So this idea sparked early in the creation of Brose’s and my Dee ‘verse, after I read some incredible takes on Dean driven to extreme means as a teenager, and I thought, how would that work for Dee?
I would like to especially point out ginzai's phenomenal Robbing Peter, and be with me as the horses run until they forget they are horses by maerhys.
Title: The More Unholy Things I Do
Word count: 15,771
Pairing: gen, actually (Dee 'verse)
Spoilers: none for canon; preseries, AU
Warnings: Please take note of the following: underage prostitution, assault, attempted sexual assault, violence on women, and some pretty earnest self-hatred, all of which may be very triggery for many readers.
Summary: This is a story about a bad situation becoming worse. This is a story about what happens when a couple kids left on their own are faced with no good choices, and the wrong choices lead to worse consequences. Then there’s the aftermath.
Author notes: All the thanks in the world to brosedshield and whereupon for multiple looks at this over the years and stellar feedback.
The More Unholy Things I Do
"The damn thing gave me the slip, Dee. I've gotta chase it down the river, so it'll be a couple more days at least. You and Sam okay?"
Dee paced, bare feet treading a circle over the dirty, cracked tile of the motel kitchen. Distantly, she heard the echo of Sam’s voice, bitching about bacteria and athlete’s foot.
“Yeah, Dad.” Her voice was strong, confident, easy. "We're doing fine. School's good."
"Got enough cash?"
She had a single remaining twenty folded inside her sports bra, which she only ever took off to shower. There would have been two more, but even the basics had been more expensive at the corner store in this bumfuck Iowa town known as Angola. Then Sam had needed some stuff for a project and a P.E. uniform, not to mention he pitched a fit because he was too much of a sissy to hunt down the bastard crawlers with his shoe, so she had picked up a bottle of Raid and some traps for the bathroom.
"It's kinda tight, Dad, to be honest."
"Well, the room's paid up through the end of next week, and you should have enough for mac 'n cheese until I get back. Okay?"
"Yes, sir." She spoke with well-practiced assurance, her back straight. She didn’t need to think about it. Finding a way to make it work wasn’t a problem, not compared to what Dad was doing. And she had warning, this time, that he was delayed.
She snapped the light off before slipping back through the bedroom door she had left cracked open (damn hinges squeaked; she should find a greasy rag laying around somewhere and take care of that).
In the far bed, Sam rolled over, the gleam of his eyes just visible from where he had pulled the sheet up to his chin. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, Sammy.” That required even less thought; it was the same reassurance she had given every night for the last twelve years. ”Go back to sleep."
"What'd Dad say?"
"He's gonna be a few more days. Nothing to worry about."
Sam didn't move or speak, but after a moment, she heard him roll back over. Dee lay still on top of the sheets, eyes fixed on the black ceiling, as alert as she was on watch during a hunt. She listened for a long time to Sam's breathing and the traffic outside.
Since Dee turned sixteen, Dad had left them alone for longer stretches, but long before that, Dee had learned to plan for worst-case scenarios. After walking Sam back to the motel after school let out, she ran a wet comb through her short hair, buttoned down a clean denim shirt with rolled-up sleeves, and checked her nails for grease or dirt.
Sam was already bent over his homework on their worn, rickety kitchen table when she stopped before the door.
"Sam, I'm gonna see if anyone wants some work done. I'll be back by dinnertime."
He glanced up at her, shaking his bangs out of his eyes. "'Kay."
"Don't leave the room," she warned. "I've got my key, so don't open the door for anyone knocking. Got it?"
"Yeah, Dee, I know." His answer had only the minimal amount of impatience, his attention back on the book before she closed the door.
Her fake ID only said she was eighteen, so she didn’t have much hope for the few dive bars in the area, even when she offered to sweep and clean the bathrooms that obviously could have used it. She had no more luck at the pawn and thrift stores, their windows blocked with burglar bars and messy merchandise displays. The owner of the auto shop on the corner listened as she rattled off engine parts and the various repairs she'd done on the Impala, but in the end told her they were only looking for someone long-term. He suggested she look into a couple other auto shops across town, but she knew it wasn't going to happen. Even if she did figure out the bus system, she'd be away too long and too far from Sam, and this neighborhood gave her the creeps.
At last, she turned back to the convenience store a couple blocks away from the motel, where they had bought all their overpriced food so far. It was no worse than the other grab-and-go stores she'd been through over the years; they even had cherry pies, and her hand hovered over them for a moment automatically before falling to her side.
