Characters: Dean, OC (with appearances by Sam, Bobby, and Castiel)
Rating:PG-13 for language, violence, and one mature scene in chapter 1
Spoilers:Season 5, bridges episode 5.02 Good God, Ya'll to episode 5.04 The End.
Summary:Hunting isn't something Dean can simply quit. Even if his family walks away; he's survived worse than loneliness. He's survived Hell. But when an ancient and dangerous breed of vampires and a mysterious hunter cross his path, Dean learns that Hell was just the beginning.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Title of the story comes from a 30 Seconds To Mars song of the same name.
Warning: This story is definitely PG-13 and might be considered borderline R in some parts for language, violence, and one mature scene in the first chapter. I trust you know your tolerance level.
Author's Notes: I decided to post chapters 2 and 3 together as one builds into the other and they are shorter than the rest. Chapter 4 will be coming in a week. Hope to see you then!
Does it feel like we've never been alive?
Does it seem like it's only just begun?
Does it feel like we've never been alive inside?
Does it seem it's only just begun?
30 Seconds to Mars, R-Evolve
It had been awhile since Noah had been angry. Felt any sort of emotion other than a desperate focus on the mission. On finding that nest. On taking them all out. Every last one, ensuring that he was the one to end it.
He'd had such a singular intent for so many years he hadn't had time to cultivate any sort of connection with people in general. He spoke when he needed to, used people when necessary, depended on no one. He worked alone. He was comfortable with that; it was necessary. Having some hunter – no matter how long he'd been at this – get in the way of his primary objective was twisting Noah up inside.
He'd run several blocks, trying to burn off that anger, the chilled air burning his lungs, T-shirt sweat-stuck to his heated skin along the valley of his spine and across his chest. His dog tags bounced uncomfortably against his sternum until he grabbed them and stuffed them down inside his shirt. It wasn't until he reached a block of parallel parked cars that he finally stopped.
Taking a breath, Noah tried to calm the rush of blood slamming behind his eyes, sending his senses reeling. He moved down the line of cars, trying the door handles. He was too close for that kid to fuck this up now…he'd been looking for too long. He'd come across other hunters, working around them and avoiding them. He hadn't needed someone's help since—
A door handle gave beneath his grip and Noah slid behind the wheel, pulling the wires from beneath the steering column free to trigger the ignition. If that kid was going to head to the school, then Noah would get there ahead of him. In all the years he'd been tracking this pack, he knew they had picked the same victims types over and over again – but once they sensed someone got a fix on them, they moved on.
He knew the kid was onto something; the problem was that he didn't realize how big this was. It wasn't just one vamp, or a dozen vamps. It was a hundred. Two hundred. Even Noah didn't know how many they'd grown to, this nest. All he knew is that they were relentless, taking on more than they could sustain, looking for victims to assimilate, to feed on….
They destroyed lives and broke hearts and ended futures without prejudice.
And no matter what, Noah knew he had to be there when the hornet's nest was kicked. But first, he needed to stock up on supplies. He pulled into the parking lot at the White Pine Inn, surprise turning to grudging respect when he recognized the black Chevy parked in a space several down from him.
He got out of his stolen car, staring at the hunter's vehicle, wondering how he managed to stay under the radar driving a monster like that.
"Not exactly a stealth-mobile," he muttered.
Turning, Noah made his way to the office and asked the front desk clerk if the city Medical Examiner had sent something over for him. The anger that had flared hot not an hour ago resurfaced when she told him that his partner had picked it up for him.
"Ah, right," he bounced his fist on the edge of the counter. "I forgot I'd asked him to do that. Remind me what room he's in?"
"I'm…not supposed to give out that information, sir," the girl replied, hesitant, eyes darting around the empty lobby. "You can call him, though." She reached for the desk phone.
Noah shook his head. "Not a problem. I'm sure I'll be able to find him," he smiled at her, letting it warm his eyes.
