Title: The Red Room
Category: Gen, Drama
Spoilers: Through the second half of Season 6. Specific spoilers for Live Free or Twihard
Summary: While investigating a job, Dean suffers a relapse of the vampire disease. Sam and Dean must race to uncover what happened before Dean's cravings become too strong to control.
Word Count: 11, 323
A/N: This was supposed to be a commentfic. Oops. Prompt from wynefred at hoodie_time: Post 6.05, though recovered from being turned into a vamp, Dean sometimes has temporary relapses (craving blood, heightened senses, perhaps even fangs). Gen please.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke and co. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This is for entertainment purposes only; no financial profit has been gained from this story. This story is not mean to infringe upon the rights of the above-mentioned establishments.
It began with a few odd cravings, and then the migraine headaches. Dean didn't think much of it. He didn't have time to deal with stress and all that other crap. Not like Sam would notice anyway. So Dean did what Dean did best. He buried it and focused on fixing his brother.
That all changed once Sam got his soul back.
"Are you okay?" Sam asked, lowering the paper to study Dean's face.
Two months ago Dean wouldn't have won any bets on hearing those words again. "Yeah, I'm fan-freakin'-tastic." The damn headache wouldn't let up.
"Are you sure? You look pale."
"Just a headache." Dean took a sip of coffee and cringed. It tasted like dirt. "It'll pass."
"Seems like you get one every day."
Dean didn't know whether to laugh or cry over the fact Sam noticed. Sam seemed to notice everything these days: how long he stayed up at night, what he ate, how he slept. Sometimes it got damn creepy.
Truth was ever since they'd rolled into town, Dean had been getting the headaches again. He'd been getting them on and off for months, but they'd always go away. Yesterday, as they settled into a shady motel downtown, had brought the worst one ever. And it still hadn't quit.
Dean flipped the shades closed at their booth in the diner and sighed. "Whatcha got?"
Sam tossed the paper onto Dean's empty plate. "Vampires."
"Vampires? Oh come on. Again?"
"Robberies at blood banks. A spike in exsanguinated cows. Missing teens. Has all the markings of their new MO and then some."
"Which I know all too well."
Sam's giant forehead went slack, and Dean immediately felt like an ass for letting those words spill out. "Which we know all too well from our experiences," he corrected.
"Yeah, well, you'll have to excuse the lack of wit as the sledgehammer pounds in my skull."
Dean nodded, but didn't meet Sam's gaze. He looked down at the paper. When he and Sam had heard from Bobby that a bunch of teens had gone missing in Brownsville, Oregon, they'd hopped in the Impala and sped down to take the case. Keeping busy and out of potential places Sam hadn't been when soulless was a challenge, but how bad could a bunch of missing teens get?
Vampires. Once, Dean had loved a good vampire hunt. The whole thing had lost most of its fun factor these days.
"Look, why don't we do this back at the motel room?" Sam grabbed the paper from Dean before he snapped shut his laptop.
"Because it looks like you're about to pass out."
Dean muttered under his breath and stood. "You think I'm a friggin' girl? I'm not gonna pass out."
Dean dropped like a rock.
Sam dove to grab him, but he wasn't fast enough. All he managed was to keep Dean from cracking his head open on the end of the table.
Many of the patrons in the diner turned with curious expressions as they watched Sam kneel over Dean. Sam shook his jacket, but whatever had struck Dean had hit him cold. He wondered vaguely about viruses or the other more serious bouts of bad luck that could strike them. Now wasn't the time to think about it.
By the time Sam had turned Dean's head and tried to elevate his legs, the diner manager was on the way. The last thing they needed was to be the talk of the town.
"I called an ambulance. Your friend okay?"
Sam nodded. "He just forgot to take his pills today. No need for an ambulance."
"He looks awfully pale."
Sam didn't want this to turn into a hospital event. They were supposed to be low-key this time around. But if Dean needed medical help, then that would have to come first. He wasn't about to screw up now, not after everything they'd gone through.
"Don't worry about an ambulance. We'll drive ourselves."
"I'm not going to no hospital." Dean swatted Sam away as he attempted to sit. He frowned and glanced around the diner and over a dozen pairs of eyes on them. "What the hell happened?"
"I don't faint."
"Fine," Sam said, "though Michael Phelps would have given you a ten for that swan dive."
"Oh, you came back a comedian. Awesome."
Sam hoisted Dean to his feet. He was a little unsteady at first, but quickly managed to get some balance. Sam made sure he didn't let go.
Dean didn't seem to notice. His attention was elsewhere.
"What are you looking at?" Sam leaned forward, trying to find what had fascinated Dean on the other side of the room.
"That guy, glasses. He keeps staring at us."
Sam frowned. "What guy?"
"Don't you see him? Right there." Dean pointed to the very end of the diner. "Behind the lady that smells like birdseed."
"Okay…" He pulled Dean toward the door. "We're going now."
Dean started to protest, but Sam ignored him, thanking the manager and paying for their meal on the way out. In a matter of minutes, they were in the Impala and heading back to the motel.
Sam glanced over at Dean. He was sitting in the passenger's seat, leaning into the door with his right hand shielding his eyes. No music. No sounds. Not even his complaining and whining. Sam tapped the wheel. He didn't like this. There was something unusually familiar about this whole scenario.
"Have you been getting headaches this whole time?"
Dean didn't answer.
"I mean, since I came back. The first time."
Sam glared at him.
"Okay, maybe? For a couple of months."
Sam wrinkled his forehead. He couldn't remember any of that time with Dean. He couldn't tell if this was supposed to be something he should be worried about, or if this was the usual for them these days. He knew he wasn't supposed to poke around in those walled up memories, but his instincts were telling him this was important.
"Don't," Dean warned.
"Yeah, play innocent. Like I can't tell."
Sam turned the Impala down Second Street. The motel loomed ahead.
"No memories. It's just a headache. You got it?"
"Yeah, I got it."
Sam pulled into an empty space and parked the car. He remained quiet as he watched Dean muster the strength to get out of the Impala and walk inside their room. Memories or no, he wasn't letting this one go.
This so wasn't just a headache.
Dean stumbled into the motel room and collapsed onto his bed. He reached over and immediately drew the blinds. As the room dimmed, the pressure on his face, on his eyes, eased up, which only fueled Dean's suspicions. Dean groaned and covered his face.
Migraines caused light sensitivity. It could still be that.
He heard Sam's breathing before he stepped a foot inside. Well before he stepped inside.
He heard Sam lumber in and shut the door.
"What's going on?" Sam asked.
That was what Dean would like to know. He wasn't an idiot. He knew what this felt like. He knew all too well, but he wasn't about to drag Sam into it. The last thing Dean wanted was for his brother to start having massive fits while he was compromised.
Or massive fits ever.
He withdrew his hands from his face. Beyond Sam calling his name, he heard something. Faint, but fast, like a rapping on soft cloth.
