As he watched his brother walk out the door for the second morning in a row, Sam Winchester wrestled with the decision presented with him again. Maybe she could help. She was the closest thing the Winchesters had ever had to an actual friend. Sam hadn’t seen her in over two years, but they emailed frequently. He knew that she and Dean had gone on a few hunts together in the time between when he left Stanford and when Dean dragged him back into hunting.
She and Dean weren’t close by any means, but Sam didn’t know who else to turn to. He wouldn’t talk to Bobby, he wouldn’t talk to Sam. Maybe she could help. Without letting himself think about it again, Sam pushed the “call” button on his cell phone. He put his phone up to his ear, closed his eyes, and listened to it ring, hoping he was making the right decision.
AC/DC’s Back in Black started blaring from Piper Finley’s cell phone on the floor. She groaned, cracked one hazel eye open, and flung her hand around the floor to find it. The man in the bed next to her groaned and slipped an arm around her waist. She pushed it off as she saw the caller ID.
Rolling onto her back, she answered. “Sam?”
A pause. “Piper? You answered quick.”
She smiled. “You know me, always at your beck and call.”
It didn’t get the chuckle she’d wanted. “Sam?” She asked. “What’s wrong?”
“Pipe, I think we need you.” Sam’s tear-filled voice had her sitting up, swinging her legs over to the side of the bed, and looking for her pants with one hand in the dark. “What happened?”
“Dad… Piper… We found Dad, and he was looking for the demon who killed Mom… And then, Dad and I, and Dean... We were in an accident, we think the demon who killed Mom… And Dean, he wasn’t waking up, we thought… We thought he wasn’t going to-”
“Stop, Sam.” Piper said gently as she pulled her skinny jeans on with one hand, still scanning the room for her shirt and shoes. “I’m on my way, tell me when I get there, okay? Where are you?”
“Pipe, Dad’s dead.”
Piper froze as dread filled her, and tears she wasn’t accustomed to filled her eyes. John can’t be dead, he’s invincible. He’s John Winchester. She took a deep, shaky breath to calm herself. Don’t break down right now, Sam needs you.
“Sam, where are you guys? I’m coming to you.”
“We’re at Bobby’s.”
Piper smiled. “Good, I’m already in South Dakota. I’ll be there in a few hours, okay?”
She flipped her phone shut and took another deep breath before pulling her shirt over her head. The man who was in the bed was awake and looking at her as she found her boots and sat to put them on. “So, you’re leaving?” He asked, gently.
She didn’t look at him. “Looks like.”
“Can I assume you’re not going to call? You don’t even know my name.”
She looked at him through the curtain of her obnoxious purple hair and smiled. “Well, how can I call if I don’t know your name?”
She stood and found her leather jacket, slipped her phone into her pocket, and pulled her keys out. As she turned, she realized that she felt a little guilty, leaving here like this. So she turned back and smiled as she opened the door. “Look, this is a family emergency. Last night was great, I just have to go.”
He was propped up on his elbows now, his chiseled chest being spotlighted by the morning sun. Honestly, if Piper wasn’t so worried about Sam (and Dean, her traitorous mind reminded her), she would have crawled back into bed. But she had things to do, family to help.
“So… Are you coming back?” he asked hesitantly.
Piper looked into his beautiful blue eyes, tamped down the wish they were a different color, and shook her head. No point in giving the poor guy false hope. “No,” she said, and slipped out the door.
The drive to Bobby’s place was quiet. Piper found the radio too overwhelming right now, so she let herself get lost in her thoughts. More accurately, her memories.
She was sitting at a crappy table, with a crappy blanket around her shoulders, glaring at Dean. “You cheated!”
His smirk made her flush with anger. “I did not, you’re a sore loser.”
Sam, who was sitting between them, laughed. “Piper, you really do suck at losing.”
She glared at both of them, then started hard as the door opened. Neither of the boys flinched, nor did they comment on the (luckily) empty glass she’d knocked over. She was still nervous, on edge all the time. Dean watched her with something akin to concern in his eyes.
