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Bad Blood

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THE ROAD SO FAR:

After leading a hunting raid that leads to the death of his cousin, Sam Campbell is estranged from his hunter family and tries to escape the life. He attempts to start afresh in a new town and is employed by John Winchester, but a death vision of John's wife and son under horribly familiar circumstances draws him back into the world of the supernatural. When the yellow eyed demon possesses John and murders his wife, Amanda, Sam rescues their son Dean and teaches him about hunting. Dean abandons his old life as a college student and would be musician and, together, he and Sam embark on a quest to find and rescue John, and avenge the deaths of their mothers.

The friends have tentatively embarked on a sexual relationship. Dean is coaxing Sam to address his intimacy issues and they have been growing closer. Sam is considering telling Dean about his psychic abilities. Meanwhile a clue about the Colt from the demon Gemma (Ruby in disguise) has led them to Red Lodge.

.

Prologue


Sunrise, Wyoming. May 1
st 1856.

There was no sound at first but for the wind in the trees and the song of birds. At first. Then came the distant rumble of hooves, drawing nearer, growing louder, until the horse thundered along the dirt track and drew up sharply in the clearing outside the old timber shack. The rider, a fair haired man with a young face and old eyes, swung free of the saddle and dropped to the ground, spurs rattling as his boots hit the dirt, the tails of his long coat swaying around his shins. He didn't bother to tether the horse to the hitching rail, just let it wander freely up the track; he knew it wouldn't roam far. Pausing to light a cheroot he inhaled deeply, lips twisting into a sardonic smirk as he surveyed his environment

"Home sweet home?" he challenged, betraying traces of a deep southern drawl, as he let himself into the cabin.

The weathered old hunter barely glanced up from the volume where he was scribbling in a rapid sloping hand. "For now," he confirmed, gruffly.

"You're a long way from Connecticut," the young man observed. "I heard you were building a railroad. Not enough profit in arms dealing, then?" There was no response except the scratching of the pen so he continued in a more serious tone. "Your devil's trap won't stop it, Colt. There's only one thing that will. Do you have it or not?"

The hunter finally raised his head. Tossing back his jacket he revealed the gun holstered at his hip. "You have to catch him first," he pointed out.

"Oh, I'll find him," the visitor drawled, low and silky. "But will it get the job done?"

A humorless smile touched the corners of Colt's lips as he drew the gun out of the holster and handed it to the fair haired man. "This gun will kill anything that walks on God's green earth," he assured him.

"The Beast, too?"

The confidence withered from Colt's expression, but he nodded nevertheless. "It'll kill the Demon and his spawn if it comes to that," he said. "Better it doesn't."

The visitor examined the weapon. It was a thing of beauty, a precision instrument in every detail. The inky black metal was ornately decorated, there was a pentacle branded into the polished walnut grip, and the barrel bore the legend "non timebo mala". There were 5 bullets loaded in the cylinder.

"The rest are in there." Colt indicated a box on the desk. "Don't waste 'em. The gun's useless once they're gone." He watched the other man place the gun in its box and close the lid, but as he moved to pick it up Colt held it with a restraining hand. "I'm trusting you with a fearful weapon," he said. "It isn't to be used indiscriminately."

The other man smirked. "Growing morals in your old age, Colt?" he asked.

"I'm thinking of the children," Colt persisted. "They're not the monsters. They're just innocent victims."

The visitor raised his gaze from the box. His knowing eyes held Colt's, and his lips peeled back in a rueful grin that revealed the sharp points of his second set of teeth. "So were we all," he commented, "once upon a time."

Colt absorbed the point then nodded grimly. "Once upon a time," he agreed.

 

Scene 1

 

Red Lodge, 150 years later.

Sam and Dean were arguing about the trunk. Actually, they were arguing about several things, but Sam hadn't appreciated the weapons cache was one of them until he opened it to return the salt rope to its place and found that, once more, its place had been moved. Originally when Dean had put all the weapons back Sam had attributed their chaotic re-arrangement to Dean's general disorderliness and quietly returned everything to its proper place. He'd done the same without commenting on subsequent occasions when he'd found the weapons muddled. Now, however, he was beginning to recognize a pattern. Dean was repeatedly putting things back in the same wrong order. Sam huffed and stared hard at the collection. Try as he might he couldn't fathom the logic of the new layout, but there must be one if Dean was so insistent on it. The best he could do, in the end, was to memorize the places Dean had found for everything. Sam wasn't prepared to make this another point of contention between them. It wasn't worth it. It was easier in the end, as it was with so many things, to just let Dean have his way.

Dean came out of the gas station looking frustrated and folding the picture Sam had printed off from Gemma's obituary between his fingers.

"No dice," he said, shaking his head. "Let's try over there."

Sam shrugged and followed Dean to the bar across the road. More and more he was finding himself letting Dean call the shots, even when he wasn't convinced of the wisdom of it, because that was the line of least resistance. He was hardly in a position to force the issue. Not like the search for John had really progressed under Sam's direction in the six months he and Dean had been hunting together and, obviously, Dean needed to see some forward momentum. Who was Sam to put a roadblock in front of the first piece of information that looked like a tangible lead? No matter how bogus he might think it was, or how risky he thought pursuing it might be. Dean was probably right: the time for playing it safe had passed. Even if that meant Sam was spending his entire time glancing over his shoulder, watching their backs, keeping one hand in his pocket and cradling the holy water.

"How's it going?" Dean asked the barman when they reached the counter.

"Living the dream," the guy replied, off-handed. "What can I get for you?"

"Two beers, please."

Maybe Sam just didn't trust his own leadership enough to stand up to Dean now that he was starting to challenge Sam's judgment.

"So, we're looking for some people," Dean explained.

The barman raised his eyebrows a tad as he passed them their beers. "Sure. It's hard to be lonely," he mocked.

"Yeah," Dean agreed. "But that's not what I meant. Have you seen either of these people in town, maybe in the last few days?" Dean placed the picture of Gemma and another of John on the counter along with a $50 bill to sweeten the barman's mood.

The guy studied the photos while he cleaned a glass but he shook his head. "Keep your money," he said. "I haven't seen 'em. But I'll ask around for you."

"How about a guy with blue eyes?" Dean persisted. "Have you noticed anyone like that?"

This time there was a definite pause before the barman replied "not more than a dozen this morning."

"Never mind," Sam interrupted, and glancing at the bar menu he ordered a chicken salad. They might as well eat while they were here. Dean ordered a burger and they took their beers over to a table by the dartboards and played a few games over lunch.

"Dean, this is a waste of time," Sam objected once more. "We're getting nothing and we're just making targets of ourselves by staying here. We should move on."

"Move on where, Sam?" Dean demanded. "You didn't want to shag ass over to Connecticut."

Sam sighed. "Dean, every greenhorn hunter has been all over Connecticut. There's nothing there. No evidence the gun ever existed. It's a myth, an urban legend. I mean, come on! A gun that can kill anything? Forged under the influence of Halley's Comet? It's fantasy fiction."

"And that's all there is to the story?" Dean urged. "Nothing about what happened to it?"

"I've heard it said Samuel Colt made the gun for a hunter, a man like us only on horseback. Story goes he made thirteen bullets, and this hunter used the gun half a dozen times before he disappeared, the gun along with him. There's any number of variants, but that's the gist of it."

"And none of them mention Red Lodge?"

"No."

Dean picked up the darts and started throwing them at the board, hitting double top with his first throw and putting the next two in the treble. His accuracy was improving all the time, probably on a par with Sam's now. He had a certain natural aptitude for physical tasks. He was good with the guns: not just the shooting, but the maintenance, and he'd taken over the task of preparing their ammo now as well. All of that suited Sam, on the whole. It left him free to concentrate on the research, which was more his focus. Dean could do it when he needed to, he just didn't enjoy it the way Sam did. And so the division of labor had fallen into a kind of natural routine with each gravitating toward the tasks that suited their natures. The driving was probably a part of that. Dean's reluctance to let Sam take a share as often as he should was probably just his instinctive territoriality over the car, and a fundamental need to be in charge of his own motion. Sam didn't think it meant that Dean didn't trust him behind the wheel, but up until now he'd at least trusted Sam to give him a compass heading – read the maps, find the best and safest routes, cover their tracks. Now Dean had insisted on following the lead of a demon instead, and staying in this town to chase up some vague cryptic clue she'd left in the cemetery. It wasn't just that it left them exposed; it made Sam wonder if Dean was losing faith in his judgment, too.

"There's gotta be a reason why Gemma kept coming back to this town," Dean maintained. "If we keep digging, we'll find a connection."

"Yeah? What makes you so sure?"

Dean paused then handed the darts to Sam. "'Cause I'm the oldest, which means I'm always right."

Sam stared at him, dumbfounded. "No it doesn't!"

Dean grinned as he bit into his burger. "Yeah, it totally does," he affirmed.

Sam scowled as he aimed at the board, threw too quickly and hit a treble one and a five. He knew it was stupid to let the childish jibe rattle him. Dean was just being bloody minded to justify decisions that had no reason to them; he was sure there was a connection because he needed there to be one.

"When is your birthday, anyway?" Dean asked.

Sam was so thrown by the question he missed the board altogether. "What?"

"Last month you said it was next month, ergo it is now this month," Dean elaborated between mouthfuls of burger. "So it must be soon."

Sam quietly pulled the darts out of the board. "Why do you want to know?"

Dean returned a quizzical look as he wiped his fingers on a napkin and took the darts from Sam. "Just want to be sure I order the stripogram for the right day," he explained.

Sam rolled his eyes. He wasn't going to let Dean wind him up this time. Dean had better just be winding him up. "It's May 2nd."

Dean paused and directed his loose-lipped stare at Sam. Reaching down, he turned the newspaper on the table around and checked the date just to be sure. "Well, that's tomorrow," he pointed out. His tone was almost accusing.

"I guess," Sam agreed.

"You never said!"

"Well, maybe I don't want a stripogram, Dean," he replied, trying to sound flippant, but there was an uncomfortable silence. He began to worry that Dean was genuinely offended he hadn't shared this information before, but it simply hadn't occurred to him.

Eventually Dean shrugged and took his place in front of the board. "Just as well 'cause it's probably too late to order one now. Still time to check out the local clubs, though. Maybe there's somewhere we can get you a lap dance to mark the occasion."

Sam halted with a forkful of chicken half way to his mouth. He really hoped Dean was joking, but he didn't find the suggestion remotely funny and it must have shown.

"Your face!" Dean remarked, grinning reassuringly. Leaning over, he held his mouth close to Sam's ear and purred "trust me, Sam, if you get a lap dance tomorrow, it'll be from me," then he turned and put three quick darts in the treble twenty. Needless to say, Dean won that game.

Sam tried not to let Dean's suggestion distract him but it was hard . . . and kind of strange to think he might have a reason to look forward to his birthday for once. All the same he was relieved when Dean let the subject drop and he was allowed to finish his lunch in relative peace. They both had more important things to think about, after all.

They left a good tip for the staff, hoping to encourage the barman to make good on his promise, but Sam doubted it would make any difference. Dean still insisted on canvassing the rest of the town, though.

"We should split up, cover more ground," he suggested.

Sam stared at him. "Are you kidding? Do you watch horror movies?" he cried.

Dean raised his eyebrows. He looked impressed. "Hey, have we finally found your genre, Sam?" he asked, grinning. "I don't remember the movie where the demons attack Main Street in broad daylight during shopping hours, though. Was that Monday the First part I or II?"

Sam scowled. "You're a real smart ass, you know that? I just think we should be cautious, that's all."

"Hey, I'm cautious!" Dean punctuated the point by opening his jacket and indicating the water pistol stowed in the inside pocket. "See. No surprises."

Sam was barely mollified but they set off to opposite ends of the street with a plan to meet back at the car when they were done.

The barman waited until he was sure they were out of sight then drew out his cell phone and keyed down his list of contacts. The ring tone trilled at the other end once or twice before a familiar voice answered.

"That guy you've been looking for is here," he told him. "And the tall one is with him, like you said. What do you want me to do?" He listened for a while then grunted. "Well, you'd better get here fast as you can," he said tersely. "I'm not real comfortable with having their kind in town."

Chapter Text

Scene 2
 

Sam walked all the way up and down N. Broadway without finding anyone who recognized the pictures, or who had noticed anything weird going on in town recently (not their kind of weird, anyway). He was ticked with Dean for taking longer than he’d expected him to on his end of the street and, in retrospect, he was sorry about that. Maybe in a different life, in a better world, Sam would have considered some explanation for Dean’s lateness other than that he’d been ambushed by demons at E. 14th. He should have noticed odd details like Dean keeping his jacket fastened in the car, and some vaguely furtive behavior when he hung back to get a coke from the machine while Sam let himself into their room. It must have registered on some level, but Sam had more important things on his mind at the time.

And if Dean seemed more than usually restless and antsy that evening Sam put it down to frustration at the lack of new intel. After they’d finished scouring the local newspapers and turned up nothing of note even Dean was almost ready to concede that staying in the town was, at best, a waste of time. When Sam started actively seeking a new hunt, Dean didn’t argue, even grudgingly agreed they should move on if Sam found a case that needed working, at least once Sam had assured him he’d continue to search for anything that connected Colt and the towns where Gemma had left her breadcrumb trail.

Sam only grew suspicious the next morning when he came back from the coffee run and Dean had already showered and dressed. It struck him that Dean seemed . . . keen . . . for Sam to drink the coffee and have his own shower. A careful inspection of the shampoo bottle, deodorant and toothpaste revealed nothing untoward but Sam remained alert while he took his shower, and positively wary when he came out of the bathroom drying his hair and discovered the room was dark. As he let the towel drop to his shoulders he realized that all the blinds were closed and the lights were off. The only illumination in the room was coming from the table where a small ring of candles was arranged around . . . a cupcake. And since he wasn’t aware of any summoning rituals involving cupcakes he finally started to suspect this had something to do with his birthday.

“Surprise!” Dean’s sing-song voice called from beside the table.

“Dean . . . what is this?” Sam asked, not really knowing what to say.

“Yeah, sorry,” Dean said. “The cake was a bit of an afterthought and it was too late to get proper birthday candles. But it’s the thought that counts, right?” He grinned brightly, a little uncertainly, and then he pulled out his cell phone. “Anyway, make a wish and blow them out and I’ll give you your present.”

“Present?” Sam felt stunned, and a little confused. Was Dean serious?

“Well, go ahead!” Dean prompted, holding up his cell.

Sam took a hesitant step toward the table. There was an inordinate pause while he tried to think what on earth he was supposed to wish for, but eventually he leaned toward the candles and took a deep breath.

“Hold it!” said Dean, and Sam was held in suspension for a moment until the phone camera flashed, and then he let out his breath and extinguished the candles. Dean cheered, stuck his fingers in his mouth and whistled, and then he clutched the towel, drew Sam forward and planted a quick, soft kiss on his mouth. “Happy birthday,” he murmured. Sam felt the warm breath of the utterance caress his lips, and then something being pushed into his hand. He took it in his slightly numb fingers, tightening his grip to make sure he didn’t drop it. It was an envelope.

“Oh, wait!” Dean said, turning to open the blinds.

Sam winced slightly at the sudden intrusion of the light. He was feeling a little exposed and strange. He focused on the front of the envelope, which was inscribed with the message “Happy Birthday, Sam!”

“Well, are you gonna open it?”

Sam’s fingers actually trembled a little as he lifted the flap out of the pocket and drew a large yellow card from the envelope. On the front there was a picture of a smiling kitten. (Well, it looked like it was smiling.) Beneath the picture was an announcement: “Mr. Snugglewhiskers wants to sing a birthday song for you!” Sam frowned, perplexed, and opened the card warily. Not warily enough, as it turned out, since he was completely unprepared when it rattled and shrieked at him. After he’d quelled his immediate impulse to reach for his gun and shoot something he absorbed the fact that the kitten was now standing next to a huge amp and speakers, and holding a pop-out cardboard guitar. This was the source of the noise and vibration, and Sam realized it was playing the “happy birthday” tune accompanied by the sound of a cat wailing. Over the kitten’s head another message explained: “Did I forget to mention that Mr. Snugglewhiskers is a huge metal-head?”

Sam laughed; immensely relieved to have something in this bizarre situation he knew how to respond to. He rolled his eyes. “Mr. Snugglewhiskers, Dean? Really?

“Hey, Mr Snugglewhiskers is a cool cat,” Dean insisted.

“What’s this?” Sam asked, pointing to a small hand drawn picture at the bottom of the card. It looked like a radio mast with an X on top. “The RKO tower?” he suggested, thinking that was a reasonable guess, knowing Dean, but he couldn’t see the relevance.

“It’s the Eiffel Tower , doofus!” Dean explained and waited, obviously expecting the information to illuminate the inscription. When Sam remained baffled he added “it’s a French kiss.” Now Dean rolled his eyes, and huffed. He was clearly disappointed that his ingenuity hadn’t been recognized and appreciated.

“Oh, I see!” Sam assured him elaborately. Grinning, he took a step toward Dean but he was halted by a restraining hand on his chest.

“Hold it, we’re not done yet,” Dean told him. He reached under the table and from one of the seats he produced the laptop and handed it to Sam. Now it was visible that there was a sheet of the motel stationery taped to the top, and hand-printed on the paper there was a statement:

 

 


"CERTIFICATE OF ENTITLEMENT”

  
By authority of the party of the first part, heretofore ipso facto ad infinitum gloria in excelsis and vice versa, the property of the party of the first part, hereinafter referred to as “the laptop”, shall be deemed to be the property of the party of the second part, hereinafter referred to as “Research Nerd”. “Research Nerd” shall be deemed to have full custody, care and control of “the laptop” at all times and without reference to or permission from the party of the first part, hereinafter referred to as “Oh great, wise and most ineffably cool and sexy one, how may I best arrange myself for your pleasure?” Said custody is given fully, completely and unconditionally with the proviso that “the laptop” shall be available to “Oh great and wise one et al.,” at all times and for any and all purposes unspecified, without bitching from “Research Nerd”, or, being understood that all such bitching from “Research Nerd” will be completely ignored.

Signed:

Dean Winchester
(Oh great and wise one et al.)

On this day, May 2nd, in the year of Our Lord (or somebody’s Lord, possibly, referenced without prejudice) and witnessed by the spider in the web on the ceiling in the corner nearest the desk (and that had better be gone before we go to bed tonight).


Sam went over the statement three times with his frown deepening on each successive read. Eventually he looked up. “So . . . you’re saying I don’t need to ask permission to use the laptop any more?”

Dean winked and clicked his teeth by way of confirmation.

“Good to know your law studies weren’t completely wasted,” Sam observed wryly, taking another step toward Dean, but he met the hand again.

“And, of course, you get to hang on to the laptop when we’re not using it, and lug it around in your bag.”

“And is that a good thing?” Sam queried.

“It is for me,” Dean insisted, smirking, and Sam wasn’t sure if Dean had just given a gift or off-loaded a responsibility.

“Are we done now?” Sam asked.

“Not quite.” Dean reached under the table again and produced a large paper bag. He seemed, suddenly, uncharacteristically shy and unsure of himself. “Um . . . I got you this,” he said, grinning awkwardly as he handed the bag to Sam. “Sorry, I’m not much for wrapping things but only girls do that, right?” He raised his gaze from the bag and studied Sam’s face through the ends of his eyelashes, gauging his response.

Sam turned his attention to the parcel. He unpeeled the sticky tape that was holding the corners down, slid his hand inside the bag and slipped out the contents, which turned out to be a sketch pad – a proper artist’s sketch pad – and a couple of boxes of watercolor pencils, one specializing in landscape colors, the other for portraits. He stared at the gift with a mixture of confusion and wonder. In his life he couldn’t recall ever having been given anything so completely . . . un-functional. He glanced at Dean and could tell from the slightly anxious expression on the other man’s face and a tinge of pink in his cheeks that this wasn’t a joke. He knew he ought to say something but he had no idea what. He took a deep breath and opened his mouth, but before he found out what was going to come out of it a strange, aching bubble of emotion welled up from his chest and lodged in his throat and he shut his mouth again quickly, unable to trust himself to say anything at all.

Dean cleared his throat and rubbed his neck. “I thought maybe later we could call a time-out from all our usual shit, pick up a drive-thru and head into those hills just out of town and –” Dean stumbled to an abrupt halt as if he was suddenly alarmed by what he could hear himself saying. He straightened up and pinned the defensive cocky grin on his face. “Or whatever,” he continued. “And then maybe I’ll let you unwrap your other present,” he added with a wink.

Other present?” Sam croaked, a little slow on the uptake, and Dean added an explanatory quirk of the eyebrow, holding out his hands in an expansive gesture. “Oh, right.” Sam grinned, relieved to be back in familiar territory. “Must you cheapen the moment?” he joked, shakily.

“Yeah!” Dean insisted, also grinning.

Sam gazed down at the pad and pencils in his hand. He guessed he was going to have to take up drawing as a hobby now. It would look ungrateful if he didn’t. And he couldn’t help reflecting that Dean’s birthday had gone by without either one of them acknowledging it. Not that he imagined Dean would have been in the mood for celebrating back then, so soon after his mother’s death, but it hadn’t even occurred to Sam to make anything of it. “Dean . . . why are you doing all this?” he asked, at the risk of making things even more awkward.

Dean’s eyes widened for a moment then he responded with one of his dismissive raspberries. “It’s your birthday, genius. You’ve never had a birthday present before?”

Sam shook his head slightly. “We didn’t go in for celebrating that sort of occasion much in my family, especially not mine – ” Crap. The last part was out of his mouth before he could stop it, and Dean jumped on it immediately.

“What do you mean ‘especially’ not yours?” he demanded in a tone that sounded almost offended. “Why not?”

Sam hesitated. “It’s . . . It was all kind of wrapped up with my mother’s death. I was exactly six months old that night.”

Dean stared at him. “Well, that’s . . .” he searched for the words to express his indignation. “That sucks ass, Sam! It wasn’t your fault! Why did you have to suffer?”

Sam laughed gently. “I didn’t suffer, Dean. I told you: birthdays weren’t that big of a deal to us.”

Dean remained stock still, sporting a poker faced expression, for a couple of seconds then he paced up and down once or twice before stopping again and holding up a finger. Next he picked up his duffel and started hunting through it. When he pulled out the leads for his guitar Sam started to get a little nervous.

“What are you doing, Dean? It isn’t going to be noisy is it?”

Dean gave him ‘I’m shocked! Would I?’ face and Sam responded with pointed ‘you’d better not!’ face.

Dean grinned reassuringly. Picking up his guitar he plugged in the lead and moved over to the table. “Mind if I borrow the laptop, Sam?” he asked, as he prepared to connect the other end of the lead.

“W- what?” Sam stammered. “Are you kidding, Dean? You do not need my permission to – ”

“Good,” Dean interrupted, grinning, and Sam watched, half curious, half anxious, as he opened and booted up the computer. “Take a seat, Sam,” Dean insisted as he opened applications. Sam sank down on the edge of the bed and presently a vaguely familiar rhythm issued from the laptop speakers. It began to take on form when Dean recorded chords to accompany the rhythm then set them on a repeating loop, and when he started playing a rock guitar version of the backing music over his own recording Sam recognized the song. He found himself smiling and ducking his head shyly as Dean appropriated the lyrics that had been written for another man, and started singing them just for Sam:
  
♫You know it doesn't make much sense.
There ought to be a law against
Anyone who takes offense
At a day in your celebration,
’Cause we all know in our minds
That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show just how much - ah .. huhrrm..b..bloo.
And I'm sure you would agree
It couldn't fit more perfectly
Than to have a big party on the day you came to be.

“Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday

“Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday.♫


The rhythm continued as Dean put down the guitar and moved over to Sam still crooning “happy birthday . . . Happy birthday. Happy birthday to you . . .”

“I’m not sure Stevie Wonder would approve,” Sam observed, earning himself an expression of pleased surprise from Dean. “Considering that song’s supposed to be a tribute to – ”

“Art’s like that, Sam,” Dean interrupted, and he took Sam’s hand and lifted him to his feet. “It belongs to the world. Once it’s out there, no one has any control over what’s made of it. C’mere, Sam.”

“What? No wait, Dean, I can’t dance!” Sam objected as Dean slid the towel from his shoulders, threaded arms around his neck and started swaying in time to the music.

“Man up, Sam,” Dean chuckled. “It’s just rhythmic shuffling.” His hand dropped to Sam’s hip where he hooked a finger into a belt loop and tugged. Sam stumbled forward and found himself pressed flat against Dean’s body. He discovered there were certain advantages to ‘rhythmic shuffling’ when he felt the warmth of Dean’s groin seeping through the denim of his own jeans as Dean rocked and swayed against him. It was ridiculous how fast his body reacted to that friction. A hot flush washed over his body, and as his own erection blossomed he could feel Dean’s rising to meet it.

Dean snuggled against Sam’s neck and crooned “happy birthday to you” along to the music. Sam swallowed. He turned his head and murmured next to his friend’s ear “Dean . . .”

“Mmmmmmmm?” Dean responded, and Sam caught his breath as Dean rocked his hips into Sam’s pleasantly aching and throbbing flesh.

Sam’s head swam and he took a moment to recover his senses, then he whispered “thank you.”

There was another pause, a long one, before Dean cleared his throat and mumbled “’s what friends are for, Buddy.” After another beat he turned his head and his lips found Sam’s, and then there was nothing in Sam’s world but the rhythm, the sway, the warmth in his arms, and tasting Dean in his mouth. Presently his head rocked back and he found himself staring into dark liquid eyes.

“So, do you want to unwrap your present now?” Dean asked quietly.

“I thought you said later,” Sam reminded him, but Dean just smiled gently.

“I’m the gift that keeps giving, Sam,” he explained. “You can unwrap me as often as you like.”

Opening the blinds had been a pointless exercise really: they only had to close them again. And Dean took his boots and socks off, just to be kind of on a level with Sam who was still in just his boxers and jeans. That still left Dean over dressed by a t-shirt and over-shirt but that was kind of the point: so Sam had something to “unwrap”. He was oddly nervous about the responsibility, like he might somehow mess up the complex task of removing a shirt, but it seems Dean had plans for that as well.

“Let’s slow the mood down a little,” he said, moving over to the laptop and starting to search through his vast range of play-lists.

Sam suppressed a smile. “You want to go slow? Really?” he asked, feigning surprise. He wondered if Dean had ever, in the heat of passion, just ripped off his clothes and gone for it . . . and then he decided he really didn’t want to know the answer to that question.

Dean quickly found what he was looking for and as he sauntered back toward Sam he reproved him with an arch of his eyebrows. “Trust me,” he insisted, “there are some things you don’t want to rush.” Taking Sam’s hands in his, he laid them on his stomach and moved them slowly upward, holding them between the warmth of his palms and the heat radiating through the thin material of the tee, giving them time to feel every line and contour, the steady rise and fall of his chest, the solid thump of his heartbeat, letting them rest there while his eyes held Sam’s: wide, dark and inviting.

Sam swallowed. Point made.

He realized he could hear the music of a new track playing quietly . . . if “music” was what you would call it . . . just a steady percussive rhythm playing over and over, and one low continuous note on some kind of woodwind instrument – a didgeridoo? It had a quality of tribal music: a deep, rich sound, vibrant and earthy . . . kind of like Dean . . .

Sam lifted his palms up and over the curve of Dean’s shoulders and pushed the over-shirt along with them until it slid down his arms to the floor. His body was swaying under Sam’s hands, just slightly, and there was a suggestion of movement in his muscles, a subtle tightening and relaxing in time with the rhythm. Sam could feel it as his fingers traced back down to Dean’s waist and slipped under the t-shirt where warm flesh quivered under his touch.

The music was gaining texture now, more percussion, swishing sounds, a steady tap on a wooden block, maybe there was even a bass guitar in there strumming out the rhythm, but there was no sign of a melody, just the continuously suggestive beat and that long tremulous, rumbling note. Something about that sound was stirring things deep inside Sam, and his jeans were starting to feel tight and constricting. He ruched up the t-shirt and began pushing it up Dean’s body, watching the stretch of his muscles when he lifted his arms, and breathing a little quickly, he realized. The room seemed to be getting oddly warm. There was a feeling of tension in the air, of waiting for something to happen; he might have finished pulling off the t-shirt more quickly than he’d intended.

And then he would have pulled Dean into his arms but Dean had other ideas. Placing his hands firmly on Sam’s hips, he guided him backwards, still with that slight back and forth sway to his movements. It off-balanced Sam a little and when the edge of the bed butted into the backs of his legs he dropped down onto the mattress with a bump that drove a small gust of breath from his lips. Dean followed him down, parting his thighs to straddle Sam’s legs and dropping his knees onto the mattress either side of Sam’s hips, and suddenly his threats about lap dances rushed back into Sam’s head.

“Oh, no, Dean, wait!” Sam objected. “I didn’t think you’d seriously – ”

“Hell, I’m serious!” Dean interrupted. “I researched this.”

“Researched how?” Sam demanded, before he could stop himself.

For a brief moment Dean actually looked embarrassed. “Tutorials on youtube,” he confessed with an awkward shrug, and just a hint of a blush gracing his cheeks.

Sam laughed, relieved, and not to mention surprised that Dean had needed to consult youtube for advice on lap-dancing.

“Adapted to my own inimitable style,” Dean insisted, emphasizing the point with a disturbingly voluptuous roll of his body.

Sam was caught between embarrassment and curiosity and, if he was honest, growing arousal. The way Dean’s body moved, the play of his muscles in time to the music was . . . Sam sucked in a quick breath and chuckled. “Well, since you’ve gone to so much trouble . . .”

Dean rolled his shoulders from side to side as he leaned close to Sam. “Anything for the birthday boy,” he murmured, breathing warm over Sam’s ear. Then he lifted Sam’s hands once more and ran them leisurely up his legs and over the curve of his hips, leaving them resting suggestively at the belt buckle while his own hands continued up Sam’s arms and draped themselves over his shoulders. A new element entered the music: brass instruments breathing just isolated notes here and there . . . the same note. Still no tune. The music was all suggestion and promise, wait and anticipation. There was a continual sense of forward momentum but no clear direction, nothing you could get a solid grip on; all you could do was trust that eventually it would get somewhere . . .

Sam could see why Dean would like it . . .

The rock of Dean’s hips, the press of his arms against Sam’s shoulders, had Sam’s body swaying with him. Sam exhaled a tiny shivering breath and his dick swelled against the unyielding denim of his jeans. He was starting to sweat and he noticed Dean’s flesh had a slight sheen to it, too, and when he looked up he found Dean staring back down at him, eyes blown wide and dark: he was feeling it, too.

With trembling fingers Sam unbuckled Dean’s belt and drew down the zipper on his jeans. His breath caught when he got his first glimpse of the bulge that was stretching the snug material of Dean’s under-shorts. As he peeled back the denim he couldn’t resist trailing his thumb over that warm mound, and he smiled when he heard a responsive hitch in Dean’s breath.

Naughty,” Dean admonished, chuckling quietly. “You have to finish unwrapping your present before you can play with it.”

Sam grinned and obediently finished drawing Dean’s pants down his smooth, taut thighs. When they were down as far as they could go Dean swung his body back and straightened up. The jeans dropped to the floor, pooling around his ankles, and he stepped out of them, unhurriedly, one leg at a time, then kicked them off to the side out of the way. It was a cheesy stripper move and Sam hovered on the border of laughing, but Dean kind of carried it off . . . and it kind of turned Sam on . . .

There was a transition in the music, the beat got heavier, harder, like a slow hand clap; Dean bent his knees and dropped his hips into the downbeat, raised and dropped again – up, down, up, down – and Sam watched with rapt fascination as his body moved, thigh muscles rippling, abs tightening, biceps flexed, arms, shoulders, all a subtle expression of the rhythm. Sam was reminded of something . . .

“Is that . . . a haka move?” he asked.

Dean pursed his lips as he rose and dropped, rose and dropped, a little closer to Sam each time. “There might be some Maori warrior influence,” he acknowledged.

“With didgeridoo music?” Sam queried.

Dean looked blank for moment, then irked. With a sudden forward motion he slid his knees across the bed cover, snapping his hips into Sam’s, and Sam gasped and moaned a little as he felt Dean’s crotch warm and snug against his.

“Don’t diss my cross-cultural moves,” Dean growled into Sam’s ear, nuzzling the sensitive flesh behind it with the tip of his nose until Sam was shivering from warm chills skittering over his shoulders and down his spine.

Dean sat up and started working his hips right in front of Sam, dropping until he was almost – but not quite – sitting on Sam’s knees, and rocking forward until he was almost – but not quite – thrusting into Sam’s face. As he moved he was running Sam’s hands up and down the warm, slightly sweat slick flesh of his thighs: up the outside, around and over the warm curves of his butt as he raised his hips, back down to his knees as he dropped then back up the insides, over the smooth, rippling arch of muscle, up to his hips and almost – Jesus! Sam’s fingers itched to grab at Dean’s shorts, pull them down, and Jesus fuck he wanted out of his own jeans, needed out of them right the fuck now!

Dean must have read his mind. His hands stroked up Sam’s arms to his shoulders once more, rocking him in time with the sway of his own body and filling his head with thoughts of things that all required his pants off, then Dean gave him a little push and he was falling backwards onto his back, and he felt Dean’s fingers at the waistband of his jeans, popping the button.

“Oh, yeah!” he gasped. “Oh, fuck, yeah!” He pushed his hips up into Dean’s hands, felt warm fingers against his crotch and heard the metallic rasp of the zip being drawn down. “Gguuuuuuhhhhhrrrrrrrr!” he moaned as the material of his jeans gave and parted and he felt blessedly free from their constraint. Dean slid his hands under the denim, over Sam’s hips and under his ass, and Sam’s back instinctively arched up. Cool refreshing air washed his thighs as Dean tugged, the jeans came off in one fluid pull and Sam heard a clink and thud as they hit a wall somewhere over the other side of the room. Then Dean was kind of crawling up his body, deliberate, panther like, and he was hovering over Sam with a big cocky grin on his face . . . and Sam couldn’t just let that go . . .

“I thought I was supposed to be unwrapping you,” he pointed out.

If anything, Dean’s grin broadened. “Oh, my bad, Sam. That wasn’t what you wanted?” His body undulated over Sam’s and, just barely, the warm bulge of his shorts grazed the tented front of Sam’s boxers, sending a sharp flaring thrill of pleasure and excitement through Sam’s groin. “You want me to put them back on again for you?” he enquired

Gguuuuuuuuhhsh-sh-shuttup!” Sam gasped, and to emphasize the point he grabbed Dean’s head and stopped his mouth with his own. Dean played along, at first, rolling his lips over Sam’s and suckling his tongue while his body continued to ripple sinuously above him, teasing him with an occasional brush of his hips until Sam was oak-hard and aching, and whimpering into Dean’s mouth. But then Dean pulled away, sat back on his haunches and his hips were rocking backwards and forwards, up and down, and with each downbeat his body dropped and his crotch bumped lightly down on Sam’s, briefly riding the length of his dick before rising up again.

Jesus, Dean!” Sam gasped breathlessly, humping up and chasing Dean’s body with his but, somehow, Dean managed to stay maddeningly out of reach. He made a grab for Dean’s hips and tried to push him down but Dean swatted his hands away.

“Don’t you know you’re not supposed to touch unless you’re invited, Sam?” Dean taunted, smiling. “It’s against the rules.”

Fuck the rules!” Sam growled, and then he realized he was holding an ace he could play . . . in fact, it was an even better card than an ace. “My birthday, my rules,” he insisted.

Dean raised his eyebrows. “Oh, yeah?” he challenged.

Sam grinned. “Yeah,” he retorted, grabbing Dean’s hips again, then he humped up and rolled, taking Dean with him and pinning him on his back on the mattress. Dean gasped and his eyes widened but only momentarily. Sam waited, gave him space to adjust, and then he relaxed and grinned back at Sam.

“Well, since it’s your birthday,” he acknowledged with a nonchalant shrug, then his thighs embraced Sam’s hips and he began moving beneath him, still in time with that friggin’ rhythm, but damned if Sam wasn’t moving to it, too. It was kind of impossible not to and, besides, it felt good: the slow steady bump and grind of their bodies and some solid friction at last. So good. Dean thought so, too, he could tell. Each thrust from Sam drew gasps and grunts from his lips, and Sam met them with his own breathy sighs and moans. Their mouths sought each other once more; lips, tongues, melting together, and Sam swam in the dizzying taste and scent of Dean, cradling his head, fingers tangling in his hair, and he could feel Dean’s warm hands sliding down his back and over the curve of his hips, fingers gathering up the back of his boxers and burying themselves in the flesh of his butt. And – oh, thank God – the music felt like it was getting somewhere at last, sounded like it was actually trying to break into a tune or at least a refrain, just a couple of notes really, playing back and forth, but there was something growing.

Their breath sounded loud, coming out in hard staccato bursts as they rocked together. Dean’s fingers were wrapped up in Sam’s boxers, pulling and rolling until they were just a tangled rope around Sam’s hips. He lifted up and Dean pushed them down his thighs, and then there was just the one thin layer of Dean’s shorts separating their flesh as they slid and pressed against one another. Sam gasped and moaned into Dean’s mouth, feeling his heat, his hardness, moving beneath him, and felt the sound returned to him as a growl, a low rumble that reverberated in Sam’s chest.

They broke for air and Sam was staring down into Dean’s eyes staring large and liquid back up at him, his plump lips parted and huffing broken gusts of air with each thrust of Sam’s hips. Gradually his head rocked back and his eyes flickered half closed and a hungry groan escaped his mouth that Sam felt thrill though every part of his own body.

U – uhh . . . Sam . . .” Dean gasped, and he rolled his hips, lifted his knees and folded his legs over Sam’s back, and now Sam was moving with his shaft pressed against the so, so hot flesh of Dean’s ass. Sam was moaning from the friction, the delicious ache of it, and he could hear Dean’s voice crooning next to his ear.

Another shift and – God! – Sam could feel the puckering rose of Dean’s flesh pressing hot against the tight, sensitive head of his dick, and only the thin elastic material of the shorts preventing him from – fuck! The tone of their mingled groans shifted, climbed the scale, turned urgent. The shudder, the rock of Sam’s hips was all but automatic as he mimed fuck movements against Dean’s body and his skin flushed hot with visions of being inside Dean, feeling Dean’s heat, tight and quivering around him . . .

It was too much – too much – Sam broke away, in defiance of Dean’s whimpered protests and the heavy aching weight leaping and quivering between his own thighs. He rested his head on Dean’s chest, trying to regain control of his panting breath, feeling the rapid rise and fall of the rib cage and the rapid thump-thump-thump of the heart beneath his forehead. Dean’s eager, encouraging thrusts beneath him weren’t helping him to focus, but he was afraid of being consumed by feelings that could push them both into something neither of them were ready for. He moved lower instead, and Dean’s breath gusted out a little faster, a little harder, as Sam’s head coasted down his body until his lips brushed the trembling flesh just above the waistline of his shorts. The rhythm of his body movements acquired a kind of excited stutter and his whimpers became snuffles of excitement and anticipation.

When Sam moved to the front of Dean’s shorts and started running his tongue over the outline of his dick, he sensed from the accompanying moans that Dean’s upward thrusts were no longer voluntary. As he licked and sucked, Sam could taste the salty flavor of Dean’s juices leaking through, and he found himself rubbing his head and face over the warm mound, drinking in the earthy smell of clean sweat and sex. He started nipping and nibbling softly, just tracing the edges of his teeth over the twitching, straining column . . . and then Dean just kind of lost it a little.

Nnnnuuuhhhh! S-Sam!” he stammered. “Fuck – nngg – gguuh – take ‘em off – ahh – fuck . . . take – Sam – t-take them off!

Sam looked up, breath caught in his chest, excited and exhilarated and heart thumping at the sight of Dean, eyes heavy-lidded, jaw slack, and panting through loose, parted lips. His fingers shook a little as they curled around the waistband of the shorts and he peeled them down. Dean actually whined as his dick was released, a tiny needy sound that made Sam’s flesh buzz and his insides flutter. Dean reached for Sam’s head and his fingers curled into Sam’s hair, not pulling or pushing, but just coaxing, urging Sam toward him.

“Mmm – Sam . . .” His hips shivered and bucked upward. “S- Sam . . .” he gasped.

Sam’s lips curled close to the quivering shaft; it leapt and strained as if it was seeking for him. He took it in hand, stilled it, held it, and he glanced up into Dean’s eager eyes and licked his lips before dropping his head, opening his mouth and sinking down slow, long and smooth. Dean let out a cry that began a whole octave higher than his natural voice, ululated down the scale and ended low, low, guttural and raw. It resonated through Sam’s body, made him shudder, made him want more. He played his lips and tongue up and down Dean’s length, licking and sucking until Dean was keening and writhing beneath him.

Sam was half conscious of music rising, swelling in the background as Dean suddenly rolled and swept Sam over onto his side, fumbling at his boxers and dragging them the rest of the way down his legs, over his ankles and off. He lifted his knees and finished kicking his own shorts off as well, then scooted down the bed, lifted and wrapped his fingers around Sam’s swollen, aching dick. It was Sam’s turn to gasp and pant now, and to watch as Dean’s tongue swept wetly over his lips, watch those lush, glossy pads part and watch, for as long as he could, their slow roll over his waiting shivering flesh before his vision melted into white blur and dark blotches and he sank into the moist heat of Dean’s mouth.

He felt rather than saw Dean move, twisting around, inverting himself on the bed until Sam became aware of the heat of his body close to his face, then the familiar earthy scent, the brush of smooth taut flesh against his mouth leaving a slick, salty tasting trail across his lips. Sam’s eyes snapped open momentarily then closed again as he reached for Dean, opened for him, swallowed him down, and he shuddered as the glide of Dean’s flesh in his mouth was accompanied by a moan from Dean that hummed through Sam’s body until Sam was moaning in harmony with him. And Dean’s hands were warm all over him, fondling his balls, curling and sliding up and down his shaft. And Dean’s mouth – God! So hot, so wet – his lips: so soft – his tongue: languid, busy tongue, doing things; thrilling, aching, dizzying things.

Sam’s free hand threaded between Dean’s legs and Dean quickly spread his thighs open for him, inviting his touch, and as his fingers traced over the sensitive flesh behind Dean’s balls he felt the long arching shudder of Dean’s body, and the thrill of his responsive groan buzzing through his own flesh. There was something pleading in that sound. Dean’s thrusts were urgent in his mouth, hips pushing, angling forward; thighs splayed wide apart and trembling. A series of tiny noises communicated he wanted something from Sam:

“m – m – m – m – mhamm – m – mha-ammm . . .”

Sam trailed a tentative, exploring finger back from Dean’s balls until he felt the crinkled rose of flesh under his touch and Dean bucked like he’d sent an electric charge through his body.

MMMMMMMMMM!

Dean’s growl reverberated through his flesh and then he was pumping his mouth feverishly up and down Sam’s shaft until Sam was blind with pleasure and it was a reflexive, instinctive thing when he curled his finger and pushed, dipped it into the puckering heat of Dean’s body, just the tip, but it was enough. Dean bucked again, gasped, Sam felt his balls draw up, tighten, felt Dean full and hard and pulsing in his mouth, tasted him over his tongue and in the back of his throat, and a moment later the answering throb in his own groin, pumping into Dean as a hot stretching tingling tremor thrummed along the length of his body. Somewhere in the midst of it he felt Dean’s warm hand moving up him, reaching, seeking, finding his, and their fingers interlaced as they exchanged panting breaths and moans.

Sam’s head was spinning. He drew away to get air and nuzzled against Dean’s still gently throbbing shaft, feeling the radiating warmth of Dean’s body and the tickle of coarse hair against his face. After a little while he felt Dean tug at his hand and then he sat up and kind of grappled his way up Sam’s body until he was back the right way and lying at Sam’s side. Gathering up the bedcovers he drew them into a warm cocoon around them both and pressed his lips soft against Sam’s. The kiss went on a long time, and Sam could taste the slightly sharper tang of his own juices mingled with Dean’s in their mouths. Eventually they both needed air again and they rested with their foreheads leaning together while they waited for their breathing and heart rates to return to some semblance of normality. Sam watched with a strange kind of fascination as Dean blew long, low breaths out from between his pursed lips.

“Was that O.K, Dean? What I did?” he asked.

Dean’s eyelashes flickered up briefly then lowered again, and he huffed out something like a soft chuckle. “Yeah, that was O.K, Sam,” he assured him, and kissed him again. Then he squirmed and wriggled and seemed to be making himself comfortable against Sam’s shoulder. He closed his eyes. “You O.K, Sam?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Sam said, even though he was worried they might be getting too comfortable, might be in danger of falling asleep. He was pretty sure Dean was starting to drop off when he mumbled something low and quiet that Sam didn’t quite catch. Sounded something like ‘ahurmbloo’.

“What?” Sam asked.

Dean seemed to stop breathing, and he just muttered “nothing, Sam” then, after a moment more, “I said, happy birthday.”

