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 Note: Thanks for returning. The ruckus starts with this chapter and only gets worse until the end. But…that's one of the reasons we love Supernatural: there's always something to fight, both outside and inside our heroes. Hope you enjoy!
Sold my soul, from heaven into hell
Sick as my secrets, but never gonna tell
Lock the blame, burden of my dreams
Cause of faith in a blessing I believe
30 Seconds to Mars, Search and Destroy
Dean couldn't figure this guy out.
Noah drank another glass of water before they left Ali's empty house. Drank it like there was a well inside him that needed to be filled. And the odd part was, Dean could see color returning to the hunter's features, see his grip on the door frame loosen as he regained his balance. Dean had been thirsty before, but nothing like this.
There were pieces of a puzzle here; Dean just couldn't fit the images together to form the whole picture of who – or what – this hunter was. He'd already eliminated vampire, remembering first how Noah had easily stood the sunlight without a blink of fatigue – not to mention his bloodlust against the species. There were spells that cursed people with immortality. Witches had been known to heal themselves.
But he'd never come across something of the supernatural world hunting others in the supernatural world.
They left Ali's house and started to head back down the hill toward the Impala. Noah moved easily at first, but Dean could see the hunter was quickly fatigued. The fight last night, and the untreated wound, were both wearing him down even if he did look a bit more alive than he had an hour ago.
"Where's your ride?" Dean asked glancing back at Noah.
Noah shook his head, stumbling, then recovered. "Hitched."
Dean stopped walking, turning to face the man fully. "You…hitched?"
Noah stopped, looking at Dean, confused. "Yeah. Don't have a car."
"How the hell do you not have a car?" Dean asked, incredulous. The Impala was really the only home he'd ever known. He didn't want to imagine not having her. Let alone the escape she offered.
"I just…don't," Noah replied, closing his eyes briefly as he shoved a hand out toward the chain-linked fence for balance. "Never, uh…never really needed one."
"Where do you keep your weapons?" Dean asked, genuinely curious.
Noah opened his eyes and stared at Dean, his face tense, a line between his brows turning his gaze intense. "I carry what I need."
Dean tipped his head in thought, his eyes traveling down to the dried blood on Noah's side. Seeing the path of his gaze, Noah self-consciously pulled his jacket close. Pushing away from the fence, Noah began to move past Dean, only to stumble once more on the uneven sidewalk.
"Oh, for Christ's sake," Dean muttered, rotating and offering his shoulder to the weakened hunter. "I'll give you a ride. But I'm going on record as saying you're the dumbest hunter I've met yet."
The man's lanky form rivaled Sam's as he draped his arm across Dean, clearly trying to pull as much of his own weight as he could as they continued down the hill.
"How's that?" Noah asked, his voice thin, breath puffing out tiny clouds in the cool night air.
"You hunt vampires," Dean pointed out, "and you don't have back up weapons?"
"Never said I didn't have back up," Noah countered as they reached the parking lot of The Bottleneck. "Said I carry what I need."
"So then where's your back up, huh?"
Dean led Noah to the Impala, then propped him against the passenger door.
"Around," Noah said, his eyes sliding behind Dean, searching the lot, never resting on any one thing. "Storage units in different states. Coupla basements in some houses here and there."
"Lotta good that does you here," Dean grumbled, flicking the edge of Noah's leather motorcycle jacket with the back of his fingers, exposing the blood that was dried on the hunter's shirt.
"It's fine," Noah snapped, shifting slightly away.
Dean knew that he could manhandle the other hunter into submission if he wanted. Noah was sagging against the side of the Impala with all the strength of a kitten. But the hunter didn't want Dean inspecting his wound, and he hadn't felt feverish when Dean was hauling him down the hill, so Dean let it go. This guy wasn't his responsibility; if he wanted to be in pain, be weak, there wasn't much Dean could do about that.
He unlocked the door and Noah bobbed his head in a nod of thanks as he slid into the passenger seat, his face having lost much of the color it had gained back at Ali's. His breath hitched slightly as he drew his legs in and he immediately dug a crumpled pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. Dean watched, expressionless, as Noah put a cigarette to his lips with a trembling hand, looking resolutely through the front window.
"Those things'll kill ya, y'know," Dean commented.
"Hardly," Noah huffed, reaching back into his pocket for a Zippo – much like the one Dean had lost several years back as he and Sam burned out the spirit of Mordechai Murdoch.
As Noah flicked the flame to the end of his cigarette, Dean noticed one difference: this Zippo wasn't silver. Nodding once in concession, Dean closed the door and moved around to the driver's side. What did he care if the guy smoked his lungs black? He didn't have anything invested in this guy. Besides, a hunter's life expectancy wasn't necessarily conducive to dying from cancer.
