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Sundown, Kansas

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Posted for the Evil Sam Fright Fest 2014.

The moderator promised me Sam only had to be a little evil.
Possibly only evil thoughts. Maybe only eats one person.
Yeah, I'm bad at this.

 

Author's Notes: This story is entirely the result of and dedicated to the general awesomeness of elusive_life_77. She is my gaming buddy, writing partner, dear friend, and kindred spirit. Plus, I think she read the first chapter of Requiem about thirty times before I reluctantly moved on to the second chapter. There may or may not have been threats involved. That takes a special kind of love and patience. I was quite done with In Arcadia as a general thing, and then she happened to mention a few weeks ago that this was her favorite of my verses, and she was sorry not to get to see what happened when Sam woke up. Since she's been dragged facedown through Fortress and various other projects over the years, I thought the least I could do was try and do this for her. It's also a surprise! So it's the only thing I've posted that she hasn't checked the story flow on, and I apologize if things are a little off kilter. It is, as you can see, entirely her fault. The, ah, beta period in general was a little rushed. Walking_tornado, hereafter referred to she-who-should-be-cannonized (added to the illustrious ranks with such luminaries as vodou_blue, firesign10, elumir_calemmir and saraid, among others who have bailed me out when the chips were down) helped enormously and I am gratefully in her debt. All remaining errors are entirely mine, as per usual. Also, like last time, to do the title banner for this timestamp I used part of the original IAE main banner created by the utterly amazing inanna_maat!

 

 

Water dripped from Sam's fingers, sparkling with moonlight as it spilled from his cupped hands and back into the lake. He stood waist deep in cold darkness, absorbed by the midnight wonderland and gentle eddies of shallow currents that brushed against his legs.

Dean crouched by the shore, washing clothes in the muddy shoal with a crumbling bar of motel soap and handfuls of sandy grit. He was less concerned with actual cleanliness than he was with plausible deniability. He kept one eye on his task and one on Sam, who'd been standing transfixed in the lake for the better part of an hour while Dean cleaned up. The refractive shards of moonlight on black water had proved to be an excellent babysitter for Sam's spinning senses, but it was past time to get dried off and on the road. Dean tried not to linger in places he'd committed felonies, and knew Sam had an equally healthy aversion to attracting the attention of law enforcement.

When he was in his right mind.

Which he decidedly wasn't at the moment.

An owl ghosted over the edge of the lake, nearly silent even to Dean's heightened senses, but Sam turned as if startled, tracking the deceptively slow glide with intensity Dean didn't like. Time to bring him back.

"Sam," Dean called, barely louder than feathered wings. Twenty feet away Sam ignored him, still staring into the dark forest as if he could still see the owl as it went about its business amidst the trees. And he probably could. It was all dim shadows to Dean, but he was far from his truest nature tonight, and Sam was as close to his as he had ever been. It was new, and intense, and… potentially disastrous. Maintaining control was critical, and Sam's was unreliable for the moment. Up to Dean then to maintain it for them both.

"Sam." Dean was less coaxing this time, more of a demand than a request. He needed to know how wild Sam was before he planned his next move. If he had to overpower Sam to force obedience he would, but if Sam could be reasoned with it would go better for them both. A raging fight with his new fledgling was not how Dean wanted to spend their reunion, but sometimes that was how it went. Dean's own temperament as a fledgling had hardly been enjoyable for his master, but Dean had better expectations of Sam. For starters, Sam had actually wanted to be turned.

Dean was drawing breath to call a third and final time before taking things to the next step when Sam turned and seemed to focus on him. Sam blinked a few times, then shuddered and wrapped his arms around his bare chest as if he was cold. The water was icy and the late fall air was a breath of winter's promise, but Dean doubted it was the temperature that was bothering Sam.

"Dean?" Sam asked, the question rich with muddled confusion. But his eyes were clear enough and he was responsive, which was all Dean needed to plan the rest of the night. He finished wringing out the clothes he had been washing and held out one hand. "Come on, time to go."

Sam shook his head as if trying to clear his senses, then trudged toward shore. He grabbed hold of the hand Dean held out and let Dean reel him into a fierce hug.

"I missed you," Dean breathed fiercely against his ear. Sam hugged him back, unsure what to say. He hadn't missed Dean, hadn't even been aware of his absence. Dean was the last thing he remembered, and the only thing he knew now. Sam pressed his face to Dean's shoulder and inhaled deeply. A wave of comfort flooded him, this was familiar, this was right. Then Dean released him and Sam almost stumbled as the connection was lost.

Sam rubbed at his eyes, trying to wake up from the fuzzy feeling that seemed to be weighing down his thoughts. "Where are we?" he asked.

"Kansas. A little ways north of Lawrence. Come on." Dean headed across the scrubby grass towards where the Impala waited, a shadow against the midnight trees. Sam caught up to him easily. He knew he should feel odd about walking naked across a parking lot, but the feeling just… wasn't there. He was puzzling over the oddity when the world abruptly veered out of focus. His heart was a drum pounding in his veins and Sam wanted to do everything; run in the woods, dive back into the lake, sail into the sky until he could swallow the stars that pricked his awareness with needle clarity. His own breath was the billows of the world and he knew with utter certainty that he could change the rotation of storms if he just willed it enough...

Hands like branding irons settled on his shoulders and Sam fought for focus, struggled to come back to himself, and it was a struggle. Dean was there, patient. Waiting.

"What's happening to me?" Sam finally gasped.