"I suppose…since you're a cop," she said, leaning forward and looking at her room list. "Detective Buckner's in 131…just a few rooms down from you."
He turned his smile up a few degrees and winked at her. "Thanks."
Returning to his room, he changed from his denim jacket to the leather motorcycle jacket he'd taken off of a dead vamp three years ago—the last time he'd been this close to the nest—and slid a flask filled with Holy water, a small but effective machete, the silver-tipped wooden stake, and his Beretta filled with silver bullets into various compartments and hiding places inside the jacket lining.
Then he waited.
He'd perfected the art of waiting, able to sit for long stretches of time perfectly still. He liked the quiet, the peace of listening to his own heartbeat. The noise of life was sometimes so overpowering, he got lost inside of it. He needed to know where he was, remember who he was, at all times. He needed to know who was around him. He did that best when the world was quiet, though that happened so rarely.
As the daylight was starting to fade, the world taking on the dusky hue of twilight, he heard the roar of an engine. Peeking out through the curtains of his hotel room, he saw the black Chevy backing out of the lot. He knew exactly how long it would take the kid to get to the school, and how many minutes he could shave off that time by cutting through the woods. A bit of an unorthodox approach when there wasn't exactly a road through the woods, but what did he care?
It wasn't his car.
He pulled the thin leather gloves from his pockets and slipped them on as a precaution. Some hunters were scary in their paranoia. Heading down to room 131, he picked the lock – thankful that the White Pine Inn still usedactual keys – and slipped inside, stepping carefully over a line of salt along the threshold of the doorway. The room smelled of gun oil, leather, and whiskey. He could also pick up the scent of Ivory soap and surmised the kid had showered and changed out of his fake detective suit before leaving.
There wasn't much in the way of clues as to who this kid was; aside from a duffel bag and a stack of folders that Noah knew had been meant for him. Fingering open the duffel, he saw clothes rolled up in tight, military fashion. He glanced around the room once more. There was nothing else to indicate the kid was military…might just be the result of the nomadic life of a hunter. He opened the duffel wider and saw a leather-bound journal.
Lifting it out of the duffel, Noah fanned through the pages, eyes widening slightly at the history of supernatural creatures captured within. Toward the end of the journal, the handwriting changed and he realized that someone had picked up the torch, carrying it forward. Flipping back to the back, he saw a list of names and numbers, one that sparked a memory: Bobby Singer.
"Singer," he whispered.
He'd known a Bobby Singer. A long time ago. Young guy, very angry. Thought he could tackle the supernatural the way he'd once tackled the Viet Cong. Could this be the same guy?
He hadn't found the kid's name, though he did have a better appreciation for his experience. There was a stillness about the room – more than just being devoid of people. There was…loss here. Noah recalled sensing this hunter was minus a partner. His eyes slid to the second bed in the room, wondering if he might be onto something with this hunter. Wondering if there was something more than just the shared drive to rid the world of evil that drove this kid.
A quick glance at the clock on the nightstand told him that he needed to get a move on if he was going to beat the kid there. He'd have to come back for the files from the M.E.
Noah bumped and rattled his stolen car across the rough terrain between the trees after cutting across the highway. Night came quickly to the woods, but he had excellent vision in the dark. His eyes bounced back and forth across the windshield as he cut through the trees and clearings to reach the rear entrance of the main campus church.
He stopped there, getting out of the car, and slipping along the side of the building. Cloud cover blocked the moonlight, but he knew that the gibbous moon wouldn't have offered him much help. He'd spent so many of his nights looking for those who would ruin the day, he'd become quite familiar with the way the darkness breathed.
"Where would you start looking, kid?" he whispered.
His eyes tracked along the walkway outside of the church, up the hill to the small campus village, then down the path to where the classes were held. Campuses made him melancholy – mostly because they seemed to be such prime hunting grounds for the supernatural.