The man behind the counter, framed in plexiglass, slouched forward on his forearms, working a penknife into the center of a wooden yo-yo. His slicked black hair curled at his neck, and his jaw showed a few days' growth of stubble. As she approached, his gaze flickered up.
Dee flashed her most winning, hell-yes-I'm-eighteen smile. "Hey, how you doing?"
The man drew himself up, folding his arms under him to examine her closely. Dee didn't blink. When he spoke, his voice was almost soft, yet with a curling undertone. "How can I help you?"
"Is the manager around?"
He answered just as quietly, without emphasis. "I am the manager."
"Oh." She took a moment to re-adjust. "Well, I was wondering if you had any openings, any shifts you needed picked up. Stocking, help ringing folks up, anything."
He didn't answer for several moments, eyes trailing over her. Dee willed herself not to move a muscle. At last he asked, "Are you a boy or a girl?"
She pulled back, shoulders stiffening. "What's that matter?"
He raised his eyebrows, lips spreading in a grin, showing two silver teeth. "Matters a lot. For what kind of work you can do. Do you piss standing up or sitting down?"
She stared at him, her heart thumping like she was on a hunt. "Sitting down," she said at last, flatly, "but I can work the same as any boy."
"Really." The penknife tapped against the counter, and he looked deliberately at her crotch. "I think there are some things you can do better than boys.”
Dee was out of the store in two steps, and crossing the street in another three. She didn't slow down until she reached the motel, and then she turned and put her back against the wall for a few minutes until she remembered the knives in her boots, the back of her jeans, and clamped in her sports bra next to the last twenty. She remembered too how smoothly the handles fit in her hand, how she cut up that black dog back in Baton Rouge, and shook her head at herself. Way to act like a chick.
She rapped out their code on the door before unlocking it. Sam was right where she had left him, though he had moved from his science workbook to history.
"Find anything?" he asked.
Dee washed her hands at the sink before dropping a pot beneath the faucet and grabbing a box of mac 'n cheese. Four left. "No luck yet. Hey, any of your teachers have kids? Ask around tomorrow if they need a babysitter."
Sam snorted. "You'd do babysitting?"
She turned around to flick water at him. "What do you think I've been doing with you your entire life? I'm the world's best babysitter."
She flicked the electric burner on, slamming the pot down. ”Please. Like you’d know a good babysitter if you saw one dancing naked. You’re lucky you had me.”
“Okay, one, I’m pretty sure good babysitters don’t dance naked in front of kids. Two, I’m lucky I never drowned in the bathtub.” Oh yeah, Sam had turned into a real smartass.
“Bitch,” she snapped. “It’s not too late to drown you in the bathtub.”
“Jerk.” Sam leaned back, balancing on the chair's rear legs as he peered over at the stove and box of mac ‘n cheese. "Please tell me we're having something besides that crap."
Dee's smile disappeared. "Sure we are. Corn." She thunked the can down on the counter.
Sam rolled his eyes. "Great. Do you have any idea how bad mac 'n cheese is for you? We eat so much of it, it's going to clog all our arteries."
"All right, I'll get a twelve-pack of Ramen next time."
He gagged. "That's even worse. It's enough sodium to kill a shark."
"Good thing you aren't a shark. Quit griping."
Sam did not quit griping, because that was Sam’s favorite occupation these days: announcing to the world how much better their life should be, if only they weren’t obsessed with killing monsters. It was better that he do it now instead of when Dad was around, but Dee only let him go on twice as long as usual before threatening to make him do Dad’s drills until bedtime. He scowled at her, but went back to his books, and Dee stretched out on the ratty couch, flicking through channels to see which had the least static.
Saturday morning, after a quick meal of instant oatmeal, Dee pushed Sam out to the nearest park, where they ran through some drills, then sparred. Sam had a lot of promise for a kid still carrying his baby fat; judging by the size of his feet, Dee wasn’t sure what he’d be like when he landed on the other side of puberty. She’d had an inkling for a while that her baby brother would one day tower over her, but like hell was she going to admit it now.
They were heading back, sweat-soaked and Dee cheerful in the way a good workout brought—“I knocked you flat on your back three times, dude, you’ve got to tell everyone in class now how your sister kicks your ass—” when Dee saw the man standing outside their motel room.They stopped short, just a moment before Dee stepped in front of Sam, fists tight and body braced, and didn’t relax when she recognized Amar, the motel manager.
“Good morning,” he said. Amar was built along the same lines as Dad, stocky in middle age but without perceptible fat. His dark eyes beneath his navy turban were just as impenetrable as Dad’s, too. “I was knocking to ask when you will be checking out.”
