Summary: Zombie coyotes, how could I resist? Pre-series.
Fandom: Supernatural/Mythology crossover
Original Story: What You Got on Your Hands Is..., by newredshoes
Author's Note: Thanks so much to amchara for the beta and hand-holding!
Guilt is an unfamiliar sensation for Coyote, but it twinges now in what passes for a conscience. The pack ought to have been laid to rest long ago, but it's always been a one night thing, and when they go seven years between risings, how can she be expected to remember them in time to get there?
But something is different this time, she can feel it. The frenzied tugging at her mind does not go away when morning breaks, grows stronger day by day, in fact, and finally Coyote turns her bike north. It has gone on long enough.
She travels the last few miles in her natural form, just another tawny shadow slinking among the sage and shortgrass. When she slips into the hollow where the pack has risen, she is startled to find it already occupied, the pack skittering in circles around a beautiful black Chevy Impala and a dusty, strained-looking young human with his gun propped up on his knees. He is muttering something to himself, the wisps of his thoughts a steady stream of expletives, dull and weak with tiredness.
The coyotes are more forthcoming. Their heads sing of children, children, children, children are hungry. Weak and whining, they clamor for food that is not there, not coming, the dogs too big, the guns too fierce. Only grasshoppers are plentiful, horrible crunching creatures that struggle in your mouths with pricking feet and do not satisfy.
The children sleep too much, and one day, the littlest does not wake up. You sing for him that night. Scarred Brother finds a nest of mice, just skin and bones, but the remaining children crunch them down and are briefly revived.
Two days after the second littlest dies, the scent of blood drifts Home, unsullied by dog or man. The Family creeps forward, untrusting, but the cow, aged and drought-stricken, is alone, only a few vultures flapping by her side. You snap at them, and they flap weakly away across the dusty ground as you rip into the cow's belly, gulping down the rich, cooling entrails as the Family swarms over her body.
Your stomach burns as the red flesh hits it, but you keep gulping, tearing at the meat, inhaling it in great chunks, until your mouth and throat are burning too and you realize what you've done.
The vultures have ceased their flapping, lie still, and up by the cow's head, a sister starts to retch. The smell of her blood fills your nostrils, drowning out the scent of flesh, and the fire is consuming you now from head to claws. You try to stumble away, back to the children, but your legs fold under you as the meat comes alive inside you, clawing its way up your throat until you start to choke, and the world grows hazy and red.
It is a young story, but familiar. Coyote slips quietly away to change and returns with a saunter.
"Well, well. What an interesting predicament."
It's rather gratifying how fast he leaps to his feet, but the look of incredulous surprise is tinged with irritation.
"What tipped you off?" he growls, waving his sawed-off as one of the coyotes skitters too close. It darts away, whining.
She can't help it, really. The smile twitching at the corners of her mouth gives up any pretense of modest, human courtesy and becomes a full-blown grin. "I must say, I did not think there was anything left in the world that could surprise me, but this ... this comes very close," she says, stepping into the circle of sage.
"Ma'am, I really wouldn't advise that!" he says, starting in her direction as the coyotes abruptly stop their aimless wandering and fly together towards her, teeth flashing white in the evening light.
She waits until they are almost upon her before stopping them. It is I, Great Sister. I am here, she says, and the coyotes scatter around her like the broken shards of a bottle used for target practice. "Do not 'ma'am' me," she tells the human, crossing the dusty ground to join him in the middle of the circle.
He stares, mind echoing the surprise on his face. "My apologies for trying to be polite," he says, after a moment of churning confusion. "But my father raised me to say 'sir' and 'ma'am' to everyone, even mysterious people who show up and waltz right through a pack of zombie coyotes like they're lapdogs. Maybe especially mysterious people who show up and waltz right through a pack of zombie coyotes like they're lapdogs." He stops, rubbing a hand across his face, looking suddenly older. "Sorry, I'm Dean. I didn't realize there was another hunter on the case."
"I hate lapdogs," she says, ignoring both the proferred hand and the question in his tone. "Horrible creatures."
"But generally not undead."
She laughs and pulls out a cigarette. "No, generally not undead. Can you imagine it? A ravening horde of zombie Pekingese." She shakes her head, swearing creatively in Navaho. "I will have to remember that one. Do you have a light?"
Dean frowns, but tosses her a pack of matches, watching as she lights her cigarette and takes a puff. The coyotes circle and whine, children childrenchildren. Dean's head is full of fire, and she wonders idly if he knows how right he is.
"So," he says finally, "Can you do that trick long enough to let me get out of here to go torch their bones?"
Humans. So unsubtle. She blows a smoke ring. "No."
"Can you do it long enough to get yourself out of here to go torch their bones?"
She sighs. "Not that either." Obviously, he has no idea.
"I'm trying to think of a nice way to put this..." he begins.
She cocks her head at him, smiling slightly at his frustration. "What good am I?"
"I didn't say it," he says, backing away a little with his hands raised.
"No. But you thought it, and after five days of being stuck with them, I cannot truly say I blame you."
"How did you kn-?"
She holds up a hand, turning to look him in the eyes for the first time since her arrival. Whatever he sees there shuts him up, and she smiles inwardly. "I am not here for you. I am here for them," she says, gesturing at the flittering coyotes.