He always found himself wondering what the victims he came across had wanted to be, what they'd planned on becoming when they'd first arrived on campus. The endless possibilities of a finite life. The innocence of youth. The excitement of new beginnings.
Noah's blood pumped through his veins with renewed force; he could almost hear its rush as he moved quietly through the buildings, listening, looking, watching for the young hunter. It was the smell that triggered him first: the smell of death.
Something was feeding.
"Let him go."
Noah stiffened at the sound of the hunter's voice; he turned to stand in the shadowed entrance of an alley. He could see everything from here: the hunter stood with a machete facing off against a heavyset, dark-haired vamp that was in the process of subduing a dewy-eyed male student and, presumably, haul him off to the nest.
The nest Noah needed to find.
"Hey, Baldy – you deaf?" The hunter rotated his knife in the palm of his hand, his body tense, his knees bent. "I said let him go."
Noah saw that the kid was ready for a fight. It surprised him that he'd tracked the vamp so quickly; it was as if he'd known where to look when Noah knew that was impossible. Even he hadn't known where the vamp would be and he'd been hunting them for longer than he wanted to remember. The kid had to just be incredibly lucky.
"You amuse me, hunter," the vampire hissed, not yet regressed to the primeval language that made them impossible to understand. Noah drew further back into the shadows.
"I'm flattered. Now drop him," the hunter ordered, his voice leaving no quarter.
The vampire hissed again, a deep, guttural sound that made Noah's heart clench, his belly turning to liquid. He recognized that call. There were more out there, feeding, searching. Within hearing distance. The hunter was toast unless Noah stepped in pretty qui—
Noah blinked, awed by how fast the kid moved. Between one breath and the next, the victim was pulled from the vampire's grip, held loosely against the hunter's body as the vamp's shoulders were relieved of the weight of its head. Gaping, Noah watched as the hunter set the groggy, wounded boy down, tipping him back against the building.
"Hey," the hunter said, tapping the boy's cheeks. "Listen to me. You are having a totally fucked up dream and you are never going to try 'shrooms again, got it?"
The boy nodded, his pale face tense as he closed his eyes tightly.
"Get up now and go straight back to your dorm," the hunter ordered, gripping the front of the boy's hoodie with one hand, his other pressing the hood to the boy's neck to staunch the flow of blood. "Do not pass Go, do not collect $200."
"'kay," the boy rasped.
Noah watched as the kid hauled the boy to his feet, turning him and pointing him away from danger. "Go!" he ordered, watching as the boy stumbled away.
Noah felt them approaching, heard the hissing voices, smelled the rotted-earth stench that always made him want to gag. He knew there were more nearby. Knew they'd felt their kinsman meet his death. Knew they'd be coming for him – for him and for the young hunter. He turned, stepping out of the shadow to find the hunter, his focus completely on warning him, when he was slammed from behind, the screech of the vamp echoing in his ear like a deranged harpy.
He hit the ground, rolling as the impact sent him sprawling into the alley where he'd last seen the hunter. When his forward motion stopped, Noah flipped to a crouch, looking around for the vamps, for the kid, for anything. He was greeted by complete darkness: no stars, no moon, no dancing shadows, no cloying light.
"What the hell?"
There were at least ten vampires filling the small alley, pressing against each other, closing in on him, angry and hungry.
"Don't move." He heard the kid's voice at his ear, registered there were hands at his shoulders and side, and realized that somewhere in the tussle, he'd instinctively grabbed his silver-tipped stake and was now holding it out in front of himself like a warning.
"Okay, backwards," the kid's urgent whisper tickled the fine hairs along the edges of Noah's ear, "slowly."
Noah felt the kid's hands tug gently at his body and registered that the hunter was trying to pull him out of danger. He stepped back, but didn't make it two steps before the vamps hissed, launching themselves forward, and leaving Noah and the young hunter two choices: fight or die.