He slid behind the wheel, glancing to the side as Noah rolled his window down to exhale the sharp tang of smoke and then leaned back against the seat as if relaxing for the first time in months. Legs sprawled out beneath the dash, slouching sideways so that his head rested on the door frame, Noah's posture reminded Dean strongly of his brother in that moment. Anger flashed up bright in retaliation to the nostalgic pang of his heart.
Dean handed the hunter a bottle of water he kept in the back seat of the Impala for emergencies. He watched as Noah took it and gratefully downed half the contents without stopping for breath.
Okay, so…not a demon either, Dean tallied in his head when the holy water hidden in the bottle did nothing to Noah except to help quench his seemingly unchecked thirst.
He started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot, gravel crunching noisily under heavy tires. Bobby had known a Noah Kincade – who had hunted vampires. But that had been over thirty years ago. The man next to him looked to be roughly the same age as Dean, give or take a year. And Noah had claimed his father was a factory worker, not a hunter. Dean mentally rolled through the various curses and spells he and Sam had encountered. There were a few that involved a need for water, some that extended life, but the memories were vague, disjointed, and unspecific.
He'd need to do more research. Where are ya when I need ya, Sammy?
Glancing surreptitiously at Noah, Dean couldn't help but wonder what his brother would make of the hunter. He'd probably figure out what was going on with Noah inside of a minute with some random computer algorithm. Dean thought about calling on Cas; he hadn't talked to his friend in awhile and there were things the angel had access to that could be invaluable to Dean.
But something kept Dean from alerting Castiel to his location. He just…he wasn't ready for that yet. Angels and demons…they were why he was alone right now. They were the reason his whole world had turned sideways. Vampires he could handle. Even an ancient race that smelled of death and lived underground. That was normal for him. That he could categorize.
They drove to the motel in silence; Dean didn't even turn on the radio. The night wind and hum of the highway through Noah's open window provided a backdrop for Dean's turbulent thoughts. Noah absentmindedly flicked the top of his Zippo in time with a rhythm only he could hear.
Dean tried to block out the repetitive swish-shink of the metal-on-metal. He felt his jaw tense, the skin along his neck shuddering at the memories the sound evoked. It was such a normal sound, no reason it should call up images of blades…curved, straight, hooked, shiny, dripping with blood…
Dean rolled his neck, working to shove the flesh-crawling sensation back down into his gut where he could keep a handle on it, trying to swallow around the lump of panic inexplicably wedged at the base of his throat.
"Anyone ever tell you that you think really loud?" Noah muttered, his eyes closed, arm resting on the opened window, cigarette bouncing on his lips. He closed his fist around the gold lighter and Dean exhaled.
"That's usually my line."
Noah gave him a sideways glance but didn't pry, for which Dean was glad. He hadn't meant to expose Sam – even a half-disguised memory of him – to this hunter. It was simply that Sam was always there, with him, around him.
He didn't stop having a brother just because they were no longer in this together.
"So what's your plan, kid?" Noah asked, his eyes no longer on Dean, though his face was still turned toward him.
Since when has having a plan actually worked out? Dean couldn't help but wonder. Even with a plan, the odds of all hell breaking loose were in his favor. "I'm just going to head back to campus, ask around." He pulled into the parking lot and stopped the Impala half-way between their rooms, turning off the ignition. "Can you get inside okay?"
Noah nodded, but didn't move to get out of the car. Dean felt as if the hunter were waiting for something. He looked over, puzzled, as Noah flicked the cigarette butt out onto the parking lot then slowly rolled up the window. There was a weight to the hunter's silence, unspoken words hovering so close to the edge that Dean could almost see them hovering in the air between them. A muscle flexed in Noah's jaw and Dean held still.
"What is it, man?" Dean finally asked, drawing Noah's glance. There was a disconcertingly familiar emotion stretched across Noah's face, but Dean couldn't identify it right away. Noah's eyes looked...ancient. His whole being radiated exhaustion.
"If they've got her," Noah began, his voice soft and slightly hoarse, as if the words were roughing up the sides of his throat on their way out. "If they've got her, there's three things you gotta be ready for," he held out a steady hand and flicked out a finger as he talked, "she's one of them, she's food for them, or she's dead."
"I know," Dean replied.
Noah shook his head once. "No…no, I don't think you do."
