Author's Notes: Some of you may have read this story forever ago in its original, more innocent, version. At that time I was constrained by a word limit, terrified by a deadline and had a certain hesitance about content that no longer concerns me. And I'm not quite the person I was then.
This is the story that should have been. Padded, polished and a little more than it was before. Whether it's better or not, I'll leave it to you to decide.
Gaelicspirit needs to be commended for bravely gathering her nerve and beating me over the head with the POV stick. Then having the patience to actually explain what the hell I was doing wrong and why. I went back after her tireless and repeated efforts and tried to fix my POV fuck-ups, and trust me, there were MANY once I understood, to some extent, what I was doing. Hopefully, I found and fixed the rest that she didn't have time to show me. I really appreciate her efforts. Trying to stick to a specific POV is HARD, but hopefully, even an old dog can learn new tricks. Huggles her.
There is a a myth that I wrote to go with this cause I needed a backstory. I will post it at the end of the last chapter for anyone who would like to read it. It was not rewritten and I'm gonna leave it that way, good bad or ugly.
Summary: Forced to lay over in Athens, Georgia, after Dean becomes desperately ill, the brothers encounter a creature that has killed its way through the centuries preying on young men. Takes place Season 1ish, 'cause while they weren't innocent by any means, in the grand scheme they still sorta were, and I liked it. No spoilers. There is an OFC. And dancing. Don't let that fool you...
Writhe Prologue: All that glitters…
Heavy, rhythmic music throbbed and pulsated through the dimly lit room. A heartbeat of bass vibrated the walls, the floor, shifted the glasses on the bar, moved tables ever so slightly and thrummed across the skin of the men and women pressed against each other in the limited space allotted for the public sex that passed for dancing. Shafts of blue and red lights pierced the intimate darkness and starbursts of spot lighting swept over the crowded dance floor in time to the deep trembles of music so loud it consumed the twisting figures locked in its embrace.
To be still was not an option.
With each passing second the primal pulse of the beat grew in intensity and speed, the friction of heated flesh against sweating skin as the dancers wound around each other, offering a teasing promise in an unchanging ritual as old as time. This was a hunting ground. Only the give and take of bodies sliding against each would determine who was hunter and who was prey.
Lost in the music and movement, Matt Lewis rolled his body to the sound washing over and through him. Eyes closed, enjoying the feel of his partner's body against his, holding them both clasped together at the hips with his hands. His tall, lean, well-muscled body, dark hair and slightly exotic looks that hinted at a mixed parentage, assured he would always have a willing partner. He was especially pleased with tonight's choice. The slim girl he held had long, blonde hair, a vacant smile and wore a dress that revealed more than it covered. Her long, sparkling fingernails were dancing and drifting across the skin of his arms in time with the music. The drag of her nails sped up his breathing as the music built to a slow crescendo. Matt opened his eyes and smiled.
It was going to be a good night.
Across the floor, up-slanted eyes were watching avidly as Matt shifted and swayed with his blonde trophy, their bodies moving as one. Leaning an elbow on the glass-topped bar, draped languidly on a stool, Elana stared at Matt and sipped her drink. Silver dust shimmered across olive skin that was almost nakedly on display in a low cut, backless dress that appeared to be held in place by the grace of God. It was entirely composed of tiny sparkling silver discs scattered where they were needed most, caressing and hugging the curves of the body contained within it. Thin ropes of silver serpentine chain dangled in glittering waterfalls from her ears and numerous strands of it were wound around her wrists. A mane of dark red hair tumbled around her shoulders, framing high, slanted cheekbones, full lips painted a deep crimson, and wide topaz-colored eyes—each with tiny diamonds sparkling at the corners.
The slide of her legs against each other as she crossed them caused a minor sensation among several young men watching. She ignored them, her eyes only for the dark young man. Hunger stirred her body the longer she watched. The tip of her tongue drifted across red lips as she studied him: her chosen prize for the night.
She stretched out long fingers tipped in chrome polish and plucked the cherry out of her drink. Holding it by the stem, she slid it between her lips, kissing the juice from it, then pulled it from the warm prison of her mouth and began to move toward Matt and his partner, cherry dangling from her fingers. Several of the men at the bar followed her movements with open mouths after watching the cherry disappear and reappear. She undulated through the packed dancers with surprising ease, adjusting her body to accommodate the shifting crowd, every movement a study of sinuous grace.
Momentarily separated, Matt and his partner were facing away from each other. Moving closer, Elana insinuated herself into the small space between the two dancers and with gentle pressure from her hips and the touch of her free hand against his waist, used her body to move Matt away from his partner. Enjoying the sudden warm contact, Matt turned and was surprised to see a dark beauty in place of the blonde whose name he hadn't known anyway. His confusion was short lived and he smiled at this definite step up in the evening's plans. He took in the slow roll of her body as she moved against him, brushing her lips with the cherry as she watched him from under her lashes. His hands cupped her hips, fingertips digging in slightly and they start to move with the music.
Matt's eyes were locked on that cherry as she parted her lips enough to slide it in between her teeth. She stretched her face upwards to tease his lips with the stem as she moved her head with the music, her eyes never leaving his. Matt's breathing quickened with every tickle across his mouth. Finally, he caught the stem between his own teeth, as close to the red globe as he could get, tugging gently, their lips not quite touching, looking at each other over the fruit.
As the song ended she bit down, pressing warm lips against his, the sweet juice mingling with their kiss. She pulled back from him, taking the rest of the cherry with her and leaving him tonguing the stem. Her head tilted slightly and she watched him from the corners of her sparkling eyes, chewing on the cherry slowly, tongue lazily collecting juice from her lips.
Matt's mouth fell open letting the stem fall and after two abortive efforts, he choked out. "Hi…."
Elana smiled. .....................
Moonlight lessened the darkness in Matt's bedroom as he lay naked on the bed, scarcely believing the sight of this silver goddess straddling him, her hands moving over his body with a skill and touch unlike anything he had ever experienced. The trace of her nails on his skin shot fire through his body.
Slowly Elana slipped her fingers beneath the hem of her shimmering dress and slid it upward, freeing her full breasts. Pulling it over her head, she dropped it on the floor. Leaning closer to Matt, she shook out her long tresses, brushing over his face and chest with the tumultuous waves.
He drank in her scent, a warm sweetness, his hands trembling as they cupped her skin, his body on fire. He didn't know how much more of this he could stand. Her lips pressed against his and she plundered his mouth, her hands on his body gripping him so fiercely it was almost as painful as it was arousing. He couldn't stop the groan that escaped him. Hands tangling in her long, auburn hair, he pulled her tightly against him as she undulated her body over his.
"Elana…," he gasped out, feeling lightheaded. "My God…." His body shuddered.
"Do you love me?" Her throaty voice was a deep, moist purr in his ear, her hot breath against his skin a maddening sensation, teasing him on.
"Oh, God…please…." He moaned the words brokenly as she brushed her lips against his ear, tongue flicking.
His brain stuttered for an instant. "What…?"
She pushed herself down on him, burying him in heat and need.
"Do you love me?" she repeated, over and over, slamming her body onto his more intensely with each repetition, driving her own desire on, her hunger...
Matt writhed helplessly beneath her, teetering on the edge of insanity, gasping for breath as she took him, claimed him as hers.
He would have told her anything. Given her everything
"God, yes, I love you!" he finally cried out in answer to her demands, clutching desperately at her body.
Elana cried out in return, her body arching back away from him even as he reached for her. Her head was thrown back, arms crossed over her chest, hands grasping opposite shoulders. Her breath rushed out as a shuddering groan, drawing back in as a deep, sizzling hiss.
Eyes closed, lost in bliss, Matt congratulated himself on a job well done. The weight of her body on his suddenly increased, pressing his legs painfully into the mattress. He squirmed uncomfortably. "Hey, honey, can you roll off just a bit-"
Muscles like steel bands suddenly encircled him, clamping down, crushing him in a slow upward roll, driving the blood up his body The scream that rode the air being crushed from his lungs left no room to draw in more. Blood began to pound in his skull, bones cracking and snapping from the increasing, relentless pressure. Blood burst from his ears and nose in a crimson spray, his eyes popping from their sockets.
Greenish liquid dripped onto his face, burning into his skin like acid. Blind, unable to draw in air, body caught helplessly in a grip of iron, he could do nothing but lie there with no way to vent the searing agony. His mouth opened as his tongue began to bulge outward, the last of his air bursting out in bubbles of blood.
The hot, red slicked, softness of Matt's open mouth was an invitation.
Chapter 1: Any port in a storm.
Lulled by the quiet darkness surrounding them and by the welcome silence instead of the blaring music Dean usually listened to when he drove, Sam had allowed himself to drift into a pleasant state wherein he was neither asleep, nor totally awake. His muscles relaxed; his mind, for once at peace, as they sped through the humid Georgia night. The A/C in the Impala was working sporadically as usual, which meant not at all at the moment, but even the warm air blowing in the windows was nice. The feel of the car suddenly slowing and swaying to the right startled him from his trance. Blinking he sat up slightly and looked around, seeing they were headed down an off ramp. A short distance ahead the lights of a gas-and-go glared.
"What's up?" he asked, rubbing his eyes. Maybe he had been asleep.
Dean glanced at him. "Nothin'. Thought I'd fill her up, maybe get some coffee." His face was tight in the glow of the dash lights, knuckles gripping the wheel.
"Are you alright?" Sam asked, watching Dean shift uncomfortably.
