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Unmaking, Chapter 1


Chapter One

The decision was not a hard one to make. Dean would always choose the fight over oblivion. The only truly difficult thing about it was choosing exactly which steps he wanted to take, and when he wanted to take them. People might think of him as the reckless Winchester, the one who never plans, but he could strategize with the best of them when he so chose. John Winchester didn’t raise any idiots, despite what some of his teachers had thought. He just had to think about this rationally, evaluate what he had, obtain what he needed, and decide what he was going to do next.

His only physical asset, the only one he could really keep, was his father’s journal. The Colt was still technically in his possession, but he had promised to return it. The car he had stolen earlier was a lost cause by now, especially since the angel had left him a state or so away from Lawrence, Kansas before taking off with a flutter of invisible wings. He had no weapons of his own, his contacts were more than thirty years out of date, and he didn’t have enough cash to last more than a week. Dean thought of the loss of the Impala with a pang of regret. He didn’t dare think about Sam at all.

Dean Winchester was entirely alone.

Not for the first time in his life, the only things he could depend on were what he carried inside of his own head.

The first deficit was the easiest one to fix: he needed cash. This was accomplished with a few nights spent in a series of seedy bars, one of the few things that hadn’t changed in the thirty-five years he’d lost. He hadn’t had to hustle by himself for a year or two, but you didn’t forget a life skill like that.

He couldn’t stand walking around naked like this, especially without backup, so weapons beat out a car in a narrow margin, although he picked up a piece of heavy, solid American-made machinery in short order. It wasn’t the Impala, but he had a feeling he could keep the engine running indefinitely, so long as everyone managed to avoid nuclear disaster this time around. It didn’t take long to get his hands on a couple of handguns and a shotgun, and he’d replaced the knife he kept under his pillow and the one he usually had tucked into his boot before he’d had breakfast the first day here in 1973.

With those basic necessities taken care of, Dean turned his attention to the next item of business: get unbelievably drunk.

He figured he was long overdue for it, all things considered, between Hell and this latest fiasco. It wasn’t truly safe to really drink in public, especially by himself, so he holed up in a motel room with a couple of bottles of Jack and proceeded to get completely smashed. And if he used that as a chance to mourn his old life and the brother he would never have again, no one was around to think less of him for it.

After three days he left the dingy motel and dusty Nebraska town a little hung over but ready to move on. He had work to do.

***

Dean cursed under his breath as the shovel squelched into the soggy earth. He hadn’t had to do a salt-n-burn by himself in a long time, and his memory had apparently blurred over what a pain it was to not be able to switch off while digging. It wasn’t raining any more, at least, and he’d been able to put down a decent salt line in a nice, wide circle around the grave of Elizabeth Joseph, just in case the old girl got sick of haunting her former homestead and came out for a visit.

It was his first case as a newly revamped solo act, and so far it had gone completely to plan. He took care of the last few shovelfuls of dirt and cracked open the rotting coffin lid before climbing out and performing the familiar ritual of salt, accelerant, matches that lead to a successfully finished hunt.

Castiel appeared just as Dean finished setting in the sod he had cut away at the beginning. The key to getting away with what the law called “grave desecration” was to make sure it went unnoticed. “You couldn’t have showed up an hour ago?” Dean asked as he picked up the shovel, salt container and empty lighter fluid bottle. “I just freaking killed my back digging this grave by myself.”

The angel tilted his head and looked at him. “You should go to your friend Bobby,” he said, ignoring Dean’s earlier statement.

Shit. Bobby. Bobby, who had recurring nightmares about stabbing his possessed wife. Hunters didn’t ask for specifics about each other’s introduction to the supernatural, and Bobby had never felt like explaining what little Dean had seen in their shared dream. “Did it happen already?”

“Did what happen?”

Dean rolled his eyes as he tossed the shovel into the trunk. “Did his wife die yet?”

“Karen Singer has gone to my Father, yes,” Castiel said. “Almost a year ago. Bobby has begun searching for the demon responsible.”

“Bobby? Man, Bobby has the junkyard.”

