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 coming back! I'm SO sorry for the delay in posting. Real Life had other ideas about how I should use my time. I'll try to stay on track with weekly posting for the final three chapters.I have to say I'm (pleasantly) surprised at how many of you didn't figure out what Noah was before the reveal last chapter. I worried I'd been too obvious with the clues. This is Noah's story – or as much as Dean can get him to tell before they have to take out the vampire nest. Hope you enjoy.
No matter how many times that you told me you wanted to leave
No matter how many breaths that you took, you still couldn't breathe
No matter how many nights that you lie wide awake to the sound of poison rain
Where did you go? Where did you go? Where did you go?
- 30 Seconds to Mars, Hurricane
He always ached the morning after.
As if the curse was the flu and he suffered all symptoms over the course of one night. His joints always took a couple of days before they stopped feeling over-extended. His muscles were sore to the touch for at least twenty-four hours. And it generally took him awhile to find whatever wounds had been visited upon him during the time he was…gone.
As he thought of it.
He wasn't truly gone, though. He knew who he was, what he was doing.
He knew exactly what he was doing.
It was as if he were amplified. Everything was brighter, louder, sharper, clearer. And the hunger tore at him. It practically consumed him.
It took every bit of his willpower to keep it contained within the creature, within this one night, until he was able to find something he could release the hunger's wrath upon. And that wrath took a toll on his human body. He paid for his restraint with bone-deep aches all over his body. This morning, though, when Noah opened his eyes, he knew the day-after pain was the least of his problems.
Dean sat across the room, dressed in Noah's clothes, Noah's Beretta resting on his thigh, staring at him with eyes too old to fit inside his wounded face. Wanting to explain, instinctively needing to make sure the kid he'd worked so hard to keep alive was still in one piece, Noah pushed himself upright on shaking arms, a sharp pain in his side bringing him up short.
"You might want to look at that," Dean said in an ancient voice.
Noah looked down at himself, unable to see the wound with the amount of blood staining his bare torso. He glanced uncertainly at the bucket. Dean nodded once, never taking his aim off of Noah. Lurching unsteadily to his feet, Noah grabbed the bucket and stepped over vampire bodies on his way out through the door to the well. It took two buckets of water to clean the blood from his chest and face.
The wounds on his side had been from claws, he saw now. They were already healing. He filled another bucket and carried it back to the house. He wasn't thirsty anymore. Not like he'd been in the week leading up to the night the curse held sway. Silently, he reached into the backpack for clean clothes. He turned his back to Dean as he changed, tugging a clean T-shirt and a hooded sweatshirt over his head, shucking his ruined jeans and grabbing clean cargo pants. He didn't look at Dean, but was aware that the kid hadn't moved once, the gun still in his lap, his finger resting carefully alongside the trigger.
There was no doubt in Noah's mind that Dean could hit his heart without even trying.
Once clothed, he turned and looked down at Dean, waiting for the kid to say…something. Anything. When he didn't, when he simply started at him with shadowed, blood-shot eyes, Noah nodded, turning his attention to the bodies of the vamps in the house.
Dean had been busy in the night. How he'd managed to take out four vamps in his condition, Noah wasn't sure. But the evidence of Dean's desperate need to survive lay around them, the gory proof of his struggle in the blood that mixed with the dirt of the floor, turning it to paste.
Noah dragged the bodies outside, noting with surprise and regret that Ali was among the dead. The blood trail saturated the grass as he added them to the vamps he'd taken out of himself. He wasn't sure if the blood would ever wash away. This land was stained by blood. He could smell it, feel it on his hands, see it pooling in the crevasse created by a cluster of rocks near the entrance of the house. It turned his stomach, a surge of wet at the back of his mouth that he had to breathe through to fight back.
Piling the headless bodies onto what he knew would become a pyre – and tossing the heads around the base – he registered that none of them was Luke. He felt a pang of regret at that. It would have been easier if he'd taken Luke out during the night of the curse when the lust for blood erased almost every other instinct – hunter or human. Now, he would have to hold onto the feeling of the kill, keep it inside of him, not lose it to the hunger. To the wolf.