"Dude, this ain't my first rodeo," Dean frowned, irritation at being talked down to spiking petulance in his tone. "I've killed things some hunters haven't heard of—"
"These vamps…they aren't just things." Noah sat forward, his hand on the door handle. He reached out a hand just shy of touching Dean's arm; the restraint reminded Dean of the lack thereof when he'd met the man the day prior. "They are destroyers. They're a plague. And there's no cure. If she's food, she's already lost. They'll have poisoned her and she'll never be the same." His eyes found Dean's and the moonlight filtering in through the windshield seemed to light them up. The frown pulling his brows close put Dean on defense, though he didn't really know why. "You gotta be ready to let her go. Before you even get there. You gotta…let her go."
"Listen. Ali's no different from the rest of them," Dean countered, mentally kicking himself for making her sound unimportant. She had a life. Friends. Ex-boyfriends who didn't bother to help her change a light bulb. "The people we try to save. I'm not looking for…vengeance. I've got a job to do." He opened his door, stuffing the bitterness of truth down deep into his gut. "It's all about the job."
He stepped out of the car, slamming his door shut with a metallic creak. He heard Noah's door echo his and made his way around the front of the car to head toward his room.
"Kid," Noah called out, stopping him mid-step. "You can act like it's all the same to you. Like none of it matters. And maybe it doesn't, how do I know? But sooner or later it's going to hurt."
Dean looked over his shoulder. You have no idea…. "What's your point?"
"Use it. The pain." Noah's face looked pale in the growing moon. His eyes caught the silver light and focused in on Dean with laser intensity. "Don't let it use you."
Dean frowned, nodded, then turned away, not waiting to see if the other man got into his room. There were times he wanted to pour it all out – just burden someone else with all he'd seen, all he'd survived, all he was forced to carry because of some angel's fucked up view of destiny. Dean grit his teeth, forcing himself to quell the desire to unleash forty years of Hell on one guy simply because he'd made an assumption.
Taking a breath, Dean stepped into his room, closing the door firmly behind him. He had roughly thirty minutes until the supply house for the explosives closed. Figuring out the mystery surrounding Noah would have to wait – at least until this recon mission was done. He dug into his duffel bag, changed his shirt and pulled on an older canvas jacket – one Sam stopped wearing long ago, but still reminded Dean of his brother – and checked his spare clip and knife. As he was turning toward the door, he caught his own reflection in the mirror hanging above the dresser and stopped.
He looked angry. He often looked angry these days, he realized. But there was something else there. Something he'd not stopped long enough to register in quite some time. It was resignation. Acceptance of pain. Loneliness. All of the above. It was the mantle he'd taken on the moment he realized he could still lose Sam. Not to Sam quitting hunting, but to the evils in this life. It was the cloak that had settled around him when he'd kicked in the door moments after Sam had killed Lilith and helped his brother end the demonic blood source Ruby had offered. It was the realization that no matter how hard he tried, how hard he fought, he wasn't going to be enough.
And it was the same look he'd seen on Noah's face in the car moments ago.
Taking a breath, Dean lifted his chin, squared his shoulders, and forced the emotion from his eyes. He had a job to do. He opened the door once more, heading out to the Impala, thinking that he'd grab some food along the way.
He gave half a thought to calling Bobby, updating him on the hunt, on the fact that this was either a different Noah Kincade or the man had aged really, really well…but he did none of those things.
He had to own the fact that he was hunting alone now. That the Horsemen from Bible stories were not only real, but were ready to take down mankind. That an archangel wanted to use him to defeat Lucifer, leaving everything that made him him behind in the ether. And that he and his brother had brought this all down upon themselves by breaking both the first and the last seal.
And despite all of that…despite the weight of a destiny some kid from Lawrence, Kansas, should never have been tethered to…he still had a job to do. It was all the same: making the bad guy dead. It didn't really matter if the 'bad guy' was a vengeful spirit, a horde of ancient vampires, or the Devil himself.
He simply couldn't not do this.
As he loaded up the two boxes of dynamite from the supply house into the trunk of the Impala, he thought about his promise to Noah – about simply scouting ahead – and reasoned that if he saw them, if he found an opening to get to the nest himself, he wouldn't wait. He wouldn't go back to get the hunter.
He'd do what he was meant to do, the only thing he was ever really good at.
"Kill 'em all," he said out loud to the night.
It was oddly liberating, driving toward the campus, everything he needed to put his plan into motion stashed in the trunk of his car, the only person with any idea of where he was headed a wounded hunter who probably wouldn't be conscious again until the fight was over. He turned up the radio, shoving a Led Zeppelin tape into the cassette player and sang loudly to Ramble On, beating the flat of his fingers against the wheel as he drove.