“Not yet,” Dee said shortly. Damn, she was tired of pushy managers and principals and everyone else nosing around their lives. “A couple more days.”
Amar folded his arms, frowning heavily. “Your father paid through today.”
“Through next week,” she corrected.
“Today,” he repeated, with finality. “I have the receipt on file, if you would like to see.”
Dee followed Amar back to the office, waving at Sam to wait outside. Amar showed her his copy of the receipt, with the date, amount paid, and Dad’s scrawled signature of someone else’s name at the bottom, all adding up to the indisputable fact that the motel was only paid through that day. Dee sucked in the inside of her cheek, weighing her chances of arguing that there had been a deal or discount Amar had forgotten.
Amar rapped his knuckles on the receipt. “If you stay tonight, I need one more week’s rent.”
“We’re not staying another week. Just a day or two.”
Amar glowered at her. “You tell your father I need rent now, if you stay one more night. Rent for every day you stay, in advance.”
“You’re going to get it,” she snapped. “Cool it. He’s finishing up business now, and when he gets back he’ll pay what he owes you.”
“I will be waiting,” Amar said. Like he was some scary mafia big shot. Just watch her quiver in her boots.
Sam was hovering by the brick wall when she exited, and he sprang forward to search her face. “Was he right?”
“About anything besides how much that raghead can go fuck himself?”
“Sam!” she mimicked in her best girly whine.
Sam glanced behind them, then hissed at her, “I think he heard you.”
She threw a look over her shoulder to see Amar standing by the door of his office, watching them go. Well, wouldn’t that make their next conversation all the more fun. “I’ll give him a pass on calling me a dyke bitch, then, and we’ll be even.”
Sam punched her in the arm, and once inside their room she hooked his ankle, knocking him on his ass for the fourth time that day, then beat him to the bathroom for first shower.
After lunch (leftover mac ‘n cheese, but Sam was quieter about it), she scouted stores further than yesterday, but had no more luck. One cheap-ass said he’d give her ten bucks for sweeping and cleaning his restrooms after hours every night. Dee would have taken it anyway, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Amar, surprisingly, did not harass them Sunday, though in the evening Dee caught him watching her through his office window, as she crossed the street back to their room. Most businesses were closed on Sunday in this sorry-ass Iowa town, but she’d gathered the intel she needed.
By the time she picked Sam up from school the next day, she had three more twenties snug in her sports bra, and a couple frozen pizzas, a couple cans of Sam’s favorite brand of stew, a box of Lucky Charms, and a fresh gallon of milk waiting for them back at the motel. “Found a grocery store willing to pay upfront,” she told Sam as she broke open the plastic wrap around the first pizza, but he scowled.
“So you’ve dropped out of school again?” The question was more of an accusation, hard and unsurprised.
“Jesus, Sam.” She snapped the oven door shut. “I’ve got bigger things to worry about than squared pies and who fucked Hester Prynne.”
“You shouldn’t have to.” He stabbed at the table with his pencil. “You shouldn’t have to worry about anything other than school. You’re sixteen, Dee. We shouldn’t be in this situation at all. Dad should be here —”
“Dad’s out there alone,” Dee said, her voice rising as she took a step toward Sam, “trying to keep people’s insides from becoming their outsides, hunting down a freak-of-nature that would make anyone else piss themselves just from a glimpse, so yeah, Sam, I do what I can, and the least you can do is shut your mouth.”
Sam clicked his teeth together, and with one last baleful glare in her direction, took his homework to the living room.
By the time the pizza was done, Dee decided Sam’s silent treatment had gone on long enough. She stacked the slices high onto two plates, headed into the living room where she generously nudged instead of kicked Sam’s textbook and notebook out of the way, and sat down next to him on the threadbare carpet.
“You don’t wanna get sauce all over your homework, kiddo. C’mon, tell me about the cute babes in your class.”
Sam relented, though he talked more about his teachers than the girls, which gave Dee a thousand new openings, and after dinner she found Nick-at-Nite was coming through not half-bad. For once, Sam didn’t retreat to the table, but stayed sprawled next to her on the floor, occasionally looking up to smile or roll his eyes at the jokes that'd been lame even back when the show was new.
That was when Dee thought things could be all right, like this. Even if she was worried as hell about Dad and making ends meet, and all the other fucking problems the world showered each day like birthday presents from hell. As long as they could finish the day like this, Dee thought it might all be worth it.
Then Tuesday arrived.