Grimacing at the eviscerated vampire, he moved the body to the pile, knowing instinctively that Dean had seen him destroy that one. It wasn't as though he thought the kid had any special love for the vamps; it was more that he knew when the wolf went for the heart it wasn't pretty. No matter how seasoned the hunter, there is a level of destruction the brain can't assimilate.
In all, they'd taken out thirteen vamps between them. It was a fraction of what waited for them in the nest, but it was a decent haul for two hunters.
Well, Noah conceded, one hunter, one werewolf.
He couldn't leave the bodies alone for long – they would attract animals soon enough. But he couldn't burn them yet. Not until they had a plan.
He took a steadying breath and made his way around to the pump, washing the blood from his hands as best he could. His body protested as he straightened up from the pump, causing him to pull in his breath in a sharp gasp. Glancing back over his shoulder at the house, he rubbed at his wounded side gingerly – the skin there still growing over the gaping holes left by the vampire's claws –and tried to pretend he wasn't avoiding heading back inside to face Dean.
He needed time, an idea, something that would help him figure out how to go back to being just a hunter when Dean had seen the truth. Taking a slow breath, he went up the hill to where he'd laid down the motorcycle when the change started. He'd decided to take the bike through the woods and down the creek bed when he realized that gathering supplies had taken longer than he'd planned.
He thought he'd have enough time to get back, get to a safe place before the curse took over; he'd been wrong. It hit him like a fever, like a fire in his blood turning him blind with pain and rage until his body was no longer his own and he was looking at the world through wild eyes.
Retrieving the pack of food, he pushed the bike back to the house, parked it outside the far wall, then squared his shoulders and headed inside.
"Here," he said, his voice rusty from disuse and rough from screaming. Or howling. It sounded like howling, but inside he was screaming. "Food." He tossed the bag within arm's reach of Dean.
Dean looked at the bag, then back up at Noah. He didn't move. It didn't look like kid had moved during the whole time Noah had been out. It almost looked like he wasn't sure how. He still sat on the quilt pallet, the gun gripped in his lap, his eyes on Noah as if seeing into a dark, scary abyss.
"I didn't lace it with werewolf poison or anything," Noah said in a weak attempt to lighten the mood. "Look," he sat down against the wall on the far side of the room, a mess of dirt, broken remnants of furniture, and vampire blood between them. "I'll stay all the way over here."
"You don't think I know you could cross the room before I can blink?"
Noah winced at the sound of Dean's voice. That rope had done a number on him.
"Kid, I'm just me," Noah told him, hearing the give in his tone. The need for acceptance. "It doesn't work like that – not like with the vamps. Without the full moon, I'm…, well, except for healing and, y'know, immortality… there's no super powers. I'm the same guy who hauled your ass out of that nest."
"Same guy I saw eat a vampire's heart?"
Noah looked down. "No," he shook his head. "No, that's the other guy. Him, I don't like all that much."
"You only let him out at parties, that it?"
"One party a month," Noah said, looking up hopefully. He liked this kid. Wanted to trust him. Wanted to be trusted by him. "What do you want me to say?"
"Why didn't you kill me?" Dean asked, tilting his head slightly to the side, slowly, as if his neck muscles were stone.
Noah frowned. "What? Why would I kill you?"
"Because you were…you're a… a…."
"Listen, I don't know how it works," Noah sighed. "But…I didn't want to kill you. So I didn't."
"Just like that."
Noah swallowed. Dean's eyes had gone empty. It made him nervous. "Just like that."
"What's with the water?"
Noah blinked. "Water?"
"You've been drinking water like it's going out of style," Dean replied, narrowing his eyes.
"With the curse—"
"It ain't a curse," Dean interrupted, hefting the Beretta so that Noah's eyes pulled in on the barrel. "You're a werewolf, dude."