The kid was close enough that Noah felt his muscles tense and roll, pushing his body forward into a fighter's stance, his machete up, his knees bent, ready for the impact. Noah had seen this too many times: a hunter who thought himself skilled enough, taken down by sheer number. Noah had a bigger mission: the nest. He couldn't go down here, not now.
Sorry, he mentally projected toward the hunter, before twisting away, turning and running toward the alley exit.
He made it all of five steps before he was hit from behind, his chest and chin crashing against the gravel-covered ground as the vamp's weight crushed into him – two hundred pounds of death-stench, supernatural muscle, and ancient need.
"Fuck," Noah breathed, shoving his hands into the gravel beneath him and pushing himself over, onto his back.
Crouched above him was a vamp who had once been a fifty-something woman, probably someone's mother, maybe someone's grandmother. Her eyes were cat-like slits, her jagged teeth dripping the poison-like saliva that had the power to incapacitate a victim in moments.
Noah growled, twisting, and slammed the flat of his arm across her face, dislodging her. He used her momentary distraction to gain his feet, moving swiftly backwards to the shadows, eyes darting around the darkened ally, hearing the sounds of attack and struggle, but unable to see much of anything except shadows shifting.
He could smell them, though.
None had spiked that intense odor of decomposing flesh he'd learned to associate with this breed feeding; with the college boy gone, the only one left to feed on would be the hunter and as long as the scent didn't spike, Noah knew the kid was still in one piece. Pulling his machete from its sheath and raising it with the stake, he turned to the grandma and with a powerful downward stroke loosed her head from her shoulders, registering the group of vamps react to his action.
As she was no longer a threat, Noah shifted as he heard the pop-pop-pop of bullets, trying to discern where the hunter was, before another vamp body-slammed him, shoving him roughly against a wall.
He felt a hungry mouth at this throat, the razor sharp teeth at his skin, and he thrust the silver-tipped stake upwards, immobilizing it so that he could behead it. Two down. Panting, his arms trembling from exertion, his mind whirring from the disorienting darkness, Noah turned to run toward the opening, sensing pursuit. He broke through the cover of darkness the buildings provided and stumbled against the kid's car, parked right at the entrance.
Rolling across the hood of the Chevy, Noah brought his weapons up, staring down the entrance as he was followed by three vamps, all of varying ages, all thin and desperate for blood.
"C'mon, you sonsabitches," he growled, gripping the stake tight and rolling the machete in his palm.
They hit him with force, sending him sprawling, air blasting from his lungs, eyes burning from their fetid breath, arms pinned, heart hammering.
Dean hadn't been in a full-on brawl like this in months.
Last time, Sam had been next to him, fighting back-to-back. They could read each other, predict each other's movements. Together, they were a force to be reckoned with. Dean had known that with his little brother there, he was more powerful. Not only was his six covered, but he had a reason to win.
Fight alone, he just needed to not die.
When he saw the other hunter – Noah – from the bar show up out of the blue, Dean didn't know if he should be relieved or worried. He had seen Noah take out the creepy grandma, but in the meantime a former WWF contestant had attempted to rip Dean's arm from its socket. Dean's guttural scream of pain and rage was masked by the hissing sound the group emitted as Noah took out one of their own.
Dean took advantage of the vamp-wrestler's distraction by firing three silver bullets into its heart before dislodging himself and heading for the Impala. College kids or not, this was more than just a couple vamps. These things were vicious and there were more of them than one hunter could handle.
He really needed to call Bobby.
Just as he reached the Impala, Dean felt the cold fingers and sharp talons of another vampire gripping his shoulder and pulling him backwards. Growling with frustration, Dean turned, using his momentum to knock it off balance. It didn't last long: the creature seized him, slamming him against the wall of the building nearest the Impala. Dean raised his forearm, blocking a blow, then side-kicked to take out the vamp's knee.
