Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.

Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: Story takes place immediately after Episode 2.03, Bloodlust. Anything prior to that is fair game.

A/N: This story was written in the fall of 2008 for the zine, Roadtrip With My Brother 7, printed in November of 2008 by agentwithstyle (www(dot)agentwithstyle(dot)com). Much thanks to Mysti for the opportunity.

Zine publishers ask that stories printed in their issues have a shelf life of one year prior to posting online; I'm a few months late posting this, as you can see, but I wanted to complete Wearing and Tearing before I got it up.

Those of you who read the printed version, I thank you sincerely. Also, as a final note, this story is dedicated to one of my dearest and oldest friends. She hails from the area where this story is set and was the one to ask, "Have you ever written a story about a ferryboat?" when my muse was ricocheting through ideas.

I hope you enjoy.

"I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am."

—Sylvia Plath

He ran a careful hand over the black metal, skimming the smooth surface with the tips of his fingers, absorbing the warmth that remained from the powerful engine's latest cross-country journey. The pale, false light of morning spilled an uneasy shadow of his form across the front window and down the hood, bending the image into what he felt was his true reflection.

The message that had summoned them from Montana to Washington sat like a lead weight in his chest. Dean knew that Sam had been ready to have a purpose, a reason to leave Red Lodge and Gordon behind, to embark on a hunt sent, it seemed, from Dad, himself. Closing his eyes, Dean pressed his fingertips, then his palm flat against the car, leaning his weight into that hand, unconsciously pulling strength from a source that some would argue held no heart.

Dean had kept his reservation about this hunt to himself, unwilling to be reminded of the lust for vengeance that he could still taste at the back of his throat as a vampire might thirst for blood.

He still wanted to kill them all.

He wanted to know they were gone, they weren't a potential threat. Like an itch between his shoulder blades that he couldn't quite reach, the knowledge that he'd left a job undone—at least according to the rules as defined by John Winchester, the rules Dean had always lived by—dug at him deeper as the miles between the Impala and that old farmhouse increased.

"So," Sam's emphatic voice just to his right snapped Dean's eyes open, immediately alert. "Looks like this Ramsey guy really is a ferry captain."

Dean smirked, unable to help himself. He stuffed both hands into the deep pockets of his leather jacket, shifting his eyes from the paper in Sam's hands to his brother's hazel eyes, irritation already at home in their expression.

"As in a boat that transports cars and people, Dean." Sam's lips twitched, his eyebrows rolling as he tipped his head to the side.

"What?" Dean shrugged innocently. "I got you. Ferry."

Sam shook his head, waving a dismissive hand at his brother, then turned and ambled to the passenger side of the car.

Dean glanced over his shoulder as the sun's rays finally struck the western water of Puget Sound. The light glittered on the rippling currents wrapping around the edges of the boat piers and worn docks like something out of a painter's dream, colors cascading, colliding, disappearing, blossoming. If he were a romantic type, he might be mesmerized by the sight.

As it was, the creak and slam of the Impala's passenger door grabbed his chin and turned him back to the present. He pulled his hands free from his pockets, slid his hip around the edge of the car, then grabbed the handle of the door, cool in comparison to the heat of the hood. Sam started talking as soon as the hinges of the door echoed across the empty lot of the small Edmonds police station as Dean got in the car.

"Officer Hennessey said that the guy's been running the Edmonds-Kingston route forever."

"Still can't believe the police station was open this early."

"Not sure it ever closes," Sam shrugged.

"They buy the lost relative bit?" Dean frowned, looking at the scabbed bruises across the knuckles of his right hand.

"Well," Sam's fingers restlessly traversed the edge of the paper in his hand. "I had to side-step that story when I realized they knew him pretty well. Told them the truth."

Dean's head shot up. "You what?"

Sam nodded sagely. "That he'd tried to contact our Dad and got us instead. We were looking him up so that we could tell him about Dad's passing in person."

Dean tilted his head to the side, resting his eyes on the reflection in the side mirror. He hated that phrase... passing.

