1995


Dean pulled up in front of the middle school and tapped his horn. Sam separated from his geek squad and slid into the backseat.

"Well?" he demanded.

"Hello to you, too," Dad said dryly from the passenger's seat.

"Hey, Dad. Well, Dean?"

Dean held up a tiny plastic coated card. "I'm legal, Sammy. The state of Kansas has officially licensed me to drive!"

"Did someone warn the Senior Center?"

"Funny, Sammy."

"Sam."

"Whatever, bitch."

"Don't call your brother a bitch," Dad objected.

"Jerk," Sammy said, holding up his hand for a high five.

"Where to, Dad?" Dean asked as he pulled away from the curb. Smooth as butter, he praised himself and the Impala.

"Swing by the shop."

"You going back to work?" They usually went out to eat on birthdays, but Dad had picked him up early to take the driver's exam, so maybe dinner was going to be later.

"Nah, I just have something I need to pick up."

"Okay." Dean checked the speed indicator, determined not to give his dad anything to bitch about.

"You took a lousy picture," Sammy commented, looking closer at the license.

"Shut up. I've never taken a bad picture in my life. This face couldn't take a bad picture."

"What about your fifth grade school pictures that you dropped in the toilet?"

"It was an accident, Dad." Dean glared into the rearview mirror to make sure Sam knew he had violated a brotherly confidence in the presence of a parent.

"Yeah, I know it was an accident," Sam said quickly. "Just teasing, that's all."

Dad just grunted. Dean turned up the cassette player. Dad turned it down. The rest of the trip was made in muted silence.

"Come on, boys."

They followed Dad out of the car and around the back of the shop. A black truck sat gleaming next to the dumpster and the oil recycling bin. "Nice ride, Dad. Who does it belong to?"

"Me."

"You bought a truck, Dad?" Sam asked excitedly. "Wow! Look what you'll be driving, Dean."

"Dean won't be driving this," Dad said quickly. He gave Dean an apologetic smile. "I mean, how would it look if I let a sixteen-year-old drive my new truck?"

"I'm a good driver, Dad," Dean said in his own defense.

"I know you are, son." Dad buffed an imaginary spot on the truck, then adjusted one of the side mirrors. "That's why I'm trusting you with the Impala."alt=

Dean froze. Did Dad mean-- "Wha--?"

Dad grinned and patted him on the back. "She's yours, son. Take good care of her and she'll take good care of you."

"She's mine?" Dean asked hesitantly.

"She's yours. She always was. I'd never lie to your mother."

Dean blinked rapidly, then held up the keys he had in his hand. "Come on, Sammy! The Winchester Brothers are mobile and on the prowl!"

"Hey, she's not the General Lee."

Dad thought--Yeah, the Dukes of Hazzard had been cool, but he could've shot both of them for what they put their car through. "I'd never treat a car like that, Dad! She's... God, Dad." He was at a loss for words.

"He already treats the Impala better than he does me," Sammy said, adding his support in his own weird way.

"That's because she treats me better, Sam." He turned back to his father. "I would never, never, hurt my baby like that. I promise you."

Dad nodded, and Dean gathered Sam with a look and took off for the front of the garage.

"Meet you at Dino's Steakhouse in a hour," Dad called.

"Okay, dude!"

"Shotgun!" Sammy yelled.

Dean reached out, dragged Sam over with an arm around his neck, and gave him an affectionate noogie. "Where else, bitch?"

"Jerk!"

*****

"Dean, I think there's a hunt right here in Lawrence."

"Huh?" Dean frowned over the blank piece of paper he'd been staring at for the past two hours. A report on Hamlet. Ugh. He didn't think his teacher would appreciate his writing down what he truly thought of the character: "Hamlet is a whiny bitch who should've either ended his dirty old uncle or shut the hell up about it. He treated the women in his life like shit. Ophelia had obvious psychological problems and shouldn't have been played like that. And his mama had all the symptoms of being a battered wife. He talked a lot of smack and in the end couldn't back it up. Glad he ended up dead. Chump!" Oh, yeah. That would go over well, especially since Mrs. Mackey thought that Hamlet was such a "tortured soul." The boy didn't know torture.

"Something from the Wakarusa River is killing people."

