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- the workings of an easily distracted fangirl

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fic: Paths Crossed - chapter two
xover//dean/faith weapons - me
whiskyinmind wrote in fandomsbitca

John was waiting, leaning against his truck, when Dean finally turned into the otherwise empty street. He was running late and he could tell by the look on his father's face that he was about to be chewed out because of it. He also knew that John would not buy any of his excuses – solid as they were, a freaking boat in the middle of the road? How was anyone supposed to have expected that, or the ten-block detour it had forced him to make? And then there was that kid he'd seen in town, something about him was tugging at the back of Dean's consciousness. There was something seriously funky about that kid, it might just be down to PTSD but there was something about him that nagged at Dean.

He slammed the door a little harder than he needed to and swore at himself, he was on the already defensive and that was completely the wrong tack to take with his dad. Dean counted to ten under his breath as he approached the truck and forced himself to relax, he was just on edge at seeing the city like this and if his father chewed him out? So be it. It's not like it would be the first time, and it sure as hell wouldn't be the last. He shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and grinned a little.
"Man, you would not believe the traffic out there, it's like rush hour in L.A."
John didn't answer; he just stared at him impassively for a long minute before breaking into a grin of his own. "Guess you found the boat then."
"Oh yeah, the Marie Celeste and me almost got intimately acquainted. It's a good job I checked out the brakes last week." Dean joined his father in leaning against the truck. "What are we looking at then?" He asked.
"Looks like you were right on the mark with this one."
"All the signs are right there." John nodded towards the house at the end of the cul-de-sac. It looked strangely out of place in the street, the yard was clear of the debris that littered every other square inch of the place and the house itself showed no sign of storm damage. Come to think of it, the whole neighborhood had gotten off incredibly lightly given the state of the rest of the city. "Check out the gate," John said.
Dean squinted a little as he focused. "Chicken feet? Seriously?" He smirked. "Thought that was just for the amateurs."
"But what you have to ask yourself is this: What happened to the rest of the chicken?" John straightened. "C'mon, before whoever's in there spots us and sends out something we really don't want to have to deal with just yet. There's a bar a few blocks down, looks like some of the relief workers have got it open for business of sorts." He smirked as he opened the truck door and climbed in. "Think you'll be able to get there some time tonight or will I just meet you there next week?"
Dean held up his hands in defeat. "Fine, poke fun all you want, so long as you're buying this time."
John grinned again and pulled away without answering. Dean shook his head ruefully, he'd end up paying again; he just knew it. He took another look at the strange house as he got into his car and put it into reverse, as he turned away he thought he saw a curtain twitch, but when he turned back to look properly there was no more movement. A shiver ran up his spine nonetheless and he peeled away wondering just what it was that had him so on edge right now.

Calling it a bar was definitely stretching the description a little too far. In fact, calling it a dive was still miles from the truth; the place was nothing more than an empty room that had been taken over by the workers and stocked with a couple of coolers running off an LP. And a huge number of scented candles in a vain attempt to mask the smell. Dean understood why they were there – the street outside was quite possibly the rankest thing he had ever experienced in his life, worse even than that month-old grave they'd had to dig up a while back with the partially liquefied remains, and the maggots… He shuddered at the memory and figured he could get used to the competing smells of vanilla, sandalwood and even the smoke curling from the back of the room with the oddly familiar – and definitely illegal – scent, it could be a whole lot worse after all.

It was busy, in fact there weren't any empty tables to be seen, people were standing at the makeshift bar – which looked to Dean like a couple of trestle tables with a tarp over them – and yet somehow John had managed to get a table facing the door but secluded enough that eavesdropping would be next to impossible even though he couldn't have gotten here more than a couple of minutes ago. He must have convinced whoever had been there to give it up. Dean had to admit the man was a master. If Dean had tried something like that he'd have found himself either out on the curb looking for his teeth, or being ignored by the bartender for the rest of the night. He glanced over at the bartender in question – or maybe not – blonde, cute, flipping her hair at him with a bright smile. Oh yeah, didn't look as though there was going to be any trouble getting served tonight, and maybe in more ways than one if he was lucky,

He favored her to what he knew was the smile he saved for times like these - a smile full of promise - and shrugged a little apologetically as he headed over to the table John had commandeered. She nodded and smiled and for just a moment he almost turned back.