The campus was quiet; only a few students moving from one building to another. It occurred to him that he had no clue where Ali would go to meet up with this Alec, but he figured he'd start at the only open business he saw on the quad: a coffee house. The night was cool, clear, the moon bright as it climbed higher in the sky.
Dean estimated there were roughly two more nights to full moon; despite the added light offered, he hated hunting on a full moon. Too many regulars use it as an excuse to go whacko, too many whackos were already primed to come out and play. Leaving the Impala parked in an empty lot near the chapel, he shoved his hands deeper into the pockets of his jacket and kept his eyes open.
The coffee house was apparently the place to be on Saint Elizabeth's campus. The press of bodies as he stepped inside eradicated the chill he'd felt earlier. The smell of coffee beans and leather blended to give the place a mellow, earthy sense. Dean moved around the groups of kids, multiple conversations blending to become simply a backdrop of human voices, a lone guy with a guitar singing a Pearl Jam song stood in the far corner and provided the tempo for the noise.
"What can I get you?" A petite girl with short, bleached-blonde hair and a silver lip ring looked up at him from over a row of cans filled with coffee beans.
Dean scanned the large, option-peppered chalk boards behind her with unseeing eyes. The choices all looked the same to him.
"Don't suppose you've got beer?" Last thing he wanted, really, was a drink, but there were too many people in too small of a space and he was starting to feel his skin crawl.
"Dry campus," she yelled back.
"I'll have a cup of…the…uh…house blend?"
She nodded, filled a thick porcelain mug with the hot beverage and handed it over. Dean handed her a five dollar bill as he took a drink, grimacing at the bitter taste.
"Keep drinking," she said over the noise. "It gets better."
He took another sip. "Not by much," he muttered. "Hey, I'm looking for someone."
She lifted a brow, her pale eyes drifting from him to the people milling around behind him.
"She's about your height, long dark hair, tattoo on her, uh…her, right here." Dean gestured vaguely to his chest.
"Oh, yeah, that's Alec's sister. Don't know her name. She was in here with him yesterday."
"Know where she might be now?"
The girl shook her head. "Haven't seen either of them all day."
Dean nodded his thanks, took his change, and found a table to leave his mug. As he made his way toward the door, he was snagged by the sound of a tearful female voice.
"…just grabbed Alec. I didn't know what to do."
A thin, dark-haired girl, red scarf wrapped around her neck setting off olive-toned skin, was standing in the corner opposite the Pearl Jam guy. She was flanked by four people who were staring at her with intent worry.
"Did you call the cops?" asked a tall, Gothic-looking boy.
"No. I didn't know what to tell them! Especially after what happened to Wes…they didn't believe him and he had to get like fifteen stitches in his neck."
"You gotta tell someone," protested a blonde girl near her. "I mean, he's missing!"
"Right, okay, so how do you say, my boyfriend got kidnapped by monsters?"
Dean shouldered his way in to the group. "What kind of monsters?"
The girl looked up at him, tears smearing a surplus of mascara. "What?"
"That took your boyfriend," Dean pressed. "What did they look like?"
"Dude." The Goth boy protested, pushing at Dean's shoulder. "Personal space. You hear of it?"
Dean slid his eyes to the side, backing the guy off with a glance. He was not in the mood to be messed with and made that clear in the set of his jaw.
"Th-they…they looked like," the girl hesitated, glancing at her friends with uncertain eyes. "Like, um, vampires."
"Was Alec's sister with him?"
The girl jerked as if she'd been slapped and went pale. For a moment Dean thought she was going to throw up or pass out. Or both.
"You okay?" One of her friends asked, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Hey, you need to sit down?"
"Alec's sister, she…," the girl stopped, then sat down on the proffered stool. "She was one of them. One of them that took him."
Dean felt something falling inside of him, sinking deep into his heels and then crawling up his spine with knives for fingers. "Son of a bitch," he muttered, angry.
I did that to her.
He spun away from the group of kids and pushed his way out through the door and into the night. The heat of the coffee house had made him nauseous and dizzy. He needed the cold to think. Sweat beaded on his upper lip, gathering at his temples. He couldn't quite catch his breath. He'd been wrong…he'd been wrong when he told Noah he knew what he'd have to do. Wrong that it was just about the job.
She wasn't just like anyone else they tried to save. She was different because he'd used her. He'd used her to help himself feel better. He'd been right there with her, and he couldn't help but think he could have stopped this. The job was about saving people. And they'd got her. They turned her. He hadn't protected her. Hadn't warned her. Nothing.
He used her and left her to die.
A dark fist of guilt and misery dug into Dean's gut, forcing him to bend and brace his hands on his knees, trying to grab air.
"Hey, mister," someone called.