Yeah, pollution. But... Stare at the paper for another hour or two or listen to Sam go on and on and on? Wasn't really a contest. He tossed the book and paper aside. "Hit me with what you got, little bro." They had a week of Spring Break, Dad was off hunting with Bobby and Pastor Jim, and he had a car with a full tank of gas (yay for Dad's guilt for leaving them alone for ten days). There was no way he was going to lose any more brain cells to Hamlet, Prince of Boredom. Besides, what kind of hunter would he be if he let the freaks run around his hometown?

"See this story here?" Sam held out their latest copy of the Weekly Weird News. They had a subscription to the tabloid so only the mailman thought they were strange and not their neighbors in the supermarket. "This man was found in his house with his intestines missing."

Dean plucked the paper from Sam's fingertips. "You know there are people who eat pig intestines? They call them chitterlings. Sounds disgusting. Shelly said they were like a favorite in the Deep South. Or was it Shannon? Shanda, maybe?"

"Focus, Dean," Sam said impatiently.

Dean bit back a smirk. Winding Sammy up was just plain fun. "Maybe there's a black market for intestines, geek boy, like kidneys and livers. Maybe somebody needed an intestine transplant."

"There's no such thing as an intestine transplant," Sam huffed. "Besides, read the rest of the story. The man didn't die from having his intestines removed; he died from water in his lungs--river water from the Wakarusa."

"So he drowned in his own living room," Dean mumbled as he read the article, curious for real now. The Wakarusa flowed along the southwestern border of Lawrence. Too close for comfort. "What could do that?"

"It could be a ghost?"

Dean shook his head. "Ghosts don't chow down on body parts."

Sam got a look that indicated he was either crapping his diaper (birth until age two or thereabouts) or sifting through the info stored in his freaky, geeky head (age two and thereafter). Although Dean would never tell him, he was impressed with just how much Sammy could remember and pull out on demand. "It could be a Nixie. Or maybe a Rusalka? But the intestine thing is throwing me. I don't remember anything about intestines."

Dean shrugged. "Could be a new mutation. Or maybe just a dietary need that's not being met." Sam stared. "What? I'm just saying, that's all. I mean, look at all the chemicals and shit that's dumped into the river. What's to say it's not turning the freaks into freakier freaks?" He patted his jeans pocket to make sure he had his car keys, then stood. "Come on, Brainiac, guess it's time to hit the library."

After two hours of research, even Sam was ready to give up. "I think you're right," he admitted. "The freaks are getting freakier. I've no idea what we're dealing with."

Dean gave him a sympathetic smile. Then he spied something on the computer monitor in front of him and straightened in his seat. "Anybody leave puddles of water behind them? According to the police report, there were water drops leading into the house and around the body."

"Police report?" Sam whispered. He hopped up from his chair and bent over Dean's shoulder. "God, Dean, don't tell me you hacked into the police computer. And when the hell did you learn that?"

"Tony taught me." Tony had hacked into the White House, F.B.I., and Defense Department's computers at last count. But hey, who was counting?

Sam sighed. "You're gonna teach me, right?"

Dean bopped him on the back of the head. "Taught you everything else, haven't I? And I'm still waiting on my Brother of the Year award, too, bitch."

"Yeah, yeah. Remind me again when Hell freezes over." Sam grabbed a book from the stack sitting next to the computer and flipped through it. "The Nixie drips a trail of fresh water behind her."

"So, Nixie it is. How do we kill the bitch?"

"Tracing the sign of the cross on her forehead will paralyze her, then you can drown her in saltwater."

"Saltwater?" Dean tapped the desk as a way to focus. "Let's see... We're six hundred miles from the Gulf and nine hundred miles from Salt Lake City. Guess we can raid Dad's supply room, then dig out your old kiddie pool."

"You spent more time in it than I did."

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

Dean grinned and shrugged. "What can I say: I look good in swim trunks." He snapped his fingers. "That's it! The scuba shop has a saltwater practice tank!"

Sam nodded. "You're bowlegged, you know that, right?"

Kid never did know when to let something die. "More room."

"Room for what?"

Dean just smiled. "You'll find out when you're older."

"I don't think I want to know." Sam turned back to his book. "Now that we know how to do away with the Nixie, we just have to find her. Hmm."

"Hmm, what?"

"It says here she likes to shop."

Dean wasn't falling for that one. "No, it doesn't."

"Yes, it does. See?"

