Hawkin's Oyster House
The root cellar smelled worse than it should have. Rot, decay, and something close to death assaulted his nose as he crept down the rickety stairs. The hush under the earth was like a blanket over the rest of his senses. He struggled to see around the corner towards the flickering light. There was a quick motion and sound, maybe human, maybe not. Dean’s eyes were drawn towards the glow of the candles circling the body on the floor, the strange symbols and markings drawn in a glistening deep red on the dirt floor. He struggled to focus on anything else besides that light. The motion again, now familiar, something he’d seen all his life, his father, raising a hand to strike the body, which now squirmed in his father’s grasp.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Dean said, pitching his voice as low and growly as possible, hoping his father wouldn’t recognize it right away.
“Dean, impressive, guess I trained you too well,” John said, still holding onto the figure by the throat.
The gasps from the person reached Dean’s ears, growing weaker and weaker as they struggled for breath.
“Dad, you don’t want to do this. I know you don’t,” Dean said, gun wavering from where it was trained over his father’s heart. I’m just barely twelve can’t do this can’t do this, repeating on a loop in his head. He tried to shut up that inner voice and concentrated on holding the gun steady, just like his dad had taught him.
“You’re not gonna shoot me, son. So just stow it. You’ve got no idea what’s inside her, it’s gonna talk, I’m gonna make it talk. This demon’s gonna tell me what I need to know, right?” John growled into the face of the person he was choking.
The candlelight flashed just right and Dean could see who it was. It would have been bad enough if it was just a stranger, but this was, Jo. She was practically his little sister. His heart contracted at the thought that crashed into him: Sam would never survive the loss of her. “Dad, c’mon, it’s just Jo, I can see her from here. Let her go—now.”
“No can do. I know it looks like Jo, but there’s a demon inside her, boy. I’m just testing it right now, we gotta see how strong this demon really is,” John let go of Jo’s throat abruptly and she slammed to the ground, her small body going limp and still.
Dean hoped that he really saw her chest was still moving slightly, that he wasn’t just making that up to feel better. His father splashed her slack face with water out of a silver flask. There was no reaction, nothing.
“See, Dad. Not a demon, it would hiss and steam, right? Isn’t that what you said? So, just, please, let me take her out of here. We’ll find the demon you’re after, the one that killed mom, I’ll help you. I’ll always help you, Dad. Let me help you, please,” Dean said, stepping closer with each word, slow and steady and hopefully unnoticeable.
“Just stop right there, Dean. Some demons are strong enough to resist the holy water. Need to cut her a few times,” John said, pulling a shining silver knife out of his belt.
“No, Dad, just please stop. I don’t want to have to hurt you, but I can’t let you cut Jo,” Dean said, now within a few steps of Jo. He could see her eyes fluttering like she was coming out of it, not much time then. He crouched to the dirt floor, grabbed up some of the loose, sandy soil and burst back upwards flinging it into his father’s wide staring eyes.
John’s hands flew to his face and stepped backwards unsteadily knocking over a candle. The flame leapt up, greedy for fuel, catching the hem of his jeans and flaring into more light, John crashed to the floor and fell into one of the other candles. Dean took advantage of the distraction and scooped Jo up from the center of the remaining candles. He was so glad she weighed less than his Sammy. He backed quickly towards the stairs, gun still pointing at his father.
John had recovered and strode forward, his face an unrecognizable mask of unhinged fury. “You will not take my chance from me, boy!” he roared.
One step, up another, John’s hands reached forward to trip him, Dean fired behind him as he jumped up to the next step, turned and ran up the rest. He heard his father cry out and fall down the stairs, then go quiet. Dean got Jo up the rest of the way out of the root cellar. Laid her down gently as possible in the dew-wet grass near the entrance. He stepped back down the stairs, just to check, he had to see, had to know what he’d done.
John lay at the bottom of the flight of stairs, one leg at an impossible angle. His eyes glittered in the small light from the remaining candles. His pant leg and jacket still smoking and charred. “You don’t know what you’re doing, Dean. She’s a fucking demon, just like the one that took your mother.”
“No, Dad, she’s not, it’s just Jo, just plain Jo. And I can’t let you hurt her. I’m just going to take her somewhere safe. Then I’ll come back and we can talk.”
