“Wow, Bobby, you sure know how to pick’em.” Dean took another swig of beer and looked across the table at Castiel, phone pressed to his ear. “You sure he’s gonna be here?”
Castiel nodded in perfect sync with Bobby replying, “Positive.”
Dean sighed, resigned to his fate. He hated hunter auctions—monsters, monsters everywhere, and not a one to kill—but if the information was good, he didn’t have much of a choice.
Bobby’s information was always good.
“I guess if you say the special snowflake is here, he’s here.”
“‘Course he’s there. Now get him and get back here in one piece. Idjits.”
The line went dead, and Dean snapped his phone shut, taking another drink. He sat back and looked across the dimly lit bar to the stage. There was a female vampire on display, and while she was undeniably hot, Dean only curled a lip in disgust and put his focus back on the table.
“Dean,” Castiel started, his tone halting and ever-confused. “The Boy with the Demon Blood will in no way resemble snow. He will, for all intents and purposes, appear human.”
Dean threw his eyes into an upward roll. “It’s just a saying, Cas.”
Castiel tilted his head, still befuddled, but he let it go and addressed another point of logical discord. “Why do these auctions exist at all? If these monsters were successfully hunted, why aren’t they dead?”
Dean shrugged his shoulders, watching with mild interest as a male werewolf was put on the block. “Everybody has a different reason. Improving the hunting process is the big one. You know, testing lore and finding out what’s accurate, experimenting with new methods of killing or trapping, stuff like that. Some need monster parts for spells and stuff, some sell the parts to make extra money, some need psychic-demon-blood babies to help them stop the apocalypse… everyone has their kink.”
Castiel frowned, and despite being responsive and fully engaged in their conversation, his eyes began to track the activity on stage. “The Boy won’t be a baby anymore, and we are not having sexual relations with him.”
Dean deadpanned. “You don’t say.”
Castiel opened his mouth but stopped short, head cocking slightly as he examined the auction block. “He hasn’t been brought out, but I can sense him.” His head tilted a little more. “His presence distorted, but if I’m able to sense him through the wards and sigils, he must be very close.”
Dean looked up at the auction block, but it was just another vampire, and she was switching out with a wraith. Beyond that, a black curtain, and Dean couldn’t see much else. Most of the lights had been turned down low, and the colored accent lights, neon signs, and moving bidders only added to the visual clutter.
“You sure, Cas?”
Castiel looked at him an arched a brow, clearly affronted.
Dean held up his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay, you’re sure.”
Immediately, Castiel’s eyes were back on the block where, supposedly, their target would soon appear. “If you are outbid, be prepared to run. I’ll obtain the abomination by force if necessary.”
Dean snorted and took another drink of his beer, frowning at the mild warmth spreading through him. Whew. Moving a little too fast there, Hoss. Normally, he would embrace the buzz, but he wasn’t exactly doing a ‘sobriety is optional’ kind of job.
“How about you just snatch him now and save my wallet?”
“Many reasons, the most prevalent being that we agreed it’s wise to attract as little attention as possible; using angelic abilities to steal a psychic would attract a lot of attention.” Castiel had no sarcasm in his voice when he replied, no sense of irony.
Dean groaned. It’s gonna be a long night.
“There.” Castiel leaned forward slightly, eyes locked on their target.
Dean did a doubletake, his face twisting with an odd combination of shock, confusion, and incredulousness. Is that a dude or a sasquatch?
“Neither. It’s the Boy.”
Dean cast a brief glare across the table. “Cas, we’ve talked about this. Personal space includes personal headspace. Keep your wavelengths to yourself, Mr. Celestial Intent.”
Castiel didn’t even look at him. “Right.” He squinted, suspicion tightening his muscles. “Why hasn’t the bidding started?”
“They’re going over details, describing the monster and what it can do.” Dean paused, frowning as something occurred to him. “Did you seriously spend all that time zeroed in on the auction and not pay attention to what was actually happening?”
Castiel didn’t reply, preoccupied by their target.
“Oh, for—” Dean waved it off and took a sip of his drink, turning his own attention to the legendary vessel, knowing he would pick up on things Castiel couldn’t.
Dean, unlike most of the hunters in the building, didn’t need to hear what the auctioneers had to say; body language gave him everything he needed.