Sam stuck the book under his nose and he had to pull back to read it. "The Nixie can usually be distinguished from a mermaid because she is a shopper." Shopping. Damn. That was about as bad as the intestine-eating. With a sigh, Dean dug into his pocket and pulled out some change. "Sometimes you have to sacrifice for the hunt, Sammy. Give me a couple of minutes." He headed over to the pay phone bank and pulled a small sheet of paper from his wallet. Fifteen minutes later, he motioned for Sam to gather their stuff and follow him.

"According to my sources, if a woman wants to do some serious shopping, she's going to go to Oak Park Mall."

"Where's that?"

Dean adjusted his backpack over one shoulder. Their first hunt. Not a dark forest. Not a dank cave. Not even a rickety mansion with its own creepy graveyard. No, they got to go a mall. He wondered if he could call Pastor Jim and get a special prayer said for them. It was still close enough to Easter, wasn't it? "Overland Park, right outside of Kansas City. Dad took us there one Christmas, I think. You were probably too young to remember. Scared him so bad, I don't think we've ever been back."

Wide eyes stared at him. "And--and that's where we're going?"

"Suck it up, Sam. Hunts can take you into dangerous territory."

*

"Holy Hell!"

Dean had to agree with Sam's comment as they stared at the two-story mall in front of them. "We can do this, Sam. We're Winchesters."

"We can't cover this whole place, Dean." Sam flinched as the automatic doors opened, beckoning them into the vast, air-conditioned bowels of the shopping center.

Dean stepped stalwartly through the doors. He couldn't let his little brother sense his fear. "It's all good, bro. I got directions."

"Directions to where?"

"The store that ladies are drawn to like moths to a flame."

"Where's that?"

"Victoria's Secrets."

*

Sam glared at the large glass windows and then at his brother. "Stop drooling over the mannequins, dude. They aren't real!"

"You're just not old enough to use your imagination, Sammy."

Sam squirmed on the hard wooden bench, deliberately ignoring the mean looks he got from older women who obviously wanted the bench for themselves. If it'd been just him, he would've moved. But if Dean was asked to move, he'd cause a scene--no, a spectacle! And then they would've wasted all this time in this stupid mall. No, sorry, ma'am, with baby in stroller and whining four-year-old in hand. This seat's taken. Move along.

Sam stretched out his legs and crossed them at the ankles. Then he drew them back in and rubbed at his knee as a baby went toddling by. Next, he scratched his nose and picked at a scab on the back of his hand. He tried to remember how or when he'd hurt it. Maybe in P.E. class? "How long are we supposed to sit out here looking for dripping women?" he asked with a huff.

Dean stayed slumped on the bench, eyes barely open. "You really are eleven, aren't you?"

"Twelve," Sam muttered. His birthday was just a couple weeks away. And everyone knew there was a two-week grace period for birthdays.

Dean poked him in his side. "Look, dude, stakeouts take a while. Don't they have stakeouts on Law & Order?"

"Maybe, but I generally just look at the courtroom parts."

"Trust me. The main key to hunting is patience."

Sam rolled his eyes at Dean's experienced tone. How could he have forgotten he was talking to an expert? "Like you know so much. Dad's taken you on what, three hunts?"

"Three more than you, geek boy."

Big brothers were a pain in the ass. "Why are we here again?"

"This is what's called a hunt," Dean said slowly.

Sam half-heartedly kicked at him. "No. Why are we here at this...this underwear store?"

"Janine said there are two stores that women can't resist--Victoria's Secrets and Bath & Body Works. Since you're allergic to prissy scents--"

"I'm not allergic to anything."

Dean shrugged. "Must be my other brother. Anyway, we're here. So just sit back and enjoy the floor show, okay? I know you have male hormones floating around in there somewhere or else your voice wouldn't be so squeaky."

"My voice isn't--" He heard the crack in his tone before he could finish the sentence. He glared at Dean's laugh and took a book from his backpack. Hopefully, he'd get lost in the book and forget he was sitting with an idiot. In front of a lingerie store.

Sometimes it sucked to be a Winchester.

*

"Sweet D! That you?"

Dean sat up and grinned at the group of women walking toward them. "Ladies! How are you this lovely spring day?"

"We're fine, but what about you? If you're hurting bad enough to sit outside a lingerie store, you know we'd hook you up."

He coughed and jerked his head toward Sam. "I'm here with my little brother. He's doing a paper on how many men actually set foot in Vicky's Secret Place as opposed to the ones that just stare through the windows," he explained. The same story had convinced a mall security guard that they weren't casing the joint.

"Oh, that's right. He's 'little geek boy', isn't he?"