Dean chose not to reply, turned into the gas station and pulled up to the pump.
Looking closely at Dean in the better lighting, Sam could see a fine sheen of sweat on Dean's forehead and upper lip, eyes slightly squinted, shadows under his eyes a dead giveaway. If the light had been better Sam would've laid money Dean was positively green.
"I'll put the gas in," Sam volunteered, still eyeing Dean.
Dean nodded, swallowing. He opened his door slowly and climbed out. "'Kay. I'm gonna hit the head."
Sam nodded, climbing out of his side. It took all of two minutes to add the one and a half gallons it took to fill the tank, since they had filled it shortly before stopping for dinner a little more than two hours ago. It seemed to take Dean at least that long to creak across the parking lot and disappear into the building while Sam watched from under his bangs.
He leaned against the car for ten minutes before he started to become antsy. Five more and antsy became concerned. Realizing he was going to incur Dean's wrath no matter what he did, he crossed the parking lot and went inside the store. A quick recon told him Dean wasn't lingering in the candy aisle or occupying some pretty clerks time, so he walked to the area where the restrooms were. He shoved on the door to the men's room just as Dean pulled it open causing Sam to stumble into him.
"What the hell, Sam?" Dan snapped in hoarse surprise, pushing Sam away. His face was grey, his eyes bloodshot.
"Sorry," Sam said, "you were gone so long-"
"Awww," Dean replied, "you missed me." He moved past Sam and stalked toward the door.
Sam bounded after him and caught his arm before Dean could escape and take refuge in the car. "Dean, if something's wrong, just say so," he said, giving Dean 'the face'. "You look like shit. And there's no point in lying," he added. "If you're sick, you're body's gonna give you away eventually no matter what you do, and you know it."
Dean sighed and turned back, seeing Sam's pinched expression and rolled his eyes. "Oh, for…fine," he said. "My stomach hurts like hell and I feel like I'm gonna puke. I wish I would, I'd probably feel better. Are you happy now?" He made a face and rubbed a hand across his stomach.
Dean's candid reply caught Sam by surprise. "No, I'm not happy-I mean I'm glad you told me, but I'm not happy you feel sick-"
"You feel okay?" Dean asked, cutting him off, his voice strained.
"Huh?" Sam replied, startled. "Me? Dude, I was asking you."
Dean hesitated, shrugged, frowned, did an obvious mental hem-haw, then gave in. "I started feeling like crap a little while ago, thought maybe it was what we had for dinner, but… we had the same thing, and you seem okay." He closed his eyes, grunting softly as another cramp rolled through his belly.
"I'm fine," Sam stated, taking quick stock of himself, just in case. "Are you running a fever?" He reached out.
Dean jerked back. "You touch me and I swear they'll be calling you lefty from now on!" He turned on his heel and went up to the desk to pay for the gas, snagging a bottle of pepto-bismol on the way and slamming it on the counter. He shoved past Sam and stomped back outside, throwing himself in the passenger seat.
Opening the driver's door, Sam managed to catch the keys Dean threw in the general direction of his head. Before he could open his mouth, Dean growled, "Just drive." He unscrewed the cap from the bottle and knocked back a slug of the chalky liquid, shuddering. He leaned his head back and turned to the window, crossing his arms.
Sam shook his head and started the car. "Let me know if you need me to pull over."
Dean ignored him.
They drove along in painful silence for about thirty minutes, Sam flicking looks at Dean when he thought Dean wasn't watching.
Dean sat with his eyes closed, arms hugged against his middle, every few minutes the skin around his eyes would tighten and kept shifting uncomfortably.
"Dean," Sam began with great reluctance, seeing Dean stiffen the instant the first word left his mouth. "You wanta lie down in the backseat? Might be more comfortable if you wanta try to sleep."
Dean swallowed, shaking his head minutely . "No… makes it…worse." He pressed the back of his hand to his lips, taking a few short breaths. Saliva began to pool in his mouth.
"Dean? " Sam's query was tentative as he watched Dean's face, but he knew that look and started depressing the brake in earnest.
Dean straightened abruptly and pawed at the door handle. "Pull over…pull overnow… "
Sam instantly swerved the wheel to the right and slid onto the shoulder, barely getting the car stopped before Dean bailed. Stumbling a few steps away from the car, he fell to his hands and knees in the rough grass beside the road and retched in pink tinged violence.
Sam slammed the car into park and threw on the hazards. He was forced to wait for a few passing cars to speed by, horns honking, then jumped out into the sticky heat of the mid-summer Georgia night.
Sam hovered nervously as Dean's body spasmed relentlessly for ten solid minutes before allowing him some respite. There really wasn't much Sam could do and his one attempt had been met with a choked, "Le' me 'lone!" and a flail of Dean's arm as he coughed.
When Dean finally stopped vomiting, between the heat and his exertions he was drenched in sweat and shaking so badly when he tried to get up he fell back to the ground.
"Sit still for a minute." Sam admonished, producing a wad of drive-thru napkins and an unopened bottle of water he'd found on the floorboards in the back seat. "Here, you can rinse your mouth out. You feel any better now?" He squatted on the ground next to Dean, one hand resting on Dean's shoulder which trembled slightly.
Dean coughed again, rinsing his mouth with the warm water and spitting. He poured some of the water in his hand and splashed his face with it.
"Feel like I just got off the Tilt-o-Whirl," Dean gasped hoarsely, leaning his head back. He puckered and spat again, making a face, pressing a hand against his belly. "Not kiddin', man, my stomach's killin' me," Dean repeated. "S'gotta be food poisoning…"
"Like you said though, we had the same thing for dinner and I'm not sick," Sam reminded him. "Maybe you're just coming down with the flu or something. " He reached out a hand to Dean's forehead without thinking and got whacked with the water bottle.
"Dean! Jesus!" Sam exclaimed, snatching back his smarting hand.
"I told you to keep your hands to yourself!" Dean growled. "Help me up…"
Ignoring the contradictory statement, Sam grabbed Dean's arm and hauled, pulling him to his feet. Dean staggered slightly, clasping Sam's arm more than he would ever admit to, forcing himself to straighten. They made it the few steps to the car and he lowered himself to the seat.
"You good?" Sam asked, eyeing him.
Dean swallowed. "Yeah, " he said, closing his eyes. "Find a motel so I can sleep this off. And try not to hit every fucking pot hole!" He muttered something under his breath and reached for the door handle.
"I got it," Sam said, closing the door. He jogged back around to the driver's side and slid in. "We're about forty miles from Athens, I'd like to make it to the city and we can get a room there, if you can hang on 'til then."
Dean had curled up against the passenger door, arms hugged to himself, making small sounds of discomfort. "Whatever…" he breathed. "Just go…"
The next part of the trip was a stop-and- go nightmare that turned a thirty minute drive into an hour as Sam stopped repeatedly for Dean to be sick even though he was well past having anything left to throw up. Dean was so overheated it was impossible for Sam to tell if he was actually running a fever or not. Dean was long past giving a damn where Sam put his hands. By the time Sam got off the Number 10 loop and located a motel they could afford, Dean was sprawled bonelessly across the backseat moaning softly, sweat soaked and half- conscious.
Hastily booking a room, Sam parked the car, managing to pull Dean out of the car and get them both stumbling toward the right door. He barely had the door open before Dean made it clear he was going to be sick again and Sam literally dragged him to the bathroom in time.
Leaving Dean kneeling there, he ran back to the car and grabbed their duffels, locked the car and raced back into the room.
Dean was leaning over the sink, having managed to haul himself that far, cupping water to his mouth and spitting it out. Whether he knew Sam was there or just couldn't stand any longer, the second Sam touched him, Dean slumped back against him. Heat was pouring off of him.
"Whoa! Hang on…I gotcha," Sam replied to Dean's groan, managing to keep them both from tumbling to the floor. Gripping Dean tightly, Sam started them back toward the bed with slow, shuffling steps, feeling as though Dean would collapse if Sam weren't holding him up.
"I dunno what the hell's…wrong with me…." Dean rasped, throat raw. He sank down on the first bed they came to, bracing himself with his hands. "Jesus, it's hot in here…"
Sam knelt and swiftly untied Dean's boots, tugging them off. "It's okay, Dean. Let's just get you comfortable and you can rest. I'll get the air conditioner going. I'm sure it's just the flu. Probably just one of those twenty-four hours things." Continuing to rattle reassurances, it didn't take long for Sam to strip Dean down to his boxers since Dean did nothing either to help or hinder him, simply allowed himself to be manhandled and then fell face down into the pillows.
Sam pulled a sheet up over him, then put the trash can next to the bed. Dean shifted uneasily, but seemed comfortable enough. Sam blew out an exhausted breath, a drop of sweat rolling down his face. It was hot in the room, sticky stagnant heat. So thick it had presence.
He crossed over to the A/C unit and flipped it on.
Frowning, he flipped switches and spun the temperature dial.
Sam sighed and closed his eyes. He was hot, the room was hot and most importantly, Dean was hot. It had been a long evening, he was tired and not in the mood for a recalcitrant air conditioner to give him any crap.
He kicked it.
For a moment silence reigned, then with an asthmatic wheeze and a shudder the machine began to rattle and pump slightly cooler air into the stifling room. Sam stared at it for a minute then pointed his finger at it. "And don't you forget it," he said. "There's more where that came from."
He turned away and began stripping off his shirt, heading for the shower. He took another look at Dean, grabbed his stuff and went into the bathroom, leaving the door open.
Just in case.