"It…feels like a curse," Noah returned, shifting his gaze out through the ruined door. He'd never been backed into a corner like this before. Never had to explain what he'd become. Especially not to a hunter. "I never wanted this. Never asked for it. For most of the month, I'm the same guy I've always been. Except that I don't get any older. And every wound heals up before it kills me."
"It has been, yeah," Noah snapped at Dean. "Only thing this damn curse has been good for is keeping me alive long enough to take out this nest."
"So, the water help slow the…change, or whatever?" Dean asked, his eyebrows bunched in an intense, almost angry expression.
"How did you know that?"
"Dude, what do you think I am?" Dean returned. "Hunters read, y'know."
Noah looked down, rubbing the back of his neck. "About a week before the full moon, I get so thirsty. Insatiable. Doesn't matter what I drink, it's not enough. One year I read up on lycanthropy and there's a link to it and," he glanced up at Dean, "rabies. There's a theory that the water delays the moon's power, but…it's never really worked."
Dean reached up and gingerly touched his wounded neck. Noah narrowed his eyes in concern and Dean tipped the barrel of the gun up slightly. Noah sighed. Waiting. Then relented.
"I shoulda told you."
"Yeah." Dean nodded once.
"I…didn't know how."
"You just do it," Dean snapped. "Hi, my name is Noah, I hunt vampires, oh, and by the way I'm a fuckin' werewolf."
Noah huffed out a laugh. "Right. Next thing I know there's a silver bullet with my name on it."
"I don't know why I didn't feed you one last night," Dean bit off.
"Neither do I!" Noah fired back. "Some bad-ass hunter."
"I should just do it now," Dean rasped, trying to yell, his voice slipping on him.
"Why don't you?" Noah challenged, the edge to his tone turning the air between them bloody. "Drag my carcass out to the pile of vamps, get on the motorcycle and head out of here. Leave the nest – doesn't mean shit to you. Vamps were killing people since God was a boy. One job – what does it matter?"
"It matters to me," Dean growled.
"Well, it matters to me, too!"
They stared at each other a long moment. Noah worked to calm his suddenly hammering breath, fear and anger warring for dominance of his slamming heart beat. He watched as the heat simmered in Dean's expression, an evident battle for control flickering just below the surface.
Then, Dean exhaled slowly and Noah saw him give way to something. He watched as Dean carefully set the Beretta aside like a white flag of truce, then scooted over to the bag of food. His hands were shaking. He knew Dean had to be hurting; he hadn't had nearly enough sleep and while the wounds on his body weren't dangerous, they were still pretty severe.
And that fever had weakened him – albeit not so much he hadn't been able to take out four vamps on his own….
"There's ibuprofen in there, too," Noah said, his voice gentling.
Dean bit into an apple. "You knock off a convenience store?"
"Campus commissary," Noah confessed.
Dean finished the apple in a few quick bites then tore into a plastic-wrapped sandwich. "You hungry?"
Noah shook his head. "I ate," he replied without thinking.
Dean stopped chewing for a moment, then sank back against the wall, downing the last bottle of water. "Start talking."
"What do you want to know?"
"Everything," Dean told him, finishing the sandwich and palming four ibuprofen. He dunked the water bottle into the bucket of well water to fill it up. "Did you plan on taking out the nest as the wolf?"
Noah shook his head. "But it would have been convenient."
"What were you planning on telling me when the moon came out?"
Noah shifted, shrugging as memories of the night before came back to him. "I wasn't planning on telling you anything. I wasn't planning on you at all." He swallowed hard. "I was trying to get somewhere safe before…. But I was too late."
"Which came first? Hunting? Or the wolf?"
"Hunting," Noah told him, drawing his knees up and bracing his arms across them. He could see the angry welts on Dean's wrists and neck twisting as the kid dug through the food bag again. "I didn't get attacked until about five years into it."
"Start at the beginning."
Noah looked down and away. He'd never told anyone the whole story. He'd told one person the truth about the wolf, but she'd been killed by a vamp two days later. He could feel his body beginning to tighten up, a cold sweat flashing across his face and neck. He felt sick, scared, angry. He curled his fingers against his palms to keep his hands from visibly shaking.