Chapter Text

Scene 3

 

The sky was a bright cobalt blue fading to pale ultramarine nearer the horizon. The more distant hills were a misty blend of indigo and violet, while the nearer slopes were better defined with a more vivid range of colors. The trees were really just blotches of color, but a varied mix of green and brown shades conveyed an impression of leaves and branches. The bottle green grass at their roots graduated to chartreuse in the foreground, littered with blobs of terracotta and kingfisher to suggest corn chip packets and discarded Twinkie wrappers.

Dean was more complicated. He was more than a token shape or a collection of suggestive colors. It took time and concentration to make a proper study of him, to get the perspective right, the light and shade. Much of him was still little more than a penciled outline, but Sam was slowly coloring in the detail.

There were details the drawing didn’t show, like the salt rope that circled a protective space around them. Sam had expressed doubts about the advisability of this ‘picnic’ and he’d found it hard to relax at first in spite of all their precautions, but it had seemed oddly important to Dean so, in spite of his misgivings, he’d found himself spending the afternoon on a hill outside Red Lodge, sketching. Eventually he had to admit to himself, there was something to be said for the activity: its stillness, its concentrated focus. He found it quieted his mind and allowed him to release some of his ever present anxiety while remaining attentive to the immediate environment. If anything, it heightened his awareness.

The sketch couldn’t capture the quiet sounds floating from the laptop, either. One of the biggest advantages of having a birthday, Sam was discovering, was that it apparently entitled him to a day off from Dean’s relentless efforts to annoy him. In fact, Dean was going out of his way to consider Sam’s preferences. He began the afternoon reading and listening to his music through ear pieces so Sam could draw in peace and quiet. In practice, though, he couldn’t stop himself from tapping and singing along to songs Sam couldn’t hear – which was more irritating – so he compromised on listening to movie and TV scores. That tended to be less intrusive, especially since Dean wasn’t so inclined to sing along when there was no lyric, though he did occasionally whistle.

Dean glanced up from his book and caught Sam watching him, and Sam quickly returned his attention to the sketch pad.

“What?” Dean demanded.

Sam shook his head. “Nothing.”

Dean narrowed his eyes suspiciously but continued reading. Presently he seemed to conclude that the interruption had invited a discussion.

“So, it says here that light can be either a particle or a wave, depending how you look at it,” he observed. “But a particle . . . that’s a physical thing, right?”

“It has physical properties,” Sam agreed cautiously.

Dean continued “and according to this guy, Einstein reckoned EMF are ‘physical entities’ too,” he quoted.

“They certainly have physical effects,” Sam observed ruefully

“True that,” Dean agreed. He pursed his lips reflectively. “So, I was right after all: everything’s material, even energy.”

Sam could feel a frown settling on his features. “That’s what you’re taking from that book?”

Dean reached for a bag and stuffed a quantity of corn chips into his mouth. “Why? What do you take from it?”

“Well, scientists used to think the atom was the smallest particle of matter, but then we split the atom and found smaller particles. Then it turned out the particles had particles. There’ve been theories that there comes a point where the particles themselves are really just patterns of energy. So maybe, fundamentally, everything is just energy waves. Even matter.”

Dean stared at Sam for a couple of beats then shrugged. “You say potayto, I say potahto.”

Sam grinned and shook his head, but he didn’t argue. Maybe that was kind of the point.

“Still, that might explain how a spirit can sock you in the kisser,” Dean ventured. “Or how a demon can possess a human body and still somehow vanish into thin air. Maybe these supernatural spooks have some kind of handle on this matter-is-energy/energy-is-matter crap.”

“Maybe,” Sam acknowledged.

Dean turned the book and gazed at the image of the Taijitu on the jacket. “But what does all that have to do with Eastern mojo?” he asked.

“The author’s drawing comparisons with Eastern philosophies that say the apparent separateness of things is an illusion,” Sam explained. “They believe that the underlying reality is one vast unified being or process.”

Dean rolled his eyes a little. “Why, oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?” he muttered quietly.

Sam paused. That one sounded familiar. "Is that . . . from The Matrix?" he asked tentatively.

Dean’s eyes widened. “Wow. You are so hot right now!” he exclaimed.

Sam grinned shyly and dropped his gaze to his sketch. He tried another tack. “Have you ever seen any of Van Gogh’s paintings?” he asked. “In his later period they were really just splotches of color that gave the impression of objects – mountains, trees etc – but, in a painting, none of the shapes has any meaning except in relation to each other. The different hues and shades give them an appearance of perspective and solidity, but really it’s all the same medium: paint. The underlying reality is the canvas, or the painting process itself. Van Gogh’s method was really dynamic. When you look at his work it makes you feel like everything in it is in continuous motion, even the most solid objects. That’s how he saw the world. That’s how some Eastern mystics see it. Maybe some Western scientists, too. ” Sam indicated the book.

Dean stared at Sam rather oddly. His expression was unfathomable. Presently he nodded toward the sketch pad. “Well, are you going to show me this masterpiece, then?” he asked.

Sam hesitated then hugged the pad closer to his chest. “No . . . no, it isn’t finished yet,” he murmured.

"Oh, so it's a work in process." Dean grinned, but then he seemed more serious. "Maybe we all are," he acknowledged. "I get what you're saying, Sam, but you can't live like that, can you? You can’t go down that rabbit hole. We're real. This is real.” He slapped the ground by his side. “It's the only way to play this game. It might be a nice idea to think that you're one with a tree or a bird or . . ." he made a vague gesture at Sam then wiped awkwardly at the back of his neck. "Jessica Alba or – "

Jessica Alba?!

“I dunno – the Dalai Lama . . . but there’s the other side of that coin. It would mean we’re one with all the monsters and demons we hunt, too. And if you really believed that – I mean actually believed it – then what would be the point in what we do? What would be the point in anything? Why would you even get up in the morning?”

Sam started to get the feeling this conversation was more than idle intellectual enquiry for Dean. He should have realized that a materialist like Dean would be uncomfortable with philosophies that challenged the idea of the individual ego, the reality of his own identity. But, then, why was he so interested in the book?

Dean sat up and shuffled over on his knees until he was planted between Sam’s thighs, and his hands slid warm up Sam’s denim wrapped shins until they were molded around the shape of his knees. “There are practical considerations, you know,” he insisted in a warm molasses voice. “After all, if we weren’t solid and separate to begin with, where would be the fun in getting together?”

A wash of hot and cool tingles skittered over Sam’s body and he shifted a little uncomfortably under Dean’s touch ’cause . . . yeah . . . but . . . here? Out in the open? Not a good idea. “Well, you know, in some Eastern mythologies . . .” Sam cleared his throat and a shy grin twitched at the corners of his lips. “God made the separate appearances of the world out of himself . . . that he might know himself.” he added.

Dean tugged back his head and studied Sam quizzically. “What? In the Biblical sense?”

“Well . . .” Sam flushed. He’d started this. Now he was up to his neck in it. “I think it’s more of a metaphor, you know?” . . . although, in some of the lore the stories were pretty literal about it . . .

Dean picked up the book once more and studied the front cover. He flashed the picture at Sam. “Is that why the yin/yang thing looks like a sixty-nine?” he asked.

Sam stared at the picture of the two inverted tear drops wrapped around each other, each embracing – swallowing, if you like – a part of the other, and his flush deepened. After the morning’s activities he couldn’t avoid taking Dean’s point. He was never going to think about that symbol the same way again! “A ‘69’ is the other way up,” he insisted, all the same.

Dean studied him levelly. “Wasn’t talking about the number, Sam,” he pointed out.

Sam smiled and shook his head. “Do you have to reduce everything to sex?” he complained.

“Nothing reductive about it. Sex is a beautiful, natural act.” Dean grinned and leaned in for a kiss but, just as Sam’s mouth was opening for him, he hooked his finger over the top of the sketch pad and tugged, forcing Sam to grab it back and hold it in the air.

“Aw, come on, Sammy,” Dean teased. “How bad can it be?”

There followed a tussle with Sam pinned to the tree behind him, exchanging the pad from hand to hand while Dean tried to snatch it from him, though he wasn’t sure whether Dean really was trying that hard to get it, or whether he was just enjoying the tease and the squirm of their bodies. “It isn’t finished yet!” Sam insisted and eventually Dean sat back on his haunches sporting an exaggerated pout.

“Well, hurry up and finish, then!” he complained.

It occurred to Sam that his friend had passed his usual limits for sitting still anywhere. “Are you getting bored, Dean?” he asked.

“No!” Dean replied quickly, in a slightly offended tone. “I’m just eager to see your handiwork, Vincent.”

Sam laughed. “Well, don’t build up your expectations too much,” he warned.

Dean sat back and picked up his book once more but presently he grimaced and tossed it aside. Apparently he was done with it. Lifting up the laptop he changed the music and opened another app and was soon absorbed in whatever he was doing instead, so Sam relaxed and returned to sketching and a peaceful silence descended.

Time passed. At first Sam was barely aware that the quiet was occasionally interrupted by soft breaths and grunts coming from where Dean was sitting, but after a while the sounds started to acquire a distinct – and thoroughly distracting – familiarity. He found himself listening for them, and eventually a suppressed squeak was unavoidably recognizable. Dean was definitely making sex noises!

Sam turned and stared at him. “Dean, are you watching porn?!” Sam wasn’t sure what affronted him the most: that Dean was doing it here, right in front of Sam, or the fact that he even wanted to after what they’d been doing all morning.

Dean looked up. “No-o!” he insisted, though there was a telltale tinge of pink growing in his cheeks.

Sam crossed his arms and glared. “So you know,” he said, “if the word ‘no’ takes two syllables and a key change to say, it means ‘yes’.” He continued to stare Dean out until he buckled under the pressure.

“O.K, well, I’m reading porn,” he acknowledged. “Technically. But it’s legitimate research.”

Sam snorted. “What? You think we may have to hunt a porn monster?”

Dean shrugged. “Well, we should be prepared. We could get hit with sex pollen or a fuck-or-die curse.”

Sam continued to stare, but now it was mainly from confusion. Where did Dean get these crazy ideas?
 
Dean grinned. “Just kidding, Sam. This is personal research," he explained, tapping the screen. “On guy sex.”

Sam felt slightly winded. “Oh,” he said presently. His insides were beginning to flutter with a muddle of mixed feelings. “I’m . . . I’m not sure I’m ready for . . . for . . .”

“Well, I’m not saying I am, either . . . necessarily,” Dean interrupted quickly. “I’m just . . . like I said: be prepared.” He grinned awkwardly. “You should read this, too. You never know when you might need to know the best way to de-hymenate a nervous virgin.” Dean hitched his eyebrows then reflected for a moment. “O.K. I am never gonna use that expression again,” he promised.

Sam was too busy dealing with the other bombshells in that statement to debate its tasteless terminology. Was Dean suggesting himself as the ‘nervous virgin’ in this scenario? Well . . . technically, perhaps . . . but it was still a mind-blowing concept. And Sam was surprised if Dean was intending to let Sam top after what happened the first time.

“I’ve . . . er . . . I’ve done some reading on . . .” He cleared his throat. “Since . . .” By now he was blushing furiously, and Dean was grinning impishly.

“Oh, let me guess: AMA’s Anal Anatomy?” he suggested. “The WHO Guide to Safe Sodomy?”

Sam glared at him, but couldn’t deny the gist of it.

“Sam, WHO can tell you the ‘what’, the ‘where’ and ‘how’ but it won’t talk about the ‘why’. If you want to get to the heart of the matter,” Dean tapped the screen, “read slash fiction.”

Sam was unfamiliar with the term. “What’s a slash fiction?” he enquired.

“As in fan-fiction,” Dean explained, “about books, TV and movie characters and actors . . . together.”

Sam raised his eyebrows. “Like, together together?” he asked, for clarification.

Dean held out the laptop and Sam took it from him, noting the site he was browsing: “The Journal of Sinful Fanfiction Slash Archive”.net. Sure enough, it was open at a page that appeared to contain a lurid sex scene between two guys. After a cursory glimpse at the content he clicked on the author penname. He was curious to know what kind of person would write this kind of thing. What he found in the bio surprised him.

“Er . . . you do know this writer’s a woman, right?”

Dean shrugged. “Doesn't seem to matter”.

Sam’s mouth dropped open. “Dean, this is friggin’ insane! You’re taking advice on male-male sex, from women?!”

Dean scratched at the back of his neck. “Yeah, but it’s like I said: it isn’t about the technical details,” he explained. “It’s about the spirit, the flavor of the thing.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “I reiterate: frigging insane.”

Dean shrugged apologetically. “What can I say? Women write great porn.”

Sam gave him a withering glance and quoted a random line from the page on the screen: "And then Sal caressed Dane's clavicle. 'This is wrong,' Dane said. 'Then I don't want to be right,' Sal replied, in a husky voice."

Dean grimaced. “Yeah. Well, keep on reading. It gets better.”

Sam rolled his eyes but read a little further down the page. Then a little further. Then . . . it got better. A lot better. Heat began to flood his face and spread down his chest and he quickly closed the laptop and repositioned it on his lap. No way he was reading any more of that. Not while Dean was watching, anyway.

“So, what d’you think?” Dean prompted, his eyes twinkling mischievously. “Pretty good command of vocabulary and imagery, right?”

Sam’s head was filled with imagery, and an accompanying soundtrack of Dean’s voice making the kind of noises the story implied were appropriate. “Um, yah,” he replied huskily. He cleared his throat. “Do . . . is . . . is that all . . . true?”

Dean laughed, a little awkwardly. “You tell me, Sam. You’re the one who’s had some experience in this area.”

The pleasant images evaporated like a popped soap bubble. That again! Sam irritably pushed the laptop off his knees and shoved it back at Dean. “God! Dean! Why do you keep bringing up the friggin’ hooker? You’re fixated! I wish I’d never told you about it!”

Dean was shocked and Sam was immediately sorry he’d overreacted. He hated seeing that little-boy-lost look on his friend’s face.

“Sorry,” Dean apologized, a tone of hurt lacing his voice. “I just thought you might have learned something useful is all.” He picked up the computer and looked like he was going to busy himself with something new, conversation over.

“Oh,” Sam said uncomfortably, and presently he continued in a more level tone. “Not really. It was my first time and I didn’t know what I was doing; I was nervous; it was all over very quickly. He acted like he enjoyed it but, like you said, that was his job.” After a moment he added “I don’t think he meant it.”

Dean glanced at Sam out of the corner of his eye. “Didn’t mean to pry, Sam,” he said quietly.

“No, you’re right,” Sam acknowledged. “It was relevant.”

After a moment Dean asked “so, why did you tell me? The first time, I mean. Not like you’ve ever been big on sharing and we’d only just met. Were you trying to shock me? Put ideas in my head about your sexuality? What?”

Sam smiled ruefully. “I dunno. Maybe both,” he acknowledged. “I seem to remember there was beer involved.”

“Oh, come on,” Dean challenged. “You weren’t drunk. You were sharp enough to beat those hustlers at pool.”

“It’s always easier to confide in strangers,” Sam reflected. “If I’d known we were going to be spending the next six months together . . .” He hesitated, then after a pause he admitted “I was trying to rattle you Dean. I thought you were a smartass college kid and I wanted to shock you. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you back then.”

Dean was quiet at first, but then he snorted “I wasn’t shocked.”

Sam chuckled. “Oh, you were!”

“Was not,” Dean insisted. “I was surprised. You just didn’t seem the type.”

“What type?” Sam demanded, laughing outright.

“No – I didn’t mean – ” Dean had embarrassed himself. “I just mean: paying for sex? Doesn’t seem your gig, somehow.”

Sam’s laughter was brought up short and he let out a long sigh. “I was on a case,” he explained at last. “We needed information the hooker could give me. It was about 2 parts curiosity, 3 parts needed the intel.”

Dean’s face fell. Now he was shocked. “Wow.”

“Things were different back then, Dean,” Sam tried to explain. “I was different.”

Dean held up his hands. “Hey, I’m not judging, really,” he assured him. “I’m just . . .” He didn’t finish the sentence, just gazed at Sam with troubled eyes. Presently he knelt up and moved over to Sam once more, rested a hand against his face and tilted up his chin. “Ah, c’mere, Sam,” he breathed.

It was . . . different . . . from the many ways Dean usually kissed him. His lips were soft against Sam’s, his mouth moved slow and gentle. The fingers of one hand cradled Sam’s neck, barely brushing the roots of his hair while his other thumb tenderly stroked Sam’s cheek. There was no tongue, no tease, no escalation; no sense that this was a prelude to anything else. It was all just now –this long, long, moment . . . and Sam. It almost wasn’t sexual at all, except that Sam was becoming wildly turned on. His heart was hammering harder and faster and his chest was filling tight with strange, aching emotion. Tears pricked the corners of his eyes. He swallowed and had to break away; it was overwhelming.

Dean’s wide dark eyes were gazing searchingly at him, and in the silence Sam could hear his own heart and the blood drumming in his ears, and the rasp of his rapid breath.

“Do you want to go back to the motel?” Dean asked quietly.

Yes.

No, wait.

Sam placed a steadying hand on Dean’s chest to give himself – give them both – a moment. Dean’s heart was beating as rapidly as his own.

What was this? Where was it going? Sam was confused. Dean always talked like it was all so simple and straightforward: satisfying an appetite, fun, friends with benefits – but that wasn’t how he behaved. He still talked about women all the time, watched them, flirted and enjoyed their attention wherever he and Sam went, but he didn’t look at them the way he looked at Sam. This wasn’t about convenient sex; Sam didn’t know much, but enough to know this felt different. This wasn’t just fun any more, or therapy, or friendship. It was something complicated and powerful and they were getting deeper into it the whole time, and now they were close to crossing a line they couldn’t retrace. Sam sensed it was something that could break them if they weren’t careful.

If they weren’t honest with each other.

He realized he couldn’t put it off any longer; he had to come clean with Dean. The hammer of Sam’s heart changed, turned into something more fearful, almost a kind of terror. He could still hear the echo of Meg’s words back in Indiana:

"We were from two totally different worlds. There was no way we could ever really understand each other. And the more he learned about me, the more he was gonna see that he wouldn't like."

But Dean, the materialist, who trusted only what was solid, had also trusted the restless spirit of Donald Helfer. And Donny had told Sam he needed to have faith in his friend.

Sam swallowed and tried to keep the tremor out of his voice as he said “Dean, we need to talk.”

“What?” Dean rocked back on his heels and stared at Sam. “Why?” he demanded, his voice oddly high pitched. “I mean, what about?”

Not here, though. And not at the motel. Sam was beginning to realize that, in spite of everything else that was going on in their lives, today he had been . . . happy. If everything was about to go south he at least wanted to preserve, in tact, the memory of those places where he had spent the happiest day of his life.

“Let’s go find somewhere to eat,” he suggested, trying to sound normal, but his voice was still coming out tight and constricted. “We’ll talk over dinner.”

Dean just stared at him for several beats, but then he got up and they started packing everything up in tense and awkward silence. When they got back to the car and loaded everything away, Dean paused before he got in.

‘Sam . . . we’re good? Aren’t we?” he asked hesitantly.

Sam looked away and nodded awkwardly. “Yeah . . . sure,” he said, without conviction. He had no way of knowing for sure. He so wished he could be certain Dean would still be his friend when this conversation was over.

Chapter Text

Scene 4



Michigan, ten months earlier.

There was a surprisingly sturdy metal pipe running just below the ceiling of the motel room. Sam didn’t know what it was doing there, and didn’t much care, but it made a convenient exercise tool. The physical exertion coupled with the repetitive action and counting was a welcome distraction from the noise of the shower in the next room. He may have been pushing himself harder than usual. He was already breaking a sweat by the time he’d completed the push ups and stomach crunches. He was just finishing the third set of pull ups when the young man emerged from the bathroom and stood in the doorway leering as Sam dropped down from the metal bar.

“Don't stop on my account,” he insisted, smirking.

Sam allowed a tiny huff of laughter to pass his lips. “I'm done,” he assured him. There was a residue of mascara leaking from the young man’s eyes. Sam found it oddly distasteful and he didn’t know why. He wasn’t being judgmental; it just bothered him obscurely that the long lashes that had originally caught his attention weren’t real.

The guy took a few mincing steps into the room. Perhaps it was meant to be a sexy saunter, but it just looked rather stiff and awkward. “All right. Well, I see you need to get going,” he said. “Where did you say you were heading out?” he asked.

Sam saw no reason to respond. He simply waited for the young man to move on to business, and leave.

“You didn't. Right. Damn, you know how to play that mystery card.” He cleared his throat and Sam took that as indication that he was ready to receive payment. “I almost forgot,” he said, smiling insincerely as Sam pulled some notes from the back pocket of his jeans and handed them over. He fanned them nonchalantly between his fingers and dropped his gaze equally casually to count them, but then his attitude and whole demeanour changed abruptly. His head snapped up and he glared at Sam.

“This isn’t what we agreed!” he pointed out.

“You haven’t done everything we agreed yet,” Sam replied evenly. “You’ll get the rest tonight.”

The guy’s face pruned into an ugly scowl but he didn’t argue. As he turned toward the door, though, Sam thought he caught him muttering something under his breath. Sounded like “fucking asshole”. Then the door slammed behind him.

Sam reflected for a few moments. He couldn’t say he’d satisfied his curiosity. He still didn’t understand why people would regularly pay good money for these kinds of services. It was worth it, he supposed, for the intel he’d received and to gain access to the club but, otherwise, he’d have considered it just a waste of time and cash. Making his way into the bathroom he stripped off his jeans and stepped under the shower, turning the faucet up as high as he could stand it. For some reason he felt he wanted a hotter shower than usual.


He wasn’t dressed when someone knocked shave and a haircut on the motel door. Holding a towel round his waist he checked the fisheye and confirmed Samuel and Christian were on the other side. He was a little disconcerted when he opened the door and Gwen followed them in, but it was no big deal. The way the family lived, they were all used to seeing each other in various states of undress. And the way Gwen’s eyes scanned up and down his body, the tiny curl of her lip and hitch of her eyebrow – she was just mocking, trying to get a rise out of him. He wouldn’t give her that. Instead he turned his attention to Samuel as the man strode at an easy pace into the centre of the room, claimed it, and leaned back against the table.

“You didn’t call in, Sam,” he observed. “We were worried about you.”

Sam wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of making excuses. “I’m fine,” he assured them.

A tight sigh and the briefest shake of the head were enough to express Samuel’s disapproval. “So, what have you got?” he demanded, moving on.

Gwen was still waiting by the door but her gaze was taking in the whole room. Something in the trash caught her attention and from the pointedly arched eyebrows she directed at Sam he could guess what. He was mildly irritated by her manner, but that was all; there was no reason for him to be embarrassed. The flush that crept down his chest could easily have been from the hot shower.

He directed his focus to Samuel, outlining what he’d found out about the victims. A visit to the morgue had confirmed neck wounds and drained bodies. Interviews with families and friends established a common link: they’d all visited the same exclusive nightclub in downtown Detroit. Sam’s research had led him to a contact, a guy who frequented the club and knew the management. He was their pass to get in and scope the place discreetly.

Christian was perched on the bed with a leg hooked casually over one corner. Throughout the report he cleaned his nails with a flick knife, apparently intent on the occupation, but his glance darted shrewdly between Sam and his grandfather the whole time. At the end of it Samuel turned and gave him a wry smile.

“An exclusive nightclub, Christian,” he chuckled. “You might need a new shirt for that.”

Christian had the consideration to look a little surprised, and Sam bristled. Samuel had never seemed to extend much trust to Sam, and it was worse after the events of the past few months, but this was Sam’s case. He’d found it. He’d researched it.

“My contact’s expecting me,” he pointed out.

Samuel opened his mouth to voice his objections but Christian interrupted.

“He’s right, Samuel. Doesn’t make sense to switch the horse midstream.”

Sam stared at him, surprised. Christian supporting him? That was new.

Samuel’s eyebrows were raised, too, but after some consideration he nodded. “Well, you should take one of the women for appearances.”

Gwen scoffed impatiently. “For appearances. Right.”

Samuel gave her a warning glare then turned back to Christian. “Where’s Arlene right now?”

Gwen’s mouth dropped open. “Who am I? Chuck Norris? I’m right here,” she objected, indignantly. “Or am I a reject, too?”

That actually caught Sam off guard momentarily. He shouldn’t have been surprised, much less allowed himself to be upset by it but somehow . . . he was. It must have showed, too, because Gwen had the grace to look guilty briefly.

“They’ll have back up,” Christian pointed out. “We’ll be right outside, ready when they need us.”

Samuel’s lips were pressed together in a thin, disapproving line but after exchanging a glance with Christian he acquiesced. “You go in, you check out the clientele and you report back,” he told Sam. “You see a vamp, you call Christian. Don’t engage. Wait until it leaves, follow it out and wait for back up.”

Sam didn’t need the lecture, he knew better than to take on a vampire inside the club, but he didn’t argue. At least he’d kept the case.

Gwen was the last to leave. Before she closed the door she turned back to Sam. “So, I guess I need to shop. Great. It’s what I live for,” she remarked sardonically. Her gaze raked up his body once more. “Almost curious to see what you look like with clothes on, Sam,” she added, grinning.

Sam didn’t know how to respond, so he didn’t.

Chapter Text

Scene 5

 

The Billy Miner Bar, Red Lodge

The drive back to town had felt strained. After the peaceful atmosphere of the afternoon, the return to Dean’s rock tapes had been a shock to the system. Conversation had been impossible in the car with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” playing far too loud, but Sam couldn’t claim he wasn’t relieved about that. He didn’t know what he would have talked about; his head was full of only one thing, and he needed to make a few calls before he got into that.

They returned to the same bar they’d eaten at the previous day and Sam let Dean order while he “visited the bathroom”, and then he slipped out back. He checked his remote messages first. Nothing. A couple of calls to his usual contacts came up equally empty. He was neither surprised nor reassured. Hunters seemed agreed that after the rash of events early the previous year, the lack of demon activity in the past few months was suspicious. Sam’s thumb scrolled reluctantly down his contact list. This was a call he never enjoyed making, but he needed to keep abreast of what the family was doing. He pressed down and after a few beats Christian’s voice sounded muted in his ear.

“Wait a moment,” he muttered. Sam could hear other voices in the background, then a door closed and they were silenced. “Sam!” Christian spoke more freely now. “Good to hear from you! It’s been a while,” he said.

“Yeah,” Sam acknowledged. “Been busy, following a lead on that demon I told you about, but the trail’s gone cold. Did you circulate that picture I sent you?”

“I did,” Christian assured him. “But it didn’t throw up any flags.”

“You didn’t tell anyone where you got it?”

“Of course not. Relax. Where are you?”

Sam frowned. The guy always asked, even though he should know better. “I can’t tell you that, Christian. You know the protocol.”

“Yeah, well, everyone’s worried about you, Sam.”

Sam laughed curtly. “And that would be concern for my welfare, would it?” There was nothing but silence in response to the question, and that was answer enough. “Yeah, right,” Sam said.

“Any reason they should be worried?” Christian asked pointedly.

“No,” Sam lied firmly. “There’s been nothing.” Christian might be the one member of the family who didn’t actively want Sam’s head on a pike. That didn’t mean Sam entirely trusted him. Probably it was mutual. “What about the rest?” he asked.

“Nothing new.”

“O.K. Good.” Sam was barely reassured. If he could hide his . . . abilities, so could the others, but the family kept a close watch on the other surviving children – the ones they knew about – if there’d been any major developments, they’d know. “One more thing . . .” Sam hesitated. As always, he was reluctant to share information with Christian, but it was the only way to get anything back. “Ask around: see if anyone’s heard of a connection between Samuel Colt and any of these towns: New Harmony, Indiana; Pontiac, Illinois; Salvation,Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Clayton, Louisiana; Sunrise, Wyoming.”

Christian laughed outright. “You’re kidding? Samuel Colt? You’re chasing that crock?”

“It’s probably nothing,” Sam acknowledged. “But ask anyway.”

Christian promised he would and the call ended. Sam made a couple more quick calls before heading back into the bar, satisfied he’d learned all he could about the current status of the so-called ‘psychic children’. There was nothing left to do now but face the music.

As he stood with his hand against the entrance door, nerving himself to go through it, he was shaking – literally shaking in his shoes. And it occurred to him, for all the near death situations he’d faced in his lifetime, he couldn’t remember when he’d been so afraid.

Blowing out a quick steadying breath, he pushed the door aside and scanned the bar only to have every thought driven from his head as he spotted Dean and realized he was under attack: a blond, leather-clad stranger had him in a body lock and Dean didn’t seem to be breaking free of it. Already elevated adrenalin spiked to a whole new level and Sam lunged forward, hands simultaneously finding the holy water in his pocket and his concealed knife.

But even as he moved his brain started reinterpreting the information it was receiving. It wasn’t a body lock. It was a hug. And now, as the two men stepped apart, they were trading mock punches, scruffing each other’s heads and hair and generally indulging in similar juvenile behavior and Dean . . . Dean was fine. He was grinning: a broad beaming smile the like of which Sam hadn’t seen on his face in . . . well, since they’d first met. And Sam watched in helpless bewilderment, completely at a loss to know what was happening.

Who the fuck was this guy?!

~

“No, I did ask around,” the barman assured him, handing back the pictures of Dad and Gemma. “Nobody’s seen them.”

Dean nodded resignedly and handed over a bill. “Thanks, anyway,” he said. “And keep the change for your trouble.” Carrying the beers over to a table in the corner, Dean picked up some darts and started tossing them at the nearest board. He wasn’t really aiming at anything; he just needed something to occupy his hands. He’d been going over the day in his head, trying to figure out what he’d done wrong, and he was coming to the conclusion: everything. From the moment he’d got up that morning, he’d made every classic How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days mistake. Sam had been clear he wasn’t used to making a big deal of birthdays, and what Dean had done must have seemed like a fuss of epic proportions. He should have stopped at the card. That’s what buddies do. They get a card. Maybe. Or buy a beer. They don’t buy freaking girly coloring pencils. And giving Sam the laptop was way over the top, too . . . but it’s not like Dean had much left that was actually his to give, not that Sam would want, anyway. He’d tried to make light of it, but still . . .

And then he’d practically freaking serenaded Sam! A hot humiliating flush of embarrassment crawled over Dean’s flesh; maybe Sam had figured out the lyrics to “Happy Birthday” that Dean’d flubbed . . . oh no no no no no . . . and the picnic – a picnic! What was he thinking? No way that didn’t say “DATE” in big bold gilt edged lettering . . . with hearts and flowers doodles all round it. Bottom line: Dean had been treating Sam like a boyfriend. All day.

No. Worse. He‘d been treating him like a girlfriend.

No wonder Sam had freaked. And now he “needed to talk” and everyone knows what that means, and Dean didn’t want to hear it, cos it would just make everything socially awkward, but he couldn’t figure how to let Sam know that he’d got the message without actually having to hear the message. Right now, Dean would have welcomed an attack from demons or zombies or –

WINCH!

Dean started and his dart hit the board next to the one he was aiming at. Somehow he couldn’t place the completely familiar voice out of context, but he had a strange déjà vu sense of being transported back with it to another place and time. He scanned for the source of the hail, but the bar was kinda crowded and surprisingly dark for late afternoon, with the west facing windows all shaded, but then he recognized the figure emerging from the shadows and jostling through the bar’s other patrons. The trademark combo of black leather and denims with gelled back peroxide hair was unmistakable and the sight of them filled Dean with an unalloyed joy that belonged to the untroubled time he associated with them.

JIMMY!” he whooped, practically flinging himself at the other man and wrapping his arms round the shoulders of his former college buddy. For a moment he clung to the guy like he was a life raft, might have broken the three second rule, but Jimmy wouldn’t mind, he was cool.

“Winch! I’ll be damned!” he cried. “What are you doing here?”

Dean stepped back as his friend started to noogie him and retaliated with a roughhouse push at his head. “What are you doing here? Last time I saw you, you were in California!”

“Visiting folks. Eh! Mind the hair!” He ducked away then came back with a punch to Dean’s shoulder. “Where have you been, mate? I tried to call; your number was out of service!”

“I know, I’m sorr – ” Movement near the door attracted Dean’s attention and suddenly his instincts were alert to imminent danger. His head snapped round then his eyes widened with alarm as he spotted Sam barreling toward them like he was heading into a fight. Dean caught the glint of the knife in his hand, but then it was gone. Mid stride, Sam’s posture straightened out of combat stance and he was walking toward them perfectly normally; and if the swift change of character looked a little stiff and expressionless, only Dean would have noticed.

“Sam!” he gasped. “Sam, come here and meet . . . this is Jimmy!” he explained excitedly as Sam drew level with them, impulsively threading his arm across his old buddy’s shoulder and clapping him on the chest, and he felt a reciprocal hand close around the back of his own neck. “Jim Masters, from Chico State. I told you about him, remember? Jimmy, this is my friend, Sam.”

Sam stared dumbly at the newcomer for a moment but recovered sufficiently from his surprise to nod acknowledgment and offer his hand. Jimmy didn’t seem to notice, just gazed up at Sam appraisingly.

“Oh, so you’re the mysterious Sam, are you? Been hearing all about you, squire,” Jim informed him. “How you whisked our boy here away in the dead of night without so much as telling anyone where you were going.”

Sam frowned. “It wasn’t . . . night . . .”

“And you!” Jimmy turned on Dean. “You don’t call! You don’t write! Everyone’s been worried sick! That girl of yours has been doing her pieces!”

Dean’s breath caught in his throat. He just barely managed to prevent himself from shooting a glance at Sam. “She’s not my girl any more, Jimmy,” he pointed out.

“Is that right?” Jim retorted skeptically. “Well, I reckon she’s still holding a candle.”

As Jimmy tilted his head forward and fixed him with a pointed look, Dean felt the color rising in his face and the noose of guilt tightening around his gut. He should call Penny. Yeah. And tell her what? That she should move on. Forget about him. Because things were different now. Because he wasn’t the same guy he was back then, the guy she’d thought she was in love with, who’d loved her. He was some freak who hunted and killed things that came out of the shadows, unbelievable things, the stuff of horror movies and fantasy. And now there was that thing about him being totally in up to his neck with a guy. That she’d never even met. Made no difference that guy was about to give Dean the “just good friends” speech. Didn’t change anything. Dean was boned five ways to Sunday, anyway. And the thing that had started it all? The big quest? That was no further forward than it was the day Dean had walked out on her.

“Jim, we’ve been looking for Dad,” he murmured.

Jim’s face softened. He abandoned the lecture and nodded sympathetically. “Yeah, I heard he was missing,” he acknowledged. “I was very sorry to hear about your mum, by the way. I liked the lady.”

Dean nodded acknowledgment. It was all he could manage safely. Fortunately one of the bar staff arrived that moment with cutlery and started wiping the table, which gave Dean some space to recover and Jimmy an excuse to change the subject.

“Oh, you’re eating here?” he observed. “Let me go fetch me beer and I’ll join you.” He arrested the arm of the waitress. “Order me up a plate of Buffalo Wings, love,” he told her, “oh, and some of those onion blossoms.”

Sam wasn’t happy with the suggestion; his expression was at bitch-con 3. Presumably he was frustrated at having the planned tête-à-tête interrupted, but Dean was more than happy to have that conversation postponed, and Jimmy seemed oblivious to all the glowering and the real subtle ear scratching.

“They do these fried onion things in the shape of flowers here,” he was explaining to Dean. “You should try them. They’re brilliant!” As he turned away he slapped Dean’s arm and thumped Sam on the shoulder. It was meant as a friendly gesture but Dean could tell Sam didn’t appreciate it.

That’s Jim Masters?” he hissed as Jim moved away. “The guy who got you suspended from college?”

“Well . . . he didn’t mean to – ”

“What’s he doing here?”

“Visiting family, he says.”

“His family’s from here? Then what’s that accent?”

Dean laughed. “It’s supposed to be British. Cockney, I think.”

“He’s English?”

Dean grinned. He couldn’t help enjoying Sam’s confusion. Mystified bitch-face was even funnier than the usual variety, but he shook his head anyway. “If you ask me he’s just a big poser.”

“It’s a North London accent, smart arse.” Jim appeared at his shoulder and corrected him. “And I’ve got family in lots of places. I get about a bit.” He set a half empty glass of beer on the table and pulled a stool beneath him as he sat down. Dean took the seat next to him and, after some hesitation, Sam sat as well.

“’Cause you keep getting kicked out of town?” Dean suggested, then watched fondly as Jim’s lips pursed into a familiar corkscrew smirk.

“What can I tell you, baby?” he said. “I've always been bad. Now, then . . .” he took a quick gulp from his glass and set it down again. “Are you going to tell me what you’re doing here?”

Dean was surprised how hard it was. In the past few months he’d learned to think on his feet and he’d become adept at spinning BS on the fly to fit every occasion and circumstance, but lying to a friend was different; it went against the grain. Still, he remembered what a hard time he’d had buying Sam’s supernatural revelations at the beginning, until he’d had his ass kicked by them. Seems he was caught between a rock and a hard place, so he gave Jim the Cliff Notes version: told him that Mom’s death had a specific M.O. that Sam had recognized, that he’d come across similar deaths and abductions before. Dean didn’t say, but he implied they thought it might be Mob related. Jim listened to the story affably enough but Dean had an uncanny feeling that he believed maybe every third word. What he was thinking when he occasionally glanced between Sam and Dean was anybody’s guess.

“We finally got a lead on a woman we thought might know something about Dad’s whereabouts and followed her here,” Dean concluded. “We know she was in town a couple of days ago, but no one seems to have seen her.” He reached into his pocket, drew out the picture and unfolded it.

“I only got here today,” Jim warned him, “but let’s have a butcher’s, anyway.” He reached for the sheet of paper, studied it for a moment then he raised his eyebrows and gave Dean a searching look. “Yeah, I have seen her,” he said, but even as Dean sat up, heart suddenly racing, he added “but not recently. And not here. It was back at Chico, right before we got busted for that fight, remember? There were a few shonky types knocking about that campus back then, if you ask me.”

Dean’s flesh started to burn cold and he exchanged a startled, alarmed glance with Sam. Jim glanced down at the picture once more before he passed it back to Dean who received it with oddly numb feeling fingers. “Didn’t realize she was with them, though,” he added, thoughtfully.

“What do you mean, ‘shonky’?” Sam demanded.

“I mean they didn’t fit in,” Jim explained. “People who belong have got places to go, people to see. This lot just seemed to be hanging around watching people.”

“Watching me?” Dean asked, though it had a ring of a statement about it. So demons had targeted him back when he was in college? Just how long had he and his family been on their most wanted list?

“Your group anyway,” Jim confirmed.

“You weren’t part of Dean’s group?” Sam asked, seemingly casually, but Dean realized he was interrogating Jim.

Jimmy shook his head and took another mouthful of his beer. “I was in the year after Winch.”

Sam’s eyebrows creased momentarily and he gave Dean a rather odd look, but then he persisted, “how did you meet, then?”

“Through a mutual friend.”

“Yeah, whatever happened to Tom?” Dean asked.

“Heard he married that newspaper reporter he was seeing,” Jim informed him. “Don’t think he’s done much since.”

The waitress returned carrying a tray full with plates of food. Jimmy turned to help her and he didn’t see when Sam swiftly took the opportunity to whip out the flask of holy water and pour half of its contents into Jim’s beer. Dean noticed, though, and he gave Sam a “what the hell?” glare. Jim was his friend. Didn’t Sam think he’d know if Jimmy was possessed?

As they laid the meal out on the table, Dean asked Jim about the suspicious characters he’d seen. Didn’t sound like the dark haired, blue-eyed guy had been among them, so he remained a mystery. Jim remembered a fair haired guy and another blonde girl, and Dean wondered if he would be able to describe them well enough for Sam to draw.

“Well, it’s been a while, but I could try.” Jim offered round the onion blossoms – which were awesome – and stole some curly fries off of Dean’s plate. “But, you know, it it’s the Mob, they have contacts everywhere. You’ve gotta be careful. Could be anyone you meet, you know?”

“You seem to know a lot about it,” Sam remarked.

Jimmy turned and gave him a sharp look. “Like I said, mate, I get about a bit,” he retorted. “And I keep my ear to the ground.”

For a few beats the two of them seemed locked in some sort of alpha-male staring contest and it began to dawn on Dean that his two friends maybe weren’t getting along so well. He cleared his throat and Jim broke off and grinned at him, and then he picked up his beer. In spite of himself, Dean held his breath as his friend lifted the glass to his lips and took a couple of long swallows.

Nothing. No smoke; no hissing; Jim’s eyes didn’t change color – black, yellow or other – but after a moment his nose wrinkled. He stared down at the glass and examined its contents with disapproval.

“You know, there are quite a few American beers that are highly underrated,” he observed. “This, unfortunately, is not one of them”.

Chapter Text

Over the meal Masters described the people he’d seen hanging around Dean and his classmates and Sam roughed out a couple of preliminary sketches on napkins based on his initial descriptions, but they were pretty generic, lacking much in the way of distinguishing features. Sam wasn’t sure how useful the information would be anyway. Masters’ comments about the Mob were just as applicable to demons in the sense that they could be anyone and anywhere. Not all of them possessed the same victim for long periods; some just smoked in, did their damage and then moved on. All the same, Sam offered to fetch his sketch pad from the car so he could fine tune the portraits. He was surprised when Dean reacted against the idea.

No! Sam, I didn’t get you that for – ” he came to an abrupt halt and sucked his lip for a moment, then he picked up the napkins and waved them at his friend. “Have you seen these dudes around town, Jim? Have you seen anyone suspicious? No?” He stuffed the napkins into his pocket. “Then this can wait until tomorrow,” he insisted. “We were supposed to be taking a time out. Can we just . . . just have one day when we act normal. Normal people celebrate their birthdays, right Jim?”

Dean’s voice had that edge that it got sometimes when he was feeling boxed in, and there was a flicker of the haunted, hunted expression behind his eyes. The revelation that demons had been watching him even back when he was a student had upset him, and Sam was concerned but, at the same time, he kind of wanted to kill him for bringing up that subject in front of the other guy.

Masters turned and raised his eyebrows at Sam. “Whose birthday? Yours?” he asked. “You should have said.”

Dean backhanded his friend’s shoulder. “Hey! Remember Tom’s birthday last year? When we all went out to Biggerson’s?” His mood was shifting to over hearty now. “And we made him stand on the table while the whole restaurant sang ‘happy birthday’ to him?” Dean must have seen the alarm in Sam’s face because he hastily added “don’t worry, Sammy, we’re not gonna do that to you.”

“No. No.” Masters added soothing assurances. “We wouldn’t do that.” He turned toward the bar and, holding a pointing finger over Sam’s head, he yelled “Hey, Eli! Big Flaming Woofter over here for the birthday boy!”

The whole bar stilled to silence and stared at their table. Masters cast an innocent glance around the room as if he didn’t know what had drawn their attention. “What?” he demanded. “It’s a drink. Eli, make that three!”

The other patrons gradually averted their stares and the murmur of conversation began to pick up again. Dean had the grace to look annoyed and embarrassed, and for his sake Sam . . . exercised restraint. Dean evidently didn’t feel the need, since he punched his friend’s arm, hard.

Ow!” the man complained. “I felt that, you tosser!”

“You were meant to,” Dean hissed at him. “You start a fight tonight, Jim, and I’ll leave you to it, so help me.”

The other guy laughed. “Relax, Winch. They all know me here. We’re among friends.”

“Yeah? Whose friends?”

Dean meant it as a flip rejoinder but Sam thought it was a pertinent question, along with others such as: who was this jackass, and why had he turned up now?

Masters was still rubbing his arm. “When did you get all rugged and muscley, anyway?” he asked Dean. “You been working out?”

Dean nodded emphatically. “And Sam’s been teaching me some moves.”

The man’s lips twisted into a smirk, but Dean anticipated and forestalled any comment with another punch. “Oi! Watch it!” he warned Dean, rubbing his arm more energetically. “Don’t flatter yourself I couldn’t still take you!”

“Yeah, any time you want a piece of me, you just let me know,” Dean retorted, assertively, and apparently unconscious of any double entendre.

The barman appeared with a tray loaded with glasses filled with some layered cocktail that looked like a Tequila Sunrise overflowing with fruit, umbrellas and plastic monkeys. From his expression, he wasn’t much more impressed to be serving the drinks than Sam was to receive one. As the glasses were unloaded onto the table Dean and his friend both reached for their wallets but Masters insisted.

“Wrap your laughing gear round that,” he said as he pushed the glasses in front of them.

Sam didn’t feel much like laughing and it must have shown.

“You all right, Sammy?” Dean asked.

Sam frowned. “I'm fine,” he said.

“Well, lighten up a little, Sammy – ” Masters chipped in.

Sam cut him off. “He's the only one who gets to call me that!” he snapped. Maybe Dean’s habit of calling his friend “Jimmy” was encouraging him to overuse the license Sam allowed him, but he was damned if he’d put up with the college buddy jumping on the bandwagon.

“Okay. No offence meant,” Masters assured him. “Just celebrating a little. Wishing you many happies ’n all that.”

