Genre: gen, Stanford!era (Dean is 23), flashback vignette
Characters: Dean (POV), OFC, eau de John
Word Count: ~2300
Summary: On a hunt with John and an old babysitter cum hunter, Dean plays victim to lure out the monsters. It hurts.
Notes: Written for skeletncloset's prompt at the Dean-centric S9 comment!meme, as well as an anon prompt at hoodie_time's 2012 summer-themed comment!meme. Oh, don't look at me like that!
"Growin' up nice. Shit." Vanessa wipes Dean's blood onto the thighs of her pants. "Sorry about that."
Dean shrugs, rotates his wrists in the cable ties. He feels new cuts, shallow and stinging. "Gotta make it believable."
"Damn straight, Winchester; I know that better'n you. Part about growing up, though--I didn't mean it that way. You're already all grown, aren't you."
Dean shrugs again, which makes him feel stupid and sullenly twenty-one again. Or worse, like Sam. Some kind of raunchy quip should be more his speed, but if Dean's gonna be honest with himself Vanessa disturbs the crap out of him. It takes a special kind of person to be the sort of hunter she is, and a crazy one to have ever babysat John Winchester's children. Something about hunting with the woman who used to pick him up from sixth grade detention didn't sit right with him.
"John told me about Bill," says Vanessa. She's leaning into a corner of the shed, the two windows like wings abreast of her, shadows dropped over her head and shoulders like a cowl. He'd be lying if he said he wouldn't have preferred her elsewhere, but hey, you gotta make it real. Though Dean hasn't got a clue who Bill is.
"I'm not gonna let that happen to you."
"Great," Dean says. Because what are you supposed to say to something like that?
They pass hours in the shed in silence. Windows are open to carry his smell, but there's no breeze and it doesn't matter. It's too hot to think much. As the sun comes down it sears straight into his eyes until they just feel like dried out sockets, cured and smoked.
"Hey V," Dean croaks. Shit. The top of him feels cavernous and light-headed. "You got any, uh"--he blinks his eyes hard a couple times and shakes his head. "You got anything to drink?"
Dean swallows hard. "Any water?"
"You know I can't."
"Sorry." And for a moment, he's angry that he should have to act sorry for anything. He's the one chained to a chair, wrists reduced to stinging ribbons. He's the one with splinters in his ass. He's the one being cut on, the one who's beginning to think he'd buy his own saliva if someone was offering. He feels like a piece of beef jerky, and fuck everyone who wasn't him right now. He jerks against his restraints and feels a comforting wetness at his wrists. The binds around his legs are less forgiving, and the panic of his immobility gathers at his knees, then drops through his body in a wave of jitters, spasms. He needs so badly to move, to run. It's an itch, and then it's panic again.
"That's good," says Vanessa.
"Keep doing that."
Dean exhales slowly. His nostrils burn. Talk about getting into character, fuck. He directs all his energy to bearing that feeling in his knees. "How much longer?" Then he gathers himself and tries to sound a little less pathetic. "Gettin' kinda bored over here."
"Thing needs to smell you. Can't exactly page it." Vanessa's digging grit out from under her nails with a pocket knife. "Your dad's got all the lures laid. He's gonna radio when it gets close enough to hear you. Then all it's gotta do is see you, and we got him."
When she's not looking, Dean drops his head over the back of the chair and takes several controlled breaths. Fuck, fuck, and fuck. "How long's that gonna take?"
"Can't tell you."
"That long, huh?"
Vanessa puts the knife away. "Nah, I really can't tell you. You gotta be as surprised as his real victims were. Thing's smart, a little paranoid. He'll scat if you don't do this right. Hey, look sharp."
Dean sits up. His brain sloshes and he feels his headache everywhere.
"You're supposed to be terrified, not resigned. Thing's not a scavenger."
Dean's pretty well resigned right now. He makes a weak pass at wrestling with his bindings again, but it just feels like such a wasted effort. And when he's Dean again and not Victim C, he's the one who's gonna have to deal with his wrists.
"It had to be you, Dean," says Vanessa. "You know that, right?"