“No, if you leave with her, you don’t ever come back, boy. If you do I’ll kill Sam. Just like I should have. If I ever see you near us, I will kill that boy.”
That’s about the only thing that could possibly stop him, and John knew that of course. Sam was his. Has been since the moment John put him in his arms to save him from the fire. Sam has been his life, his everything. But Sam would never forgive him if he let something happen to Jo. She was like their sister, especially to Sam because they were so close in age. He smiled internally at the images of the two crazy-hair kids running through the woods behind the Roadhouse chasing butterflies.
The memory of Sam and Jo’s smiles that day decide him. “No, Dad, you can’t.”
“You leave now, you betray me like this, then I’ll take away the only thing you’ve got, this family. And if you ever come near him again, I will kill Sam. Understand me, boy?”
Dean gulped and swallowed his fear, tried to stand up taller, tried to convince himself that this was the right thing to do. Sam would want him to save Jo.
“If I stay away, you won’t hurt, Sammy?” Dean asked, knowing that it was likely a stupid decision to make a deal with someone who’d obviously gone crazy. But what other options did he really have?
John screwed up his face in disgust, “No I won’t hurt your precious Sammy, damn your stupid priorities, Dean. He’ll be fine, he’ll be safe if you just stay away.”
Sam readjusted his grip on the claw hammer and leaned farther out over the water to reach the underside of the pier. He drew back and hit the rotten wood hard and it collapsed, which put him off balance and then he was under the water, sputtering and splashing and getting pulled out towards the open sea channel with the strong afternoon rip tide. His heavy work boots, the denim coveralls and the stupid hammer were weighing him down, making it hard to stay afloat, much less swim back to the stupid broken dock. From here, he could see how hopeless it had been to even try and fix the thing. Out of the corner of his salt-watery eye he saw movement, a small motorboat tacking towards him, with a figure waving.
He stuck a hand up and the figure grabbed onto him as the small boat slowed to a stop. Sam was hoisted up by strong arms ending up a wet mess practically in the lap of his rescuer. He wiped the salt water out of his eyes and looked up to see who was strong enough to pull him straight up out of the water like that. And the eyes that met his were this unreal combination of shades of brilliant green and gold that caught all of the afternoon light, focusing it all in their sparkling depths shining it all back on him like he was under the microscope back in his college labs.
“You okay?” the man asked from his perfectly, pink plush lips. Sam shook his head, the water droplets flying all about, landing on the man who laughed. He helped Sam sit up on his own and clapped him on the shoulder. “Thought you were going down for the count, dude.”
The man had barely stopped talking when Sam was back in his arms again as the small craft was nearly swamped by the wake of one of the fishing boats coming back into harbor. Knocked together, face to face, Sam could see this man was the most beautiful person he’d ever laid eyes on. Eyes, god those eyes, he’d always loved green eyes. He was swamped with the feelings of loss that thinking about green eyes always brought. He scrambled back out of the man’s arms and perched on the bench across from him.
“Thanks! I was fixing my dock and then I fell in and I was going down. You saved me.”
“You probably would have been fine, you look like you have the shoulders of a good swimmer. I was just trying to be neighborly and all.”
“You’re not from around here are you?” Sam asked, wondering what the man’s accent meant, he sounded like he was from the East coast.
“Nope, just moved here,” the man said, extending one hand, shaking Sam’s slowly. “Name’s William Bowes , you can call me Will if you like.”
“Hi, uh, Will. I’m Alexander Hawkins, call me Xander. It’s nice to uh…get saved by you.” Sam wasn’t sure why he’d used the name, the one that he’d said he was done pretending with, but it was habit, thirteen long years of habit, of hiding under the protection the name had meant. He finally released Will’s hand and his whole body tingled with this strange flush of recognition.
“So, Xander, you want me to motor up to this dock of yours? So you can go get into something dry?” Will asked, green eyes twinkling with amusement.
Sam patted at his drenched coverall and felt its suffocating weight again. He unzipped it and shrugged out of the top half, wrapping the arms in a knot at his slim waist. He felt Will’s eyes on his bare torso and it felt good, warm, and more than a little friendly to be admired like this.