"Growing pains," Dean said simply. He grabbed Sam's hand again and half dragged him across the lot. Sam didn't resist, it was just hard to walk when the land beneath his feet was shifting on molten lakes of rock. But it was easier now, with the counter-rhythm of Dean's pulse thrumming through Sam's flesh where their skin touched. Easier to shove everything else out and just focus on that one thing. Dean pushed him against the car. The cold metal against his bare back and thighs gave Sam another anchor while Dean rummaged in the trunk.

"Why am I naked?" Sam asked.

"You were dirty." Dean paused in his rummaging. "What do you remember?"

That was a hard question. Harder than it should have been. The universe still beckoned, but Sam struggled to hold it at bay. "I remember… the mountains. The cabin, the village. I was…," Sam hesitated, "tired," he finally finished lamely. Tired fell far short of the mark, but it was the closest he could come, and it wasn't like Dean wouldn't understand. "You brought me," home, the word burned in his mind, but Sam resisted, "to Kansas." He licked his lips nervously. "I don't remember, uh--" The part he never wanted to think about, and prayed he never remembered.

"Being buried?" Dean offered.

"Right. That. Then… you were washing me off in the lake." There was something else there, something that teased at Sam's mind. He tried to chase the memory, but the edges of it dissolved into the lake surface; dark, fathomless, and opaque. Sam let it go. He didn't want to remember clawing his way out of his own grave, or being buried in it.

Dean was nodding absently, still bent over the trunk rummaging. There was no light but the slivered moon, but Sam found he could still see everything as clearly as if the sun was burning overhead. He'd had unnatural night vision since the rich magic of Dean's blood had first passed his lips in the wreckage of the explosion over a decade past, but never as sharp, as clear as what he saw now. He looked over Dean's shoulder at the forest and could feel the trees breathing

Sam came abruptly back to himself when Dean shoved an armful of clothes into his chest.

"Don't do that. And get dressed."

"Don't do what?" Sam asked, struggling to pull on clothes that felt like sandpaper against his skin. They were his, he recognized them, recognized his scent on them even beneath the flowery detergent they had last been washed in, and even recognized faint hints of Dean. But the soft, worn cotton had never dragged at his body like it did now. He stopped with his jeans unbuttoned and his t-shirt still loose in his hands. "I can't wear these."

"Then go naked," Dean shrugged. "I did for awhile. Not so many people around then though. One strange naked guy hanging out in a cave didn't draw that much attention, but I'm fresh out of caves and vast tracts of land, Sam. At least here in Kansas. And it will be awhile before we can get anywhere with more resources." A grimly amused smile curved the edge of his lip. "And if you think the clothes are hard to handle, just wait until I get you inside a modern building."

"What am I supposed to do, Dean?"

"Adapt or die." At Sam's helpless look Dean's expression softened a bit. "It's not as bad as it feels right now. It's like peeling off a band-aid. The longer you take, the more it hurts. You're sensitive right now, and you're going to stay sensitive until you get a grip on things. You're clothes aren't hurting you, and your head knows it. So put them on, and just ignore the drag until your body adjusts. It will sort itself out."

Sam drew a deep breath and finished dressing in a rush. It burned where the cloth dragged, but true enough didn't seem to be causing any harm. A fish jumped in the lake and Sam could taste the dark water, cool and silty with the metallic tang from the drainage pipes buried under the--

"Stop that," Dean said sharply, dragging Sam back to himself again.

"Stop what?" Sam asked, bewildered.

Dean sighed and opened the passenger door, gesturing grandly until Sam climbed reluctantly in. After his experience with clothes and Dean's ominous remark about buildings, Sam wasn't excited about the car, but it wasn't as bad as he had feared. The Impala was as familiar to Sam as his own reflection, and that seemed enough to smooth off the edges off his unease. Sam didn't like being in the car, but he could manage.

"Okay?" Dean asked from the driver's seat a minute later.

Sam nodded, forcing himself to relax into the worn leather. "What's happening to me? And 'growing pains' isn't an answer, Dean."

"You aren't human anymore, Sam. It's done. Lock, stock and barrel."

The words spoken aloud eased something tight in Sam's chest. "No more demon taint?"

Dean flashed him a grin, then leaned in, dizzyingly fast, to lick a wet stripe up the side of Sam's jaw, ending with a sharp nip to his earlobe. Sam cast him an irritated look and wiped at the dampness.

"None that I can taste," Dean promised, then grew more serious. "But I need you to try and keep your awareness on me for awhile. Don't look at the woods; don't look at the sky, just focus on me. My voice, my pulse, my scent. You're getting lost in everything else. It's normal, and natural, but the modern world doesn't have a lot of patience for slow learners and the wild isn't as vast as it used to be." He sighed. "If you really can't get the hang of it, I've made some arrangements locally that might give you more time. But you aren't going to like being cooped up, and it's dangerous not to be able to move freely."

"Why can't we move freely?" Sam asked warily.

"Think about it," Dean said simply. "I mean really think about it. About leaving Kansas, about… I don't know -- going back to the cabin. Visiting the Rockies. Grand Canyon. Niagara Falls--"

"Stop," Sam begged in a tight voice, bent double in the seat as a rush of panic ripped at his common sense. He knew Dean wasn't about to chain him to the seat and drive off across the country, but just the thought of going to any of those places… Sam wanted to rip the door open and bury himself in the thick loam of the forest floor. He could already feel it against his skin, damp, and rich, and safe… Suddenly being buried alive sounded like the most wonderful thing in the world. Words from the past surfaced suddenly in Sam's mind: we are the land. When has Dean said that? Years ago, a lifetime. He hadn't tried to explain at the time, just said it wasn't something Sam could understand yet.