She’d barely gotten back from dropping Sam off at school when Amar cornered her, his brow more thunderous than before. When she held out the sixty bucks (like hell was she handing everything over), he looked at the cash for a long time, until she was ready to shove it down his throat.
“That is enough for one night, without tax,” he said at last, raising his eyes to her face. “You have already stayed three. How many more?”
“This is insurance on the rest,” Dee said, jabbing the money into his chest. “My dad’ll be back tomorrow, he’ll pay up then, and we’ll be out of your face by sundown.” Tomorrow sounded good. If she were lucky, there’d be only two or three more tomorrows.
Amar’s eyes narrowed. “That is not how I run my establishment. You cannot pay only one night when you have stayed for three. I must be paid in advance for every night—”
“Yeah, I heard you the first fifteen times. So you got any use for this? ‘Cause if not, there’s plenty else I can do with it.”
He took the money, sure enough, and wrote her a receipt for Saturday night, letting her know he would not count tax as some big special favor, and if Dee didn’t have more at stake than just herself, she would have told him what he could do with his tax break.
Afterward she returned to the suburb she’d visited yesterday, but found cop cars parked and prowling, which was just bad luck. Or, well, maybe not just bad luck. But she hadn’t even gotten anything much good yesterday, and the pawn shop hadn’t forked over shit.
She struck out the next day, too, on every count: shop owners shaking their heads before she finished asking, too many damn housewives home or out on the porch watching the street, Sam moody about a planned field trip that he knew he wouldn’t be around for, and Dee’s cell phone was as good as a paperweight in her pocket, no matter how often she checked to make sure the battery hadn’t died. She tried not to think about how it had been almost a week since Dad’s last call. Not like it was the first time “a few days” meant more than a week.
She managed to avoid Amar by circling around the back of the motel, but that would only work for so long. She’d have liked to believe he wouldn’t throw a couple kids on the street, but life, along with the look in Amar’s eye, had taught her better. Most people didn’t give a fuck, and the rest only pretended to; Amar, at least, had the decency not to pretend.
Even if it came to that, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. They’d find somewhere else, even if it was a church, which would be downright humiliating. She wanted to be where Dad had left them, to show him she could hold it together that much in his absence. He always said she was a smart girl, and yeah, there were plenty of ways she could get out of a bind like this without thinking about the first job offer she’d gotten.
Thursday she tried the south side of town, just for kicks. The best place she found was another small food mart, where she tucked a couple sandwiches into her jacket before making an exit. Just after she’d crumpled and tossed the first wrapper, walking by another shopping center and eyeing the businesses without much hope, the heavens opened with an angelic chorus, granting Dee Winchester her number one wish: her cell phone buzzed in her pocket, the screen lit with Dad’s cell number.
She ducked at once into a quiet coffee shop, finding a corner alone. “Hey Dad. Did you get it?”
Dad’s voice was more gravelly and tired than usual, but there in her ear, and the deceptive proximity tightened her throat. “Dee. Yeah, I got the sonofabitch. Staked and buried, and I can damn near see the place it went down from this hospital window. Just waiting for these stitches to heal up enough so I can hobble on out of here.”
Dee’s stomach pitched, and for a moment she couldn’t speak at all. At last she said, trying to keep steady, “You okay, Dad? Did it, did it get you bad?”
“Not so bad,” Dad said nonchalantly, which was the same phrase he’d used when that poltergeist on steroids had broken his femur. “It’s a lucky thing this area has its good Samaritans. Someone caught a glimpse from the road, made a call and the ambulance came and picked me up, so I got a free lift.”
Dee pressed her fist to her mouth, tasting bile at the back of her throat.
“Dee?” Dad’s voice was a little sharper now.
“Yes sir.” She was hoarse now too, but thank fuck for training holding her steady. “So, uh, when do you think they’ll let you out?”
“No one’s holding me here,” he said shortly. “But based on past experience, I’d better give it a couple days at least if I don’t want to paint the Impala’s seats before I get back. How’s Sam doing?”
“Good. All right, Dee, the nurse is heading in. Don’t worry, I’m still in one piece. You’ll see me soon.” He hung up.
Her brain felt sluggish, heavy, like someone had filled it with cement during the phone call. It took her another minute to lower the phone.
Then she closed her eyes, leaned her head into her palm, and breathed in deep through her nose until her throat unclenched and her eyes stopped prickling. How old was she, anyway? She knew what Dad was up against. No one else could have pulled off the constant double-shift job he had keeping them safe, raising them right with the tools to keep themselves alive, while taking down one ugly-ass baddie after another. But he was just human. She knew that. Sammy might not yet, but she did, as much as she hated to think about it. Sometimes Dad slipped; sometimes he forgot. She didn’t blame him, especially not when he was stretched out on a hospital bed with God knew how many new stitches in him, drugged to his gills on painkillers.