Dean didn't flinch. He was too focused on breathing and formulating a plan that involved blowing up the entire vampire population of Greeley, PA.
Puzzled, Dean straightened up and looked back toward the coffee house door. The young guy he'd stared down was standing sheepishly in the doorway. Dean rotated to face him.
"Maddie said she was over by the chapel," he said. "Y'know, when Alec was…grabbed. Or whatever. Thought…thought that might help."
Dean nodded. "Yeah, it does. Thanks."
"Sorry 'bout Ali, man."
Dean nodded again, then watched the kid return to his friends. For a moment he felt remorse at the way he'd stared the kid down earlier. The kid had just been looking out for his friend.
Sam was so much better at the people thing; he somehow found some piece of himself that hadn't been hardened by the way they lived their lives, that hadn't been turned cynical by all they'd seen and done and survived. Sam found a way to remember that not everyone knew there was a very real reason to fear the dark. He saw the innocence around him and he sympathized.
Sam was so much better at being…human.
Dean's world was one of action and answers. Do this, don't do that. He sometimes forgot they were people first, victims second. Sam balanced him, reminded him that it wasn't all about bullets and blood. That there was a reason the job was so important – and it wasn't just so the bad guys didn't win.
All right, Sammy…what would you do?
He had to find her, Dean realized. He had to end this. Noah's vendetta be damned. There were kids dying in this town. Dean had seen four of them on slabs in the country morgue, their bodies emaciated and bruised; cuts, gashes, and bites turning their skin into a macabre canvass for a demented artist. He may not have fought this race of vamps before, but when it came down to it, it was like Bobby said: they died like any other vamp.
And no one deserved to be left as food for a vamp…or live an undead life against their will. Dean needed action. Now. He needed to hit something hard, beat his fists bloody as he railed against the images of the dead that wouldn't leave him alone. The images of innocence lost and bodies torn apart on the rack by hooks and knifes wielded by demons and monsters. Wielded by him.
Turning from the coffee house, Dean jogged back to the Impala, grabbed the spare duffel and filled it with the stakes, holy water, clips of silver bullets, salt, and the contents of one of the boxes of dynamite. Made for a heavy load, but he shoved his arms through the straps and balanced it on his back. Stuffing the keys into his jeans pocket, he headed toward the chapel.
Yellow crime scene tape sectioned off a piece of the path behind the chapel leading to a small gazebo. Dean's flashlight revealed a mess of footprints in the soft ground on either side of the path. He made his way to the gazebo, frowning as he shone the light along the rail. Smears of dirt along the white railing of the gazebo caught his eye…or, wait, was that dirt? He drew closer, focusing the beam.
"Blood," he said softly.
Without pausing to think of the wisdom of continuing on alone, Dean swung his leg over the rail and made his way down a rather steep hill, catching himself and slowing his momentum against trees, trying to make as little noise as possible in the underbrush. His pulse quickened with anticipation as he continued forward, his gut tightening with the instinctive knowledge that he was getting close, that something was ahead. If he were right, the vamps would have scouts positioned near to where Alec had been grabbed. They hunted in packs, it seemed, and would return to the same grounds until game was no longer present.
The forest around him was quiet; the lack of animal activity or bird calls was disorienting and disturbing. His skin felt alive as he listened with his whole body, reaching out with any sort of hunter's sixth sense he'd acquired over the last two decades of living this life. He breathed shallow, pausing every so often to pull in a deep lungful of air, checking for that stench of putrescence that seemed to follow these creatures. He reached a more-or-less flat, bare part of the wooded area – could have been a creek bed at one time – and shone his light across to the rest of the trees.
When the beam of his flashlight hit her, he jerked back in surprise, nearly dropping the light.
"Hello, lover," she said, smiling. "Come back for more?"
The anger he expected to feel at finding these scouts wasn't present. Instead, he just felt sad. His shoulders sagged with the weight of it. Ali looked the same – same swirling hair, same wide mouth, same dark eyes. Just set in a face the color of death.
"I'm sorry I couldn't save you," he said quietly.
Her wry mouth twisted into an ironic smile, the mole that had turned her lips sexy twitching with her humorless laugh. She rested a hand on the trunk of the tree, cocking her hips to the side, and Dean remembered how her hands had traveled him, tugging at his clothes, eager to reach skin, seeking escape and connection with a desperation that had matched his own.
"Who says I wanted saving?" she challenged.
The hiss came from all sides, from above, and Dean tensed, reaching for the knife he'd slid into a sheath at his back. Coming alone…damn fine idea.
It turned his stomach when Ali hissed back, answering the call.
