John Winchester gazed through his truck's window, eyeing the sign above the door with distaste. It was neon - red, of course - and it read Fangtasia. As puns went, it wasn't even a good one. What kind of moron thought it was a good idea to give vampires legal status? Making them easier to find would make John's job easier, so that was an upside. The downside was how many people were gonna get killed when the bloodthirsty sons of bitches got tired of that Japanese fake blood.
Tonight, though, John wasn't hunting vampires. This hunt was a lot more personal.
He walked into the bar, offering one of his forged drivers licenses when asked for ID at the door. No reason to give them his real name. Inside, everything looked a little too new: the red walls near-sparkled and there was a faint odour of fresh paint, the red and black leather of the furniture was shiny and unmarked, even the black-stained wood of the bar was perfect. John didn't know how long this place had been open, but from the appearance it couldn't be more than a week or two. The music was old, though: John recognised Dark Star and had to smile, appreciating the irony. Fangtasia's patrons were about half and half humans and vampires. The vamps mostly wore black and red, matching the decor, though a few of them wore normal clothing. The humans were more of a mix than John expected, but he didn't pay much attention to them. If they wanted to play with fire it was their business.
He ordered a beer because you can't sit around in a bar and not drink, and carried it over to a corner table that would give him a good view of the room. There was no sign of his target yet.
In the middle of the room there was a raised dais with a chair that looked like a throne: large, high-backed and imposing. The chair was empty when John sat down, but it wasn't long before a vampire came out to occupy it. John saw the vampire from behind as it approached the throne and at first he thought it was a female: the hair was long and pale blonde and its movements were, not feminine exactly, but certainly too graceful for a man. Like a dancer. Then the vampire sat down and John caught a glimpse of his face. Their eyes met for an instant before a dancing couple blocked John's view.
Though John had never seen him before, he knew who this vampire was - he wouldn't walk into a snake pit like this without doing his research. Eric Northman - his legal name, if not his original one - was reputed to be extremely old. Rumour had it he was a genuine Viking. Watching him surreptitiously through the crowd of people, John doubted it. Vikings had to be big guys with heavy muscle mass - weapons in those days were not lightweight. If Northman was a Viking, he'd been living soft for centuries.
Which suited John Winchester just fine. But Eric Northman wasn't on his radar tonight.
The man - though that word wasn't strictly accurate - John was waiting for walked in about then, and he dismissed the vampire from his attention.
His target had dark close-cropped hair and eyes that were almost black: the eyes were the only outward sign of what he was. He wore dirty denim, a plaid shirt and cowboy boots. He sauntered up to the bar and surveyed the room while he waited for his drink. John drew back, but his target didn't once look in John's direction. He'd found what he was looking for.
John followed his gaze and saw the boy who had attracted such dangerous attention. The boy looked barely legal, but he must have been at least 21: they were carding everyone at the doors. He was a pretty kid, probably gay, and definitely human. And now he was in trouble.
"Hunters are not welcome here."
John turned abruptly, his heart suddenly racing. The vampire was sitting opposite him. John hadn't seen him move, but Eric was there, looking as if he'd been sitting there a while.
John got his heart-rate under control and tipped his beer bottle toward the vampire. "I'm just havin' a drink." He raised the bottle to his lips as if to prove it.
"Please. I can smell the gunpowder from across the room. This is a legal business. We don't want trouble."
John swallowed his beer. "You are trouble."
"If you do not leave," Eric Northman said, his voice very quiet, very certain, "I will throw you out."
John knew it was no idle threat. He sighed. "I'm not here for you. Nor any vampire. Not tonight." The implied threat hung there. John wasn't idiot enough to hunt vampires after dark. Daytime was when you hunted vamps.
Eric leaned across the table. "I think it unlikely a man such as you came for the ambience." He spoke softly, barely audible over the noise of the crowd. It was calculated to encourage John to lean in toward him. But John didn't take the bait.
"Why are you here?" Eric persisted.
John's free hand strayed to the open neck of his shirt, his fingers touching the silver charm he wore. Silently, he thanked Elkins for insisting he keep it. It worked...well, like a charm. He smiled and raised his bottle again. "Cut out the glamour and I'll tell you."
To his credit, Eric showed no surprise, though there couldn't be many humans who would have shaken him off so easily. He leaned back, steepling his fingers in front of his lips. "Very well."
John was not happy about sharing his purpose with a vampire, but he was going to kill that sonofabitch tonight. If he had to cosy up to Eric Northman to do it, he would. He pointed toward his target with the bottle, flicking his eyes in that direction. He knew the vampire would understand. His target was leaning over the back of the couch where the boy sat, smiling down at him. The boy was doomed if John didn't intervene.
Eric looked, the gesture so fast John barely saw it. He turned expressionless eyes back to John. "Why?" he asked simply.
"None of your goddamned business!" John snarled. The question hit a nerve.
"Not good enough." Eric's voice remained mild, but John could hear steel.
John could have simply pointed out what he was, but a vampire might see nothing wrong with something eating the patrons. So he gave Eric the truth. "He slipped my son vampire blood." The admission came out through gritted teeth.
Eric froze. For a long moment the vampire didn't move. Didn't even blink. Finally, he nodded curtly. "He is yours. Do not come here again."
John took a breath to retort that he wasn't planning to come back unless it was after dawn and with a bag full of stakes. But before the first words were out of his mouth, the vampire was gone.
John glanced across the room to his target, but he was distracted for a second by Eric. He was on the other side of the room, talking with a female vampire. The female walked over to John's target. John cursed, assuming the bitch was going to warn him, but he was wrong. The vampire escorted him out. The boy he'd been working on remained behind. The kid would never know how close he'd come to a horrible death.
Screw it. Now John owed the goddamned vampire a favour. Maybe he would not come back with a bag full of stakes and call it even. He abandoned his beer - he'd drunk barely a third of it - and followed his quarry out into the night.