He counted on her to step up, in times like these. He depended on her to solve some problems herself, instead of going running to him with every fucking thing.
The trip back across town was as foggy as her head, and reality only snapped back when Amar blocked her path to the walkway toward her room. She recoiled, just for an instant before pulling herself together.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” she said loudly, and he cut her off at once.
“According to the last time we spoke, your father arrived two nights ago. Is he hiding in your room?”
If Dee could have made a deal right then, she would have given up driving the Impala for a year to be able to deck this asshole. Instead she bared her teeth in something that might have resembled a smile. “He got held up. Shit happens. Maybe you can recall the last time shit happened to you. You’ll see him soon, it’s not like he’s just abandoned us here —”
“You would not be the first,” Amar said indifferently, and Dee’s knuckles ached to collide with the soft tissue of his face and feel the bone beneath. “I do not like false promises and lies. This is not a charity house. You and your brother find somewhere else to stay until your father returns.”
Dee sucked in a breath, pushing one hand through her hair before taking one step closer. Amar’s face never gave away a flicker of emotion, telegraphing nothing but no hope no hope no hope, but what else could she do but give it her best last shot?
With a massive effort, she lowered her voice. “Amar. I never lied to you, honest to God. I was giving you the best info I had, and I really appreciate you being flexible so far. I know sure as hell not everyone would. Now would a few more days absolutely kill you? Is it really going to pull the rug out from under your business? It’s not like we’re causing you any trouble, and—look, I’ll be happy to clean up this place, scrub out rooms, whatever you need. Just, just work with us for a little bit longer, okay? And I swear to God my dad’ll make it worth your while.”
Amar stared back at her for a long minute, dark eyes unblinking and unfathomable. Then he spoke, slowly and precisely. “I have given you a few days, and then a few days after that. I will now give you two more days. If you have not paid me in full by five p.m. Saturday, I will call the police to help you find a new home.”
Dee’s heart thudded once, twice, and then stopped entirely. Just for a moment, infinite though it seemed, and then she caught her breath with a painful shock through her chest. She stepped back, eyes never leaving Amar’s face. “All right,” she said. “Got it.”
Dad was a Marine who hustled poker and ran credit card scams. Didn't make him any less of a man just because he did what it took to feed his family, to keep them loaded with ammo and salt. Dad was a good dad because he didn't let his pride get in the way, ever.
She had this girl's body, after all. She might as well use it.*
When Dee stepped into the store and saw a stout Hispanic woman behind the counter, her moment of relief was instantly stifled with guilt. This didn't solve anything; they were in the same bind and with fewer options. She didn't want to have to rob one of these shops at gun or knife-point; it was risky as hell, and she was too likely to get caught.
She walked up and down the aisles, waiting for the mother with two small, rambunctious children to finish paying for gas and junk food (chips and candy and soda, the kind of thing that whiled away the hours, marked the stretches from gas station to gas station, wrappers inevitably ending up stashed under the Impala seats) before approaching. "Is the manager here?"
The woman gave a nod and tilted her head back. "In the office. What's it about?"
Dee swallowed and pushed her hands in her pockets. "I'm following up a job offer."
The woman stepped out of the Plexiglas box to rap on the office door, calling, "Tony." The door cracked open, and she leaned her head inside. A moment later it opened wider, revealing the manager in an unbuttoned overshirt and jeans. His expression didn't change as he saw Dee, but he stepped back for her to enter.
Dee hesitated for an instant—she had planned to lay out her terms before going anywhere private—but she stepped forward into the room without looking at or brushing against him. She was certain she could take him, if it came to it.
The office was crammed with boxes of overstock and damaged inventory, empty take-out boxes toppling out of a trash can, and clothing thrown across nearly every surface and the AC unit over the window. Pushed against the wall was a table with a ledger, bank box, decade-old stereo, and an assortment of office supplies. Dee assessed the room quickly for blunt or sharp objects, then turned. Tony stood before the door, watching her, oddly passive. Except for how he blocked the door. And burglar bars lined the top half of the window behind her, right next to the cars-and-bikinis calendar.
Dee lifted her chin. She was in control. She would slice open the bastard's fat belly before he pushed her around.
"I'm not fucking you," she said, and her voice felt too loud and high, too young. "That's not on the table. I'll blow you, and you have to be wearing one of these." She held up the box of condoms she had nicked from the shelf, and didn’t look to see if her hand was steady. "You have a problem with that, no deal."