Sam shut his mouth, but the wounded look of concern on his face only deepened. Dean let it go, straining to listen harder. The rapping quickened, building louder and louder until it rumbled like a pounding drum.
Dean scrambled off the bed as Sam took a step toward him. His heartbeat was so much clearer this time, so different from the inhuman steady beats he'd heard months ago.
"No, no," Dean muttered. "It was supposed to work."
"What are you talking about?"
"I can hear your damn heart!" Dean stormed into the bathroom and locked the door. Immediately he pulled back his lips to expose his gum line.
Well thank God for small favors. No fangs.
"Open the door."
Dean ignored Sam and braced himself on the sink, letting his head droop. What the hell was he supposed to do? He couldn't exactly call Bobby to ask for help, and if Samuel dared show his face, Dean wouldn't hesitate to shoot him between the eyes. Or, God help him, drink the old bastard.
The door jerked open, and Dean stumbled back. Sam stood in the doorway, holding a machete in hand.
"Already? I thought you could, I don't know, wait five minutes."
"Relax. Unless you're a door, you don't have anything to worry about." Sam tapped the handle of the machete, as if Dean hadn't gotten the point. "Now, are you going to explain to me what happened or do I have to scratch that itch?"
Dean wiped his face. "Isn't it obvious? I'm having a relapse."
"Are you sure?"
"Dude, I can see in the dark. That's not normal."
Sam wasn't swayed. "Is that even possible?"
"How am I supposed to know? Samuel's the one that had the vampire cure." Dean stopped. "Cure," he said with a snort. "Right."
"So, let's call him."
"I don't want to see that son of a bitch."
"Dean, if he cured you once, he could--"
"What? Cure me again? 'Cause it worked so well the first time."
Sam let out a heavy sigh. "There has to be an explanation. There's no way you've been reinfected. Different scenario, different rules. We just need to figure it out."
"No, no 'we.' You keep your Swiss cheese mind out of this. It's time to do this the right way." He glanced at the machete.
"I don't think so. I'm not letting you quit. Let's go."
Sam turned his back and walked into the bedroom. Dean wasn't sure if he was trying to prove a point or what, but leaving yourself exposed to a would-be vampire wasn't the brightest move. He stayed in the doorway as he watched Sam.
His brother shelved the machete and went straight for his laptop.
"I doubt webmd has a category for vampirism."
"No, but I might. I found all kinds of files on my computer."
Dean straightened. "What?"
"Apparently, soulless me kept a journal on my laptop." He glanced up at Dean, a spark of mischief in his eyes. "Maybe I noted something down from last time."
"No! How many times we gonna have this conversation?"
Sam was already typing away. "As many times as you like."
"We talked about this. Sam, you keep chipping away at that wall and all Hell is going to break loose. Literally."
"Yeah, I think I know." Sam typed a few more keys before suddenly stopping and turning to Dean. "What's it feel like?"
Sam studied him for a moment, and Dean pegged him as trying to measure his words. Which was just fantastic. Apparently, no matter how many times Sam died, his curiosity never did.
And Dean could tell. His heartbeats were becoming distinct. Fast, tainted with nervous jitters, but strong and willful. For once, what was happening on the inside matched what was happening on the outside.
He liked the sound.
"This is just fantastic." He scrubbed his face and collapsed onto Sam's bed. "It won't be long until I start snacking."
"You didn't feed last time."
Dean shot him a glare. "Tell me you didn't remember that."
Sam shrugged. "I'm going by the obvious."
"The obvious leads to one road."
"You're such a glass half empty person." Sam leaned back and pointed to the screen. "I copied the cure to my files."
"Well, genius, you're forgetting one thing. I don't got the vamp's blood who turned me. He's long dead."
"We'll try it without the blood. You weren't turned."
Now he was going to be Sam's guinea pig. It just kept getting better and better.
"What do you have to lose? We're going to find a way to fix this. We have to at least try."
"All right, Betty Crocker. So what's on the menu?"
Dean waited in the motel room while Sam ran out to the store. It seemed like he had been gone forever. Dean had tried pacing to take the edge off, and when that didn't work, he'd attempted to get drunk on some really bad whiskey, but apparently vampires-in-training had higher tolerance levels. Now he was reduced to sitting on his bed watching infomercials, his leg tapping, like he was some junkie looking for a fix.
The cravings had started just under an hour ago. Dean had understood the pang immediately, which made some of the random odd cravings for metal and ice from the last few months make more sense. He wanted blood, and he wanted it even worse than before. Was that a side effect of a relapse?
He shouldn't even be having relapses. This was freakin' insane.
"Cas," Dean called, figuring it was worth a shot. "Very important stuff down here. Could use some of that angel mojo about now."
Dean inhaled deeply. He waited for a response, but all he got instead was a good whiff of Sam from down the street.
"That's just great." He slid off the bed and popped the lock on the door, waiting with crossed arms by the lamp for Sam to drive into the lot.
Within minutes, he heard the distinctive roar of the Impala as Sam guided her into one of the free spaces outside their room. Whine of the door and solid snap and Sam's shuffling feet stepped onto the concrete sidewalk.
Sam jerked when he found Dean staring in the doorway. "That's a bit creepy."
Dean shrugged and followed him to the table. He started to search through the large paper bag. "Got it?"
Half the stuff smelled nasty enough to make Dean want to lose his lunch. He cringed and tore his face away from the bag.
But not before he saw something else inside.
Despite the lurch in his stomach, Dean reached in the bag and withdrew a large jar. He glared at Sam.
"Dead man's blood?"
Sam looked like he'd gotten his hand caught in a cookie jar. "Just a precaution," he said. "We are dealing with vampires."
Yeah, me, Dean wanted to say. He bit his tongue this once and placed the vile jar on the table. "So, what's the plan?" he asked, stopping to slap his hands against his sides.
Sam had already begun to mix some of the ingredients of the unvamping concoction. "It doesn't make any sense."
"If you really are having a relapse, you would need something to trigger it. We haven't done anything different."
Dean straightened his back. He knew where Sam was going with this. "Something in town?"
Sam shrugged. "Is that when the headaches started?"
Backtracking seemed easier that night. He wondered if vampires had better memory recall.
Dean remembered first feeling really sick earlier that morning. He woke up dizzy - not that he told Sam - and the lights in the bathroom had started the dull ache behind his eyes. He hadn't thought anything of it at the time. The pain had gotten progressively worse throughout the morning.
The days before hadn't been as bad. They had come into town two days ago. When they'd crossed the city limits, he'd felt tired and run down, but Sam hadn't looked much better. They'd just come off a case in Allentown not three days before, opting to drive straight through to Oregon with minimal stops. Dean had felt sporadic headaches and cravings along the drive, but that was normal since he'd been turned. This was different.
"I get headaches. Nothing bad. I get 'em here and there with some weird cravings."
Sam stared at him. "You're just telling me this now?"