Dean was looking at Sam oddly. He didn’t want to appear churlish so he returned a tight smile and accepted the drink with thanks and took a small sip. What else could he do? The two of them were clearly very close and they hadn’t seen each other in months. It wouldn’t be fair of Sam to tell the guy to fuck off so he and Dean could have a conversation that after all, he supposed, they could have any time. And whatever else Sam’s abilities might be, they apparently didn’t stretch to willing an unwanted third wheel to spontaneously combust.

As Dean took a swallow from his own drink Sam shot him a look that urged him to take it easy. It was basically Tequila Sunrise, with extra Tequila and God knows what else to make it stronger. Dean returned a dismissive “I can handle it” smirk, but he set the drink down all the same. Over time, though, the fruity concoction was just too easy to drink, and Sam watched the level on Dean’s glass drop more rapidly than he could have wished, especially since he was mixing it with the beer they’d already bought. Masters was more than keeping pace with him, which was somewhat reassuring, but Sam did no more than sip politely at his own glass, nursing the drink quietly while he kept watch over the other two.

Maybe Sam was being churlish. Maybe it would be good for Dean to blow off some steam reminiscing about the good times with his friend. But when the pair of them started regaling him with stories of college pranks they doubtless thought were highly entertaining, Sam began to feel like he was the third wheel, or like a street urchin with his nose pressed against the window of a world where he didn’t, and couldn’t ever belong.

It was instructive . . . watching Dean with his friend . . .

Sam realized he hadn’t had the opportunity to observe Dean interacting with anyone he knew since that first evening in the bar back in Dean’s home town. Sam had forgotten how openly affectionate he could be around people he was comfortable with . . . his tendency to be physically demonstrative with his friends . . .

Dean was naturally tactile; he could be overly hands on even with strangers – witnesses, waitresses – he’d taken some physical liberties with Sam, too, back at the start . . . but at some point he must have picked up on the fact that it made Sam uncomfortable and had stopped. He was just starting to express himself physically again now, since the nature of their . . . relationship . . . had changed.

But this guy. Dean was all over him.

All right. That was an exaggeration – it was a thump on the chest here, a touch on the shoulder there – but the way these two moved easily into each other’s space, ate from each other’s plates, it all telegraphed a kind of casual intimacy the like of which Sam had never experienced. Not even with Dean.

He didn’t think it was sexual. Not on Dean’s side anyway. Occasionally he thought he caught something hungry in the looks Masters cast at Dean, and he didn’t like it. Sam didn’t trust the man, and not just because of the timing of his appearance, or because he was intruding, or even because he was a friggin’ jerk (but he was). He just struck Sam as phony: the bottle blond hair, the studied, all black image, the theatrical accent – everything about the guy was a performance.

Dean didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t care. Apparently he found him entertaining. He laughed at the guy, regarded him with open fondness, even admiration. Clapped his shoulder. Slapped his thigh. It didn’t mean anything, Sam recognized. It was just the way Dean was. But the realization stung; it boiled painfully in Sam’s gut.

That’s just the way Dean was. With his friends.

It didn’t mean anything . . .

Masters had pulled out a packet of cigarettes and a book of matches. They were the kind that light anywhere, and he struck one with the end of his fingernail. Sam never enjoyed having his air passages assaulted with the smell of cigarette smoke but the sharp, all too familiar, odor of the match as it flared alight added insult to injury. Sam wrinkled his nose as the guy lit up and took his first drag, and then a waitress tapped him on the shoulder.

“Jim, you can’s smoke in here,” she reproved him. “The smoking section’s round the corner.” *

Sam didn’t particularly see why they should move to enable Masters’ sick habit, but they wound up shifting anyway, and to make matters worse it was twice as noisy in the smokers’ area. There was a woman with a microphone standing on a raised platform in the corner and it sounded like she was performing a ritual sacrifice, but Sam caught a few recognizable lyrics from the Tammy Wynette number she was crucifying.

Dean grimaced and stuck a finger in one ear. “Don’t give up your day job, sister,” he muttered. “What’s going on, Jimmy?”

“Tuesday’s karaoke night.”

“Oh, right.” Dean chuckled as they sat down and leaned close to Sam’s ear. “I take it all back, Sam,” he murmured. “You have the voice of an angel.” His hand rested on the arm of Sam’s seat as he spoke and Sam had to fight an urge to grab it and lace their fingers together.

Even as it crossed his mind, Masters’ voice interrupted his thoughts.

“When were you last on stage, Winch?” he asked.

Sam was slightly startled. Of course he knew Dean had been in a band but somehow he’d never thought about him being on stage.

Dean smiled and shook his head. “It’s been a while, Jim.” Masters continued to gaze at him, eyebrows raised meaningfully. “What?” he demanded, then “oh, no no no no no . . .”

“Oh, go on. It’ll be fun,” Masters insisted. “You, too, Sam. We can do a threesome.”

What?

“He’s talking about getting up and doing a number, Sam,” Dean hastily explained. “Jim, no!” he called to Masters, who was already headed toward the guy who seemed to be hosting the event. “Don’t worry. I’m not gonna,” he added as Sam’s eyes widened with alarm, but then Masters was back with a black song folder and Sam thought he could see something equivocal in Dean’s expression as he glanced at it.

“What’s your poison, Sam?” Masters asked him. “C&W? Rock? R&B?”

“I don’t sing,” Sam explained brusquely.

Masters just laughed. “Do this lot sound like they can sing?” He stabbed a thumb toward the makeshift stage. “Nobody cares about your voice. Just go up there and enjoy yourself.”

Sam gave Dean a look: say something, but as Dean opened his mouth Masters shoved the folder in front of him and tapped the page, grinning, and when Dean saw where he was pointing Sam could see he was wavering, and then Masters was gone again and Dean was pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Dean, we need to keep a low profile,” Sam reminded him.

“Do we, Sam?” Dean turned wide, pleading eyes on Sam. “Really? Do you seriously believe there are any demons in town? And, even if – they know we’re here already, right?”

Dean looked like a labrador begging for ice cream, and Sam could feel his own conviction crumbling. A part of him wanted to see Dean perform, catch a glimpse of that side of Dean from the life he’d had before Sam, the Dean the other guy knew. Maybe it would be OK so long as Sam was watching out for him. That was Sam’s job, after all. Dean could go and act up with his dick friend. Sam had his back.

Masters returned to inform Dean they were up next and Sam avoided Dean’s gaze, but he could still feel its weight on him. “Go ahead,” he sighed.

“Aren’t you joining us, Sam?” Masters asked, and to make matters worse Dean added his voice to the suggestion.

“Yeah, come up with us,” he coaxed.

“You’re joking. I can’t sing. You know I can’t.”

“You can just join in the chorus. It’s easy. You’ll soon pick it up.” He tugged at Sam’s jacket but Sam pushed him back.

“You go. I’ll watch. Dean! I want to watch you!”

Dean finally desisted and with one last uncertain glance back at Sam he followed Masters to the other side of the room. Rock music was already playing as they took the stage and Dean soon fell into his air guitar routine, skilled fingers picking out the chords on imaginary frets. His friend strutted up and down stage doing something that might have been a Mick Jagger impersonation, though Sam was pretty sure this wasn’t a Stones number. When the song began they passed the microphone from hand to hand, alternating the lyric for the verse then sharing the mic for the chorus.

“Guess who just got back today?
Those wild-eyed boys that’ve been away;
Haven't changed, haven't much to say
But, man, I still think those cats are great.

“They were asking if you were around,
How you was, where you could be found.
I told them you were living downtown,
Driving all the old men crazy.”

Sam grudgingly conceded Masters had a good voice, though he wasn’t sure if it suited the song. Frankly, neither one of them was perfectly in pitch with the backing track, or each other, but it didn’t matter. Their performance had an energy and enthusiasm that soon had their audience engaged.

“The boys are back in town. The boys are back in town”.

Masters started clapping above his head and, all around Sam, others were joining in. Sam clapped along, too, so he wouldn’t look like a dick. Maybe, after a while, he even meant it.

“The boys are back in tow-ow-ow-ow-own!”

Because, there Dean was in his element, owning the stage and performing to a crowd. The light picked out the flash of his smile, the green in his eyes, and turned the tips of his hair gold, and if his voice wasn’t perfect it was still beautiful, and his fingers made you believe in that guitar in his hands. Every face in the room was turned to him, sunflowers to the sun.

“The boys are back in town. The boys are back in town.”

The boys are back in town. The boys are back in town . . .”

In the musical break after the chorus, the two performers spontaneously broke into a hand jive that seemed totally inappropriate with the style of the song, but from the way they were grinning at each other and the audience Sam guessed they both knew that.

What was Dean doing in the shadows with Sam? He belonged in the light, in the world, having fun. And this man from his past knew that. He got Dean in a way Sam didn’t. Gave him something Sam couldn’t.

“. . . That night over at Johnny's place -
Well, this chick got up and she slapped Johnny's face.
Man, we just fell about the place.
If that chick don't want to know, forget her . . .”

As they shared the mic for the second chorus they linked arms across each others’ shoulders and Sam dropped his gaze to his knees; he didn’t want to watch that. But then he glanced up and caught Dean watching him, and there was just something off about his smile, something anxious and desperate in his eyes before he averted them elsewhere. It gave Sam pause, but before he could reflect on the meaning of it, he noticed something that had his jaw tightening and his fingers clamping around the arms of his seat. Masters was fucking smelling Dean’s hair!

The guy noticed Sam watching and Sam didn’t care. He didn’t even bother to hide the fact that he’d seen, or how he felt about it. As the singers broke apart and Dean took the mic, Sam held eye contact with the other man and let the thought of smacking that twisted smirk off the arrogant bastard’s face play in his head and in his eyes.

“Friday night they'll be dressed to kill
Down at Deano's bar and grill.
The drink will flow and blood will spill,
And if the boys wanna fight, you'd better let ‘em . . .”

The boys are back in town. The boys are back in town.”
(The boys are back. The boys are back.)

The boys are back in tow-ow-ow-ow-own . . .”

The backing track faded out and the performers took their bows to ardent applause from the audience. Dean arrived back at the table pink and sweating from being under the lights, probably combined with a mix of adrenalin and alcohol. He stopped a waitress and ordered more drinks but, much to Sam’s surprise, Masters demurred.

“Not for me, Winch,” he said. “I’m calling it a night.”

Dean looked positively shocked; he checked his watch. “You’re kidding? This early?”

“Yeah, well I’m still shagged out from the trip up here,” Masters explained, “and, besides, I don’t want to out stay my welcome. I’ll let you and Birthday Boy get back to your celebrations. You and me can catch up tomorrow, mate. All right?”

Sam frowned, puzzled. He was reluctant to accept the departure was motivated by consideration. Like Dean, Masters was slightly sweaty, though he looked pale by comparison, but Sam didn’t believe it was because Sam had succeeded in intimidating him, either.

“Do you need a lift anywhere?” Dean asked.

Masters shook his head. “No worries: I’m staying here. Eli has a spare room upstairs.” He turned to Sam. “Nice to have met you, Sam,” he said. “Have a good one, Squire. I’ll see you around.”

For Dean’s sake, Sam was prepared to shake the man’s hand but, once again, it wasn’t offered. He just slapped Sam’s shoulder as he turned away then threw them both a loose salute before disappearing through a staff door.

Dean was wearing a perplexed frown now. “That was weird,” he remarked. “Back in college, he was a real night owl.” He shrugged and glanced at Sam then, just for a moment, a strangely wary expression crossed his face but he chased it away with an equally strange exaggerated grin.

“So, what do you want to do now, Birthday Boy?” he asked.

Sam could have smacked him, especially when he turned the question into a suggestion with a lewd hitch of his eyebrows. That was the last thing Sam felt in the mood for. Almost the last thing. Soul baring confidences were off the table now, too, if for no better reason than Sam suspected Dean was slightly drunk.

Suddenly there was cheering and Sam realized someone was calling Dean’s name – calling for “Winch”, anyway, and he was afraid Masters was back – but it turned out they’d won the karaoke. The host was holding up a bottle of Johnny Walker, and the audience was calling for an encore.

“Where’s Jim?” the host wanted to know.

“Wimped out,” Dean called back, but then he turned a hopeful face toward Sam and Sam could almost see the light globe appear over his head.

“Oh, no, Dean!”

“Oh, go on! Be a devil!” Dean cajoled. “If you can’t have fun on your birthday – ”

Sam snapped. “Dean, I don’t care about my fucking birthday!

Dean’s face dropped, and in that moment Sam felt sick with regret. How ungrateful did that sound after all the effort Dean had gone to earlier that day?

“OK,” Dean replied quietly. “Got the memo, Sam.”

“Dean – ” Sam tried to apologize, take it back, but Dean was already retreating across the room toward the stage. Over his shoulder he tossed back a wisecrack that sounded a lot more light-hearted than it felt.

“Sammy? Remind me to beat that buzzkill out of you later, all right?” he called.

Chapter Text

“Being drunk and weary I went to my Molly's chamber
Takin' Molly with me, but I never knew the danger,
For six or maybe seven walked in with Cap’n Farrell.
I jumped up and fired my pistols, and I shot him with both barrels.

“Musha ring dum-a-do dum-a-da.
Whack for my daddy-o.
Whack for my daddy-o.
There's whiskey in the jar-oh.”

Sam didn’t ask. He just shot Dean a mystified glance and shook his head slightly as he followed him into their motel room. As he closed the door, Dean started fingering a guitar riff on the whisky bottle.

Wah wah wowa wowoo wowoo wowoo – ” he crooned, then held up the bottle. “Hey, how about we break out a couple of tumblers and christen this baby?” he suggested.

“Aren’t you going to save it to share with your friend?” Sam suggested quietly.

“Pfff! Jim bailed,” Dean pointed out. “Besides, he’s staying in a bar, so I don’t reckon he’ll be searching around for something to drink, do you?” He cracked open the bottle top, splashed some whisky into a couple of tumblers and handed one to Sam. For a moment he hesitated, seemingly at a loss for something to say then he tapped the glasses together. “Here’s mud in your eye, kid,” he said, and shrugged.

“To your karaoke victory, Winch,” Sam returned with a grin, then immediately felt ashamed of himself. Strange how Dean got away with teasing Sam all the time but, when Sam tried it, it came out sounding petty, immature and spiteful. Perhaps because it was.

Dean stared quizzically at Sam for a moment then just pointed an admonitory finger at him over the top of his tumbler. “Don’t you start calling me that,” he told him firmly.

The fake grin slid from Sam’s face. He put down his drink, sat on the bed and started unlacing his boots. He knew he didn’t belong to that part of Dean’s life, the circle of friends that got to call Dean that. It still stung being specifically excluded from it.

Dean picked up the TV remote and dropped down beside Sam, bumping their shoulders together as he sat. “So . . . wanna snuggle up and see what’s on the WB, huh?” He leaned back and slowly ran his hands up Sam’s arms . . . hands that were too familiar with friends, strangers, too many former girlfriends . . . and suddenly Sam found himself cringing under the touch.

“Not tonight, Dean,” he said. “I just want to go to bed.”

Dean paused and grinned uncertainly. “Well, that was the long term plan,” he explained.

“My own bed.” Sam grabbed Dean’s wrists and held them away from his body, squirming out from under the embrace and returning his attention to unlacing his boots. “I’m tired. I just want to go to sleep.”

Dean watched him in silence and a troubled groove formed between his eyebrows. His hand made a pass round the back of his neck as he got up and took a seat on the other bed.

“Are you . . . ?” He paused and Sam waited anxiously for him to finish the question. Instead, he abandoned it and took a different approach. “Sam . . . don’t mind Jim,” he said. “I mean, I know he kinda crashed the party and took over, but that’s just the way he is . . . kind of a force of nature, you know?”

Sam didn’t respond straight away. He wanted to give himself time to sound natural and reasonable when he spoke. “Did you ever tell me how you met him?” he asked.

Dean turned his head and pondered. “Tom’s party, I think,” he replied after some thought.

“You don’t know?”

“It was quite a party.”

“Who introduced you?”

Dean studied him warily then shrugged. “I don’t remember. Why?”

Sam tried to sound casual. “Just curious. I always assumed you met in class, but if he wasn’t even in the same year as you . . .” He trailed off.

“Then what?” Dean demanded, in a tone that confirmed Sam’s attempt at casual had failed dismally.

“Then . . . I just wondered how you got to know each other so well, that’s all.” Sam shrugged helplessly.

“I dunno. We saw each other around the campus, in the bar . . . he came to a couple of my gigs. We got on. We liked a lot of the same music. That is just the way normal people meet, you know?”

Sam winced; the word ‘normal’ was starting to grate. It also occurred to him, cynically, that if someone wanted to infiltrate Dean’s circle and gain his confidence, going at him through his music would be the way to do it.

“But do you even know anyone who did take classes with him? How much do you really know about him?”

Dean stared at Sam for a few beats then chuckled insincerely. “O.K. You know what, Sam? I get that you don’t like Jim. I’m sure he got it, too. Loud and clear. You sure didn’t make any effort to hide it. But he passed your damn demon test – oh, yeah, I saw that – so don’t try and make this into something it isn’t. Just ’cause you don’t approve of his behavior doesn’t make him the enemy.”

Sam bristled. Yeah, and just ’cause he’s your friend doesn’t mean you can trust him, Sam thought, but he had the sense not to say it out loud. “Dean, think about it,” he said instead. “Don’t you think it’s at all weird that he showed up here, tonight? I mean, a demon led us to this town where you just happen to bump into someone you know. Doesn’t that strike you as a hell of a coincidence?”

“They do happen, Sam.”

“Not to us.”

Dean rolled the tumbler between his fingers for a moment then stood up and paced across the room before turning abruptly. “I don’t have to know about him; I know Jimmy,” he insisted. “Do you even get the difference, Sam? You know, you’re not that big on the sharing front yourself, but I don’t hold that against you.”

Sam took a sharp breath in and let it out as a harsh laugh. He was on his feet before a coherent thought could cross his mind and he hovered on the brink of saying ‘I was going to . . .’ but somehow what came out was worse.

“Right, ’cause Jimmy's such an old friend,” he sneered. “You hung with him for a few months, Dean. That’s all. You don't think I can see what this is?”

“What are you talking about?” Dean demanded.

“You slap on this big fake smile but I can see right through it. Because I know how you feel, Dean. You’re scared. You’ve found out demons were watching you back in college and you know what that means. It means you’re not just some loose end Yellow Eyes wants to tie up; you were always a target. But you don’t want to think about that, so you rehash the good ol’ times with your buddy and you think that’ll make it all go away. And you’re so desperate to cling to the illusion that you had a normal life once you’re not even willing to consider what’s really going on. Truth is, there’s no such thing and you know it. Your life was never normal, and you weren’t safe before. You were just ignorant.”

It all came out of him in a rush, like a punch, and in the silence after he was done he felt airless. Dean said nothing, just nodded his head slightly, then the fingers that cradled his glass twitched and Sam flinched but, instead of the expected blow, all Sam got was a face full of whisky then Dean turned heel and headed toward the bathroom.

“Oh, real mature, Dean!” Sam called after him, wiping his stinging eyes with his sleeve.

“Fuck you,” Dean muttered as the door slammed between them.

On reflection, Sam wished Dean had hit him.


Jim opened and closed all the cupboards, then the icebox one more time, but he didn’t find anything in it that wasn’t there the first three times he looked, so he let the door slam closed.

“Where d’you keep the good stuff?” he demanded as Eli walked into the kitchen carrying a stack of plates.

“Ran out this morning,” he informed him off-handedly.

Jim stared blankly back for a moment then dropped into a chair and snatched up his cigarettes. “Bollocks,” he breathed.

“I’m expecting a delivery from Lenore about now. She usually waits til things have quieted down.” Jim could hear the Mississippi in Eli’s drawl and he knew it would soon be flowing into his own vowels. Strange how, no matter how long it had been since either of them had been back to New Orleans, they still brought Louisiana out in each other.

He lit up and dragged the first mouthful of smoke down into his lungs, but it didn’t ease the craving. The rasp wasn’t more than a minor distraction from the gnawing ache in his bones, the nausea, and the clammy sensation that coated his flesh.

Eli surveyed him knowingly as he opened the dishwasher and started loading. “When did you last eat?” he asked.

“Yesterday.”

“And you let that boy paw you all evening? No wonder you’re a mess.” Presently he added “you get too close to them.”

It was a fair cop. Eli could probably smell the boy on him. His scent still clung to Jim’s clothing, and he imagined he could hear the vital pulse of that young heartbeat echoing in his ears. “Sometimes,” he acknowledged.

“And you’re not supposed to smoke in the kitchen, by the by,” Eli reminded him. He just flicked a V in response and Eli mockingly bared his teeth back. “They’ll be the death of you,” he joked. At least Jim presumed he was joking, but maybe he wasn’t talking about the smokes.

A soft knock interrupted their conversation and when Eli opened the back door Lenore came in carrying two large milk cans. Jim stood as she set them on the table and they exchanged an affectionate hug.

“That’s the milk,” she said, breaking off and tapping one of the cans and as Eli took it away for storage Jim lifted the lid off the other and pulled out one of the small vials that were packed inside it. Lenore raised her eyebrows when he opened it and emptied its entire contents down his throat in one swallow.

He wiped his lips and ran his tongue round the inside of his mouth. After all this time the taste of cow blood still clung unpleasantly to his palate, but at least it was warm – Lenore had stored it carefully for transportation – and he could feel it was hitting the spot already.

“Are you joining me?” He took out three more vials and offered two to the others. “So, how are things down on the farm?” he asked as they drank together.

“We’re managing,” Lenore assured him, “barely. But the demand is growing. Out of towners are hearing about us. I’m sure the neighbors think we’re dealing drugs.”

“And aren’t you?” Jim asked her. He swung the vial back and forth in his fingers. “Isn’t this just methadone for vampires?”

She returned a cool, expressionless stare. “It isn’t addiction,” she insisted. “It’s survival.”

“It’s both,” Jim corrected. He let the remark settle then returned to the subject of the farm. “You need to keep the operation small,” he told her. “You might have to move in a hurry.”

Lenore frowned and Eli hissed impatiently. “If we do, it’ll be on you,” he growled. “You draw too much attention to yourself, and to us.”

“After what I learned tonight, it makes no odds,” Jim snapped back. “You’re already being watched.”

They exchanged a shocked, anxious glance and waited for more information.

“It’s no coincidence that those two are in town; they were led here,” Jim explained, “by a demon.”

“But we’re building a community here,” Lenore objected. “We can’t just leave – ”

“You can just,” Jim interrupted her. “You have to. After what happened to Margaret, I was afraid of this. It’s a warning. They’re letting me know they know where my friends are. They’re declaring war.”

The revelation left an uncomfortable silence in its wake. Lenore was upset. Eli was angry. “Does the boy know what you are?” he demanded. “Are you planning to tell him?”

One answer served for both questions. “Not yet. I want to be sure which side that friend of his is buttered first.”

Eli vented a hiss of exasperation and walked away, and Jim took the opportunity to pull Lenore closer to him. “Is it secret?” he breathed in her ear. “Is it safe?” She looked up into his face and nodded confirmation. I have it hidden, she mouthed. No one knows it’s here.

Jim gazed thoughtfully into space, took a drag on his cigarette and sniffed. He wished he could be so sure.

Chapter Text

Scene 6


Detroit, 10 months earlier

“Vampires? Gets funnier every time I hear it.” Gwen shot Sam a grin that was almost merry. “My Dad never even mentioned them. I thought there was no such thing.”

“We thought they were extinct, that hunters had wiped them out,” Sam acknowledged. “We were wrong.” Gwen had been almost adolescent when her hunter father was killed and Samuel had taken her in. She’d never been fond of reading, preferring to learn on the job, so Sam shared the benefit of his own research with her. “Most vampire lore is crap. A cross won't repel them, sunlight won't kill them, and neither will a stake to the heart. The only way to kill them is by beheading. But the bloodlust, that part's true. They need fresh human blood to survive. They nest in groups of eight to ten. Smaller packs are sent to hunt for food. Victims are taken to the nest where the pack keeps them alive, bleeding them for days or weeks.”

Sam tugged uncomfortably at his dress shirt as they joined the line at Spider night club. He’d been lucky enough to find a decent jacket that fitted, but the shirt was tight at the collar and short in the sleeve. Gwen saw him fiddling and reached up to assist, unbuttoning the collar and adjusting his tie. She gave him an approving nod as she smoothed down the lapel of his jacket.

“Well, you don’t scrub up too bad, do you, Sam?” she remarked.

Sam muttered some thanks then, as an afterthought, added “you too.” It was an understatement. Gwen was wearing leather pants that looked like they were sprayed on, and a skimpy halter-neck top held up by thin ribbons of material. It was made of a shiny, oily looking material that clung wetly to the shape of her breasts. Sam could even see the outline of her nipples, but when he looked at her he made an earnest effort to keep his gaze trained on her face. He’d rarely seen her wear make up, and he was surprised at the difference it made. Not that she didn’t always look good, but a few subtle touches had really brought out those great dark eyes and full, generous lips and . . .

Sam was embarrassed to realize that he was staring but what was, perhaps, more disconcerting was the realization that Gwen was staring back at him.

“My God, you have delicate features for a hunter, you know that?” she said.

“Excuse me?” Before he could think of an adequate response to the observation they were jostled toward the door of the night club. When they reached the front of the queue a big, aggressive looking guy in a black suit looked them up and down. He beckoned Gwen through but as Sam moved to follow her he placed a rough hand on Sam’s chest.

“Just her,” he snapped.

As Sam started to object the man was distracted by someone standing behind a red velvet drape within. After a brief, indistinct conversation the man turned back and nodded to Sam. “O.K. You too,” he said.

Sam’s tryst from the afternoon was waiting the other side of the drape. He gave Gwen a withering sneer as Sam handed over the rest of the agreed payment, but once he’d escorted them past the doorman and security and into the interior of the club he disappeared. Gwen was directing raised eyebrows at Sam but before she could comment he ushered her toward the bar and ordered drinks while he scoped the rest of the place. Despite its reputation and popularity the club was a bit of a dive on the inside – garishly decorated, under lit, and overcrowded with pretty people milling around or gyrating to excessively loud pumped music, all consuming copious amounts of overpriced alcohol. It was an ideal venue for predators of every kind. Spotting their quarry wouldn’t be a cakewalk; they were once people, so it would be easy to miss a vampire until it was too late.

Gwen’s eyes swept the room, too, but came to rest on Sam once more. She surveyed him from over the top of her drink then licked her lips and rested her glass on the counter. “So, I didn’t know you played for that team, Sam,” she remarked. Apparently she wasn’t done with the subject of the hooker.

“I don’t . . .” Sam responded impatiently, but then he just dismissed the subject. “Never mind.” He couldn’t see whose business it was where he fell on the Kinsey scale, even if he knew for sure, or why it should even matter.

“Hey, I’m not judging,” she assured him, holding up her hands. “It just explains a few things, is all.”

Sam frowned. “Like what?”

“Well, Sam . . .” A mischievous smile played at the corners of her lips. “I was beginning to think you just didn’t like me.”

He stared at her, confused, his head cocked to one side. “What? I like you . . . What?” Then his eyes widened as an inkling of what she was getting at began to dawn on him. But she couldn’t mean that . . . could she? “W – we’re cousins!” he blurted out.

“Third cousins,” she corrected him, as if the distinction made a difference. Maybe they weren’t the world’s most emotionally connected family, but the way they’d been brought up together, in each others pockets, since Sam was – what? – seven? – she might just as well have been his sister. “And it doesn’t seem to bother the others,” she continued. “You’re about the only guy in this family who hasn’t hit on me.” Sam assumed she was exaggerating. He hoped she was.

“Maybe that’s because in this family, I’m the freak,” he suggested, trying to make it sound lighthearted, but his smile came out lopsided, the way it often did when he was insincere.

“Listen,” she said after a moment’s hesitation. “I’m sorry about the ‘reject’ thing. I just get sick of getting left behind. Think it's probably 'cause I remind Samuel of his daughter or something.” There was an awkward pause then she added “your mother, I mean.”

Sam had puzzled about that. Gwen’s appearance – dark eyes, tumbling waves of brunette hair – was quite different from the photos he’d seen of his mother, but it wasn’t the first time Sam had heard the comparison made, and Samuel did seem uncharacteristically protective of her. Maybe it was the attitude. She was spirited, passionate, forthright. He’d heard Mary described that way.

“You just speak your mind,” he observed.

Gwen nodded acknowledgment. “I'll take that as a compliment,” she said.

“You should.” At least it was preferable to some others who whispered about him behind his back, or just stood around thinking at him.

She smiled a little and seemed to be waiting for something more from him. Sam found himself beginning to flush under her scrutiny.

“I didn’t mean . . .” he stammered. “I’m not . . . I don’t . . .” He cleared his throat. “I don’t think of you that way, Gwen.” She raised an eyebrow and he ducked his head to avoid her gaze, and somehow found himself staring down the valley of her plunge neckline. “This is . . . we should be working here,” he insisted, and hurriedly returned his attention to scanning the room. He tried not to be distracted by the thoughts she’d planted in his head and Gwen, for her part, seemed content to let the matter rest there, at least for now.

It was hard to be sure. Everyone was on the prowl, apart from those who’d arrived with partners . . . even some of those. The single women were usually in groups. The men typically stalked alone, or in twos or threes. There were several candidates who looked out of place, either because of dress or behavior. Sam’s attention kept coming back to a group of three, two men and a woman, who were watching the room together, laughing, comparing notes. The woman hung on one of the men like they were together, and the other guy would occasionally leave them to start conversations with other patrons while the other two watched. He’d single out women on their own or, once, a young man, and talk to them, dance, buy drinks for them. But after a while it was clear he was trying to persuade them to leave with him. So far he’d been unsuccessful, and after his fourth unproductive gambit he returned to his friends and this time it was the woman who split away. While the two men watched she homed in on a guy at the bar and, after a short exchange, persuaded him to buy her a drink.

Sam caught Gwen’s attention and indicated the couple, but from the knowing nod she returned he gathered she’d already spotted the group. The woman leaned into the guy, whispering things into his ear, and it didn’t take her long to reel him in. As the pair of them stood to leave, the woman shot a glance to her companions before leading her victim to the back of the club, and the men casually followed after.

Sam took out his cell phone and pressed speed dial as he and Gwen tailed the vampires. “They’re heading toward the rear,” he told Christian. “Exit to the alleyway back of Jefferson.” They followed at a respectable distance and Sam let Gwen take the lead, remaining just a couple of paces behind her and watching her back, until they reached the exit where he gave her the ‘wait’ signal. They’d each bathed in a solution of sage and trillium earlier that evening to block their scents, but out in the street their heartbeats would be distinguishable from the mass of bodies in the club.

“They’ll pick up an elevated heart rate from half a block away,” Sam reminded her quietly. He opened the exit door a crack, just enough to watch the vampires as they crossed the street. The woman and her victim were just disappearing down another side alley. Sam waited until her companions entered after her then beckoned Gwen on with a jerk of his head.

In the shadows at the end of the alley Gwen lifted the back of her top and pulled out her pistol; Sam carefully drew the machete he’d concealed in the lining of his jacket. They could see the woman and the guy had stopped by a car. She waited until he had his keys in his hand then she rounded on him, and he jumped back alarmed. Sam could just see the white of her teeth, but she didn’t use them to do more than startle the guy before she knocked him out with a lazy punch.

“Where’s Christian?” Gwen hissed.

“Wait,” Sam told her.

The other two had caught up to the woman now and they were bundling the victim into his car.

“He should be here already. They’re going to get away.”

“He’ll be here. Wait.”

The men were getting into the car already and the woman was making a sweep of the alley before climbing behind the wheel.

“They’re getting away.”

Gwen!”

It was too late. She was striding up the alley taking aim as she moved and Sam had no choice but to back her up. The vamp saw them coming, of course; covered the distance between them in half the time, but before she reached Gwen the blood dart hit her in the chest. It hardly slowed her down and Gwen didn’t have time to reload before she was baring down, hissing, fangs extended and vicious. She grabbed Gwen’s shoulders and dragged her neck toward her widening jaws just as Gwen dropped her weight and, as she ducked, metal rang through air and there was a wet sound of the blade slicing through flesh and bone.

Sam barely had time to register the body crumpling to the ground or the head spinning bloody cartwheels across the ground before the men were upon them. The biggest of them immediately engaged Sam, circling warily, teeth bared. Gwen managed to get off another shot before the other one grabbed her and pinned her against the wall; Sam didn’t know whether it had found its mark. Tossing the machete to his other hand he reached behind and found his own pistol, aimed and fired into the back of Gwen’s assailant, and as he arched in pain she managed to get her feet up and used the wall as leverage, driving him away from her.

Sam’s opponent snarled and lunged at him. Sam swung the machete but, left handed and distracted, he only managed to slice the side of the vamp’s neck and that just made it mad. It closed with Sam, hitting him full force and taking him to the ground, and all Sam could see was teeth. It was too close range to use the machete so Sam slid it across the ground to Gwen, but he managed to get a hand to his spare blood dart and stabbed it into the guy’s neck. The poison made little difference to the vamp’s strength, though, and Sam was using every desperate ounce of his to hold the guy back. He felt the sharp graze of fangs against his neck, then something cool and wet splashed his face and the weight on top of him slumped. He looked up to see Gwen standing over him with the dripping machete just before she was grabbed and thrown across the alley by the other vampire. As she hit the wall and fell to the ground in a heap, the blade spun away down the street.

Sam was on his feet straight away and it looked like the vampire was reeling, the dead man’s blood taking effect at last, but rage and grief was keeping it upright and dangerous, and Sam was unarmed.

Suddenly bright light streamed down the alley, tires squealed on asphalt and as the vampire raised its arm to shield its eyes from the glare a large dark blur sped in front of Sam and hit the vamp with a sickly thud. Metallic doors opened and closed, dark silhouettes filled the alley, and before the vampire could regain its feet from the collision it was plugged with more darts, from rifles this time. It wasn’t getting up again any time soon. In no time it was bagged and bundled into the van and while the clean up crew disposed of the bodies and hosed the vamp blood, Sam went to find Gwen.

Christian was already there and Mark was helping her to her feet.

“Blood on your face, Sam!” Christian warned him as he walked up.

Sam wiped it with his sleeve, away from his mouth, but he spat as well just to be sure. “Are you O.K, Gwen?” he asked.

She didn’t answer but, from the glare she gave Christian, she was fine. “Where were you?” she demanded.

“Why didn’t you wait?” he retorted.

She didn’t stop to argue but headed off toward the victim’s car, pulling out her cell phone en route, and Sam followed her.

The vic wasn’t badly hurt. With some shaking and patting he soon came round. “What happened?” he murmured sluggishly.

“You were mugged,” Gwen explained, sitting him upright. “Don’t worry, you’re fine. We chased them off, and we’ve called 911. Just take it easy until the police get here.”

“She . . . she had these teeth . . . so many . . .” the vic gasped. “Huge, sharp, like an animal’s – like . . . like a monster!”

“Yeah, well . . . take more water with it next time, buddy,” Gwen advised him, giving his shoulder a reassuring slap. She raised her eyebrows at Sam and inclined her head toward the van. Time to go.


~

They took the vamp back to base camp, a derelict house near the industrial park. Gwen wasn’t too pleased to find Matt and Ben waiting there, staring at them wide eyed as they manhandled the semi conscious vampire into the room and Christian retrieved some more dead man’s blood from their store.

“What are you two doing here?” she demanded.

“Mark said we should come along for the experience – ” Matt whined defensively.

“Well, then Mark’s a dick. Get out!” she snapped.

The boys rolled their eyes at each other but grudgingly left the room. Sam watched them leave then studied Gwen thoughtfully. “We saw worse at their age,” he pointed out.

“Yeah, well, the way we were raised was jacked,” she retorted.

The vampire didn’t look so threatening once it was hogtied in the chair. In fact, sick and helpless from the blood dose, it seemed almost pathetic.

“What about you?” Gwen asked Sam. “Can’t you think of anything better to do than watch this?”

Sam frowned. He certainly wasn’t eager to see Christian torture a helpless animal, but he was anxious to get the intel it possessed. They still needed to know where the nest was.

“You two kids can go play, if you like,” Christian assured them as he squeezed a syringe onto a kitchen knife, twisting the blade and watching in fascination as beads of blood rolled along its edge. The vampire in the chair moaned groggily and Christian gave it a casual glance then looked up at Sam and Gwen and grinned. “I’ve got this covered,” he said.

Chapter Text

 

Scene 7

It wasn’t even light when Dean woke up, not really, and he felt cold but he was sweating. Lying on his back made him feel that unpleasantly familiar rolling sensation, like a slow backward somersault, and he was willing to admit now that mixing tequila and beer: probably a bad move. The whisky chaser had been a bad idea, too . . . though he hadn’t actually drunk much of that in the end.

His head protested a little as he turned to glance at the adjacent bed and he let the wave of nausea pass before he moved again. He didn’t think he was actually going to puke – he had better control of his stomach these days – but he thought it might be smart to relocate to the bathroom all the same.

He got up carefully – and quietly, so as not to disturb Sam – and he poured himself a mug of water from the pitcher en route. He was kind of curious to see if he could drink and pee at the same time. Sort of, as it turned out, but he had to sit on the edge of the bath afterward while another flash of the sweats wore off. But as soon as he wasn’t physically occupied thoughts of the previous night invaded his head, and then he did want to hurl.

Your life was never normal. You were just ignorant.

Dean propelled himself forward and bowed over the toilet bowl, but he didn’t give in to the urge to retch. If there was nothing else in his life he could control he was damn well gonna win a battle with his own freaking stomach.

Wasn’t fair. The demon had taken everything: Mom, Dad, everything; the world he’d known before. His life was never gonna be normal again. He knew that already. Even demons aside, the blinkers were off; for better or worse, the way he saw everything was different now. No going back.

But it wasn’t done with the taking; apparently the demon could go back and retroactively change the past – or at least what Dean knew about it, the way he remembered it – and it wasn’t fair! Dean hated retcon at the best of times: old stories, plots, characters he was familiar and comfortable with being changed on a whim like that. Wasn’t right. What a person knew, they should know. No take backs.
And he knew Jimmy. Jimmy was his reckless, carefree buddy from college; not a worry in the world beyond where his next beer was coming from and who he could have some fun with next; just a regular guy.

Except he wasn’t, and Dean knew that. Now.

Sam was right: Dean couldn’t put his finger on it, but there was something off about Jim. It wasn’t that Jim was any different; it was Dean who’d changed; he saw things differently, picked up on shit he never did before. He’d always thought Jimmy was a big poser, but now the bad boy image looked less like a play for attention and more like . . . smoke and mirrors: it was distracting attention away from something. But Dean knew that game, better than most, and it didn’t have to mean that Jim was a part of some big plot to get Dean; it just meant . . . Jimmy was haunted, by something, like he was.

Jim turning up here and now was weird, though. Sam was right about that, too. That didn’t mean he got a pass though. Dean didn’t forgive him because he was right – in fact, he kinda hated him for it.

He pushed himself away from the toilet, ran a little cold water and rinsed his face with it. Back in the other room he was pouring another mug to drink when he heard the sound of a sudden kick against the covers then another thrash and a growl that signalled Sam was fighting something evil in his sleep. No big deal. When you spend your days fighting monsters, your brain processes it in your sleep; night terrors go with the territory. They didn’t even bother waking each other most of the time, and the nightmares were mostly forgotten in the light of day. Besides, Dean was under strict instructions not to fuck with Sam when he was sleeping, especially if he was dreaming. Getting close enough that a startled and sleep addled Sam might take you for a wendigo could be a seriously fatal mistake.

This time seemed different though. The physical jerks were accompanied by stuttered breathing and tiny sounds, like whimpers. Frowning, Dean edged closer to the bed and studied his sleeping friend. He never got used to how different Sam looked in sleep, how youthful he seemed when his face wasn’t closed behind some unfathomable mask or crumpled with over-thinking. But now the furrows were from something more basic and primal – fear and anguish – expressions you’d never see on his waking face.

Dean took a seat on his own bed, a little out of Sam’s natural reach. “It’s O.K, Sam,” he told him calmly. “It’s just a dream. You’re O.K.” Sam murmured something Dean didn’t really catch. Sounded like ‘should have protected you; should have told you the truth.’ He hesitated momentarily before repeating the quiet litany of reassurance. “You’re safe, Sammy. Just dreaming. It’s O.K.”

The labored breathing stopped and Sam turned over. He squinted up at Dean’s face with his arm draped across his head as if he was shielding his eyes from something bright. “Dean? . . . What time is it?” he asked groggily.

Dean checked the clock. “Coming up on six. What were you dreaming about? Clowns or midgets?”

Sam stared at him uncomprehendingly and shook his head. And Dean watched as the mask reassembled on his face and he shuffled up onto his elbows. “I don’t remember,” he muttered.

“You O.K, then?” Dean asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

Sam studied him a little harder. “Yes. Why?”

“Just checking.” Dean switched on the radio and Sam gave a startled aggravated grunt at the sudden blare of Lynyrd Skynyrd dishing free health advice. The music was too loud, even for Dean in his current fragile condition, but no way he was letting Sam know that.

While he shucked into his jeans and tee, Sam struggled to a sitting position. “Wasn’t expecting you to be awake so early this morning,” he remarked.

“Yeah? Why’s that?” Dean responded casually, studiously keeping his gaze focused on his fingers as he buttoned up his shirt.

Sam gazed at him for a moment then shrugged. “No reason. Never mind,” he said and made for the bathroom.

While Sam got on with his morning routine Dean went across the road to fetch some decent coffee and the morning papers, and the brief dash of fresh air and his first sips of caffeine revived his spirits a little. The human metronome was just finishing a set of push ups when he got back to the room, so Dean sat down with the newspapers and his coffee and paid no attention whatsoever to the ripple of muscles in Sam’s shoulders and back.

When he stood up Dean handed him the other cup. “Want breakfast?” he asked, twirling a candy bar.

Sam frowned. “Aren’t we going out to eat?”

Dean unwrapped a Snickers. “Later, maybe.”

“You should eat something solid,” Sam suggested.

“Thanks for the nutritional advice Mitzi Dulan, but I know what’s best for me,” Dean insisted and proffered the candy bar once more.

“No thanks,” Sam replied absently, and then he just stood there, hovering. Which couldn’t be good.

“Hey, Dean . . .”

Uh-oh.

“What I said last night . . . I’m sorry – ”

Dean held up his hand to forestall the rest of that speech. “No chick flick moments,” he insisted.

Sam hovered for a little longer then sighed. “All right. Whatever.” He turned and disappeared into the bathroom.

Well, what was Dean supposed to say? “No problem”? “We’re good”? They weren’t good. He didn’t want to fight, but he didn’t want to hear an apology either. Sam had as good as called him a coward, weak, running away, afraid to face the truth. “Sorry” couldn’t unsay it. “Sorry” wasn’t the same as not meaning it.

By the time they’d both showered and changed Dean had mostly beaten off the hangover, the physical symptoms at any rate. While Sam combed the newspapers – still hunting for the case that would take them out of town, Dean guessed – he occupied himself with weapons maintenance. He took advantage of the early hour to swap out some of the weapons in their go-to collection while the motel car park was quiet, exchanging a few of the guns and knives in the duffel for others that needed cleaning and sharpening.

For once, everything was where he’d left it, so maybe Sam had stopped silently criticizing his layout of the cache. About time. If he didn’t like the way Dean organized things he shouldn’t have left it to Dean to put all the weapons back in the first place. Like the way Sam had it before was the only right way of doing it. Wasn’t even intuitive.

He was in the middle of stripping the Beretta when Sam switched from the newspapers to the laptop – not that Dean was watching everything he was doing or anything, but he noticed Sam’s hand hovered briefly over the lid where the Certificate of Entitlement was still stuck to it. He might have shot a glance Dean’s way – Dean didn’t know; he wasn’t looking – but if Sam was even considering asking for permission to use the laptop he’d be wearing cleaning solvent for the rest of the day.

He didn’t. He opened it and booted it up without a word.

Good job.

Thing is, Sam had taken something, too. He’d ret-conned a whole freaking day when Dean had thought everything was good. Things were great. Dean thought. Then, suddenly, they weren’t. Or it had seemed sudden to Dean, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe, under the iron mask, Sam had been uptight and pissed the whole time and the warm and fuzzies were all in Dean’s head, because that’s how he’d wanted the day to be.

Not like Sam hadn’t made it clear how he felt about staying in Red Lodge, but Dean had insisted, so there was that. And then there was the whole big deal he’d made about the birthday that Sam didn’t care about. Jimmy turning up and Dean dismissing Sam’s reservations about him was probably just the last straw.

Realistically Dean knew that Sam had probably taken a dislike to Jimmy because he was suspicious of him, not the other way around, ’cause when was Sam ever anything but rational and logical? But still his behavior hadn’t made sense because if Jim was hiding anything he wasn’t going to spill while Sam was sitting around being a little bitch and he should know that. Seriously, Sam should know better.

But there was the thing: there was something off with Sam, too. It wasn’t what Sam had said so much – really it just confirmed what Dean was always afraid Sam thought of him – but just the fact that he’d said it. An outburst like that . . . it just wasn’t like Sam.