Chapter 2 : Down the rabbit hole
It was six a.m.
Sam idly flipped through the seven channels on the TV with the sound off, looking for anything interesting to watch. He had been awake for the last hour and a half and two runs of channel surfing made it clear he would find no relief there, unless he wanted to watch infomercials for exercise equipment designed for every specific part of the human body or cartoons with cavorting dinosaurs.
He clicked it off.
What little sleep he had managed to snatch in the last thirty-six hours had been in between trying to get some liquids into Dean and then dealing with the resultant bouts of sickness afterwards. Sam had hovered anxiously over him for more hours than he cared to think about, but just before he was ready to stuff Dean back in the car and haul him to the hospital, Dean's retching had begun to abate and the fluids Sam coaxed into him started to stay down.
He had continued to toss miserably, twisted by cramps and sweating in the airless room when the air conditioner had finally succumbed in a smoky clatter around midnight. Sam had made a short, pungent call to the manager which produced two table fans and a promise of a repairman first thing the next morning. Sam couldn't believe this dump had no more available rooms, but apparently some concert had filled all the motels in this end of town and there was no way Sam was moving Dean to another motel—assuming there was another to move to.
The fans had helped to move the air around, but hot air was hot air and Sam was sweaty, uncomfortable and tired. Rubbing a hand over his face, sighing, he toyed with getting on the laptop to do a little research, but didn't want the tapping of the keyboard to disturb Dean, although Sam doubted a solar flare blasting their room would have awakened his brother once he had finally fallen asleep.
He glanced over at Dean, out cold, face down on the bed next to him, one arm dangling down, fingers touching the carpet, covers kicked down over his feet. His pale face sparkled with a fine sheen of sweat even though he wore nothing but his boxers. There was a frown line between his eyebrows and he twitched now and again, but otherwise, he seemed to be sleeping fairly peacefully.
Sam was almost as exhausted as Dean. Deciding that yet another cool shower might perk him up, Sam grabbed some clothes and headed into the bathroom. After a fast rinse he came out drying his hair with a towel, trying to figure out what place around there might deliver breakfast when Dean shifted, groaning. Sam's face split into a pleased grin.
Dean's eyes blinked open and stared blearily at Sam. Drawing in a deep breath, he lifted his hand to rub his eyes.
"Why you awake…?" He drawled in a thick, hoarse voice. He grimaced as he rolled onto his back.
"Woke up and couldn't go back to sleep," Sam replied, tossing the towel to the end of his bed. He flipped on the small bedside lamp. "How you feelin'?" he asked.
"What time's it?" Dean's eyes drifted shut again. He coughed a little and cleared his throat, a hand brushing across his stomach.
"Little after six." Sam moved to sit on the edge of Dean's bed, resting the back of his hand on Dean's forehead. "How's your stomach? Still feel queasy?"
Dean knocked Sam's hand away, rolling his head to the side. "Maybe…I'm sore as hell…feel better'n I did." He made a soft humming noise, looking up at Sam through narrowed eyes. "Did I ask you to shoot me?" he asked, recalling a vague memory.
Sam laughed softly and nodded. "Yeah." He shrugged. "I figured you really didn't mean it, though."
Dean moved his head in a negative, grimacing. "Trust me, I meant it at the time." He rubbed his hands over his face. "I hope it's really hot in here and not just me."
"A/C's bad. Works off and on. Sorry." Sam shrugged again. "Didn't have a lot of motel choices at the time." He got up and ran a fresh glass of water for Dean, tossing the remaining ice into it.
Dean pushed himself up with an obvious effort, leaning against the headboard, gratefully taking the glass. "Thanks."
Sam watched as Dean took a few small sips, his eyes falling closed as he swallowed; he kept a hand on his stomach protectively. Sam sighed quietly; it was good to have Dean awake and talking, but the room still felt thick with sickness and dead air.
"How long have we been here?" Dean looked around the little room, rolling the sweating water glass against his temple. "Speaking of which. Where the hell are we anyway? Last thing I remember…was getting a little too up close and personal with the side of the road."
"Two days. Athens, Georgia," Sam replied. "We'd just hit town when you got sick."
"Damn…really?" Dean grunted. He ruffled his sweaty hair, making a face. "God, I feel gross. I need to take a shower." He took another sip of water, but let his head fall back against the headboard, his eyes closing again.
Sam eyed Dean suspiciously, but got to his feet. "You sure you're up to it?" he asked. "You were really sick, Dean. Maybe you should take it easy today."
Dean moved his legs off the bed, sitting the rest of the way up. He swayed a little, pressing his hands to his eyes with a groan. Sam reached out a hand, Dean smacked it away.
"I feel better, Sam." Dean snapped impatiently. "Seriously, dude. Just give me a minute."
Dean leaned forward weakly, bracing himself on the bedside table to help push himself upright. He looked pretty shaky, but Sam could see he felt better overall. Moving carefully toward the bathroom, he paused now and again to use the wall as support. It was a long trip and Sam's eyes following him every step of the way.
Dean sighed, rubbing a hand over his several days of stubble. Studying his reflection in the mirror was disheartening, showing him hollow- eyed with dark smudges beneath them and a face the color of oatmeal. He sat on the closed toilet for a few minutes before he could muster up the energy to turn on the water, actually gripping the towel bar to steady himself as he finally got under the stream of lukewarm water, unable to bear the thought of hot water touching his skin.
When Dean got out, he was disgusted to find his hands were shaking too much to shave so he blew that off and slowly pulled on his clothes. Stepping out of the bathroom he felt much better than he had. Sitting quietly on the bed to rest a few minutes before he pulled his boots on, he knew Sam was casting a watchful eye Dean's way from time to time, but wisely saying nothing.
By the time Dean was dressed and Sam was ready it was 7:30. Dean had lain back on the bed while Sam got ready and was surprised when Sam shook his leg gently to waken him.
"Hey," Sam said. "Do you think you can go out to eat something? Or you could stay here and I'll go get something and bring it back." Sam had the Impala keys in one hand.
Dean shook his head, trying to clear the fog. "No, I'm okay. Let's go. I could use some air; it's too hot in here." He sat up after a brief struggle to get his bearings, opened his mouth and reached for the keys.
Sam pulled them out of reach, cutting him off. "Don't even think about it. Not until you're a lot steadier on your feet." Sam fisted the keys and opened the door.
Dean groused under his breath, but gave in just because he did feel really shaky. He followed Sam out to the car, lifting a hand to shield his eyes from the glare of the sun and slid into the passenger side of the Impala. The light breeze made it much cooler outside than the stifling room, and Dean found it easier to breathe.
"Do you care if we drive down by the University?" Sam asked a trifle reluctantly as he started the car.
Inwardly, Dean groaned, but he owed Sam for the last couple of days, which couldn't have been much fun for him either.
"Wherever you want, bro," Dean replied magnanimously. He rolled down the window to get the wind in his face, leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes.
Sam smiled and headed toward the buildings he could see in the distance that had to be the school.
They had driven for a short while, looking around a little. This early in the morning, on a Saturday, the sidewalks were fairly empty. The streets along the old downtown area spilled over with bars and restaurants and they passed several cafés with tables on the sidewalk. A few solitary early risers were drinking coffee, eating rolls and doing their laptop magic.
While Dean wasn't impressed with the atmosphere, he could tell Sam was enjoying the charm of the old sprawling houses that had been converted into apartments, frat and sorority houses, the shady, tree lined streets and the general scholarly feel.
Sam parked the car in a central lot and they walked the short distance to one of the sidewalk cafes with large maple trees shading the tables.
"This okay?" Sam asked, resting a hand on the back of one of the wrought iron chairs.
Dean snorted. Frankly, the short walk had done him in and he just wanted to sit down anywhere. "It's fine, Sam." He sank gratefully onto the chair and sighed. Sam sat down across from him and picked up the menu on the table.
"You all right?" Sam asked, as Dean rested his head in his hands.
"Nothing coffee and a sugar hit won't fix," Dean grumbled.
"You guys are out early!" A pert voice suddenly said at Dean's elbow, startling him.
They both looked up to see a young woman with an order pad and large blue eyes standing beside their table. Her dark hair was tied into a long, bouncy ponytail and she wore tight black shorts that showed off long tanned legs. Dean's eyes moved up and down her long form appreciatively, lighting up for the first time in days, and he managed to pull a smile out of his trick bag that was only slightly less knee-buckling than usual and offer it to her. His pale face and the dark circles under his eyes apparently did nothing to lessen the effect.
Sam's glance went back to the menu on the table, obviously dismissing her.
"Well, hi there..." he said, eyeing her ID badge, "…Ashley. I'm Dean and if I'd known you were here, I certainly would've been here sooner."
Ashley laughed, tapping her pen against her lips. "You know, that's not much of a line."
Dean shrugged with an eyebrow, looking down briefly. "Sorry, I've been sick. I'm outta practice. You know anyone that could help me with that?" He traced his fingertip across the top of the table and rolled his eyes up at her without raising his head.
Ashley laughed again.
Now Sam looked sick.
Dean grinned and opened his mouth to say something else to make her laugh, but a shrill scream from down the street turned them all to stare in the direction of the sound.
In the middle of the next block, a girl ran down the steps of one of the old homes lining the street shrieking every step of the way. Reaching the bottom, she turned and ran toward the street stumbling right into the path of an approaching truck.
Sam and Dean both jumped up before they heard the thud of the girl's body as the pickup struck her, brakes screeching, horrified onlookers yelling in shock.