"It wasn't exactly up for conversation when you were Sam-1000. And it's not like it's an everyday thing. When I say it's once in a while, it's once in a while."
"It's never turned into something else?"
"I think you'd notice," Dean muttered.
Sam just shook his head. "So you must have run into something this morning that triggered it."
"In a town of vampires. That's comforting." Dean had images of tainted water or food or anything, though deep down he knew that couldn't be the case. This was different. The sensations he was feeling weren't the same as before. This time there was a harsher undercurrent running through him. Almost like he was being pushed over the edge.
The edge of what? He didn't know.
"I don't get how I could get a freakin' relapse."
"Vampirism is a blood disease." Sam glanced at Dean before tapping at his laptop. He reached for another ingredient. "Many blood diseases can stay dormant in between active periods. Some can stay dormant for years. Who knows. Maybe it's the same."
"I don't wanna hear this."
Whether he liked it or not, Sam's words stuck with him. What if he was right? If this was a dormant blood thing, then it could become active at any time. The idea of slipping in and out of bouts of vampirism wasn't how he was going to spend the rest of his life. They'd gotten lucky with the idea of a cure. Dean should have never believed it.
He winced as another pang hit him. "Hurry."
"Almost done." Sam threw some nasty looking thing into his glass.
Dean watched as Sam mixed the concoction together. He could smell the sweat that dampened the hair at the nape of his brother's neck, and the hint of Italian salad dressing that still lingered on his breath. His face was determined, solid like steel, but his heart hammered like a freight train. The blood gushed fast and furious, beat after beat.
An itch prickled at Dean's gums, and his lips curled.
A hint of nervousness touched Sam's voice and his blood pumped faster. It sounded awesome.
Dean covered his face and turned away. "Why the hell do you have to be so veiny?"
"Here." Sam was hovering behind him. "Drink it."
Dean grabbed the glass without question and shoved it toward his lips. The bluish-purple liquid smelled as bad as it had last time, and everything inside him was repulsed at the thought of drinking it. He knew it was the vampire part of him controlling those urges and no way was he going to give into it.
But something new, yet familiar, kept poking at the back of his mind, more and more urgent, overriding his feverish bloodlust. He lowered the cup and frowned, turning his head toward the door.
"Dean, what are you doing?"
A rustle of leaves. Softness. The scent of lavender.
He passed the cup back to Sam and picked up the machete. Soundlessly, he crept toward the front door. He put his finger to his lip to silence Sam before he swung the door open.
Lenore stood on the front step.
"You," Dean said.
"It took you long enough to sense me. Are you going to invite me inside?"
"Why would I do that?"
"Because, whether I like it or not, I'm here to help."
"Let her in," Sam said.
This was a bad idea. Dean didn't care if Lenore didn't feed on people. None of this felt right. He stepped aside anyway.
Lenore took one look at Dean's bed before throwing her bag onto Sam's. Before either could protest, she was already pulling out a sack and a book.
Dean found his gaze locked onto the sack. "And to what do we owe this honor?"
"I could smell you a mile before you entered town. It's amazing we were so low on the food chain with hunters like you."
"Oh, look at that, Sam. She came back with a personality."
Lenore's face remained as still as a statue. As Dean glared at her, he noticed certain things, features he hadn't noticed before. Her skin had always been pale, but now he could see every pore, how smooth the years had made her skin, like polished stone. Her light eyes held years upon years of experience, betraying her youthful face. Her lips were red.
Traces of blood had stained her pale lips. The lingering aroma of blood mixed with her breath, and another pang hit Dean in the gut. Not as sweet as the scent wafting off Sam, but enough to make his gums itch.
He reached into his mouth and scratched at the gum line with his index finger.
"Why are you here?" Sam asked Lenore the question, but his frown was all for Dean.
"I could tell your brother's scent was different, changed. If I can smell it, then others can as well."
"That's awesome." Just when Dean couldn't imagine how this could get any worse, it did. He was a vampire, vamps were all over town, and they could smell how messed up he was. Add the fact that Sam could crack at any time, and this had to go down as one of the worst days they'd had in a long time.
"They're going to come after us," Sam said.
"More than that. They are as curious as I am how Dean Winchester shared our Father's vision with us, only to vanish shortly thereafter."
Sam sent Dean a confused look, the unspoken question on his lips, but Dean just shook his head. He wasn't taking Sam down memory lane.
"Many of us thought you were killed. I'm more interested in how you turned back to human," she admitted.
"Apparently not very well."
"Oh, you're not one of us," Lenore said.
"What?" Sam and Dean said together.
"You're not one of my kind."
"No? Then how do you explain this?" Dean lifted up his lip, exposing the red blisters forming above his teeth. One of the blisters had popped, revealing a small white point.
Sam frowned, but to his credit he didn't take a step back. He placed the antivamp juice on the table. "When--?"
"Technicalities," Lenore said. "I can tell you that you aren't one of us. Your scent is mostly human, but also something else. Tainted. Like you're carrying a part of us with you."
Dean stared at Lenore. Could a vampire get more cracked?
"You mean somewhere in the middle?" Sam asked.
"Maybe. I admit, I have never encountered something like this before."
"Oh, well that's super. Even the monsters think I'm a freak."
"I've heard of stories," Lenore said, now holding the sack in her hands. "Old legends that hunters could turn us back into them. We'd tell them after a large feeding to remind us who we were and keep us sharp."
"Vampire campfire chillers? Oh, that's something."
Lenore ignored Dean's remark. "We thought they were just stories."
"Guess you were wrong," Sam said.
Dean nodded. "Just get to the point."
"We'd also heard of those who did go back, but never fully. Some of our brothers and sisters claimed to have gone back to being human, if just for a while, before they came back to us. We never took them seriously. But there were always those, alone and on the fringe, we were curious about. If they existed."
Dean finally saw where this was going. "So, I'm just a big science experiment to you freaks."
She smiled a soft, knowing smile. "In a way. But that could be to our advantage."
Dean exchanged an uneasy look with Sam. It didn't take a genius for either of them to know this was not going to be good.
Lenore tossed Dean the sack. When he caught the sack, it jiggled, warm and fluid, in his hands.
"What's this?" He was almost afraid to ask.
"I don't want this."
"Tough. You're starving. Anyone can see that. I can't have you drawing attention to yourself by going on a hunger-driven slaughter in town. This will curb your hunger."
"I'm not drinking this. I managed fine last time."
"This isn't last time. Drink it. It's made out of goat's hide and designed for our younger brethren as they grow accustomed to their fangs. It's disgusting, I know, but it will make everything better. I promise."
There was no way Dean was going to drink cow's blood. Or any blood. But the sack felt so good in his hands, and the scent, while bitter, made his stomach rumble. He was so hungry.
"Dean, just do it. It'll buy us some time."
Sam had that resigned look in his face, but also one of empathy. He understood. Dean kept forgetting just how much Sam understood.