Then again, what did Dean know?

Seriously. What did Dean know about anything?

 

.

Well, Masters did have a college record. And it was pretty much what you’d expect, with inconsistent grades, incomplete assignments and sporadic attendance but he did, according to the file, attend classes – that is, before his final expulsion, which was also on record. None of this was conclusive, Sam recognized – systems could be hacked, records faked – but Sam was starting to doubt himself. Maybe this was all just paranoia, and maybe he was doing Dean a disservice by suggesting that he didn’t know his friend. After all, Dean had good instincts, he was a good judge of character, he got people – and he’d known Masters a lot longer than Sam had. Was it possible that Sam just wanted to find some shadow to throw on Dean’s old college buddy? And what did that say about him, if he needed to extinguish every last refuge of light in Dean’s world . . . just so he wouldn’t be left alone in the dark?

He closed the file and the page, left the site, and returned to his search of the local library and historical society catalogues. At this stage Sam was desperate for any obscure connection between Samuel Colt and the town. If he could find something, anything, that would give Dean the opportunity to say “I told you so” it might be a step toward bridging the gap between them. Right now the atmosphere in the room was as heavy as the smell of solvents that still hung in the air, though Dean had long moved on to sharpening knives and the rasp of metal on stone was beginning to fray Sam’s nerves a little. It wouldn’t usually. Weapons maintenance was the background noise of his life, he was inured to it. The regular rhythms of Dean working normally soothed him and he had hoped it would improve Dean’s mood, as it often did, but today he heard a dissonant edge to the sounds, real or imagined. He didn’t know how to reach Dean when he was like this. The explosive fits of anger he was used to. They flashed like gunpowder then were passed and forgotten. This was something deeper, heavy and brooding.

As the morning wore on Sam began to feel the demands of his body craving food. He watched Dean test the edge of a machete and sensed he was aware of the observation, but he was studiously resisting making eye contact with Sam.

Suppressing a sigh, Sam remarked that he was going to go across the road and eat. Dean’s eyelashes flicked upward fleetingly but all he said was “uh huh” then returned his focus to his task. Sam frowned and decided to make the invitation more pointed. He nearly expressed it as ‘you should eat something’, but stopped himself just in time. “Are you hungry, yet?” he asked instead.

This time Dean actually raised his head slightly and regarded Sam through the tips of his eyelashes then he shrugged and wiped off the machete. “I could eat,” he acknowledged. “You go ahead while I wash up.”

 

.

Service was kind of slow. Sam studied the specials board while he waited for the two waitresses to finish discussing the shortcomings of the guys who’d taken them to the drive-in the previous evening, but everything on it was a heart attack waiting to happen. One of the girls was finally heading his way when Dean came through the door. She immediately changed direction and made toward Dean instead, cutting off her friend who also seemed eager to serve him.

“Well, hello again!” she exclaimed cheerily. Presumably she’d served Dean the coffee earlier that morning. “Can I get you a menu?”

Dean grinned easily at her and glanced up at the specials board. “That’s O.K, sweetheart. I already know what I want.” He added a wink for good measure. “I’ll take the Full Montana, and can I get some coffee, black, please?”

“Sure thing, straight away,” she assured him with, in Sam’s opinion, an unnecessarily bright smile and she returned to the counter apparently having forgotten all about Sam.

Dean stripped off his jacket and took the seat opposite, and as he stretched himself out along the back of the booth Sam had to acknowledge that the rest of the room just naturally tended to go out of focus whenever Dean was present in it. He flashed Sam an exaggeratedly cheery grin and seemed to wait for a response, but when they couldn’t think of anything to say to each other, he turned his attention to a copy of Coffee News that was lying on the table.

“Huh,” he said presently, “Do you know what Neil Young, Burton Cummings and this paper all have in common?” he asked.

Sam nodded. “They all come from Canada . . . um . . . I read it already,” he explained awkwardly when Dean looked put out.

Dean shrugged. He started idly folding the sheet and soon had it shaped into a complex airplane design. Sam widened his eyes at him when he looked like he was about to test its aerodynamic qualities so he just batted it to one side. When the waitress returned with his coffee he struck up a conversation with her instead: the usual BS about the road trip, and feigning interest in local attractions he had no intention of visiting. He was just making idle small-talk, but this girl looked to Sam like she was hoping it was a prelude to more: she was laughing too much, getting too close, toying with her hair and clothes. Dean didn’t seem to pick up on any of that that, though.

When they’d covered the basics she turned and Sam just managed to catch her attention before she walked away.

“Excuse me, could I get a coffee, too?” he asked. “And I’d like to look at the menu, please.”

She looked blank for a moment then apologized. “Oh! Sorry, yes, of course.” Evidently Sam’s existence had just slipped her mind. Kathy (Dean was addressing her by her name, now) returned promptly with more coffee, and she continued exchanging smiles and pleasantries with Dean while Sam looked over the menu. Normally it wouldn’t have bothered him . . . much. It shouldn’t have bothered him. Dean flirted with waitresses out of habit. It meant nothing, and it usually got him better service. It didn’t mean that Dean was cruising to hook up. Probably.

And what business was it of Sam’s, anyway?

He ordered the organic granola and an omelet and ignored the smirk his choice earned him from his companion.

Dean leaned back over his seat and started whistling through his teeth, and Sam was beginning to think this was a mistake: he should have left Dean back at the motel. Maybe what they really needed right now was some space from each other. At the point where Dean started making ‘tock’ noises with his tongue, Sam had had about as much as he could take.

Dean,” he objected, trying not to sound as aggravated as he felt.

“O.K,” Dean leaned forward purposefully and Sam winced a little. “So, what were you planning to do this afternoon?” he asked. “Do you think it’s worth carrying on with your police-sketch-artist thing with Jimmy?”

Sam hesitated. He didn’t particularly want to spend any more time with Masters, especially when he wasn’t convinced it would be productive. “His descriptions weren’t really that specific – ”

“Well, it was six months ago,” Dean interrupted defensively.

“Oh, I know. I know.” Sam explained hastily, “but I was thinking of checking out the museum and maybe the library again,” he explained. “See if there was anything we missed about Colt in the town history.”

“Uh huh,” Dean nodded, a little incredulously. Understandably so after the skepticism Sam had expressed about the Colt legend thus far.

“I already checked the online catalogs,” Sam persisted, “but they have older records on microfilm. There might be something there. It’s worth a try.”

An expression of horror briefly crossed Dean’s face before he dutifully asked “need any help with that?” Microfiche was a dirty word to Dean; microfilm was an obscenity.

Sam smiled a little. “I think I can manage,” he assured him. “If you want to spend some time with your friend, go ahead,” he added, trying his best to look and sound as genuine as he could.

Dean studied him searchingly and nodded eventually. “Yeah, well, I was thinking, actually, that if Jim is holding back on anything, he’s more likely to be forthcoming if it’s just me.”

For a moment Sam couldn’t hide his surprise. Dean had seemed so closed on the issue before. “Well . . . good,” he stammered awkwardly. “That’s . . . that’s good thinking.”

Dean shrugged, and in the awkward silence that followed the exchange Sam couldn’t help the anxieties that bubbled to the surface once more.

“Just . . . maybe keep away from the cocktails this time?” he suggested tentatively.

Dean’s face clouded. “Yeah, got that, thanks,” he growled impatiently.

“Just . . . if we’re gonna be working separately, you need to stay sharp – ”

“Sam, I’m not stupid!”

“Yeah, I know, Dean! I’m just . . . never mind.” Sam fell silent, but he felt his concerns were justified; Masters was a proven bad influence on Dean. He just didn’t want to argue any more.

When the meal arrived they ate in silence, and when it was over Kathy was back again . . . which, all right, Sam supposed that was her job, after all. But she wanted to know if there was anything else she could get Dean, and seemed very keen to press extra snacks or desserts on him, just to keep him around longer, Sam guessed. By this time even Dean couldn’t miss her enthusiasm. He seemed mildly amused but, beyond enjoying the attention as usual, he wasn’t actively encouraging her. He wasn’t exactly discouraging her, either.

“Well, that all sounds very tempting, Kathy, but I’m kinda full at the moment,” Dean was telling her. “So maybe we’ll just take the check for now. O.K., sweetheart?” and he punctuated the request with a smile and a wink. He chuckled quietly to himself and shook his head as she walked away. “I still got it,” he observed idly. Then he gave the table a slap. “O.K. I’m gonna hit the head before we go. You’ll take care of that, right?” he added, with a slight toss of his head in Kathy’s direction, and then he got up and headed out back. As he was going through the door to the restroom, Sam saw him reaching in his pocket for his cell phone.

Well, there was only one person Dean would be calling.

Kathy looked a little confused when she returned and he wasn’t at the table.

“He’s in the rest room,” Sam supplied.

“Oh.” After a moment’s indecision she left the check on Dean’s side of the table and walked away. Which struck Sam as odd, bordering on rude. He picked it up anyway and saw that she’d written her phone number on it.

Something dark and ferocious stirred inside him. His lips peeled back in an angry sham of a grin and he could feel the itch of hair bristling at the nape of his neck. It wasn’t really about the waitress – on some level, Sam knew that – but it made no difference to the crouching beast in the depths, pawing at his bowels with claws extended . . .

Chapter Text

Scene 8


Dean washed and dried his hands then he tried Jimmy’s number again, but he wasn’t really expecting an answer; Jim had never been a morning person. When it cut to voicemail Dean left a message letting Jim know he’d be dropping by the bar later if he wanted to meet up.

He checked himself in the mirror one more time and smoothed back the sides of his hair then he turned toward the door, but he hesitated before he unlocked it. He wasn’t exactly eager to go back out into the steaming cloud of awkward that was hanging around him and Sam at the moment, but he didn’t know how to get past it. Not like he could stay in the washroom forever, though. He drew back the bolt, but as soon as it cleared the latch the door opened from the outside. Shock drove him into defense mode and he nearly punched the intruder before he realized it was Sam.

“Sam? What the hell – ?!” and that was as much as he got out before the bolt was drawn across once more and he was pinned against the wall. The warm, solid mass of Sam was flattened against the length of his body, fingers sliced though his hair and tipped back his head and then Sam’s lips were pressed against his. It was sudden and startling and it all kind of reminded him of a replay of that abortive first night back in Indiana, except Sam had logged some experience since then, and now he knew what he was doing. He took possession of Dean’s mouth quickly, and thoroughly, tongue delving deep, snaking around Dean’s, exploring, filling, massaging, while his free hand slid down Dean’s side, over his hip and down his thigh, finger nails grazing back up the denim of his jeans, thumb pressing firm, insistent circles into the sensitive flesh near his hip bone.

Dean’s first reaction was confusion – maybe even alarm – but, if actions speak louder than words, then his body was getting the message fast and hard. Even if he wasn’t sure what that was exactly, seems it was something his body wanted to hear. He was catching his breath in muffled gasps and his heart thumped rapidly in his ears, each beat filling and swelling his cock until it was straining eagerly against his jeans. Still he found his hands on Sam’s shoulders, pushing them apart enough to break the contact of their mouths and grab some air. He stared into Sam’s eyes where the dark pupils were blown wide, pushing out the familiar gold and blue hues until all that was visible was dark brown and sharp, glittering green. Not real reassuring.

Whoa! Sam!” he gasped. “What is this? What are we doing here?”

That seemed to check Sam. His grip on Dean’s arms relaxed and the sense of rush abated a little, but as he leaned his head against Dean’s his breath was still coming fast. Dean could feel it, hot and moist, as he trailed his lips over the shell of Dean’s ear. “What do you want me to do, Dean?” His voice resonated low and deep, sending tingling shivers over Dean’s shoulders and rolling down his back, then he dropped his head onto Dean’s shoulder and started nuzzling against his neck. “Tell me what you want. Anything you want.” Dean let out a sharp huff of breath then groaned out loud as Sam’s warm hand slipped between them, hugged the swell of his cock through his jeans and squeezed. As the shock of pleasure burst through his flesh, Dean’s knees buckled a little under him but Sam thrust against him. Pressed between Sam and the wall he was forced straight again, and now he could feel Sam’s length, full and hard, rutting slowly against his hip. “What do you want, Dean?” Sam repeated, the low rumble of his voice making Dean’s insides quiver. And then Sam bit him, teeth sinking into his neck, hard enough to hurt a little but coarse thrills of pleasure came with it, buzzing down his spine, the backs of his legs, and he was sliding down the wall again but Sam thrust him back upright. “Tell me, Dean.” And he bit into him again, his shoulder, another nip to his neck, his jaw. More nuzzling, and licking, drawing flesh into his mouth and suckling. And Dean couldn’t think straight. His body was all hot chills and aching desire and he was sweating from the heat of it, and he couldn’t find words for what he wanted. Want was as far as he could get.

Lucky Sam was more articulate. “You wanna be in my mouth, Dean?” he whispered and his tongue slid across Dean’s lips, as he drew them into his mouth, sucked and nibbled on them. Dean whimpered. His hands slid up Sam’s back and his mouth hungrily chased Sam’s lips and tongue. Sam found him, kissed him, lips rolling over his full and hard, tongue working slow suggestive patterns over his. But then he drew back. He shifted his hips and lifted his leg so it was tucked against Dean’s crotch as he dropped his weight and rode smoothly up again, and Dean reflexively spread his thighs to accommodate him, crooning and leaning into the delicious friction.

“Or you want me to take you between my legs?” Sam breathed and trapped Dean’s leg between his. “You wanna come between my thighs?”

Dean could feel Sam’s muscles flexing and tightening around his leg as he spoke, and he exhaled in a breathy rush. “Yeah . . . yeah,” he gasped. “That. Anything. . . . Fuck, Sam! . . . Do what you want just do something!

He was getting with the program at last, finding Sam’s mouth again, cradling his head and weaving fingers through his hair, mouth and tongue working with Sam’s, hips starting to meet his thrusts. And Sam’s hands were busy tugging Dean’s shirt out of his pants, undoing the buttons. His warm palms spread over Dean’s abs and slid up to his chest. Curled fingers tracked nails over Dean’s nipples, then his mouth was there, tongue dragging across the flesh, teeth scraping over the nub, making Dean’s body shudder and his toes curl. Fingers on his belt tugged at the leather; he heard the sound of it being pulled through the clasp, the clink of metal, the rasp of the zip being drawn down, felt the material of his pants loosen around his hips then the draught of cool air around his thighs as his jeans sank to his ankles.

Sam palmed his cock again, kneading and massaging the aching mound, and Dean forgot where he was for a moment, letting out a loud unguarded cry and cracking his head back against the wall. That was gonna hurt later but fuck it. Sam managed to get his own pants undone one handed and then he had Dean’s shorts down with one unceremonious tug and he was reaching for the bottle of hand lotion that was sitting on the edge of the hand basin.

The cool wash of air around hot flesh then the even cooler shock of the lotion as Sam slopped it all over the shaft then the slippery slide of his hand and Jesus fuck! he’d sure learned how to use those fingers. Dean’s eyes screwed tight shut and ow his head hit the brick again and his hands slapped back against the wall, one reaching for and gripping the basin for support as Sam’s fingers curled firm and sure around his shaft, twisting, sweeping up and down, thumb circling the tight, tender flesh of the dome.

Nnnnnnnnnnmmmmmm hmmmm hmm hmmmmmmm” he moaned, thighs shuddering with the effort of keeping his footing. Sam snaked an arm round his waist and hitched him up once more while the hand around his cock pushed down, pushed him down, and between, and then he was wrapped in the heat of Sam’s thighs, pinned between them, feeling the tight grip of the muscles and the slick friction of smooth flesh as Sam jacked his hips, swift and firm, and with each thrust Dean’s breath was driven from him as a stuttered groaning cry.

Sam was tugging his shirt back off his shoulders, baring his chest and his neck, running hands all over him, his chest, his hips, reaching behind and grabbing the flesh of his ass in handfuls, while his mouth worked over his throat and shoulders. Dean could feel the wet heat of it, the pull of his lips and tongue, the sting of his teeth. His nostrils were full of the scent of Sam: hot sweat, cheap soap and something else, something faint but sharp, like the smell of a flaring match, while Sam fucked him against the wall with ever more urgent thrusts, and he was dizzy with the feel of it, the glide of his cock between Sam’s slick, rippling thighs.

Dean!” Sam gasped, “Dean!” over and over like an intonation, between kisses, between nips and thrusts, and Dean’s head was buzzing with the sound of his own name, the way Sam said it – the way only Sam ever said it – and now, more than ever it seemed to claim his attention, demanding the response that came instinctively from inside him. “Yes.” Yes, I’m here, Sam. Always. “Yes, Sam . . . Sam!”

It came suddenly, no warning, just the sudden kick, the shudder inside, too late to stop – “Sam . . . fuck I’m gonna – oh God Sam I can’t – ’m coming Sam sorry I’m coming OH FUCK OH SAM . . . FUCK . . . SAAAMMM!” – the white behind his eyes and the throb of his cock between Sam’s slippery and more wet and slippery thighs. He wrapped his arms round Sam’s shoulders, clinging to the man just to keep his feet while Sam fucked him through it and his body crumpled with pleasure and lust. His mouth sought Sam’s again and they shared a hungry and feverish kiss before Sam pushed him back against the wall, wild eyed and panting, and held him there with one hand while the other reached down, popped the button on his shorts and pulled out his own swollen cock, jacking quickly, urgently, until it jumped in his hand, his body shuddered and strained and forced leaping arcs of white through the air that streaked Dean’s face and chest, burst after hot burst trickling into his mouth and down his body, the last thread still clinging to Sam, connecting their bodies like a fine, glistening lasso before it broke and trailed a cooling path down Dean’s belly.

He wasn’t sure how long he was staring into space with glazed eyes before, at last, he found the wherewithal to raise his head and look at Sam. “Fuck . . . Sam . . .” he murmured breathily. Sam didn’t seem to respond. He was leaning against the wall, still trying to recover his own breath, gaze trained at the floor. “Fuck!” Dean repeated and he chuckled, a little nervously, still feeling kinda shell shocked. “Dude! What got into you?”

Now Sam looked up, but he met Dean’s gaze only briefly before his focus dropped to his neck and then his chest, and then he got this really odd expression on his face and he seemed to be in a real hurry to get his pants up. Everything was tucked in and fastened up in seconds, and then he was through the door and gone, leaving Dean open-mouthed and stunned and

“What the hell . . . ? Sam . . . ?

Several moments passed before Dean even thought to lock the door after him. He still felt confused and bewildered as he hitched up his own pants and turned back to the wash basin to clean up. Then he saw his reflection and he stared at it with a mixture of shock and . . . and he wasn’t sure what else . . . just . . .

“Wow . . .”

From his jaw line, down his throat, all over his shoulders and chest his flesh was mapped with a string of red and mauve marks. Maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised what with all the biting going on, but he’d been a bit preoccupied at the time, and not like he’d never had a hickey in his life before but . . .

“Wow . . .”

He cleaned and tidied himself up the best he could but by the time he left the rest room he still felt like a loose bag of stuff that didn’t really fit together and some of it he didn’t feel ready to examine too closely. And when he stepped out it felt like there was a sea of faces staring at him, though it probably only amounted to a handful of people, but two of those were the waitress and her friend. Kathy turned away when she saw him glance at her, and the other girl tittered loudly and disappeared into the kitchen.

He fastened an extra button on his shirt, retrieved his jacket from the booth where they’d been sitting and turned up the collar. Then, to make matters worse, he realized the check was still sitting on the table.

Son of a . . . !

OK. Now he just felt pissed which, at least, was something concrete that he could get a grip on.

Thanks a million, Sam! Fucking jump me in the washroom then just leave me to deal with the fallout by myself! What the hell?!

Armed with his indignation, he snatched up the check, pulled out his wallet and turned toward the counter . . . and then a crazy thought hit him. Was that what this was all about? Oh . . . surely not. The fucking waitress? Seriously?!

The other girl was obviously determined to make herself scarce, so Kathy reluctantly took his card and processed the charge. She was scarlet faced and wouldn’t make eye contact, but her gaze self consciously flicked up to his neck a couple of times. And at first Dean was just embarrassed and humiliated, for her and for himself, but then he caught something in her face he didn’t so much like: something very unattractive in the curl of her lips, and the wrinkle of distaste and scorn around her nostrils. As Dean studied her expression he found his emotions shifting and he picked one from the muddled grab bag to wear for her benefit. Turning his collar back down, he squared his shoulders and lifted his chin, and as she handed back his card he fixed her with a defiant smirk.

Yeah, that’s right, sister. You saw him, didn’t you? Tall handsome guy with all the pecs and the abs: I’m HIS.

You got a problem with that?

Chapter Text

Scene 9


He found Sam back in the motel room. He was leaning with his hands against the table top, kind of breathless like he’d been running, except from one side of the road to the other wasn’t exactly a marathon for Sam. As Dean approached he straightened up and, for some reason, his three inch height advantage really pissed Dean off all of a sudden and he gave his shoulder a shove, and Sam actually tottered a little. It was all wrong. Dean didn’t know why he was fighting. He didn’t want to fight. But Sam had pushed, so he had to push back. Had to.

“What was that about?!” he demanded.

“What?” Sam retorted, like he didn’t know. He was berry red from his face, all the way down his throat and chest. He knew. He knew.

“What do you mean ‘what?’? Don’t fucking jump me in the can no fucking warning and then give me ‘what?’! What do I look like to you?”

“You – I – . . . You were into it!” Sam spluttered. “I asked! You were into it!

“That’s not the point!” Dean countered, and Sam tried to give him the ‘you’re crazy’ look so he shoved the receipt into his face. “You were supposed to pay this!”

Sam stared at it. And he looked guilty. There! There!

“I forgot. I’m sorry – ”

“Oh, you forgot,” Dean interrupted. “C’mon, let’s have it, Sam. Was it about me or was it about the fucking waitress?”

“It wasn’t about her – ”

“Yeah? Then you wanna tell me why I’ve got ‘PROPERTY OF SAM CAMPBELL’ stamped all over my neck? What? I’m not allowed to talk to a pretty girl now?”

“ . . . no . . . I . . . that’s ridiculous . . . you’re not . . . of course you’re not my property – ”

“She was nobody, Sam! I was just making polite conversation!”

“ . . . I know! I’m not . . . I just got carried away . . . that’s all – ”

“Oh, you got carried away! Out of nowhere? Last night you didn’t want to know me and today you’re all ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’! What the hell, Sam?!”

Sam huffed. “Oh . . . oh, so I’m supposed to just fall in line and want it whenever you snap your fingers, but I don’t get to choose when? I’m not allowed to make a move?”

“. . . What? No! I’m not saying that!” Of course he wasn’t. Sam knew he wasn’t saying that.

“Then what are you saying, Dean?!”

Dean thrust the receipt back in his face. “I’m saying if you wanna put a ring on it tell me, but don’t hang me out to dry in front of the world and his fucking waitress!” . . . oh fuck. He’d said it. He’d just fucking said it. Out loud.

. . . but he’d said it all wrong.

Sam was just standing there, shaking his head, looking at the floor. Had he even heard? When he looked up, his face was all with the puppy dog sincerity.

“Dean, I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to do that . . . I just . . . I don’t know. I’m sorry.”

“But this!” Dean insisted, gesticulating at his neck. “What’s this about, Sam?!”

Sam shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know . . . I’m sorry, Dean, I told you, I just got carried away!”

It was Dean’s turn to lean on the table. He turned and shoved at it, scattering bottles of oil and solvent.

. . . O.K. He had to get a grip. He had to stop yelling and just . . . ’cause that was all wrong. That wasn’t getting him anywhere; it wasn’t going to get him what he wanted.

“What do you want me to say, Dean?” Sam persisted. “I’m sorry, really. I thought you were into it!”

Dean shook his head. “That’s not . . . that’s not it,” he muttered.

“Then what is this about, Dean?”

Dean shook his head, trying to get his breathing under control. He didn’t know. He didn’t know what this was all about . . . exactly . . . but . . .

He frowned and straightened up. “Are you mad at me?”

Sam hesitated. “What . . .? No . . .” he stammered. “Why would I be?”

That was it. Dean was on to something now . . . “It feels like you’re mad at me. That – back there – it felt like angry sex.”

“I’m . . . I’m not angry with you, Dean!” Sam insisted, except he sounded it, and he wouldn’t make eye contact.

Dean stared at him, frustrated. “Then do you wanna tell me what's going on in that freaky head of yours?” That might have been the wrong thing to say. Something in Sam’s face just seemed to close when he said it, so he continued hurriedly “’cause I just . . . I don’t get it, Sam. Yesterday we were fine, weren’t we? . . . I mean, I know I went overboard on the birthday stuff, and I’m sorry. Won’t happen again.”

Sam frowned.

“But I thought you were having fun . . . to begin with, anyway. You were enjoying it, weren’t you?”

“ . . . yeah . . . yes, of course I – ”

“But then you just seemed to change all of a sudden. And then this, this morning . . . I mean, I’m not saying you can’t be . . . spontaneous – I’m really not . . . but you’re all over the place, dude! You’re just not yourself – ” Dean stopped. Stared. Oh, that was crazy. Except it wasn’t. Because, Sam . . . he’d been acting weird lately . . . and like Jim said: it could be anyone.

Dean hesitated for only a moment then reached inside his jacket, pulled out the pistol, unstoppered it and fired into Sam’s face. Sam was just starting to react as the first jets of water hit him, and then he just stood there dripping and looking shocked. There was a space of utter silence in the room . . . and then . . . oh no – oh fuck . . . Sam looked hurt.

FUCK! What – ? Why had he – ? What had he been thinking? Of course, it was Sam! What was he thinking? Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Sam did that fake, half laugh thing and pulled out a handkerchief and Dean babbled. “Dude, I’m sorry . . . I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.” He tried to reach out but Sam just pulled back, wiping his face as he turned away.

“If I was possessed I wouldn’t have been able to cross the salt line, Dean!” he pointed out.

Dean glanced back at the door and the unbroken ring around it and his shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry, Sam,” he repeated. “I wasn’t thinking. I got confused. But the way you’ve been acting: the way you were with Jimmy . . . and the things you said last night . . . You're like a powder keg, man. It's not like you. I'm supposed to be the belligerent one, remember?”

Sam picked up the computer case and started packing his notebooks into it. “You have no idea what I’m like. You don’t know me, Dean,” he muttered, sourly. And then he added “you don’t want to know.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sam didn’t answer, and Dean just watched him continuing to pack the case. “You going somewhere?” he asked, after a moment.

“To the library,” Sam reminded him coolly. “I think we need a time out, here, don’t you?”

Crap.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.


Dean didn’t know what to say to make things right, and the moment seemed to drag out interminably, then Sam paused with the laptop packed half way into its case and his body seemed to kind of sag a little. He was staring sightlessly at the note taped to the top and he picked at it absently.

“You’re right, Dean.” he murmured.

“I am? I am.” Dean frowned. “What was I right about?”

Sam was doing that nodding thing he did, but he still wasn’t looking Dean in the eye. “What happened back there was wrong. I shouldn’t have done that,” he said.

Wait . . . no . . . “No, I wasn’t saying that – ”

“I was out of control. I am out of control and it’s got to stop.”

Dean’s stomach lurched. “What?” no no no! “Stop what?” he had a bad feeling . . .

“This . . . this whole ‘friends with benefits’ thing . . .”

oh no . . . oh God no no no! . . . shouldn’t have said the ring thing shouldn’t have said that –

“I’m not like you, Dean,” Sam was saying. “Sex is just a game for you. It’s fun, a diversion, feeding the horse. But it isn’t.” He finally stood up and faced Dean. “Not for me. It’s more like . . . it’s like a fucking drug, Dean! It’s an addiction, an obsession and it’s driving me nuts! I’m thinking about it – about you – all the time . . . even when we’re supposed to be working and I can’t . . . I can’t even think straight any more – I don’t even know what’s right and what’s . . . just me being nuts! . . . and it’s dangerous! It’s gonna get us both killed one of these days!”

. . . wait . . . What . . . ?

There was a brief silence while Dean tried to process what he’d just heard, what it meant, what it amounted to, and then Sam finished packing the case and hoisted the strap over his shoulder. “I can’t do it any more, Dean,” he said, turning toward the door.

Wait. “Hold on a minute. Wait. Sam . . . just . . . let’s just talk about this a moment . . .” He grasped at Sam’s arm but Sam knocked him away.

“There’s nothing to talk about, Dean. I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“No, Sam, wait, you don’t understand – you don’t – just wait – ” he grabbed Sam’s arm again, “just hold on, don’t just walk out when I’m trying to . . .” he grabbed the other and tried to turn him around but Sam knocked his hands away like he was fending off blows and shoved him so hard he stumbled backwards and fell down on the bed.

“Just leave me alone, Dean!” Sam yelled, and then he was through the door . . . and gone again.

“I gotta explain something! Sam!” Dean was on his feet and after him fast but just as he got outside he was walloped in the stomach by something soft but energetic and he stalled his momentum just in time to prevent himself mowing down a small child. “Sam, come back here!” he yelled as he saw him turning the corner of the walkway.

Shrill laughter rang out, a couple more kids bundled against him, and by the time he’d got past them, been delayed by the apologies of the parents and finally got to the corner, Sam had disappeared. Dean ran between the blocks and looked around again but he was nowhere in sight. “Sam!” he yelled again. “Sam! Come back, we need – ” Suddenly all his air left him in a rush. He raised his arms above his head and knitted frustrated fingers into his hair. And his voice failed him as he acknowledged, helplessly, “we need to talk.”

Chapter Text

Scene 10


Lansing, Michigan, ten months earlier.

The problem wasn’t lack of information: quite the reverse. Countless tomes had been written on the subject; net searches returned hits in their millions, a bewildering white noise of confusing and contradictory advice about what and where and when and how much; pointers about temperature and viscosity, respiration and heart rates that were supposed to indicate if you were on the right track, but none of it had helped in the end. All Sam’s research had done was render him helplessly anxious about whether she was as wet as she was supposed to be, or moving as much as she should be, or whether her body language was as open as it ought to be. Sam didn’t think so. He didn’t think her gritting her teeth was a good sign either.

Honestly, Gwen didn’t seem that comfortable no matter where or how he touched her, and she didn’t really seem to like kissing either. Often when he tried, she’d turn her head away and he’d wind up with his mouth pressed against her ear instead. When she finally muttered “Sam, just do it” he didn’t think it was because she was ready, so much as out of patience. And then he wasn’t ready, but she quickly jacked his flagging erection back to a serviceable condition, and once she had him sheathed and in position he didn’t really know what else to do . . . it was what she seemed to be expecting – even though, at this point, Sam couldn’t really understand why she still wanted to bother.

In fairness, he wasn’t really enjoying her embraces that much either: the way her fingers ghosted over his skin made him edgy, and when her arms were tight around him it made him feel confined and uneasy. Inside her felt good, though. It was nice . . . inside her body. Soft and warm. But then she wrapped her arms around his head, octopus like, and the scrape of her fingernails over his scalp kind of made his skin crawl. When he grabbed her hands and pinned them over her head he didn’t actually mean to, it was really just an unconscious defensive thing, but she acted like she was into it: she started moving with him, at least, and she seemed to be making the right noises now . . . though he knew that didn’t necessarily mean anything . . . not that he’d seen that movie, but he’d heard about it.

He came too soon. Nerves probably, and all this being new to him, and it was embarrassing and humiliating, and he felt bad for her, but part of him was just as relieved to have it all over with.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered, as he rolled onto his back and disposed of the condom.

“It’s O.K,” she assured him.

“But you didn’t . . .” He hesitated and gave her a searching look. “Did you?”

“Don’t worry about it.” She chuckled and shrugged awkwardly, tucking the sheets around her chest and under her armpits. “I don’t. As a rule. Usually guys know what they want from me though.”

Sam didn’t know how to respond to that, so he just apologized again.

She glanced at him rather oddly. “That wasn’t a criticism,” she said. After a moment she added “I’m just saying you’re different than them. That’s all.”

Sam huffed a nervous laugh. “Yeah,” he acknowledged. He was always different.

She touched his arm – an awkward gesture somewhere between a pat and a rub. “It’ll be better next time,” she told him.

He stared at her, astonished. There was going to be a next time? He frowned and shook his head, bemused. “Gwen, why . . . ?” he began tentatively. He didn’t know exactly how to frame the question. “What is it that you want from me?”

She didn’t answer straight away, or meet his gaze, just returned an awkward, lopsided smile. She shrugged. “I just like you, Sam. Does it have to be complicated?” she asked.

It was a good question. Why did it have to be complicated? Why did it have to be difficult? He liked her, too. He admired her as a hunter, her courage and passion. He’d always been impressed by the way she handled herself, not just physically, but she was smart and spirited with it. Her humor could be challenging but it usually came with a spark of merriment around her mouth and eyes. All the same, now that he was looking at her up close, he could see something sad in those great, dark eyes that made him wonder if all her attitude wasn’t covering something more vulnerable. God knows, what you see isn’t always all you get. She was beautiful, too: her hair, those eyes, her soft, pale skin. All of which made it more puzzling why she would want to pursue this . . . whatever it was . . . with Sam of all people.

“Why would you want to get involved with the family freak?” He had to ask.

She scoffed. “We’re all freaks, Sam. The whole family.”

“Maybe,” he agreed, “but you’re not all monsters.”

At that she laughed outright. “Well, aren't you just the best disguise a monster ever wore?” Sam decided maybe it was time to take a shower, but as he moved to get out of the bed she placed a restraining hand on his chest, pressing him back down against the pillow. “I'm kidding, Sam. Relax,” she insisted. “Seriously? Is that what you think? That you’re gonna go postal like those others?”

They were survivors of house fires. All six months old when the fires happened. Just like Sam. “You’ve got to be thinking it. Everyone else is. I see the way they look at me.”

She studied his face briefly then settled down beside him, resting her head lightly against his shoulder. “What I think,” she said, “is that those freaks were opportunist losers who found out they had an edge and used it to get rich or get even. You’re not like that. You’re not a killer.”

“No?” Sam couldn’t help scoffing at that. “Last I checked, I kill all kinds of things,” he pointed out.

“Those things’re asking for it. There's a difference.” She surveyed him quizzically, and then gave his shoulder a jocular shove. “C’mon, Sam, you’re the last person I’m worried’ll turn into a psycho. Some of the others? They think what we’re doing is a sport; to you, it’s just a job. Oh, don’t get me wrong; you’re a great hunter: you’re strong, you’re smart, you’re dedicated, you know the lore better than anyone save, maybe, Samuel himself – but you’re the one person in this family who doesn’t act like he enjoys killing things,” she insisted. “You don’t have it in you.”

It was unexpected, this show of confidence, and Sam wasn’t sure how to respond, but he found himself leaning in toward her and, this time, when their lips touched she didn’t turn or pull away. His fingers threaded through the long, soft waves of her hair, and his other hand caressed the warm, silky curve of her shoulder. Sam felt something flicker inside him and suddenly ‘next time’ didn’t seem so very unlikely . . . maybe even sooner than he thought . . .

But then the door opened and Mark stood framed in the doorway. Sam startled and he could feel the heat of something like shame rising to his cheeks, but there was nowhere to run or hide, and Mark didn’t exactly look shocked or disapproving. He was staring at them with another expression altogether, one that started to make Sam feel uncomfortable in a different way. Gwen, on the other hand, seemed more annoyed than embarrassed. She turned and glared at the intruder. “Doesn’t anyone around here ever knock?” she snapped.

“You’re wanted. There’s a meeting,” he explained curtly. “You, too.” He tossed a less than friendly nod in Sam’s direction.

Gwen arched an eyebrow. “We’ll be there in five,” she told him, and when he continued to loiter in the doorway she gathered the bedclothes around her and launched a kick at the door, slamming it between them.

“Well, looks like it’s a whore’s bath for me,” she quipped as she started gathering up her clothes.

“Don’t . . .” Sam hesitated. He knew it was just an expression, but it still bothered him to hear her talk about herself that way.

She looked up questioningly but when Sam couldn’t think how to finish the sentence she just grinned lopsidedly and shook her head. But as she left the room she hesitated in the doorway for a moment. She turned her head back toward Sam without actually meeting his gaze.

“Sam, you like me, too, don’t you?” she asked.

Sam frowned, perplexed. It seemed an odd question given . . . well, given what they’d just been doing. “Yeah, Gwen,” he replied. “Of course.”

She waited in the doorway a beat or two longer, like she was going to say something more, but then she just left.

.


Sam couldn’t bring himself to face everyone else without showering first. He was as quick as he could be but he was still the last one to get there. Gwen barely acknowledged him as he entered but the look Mark shot him was deadly.

Samuel was holding court in the center of the room. He was engaged in conversation with Christian, the two of them poring over a state map, and he glanced up briefly as Sam entered, only enough to register his disapproval. “Good of you to join us,” he drawled. “O.K, people, listen up,” he continued. “We followed up on the intel Christian got from the vamp we took in Detroit, and it checks out. There’s a small nest working out of the east side, maybe four or five left after Sam’s hit last week, but we’re looking at a bigger haul here. Seems there’s going to be a meeting of the clan in Saginaw. Maybe a dozen or more.”

“When?” Sam interjected.

“Soon. Vampire didn’t know exactly, or wouldn’t say. We don’t have an exact location either so we’re going to watch the nest in Detroit for now and track them when they ship out.”

“And what about the victims the nest is taking in the meantime?” Gwen interrupted. “Are we just gonna sacrifice them?”

“We have to be practical about this,” Christian told her. “We move now we’ll lose our lead and alert the clan. We’ve got more to gain by waiting.”

Gwen’s mouth dropped open, she turned an expression of appeal on Sam but Samuel moved on without waiting for further objections.

“I’m putting the call out,” he said. “We have a chance to hit them in numbers. Two teams. I’ll lead one, Christian’ll head up the other – ”

Christian raised a casual hand and Samuel paused to hear him out. “What about Sam?” he suggested. “If it hadn’t been for his original legwork we wouldn’t know about any of this. Maybe it’s time he stepped up to the plate.”

Samuel stiffened a little and cast an uneasy glance in Sam’s direction. “I think we need our most experienced people for a raid like this – ”

“Sam’s been hunting as long as I have,” Christian pointed out. “And the only way he’s going to get leadership experience is by taking some responsibility.”

Sam was more than surprised to hear Christian putting him forward like this, but he was handing Sam an opportunity to really prove himself. He’d be stupid to pass that up.

“Samuel, I want in!” he volunteered eagerly. “What ever you need, I’ll do.”

“Yeah, I know you will,” Samuel acknowledged. “But until we know more about this . . . demon children business, I need you to keep doing what you’re doing.”

Sam was silenced. So they were demon children, now. Hot anger bubbled up at the way Samuel casually humiliated him in front of . . . everyone, but he walled it behind a tight jaw and a stubborn jerk of his chin. Christian, for his part, raised an eyebrow and shook his head slightly but said nothing.

“Well, right now, we stock up, get set,” Samuel continued as if the exchange hadn’t happened. “You all know the drill.” With that they were dismissed, and everyone filtered out of the room except for Christian who remained behind debating some point or other with Samuel.

Sam stepped out into the corridor but stopped when he saw Gwen engaged in a low voiced but apparently heated conversation with Mark. He didn’t catch much of what Mark was saying but “you and that freak” kind of leapt out.

His attention was caught by a tap on his arm and Christian appeared by his side. “Don’t worry about what Samuel said in there. I’ll have a word with him,” he assured Sam quietly. “I can talk him round.”

Sam stared at him. “And why would you do that?” he demanded. “Aren’t you worried Samuel’s right? Maybe I can’t be trusted!” He couldn’t help but be puzzled and skeptical of Christian’s sudden show of support. He’d never displayed any great confidence in Sam in the past. And, truth is, if he were Christian - or any of the others - right now he’d be thinking it was only a matter of time before Sam started showing signs of developing some freak power.

The other man studied him with shrewd eyes and, as if he was reading Sam’s thoughts, asked “have you experienced something? Anything unusual you haven’t told us about?”

“No! Of course not!” Sam assured him hastily.

“Well, when you start levitating things or electrocuting people then I’ll put you down myself, but until that day you’re too much of an asset to waste. You’re a hell of a hunter, Sam. One of our best. And, in my view, it doesn’t make sense to sideline a valuable resource.” Christian smiled, slapped him on the arm and walked away leaving Sam wondering if the explanation had made him feel better or worse.

He turned down the corridor just as Gwen was pulling her arm out of Mark’s grip. When they caught Sam watching them Mark just glared and walked away.

“What was that about?” Sam asked.

“Nothing important. Hey, you might have backed me up in there!” she challenged.

“What?” Sam was a little confused. His head was full of Christian’s comments and Mark’s behavior. Gwen accosting him was unexpected.

“There are people dying in Detroit right now,” she reminded him. “Am I the only one who cares about that?”

Sam stared at her helplessly. Of course he cared and, sure, he’d found Christian’s easy dismissal of the victims distasteful, but he couldn’t fault the man’s reasoning. “I know but, Gwen, you know we’ll save more people in the long run if . . .”

She scoffed harshly. “Right. I know. We have to be practical about this.” She moved to walk away but Sam held her back.

‘Gwen, wait . . .” He hesitated, not sure how to phrase the question. “You and Mark . . . Did you . . . ?”

Her expression flattened then she squared her shoulders and lifted her chin defiantly. “Once or twice. What about it?”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean – ” Sam stammered. Obviously it wasn’t any of his business. “I just didn’t realize . . . if you and he . . . I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes here – ”

She raised her eyebrows. “Oh, and do I get a say in this?” she demanded. “Or am I just a piece of meat for the pair of you to wrestle over?”

“What? No! No, of course not – ”

“Listen, I’m not Mark’s property; we didn’t exchange promise rings.” She snorted with annoyance and as she turned away she muttered dismissively, “don’t worry about it.”

Sam stared after her feeling foolish and a little ashamed. He hadn’t meant to imply . . . because, of course, who Gwen chose to sleep with wasn’t anyone’s business but her own. It didn’t give him the right to expect anything from her or suppose that it was anything but what it was. She was a human being. She wasn’t anyone’s property: not Mark’s, and she wasn’t his either.

Chapter Text

Scene 11


One of the good women of Red Lodge was struggling with the library door so Dean stepped forward and held it for her. She glanced up to thank him but then her eyes grew large, and hardened, and she hurried away without a word. Dean could see the source of her disapproval reflected in the door’s glass panel: the chain of mottled flesh around his neck. He drew up his collar but it didn’t hide much. Maybe this wasn’t the best place to be having it out with Sam. He wished he’d at least taken five to get showered before he’d run out after the guy like some pathetic abandoned Yorkie. For one, it would have given him time to think things through, figure out what he needed to say . . . what Sam needed to hear.

What was he supposed to do? If it had been about his own behavior - if Sam had just said “you’re getting too heavy; back off!” - well, that was something he could change, but if the problem was all up in Sam’s head then what was Dean supposed to do about that? Seems his whole “everything’s free and easy” smokescreen had had just the opposite effect it was supposed to, but did that necessarily mean the guy would be less freaked if Dean suddenly started spilling declarations of . . . whatever the hell this was, if he even knew? Sam hadn’t said anything about feelings, he’d talked about sex. Not the same thing. Similar symptoms; different condition; which were we talking here? Made all the difference to the treatment.

The door swung to and now Dean could see Sam working at a table on the far side of the library. He reached out to push it open but then he hesitated at the threshold with his hand still resting on the door as he studied Sam through his own refection in the glass.

Huh.

He was sitting hunched over a microfilm viewer, looking all engrossed and focused on whatever he was researching. If he was thinking inner turmoily thoughts about Dean he didn’t show it. There was no sign of all this addiction and obsession he was supposed to be feeling. He just looked normal.

Just like he had all morning before . . . Dean shivered as hot chills washed over his flesh . . . Seriously, who saw that coming?

Doubt and frustration muddled with the residual desire and confusion. It was like he didn’t even know the guy. Sam was supposed to be . . . Dean counted on him to be the rational, sensible one out of the two of them. Now he was spinning north and south and who knew where he’d blow next. First he’s pissed and mouthing off at Dean and then . . . then his mouth was all over – the flesh of Dean’s arms and shoulders tightened and prickled – and he’s marking Dean up like he’s staking his claim or something . . . it felt like claiming . . . and then, next moment, it’s over? Just like that?

He felt a flash of anger and resentment. Maybe it was true: maybe he truly had no idea what Sam was really like beneath the series of painted faces he trotted out one for monsters one for witnesses one for the law one for the bedroom . . . and now another for public washrooms? Was that the real Sam this time? Was there such a beast?

A part of Dean still wanted to storm in there and yell what-the-fuck, but that had got him exactly nowhere before. If he’d learned anything by now, it was that he never got anywhere with Sam just winging it. And which of the many faces would he be dealing with when he got there? Sensible Sam was a pain in the ass, but you could talk to him. Maybe even Angry Sam was reachable, if you could get him to stand still long enough, but the Sam in the Iron Mask . . . Dean just didn’t have the tools to deal with that guy.

Fuck it, he didn’t need this. His life was in the crapper, he had monsters and demons up the wazoo and everything with Dad was dead ends; couldn’t this, this one thing, go right for him?