The vehicle wasn't going that fast and it was a glancing blow, but it still knocked the girl sideways onto the pavement. Sam ran toward her followed by Dean, the waitress he'd been flirting with and several startled spectators.
Grabbing her shoulders, Sam stopped the girl from getting up. "Lie still, you don't know how bad you might be hurt."
He spoke quietly, trying to calm her. She was crying and shrieking in hysterics. Even though blood trickled from a small scrape on her forehead, she didn't appear to be badly hurt, but he knew she needed to stay quiet until help came.
"Someone call 911!" He barked at the gathering crowd. Several people snatched at their cell phones and began to dial frantically.
The girl was hysterical, continually screaming, "My God! Oh, my God!"
The driver of the truck, a young kid, eighteen or so, stood horrified, wringing his hands, seeming on the verge of tears. "I didn't see her!" he cried. "She ran right in front of me!"
Dean, a little light-headed from the run, braced himself against the hood, reaching out to catch the kid's shoulder. "Chill, man, it wasn't your fault," he wheezed. "It's okay. It was an accident."
Sam was still trying to calm the girl. Her hysterics were starting to draw the interest of people in the surrounding houses. Ashley, the waitress, suddenly knelt next to her, sliding an arm around her, interposing herself between Sam and the injured girl, talking soothingly.
"I got her," she said softly to Sam.
Getting to his feet, Sam eased over to Dean. "We're not gonna get anything from her, she's to freaked out, but something in that house scared the crap out of her." Sam commented softly.
"No argument there," Dean agreed, glancing toward the elegant old house the girl had run from. He could see a few people looking out the windows in the upper floor. Apparently the house had been turned into several apartments. Exchanging looks, Dean and Sam quickly crossed over to the house. Walking up the wide steps, they crossed the porch, pausing on either side of the open front door. Dean mopped at the sheen of sweat on his face with a sleeve.
"You okay?" Sam asked.
Dean shot him a dirty look
Sam rolled his eyes. "So what are we looking for anyway?" he hissed as they started to go inside, hand in his jacket for the .45 he kept there.
Dean shrugged. "Damned if I know. I guess we'll know it when we see it." He palmed his own 1911 and stepped through the doorway. The adrenaline rush wasn't doing his stomach any good, but he tried to ignore it as he moved into the foyer, looking left and right.
Several people were standing at the top of the stairs in robes and various stages of dress, eyeing the two men suspiciously.
"What's going on?" A heavy-set blonde girl demanded, as Dean hastily shoved his gun under his jacket.
"There was an accident," Sam replied smoothly. "Some girl came out of the house and a truck hit her as she was crossing the street."
There was a chorus of gasps and some of the watchers thudded down the stairs and out the front door. The remainder shuffled back toward their apartments, curiosity satisfied. Sam snorted and shook his head. Dean crept down the short hallway to the right of the staircase, staying close to the wall where he saw an open door. Jerking his head toward the door he moved forward cautiously, Sam following on his heels. He paused at the door, then followed as Sam entered the open apartment, weapons out.
The living room was neatly furnished, not opulently, but pleasant. A pair of men's boots had been kicked across the floor, a blue shirt lay on the ground between them, leading to what Sam assumed was the bedroom. It was a few short steps across the combination living area/kitchen to the next room. Sam glanced at Dean, who nodded, gun ready, as they flanked the door. Sam crossed the threshold into the bedroom. He stopped so suddenly, Dean blundered into him from behind.
"What are you doing, man—" Dean snapped, seeing Sam's arm fall to his side. He pushed past Sam into the bedroom, looking around swiftly, then stopping dead. "Holy shit…" He gagged suddenly, making a face.
Sam, at a loss for words, gestured loosely toward the bed with his gun. "I think we found what we were looking for."
"What the hell?" Dean swore, trying to get himself under control. There was cloying sweetness in the air he couldn't identify, but it made his stomach want to climb into the back of his throat even more than it already did.
Going closer, Sam leaned in and very carefully touched the muzzle of his gun to the shriveled figure on the bed. Twisted skin made a sound like paper on contact and crumbled beneath even the light touch of his gun's muzzle. Lips curled back in distaste, he took a really long look at what lay on the bed.
Whatever had happened had to have been terrible. The discolored, twisted body was naked, arched upwards, frozen in a position that suggested great agony, arms splayed tautly out to the sides, hands clawed so tightly into the sheets the fingers had torn through the fabric and were buried to the knuckles in the mattress. The body's head was thrown as far back as was possible, mouth open widely, exposing all the teeth, a withered tongue curling over the drawn back lips. Even this wasn't as strange as the fact that the body appeared so desiccated that every muscle, sinew and piece of skin had shrunk into the bones to the point it seemed as though the papery thin skin was just a casing that held it all together. A mummy would have retained more humanity in its final form than this piece of human jerky before them.
"You ever see anything like this before?" Sam asked.
Dean couldn't answer, unable to decide if he was going to pass out or puke, bent over with his hands braced on his thighs. He heard Sam's snap, "Shit!" then he grabbed Dean by the arms. Dean grabbed back to break his fall. Sam kicked a chair over from the desk and clumsily settled Dean in it.
"Put your head down!" Sam ordered pushing Dean's head to his knees.
Dean was far from squeamish, but after the last two days, as embarrassing as it was, he felt entitled to a momentary weak stomach when confronted with the poor bastard lying on that bed. He hung there, head buried in his arms, waiting for the nausea to pass, aware of Sam's agitated presence like a big umbrella hovering over him. "Man…" he groaned. "This is not how I wanted to start my day."
"You shoulda stayed in bed," Sam agreed. He put his gun away and pulled out his cell phone, opening it up to take some photos. "Sit tight and let me get these shots and then we need to get the hell outta here before someone else comes or the cops show up." He turned back to the bed getting shots from different angles and close-ups.
As the dizziness passed, Dean straightened slightly and began to look around again. Reaching out, he used a pen from his pocket to move some of the papers on the desk. It was mostly unopened mail with the same name: Matt Lewis. There were several matchbooks with iridescent covers. He slid one to the edge of the desk, but It fell before he could grab it and he leaned forward to pick it up off the floor where it lay sparkling under the desk in a shaft of sunlight.
His eyes followed the streak of sunlight shooting across the floor as he snagged the matchbook. Several shiny spots that looked like thin bits of plastic near the edge of the hole where the floor register under the desk should have been caught his eye. The cover for the floor vent itself had been pulled out of the opening and was lying to one side.
Frowning, he leaned forward out of the chair, getting on his hands and knees and reaching under the desk for one of the tiny flashy bits. It stuck to his finger and he brought it into the light for a closer look.
"Dean? Are you okay?" Sam's anxious voice startled Dean as his brother knelt beside him.
"Yes, Sam, I'm fine." Dean assured with infinite patience. He held out the small flake, balanced on his fingertip. "Whadaya make of that? There's a bunch of them by the vent down here."
Sam studied the small object with puzzlement. It was sort of triangular in shape, translucent, delicately tipped in black. There was a reflective sparkle to it where the light hit it.
Sam's head jerked toward the door as a siren screamed in the distance. He grabbed an envelope off the desk and shoved it at Dean. "Put 'em in there. It's time to go!"
Dean picked up the remaining flakes as fast as he could and dropped them into the envelope. Backing out from under the desk, he allowed Sam to help him up. "We gotta shag ass," Sam spat, pulling Dean toward the door. The siren screamed to a halt out front. Sam and Dean shot back through the apartment door and down the hall to the next apartment where there was an opening under the stairs.
They could see the flash of a paramedic van in the street and two police cruisers sliding up next to it. A fair sized crowd had assembled. After speaking briefly with the injured girl, two police officers came through the front door, moving quickly into the living room of the apartment Sam and Dean had just vacated. It was simple to ease around the small crowd that had accompanied the cops inside and work their way out of the building.
Back on the sidewalk, Dean turned as they walked away, catching a glimpse of Ashley. She was standing next to the girl as the paramedic treated her. He was surprised to feel disappointed when she didn't look their way.
"What the hell would cause something like that?" Sam exclaimed, reclaiming Dean's attention.
"Huh?" Dean replied.
"That body? What could do something like that?" Sam repeated, looking over his shoulder to see where Dean had been looking. He grinned at Ashley's dark pony tail bobbing the distance as she spoke with the paramedic. "You wanta go get her number?" Sam nudged him. "After what we just saw, I think we'll be around for a few days."
Dean glanced back again, surprised to see Ashley raise herself up to look over the heads of the people around her. She was obviously looking for something. He tightened his lips and shook his head. "Nah, I can always find a girl if I want one. Unlike some people I know," he added, with a small grin, giving Sam a push.
"Ha ha. Very funny," Sam said woodenly. "Well, I want to get on the laptop and see what I can find about this." He waved his cell phone. "Let's grab some food and go back to the room. I think you've had enough excitement this morning. You can rest after you get some food into you."
"I'm not five, Sam. I don't need a nap!" Dean replied crossly, putting the most stubborn five-year-old to shame. God, the walk back to the car seemed to be taking forever.
Just before he got back into the Impala, Dean glanced back down the street to see Ashley walking toward the café where she worked. He lingered by the door, watching her, drawing in a small breath as she suddenly stopped and looked straight at him. She smiled and raised her hand slightly in a small wave. Dean felt his fingers straighten in an answering wave before he realized what he was doing.
"C'mon, Dean, get in!" Sam's voice drew his eyes and when Dean looked back up, she was gone.