He understood it now. Sort of.

Dean grabbed his chin and forced Sam to meet his eyes. "Hey, look -- we're not even moving. See?" He jingled the car keys, capturing Sam's attention like twitching a string for a kitten. Sam didn't even care, grateful for something to center on. "I promise, Sam. Not one foot out of Kansas. When we leave, you'll be the one driving."

That helped, but it still took Sam a few minutes to stuff the panic back down.

"It's not Kansas," Dean answered the unspoken question in Sam's eyes when he had finally relaxed again. "It's your native lands. Kansas just makes a convenient boundary on the current map. You may feel safe on the wrong side of the state line; there may be places that are Kansas that are still too far away. It's a territorial thing. We weren't really meant to roam," Dean added after a moment, a faint hint of wistfulness in his voice that Sam wondered if he would have heard before. When he was still human.

"You weren't even born in this country," Sam pointed out, refusing to let himself even begin to contemplate a trans-oceanic trip.

"Nope. Some things you've just got to learn how to let go of. For instance--" Dean gave a meaningful glance down Sam's body. Sam was amazed suddenly to realize that the worn cotton fabric against his skin felt like worn cotton again. Maybe not quite as soft as he remembered, but no longer sandpaper either. He ran a hand across his own chest and grinned at Dean.

Dean nodded. "It will come and go for awhile, be a real bitch when you first get dressed, but eventually that will fade too. Just time and experience, and sometimes… the situation."

"Nothing really feels… real," Sam said quietly.

"You're still kind of in shock. That's going to come and go too. How long it lasts depends on how hard you fight it. It's a brave new world, Sam, and like I said: adapt or die. Ready for this?" Dean slid the key into the ignition, but waited for Sam's tense nod before turning it over. The Impala roared to life around them. For Sam it was fire-breathing dragons, avalanches, earthquakes -- all of them, on top of him at once, the cacophony deafening. The cool, dark shadows of the forest called Sam again, slicing even through the miserable din of the car. Sam wasn't even aware his fingers had punched into the leather upholstery until Dean pried one of Sam's hands from the seat and wrapped it between both of his own. He waited until Sam looked at him, eyes tearing with pain, then pressed Sam's captured hand over his own heart and pinned Sam firmly in place with his gaze.

"Only me, Sam. There's only me, and you. Everything else is just details. Let it go."

Like before, the heartbeat thundering under his palm helped. Sam closed his eyes and focused on it. Dean was still talking, the words a meaningless river -- something about the news, and world events Sam had missed while he slept most of a year away in the deep embrace of the land. And then Sam realized he could hear Dean's voice easily over the mechanical onslaught. And then suddenly it was okay. Dean waited until Sam opened his eyes again and was able to give Dean a wavering smile, then raised Sam's hand and kissed the palm. The gentle brush of Dean's lips burned through Sam's blood and something shifted in the back of his mind. Something that had been there all along, humming below his awareness.

"Dean?" Sam asked tightly.

Dean let go of Sam's hand and shifted the car into gear. "It's okay, Sam. I was expecting this."

Sam pulled his other fingers out of the leather and frowned as something occurred to him. "Didn't we get rid of this car like, a decade ago?" The Impala bounced ungently over the uneven dirt parking lot and onto the equally rough road. Dean didn't turn on the headlights and Sam didn't even notice the lack.

"She's a fine, classy girl, Sam. You don't meet a car like this every day."

"Right," Sam said slowly. "Which is why when half the monsters on the planet decided to make me their BFF, we traded it in for something less conspicuous."

"Her," Dean said in a wounded voice.

"What?"

"We traded her in, Sam. This car is a lady."

Sam's eyes narrowed. "You can laugh any time now, Dean."

"You never did appreciate her," Dean continued. "I could tell the first time I slid behind the wheel. She was just begging for some loving. For a guy who knew how to appreciate her charms, who knew how to rev her engine, who knew how to change the oil and what a timing belt is." He cast Sam a sidelong look. "Wax isn't a dirty word either, Sam."

Sam rolled his eyes. "Not messing with her engine is how I showed my appreciation."

Dean snorted his opinion of that. "When we had to find other wheels I put her in storage out in East Texas."

"You could have told me."

"We had other things on our plate," Dean said dismissively. "I'd completely forgotten until I was kicking around for most of a year waiting for you to wake up and started doing some housekeeping. It's been most of a decade, and you're useless to the monsters now. No reason not to rekindle the flame."

"Are you talking about me, or the car?" Sam asked suspiciously.

"Both?" Dean tried hopefully.

Sam started to comment, but a sudden ache in his upper jaw distracted him. He'd felt an ache like this before, but there was no fear this time. He was concerned, and uneasy, but it didn't feel bad, just… unnerving.

"Pain?" Dean asked.

"My mouth," Sam said. "Not pain, just…" he trailed off, not sure how to even describe it. There was a hollowness in the pit of his stomach, and a dull throbbing at the base of his skull. There only word he could place on it was hunger, but it wasn't like any hunger he'd felt before. Sam thought he should be worried, but it… just wasn't coming. He licked his lips and glanced at Dean.

"It's okay," Dean repeated his words from earlier. "It's normal. You've done pretty good to ignore it this long."

"I wasn't ignoring it, I was--"

"Distracted by other things. I told you, Sam. It's fine. You're fine." Dean patted his knee. "We’ll take care of it."