Samuel had said that he couldn't drink a person if he wanted to go back. He hadn't said a cow.
Dean wondered what poor Bessie had to pay for this.
With a sigh, he handed the machete to Sam. "She tries anything, you cut her down. I don't care about what she and her group did back in Montana. Who knows what time's done to her. Got it?"
Sam nodded. "Where are you going?"
"Some things a man's gotta do in private." He glared at Lenore. She remained unperturbed.
Figured. Chick had lost her humanity ages ago. He wondered if that was how he'd be if he could never go back.
Dean took the sack and locked himself in the bathroom. The mirror loomed in front of him, taunting him to take a peek, but he refused to look. He could feel the rest of the blisters popping open, the newly formed fangs ready to extend.
He was so so hungry.
Carefully, he brought the sack to his face and sucked in a deep breath. Through the hide, he could smell the cow's blood, freshly captured, ready for him.
He was wrong. It didn't smell bitter, but sour, and for a split-second he found himself thinking back to Sam and how his veins throbbed so…invitingly on his arms.
What he wouldn't give for something sweet.
Ugh. Now he was disgusting himself.
He wasn't going to dwell on this anymore. He wasn't a pansy.
Drink the stuff and save some poor sucker until they figured this out.
Before the sack brushed his lips, the fangs sprung, piercing the edge of the goat hide. A few drops of blood splashed into his mouth.
Dean rolled his tongue around and swallowed. Inside, his stomach lurched, disgusted as much as he was with the idea. And the taste. Ugh. Lenore was right. The taste was awful, but he couldn't seem to stop himself. He couldn't pull away.
He wanted more. He needed more. Right now.
He drove his fangs deeper into the sack. He easily fell into a rhythm, a method of shifting his teeth to release the most blood.
Dean's head started to buzz. Stronger. Life pumped through him.
He forced the fangs in as far as they could go and sucked from the wilting hide like a vacuum. Consumed by the frenzy, his razor sharp teeth shredded the hide as he inhaled the blood. He needed more. Faster.
The next few minutes were a haze of want and need blurred with the growing buzzing in his head. When it finally stopped, Dean realized the sack was demolished, collapsed in a messy heap on the blood-smeared sink. Blood soaked his hands, the cuffs of his jacket, and ran down in trails over his shirt. Dean felt sick. He bypassed another look in the mirror.
They had to find a way to fix him fast. There was no way Dean was going to go this way, monster or freak, or both.
Because if this was how he had to spend eternity, he would pass. Everyone was after Purgatory? He'd do them all a favor and go there himself.
Once Dean had locked himself in the bathroom, Sam buried his fears and focused on Lenore.
"What's the real reason behind your visit?" he asked. Sam wasn't in the mood to play word games.
She managed a small smile as she played with one of the many bracelets dangling on her wrists. "That won't work," she said, gesturing to the cure.
"Just answer the question."
"You're tougher than I remember."
"This isn't the half of it."
Lenore paused, as if considering his words, before continuing. "Things are changing. We're not so alone anymore. We're not so afraid anymore."
The numbers of vampires were increasing. Sam knew that much. Dean hadn't shared much about their hunts prior to his soul returning, but he'd pieced enough facts together to get the point. Figuring out trends wasn't hard when the same pattern kept popping up in the monster field over and over.
And this time around, the vampires' MO was an easy red flag.
Something about this scenario wasn't right.
"If there are more and more of you, why come to us? Why help us?"
Lenore eyed the concoction Sam had made less than thirty minutes ago. He was positive she was considering touching it, but she remained poised. "You helped me against the hunter Gordon. This will clean the slate."
"No. No, there's more."
"It has something to do with the other vampires in town. You don't get along." Sam wasn't an idiot, but he couldn't get what that had to do with either Dean or himself. "You said you could smell us."
"Every human has a distinct scent."
She could smell that Dean was different. He wondered what else she could sense.
"Did you notice anything else?"
Lenore raised her eyebrow. "You're full of questions today."
"I'm also full of surprises."
"Yes, you are." She leaned back in her chair and studied him. "You never smelled like the other humans I met. Distinctly human, but your blood was always richer."
"Is it still rich?"
Lenore opened her mouth, but stopped. A crash echoed from the bathroom. Inside, he could hear Dean thrashing around, moans and growls, inhuman. Sam dropped his train of thought and started to stand, but she motioned for him to sit.
"The urges hit the new ones hardest," Lenore explained. "It will take some time to calm him."
"It won't matter because we're turning him back."
Lenore said nothing.
Before Sam had a chance to interrogate her, Dean reappeared from the bathroom. For a second, Sam barely recognized him. His face had paled considerably since the morning, while his eyes had an otherworldly gleam. Something dark and heavy hovered around him, permeating his body. His skin had been scrubbed, but his chin still had the stain of blood.
Sam shifted uneasily. There was something ominous in Dean. Worse, Sam didn't like the reflection he saw when he looked into his brother's eyes.
Dean walked over to the table where Lenore and Sam sat. He glanced down at the jar of dead man's blood, and then back to the cure as he wiped his dirtied hands on a face cloth.
"You're a mess," Lenore said. "I've taught teenagers with more restraint than you."
Dean wouldn't look at her. "So, what we got?"
"Lenore's here because of the vampire nest in town. That's all I've got so far."
"Friends of yours?" Dean asked, tossing the bloodied towel in the trash.
"So, what? Some kind of gang fight?" Dean asked.
She sighed. "They won't leave us alone. It's getting harder to fight it."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sam asked.
"Ask your brother. I'm sure he can feel it."
Sam turned to Dean. Some of the old irritation Sam was used to flooded his face. What a relief.
"Dammit, I knew it was different."
"What?" Sam hated being out of the loop.
"This hunger. Man, it was bad the first time, but today it's like the extreme sports of cravings."
"We're all feeling it," Lenore admitted. "It's getting harder to keep the urges at bay." She sighed and looked down at her hands. "We're losing too many to madness."
Pushed into hunger-driven insanity. Sam imagined the streets filled with vampires that had lost their senses, destroying and feeding on anyone in sight. It would be like Croatoan virus with fangs.
"Why?" Sam asked. He looked to Dean to jump in, but his brother kept uncharacteristically quiet with his arms crossed. "Why is this happening?"
Lenore nodded, confirming his fears. So Eve was instigating the vampires into episodes of uncontrollable hunger. Sam glanced at Dean to gauge his reaction, but Dean's face remained locked in cold silence.
"No, she isn't here," Lenore said to Sam. "Just her pets."
"That doesn't make sense," Sam said. "Why would she push you to recruit only to push you to feed?"
That was the big question. And from the intense glare on Dean's face, Sam knew he wanted to know as well.
Finally, after a long silence, Lenore spoke. "It's revenge. We won't join her. She's punishing us through her group of lackeys."
Now it was making sense. "You didn't come here to help us. You came here to ask for our help."