Chapter 3: Killer's Kiss
By the time they returned to the motel Dean was miserable, sick to his stomach again, not even slightly interested in the food Sam had gotten on the way back and fending off Sam's concern with impatient snarls as they made their way back to the motel room.
Opening the door and entering, the heat in the room was a physical blow. Dean groaned, stripped off his over shirt and t-shirt, leaving them on the floor as he stumbled in. He fell on the bed in his boots and jeans, rolling onto his side, burying his face in the hot pillow.
Sam left the door open, grabbed the trash can and set it by Dean's bed, just in case, then jerked up the phone on the table, dialing the front desk with angry jabs of his finger.
"Yeah, this is Sam Cooke, room…yeah, it's me again. The six foot five guy with the sick brother and the room with no air conditioning!" Sam rolled his eyes, stalking back and forth between the beds as far as the phone cord would allow. "You listen to me; it's like the doorway to hell in here. If you don't get someone in here to fix this NOW, I'm coming down to you and I'm gonna kick the living—" He paused at the frantic whining over the line. "Another room is available now? Yeah, absolutely, that'd be great. I'll be right there." Sam slammed the phone down. "Jackass," he spat. "Dean, we're changing rooms, I'll be right back."
"Thank God," Dean moaned into the pillow. He pushed himself up and slid his legs off the bed. "I'll get our stuff together…." He gripped the edge of the mattress, white faced.
Sam shook his head and took Dean by the shoulders gently forcing him back down. "No, stay there, I won't be long." Dean offered little resistance, allowing himself to be pressed back into the pillow.
The A/C in the new room was so cold it left icicles on the vent. When Sam saw the room also included a small fridge and a microwave, he decided there was some truth to the squeaky wheel theory, especially when the wheel was pissed and towered over the manager by a good two feet. He turned the air up full blast, pulled the covers down on the nearest bed, then went back to their old room to get their stuff. 'Their stuff' included a befuddled Dean whom Sam managed to get resettled in the new room with a minimum of fuss since Dean was doing a perfect impersonation of a wet noodle and allowed himself to be dragged along without complaint.
In less than an hour Sam was seated at the table tapping the keys to the laptop, eating his late breakfast. Dean was asleep, the room was freezing and -joy!- the TV had eight channels!
Pausing in his typing, he pulled the lamp closer and carefully examined the shiny flakes Dean had found on the floor. There were eight of them, the edges on one side ragged, as though they had been torn from something. He frowned and replaced them in the envelope, before fingering the matchbook Dean had picked up, turning it this way and that as it picked up the light. It was for a place called The Inside Club.
Tossing the matchbook next to the envelope with a puzzled snort, he went back to the internet.
Dean slept for five solid hours. Checking on him every little bit, Sam finally woke him once to drink something, but after draining the glass Dean had immediately gone back to sleep. Sam let him be after that, figuring that sleep was probably the best thing for him.
As a result of all the uninterrupted research, Sam's notepad was covered with copious notes, web site addresses and the occasional sketch. He shook the envelope again, hearing the contents rattle. They needed to pay a visit to the university. Whatever the hell those things were, maybe someone there could identify them. He also wanted to pay a visit to the morgue. He had learned a lot of interesting things that afternoon and he wanted to get some evidence to support his burgeoning theory before he told Dean.
He grabbed the phone book and his cell phone to make the call, jerking back as Dean suddenly leaned over him.
"Crap, Dean!" Sam yelped, sending the cell phone flying. "You gave me a freakin' heart attack!"
"Dude, where in the hell are we?" Dean's voice was thick with sleep and confusion. "Because I am positive this is not where I went to sleep." He sank into the other chair with a deep sigh, hands working over his face.
Sam stared at him. "We changed rooms, don't you remember? The broken A/C?"
Dean looked around. "Oh. Yeah." His eyebrows rose. "It is cooler in here." He snorted. "I dreamed I was trapped in a refrigerator. That explains that." Massaging the back of his neck, he chuckled softly and added. "Man, you were right, I guess I did need a nap."
Sam got up and retrieved his phone. "You feel better?"
Dean shrugged, waggling his hand. "Better than I did, anyway. Who were you calling?" He scrubbed his hands over his face again.
"Since you were occupied," Sam said, sitting back down. "I did some hunting on the computer about that body we saw this morning." Sam held the phone out with one of the pictures he had taken on the screen.
Dean made a face, closing his eyes and waving it away. "Not that much better, Sam. Save it for later." He swallowed thickly.
"Oh, sorry," Sam closed the phone and set it back down. "Anyway, after I did some digging, it turns out this is the second body that's been found in this condition." Sam typed in an address and turned the laptop toward Dean, who drew away. "There's no pictures. It's a news article I found from two weeks ago."
Dean squinted at the screen. "Mysterious Death of Student at Local Apartment Complex." He frowned and rubbed his eyes. "I can't focus for shit, tell me what it says."
Sam turned the screen back to himself and began reading aloud, condensing as he read. "'Two weeks ago, the body of Daniel Burton was found in a state of extreme desiccation by a fellow student who said the sophomore had been missing from class for over a week. Authorities claim Mr. Burton had to have been dead for much longer than that in order for the body to have been found in such a state. Witnesses swear to have seen Mr. Burton alive no more than a week before the body was discovered.'"
Sam tapped a few keys. "I started doing some random back checking and it turns out that there have been a lot of bodies found in the same condition as that one. All over. And I do mean all over."
Dean leaned over to see the screen, interest piqued, despite himself.
"Never more than two or three over an extended period of time, random locations with no discernible pattern. But the descriptions all match about the body's condition, and no cause was ever determined. The records I've been checking go back for years. Decades." Sam gave Dean a pointed look. "Maybe centuries."
Dean licked his lips. "Whadaya think it is?" He rose from the table and grabbed his shirt from the end of the bed, tugging it on. Sitting on the bed he slowly began to pull on his boots.
Sam shook his head. "No idea, I need to talk to a few people." He turned off the laptop and closed it. "I was gonna call the science department at the university and see if someone there might be able to help us identify what these are." He shook the envelope with the flakes in it. "Then I think we need to visit the morgue. If you don't feel up to it," he paused to look over at Dean, "I don't mind checking this out on my own."
Dean raked a hand through his hair, yawning. "No, I'm good." He shrugged, "Good enough, anyhow, just no running in the heat this time, okay? Can we grab some food first? I need to eat something." His muscles ached across the midsection, but he was so empty he felt hollow.
"Sure," Sam agreed quickly, pleased Dean finally had an appetite. "Now that you mention it, I'm hungry too. Let me call the university and then we can go."
After eating at a Denny's because Dean wanted something bland and eggs sounded good even though it was close to 5 pm, they found their way back to the campus. A Saturday afternoon lecture had meant a Professor Horton of the Natural Sciences department would be around.
The lecture ended at 6:30 pm, so after parking and managing to get lost twice, they finally found themselves quietly looking for seats in the back of the lecture hall. There was scattering of about thirty disinterested looking students snoozing through the last twenty minutes of a lecture on the prey/predator relationship.
Sam settled happily into a seat, drinking in the scent of old wood and books. Sometimes he forgot how much he missed this atmosphere.
Next to him, already yawning in boredom, was Dean, who, Sam realized, would be asleep in minutes. Probably would be even if he'd felt top notch. After dropping out of high school the day he turned eighteen, Sam wondered how Dean had managed to get his G.E.D. considering he found the whole learning process so tedious.
Sam knew it had nothing to do with intelligence. Dean was so smart about some things it was scary, and he possessed natural instincts Sam had had to work damned hard to acquire, but Dean had a notoriously short attention span and bored easily if things weren't moving fast enough to suit him.
Sam, on the other hand, liked to explore ideas and concepts, learn everything he could about things. The same skills that had earned him Dean's 'Geek Boy' nickname also made his aptitude for research and the ability to draw sound conclusions from that research, indispensable to their work.
He was so lost in his thoughts he didn't realize the lecture had ended until someone's seat folded back up with a snap as the students rose stiffly and started to leave.
He nudged Dean, who woke with a grunt. "C'mon the lecture's over."
He slid out of his seat and hurried down the aisle to catch Professor Horton before the teacher could leave. Dean followed along more slowly, hands in his pockets.
Sam stepped up on the stage. "Sir? Professor Horton?"
Horton, a tall, white haired man with a severe looking face, glanced up at Sam from putting papers in his briefcase. "Yes, young man, what is it?"
"I was wondering if I could ask you a question? I won't take much of your time."
Horton laughed, changing his entire visage to one of mirthful placidity. "Well, as much as I'd like to think it's relating to the lecture I just gave, somehow I suspect that's not the case."
"No sir. My name's Sam Cooke. Actually, I'm a student at Stanford." What the hell, Sam thought, "I'm here visiting my brother." He gestured at Dean's slouched figure. "I have something I was hoping you might be able to identify for me," he said, pulling the envelope out of his pocket. "Or tell me where to go to get it identified."
Horton cocked an eyebrow at Sam, dismissing Dean with a look. "Stanford, eh?" He held out his hand. "What is it? And what makes you think I can help you?"
Taking the envelope from Sam's outstretched hand, Horton moved over to the podium, and turning on the light before shaking out the contents onto a paper lying there. Frowning, he drew a pair of glasses out of his pocket and slipped them on, carefully picking up one of the translucent bits and holding it up to the light.
"Where did you get these?" he asked after a moment, looking back at Sam with a slight frown.