Dean could see Sammy turning red and thought he better do some fence-mending. "Um, Sam, these are some friends of mine from downtown. Ladies, this is my brother Sam." Sam--that should appease him.

"He's adorable, Sweet D. Look at him blush! Well, we'll let you boys get back to work. The girls and I are just here to pick up some work wear."

"Looks like a good sale," Dean replied, as if he knew what girls' underwear was supposed to cost. "And if you have any problems deciding on something, just give me a wave."

The ladies giggled and went inside.

Sam stared after them until they moved out of direct eyesight. Then--he stared at his brother. "Dean, those aren't sorority girls, are they?"

"Nope."

"They said 'work wear.' Does that mean they're--"

Dean grinned. "Hookers? Quick on the uptake, bro."

"But--but...How do you know hookers, Dean?"

"I told you, they're friends." He crossed his fingers, hoping Sam would let the matter drop.

"You're sixteen. You aren't supposed to be friends with hookers!"

"Who are you? The public decency police?" Dean took a deep breath, knowing he had to explain before Sam was on the phone to Dad talking about Dean's lost virtue or something. "Look, man, they work the university area. One day when I was waiting at the bus stop, a john started to act up and I stopped him, okay? Charity--that's the one who was talking so much--he was following her out of the car and grabbing her. I put him down and then he got in the car and drove away. Stupid frat boy. She was grateful and introduced me around. Most of them live nearby. I talk to them whenever I'm heading to the library."

Sam bit the corner of his lip. "So Charity's a...madam?"

Dean raised a knowing eyebrow. "You watched Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, didn't you--even though Dad told you to change the channel, you little brat. And Charity's more of a den mother. She watches out for the girls who need watching out for--sometimes they're new, suck at reading guys, or they aren't used to handling money and paying bills--and teaches them what they need to know to survive." He looked directly into Sam's eyes as he always did when he wanted his brother to listen to exactly what he said. "Life on the streets ain't good, Sammy. Don't ever think about running away or anything. It's not even worth thinking about."

"You ever think about it?"

Dean shook his head. Life without Mom was bad enough; how would he exist without Dad and Sam? "What would you and Dad do without me? Nah, Sammy. There's nothing out there I need."

"Me neither. So, about the hookers, Dean? They don't give you freebies or anything, do they?"

Dean shoved at his shoulder a little. "What's the first thing I told you when you were sweet on Debbie Marie last year?"

"Don't kiss and tell."

"Exactly." Dean heard a whistle and looked toward the store. Charity was holding up a pink polka-dotted thong. He gave her two thumbs up.

"Dean," Sam began. "I don't want to say this, but I'm impressed, man."

Dean shrugged. "Right place, right time, dude. That's all it comes down to." He leaned back on the bench and watched his friends shop. They stopped by and gave him kisses when they left.

*

"Dean!"

Dean didn't remember drifting off, but considering the fact he'd just jerked awake, he guessed he had. Following Sam's pointing finger, he saw wet splotches on the dull tile of the floor. "Who?"

"I'm not sure. But there's no trail coming out."

Dean nodded and kept up his concentration enough to spot the woman as she left the store, pink shopping bag in hand. "She looks human. Why is she dripping?"

"The human part is just an illusion, Dean. She's still a Nixie underneath."

"Oh."

The two of them tailed her through the mall and to her car. They almost lost her on the interstate, but pulled up a block behind as she turned into a driveway on the outskirts of Lawrence.

"What do we do now?" Sam asked.

"There's no way we can knock her out and drag her body to the car while it's still daylight. We'll go home. Come back tonight. "

"What if she leaves before we get back."

"Then we'll wait until she comes home again. Patience, grasshopper."

*

The phone was ringing when they got home. Dean raced to the phone and answered it, dumping the white bags with their dinner on the table. "Hey, Dad... No, everything's alright. Me and Sammy did some homework, then hung out at the mall... What? No, we're not possessed... Christo to you, too. Seriously, Dad, we were just trying it out because that's what everyone says kids our age do... Well, actually, it's just as evil as it was all those years ago, Dad... Nah, we won't be doing it again... Yeah, here's Sammy."

"Hey, Dad... Not really sure what I was supposed to be doing there... Oh, we ran into some of Dean's friends...They were okay...Yeah, girls... By the way, since it's the man who determines whether a baby is a boy or girl, thanks for having Y's, Dad...Yeah, talk to you tomorrow. 'Bye."