"I won't surrender. We worked too hard to blend in. I'm not going to cater to some other group's whim. But I can't stand by and let my family collapse. I have lost too many to this lemming's magic. Here, in this town, they have tools that are making us hungry. We have to stop them."
Sam and Dean glanced at each other. The magic word--tools--hadn't escaped Dean's hearing either.
"So this feeding problem is localized?" Sam asked.
Lenore nodded. "Any vampire in this town can feel it." She scoffed, barely looking at Dean. "And, apparently, any vampire-like creature."
Dean narrowed his eyes.
"Why not just leave?" Sam asked.
"This is our home. I won't leave." She stood. "Why must we be driven from our home?"
Sam couldn't deny Lenore's passion. For so long, he had just wanted a stable life away from all of the craziness, the blood, and the monsters. It was his own way of creating his own home. He had been running from who he was for so many years he nearly had missed out on his real home. Now that the apocalypse was behind them, he never wanted to let go of that home again.
"No." Dean's icy glare cut straight through him. "No way in hell."
"Are we going to do nothing?" Sam asked.
"We're not doing this."
"Many of your kind will die," Lenore said. "You need to do this. I will keep you supplied and well fed. We shall strike this evening. This is for our mutual benefit."
"Benefit?" Dean unfurled his arms and faced Lenore. "I go out there, and I'm a danger to everyone in town."
"You stay here and do nothing, and you're a danger to your brother. We're going to need to feed again and you don't have the stamina that the rest of us have. You'll cave by tomorrow and become one of them."
"So, we'll leave town," Sam said.
"Too late. We're all infected. If any of us leave, the craving will carry with us. Your brother will have fed on you before you've left the county."
Dean shook his head and turned to the wall. Sam could only guess what was going through his head.
They were backed into a corner. Sam didn't like either option, and the third unspoken choice wasn't an option Sam would even consider. They didn't even know if the cure would work. They needed to buy time. Sam knew it. Dean knew it.
Lenore knew it.
Sam looked her directly in the eyes. "What do you want us to do?"
"This is a bad plan."
"Well, if you have a better one, then I'm all ears," Sam said. Dean just gave him a look before shoving one of their machetes in a large bag.
Sam didn't like the plan either. Infiltrating the nest wasn't going to work. A full out attack wouldn't work. Instead, they would play the role of bait in the park on the outskirts of town.
Sam ran his fingers over the bag of powdered vampire blood and other assorted herbs that Lenore had given him. He needed to set it on fire and let the smoke overcome the pack. According to Lenore, the odor from the burning powder would cancel out whatever magic was being used to drive the vampires mad. He was taking a gamble. Sam didn't see how one little bag could render their magic hold on the rebels useless.
If only the cure had worked. Dean had tried it as soon as Lenore had gone to regroup with what was left of her family. It had left him sick and hungrier than before, the last thing they needed.
Now it was about finding a way to keep Dean's cravings at bay while they worked on finding a way to fix him. This was their best option.
After Sam pocketed the bag, he noticed Dean watching him over his shoulder. His face was becoming more and more difficult to read, and his eyes would occasionally roam down to Sam's collarbone, all of which concerned Sam, but he tried not to dwell on it.
"Why didn't you stop me before?" Dean asked. "That could have been human blood, and we'd have been screwed."
"I trust you," Sam said simply. "If it was human blood, you'd have known right away. You wouldn't have taken it."
Dean gave an unconvinced nod and went back to packing.
That feeding had been hours ago. Now, Sam wasn't so sure Dean would have made the same choice.
Since Lenore had left, Sam and Dean had used a mix of saffron, skunk cabbage, and trillium to mask the motel room and the Impala. Sam had even backtracked and dusted some of the ashes around the neighborhood. By now, it wouldn't do much good except to throw the vampires off for a few hours.
"I hate that smell," Dean muttered. "I feel like someone took two stink bombs and shoved them up my nose."
"That's the idea."
"At least you don't smell like sirloin anymore."
Sam would count that as a win.
The clock struck three. They still had several hours to the showdown in Lafayette Park. Sam stayed at the table and poked around his computer as Dean sat off in the corner and shut his eyes. He wasn't sure if it was hunger or just general daytime tiredness affecting his brother, but Sam would give him some space either way.
Over the next hour, Sam checked the news and a few local websites, but there were no additional reports of violence or theft in the area. Whatever the vampires were up to, they were keeping quiet about it.
Sam considered their instability. He wondered just how many were on the brink of madness and how many had already lost it. He knew that as the hours ticked away, Dean would become more and more unstable, like the rest of the vampires. Maybe even Lenore. Dean had insisted Sam keep the dead man's blood ready just in case he stopped acting like himself. Sam didn't want to attack either of them. He had to have faith Dean wouldn't turn on him.
But it was always good to have a backup plan.
He clicked out of the websites and brought up some of the files saved to his desktop.
"Don't be messing around with that journal," Dean said, his eyes still closed.
Sam scoffed. "Right. Like I would do that."
Dean cracked an eye open. "You gonna lie to a vampire?"
Sam scooted the computer a little closer. "I think you know me better than that."
"I do, and you don't ever let anything go." Both eyes opened. "And your heart is a dead giveaway."
With a sigh, Sam slapped the laptop shut. Looking into what had happened over the past year was a bad idea. He was acutely aware of what could happen. Still, he was dying to know. He needed to clean his hands.
Dean was standing.
Sam stood in turn, his fingers close to the syringe of dean man's blood he kept handy. "Hungry?"
Dean shook his head. He stopped at the window and peeked through the blinds. "It's getting cloudy. I smell rain."
That was great. Sam had been counting on the last rays of sunlight to keep Dean and the rest lethargic until they reached the park. Too many unknown variables were in play and he hated it. He wondered how his soulless self would have handled the situation.
Maybe he didn't want to know.
"I was thinking. Maybe I should go this one alone."
Sam blinked. "What? No, we decided to go together."
"You're a walking buffet, and I'm everybody's favorite new toy. You can't go."
Sam patted the bag. "I can take care of myself."
"I could snap. I almost--" He shook his head as he turned his back to Sam.
"We made it through the Apocalypse. We can make it through this. Whatever we do, we're doing it together."
After a long pause, Dean sucked in a deep breath and grabbed one of their bags. "All right then. Pack up. I'll meet you outside."
Sam eyed his brother closely. "Why? What are you going to do?"
Dean's gaze fell to the cooler Lenore had left on the window sill. "Gotta take care of some business first."
Sam got the point. If anyone would understand the embarrassment and shame associated with blood drinking, it would be him.
He grabbed the other bag of weapons and the syringes he'd filled earlier. "I'll be right outside."
Sam waited on the walkway in front of their motel room. A few of the people in nearby rooms would occasionally walk by, wrinkle their noses, and quickly scurry off. Other than that, the lot stayed quiet.
