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ratherastory ([personal profile] ratherastory) wrote2012-11-21 11:54 pm

Like a Skunk at a Garden Party

Title: Like a Skunk at a Garden Party
Summary: Fusion 'verse. Dean takes Sam and Perry for a walk, with unexpected consequences.
Characters: Dean, Sam, Perry, Castiel
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 4,726
Warnings: None! How awesome is that?
Disclaimer: The usual 'not mine, no profit,' etc.
Neurotic Author's Note #1: This was written as a present for the lovely and talented [livejournal.com profile] de_nugis, as a general thank you for being an awesome person. Darling [livejournal.com profile] de_nugis, you are spectacular in all ways, and I hope that 2013 treats you ever so much better than this year!
Neurotic Author's Note #2: I owe many thanks also to [livejournal.com profile] yasminke who helped me brainstorm this little story on Twitter, because my writing brain has been broken for so long that it has trouble coming up with things all on its own.
Neurotic Author's Note #3: After the last instalment of Fusion, I decided it was time I give the boys a good day again. The point of the 'verse, unlike Show, is not unrelenting misery. ;)
Neurotic Author's Note #4: Many thanks go out to [livejournal.com profile] glovered et al, who organized this event. You guys are the best!





Sometimes Dean thinks the best way to spend a day off is to park your ass in a chair in your back yard with a book and a glass of homemade lemonade and pretend not to be watching as your little brother tends his vegetable garden. There's not much garden to speak of yet, mind you, just a whole lot of dirt and cow shit ("It's fertilizer, Dean." "Hey, if it walks like a duck…"), but Sam seems happy enough out there anyway, sweating through his t-shirt which is clinging to his back, using one foot to drive his spade into the ground in order to turn the earth for his new plantings. Sam explained the reasons for picking this date to him in great detail, same as he did last year, and Dean just nodded and let all the talk of last frost dates and seedlings wash right over him. As long as it makes Sam happy, the plants can pull themselves up by the roots and square dance, for all he cares.

Okay, so maybe some of Dean's supposed indifference might be due to the fact that he feels a little guilty for not being able to help. There's just no way to do anything more strenuous than sometimes get out there in the summer with the hose to help water the garden, not without needing his knee to bend. He takes a sip of his lemonade, keeps his leg dutifully propped up on the plastic stool that Sam brought out for him to keep the pressure off his hip, and scowls down at his book. It's not the book's fault, but it's the only thing he can scowl at safely—Sam's liable to take it the wrong way if he catches his brother giving him the stink eye, and Sam doesn't need any more stress in his life these days.

Dean shifts uncomfortably in his chair, gives up on his book and sets it face down on the rickety wooden table they keep in the yard. When it's just Sam, he uses the table to hold his tools, or to line up all his seedlings for planting, but he likes it when Dean comes out to keep him company, and goes out of his way to make sure the table is clear for him. He empties his glass of lemonade and settles in to watch Sam as he works, leaning his elbow on the arm of his chair, trying to quell the anxiety that keeps threatening to tie his stomach in knots. Sam is fine, he reminds himself. He's been fine for months. Well, as fine as Sam is ever going to get, anyway. He's been sticking to his routines, working harder than ever on his translations and getting excited about the upcoming planting season.

There's something about the garden that makes Sam likes working on it alone, even if it makes Dean feel six kinds of guilty that he's not helping. At least Cas isn't allowed to help, either. He offered to help, but Sam refused, and Cas didn't press his luck. So at least if Dean has to sit on the sidelines and feel guilty, then so does Cas. Or at least, Cas should feel guilty, not that he shows any sign of it, the ass.

"Let him be, Dean," he'd said the last time Dean brought it up. "He doesn't require help with this."

That's all well and good, but Dean is pretty sure that somewhere in the Big Brother Manual of Taking Care of Sam Winchester, there's a very long section on not letting your little brother exhaust himself trying to prep his entire garden in a single day.