Now probably wasn't the time to admit this--there probably wasn't ever a time to admit this--but Dean's been having trouble tracking Vanessa to the end of her sentences for a while now. Part of it's 'cause all of this was bullshit, Dean was pretty sure (nah, it's the job; it's the furthest thing from bullshit. Sack up), but. It's not like her sentences were all that long. He pulls on his wrists again and tries to make a tightrope out of the pain, walk it back towards focus.
"Sorta thought I'd outgrown this." His lips smack dry and hard. "Guess not."
Vanessa drifts from her perch in the corner. She wipes a sweaty finger over his lips, which stings, runs her other hand through his hair. Then she rests her hand on his chest. He can feel his heartbeat through her, rapid. His skin is hot and dry, and Vanessa's hot and wet almost feels good.
"Guess not," she agrees.
Then, "You done this a lot?"
Dean shrugs. "What monster doesn't want to eat a kid?"
But he's twenty-three now, and out of practice. He's not used to this kind of helplessness, this dynamic of complete dependence. It's exhausting, and it tests his stores of trust, which apparently aren't what they used to be. He remembers being little and sitting in the mouths of beasts, give or take a few inches. He remembers manning up and sitting in perfect certainty that his dad was gonna be there, he was gonna get the thing, he was gonna take care of it. He's less sure of that now, in ways he's fairly certain have been key to his survival up to this point; but obviously nothing'd done him in as a kid, so maybe he's the problem. He broke the magic somehow.
Because right now, he's pretty sure he's gonna die, and the monster's gonna miss the show. He knows heat stroke coming a mile away. Sometimes two, depending on air quality and visibility.
"I know. Shit."
Then there's a crackle on the radio. No message, no intel, just a beep and static, which has always been John Winchester's way of telling the whole damn story.
Works for Dean. "Finally."
Vanessa approaches again, this time with a bottle of vodka and more than a pocket knife. She uses the drink to sterilize the blade. He could give a shit about sharp things headed his way, but the wasted vodka pools in a dusty dark spot on the floor and all he can think about is what a waste that was. He's so thirsty.
"Listen." Vanessa knocks the blade under his chin. Dean resists the urge to rest the growing weight of his head on it. "We do this right, this can all happen fast. There's a creek out back I wanna drop you in--you want that, right?"
Dean can't say he really does. In fact, he's sure he rarely ever wants that, but he gets what she means. Monster dies quick, then Dean doesn't, period.
"C'mon, ham it up. Scream."
Vanessa swipes a safe--if a little deep, Dean thinks--cut across his collarbone, and Dean forgets to scream.
Fuck screaming. He's just gonna pass out.
Then Vanessa gets rough. Her hands claw at his neck and she palms his throat, locking her leg around his as a counterbalance as she presses hard. Not enough to do any real damage but definitely enough to get his attention. "Scream," she hisses. She slashes at his shoulder like it's a block of cheese, no entourage, and Dean yelps. "Scream. Whole forest needs to hear you, Winchester, so scream."
"Scream like you want someone to come and save you!"
Dean tries. Dean screams like he hopes John's tracking the monster at its back, like John nails it before it even gets close to this stupid fucking shed, like the static on that radio comes back and this is all about to goddamn end.
"Sell it, Winchester." You're acting like it's over, growls Vanessa. You're acting like you've given up, like there's no one there to save you. Monster don't want that--it wants fight and terror. It wants hope. It wants to scrape that hope right out of your chest so you better goddamn give it what it wants.
She socks him in the stomach, and then the knife starts cutting deeper, faster, freer. At some point the chair goes over and Dean's head hits the floor with a crack, his heart leaps, his legs go numb. Vanessa jabs her elbows into his inner thigh, then his groin. She hacks a quick sketch of his ribs onto the skin of his torso. And he does scream.
He thinks, if only he'd been a better actor. She wouldn't have needed to go so far. The hunt would have gone faster. It would have been cleaner. It would have been easier on everyone. If he were a better actor--
He's still screaming when the thing writhes in through the window, shattering the panes that got in its way. Fuck, it must be huge, Dean thinks, though from his vantage point on the ground all he can see are the spiderwebs on the ceiling, and swimming patches of black. He hears body parts slithering and armored feet clicking, and then the tickle of--antennae?--at his cheek. And--was that a tongue?