Sam licked his teeth, but they all felt normal against his tongue. "How? Are we just going to pull off somewhere…" He glanced out the window at the forest, trying to imagine biting into something warm and furry. It wasn't an entirely revolting thought, but it wasn't really enticing either. There were probably a lot of rabbits out in the forest though. And deer, and raccoons, and wild dogs, and…

Dean flicked a finger against Sam's ear, the sharp pain derailing Sam's thoughts as effectively as a gunshot. He turned and glared but Dean's warning look reminded Sam that he wasn't supposed to be doing things like looking off into the woods and letting his thoughts wander.

"No," Dean answered the earlier question. "Well, yes. But not here, or anywhere near here. You should be able to hang on for a couple of hours. Feel like you can manage?"

"I don't know. How fast does it get worse?"

Dean shrugged. "It's like any other hunger, depends on the person. If it's just a niggling kind of thing you're probably okay though. Let me know if your fangs drop or everything starts kind of tunneling down on you."

Sam thought he'd be demanding help a lot sooner than tunnel vision, but was willing to let it go for the moment. "You'd think after nine months of nothing I'd wake up ravenous."

Dean's expression seemed oddly flat for a moment, but then he shrugged again. "Hungry is as hungry does. You might find yourself over your head in a hurry when you're exposed to the good stuff."

"What do you mean 'exposed to the good stuff?'" Sam asked warily. "Where exactly are we going, Dean?"

There was nothing inscrutable about Dean's smile now. "To the land of milk and honey, Sam. Drunk coeds, rockin' house bands, and all the easy pickings your little heart could desire."

"No," Sam said flatly.

"Oh yeah. And you can shut up anytime now about it."

"You said I didn't have to feed from humans, Dean. You promised."

"You don't. But feeding from humans doesn't mean hurting them, and it definitely doesn't mean killing them. Feeding can be an all around mutually beneficial arrangement, I'm sure if you think back you can figure out how."

"That's not the point, De--"

"And," Dean raised his voice to cut Sam off. "It doesn't matter anyways. If you don't want to feed from humans, fine. Don't. But you are going to learn how to hunt, and you are going to learn at least the basics tonight. So that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow you don't become some kind of undead plague that has to be put down. Use it; don't use it -- that's your decision. But learning is non-optional. That part is my decision."

Sam's hands were angry fists. "This isn't fair, Dean. I've never done any of this before. I'm already hungry, and you're going to drag me into some place full of easy prey and… what? Expect me to make rational decisions? That's a trap, not a choice. Teach me how to hunt things that aren't human first, let me get used to all this. Let me get a grip on my senses, on what this hunger is going to feel like first."

"No," Dean said simply. "It's not animals you're going to be drawn too. You can live on them, but that's not what's going to pull your senses and fill your dreams. I don't care if you know how to stalk bunnies by starlight. You can get a stray dog in any alley. What you must learn is how not to kill people, and how not to leave tracks. And you're going to learn it now, or at least start learning it now, when I'm right here to hold your hand and keep everyone safe."

"Everyone?" Sam asked darkly.

"You, the donor, and our entire species, Sam. Everyone." Dean glanced over and rolled his eyes. "Stop sulking. If your moral fiber is really that inflexible, I'll do the feeding and you can drink from me. It's not going to really satisfy you, but it not like we didn't go through a few years of it already."

"That was when I didn't have a choice!" Sam protested. But it felt dishonest, almost forced. Sam knew he should be more worried that his biggest objection to Dean's plans was that he thought he should be objecting. The hunting itself sounded… interesting. Bad interesting. The word "monster" drifted through the back of Sam's mind, but it was a distant thought, and easily dismissed.

"You still don't," Dean said bluntly. "Cheer up, Sammy. This is how you don't kill people." He gave Sam a sidelong grin. "It’ll be fun."

