Which, you know, if you have, we can deal."
Sam shrugged. "No. No ghosts. I...I had a weird dream last night."
"You were dreaming about Ellen? Dude, you really need to get laid."
Sam sat down on one of the beds. He looked up at Dean, his expression serious. "It wasn't about Ellen, exactly. I dreamed about Dad."
All humour fled. As Dean started to move toward his brother, a beam of sunlight shone through the cabin's newly cleaned window. Within that beam of light a million specks of dust whirled, giving the impression that it was a solid barrier between Dean and Sam. Then Dean stepped into the light and the momentary illusion was gone.
He sat down beside Sam. "Okay. So what did you dream?" He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees: a casual gesture to cover up inner tension.
"It's stupid. I mean... I dreamed about Dad. He was looking for us, kinda like we spent so long looking for him, remember? He went to Ellen for help." Sam shrugged helplessly. "It was just a dream."
Dean reached out and squeezed Sam's shoulder awkwardly. "I know. I've been thinking it, too."
"That if Dad were here, he might know something that would help."
Sam shook his head. "Dad knew a lot that we don't, but even he couldn't find a way out of this one. That bitch tied it down too well."
Dean answered quietly, "I don't know, Sammy. He found his own way out of the pit."
"We don't know that. Not for sure."
Fine. Whatever. Dean stood up. "Well, I gave you the message. You want to call Ellen?" He already knew what Sam would say.
Sam seemed to think it over. "No. We agreed, no more hunting. Whatever Ellen wants, it can wait."
Bobby hung up the phone before he could say something unfortunate. He stared at the silent telephone for a long time. Damn it, Dean. Damn it to Hell. Why'd you have to make that deal?
Bobby had done everything possible to help Dean break his contract. But there was no way. After months of tracking down every little lead, Bobby had nothing left.
He understood the boys' desire to spend Dean's last days alone. It might not be the smartest move, but Bobby understood it. Take care of Sam for me. Yeah. Bobby would do that...whatever it meant.
Damn it, Dean.
The rumble of a motor came from outside the house. Bobby moved to the window and looked for the source of the sound. It was an old Volkswagen camper van, the kind popular with kids in the 70's. The van was heading toward Bobby's place at speed. Bobby didn't know anyone who drove a van like that. He moved away from the window, peering through the dirty glass from the side until he could see the driver.
His eyes widened when he recognised the man at the wheel. No...it couldn't be.
Bobby grabbed his shotgun and positioned himself where he could see the door. He waited. He heard the van's engine stop. He heard the slam of its door.
The next sound was a knock on Bobby's door. It surprised him: demons were not usually so polite.
"It ain't locked," he called.
The handle turned. The door swung open. The man who strode in looked no different from the last time Bobby saw him. He was a tall man with sun-streaked brown hair and the deep tan of a man who spends his life out-of-doors. He wore faded blue jeans over cowboy boots and a plaid shirt that was open at the neck to reveal an amulet on a leather thong. He stopped when he saw Bobby's gun, a few steps into the room and, perhaps coincidentally, in the centre of the devil's trap painted on the ceiling above.
"That's a pleasant welcome," he said.
Bobby gazed at him calmly. "You're dead," he declared. "I saw you die, David."
David Hunter shook his head. "You saw me fall," he corrected. "Didn't you wonder why you couldn't find a body? You strike me as the kind of man who would have looked."
"I did," Bobby conceded, "but no human could have survived that fall."
He expected some attempt to deny it, or an outlandish explanation, but David answered evenly, "True. No one else could have." He spread his hands wide. "Go ahead, if you're going to shoot."
Bobby cocked the shotgun pointedly. "Walk forward," he ordered.
David looked up, saw the devil's trap above him and smiled. He walked forward right out of its circle. "I'm not a demon, Bobby. Nor a vampire."
Bobby lowered the shotgun. "Then what are you? That was a five hundred foot drop, with only rock to land on. You'd better have a damn fine explanation."
"I'll explain, but there isn't much time. I need your help, Bobby."
"With what?" Bobby asked.
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