faege: classic boys in a classic car (hiding places)
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Dean stops by Carol's on his way home, holding up the bags of candy he bought when she opens the door. "Thought you might need more supplies."

Carol laughs. "That was sweet of you." She opens the door and points to the bowl sitting on the side table in the hallway, already filled with Smarties and Snickers. "Go ahead and put them there. I'll give you back whatever doesn't get opened."

"That's okay, keep it. Sparrow will find it in three seconds flat if I keep it in the house."

"That dog is something else," Carol says, then tilts her head as if an idea just occurred to her. "Why don't you come by tonight and pass out candy yourself? I think Kara said she was going to come by and show me her costume. I'm sure she'd love to see you."

"Yeah, maybe," Dean says, although from the look on Carol's face she knows he means no. "I'll see what I can do." He steps off the front step and pauses on the walkway to the car. "You call me if something comes up, though. Some kid's being a jerk, I don't care how cute their costume is, I'll come over."

Carol gives him a rueful smile. "I wouldn't need to call if you were handing out the candy yourself," she points out.

Dean doesn't answer, just lifts his hand as he gets back in the truck and rounds the bend to his house.

--

He leaves the lights off in the front of the house as a deterrent to trick-or-treaters, but the doorbell still rings a few times, evidence of the more adventurous stragglers probably more interested in tricks than treats. Sparrow doesn't do more than prick her ears at the door, then look at Dean to see if he's getting up. When he doesn't, she turns her attention back to her tennis balls.

It's a pretty quiet night. When 10:30 comes and goes, and the doorbell hasn't rung for over an hour, Dean flicks off the TV and nearly trips over the coffee table on his way to the kitchen to turn on some lights. He's squinting, trying to adjust to the light, when his cell phone vibrates in his pocket. His eyebrows pull together at the name on the caller ID and he thumbs it open.

"Carol? Everything okay?"

"Dean," Carol's voice is hushed, "you told me to call if I heard that noise again and I'm not sure but--"

"Wait there, I'm coming over right now," Dean says. "Stay inside and lock the doors."

Two seconds later he has his gun jammed in the back of his jeans and is slinging on a coat as he slips out the front door, ignoring Sparrow's howl at being left behind. He jogs over to the Finley's, scanning the big white house and the surrounding trees. He can't see or hear anything out of the ordinary, but he circles around the back of the house just in case, making sure to stay in the shadows. He finds a good place near the corner of the house and waits, measuring his breaths and listening.

Nothing.

After a few minutes, he cautiously straightens, knees aching from crouching. Then he hears it.

A sound like a sigh, the smallest breath of wind, and then something is hurtling from above, striking his shoulder a glancing blow but with enough force to knock him flat. Instinct has him shooting out a hand, hoping to grab an arm, an ankle. Instead, his fingers close around something soft and a jolt runs up his arm, his eyes watering from the taste of ozone in his mouth. By the time he lurches to his hands and knees, then his feet, whatever it was is gone.

The back door opens and Carol pokes her head out with a flashlight, calling, "Dean? Are you all right?"

"Fine." His arm is still tingling. Dean opens his fist and looks down. He's holding three feathers, the barbs bent here and there but otherwise sleek and straight, the shafts measuring nearly half the length of his forearm. "I'm fine. Just got knocked down."

"Did you see it?" Carol asks anxiously.

Dean heads into the house, Carol stepping aside to let him in. "Not a good look, but I'll tell you one thing, I don't think it's that drifter Grant was talking about."

"Why not?"

Dean holds up the feathers. "I don't know many drifters covered in feathers."

"So you think it was...some kind of bird?"

Dean takes in the pale look on Carol's face and puts on an easy smile, reassuring. "Nah, probably some idiot teenager in a costume with nothing better to do than jump off a roof. I bet if we check the high school tomorrow some kid's going to have a twisted ankle and a big story to tell."

"Well," Carol says with a last look at the feathers, "if that's the case I hope the ankle really is sprained and not broken. The eaves in the back of the house don't come down very low."

"They'll be fine. Battle wounds and all that. I wouldn't worry about it, but make sure you keep an eye out in case he knows any other morons with bright ideas."