"Keep your mind on the job, son. Plenty of time for… distractions once it's all over." John hadn't even looked up when Dean had walked in, but it had been a long time since his father's observational talents had surprised him. In fact, those skills had saved his life on more occasions than he could count on both hands and – even if it had not already been innate – had earned his pretty much undying respect and trust.
"Yessir." He sat down quickly and looked round the room, automatically checking for potential threats and exit strategies. Sometimes he wondered what it would be like to be naïve to the realities of the world around him, but for the most part he figured he had the better end of the deal. At least if something came for him he would be ready. He laughed a little – it was never a question of 'if', it was always a matter of 'when'.

Packed though the room was, most of the occupants seemed focused on their own personal isolation. Each of them wearing the kind of expression that gave away the fact they were drinking to forget what was going on outside of the doors. Dean knew that expression all too well – he'd seen it in the mirror more times than he could count. There was a broader variety of people here than he was used to seeing in bars – young and old, rich and poor – he figured the kind of people who would show up in a disaster zone like this were a random assortment. One thing he could see about everyone in the room – and everyone he'd seen as he drove through the city earlier – was that they were here because they knew it was where they needed to be. The glory hounds were long gone – the press, both national and international, were long gone and with them went the celebrities who'd shown up to 'do their bit for the victims'. The people filling this bar were – during the day, anyway - doing what they could to help not for the praise or recognition, but because they wanted to; their faith in the human spirit was kinda awesome.

As he finished his scan of the room he spotted a young woman leaning against the wall to the right of the door. He hadn't seen her when he'd come in and wondered why he hadn't seen her when he came in. He must have walked right past her but... Something about her put her right at the top of his potential threat list.

She was taking a swig from the beer bottle in her hand and watching him. Mid-twenties, he figured, long dark hair and eyes even darker, good body – which the tight tank top and jeans she had on were showing off to the whole room – and didn't she just know it. She looked human enough, but that didn't hold a lot of water these days. He let his eyes slide past her, but could tell she was still watching. There was an odd aura around her – not that he believed in that kind of hippy crap or anything – she gave off the impression of barely contained power that set off a few more alarm bells in his mind.
"She was here when I got in," John said, still without apparently having looked up.
"There's something…" Dean shrugged, not able to put it into words. She was putting him on edge, but then this whole place was doing that.
"She's not a threat, not right now," John said with a finality that put an end to the discussion.
Knowing better than to push the point Dean turned to face his father and tried to put the brunette out of his mind. It wasn't easy, especially when he could still feel her watching him.
"Okay, so what's the what then?" he asked.

John gathered together some of the papers that had been spread in front of him and slotted them into a manila folder before handing them off to Dean.
"Exactly what you thought. That house has become some kind of mystical focal point and whoever's inside is using it to enhance your standard voodoo spells." John shrugged, "not exactly unknown in the area but with the huge drop in the numbers of folks living here it's like someone's been trying to cheat the scales."
Dean nodded; his father was just confirming everything he'd found out on his own. The folder had been his, research he'd done on his own over the last couple of weeks when John had been away on a hunt of his own. Dean didn't know the details of that job – that one-man job, his father had insisted it was – and he knew the chances of John Winchester sharing the details were slim to nil.

It only bugged him when he let it. After all it wasn't like he shared everything that went on in his life with his dad, if John didn't think Dean needed to know where he'd been and what he'd done, then he wasn't going to push it. His father had been back earlier than he had said he would and, although he'd looked a little drained, he'd seemed more than willing to listen to Dean's suspicions as to what was going on in New Orleans.

Now, with the folder back in his hands, Dean thought that just maybe he had an inkling of why.