"Sam, you're making me tired just looking at you. Come on, sun's going down in a few minutes, give it a rest already. The cow shit will still be there tomorrow, I promise!" he calls out.

Sam straightens up, shovel in hand, and makes a bitch face visible from all the way across the garden. "I'm nearly done," he calls back.

"You can finish tomorrow," Dean insists. "I was going to take Perry for a walk. Come with us? We can go out by the creek," he wheedles. "You can even bring your binoculars."

Okay, so he's cheating horribly, but sometimes getting Sam out of the house requires a little bit of sleight of hand. And no, the garden doesn't count as 'out of the house,' not where Sam's concerned. If Dean let him, he wouldn't venture more than a few yards from their front door, and that's just not acceptable. Sam didn't save the whole world only to end up trapped inside a house for the rest of their lives because he's too afraid to go out, not if Dean has anything to say about it, and if that means bribing Sam with bird watching, well then, so be it.

Sam jogs over, flexing the fingers of his right hand gingerly, and Dean casts him a questioning glance. "How's the hand?"

"Sore, but nothing too bad."

It's been well over a year since the break and subsequent surgery, but it still gives him trouble in spite of how diligently he does his rehab exercises. He manages well enough, but he doesn't have a full range of motion in his wrist anymore, and he confessed to Dean early on that his ring and pinky fingers tend to go numb easily if he leaves his hand in certain positions for too long. Truth be told, given how bad the injury was, he's probably never going to be a hundred percent again. Between the two of them, Dean thinks ruefully, they're down to six functional limbs. Not exactly a good average.

"You should ice it."

Sam shakes out his fingers. "It'll be fine in a minute. Besides, you promised me bird watching not two minutes ago. No weaseling out now. I'm going to change my shirt and grab my list, and then we're going."

"Right, the list," Dean rolls his eyes and deliberately doesn't smile, because that would ruin the act. "God forbid you should miss out ticking off 'penguins' in case we see one."

"Penguins?" Sam tosses over his shoulder as he picks up Dean's empty lemonade glass and heads into the kitchen. "That's the best you can manage?"

"You caught me off-guard," he limps after Sam, cursing the uncomfortable garden chair that makes his hip seize up every so often. More often than he'd like, these days, in fact.

Sam notices the more pronounced limp. "Bad chair?"

"It'll loosen up."

"We should get you one of those orthotic car seat things. You need better support than what you're getting from our furniture," Sam says, giving his hip a look that suggests he's expecting it to burst into flames spontaneously.

"Yeah, well, let me know if we win the lottery. Those things cost a damned fortune."

Sam shrugs, turns and jogs up the stairs, and Dean nearly kills himself tripping over Millie, who's decided that now would be a really good idea to twine around his ankles and demand attention.

"Gah!" he flails a little frantically before regaining his balance. "Sam! Just so you know, I'm going to eviscerate your cat and turn it into a pair of gloves for next winter!"

Millie gives him an insulted look, then sits at his feet and makes a show of ignoring him by giving her coat a thorough grooming.

Sam comes back down the stairs wearing a clean grey Henley and a long-suffering expression, one of Dean's sweaters tucked under his arm. "Don't hurt yourself using those big words," he mocks, before leaning over to scratch the tiny grey cat behind the ears. Her eyes close in apparent bliss, and she leans so far in to Sam's hand in search of more affection that she comes close to going ass over tea kettle when Sam stops petting her. Serves her right, sneaky little beast.

Sam hands Dean the sweater he carried down with him. "Wear this if we're going for a walk, or you'll get cold. It's meant to get chilly tonight."

Dean rolls his eyes, because Sam is getting way too obsessed with listening to the weather channel, but he does as he's told. He even sits on the chair by the door when Sam insists he wear his hiking boots instead of his running shoes if they're going that far out by the creek ("They give you better support on uneven terrain, and you know it."). Sam pulls on his light jacket, shoves the list of rare birds he's determined to spot in the pocket, then kneels to help Dean with his boots, double-knotting the laces the way Dean likes—securely, but not too tightly. He gives Dean's shin a pat when he's done.