"Them? Those furry, undead bags of bones?"
I am trying to think of a way to put this that you will understand," she says after a moment, letting the smoke wisp from her mouth and nostrils, cigarette burning down to embers in her fingers. "They are, ah, what is the phrase? They are a disturbance in the Force."
Really, it's rather funny how shocked he looks, but when he continues to stare, she begins to worry.
"Did I remember it wrong?" she asks. "Star Wars, yes?"
"Yeah, Star Wars," he says. "A disturbance in the Force." He shakes his head, like a horse trying to toss off an irritating fly. "They're a disturbance in the Force?"
"In a metaphorical sort of sense, of course."
"Okay. Metaphor. I think I probably slept through that day in English, but point taken. Do you have any brilliant ideas for repairing your disturbance in the Force or am I on my own here, Obi-Wan?"
Fire. They need fire, as all prairie creatures do. This man understands fire. She senses it in the smoke and ash that fills his thoughts. But he cannot hear the cry of childrenchildrenchildren all around him, imploring...
The river stretches broad and clear across the plains, glittering with strange light. Something about it calls to you, and you creep closer. As you watch, a shadow moves across the surface of the water and disappears, swallowed by the current.
The air is filled with the sweet, wet smell of water and the Family clusters around you, Scarred Brother, Fleet Sister, Mate. All the Family but the children.
You call for them, call, call, but they never come, and finally you turn back from the river. Nine times you turn back to look for them, wrecking destruction on anything in your way, and nine times you find yourselves once more by the banks of the strange, bright river...
She shakes her head, pushing them away for the moment. "They too wish to be laid to rest."
"Funny way of showing it. They won't let me get near their bones."
"Think of it as programming. Their bodies keep going, though their souls want to sleep. They are looking-"
"Oh, not again!" he interrupts, raising his gun and firing as one of the coyotes careens against the car. "Get the fuck away from my car, you little freak!" He dives for the spot the coyote touched and brushes away the dust residue. "No car! No! Bad dogs!"
She can't help it, she has to laugh.
"What?" he snaps, getting back to his feet. "It works, temporarily."
"No, no, you misunderstand!" she says. "I am the same about my bike. It is just that you have been too long by yourself with them."
"Tell me about it!"
Why the coyotes chose this man to save them is a mystery. "You know," she says, starting to pace. "I do know something that can keep them further away from you and your car. Who do you know who would have warding stones?"
"Well, besides my father, who is never EVER going to hear about this little incident..." He scratches his head, and she perks up at the interesting tumble of emotions surrounding his father. Perhaps there is something there after all. "Um. The nearest would probably be Bobby Singer, but we had a bit of a falling out last time we saw him. Don't know how fondly he'll be remembering me." Another torrent of tangled emotion. She teases at it, but he closes it off as suddenly as it appears.
"That is unimportant," she says. "I have my ways."
"Yeah, and so does Bobby." This time, his thoughts are quiet, leashed.
"I do not think it will be a problem. You see," she says, letting her teeth flash in a wide grin, "perhaps I do have my uses after all!"
Bobby is on to her, the nosy old coot, and she has to leave before she can find the bullets. The warding stones are a success, however, and she calls up Prometheus to pay a visit as well, and goes in search of the quiet whimper-thoughts of the pups.
I have found them, she tells the coyotes when she returns. Wait, and he will bring them to you. They are angry about the wards, but settle in a circle around the edge, watching. As soon as his car is safe, Dean collapses in relief on the front seat and is instantly asleep, hand still on his loaded gun.
She settles herself onto the dusty ground nearby and waits.
On the tenth time you leave the river, there is another sort of man waiting there, a man who smells not of dog and cow and horse, but of oil and powder and blood. You gather the Family to bring him down and he raises his gun and fires, a laughable thing now, a moment's inconvenience, but when he fires you smell not terror but excitement. And that is something new.
And when you skitter around him, you smell something else there too, the scent of loss, sharp and deep, permeating the air around him like a cloud of bitter dust. And that is something old, and familiar.
You name him Lost Brother, though he does not seem to feel the same kinship. He fires at you when you creep forward to lie down at his feet. You accept the sharp shiver of bullets gladly. He, too, is held by grief. He will help you find the children.
Prometheus arrives that night, bullets in tow.
Lost Brother hoists his gun and takes aim and you skitter away into the shadows.
A wave of reassurance passes over you, marked with Great Sister's scent. He does not understand, she says, but I do. Let him go, let him set you free, and send them after you, let him...
Nervously, you creep back into the light, peering at Lost Brother, who sees you and smiles, fierce joy rushing into his emptiness, hunter's joy, like the crack of bones between your teeth, the taste of blood. He does not understand, but you do, yes.
The bullet hits and you shriek as your body is engulfed by flames, cold and blue-white.
There is a roaring in your ears, ancient, familiar sound, and the flames flickering across your skin are wet, wet water as the current takes you, and all around you is the scent of the Family, and Home, and Freedom. You turn back, fighting to keep your head above the water, as the darkness behind you flares into light and then they are there with you, sisters and brothers and children, children, all the Family there with you. The smell of ash drifts across the water from the darkness beyond the banks and you sigh and close your eyes at last.
The water is sweet and it goes on forever.