"You're not staying, are you?" he asked; calling on every scrap of his hustler's skills not to let his voice catch in his throat. The last thing he needed was for his father to think he was some kind of needy kid. He was twenty-six years old for crying out loud, he'd been doing this kind of thing for as long as he could remember and if there was one thing Dean Winchester definitely was not, it was needy.
John shook his head, finally looking up at his son. "This is your deal. You found it, pulled it all together – and did a damn good job of it – it's up to you to see it through."

Dean had to swallow past the lump in his throat, Dean would not trade John Winchester for any other parent in the world, but the man didn't deal out praise on a regular basis. Dean figured that was actually a good thing – it meant that when he did compliment his son then he really meant it. He'd been worried about bringing this to John; all his life he'd done pretty much everything his father had asked of him – pretty much – but actively going out and finding a hunt completely on his own… well, it was a first for him and he had not been completely sure how John would react. He definitely had not expected this hands-off nod of approval.
"Okay… but –"
"Dude, you can handle this in your sleep – some idiot messing with voodoo? Find them, stop them, educate them a little if you want, job done." John favored him with a smile. "It's a one-man job, you don't need the back-up."
"Yeah... but maybe-" He tried again but the look on his father's face forestalled any further argument.

John looked at him for a long moment and Dean felt himself unconsciously squaring his shoulders, he could do this, he knew he could. It was just throwing him a little to have his father acknowledge it in such – for him – an obvious manner.
"Where are you going?" Dean asked, changing the subject before the whole thing turned into some chick flick.
"California probably. Caleb's found something he thinks I might want to take a look into."
Dean didn't miss the slight flicker in his father's eyes, there was more there than John was saying. Or was he just projecting his own self-doubt onto the other man? Not that he had any doubt in himself – after all, he could handle this solo; of course he could - it was just…
"California, huh? That's a hell of a drive from here." He kept his tone neutral, it wasn't a question, just an observation.
"Yeah, it is. And the reason you felt the need to mention that was…?"
Dean flashed a grin and shrugged. "Oh, no reason. It's just, y'know, you might want to see a familiar face when you get there…"
"No." The coldness in John's voice was almost burning.
"Don't you think that maybe…"
"No." There was a hint of warning in his voice now, but Dean chose to push the point home despite it.
"Come on, someone's got to make the first move here, Dad. It's been nearly four years, don't you think it's time?"
"Your brother made himself absolutely clear when he left. Nothing's changed since then." John was looking away from him and Dean couldn't help but wonder what was going on in his father's head. It was times like these that he just wanted to get the two of them into the same room and bang their heads together until they finally saw how stupid and stubborn they were both being.

"He was eighteen, he was smart, he got into school – you've always taught me to make the most of my strengths. Well, Sammy's book smart, that's his strength and he's making the most of that. He's just doing what you taught us and maybe if you didn't get so mad every time you hear his name then you'd see that." John glared at him and the heat of his anger was a sharp counterpoint to the previous coldness of his tone. Dean knew he'd said too much, he'd never confronted his father quite like that before, not on such a touchy subject. "Look, I'm sorry Dad, but he's family and you can't change that no matter how mad you are at him. Isn't family the most important thing? Isn't that what this is all about?"
The anger faded and for just a moment John looked so lost, so forlorn that Dean wished he could take back every. Then the mask was back and his father shook his head.
"When he's ready to come back I'll listen, is that good enough?"
A world of no, Dean thought, but he knew he could never say the words. He nodded instead. "I guess. For now.
He knew it couldn't be easy for John, hell, his father was one of the most stubborn people he had ever met in his life and, while he wouldn't change him for the world, that stubbornness was a bone of contention more often than not. It had driven a wedge between John and his younger son and was something Dean struggled against on an almost daily basis. John wasn't alone in being stubborn, it was a Winchester trait it seemed, and Dean fought against his own urge to dig in his heels when talking with his father.