 

~~~~~

 

"So when does the fun start?" Sam yelled, raising his voice to be heard over the surrounding din. His fingers were wrapped around Dean's hand so tightly he should have been crushing bone, but Dean's only response was a reassuring squeeze as he threaded his way through the crowd, towing Sam to some unknown destination across the tightly packed the room. Sam had been to Topeka a dozen unremarkable times in the past, but approaching it this time had been like entering a strange new world. One he wasn't sure he liked much. Dean had talked him through it, and like his clothes and the car, Sam had found that if he could be distracted from the strangeness of it for awhile, it would turn into background noise.

The parking lot of the club had been something else entirely. After Dean had practically hauled him out of the car, Sam had fallen to his knees on the gravel, hands clamped over his ears in a desperate effort to drown out the noise. Dean had been patient, and Dean had tried to distract him, but eventually Dean just grabbed Sam by the arm and started moving towards the two story building. To Sam, struggling to not struggle, it loomed like a lower circle of Hell. The tactic worked though, and by the time Dean dragged him through the main entrance and started making his way through the crowd, Sam's senses had adjusted enough that the environment was tolerable. The distraction of pressed bodies helped. Sam could feel the fluttering pulses of every one he brushed by, and they made him ache in deep places that were alien yet still felt as natural as breathing. He ached in some not so deep places too. The pressure in his mouth was a constant burn now. Sam made sure to keep his lips closed when he wasn't speaking.

Just in case.

Dean finally stopped, tugging Sam into a small, shadowed alcove with a ripped vinyl bench and a tiny table for two. A badly lit, well-traveled corridor ran nearby; back stairway, kitchens, and an emergency exit with the door propped open to the parking lot. Dean slid onto the bench and pulled Sam down beside him. Sam collapsed willingly, leaning heavily into Dean's side and burying his face in Dean's shoulder, letting the familiar scent and feel of Dean fill his senses and shove aside the questionable music, and other overwhelming sensory input from the club. The bass pounding through the building was almost enough to drown out even the beat of Dean's heart. That was entirely unacceptable. Sam wormed a hand up under Dean's t-shirt until he could rest his palm over the center of Dean's chest. Dean didn't resist, apparently entirely at ease in the chaotic din, and willing to let Sam do what he needed to feel comfortable.

Resting there Sam was almost content, with Dean filling his senses and the rest of the world as shut out as he could make it. Part of him would have been satisfied to lay pressed against Dean until the club finally shut down and everyone went away, but another, newer, part was tracking the movement around them with predatory interest. Sam didn't like it, and pressed in harder, willing himself to know only Dean.

"Any closer, Sam, and I'm going to have to buy shirts with more arm holes."

Sam muttered something unrepeatable, and then reluctantly let Dean peel him away until Sam was slouched back against the bench on his own.

"How's your control?" Dean asked.

Sam crossed his arms and looked out at the crowd. "I'm fine, Dean."

"Uh huh. How about you hold the table for us and I'll be right back?"

"Where are you going?" Sam asked, straightening with some alarm.

Dean flicked him a dismissive wave and slipped into the crowd.

Without Dean's immediate presence, Sam felt suddenly like he was floundering, The music was louder, the scents and sounds brighter, sharper, and the press of the crowd was winnowing into individuals instead of a mass. And some of those individuals were very, very appealing.

Sam reached out involuntarily to catch one girl's wrist as she drifted by, but she turned at the last moment and he grasped only air. Sam could never have said what she looked like, or the color of her hair, but he could pick her out of a line-up blindfolded in a storm by the delicate, rich flavor that wafted in the air around her.

Unnerved, Sam crossed his arms tightly to help resist temptation and closed his eyes, seeking Dean in the chaos of the building -- was almost shocked when he found him easily. In the crush of humanity, Dean was a shadow that ghosted through the herd, like a cool breeze in summer heat. Sam was so relieved to be able to track Dean that it took him a moment to realize that with his senses expanded, Dean wasn't the only oddness in the room. Other ripples in the grass, other predators on the prowl. Sam strained to pick them out with his eyes, but there was nothing he could see from his seat in the alcove that struck him as odd.

Odd for a wild Friday night in a college bar anyways.

"Ignore them," Dean suggested when he returned with a couple of beers. One he slid across to Sam, who took one sniff and knew there was absolutely no way any part of it was going in his mouth. He pushed the glass away and slid close enough to Dean that their thighs touched from hip to knee.

"What are they?"

Dean downed half his own beer and shrugged. "Monsters, lost souls, things that go bump in the night."

"What do you mean ignore them, then?' Sam hissed.

"This might not have sunk in yet, Sam," Dan said casually as he surveyed the crowd, "but we aren't the guardians of humanity. A lot of this lifestyle is live and let live, if you catch my drift. We keep our lesser cousins in check, and otherwise if it's not messing with us, we try not to mess with it. Professional courtesy you could say. We all keep to our own little circles, and that way we all get to coexist."

"So we just sit back and let them murder people."

Dean rolled his eyes. "That's your hunter training talking. Most things out there aren't actually that interested in killing, and a ton of them don't feed off humanity in any fashion. Sometimes it's just about companionship, and some easy conversation while drowning your sorrows belly up at a bar. If you want to appoint yourself the world's policeman, feel free. But I'm not going to do it, and you aren't going to be doing anything without me for awhile, so…" Dean kept talking, but Sam had zoned out past any comprehension. The woman who had been so enticing earlier was drifting close again, and all of Sam's nerves were alight. He started to scoot over to the edge of the bench, determined to at least see her this time, but Dean's hand clamped onto his knee, keeping Sam firmly in place. Sam felt a low vibration rumble in his throat and realized with distant horror that he was growling.

"Sam," Dean's voice was heavy with command. The hand tightened until Sam reluctantly met his eyes. "Not her," Dean said in a voice no ears but Sam's could have heard. "This is what I mean about learning. You have to look, and you have to see. If you let your instincts guide you without any thought involved, it's going to be a really short immortality. Here--" Dean shoved the beer in Sam's direction until Sam had to choice but to take it.

"I don't want--" Sam began.

"Don't drink it, smell it," Dan said impatiently.

Sam reluctantly lifted it towards his face, more because Dean's grip was threatening to break something in his leg than out of any sense of obedience. He inhaled deeply, then choked as the bitter hops and alcohol stung his nose and coated his tongue so heavily he might as well have taken a sip. But it drove the woman's scent right out of him and Sam found he could think again.

"She's a bad pick, Sam," Dean said more gently now that Sam was cooperating. "Sure, she's healthy and drug free and her blood sings like sweet candy, but look at her. Look at who she's with. Clean, well-dressed, and that guy she's hanging onto isn't some uninterested bystander. As a rule boyfriends tend to get excited when their girlfriends wander off with strange men. The kind of excited that's loud, and messy." A slight smile quirked Dean's lips. "You might go for that one day, sometimes the challenge is part of the thrill, but tonight it's too risky. Too many witnesses, too many ways it could blow up on you. You can't just feel, you have to think."

"Is this why you drink?" Sam asked quietly when he was sure he was back in control. Dean released his painful grip on Sam's leg and slid his arm companionably over Sam's shoulders instead.

"To start with,' Dean admitted, "and then I grew to appreciate the taste again." He grinned at Sam's involuntary look of horror. "You're too sensitive, remember? But alcohol's always good for clearing the head. We'll have to get you a flask to carry around, for awhile anyways. You'll learn other ways to control it, and it will be easier when everything isn't so new and harsh."

"If you weren't here--" Sam started.

"You wouldn't be here either," Dean interrupted before Sam could start down that road. "You seriously think there's any way you would have even approached this place if I hadn't dragged you in?"

Sam shook his head mutely.

"Right," Dan snorted. "You'd still be out mesmerized in the woods. Campers might be in danger, but not sorority chicks out slumming. I'm not going to let you hurt anyone. Try and chill out." With that Dean seemingly turned his attention back to the band and the shifting crowd that clogged the lower floor. He sipped his beer and kept his arm wrapped firmly over Sam's shoulders, but seemed little inclined to do anything else. Sam couldn't bring himself to try his own beer, but it proved effective for keeping his head clear and eventually he realized he was almost enjoying himself. The music was good, he wasn't feeling overloaded, and he had Dean in easy reach beside him. His jaw still ached and that dull throbbing at the base of his skull was worse, but those were manageable annoyances.

They'd been there almost two hours before Dean stirred again; Sam had been slumped against his chest for the last hour or so. A few people had done a double take at their closeness, but no one did more than raise an eyebrow and move on. The crowd was thinner now and the band had long given way to recorded music. It wasn't any easier on the ears, but with the clock close to four even the most enthusiastic dancers were starting to flag.

"See anyone you like?" Dean murmured against Sam's hair. A sharp thrill ran through Sam's body. Fear or excitement, it was hard to tell. Both made him nervous.

"People aren't food," Sam mumbled like a mantra, words he didn't really feel. The effort had to count for something though. He felt Dean press a gentle kiss to the crown of his head, then exhale heavily, stirring Sam's hair.

Dean pulled his arm back. "Sit up." Sam did, releasing Dean only reluctantly. "Let's go get a room."

"What about hunting?" Sam asked, confused.

Dean shrugged and slid out from behind the table. "You did well. Three hours in a buffet and no one's come down with anemia. Control's the foundation. Of yourself, of your senses, and of your instincts. For a first outing this went pretty well."

Sam rose and stood next to him, frowning. "You said we were going to hunt."

"We'll hunt tomorrow."

"Dean…"

"Do you trust me, Sam?"

"Yes."

If Dean noticed the hesitation, he didn't comment.

 