Dad was gone. Dead. Not coming back.

It wasn't as if he'd simply walked by them. It wasn't like he'd waved away life saying, no thanks, I've had my turn.

His blood no longer flowed. His lungs no longer drew breath. And Dean suspected that he knew where his soul resided.

He knew... but he couldn't rest his mind on the knowledge too long. If he did, his heart threatened to shatter in his chest, his body not large enough to contain the fragmented pieces.

"...that he's had been operating the ferry for like twenty-five, thirty years."

Dean pulled himself back to Sam by the strength of his brother's voice, his eyebrows bouncing up at this last statement. "So... he's either a prodigy or really old?"

"Something like that," Sam shrugged, looking at the paper in his hands. "Anyway, turns out the cops have been investigating a series of mysterious deaths on the ferry for the last several months. Ever since some rich guy's son committed suicide."

Leaning his elbow on the door, Dean stroked his middle finger across his bottom lip, impersonating interest. The weight in his chest was warring with the angry voice in his head for attention. He wanted to move and fight and hide inside of the action that was a hunt; while at the same time the idea of never leaving this car, this seat, the safety of this position behind the steering wheel was as inviting as the arms of a nameless lover.


He jerked in surprise at the sharp bite of Sam's voice, shooting his eyes to the side and squinting as the morning sun reflected off of the rear-view mirror.


"Are you listening to me?"

"Sure... ferry boat captain, suicide, weird deaths..."

Sam's lips parted and his chin tipped forward in disbelief. "I said that Ramsey called Dad because he knew the cops weren't going to find the reason behind these deaths. He knew how to get a hold of him, Dean."

"No kidding," Dean deadpanned, lifting a shoulder. "Why do you think I let you talk me into this in the first place?"

Sam lifted a challenging eyebrow. "So you could drive the car."

"Well, sure, that." Dean's lips slid into an easy grin of pleasure.

There was nothing on Earth as seductive and healing as driving the Impala. The power beneath his legs, harnessing the energy of the Chevy's engine with fingers wrapped tightly around the metal steering wheel, feeling the beat of the wind as it buffeted the often-opened window, hearing the stereo sound of music that came from the soul of his youth... the experience was unmatched by anything else that brought Dean happiness. Driving her was his reward for the tireless weeks he spent putting her back together.

Sam sighed, running a tired hand through his long hair, then scratched at the back of his head in a habit he'd picked up from his older brother. "Well, I guess there's nothing left to do but go talk to Ramsey."

"You still haven't called him back, have you?" Dean asked, twisting the keys and blinking in slow pleasure as the rumble of the engine rippled through him.

"No," Sam pouted. "Didn't know what to say."

"Say that Dad's dead." Dean hooked an elbow over the back of the seat, backing out of the lot. "Doesn't have to be an angst-fest, Sammy."

Dropping his arm and turning to the front, Dean caught Sam's stricken look from the corner of his eyes. A pang of guilt echoed through Dean's hollow chest, causing him to instinctively tighten his stomach muscles, but he said nothing. Pressing down the accelerator, he returned to the main road, following the signs to the ferry boat landing. Sam sat silently beside him until they reached the first stop light.

"He called Dad for help, Dean."

"Yeah, so?"

"He knew him... we gotta..." Sam shifted in the seat, his discomfort with the topic evident in his posture. "We gotta figure out what we're going to say to people."

"What people?"

"People Dad knew," Sam said, looking down at his lap.

Dean gave him a look from the sides of his eyes. "Not like Dad had a buddy list, Sam. I doubt we need to worry about running into any of his old drinking pals."

"Could be some," Sam's soft voice was slightly petulant. "Can't just be us and...and a lady that runs a bar, Dean."

Dean felt the muscles in his jaw tighten as if controlled by the string of an invisible puppet master. He didn't answer, simply moved the car through the intersection as the light turned green. Since he'd stood at his brother's side and watched the wrapped body of the man who had taught him everything burn to ash, there had been times when his body was not his own.