“I was right about those swimmer’s shoulders, wow, you are built, aren’t you?” Will asked, eyes still wide in admiration.
“Oh…I uh, I swam in college,” Sam said, shrugging and trying not to flame bright with embarrassment at the frank appraisal.
“My college didn’t have a pool. Just vats of developer. I went to Parsons for photography, in New York City,” Will said.
“Wow, really? I’ve always wanted to go there, not…uh to Parson, but the city,” Sam said.
“It’s a big place, but it was really too crowded for me. That’s a big part of why I’ve moved out here.”
“That’s going to be a switch,” Sam said.
“That is in fact, my plan. Change everything hopefully, anyway, here you go,” Will said, pulling up to the decrepit dock. “Hey, are you sure that thing is even safe to walk on?”
“No, I’m not. Which is one of the reasons I was trying to fix it!” Sam snarked as he clambered back up onto the dock.
“Xander! You okay?” a woman yelled from the end of the dock. Sam looked towards her.
“Yeah, Annie, I’m fine,” Sam yelled back. “Stay off of the dock!”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to…well, see you around,” Will said, backing his motorboat away from the dock and zooming out towards the open water.
Sam stood there and watched him go, hoping it wouldn’t be too long before their paths crossed again. And that he’d be dry, and have all his clothes on. Well, maybe not for the whole time— Annie’s voice interrupted his thoughts again.
“Xander, dude, what happened?”
“Oh, I was leaning out, trying to get to the underside of the dock, and I overbalanced and fell in. That guy pulled me out of the water.”
“Well, who was he?” she asked.
“New guy who just moved here, Will Bowes.”
“He sure is pretty,” Annie teased.
“Annie, you can’t go around calling men pretty like that. It pisses people off.”
“Hey, I call ‘em like I see ‘em. And that was probably one of the prettiest people I’ve ever seen. I can tell by your face that you agree, so don’t even front, dude. Big sister knows what she knows, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, but have you cooked anything for dinner yet?”
“Shit, Xan, you’ve been back, what a week, and you’re already demanding dinner every freakin’ night.”
“What can I say, I missed home-cooking,” Sam said.
“I’m running the whole freakin’ restaurant on my own and you’re just as damn lazy as ever,” Annie said with a smile that said she knew that was Sam telling her he missed her.
Dean’s only thoughts as he carried Jo away from the root cellar were that Sam would want this. Would want him to make sure Jo was okay, was safe from their Dad. He carried her over his shoulders the mile or so back to the Roadhouse. Ellen and Bill Harvelle both dropped what they were doing when he appeared at the back door.
“What happened? Dean, are you okay?” Ellen asked as she ran panicked hands over Jo’s limp body.
“My dad, he’s…he went crazy or something. Had Jo in this cellar, I think he was exorcising her, he kept saying she was a demon, he was gonna kill her,” Dean answered, shaking hands covering his face. “Sammy, I need to see him.”
“He’s not here, son,” Bill said. “Ash said your dad just called and picked Sam up a few minutes ago.”
“Did you see him?” Dean asked.
“No, I didn’t. Did you El?” Bill asked. Ellen shook her head in answer, still holding on so tightly to Jo that he knuckles were white.
“Dean, if your dad did this, we need to get you and Sam somewhere safe. You understand that, right?” Bill asked.
Dean nodded and stared at Jo’s slack face, trying to picture what was happening to Sam right now. He had to be okay, his dad had promised. But his dad was officially nuts now. “My dad promised he wouldn’t hurt Sammy if I stayed away from them. I had to…had to hurt my dad to make him stop hurting Jo. He had a knife to her throat…he was gonna…”
“Dean, you did the right thing, you saved my daughter. I’ll make some calls, I promise you and Sam will both be okay. We owe you, son, big time,” Bill said, squeezing one big hand on Dean’s shoulder.
Dean couldn’t answer, just nodded and thought about his father and that big silver knife and his brother riding in the car alone with him and his crazy. Not even knowing where Dean was. He closed his eyes and tried to picture himself holding Sam, keeping him in the safe circle of his arms where he belonged. He could hear Bill talking to people on the phone. Things got a little heated and then everything was dropped when Jo finally woke up. She was terrified, but she calmed down when she realized it was just her mom holding her. She confirmed everything Dean had said and started crying when she saw Dean sitting there.