Dean had been right. The clouds rolled in, threatening rain. Thick humidity clung to the air; the sky could open up at any minute. Still, some sun remained, the light fading with every passing moment as dusk overcame the day.
Once twenty minutes had passed, Sam felt a spark of nervousness hit him. Something familiar about this entire scenario was nagging at the tip of his brain, and for some unexplained reason, he kept thinking about vampires having to pee.
"Dean?" He knocked at the door. "Hey, Dean."
Before Sam knew what he was doing, he charged into the room.
The window was open, wind blowing at the curtains.
Sam's heart skipped a beat. No way would Dean ditch him. He checked the kitchenette. He scanned the room. He stopped at the bathroom.
A pool of blood had collected at the doorway.
He ran into the entrance to the bathroom. Dean was leaning against the wall, eyes closed, with one of his legs propped up on the toilet. In his left hand, he held a half drained sack of cow's blood. The cooler sat on the bathroom counter, open, only two sacks left. Three empty ones dripped down the doors under the sink.
"It's not working," Dean said in a low voice. "I'm still hungry."
"Maybe you need more. We'll get you more."
He shook his head. "I can hear your heart. Everywhere."
Dean's eyes held a feverish gleam. Sam flipped up the collar of his jacket.
"Let's go, Dean."
He snorted. "You crazy? I can't be in the car with you."
"I'll chance it."
Sam sighed. "The longer we argue about this, the more time passes. We need to do this, and we need to do this now. This is our only window. So suck it up. We're going."
Dean took a deep breath and nodded. He tossed the half-filled sack into the trash and snapped the cooler shut. Sam noticed Dean took the cooler with them anyway. Whatever worked on keeping him focused.
"Okay," Dean said. "Let's get this show on the road."
The car ride was agonizing. Sam had insisted on driving, which left Dean to squirm in the passenger's seat. Driving would have kept Dean's mind off other distractions, but Sam wouldn't hear it.
Dean strummed the top of the cooler. The blood was beyond disgusting. He didn't want to even be near it anymore.
But Sam's heart sounded strong and healthy. He liked to sit and listen to the rhythm of the blood as it flowed through his body. Dean decided it was the most wonderful thing he'd ever heard, like if all of his favorite bands got together to jam.
He bet it tasted awesome.
Burgers were good. Would Sam taste better than Mike's double-bacon cheeseburger with special sauce? Maybe the demon blood gave the blood a different flavor. He wouldn't know. He'd never tasted human blood. Sam would know.
So he asked him. When Sam freaked out on him, Dean figured now wasn't the right time to ask.
He kept to himself the rest of the short ride and played a game in his head of how many flavors of people there could be out there.
"We're here," Sam finally said.
"It's about time," Dean muttered. "I thought I was going to go crazy in there."
"I think you did."
If Dean's cheeks could blush with shame, they would have. He hopped out of the Impala and popped the trunk. He grabbed his bag and passed Sam the other.
"You got that dead man's blood ready?"
Sam held up three syringes. "The rest is in the bag."
"I do anything nuts, you stick me with that, got it?"
"Or the darts. We got plenty of those."
"Yeah, I said I got it."
"Good. Now let's get this stink off us."
The two of them scrubbed off the ashes from their clothes. Dean knew it had worked when Sam's scent came through loud and clear.
Dean sucked in a deep breath and drank in the aroma. He just wanted to move closer, inhale a little bit more. When he took a step toward Sam, he suddenly stopped, feeling a shift in the wind. The scent of rain hung heavy in the air, but that wasn't it. Ten. No twenty vampires were approaching. He could smell them. They weren't Lenore's. How had they known they were coming? He and Sam hadn't even set the trap yet. Dean took another sniff. A different smell. Lavender, but not Lenore.
"Something's wrong," Dean said to Sam. He scanned the trees. Once he saw their faces, he would match the scent and make sure he followed the bastards until they were dead.
He snatched another whiff. "They're here. We got a turncoat."
They both dove for their bags. Out came the machetes, darts, and syringes. Dean hadn't finished covering his hands with protective gloves when the pack emerged from the forest.
"Well, howdy," Dean said. "You're early."
A tall, thin man, obviously the leader, sauntered ahead with a smile. "Sam and Dean Winchester." He clapped his hands, his multi-layered bracelets and amulet jingling with the motion. "Boy, have we heard a lot about you."
"Fancy that. We're famous," Dean said.
"I hope our reputation preceded us," Sam added.
"It has. And funny, none of us here are quaking in our boots."
The leader's arrogance was already starting to grate. Dean missed the days when vamps were cocky and scared, not cocky and a pain in the ass.
"'Fraid we didn't get your name," Dean said.
"People call me Linus." He grinned, his human teeth stained a bright red. "We got some good times planned. First, though, I thought we'd have a little chat."
"Ain't the chatting type. Are we, Sam?"
"I think we can persuade you or else we'll start dinner a little early." One of the vampires smiled at Sam and licked his lips.
Sam didn't even blink. He flexed his fingers around his machete and stayed beside Dean. His heart was beating faster and Dean found himself edging a step closer.
"Human, vampire, human, vampire. How does that work?" Linus said. He touched his amulet and studied Dean.
"Why does it matter?" asked Sam.
"Am I talking to you, lunch?"
Sam bristled, but didn't reply. His intense stare burrowed into the pack. Searching. Dean knew that look. What was Sam up to?
Sam took a subtle dip toward Dean and whispered, "Stall them."
The muscles in Sam's neck moved as he talked, making the veins seem even fatter than normal. Dean's gums itched.
He shook off the feeling. Great. Sam had a plan, and he wasn't sharing. They were supposed to stick to Lenore's idiotic idea. God knew what improvisation Sam was up to this time. Dammit, that was his job.
"Hey, man, I go with the flow," Dean said, watching each vampire. He counted twelve, which meant eight were missing, including Lenore's little traitor. Their scent lingered out in the forest, somewhere, though Dean was having a hard time pinning it down. Sam's heart was just too damn loud.
"That's some trick," Linus said. "Father would have thought it amusing. But not Mother. Doesn't want her children getting silly ideas."
"Lucky the bitch ain't my mom."
Linus' lip twitched. Now that hit the spot.
"I thought it'd be interesting to have a hunter batting for our team, especially one of you. But I'm done. You, Lenore, and her little peons can do the work for us before we wipe you out. Mother is done with this little experiment." He rubbed the hollow amulet around his neck. "Enjoy your last meal."
The pain in his gut spiked, nearly bringing him to his knees. Dean clutched his gut and moaned.
He was hungry. So hungry.
All around him there was an intoxicating scent, heavy in the air, and he knew right then that he needed to have it. Screw restraint. No one was going to get in his way. It was his. It belonged to him.
Dean cried out and grabbed his machete.
The vampires didn't stand a chance. He hacked at anyone that came close. He thought he heard Sam somewhere through the haze of red, but the pounding was too strong. Too inviting. Too delicious.
He was losing. God, he was losing it.
