More fic inspired by a spn_het_love challenge.
Title: The Edge Of Normality
Spoilers: Beginning of season 2 certainly
Summary: Dean is more than a little afraid of who he might become and knows he must try to separate the hunter from the man.
He played pool like he had nothing to prove – careless shots between sips of whiskey. And just for tonight he actually had nothing to prove and could afford to be a little careless. The demon they had been hunting had killed eighteen people in the last few months, two of which were fellow hunters that had tried to stop it. Finally, thanks to them, the son of a bitch was dead and if that didn’t deserve a little celebrating he didn’t know what did.
He leant over the table and easily sunk another ball, his aim good even when he was on his third glass of Jack. Not the cheap stuff that honestly could kill you in one evening if that’s what you really wanted. No, there were some definite advantages to finding a bar just slightly more upmarket than the out of the way dives they normally frequented. Not to say this place wasn’t out of the way; situated on an otherwise empty highway between two towns, it certainly fulfilled that criterion. And it was plenty rustic enough to be considered at least a bit of a dive, but there were no indescribable stains on the walls and there wasn’t a single drunk lying unconscious on a pool table so it was already a massive step up from his normal joints. It was just a simple place where people came to get a beer, listen to some music and have a good time.
He could drink to that.
Despite Sam’s usual protests against the ‘greatest hits of mullet rock’ he seemed to be enjoying them well enough right at that moment. He really couldn’t dance to save his hide but a few beers in him combined with a high mood and it seemed that the younger Winchester was more than willing to attempt to bounce along to the likes of Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, AC/DC, Rush and even a bit of Ozzy. Dean grinned slightly, watching his little brother surrounded by a small gaggle of girls, either totally oblivious to the fact that they were all eyeing him up or tactfully ignoring it. In the end he seemed to be having a good time though which was definitely something he sorely needed.
Izzy seemed to find the whole thing pretty amusing and had taken to rather unsubtly manoeuvring girls towards him, trying to get him to dance with one. Sam was pretty quick on his feet though and always managed to sidestep his way out of the situation, grabbing Izzy, using her as a human shield between him and any woman who got too close for comfort.
Sam liked Izzy. Not in a ‘let’s go back to my place make with the horizontal’ kind of way but certainly as a friend. He was comfortable around her and he seemed be a bit more relaxed. Knowing that he wasn’t the only one in the room with the freaky mojo apparently made him more at ease with it. Sam liked having her around. Maybe that was why Dean had been so dead set against the idea of her coming at first.
It had been Sam’s idea. She was the first person like him – psychic ability and mother dead when she was a baby – who they’d met that wasn’t either crazy or homicidal and who also actually had some sort of notion of what this was all about. Her grandmother had been a hunter, taking over from her grandfather when he had died way too young. Her father was one too. She grew up in a shop selling occult supplies, now run by a woman who he suspected was an active practitioner of hoodoo even though she admitted to nothing. Izzy certainly had had ample opportunity to get to know her stuff and she had taken it.
Still, Dean had said, that wasn’t any reason to invite her along.
Sam had argued that she was useful. He’d had a vision about her for a reason but that wasn’t, as it had been with the others of their kind, because she was a threat to people or because she was in danger herself. It was because she could help. He’d argued that if it wasn’t for her ability to feel the residual energy that spirits and strong emotional events left in their wake then they never would have found that teenage girl, entombed in the walls of the old dog’s home, gagged to silence her whilst the demon fed off of her fear. Or perhaps they would have found her eventually but not before it was too late.
Dean had countered that, saying that they had EMF meters for that job and that they didn’t need some freak with a psychic radar hanging around with them. Of course the use of the f-word had riled Sam and he’d stormed off. By the time he had returned to the motel room hours later he was calmer and Dean was apologetic but no more relenting when Sam had asked him about Izzy yet again.
Truth was he didn’t want anyone else with them. Partly because he didn’t simply didn’t want the hassle, but mainly because he didn’t want the intrusion. It was him and Sammy. That’s how it should be. All he had left now was his brother and, if he was honest with himself, he wasn’t up to sharing.