When he stood outside of himself and watched himself react, watched himself move, watched his muscles respond and ached to feel, but found himself unable to connect sensation to movement.

Destroying the Impala's trunk. Hitting Sam.

The only time he felt his body respond was when he found himself doing the job. Cutting a vamps head off with a chainsaw blade. Beating the fight out of Gordon until his own face throbbed and his knuckles burned.

That was right. That felt good. That mattered.

Only it didn't. Not really.

"Here," Sam pointed across him. "Turn here."

Dean complied, pulling into an empty spot next to a wooden fence at the edge of the pier. Just beyond them, he could see the large ferry, lower half painted a dark blue with the name Mystic on the side. Dean's mouth lifted in a slight grin of appreciation.

Someone likes Van Morrison...

He could see two decks with cars, one covered, one exposed, and one large passenger cabin. The captain's cabin was positioned above the passenger cabin, radar and satellite antennae posted at varying positions around the multi-windowed room.

"What are you doing?" Sam asked as Dean threw the car into park.

Dean looked over at him, puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"Aren't we going to go talk to him?"

Lifting an eyebrow, Dean rolled his hands free of the wheel, his fingers up in question.

"Dean, it's a ferry. Just drive on."

"What?" Dean drew his head back in horror. "No freakin' way, Sam."

"Why not?" Sam leaned forward.

"Are you kidding me? I've seen The Ring. Déjà vu. I know what happens to cars on those things." Dean shook his head emphatically. "I just got her back in one piece, Sam."

"Oh, Dean, c'mon, you can't—"

"Hey, this was your cockamamie idea," Dean shut off the car. "You got me here. Let's go talk to the man."

"We're gonna get over to Kingston and have no way to get around," Sam grumbled, climbing out of the car and slamming it behind him.

"We'll just hang out on the boat or something," Dean shrugged, pocketing his keys and starting down toward the ferry slip. "Don't get your boxers in a twist, dude."

Sam continued to mutter, but Dean ignored him, crossing the apron ramp quickly as a car waiting to drive on paused for him, and headed to the pedestrian entrance.

He knew that Sam liked to have a plan, to know what was going to happen now and then now and then now. He knew Sam felt secure with a plan, even if the plan changed; at least he had something to stand on for a short time. Living life by the skin of their teeth had always rubbed Sam the wrong way—and was one of the reasons Dean suspected Sam had finally left them.

Stepping from the ramp to the subtly-rumbling ferry, Dean blanked his mind to the possibility that Sam might one day pick up and leave again, searching for that pocket of life where he could live by his own plan, and not the one that hunting evil randomly tossed their way.

They approached the passenger cabin, stepping inside the quiet hum of voices and crossing the linoleum floor to sit on two of the blue plastic chairs next to a lowered window just off the stairs that led up to the captain's deck. Dean slouched low in his seat, propping his boots up on the seat across from him. He ignored Sam's frown and looked out of the window, waiting patiently for the passengers to load and the time to be right to confront Captain Ramsey about his cryptic message.

"What do you think he meant when he said that Dad promised?" Sam asked suddenly, his low voice an eerie echo of Dean's thoughts. "Promised what?"

Dean folded his hands across his chest, shifting his posture and resting the back of his head against the seat, trying to disregard the fact that Sam all too often seemed to know just what he was thinking.

"Who knows," he muttered, more to pacify Sam then actually prompt further discussion.

But Sam wasn't quite ready to let it go. "You think it was a job?"

"How the hell should I know, Sam?" Dean snapped irritably. An older woman sitting across the aisle looked up from her newspaper and frowned at him. Sighing, Dean closed his eyes, tempering his voice. "Dad wasn't exactly the sharing type, y'know?"

"Yeah, but," Sam turned sideways and Dean felt the pressure of Sam's elbow against his shoulder as he rested it on the back of the chairs. "He told you stuff, man. You knew about that fight between Dad and Bobby—"

"Only because I was there."