Demon Boy stood with his head down, broken and subservient; posture stiff, stressed; shoulders hunched, afraid; stance wide, independent enough to fight when threatened; slow and steady breathing, familiar with the auction process and bright lights and animal-on-display feeling; scars in various stages of healing, well acquainted with a good, old-fashioned beatdown.
Still, Dean gleaned a few helpful details from the spoken information. If Demon Boy had a name, it wasn’t given, and nothing was said about when, where, and how he was obtained, but they said he was twenty-six with frequent visions he couldn’t control. He also had the ability to—and this seemed to surprise even Castiel—exorcise and kill demons with his mind.
Dean cursed, knowing something like that would drive the price sky high, and he opened his mouth to tell Castiel to get ready for a psychic-napping; however, he was interrupted by the auctioneer explaining that Demon Boy had to drink demon blood to maintain the extra abilities.
“Uh, Cas?” Dean leaned across the table, watching the block closely. “That’s gonna drive the price down, which is great, but… what? I thought you said he had demon blood in his veins, not his diet.”
Castiel didn’t look away from the spectacle, examining Demon Boy like a bug under a microscope. “It was always assumed that one would lead to the other, but we couldn’t be sure.”
Dean glared but tried to focus on the task at hand as the bidding started, one hand briefly going up to indicate his placement. He watched the auctioneer point to a few different corners of the crowd, but he didn’t place another bid right away.
Dean put a finger to Castiel’s lips, which was misconstrued as another bid, but Dean just rolled with it. He watched the steadily increasing bids knock potential buyers out one by one, waiting for the infamous ‘going once’ to lift his hand again.
“I take it you are utilizing some kind of—”
Dean slapped a hand over Castiel’s mouth, raising the other even though the initial movement would likely be interpreted as a bid anyway. We’re getting close to my limit. He bid again even as he had the thought. It’s so stupid. It’s not like the money will ever get used. Dean bid again and tried to clear his thoughts. No, it will. It will get used.
Dean had to believe that. He had to believe it like he believed his dad was alive when everyone else said he wasn’t. He had to believe the money would someday be used exactly as his parents intended when they first made the account.
Dean had to believe he was going to find Sam someday. Because he was—he was—and he wanted the college fund to be there when he did. He wanted every dollar they had slowly, painstakingly collected over the years to matter. He wanted to hold out a receipt of the balance, look his long-lost brother in the eye, and say, ‘Dad got me a Scooby-Doo lunchbox for my fifth birthday, and every day, we put a dollar in it. Every year on your birthday, Dad put in a fifty, and then another one every Christmas. Every time we wasted a monster, we put in an extra dollar, because Dad said every hunt brought us one step closer to a future where you would need that money and be here to spend it. I know I wasn’t there for you like a big brother is supposed to be, but you need to know not a day went by that we didn’t think about you.’
Dean had been rehearsing that speech for more than two decades; it was a goal—a dream, even—that kept him going when he wanted to give up. Needless to say, it was odd when, with those thoughts in mind, Dean continued to bid past his limit.
But Dean had noticed the way the counterbids came slower, and he knew his opponent was close to hitting a monetary limit, not a psychological one they could push past with the right motivation. Tactically, he was doing the smart thing, but it still stung every time he lifted his hand.
Castiel mumbled something behind Dean’s hand.
Dean grabbed his number and put it in the air, raising the bid for what he knew would be the last time. Yet another skill Dad taught me coming in handy when I never thought it would.
“Sold, to the gentleman in the back, number six sixty-six, for $14,750.”
Dean lowered his number, heart pounding in his chest, and caught Castiel’s eye. He dropped his mouth-covering hand with a firm order, “Not a word, Cas.”
Castiel looked at the number. “That—”
“Cas.” Dean gave him a warning look as he left their table behind, walking toward the stockroom with his number in hand. “I can’t believe I just bought a monster. Man, if Dad could see me now.”
Castiel didn’t reply, but it hadn’t really been a question, so Dean ignored it.
Dean pushed through the swinging door—and nearly jumped out of his skin.
Castiel was standing there, staring with those stupid, wide eyes of obliviousness.
Dean put a hand to his sternum and rubbed the ache away. That’s why he didn’t reply. He rolled his eyes for what had to be the fifth time that night. If I keep this up, my eyes are gonna roll right out of my head.