“When you knew him. But once he was on the road, looking for answers.” The ‘Just like John Winchester’ went unspoken, but Dean heard it nonetheless. “He could use an ally.”

Dean looked away. He missed Bobby, though he’d rather gouge out his own eyes than admit it. As much as he played it up, Dean hated being alone on the hunt and out on the road. “Yeah, okay. Where is he?” The hunter turned back, unsurprised but a little disappointed to find the angel gone. He cursed and got into the car.

Finding someone (or something) in this time was far more difficult without GPS cell phones and the Internet. He’d had to revive some rusty skills and create a few new ones to effectively hunt again and it was going to be a pain in the ass to turn those toward finding another hunter, especially since he hadn’t had time to rebuild his contact list yet. This was going to take days.

It ended up taking a week, and in the end it was more Dean’s experience with grieving hunters than any specific skill that found Robert Stephen Singer. Bobby’s anniversary was coming. His wife had died almost exactly one year ago. The man would either be out trying to get himself killed in the most foolhardy way possible, or he’d be in a bar working on the problem of getting himself as drunk as possible. So Dean combined the two and looked for the bar closest to the most dangerous hunt he could find. He hit pay-dirt with an aswang in a tiny town on the Texas/Louisiana border.

It was a good thing he’d had time and practice when it came to repressing and compartmentalizing, Dean reflected as he sat down next to the younger man who he’d once seen as a second father. Bobby was putting away whiskey like it was Coca-Cola and spoiling for a fight, and this had to be handled just right if he wanted to keep any kind of contact with the man. This was definitely not the time to be airing his personal issues.

“Pater noster qui es in coelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum,” Dean said quietly once he’d gotten hold of his own beer. When in doubt, lead with Latin.

Bobby gave him a bleary glare that Dean recognized even without the wrinkles and under a head of shaggy dark hair. “Who the hell are you?”

Dean shrugged. “Someone who’s in town for the same reason you are.”

“I doubt that,” the man spat out with the kind of disdain most people only managed with copious amounts of either alcohol or money.

“Rash of miscarriages and child deaths and at least one reported theft of a cadaver.”

Bobby looked askance at him and set his shot glass down. “Who. Are. You.”

“I’m a Hunter. Guessing you are too. And an aswang is a two-man job.” Dean took a long drink of his beer, carefully casual. “Dean Colt.”

The other man grunted. “Bob Singer. I prefer to work alone.”

“Good way to end up dead,” said Dean.

“What does it matter to you?” The look on his face was a little more focused and a lot angrier than his earlier gaze.

“There aren’t enough Hunters out there as it is. It would be a shame to lose one.”

***

Bobby watched the other man in the mirror above the bar. He’d only met a handful of other hunters, every one of them middle-aged, bitter men who kept to themselves and were possessive of their hunts. This one was only a year or two older than he was, and way too cheerful for the new life that Bobby was carving out. Why had this guy approached him at all?

“Christo,” he muttered, and Dean laughed.

“Nope. Not a demon. Just a guy.” He tapped the ring on his right hand against the glass bottle, the motion idle. “I know what happened to your wife.”

“Let me guess, it gets easier? Time heals all wounds?” Bobby dropped his gaze from his unwelcome companion and tossed back another shot. “Any other pearls of wisdom you need to share?”

Dean winced. “It never gets easier. It never goes away. Some wounds don’t ever really heal. But you learn to bury it deep, use it to fuel the fight.”

“What would you know about it?” growled Bobby. “It took her. It changed her. It made her . . . made me . . .” He trailed off, frustrated by trying to express something that no words could explain.

The other hunter was quiet for a moment or two, giving Bobby time to pull himself together. “Everyone got into hunting somehow.” There was another period of silence before he flashed a quicksilver grin. “You know what helps? Killing every evil son of a bitch you can find.”

“And how do we kill this one?” Bobby had a pretty good idea, but he’d learned early on in this new career that the best way to take someone’s measure was to ask a question you already had an answer to.

“Silver,” the other man answered. “I prefer shooting, then decapitation, then salt and burn just to make sure. You do not want these things getting back up.”

“Ever gone up against one before?”