She smiled as John came in. He gave her a half-smile back, and looked at Dean. “Dean, take your brother across the street for dinner. Piper and I will join you in a few minutes.”
Dean look startled. “Um, okay. Come on, Sammy.”
“Dean, watch out for your brother.” John warned. Piper frowned. As if Dean didn’t already spend all of his time worrying about Sam. The additional reminder really wasn’t necessary.
“Yes, sir.” Dean replied obediently, and pulled Sam out the door.
John sat across from Piper and looked at her for a minute. Finally, he spoke. “Piper, you’ve been with us for a while. I need to know what you want to do.”
Her eyes widened. “What do you mean?” She’d been with the boys for three weeks, since they had hunted and killed the werewolf who had killed her parents. She had no close family, so John had taken her with them. She wasn’t sure why he had kept her around, surely she was a huge pain. He did, though, and it was good enough for her. “What are my options?” she asked shakily.
He sighed and kept eye contact with her. “What I should do is drop you off with social services. Or find someone in your family who can take you.”
Piper was already shaking her head. “I don’t want either of those things. I… I want to be a hunter.” she said shyly, lowering her eyes to the table.
John frowned. “Piper, this isn’t really a life for a sixteen-year-old girl-”
“Dean’s only seventeen.” she objected.
John’s frown seemed to deepen. “Piper, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Dean’s been doing this from a very young age, and so has Sam. You only found out about this three weeks ago, you can’t make that kind of decision in three weeks."
Piper’s chin tilted up, taking a stubborn slant that John would get to know very well. “Yes, I can. This is what I want.” Her pretty hazel eyes spit fire at him. “Is it because I’m a girl?”
John’s eyebrows rose. “No, it’s not. I know plenty of women who are good hunters, it’s because I’m worried about you.”
Piper’s frown matched John’s. “Well, don’t. I’m not a kid, John, and I want to do this.”
They stared at one another, battling each other with will. Finally, John sighed. “Fine, we’ll take you to Bobby…”
Piper smiled through the memory. She had gone to Bobby’s, where they had fought like cats and dogs until he agreed to train her, and things had smoothed out between them. Bobby had become her surrogate father, making sure she finished school, keeping her on the right track, trying to convince her to go to college. In the end, she had decided to become a hunter, but not for lack of other choices. Bobby made sure she finished growing up right.
The Winchesters had shown up periodically after that, mostly when John left Sam and Dean there to hunt alone. Piper had become incredibly close with Sam, and was still able to confidently call him her best friend. After Sam left for Stanford, she emailed him in secret frequently. She had offered her help when John had disappeared, but Sam had declined, worried for her safety, and worried that his brother would pitch a fit if he invited her. So she had continued doing her own thing, keeping an eye on her phone in case the Winchester brothers needed her. And now, they did.
She pulled into Singer’s Salvage late in the morning, maneuvering around the broken down cars in the lot. She heard the classic rock on the radio, and the sound of metal on metal, and assumed that Dean was somewhere in the yard. As was habit, she resisted seeking him out first, and went to the house to find Sam.
Before Piper got out of the car, he was opening the door, with Bobby quickly following. She opened her door and made to turn to get her bag, but before she could, she got a good look at Sam. So instead, she left her bag in the passenger seat, left the driver’s side door open, and ran to him. She jumped a little when she got there, and he caught her and held her close. He buried his face in her neck, and she whispered soothing nonsense into his ear. She felt the collar of her shirt dampen, and for the second time today, her eyes filled with tears at his pain.
“Shh, Sammy, it’s okay, I’m back. I’m here, we’ll do this together, okay?” she murmured soothingly.
He nodded silently, refusing to put her down (her feet were still about six inches off the ground) or to pull away from her. Instead, he muttered into her neck. “Nice hair.”
She smiled as Bobby cleared his throat. “How about putting my girl down and letting the rest of us say hello, too, Sam?” he grumbled.
Sam gave a watery chuckle and put Piper down. She smiled and ran a hand down his face before turning and launching herself at Bobby, who caught her with a surprised grunt. “Hi, Bobby.” she said softly.