~~~~~

 

The motel was almost comforting in that it looked like almost every other derelict wreck Sam had spent most of his life in. Cracked concrete, burned out streetlights, peeling paint, and a receptionist that clearly couldn't care less if they lived or died right there in front of her. She raked them both with an assessing look when Dean asked about a room.

"For the night or by the hour?"

Her direct tone didn't make Sam's ears burn any less at the suggestion. Dean just grinned.

"Which way is cheaper?"

"For the night," Sam cut in hastily before she could respond, wondering which one of them she thought was the rented party.

Dean paid with cash, but then pressed the key into Sam's hand. "See if you can do this yourself."

"You expect it to be worse than the check-in?" Sam asked as they left the office.

"Motel rooms are full of all kinds of traps. Cleaning solutions, air fresheners, mementoes of the previous inhabitants."

"Mold," Sam added, resigned.

Dean snorted. "I'd be impressed if you even noticed mold over the industrial bleach and fake pine scent. Maybe it'll be Odoban this time. That crap is especially obnoxious." He motioned Sam away as if shooing chicken. "Go find out."

"What are you going to do?"

"I've got a phone call to make. Local buddy of mine."

"What for?"

"Old times' sake, are you still standing here?"

Sam rolled his eyes, but took the hint and unlocked the door.

It really wasn't as bad as he'd been braced for. That first blast of air had been a rush of misery, but after choking down a few deep lungfuls of it he'd found himself able to tune most of the acrid stench out. The air still burned his nose, and the noise from the plumbing and the surrounding rooms was tedious, but if Dean would come inside Sam thought he would be able to make it until morning.

Morning.

Something else occurred to Sam.

"How long are we staying here?" Sam asked when Dean finally entered. Dean looked pleased to find Sam sitting easily on the edge of one of the double beds.

"Check out is at noon."

"Sun's pretty high then," Sam said slowly.

Dean tossed a duffle bag onto the battered dressed. "Worried about it?"

"Shouldn't I be? Before I even turned the sunlight didn't do me any favors. I've lived most of the last decade in the dark," he added, unable to keep all the bitterness out of his voice.

Dean tossed his cell phone on the nightstand and stretched with a yawn. "Not anymore. The demon blood fucked you up, but that's the past. You're as free as you want to be now."

"As long as I stay in Kansas," Sam said.

"For awhile," Dean said wryly. "But that's up to you too. We can work to expand your boundaries as fast as you like. I'm going to insist on a few other lessons up front first, but otherwise it's your call."

Sam started to respond, but was startled silent by a sudden knocking on the door.

"Who is that?" he demanded.

"Take-out." Dean twisted the handle and opened the door.

The woman who walked in had dark loose hair, vivid green eyes, and looked to be just over the wrong side of forty. She took the room in with a sweeping glance, then grinned and claimed Dean's mouth in a kiss that had all of Sam's possessive instincts screaming. He wasn't growling though, so there was some control right there. It wasn't the kiss that had Sam backing into the wall though; it was her scent, as clean and pure as the woman at the club's had been. But closer, and here, and potentially… available.