"I, uh…I'm not sure how," Noah confessed, choking on the words. A reluctant, nervous laugh escaped. "I've never said…any of it."
Dean chewed quietly for a moment and Noah felt him thinking. He watched the kid's profile, the side facing him less bruised, looking almost normal.
And more than a little scary.
"Who's the girl?"
I knew he saw the picture. "Maggie. My wife."
Dean shot a look at him. "How old are you, man?"
Dean's eyebrows bounced up.
Noah lifted a shoulder. "I age well." Dean didn't so much as blink at his humor. "I was thirty-two when it happened."
Dean shook his head in wonder, looking away. "So, what happened to her?"
Noah felt his breath seize up as he tried to find the words. Each time the right one came to him it evaporated and the ache inside him grew, pressing his heart against his ribcage, making room for the hole he'd fallen into decades ago.
"I…she…," he stopped, pressing his hand against his sternum, trying to keep the hemorrhage of feelings at bay.
Dean had turned to face him, the wall holding him up, one leg bent under the other, his hands relaxed in his lap. When Noah lifted his eyes, he saw something in the other man's expression. Dean's bruises made him look more dangerous than vulnerable, and there was strength in the set of his jaw that steadied Noah.
He took a shallow breath. "She was killed."
It was out. He could do this. One step at a time.
"I was working at the factory near the harbor. They'd held my job while I was overseas."
"Vietnam?" Dean's brows met over the bridge of his nose as he tried to tie history together.
Dean pulled his head back. "Holy shit."
"Maggie and I went to school together. Never thought she'd go for me, y'know? I was a brawler back then. Which helped growing up in South Boston, and in the war, but not…."
He wasn't telling it in order, but the words were coming. He'd guarded them like prisoners for so long, the escape was slow. A tottering, geriatric truth scaling a chain-link fence of caution.
"But she saw me. Saw something in me worth saving, even after…even after I came back from the war. There was so much… Well, you know better than anyone." He glanced once at Dean, remembering the kid's fevered mutterings of Hell. "War changed me. She changed me back. She was…everything. My world."
He rested his elbows on his knees, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes. "After, I couldn't…," he shook his head. "I had to leave Andrew with her sister. Couldn't even take care of him."
"Andrew?" Dean asked.
Hearing his son's name in the mouth of another all these years later was jarring. Noah dropped his hands and stared at Dean with burning eyes.
"My kid. He's two." He looked out through the opened doorway. "Was two. Shit. He's…sixty something now. If he's still alive."
Dean was staring at him with unchecked surprise now. Noah tried to go on, tried to tell Dean about the magic that seemed to always surround Maggie. How she would clean house wearing his shirts and boxers – a habit that would shock the neighbor women right down to their stockings if they'd ever found out. How she had a mouth like a sailor when she got mad. How she hated to be told she was wrong. How she could get lost in a town she'd lived in all her life.
He wanted someone to know what she sounded like when she laughed, how her hips swayed when she washed the dishes, the way the bend of her neck smelled. But he couldn't connect the images to words, the words to sound. There was something blocking the path to understanding.
A night of the wrong kind of silence, of Andrew crying in his crib, of the metallic smell of blood, and of no more Maggie. He didn't realize he was near tears until he tried to breathe and felt the emotion thick at the back of his throat.
Some bad-ass hunter, Noah thought, throwing his own words back at himself.
He had been a supernatural creature longer than he'd been human and yet he couldn't release the yearning, the very real need that defined being human. He lived purposely alone, made no connections, no friendships, no relationships, and had come to thrive on that solitude. Feed off of it. It gave him strength, made him cold and focused. Gave him the space he needed to turn his body into a weapon, find out how to kill this race of vamps, survive countless attacks.