"Thank you again, Dean," Carol says as she walks him to the front door. "Really, I don't... I'm not used to Dale being gone and having to..."

Her mouth trembles but she folds it in a brave smile. "Well. It's different doing things alone."

Dean leans in and kisses her wrinkled cheek. "Remember, I'm around."

She pats his face affectionately. "I will."

--

Sparrow's waiting by the door, tail wagging, apparently having forgiven him for going on an adventure without her. She noses at his boots and jeans, then sniffs at his hand, nose barely skimming the fistful of feathers before she jerks back with a sneeze, pawing at her face. Dean ignores her and pulls a glass from the cupboard above the sink, dumping the feathers in and setting the glass on the counter.

The three feathers are long, easily twice the height of the glass. They had looked black in the dark, but in the light of the kitchen Dean can see that they're an inky blue sheened with iridescent green where the reflection of the glass hits just right. He turns the cup, musing. They're true primaries, not any of the fake feathers you could find in a costume store, and Dean finds himself mentally calculating the size of the bird that would need primaries like that, the wingspan... Most legends describe the roc as white, but a thunderbird, maybe...

Something wet flicks over his hand and Dean jumps, cursing under his breath when he looks down to see Sparrow looking at him quizzically, her head cocked to the side. "You hungry?" Dean asks. Sparrow's head tilts to the other side and Dean's mouth lifts. "All right, let's get you something."

--

Dean tosses Sparrow a couple of rawhide chews, then drags the whiskey out of the cupboard and pours himself a glass, settling on the bar stool behind the kitchen counter. One hand spins the glass of whiskey idly while the other pulls the glass the feathers are in closer. Hesitantly, he runs a finger along one feather's edge. The warmth that settles in his skin and begins to run up his arm has nothing to do with the whiskey, and Dean drops his hand, shaking his head.

"I am so not drunk enough for this."

--

He doesn't know how long it's been since he fell asleep--after relocating to the couch and taking the bottle of whiskey with him--but he comes awake with a start, trying to get his bearings. There's a scuffling noise by the front door and he tenses, rolling his eyes when Sparrow runs in. She makes a tight circle, eyes on the ceiling, and gives a series of short barks before running into the kitchen, then wheeling around and tearing upstairs. He can hear her running around up there and Dean sighs and pulls a hand down his face. "I should've walked you today, I get it," he says, getting to his feet with a groan.

There's a thud like Sparrow knocked over the nightstand and Dean calls, "Sparrow! Quit it."

Only Sparrow is back down the stairs, growling and barking at the ceiling in the hallway like...something's on the roof.

Adrenaline clears the cobwebs from Dean's mind and he crosses over to Sparrow, crouching next to her to put a stilling hand on her back. She glances at him, licking her chops nervously, and they both turn their attention to the ceiling. Silence, and then--

A heavy thump.

Dean grabs his gun from the kitchen, then tears out the back door, Sparrow hard on his heels. They almost collide with something jumping from their roof, the shape indistinguishable in the dark. Sparrow yelps and veers off, and Dean swears as he raises his gun. The thing is gone before he has the safety off, melting into the night with more speed than Dean would have expected from something so large.

"Crap," Dean says, trying to catch his breath, then turns to find Sparrow. She's frozen halfway to the tree line, her white fur standing on end, tail up and ears pricked forward, but she doesn't go any further and comes easily when Dean calls. He gets them inside and closes the door, then sets his gun on the kitchen counter and gets down on the floor. Sparrow rubs up against him, nosing his ribs and licking his chin, then settles on her back in his lap so he can rub her belly. "Good girl," he says. "Good girl."

The feathers in their glass look innocuous enough, but Dean finds himself glaring at them all the same.

--

The next time Dean wakes up, it's to a thumping headache and a dark bruise on his shoulder. He groans, glaring at the sunlight coming in through the curtains, and sits up gingerly. A look at the clock says it's 9:34, which means he has just under a half hour to shower and feed Sparrow, then get himself into town to meet Abby.

Sparrow gives him a doleful look from her bed when Dean's feet hit the floor, then she lays back down with an exaggerated groan.

"Up and at 'em, princess," Dean says.