He’d snidely suggested that Sam’s interest wasn’t actually in her mind but in parts much lower down and he’d pointed out that he didn’t have to drag her half way across the country to do her. Sam had firmly denied that it was anything of the sort. He just said that it was just nice to have someone else to talk too, that was all. Dean had pointed out that Sam could always talk to him to which Sam had bluntly replied that he really couldn’t. They were so wrapped up in their own little world and he was afraid they were getting lost in that. It helped him feel less isolated to have an outsider in the mix. He said it would be good for them both.
Dean still doubted that very much though and he never would have agreed to it if he hadn’t met her father.
Jack Hedley was apparently at home very little. In fact, Izzy had said, months sometimes went by without them hearing from him at all. Dean understood that the man was a hunter and that he had a job to do but that was a bit too much as far as he was concerned. The guy had a family. He had a brother off hunting elsewhere and two daughters, the younger of which was at college. For Dean it was his family more than anything that kept him hunting, wanting to take out the thing that had killed his parents and wanting to protect Sam. He couldn’t understand how Jack Hedley could keep himself so distant from his loved ones. Surely in their business you needed every bit of good you could lay your hands on if just to counteract all the bad you saw.
However he certainly seemed very adept at keeping his eldest daughter at arm’s length. He said all the right things, that he was pleased to see her and that he’d missed her, but the feeling wasn’t there. His words were empty. That puzzled Dean but he guessed it was none of his business.
He’d gone to the shop alone that day. He and Sam were leaving in the morning and he hoped that by saying his goodbyes then and there he could tell Sam that he’d asked her to come with them and she didn’t want to, knowing she then wouldn’t be around to contradict his story. Sam would be none the wiser and this whole mess would stop giving him a headache.
Jack was there when he’d arrived, stocking up on vital equipment, apparently eager to head off again soon but an injury to his arm preventing him from doing so. He’d been friendly enough with Dean, saying that he was welcome to take whatever supplies he wanted free of charge. Telling him to call it a gift in memory of their dad. Dean wasn’t about to turn that down so he’d set about browsing through the shelves, taking a bit of whatever he deemed useful.
Izzy was there too, pointedly ignoring Dean after their almost consistent arguments since they’d first met. She was trying to help her dad and, more obviously, trying to strike up a conversation with him that was about more than just the practical. It was quite clear however that Jack wasn’t interested, brushing her words aside with short, terse answers. Eventually he sent her off to the stock room with a long list of extra things he needed. It was clear she felt shunned but she made no deal of it, doing as he asked.
Dean probably shouldn’t have said anything but he couldn’t help it.
“You two don’t get along?”
To be honest there were times when he cursed opening his mouth, wishing that he’d never heard what Jack had to say. It would have made his life a whole hell of a lot less complicated.
Jack was so completely blunt and open about it all, that was the thing that had set Dean’s inner alarm bells ringing first. Hedley explained that he knew all about the demon and the children whose mothers’ had been sacrificed when they were six months old. He knew that his was one of dozens of families affected and that since then many of the children had started to display strange gifts. More worryingly he knew that there was supposedly a plan for them all. He said that Dean’s father had contacted him, their last conversation many months before he’d died, to give him a warning.
“He was a good man, your dad,” Jack had said, nodding thoughtfully, “He understood the way this works. He knew that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the greater good.”
That had made Dean pause. Yeah, John Winchester had made a sacrifice. He’d given up his life for the sake of his eldest son. He didn’t think that was what Jack was referring to though and, remembering his own last conversation with his father, a sickening thought had struck him. He had a pretty good idea what his dad’s warning to Jack had been all about.
“You’d kill your own daughter?”
Dean’s voice was full of quiet disbelief but he already knew the answer. It certainly explained why Jack seemed to show no affection for Izzy at all. He guessed it was much easier to put a bullet in someone’s head if you could convince yourself you didn’t give a rat’s ass about them.
“If I thought she might be a threat, yes,” Jack had said making it sound all too simple, “Life’s tough Dean. There’s no room for sentimentality in our job. Good people die otherwise. ”
Dean had shaken his head, a deep, disturbed frown scarring his features. It wasn’t right. She was his kid. You were supposed to look out for your family.
“But she’s your daughter...”
“Sometimes you have to do awful things in this job, son...I had to kill my wife...”
If Dean’s blood wasn’t already chilled to the core that would have done it for him.
“My wife – my second wife actually – Alison,” Jack had explained, the easiness with which he told the tale more than a little disturbing, “I came back here one night and found a vampire in the house. I guess it was a pissed off local, looking for a bit of revenge. There was blood and I thought it had infected her so I did the deed before I was too late.”