But then this kid came into his life and tossed everything sideways and now he was telling him about Maggie…. Noah felt his burning eyes spill, felt the tear as it blazed a trail down through the scruff on his cheek and jaw. He hadn't cried in years. Decades. He didn't realize he still could. He caught his breath carefully, curling in. If he gave so much as an inch, the pain he'd bottled up would destroy him.
"Tell me about Luke," Dean demanded, softly.
"Huh," Noah huffed. He ran his tongue along his bottom lip, catching the tears there and rolling his neck to try to dispel the knot of emotion in this chest. He sniffed. "Luke was always a little…rebellious. He was smart. Too smart, really. He was reckless and selfish and a little crazy. The good kind of crazy. He…," Noah shrugged, "he pushed me. Made me step out of myself and notice things. He was…," he looked up at Dean, "he was my best friend."
He caught the way Dean's eyes shifted away at that.
"I remember this one time," Noah glanced away from Dean's bruised face, his mind's eye caught up in the memory. "I was heading to the harbor with some buddies of mine and Luke wanted to come. My pal had this car…I couldn't tell you what kind, but it was the only one between us with a back seat." He felt his mouth relax in a grin. "Luke was sitting in the back, his arm out the window, and I was driving. I flicked my cigarette out the window and the wind caught it, tossed it down the sleeve of his T-shirt."
Noah shook his head. "That kid could cuss, man. I didn't know he knew half those words. I was all panicked, pulled over, jumped out, thinking his shirt was on fire…," Noah rubbed his eyes. "He had some burns, but was fine. Know what he did?"
"Asked you for a smoke?" Dean guessed.
Noah looked at him in surprise. "Yeah. How'd you guess that?"
Dean lifted a shoulder, but didn't reply.
It was odd, Noah thought, what he was able to remember fifty years after the fact. Even after all the blood and pain, even after the moment that changed everything, he was still able to recall the Luke that had been his pain-in-the-ass brother. The kid who had followed him everywhere. He shouldn't be able to, he reasoned. All those memories should have been erased by that one horrible night.
"Go on," Dean prompted him.
Noah glanced at Dean's hands. They were pressed tight against his thighs in an obvious attempt to keep them still. He was hurting, that much was clear. But he wasn't giving Noah an opening.
"Our mom died when Luke was a baby. She'd been sick awhile; he didn't remember her or what happened to her. Our Pop," Noah bobbed his head, remembering, "he was killed when Luke was eight. And, uh, he remembered that just fine. It kinda…changed something in him. He never let me out of his sight."
"When I went overseas during the war he, uh…," Noah continued, "he didn't take it well. He was only sixteen, couldn't join up. I got a letter one day from our priest, telling me Luke had run off. No one knew where he was." Noah cleared his throat, straightening his back and hardening his voice. This part was easier. This part held his hatred. "Turns out he'd headed down to New Orleans. A prostitute found him. A familiar. She took him to one of the brood. They made him theirs. He was twenty when it happened. Guess he always will be."
Dean said nothing to that; his eyes never left Noah's face.
"'Course I didn't find that out until years later. I came home from the war, married Maggie. "
"You know it was Luke? You know he killed Maggie?" Dean asked, connecting the dots faster than Noah was ready for him to.
Noah nodded, unable to find his voice.
Noah felt himself start to shake from the inside out. He'd never actually told the real story. He'd had a story for the police, one that was pared down for the neighbors and for Maggie's sister when he took Andrew to her. He'd had a story for his Army buddies, one that he retold to the hunters he encountered.
But none of them where whole truth. The real truth.
He didn't think he could get the words out. There was a reason stuff like this stayed inside where nobody else could see it. He had a sudden visual of his body on that rack Dean had railed about in the midst of his fever. Pinned down, skin splayed out, exposing the ugly truth to the whole world. He ached with the weight of the words.
"Everyone has a story, man," Dean said quietly, and in his tone Noah heard a note of acceptance.
Noah shook his head helplessly. "I've never told anyone. Not once."
Dean already knew more truth about him than anyone else he'd encountered in his over-extended life. He didn't know if he could take another step along the path of his story.
