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.
Chapter 8: Part A
It took a bit of convincing, but Noah won the first watch. It wasn't really a fair fight: Dean was gray-faced and weaving where he sat. But he was stubborn, unwilling to give way in the slightest until his body gave him no choice.
He didn't immediately drop off as Noah had thought he might. He slumped against the wall, watching with weary eyes as Noah tossed the pieces of broken furniture through the opened door to aid in the fire he would build when darkness came. Taking out these vamps was not going to be easy – especially after the brood had been decimated by a werewolf.
They needed rest and they needed a plan.
Noah hadn't slept in over forty-eight hours – between watching over Dean and then the full moon – but he wasn't even close to tired. Aside from the post-wolf rush, he felt a whole different level of energy fueled by purpose; an odd sort of weightlessness buoyed his steps. There was a freedom that came with confession, something he'd not felt in a long, long time. His whole life, there had been only three short years when he'd felt unburdened, complete. And his brother destroyed it.
He cleaned out the room, stacking anything they could use for protection – like chair legs that could be turned into stakes – against the wall across from Dean, throwing the rest into an adjacent room or out onto the rubbish pile. There wasn't much he could do about the blood on the floor; they would just have to ignore it.
He was emptying the backpack and inventorying the duffel's contents when he heard Dean's unintelligible mutter. Glancing up, he realized that nearly an hour had passed since he'd convinced Dean to rest. Sometime in there, Dean had succumbed to exhaustion, sliding down to an awkward, curled position on the quilt, his bruises facing upward. Noah froze, watching the hunter's face pull tight, his eyes darting beneath his closed lids.
Dean twitched in his sleep.
Noah had thought that the previous night it had been from the fever, thrashing from the pain and the images the poison forced into his brain, but he saw now that it was apparently usual. The man never really rested; his fingers flexed and reached, his legs jolted and poised to run. As Noah watched, Dean jerked his head as if dismissing something, his lips moving rapidly, no sound escaping.
Noah swallowed, carefully setting down the rock salt he'd pulled from the duffel. He knew Dean needed rest – his body had been through too much lately to keep going at this pace – but he couldn't let the kid stay trapped in a nightmare.
Living one was hard enough.
Crouching next to the quilt pallet, Noah reached out a careful hand, laying it gently on Dean's shoulder. The reaction was immediate and startling. Flight was apparently not programmed into Dean's DNA: it was straight from oblivion to fight.
Before his eyes had fully opened – and well before they'd focused – Dean had slapped the hand away from his shoulder and reached up to grab Noah's throat, his grip tight, dangerous.
Noah gasped, instinctively drawing back, but the motion didn't succeed in shaking Dean loose, it only dragged Dean up with him.
"Ki—" he tried, not able to get air.
He grabbed Dean's rope-bruised wrist, squeezing until the pain cut through and focused Dean's eyes. With a half-aborted cry of surprise, Dean released him, scrambling away until his back was against the wall, as Noah collapsed onto his forearms, coughing and gasping for breath.
"Holy shit," Dean breathed. "I'm sorry, I—"
"'S okay," Noah rasped, waving Dean off as he pushed back onto his heels, his face flushed, his eyes watering. "Really."
"I didn't…I didn't know…," Dean muttered, pressing the back of his shaking hand against his mouth. He swallowed, looking wildly around the room.
"Must've been one helluva dream," Noah commented, his voice still a bit rough, but coming back. He coughed again.
"I…," Dean shook his head. He didn't seem to be able to settle his eyes on any one thing; it looked like he was searching for something.
On a hunch, Noah leaned back and away, clearing Dean's eye line to the contents of his duffel bag. He felt something shift in the center of his chest as Dean's gaze hit the weapons and stilled, his eyes widening slightly to take them in – not out of surprise or worry, but out of relief and reassurance. Noah sat quietly as Dean's fingers flexed in the quilt beneath him, his breathing slowing and evening out as he stared at the weapons.
"You want to talk about it?" Noah asked carefully when Dean was once more breathing regularly.
Dean shook his head. "Just get them sometimes." He gingerly rubbed his face, avoiding the bruises. Trailing his hands down his jaw, he dabbed at the rope burns on his throat. Wordlessly, Noah handed him a newly-filled water bottle.