“You thought it had? Shouldn’t you have checked?!”
“What was I supposed to do?” he asked with a cold shrug, “Wait until she’d changed and killed the kids? I couldn’t risk that.”
The truly terrifying part was the fact that Dean could almost understand. Jack hadn’t wanted to endanger his kids. He’d prioritised and taken a tough decision in a tough situation. But still, she’d been his wife, shouldn’t he show some kind of regret? Not this cold, businesslike detachment.
“Look”, Jack had added, “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything about Alison. Izzy doesn’t know and I don’t want her running off. I need to know where she is.”
That had angered Dean slightly.
“What? In case you have to off her?”
Jack had looked at him steadily, not a trace of guilt on him.
“Your dad told me to take care of her. You know as well as I do what he meant. Didn’t he think the same about your brother too?”
Dean couldn’t be sure that that wasn’t a lie, that his dad had never thought about how he might have to kill his youngest son, but he was sure that he didn’t want to admit anything that would make his father sound anything like this man.
“Yeah he did, Dean,” Jack had said, a strange hint of sympathy in his words, “I know it’s hard but you’re still younger. The longer you stay in this business the better you’ll understand.”
Those words still haunted him now.
As much as he was afraid of what was happening with Sam, afraid that it might come to the very worst and he could lose his brother, there were too many times recently when he was afraid for himself as well. And probably with good reason. He’d spent his entire life hunting and killing things and that couldn’t be good for anyone’s mental state. His biggest fear was that he would end up like Jack Hedley – so involved in the job and so detached from the real world that he barely felt anything anymore. He didn’t want to find himself twenty years down the line sitting in a bar and dispassionately telling some young hunter about the day he’d killed his brother...
He hadn’t felt a lot for Izzy herself back then. Heck, he didn’t even like her all that much and they had spent nearly every moment since meeting snapping at one another after getting off on a bad foot. But when she’d walked back into that room and asked what was they were talking about only to have Jack lie to her far too smoothly, Dean knew he couldn’t stand idly by and leave Jack too it. Right then and there he’d made himself responsible for stopping it happening. In his own mind if he could then there was hope that he wouldn’t and couldn’t become like Jack. If he could stop Jack from killing Izzy then he could stop himself from ever being in a position where he had to kill Sam. Which made no kind of sense at all really but it seemed help nonetheless.
That was why as soon as they’d gotten a moment alone he had asked her to come with them, very much to her surprise. She was smart enough to be suspicious but he had lied, telling her that he thought it was good for Sam to have someone that could understand what he was going through around. He simply couldn’t stomach telling her that he wanted to get her away from her dad since he was secretly planning to kill her at the slightest provocation.
He still hadn’t told her now. He didn’t think he ever would.
At least it hadn’t been all bad, bringing her along. It had been a bit tense at first. It was a sense of duty, not want that made him invite her and he’d acted rather resentfully towards her until they’d finally had a huge blazing row and cleared the air. It turned out that she wasn’t so bad after all. She was smart and caring and more than willing to get out there and help. And she loved classic rock which was definitely a bonus and some common ground which they could build a friendship on after such a rocky start. Who’d have thought that Metallica would bring them together?
Hell, after a while she even stopped telling him not to call her ‘Izzy’.
In reality he had meant to take her home months ago. He had made quite clear at the time that this was a temporary arrangement, secretly thinking that he’d make sure that she stayed well clear of her dad until this died down a little and then would drop her back home, asking Bobby, who was only fifty miles away to keep an eye on the place and let him know if and when Jack returned.
But she was still here and as much as he tried to convince himself that was only for Sam’s benefit he knew that wasn’t exactly the truth.
“Well I guess playing yourself you’re guaranteed to win.”
Speak of the devil.
“I think you’re forgetting,” he said, glancing up at her as he leant over the table and lined up his next shot, “I kicked both your sorry asses.”
With that he struck the ball, pocketing one directly and one of the rebound. He gave her a rather cocky grin.
“Show off,” Izzy admonished with a roll of her eyes.
“Shouldn’t you be babysitting my brother?” he asked, glancing around her and nodding to where Sam was chatting to a girl. Or to be more precise the girl was chatting to him and he was nodding a lot and looking a bit uncomfortable with it all. How he had ever managed to pick up a hot chick like Jessica, Dean didn’t know.
