Quartering The Odds
© 2010 gekizetsu
AU for the Turn of the Wheel series. So, yeah, AU of an AU. Sam and Dean weren’t able to repel the Watchtower guardian in Dodecagon, and the elementals have been running rampant. It’s no longer a human’s world, and the boys have to scrounge in ever stranger ways. The original prompt was from without_me for either more ToW-style wingfic, or, hooker fic. Being who I am, that means this became hooker wingfic. 3500 words, PG-13 for language and m/m sexual situations (Dean/oc, Dean/Sam). Sam is a terrible pimp.
But if I don't see now, or even know why,
it's only awful as the hell that you know.
-- Band of Horses, Islands On The Coast
The closer it got to midyear, the less they went out in the darkness, much less the daylight.
No one used terms like solstice any longer; even saying the proper names of the Sabbats could bring the bastards down on any unlucky moron. It was just ‘midyear’ by then.
On the Sabbats, it wasn’t safe for the mortals to be out, day or night. The elementals took physical forms and made a messy go at battling each other over a plane that didn’t want them and that they didn’t mind destroying in the process.
Every town was a ghost town on the Sabbats.
Dean hadn’t been out in the daylight for more than minutes at a time since things had changed over, anyway. There was no point in risking it. Either the remaining humans thought he was working for the wrong team, or the elementals got wind of him (pun intended). Half wanted to recruit; half wanted to take him apart. It was Sam who was out in the daylight when they required it, and even then only with a hell of a lot of caution. His physical appearance hadn’t changed, and despite the range and scope of his elemental-given quirks, the elementals still couldn’t sense him they way they could sense Dean.
It was all a matter of finding the right places to hide, and leaving them before they wore out. The air was heavier in certain places some days, and people in Dean’s condition left imprints on it that the elementals could spot if he kept still too long. There was no ritual or amulet that made him less visible. They had tried.
Humanity fell into three categories after Sam and Dean had failed to seal the rift caused by the Watchtower guardian after Dean’s second ‘sacrifice’: those who embraced the elementals as their new ‘gods’; those who rebelled and killed any elemental they could; and those who left the grid altogether. Sam and Dean fell into the last category by necessity. The first category had split into four obvious factions, raised new temples or rebuilt old ones, and fought amongst each other as directed (or possibly just imagined, in some cases) by their new rulers. The rebels tended to kill indiscriminately and had a tight hold on most supply lines.
Human nature continued to rear its ugly head as always, in the same old patterns.
Those who seceded from the whole mess had to find ways to trade for food, water and supplies under the radar because currency no longer existed. It was too dangerous to openly scrounge for resources without being caught by the elementals, and stealing wasn’t worth it. Not when getting caught meant not just losing a hand, but losing every damn appendage.
The current hideout of choice for the brothers that first week of true summer was an abandoned glass factory in Indiana. Tons of cement and other unnatural, non-elemental materials surrounded them and made them less of a target. They’d holed up there to plot their next several moves and look for a part of the world that was empty enough to allow them to keep still for more than a couple of days at a time. They knew enough to suspect there were still places that would naturally repel elementals the way salt mines were avoided by demons. They had several good starting places mapped out, and they’d been considering ways to construct such a place, but it would have to be done somewhere mostly devoid of other humans, and it had to be done carefully to avoid detection by anyone or anything. Not to mention sustainable.
In the meantime, they were still on the move and scrounging on the outskirts in ways more extreme than they had been used to when they had been top of the food chain.
Even the demons had cleared out.
Dean paced the dirt-laden areas of the old factory’s floor, avoiding piles of debris and ruined machinery and shaking his wings out. He was constantly wishing he could stretch them more often, but there was rarely enough room to do it. He never felt like he had enough room, anymore, whether the tips were touching walls or not.
He’d never been able to hide them again, not since the elementals had really broken through. They were always out, no matter what he or Sam tried. It wasn’t their world, any longer, and the rules had changed.