Sparrow's tail thumps on the floor when he bends over to pet between her ears, and he doesn't think of all the times he used to say the same thing to Sam. Not at all.

--

Thirty minutes later, he takes a deep breath and opens the front door, bracing himself for the attack of sunlight. Something soft flutters to the ground as he steps over the threshold and he bends down, squinting to get a look at it. A feather, identical to the ones in the kitchen. He swears, but picks it up, hesitating before tucking it into his jacket pocket.

--

Abby, predictably, is already seated at a small corner table in the coffee shop, hands wrapped around a steaming mug of something with lots of foam. "Dean," she greets him with a wide smile and stands to give him a hug. "Long time, no see," she says as they sit down, Dean motioning to the barista for a black coffee.

"Yeah, how's life after college treating you? How's the job?"

"Good, it's good," she says. "I don't miss the deadlines, but the friends... Part of me thinks it would've been better to go to school in Oregon so after I graduated my friends wouldn't be all the way across the country."

"I hear that." Dean nods his thanks as his coffee is set on the table and takes a greedy sip. Abby watches him with clear amusement.

"So. Fun party?"

"God, no."

"You got drunk by yourself?"

Dean glares at Abby over the rim of his cup. "It's the eyes, isn't it? Sam used to say my eyes got all puffy when I'm hungover."

"Yeah, that," she laughs, "and the general bloodshot-ness is also a clue. Plus, I've never seen you so attached to your coffee before."

"You've never seen me this early in the morning," Dean returns.

"For which I am grateful." Abby grins, sitting back in her chair and fiddling with something in her lap.

Dean's spine snaps straight when his eyes catch the shape of the object in Abby's hands, instincts telling him what it is before his mind picks up. "Where'd you get that?" he demands.

Abby gives him a look. "Easy there, Cujo. It was stuck on my windshield this morning. I think it's pretty," she says, giving the feather a twirl. "I've never seen a feather this long."

"Yeah, well, I have," Dean snaps. "Something was wearing feathers and hanging around Carol Finley's house last night. I got there just in time to see something come barreling off the roof of her house."

"Really?" Abby's forehead furrows. "I only knew of one party happening last night and Jake Simmons is a nice guy. You didn't see who it was?"

"I got a handful of feathers and a nice bruise on my ass if you're interested in looking."

"I'll pass, thanks. Anyways, must've been some costume. I wish I could've seen it."

"Yeah, well, that makes two of us. Last night I woke up because Sparrow was having a fit and the thing was up on my roof. I chased it into the woods but it was fast, even for the dog."

"The thing?" Abby echoes. "Dean, it was just some kid in a costume."

"No," Dean says quickly, "it was bigger, big enough to knock me over. And I don't know about you, but I've never seen feathers like that on any costume."

Abby lifts the feather, pointing it at Dean like a black spear. "So you're telling me that you think there was some sort of gigantic bird at Carol's. On Halloween." She lifts her eyebrows, clearly waiting for Dean to admit it was a stupid idea.

Dean stares at her, long enough that the disbelief wavers in Abby's eyes, the smile slowly slipping off her face. Dean looks away before she asks any questions and sits back in the chair, posture purposefully relaxed. "Yeah, maybe not. I guess my dad raised us to be kind of superstitious. Always said you never knew what kind of stuff hung around on Halloween."

"Well, no disrespect to your dad but I don't think he meant gigantic birds," Abby says, tucking the feather in her purse and bringing her coffee to her lips. She'll keep the idea of the feather in the back of her mind, Dean knows--she was Sam's friend, which means she's too smart not to--but if nothing comes of it she'll forget about it. That's fine. She'll be on her guard for a week or so, and that's all Dean wants.

They chat for another half hour, the conversation taking a lighter turn. Dean's mind, though, stays fixed on the feather in Abby's purse, on the feather in his own pocket. A week or so and he'll have this whole thing figured out. He hopes.

--

Fortified by coffee, a jelly donut, and half of Abby's scone, Dean stops the truck in front of Carol's house to take care of the yard. He's halfway across the lawn to get the rake and a trash bag when he realizes--there aren't any leaves. He detours from around the back of the house and knocks on the front door instead, sweeping a hand out behind him when Carol opens it.