Sam glanced back at Dean who was leaning on the stage with his arms crossed. "We found them. I thought they looked, well, I thought they looked like scales."
Dean looked up, seeming surprised at this revelation.
Horton nodded. "These are scales," he confirmed. "Snake scales." He looked at the flake balanced on his fingertip again. "Of some kind, but I've never seen anything quite like this." He picked up another and compared the two.
"You know about snakes?" Dean put in.
Horton looked at Dean over the rim of his glasses with disdain. "Young man, I specialize in the study of reptiles. I have written two books on herpetology. Trust me, these are snake scales." He went back to studying the flakes.
Sam forced himself not to laugh as he watched Dean frown and mouth the word, herpetology cluelessly.
Horton gestured at Sam to come over. From somewhere on his person, he produced a magnifying glass and proceeded to show Sam the magnified scale.
"One," he said, "Snake scales are transparent. Except for the blue and green ones, they have no color, like this one, except that this one is tipped black. Also, if you look at the edge, here," he pointed with the tip of a pen to the ragged edges on one end. "This, and I would assume the others, were torn from their position, like they caught on something. Snake skin is one solid piece, not individual scales like these. Judging from the size of this scale, I would say it came from the central section of the body and a pretty good sized one." He straightened and stood looking at the scale on his finger in puzzlement.
"This," he began. "Is a snake scale. I'd stake my reputation on it. But what kind of snake?" He shook his head. "Son, I don't have a clue." He looked at Sam curiously. "Where did you say you found these?"
Behind them, someone cleared their throat and said, "Excuse me?"
All three men turned.
Dean's eyes widened as he took in the dark haired girl standing behind him, holding a sack in her hand. "Ashley?" he said in surprise. He hoped, on reflection, that his voice hadn't sounded as excited to her as it had to him.
Ashley looked equally surprised. "Dean? Well, hi there! Where did you guys go this morning?"
Dean looked uncomfortable. "We…uh, we had an appointment, sorry about that. That girl okay?"
Ashley walked towards him, nodding. "Just real shook up. She found some friend of hers dead in his apartment. That's what set her off."
Dean managed to look surprised. "Really? Wow. What happened to the guy?"
Ashley shrugged one lovely shoulder. "Didn't hear. I had to get back to work."
"So...," Dean started casually. "What are you doing here?"
She lifted the sack. "Making a delivery. Then I'm going home." She addressed the professor. "How are you Professor Horton?"
"I'm fine, Ashley, perfect timing as always." The professor pulled out his wallet. "My one indulgence," he explained sorting through his money. "Hiding out in my office with a roast beef sandwich and a beer."
He held some bills out to Ashley. "Keep the change, my dear." He took the sack and turned back to Sam who had gathered up the rest of the scales and replaced the envelope in his pocket. "Young man if you find out where those came from I'd be very interested in knowing." He held out a card. "That's my phone number."
Sam took the card and slipped it in his pocket. When pigs fly, he thought. "I'll do that. Thanks for your help, Professor."
Horton nodded. "No problem," he replied, grabbing his dinner and heading to the stairs that led from the stage. "And good luck."
Sam followed him off the stage, joining Dean and Ashley. "Hi," he said holding out his hand. "I'm Sam. I don't think we got to introduce ourselves this morning."
Ashley smiled and shook his hand. "Nice to meet you. You going to school here?"
Sam frowned and then laughed. "Oh, yeah, taking a few classes. I had some research I needed to follow up on with Professor Horton. Hey, listen," he said, turning to Dean. "I can finish up the rest of this on my own if you have anything you want to do."
Dean stared at him. "Huh?" A beat. "Oh." He started to shake his head, then glanced at Ashley. "You sure?"
Ashley grinned and looked away.
"Yeah, Dean, I can talk to the people at cold storage on my own." Sam said with a laugh, rolling his eyes.
Dean's outward manner changed instantly, like a chameleon. He straightened visibly and his eyes may still have had dark circles under them, but he looked at Ashley with a devastating smile. "In that case, can I interest you in some company since you're going home anyway? If you don't have any plans, that is." He traced a finger across his lips.
Ashley laughed. "As it happens, I have no plans. So, yeah, some company might be nice. We can think up some new pick up lines for you."
"Great, I'm always ready to learn new stuff." Dean took her arm. "I'll find my own way home, Sam," he called over his shoulder as they walked back down the aisle.
Sam grinned, shaking his head. Dean was cured. It was an honest-to-God miracle.
He glanced at his watch. On to the morgue then, for an evening of frolic.
He took some bills out of his wallet and put them where he could get to them easily, experience having taught him that when all else fails, grease the skids with green.
Especially with evening shift morgue attendants.
"God, I am so sorry." Dean groaned.
He sat on Ashley's couch, elbows on his knees, head in his hands. A wet cloth was draped over the back of his neck. The only light came from the kitchen where he could hear her moving around. He wished he could just die and be done with this humiliating farce.
"It's okay. Really," Ashley called back. "It's not like you have a choice with stuff like that." She drifted back out of the kitchen with a fizzing glass in one hand, flipping off the kitchen light and turning on a small table lamp. She had changed clothes and her hair was wet.
Setting the glass down in front of Dean, she sat next to him. "Most guys wait until the second or third date to vomit on you. It's kind of sweet." Dean groaned and hung his head further."Puts you on a more intimate footing right off the bat." She smiled and nudged him gently. He rolled his head to look at her in disbelief. She pushed the glass closer. "Go on, drink that. It'll make you feel better. When you said you were sick this morning, I thought you were kidding."
Dean sighed and picked up the glass, making a face at the chalky fizz as he swallowed. "I just can't shake this crap," he complained. "I am so sorry," he repeated. "I should just go home and sleep this off…"
"Don't worry about it," she reassured, "I was gonna wash those clothes and take a shower anyway." Reaching out, she pressed the back of her hand to his face. "You do feel a little warm. Do you want to go out on the balcony?" she suggested, eyes gently concerned. "Maybe some fresh air will help."
"Sure, why not?" He sighed. Maybe he could throw himself over the rail….
Dragging himself to his feet he followed her through the living room and out onto the small balcony. The cooler night air did feel nice on his hot skin. He leaned on the rail and looked out over the town spread out below them, lights popping on as the sun dropped behind the trees.
She joined him, her shoulder just touching his. Sighing softly, she brushed her hair out of her eyes. The backless, soft cotton sundress she had changed into after 'the incident' was just the right shade of blue to set off her tanned skin. "Isn't it beautiful?" she asked, gesturing at the surroundings, "I took this apartment just for the view. I move around a lot, so I always try to find a nice place to stay. Sometimes it's just the atmosphere. Makes me feel like I'm part of something."
"Why do you move so much?" Dean asked, turning to look at her profile.
Ashley shrugged, clasping her hands. "I don't know. I can't seem to find what I'm looking for, I guess. I feel like I've been searching forever sometimes."
He nodded. "Yeah, I know what that's like," he replied softly.
Even though his nomadic lifestyle had been thrust upon him, it was his life now. It was hard to imagine anything different. What am I looking for? he wondered. Sometimes he thought he knew, could almost touch it, taste it. But the reality of it eluded him.
She turned to look at him. "You do?" she asked in surprise.
He stopped, surprised at himself. Normally, his small talk with women involved more basic information gathered as quickly as possible. For some reason, maybe because he still felt sick, his interest had climbed higher than his belt buckle.
He shrugged. "Yeah, I mean…after my Mom—" He cut himself off with a snap. For God's sake, what was he doing? He looked back out over the lights.
After a moment of silence, Ashley's hand was warm on his arm. "It's okay, Dean." She reached out and turned his face back toward her. "You don't have to tell me anything you don't want to." She smiled. "We don't have to talk; we can just look at the view."
Dean regarded her with a combination of longing and reluctance. He searched her face and found no expectation there. Simply a gentle smile and the warmth of her eyes. He swallowed uneasily, feeling suddenly awkward and inexplicably embarrassed to be here. He took a step back, a hand over his stomach, eyes down.
"Uh, look. I really oughta go. I'm still not feeling so good." He glanced up at her. "It's still early, you don't want to waste the rest of the night with a guy who can't stop puking." He couldn't believe how stupid he sounded or understand what was compelling him to act this way. It was so unhim. "I'll catch a cab back to my motel or call my brother. There's still plenty of time for you to go out and have some fun…" His voice trailed off as she moved closer and slid her hand under the one resting against his stomach, pulling it toward herself.
"I don't want to go out and I am having fun. I'm enjoying being with you," Ashley replied, rubbing her thumb over the back of his hand. "This is nice. You're nice." She lifted his hand and kissed his fingertips lightly. "Why do you want to leave so soon?"
Dean swallowed again, eyes closing briefly. He lifted his other hand to his temple. "I think… maybe I need to sit down…." He shifted his hand to the railing. He was breathing too fast, too warm.
"It's okay," Ashley pulled his arm gently. "Why don't you lie down for a while? I'm sure you'll feel better." She moved closer and his arms closed around her in a gentle embrace, his lips brushed her still damp hair.
"You smell good," he murmured.
She laughed softly. "C'mon, big guy. I definitely think you need to lie down."
Dean, feeling slightly dazed, let her pull him back into the apartment and across the thick, mismatched rugs on the floor. Leading him to her rather Bohemian bedroom, all scarves, beads and heaps of multi-colored pillows, she gently made him sit down on the bed.
Fingers gentle, but swift, she unbuttoned his shirt and drew it off, tossing it on the end of the bed, then tugged his black t-shirt over his head as he complacently lifted his arms.