His cell buzzed in his pocket and, somewhat absently, he checked his alerts. He swore under his breath when he saw the message. In all the hot sex and yelling he’d forgotten he was supposed to be meeting up with Jimmy.

He toyed with blowing him off but, after all, that had been the plan: Dean was supposed to talk to Jim while Sam researched. If he abandoned it because of their . . . personal issues or whatever . . . didn’t that just prove Sam’s point for him?

Dean vacillated briefly, then pocketed his cell and turned toward the bar. Sam had insisted they needed a “time out”, and maybe he was right. It would give the guy time to cool off . . . or warm up, or whatever the hell he needed to do . . . and Dean a chance to figure out his next move.

 .


It took a few moments for Dean’s eyes to adjust when he first walked in. Even for a bar it was always dark in here, no matter what time of day it was. Right now, Dean liked it that way but he asked the bartender about it by way of conversation as he ordered. She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s the way the boss likes it, I guess.” She peered at him a little more closely as she poured his beer and Dean had to resist an urge to pull his shirt collar closer around his neck. “Winch, isn’t it?” she asked him.

“Sometimes,” he acknowledged warily.

“I saw you and Jim in here last night,” she explained. “You put on quite a show.”

Dean chuckled hollowly. “Always,” he murmured. He was just reaching for his wallet when a voice spoke suddenly at his side, “put it on my tab, love,” and Dean was so startled he nearly punched the son of a bitch before he registered who it was.

“Jeez, Jimmy!” he yelped. “You should wear a fricking bell!” Fucking crap! Jim shouldn’t have been able to sneak up on him like that. He should have been minding his rear, thought he had been. Maybe Sam had a point about the whole distraction thing.

“Well, it’s good to see you, too,” Jim drawled sarcastically.

Dean sighed and tried to smooth out his eyebrows with his thumbs. “Sorry,” he apologized. “It’s been a weird morning.”

Jim’s gaze hovered around Dean’s neckline, in a way that made him even more uncomfortable than he was feeling already, before he turned away to order his own drink. “What’s-his-height not with you, then?” he asked, without making eye contact.

Dean scowled at him. “His name’s Sam,” he growled.

“Oh, yeah, that’s right.” Jim nodded, smirking. “I recall he was particular about that.”

Dean glared woodenly at him. He knew better than to let Jim bait him, but he hadn’t forgotten the incident either. Even at the time he’d felt that Sam granting – insisting on – Dean’s exclusive right to ‘Sammy’ had to mean something. He just didn’t know what, exactly, but he continued to ponder its significance as they moved to the other room.

It was a lot quieter than it had been the previous evening, and they took a seat in a corner. That suited Dean; he was content to recede into the shadows. He felt self conscious, sweaty and sticky. Added to that, the back of his head was aching now from where he’d smacked it on the wall, and the vengeful spirit of his morning hangover had come back to haunt him. He was kind of surprised to notice Jim didn’t seem a hundred per cent either. Not that he looked rough, exactly, but he did seem tired, and Jim wasn’t normally a lightweight. Mind you, Dean was used to seeing him in the evenings when he’d had time to recover from the previous night’s excesses.

Dean managed a chuckle. “Eli’s Tequila Sunrise packs quite a punch,” he commented.

Jim grinned to himself like he was enjoying some private joke. “Not as much as his Bloody Mary,” he said, pulling out his drug of choice and lighting up.

Dean watched as he took a puff and sucked the smoke into his lungs. Remembering Sam’s caution about staying sharp he put his glass down and left the beer on the table untouched for now. Instead, he reached out and made gimme fingers toward the cigarettes. Jim caught the gesture and pushed the packet and matchbook over to him, observing speculatively as he struck a match and held it under his nostrils for a moment before lighting the cigarette.

“Do you know how disturbing it is that you like that smell?” Jim asked him.

Dean shrugged. “I’ve always had a thing about fire,” he admitted, though he was damned if he understood what the draw was about these nasty little death sticks. They tasted terrible and the first few drags always made him feel nauseous. Still, something about the rasp of the smoke going down was oddly comforting, and it wasn’t like he actually smoked: only bummed occasional OP’s, just to be sociable.

But that’s how addiction starts,” Penny had warned him once. “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt ‘til they’re too strong to be broken.”

Sam probably wouldn’t approve either, but hell with it; he wasn’t Sam’s bitch. He took a long drag, choked a little and spluttered, and he was still coughing as he handed the packet back. He expected his friend to rib him about it, but Jim seemed preoccupied.

“That’s new, isn’t it?” he asked. His eyes were trained on Dean’s chest.

“What?”

“That trinket you’ve got hanging round your neck. Where d’you get it?”

Dean paused. “From Sam,” he admitted awkwardly, feeling somewhat self conscious about the confession. “It’s supposed to be a good luck charm . . . he’s superstitious like that,” he added.

“Yeah?” Jim was curious. “What sort of luck? What’s it supposed to do?”

Dean shrugged. “I dunno. Just some general . . . protective . . . stuff.”

“You don’t know?” The look Jim gave him as he asked was oddly reproving.

“Well, Sam’s not sure himself,” Dean explained. “He’s had it for years.”

Jim leaned forward, lifted the carved head and peered at it. “Very pretty,” he said.

“Get off.” Dean instinctively slapped the hand away – for some reason he didn’t like Jim touching it – and when Jim quirked his eyebrows at him he was forced to come up with some excuse for the over-reaction. “Your hands are cold,” he mumbled. Not that he’d felt that through his shirt, but Jim was one of those chilly mortals whose hands are always cold.

Jim smiled rather knowingly then leaned back, “It’s a pity the lad didn’t come along with you today. I was hoping for a chance to get to know him better.”

Dean couldn’t tell whether Jim was being sarcastic or not. “I didn’t get the impression you two hit it off last night,” he pointed out.

Jim shot an enigmatic glance at Dean then directed his attention to the ashtray as he tapped his cigarette over it. “Doesn’t like to share, your boy, does he?” he commented.

It struck Dean as a weird observation, not to mention a non sequitur, and his confusion must have been evident so, by way of illustration, Jim reached out and pulled Dean’s collar aside. Taking the point, Dean reacted with another slap. “Get off me,” he snapped, embarrassed. “What makes you think this was Sam? Could’ve been anyone.” he muttered, shelving the more puzzling issues of how Jim could have known about the waitress, or what the hell that had to do with the previous evening.

Jim drew on his cigarette and sniffed. “That isn’t a woman’s perfume I can smell on you, Pet.”

Dean didn’t blush easily but he could feel the blood rushing to his face now. To appease his humiliation he punched Jim’s arm. Hard. “I’ve told you before about calling me that,” he grumbled warningly.

Jim’s lips twisted into a smirk and he launched a retaliatory jab into Dean’s bicep. “And I warned you about being too free with your hands,” Jim admonished him. “Advice that might have stood you in better stead with that boy of yours, I might add.”

Dean’s jaw tightened obstinately. “He’s not my boy,” he growled. He wasn’t going to let on it had hurt, but his whole arm had gone numb. It was always surprising how much tougher Jim was than his light frame suggested.

“Is that right?” Jim replied skeptically, “Well, he didn’t like your little octopus impression, I can tell you that. You’ve always had W.H.T., but last night you were all over me. Were you trying to make him jealous, or what?”

Last night? Wait. What?! Dean finally read the script and caught on that Jim wasn’t talking about the misunderstanding over the waitress, but surely he didn’t think . . . “No, I was not trying to make Sam jealous!” he retorted indignantly. “Why the hell would he . . . ?” and then he laughed outright. This was just nuts. “Oh, don’t flatter yourself! You wouldn’t be my type even if I was gay. Which I’m not.” Jim raised an eyebrow but Dean forestalled him before he could get smart. “Sam’s the only one I’ve ever crossed the floor for and he knows that.”

Jim said nothing, just drew on his cigarette and waited. Sure enough doubt started to creep in. After all, Dean was beginning to appreciate this was an area Sam’s usual smarts didn’t extend to. On reflection, maybe the affectionate displays with Jim had been a little above and beyond. At the time he’d thought that if Sam saw what an all round demonstrative kind of guy Dean was with all his friends, maybe his behavior with Sam wouldn’t seem like such a big deal. In retrospect, he realized that had probably been completely the wrong call, but come on! Sam couldn’t be that stupid.

Dean scoffed. “No way he thinks there’s anything between you and me,” he insisted stubbornly, but with less conviction than before.

“Doesn’t have to be about sex, Pet,” Jim pointed out. “The green eyed monster’s not a rational beast.”

Dean was too preoccupied trying to recall the sequence of events to call Jim on the endearment. He was sure Sam’s odd behavior had started before Jim turned up, but it sure hadn’t improved during the course of the evening . . . and he’d been angry before the incident with the waitress. When had that started?

“So it’s serious, then?” Jim asked.

Dean responded inattentively. “What?”

“You and Sam.”

Dean looked up and examined Jim’s face. His interest seemed genuine, even concerned, but the answer to his question was complicated and Dean didn’t exactly feel ready to talk about it. “I don’t know.” He realized his cigarette was about to drop a neglected stem of ash so he reached out and let it fall into the ashtray. “I don’t know what it is,” he said. “It’s something.”

The hand in his pocket was tight around his cell phone. His fingers itched to call Sam, straighten all this crap out . . . somehow.

~


May 8th 1921 . . . May 8th 1921. . . May 8th 1921. . . May 8th 1921. . . May 9th 1921. . . May 9th 1921 . . . May 9th 19—

The machine only provided two choices: interminably slow and light speed. Sam lost patience, turned the dial a tiny fraction to the right, and the machine squealed as documents whizzed past on the screen, too fast to see until he released the dial a mere moment later.

November 2nd 1921

He breathed an aggravated hiss. The document he wanted was from August 1921: minutes of an obscure Townswomen’s Guild meeting with a lecture from a visiting Civil War buff who may have mentioned Samuel Colt at some point.

Yes. He was desperate.

He turned the dial the other way and the machine screeched again.

February 17th 1921.

Sighing with resignation he sat back and just allowed the machine to crawl through the contents of the film at its own sadistic pace.

February 17th 1921. . . February 17th 1921 . . . February 18th 1921 . . . February . . .

Dean was right about microfilm.

Dean was right . . . Dean was . . . Dean . . .

Sam stared blankly at the screen, and documents continued to drift slowly across his vision but he was barely aware of them, the image of Dean – Dean’s flesh mottled and bruised, spoiled – far clearer to his mind’s eye. God! What had he been thinking? What had possessed –

He leaned forward, hunched over himself with shame. Where did his reason, his restraint go when he was in the grip of that testosterone fuelled beast? From the moment his head had cleared, and he’d stepped back and seen what he’d done – he’d had to get away, he couldn’t look at Dean, couldn’t be with him, couldn’t look him in the face. That – what he’d done: that was animal.

It was happening again, just like before. He was out of control, driven by impulses that seemed to have no thought process, no rational behind them, just blind rage or some primal bestial instinct to take, possess, mark as “mine”. Dean was not his, not his property. You can’t own, can’t possess a human being, can’t force them to do your will . . . no one has the right to . . . like branding Dean was going to stop him doing whatever the hell he wanted with whoever . . . and all Sam had succeeded in doing was sending Dean to Masters angry and disgusted with him – God! Dean had thought he was a demon! Even if it was only for a moment, it was . . .

The more he learned about me, the more he was gonna see that he wouldn't like . . .

Pretty soon Sam wasn’t going to need to tell Dean there was something wrong with him. He’d see it for himself.

. . . September 29th 1921

It took a while for the date to come into focus and for Sam to remember what it was he was supposed to be doing.

Jesus! He barely restrained himself from putting his fist through the screen, but he screwed his eyes shut and pulled slow steadying breaths into his lungs.

Reason. Control. These are all that separate us from feral beasts or the wanton, grasping creatures of the Pit. And whenever Sam let himself forget that . . . things got bad.

Straightening in his seat, he carefully turned the dial back enough to set it on its tortuous pace once more.

September 29th 1921. . . September 29th 1921 . . . September 28th 1921 . . .

He was startled when his cell chimed in his pocket. The tone alerted him he had a message on one of his remote phones. It turned out to be from Christian and when Sam called back he picked up straight away.

“Do you have something?” Sam asked.

“Not on Colt, no,” Christian’s voice checked him. “But one of those towns you mentioned threw up an interesting flag. It may be nothing, but it’s curious.”

“Go on.”

“Are you near a computer?”

Christian read out an url from the LSU library catalog and Sam typed it into his browser. It contained a copy of a news item from February 1790 reporting on a fire at the residence of one James William, a landowner in Clayton, Lousiana. The fire had torn through the residence claiming the lives of William’s wife, Sarah, daughter, Margaret, and three servants.

“What’s curious is that the daughter was six months old,” Christian explained.

“Wait . . .” Sam stared at a grainy old portrait of the family. “Are you saying this is connected to the Demon? In 1790?”

“I’m not saying anything. If there were cases going back that far, it’s the first we knew about it. This is over 200 years ago. Odds are, some time in the last two centuries there were 6 month old kids involved in fires that weren’t connected to the Demon. And this one died, which is outside the usual parameters. Could just be coincidence.”

“Yeah. Right,” Sam murmured skeptically.

“Just thought you’d want to look into it.”

Sam thanked Christian and closed the call as he began a preliminary scan for other fires in 1790 that might have involved infant mortalities or survivors. It was kind of like pissing into the wind; that far back the kind of information he was searching for was sparse and sketchy at best. When his initial search yielded nothing of note he widened his parameters to the years just before and after. He found one – in New York, November 1789 – where the child was definitely under a year old. That was all he could discover without a more thorough search that would take time. But what if it were true? If the Demon had been attacking families for centuries then the scale of it was . . . so much more than they’d ever supposed. What did it all mean?

He returned his attention to the original family. As moneyed land owners there was a little more information to be had about them, at least before the fire: a few accounts of social and civic activities that seemed perfectly normal for a family of their time and social standing. Some time after the fire there was a record of the land passing to an uncle, but there was no further information about William. Sam couldn’t even find a record of his death. He just seemed to disappear after the deaths of his wife and daughter. That had a familiar ring.

Then, as he skimmed over the earlier items, he found the original announcement of the couple’s engagement . . . and the maiden name of the bride-to-be:

Masters!

This was no coincidence! Sam hurriedly brought up the family portrait once more. Now he was looking for it the resemblance was apparent. The hair was in a long pony tail, as was the custom of the time, and it was naturally fair – not bottle blond, of course – but Sam could see now it was the same man. Except . . . that was impossible: the holy water had had no effect . . .

But there were many long lived things that weren’t susceptible to holy water: witches, revenants, were-creatures, vamp –

Sam straightened sharply in his seat and stared wide-eyed at the portrait as a series of minor yet fucking obvious details from his recollection of last evening cascaded through his head. In a moment he was on his feet, shoving the laptop and his books back into the case.

He’d been expecting demons, he’d been too pre-occupied, distracted – head too full of all the wrong things – and he’d missed what should have been staring him in the face the whole time!

Chapter Text

Dean watched the remaining dregs of his beer swill around the bottom of the glass. He’d nursed it for as long as he could, and Jim had drunk three in the same space of time, all the same he had a sense that maybe it was affecting him more than it should. For a while he’d turned the conversation to the good ol’ times back in Chico, mainly to get Jimmy off the subject of his ‘relationship’ with Sam, but now all the reminiscing was making him feel a little . . . maudlin, maybe? Besides, he knew that sooner or later he was going to have to talk about the here and now.

Turns out, in the end, it was Jimmy who brought it up. He was slumped back in his chair . . . and maybe all the beer was getting to him, too, ’cause he looked as tired as Dean felt. His eyes were as sharp as ever, though, and he was watching Dean perceptively.

“You’ve changed,” he observed.

Dean glanced up briefly but returned his focus to the bottom of his glass. What did Jim expect? After what had happened to Mom, did he imagine he’d still find Dean the same devil-may-care party boy he’d been in college?

“I’ve had to toughen up a bit in the past few months,” he agreed.

Jim continued to study him. “Not exactly what I meant,” he said. He leaned forward and asked, sympathetically “how are you holding up, mate? Really?”

Dean shrugged his shoulders. “Well, you know, we don't have enough room for the worms if we pop that can,” he cautioned him.

“I mean it, Winch,” Jim insisted. “What happened to your mum: it’s gotta be rough.” He continued to watch and wait and eventually the invitation to unload started to have an appeal. Maybe Dean did need to get some of this off his chest.

“Yeah, well . . . parents, you know?” Dean tugged unconsciously at his ear. “Somehow you think to yourself, they’re indestructible or something. They'll always be around. Then just like that – ” he snapped his fingers, “Mom’s dead, Dad's gone.” He paused and heaved an unsteady breath. “I can't really talk about this to Sam,” he admitted presently. “Family doesn’t exactly mean the same thing to him and he already thinks . . .” What did Sam think? Honestly, he didn’t know for sure. Not like Sam had ever said anything, not about Dean, but he led by example and he acted like he thought feelings were a weakness. Sure did his best never to show any himself so, if Dean wanted Sam’s respect, he had to muster some stoicism of his own, didn’t he? “Anyway, so I keep my game face on, but . . .” he chuckled awkwardly and cleared his throat. “Truth is I'm not handling it very well. I feel like I have this . . .” He shot a hesitant glance at Jim. He was just listening quietly, didn’t seem to be judging, but Dean hadn’t really talked to anyone about this before.

“Hole inside you?” Jim supplied. “And it just gets bigger and bigger and darker and darker?”

Dean kind of winced. It was unexpected and too knowing, too close to the bone. He studied his friend’s face and suddenly he could see something in the eyes that made him realize Jim was older than he looked. And the man knew what he was talking about.

“Yeah, I’ve lost people, too,” he acknowledged, like he was reading Dean’s mind. “People I loved. Had ’em taken from me. Believe me when I tell you, I wanted to make someone pay.” He leaned forward and fixed Dean with his intense eyes. “There’s no good that way, mate, trust me. There’s nothing on that road but darkness, and you never get off. And that hole in the pit of your stomach, you never fill it. Ever.”

Dean stared at Jim and his jaw tightened. He felt the cold that comes with a certain kind of truth. He shook his head, all the same. “You don’t understand, Jim. This isn’t about revenge, it’s about knowing Dad’s out there somewhere and he needs help. . . and I’m all he’s got.” And maybe it wasn’t enough. “The trail for Dad feels like it's getting colder every day,” he admitted. “And it’s starting to feel . . . normal . . . like I’m getting used to him being gone, and I’m forgetting that every day he’s – ” He stared at his glass for a moment then lifted it to his lips and swallowed the last bitter drops. “God . . . I hate myself for that.” And maybe all this crap with Sam wasn’t helping. It was a distraction . . . at a time when he needed to be focused, single-minded. Maybe Sam was right after all. “People don't just disappear. Other people just stop looking for them. But I won’t do that. I can’t. Don’t have it in me. I’m gonna find him, Jim. If it kills me.”

Jim shook his head. He looked weary and kind of sad, and he let his head drop back on the top of his seat. “You said you got a lead from that bird you were following?” he remarked.

“Just a name,” Dean responded. “Samuel Colt.”

Jim lifted his head back up off the chair. “Colt, the gun maker?” he asked then, after a beat, added “is that it?”

Dean nodded confirmation. “That’s all she wrote.”

“Where does a gunsmith fit in?”

Dean shrugged. “That’s what we’re trying to find out. Have you heard of any connection between Red Lodge and Samuel Colt?”

Jim let his head drop back once more. “I thought he came from out East somewhere.”

“Connecticut,” Dean agreed.

“Long way from Montana,” Jim remarked, “but I’ll ask around. What about those other cases you mentioned: the ones like your mum’s. What do you know about those?”

“Just there were a few just over 20 years ago, same M. O, and then more last year. No obvious connection between the victims: different parts of the country, different ages, ethnicities. Weird thing, though. In every other case besides Mom’s there was an infant in the house. The way Mom died . . .” Dean swallowed. “That was the same but, otherwise, we didn’t fit the profile.”

Jim reached for his cigarettes, pulled out a fresh one and tamped it on the box. “Not meaning to offend, Winch,” he asked, “but could your mum have been pregnant?”

Dean was shocked at first, though he recognized it was a fair question in the context, but he shook his head. “No. No, it’s not possible. She . . . well, she had a bad time having me and after that she couldn’t have any more.”

After a respectful pause Jim continued “what about the survivors? Do they have anything in common?”

“Again, nothing obvious.”

Really?” For a moment something in Jim’s tone sounded sharp, like Dean had given a wrong answer somehow. “Have you talked to them?” he asked.

“Not personally.”

Jim inclined his head forward and fixed Dean with an almost admonitory expression. “Well, I’d get on that,” he suggested, rather insistently.

Dean frowned, puzzled by the subtle but sudden change in his friend’s demeanor. “Sam’s people interrogated all the witnesses,” he assured him. “He’s shown me all his notes – ”

“And you’re sure he tells you everything?” Jim interrupted.

“Ah, don’t start, Jimmy!”

“What?”

Dean felt a, probably unjustified, flash of anger. He was getting a little tired of the ‘trust no one’ mantra. “I’ve been through this already, you know?” he said. “From Penny, from Stan . . . wanting to know why I was putting my faith in Sam.” Not to mention ghosts, tarot cards and God knows what telling him he couldn’t trust . . .

“Well, if seven people tell you you’re an ass . . .” Jim hinted. “What do you expect, mate? Your house goes up in flames and the next day you disappear with a guy nobody knows and most of your friends have never heard of . . . people are gonna be suspicious, ask questions – ”

“I told you – ”

“Yeah, you said: he’s helping you find your old man. And it’s real handy that a bloke who knows about all these other cases just happened to be on the spot when your mum was killed, isn’t it?” Jim cocked his head to one side and gazed meaningfully at Dean.

“Yes, it is handy,” Dean snapped back. “’cause if he hadn’t been there, I’d be dead. He saved my life!”

There was an awkward silence for a while, but eventually Jim broke it. “Come on, mate. You can’t tell me you’ve never wondered. How well do you know him, really?”

Dean chuckled humorlessly. “You know, he asked me the same question about you.”

Jim sniffed and smiled. He didn’t look surprised.

“And you know what? He’s right. In terms of actual time we’ve spent together, I’ve known him a hell of a lot longer than I’ve known you,” Dean pointed out, perhaps a little spitefully. “Or most anyone else for that matter,” he added.

“I didn’t ask you how long,” Jim pointed out. “I said, how well? How much has he actually told you about himself?” He was still tamping the damn cigarette and Dean kinda wanted to grab it out of his fingers.

“Enough!” he snapped. “More than I know about you, actually. You want to talk coincidences? How about you turning up in the town we’ve been led to by a – ” Dean checked himself, reined himself in, but he was still angry. He felt like he’d let his guard down and been rabbit punched. “Maybe I should be suspicious about that, Jim. Maybe I shouldn’t trust you!”

“Too bloody right, you shouldn’t,” Jim agreed. “Why would you? You’re dead right: you know bugger all about me.”

Dean pulled his head back and stared at his former college buddy. It was a totally unexpected response and it left him feeling airless.

“I’ve got my reasons for being in town,” Jim continued. “I don’t have to tell you what they are. Just ’cause we had a few laughs in college doesn’t mean we’re joined at the hip. I’ve got my own loyalties and priorities.” He leaned forward. “And that’s the crux, the nub. You don’t have to trust the other bloke, just so long as you know his priorities, and you’re sure you both want the same thing. Everyone’s got their own agenda. Yours is to rescue your old man. Are you sure you know what Sam’s is?”

“Yeah,” Dean growled. “I am as a matter of fact: he just wants to get the son of a bitch who killed his mother.”

Jim nodded thoughtfully. “And are those two things the same?” he asked.

Dean opened his mouth but his first knee-jerk retort kind of died there as Jim continued to fix him with a pointed stare. Presently he cleared his throat and found the wherewithal to ask “and are you going to tell me what your agenda is, Jim?”

Jim smiled but didn’t respond immediately, and then he leaned back and picked up his matchbook. “Yeah, mate,” he said. “Right now, it’s to go take a nap. As it happens, I’m feeling a bit shagged.”

Dean slumped in his seat, feeling defeated. He’d let himself get rattled and he’d blown his chance at getting Jim to open up. Seems all he was capable of doing today was pissing off people he cared about.

As Jimmy rose to his feet Dean stood with him. Jim opened his jacket and tucked the un-smoked cigarette, the packet and the matchbook inside it. All the while, his gaze was fixed on Dean’s chest. It seems the amulet had caught his attention once more. He tapped a finger next to it, but without actually touching this time.

“You know, I have a superstition of my own,” he said. “Never accept a gift without knowing the price.”

Dean frowned, but tried to answer lightly. “Isn’t the point of gifts that they’re supposed to be given freely?” he said.

Jim grunted and turned toward the door he’d used the previous evening, but before he opened it he paused and turned. “I know a thing or two about gifts, Winch, and they never come free,” he said. “There’s always a cost.”

He threw a loose salute, and then he was gone, leaving Dean wondering what the hell . . . ?


~



Sam raised his field glasses. He’d found a vantage point from an alley off East 8th Street where he could see into the bar, and watch them together on the far side. They were just talking, and there were other patrons all around them. Whatever Masters’ plans were for Dean, they presumably wouldn’t include attacking him in the middle of a public bar. Sam had time to act.

He returned to where Dean had parked the car, and collected the rest of the equipment he needed from the trunk. A corner of the corridor between the bar’s main room and the annex provided a discreet spot from which he could check both rooms. After adjusting the range and depth on the thermal scanner, and altering the frequency of the beams until they were invisible, he did a sweep of the staff and clientele. They all registered thermal outputs of around 98.6, except for Masters, of course.

Some people imagine a vampire’s body temperature would be as cold as the grave, or a mortuary slab, but morgues are refrigerated. Actually, like other ‘cold blooded’ creatures, they adjust to be consistent with the ambient temperature of whatever environment they happen to be in. Most people could touch or even shake hands with a vampire and not think much about the fact that their skin was just a little cooler than the next person’s. A smart vamp might be reluctant to shake hands with an experienced hunter, though. That should have been Sam’s first clue.

In fairness, the vampire’s behavior hadn’t been typical. Most don’t hang out in civilian populations befriending the locals. They’re migratory creatures, usually running in packs and sticking close to the nest, and there were no signs of a nest anywhere nearby. Sam had checked the missing persons stats for the area while he’d been case hunting, and they were average. Hell, they were actually below average. But maybe a solitary predator could settle in places for longer if he could get a job, pose as a student, blend in; nobody’s going to suspect the good ol’ homeboy partying with his buddies and, if he took his victims from some place else, it was an all-you-can-eat buffet.

None of which explained exactly why he was stalking Dean, or what the connection was to the Demon, but Sam was sure there was one . . . and he knew how to find out.

As Sam watched it looked like the party was breaking up. The pair stood and exchanged a few parting words before Masters turned toward the private door he’d taken the night before. The vampire looked tired, sluggish – unsurprisingly since, at this time of day, it should normally be resting – that would play in Sam’s favor. He turned and moved quickly up the staircase to the upper floor but paused at the turn of the stair when his cell buzzed in his pocket. He hissed with quiet anxiety when he saw the caller but he knew he had to answer.

“How’s it going?” Dean’s voice enquired lightly.

“Still researching,” Sam replied, keeping his own voice low. “How did it go with Masters?”

“O.K.”

“Did you get anything from him?” Sam prompted.

There was a small snort at the other end. “Not really. Think he got more out ofme. Then he bailed.” Dean paused then added “I think you’re right, though, Sam. He’s hiding something. I’m just not sure . . . maybe we could try again later.”

“Maybe.”

“So, I was wondering . . . did you want to get some late lunch, maybe?”

“Later.”

There was another pause then Dean said. “Look, Sam, I really think we need to talk about what happened earlier. I think maybe we’ve had our wires cross – ”

“Later!” Sam repeated tersely. He was going to miss his window if he didn’t end this call quickly. “I’ve still got work to do . . . I’m going to be a while,” he added.

Dean sighed. “Well, are you sure I can’t help?”

“No,” he insisted. He didn’t want Dean to see what he was going to have to do next. “I’ve got it covered,” he said.

~



Jim made a stop in the kitchen on his way to the back stairs. He knew Eli had a locked box of red stashed in the ice box, but the staff was in and out of the kitchen at this time of day so he had to give it a miss. He took a breather in the shade outside and finally smoked the cig. It had been a strain talking to Winch at this hour. Might’ve thought twice about it if he’d known the boy would turn up hot and sweaty, reeking of spunk, and with love bites all over his neck. Hard not to imagine how that sweet young blood would have tasted on the hunter’s tongue when he sucked the boy’s flesh into his mouth . . . bollocks. No. Jim laughed bitterly. My name’s James. I’m a vampire and it’s been 23,104 days since I last drank a human.

Letting the smoke fall from his mouth, he stamped it out and made his way up to the second floor. A quick glance confirmed the sliver of ciggy paper he’d wedged in his door was undisturbed, as was the demon warding he’d painted in holy water round the frame. He was about to slide the key into the lock when he noticed it: the rapid thud of a human heart at the far end of the corridor. The hunter had made a hasty attempt to cover his scent but Jim still recognized it. He grinned.

“Well, you took your sweet time,” he quipped casually. “I wondered when you’d make your – ” Searing pain pierced his chest as he turned. He glanced down at the narrow wooden bolt sticking out from his left breast and forced out a wheezing scoff of laughter. “A stake to the heart, Sam?” he sneered. “Thought you’d know better than . . .” but then he caught the whiff of blood that wasn’t his . . . wasn’t fresh, and he started to feel its corrosive effects spreading through his veins. “Oh . . . bugger.”

The young hunter had already dropped the crossbow and now he raised one hand then the other and the guns he held fired almost simultaneously, driving two darts and their dirty-blood payload into Jim’s flesh. In his already weakened state, the poison worked quickly, like a greedy fire cooking his insides and weakening his limbs. His sight was failing as he crumpled to his knees, reeling and nauseated; the doors and walls around him became a collection of swaying, disconnected shapes and he just made out the indistinct form looming toward him. The dark shadow of the hunter was the last thing he saw.

Chapter Text

Scene 12




Lansing, Michigan, nine months earlier.


Her eyes were white and wild; her mouth was crowded with bared teeth awash with the blood of her last kill. Sam felt the blade in his hand. "Sam, no! No! It's still me!" He didn't hesitate. She was a monster now –

“SAM!” Wait! The hand clasping his wrist was warm . . . “SAM! You’re dreaming! It’s me, Sam! IT’S JUST ME!”

He gaped at her for the space of a few ragged breaths while the room came into focus around him, and he realized he was in his bed . . . with Gwen. Her eyes looked normal now: wide and afraid, but human. He dropped the knife. “Fuck!” he gasped. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” She was panting, too. It had been so close . . .

They stared at each other for another moment before he pulled her into his arms. “Oh, God, Gwen! I could have killed you!”

“It’s O.K. It’s O.K,” she mumbled breathlessly, rubbing nervously at his back. “It was just a nightmare.”

His hands closed around her shoulders and he pushed her back, gazing earnestly into her face. “We can’t do this again,” he said. “You can’t sleep here. It isn’t safe!”

As he watched, he saw her defensive wall reassemble itself behind the careless, dismissive grin. “Sam, it was just a bad dream. We all have them.”

“I almost killed you!” he repeated.

She opened her mouth to object again but at that moment the door banged and strained against the drawn bolt, and Mark’s voice yelled. “Gwen! What’s happening?”

Sam quickly picked up the knife and slid it back into the purpose made slit at the head of the mattress.

“Nothing!” Gwen called back. “I’m fine. Just a nightmare.”

“Open the door!”

“I said I’m fine,” she shouted as the door continued to rattle in its frame. “Can we get some privacy here?!”

The door stilled, but there was a murmur of additional voices out in the corridor. Mark wasn’t the only one disturbed by Gwen’s screams. Next they heard Samuel’s voice: “All right, people! Let’s muster. We’re heading out this morning!” And the door banged once more from the force of a single solid thump. “Move it along in there!”

Gwen glanced at Sam and rolled her eyes. All the same, she climbed out of bed and started collecting her clothes. Sam also swung his legs off the bed and planted his feet on the floor, taking a minute to ground himself. His body was still quivering with shock and anxiety. Same dream, three nights running; what if . . . ? Should he tell her?

“Hey.”

He looked up to find her watching him, slightly concerned.

“Don’t worry about it,” she reassured him. “No harm done.”

“Gwen – ”

“You’re just on edge, nervous about heading up your first raid. It’s totally natural.”

He nodded. “I guess.” She was probably right. Anxiety dreams were common. Perfectly normal. And it wasn’t just the raid he was on edge about. Trying to figure out this thing with Gwen was all new to him, and trying not to make it more than it was. It wasn’t much - awkward at best, and probably just a passing thing for Gwen - and yet, for the first time in his life, he had a sense of having something to lose. It was natural that his unconscious mind would confound his most pressing concerns. No sense in spreading the worry. All the same . . .

“Gwen, you should take care out there today,” he said.

She paused and studied him quizzically, then returned a casual grin. “Always,” she said.

“I’m serious. This is a big deal. Samuel said there could be up to a dozen vamps so we need to stay sharp. No heroics,” he added with emphasis.

She raised an eyebrow and her lips curled into a gently mocking smile. “Is that an order?”

In spite of himself Sam found his own mouth twitching at the corners. “Yeah, it’s an order,” he agreed, reaching out and curling his hands around the curve of her hips.

“You want the first shower, oh fearless leader?” she asked.

His smile faded a little. “No, you go ahead,” he responded absently. Fearless was hardly an apt description. As he watched her leave the room he was still dogged by a sense of apprehension.

Natural.


South of Saginaw Bay, two hours later.

A dozen? More like twenty, and more arrived after dawn. Maybe three or four nests all together. It seems rumors of vampiric extinction had been greatly exaggerated. Maybe they were meeting to discuss a repopulation drive.

As he lowered his field glasses Sam tried to repress an uneasy hiss. The hunters had expected to have the advantage, but now it looked like the numbers were about even.

“Damn,” Gwen breathed. “So they're really not afraid of the sun?”

“Direct sunlight hurts them like a nasty sunburn. The only way to kill them is by beheading,” Sam reminded her. “And yeah . . .” The raiding party was well armed and they had the element of surprise in their favor, but even so . . . “they sleep during the day, but that doesn't mean they won't wake up.”

“So, I guess walking right in's not our best option,” she quipped.

“Actually,” Samuel interjected, “that's the plan.”

The scouts returned to the road the other side of the trees where the rest of the hunters had gathered, and Samuel outlined the situation. “O.K. They’re squatting in the old farmhouse, like the vamp told Christian, but there’s more of ’em than we expected, and there’s another wrinkle: they’ve got humans in there – food. Most of the vamps are in the main house but there’s half a dozen in an outbuilding with the victims. They’ve got five of ’em in a cage in there, and we need to get them out first. We’ll wait until the sun’s higher and the vamps are well settled. Sam, take your team and try to get the humans out without raising the vampires. The rest of us will move in once the victims are clear.”

 .

Samuel made sure Christian was with Sam, and he gave him five more hunters. The rest of the family he took with him, or so Sam thought until he gathered his team downwind of the barn. When he turned to check the others were still behind him he saw Gwen catching up to the rear.

“You’re supposed to be with Samuel!” he hissed.

“Really?” She grinned. “I must have misheard.”

Sam debated whether he should send her back. The vampires in the house had the numbers but Samuel had the experience, plus Sam’s mission was trickier than a straightforward attack: going into the lion’s den to steal its prey.

“She’s here now,” Christian muttered to him, “and an extra hand wouldn’t hurt.”

Sam knew he shouldn’t make Gwen’s safety more important than the overall success of the mission, but he couldn’t help how he felt, and he couldn’t focus on what he had to do unless he knew she was safe.

“Stay close,” he told her.

The barn had several points of entry: the main doors faced east but there was another at the side, and there was a hatch to the hay loft. Windows either side of the main entrance had been blackened out by the vampires. Sam stationed three of the hunters there, ready to move on his signal. He sent Gwen and one of the others round to cover the side door and left a man to hang back and watch their rear while he and Christian climbed up to the hatch.

Sam dropped into the loft first, taking advantage of the elevated position to scope out the room before Christian followed and closed the hatch. It looked like the vamps had been partying the night before. The floor was strewn with empty bottles, and a stale smell of whisky mingled with old wood, hay and farm machinery. Most of the vamps were lolling on hammocks strung across the room, except for a couple sleeping on a mattress in the next room. The cage containing the human victims was at the far end, opposite the side door. There was no way to reach it without passing the sleeping vampires.

All sound in the room seemed magnified as Sam and Christian weaved a stealthy path between the creaking hammocks. Mostly it was filled with the heavy breath of sleep but the rapid thud of his heart seemed loud to Sam. Every restless movement of the dozing bodies tweaked his nerves, and when one of them turned over and dropped a bottle he’d been holding Sam froze in place while the muscles in his body strained, all acutely involved in the act of listening, watching. His fingers curled and tightened around the cold hilt of his machete but, beyond grunting and fidgeting, the vampires didn’t stir.

He reached the cage without incident and Christian moved over and took up his position at the side door. The prisoners startled when they saw Sam but he held a finger to his lips.

“I’m here to help you,” he barely whispered as he checked the door. It was padlocked. The weakest point was the hinges so he threaded a hook under one of the brackets. The lever bit into his palm and his teeth bit into his lip as he waited for the metal to give under the pressure, and when it snapped the noise sounded like a pistol shot to his hyper aware ears. He and Christian exchanged a tense glance, scanned the room: one beat . . . two . . . three.

Nothing happened. Evidently the vampires’ slumber was deep.

Christian unlatched the door and let Gwen and the other guy in, and they formed a defensive line between the vampires and the prisoners as they filed out, not nearly as quietly as Sam could have wished, especially when they got outside. In their haste to escape, they forgot the vampires’ enhanced hearing and ran too soon, but at least the rear guard was able to direct them the right way, into the woods and away from the house.

Still their luck held, and as the last victim slipped through the door Sam was preparing to give the attack signal when he felt an urgent tap on his shoulder and Gwen gestured toward the other room. She moved past him and was half way across before he could stop her. Then he saw what had attracted her attention: he’d missed one! There was an unconscious girl tied to a post there, and from the trail of blood stains down her neck and shirt it was clear they’d been feeding from her.

The other two hunters drew their guns and Christian moved to Sam’s side while the other guy covered the hammocks. Bullets wouldn’t kill vampires, but they’d move a lot slower without any kneecaps. Sam held his breath as Gwen drew near to the girl – within easy reach of the vampire couple on the floor. He was afraid to move closer and increase the risk of waking them, but he was ready to spring forward at the first sign of trouble.

When she was close enough Gwen took the precaution of covering the girl’s mouth with her hand before rousing her and whispering reassurance. But as she relaxed her hand and turned her attention to the girl’s bonds there was a snarl and a piercing screech and then Sam saw the teeth. They’d fucking turned her! The girl was one of them!

To Gwen’s credit she reacted fast. She jumped back, her machete sang then thudded into the post and the scream was silenced, but it was too late; the vampires leapt up and one of them grabbed her, teeth extended, and pulled her head back. Sam was already propelling himself toward them, but he couldn’t reach her in time.

He pitched the hook into the blackened window as he moved, shattering it, and as the morning rays hit the vampire it yelled and reared up, releasing Gwen from its grip, and Sam was on it instantly, machete swinging. Gwen drew her own gun as she dropped and rolled and she shot the other vampire in the face, and Sam took that one out as well as it screamed and clawed at the wound.

Christian had picked up a bottle and used it to shatter the other window and, as per the plan, the other hunters burst through the main doors. Sam was conscious of the report of their rifles as sunlight streamed through the barn from behind them. But he was more worried about the blood he could see on Gwen’s hand. He grabbed her wrist.

“She bit you?”

“It’s nothing.”

“Did you get her blood on you?”

“No.”

“Are you – ?”

“Yes, I’m sure! Sam!

He turned just in time to see another vampire lumbering toward him, teeth bared, but groggy from the blood dart in its neck, and its skin was red and blistered. He put it out of its misery.

One made a bolt out of the side door and Christian made off after it. The remaining vampires were down, one way or another. One of the hunters was injured – dislocated shoulder – but there was no time to tend to her; Sam could hear screams coming from the main house.

“You stay here,” Sam told her, and he left one of the others to mind her. The rest he regrouped, and he led them over to back up Samuel’s party. When they reached the house there was a skirmish going on in the yard. Two vamps were already down, neck stumps bloody and heads in the dirt beside them, but there was a dead hunter on the ground as well. Sam’s group pitched in to help but when the vampires saw the extra numbers coming three of them broke away and made a dash for the woods. Gwen took off after them but Sam knew it was pointless. You can’t outrun a vampire, even in daylight.

He followed to bring her back and caught up with her at the edge of the woods, and then he heard Christian’s voice calling them:

“Sam! Gwen! Over here!”

Exchanging glances, they followed the voice back through the woods to just beyond the barn. They found him squatting over a dead body and Sam realized, with a sick, heavy sensation in his stomach, that it was the hunter he’d left as rearguard outside the barn. As he drew nearer he saw that the man had been run through, and Sam found himself staring dumbly at the length of bloody steel protruding from the man’s chest.

“They killed him with his own machete,” Christian observed.

Sam opened his mouth but shut it again without speaking. It was the obvious conclusion but it struck him as an odd thing for a vampire to do. They had no need to reach for a weapon when they already had theirs.

Christian looked up at Sam then appeared to search behind him. “Wasn’t Gwen with you?” he asked.

“Yeah, she’s right – ” Sam turned . . .

. . . turned again, right and left, all around . . . he couldn’t see her anywhere. She’d been right at his shoulder, right there, just a moment ago. He couldn’t see her!

He ran, alarm rising, back through the woods the way they’d come, yelling her name as he ran but there was no response, no sign of her. He came to a halt, briefly frozen with indecision, and then he made for the house instead. Maybe she’d gone back there. Maybe.

By the time he reached the yard his chest was burning with exertion and panic. A scream from inside the house had him spinning round in time to see a woman’s empty hands banging against the window, and he barely had time to register a face and mop of brunette hair before a crimson swathe splattered the glass. For one ghastly moment – but no. Sam knew the woman. He was ashamed of the relief he felt when the recognition came to him.

The sound of voices drew him round to the front of the building where Samuel was leading his party out the door. They looked grim but generally triumphant.

“Is Gwen with you?” Sam demanded desperately.

Samuel halted and stared at him and then Mark pushed forward out of the group. “She isn’t with you?!

Sam turned and dashed back to the barn – it was the only place left to try – but the two hunters he’d left there just stared blankly at him when he asked after her. Back outside all he could do was blunder through the woods, frantically calling for her.

Gwen!” he yelled, over and over, running and turning, round and round, searching helplessly, fruitlessly . . .

GWEN!

Chapter Text

Scene 13

 

Something hit him, made his head reel sickeningly, and his face sting . . . not just his face . . . all his limbs ached and burned, felt heavy and clammy . . . darkness weighed on his eyelids . . . was he ill? Vampires don’t get ill . . . except . . . oh, right.

The young hunter’s face thrust in his reminded him how he’d come by this particular blood sickness. “Wake up!” the boy snarled.

“Just another five minutes, Mum.” Jim slurred weakly. “I was having a good dream.” The wisecrack earned him another slap, but that actually helped him focus and the dark fog retreated to the periphery of his vision. The first thing he absorbed was that he’d been stripped to the waist and bound to a kitchen chair, tightly and efficiently. They were in an old house. The only sounds from outside were birds, and the rumble of traffic was far distant, so they were a bit off the beaten track. Smelled like the place had been empty a while, too: it was rank with dust and mold and, for some reason, stale patchouli.

“Hey, I know where we are! The old Barker farm, right?” Jim remarked, with a half fair impersonation of cheerfulness. Last time he’d been in town the place had been leased out to a bunch of hippies who’d been done for growing dope soon after. It had remained empty and neglected since. Jim recalled that the main farmhouse was located in a flat open space and, judging from the angle of light coming through a south-west facing window, it was still mid-afternoon. Even if Jim could slip the knots and overpower the hunter, he’d be cooked before he could reach any kind of cover. “Good choice,” he acknowledged.

His captor moved over to a shelf and picked up a jar containing all too familiar dark red liquid, and when he unstoppered it the stench of dead man’s blood filled the space. He placed the jar, prominently and significantly, on the table directly in Jim’s eye-line, next to a long bladed knife that he proceeded to pick up and stir in the jar’s contents. His movements were slow and deliberate, his breath steady and calm, all conveying a sense of quiet menace.

It was a lie. Despite the effort at control, the boy’s heartbeat was a little too rapid and heavy, and he was sweating a telltale mix of adrenalin with traces of sulfur. That might make him a bit unpredictable, but Jim was still more concerned about the bars of sunlight that streaked across the table top. They were creeping slowly but inexorably toward him, and Jim had no control over those.