"Who's this?" Sam asked tightly.

"A friend," Dean said casually when the woman released him.

"What kind of friend?" Sam ground out.

"A discreet one," the woman answered for herself. "I'm Pamela. You must be Sam."

Sam ignored her; he couldn't even stand to look at her. He could feel her heartbeat too now, and taste her pulse in his mouth. She had to leave. Immediately. "Why is she here, Dean?"

"She's here because she's an old friend, and because you have an unnatural aversion to the normal order of things. Pam doesn't mind a little blood loss and you can learn control with her as well as from anyone else. We'll work on stalking another night."

"Seriously?" Sam asked incredulously. He'd donated blood to Dean for over a decade himself, but there had been coercion, and then self interest, with little space between the two.

Pam shrugged. "Not if it's in a good cause. Or for the right incentive." Her flirty smile turned sharp. "Dean's always been good at the incentive part."

Sam felt hypnotized by her voice, her presence. It took all he had to register one last protest.

"Dean--"

"Come here," Dean ordered quietly. Sam was helpless to obey. He didn't remember crossing the room, or kneeling by the bed she sat on. He felt Dean's fingers twist into his hair in an unbreakable grip that kept Sam trapped in place while over his head Dean spoke quietly to Pamela with words Sam couldn't quite make out. Sam's entire world was narrowing down to the faint blue tracery he could pick out in the arm lying exposed across her knee. Dean had said something about tunneling vision earlier…

The grip in his hair eased and then Dean was kneeling beside him. Dean took Pam's arm in his own grip and gave Sam a warning look, but Sam was beyond that kind of warning.

"Stop teasing him, Dean," Pam said impatiently from somewhere far away, and then the bounty itself was pressed to Sam's mouth. The burning ache in his jaw was gone; Sam bit easily into the delicate skin and wrapped his lips around the wound, then lost his mind as he tumbled headlong into sensation. He had thought feeding from Dean as a human had been something incredible, but there were no words that described the rich, vivid liquor than set all of his nerves alight and made universes of possibility explode in his mind. Dean's blood had been a current of potential, a doorway to possibility. Pam's blood was all of that potential and possibly given life, and breath, and color. Sam thought could feel it unspooling into his very DNA, grafting power and awareness on levels Sam had never even contemplated before.

Time held no meaning in the space he existed in, Pamela's heartbeat was a steady rhythm in the background, and Sam thought he had never loved anyone else quite so much as he loved her right then in that moment.

Even, the thought bubbled up from somewhere, if he loved her to death.

As lost as he was, Sam still hesitated at that, and then snarled as irresistible fingers twisted again in his hair and wrenched his head back.

"I said enough, Sam!" Dean made no effort at gentleness as he broke Sam's hold on Pam's wrist, then hauled Sam up from the floor and threw him onto the opposite bed. Sam was back on his feet in a heartbeat. He lunged at Dean, but Dean had expected it and shoved Sam back onto the mattress, this time following him down, pinning Sam beneath him on the rough polyester comforter. Sam struggled silently until Dean pressed their mouths together and scraped his tongue deliberately against Sam's fangs. Sam's mouth filled with blood and he swallowed greedily.

It wasn't the liquid fire of Pamela's, but it was Dean's, and that was magic enough for Sam. His world collapsed inwards until it was only the places they touched. It wasn't like he remembered between them, it was more. So much more…

Pamela, and the world around them, ceased to hold any meaning. Sam pulled at cloth until not even air molecules separated him from his creator. He welded them together at every inch he could, then chased the bright edge of union over the field of Dean's flesh until it rolled through their bodies. Then, exhausted and tired of constant struggle, Sam let Dean's gentle instruction sweep him to a dark, quiet place of rest.