“No, that would be physically impossible.”
Dean heaved a sigh. “Cas.”
Castiel didn’t apologize, but he did avert his eyes with an ashamed duck of the head.
Close enough. Dean started walking again, gaze flickering between the different cages.
Large, neon tags with black initials were used to mark the various cages in the stockroom. Dean wasn’t familiar with hunter auctions, but the system seemed simple enough. SS for shapeshifter, V for vampire, W for werewolf, WR for wraith, RU for rugaru, PSY for psychic, and so on. They only passed one PSY cage, and it was empty.
Castiel spoke with a hint of danger in his tone. “Is it possible he escaped?”
Dean shook his head and kept walking, unconcerned. “You saw him. He’s whipped. Metaphorically, and maybe literally. They either moved him, or that’s not his cage.”
“How can he be metaphorically…” Castiel trailed off, leaving the sentence unfinished.
Dean knew why immediately, the sounds of a struggle catching his attention. It was only scuffing shoes at first, but then someone started to speak, and they sounded caught between terror and despair.
“No… no, no, no, please… I hate it so much… please…”
It was the kind of pleading that was soft, bordering on a whine, crafted by years of being ignored no matter what was said or done. It was the kind of pleading Dean wasn’t going to leave uninvestigated.
Not that Dean had an issue with repurposing monsters. If the monster in question was extremely dangerous, he thought it was stupid, but it didn’t bother him. If they weren’t sold, they would be dead, so they really couldn’t complain—and even if they could, Dean wasn’t known for his bleeding heart when it came to monsters.
But Dean wasn’t naïve. Dean knew there were owners and traders who went off the reservation. Or at least, they went off Dean’s reservation, which was pretty straightforward: even rabid animals and serial killers were put down humanely.
“C’mon, bud. You know it’s easier when you don’t fight.”
“I don’t want it, Kent. I hate it. Plea—”
Dean heard choking and gurgling sounds clashing with the mewls of a caged vampire nearby, all of it underscored by Castiel’s quickening footsteps behind him.
“Dean, are you walking this way because of the Boy?”
“If that’ll make you be quiet so I can listen, sure.”
“We can’t get sidetracked, Dean, this is—”
Dean turned a corner and took in the scene as quickly as possible.
Demon Boy was the one who had been begging, which worked out well because it helped them find him; only he couldn’t beg anymore because a male worker—Kent, most likely—was holding his head in place while a female worker held a large feeding syringe deep in his mouth.
Demon Boy, to his credit, did not want what they were feeding him. He grunted and choked, red liquid spilling over his lips and down his chin, knees pushing against the concrete floors. He pulled on the chains securing his wrists over his head, and Kent was having a hard time keeping his head still, all of which was a footnote.
‘They’re Giving Him Demon Blood,’ was the headline.
“Hey, hey, hey!” Dean closed the distance and barely kept himself from physically ripping the syringe from the woman’s hands. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m giving him the first dose.” She replied, disinterested, continuing to push the plunger. “It’s included in the purchase, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Dean’s eyes flickered over to the psychic trying desperately to push the feeding device out with his tongue. “I don’t need his demon-exorcising whatever.” His continued scan of his surroundings found an already empty syringe in a nearby bucket. “I just need the psychic guru crap.” And for him to not be Lucifer’s vessel, so if you could stop helping that process along, that’d be great.
“Okay…?” She looked at him oddly and, despite her confusion, tossed the syringe at its twin. “Kent, let him go; they can take him as is.” Then, to Dean, she added, “Keep an eye on this one. Freak’ll put you in the hospital.”
Dean watched as Kent cautiously let go of the tangled hair and bruised chin, allowing Demon Boy to lower his head and spit repeatedly. Well, at least he’s not coo-coo for demon puffs.
“You want the blood for the road?” the woman asked, wiping her hands on her jeans.
“I want the key to his cuffs and directions to whoever is taking my money.” Dean stared her down, silently telling her to step away from his purchase.
She didn’t seem all that perturbed, but she did what he asked. “Here’s the key. Kent can tell you where the counter is.” She gave Demon Boy a final stare, long and hard and cold, and then she walked away.
“Don’t worry. He’s not that bad. Kelly just doesn’t like him.”