He studied the young hunter, calculated the angle of the sunbeams, and pondered how much time he had before Eli woke and noticed he was gone. Jim needed to be smart now. Better to let the boy play with his knife than the wicked looking machete that was hanging from his belt.

“So, what’s with the strip show and blood play, hunter?” he asked. “What kinky stuff have you got planned for us?”

The boy leaned over and held the dripping point against Jim’s chest, and a small spider web of stinging veins instantly radiated outward across the pale skin. “You’re going to tell me what you’re doing here in Red Lodge,” he stated flatly.

Jim winced and strained against his bonds. “Visiting family, like I said,” he replied.

The hunter sneered. “Your kind doesn’t have family; they have nests. And if there was a nest nearby, I’d know.” He lifted the blade and held it a bare inch from Jim’s eye, close enough that Jim could see both their reflections mirrored and reversed in the polished steel near the hilt. “You’re all alone, vampire.”

It took some restraint to keep from flinching but Jim saw a telltale tremor in the boy’s hand that was ill-matched with the bold threat. And he’d revealed that he didn’t know about the others. Jim was relieved about that, so he wasn’t about to disabuse him just yet. “So it’s S&M, then?” he observed. “Can’t say I’m surprised. You Campbells have a reputation, you know. Surprised you haven’t started already ’stead of wasting time being all threatening.” He cocked his head and aped a sympathetic tone. “Bit nervous, are we? You can tell me, just between us boys: is this your first time?”

The hunter’s nostrils flared and the next moment the knife was across Jim’s throat. He could feel the cold sting of its razor edge and a slight wet ooze of his blood as it beaded against the blade, and then the burn as it mingled with the knife’s toxic coating. At least it was away from his eyes now.

“Don’t fuck with me, vampire,” Campbell hissed. “Just tell me why you’ve been after Dean. What do you want with him?”

So, the question he led with was about his lover. That told Jim something about his priorities. “Possessive sod, aren’t you?” he said. “Yeah, I saw that message you left for me, Squire, but you don’t have to worry; I’m not after your boyfriend. Winch is a sweet lad, but he’s not my type. Besides, there’s a bit of an age difference. Know what I mean?”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” the boy snapped.

Jim shrugged his shoulders, as well as he could under the circumstances. “So you both keep saying but, you know, the romantic in me can’t help hoping you two crazy kids’ll make it work. But you’ve got to communicate, see? Keeping secrets is no basis for a relationship.” He paused, then asked, “tell me, hunter: does our mutual friend know you’re here playing hooky with me?”

The boy held his ground but a flicker in his face showed the barb had gone home. “Somehow I don’t think you and Dean will be such great buddies when he finds out what you are,” he spat contemptuously.

“Maybe not,” Jim acknowledged. “Still, I can’t help feeling it’s going to put a crimp in your relationship when he finds out you’ve had a decapitation party and he wasn’t invited.”

The blade only pressed sharper against Jim’s flesh and the fiery tendrils began to spread a little further up and down his throat. The lad was stubborn. “I know who you are, William,” he revealed.

Jim raised an eyebrow. “And how did you come by that knowledge?” he enquired sharply.

“It’s my job,” the hunter pointed out sarcastically.

“So you’ve done your research. Good boy.” Maybe it was true. That would depend on his next question.

“What do you know about the yellow-eyed demon?” he demanded. “Did he send you here?”

Jim relaxed a little, almost smiled. If the boy thought that then he really was out of the loop. “Oh, yeah, that makes sense,” he scoffed. “The bastard killed my wife and daughter but now we’re best mates? Reckon the patchouli must have addled your brain.”

“You aren’t fooling me, vampire,” the boy snapped. “You were stalking Dean in Chico and now you turn up here as well, after we’ve been led here by a demon, and you admitted you knew her. There are too many coincidences around you, and I don’t believe in coincidences.”

“I said I saw her, that’s all,” Jim corrected. “I didn’t know who she was. I never saw her before. Happens I wasn’t there for your boy, either, but when I noticed he had the attention of the black-eyed brigade I got curious.”

“So you did know who they were?” the hunter quizzed him.

“Over two hundred years old, me. I’ve seen a few ghosties and ghoulies in that time plus a few other nasties not even dreamt of in your philosophy so, yeah, I know the stink of demons when I smell it.” It was a risky remark to make under the circumstances, but the boy didn’t react at all. Maybe he really didn’t know. “Wasn’t expecting them to follow him home, though, or to hear his dear old mum’d been roasted and toasted. Then imagine my surprise when I find out he’s lit out with you the next day, one of the celebrated Campbells no less. Oh, ’xcept I heard you had a falling out with the family. What was that about, then?”

The boy’s jaw tightened suddenly. The knife twisted in his hand and the blade flashed down, and Jim yelled and writhed as the blade sank into his thigh and the corrosive effects of the dirty blood infected the muscles, spreading down as far as his knee and up to his crotch.

“You’re talking too much, vampire,” the hunter told him, his voice low and menacing, “and about all the wrong things.”

When Jim’s vision cleared a little he found himself staring straight into the boy’s eyes, and he saw something he hadn’t picked up on before: a rage and hatred that went beyond mere hunters’ bigotry, suspicion, or even a lover’s jealousy. There was something dark and deeply personal at play here that Jim hadn’t counted on. Could be he was in more trouble than he thought.



Dean felt a little more human once he’d had a shower and a change of clothes but, by then, the bump on the back of his head was the size of a golf ball, felt like, and he was kind of tender in other places as well. Turns out, cheap washroom hand cream: not the best lubricant. He’d be sure to mention that to Sam . . . assuming they ever . . . well . . . He didn’t want to think about that. He’d add it to the list of things he didn’t want to think about. On the whole he’d rather focus on the physical places that were sore than try to make sense of all the other things that were making him feel uncomfortable right now.

Damn it. He wished Sam and Jim had never met each other. Between them they’d made him feel he couldn’t be a hundred per cent sure of anything he thought he knew about either of them. Almost unconsciously his fingers slipped into his jeans pocket and traced the outline of his cell phone, but when he realized what he was doing he withdrew his hand and searched around for a more productive occupation.

He turned his attention to the table where he’d been working that morning. The weapons were all back in the bag where they belonged but he’d left the sharpening block and the various bottles of oil and cleaners cluttering the surface, still infecting the room with the pervasive smell of solvent. It didn’t take long to pack them up in their respective wraps and cases but before he returned them to the car Dean stopped to check the salt line round the doorway. It was still intact, so he left the door a little ajar to air out the room while he went out to the trunk.

Rather than open the cache in broad daylight he just pushed a few things aside to make a space for the cases. That’s when he saw it: the computer case protruding from under a bedroll. Dean straightened up and stared at it. For a moment he doubted his memory but, no: he distinctly remembered Sam packing the laptop into it before he went to the library. When he thought about it, he recalled Sam mentioning he might visit the historical society as well that morning, and Dean had parked nearby the building so maybe Sam had seen the car as he passed and decided to drop off some things . . . but why? Wouldn’t he still have needed his notebooks and stuff? Then he noticed something else that was odd: the spare duffel they normally kept in the trunk was gone.

Dean started to feel an uneasy itch at the back of his neck. He glanced around to make sure there was nobody about then he pushed back everything in the trunk and carefully lifted the lid of the cache, just far enough to take a quick inventory of its contents. The salt rope was still there – he was kind of relieved about that – but there were gaps. He was trying to figure out what was missing when a noise off to the right caught his attention. Sounded like a twig snapping or something. He squinted into the trees but couldn’t see anything. All the same, he let the lid drop down on the cache and closed the trunk. On the way back to the room he stopped at the vending machine, ostensibly for a coke, and he glanced around the parking lot while he waited for the can to drop. He tried to make it look casual but he was on the alert, watchful and listening. He still didn’t spot anything wrong, and maybe it was just paranoia over Sam’s strange behavior, but his Spidey sense was tingling like crazy.

As soon as he was on the right side of the motel room door he snatched out his cell and called Sam. It did nothing to calm his anxiety when the call diverted to voicemail.

“Damn it, Sam! Answer your phone!” he snapped over the outgoing message, but the prompt beep was the only response he got. “Are you hunting?” he demanded. “Are you hunting something without me?” Why would Sam do that?! “Call me back!” Dean closed his cell and peered through the blinds, squinting as the afternoon sun got in his eyes. Then it passed behind a cloud and, as he felt the chill of its absence, he suddenly started to remember things that were missing from the cache: thermal scanner . . . crossbow . . . blood darts? His attention snapped to the salt ring around the door as he realized . . . it would be completely fucking ineffective.

He had the right weapons, though, there in the go-to bag, and it was only a sensible precaution to have something to hand, just in case. He turned and got as far as unfastening the zip and pulling out the machete, but he didn’t even have it unsheathed when he was startled by a heavy thump and crack at the door, then it burst open. Before Dean could react something big and solid hurtled into him, swept him across the room and pinned him against the wall. The blade flew from his hand and landed on the floor several feet away, still in its sheath, and a big angry face was thrust into his, all red and kind of blistered.

Where is he?” the assailant demanded.

Hell, it was Jim’s buddy! The barman from the Billy Miner! “Whoa! What – ?” . . . and that’s why the bar was always dark!

The guy – the vampire – opened his mouth and snarled, and the only two thoughts in Dean’s head were TEETH! and Fuck, I’m gonna die! Lucky his not-so-thinking side was already in action, head-butting his attacker and driving a knee into his crotch. It took the barman off guard and Dean made a break for it and tried to reach the weapon. He almost had a hand to it but Eli had recovered and grabbed him before he could get a grip. Twisting swiftly out of the vampire’s grasp Dean turned and punched him in the face, but then he sensed another presence behind him and as he spun round he was briefly thrown by the sight of a small figure shrouded in a dark shawl. The momentary hesitation was all the chance Eli needed to grab him from behind and get him in an arm lock, and the sting of the vampire’s razor sharp teeth against his neck let Dean know that one stupid move would get him dead.



Jim supposed he must have hit a sore spot. All the same he gritted his teeth and continued doggedly. “Well, if you want to talk about coincidences, Squire: how come you just happened to be in the right place at the right time the night the Winchesters were attacked? Well, maybe you were just doing your job: saw a little demon sign and decided to check it out, like the good little hunter you are, no doubt? ’xcept I asked around and it turns out you were in town weeks before; working for the old man, I hear. So how come you knew what was coming a whole month before it happened? That’s what I’d like to know.”

A crease started to form between the boy’s eyebrows and he studied Jim with a slightly confused expression on his face. “I didn’t. Shut up,” he snapped.

Jim studied the young man speculatively. “So of all the brake shops, in all the towns, in all the world, you just happened to walk into his. It was just fate?”

Shut up!” The hunter yanked the knife out of Jim’s leg and thrust it in front of his face once more. “Tell me how you knew Dean was here? If the Demon didn’t send you, how did you know?”

“Oh, don’t be a plonker.” Jim grunted from the pain but he was smiling, too, and it was almost sincere. Campbell didn’t know enough to be of the Devil’s party, not yet at least. He was clearly asking himself the same questions Jim was asking, but he didn’t have any answers. “I knew because Eli called me,” Jim admitted. “I’ve got mates all over the country looking out for you two.”

Why?” the hunter demanded.

“Why do you think? Yellow Eyes has Winch’s old man, doesn’t he? Two hundred years I’ve been tracking that fucker, and he’s never stayed in one spot long enough for me to catch him. This is the first time he’s taken corporeal form long enough to give me a chance. I needed to find out what you knew. Disappointingly little, it turns out.”

Campbell stared at him for a moment then he folded his arms under his armpits and started prowling broodily backwards and forwards behind the table, studying Jim intensely. “So I’m supposed to believe all you want is to avenge the deaths of a wife and daughter you lost two centuries ago?”

It was all the boy needed to know, for now. “We’re like elephants, us vampires: we have long memories,” Jim assured him. “Winch tells me you know something about that,” he added. “He says you’re still itching to hunt down your mother’s killer.”

Jim might have miscalculated with that last remark. Campbell dropped the knife on the table and, alarmingly, his hand slid to his belt and he unsheathed the machete instead. “Have a care, vampire,” he said, pointing the weapon threateningly at Jim. “Think twice before you bring her into this conversation.”

“All right, hunter. Don’t get your knickers in a knot.” Jim spoke in a more soothing tone. “I’m just saying: if you really want old yeller dead as much as I do, then maybe you should consider that the enemy of your enemy might be more useful if he keeps his head attached to his body.”

The hunter let out a short bark of laughter. He stepped closer and brandished the weapon in the air in front of Jim’s face. “You think I’d do a deal with a vampire?” he snarled. “Look the other way while you go on feeding on innocent people, making others like yourself?”

“You see, right there, that's the problem: you just assuming that,” Jim objected. “I don't play for that side, and I don’t kill innocent people.” He eyed the killer blade warily. “How about you, hunter?” he asked.



“Wait!”

Dean blinked. It was a female voice. As he watched, she unwrapped the shawl that covered her head and face revealing an attractive young woman with long raven dark hair, slender build, about 5 foot three or four. Dean had to remind himself that her slight stature didn’t make her any less of a threat. He was caught between two deadly creatures and all he could do was to wait, and stall, and hope he could catch a break.

“My name's Lenore,” she said. “I'm not going to hurt you. We just need to talk.”

“Talk?” Dean scoffed, trying not to sound as afraid as he felt. “Yeah, okay, but I might have a tough time paying attention to much besides Eli's teeth.”

“He won't hurt you either,” she assured him. “You have my word.”

Dean raised his eyebrows. “Your word? Oh yeah, great, thanks. Listen, sister, no offense but I know what you are. I've done my homework.”

“We're not like the others,” the female vampire insisted. “We don't kill humans, and we don't drink their blood. We haven't for a long time.”

Dean fidgeted in Eli’s grasp and surreptitiously tried to edge closer to where the machete had dropped. “Okay, uh, correct me if I'm wrong here,” he said, mock conversationally, “but shouldn't you be starving to death?”

“We've found other ways,” she explained. “Cattle blood. It's not ideal, in fact it's disgusting. But it allows us to get by.”

Eli hissed impatience. “Why are we wasting time explaining ourselves to this killer?” he demanded.

Killer?

“If Jim isn’t here, then the other one’s got him somewhere else. He’s probably torturing him right now, if he hasn’t murdered him already.”

What? Oh, that was just nuts. “You’re insane,” Dean objected. “Sam would never – ” Even as he spoke, the words shriveled in his throat. Funny how you can ignore the facts for so long and then, in one moment, the truth’ll settle on you cold and heavy. Sure, Sam would never kill a human being, but a vampire, oh yes he would. “What . . .” His voice came out as a wispy croak and he had to clear his throat before he could continue. “I was with Jim just a little while ago and he was fine. What makes you think – ”

“Do you think we don’t know Jim’s blood, or the stink of a hunter when we smell it?” Eli snarled.

“Eli, that’s enough!” The woman raised a hand to restrain the furious barman and addressed Dean instead. “There are traces outside his room, in the stairwell, near an exit: Jim’s mingled with corpse blood. Not so very much, though, which leads us to hope your partner may still have him alive somewhere,” she said. “We tracked his scent to a back street behind the bar, but then it just disappeared.”

Dean’s mind was racing. Sam had to have stolen transport. He’d need to dump it quickly, somewhere inconspicuous.

“Do you know where he might have taken him?” Lenore asked.

“No, I don’t.” Somewhere isolated. Somewhere out of town but not too far. If Jim was alive then he’d have to be unconscious, but he wouldn’t be for long. “And if I did, why would I tell you?”

“Jim thinks well of you,” Lenore persisted. “He regards you as a friend. Won’t you help us find your partner before it’s too late? Won’t you stop him?”

“Really? Maybe I should lend a hand,” Dean retorted harshly, trying to fight off tears that were pricking behind his eyes. “’Cause my friend, Jim, neglected to mention the whole bloodsucking vampire thing.” Jim had lied. Sam had gone behind his back. Hell, they’d both betrayed him.

“We have a right to live,” Lenore insisted. “We're not hurting anyone.”

“Right, so you keep saying.” Dean wriggled some more and managed to move a little closer. “But give me one good reason why I should believe you.”

Lenore didn’t miss a trick, though. “Fine,” she said, directing her attention to the fallen weapon. “You know what I'm going to do?” Dean steeled himself as she bent down and picked up the machete, and he met her gaze stoically when she straightened up. “I'm going to let you go. Step back, Eli.”

If anything, the vampire’s grip tightened. “Lenore – ”

“There’s no time to argue!” she told him. “Leave us.”

He defied her only moments longer before grudgingly obeying her command. He directed a murderous glance at Dean as he left, and the door banged loosely in its broken housing.

There goes the deposit, Dean thought absently as he turned his attention back to the female. “You’re wasting your time with the ‘good vampire, bad vampire’ routine,” he told her. “I don’t know where Sam is, and he’s not answering his cell.” He wondered if he could get the blade back now it was just her, but she was watching him like a hawk. And she looked nervous now her back up was gone, which would probably make her more dangerous.

She turned the machete in her hand and Dean flinched, but then she extended her arm and held it out to him, handle forward. “Take your weapon if it will make you feel more secure,” she told him. “I want you to feel safe.”

Dean stared at her, suspicious of a trick, but after a brief hesitation he reached out and curled his fingers around the handle. She let him draw it back and the blade slid free, leaving the sheath behind in her hand, and Dean instinctively tightened his grip to test the weight of the weapon and find its balance. Lenore caught her breath and her body quivered a little, but she stood her ground. She was afraid, but brave. Dean appreciated the risk she was taking and he found himself starting to admire her, starting to believe her.

He wanted to believe her.

He lowered the weapon but kept alert and watchful. He wasn’t fool enough to forget that she was always already armed.

“What is Jimmy to you?” he asked her.

“We’ve known each other a lifetime, been through much together,” she replied. “We’re family.”

Dean nodded. He didn’t know what a vampire might mean by ‘family’ but it was clear it meant something to her.

“I might be able to figure out where Sam is,” he acknowledged. “But you need to hang tight here and keep a leash on your pit bull.” He inclined his head in the direction Eli had taken when he left. “If Jim’s there, the only chance he’s got is if I talk to Sam alone. Sam has a real bad history with vampires. If he sees more of you I don’t know what he’ll do but, trust me, it won’t be good. You hear me?”

She nodded her agreement and Dean started casting around for a map of the district. He knew he had one somewhere. “My guess, he’ll have found an empty building in an open space exposed to the sun. Anything spring to mind?” he asked.

“There are always empty outbuildings in farmland,” she replied. “But you partner is covering his tracks well and there are thirty five, forty farms out there. There isn’t time to search them all.”

“I may not have to,” he assured her as he picked up the car keys. “I have an idea.”

Chapter Text

Scene 14

 

Innocent?!” Sam sneered coldly. There was no doubt in his mind. He would allow no doubt in his mind. The vampire’s story was plausible, maybe believable, and in other circumstances Sam could have found it in himself to feel compassion, even a kind of kinship, for James William: the tragic husband and father whose life had been devastated by the murder of his family. But the vampire was just attempting to exploit Sam’s weak spots and he knew better than to let it succeed. The thing in front of him was not William: it was the monster that had possessed the man’s body, infecting his blood, corrupting from the inside out until nothing human remained. Sam did not, dared not, believe there was anything left of the man in this creature. “You think you can play the victim here? Your kind murder and spread your infection on pure base instinct. You have less humanity than a sewer rat.”

“I'm sorry you have such a low opinion of my people,” the vampire drawled, watching Sam intently with its animal cunning.

“Oh, you have no idea,” Sam breathed. His fingers curled and uncurled around the hilt of the machete, but he needed to check the fire that burned in his blood urging vengeance on the whole breed; he needed to be clear headed right now.

“It cuts both ways, you know,” the vampire continued. “Most of us don’t think much of hunters, either.”

“I’ll bet.”

“Your lot have hunted us practically to extinction and you know less about us than you think, less than you’ve bothered to find out. Happens there’s quite a few out there just trying to blend in, survive; ordinary folk living off the land, you might say. No killings, no deaths, no missing locals, no reason for people like you to come looking for people like us.”

“Oh, yeah. You’re as harmless as a kitten.” Sam leaned closer. “I know what you really are, what you crave. I saw you with Dean last night. I saw you smelling him.”

The vampire’s lips twisted and he shook his head. “It wasn’t what you think.”

“Right. I’m sure it was just his shampoo you found so appealing. Let’s be clear: you are not going to live to kill anyone else, turn anyone else. The information you have about the demon is the only reason you’re not dead already, so you’d better start proving it’s worth it.” Sam directed a significant glance at the bloody knife on the table though, in truth, he balked at using it. He could kill the creature oh, oh so easily, yet even now he was repelled by the idea of cutting into its flesh, in cold blood, to extract information.

And the vampire seemed less than impressed by Sam’s threats. “Really?” it taunted. “Cos, I’d have thought, if what I know is what’s keeping me alive, I’d be a bit thick not to keep it to myself, then, wouldn’t I?”

Sam’s grip tightened in frustration round the handle of the machete, but he fought the temptation to use it. Reason, he reminded himself. Control. Instead he gripped the back of the chair and thrust the vampire forward into the shaft of sunlight. “OW! Bloody hell! Bloody HELL!” it yelped, as the exposed flesh quickly acquired a ruddy blush.

As he let the chair drop back, Sam pulled out a slip of paper where he’d scrawled the names of the towns Gemma had visited and he slapped it down on the table. “No more games,” he said. “Tell me what you know about these places.”

The vampire squinted at the list for a few moments then assumed a blank expression. “Well, Clayton was my old home town once,” it acknowledged, “but I reckon you know that already.”

“And I’m guessing you know the connection between the others, too,” Sam prompted.

“Well, then you’d be wrong, mate. I haven’t even heard of half of them. But, then, geography was never my strongest subject.”

“Fine.” For safety’s sake, Sam dropped the machete on the table then he kicked the chair closer to the sunlight. He hoped the vampire’s nerve would give out before his own patience did. “I can wait,” he said.

The creature eyed the sun’s slow progress along the surface and tried to edge away from it. “Come on, Sam. You’re better than this,” it cajoled. “I can’t tell you what I don’t know.”

Sam folded his arms and adopted a casual stance leaning against the wall. He couldn’t be sure how much the vampire really knew, but he was quite certain it was more than it was telling.

It studied him in turn. After a few beats it remarked “you know it’s a shame; I reckon, in a better world, you and me could have got along famously.”

Sam ignored the rhetoric and just cast a pointed glance at the window and the shaft of light streaming through it.

“Oh, we’re very different people, I know,” the vampire persisted. “But we’ve got a lot in common. We’ve both got our histories and our crosses to bear, and we both want Yellow Eyes dead. But Winch, he just wants his old man back safe and sound, and neither of us wants to see the boy hurt, do we?”

Sam glared sharply at him. “You’re in no position to make threats,” he hissed.

“You’re not listening, Sam. I’m not threatening you,” the vampire assured him. “Matter of fact, I’d like to help you out, but I need to know what your priorities are. I need to know, what’s more important to you? Love . . . or revenge?”

Sam wasn’t listening. He was well familiar with the hostage strategies the vampire was trying to employ and he was immune to them. “How stupid do you think I am? I know what you’re doing,” Sam informed him. “You’re just wasting your own time here.”

The vampire glanced at the table and squinted out the window. He seemed to be calculating. “How much time do you think we have?” he asked. “Much as I’m enjoying our quality play date together, I can’t help worrying that our mates are going to start wondering where we are soon. Winch’ll be fretting about you, I’m sure.”

Sam wouldn’t allow himself to be goaded. Dean’s anxiety was the least of his worries; he didn’t kid himself he’d still have a mate to fret about him when this was all over. It only mattered that he discovered the vampires plans, and as much as it knew about the Demon’s, and that he kept Dean safe from both of them.

The vampire continued to needle, though. “It’s getting late,” he observed. “Eli’s got enough staff covering the bar today but, even so, eventually he’s going to get up and notice I’m not around.”

“He won’t find you,” Sam retorted confidently.

“Not what I’m concerned about, Sam,” the vampire explained. “I’m worried he’ll find Winch. He’s got a temper, you see.”

Sam scoffed, hardly impressed by the threat. The vampire underestimated Dean if he thought the burly barman would present a problem for him. “Dean can take care of himself,” he assured him.

“You’re still not listening, Sam,” the vampire persisted. “Your boy’s not prepared for what he’ll be up against, is he? Oh, don’t get me wrong, Eli’s a total abstainer, too, but he’s unpredictable, see?”

Sam straightened sharply, suddenly recalling the vampire’s earlier comments, and the significance of the words “get up” leapt out. It was a bluff, he was sure, almost sure, but an uneasy cold was settling on him. “Eli’s not a vampire,” he insisted, wanted to believe. “He was serving at the bar Monday lunchtime.” But now Sam was remembering the shuttered windows. Fuck!

“The man’s running a business,” the vampire was pointing out. “Can’t always work congenial hours, what with the economic climate and all – ”

Sam was already reaching for his cell as he instinctively retrieved the machete with the other hand. There were a bunch of missed calls, a couple of messages; he didn’t waste time listening to them, just punched speed dial. Panic started to set in when Dean didn’t answer, and the call diverted to voicemail. “Dean!” He almost yelled into the phone. “Dean, if you can hear this, you need to get out of the motel! I think there could be vampires in town! I think – Eli’s one of them – Eli’s – ”

“Oh, you think?” a sarcastic voice growled behind him, and Sam spun round just as its owner appeared in the arch from the entrance hall. His initial relief at finding Dean was safe soon gave way to a nauseating sensation aroused by seeing an expression on Dean’s face so alien to him that it was unreadable.

Sam stared helplessly, an animal caught in the headlights. “You found me . . . how . . . ?” he stammered.

“Turns out your tech geek tracking program works just as well for your cell phone as it did for Gemma’s,” Dean responded flatly. He took a couple of cautious steps into the room, noting the jar on the table, the blood coated knife lying close by, and the long wicked blade of the machete gripped tight and ready in Sam’s fist. He was well aware he was walking into a volatile situation, but he spoke very calmly, almost conversationally. “Had a visit from a couple of Jim’s buddies, wondering where he got to.”

Sam’s eyes widened with alarm. “A couple – There were more of them?! . . . How did you get away?” he demanded. “Did you – ”


“We just talked,” Dean interrupted quickly. “They were concerned about their friend is all.” And they were right to be. Jim looked terrible: sick, pale . . . paler than usual . . . bruised . . .

“They’re worriers,” Jim drawled sluggishly. “Sam and I were just having a friendly chat. Hope Eli was polite to you. He’s not too big on the social graces sometimes.”

“Lenore made him mind his Ps and Qs.” Dean replied absently as he stared at the chest and thigh wounds . . .

“Ah. Lenore.” Jim’s head rocked back and he smiled. The information seemed to clear something up for him.

. . . the red raw band of sunburned flesh along Jim’s neck and shoulder; the livid, puffy skin elsewhere . . .

Sam moved around the table and put himself between Dean and Jim. “Dean, you don’t understand. This creature isn’t your friend. It’s one of them, a vampire, a monster!

Perhaps Dean should just have been relieved that Jim was still alive but . . . Sam had done this? God. Eli had been right! Dean turned and searched Sam’s face. “So we torture people now?” he asked.

“They’re not people, Dean!” Sam insisted. “They’re not human!”

Dean heard it: something edgy and dangerous in Sam’s tone, so he lowered his voice again. “O.K. Sam, I know how you feel . . . ” Did he though? Hunting he understood. Killing in battle, in anger even, he got . . . but what Sam had done here looked cold, calculating. Did Dean even know him at all? “The vampires that killed Gwen deserved to die,” he persevered, all the same. “But I don't think these are like the others. I don't think they're killing people. They said they live off of animal blood.”

Sam scoffed. “And you believed them? What part of 'vampires' don't you understand, Dean? Of course they're killing people! That's what they do!”

“Come on, man! Think about it!” Dean urged. “You’ve been searching all over for something to hunt. Have you found any victims, bodies? Any missing folk anywhere, anywhere near here? Have you?”

Just for a moment Sam seemed to hesitate and consider briefly and Dean thought, just maybe, he might be starting to get through to him but then he just brushed the point aside.

“Maybe they’re feeding somewhere else,” he said. “I don’t really care. They're all the same, Dean. They're not human, okay? We have to exterminate every last one of them.”

“No, I don't think so, all right? Not this time.” Reasoning with Sam obviously wasn’t working, so Dean resorted to just telling him. “Sam, I'm letting him go,” he insisted, but as he took a step forward Sam raised his arm and Dean was shocked to find himself confronted with the business end of the machete.

“You're not doing a damn thing,” Sam growled.

Sam was bluffing. Had to be. He wouldn’t actually use the weapon, Dean was sure. Almost. Fuck. Turns out he wasn’t sure enough to put it to the test. “Hey, hey, hey,” he said gently, raising his hands, placating. “Sam, let's talk about this – ”

“Dean, you can’t trust him!” Sam’s voice had an unnerving quaver in it, and Dean could see now that his body was trembling slightly. Dean was shaking, too, if he was honest with himself.

“Not feeling a lot of trust all round, here, Sam,” he admitted, warningly.

“He’s been lying to you,” Sam persisted. “He knows about the Demon. One of those towns Gemma went to - Carlton, Louisiana – he lived there.”

Dean’s attention snapped to the man in the chair. What the fuck?!

“And my family died there!” Jim interjected. “Come on, Sam. Tell him the rest! Winch, Yellow Eyes killed them!”

Dean stared at him, head starting to reel with everything he was being asked to absorb. “Well, I guess we’ve all got some things to talk about,” he said, still doggedly trying to take back some control of the situation.

“What's there to talk about?” Sam demanded. “Vampires supposedly acting nice? Taking time out from consuming innocent people? And we're supposed to buy that?” he demanded incredulously. “Trust me, it doesn't change what they are, and I can prove it.”

It happened too fast. Before Dean could react Sam flashed forward and grabbed him. He felt the cold then the burn of the weapon’s edge and saw blood welling from a thin line drawn across his arm as Sam twisted his wrist and locked his fist under Dean’s jaw. Dean was too shocked to fight back, too conscious of the blade scant inches from his ear.

“Sam, let me go,” he gasped. “Now!” he yelled, trying to sound assertive, but Sam retained the grip and pulled him toward the table. Dean glanced at the captive in the chair like he hoped he might find some support from that quarter, but Jim’s focus was fixed straight ahead and he did nothing but give a sharp little shake of the head.

“Just making a point,” Sam hissed. “You think it’s friendship that this thing wants from you?” He dragged Dean’s arm over Jim’s head and the blood started to drip down. “This is all it wants. It’s what it craves.”

Jim’s eyes widened. He tried to turn his head, pull away, but thick droplets splashed onto his forehead, dark ruby rivulets trickling down his pale cheek, gathering in the crevice under his nose and oozing over his lips. And then he changed.

Dean stared aghast at his friend transformed: he was a feral animal, wild eyed and snarling, and teeth – oh God the teeth! Rows of them! Long, sharp, ragged . . . animal!

Sam released his arm and Dean reeled back, gasping out loud. Dimly he thought he heard the sound of it echo behind him.

“You think he's so different?” Sam demanded. “You still want to save him? Look at him!

Dean was looking. God he wished he could look away, but his horror fixed his gaze on his own blood staining the creature’s lips and teeth, the tip of its tongue . . . Then it rocked forward in the chair and Dean tottered backward, cringing away from the sight. It spat, like a cat, Dean thought, but then it spoke . . . and it was Jim, Jim’s voice . . .

“No. No!” he croaked. He licked his lips and spat again, hawking blood and saliva onto the floor. Then slowly the extra teeth retracted, the jaw relaxed and the eyes seemed normal once more. Dean recognized his friend.

“No!” Jim groaned repeatedly, lolling in the chair exhausted from the effort the control had cost him, but he’d done it.

Dean turned and directed a pointed stare at Sam. “You hear him?” he demanded.

Jim looked up, too. They both watched Sam keenly as, for the first time, a shadow of real doubt flickered in his face. The arm that held the machete wavered and then lowered, just a little, but that was all the opening Dean needed. He snapped a swift kick into Sam’s forearm and the weapon spun out of his grasp and across the floor as Dean whipped a hand into his own jacket. He’d come armed with a little surprise, himself, and now he drew out the Taser and trained it on Sam.

Sam saw it and froze, and then his body just kind of sagged a little. It was like the fight just went out of him. Still Dean didn’t trust Sam to just stay put while he untied Jim, but he had a hunch there was a solution to that problem not so far away.

“Lenore? Are you out there?” he called out. After a brief pause Dean felt rather than saw her enter the room behind him, and he tossed his head in Jim’s direction. “Get him out of here”, he told her. He kept her in the corner of his sights while he continued to watch Sam, whose eyes had widened from the moment he saw her. His nostrils flared, the tension in the room racked up another few notches, and he tried to make a move toward the fallen machete.

“Uh uh aah!” Dean warned him.

“You're not serious,” Sam retorted, his breath catching in his chest.

Dean’s own chest was filled with a sick ache and he could feel traitor tears pricking at the corners of his eyes. Christ, how had they come to this? He’d brought the Taser as a precaution; not like he’d been about to put all his faith in the vampires, but he’d hardly expected to wind up aiming it at Sam. “I'm having a hard time believing it too,” he acknowledged hoarsely, “but if you want them, you've gotta go through me.” He could tell Sam knew he meant it, and it hurt him like hell to see the pain in Sam’s face, but he was kind of reassured to see it there, too: the part of Sam that was hurt was still the guy Dean thought he knew.

He shot a glance at Lenore as she untied Jim’s bonds.

“I need to get Jim back to our farm,” she told him. “He’s sick. He needs to feed.”

“Did you bring transport with you?” Dean asked.

She nodded acknowledgment. “Not far away,” she said, and as she helped Jim to his feet she took off her veil and wrapped it around him before leading him out of the room.

“Dean, please!” Sam remonstrated. “You can’t just let them leave!”

There was a small pile in the corner of the room: a shirt and other bits and pieces like a wallet and cell phone. “Those Jim’s” Dean asked, mostly rhetorically. Not like they’d be anyone else’s. He moved toward them still keeping a watchful eye on Sam, but he let him see the phone as he picked it up. “Sam, just give me the benefit of the doubt, would you?” he said, fixing him with a meaningful look. “You owe me that.” He waited, watched and was relieved to see the shift in Sam’s attitude. Didn’t change how totally fucked things were between them, but at least they had the ghost of a working understanding as he followed Lenore out to the entrance hall.

“Your partner . . . ?” she questioned as she saw Dean come out alone.

Dean cut her off. “Leave him to me,” he said. He noticed there were blisters on her fingers and now that she’d shed her veil he could see the sun had caught parts of her face, too. “What happened to the plan where you were supposed to stay in town?” he reproved her.

“This was the only way I could persuade Eli to stay out of it,” she replied. “We couldn’t do nothing; we’re family,” she reminded him, and Dean nodded his understanding. Her blisters were testament to the pains she was prepared to endure for her kin. “How did you know I’d followed you?” she asked.

Dean shrugged his shoulders. “It’s what I would have done,” he acknowledged as he handed Jim his shirt and the rest of his stuff, and his phone. “You and I’ll talk later,” he told him.

Jim chuckled humorlessly. “Yeah,” he agreed.

 

~

Dean fetched blankets from the back of the car so they wouldn’t get any more burned than they were already, and he gave them both a lift to where Lenore had left her truck, then he came back to find Sam waiting anxiously for him. Turned out Lenore’s farm wasn’t far and it didn’t take long to track Jim’s phone to its location. From a ridge overlooking the cattle shed Dean watched Lenore insert a syringe into a cow’s neck. She was drawing off blood and feeding it to Jim through a thin tube, and it seemed to be reviving him. Dean fought down the urge to heave. Seems there were still things that could awaken his old blood issue, after all, and watching his old college buddy slurp it through a tube like a Krazystraw was one of them. Lenore was right: it was disgusting, but they weren’t hurting anyone.

Dean handed the field glasses to Sam. “Do you believe them now?” he asked.

Sam watched the scene for a while, and when he lowered the glasses his hands were trembling. “So, it’s true. They can live off cattle blood.” His voice was barely a whisper, and his face looked ashen. “I didn’t know,” he said.

Chapter Text

Scene 15

 

They were still in the cow shed when Dean knocked, but he was relieved to see they’d moved on to drinking just beer. Eli rose to his feet when Dean entered, and Dean reflexively tightened his grip on the Taser he still had tucked in his pocket, just as a precaution.

“What are you doing here?” the vampire demanded. “How did you find us?”

“Cool you heels,” Dean retorted. “I’m just here to talk.”

“Sit your bum back down!” Jim told his drinking buddy. “This boy saved my life this afternoon. Show him some respect.”

Eli deliberated for a moment but then he reached down into the cooler box, lifted out a bottle and offered it to Dean. After a brief pause Dean accepted it and the pair of them exchanged a nod of grudging détente.

“Sam not with you?” Jim asked.

“I dropped him back in town,” Dean reassured him. “I figured you and I still had some private catching up to do.”

Sam hadn’t been happy about Dean coming back to the farm by himself, but too bad; he didn’t get a vote. At the motel, when he’d hesitated to get out of the car straight away, Dean had leaned across and opened the passenger door himself. “Get out,” he’d told him, and Sam hadn’t argued. Dean had watched him in the rear view mirror, though, following the car with his eyes all the way out of the motel parking lot and down the street to the first junction where Dean had turned and driven out toward the farmland.

Maybe it’d looked harsh, felt harsh – especially now that Sam was being all compliant – but Dean still just didn’t feel he could be sure what Sam might do around the vampires, much less expect them to trust him. As far as Dean was concerned Sam’s presence anywhere nearby would just have been a freaking liability.

Lenore offered him a milk crate to sit on and Jimmy proffered his cigarettes, but he declined both. Instead, he propped himself against a cattle stall a little distance from the group and tried to look casual.

“So, you’ve got some explaining to do,” he told Jimmy. “You lied to me.”

Jim took a puff on his own cigarette then rested his hand against his face. The smoke rose between his fingers and drifted over the top of his head. “Yeah, well before you get too far up your moral high ground, just remember you haven’t been totally up front with me this last couple of days, either,” he pointed out.

Dean bristled. “I might have been if you’d been straight with me at the start!”

“Oh, right: ‘Hello! My name’s Jim, I’m a vampire’.” Jim assumed his mock innocent face and mimed shaking hands with an invisible recollection. “Yeah, that conversation would have gone well. And once you’d hooked up with Mr. Only-good-vampire’s-a-dead-vampire – ”

“They killed his cousin! He’s sensitive about it.” Dean nearly added “bite me”, thought better of it.

“His cousin, you say?” Jim enquired.

“Yeah, it was more complicated than that,” Dean acknowledged.

Jim leaned forward and fixed Dean with a serious expression. “That boy’s name is complicated,” he said.

Tell me about it, Dean thought, but he wasn’t about to let Jim get away with making Sam a distraction again. “You weren’t in Red Lodge by chance, Jim. You came looking for me. Why?”

Jim shrugged his shoulders. “It’s obvious, isn’t it? You’re the key to finding Yellow Eyes.”

“I don’t have the first fucking clue where the son of a bitch is!” Dean snapped.

After a weighty pause Jim said “yeah but, Pet, he probably knows where you are. Or will do, sooner or later.”

Dean chose not to let it show how much the reminder terrified him. Instead he focused on the merely offensive part of the statement. He leveled a finger at Jim. “Don’t. call. me. that,” he growled. “Ever again.” In the ensuing silence Dean took a couple of swigs from his beer. “So, that’s what I am to you,” he said presently. “Bait?”

“You could look at it that way,” Jim admitted. “Or you might think of me as an extra pair of eyes watching out for you, whenever I can spare them.”

“Right,” Dean said and uttered a low, bitter chuckle. He stared sightlessly at the bottle in his hand and asked “and do you know why the Demon’s taken such a personal interest in my family?”

“I don’t, mate,” Jim replied. “Wish I did. But if you ask me, you should get to know a bit more about those Campbells. I don’t reckon you getting involved with one of them is just happenstance. Know what I mean?”

Dean said nothing, but he knew it was a fair point. Truth is, Sam’s family baggage had discouraged them from paying closer attention to one of the few clues they’d ever had. That had to change.

“And what about Samuel Colt and the towns Sam asked you about,” he prodded. “You sure you don’t know anything about that?”

Jim took another drag on his cigarette. “This is information you’ve got from your tame demon, is it?” he asked. “Are you sure she’s not just yanking your chain?”

“I wasn’t, but it’s pretty strange that she paid your home town a visit,” Dean pointed out. “Especially given what happened there.”

Jim shrugged again. “Demons read minds, Winch; not vampires, whatever Rice says,” he said. “You want to know what the bint had in her head, better ask another demon.”

“Well, tell me what you do know, then!” Dean demanded, impatiently. “You’ve had two hundred years; in all that time you must have found out something about this thing, its habits, its weaknesses, what it wants.” He decided to take the crate after all. Grabbing it and pulling it underneath him, he leaned in close to Jimmy and started firing questions at him. “Why did the Demon attack your family? How come you were the one who survived and not the kid? Were you already a vampire back then? What’s your freaking story, Jimmy?!”

“My story?” Jim laughed cynically. “You want the Dickens version? Or the Anne Rice short cut: begin when I was “born to darkness”?”

Dean moved in even closer and spoke in a low growl. “The version where you start by telling me everything you know about Yellow Eyes and end up explaining what you were doing in Chico, ’cause you sure as Hell weren’t studying to become the next Clark Kent.”

Jim smiled grimly. “No, mate,” he admitted. “Well, then. Let’s get started.”

Dusk was drawing in and it was growing dark in the shed. Jim glanced at Lenore and she started lighting extra lamps as Jim pulled another beer out of the cooler and started relating his narrative. Dean noticed, as he recalled the events of his past, the assumed English accent faltered occasionally, and he slipped into a cultured Southern drawl. At times he used old fashioned phrases that wouldn’t have been out of place in some old gothic novel, and Dean had to keep reminding himself that this story was real; these things had really happened to his friend.

“It happened in 1790,” Jim began. “I was younger than you are now but, like the man said, times were different back then. I didn’t have a plantation but I was well off, master of a large property north of New Orleans, and I had a young wife and a beautiful baby daughter, Margaret. Before the fire, that is. I wasn’t at home that night: I was at a meeting of the town fathers or some such, doubtless discussing something I thought was very important and proper at the time; couldn’t even tell you what it was now, but a messenger rode up while I was there with the news my home was alight. There was no city fire department to respond in seven minutes back then; it was all wells and human bucket chains. I rode as fast as I could but by the time I got home the place was already a smoking ruin. I survived because I wasn’t there, simple as that. My wife wasn’t so fortunate. From what the servants told me it seems the fire started in the nursery and Sarah was killed in the first blaze. The child’s nanny tried to save the infant but she ran from the room in a blind panic, fell on the staircase and broke the baby’s neck along with her own.

“No one seriously believed it was anything but a tragic accident, at first: a lamp left burning too close to drapes or something of the kind. Rumors the nurse had been heard screaming nonsense about a yellow eyed man and my wife on the ceiling were dismissed as hysteria.

“I blamed myself, of course, for not being there to protect them, save them. I had the self destructive phase, by the book: trying to gamble away my wealth and estate, inviting death. It wasn’t a vampire that accepted my invitation, though, not at first. A Hoodoo woman sent word that she had information about my wife, so I went to see her and learned the truth: my daughter’s death was an accident – she wasn’t supposed to die – but my wife had been murdered. I took the old witch to the house - what was left of it - and she ‘saw’ my wife, pinned to the ceiling, bleeding and burning. I had hoped the woman could sense the echoes, the fingerprints of the thing that had killed Sarah, but she only knew that real evil had come, walked the house that night. She was the one who told me what was really out there in the dark. You could say she drew back the curtains for me.

“After that I traveled, studied, learned what I could of the occult and esoteric arts, rubbed shoulders with witches, shamans, defrocked priests, you name it; the next year I had my first encounter with a demon, at the exorcism of an acheri that had possessed a sick child. It taunted me about my wife, how she’d been killed, and told me of other families, other victims. It mocked my quest, saying that the demon that had killed them wouldn’t walk the Earth again for another twenty years . . . and I didn’t have twenty years. It revealed to me that I had already contracted the consumption that would take my life before I ever avenged their deaths.

“I was tempted to let myself succumb to the disease, just lie down and give up the ghost. Instead I fell in with hunters and determined to spend the time I had left to me killing every evil thing that came in my path. In the Fall of ’91 I discovered a nest of vampires that were preying on the crews of ships sailing out of the Port of New Orleans. I had the leader cornered on the banks of the Mississippi when he made me an offer: in exchange for sparing his life he would give me immortality.”

“Wait . . .” Dean interrupted Jim’s story, shocked anew. “Are you saying you chose to become a vampire?”

“Try to understand the temptation,” Jim pleaded with him. “I was dying . . . and I realized a few drops of that creature’s blood could buy me all the time I needed to find the Demon, however long it took. So, yeah, I made the devil’s bargain, accepted his offer . . . the ‘dark gift’, it’s been called. But like I said, Winch: every gift comes with a cost. I wasn’t prepared for the thirst, the depth of the craving; I had never known hunger before. Vermin, poultry, animals wouldn’t slake it – it was a while before I discovered cattle were an exception – only human blood sufficed. I never intended to take their lives . . .”