 

~~~~~

 

"Sorry," Dean said, voice rough as he sat up and gave their guest an apologetic look. Pam grinned at him from her perch on the opposite bed, a damp washcloth pressed firmly against the wound in her wrist and a certain familiar twinkle in her eyes.

"Don't be, that was the best show I've seen this year and this was the best seat in the house. Definitely worth the price of admission. If you can, next time maybe get him laying the right way instead of across. More of an angle on the action that way."

"You could have moved," Dean said pointedly.

Pamela shrugged and peeled the washcloth back to examine the wound. "I was afraid I might distract him from whatever spell you were weaving. Here," she tossed the bloodied washcloth to Dean. "Bleeding stopped; you can clean up a little with that if you don't mind the blood."

Dean tossed the washcloth in the sink and dampened a hand towel. He gave Sam a quick wipe down and tucked him under the blankets, then cleaned himself. "No spell, just good old fashion bloodlust, regular lust, and a heavy dose of the master bond. He should sleep until mid-morning or so. You okay?"

"A little dizzy," Pam admitted. "Nothing I'm worried about."

"You shouldn’t drive like that."

"I'm not, I took a taxi."

Dean quirked a smile. "Smart lady."

"Experienced at least, not sure smart has a lot to do with being in this room. How green is he?" She nodded towards Sam.

"First night." Dean shrugged and pulled his jeans back on from where they'd ended up kicked into the floor. Sam had ripped the top two buttons off in his enthusiasm, but the rest of the fly kept them on well enough.

"The first first night?" Pam asked, eyes widening with alarm.

"He dug himself out about two hours after sunset."

"Jesus, Dean! He could have killed me."

"Any one of us could always kill you," Dean said indifferently.

"That's not what I'm talking about and you know it," Pam snapped.

Dean nodded, stifling a yawn; it had been a long night for him too, but taking it out on Pam by ignoring her concerns wasn't fair. "The killing was earlier, when he woke up. This was just… appetite suppressant. I want to keep his hunger under control until he gets some control. He's a little sensitive about some things still. It's not a problem, but I don't think it's going to hurt him to stay ignorant about certain realities until he's got his feet more firmly on the ground."

"Sensitive about what? Feeding?"

"From humans anyway."

"I'd think instinct would take care of that."

"Oh, it would," Dean said with grim amusement. "There's nothing wrong with his instincts. The job he did on your arm should tell you that much. But I don't know how much of Sam would survive that for long, and I'm kind of attached to him. He'll come around in time, and until then…" Dean shrugged. "He can feed from me or friendly neighborhood donors like you. And maybe that's the way it will always be for him. It's a different world than the one I grew up in. I didn't lie to him, Pam. He doesn't have to feed from humans."

"Tonight he did. I was there when Giselle rose, Dean," Pamela said quietly. "I know what your kind is like the first night. How's your overly-sensitive, people-friendly fledgling handling that?"

Dean hesitated, but Pam knew the secret, and treating it like one might lead to an indiscrete comment later on. "He doesn't remember," Dean finally admitted.

"What?" Pam asked blankly.

Dean cast a wary look at the fledgling in question, but Sam was still boneless in sleep, pale and still against the white sheets. "You remember Giselle. We're mindless when we break ground, the instinct to feed is our entire world and not even the master bond can stifle it, though it can steer it a little if the master is clever about what they do."

"'Steering' is what you call that."

Dean sat down on the edge of the bed where Sam slept, he traced a finger gently over Sam's lips, brushed it against a sharp cheekbone. He remembered only hours earlier when that face had been a mask of blood and madness, fingers hooked into claws and clotted with gore and bits of flesh. Nothing there then of Sam, only the monster that he feared to be. In time, Sam would have to face even that. At its core, the essence of control was self-knowledge, and Sam's self had whole new dimensions the human version had never known. But those were trouble for another day. Another year. Another decade. They had time now.

All the time in the world.

"I acquired a couple of monsters of the human variety and stored them conveniently for the occasion. Some nice, well-forested privacy and a convenient body of water was all we needed to get the necessary over with. I buried what was left beneath the pines. He came back to himself after most of the clean-up was done. Foundation blood when we first rise isn't optional, Pamela. Whatever else we are, blood is life. Aware or not, he was going to kill people."

"And he didn't have any questions about this mysterious memory gap?" Pam asked skeptically.

"Why would he?" Dean shrugged. "He had no idea what time he clawed his way free. No knowledge of missing time. He didn't even know where he was buried. I don't think he wants to either."

"Convenient."

"Isn't it." Dean's smile was sharp and dangerous, with just a hint of fang. Pam's problem was that she lacked all common sense where Dean and his kind were concerned and always had. The sight hit her low in the belly. Dean sensed the change in her mood and his smile relaxed into something more genuine. "You've lost too much blood tonight."

"I'm taking a cab, I can lose a little more," she insisted, a breathless edge to her voice.

"No, I think I'll need you again soon. Any more tonight and your recovery could take weeks."

"Junior needs a lighter touch," she retorted tartly.

"He’ll be better next time," Dean promised. "I'll feed him first if I have to."

"Will it come with another show?"

Dean gave his sleeping fledgling an amused look. "That might take some coaxing."

Pam stood up and reached for her purse. "I've got faith in your skills." She eyed the door reluctantly.

"Let me call your cab for you." Dean reached for his phone but Pam waved him off.

"No need, I'm going to wait out front and call from there."

"Pam--" Dean started. It wasn't exactly the most reputable part of town.

She cut him off. "I've got mace and a handful of salt in my bag, Dean. And a powerful need to do some chain smoking. Something I don't think the newest member of your club will appreciate when he wakes up."

Dean didn't bother to tell her that to him and Sam, the room already reeked with the ghosts of a thousand cigarettes past. He could see the need for distance in her and accepted her decision.

"Be careful," Dean said quietly as she stepped out onto the uneven concrete sidewalk. Pam's gaze swept over Sam's sleeping form before meeting Dean's eyes.

"You too," she said meaningfully.

Dean slid down and sat against the door, waiting and listening until the cab pulled up and whisked Pamela away. When she was gone, he checked the locks, turned off the lights, and slid between the cool sheets until he could wrap himself around Sam as he'd ached to for the past too many months. He nuzzled under Sam's jaw until he found just the right spot and then bit down. Sam made a small sound in his sleep, almost needy as he shifted to give Dean better access. The blood that welled up was lazy and dark, heavy with portent and flavored like berries to Dean's tongue. He took only a mouthful, wary of sapping Sam's strength in these early days when even a small amount of blood might make the difference between things Sam could accept and things he couldn't. Dean knew time and changing perspectives would cause that line to slide, but deep moral crisis's were bad for attention, and for the next year or so he needed all of Sam's.

There was no hint of sulfur. Nothing that marked Sam as anything other than Dean's.

Forever.

Victory was almost as sweet as Sam's blood.

Dean smiled fiercely against Sam's shoulder, closed his eyes, and dreamed of eternity.

 

END

Other Stories In This 'Verse:

In Arcadia Ego
The Crossroads of Eden
In the Low Places