"Good?"

"Perfect."

Dean resists the impulse to reach out and ruffle his hair. Instead he calls Perry over and clips her leash to her collar. She sits patiently, tongue lolling, and gives him a slightly confused look.

"It's okay, girl," he gives her a reassuring pat. "We're going for a walk with Sammy, so you don't have to be on duty. Once we get far enough out, you can even go for a run, which I know you love, don't pretend otherwise."

Sam smiles and shakes his head, but he doesn't say anything. He lets Dean and Perry take the lead and leave the house first, pausing in the doorway. For a split-second Dean is worried they're going to have a repeat performance of last year, when Sam couldn't leave the house without freaking out, let alone go out into the fields just outside of town to look for his beloved birds. After a couple of seconds, though, Sam seems to give himself a shake and steps out, only turning back in order to lock the door behind them. They're probably the only people in this whole town who bother to lock their doors, but old habits die hard, and Dean always feels safer knowing that no one can get in while they're gone.

"Cas say when he was getting home from work?" Dean asks. "We should have left a note."

"We'll probably be back before him, don't worry. If not, he can always call your cell."

"Got your list there, Geek Boy?"

Sam pats his pocket. "Yup."

"All right, then. Day's not getting any younger."

Okay, so Dean will never admit this even under torture and threat of imminent death, but he kind of likes the whole bird watching gig. Or, more accurately, he likes watching Sam enjoying himself doing the bird watching gig. It's been a really long time since Sam got to properly geek out over something he loves, and the good thing about birds is that, barring some sort of freaky apocalypse, they're always going to be there, if for some reason Sam can't get out for a while. Birds were the first living things that really caught Sam's attention again, when he'd gotten back from Hell. Sparrows hung out all the time in Bobby's yard, as well as countless starlings and crows and the occasional pigeon. It was the chickadees in the cherry tree in the garden that had sold Sam on the house, too, so Dean is all too happy to encourage anything that'll keep his brother tied to the here and now. If that means printing lists of rare birds off the internet and freezing his ass off in a field at weird hours of the day, then he figures it's a small price to pay.

The field guide Dean bought for Sam with his discount from the store is thoroughly battered by now from being hauled around outside and dropped on the muddy ground (and into a deep puddle, on one memorable occasion), and the margins are filled with notes in Sam's shaky, cramped new handwriting. Sam's binoculars aren't in much better shape, the casing even more scuffed than when they got it from the army surplus store. Still, Sam is clearly in his element now, walking easily beside Dean on the footpath that leads through the small forest on the outskirts of town, one arm casually hooked around Dean's elbow. Dean's never entirely sure if Sam does that because he needs the physical reassurance that Dean is really and truly there and not a figment of his imagination, or because Dean tends to have trouble on any surface that's not perfectly level anymore. Probably a bit of both, he thinks, when his foot catches on a root or maybe a rock, he can't tell, and Sam's grip tightens ever so slightly, helping him keep his balance.

"Okay, Sammy?"

"Just fine."

They settle in their usual spot by the creek, where Sam has located a fallen tree whose branches have formed the perfect shape to serve as a makeshift chair for Dean, so he doesn't have to either sit on the damp ground or stand for too long on his bad leg. It's not the most comfortable spot in the world, but it serves nicely for the length of time it usually takes for Sam to get his bird watching fix.

"Any pelicans yet?" he asks, unclipping Perry's leash.

"Shut up," Sam rolls his eyes, but he's smiling.