Glancing over his shoulder, Noah saw that it was early afternoon. If he was a betting man, he'd wager they had a little over twenty-four hours before the vamps regrouped and attacked. It had taken that long for the group to hit the house after the dynamite escape fiasco. He and Dean had one night to regain their strength and prepare their assault on the nest. This time tomorrow, it was going to be over one way or another.
Which meant he needed Dean's head in the game, and it clearly wasn't.
Dean's eyes were bruised with exhaustion, his hands were trembling and he couldn't seem to pull his eyes away from the weapons stash. It was almost as if he were mentally categorizing them. It reminded Noah of something from the war – his first one…the one he'd fought as a human.
"When I was in France," he began, quietly, leaning back against the wall, tenting his knees and hanging his arms across the gap, "in '43, my company came up on this town. The Germans had already been there and there were bodies just…everywhere. We had to clean up, clear a path for the tanks to move through and get to a bridge."
Dean didn't move. But Noah could feel him listening.
"We had this guy in our company – Ramsey. Younger than the rest of us, and smaller, too. But feisty, y'know? Like nothing could keep him down. Nothing." Noah shook his head, getting lost in his story. "We all did what we were ordered, but it was…it was hard. There were little kids in the town. They didn't look…I mean, you'd've sworn that all you had to do was…was whisper their name…shake their arm. And they'd open their eyes."
Dean started to uncoil slightly. He didn't look away from the weapons, but Noah knew he had the hunter's attention.
"Ramsey pulled the bodies of four kids out of a demolished kitchen. He held the littlest one for a long time. He held her until the rest of us were done. Our Lieutenant finally had to take her from him. He wasn't the same after that. For weeks, he'd wake up screaming, shaking, convinced he was back in that town."
Noah watched Dean carefully as he continued the story. "We were afraid he was going to get us killed, alert the Germans. One night, Lieutenant grabs him outta one of those bad dreams and says to him, grab something here and hold onto it."
Dean looked up at that, his eyes almost fever bright. He trained his gaze on Noah and waited.
"He tells him it doesn't matter if we're sleeping cozy in a USO, or camped out in the tracks of a Panzer, he needs to find something that's real and hang onto it until he remembers that he's not back in that damn town."
Dean swallowed, nodding slowly. "I…uh," he exhaled slowly, "know how he feels. Felt, I guess."
"Ramsey made it home," Noah told him. "I checked later. He's a grandpa, living in Philly."
"That's good," Dean said, his lips tipping up in a shaky, weak smile. "That's real good."
The trees creaked in the wind and they both jumped, eyes darting to the broken roof. When nothing dropped down with intent to kill, Noah exhaled and looked back at Dean.
"Think you could get some more sleep?" Noah asked him.
Dean didn't answer.
"You need it more than me, kid," Noah coaxed, "especially now."
"When I came back from Hell," Dean said, unexpectedly, his voice quiet, subdued, "I lied to Sam."
Noah blinked, holding very still as he watched the other man stare into the middle distance, eyes on something Noah would never see.
"I told him I didn't remember anything. Clean slate." He waved a hand listlessly as if to erase invisible scars. "One minute I was ripped up by Hellhounds…the next…digging my way out of a grave."
And here I thought my life was tough. Noah bit the inside of his cheek to keep from speaking.
"But he knew." Dean huffed out a humorless laugh. "I mean, he didn't know…but he knew me. Knew I was full of shit. And he just…waited me out."
"What did he say when you told him the truth?" Noah asked quietly, wondering just what that truth entailed and how Dean could function with memories of Hell.
"Nothing," Dean said, his face stone. Then he flicked his eyes to Noah and the sorrow caught there was so real and raw Noah thought Dean might break apart. "I mean, what do you say to that?"
Noah shook his head helplessly.
"He brought me out of the nightmares, though," Dean revealed. "Figured out a way to remind me that I wasn't…I wasn't back there. On that rack."
His voice cracked around the last word. Noah remembered the wild mutterings and desperate cries from two nights ago when the fever raged through Dean, how he'd thought they were cutting him, pulling him apart. Noah's stomach twisted with the memory and he rubbed his suddenly sweaty palms along his jeans.
"Is that why Sam left?" Noah asked, unable to help himself. "Because of what you'd been through in Hell?"
There was something significant about Sam no longer being around, no longer hunting with Dean. It visibly haunted Dean. Almost as much as Hell obviously did.
Dean tipped his head back, his mouth falling back in an empty smile. "Kinda."