He crossed his arms. God damn every single one of these bastards who never gave her so much as a half-second reaction. "How much do you want?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Cents?”
“Fuck you. Fifty bucks.”
“For giving head? You think you're that good?"
She had no idea, but it would be pointless for any less. "That's my price. Take it or leave it."
A smile tugged slowly at the corner of his mouth, as he stepped in closer. "We'll see."
She was about to argue no, that's how it is, asshole, when he lifted his hand to curl his fingers under her jaw. It was a firm grip, one she could have torn out of if she wanted to, but she didn’t. She let him hold her immobile as he rubbed his thumb slowly, leisurely, over her mouth, and she grabbed the back of the chair behind her to keep from slicing his fingers off with her knife. No, no, she had committed to this, and that meant dealing with it—
She held herself still, even as her heart pounded in her throat and her knees weakened. He was entirely too close, still playing with her lips, and just like that she couldn't say another fucking word.
"Well," he breathed, the stink of it on her face, and his eyes didn't move from her mouth. "On your knees."
Sam’s favorite school had been one in upstate New York where he’d gotten to spend a whole semester of second grade, but this one wasn’t half bad. Not that he’d admit it even to himself, because as soon as he warmed up to a school, he tended to see it in the Impala’s rearview mirror for the last time a few hours later.
But it was hard to remember that in certain classes. Mr. Wyman, for instance, hadn’t made a fuss when Sam said he’d forgotten to ask his parents to get materials for the science project, but the next day had brought in a box and called the class to look at what he’d dug up. Funnily enough, Sam and a few other kids had been able to grab just what they needed. He thought he was a pretty good liar, but maybe Mr. Wyman had noticed how Sam had never forgotten to turn an assignment in on time.
Mrs. Schultz, on the other hand, was a sweetly sarcastic math teacher who didn’t miss a thing. She knew exactly who the troublemakers were and had a way of embarrassing them when they tried to act up. She started each class with a Calvin & Hobbes comic up on the projector, and taught her lessons with sardonic precision, over-emphasizing each point so that any kid who bothered to pay attention could get it; yet she also provided incentives for those who might otherwise get bored.
Sam’s warm glow of satisfaction dampened as soon as he stepped out of the school at three p.m., looking around the horde of milling students heading for the orange buses or line of waiting cars. He spotted Dee before long, leaning against a metal pole at the end of the building, slouching in her baggy jacket. She’d seen him too, and stayed where she was, watching as he pushed through the crowd. That wasn’t like her — she usually went right up to meet him, tousling his hair and making sure to embarrass him in front of any potential friends he might have, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was Sammy’s big sister, here to claim him and take him home.
She didn’t say anything as he reached her, but jerked her head once for him to follow as she turned toward the street. Her hands were stuffed in her coat pockets, and as Sam hurried to keep up, he couldn’t get a good enough look at her face.
“Did Dad call?” he asked, once the noise of the school had faded behind them.
After a moment, Dee expelled a sigh. “Yeah. The hunt’s done, he’s patching up in a hospital, then he’ll be heading back this way.”
Sam almost tripped over a bump in the sidewalk. “He hurt bad?”
“Nah. Didn’t sound like it.”
Sam wished she would slow down just a little, just so he could walk beside her and she’d look at him. “Are we gonna be okay until then?”
Another pause, though her pace never dropped. Then she said, “Yeah. We’re gonna be fine.”
She had to stop when they reached a crosswalk before a busy street. Sam pushed the button to hurry the walk sign up, adjusted the straps of his backpack, and remembered why it was heavier than usual. “Hey, Dee.”She looked at him, finally, her brow furrowed as he pulled his backpack around and unzipped it to pull out the jar. “I won this in class today.”
Her eyebrows rose and lips parted, but he didn't see the usual eager light when she spotted M&Ms. "How'd you do that?"
"Finished the most extra problems on the worksheet before the bell rang."
A smile tugged one side of her mouth. "Your brain is way too freakish."
He scowled. "Jerk—you could try being a little nicer, since I got these for you."
She looked at the M&Ms and didn't answer.
Cautiously, he held them out. "Don't you want them?"
He couldn't understand the odd look that shivered over her face, but after a moment she cleared her throat and looked ahead. "Why don't you save them for later."