The other good thing about coming out here is that Perry can run around to her heart's content. Sam doesn't seem to mind that she sometimes scares off the birds, and for the most part she's pretty quiet anyway, preferring to trot along the creek and sniff every single shrub in existence. What she finds out there is pretty much beyond Dean, but she enjoys it and it means she's getting more exercise than he's able to provide. Sam takes her running when he's feeling up to it, but there are days when leaving the house is beyond his ability to cope, and so often enough she has to make do with the slow pace that's the best Dean can manage these days.

Sam is busy taking more notes, using a small flip-top spiral bound notebook that Dean got him, absorbed in his task, and Perry has disappeared from view. Dean isn't worried—she'll come if he whistles. That was one of the reasons they never had pets when they were kids. Apart from the obvious shortage of space in the Impala and how unfair it would be to keep an animal of any kind cooped up in a car for hours at a stretch, Dean had always secretly worried when he was little that if they did get a dog that it might run away and never come back. Perry, though, is impeccably trained, and has never failed to come a single time when he called. He's tempted to call her back now, just to be sure, but it seems a little mean to deprive her of this one moment of total freedom, the one time when she's allowed to be just a dog and do all the things that dogs do, rather than worry about whether Dean has dropped his keys or needs the phone or something.

He shifts his weight a little, feeling the dead tree creak beneath his weight, and hopes that it'll hold up for a while longer. Otherwise he'll have to bring out one of those folding seats that old people use at bus stops, and his life is plenty humiliating enough without that, thank you very much. The sun is setting over the horizon, bathing the entire clearing in red and pink hues, and a chill is settling over everything, which means Sam was right, damn him. Dean pulls the sleeves of his sweater down over his hands and wishes he'd brought gloves. For all that spring is settling in for good, it still gets cold in the evenings. Maybe he should have paid more attention to when Sam was rambling on about frost dates and whatever, he thinks ruefully. Still, it's promising to be a beautiful night, and he can't think of anywhere he'd rather be.

He's torn from his thoughts a few moments later by a sudden hissing sound, followed by a flurry of excited barking from Perry which drives both him and Sam to their feet. Sam lets his binoculars drop to hang by their strap around his neck, pocketing his notebook, and gives him an anxious look. Dean waves him down, because that isn't Perry's alarm bark, it's just her getting excited over something.

"Probably a squirrel," he starts to say, when suddenly the barking turns to a sharp squeal, followed by a veritable stream of distressed yelps.

"Call her," Sam tells him urgently, clasping his hands automatically so that he can rub his thumb over the back of his left hand. "Something's wrong."

Dean doesn't need to be told twice and whistles sharply. "Perry, come!" he yells, and while the yelping doesn't stop, he feels his insides turn liquid with relief when the dog comes tearing out of the underbrush and sprints right toward him. "Good girl!" he calls, bending over with his arms out, waiting for her to come to him. "What happened, baby? Oh my God!"

He takes a couple of steps backward, eyes watering, and almost gags when she finally reaches them, because God help him, she reeks of rotten eggs. For half a second he finds himself wondering how the hell she encountered a demon before common sense prevails.

Sam clamps a hand over his mouth and nose, recoiling as well, and Dean looks over at him anxiously, just in case his thoughts went in the same direction. Sam doesn't cope well with the unexpected, usually, but he seems fine, if a little disgusted. "She got skunked," he says, entirely unnecessarily.

"No shit," Dean says. "Holy crap, Perry, what the hell? Don't you know better than to tangle with animals that come with their own weapons of mass destruction? Sam, this isn't funny," he snaps, because Sam has started giggling behind his hand, but he feels a grin spreading over his own face as well.

"I was just thinking what a really domestic problem this is," Sam says between gasps of laughter. "I mean, really, we went from angels and demons to skunk juice?" he dissolves into more giggles. It must be contagious, because after a moment Dean joins in, and before he knows it they're both laughing so hard that tears are streaming down their faces, unaided by the fact that poor Perry has dropped to the ground and is rolling in the tall grass in an attempt to rid herself of the smell.

"We better get her home," he manages finally, when he's regained his breath. "See if we can't wash that shit off. Perry, up!"