Mother of fuck.
Then the thunder of a weapons discharge, too close to his head. He can't see anything, can't hear anything, but an awful lot of exoskeleton slides and bucks across his belly, recoiling from the shot.
Three more bullets. A muted squeal as Dean feels a knife thunk down near his neck. The shudder runs the length of the floorboard. A cool wetness seeps under his head, into his hair. Putting two and eight together, Dean gathers that it's hemolymph.
His vision recovers colors, and then crude outlines, and Vanessa's standing over him, long, twitching ovipositor hanging over her shoulder. She cuts his cable ties with the same knife that did in the--well, whatever it was. Freaky-ass bug thing.
The same knife that did him in, he realizes, as she pulls him upright and his vision rushes black again and the vertigo churns his stomach. There's more of his own blood on him than the bug's.
"This one's the mama," Vanessa's explaining, though for whose benefit Dean's not sure; he definitely doesn't give a shit. "Hard to lure out"--she disentangles him from the chair and tries to pull him to his feet, but Dean's legs crumple under him. "Easy to kill."
She holds the knife out toward him. "Do the honors? You deserve it."
Dean seriously considers this. But he can't get up, and he can't raise his arms, and fuck, there's a lot of blood on the ground. Instead he falls forward and thinks about lapping it up. He's that thirsty.
Vanessa pulls him back upright by his shirt collar. "Come on, baby."
Kill the monster, I know, Dean envisions himself saying.
"Let's get you cooled down," says Vanessa. "We're gonna get you some water, wash you down. Patch you up." She repeats these things at a low croon, in a way that sounds--thoughtful, if not necessarily nurturing or at all reassuring. "Come on, let's get you up."
"We can't--" Dean winces as his ankles try to bear weight. "We can't just leave that here."
"Yeah we can," says Vanessa. She grabs a pitchfork from the back of the shed, dragging Dean, boneless, with her. Then she kicks the two pieces of centipede onto one another and spears it through. "She's not going anywhere."
"Where's my dad?" Dean asks when he realizes they're heading out the door, though it comes out as more of a moan.
"He's coming," Vanessa assures him. "You want we wait?"
Dean doesn't answer. He wants John there. As usual, he wants John there. But he doesn't want him to see him like this, because when it comes down to it, he should have been a better actor. He should have just screamed. Vanessa was just doing what she had to do.
Vanessa puts a hand to his forehead. "We're not gonna wait."
They go find that creek.
When Dean comes to, he's lying in some mud and grass. He hears the creek. He's still wet, but the sun is down. So it's been a while, then.
Vanessa welcomes him back to the land of the living. "You're gonna be okay," she says. Which is great, because otherwise, the way he feels right now would have caused him some serious doubt.
"Had to wait 'til you came back before I started bandaging you up," she continues, pulling strip after strip of cloth out of her pockets. Then she points to her left bicep, which is a mottled expanse of deep purple. "Kicked me when I tried before."
"Oh," says Dean. He should apologize, maybe, but you know what? Tit for tat. And he's not sure he really wants Vanessa's company right now, anyway. No offense.
Vanessa must sense this.
"He's coming, you know," she says. "But he found our girl's brood. You understand."
"Sure." Sure he does.
Original prompt #1: Tonight's episode featured a girl named Annie. Draw parallels between her life and Dean's. How many time did John Winchester use him as a lure? Pretty little sixteen year old waiting to be picked up or picked off. And Dean so terrified of disappointing him.
Original prompt #2: John gave an order, and Dean would be crazy to not follow it. 'Stay inside the room, Dean'. Sam is away at school, and Dean is bait to their current motw. It's over 95 degrees inside, but he's not suppose to move, even though that is what his brain wants him to do. He forgot to bring water with him, there's no window, and the damn motw is taking its sweet time to show up. He wants out, wants his dad to release him of his duty but there's no way to contact his father who is keeping an eye out outside. Dean feels himself weakening, but he has a job to do, and he's not going to fail his dad. Gen or slash, matters not.