A mourning dove cried above them. The sun burned off the fog. The smaller animals curiously explored the pile of bodies outside the house. And the two hunters sat, a mess of blood and dirt between them, on opposite sides of a ruined house, each holding their pain close, like an invisible force field.
"When I was four years old," Dean said suddenly, causing Noah to jerk in surprise, "a demon killed my mom. Stabbed her in the stomach, pinned her to the ceiling above my brother's crib. Then set her on fire."
"Jesus Christ," Noah whispered in horror.
"I saw her…just for a second, but," he lifted a shoulder, "you don't ever forget something like that. My Dad, he…he grabbed up my brother, shoved him in my arms, and told me to get outside. Take Sam and go." He looked up at Noah. "So I did. And Sammy and I got out. And so did Dad. But Mom…." He shook his head. "Everyone has a story."
Noah looked down, rubbing at an old callous on his palm. "I knew when I walked into the house that something was wrong. Andy was crying, the house was cold, and there was this smell…," he paused, took a breath, felt the sweat bead on his upper lip. "She wasn't dead…not yet. I saw her blink. But he…he was still…drinking."
He wanted to throw up. Cry. Hit something.
"He looked up when he heard me and…you've seen them. He looked like…an animal. Evil. Luke had always been…well, magnetic. He kinda drew people to him. But this…he repulsed me. I backed away. I couldn't think…I just had to get away from him."
"There's a limit to what you can deal with, man," Dean said, giving him an out.
"Y'know, I spent years trying to figure out why I didn't charge the room and rip him away from her. I dreamed about it. A lot. And every time, I go to her and pull her off of his fangs." Noah had to work to swallow. A sick sweat had broken out all over his body. "And I know now there wasn't anything I could have done had I run forward instead of backwards…but it doesn't matter. I still left her with Luke."
"It wasn't Luke anymore," Dean offered, somehow still wanting to offer Noah a rope, a foothold. Even after what he'd confessed.
"Yeah, that's what I told myself. For years. That when a person is turned, all of their goodness shrivels up and vanishes and is replaced by something evil. And everything that made them who they were died and the creature is just…wearing their face."
"But you don't believe it?"
Noah shook his head. "Not really." The confession burned.
"Why?" Dean frowned, leaning forward.
Noah looked at him. "Because of me."
Dean blinked, drawing back, the look on his face plainly stating he'd lost the thread of the conversation, the reason he'd demanded this story in the first place. His color drained, his lips pressed tight, and his eyes went flat. Noah had expected that, but it still sucked his breath out a bit.
"I hunted vampires for five years after Maggie. I killed dozens of them, looking for Luke. I found the prostitute who'd betrayed him. She wasn't a familiar anymore. A different brood – one that was more…human-like than Luke's group – had turned her. She'd actually wanted it." He shuddered slightly at the thought, even all these years later. "I made her talk before I killed her. Found out she was the one who'd put Luke on the path to getting to me. She convinced him that he needed to turn me, if he was ever going to be happy." He sighed, looking out through the door once more. "I just focused on finding him. I was…stupid. Lucky. I should have died at least fifty times in those years. But I didn't."
"You didn't stay lucky," Dean pointed out.
Noah dropped his eyes to the dirt and blood-paste covered floor. Somehow this was the easiest part of the whole story.
"I was jumped one night," he started. "I was leaving a bar. I still rode trains back then, so I was headed for the rail yards. You have to run at the right angle and speed to get on one of the boxcars and not tear your arm out of the socket. I was focused on that." He began to nervously crease a fold in a pocket on his cargo pants. "There were five of them. I fought, but I'd had too much to drink and they were…determined. They didn't really want money, if you know what I mean."
He glanced quickly at Dean, then away, out through the opened doorway. "They were strong. Worked me over pretty good. I looked almost as pretty as you," he slid his eyes askance. "I knifed one – I never went anywhere without something to use on vamps. Three ran off when the guy fell, but the last one bent over him and I stopped." He looked down. "To this day, I don't know why I stopped."