Another creature swarmed him and Dean brought his elbow up, catching it in the throat, sending it staggering backwards. Turning, machete up, Dean caught sight of Noah, moving like water through the oil of three vamps. He was all angles and force, cracking one across the mouth, another in the sternum. Dean was momentarily buoyed by the fact that two hunters were holding their own against a cadre of vampires, until he saw one hit Noah's forearm, loosening his grip on the silver-tipped stake.
Dean felt his body reject the sight as he watched the vamp flip the stake around in its hand and shove the weapon into Noah's side, causing the hunter to gasp in pain and surprise, the vamp dropping him to the ground before turning toward Dean.
"Son of a bitch," Dean muttered, crouching low as four vamps moved slowly, purposefully toward him.
This is it, he thought, wondering how many times he'd felt the reality of those words in his lifetime. He could run, he knew, but he wouldn't get far. Plus he'd be leaving a fellow hunter bleeding out on the ground and a town full of innocents at the mercy of an innumerable amount of vampires.
Blanking his mind, unwilling to think about what ifs and if onlys, Dean grabbed the vamp closest to him by the throat, surprising the creature, and shoved it against the hood of his car.
"Eat it, Twilight," he growled, slicing the machete across the creature's throat, a splash of blood spilling over the black surface of the Impala's hood and onto Dean's face, the vamp's head spiraling off to the right and the body falling in a heap against the grill.
Dean turned, blood coating his blade, running down his hand and forearm, to face the other three. "Who's next?"
A screech – not unlike the sound of a hawk descending on an unsuspecting mouse – sounded off to the right, on the other side of the alley opening. The remaining vamps looked up as one, responding to the call, and turned, heading back down the alley, leaving Dean standing with a dripping machete, his body trembling with adrenaline, his car covered in vampire gore and four headless bodies strewn around him.
He dragged the back of his hand across his blood-spattered face, trying to catch his breath. Dropping his machete next to the body of the last vamp, Dean hurried around the front of the Impala to where Noah lay gasping, trying to sit up, his body visibly shaking from the intrusion of the stake.
"Easy," Dean exhaled, hardly able to get his suddenly trembling lips around the word as he dropped down beside the wounded hunter. "Hey, easy. They're gone."
"Gone?" Noah rasped. "All of 'em?"
"I didn't kill 'em," Dean hastily amended, noting the look of disbelief in Noah's eyes. "I got a couple; the rest ran off."
Noah groaned, his neck arching off the pavement. If Dean didn't know better, he'd bet the hunter looked more angry than in pain. He gripped Noah's shirt as the hunter began to weakly push himself away from Dean, inching slowly toward the grill of the Impala.
"Hey, take it easy," Dean soothed. "Let me get this out and we can get you to a hospital."
"Gotta…follow…," Noah gasped, his eyes rolling closed, sweat coating his face. "Nest…. Gotta follow…."
"Whoa, whoa, hey." Dean grabbed Noah's shoulders to halt his movement. "Protocol: wounded hunters first, retreating vampires second."
"I'm fine," Noah growled.
"Dude." Dean shook his head, obliging Noah's efforts by hauling him up to rest against the front of the Impala. Noah groaned audibly, his breath coming in short, brief bursts. "You are about as fine as that snaggle-toothed granny you ganked."
Noah's skin was grayish in the teasing moonlight, sweat matting his hair to his head. Dean crouched down in front of him, noting with not a small amount of panic that the hunter's skin was growing paler, his veins appearing quite dark, his blue eyes seeming to electrify with the effect, turning an illuminated brilliant blue.
Coughing out a breath, Noah pressed a shaking hand against his side, the sluggish blood pooling around the stake wound staining his fingers black. Dean braced him as the hunter gasped with pain.
"Looks like the vamps improvised," Dean muttered softly. "Stabbing you with your own stake."
Noah coughed out a laugh at the irony in Dean's comment, then seemed to stiffen with pain, his jaw shaking, his eyes darting around frantically, as if searching for something to land on.