“Sam? Where’s Sam?” Jo asked, she trembled in Ellen’s arms.
Bill hung up his last phone call and came back into the room. He pulled Jo up into a hug. “He’s safe, Bobby’s got him away from John. Okay, Jo? He’s safe, I swear.”
“Bobby has Sammy?” Dean asked, his heart leaping with hope.
“Yeah, son, he’s got him and he’s on his way to take him to a family that…”
Dean covered his ears and interrupted Bill, “Don’t tell me, please, sir. I can’t know. If Dad ever…”
“Okay, Dean, I get it. You are such a little hero, your daddy did something right with you,” Bill said, eyes shining with admiration.
Dean didn’t know how to answer something like that so he didn’t. He yawned widely, suddenly overcome with exhaustion. Ellen noticed and led him off to the room he usually bunked in with Sam when they visited. She got him set up with an old sweatshirt of Bill’s to sleep in since John had taken the boy’s duffel bag.
“Just for tonight, hon. We’ll get you some stuff that fits tomorrow, okay?” Ellen asked, smoothing Dean’s hair down as he tried to get comfortable in the bed.
Dean didn’t say anything, he just wanted to be alone. Ellen took the hint of his silence and left. “It’s all gonna work out, Dean. You get some sleep,” she said, closing the door. Dean tried to sleep but all that came was tears. He realized he was never going to see his brother again. Never hold him, tease him, see his stupid dimples, never have to pull his hands away from his own skin where they traced out his freckles. He felt a new emptiness yawn deep inside, the lost feeling welling up and overtaking him. His tears finally flowed then, he cried until he fell asleep exhausted from the terror and loss.
Sam was pulling out of Vern’s Ace hardware store when he saw Will driving up. They paused in the driveway and smiled at each other through their truck windows. Sam was driving the Hawkin’s Oyster truck, a big Ford F350, much higher than the smaller Toyota that Will was in. Will looked up at him with a smile brighter than all the June sunshine.
“Hey there, Xander, was hoping I’d see you again.”
“Hi, Will, me too, good to see you too.”
“You got time for a cup of coffee?” Will asked.
Someone honked behind Sam which startled him into lurching forward. He leaned back out of the window and yelled,“Yeah, I’ll go around the block, give me a sec.” He pulled out and drove around the block, his heart pounding with excitement. Sam laughed at himself, it’s only coffee.
Will was leaning up against his small red truck, arms crossed, showing off those muscular biceps that had pulled Sam out of the water. Sam parked and locked up the truck, and tried not to walk too fast towards him. Will was smiling wide and friendly.
“Hey, I’m sorry I made that crack about your dock. And then I just split because your girl was calling you.”
“What? Hey no worries, that thing’s been on the to-fix list as long as I can remember, way before I left for college. We just never got around to it. But now that I’m back for good, I’m getting to it.”
“You’re back here for good? Where were you then?” Will asked.
“I was at college, Stanford. Just graduated little more than a month ago,” Sam leaned up against the truck next to Will and was pleased to see his body turn towards him.
“What’s a Stanford grad going to do in this place?” Will teased.
“Hey! This is my home town, man. And I’m taking over the family business with my big sister. She’s the one that you saw on the dock.”
“Sorry, god I keep saying this stuff,” Will said, one hand clasping the back of his neck in embarrassment.
Sam bumped his shoulder into Will’s. “Naw, I’m just kidding you, I’m not offended, I swear. The Hawkins Oyster Company, that my dad’s father founded is getting pulled into the 21st century with all the stuff I learned at school. ”
“Oh yeah, I saw the sign on your truck. That’s going to be a big job.”
“It’ll keep me out of trouble, but Annie says she’ll believe it when she sees it,” Sam said.
“So, uh, is Annie your sister or your girlfriend?” Will asked, sounding hesitant and hopeful.
“She’s my big sister, and I don’t exactly do girlfriends,” Sam said, hoping that he was reading the situation even close to accurately.
“Same here, you still want to go get that coffee?” Will asked with an impossibly wider smile.
“Absolutely, but I only have about a half hour, got a date with a contractor,” Sam said.
“A date?” Will asked, sounding disappointed.