"Guess you got through vamp orientation already, huh?" Dean muttered, soundlessly pulling the knife free of its sheath.
Her eyes flashed wickedly in the beam from his light, her face going a bit wider, turning her into someone – something – else. Something decidedly not human. "Everyone has a devil inside of them, Dean."
"Not everyone," Dean argued, simply because he wouldn't let her be right.
She slid her hand from her hip across her belly then up to her breasts, keeping her bright eyes on his. "I might've agreed with you. Yesterday. But now…after this?" Her fingers continued their journey upwards to her throat, stroking the pale skin there gently as she tipped her head back, her eyes fluttering closed. "I can't remember why I didn't want this freedom." She dropped her hand and pinned Dean once more with her gaze. "Until you have tasted someone's blood…you haven't really lived, Dean."
"I'm gonna kill you all, you know," Dean informed her.
She smiled again, but this time, her eyes narrowed to cat-like slits. "Not if we kill you first."
They were on him in seconds – one dropping from a branch above him in an apparent attempt to pile-drive him into the ground. His knife flew free and he felt the bag ripped from his arms and heard it hit a tree as it was tossed aside. He thrashed, bucking his body until he loosened the weight that pinned him down, then bounced to his feet, dropping into a fighting stance.
His heart slammed wildly, his eyes moving ceaselessly in the dark, trying to pinpoint the number and location of his enemy. He didn't have time to reason or plan. And he certainly didn't have time to wish desperately that Sam was there, covering his six.
John Winchester had spent countless hours training his sons in combat maneuvers – cautioning them that the bad guys would never wait until they were ready, they wouldn't attack individually, it wasn't like they saw in the movies. It was chaos and motion and pain and confusion and they had to know where their bodies were at all times, how much power was behind each punch, and how much it would hurt when they connected.
Dean moved without thinking. If he paused to think about what he needed to do, he'd be dead. He hit one vamp in the throat, not taking time to register the satisfactory gurgle that followed the thrust as he rotated, ducking under another's swing while he shoved his fist into the midsection of a third. One of them caught him in a hard blow across his shoulders, sending him to his knees, and then a knee was brought up to catch him on the chin, tossing him to his back and causing him to bite into his tongue.
He rolled quickly, trying to assess how many there were besides Ali, but a blow to his right cheekbone turned the world red and sent his ears buzzing. He brought his elbow back and caught one in the sternum and grabbed another by the shoulders and brought its head down to meet his knee.
All of this was for nothing, though, if he couldn't find that knife. He'd felt it fall, clattering against the rock just…there!
Scrambling on hands and knees, he found the hilt of the knife, rolling to his back and bringing the blade up to meet the chest of whichever vamp was running toward him. With a guttural growl, he pushed himself to his feet, dragging the blade from the creature's chest with a wet, sucking sound, and swung it in an arc until his attacker was the kind of dead he didn't have to double check.
Before he could turn and visit the same upon the vampire's companions, though, two hit him at once knocking the knife from his grip once more and he knew he'd lost this fight. They'd wear him out, wear him down, until they killed him. Better than the alternative, he reasoned as he bloodied his knuckles on the skull of another vampire, dug his thumbs into the soft spot beneath the eyes of one who dove in for his neck.
A blow to the back of his head staggered him and he spun, dizzily, his vision following on a five second delay. The world was starting to tilt; he had to blink hard to balance it.
And they moved in. One slammed a fist across his face once, twice, sending his senses reeling, another crashed a fist into his gut driving the air from his lungs and causing him to gag. His head was swimming and there was blood in his eyes and suddenly he was grabbed from behind, his arms pinned with vicious strength.
Dimly, as if it was happening to someone else, he felt a vampire approaching, fangs bared.
"Enough." Ali's voice was a low, growling hiss. "He comes with us."
The one holding Dean released him abruptly and Dean staggered to the side, stumbling to his knees as his head spun, his cheek bleeding freely, the taste of old metal in his mouth. He sensed Ali moving closer, her scent different than the death and rot that surrounded him, choking him with its potency.
"You wouldn't like me, sweetheart," he panted, spitting out blood. "I don't taste like chicken."
"I can smell your blood, hunter," she all-but purred.
And suddenly he was flooded with images of Sam…sending Samhain back to Hell, detoxing in the panic room, killing Lilith…. The smell of the demon's blood had sent him back, weakened his resolve; the blood had made Sam quit hunting, made him leave Dean…the goddamn blood….
Dean growled as Ali stepped closer and put her cold fingers beneath his chin, lifting his face up, her eyes shadowed by the moon. There was enough light to see the blue of her veins tracing a path beneath her alabaster skin, making her appear at once ethereal and frightening. She gathered some of his blood in the palm of her hand, then licked it off, slowly, her lips curling into a once-sensual smile.