“Hi, Pi. I’m sorry it took something like this for us to call you back home,” Bobby apologized gruffly, ruffling her vibrant hair as he pulled out of their embrace.
She smiled. “Don’t, Bobby. I would have come back either way.” She looked at them. “Is Dean working on Baby?”
Bobby snorted. “Don’t know what good it’s going to do, but yes, he is.”
Sam sighed. “Pipe, can you try to talk to him? He won’t talk to me or Bobby.”
Piper looked at the ground and scuffed her boot into the ground. “He won’t talk to me, either. Dean and I aren’t close like you and I are.”
Sam shook his head. “He’s just bad at showing it, Pipe, he cares about you.”
Pleading brown eyes met her concerned hazel eyes. Piper groaned and looked at the ground again to conceal her blush. “Fine, but don’t blame me if this doesn't work, and don't blame me if he runs me out of the yard on sight.”
Sam smiled as she turned and walked into the yard, stopping to sling her bag over her shoulder and shut the door to her Jeep on the way.
She wound her way through the cars, her stomach starting to knot up with nerves as she got closer to the music. She hadn’t seen Dean in over a year, since they had worked a relatively simple salt and burn together. She was actually kind of worried he would react violently when he saw her. Dean didn’t have a very cool head.
She found him working on Baby, laying on two big pieces of plywood scooted underneath her. Instead of announcing her presence, she sat on the hood of a nearby sedan, put her bag on the ground, and leaned back on her hands to soak in the sun. Dean would notice her when he was ready to.
She was actually starting to doze off when he did.
“Piper. What are you doing here?” he asked gruffly, eyeing her hair.
She opened her eyes and lifted her head to look at him. “Sam called.” she said simply.
Dean’s green eyes narrowed when he looked at her. “To what? To come check up on me?” He huffed as he went to the table near where he was working.
Piper rolled her eyes. “No, Winchester, Jesus. Not everything is about you, you know.” she sighed and softened her tone. “Sam called because he’s hurting. I came because you guys are the closest thing I have to family, and when something terrible happens, family comes together. I’m not here to ‘check up on you.’ I’m here to ask if you need anything.”
Dean showed no emotion at her words, but nodded. “Sure, come here, we’ll cuddle and talk about our damn feelings.”
His words stung Piper, probably more than they should have. Instead of getting upset, she just stood and pulled her bag up from the ground. “Fine, be a prick. I don’t care.” She leveled him with a look. “But when you realize you can’t do this alone, you know where to find me.” She turned on her heel and walked back up to the house. She heard him turn the radio up and slide back under the Impala.
Dean heard Sam approach, but said nothing. Sam didn’t wait. “How’s the car coming along?”
“Slow.” Dean grunted.
He heard Sam sigh. “Yeah? Need any help?”
“What, you, under a hood? I’ll pass.” Dean started to pull himself out from under Baby.
“Need anything else, then?” Sam asked.
“Stop it, Sam.” Dean said as he got up and walked toward the table where he was keeping the tools he was using.
“Stop what?” Sam asked, feigning ignorance.
“Stop asking if I need anything, stop asking if I’m okay, stop sending Piper down here to check on me. I’m okay.” He looked over his shoulder at his younger brother. “Really, I promise.”
Dean tensed as Sam let out another sigh.
“All right, Dean, it's just... We've been at Bobby's for over a week now, and you haven't brought up Dad once. “
Dean’s temper snapped at him. First Piper, who Dean knew was sent by Sam, no matter what she claimed, and now Sam. “You know what? You're right. Come here. I'm gonna lay my head gently on your shoulder. Maybe we can cry, hug, and maybe even slow dance!” he snapped, hoping the sarcasm that had driven Piper away would work on Sam, too.
Sam, however, was more stubborn, and just frowned. “Don't patronize me, Dean, Dad is dead. The Colt is gone, and it seems pretty damn likely that the demon is behind all of this, and you're acting like nothing happened.”
“What do you want me to say?”