His eyes closed as he felt her tug his boots off and heard the thud as they hit the floor and she helped him lift his legs onto the bed and lie down. A soft hand brushed his face again, then the gentle press of lips on his forehead.
He was startled a few seconds later when the other side of the bed dipped as she climbed in, sliding over and nestled against him, fitting the contours of her body to his. An arm draped over his chest, hand over his heart and she rested her head against his shoulder.
"Is this all right?" She asked, rising up slightly to look at him.
Dean swallowed and nodded, staring into the deep azure of her eyes. "Yeah…yeah, it's nice."
Ashley smiled, laying a soft kiss on his bare chest. "Go to sleep," she murmured against his skin. Putting her head back on his shoulder she closed her eyes.
Dean felt himself slowly relaxing. He curled his arm around her shoulders, fingers lightly stroking her skin.
It was nice.
Sam smiled down at the morgue attendant, a girl with thick glasses and large brown eyes. Her curly blonde hair hung around her face in a way that reminded Sam of a cocker spaniel's ears. She was cute as hell in a stuffed toy sort of way.
Sam wished fervently that Dean were there to handle this. Sam could scam with the best of them, but he wasn't comfortable with the flirting aspects of their jobs. It felt like betrayal even knowing it was just a means to an end. Dean would have had the keys to the whole damn morgue inside of five minutes.
The girl smiled hopefully up at Sam in all his shaggy-haired, six foot five glory, slipped off her glasses and said with more than casual interest, "Hi, I'm Clarice, is there anything I can do for you?"
Name it, her tone implied, anything goes.
"Well, I hope so." Sam leaned down, elbows on the desk to bring himself to her eye level. He deepened his voice slightly and licked his lips. "I'm Sam Cooke, I'm doing a follow-up for the university paper on Matt Lewis's death. The guy who was found dead in his apartment this morning."
Her eyes widened slightly and she made a small face. "Oh, him." She shook her head. "Man, talk about weird. You see a lot around here, but that..." she trailed off, still shaking her head.
Clarice looked around conspiratorially and Sam couldn't resist doing the same. Then to his surprise she leaned closer and said, "Do you want to see? The family can't claim the body yet."
Good grief, this was going to be a lot easier than Sam had thought. Take that, Dean!
"Absolutely, if it's okay." Sam stood back up as Clarice got out of her chair. She couldn't have been more than five-two. Sam felt like a giant next to her.
"There's no one here but me. I gotta tell you, most nights it's pretty boring." She gestured for him to follow and pushed through the heavy glass doors behind her.
Morgues were always so cold, Sam thought, as they walked down the short passageway to another pair of doors. He held one open for Clarice and followed her in.
There were several gurneys around the room, which was obviously used for performing autopsies. Sam didn't look too closely.
Clarice walked over to a desk and thumbed through a file, pulling out one labeled, Lewis, Matthew. She flipped it open and checked the locker number, leaving the file open on the desk.
"He's in A4." She strode to the wall where about a dozen doors were mounted. As she grabbed the handle on A4, she paused, looking appraisingly at Sam. "You're not squeamish are you? 'Cause you're cute and everything, but I don't do vomit."
Sam laughed. "I think I'll be okay," he assured her. "What does the Coroner say about this?" he asked as she pulled the tray out, the humor leaving his face as he saw the twisted arch of the body under the sheet, recalling only too well what was underneath.
Clarice pulled back the sheet, her face reflecting her thoughts. "Poor bastard. I can't imagine what happened to him. Blew the Coroner's mind, two bodies like this in less than a month."
Sam glanced at Clarice. "Were you here when the other guy came in?"
"Yeah, really creepy to see it twice. It's like a mummy; there isn't a drop of moisture, blood, bile, brain fluid—nothing, left in this body. It's basically been turned into a rawhide bone." She shook her head. "There isn't much to work with. There were similarities between the two bodies though," she added, rolling her eyes, "I mean, other than the obvious."
She pulled the sheet up and shoved Matt's body back into its alcove.
Sam followed her back to the desk where she picked up the file and looked up a page before showing it to Sam. The words meant nothing to him, chemical terms. "Both bodies had two wounds, side by side, punctures made by two smooth, very sharp objects, long and tapering. The channels they left were longer than your fingers." She drew a finger along Sam's hand and rolled her eyes up at him.
"Where were the wounds?" Sam asked, smoothly removing his hand from hers.
Clarice thought for a moment, "The other guy, they were on the back of his right shoulder, like whatever did it came from behind. This guy," she tapped Matt Lewis's file, "Dude, they were in the back of his throat, as far back on his tongue as you could go without being swallowed."
Sam made a face, "Seriously?"
"Hand to God," she replied, holding her hand up, palm out.
Sam reached over to point to a place on the paper, "What's this mean?"
Clarice glanced at the paragraph, slipping her glasses back on. "Now this was weird," she commented, as if nothing up to that point had been out of the ordinary. "There were traces of some kind of toxin. Almost acidic. What little they could get was sent off for testing to see if the lab could identify it."
Sam frowned. "Could a poison do that?" He gestured over his shoulder with his thumb at the bank of drawers behind them.
Clarice shook her head. "I'm no expert, but I can't think of anything that would do that to someone, at least not in the period of time since he was last seen alive." She closed the file and stuffed it back in the drawer. "And according to the police, that was less than five hours before time of death." She frowned and took her glasses off again, chewing on the earpiece. "The Coroner tested the sample we had of the toxin," she said biting her lip thoughtfully. "I really shouldn't be telling you all this…," she added looking up at him again and lifting an eyebrow.
Sam smiled. "I won't put any of the stuff you told me in the article. My wife proofreads everything to make sure I don't screw up on stuff like that."
At the word "wife," Clarice's face fell. She snorted and shoved her glasses back on. "Now I definitely know I shouldn't be telling you this."
Sam extended a hand and gently clasped hers with it, he lifted it to his lips and kissed it lightly on the back, to Clarice's obvious delight. "I won't tell if you don't. What did the Coroner say about the toxin?"
Clarice's quick glance at her hand as she withdrew it revealed the two folded twenties Sam had slipped her. Her hand slid into her pocket. "He said the initial test showed that the toxin was very powerful and was suspended in a solution very similar to human saliva."
Sam stepped back and stared at her. "Human what?"
Clarice folded her arms. "Spit. The toxin was delivered in human spit."
Chapter 4: Inside Out
Dean rolled over, feeling his eyelids pull apart, staring blearily over his surroundings, willing them to at least try to work in unison and focus. Where the hell…?
Closing them again, he groaned.
He was getting tired of waking every day up in a different place from where he thought he was, and this definitely was not their hotel room. Looking up, he slowly stretched out a hand and curiously fingered the beaded blue fringe on the scarf hanging from the bed canopy over his head. His fingers, when he brought them back, were scented with rose.
He sucked in air, sitting up with a snap, eyes widening in a rush of memory. The covers on the other side of the bed had been pulled up and there was a note lying on the pillow. He snatched it up and squinted at it with still uncooperative eyes, rubbing them reflexively. His head ached dully.
I tried to wake you up but you were really out of it. I hope you feel better today. Had to go to work. I get off at 5:00. (That's a hint). If I don't hear from you, no problem. I just want you to know I had a great time last night. I enjoyed our 'talk.' I've never met anyone like you. There's stuff to eat in the kitchen and coffee in the pot.
Dean ruffled a hand through his hair and pulled back the sheets. He was clad in his boxers, which meant nothing. Stretching his neck he could see his clothes pooled by the side of the bed. The last thing he remembered was going to sleep, at least half dressed, with Ashley's warmth beside him.
Crap! Great time? Doing what? Of all the damned things not to remember! Feeling like ten kinds of a jerk, he made a disgusted sound and pushed himself off the bed. Grabbing his clothes, he began jerking them on, hopping clumsily as he pulled on his boots. His cell phone buzzed suddenly, drawing a startled curse as he fumbled for it. Snapping it open, he barked, "Yeah?"
"What's wrong?" Sam's voice snapped.
Dean made a face, knuckling his eyes again. Shit. "Nothing." He sank back down on the bed. "Nothing. I just woke up, I'm a little groggy." The whole damn place smelled like roses. He got up again and crossed into the front room, sinking down in one of the overstuffed chairs, agitated as hell, but having no idea why.
"Are you okay? I was just checking to see if you needed a ride or anything." Sam sounded amused now. "I got some information from the morgue attendant I think'll interest you."
"I'm fine." Dean groused. "And I do need a ride. Ashley went to work earlier; I guess I didn't wake up." He shook his head, feeling slightly hung-over, but he knew the strongest thing he'd had to drink last night was Alka Seltzer. Thatmemory brought heat to his face.
"Gimme the address and I'll come pick you up."
Dean frowned looking around. Where the hell was he? "Hang on." He got up and rummaged in the litter of papers on the coffee table, managing to find an envelope with an address on it which he read off to Sam.
"It'll take me a few minutes to get there," Sam said as he wrote the information down. "You're still downtown, by the university."
"'S okay. I'm gonna grab some coffee. I'll be downstairs in twenty minutes." He closed the phone and stuffed it back into his pocket.
Tossing the envelope back on the table, something shiny caught his eye as he tried to neaten the mess he had made. He pulled the little square out from under the other papers, an iridescent matchbook from a place called The Inside Club. He frowned. Where had he seen that before?