It was rapidly getting warmer in there even with several second-floor windows broken out. He wandered shirtless, something he did as often as he could. Sam had worried aloud that maybe they were beginning to go a little more native than was safe, but the truth was that while Dean had lost control of his part of the equation, Sam had a better handle on his own powers ever since things had changed. He still had his moments, but they were fewer and further between and Dean had quit worrying that he’d have to chase his brother down and tie him up to keep him from running wild. He was more powerful than ever, and had enough control over it to deal with the occasional elemental that got too close.
Dean shook his wings again, the way someone would have tried to keep a foot from falling asleep. They ached if they were folded too long, and they were too large to be convincingly covered with clothing or a blanket. He hated having them covered, anyway. The only thing allowed to touch them was Sam.
Yeah, he thought, if the elementals had any kind of hit list, we’re both on it. Big time.
Discovering that they weren’t the only ones had been both gratifying and disturbing.
It happened most often among the rebels, naturally. Sam and Dean could have warned anyone what happened when someone was at ground zero when an elemental died. Dismemberment, or a special invitation to the elemental club of their choice with bonus accidental growths or abilities. Sam had taken to calling them ‘nomalies’ and had refused to explain the reference to Dean.
Not all manifestations were physical, but the ones that were had had a startling effect on the rest of the population.
There was an underground - very, very underground, pun intended again - demand for that small percentage of the Adjusted.
“It’s cute, how the world comes with a new glossary, now,” Dean had said after he’d heard that one. “Right along with new kinks. At least, I hope they’re new.”
“You like being in demand,” Sam had said. “Admit it.”
“Half the world wants me dead, and the other half wants to fuck me,” Dean said. “Shit, same as always.”
They hadn’t run across anyone else with wings. Yet. Dean seemed to be a rare specimen. People turned pastel shades and sprouted vines, or were able to shape rock, or had gills, but they weren’t getting wings.
Dean preened in more ways than one and didn’t bother to hide it from Sam. Sam ignored him when he could. When he couldn’t, Dean got hands in his feathers and kept his mouth shut while his eyes rolled up into his head.
When Dean found out what his basic market value was and suggested they use it to their advantage, Sam had been so vehemently opposed that they lost the roof of the old apple packing plant they’d been squatting in. Dean had dropped it then, but only temporarily, and he was openly smug about making Sam lose his shit.
It came up again a week or so later, when Sam stumbled on a conversation while waiting to get water from a rebel outpost. It was a dank basement hideout that had only been dug a couple of years earlier, accessible only after an obstacle course of paranoid tests.
He listened to two middle aged guys discuss, in graphic detail, what they’d be happy to do to the Adjusted they’d heard about that had wings, real wings, and what they’d be willing to trade for it.
Sam relayed the conversation to Dean, thinking it would serve as a warning.
He was wrong.
“You should’ve brought ‘em back with you,” Dean said with a smirk, only half joking.
Sam stared at him incredulously. “What is wrong with you?”
Dean shrugged. “We’re gonna need to get out of here, and sooner or later get enough ahead to really get out, set up somewhere safe we can plan a way to boot these assholes back off our plane. We’re not getting it done the way we’re living now. Use the resources we have, Sam. Set boundaries if you want, if it’ll make you feel better.”
“So it’s okay with you if I whore you out?” Sam yelled. “You’re fine with selling yourself at this point?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Dean said with maddening nonchalance.
Sam pointed a finger at him. “Don’t you dare use that as justification. I don’t wanna hear about what you used to do. Nobody touches the wings but me.”
Dean smirked. He’d been enjoying Sam’s possessive streak ever since the wings had first appeared, and it had only gotten worse over time. “See, you’re setting a boundary,” he said. “Maybe if we just keep it to blowjobs, th -”
“The boundary is, no one touches any part of you but me,” Sam snapped.
“Not without you setting the terms, anyway,” Dean said.
Sam chose then to walk off just to force an end to the conversation. Continuing any further was only going to make him angrier and amuse the hell out of Dean, and that was a combination he was tired of being part of. By then it no longer mattered whether Dean was just jerking his chain. It was too much.
He hated it that Dean was right about the fact that they couldn’t get ahead, couldn’t gain a foothold, couldn’t do more than just survive the way they were.