"You had me once. I know you're thinking of it right now. How we moved together. How great it was. " She bent low, running her tongue along the outside of his lips, causing his gut to tighten, his skin pulling away from her, flattening against his bones. "The smell of your blood turns me on."
Dean swallowed, trying to focus. "That's…really gross, actually."
Her face still close to his, Ali skimmed her breath along his unmarred cheek to his ear, whispering, "You had this body once; you can have it again." She pulled back, looking at him, lips parted slightly, eyes glittering in the moonlight.
Dean ran his tongue along his bottom lip, watching as her eyes darted to his mouth. "I've had better."
Ali's hand flashed too quick for him to register, but he felt the crack of it across his mouth, feeling his lip tear against his teeth. His world was shifting, his body thrumming with pain and shock. Ali stood, stepping away from him and Dean thought for a moment he would be allowed to get to his feet. But then he heard Ali's low hiss and his blood went cold.
He felt a rope drop over his head, a lasso settling around his neck. Grunting, he grabbed it, pulling hard and the creature on the other end landed with a satisfying oomph. Dean grinned, but before he could celebrate too much, another vamp grasped the end of the rope and yanked with vicious strength, the coarse fibers of the rope digging into the soft flesh of Dean's throat, cutting off his air, his eyes burning, vision dulling.
A swiftly gathering tunnel of black rolled in from either side and Dean felt himself fading quickly, aware only of the throbbing pain at this throat, the blood stinging his eye, the rocks digging into his knees, and the precious, precious air slipping away.
And then, suddenly, the rope loosened and…relief. He pitched forward, catching himself on his hands and knees, dragging in air, unable to think beyond breathe…breathe…breathe….
Not willing to give him even a moment's respite, the vamps jerked on his leash, forcing him to clamber quickly to his feet. Communicating in a disconcerting collection of hisses, they began to drag him through the woods, his feet catching on the underbrush, boots skipping and skidding along the ground as he tried to keep up. He counted six creatures, including Ali. He knew he'd left one back on the forest floor.
They didn't look at him. The one holding the end of the rope allowed just enough slack for Dean to lag before jerking it tight once more, the fibers digging into Dean's skin, the knot twisting against his windpipe. Dean tried to mark the darkened landscape with his eyes, find a path, a pattern for when he got away – if he got away – but it was too dark, the moon too disorienting, and he was in too much pain. It hummed through him, distracting him and discouraging him.
As they rounded a bend, pulling him down a small hill, Dean saw Ali in front of him.
"What happened to your brother?" Dean rasped, gripping the knot of the rope taut at his neck, trying to keep up with the vampire pulling his leash.
Ali turned to face him, the smell of death clinging to her like patchouli on a hippie. "He was given a choice."
"Lemme guess…turn or be dinner?"
Ali's smile was empty and Dean felt his stomach flip over. "A choice is more than most get."
"What about…me, huh?" Dean gasped.
"Oh, you'll be meeting him soon enough," she promised. "He can tell you all about his noble sacrifice. If he's still able to talk, that is."
As she moved away, the vampire holding Dean's tether jerked him forward. He spared a thought for Noah, begrudgingly admitting that he should have gone after the other hunter. He'd told Bobby this was too much for one hunter. He'd known; he'd just ignored.
Or maybe…he'd wanted this. He wasn't made for a normal life. The life he wanted for Sam. He wasn't made for regular, for expected. He was made for action, for pain. He was made for hunting and all that came with it. He was made to die as he'd caused others to die.
And if he were really honest with himself, he deserved this. He deserved to be cut apart and bled out. The thing he never really allowed himself to confess – not even to Sam…not even when he'd told Sam about climbing down off the rack – was that he wasn't much better than the creatures they hunted.
The humanity that made him different than the monsters – the soul that set him apart – wasn't clean enough to be called good. Michael wanted him as a vessel not because of his soul. Not because of his humanity. Because of his blood. His flesh. The thing that crawled out of that grave.
The walk through the dark woods seemed to last for hours. Dean was trembling, sweating, his muscles aching, his brain feeling as though it were pushing against the confines of his skull. The skin along his neck burned from the contact with the rope and he'd glanced off trees multiple times as the vampires – who could apparently see quite well in the dark – hauled him through the woods.
Blinking through the blood that had dried along his eyelashes, he held the knot of rope right at his throat, trying to stop it from strangling him as he attempted to keep up with the swift moving herd. His mind strayed to his father, to Elkins, to the Colt, to the night he and Sam learned that vampires weren't extinct.