“Yeah, ‘bout ten years back. Mean-tempered son of a bitch, smelled like rotten meat.” He made a disgusted face. “They’re shapeshifters, too. One I killed looked like a damned grandma until the salt hit her.”

“Read somewhere that they don’t like semen.”

Dean gave a short burst of laughter. “That one’s a myth. Aswang have absolutely no problems with dick, trust me. The damned thing had half of the old neighborhood bachelors panting after it.”

“Huh.”

“That’s usually the way things go,” Dean said, pausing to take a long swallow from his bottle. “You have to do trial and error to find out how much of the lore is crap and how much is true.”

“Patronizing son of a bitch,” Bobby complained. “You can’t have been doing this much longer than me.”

Dean smiled bitterly. “Been doing it my whole life. Family business.”

“So why ain’t you with your family, then, ‘stead of bothering me?”

“They’re all gone,” the older man said. “Something to think about if you plan on doing this long-term.” The joviality from earlier had ebbed away. “Any suspects on the aswang?”

They quietly talked shop for the next hour, the two of them heading back to a table. Bobby regretfully left the whiskey behind as well. He didn’t know this guy from Adam and it would be stupid to compromise himself any more than he already had.

***

Dead burning aswang smelled about as appealing as rotten bananas and dog shit, something Bobby was planning on noting for future reference. Dean had dug a shallow pit and dumped the body inside before lighting it up, and now they took turns tending the macabre bonfire. The other man had produced a fifth of Jack from somewhere and they passed it back and forth as the bones slowly turned to ash.

Once the fire had done its job, they both picked up shovels and began to fill in the makeshift grave. Dean was focused on his task, almost contemplative as he tossed dirt down into the hole, and Bobby was only receiving grunts and one-word replies to his questions. As much as he hated letting the other man know it, the knowledge rattling around in Dean’s head was priceless and he didn’t know how long he would have to pick his brain.

When the grave was closed up, Bobby grabbed the shovels while Dean double-checked that everything was cleared away and that he had all the weapons and the empty salt canisters tucked away into the duffle. Then they started the long walk back toward the car.

Bobby had given up on his inquiries while they were still within sight of their recent hunt. There came a point when persistence turned into stupidity, and he didn’t want to drift over into that lane. Dean obviously didn’t want to talk right now, so Bobby would give him silence.

Which was why he was startled when Dean cleared his throat and said, “Hunting works better when there’s two people. Wanna join up?”

Bobby choked back a laugh. “Jesus. You’re not exactly subtle, are you?”

There was a grin, sharp and bright in the moonlight. “Good looks run in the family, not tact. Subtlety is a waste of time and energy most of the time. So what do you say?”

“Give me a minute.” The man mulled over the possibilities as they walked. If Dean Colt was telling the truth, he’d be an invaluable tool in parsing the truth out of the lore. Bobby had spent the last several months receiving a haphazard training in hunting demons and monsters, but he had a feeling that this guy could be the best source for hunting that he was going to meet. “We could give it a try, see how it works out.”

Dean nodded, as if that settled it. “Harder question, then: your car or mine?”

***

They ended up taking Dean’s heavy, solid Chevy, mostly because the trunk space meant that they could store almost any weapon they might need, or possibly a body. Bobby sold his own car with a slight pang of regret; it had belonged to Maggie before he took it out on the road to avenge her death. Sentimental value didn’t keep it from being a crap car, though, and he pocketed the five hundred dollars and left the thing behind.

Dean, as it turned out, was better at this than Bobby expected. Along with a pretty extensive knowledge of the unnatural, the man was a gifted con artist who could get nearly any piece of information from people that he wanted, as long as the person wasn’t whatever they’re hunting. It’s actually a pretty accurate litmus test about something being other than human: if Dean couldn’t charm a person, especially a woman, even the slightest bit, there’s a good chance that chick was involved.

And Lord, the man could fight.

All told, working with Dean Colt was probably one of the best decisions he’d made since he’d started hunting for the Demon responsible for his wife’s death, even if his scanty contacts knew nothing about him. Nobody, in fact, knew anything about him that hadn’t come from the man himself, but Bobby had run every check he could think of, for every creature he could think of, and Dean came out as completely, entirely human. One who apparently hadn’t existed until this year, for all that Bobby could tell, but a human being nonetheless.