"—you knew about the shtriga—"

"Jesus, Sam, enough, okay?" Dean dropped his feet from the chair and sat up. The woman had closed her paper and was now openly staring at him. He flashed her a grin and watched as she blushed, then turned to face the opposite way.

"Listen, I only know what I was around for. I didn't know about Elkins," he pointed out, dropping his chin to make his point. "I didn't know about Ellen, or Jo, or the Roadhouse."

Sam sighed, tipping his head forward in disappointment. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

"'Course I'm right," Dean sat back.

"I know you wouldn't keep anything Dad said from me," Sam muttered almost as an afterthought, his eyes sliding from Dean to the view of Puget Sound through the opened window.

Dean felt the now-constant weight in his chest wrap around his heart at his brother's words. He was saved from his thoughts by the bleat of the ferry's horn, announcing last call before shoving off. The shift of the ferry against the deep water of the Sound tossed the passenger's slightly from side-to-side in their stiff, plastic chairs. Dean dropped his hands from his chest to grab the side of his chair.

"Dude," he muttered. "This had better be a real hunt..."

"You okay?" Sam asked, his too-observant eyes taking in Dean's tight features.

"Just feels a little bit too close to flying, man," Dean muttered. He heard Sam swallow and shot his eyes to his brother's face. "Laugh, and I swear to God I will seal your mouth shut."

Sam pressed his lips together and shook his head once. "Not laughing."

"Good. Let's go talk to this Ramsey dude and get this over with." Dean used the windowsill to steady himself as he stood. He realized that once the ferry was on its way, the movement actually settled a bit and he didn't lurch as he moved away from the safety of the wall.

They stepped out onto the outer deck and Dean immediately pulled in a deep lungful of air. The wind against his face was wet from the spray kicked up from the sides of the boat and smelled like a mixture of salt, fish, and exhaust. He wrapped his fingers around the cold metal of the railing that kept them from tumbling over onto the cars below and enjoyed the thrill of the vibration of the engine through the rail and up into his arm.

Sam stepped around him, leading the way. Dean followed, casting cautious eyes to the cars below, inwardly shuddering to think of the Impala trapped in that stock yard of metal. They climbed the narrow stairs and Dean leaned a hip against the railing just outside the captain's door as Sam knocked.

When they were greeted by silence, Sam knocked again, then looked over his shoulder at Dean, who shrugged in response. They'd already waited five minutes longer than he would've liked before opening the door.

Sam was the first inside, which wasn't Dean's preference, but this time worked to their advantage.

"Hey! You can't be in here! Get back below with the rest of the—"

"Captain Ramsey?" Sam interrupted.

The man facing them looked to Dean more like a Tommy Lee impersonator than a ferry boat captain. Narrow, weathered features framed pale blue eyes that peeked out from beneath shaggy bangs longer than Sam's. His rail-thin body was draped in a loose-fitting, long-sleeved, gray T-shirt with the words and the horse you rode in on fading across the front. Tattoos snaked up the back of his neck and down his wrists, one wrapping around the middle finger of his left hand. The holes in the legs of his jeans were almost a mirror image of the ones Dean wore, and his boots looked like they'd be more at home clutching the sides of a Harley than balancing on the deck of a boat.

"You from the IRS?" The slim man glanced once out of the window overlooking Puget Sound, then flipped two switches above the small, half-crescent steering wheel.

Dean lifted an eyebrow at that. "We look like suits to you?"

"The hell you doing here, then?" Ramsey's voice was worn from long nights and hard living. Dean had heard that tone and cadence too many times in his life to not recognize it.

"We heard you might need our help," Sam tried.

Ramsey crossed the room in two strides, surprising the brothers by grabbing the front of Sam's shirt and shoving him against the wall. The sleeve of his T-shirt slid down his sinewy arm as he did so, exposing an intricate series of tattoos.

"Listen, I told those other guys, I don't need your kind of help, okay? Now get the hell—"

"Is that Charon?" Sam asked, his voice hurried, edging on panic, trying to get the man's attention, and, Dean realized, keep Dean from tearing him apart for touching Sam. He hadn't even realized he'd stepped forward, fists clenched, until Sam spoke.