Until tonight. There was something about this whole deal that had spilled over into him pushing the point with John; as if he was picking at a scab over a barely healed wound. The whole city had him on edge and he wasn't exactly sure why – he'd been feeling this way for a couple of days now and it was throwing him. Dean figured that if he someone forced him at gunpoint to do the whole caring and sharing thing with a shrink then they'd probably tell him it was all down to the whole first real solo gig thing; or maybe just seeing the city like this. He knew deep down that was bull, he'd gone solo before now and had more than coped. Only difference this time was that there would be no one within calling distance – not that it mattered since he'd never had to make that call in any of the jobs he'd gone it alone on. And maybe the destruction in the city would tug at the heartstrings a little more if it weren't for the fact that he saw this - albeit on a smaller scale - on a damn near daily basis. At least here he was actually getting a chance to see the semi-decent side of the human condition in the volunteers.

No, this whole antsyness thing he had going was new; it was almost like a storm brewing – like something was about to happen and he just could not see what.

Movement from behind him stalled any further comments in their path. He turned as John looked up with an eyebrow cocked in amusement. Dean hooked his arm over the back of his chair and turned as the blonde from behind the bar approached with a couple of beer bottles.

He tilted his head to one side and hid the frown, he seriously doubted this place was running to waitress service and there were already two beers on the table which John had apparently actually paid for before he had arrived. It wasn't completely unknown for a cute girl to buy him a drink – something for which he was usually exceedingly grateful and made sure they knew about it – but it was unusual for it to happen when he was out talking business with John. He thought back a little to the grin he'd favored her with when he walked in – trying to gauge if he'd somehow given her the wrong – for the moment anyway – impression but didn't think he had. Maybe it was just his natural charisma, it was a curse, but one he was quite happy to live with.

He smiled up at the blonde and was about to say something when he saw the expression on her face and decided it would be safer to bite his tongue. She thrust the bottle at him and he caught it quickly before it smacked dead center into his chest. She was a little more friendly with John, putting his drink carefully on the table before turning back to Dean, glaring at him, and stalking off muttering to herself. He thought he heard words like 'sleaze' and 'pervert' in there but he could not be completely sure of that.

He turned back round and saw his father wasn't even trying to hide the laughter. Dean scowled at him and noticed John offering a toast to someone on the other side of the room. He glanced over his shoulder – not in the slightest bit casually, he figured he'd already been embarrassed enough that it didn't matter right now – and saw the brunette with the penetrating stare holding up her own bottle to return John's salute. She was grinning widely and Dean couldn't help but notice the dimples on her cheeks.

He nodded to her with a wry smile and mock bowed before turning back to face the humiliation that was no doubt coming his way.
"What the hell was that about?" he asked.
John was shaking his head, "Nothing to do with me. It was all down to her."
"Somehow I find it pretty hard to believe that you had absolutely nothing to do with it, but whatever." He sighed a little, at least the mood had lightened up a little – he'd been starting to sound like some damn hippy waiting for the Age of Aquarius to dawn or something. "So, she's no threat, huh? Would that be because you two know each other then?"
He again shook his head, "Nope, just know the type. Thought you did by now as well."
Dean gave a little half smile and nodded acknowledgment. "Yeah, I guess so."

There was no point now trying to steer the conversation back to the shark-infested waters they'd been circling before he'd been so rudely interrupted. Besides, it was good to see John at ease like this. It didn't happen often, especially not during a hunt, and right now that was all that really mattered, even if he had been the butt of the joke.

Dean leaned back in his chair. "When are you heading out then?" he asked.
"Tonight, if you're good with this?"
"That soon." It wasn't a question, Dean was just saying it aloud to avoid answering. Truth was he really wasn't good with this whole thing and he knew if he said so John would stick around, but… "No, I'm good." He said in the hope that that saying it aloud would make it true.

John was studying him intently, looking for some hint of nerves possibly, but Dean steeled himself and didn't let the grin falter under the scrutiny. Eventually his father nodded fractionally, apparently satisfied, and took a drink of his own beer. "Want to go over a plan before I go?"
He was tempted – badly – but he shook his head. "Nah, I got it." Another nod, this time with more than a hint of approval and Dean hid the flush of pride that went through him by taking another swig. "What kind of hunt is it in Cali then?"