Dean would tell tales about his life on the road, talk about the various hunts he’d done, even discuss movies or books, but in four months he hadn’t divulged more than a handful of things about himself. Bobby could give you details on all of Dean’s preferences, more than he really wanted to know, actually, and Dean could probably do the same for them. But he didn’t know much more than the basic outline of how the man became a hunter in the first place, and Bobby could tell that most of his stories were carefully edited in some way or another.

He was the most open mysterious individual that Bobby had ever met, and Bobby suspected that Dean liked it that way.

***

This younger version of Bobby handled himself pretty well in the woods, better than Dean would have expected. He gave his friend bonus points for the difficulty of this particular terrain; it hadn’t been particularly easy in 2005 with GPS, fancy tents and satellite phones, and it was less-traveled than it had been the last time he’d hiked back into this part of Colorado.

This was another one of the hunts from his personal file, something he needed to take care of before it became a problem in the future. He’d been working on writing down the details of every hunt that he remembered that wasn’t in his dad’s journal, which is to say most of them. John Winchester was one of the best hunters Dean had ever met, but he wrote case notes in a way that only he could really follow. The trick, now that Bobby was traveling along with him, was getting the other man to accept that there was a hunt in the first place. He ended up doing background research that he really didn’t need so that he could justify the hunt without having to fall back on some kind of psychic claim.

As far as his memory served him, the wendigo wasn’t due to surface for a feeding until 1982, so they should be able to catch the thing in hibernation and light it up without any problems, especially since he knew where the thing’s lair was.

If, you know, he could ever actually find it.

He knew the general location, though it would have been a lot easier to find with an actual GPS device, and he remembered that it was a mine shaft not too far from that specific latitude and longitude. Consequently, the two of them had spent the better part of yesterday tramping out to the middle of nowhere in some not-entirely-pleasant backcountry, camped out surrounded by Anasazi symbols for a somewhat uncomfortable night, and were now beating the bushes in widening circles looking for the damn thing. Dean could tell that Bobby was getting frustrated; he hadn’t believed in this hunt in the first place and it had taken some pretty serious convincing before he agreed to come along. Hibernation or not, a wendigo wasn’t something you hunted alone.

“Any sign?”

“No.” The tone was far more eloquent than the single word conveyed, and Dean could hear the implied, ‘you idjit’ behind it. “You’re sure about this?”

“Yes, Bobby, I am sure,” Dean said through gritted teeth. “It went after hikers in 1959 and 1936, and I’m willing to bet people went missing in 1913 too. If we can take it out before it wakes up in 1982, we can save some lives.”

“All right. Guess we’ll keep looking.”

It took another two hours before Dean stumbled over the closed-off mine shaft, during which time Bobby got in several digs about senility and forgetting where he left his car keys. Dean ignored him for the most part, intent on not spilling that he should know where it was, since he’d been inside three years ago and thirty-two years in the future.

As advertised, once they got inside and actually found the wendigo it was still in hibernation, sleeping amongst the bones of its victims. It didn’t even stir when Dean and Bobby hit it with two flares and only flailed momentarily before it fell into ashes.

“That was sadly anticlimactic,” Bobby muttered, and Dean had to agree. There were definite benefits to anticlimactic, though, and he wasted no time in pointing them out.

“I like any hunt where I don’t get eaten, concussed, or impaled.”

“Or set on fire, like that time in Montana,” Bobby said, grinning. “Think we should salt and burn the bones of its victims, while we’re at it?”

“Couldn’t hurt. I’d come back as a pissed-off spirit if I’d been eaten alive.”

They spent the rest of the daylight collecting the remains and building a firepit before retreating back behind the Anasazi symbols for another night of sleeping on roots and the occasional stone. The bones went up the next morning, fairly quickly since they were dry and free of flesh, and they covered up the embers with dirt and hiked back out.

No bleeding, no broken bones, and no mental scars. Dean would take it.

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