"I thought I told you not to bother with the yard," he says.

Carol's forehead wrinkles and she peers around Dean to look at the clear lawn. "I didn't. I went to the grocery store this morning, and when I came back the leaves were all in the gutter. Didn't you come by and blow them off?"

Dean shakes his head and heads back down the walk to take a look at the gutter. Sure enough, it's filled with a riot of moldering brown and yellow leaves. "Lucky wind," he says.

"I was surprised myself since you usually rake them, don't you?"

Dean nods absently. "I'll get them bagged up."

It takes ten minutes to rake the leaves from the gutter into a black trash bag, and Dean finds himself repeatedly glancing at the yard as he works. Not one leaf is left on the lawn, the whole thing as bare as if a team of gardeners showed up and swept the place clean. He looks down to stuff a handful of leaves into the bag and freezes, jaw clenching. A feather is caught among the leaves, too long to be from any bird he knows, soft to the touch, and so blue it's almost black.

Dean is trained to read into what other people would label coincidences, to pull together patterns and form conclusions that most people would never come to. He can count the number of times he's backed off from a hunt on one hand. This time, though, he clenches his jaw and stuffs the feather in the bag with the rest of the leaves.

His last solo hunt was more than six years ago while Sam was at Stanford. He's not eager to start one now. Still, he's wary when he walks the fields that night. He keeps Sparrow close and tucks his gun in the back of his jeans.

--

November 2nd hits hard. Dean doesn't bother checking the calendar on his way to work--he can feel the day in his bones, in the ache in his chest. Last year he had been worried sick with Sam starting to lose his memories, but the blind helplessness he'd felt a year ago is infinitely preferable to the black ache that has seeped in instead.

Last year, he'd had purpose. This year it's all he can do to plod through the day, mechanically working on the cars until the bell rings and the garage closes. He gets in the truck, ignoring Rick's friendly wave, and heads down the main street with no thought in his mind but hard liquor.
Stairway is open but Dean hasn't been inside the place for months and he doesn't intend to start now. Sam's memory is thick in the bar in a way it's not other places: behind the counter, pouring drinks; hunched over one of the tables, concentrating on a card game; surrounded by bits of glass on the kitchen floor, white-faced from a seizure. No, he won't be going to Stairway anytime soon. Besides, Joanne would ask well-meaning questions, and anyone who tries to pry tonight will find more than they bargained for.

He pulls into the parking lot of the supermarket and prays that the friendly cashier isn't on duty. She's not. Instead it's a kid from the high school, one of the seniors Sam was tutoring, and he doesn't look twice as he rings up the bottles of cheap liquor Dean has in his basket, just hands Dean his receipt and returns to whatever game he's playing on his cell phone. Sam knew this kid, Dean thinks as he gathers up his bag. Sam probably was trying to convince this kid to go to college, probably was pushing him with application essays, telling him he could do anything if he put his mind to it.

Dean locks his jaw as he leaves the store, fumbling for his keys in the dusk. If Sam wanted that kid to go to school, he could have damn well stuck around.

--

It's dark when he pulls into the driveway, the house looking black and deserted. There's a sharp bark when he fumbles for his keys on the doorstep and he drops them, swearing under his breath. "I'm coming, I'm coming, all right," he calls through the door, finally getting it open and bracing himself as Sparrow barrels against his legs, whining and licking every part of him she can reach. He half expects the couch to be shredded, cotton fluff tracked everywhere, but there's no damage that he can see.

It loosens something in his chest, just a little, coming home to a house that's not completely empty. Not having to spend today completely alone for the first time in his life. He can usually ignore the fact that he's the last Winchester standing, that Sam left him months ago and didn't bother to think of what it would be like to leave Dean alone for this day, for all the days surrounding it. Today, though, he's not as brave.

"You wanna be a Winchester, hmm? An honorary one," he tells Sparrow. "Just for today." He scratches behind her ears and praises her for patiently waiting, then heads into the kitchen to make dinner for the two of them, flicking on lights as he goes.