Dean looked at Kent, who was still standing next to Demon Boy, who was still hacking up a lung. Dean recognized the voice; Kent must have been the one that tried to coax Demon Boy into willful cooperation.
“He’s normally non-violent and obedient.” Kent gave Demon Boy a sideways look and a little smirk. “If somebody came to snip me for screwing around after four years with no sex, I think I’d bite’em, too.”
Dean scowled, glancing at Demon Boy before looking back at Kent. Kent had kind eyes, and Dean briefly wondered what he was doing in the Hunter Black Market. “They what now?”
“He started screwing one of the other psychics and got caught. They went to sterilize him and…” Kent made a loud ‘chomping’ sound effect, seeming quite pleased. “Kelly had to get fourteen stitches in her arm, but he wound up sterilized anyway; then they went ahead and bumped up his auction date, which I thought it was a bit excessive, but hey,” he shrugged, “I don’t get paid for my opinion. Point is, I don’t think you’ll have trouble with him as long as you don’t plan to mess with his junk.”
Dean snorted and held up his hands. “No junk-messing here. Just need his help with hunts and stuff. If he wants to get laid, I’ll take him to a strip joint or something.”
“I think he’d appreciate that.” Kent laughed and pointed down the aisle in the direction his coworker had gone. “Once you’re ready, head down that way, hang a left, and go straight until you’re through the double doors.” He started to walk as he spoke, moving in the opposite direction of where he was sending them. “Good luck!”
Finally. Dean turned to Demon Boy and grabbed his wrists, making quick work of the lock. “You fight me, you die.” He tossed the lock aside, untwisted the chains, and let go.
Demon Boy fell forward immediately, one hand holding him up while two fingers on the other dove down his throat.
“Woah, hey now.” Dean pulled on Demon Boy’s arms, but the Boy was both stubborn and stronger than he looked. “Cas, can you make him puke without him having to stick his hand down his gullet?”
Castiel tilted his head in that confused way he often did. “But gagging yourself is an effective method to induce vomiting. That is what we want.”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t happen right away, and the whole sitting-there-with-your-fingers-down-your-throat thing isn’t exactly fun.” Dean had learned that firsthand when he and his dad encountered a nasty case of food poisoning. “Plus, if he’s done this before, he probably has a tolerance built up. It’s gonna suck, man.”
“Dean, the angels cannot sense you, but they can sense me. I would like to avoid using my so-called ‘mojo’ as much as poss—”
Demon Boy pulled his fingers out and heaved, spewing blood and bile onto the floor. Dean reached out and pulled Demon Boy’s hair back, noting the violent flinch his actions caused, and once Dean had the matted locks in one hand, he rubbed Demon Boy’s back with the other.
“You need a freakin’ haircut, Rapunzel.” Dean gave a few hard pats and rubbed again as the heaving subsided. “You alright?”
The Boy responded by shoving his fingers down his throat again.
“Really? Do we really—?” He looked up. “Cas, does he still have blood in him?”
Castiel nodded seriously. “Yes, quite a bit.”
Dean cursed under his breath. “How much is quite a bit?”
“It’s the healthy amount for a man his age and weight.”
Dean somehow didn’t roll his eyes—probably because it had begun to hurt—and shook his head. “How much demon blood?”
“He is technically a mix—”
“In his stomach, Cas.”
But it didn’t matter, because Demon Boy was throwing up again, and what came out only had occasional streaks of red.
Dean looked away so he wouldn’t wind up joining the Barf Squad, and he gave Demon Boy’s back a few more rubs. He’s got a lot of scars. They’re pretty smooth, though, nothing seriously torn up or burned. He frowned, wondering what Demon Boy’s pants were hiding. It doesn’t look like anything happened in the last few months, but it could just be hidden.
Demon Boy finally stopped heaving and tried to wipe his mouth on the back of his hand, but his remaining arm couldn’t support his weight.
“Woah!” Dean caught him before he hit the floor and pulled him up. “Don’t want to fall in that.” He grunted, trying to shift his legs so he could lay Demon Boy down. “Don’t help or anything, Cas, just stand there and watch.”
“That’s what I’m doing, Dean.”
Some days, Dean had to wonder if Castiel was really as clueless as he seemed, or if he was just a sassy little fricker; the longer Dean knew Castiel, the more he thought it was the latter.