He listened as John filled him in on the details. Dean figured that if even he could spot how sketchy those details were, then the chances were pretty good that John was figuring on taking a break – and hell, it wasn't as if he had not earned it. A car abandoned on the same route as three others in twenty years wasn't really the kind of thing that would set the alarm bells ringing enough to cross nearly the whole country to check out, but when the destination had sun, sand and time out, then it was definitely worth looking into it.

Dean would be lying to himself if he said he'd never thought about what it would be like to have a real home, to have the kind of normal life that Sam seemed so desperate to chase after, but sitting in the middle of a disaster zone laughing with his father and being the butt of the joke for a pretty, hot girl was something he didn't think he'd ever want to trade. He wondered if that made him a little sick and twisted, but he didn't wonder too much.

The 'real world' was definitely not all it was cracked up to be, and normality? Well, it just didn't sit too well with Dean Winchester.

All too soon, John was checking his watch and gathering up his things. Dean sat forward and again tried to push aside the nerves. He was better than this – sure, nerves were good, they kept you sharp, alert; but this was verging on. He gave himself a mental shake and stood up at the same time as his father.

Neither of them said anything as they headed out to John's truck but it wasn't an awkward silence. This was just the kind of silence that developed when colleagues – and comrades at arms – understood each other to the point where words weren't needed.

Dean pushed his hands into his jacket pockets again as John stashed his duffel away in the passenger foot-well and rocked back and forth on his heels, waiting to say goodbye. When John turned around he again seemed to be scrutinizing Dean's face, looking for something, some clue maybe that he wasn't okay with this.
"Seriously, Dean," he said softly. "Have you got this one? Say the word and I'll stick around until it's done."
Again Dean was on the verge of saying yes, and again he couldn't understand his reaction, it was a simple job. What he did know was that this was a huge step in their relationship. John trusted him to see this hunt through and that rendered Dean more than a little speechless. For as long as he could remember, he'd done everything he possibly could to earn his father's trust and respect. To make his dad proud of him.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, he nodded. "Yeah. I got this one." He let the grin flash over his face again and nudged John's arm with his elbow. "Go on, get going 'fore I change my mind."
John grinned in reply, "And you trying to get rid of me has nothing to do with getting even with a certain brunette back in the bar?"
Dean held a hand up to his chest in mock surprise. "What? Me? Never crossed my mind…"
John laughed a little and put his hand on Dean's shoulder. "Call me when you're done here. No rush though, if you want to stick around once the job's done, well, I wouldn't blame you. Just be careful, don't do anything stupid, okay?"
"Yes Sir." The response was automatic, but no less heartfelt for it.
Another nod from John and for just a moment the hand gripping Dean's shoulder tightened fractionally. He looked as if he wanted to say something else but with a slight shake of his head he let his hand drop. "'Town's called Jericho. If you're done you can catch up with me there."
Dean nodded and held the door open as John got into the driver's seat. "I'll see you soon," he said.
John smiled with that sadness that was so much a part of him that Dean could not really recall a time when it hadn't been there. "Take care of yourself, son. If you need it, take whatever help you can get and…" He paused. "Just, take care."

He gunned the engine and with one last look and gesture that was part wave and part salute, pulled away into the night. Dean watched him go with a frown on his face. Something was wrong but he just couldn't put his finger on what it could be.

The truck turned at the end of the street and in the sudden glare of headlights Dean spotted someone walking slowly down the street. It was an odd sight, whoever it was was walking almost nonchalantly, like he didn't have a care in the world, despite the fact he was stepping over piles of fetid trash as he made his way along. The guy looked up as John's truck passed him, the light making his eyes glow oddly. Dean felt a shiver run up his spine but a second later the light was gone and along with it the odd glow. And John.

He sighed once, sorted through his thoughts and nodded. He'd check out the house again tomorrow in daylight, see who lived there and how accurate the history was. Then, if it checked out, he'd go in and 'educate' the occupant. Resolute, Dean turned back to the bar, he had time for another beer before finding someplace to crash 'till morning and anyway, the brunette practical joker was still in there. He had a couple of ideas of how to get even and he figured, even if he didn't pay her back, it would be fun trying.

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