“Say something, all right? Hell, say anything! Aren't you angry? Don't you want revenge? But all you do is sit out here all day long buried underneath this damn car.” Sam shouted.
Dean scoffed. “Sounds good. You got any leads on where the demon is? Making heads or tails of any of Dad's research? Because I sure ain't. But you know, if we do finally find it... Oh.” He stopped and pretended to ponder. “No, wait, like you said. The Colt's gone. But I'm sure you've figured out another way to kill it. We've got nothing, Sam. Nothing, okay? So you know the only thing I can do? Is I can work on the damn car!” Dean turned around and crouched to work on Baby again when Sam spoke.
“Well, we've got something, all right.” Sam pulled out a cell phone and started pressing buttons. “It's what I came by here to tell you. This is one of dad's old phones. Took me a while, but I cracked his voicemail code. Listen to this.”
Sam held the phone out to Dean. With a begrudging look, Dean stood and took the phone, holding it up to his ear. A strange woman’s voice. “John, it's Ellen. Again. Look, don't be stubborn, you know I can help you. Call me.”
Dean handed the phone back to Sam, who said, “That message is four months old.”
Dean’s eyebrows rose. “Dad saved that chick's message for four months?”
“Well, who's Ellen? Any mention of her in Dad's journal?”
“No. But I ran a trace on her phone number and I got an address.”
Dean thought for a moment. “Ask Bobby if we can use one of his cars.”
Sam nodded, and had turned to walk away when Dean spoke again. “And Piper is not coming with us.”
Sam turned around, irritated. “Why not, Dean? She’s a good hunter, we could use her help.”
Dean scoffed. “We don’t need your little girlfriend slowing us down, Sam. Leave her here. Put her on research.”
Sam scowled. “You know as well as I do that she’s just as good a hunter as either of us, she’s not my girlfriend, and she’s every bit your friend as she is mine.”
Dean scoffed again. Piper may have been close with him at one point, but the last few years she had pulled away. Hell, she barely even made eye contact with him anymore, unless she was angry with him. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d touched him, or that she’d let him touch her.
Her relationship with Sam, however, had not changed. She thought she was being sneaky when they had gone on the few hunts they’d gone on together, but he knew she’d been emailing and texting Sam. While her and Dean’s relationship wasn’t all business, it wasn’t nearly as close as she and Sam.
He looked at Sam and pointed a wrench at him. “No, Sam, she’s not going.”
Piper was fuming. The Winchesters had already gone. Who the hell did Dean think he was, dictating where she could and could not go? At least he could have had the guts to tell me himself, she thought coldly. Instead, they had pretty much gotten ready and gone while she was still settling in. Sam had text her as they drove out.
From: Sam W.
Hey, I’m sorry about this, but Dean doesn’t want you to go. We’re investigating an old voicemail that Dad had left in his mailbox, from a woman named Ellen.
To: Sam W.
What the hell, Sam?! Why does Dean just get to decide that I’m not going?
From: Sam W.
I’m sorry, Pipe. Just give him a chance to calm down.
Piper hadn’t responded, and wasn’t sure she was going to. If Dean honestly didn’t want her help, she wasn’t going to jump through hoops to provide it. She’d be here for Sam, but she wasn’t going to be left behind. She could be there for him from the road, hunting on her own.
Bobby came into the kitchen to find her seething at the table. “You know that boy is an idjit, right?” he asked casually.
Piper jumped. She hadn’t heard him come in. A soft smile spread across her face. “I know, Bobby. But what the hell?” She ran a frustrated hand through her hair. “I came to help them, and not an hour after I get here, they beat feet. What am I supposed to do?”
Bobby sat down and sighed. “Look, Piper, I can’t tell you what those boys are thinking, because I have no idea, and I don’t want to know.” They shared a smile. “But I can tell you this. It means something to them both that you’re here, not just Sam. They’re both going to be glad you’re around. You’ll just have to give them a chance to show you that.”
Piper sighed, and looked around the kitchen. “I’ll try, Bobby, but I’m not going to hang around here and hold my tongue for very long. I’m not going to become his punching bag,” she finished quietly.