“But you did?” The gathering night made the shed seem suddenly colder. Jim drew on his cigarette and, as he exhaled, the sight of smoke trickling from the vampire’s nostrils made Dean feel oddly queasy.

“I never understood until I was turned,” Jim explained. “It's like you're reborn into a vampire nest. Your maker means everything to you, and our father was a jealous god. He kept the family together, but kept us apart from the rest of the world, and I learned to serve the nest. I was lost, Winch, for a long time . . .”

Dean leaned forward and rested his head in his hands for a minute. Was he totally sure he’d made the right call when he’d made Sam back off? He heard Jim continue, but the voice seemed strangely muted and distant for a while.

“Then one day, years later, I caught wind of the Demon again. I was reminded of my purpose, and I regained my focus, resumed my quest.

“My maker wasn’t pleased at my desertion. He sent my blood brothers and sisters out after me, told them to bring back my head. I was fortunate that the one who found me chose to warn me instead.” Jim and Eli exchanged a glance and Dean absorbed its significance. “We returned to Louisiana and confronted our maker. There was a battle; we killed him and those who fought with him, the rest we freed. Eli, here, found a new nest: farmers in Austin. We learned about cattle from them, and that’s where he eventually met Lenore. I continued my search alone. I went by many names but most often I called myself Masters. It was my wife’s maiden name; it helped me remember, kept me honest.”

Dean sat upright again, wiping his fingers down his face as he lifted his head. “And you’ve been clean ever since?” he asked fearfully.

Jim looked down and tapped his ash into an empty bottle. “I never took another innocent life,” he said.

There was a pause, but Dean chose not to examine him any deeper on the subject. “And the Demon?” he asked instead.

“I kept searching, following every lead I could find. My search took me to the Old World: to Poland, Prussia, Africa,” Jim revealed. “I was in China in 1900, India in 1919. In the thirties and forties I was in Europe. It seemed attracted to war and bloodshed, but it specifically went after families: families with infants, and always on the night of the kid's six-month birthday.”

Dean blinked, horrified. “So . . . it’s not just America, then?” His skin tightened into cold pin pricks of gooseflesh. The scale of this thing just seemed to keep growing and growing.

Jim shook his head. “The Campbells only know about two generations. The previous one was in England, and they never thought to look over the Pond, so they didn’t know enough to see a pattern, but there is one. It isn’t obvious and it isn’t exact but I’ve had two centuries to figure it out: there’s a cycle that begins roughly every twenty-one and a half years, and carries on for just over a year. I don’t know how long it’s been going on. Centuries, probably. Maybe even millennia.”

It was something, Dean supposed – new information they didn’t have before – but he didn’t know what it all meant, or what difference it made. Maybe it would mean something to Sam. He felt a sick headache coming on and pinched the bridge of his nose to stave it off. “So why's it doing it?” he asked heavily. “What does it want?”

Jim watched him. His expression was sad and sympathetic. “I wish I could give you more answers, mate. I do. But I've always been one step behind it. I never even got there in time to save . . .” He stopped and stared silently at the floor, shaking his head, and then he stubbed out his cigarette and dropped the butt into the empty bottle. He cracked open a fresh beer before continuing with a hearty resumption of his usual familiar manner, perhaps to cheer himself as much as Dean. “I was in L.A. in ’05 when I got wind of some small fry demon sign in San Fran,” he said. “I didn’t think it was Yellow Eyes, it being a college campus - not his usual thing - but any demon’s worth talking to and they usually get chatty when you start giving them the old Max Von Sidow. This lot were just foot soldiers, didn’t know much. They seemed to be interested in your group, though, so I thought I’d hang out for a while; couldn’t see what was so special about you, personally.”

Dean made an effort at a smile. “Thanks a lot,” he said.

“You’re welcome, mate,” Jim retorted, and took a pull on his beer. “Well, I roughed up a couple of demons, sent them downstairs, but all they knew was they were supposed to watch you and report your movements. I guess they were missed when they didn’t check in ’cos reinforcements turned up, and one of them must’ve recognized me. Soon after, I’m being set on by a couple of freshly possessed students – ”

Dean straightened in his seat. “Hang on . . .” he interrupted, “that fight back in Chico . . . are you saying it was with demons?!”

“They weren’t really out to harm you at the time,” Jim assured him. “It was a message for me: they threatened someone I care about. Family, you might say.” Jim paused, and when he continued his tone was muted again. “I had to go after that, mate. I’m sorry. ’Course I realized after they just wanted me out of the way so I didn’t stuff up Yellow Eyes’ plans for your family but by the time I found that out, it was too late, and you’d already taken off with your hunter friend.”

Dean shook his head, feeling frustrated and helpless. “But I don’t get it, Jim. Where does my family even fit into all this? There were no kids in that house!”

“Well, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?” Jim said, tilting his head for emphasis, “’Cause Yellow Eyes has been acting out of turn this time. His normal trick is to possess someone in the household, do his business then smoke out and leave the host to burn, but this time he took your old man with him. I’d like to know why that was.”

“Oh, you’d like to know?” Dean scoffed bitterly. He stood up and took a few aimless paces, just to feel active, before winding up in front of a window staring out into the night. “Jim, do you think he’s even still alive?” he asked. 
 
It felt like Jim took an awfully long time to answer and eventually Dean turned to prompt a response from him.

Jim made a helpless gesture, barely a shrug. “All I can say for sure is that I don’t think the Demon’s done with him,” he said. “Yellow Eyes is keeping a low profile, but I’ve got sources most hunters don’t have access to. Word is he’s still topside, somewhere, and that’s a puzzle in itself. The last cycle ended months ago, and he doesn’t usually hang about after, so you’ve got to wonder what’s so special about this time . . . The thing is, though, P – ” He glanced at Dean’s face and pulled himself up, started again: “The thing is, Winch,” he said seriously, “even if your old man’s still alive, having evil like that inside him, for that long . . . I don’t know if you can come back from that. And I know a bit about having evil inside.”

Dean returned his gaze to the window, but there was nothing to see out there but empty darkness, and for a long time there was silence in the shed apart from the restless shuffling of the cattle. Eventually Dean shook himself from his self absorption, remembering something Jim had said before that he ought to ask about.

“You said the demons at Chico threatened someone . . . your family . . . did they . . . ?” He didn’t know how to phrase the question tactfully.

Jim glanced down at his beer and shook his head. “I wasn’t in time to save her, either.”

“I’m sorry.” Dean didn’t know what else to say.

Jim was swirling his beer bottle in his hand, staring at it thoughtfully like he had something more to say. Dean waited and, sure enough, he added presently “there’s one more thing I should probably mention. When I heard you’d gotten yourself involved with one of the Campbells, I took the liberty of doing some checking up on him, his background. Did you know his mother wasn’t living at home when she had him? She’d had her own place in another part of town for over a year before he was born. Maybe she was trying to get out of the family business; like mother, like son, eh?”

Dean frowned. He couldn’t remember whether Sam had mentioned it or not. “Is it important?” he asked.

“Could be,” Jim said, a little too casually. “Have your boy look into it, anyway: check out the people she knew from around that time, see what they can tell him. He might learn something useful.”

Dean suddenly had the feeling Jim wasn’t being completely candid with him. “Listen, if you know something – ” he began, but Jim interrupted him.

“And while you’re at it, remember to ask your boy about the other kids, the survivors,” he said “’Cause I don’t reckon he’s told you everything he knows about those.”

Jim – ”

“Just ask your boy about them,” Jim insisted. “Then we’ll talk again.”

He emphasized the statement with a hard, meaningful stare that filled Dean with doubt and foreboding and suddenly Dean didn’t feel like pressing him any further. He wasn’t sure he wanted Jim telling him something about Sam he didn’t already know.

“Right, we’ll do that, then,” he said, a little hoarsely. It felt like the interview was over, so he made to leave. He exchanged a curt nod with Eli then paused and shook hands with Lenore, but as he reached the door Jim called out to him.

“Winch!”

Dean turned and waited.

Jim held his gaze and directed a knowing expression at him. “He is, you know?”

“What?” Dean prompted.

Yours.”



~

For a while they were all quiet as they listened to the boy return to his car and drive away. When the sound of the engine faded into the distance the others turned questioning faces toward Jim.

“So you’re certain he’s not the one?” Eli asked him.

“I don’t think so,” Jim confirmed. “There’s not a whiff of sulfur about him; I checked. I’m not entirely certain what his part in all this is, but I’m afraid for him.”

“And what about the other one? His partner?” Lenore asked.

“He’s one of them, all right. I can’t be sure he’s the one.” Jim lit a fresh cigarette and took a thoughtful drag from it. “His name troubles me, and the fact that he was baptized so close to Samhain. Yellow Eyes isn’t coaching him yet, though. I’m sure of that. He’s not a bad lad.”

Lenore raised her eyebrows. “You can say that? After what he did to you?”

“It’s not the first time I’ve been caught by hunters. Trust me it could have been worse,” Jim assured her. “There’s a lot of rage in that boy, but he lacks that willing bloodlust that drives a lot of ’em.”

“Maybe you should have killed him anyway, just to be sure,” Eli murmured darkly.

“Are you a hunter now?” Jim rebuked him. “When I accepted the dark gift, I accepted a burden along with it. My life, my job, is to vanquish evil. I can sense evil. This young man, whatever he is . . . evil may have claimed him, may have left its mark on him, but evil doesn’t rule him, so I can’t kill him.”

“I can,” Eli snarled, unrepentant.

“Not while I'm here,” Jim insisted.

Lenore interrupted their confrontation. “You were reckless allowing yourself to be captured,” she told Jim.

He smirked. “Two hundred years. I’ve been in tighter spots.”

Lenore shook her head. “There was an odor of despair about the hunter. You weren’t in control of that situation. You were fortunate Wallis insisted on meeting me in town. If I hadn’t caught the scent of your blood no one would have known you were gone until it was too late.”

“Has Wallis agreed to take the cattle?” Jim asked, taking the opportunity to change the subject.

“He has,” she informed him. “He’s coming to collect them tomorrow.”

“Good.” Jim contemplated his barely smoked cigarette for a spell then he stubbed it out anyway. “Pack up tonight,” he said, “and let the farmhands handle the sale.”

Both the others looked shocked and alarmed. “You learned something more from the hunter?” Lenore quizzed him.

“Enough to know it isn’t safe for you here any more,” Jim confirmed. “Eli, you go into town and gather the others. We leave before sunrise.”

Jim waited until Eli had gone then he turned to Lenore. “Show me where it is,” he said quietly.

He followed her back to the house and she led him to a study where he helped her move a bookcase. There was a wall safe hidden behind it. His vampire eyes could see the symbols painted around it in holy water; they would have been invisible to human sight.

“Why didn’t you just tell the boy what you know about his lover?” she asked as she entered the combination.

“Not my place,” he replied. “I want to give Campbell a chance to come clean of his own accord. Those two are going to have enough problems patching things up as it is.”

“You care about their relationship?” She opened the safe and took out the box she had hidden in it.

Jim fixed her with a significant look. “That relationship could make or break the world,” he said. “Until I know which it is, I’m just going to play it safe.” He took the box from her hand and opened it. He didn’t know why all its protection had failed; it hardly mattered now.

Lenore gazed down at the weapon he was holding. “If you’re the boy’s friend, don’t you think you should be honest with him?” she asked.

Jim didn’t answer straight away, just took the Colt out of its housing and started loading the remaining bullets into its barrel. When he’d finished he turned to Lenore and explained: “one of these days I may have to choose between putting a bullet into his old man or his soul mate,” and as Jim slipped the gun inside his jacket he acknowledged, regretfully, “I’m not his friend.”

Chapter Text

Scene 16

 

After listening to Jim’s story Dean felt like he needed a drink or three before he could face going back to the motel and having another confrontation with Sam. He stopped at the first bar he passed that wasn’t the Billy Miner. Even so, as he ordered the shots and the waitress treated him to a big ol’ flash of her pearly whites, he found himself checking to see if he could spot a second set. How would he know?

He pulled out a crumpled bill to pay for the drinks and as he stuffed his wallet back into his jacket pocket he stared around at the bar’s clientele: a typical cross section of humanity on any given night . . . presumably. But who knew? Anybody here, or anywhere, could be anything – lanky guy at the slot machine: wraith; rowdy bunch at the pool table: ghouls; big bald biker guy next to him with all the arm tats: bearwalker; three women in the booth sipping cocktails: witches. Not like he could go around holy water-boarding everyone he met, demanding strangers pull up their lips or poking them with silver knives. People frowned on that kind of behavior.

The guy next to him turned in his seat and Dean tensed. He didn’t move or look round, but he remained aware of the guy’s movements as he stood up, and when he suddenly bent down just behind him Dean prepared for the fight.

“Hey, buddy!”

Dean turned swiftly, ready to meet the challenge.

“You dropped this.”

The man’s face was impassive and Dean slowly lowered his gaze to the object gripped in a meaty paw: his wallet.

“Uh . . . thanks,” he mumbled awkwardly as he reached out and accepted it from the other guy’s hand.

Tattooed-biker-dude nodded and raised his hand in a closed-fist salute, and Dean saw the name TINY printed in single letters, one on each finger. “Stay safe, brother,” the guy said as he turned, left the bar, and left the picture.

Some seconds passed before Dean recovered from the effects of adrenaline all dressed up with no place to go, then he glanced from his wallet to the pool table where the rowdy youngsters were laughing and sharing a joke. He took out a fifty and stowed the wallet safely back in his jacket before sauntering over to the players and waving the bill invitingly at them. “Hey! Any takers?” he challenged. He’d go easy on them. After all, they were barely more than kids, just looking for a fun night out and, right now, Dean needed their money less than their simple company.

He left the bar a couple of hours later and just a few dollars richer. A squall of rain rinsed his face as he made his way to the car, and when he turned over the engine David Gates whined at him from the radio:

Since you left I hardly make it through the day.
My tears get in the way . . .♫

Dean didn’t feel in the mood for that dirge right now so he snapped it off, but that left him with nothing to listen to but his thoughts, set to the beat of the rain on the windshield and the rhythmic slash of the wipers. Jim’s last remark about Sam still haunted him, though he tried to push it away; with everything Jim had told him that one comment, tossed out as an afterthought, shouldn’t be the object of his focus. Still it echoed persistently in his head:

“He is . . . yours.”

A part of him wished he’d stayed to ask Jim what he’d meant by that. Maybe with the benefit of his vampire eyes, or simply his outsider POV, Jim had a different perspective on the situation than Dean could manage . . . but the days of knocking back beers and listening to Jimmy’s relationship advice were long gone.

Dean turned the radio back on . . .

All I want is the way it used to be
I need you here with me . . .♫

and switched it off again.

Trouble is, all he could see was that Sam had gone after his friend without saying a word to him first. He didn’t know if that was because he hadn’t trusted Dean, or hadn’t cared what he thought, or just didn’t stop to worry about how Dean would feel. Either way, it was clear that Dean had been the last thing that mattered to him when he’d gone off on his vampire vendetta. And Dean got that, got why, sort of. Didn’t make it hurt any less.

By the time he got back to the motel his gut was a hot acidic churn. He had no idea what he was going to say to Sam, but walking in and acting like nothing had happened wasn’t exactly an option . . . though as he drove into the lot the idea was starting to have an appeal, all the same. Or he could lead with the question Jim had brought up, about the other fires, the survivors, because if there was anything Sam was hiding . . . but Dean couldn’t believe that. As tight lipped as Sam could be about his own stuff, this was something they were in together, shoulder to shoulder, and Sam knew how important it was. There’s no way he’d keep back information about the Demon, something that might make a difference in the search for Dad. Sam wouldn’t do that to him, he was sure.

His jaw tightened as he swung into the spot in front of their room and – . . . Something was off: the windows were dark, there was no sign of any light coming from within . . . Dean was out of the car in moments, pulse quickening.

“Sam!” he called, and reached out to thump on the door but it swung open the moment he touched it. Sam had done nothing to secure the lock since Eli had broken in that afternoon. Anyone could just walk in! “Sam!” he yelled again, heart racing, head filling with horrible possibilities as he turned on the light and found the room empty, but there was no sign of a struggle beyond the remaining evidence of his earlier scuffle with Eli. The salt line round the door was scuffed, and starting to get damp from the rain, but still intact for practical purposes. As far as he could see the room was as he’d left it . . . except now there was a strong smell of alcohol and a faint whiff of something less pleasant muddled with the odor of solvents. Dean spotted the bottle of Johnny Walker overturned and leaking what remained of its contents all over Sam’s bed just as a muffled, choked sound from the bathroom caught his attention.

The door wasn’t locked, or even closed, and when he pushed it wide he was hit by the smell of whisky and vomit. The toilet seat was up, but Sam wasn’t at the bowl: he was curled up on the floor in the other corner, clinging to the edge of the bathtub, body quaking. When the light came on he turned toward it, and Dean was shocked motionless at the sight of his face, Sam’s face, crumpled, wet with tears and snot; eyes red and puffy; lips, chin, neck and shoulders tight and quivering from the effort of holding back a sob that finally escaped as he turned his face back to the wall.

Dean stared at him for maybe half a heartbeat before he reacted – and if he’d stopped to think for one second he’d have thought of a bunch of good reasons why what he did was probably the last thing he should have under the circumstance – but logic, reason, restraint, didn’t come into it; instinct and pure feeling propelled him to Sam’s side and, although the guy flailed and struggled initially as Dean pulled him into his arms, he held on regardless, hugging him closer to his chest.

“It’s O.K. Sam,” he murmured, over and over like he was trying to awaken him from a bad dream. “You’re O.K. I’ve got you.” Sam lay there panting, with his head resting against Dean’s chest, and presently his muscles relaxed perceptibly. He ceased pushing against his comforter and, instead, his fingers curled and tightened around the material of Dean’s shirt, he hiccupped and tears began to flow freely. Dean stared down at the tousled head on his chest, feeling stunned. This was surreal: Sam, the hardened hunter, stoic pillar of strength, cool calm rationalist, always in control . . . trembling in Dean’s arms, crying like a babe. What the hell?

It was an automatic, instinctive thing, the way he found himself responding, rocking the great overgrown block of granite like he was just some little kid afraid of the dark. “I’ve got you,” he murmured again.

“Don’t. Don’t, Dean,” Sam croaked. “Get away. You need to get away from me!” Though he still clung tight and his head was buried in Dean’s shirt front. “I’m not what you think I am. I’m no good for you. I’m poison. I’m a monster. I’m a killer!”

Dean frowned. “Sssh. Stop it,” he said. “You didn’t kill anyone.”

Sam lifted his head, stared into Dean’s face and wailed “I killed Gwen!” His fingers twisted in the plaid cotton and tugged. “I killed her, Dean! I didn’t give her a chance!”

“O.K. Enough!” Dean told him, doing his best attempt at firmness, though inside he was feeling kinda scrambled. “You gotta stop blaming yourself for what happened to Gwen. No one can control everything that happens in battle – ”

Sam’s head dropped and he shook it helplessly. “Didn’t happen in battle,” he muttered.

“Whatever. It wasn’t your fault,” Dean insisted. “The vampires that killed Gwen – ”

Sam cut him off with a harsh, unhealthy sounding bark of laughter that chilled Dean to his heart’s core. “They didn’t kill her.” He lifted his gaze to Dean’s, nostrils flaring, and the corners of his mouth quivered. “They turned her.”


Lansing, Michigan, nine months earlier.

Sam lingered down the hall from Samuel’s office, trying to catch what he could of the conversation. He should have been in there, trying to contribute, trying to help . . . but he wasn’t welcome. They’d already had to haul Mark off him once, and even now he could hear voices raised in anger, frustration, recrimination. Three hunters down, one missing . . . and they didn’t even get all the vamps. At least four, maybe more, got away. It was a bad result.

But Gwen was the worst: she was family.

Sam should have watched her more closely, kept her safe . . . he should have sent her back to Samuel; hell, she wasn’t even supposed to have been with Sam’s group! . . . and to make matters worse, he’d panicked, run around like a headless chicken, wasting precious time that might have made a difference. Christian was the only one who’d even had the presence of mind to try her cell phone; not that she’d answered, but at least the man had thought of it.

Samuel had split them into parties and they’d swept the woods for sign. They didn’t find Gwen’s body, which was reason to hope, but if the vampires were keeping her alive it meant they were taking her to feed on or . . . The image of the woman in the barn kept swimming in front of Sam’s eyes: tied, helpless, neck ravaged, flesh torn and bleeding, life drained from her until . . . Sam kept seeing Gwen’s face in the place of that woman’s.

“Don’t beat yourself up,” Christian had told him. “It was your first time. Everyone makes mistakes.”

It didn’t help.

Trails were picked up only to disappear again, but eventually they’d found signs of a struggle, and spots of blood that might have been Gwen’s, near the river. The soft mud at the edge was trampled with different footprints and tracks where a small boat had been dragged into the water. The hunters scouted up and down stream both sides of the river for any sign the vampires had returned to either bank, but hope was failing. Sam would have been prepared to hike round the whole of Lake Huron if they could find Gwen, if there was a chance she was still alive, but in his heart he knew it was hopeless. They all did. The vamps might not have been able to go far in daylight if they’d been exposed, but if they’d had cover with them they could have gone anywhere: a motor boat could have carried them into Canada, or they might have backed up through Lake Michigan and headed for Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois. There was no way of knowing. Christian was monitoring the coastguard radio traffic but nothing had thrown up a flag and now, so many hours later, the vampires and their hostage could be anywhere.

Sam returned to his room and pored over maps of the lakes, looking for potential spots where the vampires might have landed and holed up, trawling real estate listings and marinas for empty places close to the waterways but the area was simply too vast. A needle in a haystack would have been an egg hunt by comparison.

Again, for the hundredth fruitless time since the first attempt, Sam took out his cell and called Gwen’s, and while he listened to her recorded voice it finally occurred to him he might be holding the means of finding her right in his hand. Taking a seat at his desk, he gazed sightlessly at the computer while he thought the process through. If he could hack into the telecom provider’s systems and devise a means of appropriating their localizing resources . . .

Absorbed in his task, he was oblivious to the fall of dusk and deepening night until he started squinting at the computer monitor, trying to understand the information he was receiving. His first confused thought was that he’d fucked up and the program was somehow reflecting his own location back at him, until a tap at the window almost startled him off his chair. He swung from the desk, instinctively reaching for the machete he’d kept close at hand all day, and he saw the face at the window. At once it shocked him to his bones and filled him with an enormous wave of relief. An instant had the window open, and he all but hauled her through it and into his arms.

“Gwen!” he gasped. “Oh, God, Gwen! Thank – thank God. I thought . . . I was afraid you were . . .”

“It’s O.K.,” she assured him. “I’m . . . I’m O.K.”

She wasn’t though. He could feel her trembling in his arms like a small captured bird. God knows what she’d been through. He wanted to comfort her but somehow he couldn’t stop himself babbling stupid questions, the mechanical habits of his training, like some mindless automaton. “Where did they take you?” he was saying. “How did you get away? Did you kill any of them?”

“No, I . . . I didn’t . . . ” she stammered

“Well, they didn’t just let you go!”

“Sam, shush. Be quiet and listen to me.” She pulled out of his arms, moving past him to listen at the door, and locking it before she returned to the window and closed that, too.

When she turned back to him Sam suddenly felt a chill, creeping sense of déjà vu. They’d been here before: stood in this exact spot, in these exact positions; he’d stared into her face and seen it pale, just as it was now . . . but no, that wasn’t . . . that was a dream just a dream. . . it wasn’t real, it wasn’t . . .

Reaching a trembling hand toward the wall, he flipped the switch . . . and Gwen dropped into a crouch, hissing and raising an arm to shield her eyes from the sudden light. Sam shot forward and she yelped as he grabbed her arms and searched her eyes, and saw around the irises the red corona of the newly turned.

H swallowed. His voice was shaking as he tried to reassure her. “Gwen, don’t – don’t worry.” There was still time to break the dream. It didn’t have to go down that way . . . “It isn’t too late. Samuel has a cure; he can – ”

He started leading her toward the door but she pulled back. “No, Sam!” she insisted urgently. “It is. It is too late.”

Silence fell, cold and leaden, and then Sam grabbed her, grabbed her jaw and pulled back her lip. He must have hurt her; she struggled away from him, snarling in her throat as her other teeth descended. But he’d seen it: the stain of red in her mouth. He could smell its metallic reek on her breath.

You’ve fed,” he whispered, shrinking from her, horrified.

“They made me, Sam.” She reached out to him, pleading hands. “I didn’t mean to. I tried not to, but I was so hungry. I tried to stop. I didn’t . . .” Tears shone in her eyes. “I didn’t want to kill him, Sam.”

He stared at her, threading shaking fingers through his hair. “You – you killed,” he echoed, unbelieving. “You killed a person? A human being?”

“I didn’t mean to!” she repeated helplessly. “I need help, Sam. You can help me, keep me honest. I’m still the same person!”

Her eyes were wild; her mouth was crowded with bared teeth awash with the blood of her last kill. Just like the dream.

“But I’m better now,” she insisted. “I’m stronger than before, I’m faster. Everything’s different. It’s amazing, Sam. You should feel it!” Sounds of voices drifted from further down the corridor and she cast an anxious glance at the door.

“We have to go now!” she whispered urgently.

“Go?”

“We need to get away. You know we don’t belong here, Sam. We never did. But we could go somewhere far away and start over. It could be great: think of the kind of hunters we could be, just the two of us, freaks together against the world!”

Sam backed away from her, feeling like he was moving through something cold and viscous. He reached for the desk and her eyes widened as she watched him pick up the machete. “No!” he gasped. “I’m not like you!” But this was the dream. It was happening exactly like in the dream, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

“Sam, wait!” she pleaded.

He felt the blade, hard and heavy in his hand. He mustn’t hesitate. Mustn’t let himself believe this was Gwen, or anything left of her but the monstrous infection consuming her blood. The woman he knew wouldn’t want to live like this.

"Sam, no! No! It's still me!"

It wasn’t. It wasn’t her.

He swung the blade, her eyes grew large with shock then she turned to run, to the window, too late. He must have closed his eyes: he didn’t see it happen, only heard the ring of steel through the air and felt the tingle in his arm as it met brief resistance; the wet ‘snick’ of contact and a thud on the floor told him it was over, and he looked down.

It wasn’t her.

It wasn’t her.

It wasn’t her.

It was just the shell just the shell of the woman he knew infected possessed made monstrous but her eyes her eyes looked human not her she was gone Gwen was long gone taken by the monster it was the monster that killed her yet her eyes just a body set free her soul her soul was free now free of the monster wasn’t her looked human wasn’t wasn’t her the monster the monster who killed her wasn’t human

Gwen.

There were voices in the hall, in his head, hammering at the door – in his brain, his chest . . .

Oh God Gwen.

Sam sank to his knees beside the slain body and stared at the eyes, Gwen’s eyes, that looked so human now her severed head was lying in the dust.

I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry so sorry

I should have protected you. I should have told you the truth.

 




Sam was staring into a space somewhere Dean couldn’t see and his body swayed slightly, back and forth. “Then try . . . try explaining that one to your family,” he said. “So I left . . . and I searched, searched everywhere. I picked up the vampires’ trail, eventually, and tracked them across the country. A month later I found what was left of the clan holed up in Colorado.” He shuddered and frowned, his gaze still fixed in that dark fathomless space. His lips were pale and trembling when he continued, low voiced. “That was my last kill, before I . . . I mean before you and I . . .” He glanced up and hurriedly looked away again.

Dean felt numb and overwhelmed. He didn’t know what to react to first. “You killed them all?” he mumbled at last. “By yourself?”

Sam roused himself from the stupor he was drifting into. “If I’d done the job right the first time” he snarled “maybe Gwen would’ve – ” Fresh tears tracked down his face as he gulped in air and a sob together. “I thought I was doing the right thing!” he cried. “What she’d have wanted . . . It wasn’t her any more! It was . . . I thought . . .

“I didn’t know, Dean! I didn’t – ”

He pushed at Dean’s chest, struggled upright and tried to get to his feet, but his legs gave out under him, he lost his grip and Dean barely caught him in time to stop him braining himself on the edge of the bathtub. He collapsed then, limp and helpless, and Dean held him there, rocking him like a baby. “I didn’t give her a chance,” he repeated over and over between muffled whimpers against Dean’s shoulder.

Dean held him, waiting for him to cry himself out, but for a while it seemed like it just wasn’t going to happen, then there was a choked sort of gulp that warned Dean there was going to be outgoing in about T-minus-five. He swiftly turned Sam around and aimed him at the toilet bowl, holding his head while he heaved up another whisky-puke cocktail mix.

“Man, how much of that bottle did you drink?” Dean muttered distractedly, not expecting an answer and not getting one. Eventually the spasms downgraded to exhausted coughing. Sam’s arms wobbled and he dropped weakly back onto his haunches.

“You done?” Dean asked him, and when he nodded Dean reached for the toilet paper, ripping off a generous wad and holding it up to Sam’s face. “Blow,” he instructed.

Sam felt for the paper and tried to hold it himself but it was as much as he could manage to blow a weak snotty breath into the balled up tissue. “And again.” Dean told him.

When he was done Dean wiped him off, dropped the wad into the bowl and flushed the whole mess down. He fetched him some water, had him rinse and spit, and flushed again. Then it was a small matter of getting a 6’ 4” tired and emotional drunk to his feet, but with an arm round Sam’s waist and a shoulder under his armpit Dean managed to get him propped on the edge of the bath long enough to get him out of his soaked and smelly shirt and give him a wipe down with a washcloth. Having made it that far, it was actually easier to get Sam onto his feet and guide him back to the bedroom.

He tried to make toward his bed but Dean headed him off and plopped him down on the edge of his own instead. “Forget it, Sammy. It’s soaked.” There actually wasn’t as big a puddle as Dean had expected – Sam must have drunk most of the bottle’s contents before he dropped it – but the mattress was still too wet to sleep on. Dean picked up the abandoned bottle, polished off the remaining dregs – hey, why waste good whisky? – trashed the empty, and fetched another glass of water.

Sam just stared into it like it held the depths of the Abyss, so Dean slipped a hand under the glass and tilted it up, encouraging him to take a few sips. He couldn’t help staring at the unmasked boy in front of him: eyes puffy, lips chewed and trembling, hair flopping over his crimped brow, curling around his ears and pinched little face. He looked so young like this. Just a kid: an overgrown, over-pumped, over-trained kid who’d had too much pushed on him, too soon. And all Dean had ever done was fucking add to it, expecting Sam to carry him and all his shit unaware, mostly, of what the boy was already burdened with, and totally oblivious of what that weight was doing to him behind the Great Wall of Sam.

Well, that ended now. Tonight. Time for Dean to man up and carry his own shit, take his share of the load and maybe help lift some of Sam’s for him, as well.

Dean stripped to the waist, dropping his soggy shirt along with Sam’s into the laundry bag. His jacket was pretty messed up, too, and he gave that a quick wipe down while he figured out what to do about securing the room. The best he could manage without carpentry was to drag the table in front of the broken door and pile chairs on top of it, and he drew a fresh circle of salt around the whole structure for good measure. Afterward he exchanged a side lamp for the room light, placing his gun on the nightstand alongside the holy water, so they’d be handy if he should need them.

Sam was still sitting there on the bed, unmoved from how he’d left him, and Dean lifted the glass to his lips once more and sat with him until he’d finished drinking. When he was done he lifted him up just enough so he could pull back the bedcover and get them both underneath it. Dean seated himself upright against the bedstead and had Sam curl up between his legs, giving him his chest as a pillow. It was a measure of how far gone Sam was that he didn’t struggle, didn’t object, didn’t fuss that he might fall asleep. He didn’t need to worry about that, anyway. If nightmares of any kind came to trouble him tonight, they’d find Dean awake and ready for them.

“I’ve got you.” Dean assured him, gently combing his fingers through the boy’s hair “Go to sleep, Sammy.”

Partly to help Sam along, and partly to occupy himself, he began to sing quietly as he gazed into the empty spaces of the half lit room: an old lyric half remembered, probably out of order, it was so long since he’d last really listened to it, but at least it had the benefit of going on for however long he needed it to.

“Hey, Jude, don't be afraid.
Take a sad song and make it better.
The minute you let it into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better.

“And anytime you feel the pain – hey, dude – refrain.
Don't carry the world upon your shoulders.
For don’t you know that it's a fool who plays it cool
by making his world a little colder?
Na na na na na na na . . .”

Presently Sam relaxed and rested with his ear pressed against Dean’s chest as he continued to croon low and soft:

“So let it out and let it in. Hey, dude, begin.
You're waiting for someone to perform with.
And don't you know that it's just you? Hey, dude, you'll do.
The moment you need is on my shoulder.
Na na na na na na na na yeah . . .

“Hey, Jude, don't make it bad.
Take a sad song and make it better.
Remember to let us under your skin.
Then you'll begin to make it better.

“Na na na na na na na, na na na na
Hey, Jude.
Na na na na na na na, na na na na
Hey, Jude.
Na na na na na na na, na na na na
Hey, Jude.
Na na na na na na na, na na na na
Hey, Jude . . . . . .

Chapter Text

Scene 17

 

Time didn't mean anything. Nothing had form, but he knew who he was. He was warm and he was loved. He felt . . . complete.

But, slowly, consciousness began to return. He was aware of the beat first: a steady, solid thud that echoed in his head and thrummed through his body. It felt dependable, reassuring . . . but it was a reminder of the passage of time. And there was another sound: a low drone that resonated in the pillow of flesh and bone that pressed against his ear, a murmur of words.

This is the face you'll never change.
This is the god that ain't so pure.
This is the god that is not pure.
This is the voice of silence no more.♫

Reality was intruding on the moment. Dimly he began to recall there was something waiting for him, claiming his presence, his attention: a world of hardness and violence and . . . pain. He struggled against it, tried to will himself back into the warm cocoon that embraced him but, after all, the voice also belonged to the world.

This is the test of flesh and soul.
This is the trap that smells so good.
This is the flood that drains these eyes.
These are the looks that chill to the bone.
These are the fears that swing overhead.
These are the weights that hold you down.
This is the end that will never end.
This is the voice of silence no more.♫

Now pain swelled and throbbed in his skull. His limbs ached with it, with the recollection of the previous night’s excesses . . . and then came the rolling tide of nausea.

Pushing upright, he struggled out of the bed and propelled himself into the bathroom, and while he hung over the toilet bowl fighting his stomach for control he sensed a shadow move into the doorway. He turned his head apprehensively and tried to gauge the expression of his observer, wondering what the hell they were going to say to each other after everything that had gone down.

“Morning, sunshine.” Dean greeted him with an apparently cheerful tone and a gently mocking smirk. “I guess drinking all my whisky wasn't such a gangbuster idea, was it?”

Really? That was how he was going to play this? Like it was just another day in the life? Sam stared at him until he was forced to return his attention to the toilet bowl.

Dean watched him trying to suppress the urge to retch and volunteered a suggestion. “You know, there's a really good hangover remedy: it's a greasy pork sandwich served up in a dirty ashtray.” Sam promptly lost the battle with his stomach and he just about heard the assurance “better out than in, Sammy,” over the sound of his own heaving.

Dean hovered around the door long enough to be sure Sam could support and clean up after himself, then he let him take a shower in private. When he stumbled out of the bathroom afterward, Dean had the medicine pouch unrolled on the table and he was mixing up some herbal brew in a plastic cup. Sam noticed the table had been dragged in front of the broken door. The chairs were now stacked up beside it. For the first time, he thought about the reckless lack of concern he’d shown for security the previous evening and a vague sense of shame added its weight to the other miseries he was currently feeling.

Dean proffered the potion and Sam recognized it as the hangover treatment he’d typically offered his friend when their circumstances had been reversed, a remedy marginally less disgusting than the other suggestion. He took the cup and downed its contents quickly. There was a nasty moment when he thought he was going to have to make a return visit to the bathroom but with an effort of will he managed to keep the bitter mixture down, and Dean quickly handed him a glass of water to wash down the aftertaste that coated his tongue.

Dean studied him as he drank. “Are you gonna be O.K?” he asked as he took back the empty glass.

Sam nodded, though even that small gesture had a cost in pain and nausea. “What time is it?” he asked carefully.

Dean glanced at his watch. “It's about five forty-five.”

“Did you get any sleep last night?” Sam asked him.

He shrugged. “Yeah, I grabbed a couple hours,” he said, but Sam sensed he was lying. He looked tired, like he’d been awake all night, watching over his drunken hunting partner. Sam took a moment trying to fathom the meaning of that, and of waking up in the other man’s bed, in his arms. How much had he revealed last night? His memory of his confession was still sketchy, but he was pretty sure it had been incomplete. He hardly believed Dean would still be so concerned for his welfare if he’d spilled everything. He could hardly believe it now.

“You should try and put something in your stomach,” Dean said, handing him a packet of the motel’s crappy biscuits. “We’ll get breakfast after we’ve packed up.” After a pause he added “I figured we’d head out today. I don’t know if it’s what Gemma led us here for, but I reckon we’ve mostly got what we’re getting from this place.”

The trembling Sam could feel in his limbs wasn’t just the lingering toxic effects of the alcohol. “You . . . you learned something last night?” he asked.

Dean moved over to the kitchenette and started spooning instant into a couple of mugs. “Jim told me a heap, but it’s all just a part of some effed up jigsaw puzzle. The big picture, though? Well, that’s bigger than we ever knew. I’ll fill you in over breakfast.” He poured in hot water and handed one of the mugs to Sam.

Maybe Sam should have been more concerned about that big picture, but right now he was content to let it sit on a backburner while they dealt with the more immediate issues. He just couldn’t understand why Dean wasn’t tearing him a new one already. Was he waiting for Sam to raise the subject of what had happened the previous day? Sam supposed he should at least enquire after the welfare of the – . . . Dean’s friend. He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, trying to think of a tactful way to phrase the question. “How was . . . I mean, when you were with . . . is he . . . going to be . . . um . . . ?”

Fortunately Dean anticipated the question and supplied the answer. “Jimmy? He’ll live.” He paused, pondered. “Unlive?” He shrugged. “Whatever. He’s a vampire,” he said, dismissively. “He’ll recover.”

It was all too casual, and Sam didn’t buy it. For some reason he was getting off light; presumably it had something to do with the previous night’s disclosure, and that wasn’t right; he didn’t deserve it. He sucked in a deep breath and took the plunge. “Dean . . . how much did I tell you last night?”

Dean regarded Sam over the top of his coffee mug. He was slow to respond and it looked like he was the one searching for something tactful to say this time. “About Gwen?” he asked, too carefully, too gently. “I think you covered it.”

Just about Gwen?”

Dean’s eyebrows hooked upward. “That wasn’t enough?”

Sam put down the coffee and abandoned the unopened packet of biscuits. He drew in a trembling breath and squared his shoulders. “There’s more,” he said.

Dean set his own mug down on the table and there was a touch of dread leaking into his features as he responded with an uneasy “O.K.” and Sam started to wonder if it was even fair laying this on him after everything that had just happened –

No. No more excuses. Every moment he put this off now, it just made things worse. “I have these nightmares”, he said quickly, before he could change his mind.

“I've noticed,” Dean acknowledged, understandably puzzled. It sounded like stating the obvious. They both had bad dreams, all the time.

“And sometimes . . . they come true,” Sam elaborated.

Two or three contradictory reactions half formed on Dean’s face and disappeared again, and then he just said “come again?”

The force of Sam’s racing heartbeat made his body quiver as he continued. “Dean . . . I dreamt about Gwen's death . . . for days before it happened.”

Dean reached behind him, felt for the bed and sat down. “People have weird dreams, man,” he said. “I'm sure it's just a coincidence.”

Sam started babbling. It was all coming out of him in a rush now. “No, I dreamt about her coming to me at night, and her eyes, the blood, h-her head on the floor . . . everything, and I didn't do anything about it because I didn't believe it, but it wasn’t the only time. There’ve been others. You remember the golem? And those boys?”

Dean’s face looked blank, barely comprehending; he needed something concrete to get a grip on, so Sam retrieved the back pack from beside the bed and rummaged through it until he found his old sketch book. Flipping through the pages, he detached his drawings of the creature and laid them on the bed. “I drew these after I dreamt about Samantha Ford. I saw that woman’s death, Dean. That’s how I knew about the case. And . . . and these . . .” His hands trembled as he spread another couple of sheets on the bed cover. “I drew these before I met you,” Sam explained, “the night before the fire.”

Dean stared down at his own portrait, and the rough outlines of the interior of his old home, then jumped up and backed away from the sketches as if he was trying to make some space to absorb what Sam was saying. “All right, just slow down, would you?!” he cried. “I mean, first you tell me that you've got the Shining? And now . . . are you saying you saw the fire and what happened to Mom? You dreamt all that, as well? Exactly the way it happened, before it happened?

“Uh . . . no. Not exactly. Not that time.” Sam hesitated then admitted “in my dream. . . you died, too.”

“Wow.” Dean halted mid stride, still and silent for a space, then he dropped back down on the bed and wiped a hand over his mouth. It was a while before he spoke again, and then he asked “how long have . . . Have you always had this . . . er . . . ?”

Sam shook his head. “No. No, it started with Gwen. That was the first time.”

Dean nodded, like that made some kind of sense to him. “Do you think that’s what triggered it?” he suggested. “I mean, because you were . . . close to her . . .”

And, finally, here they were. Sam drew several breaths before continuing, and when he spoke his voice trembled. “I don’t think it’s that simple.” He found himself a seat on the other bed; he really wasn’t sure his legs were going to hold him up much longer. “You see . . . there’ve been other people out there . . . like me . . . other children that survived the fires. We all have some kind of ability: visions, premonitions, telekinesis, mind control – ” He saw Dean mouthing the words “Mind control?!” but he continued hurriedly “I don't know, it's different for everybody. But it always seems to begin some time after they turn twenty-two.”

Dean’s face was void of expression. Sam couldn’t tell what he was thinking at all. Then he was on his feet again, pacing the room like a caged tiger, and when he eventually spoke his voice was too low, too calm and Sam could feel the electric charge of its contained anger lifting the hairs on his arms. “When were you going to tell me about this?” he demanded.

“Dean – ”

“Six months we’ve been together.” His tone was beyond incredulous. “Six months trying to get a lead on the Demon, on Dad. What? You didn’t think it was worth mentioning all the kids have freaking super powers?”

“Maybe not all – ” Sam tried to explain, but Dean wasn’t hearing him. He crossed the room, drew close and hung there like an imminent storm and Sam wished he would just burst and get it over with.

“This is important, Sam!” he insisted, his voice quivering with the effort of control. “This has to mean something! We should have been following up on this all along, talking to the other kids! Maybe they know something – ”

“Dean, you know my family interviewed all the families, the witnesses,” Sam reminded him, “and they keep tabs on the survivors – ”

“Oh like they’re perfect?! Like they couldn’t miss anything?” Dean broke away, took a couple of purposeless strides across the room then returned and leant over Sam again. “They missed whole generations!” he hissed.

Sam looked up at him, startled and confused. “What?”

Dean nodded emphatically. “That’s what Jim told me last night. This has been going on for centuries! It’s global! And you’re fucking holding out on me? Jesus, Sam!”

There was silence while Sam absorbed the new information, the enormity of it. He felt numb and cold, and he struggled to find a voice for the response Dean was waiting for. Eventually he swallowed and murmured “I was going to tell you – ”

When?!” Dean repeated.

“I was . . . the other night,” he stammered. “Tuesday night. I was going to tell you over dinner but then – ” Sam faltered, but Dean quickly joined the dots and anticipated what he’d been going to say.

“Oh, don’t you dare! Don’t you put this on Jimmy being here! You’ve had six months to level with me, and I’m supposed to believe you were just going to ’fess up when Jim arrived?” Dean was studying Sam’s face intently and his eyes glittered with angry unshed tears. “For all I know you’re only telling me now because you’re afraid Jim’ll spill it first!”

“What? No!” Sam was shocked. The possibility that Dean might think that hadn’t occurred to him, but now he realized he couldn’t even prove it wasn’t true. “I – what has he said to you?” he stammered.

“Nothing,” Dean assured him. “Not a damn thing. But he’s been after the demon for centuries, and he knows about the children; all of them, other generations, too. I knew there was something he wasn’t telling me about them, and I’m guessing this is it!”

Sam couldn’t help wondering just how much more the vampire knew, and what motive he might have had for keeping silent. But Dean was still waiting for Sam to explain himself.

Where did he even begin?

He looked directly into Dean’s eyes, silently appealing for the man to believe him, shamefully conscious he had no reason to. “I wanted to tell you before. I did . . . but the time was never right, Dean. There was always so much going on, and you had so much to worry about already and I didn’t want to put this on you as well – ” Dean scoffed and, in fairness, Sam knew the skepticism wasn’t entirely unjust. “You’re right,” he acknowledged. “I’m sorry. I should have told you sooner. I wanted to, but I didn’t know how . . . but then . . . ”. Sam swallowed and his gaze dropped to his feet. This was the last subject he wanted to bring up now, in these circumstances, but he knew it was his last chance to be completely honest. “Then we started . . . you know . . .” His throat was tight with embarrassment and shame. “And when you started talking about . . . taking things to the next level . . . I just thought you should know . . . everything – I mean everything about me – before you . . . before we . . . went any further.”