Damn, Dad, if you could see this now…. Not only were they not extinct, but there was an ancient race and here he was with no Colt, no brother, not even a cross to hold them at bay.
They dragged him along until he lost all sense of direction, was only focused on one task.
Just because he might deserve to die this way didn't mean he was going to make it easy on them. Weapons or no weapons, he planned on taking as many of them out with him as he could. He just had to keep breathing long enough to do some damage.
Dean looked around, confused, vision blurring, as the herd stopped. He hadn't registered they'd broken free of the trees until that moment.
"Inside," Ali ordered.
The one holding Dean's tether hauled him through the door of what looked like a run-down mill. The high, thin light of the moon shone off a stagnant waterwheel, rotting moss and bird droppings clinging to the ruined wood. Dean choked as the rope was pulled tight again, stopping him from taking stock of his surroundings as he was jerked forward, his boots hitting the wood floor with dull thuds and kicking up tufts of dust as they moved across the large, open, empty room to another door.
On the other side of the doorway was a set of stairs and Dean felt his stomach knot as he realized he was being led underground to a cellar or basement. The air grew cooler as they descended the stairs and the sickly-sweet, overripe smell of decomposing bodies assaulted his nostrils, once more making him gag. He wasn't given quarter; they forced him forward, pulling him up short as they reached a third door, visible to Dean only by the waning light from above.
He felt more than saw that door open and the stench reached overwhelming proportions. He nearly went to his knees, but was stopped, ironically, by Ali. She was once more tugging at his clothes. Pulling his coat free, hauling his shirt from his shoulders. He wanted to make a comment about not really being a fan of bondage, but the rope around his neck made speech impossible.
His chest bare, he was turned, facing the cold stink of what could only be described as an underground meat locker, and he saw…Hell.
Oh, my God….
Groaning, crying, alive, dead. There were so many…so many of them. His body locked up, his muscles tense and unresponsive. The vampire tugged at his tether, but Dean couldn't move. Wouldn't move.
I was wrong…I was so, so wrong.
This was not a hunter's death. This was not a death he could embrace – going out fighting and bleeding, taking them out with him. This was the rack. This was his nightmares. This was all the sounds of everyday life turned backwards and inside out and attacking him from within. He couldn't fight this. He wouldn't survive this.
The vamps next to him hissed and an answering cacophony from within the Earth made Dean bite his tongue against an audible groan. He was shoved from behind and felt the cold, damp dirt beneath his hands, felt his knees sinking in, soaking up wetness he knew was more than mud. He was hauled upright once more, and he thrashed, swinging his fists wildly, kicking out until his boots made contact, desperate noises coming from him that no longer sounded human.
He was cuffed along the bloody side of his head, his body shoved roughly to the ground as something sat on him, knees pinning his arms at the elbows, the weight of the creature crushing his ribs. Dean felt one of his wrists tied and the rope at his neck tug with the motion. Then the creature climbed from his chest and Dean gasped, dragging in gulps of putrid air, trying to keep his body from giving in to the darkness that surrounded and invaded him.
He was hauled to his feet and dragged toward the sounds he'd detected when they first opened that door: a skittering, like nails across rocks and dried parchment crinkling in a fire. Lacking the strength to fight, even if he did sill have the will, he allowed them to halt him and stretch his arms above his head, causing the binding at his throat to pull tight. His other wrist was bound and he realized that to keep from choking to death, he would have to balance on the balls of his feet.
Dean felt anger welling deep within him, boiling up to the surface, sending a surge of strength through him such that he wanted to risk strangulation just to get his legs around the neck of one of these bastards and squeeze until he crushed its throat.
But then the hands on him were gone. The door was shut; the darkness complete. Complete save for the pinpricks of red eyes that blinked at him from the recesses of the room.
And then he heard the sound he knew rivaled any horror visited upon him in Hell: sucking. He could hear the creatures drinking, greedily feeding off the helpless bodies he'd seen tethered just like him. He thrashed wildly for a moment choking and coughing as the rope pulled tight, twisting into his damaged throat, cutting off his air.
Pushing up on his feet, he relieved the pressure of his bindings, reminding himself that he had to breathe to live long enough to take these sonsabitches out. He had to survive this. He had to find a way out. He'd gotten himself into this mess, he had to get himself out. He'd survived worse.
His body shook with exhaustion; blood stained and stung his eye. His head throbbed and his throat was on fire. He just had to hang on until he figured out a way to escape….
Continued here in Chapter 6
a/n: Thank you for reading! We've now reached the events depicted in the Prologue. Hope to see you back to find out what happens next!