It's not much of a meal--leftover meatloaf, carrots pushed off to the side of his plate. Habit from when he and Sam were kids and carrots were the one vegetable Sam agreed to eat. The thought makes his stomach twist and he pushes the food away, gets up to drag the vodka from the grocery bag. Sparrow gives him a mournful look when he takes a swig from the bottle, having been through this dance enough times to know that she won't be getting a walk in the fields tonight. Dean grimaces, his lips pulling back from his teeth as the vodka burns hot in his gut, but aside from an apologetic pat, he turns Sparrow a blind eye.

There's a baseball game on the TV, which Dean turns to a soft hum as he settles on the couch, feet on the coffee table, and takes another slug, waiting for the numbness to set in.

--

He wakes what feels like hours later. The baseball game is long over and Sparrow is nowhere in sight. The sound of rain filters through the ringing in his ears, growing louder as he shakes his head and the ringing subsides. He'd been dreaming, he knows that, something about following Sam through the woods to Johnson's Pond, watching Sam lift a hand while ice crackled over the surface of the water and delicate flakes of snow drifted around them. He'd felt the hot clutch of fear without knowing why, had turned to ask Sam and found that Sam had disappeared, leaving only the snow and the iced over pond behind.

No snow, Dean thinks and sits up, scrubbing a hand over his face. No snow. Only a heavy November rain.

The back door is open, creaking as it moves in the draft coming in from outside. "Crap," he mutters, unfolding himself from the couch. Sparrow is probably muddy and wet, chasing whatever's in the woods in the middle of this storm, and the heating bill will be hell to pay, not to mention the hangover he can already feel settling in.

But Sparrow's not gallivanting outside in the rain. She's standing by the open door with her fur standing on end, a growl rumbling from her chest. She startles when Dean's leg brushes her flank but keeps her eyes fixed on something outside.

Out by the tree line there's a figure, somehow visible despite the dark of the rain. A chill washes down Dean's back, his throat suddenly dry.
Sparrow whines, tail tucked, and Dean makes himself move. He turns down the hall, clumsy until adrenaline kicks in and he falls back on training, movements getting more sure. He gets the Taurus he keeps in the kitchen, makes sure its loaded with practiced ease. The feathers on the counter shift in their glass, probably caught by a stray draft from the open door. Dean tears his eyes away, grabbing the flashlight from the hall, and strides into the rain, his gun aimed where he last saw the figure.

As if his movement spurred her, Sparrow starts barking, high-pitched alarm barks the minute his boots his the field, but she doesn't move farther than the porch. He has the gun and the flashlight held in a cross grip but he might as well be unarmed and blind for all the good they do. The rain makes the dark thick and muffles any other sound, even Sparrow's fading growl. He squints into the gloom, trying to make out any hint of whatever it was he saw as he slinks forward in the mud and grass, rain soaking his shirt and dripping from his nose and chin.

Something rustles to his left, catching him off guard, and he turns so fast his boots skid out from underneath him. There's a moment of startled weightlessness before he hits the ground hard enough to knock the air out of him, his bruised shoulder screaming. The gun recoils in his grip, the sound of a shot echoing, and Dean thinks, This is it in the seconds it takes for him to gets his breath back.

Nothing comes.

Gritting his teeth, Dean rolls to his feet, gun and flashlight aimed at the woods. After a few tense seconds, he lets his arms drop, muttering under his breath. Whatever was out there is gone, would have pounced the minute it saw him go down without giving him the time to scream. He drags a wet hand over his eyes, a grim smile crossing his face. John Winchester would have been appalled at the idea of his oldest chasing something at night in the rain without proper gear or any hint of what it is he's hunting.

Dean trudges back to the porch and lets Sparrow anxiously sniff him, her tail wagging now that the threat is gone. He nudges her into the house, then shuts the door behind him and locks it. He puts the flashlight and gun in the kitchen, next to the three feathers, then sits at the table and laughs, hollow.

John would tell him the feathers are a sign, if you believe in that kind of thing, a reminder, if you don't--that the supernatural doesn't leave you alone, that there's always something out there. Dean wishes that it was as easy as that--that he could think of all this as a job to do instead of hoping against hope that it has something to do with Sam.

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