Dean’s solution was still not acceptable, and would never be acceptable.
It came up again.
They moved on, through Missouri and Kansas, and as the summer heat increased, being cooped up became nearly impossible. Dean in particular was never exactly careless, but a weariness of the routine and a growing resentment of not being able to fix things the way they had always managed to in the past made him spoil for more altercations than were strictly necessary, and risk things he didn’t need to. Necessity, though, and need, were concepts that had always been pliable to him depending on the situation.
Running and hiding and waiting with an occasional strategic skirmish was not enough. Not to make a difference, and not to satisfy Dean. The only people they could reasonably team up with that would not automatically screw them by default were the nomalies. The numbers might be sufficient to cause some damage, but the damn elementals would also find them an irresistible draw as a group, and they’d always be nothing but a batch of moving targets. It was already bad enough with just the two of them.
The best case scenario would be to get the balance to shift among the original elemental factions, to get them to whittle each other down. Ideally, eventually, one would collapse altogether, and the natural affiliation between two of the remaining three would decide the rest. It had been earth and water vs. fire and air the last time Sam and Dean had checked. With two thirds of the planet being water, there was no chance of lowering the influence of one side of that equation. Their money was on killing off all the air elementals they could, since they already had plenty of practice.
With just the two of them, it was a pretty damn tall order.
Still, it wasn’t like they could just wait things out, or let the world go in the meantime.
Bobby had gone off the grid altogether, and he was only occasionally in contact, which made for slower going. He tried to point them in the direction of something that gave them an edge, be it knowledge or materials, when he could.
Limbo still did not suit the Winchesters.
Dean had read enough over the years about evolution and what it took to make large changes in the world - catastrophes, mostly, leaving only the most adaptable behind in the fallout - and it had him wondering what kind of world-changing event was needed to eject them from their slowly declining orbit of getting nowhere. His definition was not likely to line up exactly with Sam’s, in the case he was pondering. But it would have to do.
Sam had always been good at openly wearing Dean down; what he never quite understood was that by creating that mode of negotiation between them, he made it possible for Dean to do the same to him in much stealthier ways. Sam expected open manipulation in return for his own behavior, and Dean was careful not to operate on the same level.
It was not dirty pool to use your carefully learned survival skills on your little brother when it was actually a matter of survival.
Every time Dean brought up the possibilities they had in front of them involving his supposed value, Sam became less vehement out of weariness. He no longer wanted to argue about something he felt was ridiculous.
Still, with the idea in the forefront of his mind so often, he was much more attuned to the rumors and discussion among the other humans and not-quite-humans that he came across.
When he heard the same damn conversation again between several guys at an outpost, he was tired enough of the whole damn thing to challenge them to tell him exactly what they’d be willing to trade for a crack at this mythical winged idiot who didn’t actually exist.
Locations of several safe spots and supplies; names, passwords. Enough supplies to get the hell out of there and get pretty far before they had to worry about it again. To finally get far enough away, to one of the spots they’d plotted as safe enough to set up and shield themselves from the elementals while they really got a plan together.
It hit him harder than he wanted it to. Somehow, the idea had gotten in and taken root.
Sam managed to quit shaking by the time he made it back to Dean.
Dean glanced at him and knew anyway, and knew exactly what it had been about. To his credit, he didn’t smirk or taunt; he simply nodded, and that was worse.
When Sam came back the next day, he wasn’t alone, and the blank look on his face was as much a warning as the tension in his shoulders.
It had been a long time since Dean had underestimated Sam, in anything. Longer still since he’d misjudged how deeply Sam really felt about something. Just because he yelled or gestured or otherwise freaked out about it on the surface didn’t mean there weren’t deeper layers being safeguarded.
The guy with him was smaller than either of them, but in well above average shape for most adult humans still running around: he wasn’t half as scruffy, malnourished or scarred. He was fairly unremarkable with dark hair and even features and blue eyes darkened with lust.
Dean stood, keeping his eyes on Sam while he shot his wings out and ignored the low gasp from their visitor. Dean shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and turned a full circle in the sunlight slanting in the windows, purposely sealing the deal and proving the wings were real at the same time. The additional sound that came out of the guy was pretty damn gratifying.