Frowning, Noah concentrated on the tip of his boot so as not to look over at Dean. "Seems a bit…unfair."
"Yeah." Noah glanced to the side as he heard Dean slide down the wall, his body giving in. "But…when I was there," Dean said quietly, his voice taking on a gently defensive tone – the one Noah used to get with the neighborhood kids about Luke: nobody messes with my brother except me. "Sam went through his own shit. And it wasn't something that he could shake off. Couldn't let go. He just…hunting, it's…he can't be here now. Not now."
"Everyone has a story," Noah repeated, understanding what Dean meant.
Dean nodded, his eyes dropping closed. "Miss him, though."
"Yeah," Noah replied to the quiet confession.
He waited another moment, watching to make sure the hunter was truly sinking back into sleep, and then returned to his inventory. There were nine sticks of dynamite left, rock salt, holy water, two more guns, a package of something Noah couldn't identify, and enough silver slugs that if they melted them down, they could tip the stakes and make them rather painful. He didn't dig deeper into the bag, avoiding touching the silver without his gloves.
As Dean slept, Noah worked his knife on the chair legs, narrowing the points to make sure they'd break through skin – and bone, with enough thrust behind it. He rummaged through the house, finding a trap door in the ceiling of an adjacent room and climbed up to what had once been an attic – partially destroyed, now, the floor crumbling away to expose Dean sleeping beneath him. Picking his way around the rotted floorboards, Noah found more candles and a heavy ceramic bowl they could use to melt the silver.
The day was tapering to evening. Noah walked the perimeter of the house, making sure the protective circle was still intact, then, remembering the vamps inside the cabin, climbed back up to the attic and spread some of the protective mixture along the edges of the roof, hoping the low wind didn't blow it away. It wasn't as if they couldn't find a way to get in if they really wanted to. He'd fought and killed a lot of vampires over the last fifty years; this race was truly feral and the evil around them was pervasive.
He stood balanced on two of the strongest beams that protruded from the roof, staring over toward the mill. The wind carried the vamp's scent toward him and he felt the fine hairs along his neck stand at attention. After all this time, after so many years of searching and surviving, hatred and vengeance the one thing driving him forward, he was going to end it.
"What the hell are you doing up there?"
Noah jerked in surprise, almost losing his balance, at the gravelly sound of Dean's voice cutting through the peace of the woods.
"For fuck's sakes," Noah growled at him. "Warn a guy."
"Well, get down here, you moron! You're like some kinda freaky monster beacon."
Noah leaned over, grabbing the lower beam, and swung down into the house, dropping to the floor in a crouch and straightening up at the sight of Dean, standing with a Colt 1911 in one hand and Noah's Beretta in the other.
The first thing Noah registered was that the kid was no longer shaking.
"Feeling better?" Noah asked, arching his eyebrow at the weapons.
Dean flipped the Beretta around to grip it by the barrel and handed it to Noah. "Yeah. How long was I out?"
Noah took the gun, automatically checking the clip, and peered with narrowed eyes through the doorway. "About five hours."
"What?" Dean's voice squeaked slightly with indignation.
"You needed it, kid."
"What about you?"
Noah lifted a shoulder. "I don't need as much right now."
"How—wait, never mind." Dean held up a hand. "I don't think I want to know."
They stood squared off; Noah couldn't read Dean's expression, but the energy he felt radiating from the other hunter had him proceeding with caution. "What is it?"
Dean set his jaw, looking away. Something was stuck in his craw – something more than lingering nightmares, or Noah having witnessed his weakness.
"My dad, he," Dean started, then looked down at the Colt still held in a loose grip, his lips pursing around words that seemed to elude him. His brows pulled close over the bridge of his nose and Noah waited, feeling his back muscles tighten. "He taught Sam and me how to hunt. He raised us like…," he looked up again, "soldiers. It was a right and wrong world; there wasn't any question who the bad guys were."
Noah felt himself settle into his heels, his body reacting automatically to a possible threat, though his brain hadn't quite caught up yet. He realized he was gripping the Beretta tightly and tried to loosen his fingers.
"Sam, though," Dean shook his head, his mouth pulling back in a rueful smile, his eyes sad, "he sees things in gray. Just because someone was a vampire didn't make them evil."
Frowning, Noah shook his head once. "Where are you going with this?"
"I thought I knew," Dean said, looking directly at him, his eyes serious. "I thought I knew where the line was, and who was on which side. Until I started listening to my brother."