“No, uh, not a date, more like an appointment with doom, it’s gonna be a pile of money to get the work on the dock done,” Sam said.
Peggy Morgan at the Blue Mug tried to catch Sam’s attention while they were ordering at the counter, but Sam managed to ignore her. The owner of the cafe, old Frank Morgan was more successful as he bussed the tables near them.
“Hey, Xander, bringing in one of your college friends?” Frank asked, raising his bristly white eyebrows at Xander.
“No, Mr. Morgan, this is someone new to town, meet William Bowes,” Sam said, gesturing across the small table at Will.
“Oh, so you’re the fella that bought the Jorgensen estate up at the top of the cove? Nice to meet you,” Frank said, extending his hand to shake.
Will shook hands and smiled, winking at Sam out of Frank’s eyesight. “Yes, sir, that’s me.”
“You going to fix up that old place? Sure would be a shame to tear it down,” Frank said, leaning on the back of Sam’s chair.
“Definitely my plan, sir. I’ve always wanted to rehab an old beauty like her,” Will answered.
“Glad to hear it, son. Let me know if you need any ideas about restoration, I’ve got a memory about how all of that looked way back when. Grew up playing on the estate when my mama worked for the Jorgensens,” Frank said. Peggy called over from the counter and Frank waved at her. “I gotta go get this into the washer before the lunch rush, good to meet you, Will. Good luck keeping Xander out of trouble, you hear?” The old man tottered off with the full weight of the busing tray.
“So now I get to keep you out of trouble, Xander, well I wouldn’t want to disappoint Frank, now would I?” Will said with a salacious tease in his voice.
Sam tried and failed to suppress a laugh and ended up spilling most of his remaining coffee. It flowed across the table towards Will and he scrambled to mop it up before it went over the edge. Their hands met as they swiped at the coffee with wads of paper napkins and Sam felt that shiver of strange rightness flow through him again like he’d felt when he’d been in Will’s arms in the boat. Almost like his body recognized or remembered Will somehow. They grinned at each other as they reluctantly pulled back from the contact.
Dean was kept informed of Sam’s progress in school by the Harvelle’s but he didn’t let them tell him any detail about where Sam lived. He just wanted him to be safe and away from John. It hurts more than anything to be separated from Sam, and he knows his little brother must be so confused about why he’s gone, but it has to be this way. All he has to do is remember the malice in John’s promise about killing Sam. He knows his father all too well, that if he does anything, he’ll keep a promise like that.
One of Bill Harvelle’s older brothers, David was a childless, high-powered New York City lawyer who owed his little brother for something hunting related that Dean never quite got the whole story on. David Harvelle took Dean in, and pushed and prodded him to succeed all the way through high school. He kept Dean so busy with trips and meeting people and endless activities that Dean didn’t ever have time to wallow in his sorrow at missing his little brother. David was so proud of the grit and determination that Dean demonstrated that he sent Dean to college where he chose an art photography major at Parsons in New York City.
Dean threw himself into college life and tried his best to forget all about his brother, but he couldn’t ever stop pining and channeled all the longing and heartbreak into his photos that were immediately recognized as something beyond the normal student art photographs. He got signed with one of the top art dealers in the city right after his first student exhibit. Dean made more than a million dollars in just his first year of selling his art.
“Where are you going now, Xan?” Annie asked, hands on her hips as she leaned against the front counter of their restaurant.
Sam tried to shrug as unconcernedly as possible and not look her in the eye, because she would know. She always knew. “I’m going to meet Will, he’s taking me to see a movie tonight. I put it on the calendar.”
“You are kidding, right? The Morgans are throwing Frank’s retirement party tonight. We’re gonna be swamped. You promised to help out, remember?”
“Annie, I’m sorry, it’s Will and you know how…” Sam trailed off, embarrassed to be discussing his love life (or lack of one) with his sister.
“Awww, you go on and get your lover boy, I’ll call Melody in, she’s been wanting more hours,” Annie said, cupping her hand around Sam’s neck to pull him down so she could kiss him on the cheek. “Good luck, tiger.”
Sam kissed her back and gave her a short hug. “You’re the best, Annie. I’d say don’t wait up, but who knows, right?”