Surprised, Ramsey stepped back, releasing Sam's shirt. "What was that?" he asked.

Dean, too, looked at Sam in surprise, repeating Ramsey's question. "What was that?"

"The tattoo on your arm," Sam explained, tugging his shirt down to straighten it. "It's Charon, isn't it?"

Ramsey shoved his sleeve up, and Dean looked at the tattoo. "Sam, that isn't a chick—"

Sam rolled his eyes. "Not Sharon, Dean, Charon. The boatman that took souls across the River Styx to the Underworld."

"Pretty damn good, kid," Ramsey muttered in appreciation, rubbing a hand over the tattoo as if Sam's words had caused it to burn. He stepped back over to the controls, then looked back at the brothers, his hands on the wheel once more. "You're right. Seemed fitting."

Dean flicked a quick look in Sam's direction. "You never told me you liked Styx."

"I don't," Sam said. "I like Greek mythology."

Dean's lips quirked. "Yeah, well, I know what I'm getting you for your birthday."

He grinned at Sam's pained expression, then turned his attention back to Ramsey. "So... as my brother was saying before you jumped to one helluva conclusion—"

"Yeah, uh, sorry about that," Ramsey said. "Been a rough coupla months."

"Tell me about it," Sam said softly. "Listen, uh... you called our dad—"

Ramsey shot them a look over his shoulder and Dean felt the chill from his time-worn eyes. Instinctively, he shifted his stance so that he was standing between Sam and the captain.

"You John Winchester's boys?"

Dean nodded.

"Where the hell has he been?" Ramsey turned around again. "I have been trying to reach him for months! He just up and leaves, no word, no explanation, nothing! I had to get his number from his lady friend."

Dean narrowed his eyes. "Ellen?"

Ramsey shrugged. "Dunno. Didn't ask. Just need to talk to the man. He with you?"

"Uh, Captain Ramsey," Sam started.

"No, he's not with us," Dean filled in, his voice returning the hard edge that Ramsey had flung their way. "But we're here."

"Sorry, kid," Ramsey shook his head. "The kind of help I need, not just anyone can give."

"I wouldn't be too sure about that," Dean replied, settling his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket, dropping his shoulders, and tilting his head to the side. "You see, our Dad taught us everything he knew. And if he could've helped you, we can help you."

Ramsey opened his mouth, then closed it again with narrowed eyes. Dean knew the careful delivery of his words had produced the desired effect. Sam's concern about how or what to tell this man about John's death was no longer an issue.

Rubbing a hand across his mouth, Ramsey exhaled and Dean watched the avarice escape from him along with the air. He stepped further into the room, allowing Sam to move away from the metal wall, and prepared himself for whatever Ramsey was about to say.

"The Mystic is haunted."

The brothers stood silently, waiting. Ramsey's arctic eyes darted between them.

"Like... by a ghost," Ramsey asserted.

Dean glanced at Sam and saw that his yeah, and? expression was mirrored on his brother's face. Ramsey pulled his head back at their continued silence. A voice on the squawk box called his attention and he turned back to his duties for a bit, leaving the brothers to cool their heels and watch out of the window as two speed boats passed by the bow of the ferry, their wake beating up against the blue sides of the large vessel.

The sky was clear, almost painfully so. Dean stepped away from Sam to look out of the aft window, letting his mind wander while the noise Ramsey made running the ferry across the suddenly busy waterway faded to a dull roar behind him.

The subtle vibration of the boats engine hummed beneath his feet. He thought his Dad had always hated the Seattle area. Said it rained too much. Said it was always wet and he hated being wet. Dean thought it strange that he would have been up here working with this crazy Motley Crew reject in the first place.


Sam's voice was a quiet intrusion to his purposely wayward thoughts. Dean ran a finger along the edge of the sill, pushing a small pile of dust to the corner, not looking at Sam.

"What's going on?"