He put the jar back in his bag. The white walk light flashed up ahead of them. When they got to the other side of the street, he asked quietly, "Dad’s gonna be okay, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, Sammy. Don’t you worry.”~*~
Dee heated up a can of their favorite brand of stew that night, then realized as it bubbled on the stove that it looked as appetizing as the steaming innards of the worm monster she split open back in the Everglades. She poured it all in a bowl for Sam, then switched on the TV before collapsing bonelessly on the sofa.
Sam’s head appeared over the top cushion. “You’re not gonna eat?”
“Had a big meal earlier.”
“Oh yeah? Where was that?”
A minor fissure of irritation flickered through the numb. “A real nice place called mind-your-own-damn-business cafe.”
He huffed, muttered, and got his bowl, returning to sit on the end of the couch, by her feet. After a few minutes, he said, “I thought you hated Spanish class.”
He waved his spoon toward the TV. “This channel. Spanish.”
Silence fell again, except for the TV, though now Dee was aware of Sam watching her instead of the screen. At last he said, quietly, “We don’t gotta stay here, you know.”
Dee didn’t look away from the TV. “Thought you liked this school.”
“No, I mean —” He blew out his breath. “If Amar means business. Dad was supposed to be back a week ago, who knows how much longer —”
“He’s coming back, Sam, he didn’t ask to be in the goddamn hospital.”
“I know that!” he snapped. “But Amar doesn’t give a shit, and if it’s getting too hot — let’s go to Uncle Bobby’s. Call Dad, let him know.”
“No.” The last time they saw Bobby, Dad had been cursing him to hell as Bobby pushed him off the porch with a shotgun. She liked seeing Bobby, but in recent years he was always mad as hell at their dad over something. Bobby didn’t need any more ammunition against him.
“Why not?” Sam asked, annoyed.
“For one thing, Bobby’s in South Dakota.”
“That’s one state over! It’d be like — three hours!”
“Second thing,” Dee said, louder, though she kept her eyes glued to the Mexican lady waving her arms in distress, “Dad told us to wait here.”
Sam snarled suddenly, a sound unfamiliar enough that it wrenched Dee’s gaze over to him. He was leaning forward, glaring at her and clutching his bowl like he might throw it at her head. “How can he expect us to do everything he says when he doesn’t keep his promises?”
“Sam,” she said warningly.
“Seriously, how the fuck, Dee? It’s bullshit, not fucking fair, and I’m sick of it —”
“Not as sick as I am of your whiny bitch voice,” Dee snapped, and rolled off the sofa, heading for their bedroom. “Anyone else would tell you the same, if you were ever around them long enough.”
Sam didn’t come to bed for at least another hour. Dee lay on her stomach, face turned away from the door, her ears too acutely aware of every sound inside and outside the walls. Her heart didn’t stop racing (wildly, erratically, fueled by adrenaline in full panic mode) for a long time.
“Not so bad,” Tony had said, once he’d let her up. His eyes didn’t leave her mouth, even hidden behind the cuff of her jacket. “Could use some practice.”
Dee lowered her wrist, feeling the dry stiff bills in her other fist. “Bring pals tomorrow. Same time.”
Yesterday, nothing could have forced her to admit she’d been nervous, walking to the convenience store. Today she simply wasn’t. She knew what to expect, now, and she didn’t feel much of anything.
At least not until she pushed open the door into Tony’s office and found three guys taking up all the space, sprawled in folding chairs with beers and a deck of cards between them. Their legs criss-crossed every direction, sure as a spiderweb to trap her any step she took.
She had asked for this. She knew exactly what she came for, and there was no reason for foreboding to freeze her bones, bringing her to a sudden stop in the doorway, irresolute and so goddamn sackless.
The other two were built along the same lines of Tony: big, solid men with expansive biceps and meaty hands. They didn’t look fast, but they could likely stop a moving body in its tracks. They both had greasy open shirts, the corners of an embroidered name and auto shop logo barely visible, and a detached, almost-hysterical part of Dee noted that it was all for the best she couldn’t get a job at the nearby shop.
They had turned at her entrance, the new ones giving her a real slow lookover. “Close the door, sugar,” the one on the left said. He had a small golden earring and his hair pulled back in a short tight ponytail, while the other had a buzz cut and a curving scar down his jaw.
Dee did not want to close the door. She did not want to start off by doing anything they said. But she thought of Sam sitting in class, and Dad lying in a hospital bed, and reached out behind her to push the door shut.
Buzzcut Scar looked unimpressed. “This all you got?” he asked, turning to Tony. “Some dyke who don’t even know how to dress herself up?”
Tony shrugged one shoulder. “I didn’t promise nothing. She said she wanted more practice, I said I’d do my best to help out.”