Still off-balance, Noah tightened his jaw, waiting.
"Dad would have put you down last night," Dean informed him. "Instead of shooting that vamp off your back, he would have put you down because you're a werewolf, plain and simple. Doesn't matter if you can control the hunger; doesn't matter if you're a hunter twenty-nine days of the month."
Noah darted his eyes to the Colt in Dean's hand, swallowing. If Dean decided to fire, he didn't stand a chance. Because he couldn't kill this kid.
"But I'm not my dad. And I'm not my brother. It's not about what you are. It's about who you are. And you've done right by me."
Noah felt a little dizzy by Dean's logic, trying to find his balance inside of the words. "So…you won't kill me. That's what you're saying."
"I could," Dean allowed. "If I had to. But I don't think have to."
Huffing out a confused laugh, Noah saw that Dean simply needed to spell it out – if not for Noah, than for himself. He'd needed to find his own path and justify its direction different from his family's. Noah nodded.
"And you won't, either."
"Good," Dean said, sliding the Colt into his back waist band. "What's our plan?"
Putting the Beretta away, Noah showed him the inventory. "I figure we melt down the silver and tip the stakes – which is going to be your job."
"Naturally." Dean bobbed his head in agreement.
"Thing is, the dynamite's no good if we can't get it to trigger an incendiary device. We need them to burn."
"What do you think this is?" Dean leaned over and grabbed the package Noah hadn't been able to identify.
"Not a clue."
Dean gave him a look. "It's dust. Mostly magnesium, but some sawdust and coal, too."
"Dust." Noah repeated in a flat voice.
"Some pressure and an ignition – bam! They use this in fireworks displays all the time. Add some silver to it, and you've got yourself one helluva vamp bomb."
The gears began falling into place. "You were going to build a bomb?"
"How else did you think I was planning on taking out the nest?"
Noah lifted a shoulder. "One at a time?"
"Yeah, well, somebody told me that was a bad idea."
"So you did listen." Noah lifted his chin, eyes on Dean.
"Just because you were a jackass doesn't mean you didn't have a good point."
Noah felt his mouth tug upwards in a grin. "Or you tried it and it almost killed you, so you figured my idea might be better."
"Or that," Dean tipped his head to the side in concession.
Noah didn't bother explaining that his original plan had involved much the same kamikaze approach as he'd warned Dean against.
As Dean explained how they'd set the bomb, rigging it with the dynamite to explode, Noah gaped in amazement. "How'd you learn this stuff?"
"You ever hear of the Internet?"
Noah waved a hand at him. "Whatever. No way you got all this from the Internet."
"Seriously. Well, that and Bobby."
Bobby Singer…. Noah remembered. "Singer, right?"
Dean blinked at him. "You know him, don't you?"
Noah didn't answer.
"He knows you," Dean told him. "'Course, he thinks you're your son. Or…something that doesn't make me sound buckets of crazy."
"I met him right after 'Nam," Noah nodded. "It's funny, 'cause I usually don't remember names. But I remember his. Guess when you don't connect with many hunters, the ones you do stick with you. He wasn't some hunting guru then."
Dean shook his head. "That came later; he remembers you hunted vampires."
Noah dug through the bag he'd procured from the commissary. "I may or may not have talked it up a bit."
"Dude. Anyone ever tell you hunting's like Fight Club?"
"Right, right, well," Noah shrugged. "Sometimes…you gotta break the rules."
"You guys run into some Vietnamese vampires or something?"
Noah shot his eyes up to Dean, then looked away. Now was not the time for that story. "Or something." He tossed Dean the last sandwich and took the energy bar for himself. "Eat. We've got work to do."
By the time Noah had dug his slim leather gloves from his backpack, Dean had inhaled the sandwich and was prying the silver slugs from the bullet jackets, tapping the gunpowder into a pile next to him. Noah watched as the kid moved carefully, holding his arms close to his body, not moving his shoulders or his torso too much. He knew Dean had to be sore; the stretched muscles, little sleep, and forced exertion would be taxing his system. But he pushed himself.
At one point, Noah saw Dean stop, brace himself, and pull in a breath, his eyes closed against what was obviously a shimmer of pain. He wanted to go to him, help him, suggest he lie down, but Dean straightened up and reached for more bullets. Noah wasn't going to get a chance to even try to give the kid a break. They worked quickly, Dean building the silver-enhanced dust bomb, Noah gathering the stakes and guns, both listening to the sigh of the woods as night gathered close.