"Sam!" he cried.
If his brother had any common sense, he'd book it now before it was too late.
By the time Lenore and her pack came, it would be over. And that was if they came. Sam was beginning to have some serious doubts about her claims.
To make matters worse, he could see the bloodlust growing in all of the vampires, minus the leader. Dean had started to fidget. Sam didn't even think he noticed.
Dean and Linus continued their verbal pissing contest, which was exactly what Sam needed. He had known something was off from the very start, and now he knew his suspicions were true.
Black magic. The bracelets and amulet weren't for show. They were driving this whole conflict. Whatever Lenore was trying with the powdered blood, she was wrong. Nothing would work until they got rid of Linus' special amulet.
"Dean! Aim for the amulet!"
The vampires broke out into a frenzy, bolting straight for him. Fangs extended, they charged in mindless hunger, some from the pack that had entered with Linus, more that had been hiding in the shadows. They thrashed, content to destroy each other just for a taste of blood.
Dean slaughtered them.
Sam jumped back as Dean hacked away with wild abandon, tearing each vampire into pieces. He had never seen his brother act with such ferocity and unbridled power.
As the blood sprayed in every direction, Sam weaved in and out of the mess, careful not to accidentally swallow any of the drops that pelted him. Grabbing some darts and two of the syringes with his free hand, Sam ran after the leader.
Behind them, the battle raged on. Sam dared not look back. The sounds of blood gurgling, knives slicing and cutting, topped by Dean's grunts were motivation enough to keep him running.
Linus was a coward. He wouldn't stay to watch his own kind destroy each other.
The path narrowed. All around him, the forest went dead, not a single sound. Vampires were in the trees. He knew it. The uncomfortable silence of being watched clung to him like a heavy coat.
He had little time.
Sam stopped, gauged the distance between himself and the leader, and blew his first dart. It hit Linus square between the shoulder blades.
From his vantage point, Sam saw Linus stumble. He took out a syringe and called back. "Dean! Dean, we--"
Dean threw Sam against the nearest tree and hissed. His fangs were fully extended. The hunger raged in his face like an animal.
When he looked into Dean's eyes, Sam realized he wasn't staring at Dean at all. There was something else in there, something more twisted than any vampire they had met. This wasn't the face of a man who was tormented by his curse to feed. This was magic at its darkest.
Sam pushed Dean back as far as he could, using the last of his strength to keep the chopping jaws away.
Dean wasn't giving it his all. Vampires were stronger than this. That gave Sam hope, but he knew it wouldn't last long.
"Dean, listen to me. This isn't you. Linus is using magic to change the vampires into something else. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's true. It's affecting you, but it's not you." Sam winced and struggled to breathe as Dean pressed him harder against the trunk and nearly knocked the syringe out of his immobile hand. Dean's toothy grin was filled with malice.
"It's me. It's Sam. I know you can hear me." Sam glanced at his pinned hand and the syringe dangling well out of useful range. All Dean needed to do was shake him once more for him to lose his grip completely. He swallowed and looked back to Dean.
A deeper hunger flickered in his eyes. No recognition. No response. Just pure hunger.
"I know you don't want to do this. Not when we've started to be brothers again."
Dean went for the kill.
It happened to be the kill Sam wasn't expecting.
Dean grabbed the syringe from Sam's hands, and before his teeth could puncture Sam's neck, Dean drove the needle deep into his own thigh. He cried out, just for a second, before the dead man's blood made him drop like a stone.
"Go get the son of a bitch." The words came out in a threaded, breathless whisper.
Dean passed out.
Sam had every intention of doing just that.
He took out another syringe and raced to where he had last seen Linus. The darts were powerful, but nothing like a fully loaded shot of dead man's blood straight to the system.
Sam found him stumbling through a thicket. Carefully, Sam unsheathed the blade from his side and approached the vampire in a slow creep.
Linus was laughing. "Still the hunted. But not for long. Not for long at all. You kill me and it won't stop her. We're still going to rise."
Linus charged, but Sam caught him with the syringe. As Linus fell into the nearest tree, Sam raised the machete and took off his head in one clean stroke. The necklace slid off the neck stump in a slick whoosh.
Sam rammed the heel of his shoe into the crystal amulet until he heard a distinctive crunch under foot. A wave of heat, like the warm undercurrent of the ocean, rippled out from the amulet into the forest. Behind him, confused moans and whines of hunger were carried with the waves.
A steady rain poured down from the night sky.
He trudged back toward the clearing where the heart of the showdown had taken place. The rain washed away the blood, leaving little rivets of pink to trickle into the brushes. Sam frowned. He had never stopped to consider the effects diluted vampire blood might have on vegetation.
Sam slicked back his wet hair when he broke into the middle of the clearing. He was surprised to find Lenore and some of her family tending to the gory mess, as well as an unconscious Dean.
"You're late," Sam said. The water ran down his blade.
Lenore briefly glanced up from the wound she had been tending to on Dean's arm. She shielded her eyes from the rain. "We were stopped by some lurkers in the forest. My people have taken care of them."
"Don't believe me." She shrugged. "It doesn't change what happened."
Whether Lenore came in time or not, she was right. Linus and his pack had been destroyed, along with his black magic amulet. Vampires and black magic. He never thought he would see the day.
"We need to get your brother back to the motel room to burn off the poison. When he awakens, he will be hungry." She rested Dean back on the muddy ground. "Did you burn the powder?"
"I'll take care of Dean." Sam reached into his pocket, grabbed the plastic bag, and tossed it to Lenore. "What's it really for?"
"You did not burn it?"
"I figured it was the amulet driving the hunger problem when I saw the head vampire touch the surface. Every time he did, the vampires around him would become more agitated. I knew we only needed to break the amulet to make it stop."
Lenore said nothing.
"The bracelets protected their leader. Similar to the ones on your wrists right now."
A spark of anger flashed through her usual cool eyes.
That told Sam more than enough.
He secured his grip on the machete and pointed it to her chest. "I suggest you give me the truth before you end up like the rest of them."
"Threatening me, Sam Winchester? After I've helped your brother?"
"Helped?" He chuckled. "Not even close. It's no coincidence you show up when he started to change. Now, undo whatever you did to him."
Lenore stood. "I do what I can to protect my family, to protect my freedom. Surely, you would do the same."
"Not this way. Not anymore."
The wind whipped between them, driving the cold, stinging rain into Sam's eyes. He didn't back down.
"My family is dying. They are fleeing to join our mother. I needed more allies. They would have been more compliant." She raised her chin. "Being with me would be better than Linus, than being a slave to hunger. I wouldn't hurt your kind."
"Funny way of making allies. All you had to do was ask."
She looked away.
"It would have affected Dean too, wouldn't it?"
When she returned her gaze to Sam, her eyes were cold and unforgiving. "I don't understand the obsession with being human. We're better. Dean could be better."
