It happened again near the end. Dean's hands were slippery with blood, his breath was burning in his lungs and there was sweat dripping in his eyes. And there was no way in hell he was letting the last one get away.
It wasn't a long chase. With the fire on the floor above, and three arrows in its chest, the vampire was freaked and slowed enough for Dean to catch up easily. He kicked it in the back of the knee, forcing it down and into a better position for a strike.
Which was when it happened. Again. Like last time, everything around Dean froze, leaving him in a pool of silence. He could feel every notch and ragged edge on the handle of the machete, and the smell of smoke filled his nostrils. In front of him, he could still see the vampire, trying to get one foot to the floor to let it get up and away.
But between Dean and his quarry was someone else. A large figure, at least a foot taller than last time, and broad with it. It stood in Dean's way, not quite blocking his view. Dean shook his head.
"This is not the idea," he said, his voice not much more than a growl. "You know that."
The figure stared at him, impassive. Behind it, Dean could see the vampire better now, and- Oh hell. The thing was barely a kid. Not much more than fourteen, its - his - face caught in an expression of sheer terror. All the vamps here had been like that, running and scattering instead of standing and fighting. It had been weird, Dean had known that from the start.
He hadn't let it stop him though. They were just monsters.
The figure still stood there, although it had crossed its arms.
"What do you expect me to do?" Dean was almost shouting, although the noise of the collapsing building was far away now. "You're not supposed to do this."
Damn Dad and his damn protection spell. Dean should have known it was a bad idea from the start. A little bit of extra luck would have been awesome. Protection from possession? Brilliant. But he didn't need protecting from himself.
Still in the weird, dreamlike silence, the kneeling vampire turned its face towards Dean. There were tear-tracks down its face, cutting through the soot from the fire.
Above it, the figure still stared down at Dean.
"Dammit, Dad," Dean muttered, trying not to meet the figure's eyes. "What did you do to me?" He'd seen what a nest of vampires could do when it went unchecked, and they were on the edge of a small town here. If he hadn't caught wind from a friend of a sister of a friend of a Hunter acquaintance, he never would have come. He'd promised himself he'd make the town safe.
And like his father, he kept his promises.
Shifting his grip on the machete, he lifted it and swung it forwards, deliberately taking it through the standing figure before striking the vampire.
When it was done, when the house had finished smouldering and he was sure nothing was going to walk away, he let himself breathe properly again. As he walked away, he didn't need to look back to know that he was still being watched. At least, he told himself, trying to rub the smoke out of his watering eyes, he'd made it quick.