"Hey, look at me." Dean gripped Noah's jaw, forcing the hunter to focus on him. "Grab my hand…that's it. Okay, now, hang on…this might hurt a bit. You ready?"
Noah nodded stiffly, his eyes on Dean's.
"On three, okay? One, two—" Dean pulled the stake from Noah's side, biting the inside of his lip as the other hunter choked off a ragged scream, his back arching away from the Impala, his hand gripping Dean's painfully. "Three."
Trembling, sweat running into his eyes, Noah looked up at him. "Never…go on three…in the movies."
Dean bunched up Noah's shirt, pressing his free hand against the hunter's side and tightened his hold on Noah's other hand, hoping he was offering some sort of reassurance.
"Yeah, that's what I kinda thought, too," Dean confessed, frowning as Noah's shaking seemed to momentarily increase.
He knew how pain rocked the natural balance a hunter thrived on. He usually had Sam there, holding his hand, meeting his eyes, assuring him that he was going to be okay. He didn't know if Noah had anyone, but Dean figured he could be that guy for him tonight.
"Hey, easy. Take it easy…easy." God, he was so much better at this when it was Sam. He knew how exactly how to comfort his brother, how to get him to focus. "You did great, okay? You're okay." His words felt hollowed out, flat. The adrenalin that had pushed him through the fight was ticking away and in its place panic and worry began to slip in. "I'm just gonna go get something from the back of the car to stop the bleeding until we can get you to a hospital."
"No," Noah shook his head once, not releasing Dean's hand. "No hospital."
"Hey, man," Dean conceded, "I hate 'em, too, but you're bleeding on my car."
"Vamp blood," Noah gasped.
"Well, sure," Dean tilted his head. "Some of it. But that's yours. And that…. And that…."
"No hospital," Noah spat out, his teeth clenched, his face pale and sweaty in the moonlight. "Be okay."
"You're not okay," Dean argued, adjusting his crouch so that he could put more pressure on Noah's wound. Blood seeped out between his fingers, making his grip almost too slick. "You got a hole the size of my arm in your side."
"Just need a minute," Noah breathed. "Just a minute." He tightened his hold on Dean's hand. "Gimme a minute."
"I give you much longer than that and you're gonna bleed out," Dean muttered. This was not good. So much about this was not good.
Noah clenched his jaw, his hand shaking in Dean's. He opened his eyes, sweat gathering on his lashes, and met Dean's worried gaze. "What's your name?"
"Dean. Dean Winchester."
"Winchester, huh?" Noah ground out through clenched teeth. "Like the—"
"Rifle, yeah," Dean interrupted. "Haven't heard that one before."
"Good to meet you," Dean greeted, his hand cramping. "You gonna make me watch you die, Noah?"
"Not if I can help it," Noah gasped.
"Okay, then," Dean shifted as his calf muscles tightened. "How 'bout you let me go around back to the trunk and get some gauze to put on that wound. We'll just start there, okay?"
"'Kay," Noah nodded, squeezing his eyes shut and releasing his grip on Dean's hand with obvious effort.
Dean used the Impala for support, pushing himself to a wobbly stance, his eyes on Noah as the other hunter pulled in rough gasps for air. Inching away, reassuring himself that Noah wasn't going to die the moment he looked away, Dean moved quickly to the Impala's trunk, sliding back the false bottom, moving away the surplus of weapons to get to the extra stash of bandages and meds.
Grabbing several packages of gauze, tape, and some pain pills, Dean headed back around to the front of the Impala – only to find Noah gone.
"What the hell?"
Dean set the bandages on the hood next to the pool of vamp blood and turning in a full circle, his eyes searching the darkness for the wounded figure of the other hunter. He jogged toward the darkness beyond the Impala, then looked east and west from where he stood.
"Nobody just walks away from a wound like that," Dean said aloud. "Noah!"
Only the echo of his own voice against the muted night answered his call.
"What. The actual. Hell?" Dean said, incredulous. "Where are you, man?"