“Well we can’t leave you over here brooding all on your own now can we?” she pointed out, “We’re supposed to celebrating and winding down for one evening, remember?”
“I’m not so good at winding down,” he admitted.
“Then practice,” she said firmly, holding out her hand for his.
He knew that he really, really shouldn’t take it. He knew that he should smile and tell her to just go and enjoy herself and that he was okay right here. But a moment of weakness got him and after starring at her hand for a second he put the pool cue down and took it.
Her hand was small in his, his fingers easily wrapping around hers, feeling the coolness against his whiskey induced heat.
How could something so simple feel so nice?
Truth was Cassie was closest he’d gotten to having a proper girlfriend and even that was only just elevated above short fling. It wasn’t like he was adverse to a relationship or anything but he hardly lived in the most ideal circumstances. It was far better to hook up with a pretty girl, have some fun and say goodbye after breakfast, than to get involved in complications that would only make his life more difficult than it already was. Besides, he didn’t think you could miss what you’d never had.
Apparently though you really could and just a fleeting moment of simple affection was enough to make him realise once again that there was a gap there that he’d never tried to fill.
No, he hadn’t liked Izzy at first but he starting to more and more now. It had crept up on him and he was so busy with other things that he’d barely realised. He didn’t truly understand how he felt but he was certain of two things; he liked having her around and it was more than a sense of duty now that made him want to ensure she kept out of harm’s way. He had been talking to her a lot recently, mainly late at night, sitting in bars a lot worse than this one, Sam already having gone to bed. He’d told her his fears, shared the things that worried him, not knowing why he felt so able to open up to her when he couldn’t tell his brother any of it. Maybe Sam had been right, maybe it was good to have an outsider around. She didn’t always say much and to be frankly he didn’t want her too. He just wanted someone to listen and she was good at that. And at the end of the night, if his mood was particularly dour she’d give him a quick hug and told him all would work out okay in the end even if she didn’t really believe that. Some particularly bad days he lived for those small moments of comfort.
She led him now over to the space cleared of tables that doubled as a dance floor, picking up Sam along the way. The girl he was talking to apparently had a fiancé and she’d assured Sam that she wasn’t interested in more than a chat and a drink which had made him relax him a lot. Dean still suspected Sam was holding a torch for Sarah that was making him a bit blind to anyone else anyway.
There must be something in the air that night and, if he wasn’t so distracted with other matters Dean might have wonder about a paranormal cause. The whole place seemed to be buzzing, everyone on a high, everyone just looking to enjoy themselves without fuss or complication. It was a good feeling. It was something that let you forget your troubles for a while and wasn’t that what a good bar was supposed to be all about?
The instantly recognisable strains of AC/DC made him smile, the mood seeming to affect him too. Sam, Izzy and Sam’s new friend were laughing, dancing and singing along enthusiastically to the words of ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, all clearly a bit merry from the effect of alcohol.
Even though there was a small part inside screaming at him to get the hell out of there Dean chose to ignore it. He stepped up behind Izzy, resting his hands on her hips as he danced with her, his thumbs smoothing across the soft skin left exposed between her jeans and top. Since she looked back at him with a smile he concluded that she didn’t seem to mind and so he became a little bolder as the music continued. He pulled her more tightly back into him, swaying his hips with hers. She leant her head back into his shoulder, placing her hands over his, continuing to dance still singing along.
He supposed he could just dismiss it as two friends dancing and having a good time. After all, a bit of a flirt never hurt anyone.
But he couldn’t help but notice how her body felt, pressed against his. It was more than just sexual – although he had to admit he was finding her pretty hot right now. It felt good. Most of all, it felt strangely right.
He knew then and there that he should take her home. That he was treading dangerous ground, risking feeling more for her than was probably healthy for either of them. But he was tired of having no one. Or at least of the fear of it. He had a strong feeling that Sam wouldn’t do this forever. That eventually he’d find a girl and he’d want to settle down and have a family. And to be fair he couldn’t blame him. Deep down Dean wasn’t so opposed to the idea himself.
So as the music continued he kept dancing, kept holding her close, just this once forgetting everything to do with demons and death and hunting, concentrating instead on the life pressed so close to his body.
He supposed even he was allowed to pretend he was normal sometimes.