Bobby looked at his surrogate daughter without speaking. He didn’t have to ask who “he” was. Bobby had suspected for a while that Piper’s feelings for Dean ran deeper than friendship. But she had kept her distance, only helping on hunts when he asked, and never staying long after. Bobby wasn’t sure what was stopping her. Surely she had to know that Dean would be luckier than he deserved to have her?
Bobby didn’t say any of that. Instead, “I know, darlin’. But try to stick around for a while, I think they’ll come around sooner rather than later.”
Piper smiled at him, stood, and looked around the kitchen. “All right, well, then. If they don’t need me, it looks like this messy-ass kitchen does. What the hell do you do in here, old man?” she asked cheerfully as she headed in to start dishes.
Bobby grumbled and grouched, but smiled as soon as she wasn’t looking at him. It was good to have his girl back.
A couple of days later, the boys arrived back in the van. Piper met them at the door, wiping her hands on the apron she was wearing. She crossed her arms as Sam looked at her sheepishly, and Dean just looked at her.
Piper didn’t want to fight. She had cooled off considerably since they’d left. So, instead, “So? Who is Ellen? What took you guys so long? And are you hungry?”
Sam smiled gratefully at her. “Her name is Ellen Harvelle. She’s a hunter, owns a bar called ‘The Roadhouse.’ She gave us a case to work on while one of her partners dug up some research on the demon who killed Mom.” He was speaking as he walked up the stairs, and she held the door open for him and Dean. She followed them inside.
“What was the case?” she asked, interested.
“Rakshasa,” Dean said, putting his bag on the table. “A race of ancient Hindu creatures. They appear in human form, they feed on human flesh, they can make themselves invisible, and they can’t enter a home without first being invited. Took him out with a brass knife.”
Piper didn’t meet Dean’s gaze, just looked back at the stove where she was cooking. “Well, good, I’m glad you guys are okay. You said Ellen’s associate is researching the demon?”
She saw Dean nod in her peripheral vision. “He’s tracking it for us. I don’t know how the hell he’s doing it, but if the omens surrounding the demon happen, he’ll let us know where and when.”
Piper nodded once firmly. “Good. Now, everyone go clean up, lunch is almost ready.”
She bustled around the kitchen, ignoring all three of them. She turned back to put the salad she had made on the table and almost bumped into Dean, who was standing behind her. She squeaked and caught herself. He backed up to let her pass. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
She smiled. “It would take more than you to put a scare into me, Winchester.” She replied as she placed the salad on the table. She turned back around to find him looking at her. She hated the blush she felt rising to her face. Why couldn’t she just look at him without blushing like a damn high schooler? “What? What’s wrong?” she asked, her gaze dropping to the floor.
“I shouldn’t have yelled at you the other day. I’m sorry.” he said shortly, keeping his eyes on her.
She looked up at him, her eyes widening when they met his. “It’s okay.” she said shortly, turning to move the plate of burgers to the table. “Don’t worry about it.”
He kept his gaze on her for a few more seconds, then nodded and walked out of the kitchen.
She watched his retreating back and leaned back against the sink. Then she turned, ran cold water, and splashed some into her burning face. “Down, girl.” she muttered to herself. If she was going to stay, she was going to have to find a way to interact with Dean without yelling at him, and without totally ignoring him. He’s dense, but he’ll notice eventually, if he hasn’t already, she thought as she toweled off her face. It’ll keep until after lunch, at least.
Piper served Sam and Bobby lunch, but Dean had already gone back out to work on Baby. Piper ignored him, and spent the time talking to Sam about the case they had just worked, and the hunters they had met at Ellen’s bar. She was laughing at his description of Ash as they washed dishes when he sobered for a second.
“Piper, I think Dean was right. I don’t think I’m dealing with Dad’s death. I think what he said-”
She put a hand on his arm and looked up at him, studying his face. He had lost the last of his baby fat, his hair was getting long, and he was so freaking tall. “Sam. Don’t say this to me, say it to Dean. He’s the one who needs to hear it,” she said softly. He looked at her with tears in his eyes and nodded. He handed Piper the dish towel he’d been using to dry and walked out.