Gold Earring guffawed and addressed Dee directly. “First lesson, sweetheart, is to show us what you’re selling.”
“You ain’t buying nothing but my mouth,” Dee snapped, because she fucking well had to say something, start setting lines somewhere. “Don’t see much need to dress that up. And I’m real sorry if it makes you feel less like men ‘cause you can’t yank on a ponytail.”
Gold Earring bared his lips in a black-and-yellow grin. “If it’s your mouth we get, then you better start talking sweeter to us.”
“Bet her mouth will be sweet enough around my dick.” Buzzcut Scar spread his knees, beckoning her forward. “Hurry up, bitch, lunch break don’t last all afternoon.”
Dee had been wrong. Yesterday hadn’t given her an idea of the worst. Tony had been almost silent; these two were not. They were vocal in their appreciation and impatience, wordless and explicit, urging on each other and occasionally her. Buzzcut in particular was focused on making it a very thorough, effective lesson, and slapped her when she didn’t take enough initiative.
And it was never over. Not once, not twice.
By the time she got back to Tony, Dee had learned more lessons than she could count, though not the key ones the men intended. Every last illusion about who she was, what she could and couldn’t do, every cocky pretense of badassery was stripped brutally away, torn off her as viciously as the short hairs on the back of her head. She understood, now, that she’d given them a challenge.
When at last they let her go, she fell backward onto her ass, then grabbed onto the table behind her to pull herself to her feet. She was panting and knew she was trembling, but for the moment, she couldn’t see their faces. They couldn’t do anything else to her, anyway.
Wrong again, Deanna.
“You got what you came for?” Tony asked.
One of them let out a dismissive hmph. “Best you can expect, I guess, out of some stuck-up cherry butch.”
“Pay up.” Her voice was shit, wrecked and shaking like the rest of her, and it was a good thing she no longer had it in her to care.
Buzzcut—she could see him now, or the outline of him, enough to distinguish from the other two—snorted more derisively, and stood up in front of her, hands shoved in his pockets, jeans still open. “You wanna get paid for that performance? How about we let you go for round two tomorrow. Better thank us now for giving you the experience.”
All the humiliation, shock, and horror, bordering on numbness, coalesced suddenly into cold, familiar rage. The familiarity was distant, from a previous version of herself who had delusions, but she could still use it now. Dee swiped a hand across her face and looked him in the eye. “Give me my fucking money.”
From behind him, Gold Earring whistled, and Buzzcut’s thin lips turned into a smirk. “Chill out. Here ya go.” Withdrawing his hand from his pocket, he dropped something that tinkled and gleamed once they hit the floor. Two dimes.
The flash and clink of those coins acted as a switch: everything Dee had done and learned, everything that had her knees and hands trembling a half-second ago, fell away. Her focus on the room turned crystal-clear, and all that mattered was a simple objective.
Her fingers closed over something long, metal, and heavy on the desk behind her. With all her strength, she drove the end of the stapler into Buzzcut’s temple.
He dropped to the floor. Already turning, Dee smashed the stapler once across Gold Earring’s face. He cried out, clutching his broken nose, and she kicked him twice in the groin and gut to ensure he stayed down.
Then she turned to find Tony on his feet, already out of striking range, his fists and stance wary.
Staring him in the eye, Dee switched the stapler to her left hand, reached behind her jacket, and withdrew her Beretta. She switched the safety off and leveled it straight at his chest.
Slowly, he opened and raised both hands.
“On your fucking stomach,” she croaked.
He dropped to his knees stiffly, one at a time, then lay face down.
“Hands over your head.”
He crossed them over his matted hair. Dee placed one boot on his back, consideringly, then swung the butt of her pistol down hard against his skull. He jerked, then slumped against the floor. She prodded his face and pushed his eyelid open with the butt of her gun, just to be sure. Gold Earring was still groaning over on his side of the room, so she stepped over to deliver the same blow to him.
It didn’t take long to retrieve their wallets. She found everything they owed her, plus a little extra for the trouble.
Now, Dee thought, would be a good time to clear out of town.
But goddamn, what was the point of all that fucking trouble if she wasn’t going to use the dough to get Amar off her back? Wouldn’t it make it all so fucking pointless if they just ran out of town right after, like Sam had suggested, and then she’d have to look Dad in the eye when he caught up with them? She didn’t have to wait to find out what she’d see; she could already see it clear as day in her mind, that full measure of disappointment and anger and resignation (should’ve known better than to try to count on her yet, should’ve known she couldn’t handle it).
What was the fucking point, anyway.