Dean pressed his lips together, shaking his head. Sam was the one with the hunches, the feelings, the visions. Sam was the one that could say this doesn't feel right and have that taken at face value. Not Dean.

Dean was action. Dean was results. Dean was force. He wasn't gut instinct.

Or so he thought.

"We'll be up on Kingston in about twenty minutes," Ramsey announced. "The Mystic ain't a RO/RO, so when the cars are unloaded, we'll have to come about."

"It's not a... what?" Dean asked looking back at Ramsey over his shoulder.

"Roll on, roll off. She's an old-school ferry boat," Ramsey replied, not looking over at Dean. "You boys drive on?"

"No," Sam answered, resting his back against the window that Dean was facing, his arm brushing up against Dean's in an unconscious gesture of support. Dean almost pulled away.

Guess I'll have to stick around... be a pain in your ass...

Swallowing, Dean turned and put his back to the window, dropping his hands into his pockets, and keeping his body tight so that he was almost-but-not-quite touching Sam in return. The need to stay in control, to keep his game face on, denied him the ability to accept Sam's comfort, however subtle, however unknowing.

"Well, you'll have some time in Kingston, then," Ramsey said. "Fun doesn't usually happen until the return trip, anyway."

"Fun like..." Dean prompted to the man's back.

"Like people drowning. Falling overboard. Dying," Ramsey shot the brother's a look. "That kind of fun."

"You have many of those?"

Ramsey nodded, then grabbed the mike on the squawk box, muttering a reply and turning down the squelch dial. Hanging up the mike, he flipped another set of switches, then turned to lean against the control panel with one hip, crossing his arms over his chest. He looked down at the floor as if whatever he wanted to say was written there.

"Started about four or five months ago," he began. "This, uh, local Edmonds boy drove off the ferry mid-way through the route back from Kingston. Blew right through the ramp and over the side."

"Suicide?" Sam supplied.

Ramsey shrugged. "'S what the cops said. Seemed pretty obvious to everyone who saw it, too."

"So," Dean lifted his eyebrows. "That's how you knew Dad? He was helping you get rid of the kid's spirit?"

Ramsey shook his head. "Your Dad was here before the kid died."

Sam frowned, stepping forward. "What was he doing?"

"Helping a girl in Kingston."

"Helping her with what?" Dean asked.

"A spirit or something," Ramsey shrugged. "Dunno. All I know is, he left before he fixed it, the kid died, and now I got cops on my decks and at my door day and night threatening to dry dock the Mystic because people keep dying and I can't do a thing to stop it."

Dean opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off by a call on the squawk box. Ramsey turned his attention back to piloting the boat, and Dean looked at Sam. Nothing about this situation felt right to him. Sam looked away and Dean tried to take a breath, rubbing at his chest as the attempt for air was thwarted by the knot that had taken up the space his lungs were supposed to occupy.

Nothing had felt right, period, since he'd woken up in the hospital—healed. The feeling had gotten worse when his father had said everything but goodbye to him before walking out of his hospital room.

Right became flat-out wrong as his little brother tried to fix something that was broken beyond repair, and wrong became fucking unbearable when he had to walk away from creatures he'd been raised to hate because killing them was not the solution this time.

Watching Ramsey maneuver the ferry boat closer to the slip, Dean ran his fingers across his forehead, hating the way they trembled. He let them trail down the side of his face and over the back of his neck, pinching the tight muscles there in punishment.

"Okay, look," Ramsey said, as he continued to steer. "We got an hour before we head back to Edmonds for this run. I'm gonna be too busy to talk, but come back and we'll see if you two can do any better than your old man at taking care of this spook problem."

Dean's body instinctively tensed at the back-handed insult to John, but Sam stuck a hand out toward him without looking.

"What was the name of the guy that died?" Sam asked.

"Brad Sanders," Ramsey replied. "And the girl in Kingston was Charlene, but everyone called her Charlie."

"Charlie... what?" Dean prompted.

The blue eyes that pinned him held a sudden familiar, tinny echo of forgotten hope.

"Ramsey. Charlie Ramsey."