Dean seemed physically incapable of working quietly, though. He kept up a steady stream of questions as they pulled their arsenal together; Noah tried to answer in a way that wouldn't incite the curious hunter to use one of the weapons against him.
"Do you move around a lot, or do you have a…a den somewhere?"
"Whatever. I don't know. Shut up."
Noah grinned, taking pity on the hunter. "I move around a lot. Gave up my house a long time ago. Tried an apartment for awhile, but…that didn't work out."
"How do you get money?"
"You're a hunter," Noah tried turning it back on Dean, "how do you get money?"
"Fake credit cards, hustle pool, once in awhile get paid for a random job."
"You've gotten paid for hunting?"
Dean glanced up at him from over the pile of silver slugs. "Not that kind of job."
"Pretty much the same here," Noah replied, "though there were a few years there when I…didn't live such an honest life."
"Let's just say it was the sixties and leave it at that."
"Hippie," Dean remarked, a smile lacing his voice.
"Vietnam changed things, though."
"I'll bet. You ever have a car?" Dean glanced up, eyes clear, interested, judgment free.
"You've got a thing about cars, don't you?"
"What if I did?"
Noah sighed. "Had a car once. It got impounded one full moon and I never bothered to get it back. Just…kinda…borrow them now. Or get by. Ride trains a lot."
"Gets me where I need to go," Noah replied. "I don't have friends, I keep a low profile. I have enough money to survive, but not saved in any place that needs my name. I don't have an ID. I figured out how to kill vamps – and how werewolves die – and kept focused on one thing."
"Killing your brother," Dean supplied.
"Right," Noah nodded.
"And then what?" Dean asked quietly.
Noah looked at him, unable to answer. For the first time in his life, he didn't know. He'd always thought he'd die taking out Luke. It had been a perfectly viable end to this journey. He saw that truth echo in the space between himself and Dean, saw Dean register it…and then dismiss it.
Noah cleared out a space around the pyre of vampire bodies so as not to catch the rest of the woods on fire, and as the sun tumbled behind the tree line, he lit a cigarette, then the wad of T-shirt fixed on the end of a chair leg and soaked in the lighter fluid Dean had dug out of the base of the duffel and tossed the torch onto the pile, stepping back slowly as the bodies caught fire.
He backed up to the house, leaning against the doorway, watching the fire, pulling the cigarette smoke into his lungs, the air around him permeated with the stench of roasting flesh. He glanced inside the house at Dean, watching as the hunter surreptitiously pulled the collar of his T-shirt over his mouth and nose. They may have been monsters, but they were human once, and no matter how many times it's done, a burning human body is not a scent another human can easily stomach.
Especially when there are thirteen of them, Noah thought.
Turning away from the sight, Dean filled the bowl with bits of silver. Lighting another torch off the pyre, Noah helped Dean start up a new fire in the stone fireplace, the non-existent chimney easily pulling the smoke away from them. It wasn't until they had four stakes tipped with silver and cooling against the stone that Noah heard the first of them.
He felt Dean freeze next to him, all motion completely gone. Straightening slowly from a crouch, Noah pulled his Beretta free and made his way over to the open doorway. Dean was on his heels, energy and tension radiating off of him in waves.
The light from the pyre lit the woods for a fair distance, but then dropped a curtain of black that Noah knew Dean couldn't see beyond. However Noah could make out shadows, figures moving through the trees. He swallowed and pulled in a breath – smoke, burning flesh, and under that, the sickly sweet stench of rot.
"Eyes," Dean whispered.
Noah shot a questioning look over his shoulder at the other hunter, then looked back at the edge of darkness. Sure enough, he saw eyes reflecting back at him – red, narrowed, foreign. They were gathering forces, calling in the rest of the brood as reinforcements under the cover of darkness. It was hard to say how many, but the stir of echoes within the trees was continuous.
He looked down at the collection of weapons and the container with the combustible material ready to be linked to the dynamite. Glancing to his left, he saw Dean's gaze was on the same thing. The hunter looked over, meeting his eyes.
"We're gonna need a bigger bomb," they said in unison.
Continued here in Chapter 9
a/n: Thanks for reading! Next chapter brings a vampire showdown, and the return of an angel. After that, a brother comes back. Hope to see you there!