But Dean didn’t reply, he simply rolled his eyes—yup, it was definitely starting to hurt—and carefully lowered Demon Boy onto his side. “There we go.”
Dean crouched down, careful to avoid the mess, and unlocked the chains around Demon Boy’s ankles. For a moment, he thought the Boy had wet himself, but then he realized the clothes were soaked in sweat.
He must have been fighting hard.
“M’sorry,” Demon Boy mumbled in an unexpectedly small voice, trying to push himself up only to collapse again.
“Psh. Yeah, you better be real sorry for puking your guts out. How dare you blow chunks in my presence?” Dean spoke with thick sarcasm, but he could have sworn he saw another flinch. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”
Castiel approached then, apparently ready to do something helpful, and crouched on Demon Boy’s other side. “You make payment,” he ordered, pulling the Boy into his arms. “I’ll take him to the car.”
“Do it normally. His stomach’s been through enough for one night.” Dean stood up and started walking down the aisle—let someone who got paid clean up the mess—with Castiel on his heels.
“I can walk.” Demon Boy spoke in a near whisper, arms folded over his stomach, panting heavily against Castiel’s chest. “I just—just got sick, s’all.”
“You look like you’ve had a rough time.” You know, the whole ‘limbs shaking so bad you can’t support yourself’ thing? “Just let Cas carry you.”
“Yes, sir,” the Boy offered quietly.
Castiel didn’t comment save for a tilt of the head.
“So,” Dean rubbed his hands together, pushing the door to the secondary back room open. “We got the infamous Boy with the Demon Blood. Now what?”
“We keep him from becoming Lucifer’s vessel,” Castiel replied simply.
“Right. I meant how do we do that? We can’t kill him or scramble his brains or anything; Hell will just bring him back and patch him up.” Dean walked up to the counter and knocked to get the worker’s attention.
Wow, he looks a lot like Kent. Brothers, maybe? “You need my number?” Capturing Monsters, Selling Them—The Family Business.
“Yup, and then I need his ear,” Not Kent replied, pulling a file out and scanning the content.
Dean found the request odd, but he handed the number over and pulled out his checkbook. “Cas, help the guy with the ear thing.”
Castiel mumbled something about Demon Boy being unresponsive, but he did what Dean asked and held the Boy where the worker could reach.
Dean wrote down the appropriate amount, sparing a glance when he heard a metallic crunch. He wrote the date and spared another glance when the sound repeated. When he heard it a third time, he finally addressed the elephant in the room.
“What’s that?” Dean asked, leaning forward to see what was now in Demon Boy’s ear.
“Blue means he’s sterile, green means any past records we have or locate in the future will come to you, black means he’s powerful enough that hunters who come across him should shoot first and ask questions later, and this…” Not Kent put the plastic stem of a tag through a gauged hole in Demon Boy’s cartilage, snapping it to the rest of the tag once it was through, “…tells people you actually paid for him.”
“Oh, that’s nice.” Dean sighed and looked down at his checkbook, hesitating one last time before signing and tearing it out.
Dean handed it over with more than a little pain in his chest. It’s important. It’s important. It’s important. That was his mantra as he walked away from the counter, feeling a little bit numb. Sam’s out there somewhere. You’re doing this to protect the world, and that includes him. You have to protect him from the apocalypse just as much as you have to find and provide for him. It’s all important. It’s important.
Dean pulled himself from his thoughts and looked to his right.
Castiel stared down at Demon Boy with a bewildered expression. “He’s very stiff, and he barely responded to the piercing process even though it was clearly painful.”
Oh, yeah, he did say something about that. Dean glanced at Demn Boy and froze on the spot, struck by the sheer terror he saw in those glassy, caramel eyes.
Castiel stopped walking when he saw Dean had done the same, confusion furrowing his brow. “Dean?”
“H-how?” Demon Boy croaked, his voice barely above a whisper. “How do you know about—about the—about me and Lucifer and—and what I’m supposed to do, and—how?”
“Woah, back up.” Dean started walking again, and under the pretense of carefully wording his reply, he waited until they were halfway across the parking lot to speak again. “You know about Lucifer? I mean, I figured you knew about demons, but you know Hell’s Head Honcho is wearing you to the prom?”