Had the vamps returned to grab their wounded prey, seeking only a food source and not a fight? Had Noah slipped away, not trusting Dean to help him?
"Hey!" Dean called again, lacing his fingers behind his head and turning in a full circle, helplessly, before he conceded defeat.
Noah was gone.
Thoughts churning, Dean returned to his car, sagged against the hood, not really enjoying the post-fight feeling of being the last man standing. His eyes tracked to the empty passenger seat, his heart reluctantly admitting to wishing Sam was there. For just one moment.
As angry as his brother could make him sometimes – and as much as he hadn't been sure if Sam's head was in the game of late – Sam was as constant and familiar as his own shadow. He wasn't a chance, a question mark, a possible threat. He knew Sam. Or thought he did. And maybe that was his problem.
Dean didn't know who he was if he wasn't the guy who took care of his brother. The person who kept his brother alive. Who brought him back from the brink. Who protected him from himself. Dean stood, covered in blood and gore, facing the quiet lot, vampire bodies surrounding him and realized – all logic and reason aside – he missed having his brother near.
Drawing in a breath, Dean gathered up the bandages, and glanced at the gore-splattered hood of the Impala.
"Don't worry, baby," he said softly to her windshield. "I'll get that offa you," he promised.
He looked around the quiet alley, so alive with noise moments ago. Darting a look back toward campus, he had to admit he was surprised their fight hadn't attracted the attention of even a security guard. He had to wonder what sort of justification people used when they heard things like those vampire hisses and didn't investigate.
Bending down to pick up his discarded machete, he glanced with disgust at the headless body. He was going to have to clean this up – find somewhere to haul off and burn four vampire bodies.
"Won't that be fun," Dean grumbled to the night. He idly kicked at the solid, immobile corpse nearest him. "After this, I'm so getting me some pie."
It crossed his mind to simply leave them. Let the clergy find them when they returned to their chapel in the morning. Let the people see the real danger that lurked in the night. But it wouldn't matter. Because they didn't look like vamps now. They looked like victims of a deranged lunatic. And his prints were all over them.
So, burn them it was. And after, he had to call Bobby. This vamp problem was bigger than he'd realized – more than one hunter could handle. More than he'd handled before, that was for sure.
And this time, Dean was alone.
His blood was on fire.
He felt it licking through each part of him, hungry to devour him from the inside out before it spilled from his rapidly-healing wound. Stumbling forward, Noah grit his teeth as he pressed his hand even tighter against his side, knowing that had it just been a wooden stake, in an hour there would be nothing left but a thin, pink line and the lingering weakness of having lost so much blood.
The silver tipping the end, though….
Bile built at the back of his throat, shivers slipping down the length of him even as he felt sweat break out across his shoulders, face, the back of his neck. He couldn't lose it now; he was still too near the hunter. He'd managed to slip away, banking on the kid to be too busy with getting rid of the vamp bodies to come after him.
Because, if the kid found out the truth—
His muscles seized and Noah went to his knees, hard, on the brick path weaving away from the main part of campus and to a small gazebo behind the chapel. It was dark; the moonlight not potent enough to breach the cover of clouds and canopy of trees. Gripping his belly, instinctively wanting to press against the pain, Noah groaned, his vision wavering as his head spun.
"Fuckin' curse," he gasped, pitching forward as the shakes began. He caught himself on the edge of the bricks, the rough surface digging into the palm of his hand.
He knew he wasn't dying; this had happened too many times before. Didn't mean he didn't want to die. He fell to his side, rolling off the path and to the grass, pulling his knees up close to his chest as his body shook, his heart hammering against his ribcage in a frantic staccato he could have sworn was audible for miles.
Another wave of pain slipped through him, turning the groan he was trying to bite back into a yelp. The only thing saving him was that this had happened at night, when he could crawl away and hide until the pain ran its course; he could hole up and pass out and wait for—
"Did you hear that?"