Piper sighed and leaned against the sink. She could feel herself being pulled back into the Winchester family. She had distanced herself for a reason. There wasn’t going to be a way to protect herself if she let herself keep down this path. They needed her, though, and God knew that she was completely helpless against those brown and green eyes needing her. She covered her face with her hands and groaned. It was going to be a long few days.
Dean’s chest was heaving with emotion as he looked after Sam. He was dreading looking at Baby, and the damage he’d just done to her with the tire iron in his hands. He felt tears start welling in his eyes and he fought to control himself. He felt something drip down his cheek and off of his jaw, and looked down to see that it was blood. He reached up to touch his face and realized there was a piece of glass embedded into his cheek.
“Great job, jackass. Way to be in control,” he muttered to himself as he dropped the tire iron and made his way to the house.
When he walked in, the first person he saw was Piper. She had pulled her violently purple hair into a bun, and she had her face covered with her hands and was mumbling to herself. He approached slowly. “Piper? Are you okay?” he asked, his voice rough with pent up emotion.
She jumped and looked at him. “Yeah, I- What the hell happened to your face, Dean?” she exclaimed, hurrying over to him with concerned eyes.
He took a moment to respond. He was trying to remember the last time she’d called him by his first name as she pulled him toward the table and forced him down into a chair. She grabbed the first aid kit from the cabinet and pulled a chair up next to him. “Hello? Earth to Winchester?” she asked, concern clouding her gaze.
Dean shook his head and tried to stand up. “Uh, I’m fine. Just got a piece of glass stuck, nothing I can’t handle-”
She grabbed his shoulders and pushed him back down. “No. Sit down and let me look at it.” Her tone was commanding, and her gaze was intent on his cheek. Dean blinked and obeyed as he watched a piece of hair fall from her bun and land on her forehead.
“Okay, it’s not too bad. Just sit still and don’t be a baby about what I have to do next,” Piper said shortly as she pulled out a long pair of tweezers out of the first aid kit.
He eyed them warily. “What exactly do you think you’re going to do with those?”
She bit her lip in concentration, ignoring his tone as she leaned forward and advanced with the tweezers. Quickly, before he could react, she had reached up, pulled the piece of glass out of his cheek, and put it back down on the table. “Ow!” he yelped, glaring at her. “Damn it, woman!”
She chuckled as she got out peroxide and a cotton ball. “Shut it, Winchester, I told you not to be a baby,” she chided as she dabbed his cheek with peroxide. He winced as it stung.
Piper pulled out a butterfly bandage and removed the backing. She bit her lip as she leaned forward and applied it to the cut. Dean watched her, her gaze unmoving from the cut. He watched the tiny flecks of dark green in her irises, and admired the way her purple hair contrasted with them. When did Piper get kind of hot?
Piper sat back and admired her handiwork. Then she looked at him, amusement and concern warring in her expression. “So,” she said casually, “Wanna tell me what the hell happened?”
Dean grunted and looked away. “No.”
She shrugged, to his surprise. “Okay. Well, if you need to talk about it, let me know,” she said, turning to clean up after them.
“Why did you dye your hair?” he asked suddenly. For some reason, he wanted to stay in here with her.
She raised her eyebrows at the question. “Because I wanted to. It’s something I wanted to do since I was a teenager, and I just kind of woke up one day and realized that there was nothing stopping me.”
“It wasn’t that way the last time I saw you.” he said gruffly.
She chuckled. “A year is a pretty long time, Dean. A lot can change in a year.”
He felt his face curving into a smirk when she used his first name again. “Yeah, I guess so.”
She suddenly looked down and was untying her apron. “Okay, well, I’m going to go do some research, see if we can get a head start on getting this demon. Let me know if you need me,” she said as she hurried into the library.
Dean watched her go, feeling confused. “Screw this,” he muttered, and made his way back outside to work on his Baby.