Reluctantly the dog gets to her feet, whining and pawing at her face until Dean snaps his fingers at her.

"It's okay, baby, we'll get you cleaned up, just don't rub at it," he tells her, even though he's pretty sure she can't understand a thing he's saying. She just looks so miserable that he figures he should say something to her to make her feel better.

"She can't come in the house," Sam says as they're walking back a lot faster than their usual pace.

Dean whips around to glare at him. "What?"

Sam rolls his eyes. "I mean, not right away. Skunk spray is actually oil, so if she goes in the house she'll spread it everywhere and we'll never get the smell out. We'll have to wash her outside first."

Oh, right. Dean allows himself to be mollified somewhat. "Do we have any tomato juice?" Perry's a decent-sized dog, too, he thinks glumly. It's going to take a lot of tomato juice.

"Old wives' tale," Sam says, and of course that bit of knowledge lodged itself in his giant geek head somewhere along the way. "There's ways of getting the smell out, I'll look it up when we get back."

Mercifully they don't meet up with anyone on the street on their return, because Dean is pretty sure he doesn't want to be responsible for spreading skunk stink all over the town. Cas is waiting at the window, and immediately hurries to open the door, shoving Millie aside with one foot. Sam reaches over and grabs Perry's leash before she can make a run for the house.

"You want me to stay outside with her?"

"Nah, I got it," Dean waves him in. "I'll hose her down while you're inside."

"No, wait," Sam shakes his head. "You'll just spread it around. Try to figure out where she got sprayed the worst, and I'll make up a batch of de-skunking stuff we can use first. Check her eyes, too. That stuff isn't lethal, but it can cause serious irritation if the skunk got her right in the face."

"Right. We'll be out back, waiting next to the hose," Dean shakes his head a little, then motions Perry to heel.

Sam heads inside, stopping briefly in the doorway, one hand on Castiel's shoulder while he murmurs something too softly for Dean to hear from where he's standing. Cas nods, and to Dean's surprise even smiles before he turns back, preventing Millie from rushing out into the night with a strategically placed foot. Then the door closes, leaving him alone with a dog that stinks of skunk spray.

"You know, this is probably the most mundane adventure I've ever had," he tells the dog as they head around the side of the house. "I'm tempted to throw holy water over you, just on general principle."

A few minutes later he hears the back door open and close, and to his surprise Cas comes out, dressed only in old jeans and a t-shirt and a pair of old running shoes. The jeans are a pair Dean barely wears anymore because they're so threadbare, and they hang a little loose on Cas' hips, held up by a tightly notched belt.

"Sam says that if you insist on helping, then you should go change into clothes that you don't mind ruining," he says by way of greeting. "But he'd rather you let us handle washing the dog so you don't put any pressure on your leg."

"I'm not completely useless, you know," Dean snorts, a little put out that Sam is basically ordering him to step aside from helping out with his own damned dog. Cas just rolls his eyes.

"Dean, really. How you inferred that from what I said is beyond even my comprehension. We would appreciate your help in keeping Perry calm while we wash her, but three of us trying to do it all at once would be impractical, and since Sam and I are both able to do the requisite bending, doesn't it make more sense for you to make sure she stays where she's put? You're the one she listens to."

"Fine, use your logic on me," Dean grumbles, because even if Cas is right, that doesn't mean Dean has to be gracious about it.

Sam comes out a few minutes later with a bucket full of something that sounds like it's fizzing a whole lot.

"Diet Coke and Mentos?" Dean guesses, grinning at Sam's exasperated look.

"More like hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap. Where'd the skunk get her?" Sam plunks the bucket down next to where Perry is sitting, whining softly because Dean isn't letting her paw at her face.

"Side of the head, looks like. I don't think she got much in her eyes, but it's too dark to tell."