Annie’s laughter rang out and faded as he speed-walked to the truck. This was his first real date with Will, and he hoped things would progress, but he didn’t really expect anything or want to push it. He wanted to take things slow with Will, savor the slow build of getting know him, inside and out. There were a lot of layers to the man, beyond the surface hotness, the dry humor, there was his artistic side that Sam had found by googling him.
The galleries of Will’s photos he’d seen online had practically broken his heart, they were wrenching, so emotion-packed and yet lyrically beautiful. They were like looking into the most broken soul you could imagine that still refused to give up on the beauty of life. Sam wanted to know that man, the one who made that art, and he wanted to know where it came from.
Sam couldn’t tell you what movie they ended up seeing, because he wasn’t paying one bit of attention to it. All of his focus was on the man next to him, his nearness was tantalizing and comforting at the same time. Sam knew he was being obvious, staring too much, but Will didn’t seem to mind. He just kept smiling and bumping their knees or shoulders together. Their hands tangled in the popcorn bucket a few times and Sam was glad he was sitting down. So this was what ‘weak in the knees’ felt like. He felt like an eighth grader on his first date, it was ridiculous. But Will was worth all of it.
When he walked Sam to his truck, Will briefly hugged him close, lips buzzing past the skin of Sam’s cheek. The scent of him and the feel of his strong body in his arms made him feel ten feet tall. Will was all he could think of for the next few days, between all the modifications to their oyster operations, he should have been too busy to mope around after this guy. But Will wasn’t just some guy, he was something special, he made Sam feel hopeful, like there was a point to the future. And Sam hadn’t felt that since he was safe in his brother’s arms.
After graduating from Parsons, Dean had even more time to spend on making new images and his work got exponentially more popular. He started getting written up in all sorts of media, some of it going national instead of local, because the New York City art world had always been the epicenter of the art world. Dean let his success overwhelm him for a little while, forgetting that he should be lying as low as possible, but it was too tempting when he got invited to one glittering party after another. He didn’t turn into a party boy or anything, but he was going down that path of just not caring who was in his bed or drinking all his booze.
All of that ended abruptly when he got an early morning phone call that had him scrambling for his cell in the bedcovers. The caller just breathed heavily for a bit and didn’t say anything.
“Not impressed, buddy,” Dean said into his cell, and was just about to push the end call button when he heard a familiar deep chuckle.
“Dad?” Dean asked, his voice sounding like the small boy he’d been the last time he’d seen his father.
“Yeah, it’s me, Dean. I see you’re making a new name for yourself, William Bowes, huh? Famous art photographer, who knew you’d end up being a weak ass, artsy-fartsy city boy?”
“How’d you find me?” Dean asked, his stomach sinking as his thoughts worried about Sam.
“Oh you were plenty easy to find, what with your pretty face all over the tabloids, it’s Sammy that’s the hard part,” John said.
“I stayed away from him, all this time. I swear I did. Please, please don’t hurt him, Dad,” Dean said, not caring that he was begging.
“I’m glad you got separated from that abomination, he was always going to corrupt you eventually,” John snarled.
“Dad, don’t talk about Sam like that,” Dean said.
“I’ll talk about him however I like! He’s the reason she’s gone! He’s the reason you don’t have a family!” John shouted, the phone vibrating with all the hate coming from his father. “You tell me where he is, right now!”
“I don’t know where Sam is. I never knew where he went after…uh, on purpose.”
“And the Harvelles and Bobby are nowhere to be found, still, after all these years,” John said.
Dean smiled at the thought of the Harvelles and Bobby being smart enough to outwit John and stay hidden all these years.
“See, I did teach you a thing or two, boy. I already figured you didn’t know where Sam was, I was just calling to remind you of something. Just because you’re successful, don’t get cute and try and find Sam now. If he sees you in the papers or online he might contact you, so if I were you, I’d just stop all of this now before you get more famous. You stay away from him, or I promise you, he will be dead before you can snap another of your stupid pictures!”
“I will, Dad, I promise,” Dean said, his heart pounding out of his chest at the thought of harm coming to Sam after all these years of safety.
The phone went dead then, and Dean knew he had to change everything about his life. Again. It had always been about keeping Sam safe, and it always would be. He owed it to his brother that he’d lost.On to Part 2