Title: It Costs a Million Quarters
Author: acf151
Pairing: gen
Genre: Scenes/Drabbles
Rating: PG-13 (just in case)
Pairing: None
Spoilers: None really. Discusses 11/2/83. Happens pre-pilot
Warnings: Grisly themes.
Summary: Colors run. Blood doesn't


I cap up the detergent and feed in the eighty thousand quarters needed to start the load. While that's running, I check the place to make sure no one else is in the storefront. Doing laundry at 4 a.m. does that for you. I'm in a rare mood tonight.

I take my basin, powder and bag of sodden clothing to the industrial sized sink in the back. I like this one. They've placed it so it faces the front of the store. You've still got the back door to be wary of, but the main exit can be covered.

Sprinkling a little water softener into the basin, I put in some cold water, as cold as I can get it. Hot water'll definitely make the colors bleed. And there's enough blood in these poor clothes as it is. I really should just break down and buy the two dollar t-shirts from the craft store. Then I wouldn't have to keep washing and stitching relics of the greatest rock bands to grace the airwaves. Some of these could be collector's items if they weren't so worn.

I bet most 26-year old men didn't know how to get blood from clothes. I'll bet most 26 year olds can't tell exactly how serious a wound is by the amount of time it takes for the cloth of their shirt to stiffen. Or recognize the strange suppleness of the cotton surrounding the stain and the contrast therein.

I'll bet most 26-year olds didn't know what it was like to have only the open road and a classic car to call home. They had girls and roots. They had little brothers who would pick up the phone when they called. They had fathers to fall back on.

Damn it! Dad, how many more times do I have to call you? I know we don't talk about it, but I worry about you just as much as you worry about me and Sammy. This one is too long. I shouldn't have left you. God! Why did I ever want to strike out on my own? You're all I had. I'm in a rare mood tonight.

I viciously wring out the first shirt and drop it on the sideboard. It lands with a wet plop of sound. Loud sound here in the empty store. I wipe off my hands.

Searching the pockets of the jeans that are next, I pull out the one handkerchief I've never washed. I know better than most how dangerous it is to leave pieces of yourself all over the place. Dad insisted on it. I knuckled Sammy about it until he finally promised. No blood goes unwashed. No skin unburned and salted. Even the cuttings from the barber, when we took Sammy got swept up and taken home with us for disposal.

But in this handkerchief I make my exception. It's the handkerchief the medic gave to Dad to wipe his hand of Mom's blood. Dad never noticed when I picked it up from the frozen ground his numb fingers let it fall to. At the time, I thought I was just picking it up for him. Now I know better.

Over the years, I've gotten Dad's blood on it, and Sam's, and mine. I made sure to get it in the corners, so that there at least, the dried gore can stay distinct and separate. In the middle, where the medic first pressed it, he thought to staunch a wound, is most of Mom's blood. The rest is in the one corner. But along with Mom in the center, I've dabbed little sections of all our blood, Winchester blood, like an artist's palette. In this one place we're together. In this one place, I have a piece of her and them that will never leave me.

It is dangerous. For all of us. I know this. And every time I wash my blood, I contemplate dropping it in the basin. It would be safer.

Whatever's hunting us could use this to control us. Summon us. Or worse, turn us. I've gotten that offer before.

My first trip alone at 24, I got that offer late at night. He had me. I forgot there was no second pair of eyes to watch my back and he had me. I hadn't even gotten used to the lack of our third pair of eyes. Thank God he used ropes.

But before I got free, before I killed him, he talked to me. Sociably. As if we could be friends, partners. As if there was no trail of bodies in either of our wakes.

Sometimes alone, like now, I hear the echo of his voice before he took up the knife. Sometimes that echo overtakes the sound and the look he gave me as he died. The joy I felt.

"You're a capable sort. You would be very useful."

Useful. That damned word. I'm useful, you bastard, killing each and every one of you I come up against. He'd mocked that.

"You've had your beginner's luck. Three is number of power." The laugh had burned in my ears. "But alone, you're as fragile as the rest of humanity. You open yourself up to us in ways you never dream."

Then he had taken up the knife and a different handkerchief. "See this? With this I don't even need your consent. Your will becomes as effective as a puff of smoke. I can make you do anything, with blood and a name."

"Then do it!" God, what a fool. What a stupid, young little fool. "If you can, what stops you?"

Then that laugh again and that slow, creepy smile. "Appetite."

My hands shiver in the memory. I let this precious piece of cloth, of history, hover not an inch from the water. It is all I have. All they've left me with.

It's dangerous. A small voice in the back of my head makes me recognize. One day you'll have to.

I know. I think, staring at it. But not today.

Carefully folding it along firmly creased lines, I put the Winchester handkerchief in the pocket of the jeans I have on. I'll put it away later.

I finish washing out the clothes I have, and put that load in along with a thousand quarters. Getting my pocket journal out of my leather coat, I date the page and detail the case. Dad or Sam may need to know how to fight this spectre one day.

I look at this travel stained book, and think about how fragile such things are. Maybe others will need this information, like we've tried to find for Mom. A few of the internet communities I belong to appreciate the small hints I'm willing to give them. A few times, I've taken a case that one of those associates found particularly troubling. But I don't like to do that, make that connection. These people dream in the world of the 'Supernatural', as they've come to call it. They're almost like groupies. They cheer me on.

I don't mind it, most times. I like what I do. It's my charity, my volunteer work. And if I gamble a table's worth of money away from men who should be protecting their families, it's a smaller sin. I am, to quote the demon, useful.

But they don't dream like I do. They are home, asleep; with other 26 year olds. Apple-pie normal, believing they're safe. Their dreams are day dreams. They're not washing out blood; debating the futures of his loved ones on a piece of stained cloth. They are not sketching trauma and loneliness on their road trips.

I like it most times. I love the hunt. I need the hunt. It's just sometimes, at the Laundromat near the witching hour, it's lonely. And it costs a million quarters.