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Breathe

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Dean scoured the room he was in one more time, hoping to find his clothes.  Or any clothes.  Hell, even a towel would do.

Other than a some fine grit that collected on the soles of his feet, there was nothing to cover his nakedness.

Shit .

He eased out into the hallway, automatically crouching, making himself small.  

Over the sound of his own careful breaths and his pulse pounding in his ears, Dean began to make out other noises: the creaks and groans of an unoccupied building lamenting its fate; the surreptitious skittering of rodent feet.  

The lighting at each end of the corridor was equally dim. The dust on the floor was scuffed randomly on both sides as well.  He scanned both halves, and with nothing else to go on, chose the one with the least amount of debris littering the ground.

Might as well try to avoid cutting my damned feet while I’m at it.

He put his ear to each door that he came to before trying the handle.  The first was a storeroom, shelves mostly empty, with nothing on them that he could use.  The second was stocked with toilet paper and cleaning supplies, and he made note of it in case he needed to improvise some sort of explosive.  The third was a locker room, and he shook out a pair of gray coveralls, checking carefully for spiders or worse before sliding them on over his bare skin.

He hoped that whoever had worn them last had at least worn underwear beneath them.

Finding work boots in his size would have been amazing, but Winchesters never have that kind of luck.  He did locate some cumbersome rubber things that were too large, but better than nothing.

The one flashlight he came across didn’t work.  He found a pipe wrench with a nice heft to it, and kept that.

The next door he came to led to a stairwell.  It led down as well as up.

Dad said Martin is missing.  Last time I came across this vamp, it had set up an underground fortress in the basement of a hotel.

Down it is.

The stairwell opened onto a boiler room.  The smell of decomposition hit him immediately, and he tucked his nose into the lapel of his coveralls.  I hope that’s not you, Martin.

He moved around the perimeter of the room, struggling to step quietly in his borrowed footwear.

The odor faded the farther he got from the first boiler.

He reached a door and peeked out quickly, drawing his head back almost immediately to process what he’d seen.

It had been a large room, again with little light penetrating from outside, boxy structures scattered around.

He completed his search of the boiler room, locating neither the source of the necrotic odor nor any trace of Martin.

He slipped into the second room, wrench up and ready.

The first boxy structure he came to looked like a metal storage pod that had been converted into a mobile office.  He had seen similar objects on construction sites, always up on a trailer, and knew them as the place to go to when you needed to question a foreman.

He put his back against the cold metal, reaching for the door  handle.

Locked.

Each window was covered in some sort of metal mesh, the glass painted black.

Something told him it was occupied.  Friendly or unfriendly, he couldn’t tell.

He moved on to the next one.  This one opened easily, and he was able to confirm his initial guess as to the purpose of the box: it was a portable office.  He searched the desk, hoping for scissors or a letter opener which may or may  not have contained any real silver, but was at least somewhat sharp.   Once again, he was disappointed.  A pair of paperclips went into his pocket, useful for picking locks, even if they wouldn't remove a vampire's head.

The rest of the room was taken up with stacked wheelbarrows and bags of concrete mix, a pile of shovels and rakes, and a box of brand new  hard hats.

He went back to the first container.

Since there was no way to get into it easily, and picking the lock would make enough noise in this silence to give him away, he decided to opt for expediency.

The pipe wrench took the entire doorknob off with one blow, and a well-placed kick threw the door back, wrenching the deadbolt from the wooden frame.

He flattened himself to the wall beside the now-open door, waiting.

He couldn’t make out any of the words being whispered, but the voices sounded anxious, strained.  Not like blood-thirsty vampires or calculating succubi.

He crossed to the other side, glancing in quickly as he moved.

There  was nothing to see, and nothing came at him.

He risked ducking his head in, pausing only long enough to sweep from left to right with a trained gaze before plastering himself to the wall once more, allowing the images to form in his brain.  

Nothing to the right.

Pale, frightened faces to the left.  Four or five.  Human.  Or at least, they looked  human.

He entered in a dive roll, coming up with his back against the far wall, crouched low, wrench high.

Muffled screams and shifting bodies greeted him, but they were trying to get away, not coming towards him.

He looked more carefully, wishing he had some sort of light.

Three men, two women.  All dirty, clothes ragged.  All frightened.

“Hey,” he began, and one of the women squealed.  “My name is Dean Winchester.  I was...I was kidnapped and brought here, to a room upstairs, but I got away.”  He waited, but they continued to stare, and he wondered if they spoke English.  “What about you guys?  Were you locked in, or locking something out?”

“V-vampires,” one of the men whispered.  He stretched out his arm.  Two dark, jagged-edged circles were visible against his pale skin.

“Just one?”

The bitten man shook his head.  “Three.  The big one is the leader. The other two are n-new.”

“Did they feed on all of you?”