"Hm," Sam pulls a small flashlight out of his pockets and grabs Perry's muzzle with one hand in order to take a closer look. "Well, they don't look too bad, but I'm not an expert or anything. We can flush them out with water after, just to be sure."

"Right."

"Okay, girl," Sam gives her a quick pat, "here we go. Stay, Perry."

To Perry's credit, she holds herself very still while Cas and Sam work the peroxide solution into her coat, only whimpering once at the unfamiliar smell and fizzing sound it's making in the bucket. Dean stays out of the way, but since Sam and Cas aren't saying anything he talks to her instead.

"What a good girl you are," he says while she's shivering from her first hosing down, looking at Sam reproachfully. Sam's using the gentlest setting he can, rinsing the suds away, but the water's cold and can't feel particularly good on her skin. "You're doing so well, baby. Just a little longer, okay? You're doing real good, sweetheart. What?" he asks, when he catches Sam smiling at him.

Sam shrugs. "It's just nice to know that some things don't change, even after all this time."

"Whatever." Dean's suddenly glad it's dark out, because he's pretty sure he's blushed bright red.

It takes multiple applications of the solution to get Perry clean, and even after they've hosed her down repeatedly there's still a faint scent of skunk clinging her, as well as to Cas and Sam. Sam seems ready to call it a day, though.

"I think that's about as de-skunked as she's going to get," he decides, straightening up and working out the kinks in his spine. "Whatever's left is just a residual smell, so it shouldn't spread to anything else if we're careful. Besides, I don't know about you guys, but I'm starving."

Millie hisses indignantly at them all when they come in, clearly offended by the latest stench the dog has brought into her home, then turns and stalks away into the living room, tail lashing.

"You know, we were all here first!" Dean calls after her retreating form. "You don't get to throw hissy fits!"

"Dean, she's a cat. Throwing hissy fits is kind of her thing," Sam points out. "Cas, you want to take the first shower? I'll get dinner started, and we'll switch off. Put your clothes in a plastic bag, too, so I can wash them separately. They'll probably have to soak in vinegar for a while first."

"Very well."

Sam gives Dean a pointed look. "Go sit and put your leg up. Don't tell me your hip isn't bothering you, I can tell."

It's not really bad at all, but there's no point in telling that to Sam when he's got that look on his face. Besides, he's been standing up for a while now, and sitting down doesn't sound like a half-bad plan, all things considered. Perry collapses in a damp heap at his feet once he's settled in his chair, both legs up on the footrest, and she heaves a sigh that speaks of terrible suffering that no human could possibly hope to understand. Dean reaches down and fondles her ears.

"Yeah, I know. Your life is plenty hard, baby."

Behind him he can hear Sam puttering in the kitchen, running water in the sink and turning knobs on the stove. The sounds are familiar, comforting in a way he never thought they would be. Skunk juice aside, today worked out pretty damned well, as far as he's concerned. They're way off their usual schedule, but Sam hasn't freaked out at all, just took everything in stride like it was any other day, and if Sam's okay, well, then everything else is okay, at least in Dean's books.

"Need any help in there?" It's like he can't help himself.

"I got it," comes the reply, maybe a bit more terse than usual, but Dean figures he deserves it.

Sam's got things under control, he doesn't need Dean coming in there and messing with his dinner. So he slides down another inch in his armchair, keeps petting the dog, and lets his eyes close. It'll be at least thirty minutes before Cas and Sam are both showered and dinner's on the table, which means he has plenty of time for a nap. Perry sighs again, this time with contentment. He can feel her breathing evening out into sleep, ribcage rising and falling beneath his fingers.

He finds he doesn't even when mind so much when Millie jumps up and curls up in his lap, kneading his thigh with her paws. He'll let Sam deal with the cat hair on his clothing tomorrow. For now, though, everything's good.

This entry was originally posted at http://ratherastory.dreamwidth.org/229352.html, where there are comment count unavailable: comments, currently. Feel free to comment wherever you'd like! ♥

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