Demon Boy offered a hesitant nod, shaking in Castiel’s arms. Dean doubted it was from the cold; even with his sweaty clothes and the late hour, it was still the middle of August in Alabama. No, he was afraid.
The Boy with the Demon Blood was afraid—trembling with terror, swallowing hard, eyes frantic afraid—of Dean Winchester.
“How do you know about Lucifer?” Dean turned Demon Boy’s question back at him.
“I…” For a moment, Demon Boy looked like he was considering talking, but then he closed his mouth and shook his head. He seemed to shrink in on himself, shivering harder while his hands traveled up toward his head, subconsciously trying to curl protectively around his skull.
Dean arched a brow and came to a stop next to the Impala, opening the back door. “You know we’re gonna get it out of you. It’ll be easier on all of us if you just tell me how you know what you know.”
“I’d rather die.” Demon Boy’s voice cracked, but there was a disturbing amount of sincerity in his response, but was it loyalty or more fear?
Dean was inclined to think it was the latter.
Castiel sighed softly, irritated with Demon Boy’s behavior. “We already covered this. Hell would just bring you back.” He half placed, half shoved the Boy into the backseat of the car, surprise ghosting across his features when Demon Boy scrambled to the other end of the car and wedged himself between the front and back seats.
Castiel straightened up and shut the car door, turning to face Dean with a weary sigh. “We know what our first objective is, at least.”
Dean looked in the window and saw Demon Boy curled up tightly, clutching his own head. “Yeah. I was hoping we wouldn’t hit a roadblock right away, but… it is what it is, I guess.”
Castiel frowned. “We aren’t driving yet. How can we—”
“Just shut up and get in,” Dean deadpanned.
Castiel vanished instead. Classic. If Dean was lucky, Castiel went to Bobby’s. If Dean was unlucky—and most days he was—he wouldn’t hear from Castiel for days.
Dean heaved a sigh and got in the Impala, looking into his rearview mirror as soon as he was seated. Demon Boy was squishing himself into a space entirely too small for his ginormous self, and Dean couldn’t imagine it was very comfortable curling up on the floor between the passenger seat and backseat when you were that tall. Thankfully, it looked like he was too preoccupied with cowering in terror to have noticed Castiel vanishing into thin air, so it worked out in Dean’s favor in the end.
“Cas has his own ride, so you and I get to spend some quality time together. Yay!” Dean started the engine and put the car in reverse. “You got a name, Boy with the Demon Blood? ‘Cause I’m really tired of calling you Demon Boy in my head.”
Demon Boy just barely lifted his head. “Sam, sir.”
Dean felt a stab in his chest. “Think you could pick something else?”
Demon Boy’s reply was an immediate and submissive, “You can call me whatever you want, sir,” but Dean had seen the already faint light in his eyes go out.
“Your real name’s Sam, isn’t it?” Dean sighed through the question, putting Baby in drive and making his way toward the exit.
“You can call me whatever you want, sir,” came the echoed response.
Dean sighed again, annoyed. “Just answer the question, Demon Boy.”
“…Yes, sir,” came the faint whisper. “My name is Sam.”
Dean felt that pain again, but he could see why the name was so important. Demon Boy had no identity outside of the roles he was ‘destined’ to play, so having something that reminded him of personhood… it was probably rare and precious to him. Not that Dean cared what Lucifer’s Prom Dress found precious, but… geeze, he looked so miserable and afraid and alone.
People meet people with their siblings’ names all the time. It’s not a big deal. It’s just a name. What’s in a name, right? There’s My Sam and there’s Demon Blood Psychic Sam. I went to school with a Sam. I worked a job with a Sam, once. It’s a common name, there’s probably a million people named Sam. It’s not the same Sam, so it’s all good.
It was that thought and that thought only that let him look into the mirror and say, “Got it, Sam.”
In a way, it was kind of ironic. Dean refused to spend His Sam’s money for decades, and when he finally did cave in the name of the greater good, he wound up getting Demon Blood Psychic Sam. It was painfully ironic, especially because Demon Blood Psychic Sam was… well, psychic… with demon blood. Demon Blood Psychic Sam was the kind of thing Dean would hunt with His Sam.
My life is one great, big cosmic joke.
He hoped someone was laughing, because he sure wasn’t, and it would be a crying shame if his life sucked so much for nothing.