Oh, shit, no.
Voices. Along the path. The bob of a flashlight. The scuff of shoes against brick.
Noah tried to quiet his breathing, but the silver had buried too deep. The sickness was vicious and cruel and determined to violently wreck his battered body until it had bled through his pores, through what was left of his wound, through his goddamn tear ducts if it had to. Helplessly, Noah's back arched and he bit a hole in his bottom lip, tasting his own blood.
"There it is again; sounds like…like some kinda wounded animal or something."
"Dude, don't go near it, then."
"If it's hurt, we gotta do something!"
"If it's hurt, it's gonna want to hurt you! 'Sides we're way past curfew."
"Think having our roommate show up with his throat cut open is pretty much a get out of jail free card."
Noah began to crawl away from the voices, pulling himself forward arm over arm, muscle memory of years in the Army propelling him across the rocky terrain covered with dead, crackling leaves, animal dung, and fallen branches.
"Think it's the same thing that got Wes?"
The voice was fainter now, Noah registered. Fainter and afraid.
"Hell if I'm gonna be the one to find out. Dude was messed up."
He didn't see the change in elevation in the dark. One moment he was putting distance between himself and the voices, the next he was rolling, tumbling, free-falling down a hill, careening off of trees, bouncing across rocks, head over heels until he slammed hard against the bottom with a cry that echoed off the night.
They'd heard him. He was in a world of pain, shaking through the sickness, his hands bloody, his body wracked with the impact against the earth. He wanted to curl up, to cry, to curse everyone and everything around him. He wanted to just lie there for one damn minute and breathe.
But they'd heard him fall. And they were coming for him.
"Hey! I see him! Right there!"
The flashlight cut a beam across his face, right into his eyes, and Noah reacted instinctively, the growl rolling up from his gut sounding both desperate and feral. As the beam began to bounce with the decent of the owner, Noah found another gear. The wound on his side had closed, eliminating it as a possible exit for the silver that was making him sick, but the fall had helpfully opened up several other places on his skin and as he bled, the poison escaped.
He pushed himself to his feet, and ran. He had lost track of where he was, how far from campus, if he was headed back to town or further away from it. He just could not be caught. He was too close to be caught now. He could feel them approaching, the bobbing light catching branches above his head, leaves at his feet.
He ran, zig-zagging as he heard his CO's voice in his head, bellowing that the closest distance between two people is a straight line. Evade, escape, adapt, survive. It had been drilled into him as part of his training and had served him well as a hunter. Especially since he hunted alone. Always alone.
The distance between himself and his pursuers increased, but he ran on until he finally felt the heated, almost orgasmic release of the silver bleeding from his body. He tripped, grabbing the trunk of a tree for support as a euphoric feeling of liberation overtook his senses, sending the world sideways, giving him the sensation of weightlessness.
The silver was hot; he felt it run down his face from his eyes, felt it drip from his fingers, sizzling as it hit the dead leaves below. He wanted to collapse, let his trembling legs rest as he curled up to sleep off the fatigue he felt creeping up to overtake him. But he hadn't lost them, not yet. Moving drunkenly from tree to tree, falling against one, using another to pull his body forward, Noah kept moving, deeper into the forest, not knowing where he was going, only that he had to get away.
He didn't see the house until he was right on top of it.
More of the skeletal remains of a house, actually. Half the roof was missing, the windows were shattered, the door was more of a thought. But the walls were stone and were standing and it didn't look like anyone had been there in a long, long time. Noah lurched inside, the remains of the door disintegrating as he pushed it open.
The dark of the house seemed to welcome him, enveloping his body in its secret and holding him close. He took two steps before his body called for a time-out. He pitched forward, not even able to brace his fall, and the dirty stone floor felt like the softest feather bed.
Continued here in: Chapter 4
a/n: Thanks for reading! Would love to know your thoughts. Hope to see you with Chapter 4. Slainte!