Dean put his hand over his heart. "Dude, you had me worried there for a second."

"Dude, I'm the last person who'd want Dad picking our friends, Sweet D."

Dean slapped him on the back a little harder than necessary. "Let's eat, brat."

"Shouldn't we check the answering machine?"

"Probably just Dad or some stupid telemarketer."

Sammy hit the play button anyway.

"Boys, this is your Auntie Missouri. Y'all be careful tonight. And, Dean, you really should've bought that leather cleaner the other day at the auto store. Have fun now."

Dean shuddered. "I hate when she does that. But since she apparently didn't call Dad, I guess we won't have much trouble getting the Nixie."

"I already knew that."

"What are you talking about, Sammy? You getting freaky like Missouri?"

"I don't think you want to talk about freaks."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Dean yanked out a chair and dropped hard to it.

"It's you who has the CYA alert, not me."

What the--? "Huh?"

"Cover your ass."

Dean threw a fry at Sam. "I know what CYA means, asshole." He sniffed a wrapped burger to see which one had onions.

Sam reached for one of the milkshakes. "Nobody does it as good as you, dude. You get all hesitant when you know something isn't going to work out. That you go through with it anyway just shows how stupid you are. But I'm not. If you hesitate about anything I'm going to do, I just don't do it."

"You're full of bullshit." Sam's burger went sliding across the table.

"Am not! Remember when you left me at the library and Dad found me? You said it was a really bad idea and it was. And when I asked you if I should go to Paul Nixon's party and you said you weren't sure? I didn't go and the next day, I found out the neighbors had called the cops and all the parents had to come claim their kids. Dad would've loved that. But I was in the clear because of your CYA alert."

Dean leaned over and touched Sam's forehead. "You running a fever? Maybe doing drugs behind my back?"

Sam unwrapped his dinner and took a big bite. "Anyway, that's why I knew this hunt was going to work out. You didn't make a single protest."

"I was trying to get away from Hamlet! And don't talk with your mouth full."

Sam rolled his eyes. "That's right. Go on ignoring it. Less time for Dad to be on my ass."

Dean gave up. His brother would always be the smartest idiot he knew. "Eat your food, Sam."

*

Hours later, they returned to the Nixie's house. There was another car in the driveway.

"You think she has a dinner guest?" Sammy guessed.

"Or is she just having dinner?" Dean worried.

"Would she do it in her own house? The other guy was killed at his place. Isn't there some kind of rule about shitting where you eat?"

Dean drummed his fingers against the steering wheel impatiently. "Dude, somebody's gonna take a bar of soap to your mouth."

"Dad doesn't care--unless someone else is around."

"Shit." The Nixie was locking her door and a man was standing on the porch waiting for her.

"What?" Sam finally caught on. "Oh, she's going on a date. What are we going to do? We can't follow them all night. We have a curfew!"

"I have a feeling we were going to blow our curfew anyway, Sammy. But, we can't-- Aw, fuck it." Dean got out of the car and walked up to the couple. "Excuse me, ma'am, but I'm from the Apostolic Church of The Right Reverend Winchester and--" By the time he got to the "and," he'd sketched the cross on her forehead and she dropped like a rock.

"What the hell!" the man yelled as he shoved Dean away. He bent over his date, then drew back sharply. "What the hell," he said again, this time with a mixture of awe and disgust. The illusion was gone and what was left was covered in green scales and smelled like fish gone bad.

"She would've eaten your intestines, dude."

The man stared at Dean in horror. "This--this isn't happening."

"No, it's not. Just a bad dream, my man. Go home and sleep it off, okay?"

"Okay."

"Dean?" Sammy stood over the woman, grimacing.

The sound of a gunning engine split the night as the intended victim made good on his escape. Dean hoped the squealing tires that followed didn't make the neighbors look out their windows. "Take her keys and go into the house. Find some sheets and towels or something. God, we're gonna have to spend hours tomorrow getting this smell out of my car."

Breaking into the diving shop was easy; watching the Nixie dissolve into a slimy goo that eventually completely dissipated was not.

But they did make curfew.

*

The details of the hunt were lost and forgotten when the next morning, at 9:02 a.m., the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, killing one hundred and sixty, nineteen of the dead being children.

Dad was home before the end of the day.

Onward to Infrangible Road 1997

U-Turn to 1993, 1991, 1984 or Infrangible Road On-Ramp

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