"You wouldn't understand. You can't. You lost your humanity long ago." He took a step closer. "Now tell me how to fix Dean."
"Promise me you will leave me and my family alone and I'll tell you what you need."
Sam was long done with making deals, and right now Lenore was at the bottom of his happy-to-see list.
He gazed at Dean. His brother was still unconscious from the power of the dead man's blood. He thought about the future, how Dean would refuse to live in limbo, halfway between human and monster. No matter how many excuses Sam made. No matter how many rules Sam bent. Dean wouldn't accept it.
Sam lowered the blade. "Deal."
Dean winced as his eyes adjusted to the dim light in the room. His head pounded worse than the time he'd gotten wasted on tequila with that rancher's daughter south of Albuquerque.
The pain was so great the room looked red.
"Ugh, I feel like I've been hit with a freight train."
"Good morning, sunshine."
Dean frowned and lifted his head. "Damn." The room looked like it had been hit by a hurricane. There were clothes strewn across the floor, the bureau, and table. Drawers were open and shut, the lamp shade slightly tilted, and the TV had seen better days. Sam stood in the center of it all.
"Have a party last night without me?"
"If only. How are you feeling?"
Dean swallowed. The light stung his eyes, and he could still hear fragments of the quarrel going on next door.
He collapsed back into bed. "Super."
"It'll take some time to sweat out the dead man's blood."
"You did pump the whole syringe into yourself. Dumb move, by the way."
"Saved your sorry ass. You'd have been dinner and dessert."
"You wouldn't have killed me."
Sam said it so matter-of-fact, but Dean had been so close he could almost taste his blood. The craving was still there, lurking under the surface, even if it wasn't as urgent as before. Dean would give anything to come off that high.
He covered his face and let out a heavy sigh. "What happened after I blacked out?"
"I killed Linus and destroyed the amulet." Sam paused. "And I gave you this."
Dean lifted his head again. Sam was holding up a small vial filled with blue stuff.
"You poisoned me?"
"You poisoned you. This is the cure."
Yeah, Dean wasn't buying that. "Your heart is pumping like a well-oiled machine. That's no cure."
"It'll take some time to kick in. I think the dead man's blood is slowing it down," Sam said. "It will make any of the vampire virus active in your system permanently dormant."
"So I'm told."
Dean didn't like that answer. "What if you were told wrong?"
"Then we'll cross that bridge when we get there."
"That's not good enough for me, Sammy."
"It's going to have to be."
The two glared at each other.
Feeling too tired to fight, Dean flopped back down and sighed. "Where'd you get it?"
"Same person who made this mess in the first place." He glanced at the table.
Dean turned to the table beside Sam. Next to his laptop, there was a large plastic bag with two sprigs neatly wrapped inside. Dean didn't have a clue what herbs or plants they were, but he knew it was bad news. The wrappings had all the markings of magic, and some heavy stuff at that. Ruby level crap.
And since there was no more Ruby…
Lenore. It had to be. Man, that chick had some serious nerve.
"Bitch set me up."
"I found one in the Impala and the other under your pillow. They must have triggered the virus in your bloodstream."
"Magic? Seriously, we're talking magic?"
Sam nodded. "And before you say anything, the cure's legit. Just trust me on it."
"You're taking recipes from Vampy Crocker and I'm supposed to be okay with that?"
Hunter recipes were one thing. Magic brews from Sam's secret stash were something else altogether. "Come on, Sam."
"Why? For all we know this could make me howl at the moon."
"Because I told her if she didn't set things right, I'd come wipe out her family personally." He smiled.
Dean shivered. He wasn't sure if it was the poison or the fact that when Sam smiled liked that, he looked like his soulless doppelganger. Sam trusting vamps and feeling bad for them one minute, and off threatening them the next. Dean needed Sam to stop being a yo-yo.
Though when he studied Sam, he saw none of the deadness, the cool detachment that had been the core of the other thing posing as his brother. He didn't want to tell Sam, but even now he was having a hard time getting used to Sam's soul being back, of trusting it to be real. He got his brother back. He didn't want it to be some sick, cosmic joke.
Sitting there, hearing the loyalty and sense of justice in Sam's voice, and seeing the determination in his face, helped ease some of that pain. His brother got his soul back. Dean wasn't about to let him crash because of hellish mess trapped in his head. And he was never letting that other soulless thing return.
First step out of this joint was to delete those files on Sam's laptop. For now…he didn't have a clue what to do next. Dean hated feeling off-balance.
He reached into his mouth and scraped at the tip of one of his fangs. It felt loose.
"Don't pick at it."
"What the hell am I supposed to do?"
"Just rest and let it work through your system."
"Or you can clean this mess."
Dean just groaned and covered his eyes with the crook of his arm.
As he lay there, he listened to the world around him. Someone was making some coffee. There was the snap of a bra--nice--and a kid crying over burnt toast. He could hear the trickle of water as it missed the clogged gutter and a mouse gnawing on some of the wiring in the wall. Sam remained the constant. His heartbeat was faster than it should be, but steady as he worked on straightening the motel room. Dean didn't feel anything for it either way.
He nodded off some time after that as he listened to Sam's heart. As the minutes ticked by, it had become fainter and fainter until he could barely hear it at all. By the time he woke, there was blissful silence all around him.
Slowly, Dean sat up. The room dipped, but after a few blinks and deep breaths, the furniture and walls righted themselves. He picked at the damp clothes that stuck to his skin. The bed smelled like mud, grass, sweat, and blood. Dean took a whiff at his armpit.
"Man, that's ripe."
Sam looked up from his computer. "Tell me about it. You stink." Once Dean had managed to stand on shaky legs, Sam shut the computer's top and leaned back. "How're you feeling?"
"Like crap, but human." Dean grimaced, reached into his mouth, and pulled out a stray fang. Gross. He made a face and threw it across the room. "We should probably hit the road."
"Yeah, after you shower. I'm not staying trapped in a car with you when you smell like gym socks. I'll pack up our stuff."
"But you'll stay in a car with a vampire. Unbelievable."
"I have standards."
Dean shook his head. He was glad Sam was back, but, man, his brother was strange.
He realized he'd take strange any day.
"Vampires messing with magic?" Dean whistled. "Things just get better and better." He grabbed some clothes and headed toward the bathroom.
"No more rules," Sam said. "Makes you wonder what else will happen."
Dean didn't want to think about it.
Not even twenty minutes later, the two of them were on the road out of Brownsville and heading to Bobby's. Though Dean knew he was well enough to drive, Sam insisted on taking the wheel again. Dean was starting to think he was finding excuses on purpose.
But at least they were together and that was all that mattered.
They didn't say anything for the next couple of hours. Dean rolled the window down and let the cool breeze filter into the Impala. It was just him, Sam, and good music on the open road. For those couple of hours, they didn't feel like hunters or freaks. Just two brothers hitting the road, as normal as apple pie or any other schmuck on the planet.
And it tasted good.