He watched as each one nodded.   Shit .

“They killed some,” a woman offered, voice hoarse, either from screaming or disuse.  

Explains the smell in the boiler room.   “Did you see a man named Martin?”

They had not.

“I don’t suppose any of you has a cell phone?”

They did not.

“Alright.  We need to get you guys out of here, okay?  We’ll get you somewhere safe, and I’ll come back and look for Martin.”  Five pair of wide eyes stared at him, offering nothing.  Great.  This is only marginally better than leading a bunch of kindergartners from a burning building.  How the hell do I get myself into these messes?

“Just do exactly what I say right when I say it, okay?”  They nodded collectively, and he sighed.  “Alright.  Follow me.”


Dean had to admit, the extraction went much more smoothly than he had expected it to.  The people were completely silent, followed him closely but in single file, and never questioned a thing.

It was kind of creepy, truth be told.

They flattened against the side of the building at his command, and Dean surveyed the scene.  

They appeared to be on the compound of some sort of manufacturing plant, buildings spread out around a large central parking area.

Train tracks ran along one edge of the property, and a blue light glowed on a pole that Dean knew marked an emergency call box.  He pointed it out to the first man in line, the one that had told Dean about the vampires.  “See the blue light?”  He waited for the man’s nod.  “There’s an emergency call box under it.  I want you all to go over there, make the call, then crouch down and stay out of site until help comes.  Okay?”

“Okay.”

“I’m going back in to look for Martin.  Go.”

He watched the group scurry off, bodies low, eyes darting.  They reminded him of sewer rats, and he shuddered, shaking off the image.

 

They had just disappeared into the shadows on the far side of the parking lot when a vehicle swept into the lot, headlights pinning Dean to the wall.

He ducked back through the door, staying low, hoping he'd draw enough attention to keep the feeders from being noticed, knowing that it was highly unlikely.  Doesn't have to be bad news, Dean tried to reassure himself.  Could be security guards or police, just coming to check on the place.

The lights went out just before two car doors slammed.

“There’s no point in trying to hide, you know,” a laconic voice called out.  “We can smell you.  Rich, living blood, bursting with flavor.”

Shit.  A monkey wrench won’t do jack to a vampire, and there are two of them.  Plus I still need to find Martin.  

Son of a bitch.

Dean figured his best chance at hiding from the vamps was to find something that smelled stronger than he did and get lost in it.

He headed for the stairs.

 

The stench seemed strongest around one of the boilers and Dean clambered up it, gaining the top just in time to see a tall figure enter from the stairwell.

He flattened himself against the steel structure, suppressing a gag.  The smell was horrific.

“Here, little human!  Come out, come out, wherever you are!”  the vampire called in a sing-song voice.  “I’ll give you some candy!”  He laughed at his own wit.

A second voice joined the first.  “Why don’t we just lock it in here and wait until it gets hungry or tries to leave?  Be a lot easier than chasing the damned thing around.”

“Because chasing them down is what makes it fun!  And the adrenaline makes their blood so sweet.”

“Whatever.”

“C’mon, little brother!  You’re always such a spoil-sport!”

Must be a little brother thing, Dean thought.

The blood suckers were right beneath him.

“Well, we’ve got work to do, and I don’t even smell it anymore.  Let’s just lock it in, see what the master wants us to do with this one, and then come back for it.”

“Work, work, work.  You are so freakin’ lame.”

“You carry him, then, dumbass!  He’s getting heavy!”

A sound that could only have been a limp body hitting concrete reached Dean, followed by a low moan.

“Just hang here a sec and watch the door.  I’ll look around, see if I can suss the other thing out, then come back here.  If I don’t find the other one, I’ll carry this guy the rest of the way.  Deal?”

“Yeah, sure.  Whatever.  Just hurry it up.  I’m getting hungry.”

Dean could hear the smile in the older vamp’s voice.  “Hopefully I can rustle us up a snack.  Hang on.”

 

Dean was trying to decide whether or not it made sense to try to take out the vamp below him before the other one came back when something heavy landed beside him, and a familiar voice shouted, “Gotcha!” triumphantly.

The hunter kicked as he rolled, sweeping the older vampire’s legs out from under it, bringing the pipe wrench down on its head with a sickening crunch.  A thin coil of wire rested on the boiler near him, and Dean wrapped it around the vamp’s neck twice, securing it to a handle near the edge of the boiler before kicking the stunned creature over the side.

As he’d hoped, the vamp’s body weight coupled with the narrow diameter of the wire acted as a guillotine, effectively removing the creature’s head.  

 

Needing every advantage he could get, Dean didn’t hesitate: he dropped down onto the remaining vampire, landing on it just after the first vamp’s body hit the ground with a bloody thump, followed closely by its dismembered head.  