Dean listened quietly, but Noah saw in his hard expression the realization of how easy it had been. How quickly the touch of evil could taint even someone who spent their life fighting it.
"He stood up and was on me before I knew what was happening. He bit me," Noah raised his forearm and showed Dean the only scar on his body that wouldn't fade: a crescent shaped bite mark, "before I managed to get away and jump on the train. He looked human, so I didn't realize what it meant. I spent two weeks thinking the bite on my arm was just from some crazy bastard who jumped me in a rail yard."
"Until the full moon," Dean guessed.
Noah nodded. "First time I changed, I didn't know anything could hurt that bad. But…it wasn't like I went away. I was…gone, but also…not… at the same time." He looked at Dean. "Does that make sense?"
"No." The abruptness of the word had Noah worrying his lip.
"It's like," Noah searched for a way to describe being aware, but not being himself…being in control, but only just, "being high. Or drunk. I know who I am, I'm aware of what I'm doing, but it's nothing I'd do under normal circumstances."
"And that's why you think a part of the person is still in the vamp."
"Yeah," Noah nodded. "A twisted part. Not one they'd ever let out in the open under normal circumstances. Not the part that anyone wants to pay attention to…wants to admit to being there. But…it's still them."
Dean's eyes shifted to the corner of the house where Noah had seen Ali's body lying. His face seemed to tighten a bit, his voice barely audible when he said, "I've seen werewolves before. I've killed them. Sam's killed them. They didn't know what they were doing. Who they were when they…y'know…wolfed out."
Noah nodded. "Me too."
"But you control it. The…hunger."
Noah narrowed his eyes. There was something there, under the question. Something else bowing Dean's shoulders. "I'm not a monster all the time, Dean. I only have to control it one night a month."
Noah shrugged. "Near as I can figure, it's because I was bitten by a werewolf in human form. I haven't found many books on the matter. I tried to ask another hunter, but he caught on and I had to get out of there or kill the bastard. Didn't want to do that, so…I decided to just roll with it."
"How many humans have you killed?" Dean asked suddenly.
"As a wolf? One. As a man…," he shook his head. "I don't know."
"War doesn't count," Dean frowned.
"Why not?" Noah challenged. "I've been in two of 'em. I did some pretty horrible things to people. And war aside…there's been…collateral damage."
Dean's brows drew together. "How so?"
"Those people back in the mill, for example," Noah pointed out through the opened door, his stomach churning at the memory of the hanging bodies. "I got you out…left them behind."
Dean took a long drink of water, looked at the bottle, then capped it, setting it down. "This needs to be a helluva lot stronger for that conversation."
"I've let so many people die tracking vamps to find the nest…. Killing one human as a wolf is the least of my problems." Noah dropped his head back against the wall, trying to find space in his body for breath.
"How is that possible – one human?" Dean's doubt was clearly laced through his words.
"I didn't realize what I needed that first time until the hunger grabbed me. I found this bum…under a bridge, and I…." He didn't finish. Couldn't. "After that, though, I discovered vampire hearts fed the hunger, too. They just aren't as…potent, so I need more of them." He pulled his head away from the wall. "Two birds, one stone."
"So that's why they all pulled away – back there at the mill when you cut your arm," Dean concluded.
Noah nodded. "You saw that, huh?"
"Saw it. Couldn't figure it out."
Noah lifted a shoulder. "You were barely on your feet," he conceded. "I knew they'd smell the wolf if they could smell my blood. And it would back them off…at least for a moment."
"Think that's what got Luke's attention?"
"Maybe," Noah said quietly, looking down. "Maybe."
Dean stared at him a moment, then dragged his hand down his face. "Werewolf and vampire brothers. You guys are like a fuckin' Greek tragedy." His sigh groaned out of him; he looked exhausted. "What now, huh?"
Noah lifted his shoulder. "Why should anything change?"