No names; no one cared. The guy came closer with Sam right at his back until he was within a foot of Dean, staring openly.
A heavy dose of clarity came with Sam pressing a gun to the guy’s head.
“Like we discussed,” Sam said in a low voice Dean recognized as really damn serious, “…you touch those wings, and you’ll be an exit wound on legs. So if that’s all you’re here for, you better get out now.”
The guy shook his head without ever taking his eyes off Dean’s wings.
It had also been a long time since Dean had underestimated how fucking kinky some people could be, because the guy was terrified but was so turned on by the wings and having Sam press a gun to his head that he stayed. Stayed, and pressed himself full length and still fully clothed against Dean when Dean leaned back against the wall and flared his wings.
Dean could feel how hard the guy was through his jeans and he wrapped a leg around him to tug him in closer, then took his face in his hands and grinned against his mouth. Poor guy had nowhere to put his hands other than Dean’s waist, gripping the denim there to keep himself from getting killed by making even accidental contact with what was spread out on the concrete in front of him.
He could hear how hard Sam was breathing even over that of the stranger pressing him into the wall, and he was careful not to look at him. He could smell the gun - it was that close - mixed with Sam’s angered warmth, and he had to admit it was compelling.
He let the guy lean back and stare at the wings while he moved his hips against Dean’s with increasing speed. Dean was only half-hard and didn’t mind; the whole thing was fun in other ways.
When the john (Dean couldn’t help himself; it was essentially true, and as soon as he could he was going to use that term with Sam just to watch him lose his mind over it) shuddered against him with a hitch of breath a few minutes later, Dean grinned at him. “Want your honorary Mile High Club badge?”
The guy blinked at him, eyes still hazy. There was a moment, as he stood with his hands in midair, that Dean was sure he would go for it and grab for feathers. Sam sensed it even without seeing the guy’s eyes, and he shot the slide back on the gun without hesitation.
Sam hustled him out of there and spent several minutes having a low, terse conversation with him just outside, in the shade behind the building. Finalizing terms. Dean didn’t listen in. Sam would catch him up.
Not exactly a thrill, but one for the books all the same. And lucrative.
Plus, Sam returning and reclaiming his territory by going all alpha male and fucking Dean over the nearest surface as soon as the guy was gone was, by Dean’s estimation, hot and weirdly funny. He’d won that round and he knew it.
Underneath it all, Dean simply enjoyed being wanted, and he didn’t care what form it took.
“Next time, see if you can find a chick with a feather fetish,” Dean said breathlessly. “Whoo. But try not to scare her with the looming, and the gun, and the…looming.”
“Shut up, Dean,” Sam said. “Shut up.”
They were gone minutes later. There was no way they could stay anywhere near that area now that Dean had become more than a myth. They didn’t stop until darkness forced them to hide. Even then, they spoke little, sleeping uneasily in shifts, listening for both elementals and humans. Dean didn’t need Sam to voice any of his fears, especially not the one where Dean was grabbed and spent the rest of his days chained to a floor somewhere as a pet.
It happened twice more before they reached their destination far to the northwest. Each was much the same as the first time, and Sam never let down his guard. He hated it and made sure Dean knew it, but the information they got on where the major weaknesses in several large elemental hotspots was worth it. To Dean, anyway.
They found one of the last remaining stretches of undisturbed asphalt, the last of the buildings left made of concrete and steel and glass east of what had been Seattle.
The place was elemental-free and there was already a small group of people there that was more than happy to see them, even with Dean’s wings, once they realized that they suddenly had solid plans and a focus, and someone to look to, to figure out what to do.
Their second night there, staring out into the electricity-free darkness from a twentieth-floor hotel room they’d taken as their own, Sam said, “Never again.”
Dean knew immediately what he was talking about, and he shrugged, but knew he also had to voice it. “Never again.”
They didn’t have to shake on it or demand promises. The words were enough, between them.
He laced his fingers into Sam’s anyway, because even with his soul sprouting out of his back and all too accessible, there was still room for a little reassurance.
-|- -|- -|-