The creature beneath him twisted, and Dean brought the wrench down repeatedly, riding the thing like a it was a mechanical bull, both combatants screaming in fear-fueled rage, equally desperate for survival.

Although it wasn’t exactly a decapitation, bludgeoning the vampire’s brain into an unidentifiable pulp was apparently the equivalent, because eventually the thing stopped moving.

Dean sat back on his heels, panting, and looked for a clean place on his sleeve to wipe the blood off of his face.

He ended up having to use the vampire’s shirt instead.

He staggered to his feet, still shaking with the flood of adrenaline in his system, and moved to the man that the younger vampire had been guarding.

 

It was Martin.


Dean dropped to his knees, hands immediately roaming over the man, triaging his injuries.  “Martin.  Can you hear me?  It’s Dean.  Dean Winchester.”

The man groaned.

Dean was compiling a list of suspected problems.  Concussion.  Bite wounds on his arms and neck, so significant blood loss.  Rope burns around both wrists; left looks broken.  He slid his hands underneath the other man’s shirt.  Busted ribs, no surprise.  He slid his palms down each leg.  Both knees are fucked.  “Jesus, Martin.  What the hell did they do to you?”

The only answer was another moan.

Dean turned from the other man, patting down both dead vamps, looking for a cell phone and coming up empty.

Shit.

“Martin.” He had returned to his fellow hunter’s side, and patted his cheek lightly.  “C’mon, buddy.  You in there?  Martin!”

One eye opened; the other was swollen shut.  “D-Dean?”  

“Yeah, it’s me.  You’re gonna be okay, but I need to get you out of here.”  He glanced around, trying to remember if he’d seen anything that could be used to make a litter.  “Your knees are a mess.  I’m guessing you can’t walk?”

The beaten man shook his head.  “They broke ‘em.”

“Jesus.  Look, I’m going to grab some stuff, put a litter together, but I’m probably going to have to carry you up the stairs.  Are your back and neck okay?”

“Yeah.  Shoulder’s out.”

“Shit.  Which one?”

“Both.”

“Fuck.”  That’ll make getting him into a fireman’s carry a real bitch.  “Okay.  I’ll see what I can do.  Right back, buddy.  Hang tight.”

 

He returned with an armful of rakes and a coil of rope.  He looked over the collection of clothing available -- his coveralls, what the two vamps had on, Martin’s clothes -- and sighed, realizing that the coveralls would make the most effective sling for a hunter as tall as Martin.

He grimaced as he stripped the jeans off of the least bloody of the two vampires, relieved to find that this one, at least, did not go commando.  “Can’t believe I’m doing this,” but he shed the coveralls and tugged on the vampire’s pants.  “Makes my skin crawl.”

He threaded one rake handle through the arm of the coveralls, a second through the leg on the same side and lashed them together using laces stolen from a vampire’s boot.  He repeated that on the other side, then nestled one side against Martin’s back.  “I’m going to roll you onto a homemade stretcher, okay?  Hang tight.”

Martin didn’t make a sound as he was moved, and Dean pressed his fingers against the man’s carotid artery.  “Weak, but there.  Stay with me, Marty.  We’re gettin’ you some help.  Don’t give up now.”

He removed the rake heads from the foot ends of the improvised stretcher and started pulling his fellow hunter to safety.

 

He made it into the stairwell and set the end of the litter down, trying to figure out his next move.  The stairs took a turn, as most did, and he could look straight up to the landing he needed to get Martin to.

He jogged up to the first landing on the second floor, threading the rope around the railing, then dropping it to land beside the injured man.  He trotted back down, gripping the dangling rope and hanging on it, testing it against his weight.

It held, as did the old railing.

He spent more time than he liked getting the ropes around the litter and its occupant.  “Okay, buddy.  Going up.  Don’t fight it.”

He went back to the first floor landing, gripping the end of the rope that he’d left free, using the section above him as a pulley.

Dean winced every time the unconscious hunter collided with the stairs on the way up, but he reasoned that since Martin wasn’t responding, it had to be less painful than a fireman’s carry would have been.

He was covered in sweat by the time he tied wrapped the rope around his forearm, swung the litter over the railing, then unwound the rope and lowered the improvised stretcher to the ground.  

He cursed the rope as he fumbled to remove it, knowing that the more time he spent in one place, the more likely they were to face another attack.

His hands were shaking when he finished, and he lifted the ends of the litter, anxious to get away from that part of the building.

 

They’d made it halfway across the edge of the parking lot, Dean doing his best to remain in deep shadow, when three cars came screaming down the drive.

With nowhere to go and no time to get there, he could do nothing more than bolt towards the cars, hoping to prevent them from discovering the helpless Martin, lying senseless and bleeding in the weeds.

The lead vehicle skidded to a stop, graveling pinging off of the undercarriage.

The door opened.

 

“Dean?”

 

It was his father.