Dean glanced away, quiet, his jaw working around what looked to be some pretty heavy thoughts. After several moments of silence, he finally conceded, "We do have a vampire nest to clear out."
Noah nodded. "And my no ganking promise is still iron-clad."
"That's good to know," Dean almost-smiled. "Plus, since you can't die…make everything a bit easier."
Noah leaned his head back again, closing his eyes. "Nothing easy about not dying." Dean was quiet and Noah went on. "People need to die, Dean. They want to, even though they don't know it. It's the only way anything means anything to us, if death is a possibility," he looked at Dean, "if we know that life is finite. Death makes people feel alive."
"I know," Dean said softly. "Believe me," his eyes met Noah's, and the pain Noah saw in them sucked the breath from his lungs. "I know."
As Dean continued to look at him, his eyes unfocused and he blinked harder, as if trying to erase an image. His gaze darted to the side, then he closed his eyes once more, forcing them open as his fingers tightened their grip on his thighs. He looked as if he were seeing two of Noah and trying to decide which was the right one.
"I think we're safe for awhile," Noah said after a moment. "It's gonna take them awhile to regroup after the ass-kicking we gave them last night."
Dean shook his head, reaching for the wall and shoving his feet beneath him. It took Noah a moment to realize the kid was trying to get to his feet. He tensed, reaching out a reactive hand, though he was much too far away to help. Dean gripped the wall and managed to get to his feet, but his eyes were still unfocused. Noah wasn't sure where he was planning on going, but if he wasn't going to get far.
"Why don't we trade watch, get some sleep?" Noah suggested, moving to a crouch, trying to calculate if he'd be able to catch Dean should he fall.
"Why not go after them right now?" Dean asked, frowning. He released the wall and took a step forward, swaying dangerously.
"Kid, you can barely stay upright. You think you're gonna be able to go up against a couple dozen angry vamps?" Noah balanced on the balls of his feet, not standing quite yet, afraid that if he did, he'd send Dean off-balance completely.
"I can hold my own," Dean replied, lifting his chin, his eyes going cold. He managed to get to the open doorway, gripping the decaying edges with trembling fingers.
Noah watched Dean a moment, not doubting his conviction in the slightest. He looked out at the bodies piled up in the clearing. "We're not ready," he said quietly.
Dean was silent for a moment, his stillness speaking for the internal battle he was obviously waging. After time stretched to make room for his struggle, Dean finally asked, "What about the bodies?"
At that, Noah grinned. "They're gonna be our protection tonight," he said. "Vamps hate fire."
Dean seemed to sigh a bit and Noah saw the kid's knees buckle one second before he shot to his feet, catching the hunter beneath his shoulders before he went all the way down.
"Easy, kid," Noah said softly. "You don't have to be the hero all the time."
"Lemme go," Dean grumbled, trying to struggle away. "I got this."
Noah let go and Dean went to his knees, swearing as he tried to hold himself up by gripping the wall. Noah reached for him again, and Dean smacked his hand away.
"I said I got it," Dean growled. "Don't need your help."
Noah nodded, inching away, watching as Dean struggled back to the quilt pallet and collapsed, breathing hard.
"Son of a bitch," Dean gasped.
"Kid," Noah tried, his voice calm, quiet, "they didn't kill you, but they worked you over pretty good. You need rest."
"I need to kill the bastards," Dean retorted.
"After you rest."
"Think they're resting?" Dean shot back, lifting his head, his pupils so wide Noah barely saw any green. "They're figuring out how to kill us, man."
"They haven't been able to kill us yet," Noah pointed out. "They know you managed to take out four of them when you're half dead. They know you've got a werewolf with you. You need to rest, heal up some more. We need to be ready." He looked at Dean, letting his expression harden with the fervor he put behind his next words. "I can't lose this fight."
Dean clenched his jaw, pushing himself upright, holding himself still, though Noah could still see the fine tremors surfing through his body from abuse and exhaustion.
"In shifts," Dean consented.
Noah nodded. "Shifts," he agreed.
wwwContinued in Chapter 8 Part B.