Dean was silent, and Sam couldn’t bring himself to look up at his face, but when he spoke his tone was different: still incredulous, but not as harsh. “Wait . . . that’s what you wanted to talk about? The talk? You were just going to tell me about . . . this?”

“Well . . . yeah,” Sam felt a small measure of relief that Dean at least remembered that much. “Things had been getting . . . between us, I mean . . . that day everything just seemed . . . I thought . . .” He stuttered to a halt and his eyes stung as the recollection of that perfect day came back to him overlaid with regret and helpless longing. “Well, I guess it doesn’t matter now,” he murmured hoarsely.

Dean continued to study his face as if he might find something more articulate there, but then he leaned forward and dropped his head into his hands. He was quiet for so long Sam became uneasy, especially when he realized Dean’s shoulders were shaking. Was he crying, too?

Sam reached out tentatively and was startled when Dean suddenly rocked back and let out a loud, sharp bark of laughter before dissolving into something that might have looked like a giggling fit except that there were tears glittering in his eyes, and Sam was convinced they weren’t merry.

“Dean? Are you O.K?” he demanded anxiously.

For some reason the question prompted another peel of laughter. “Oh, I’m awesome. I’m peachy!” Dean assured him breathlessly. “Why wouldn’t I be? My dad’s a demon, my best buddy’s a vampire, and you’re one of the fucking X-Men! I’m just waiting for the fucking owl to turn up with my letter from Hogwarts!”

Dean collapsed back onto the bed, gasping for air, apparently oblivious to the hurt his comments had caused, and maybe Sam didn’t even have the right to feel resentful, but he couldn’t help it. “Dean, it’s not funny,” he muttered.

“Oh, come on. It’s a little bit funny,” Dean insisted, but he was recovering his composure now, and wiping the corners of his eyes with the heels of his hands. He struggled upright and stood up, picking up his mug from the table and taking a few mouthfuls of the neglected coffee. “What about me?” he asked presently. “Am I gonna get some freaky power?”

Sam winced. “Not all the survivors have developed these abilities,” he pointed out. “Just the children. And those that did started exhibiting them when they were twenty-two. You’re twenty-seven now so – ”

“Yeah, but our family hasn’t fitted any of the other patterns,” Dean reminded him.

“I know but – ” Sam shrugged, helplessly. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I don’t think so.”

Dean was serious now. He stared into the depths of his coffee mug. “Sam, you had no right to keep this from me,” he said. “This is my dad. My dad’s life is on the line every day we don’t find him. You do get that, don’t you?”

“Dean, of course I do,” Sam tried to assure him, but Dean just shook his head.

“I’m not sure you do, Sam,” he said, flatly. “I really . . . I’m really not sure you understand what family means to normal people.”

Sam’s stomach tightened painfully. Dean had only seemed concerned with how the new information fitted into the search for the demon and, in spite of the crack about ‘X Men’, he’d begun to wonder if Dean had really absorbed the full implications of everything that had been revealed. Apparently he had. Perhaps Sam shouldn’t have been surprised. It wasn’t as if Dean had ever regarded him as particularly normal, but now he must seem like a whole new level of freak.

Dean drained the remaining contents of his mug with a couple of quick swallows. “Where are the others now?” he asked. “The ones like you? I want to talk to them, find out what they know.”

“Dean, if they knew anything – ”

“I want to talk to them myself!

Sam took a breath and nodded. Under the circumstances he guessed he couldn’t blame Dean for his lack of faith in the family’s investigations . . . or in Sam, for that matter. “There’s one in Oklahoma,” he volunteered, “another in Florida, and there’s one in Maine.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Of course there is,” he muttered.

“But those last two haven’t shown any signs of developing abilities,” Sam added.

Dean frowned. “Well, what about the others?” he demanded. “There were more than three fires besides yours twenty years ago.”

“That’s everyone who’s left now,” Sam responded carefully.

“What do you mean?” Dean absently parked the empty mug on the counter. “What happened to them all?”

“They’re all dead,” Sam admitted shakily. “One way or another. One was killed in Afghanistan. Two killed themselves. One was taken out by law enforcement, and the others . . . we don’t know for sure. We think it was probably other hunters.”

“Wait.” Dean’s eyes widened with shock. “Hunters are killing people? Human beings?!”

“Well, not everyone’s agreed they are,” Sam murmured.

“What?”

“Human.” Sam shifted awkwardly. He kind of resented having to say it outright, yet Dean still acted like it wasn’t just stating the obvious.

“What do you mean? Of course they are!” he insisted. “You’re human!”

Sam glanced up at him briefly, gratefully. It was some comfort that he still believed that much at least, but that just made spelling out the rest that much harder. “Their powers are supernatural,” he said, “and some were using them to hurt and kill others – out of malice or for profit. It’s . . . it’s not so black and white.”

Dean looked stricken. He wore the loose-lipped, lost boy expression that Sam was all too familiar with. “Is anyone hunting you?” he asked eventually.

Sam hesitated; he couldn’t be so certain any more. “Up until now I didn’t think there was anyone else outside the family who knew I was one of the children but . . .”

“Jim knows,” Dean completed the thought for him. In the long, painful silence that followed Dean’s expression changed, hardened with some kind of resolve, and he looked suddenly older. He reached for his cell phone and started punching buttons, and Sam waited uncomfortably while he listened to the call tone repeating four times, five, six . . . It cut to voicemail and Dean closed the cover with a frustrated snap. He deliberated for a few seconds then fixed Sam with a piercing stare. “Is there anything else I don’t know, that you haven’t told me?” he demanded. “Any more earth shattering revelations in store for me, ’cause if there are you’d better tell me now.”

Sam shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

“Oh, you don’t think?” Dean growled.

It was hard to be sure. Sam’s head felt like a whirlwind with everything they’d exchanged in the course of the conversation, but he thought he’d covered it all. “No. That’s everything,” he affirmed.

“It had better be.” Dean warned him. “Get packed up. I’m gonna go take a shower, and then we’ll head over to the farm and make sure there’s nothing else Jim’s keeping to himself.” With that he stowed his phone and headed toward the bathroom.

Sam’s head dropped and he felt all of his aching muscles sag. He felt sick and exhausted, rung out like a used dish rag, and his vision was blurred by tears that threatened to spill at any moment, but there was some tiny measure of relief in the midst of his misery. It was over, and maybe he and Dean would never be friends again, but it was done.

But then, slowly, he became aware that Dean was still in the room. He’d paused at the bathroom door and was directing a look of something like concern back at Sam. “Are you O.K?” he demanded.

Sam blinked at the unexpected question. “What?”

“Are you gonna be O.K?” Dean asked again.

“Yeah, I’m . . . Sure.” Sam frowned, confused. It seemed bizarre that Dean should be asking him that question under the circumstances. “Are you?” he reciprocated.

Dean didn’t respond, just continued to stare at him, and presently he turned back to the bathroom. “Get packed up,” he repeated, then he retreated through the door and it closed behind him with a bang.

Chapter Text

Scene 18

 

Dean clung to the taps, gripped them so hard his knuckles were white and the pain of the metal edges digging into his flesh felt good. Felt better. Better than.

Better than smashing his fists into the wall because he wanted to hit something. Hit someone. Because fucking Jimmy was fucking right. And what fucking right did he have to be right? Right about Sam? Where did he get off warning Dean about Sam when he’d never done anything but lie and lie and it would serve him right if Dean smashed his teeth down his fucking undead throat. All of them. Both sets.

"It can sometimes be about betrayal. The card may be warning you to be careful who you trust.” Who did she mean? Did she mean Jimmy? Did she mean Sam? They’d both betrayed him. Both of them! “Someone you meet who seems to want to help may actually turn out to be working against you." Sam wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t deliberately work against Dean. He wouldn’t – Would it? Would it have made any difference if Sam had told them about the dream? Would anyone have believed him?

Didn’t matter. Mom was gone. And she wasn't coming back.

"He'll betray you. You'll give up everything you have for him, and then he'll abandon you!"

Dean pressed harder, twisted, until the water hitting his back felt like hot needles, as hot as he could bear it, and he couldn’t feel the tears coursing down his cheeks, and the sound of running water drowned out the white noise in his head because it was too much. It was insane. Everything and everyone in his life was insane. Six months of crazy and he’d reached his fill level. He couldn’t take any more.

“You’re so desperate to cling to the illusion that you had a normal life once you’re not even willing to consider what’s really going on. Truth is, there’s no such thing and you know it. Your life was never normal, and you weren’t safe before. You were just ignorant.”

Stop. Stop it. What are you gonna do? You gonna take a leave of absence? You gonna give up on Dad? What? Ditch Sam?

He tugged on the taps and his head hit the wall, flashing pain through his brow and temples, and he let it rest there pressed against the cool tiles while water streamed down his face, into his mouth and out again trickling over his lips.

No. Of course not.

The water was running cold already but, after the heat, the cool stream began to feel refreshing. He lifted his face and let the water run over it while he scooped back his hair and ran fingers down his face, wiping away water and tears together.

When he stepped out of the shower the room was clouded with steam. He stood for a while leaning against the wash basin, gripping the edge and staring at the mirror. Just last night he’d promised he was going to be strong, stop depending on Sam like the kid was some pillar of stone for Dean to lean on. Now look at him. The fogged up image before him had more substance than he did.

“You had so much to worry about already and I didn’t want to put this on you as well.”

Exactly. And that’s why Sam never tells you anything, because he knows you can’t handle it. You can’t handle the truth.

But he had to. He had to be someone Sam could count on, someone who’d have his back. How many fires had there been? How many kids? A dozen? And only four left. Four. And Sam was one of them! Dean couldn’t say he’d fully gotten a grip on what was happening with these kids but they seemed to be dropping like rain. How could Dean protect Sam if he didn’t know what from? Look at how free he’d been with Jimmy. He’d told the vampire way too much, and it might have been information that could’ve gotten Sam killed for all he knew. He hadn’t known any better. Sam couldn’t afford to keep him out of the loop! He needed Dean to watch out for him!

“And that's exactly what you're gonna do.” Dean wiped a swathe through the mist on the mirror and confronted his own reflection. “Face up to the fact that crazy is the only game in town and this is your life, like it or not. So you're gonna take all the crap and you're gonna bury it. You're gonna forget about it, because that's how you keep going. That’s how you do your job, and that's how you don't end up in some loony bin punching the air and talking to yourself!”

Christ. Had he said that last part out loud?

Never mind. Toothbrush. Toothpaste. Paste on the brush. He knew the routine: focus on the mechanical actions; get through the next thing and the next. That’s how it’s done.

He checked himself in the mirror once more before he left the bathroom. His eyes didn’t look too red, no more than the rest of him; he’d had the water so hot he just looked kind of poached all over. He could do this.

There was a bad moment when he stepped into the other room and found it empty. The table was back in its usual place and the door was just slightly ajar, and Dean had a brief irrational panic that Sam had left him, done a runner, but then he saw him through the window. He was outside loading up the car, like Dean had told him. Alarm over.

He’d finished dressing and was packing up his duffel by the time Sam came back in the room and scooped up the remaining bits and pieces. They did the final checks and finished loading the car together in silence so thick you could have sliced it up and served it on plates with a steaming side of awkward. When they climbed into the car and Dean slipped behind the wheel he could feel Sam’s gaze fall on him, heavy with sincerity and some kind of appeal.

He didn’t dare look at him. Dean knew he had a weakness for those big ’ol hazel-blues and he wasn’t sure he could believe in them any more than all the other masks Sam wore, wasn’t certain that sincerity wasn’t just another weapon in the arsenal the hunter used to get information and co-operation. So he kept his gaze fixed steadfastly ahead of him as he turned over the engine. On the dashboard where it met the windscreen. Where a brightly colored card was still firmly wedged into the crack: the picture of the angel with the star on its chest, hanging in the air and trying to balance a pair of overspilling pitchers.

“Donny wanted me to give you something – as a reminder, he said, of something you should never lose.”
“What is it, Sweetheart?”
“Hope.”

Sam was no angel. And, truth is, he wasn’t Superman either. Maybe Dean would never figure him out completely but, if he believed anything, he had to believe that what he’d seen last night was real: Sam unmasked, a part of him anyway. The part that was lost and haunted, clinging to Dean, needing him - that part was real.

Dean switched the engine back off, leaned back and turned to face the young man sitting at his side. “Are we partners, Sam?” he demanded.

Sam’s attention snapped back to Dean’s face. “W – what?” he stammered.

“’Cause I thought we were a team,” Dean elaborated. “You and me against the world. Or did I get it wrong?”

“No!” Sam assured him earnestly. “I . . . I mean, yes, we’re partners, Dean.”

Dean leaned closer and fixed the boy with his eyes. He spoke low and vehemently. “Partners don’t hold out on each other, Sam. You don’t get to decide what I need to know!” He paused for emphasis then added “Are we clear?”

Sam nodded then swallowed and cleared his throat. “Yes, we’re clear,” he promised.

.


The all night gas station was closed when they got there, but they found a self-serve that was open on the other side of town. While Dean was filling up, his focus rested on the house opposite. It probably wouldn’t have caught his attention but its shuttered windows inevitably made him wonder now. Piles of boxes and broken furniture were heaped up outside and, although there were no sale notices, the place had an empty feel.

On his way back from the shop he caught a snatch of conversation as a guy passed him talking on his cell phone.

“ . . . help me out here. I’m two men down at the mill and Conrad didn’t show for the night shift last night . . . ”

For some reason Dean’s spidey sense was tingling by the time he reached the car door, and his foot was heavy on the gas all the way out to the farmland. When they got to Lenore’s place there was a large truck parked outside and people Dean didn’t know were loading cows into it.

“No idea,” the farmhand told him when he enquired after Lenore. “Place had been cleaned out when I got here. She didn’t say where she was going. I just got a call last night and she told me she’d arranged for Wallis to take the cows. We were to come out this morning, handle the sale and take the payment as severance. That’s all I know. Except I’m out of a job, of course,” he added tersely. “Know anyone who’s hiring?”

Dean checked his own cell phone on the way back to the road, but when he punched in Jim’s number all he got was an out of service message.

Sam came to meet him as he reached the car. “They’ve bailed,” Dean breathed in response to his unspoken question. “All of them.” They could drive back to the Billy Miner but he knew they’d find that empty, too. In the silence Dean could hear the sound of his blood pumping in his ears, then he hurled his phone at the ground and as it bounced back up in pieces he launched a kick at a fence post that left it leaning sideways, then another at the nearest tire.

That last brought him up sharply; there was no call taking it out on his baby. Reaching out and laying his hands on the roof he brushed a consoling thumb against the paintwork, and he dropped his head on his hands while he took a few deep breaths.

“Get in the car, Sam.” He murmured presently.

“Do you want me to drive?” Sam asked quietly. “You’ve been awake all night. You’re tired – ”

“I’m still more fit to drive than you are,” Dean responded shortly. Sam looked better than he had earlier but his blood would still be plenty proof for a good while yet. Besides, no matter how tired Dean was (and he was, God damn it all) he wasn’t ready to sleep. He was wired and edgy and he’d only feel worse if he wasn’t behind the wheel. “Get in,” he repeated as he opened the driver door and took his seat. As he turned over the engine he automatically pushed a tape into the player, Metallica, but he was only dimly conscious of the track that started playing.

This is the cloud that swallows trust.
This is the black that uncolors us.
This is the face that you hide from.
This is the mask that comes undone.♫

Sam sat hunched beside him on the passenger side as they pulled out onto the interstate, wondering if he was even fit to be there, and he felt chilled by the lyrics he could hear issuing from the speakers. He knew it would take more than promises to win back Dean’s trust. At least it seemed like he was being given a chance . . . but was that just another length of rope to hang himself with?

The words of a young woman came back to him from a conversation in a café . . .

"We were from two totally different worlds. There was no way we could ever really understand each other. And the more he learned about me, the more he was gonna see that he wouldn't like."

Was that really only three weeks ago?

Three weeks since Indiana, when they’d fought, parted, come together, when Dean had first invited him to bed. Five . . . five nights since he laid in Deans arms in Lichtburg, the night before they’d come here. Less than two days since they’d sat on the hill outside town and Dean had kissed him . . .

Less than a day since Sam had assaulted and kidnapped Dean’s best friend, tortured him, planned to kill him.

He wished they’d never come here, never met the vampire; it had just . . . jacked everything up. Everything. He couldn’t help thinking about all the hunts he’d been on his whole life. How many things had he killed that didn't deserve it? The way he’d been raised to hate those things – and he hated them. He did. Every instinct had told him to kill Masters. If Dean hadn’t been there to stop him, he would have killed them all.

Some kind of monster.
Some kind of monster.
Some kind of monster.
This monster lives.♫

A sudden chill pierced Sam to the bone and Saul Whitman’s voice hissed, loud and clear, in his ear: "He'll turn you into a monster, and then he'll condemn you for it."

But Whitman had got that wrong, because Sam knew the truth really, had always known it in his heart: the monster was always already there, inside him.



Manning, Colorado, eight months earlier.

The man in the store eyed Sam quizzically as he deposited his motley collection of purchases on the counter.

“I’m going to kill some vampires,” Sam explained casually.

The man regarded him, stony faced, then rolled his eyes. “Good for you,” he snorted as he took the credit card, and though he compared the signatures skeptically when Sam signed the slip, he returned the card with nothing more than a sarcastic “you have a nice day, Mr. Bollo.”

Sam dumped the new hardware in the back of the truck he’d stolen in Denver, along with the rest of the equipment and the flame resistant coverall he’d lifted in Broomfield. He had everything he needed now.

The vampires had found another deserted outhouse on a hill back of nowhere and Sam watched their movements feeling an uneasy sense of déjà vu, but he was determined not to repeat mistakes from the previous raid. A teenage couple had been taken for food and were bound and gagged in one corner of the barn. Trying to rescue them first was out of the question. Sam couldn’t worry about them and the vampires. Realistically, their best hope for survival under the circumstances was if Sam took out the nest, and to have any hope of success he needed the element of surprise on his side. He hadn’t forgotten that it was a supposed victim who’d sounded the alarm before.

As he raised his field glasses the slow burning rage in his blood quickened. He could feel its corrosive sting coursing through his veins. When he finally caught up with the vampires he’d had to fight the first insistent impulse to just rush in, machete slashing, but that kind of anger didn’t get the job done so he put it out of his mind while he made his preparations. He planned to strike mid afternoon when the vampires would be at their most sluggish, but he had work to do before then.

He couldn’t stay upwind the whole time, but he’d thoroughly disguised his scent with saffron, trillium and skunk's cabbage to make sure his quarry didn’t catch a whiff of his presence before he was ready. The greatest danger was that he would be heard, but he waited until the nest was sleeping and worked as quietly as he could. The sun was high by the time he returned to where he’d parked on the high ground north of the building. Coils of razor wire now stretched across the ground around the perimeter of the barn, but he’d left a space big enough for the truck to get through in front of the main entrance and another smaller gap to one side at the rear. There was another door at the side but it faced full west. The vampires wouldn’t use that if they had a choice . . . and Sam wasn’t aiming to leave them with choices.

He soaked some rags with the remaining dregs from a can of gasoline and pushed one into the neck of a glass bottle. The rest he secured under a tarp in the back of the truck along with the empty cans of gasoline and one full one he was holding in reserve. Then it was time to prepare himself: he donned the coverall and a pair of insulated gloves and completed the outfit with a ski mask and a pair of protective eye goggles. His knife, handgun and machete were secured to a belt around his hips. The bottle he placed in a small bag that he hung from one shoulder, and around the other he slung a pump-action shotgun.

When he was ready he stood on the rise, next to the truck, sweeping the barn through the field glasses one last time to take stock of the occupants’ positions, and then he readjusted his goggles and opened the driver door. Before moving into the cabin he allowed himself a brief pause for reflection. For all his planning, he had no more than a prayer of pulling this off, and he hardly expected to come out of it alive. He was a lone hunter against five vampires. Poor odds. But he had just one advantage over his enemy: nothing left to lose.

Reaching across the seat he released the handbrake then braced his shoulder against the door frame and pushed. After a few seconds of exertion he felt the truck give and start to roll. He ran with it for as long as he could to aid its momentum – if it failed to reach its target the whole effort could be over really quickly – but it soon picked up speed and started rolling ahead and Sam ran after it as it careened down the slope and, just as Sam had hoped, smashed through the barn’s main door.

The crash achieved the desired shock factor. There were yells and screams as Sam reached the wire, and he capitalized on the immediate confusion to close the gap behind him, retrieve the bottle from his shoulder bag and light its wick. He’d aimed the truck in the hope of hitting at least a couple of the vampires and he could see one struggling beneath it. A second was tugging at the nearside door, expecting to find a driver, but when it saw Sam it headed straight for him and was quickly joined by another.  They were a few feet beyond the barn door when Sam’s flaming missile smashed on the ground in front of them, and they were promptly engulfed in a wall of fire that erupted where he’d earlier soaked the ground with gasoline. Smaller streams of flame licked out either side and, at this moment, they would be streaking around the building to ignite similar pools Sam had planted beneath each of the windows to discourage any escape attempts in that direction.

Of the two ablaze, one vamp was flailing around blindly. It blundered into the razor wire, fell and quickly entangled itself in the coils, thrashing and shrieking, but the other was still coming and Sam barely had time to unsheathe his machete before it was upon him. It was too close when Sam swung wildly and only succeeded in slicing through its shoulder. And then his blade was stuck fast in its collar bone and he could feel the heat of flames licking against his overall, the smell of gasoline and roasted flesh stinging his nostrils, but he got a foot to the creature’s chest, propelling it backwards and dislodging the machete at the same time. It came at him again, but the blade swung true the second time, and the charred and blackened head spun in the dirt as the still flaming body slumped to the ground.

 As soon as the creature was dispatched Sam ran sideways and jumped the flaming stream, but by the time he reached the entrance the others had recovered from their initial shock and two came right for him. Sam swung the shotgun from his shoulder and started firing. The stopping power of two chest shots drove them back and a third shot blew one of the creature’s legs out from under it, but the other vampire came back at Sam, grabbing the shotgun out of his hands and hurling it across the floor. Hands were round Sam’s throat; he saw a flash of bared teeth and gasped when he felt the sting of their points as they pierced right through the neck of the overall, and through the balaclava that Sam had soaked in dead man’s blood.

The vampire reared back hissing and spitting, and that gave Sam time and just enough space to reach for his sidearm. He fired into its face and its blood spattered Sam’s goggles. As the creature screamed and clawed at its shattered flesh and bone Sam rolled and made his feet. He yanked off the goggles and reached for his machete but he was blindsided before he had a chance to use it, and he lost his grip on both blade and gun. Now the hands were on his head gripping tight. The vampire wasn’t going for the bite this time.

Time seemed to slow and Sam was frozen waiting to hear the snap of his own neck. Instead he heard an explosion: a blast from the west side of the barn blew dust hay and shards of wood through the air, and told him the fifth vampire had attempted to flee that way only to trigger the grenade rigged over the door. Sam’s assailant was distracted, its grip loosened and the reprieve gave Sam the chance to twist and grab his knife. He slashed at the vampire – little more than a blind stab – but he hit the neck, sliced part way through it, and then just kept hacking until the head was off.

Sam was panting and he could hear the sound of his blood ringing in his ears as he stumbled to his feet and swept around searching where the next attack was coming from, but the other vampire had attempted escape instead. Sam saw it limping along the perimeter of the razor wire seeking a gap in the coils. Its shot out kneecap had slowed it down, not stopped it. Sam saw his shotgun just ahead of him, scooped it up and ran out of the barn after the retreating creature. His first shot hit it square in the back and it reared and stumbled. A second as he closed the distance knocked it to the ground and Sam emptied the remaining rounds into its head at point blank range. He just kept firing until the head was obliterated. It wasn’t the prettiest of decapitations but it did the job.

Back along the perimeter the first vampire - one of the pair Sam had torched - was still tangled in the wire, writhing and moaning weakly as the coils cut into its charred flesh . . . coils that Sam had sprayed with dead man’s blood before he’d laid them out. The creature was already choking in the tangle when Sam reached it. He just finished the work, looping the wire properly around the neck, gripping and pulling tight, tighter and tighter still until he could feel sharp steel biting through the protective gloves and blood pooling in his palms. He braced a foot against the vampire’s shoulder and pulled yet harder and finally he felt the snap and release of tension as the head came off, ending the creature’s misery.

He didn’t have time to attend to his cut hands, nor the wound in his neck though he could feel blood seeping from it through his clothes. He was conscious of its warmth in contrast to the cool and sticky ooze against his face from the vampire blood that had soaked through his mask. Sam was unsteady on his feet, starting to feel weary and drained, but his work wasn’t over yet, not until he’d accounted for the last member of the nest.

He had retrieved his gun and machete when he heard muffled cries coming from the back of the barn and he quickly rounded the crashed truck. What he saw the other side of it made his heart sink. The final vampire had survived the grenade blast, barely. Half of one arm and part of its face was gone, and an eye was hanging out of its socket rolling loosely against exposed bone. The creature was burned over most of its body but it had made its feet, carrying most of its weight on one good leg, for sure, but it was still strong enough to have hauled up a hostage – the teenage girl – and it was holding her in front as a human shield as it tried to shuffle toward the door.

“Drop your weapons, hunter,” it snarled, baring its teeth at the nape of her neck, “or the girl’s dead.”

The frightened teenager whimpered from behind her gag and tears streamed from her wide pleading eyes. Sam knew she was dead, either way. He didn’t have a clear shot and if he tried to attack the vampire would kill her, but it would kill her anyway as soon as it could no longer use her for leverage. In the circumstance Sam could only think of one thing to do. He slowly held out his weapons, extending his fingers in a gesture of surrender as he bent his knees, lowered toward the floor, dropped the machete, and shot the hostage.

As the bullet pierced her leg the girl screamed and dropped. It was a dangerous move but fortune favored the desperate: the vampire wasn’t expecting it and wasn’t prepared for the sudden dead weight on his arm as the girl fell. It let her drop, exposing its head and Sam fired, fired again and kept firing as he moved forward until his clip was empty and he grabbed the creature driving it against the nearest wall, knife at its neck, and Sam forced the blade through sinew and cartilage until it was buried in the timber behind and one final wash of cold blood painted Sam’s face.

When he took off the girl’s gag she started screaming anew. Sam could see it in her eyes she was as terrified of him as she had been of her captors. He peeled off the balaclava and gloves and the tape he had over his mouth to prevent accidental ingestion of vampire blood, and as he wiped his hands he prayed none had got into the wounds on his palms or neck. “I’m here to help,” he assured the girl as he checked her injury, but she hardly looked reassured. It was clean, the bullet had passed right through, but she wouldn’t be going anywhere unassisted. All the same, Sam pushed back her upper lip and checked for extra teeth before cutting her bonds.

He did the same with the boy who stumbled to his feet as soon as he was free and looked ready to run from his rescuer, if he only knew where. “That way!” Sam directed him to the west side exit but he hesitated, whether out of concern for the girl or because he’d seen the door blown out so recently Sam couldn’t tell. Lifting up the girl, he headed out with the boy following warily and directed him through the gap in the wire to the edge of the woods where he’d left a backpack filled with essentials. He pulled out a dressing and taped it to the girl’s leg, instructing the boy to keep pressure on the wound while he found a blanket to cover her. He was concerned about the blood loss added to whatever the vampires had taken from her, and he also suspected she might be going into shock. He did what he could for her and called 911, but then he had to get back to the barn.

The last can of gasoline was for the clean up: torching the bodies and spilled blood of the vampires. He completed the sanitization with stripping off his coverall and dumping it in the back of the truck along with the balaclava and goggles. As an afterthought, he added the shotgun and machete, but he kept his knife and handgun. His last act was to feed one of the soaked rags into the gas tank and light it, then he ran. He was just beyond the wire perimeter when the truck went up. By the time he’d retrieved his backpack the flames were already spreading to the rest of the barn, and soon after that he heard the approaching sirens of the ambulance and fire crews in the distance.


~


Hours later and far away Sam finally stopped to clean and dress his own wounds. They weren’t serious so long as they didn’t get infected, and he was already sure vampire infection wasn’t an issue; he’d have been feeling the effects by now.

After cleaning up he dug a hole and dropped his boots into it. As an extra precaution – or so he told himself – he stripped off the rest of his clothes and dropped those in, too, before lighting one last fire. He even shaved off his hair and added that to the pyre.

In a fresh change of clothes he squatted and stared sightlessly into the flames. It was the first chance he’d had to think since it had all begun and now . . . he didn’t want to, but the images rose up before him unbidden. He saw the black and livid flesh of the burning vampires, heard their shrieks and smelled again the meaty scent of them cooking alive; saw the explosion of flesh and blood and bone, wet red and white globules and splinters spattering into the air and across the ground as he fired the shotgun again and again and again; the agony in the eyes of the vampire he’d garroted, and his own hands on the wire that severed its head; the blasted face of his last victim, the sensation of the knife slicing through the cervical column and the blade buried so deep in the timber behind it had taken all his effort to get it out again.

And the horror on the faces of the young couple as they looked at him . . . the girl’s pained and terrified screams . . . she might never fully understand that Sam had been trying to save her life . . . he would never know for certain whether he’d succeeded.

Ahead of him wicked yellow flames leaped and curled between thick plumes of black, acrid smoke. Sam was sitting in front of a fire on a warm August evening in Colorado, and he was shaking.

Well, it was done. And the knowledge that Gwen was avenged . . . somehow did nothing to stop the pervasive coldness that was seeping into his veins. At length he rose and filled in the hole, extinguishing the flames, and he determined to bury the memory of this day along with the whole of his former life at the bottom of that pit. He never wanted to think about it again. He wanted to feel . . . nothing.


~


He avoided roads until he was well into the next county, and the sun was already making its rapid downward journey to the far horizon when Sam finally stepped onto a dusty back road and headed west. He didn’t know where he was going or what he was going to do next, but for now he just kept walking along the road toward the light of that setting sun, dragging his shadow behind him.




COMING SOON:
EPISODE 7, WAYWARD SON

(For a preview, please continue to STILL TO COME & CLOSING CREDITS)

Chapter Text

 

STILL TO COME



Thank you for reading Bad Blood – episode 6 in the series THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME.

Other episodes in this series:

Pilot, I Can Never Go Home.
2, Golem
3, Prank'd
4, Together
5, Something Wicked?

COMING SOON:
EPISODE 7: WAYWARD SON

Sam’s visions reveal another of the psychic children with a disturbing ability, and his search for answers leads him home in more ways than one. Along the way, he and Dean discover they have a mutual friend in South Dakota, and Sam learns more than he wants to know about his relationship with Dean.



 

CLOSING CREDITS



For the benefit of those readers who enjoy spotting my allusions to other fandoms etc.


From the prologue:

The opening paragraph is a nineteenth-century parody of Spike’s first entrance into Sunnydale in Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Jim Masters’ southern drawl, as well as being a nod toward Louis from Interview with a Vampire, is also a fandom in joke alluding to the fact that James Marsters first auditioned for the role of Spike with a Louisiana accent before settling on the character’s well known North London accent.

"I'm thinking of the children," Colt persisted. "They're not the monsters. They're just innocent victims."
   The visitor raised his gaze from the box. His knowing eyes held Colt's, and his lips peeled back in a rueful grin that revealed the sharp points of his second set of teeth. "So were we all," he commented, "once upon a time."
   Colt absorbed the point then nodded grimly. "Once upon a time," he agreed.

Adapted from a conversation between Spike and Angel at the end of Angel S5E11 “Damage”.


From Scene 1:

Dean raised his eyebrows. He looked impressed. "Hey, have we finally found your genre, Sam?" he asked, grinning. "I don't remember the movie where the demons attack Main Street in broad daylight during shopping hours, though. Was that Monday the First part I or II?"

In joke: in 2009 Jared Padalecki starred in a remake of Friday the 13th.


From Scene 2:

Um, I was going to give proper credit for the “Mr Snugglewhiskers” card . . . but I forgot, and posted it to my brother for his birthday. Oops. Anyway, it’s available from Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Kitten-Sound-Birthday-UK-Greetings/dp/B00PKVKD60


From Scene 3

The book Dean is reading from is The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Kapra, already referenced in the closing credits to Prank’d.

Dean rolled his eyes a little. “Why, oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?” he muttered quietly.

In The Matrix, Morpheus offers Neo a choice of red and blue pills that respectively correspond to a choice between having his eyes opened to the true nature of reality or remaining blissfully ignorant.

"I get what you're saying, Sam, but you can't live like that, can you? You can’t go down that rabbit hole. We're real. This is real.”

Refers to the hole by which Alice descends into Wonderland in C S Lewis’ classic tale.

“It might be a nice idea to think that you're one with a tree or a bird or . . ." he made a vague gesture at Sam then wiped awkwardly at the back of his neck. "Jessica Alba.”

In joke: Jensen Ackles starred with Jessica Alba in Dark Angel.


From Scene 5

From the moment he’d got up that morning, he’d made every classic How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days mistake.

Romantic Comedy starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey.

The trademark combo of black leather and denims with gelled back peroxide hair was unmistakable.

Unmistakably the combo of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Jim’s whole persona is my loving homage to Joss Whedon’s unforgettable character, played by actor James Marsters.

“What are you doing here? Last time I saw you, you were in California!”

In joke: the character of Spike was last seen working for a law firm in Los Angeles.

“I was very sorry to hear about your mum, by the way. I liked the lady.”

Reminiscent of Spike’s reaction to the death of Joyce Summers in BTVS’, S5 “The Body”.

“Order me up a plate of Buffalo Wings, love,” he told her, “oh, and some of those onion blossoms.”
“They do these fried onion things in the shape of flowers here,” he was explaining to Dean. “You should try them. They’re brilliant!”

Spike’s order from BTVS’ S5, “Fool for Love.” The incorrigible vampire expressed his love of this delicacy on a number of occasions on the show.

“What can I tell you, baby?” he said. “I've always been bad.”

Another allusion to “Fool for Love”.

Jimmy shook his head and took another mouthful of his beer. “I was in the year after Winch.”
   Sam’s eyebrows creased momentarily and he gave Dean a rather odd look, but then he persisted, “how did you meet, then?”
   “Through a mutual friend.”
   “Yeah, whatever happened to him?” Dean asked.
   “Heard he married that newspaper reporter he was seeing,” Jim informed him. “Don’t think he’s done much since.”

In joke: James Marsters and Jensen Ackles both appeared in Smallville, but James joined the cast the season after Jensen left. Dean’s friend Tom, who was studying journalism and married a reporter, seems to have some things in common with Clark Kent, was was played by Tom Welling.

“You know, there are quite a few American beers that are highly underrated,” he observed. “This, unfortunately, is not one of them”.

Another line lifted from “Fool for Love”.

In joke: The karaoke number Jim and Dean choose was sung at Las Vegas Con 2013 and Jensen joined in for the chorus.

Jim took the opportunity to pull Lenore closer to him. “Is it secret?” he breathed in her ear. “Is it safe?”

Gandalf’s question to Frodo about the one ring in J. R. R. Tolkien’s  Fellowship of the Ring.


From Scene 10

She seemed to be making the right noises now . . . though he knew that didn’t necessarily mean anything . . . not that he’d seen that movie, but he’d heard about it.

Alluding to the fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally


From Scene 11

“What’s-his-height not with you, then?”

In BTVS, Spike referred to Buffy’s boyfriend, Riley, as ‘what’s-his-height’.

The chains of habit are too weak to be felt ‘til they’re too strong to be broken.”

Oft repeated quote from Samuel Johnson.

Jim Masters’ original surname, William, is the same as Spike’s original forename from before he became a vampire (BTVS S5, Fool for Love)

He was getting a little tired of the ‘trust no one’ mantra.

Dean doubtless has the ‘trust no one’ theme from The X Files in the back of his mind.

if seven people tell you you’re an ass

Alluding to the the old saw: if one person calls you an ass, ignore them; if seven people call you an ass, buy a saddle.


From Scene 13

"the romantic in me can’t help hoping you two crazy kids’ll make it work."

In BTVS S3 "Lovers Walk", Xander makes a similar comment about Spike and Drusilla - but with deep irony.

 

“You see, right there, that's the problem: you just assuming that,” Jim objected. “I don't play for that side.”

Spike makes the same complaint to Angel in Angel S5, “Just Rewards”.


From Scene 15

“My story?” Jim laughed cynically. “You want the Dickens version? Or the Anne Rice short cut: begin when I was “born to darkness”?”

Alludes to Interview With The Vampire where Louis asks the journalist “shall we begin like David Copperfield? I am born, I grow up. Or shall we begin when I was born to darkness, as I call it.” The beginning of Jim’s story is also an homage to the beginning of that interview: “1791 was the year it happened. I was twenty-four, younger than you are now, but times were different then. I was a man at that age, the master of a large plantation just south of New Orleans.”

“I had the self destructive phase, by the book: trying to gamble away my wealth and estate, inviting death. It wasn’t a vampire that accepted my invitation, though, not at first.”

Also an allusion to Louis’s story.

“Any demon’s worth talking to and they usually get chatty when you start giving them the old Max Von Sidow.”

Max Von Sidow starred in the movie The Exorcist.

Jim held his gaze and directed a knowing expression at him. “He is, you know?”
“What?” Dean prompted.
Yours.”

An (admittedly contrived and tangential) nod toward Jim and Lenore’s shared heritage in BTVS. Amber Benson who played Lenore in SPN also played Tara in BTVS. Tara memorably declared her love to Willow in S4, “Who Are You?” with the words: “I am, you know . . . yours.”

   “My life, my job, is to vanquish evil. I can sense evil. This young man, whatever he is . . . evil may have claimed him, may have left its mark on him, but evil doesn’t rule him, so I can’t kill him.”
   “I can,” Eli snarled, unrepentant.
   “Not while I'm here,” Jim insisted.

Adapted from the exchange about Frankenstein’s monster in the movie Van Helsing.


From Scene 16

Tattooed-biker-dude nodded and raised his hand in a closed-fist salute, and Dean saw the name TINY printed in single letters, one on each finger. “Stay safe, brother,” the guy said as he turned, left the bar, and left the picture.

In joke: in SPN S2, “Folsom Prison Blues,” a character called Tiny was played by Clif Kosterman, Jensen and Jared’s driver and bodyguard.


From Scene 17

Time didn't mean anything. Nothing had form, but he knew who he was. He was warm and he was loved. He felt . . . complete.

In BTVS S6, “Afterlife”, this was how Buffy described an experience she believed was of Heaven.


From Scene 18

“I’m going to kill some vampires,” Sam explained casually.
The man regarded him, stony faced, then rolled his eyes. “Good for you.”

Based on the exchange in a hardware store from the movie Fright Night (2008) where Charley bought equipment that inspired the flame resistant suit Sam wears in this scene.

In joke: Lou Bollo is Supernatural’s stunt co-ordinator.


 

MUSIC CREDITS



Scene 2:

“Happy Birthday to You” by Stevie Wonder, performed and flubbed by Dean Winchester.

“The Theme from Crocodile Dundee” composed, arranged and conducted by Peter Best.

Scene 5:

“The Boys are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzie, performed by Dean Winchester and Jim Masters.

“Whiskey in the Jar” by Thin Lizzie, performed by Dean Winchester.

Scene 16:

“Lost Without Your Love” by Bread.

“Hey, Jude” by the Beatles, adapted and sung by Dean Winchester.

 Scene 17

“Some Kind of Monster” by Metallica, sung by Dean Winchester.

Scene 18

“Some Kind of Monster” by Metallica.

Chapter Text

THE ROAD SO FAR:

It's been six months since the yellow eyed demon killed Amanda Winchester and possessed John. Their son, Dean, is no longer the naive college student and wannabe musician he was back then. He learned all his new hunter friend Sam Campbell could teach him about the supernatural, but while they've been saving people and hunting things, it still seems like they're no closer to finding the demon and saving John. They've been desperate enough to follow clues left by a demon called Gemma (and that's not even her real name). She led them to Red Lodge, MT, where Dean learned that his old college buddy, Jim Masters, was really a vampire who's been after Yellow Eyes for over two hundred years. It seems the demon's been attacking familes for generations, and not just in the US, but all over the world. Oh, and Sam tried to kill Jim. Sam hates vampires because, turns out, on his last hunt with the Campbell family, a nest turned his cousin/girlfriend (Gwen) and Sam had to gank her . . . so that's a thing. But Jim's disappeared now, anyway. And Sam's just revealed that he and other children who survived Yellow Eyes' fires have, like, super powers. Sam gets prophetic dreams and crap. And others may be hunting them - him. Now, he brings this up. Now. After all these months of fighting together back to back and . . . and recently all the hot sex and . . . and where does that even leave them? What does it all mean?

Let me get back to you on that.


 

 

 

Prologue


Cairo , Egypt – 1923

The sun was a small pale disc in the western sky but it yet illuminated the ancient city, turning the great dome of the heavens a burnished bronze feathered with scarlet, and the rippling waters of the Nile to molten gold. The dusty whitewashed walls of the city below bled pink with its dying light.

From his vantage point, perched near the edge of the rooftop of the Museum of Antiquities, he had a fine view of the city skyline with its tangle of palm trees and contrasting architecture. Cairo spread out before him like a scroll that told the story of millennia: of the rise and fall of civilizations and empires. Coptic crosses mingled with crenellated battlements, synagogues with white domes and minarets, and, to the north-east, a red granite obelisk rose as visible reminder that these lands were once the domain of Ra.

Despite the lateness of the hour, shimmering waves of heat rose from the streets and scorched his nostrils as he breathed the pervasive scent of camel dung, the odor of perfumes and spices from the souks, and the myriad reeks of humanity. Many among the bustling masses in the street were wilting under the evening heat but he thrived on it. Raising his gaze he stared unblinking into the setting sun and felt its rays filling his limbs with power and vitality he had not felt in ages.

From the streets below he could hear the familiar wail of song. The cacophony of musical instruments varied over time; the tone and timbre of the music changed; different themes wove back and forth, fading away to return again then fade once more; but the song itself remained, old as life.

It was time to descend. Making his way down to the lowest floor, he walked past the columns and the plaster Egyptian figures that stood as guards outside the doors of the old library. He found the curator among the stacks. The man was shouting at a lowly clerk for some trivial error, abusing and berating him, even going so far as to slap the boy about the head and shoulders, but he desisted when he saw the visitor approach and dismissed the clerk with a wave of his hand.

“Ah, you have returned! Good! Good!” the man greeted him.

“You have had time to study the item?”

“Yes! Indeed! A very curious artifact indeed. Please!” The curator directed him toward a large desk at the head of the room where he took out a set of keys and proceeded to unlock a heavy wooden box in which he’d stored the scroll. “It was found near the Temple of Re-Atum, you say?” he asked as he unfurled the document, lifted a monocle to his eye and perused the article anew. “It will take time and special study to date accurately, but it may be the oldest example of its kind that I have ever seen. It is likely Egyptian in origin but that is by no means certain. Although it employs Egyptian hieroglyphs and pictographs there is also extensive use of an early Phoenician script. And it appears to tell an unusual variant of the Grecian story of Europa – the Phoenician princess who was abducted by Zeus in the guise of a bull?” The curator looked up for confirmation that his visitor was familiar with the tale, and was granted a tight, enigmatic smile. “In this version Zeus appears as a trader and tries to bargain with her brother for her hand in marriage . . . or he may be her lover. The vocabulary is difficult and ambiguous, you understand . . . but, then, the morality of those times . . . Egyptian royalty, for example, often married their own siblings . . .”

The man did nothing to disguise his embarrassment and distaste. Such were the minions of this world’s bickering gods; enslaved to his own brief span of time and the narrow confines of his particular culture, the curator was too swift to presume his visitor shared – or should share – its limited dogma and arbitrary codes of conduct.

“When the brother declines his offers, Zeus slays him and takes the girl anyway, carrying her back to Crete where she becomes his bride. Full of grief, Europa prays to the god Apollo and bargains with him for her brother’s life, offering her own in exchange. The god appears to her in the form of a great bird and gives her a tail feather, telling her she must weave the tail into a shroud. Each night she labors in secret, working by the light of the feather itself, which is so bright that it glows even in darkness. After 280 nights her task is complete and she wraps herself in the shroud and is consumed by its fire, but the shroud is transformed into a likeness of her brother . . . or he is reborn from the ashes . . . but when he finds that his sister is dead he vows that he will not rest until he has avenged her.”

“And was the brother now immortal that he presumed to avenge himself against a god?”

The curator smiled indulgently. “Well, it is just a story,” he pointed out.

The visitor had remained tight lipped while he listened to the subjective and faulty interpretation of the scroll, but now he reached out and placed a hand on the curator’s chest. “You are an ignorant man,” he said, “and you know nothing.”

 

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