His stomach growled suddenly. He dropped the matchbook back on the table, opting for food over curiosity. Scrounging in Ashley's tiny kitchen he blessed her for the coffee and located a bagel which he sliced and toasted. Maybe he could keep that down. He put the bagel between his teeth and picked up the cup he had decided to take and headed out the door, locking it behind him and moving down the stairs to wait for Sam.
Sam cruised slowly down the street looking for Dean's familiar slouching figure, finally spotting him leaning against a raised flowerbed, eating something. Dean saw the Impala at the same time and started walking toward it as Sam pulled up.
"So, how was your evening?" Sam cut his eyes toward Dean and grinned as Dean slid into the passenger seat and slammed the door.
"None of your business," Dean snarled. He chucked the rest of the bagel at the pigeons and dumped the last of the coffee outside the window.
Sam blinked in hurt surprise. "I'm sorry; do you want me to stop the car?"
Dean glared at him. "What? Stop? Why?"
"So you can get your tail out of the door, man. What's your problem?" Sam jerked the car forward.
Dean rolled his eyes and banged his head on the window. "I'm sorry."
Sam shot a look at him and then back to the road.
"I didn't mean to bite your head off. I'm sorry." Dean actually looked at him this time. "Really, dude. I just—" Dean cut off, shaking his head. He just what?
"What's wrong?" Sam asked, concerned now. Temper tantrums he could deal with, but this didn't feel like that. "You and Ashley not get along? I figured since you were there this morning… what happened?" He paused. "Or didn't happen?"
Dean squirmed. Sam stared at him.
"What happened, Dean?" Sam repeated more gently.
In a small voice, not looking up, Dean replied, "Before or after I puked on her?"
Sam almost ran into the curb. "Oh, my God!" he yelped, hitting the brakes. "Dean, you didn't?" he choked, torn between horror and laughter.
"It's not funny!"
"I know, I know! I'm sorry!" Sam clamped his teeth down firmly on the inside of his cheek. "Dean, if you were still sick you shouldn't have—"
"I wasn't!" Dean exclaimed, hands outspread. "I felt okay. We walked back to her place. Man, I hadn't been there ten minutes and…." He made a tossing away gesture and covered his eyes.
"What did she do?" Sam turned the wheel and headed them back in the direction of the motel.
"She took a shower and changed her clothes," Dean replied, "what do you think?"
"That's not what I mean. She didn't throw you out?"
Dean looked confused then. "She was totally cool. Like no big deal. She even got me some stomach junk to take." He stared at the floor, remembering how comfortable she had made him feel. How warm the touch of her skin was….
Sam smiled. "She sounds nice, Dean. Spectacular, actually. What happened then?"
Dean shrugged. "We went out on the balcony to get some fresh air. I was kinda dizzy, she had me lie down on her bed. She got on there with me and…."
"I don't know!" Dean spread his hands. "I woke up this morning with no clothes and she was gone."
"Well, it seems to me—" Sam began as delicately as possible.
"We didn't have sex, Sam!" A beat. "At least, I don't think we did." Dean massaged the back of his neck.
"Well, what's the big deal, either way? It's not like you're gonna see her again," Sam commented, pulling into the motel parking lot.
Dean's silence was louder than yelling and a lot more informative. Sam stopped the car and stared at Dean, who, in turn, was staring at the dashboard.
"Dean?" Dean moved his head slightly to look at Sam, whose eyes widened in disbelief. "Oh, my God," Sam breathed. "You are gonna see her again!" His mouth fell open. "You like her!"
Dean actually blushed, or it may have been anger judging from the way he jerked open the door and threw himself out of the car, stalking toward their room.
Sam immediately felt bad and scrambled out after him. "Dean, I'm sorry! I didn't mean that the way it came out." He caught up with Dean and grabbed his arm, holding on even though Dean tried to jerk away. "Dean, really. I'm sorry. You just never—"
Dean had the grace to look chagrined. Sam was well aware that Dean was the king of the one night stand. Hit and run Winchester. Rock and roll. Hello, goodbye, exit the handsome stranger, but with rare exception he tried not to rub Dean's nose in it. Usually Dean took pride in his conquests.
"I know, Sam. And I'm not now. Don't make a big deal out of it. We'll be outta here in a few days and she'll just be another notch on my gun." He slipped the key into the lock.
"Dean, she doesn't have to be, there nothing wrong with liking someone—" Sam began, following Dean in.
"God, kill me now," Dean groaned. "I don't want to talk about it anymore." He sat on the bed and pulled his boots off. "I'm gonna take a shower and when I get out you can tell me what you found out at the morgue." He grabbed a pair of boxers and some clean jeans out of his bag and headed into the bathroom.
Sam watched him go, lips in a tight line and a sad look in his eyes.
Dean was pleased to find breakfast sandwiches and coffee waiting when he got out of the shower, in a cloud of steam, a towel around his neck.
"Food!"" Dean exclaimed, sniffing sausage.
God, he was starving. Half a bagel just wasn't cutting it. He ruffled his hair with the towel and grabbed a clean shirt. Shoving his arms down the sleeves, he left it hanging and sat down at the table taking one of the sandwiches Sam pushed at him. He popped the top off his coffee and dumped in two packets of sugar for the hit, then gulped some of the scalding liquid down.
He had three bites of the sandwich swallowed by the time Sam had the laptop fired up.
"Take it easy," Sam advised, eyeing him. "It'd be nice if something you ate stayed in your body."
Dean grunted. "I feel okay." He pulled some of Sam's notes over and scanned them. "So what did the morgue guy know?"
Sam cocked an eyebrow. "It was a morgue girl, actually. And she knew a lot."
Dean smirked. "Did she give it up without a fight?" At Sam's dirty look, he added, "The information, Sam! God, get your mind out of the gutter," concluding with a self righteous sniff before taking another bite of sandwich, eyes sparkling for the first time in days.
He pulled his notes back and flipped through them, taking a bite of his own sandwich. "Turns out the same attendant was there when the other body was brought in. She remembered him. Both bodies were in the same condition: Sucked almost bone dry of every body fluid." Sam held out the copy of the preliminary Coroner's report, which he had managed to wrangle after a brief struggle over the terms of surrender.
"Aww, Sammy, you really took one for the team," Dean said with a smirk when Sam described the situation.
"Anyway," Sam said loudly,"Here's the strange part-"
"Stranger than what you just said?" Dean snorted. "I can't wait." He stuffed the last of the sandwich in his mouth and brushed his hands on his jeans.
"The attendant said both bodies showed identical entry wounds. Puncture wounds made by a pair of very long, sharp, tapering objects." Sam held up his forefinger. "She said the base was at least as big as my finger, and curved."
Dean made a face, curling his lip. "What? Like fangs?"
Sam widened his eyes a little and cocked his head slightly. "The first body had the wounds in at the base of the neck, where it joins at the shoulder. Matt Lewis's body, they were in the back of his throat, just past his tongue." Dean blanched as Sam went on. "Okay, the morgue girl said the Coroner found traces of a toxin in the wounds, suspended in a fluid very similar to human saliva, but with trace elements they haven't identified yet. It appeared to be almost a venom, but with qualities that would paralyze, but also break down tissue, liquefying it, almost like stomach acid. That may be what allows whatever this is to suck the victims dry. Maybe it paralyzes them by injecting the toxin and then literally drinks them alive."
"You saying you think this is some kind of giant vampire thing or something? Or a leech? And it has poisonous slobber?" The tone of Dean's voice was skeptical to say the least.
Sam shook his head and punched some keys on the laptop. "I did a lot of digging last night and I found some interesting stuff about snake demons and myths. You know those scales you found, right?"
Dean nodded, sipping his coffee, listening intently now.
"There are several possibilities, but I ran across one that seems to fit the bill better than the rest." Sam worked his way through a few web pages until he found the one he wanted. "It's a fairly obscure Greek myth, about a girl who steals a young man promised to a goddess in a yearly ritual celebrating the city's good fortune. The goddess swears to destroy the city in return for the woman's betrayal. She kills the young man by sucking him dry of his life fluids and leaving him as dust. The girl begs the goddess to take her vengeance out on her not the city, since the sin is hers. The goddess agrees to the terms and curses the girl.
"She's doomed to live through eternity in a never ending search for real love, seducing men and then turning into a serpent and killing her lover by feeding on him until he's sucked dry. It's a Catch 22. She's compelled to seduce these men in an effort to find true love, even though she'll only end up killing them. Even if she finds true love, she'll just end up losing it." Sam sat back, glancing over at Dean.
Dean stared at him, round eyed. "Wow," he finally said. "Sounds like somebody you want to avoid. Jeez." He rubbed his nose. "I'm impressed, Sam," he said with total honesty. "I can't believe you plowed through all this and found that."
Sam shrugged nonchalantly, but obviously pleased at Dean's praise nonetheless. "It's just a theory, and it's set on a story that may or may not have really happened. But based on what I've been able to find out about the past deaths, it fits the pattern."
"So, assuming this is what we're dealing with, what do we do now?"
Sam sighed and rocked back in his chair. "I need to keep researching. Like I said, this is a very obscure myth. What I told you is what I pieced together from what I managed to find."
"We need to find out where this Matt Lewis went and who he was with the night he died." Dean quickly buttoned his shirt. "Someone must have seen him."
"I picked up a paper this morning that has a decent picture of him." Sam added, shutting off the laptop. "We could use that to show to people." He finished his sandwich and coffee and tossed the trash away before picking up the paper with the head shot of Matt Lewis and carefully tearing it away from the page.
Dean rolled up his sleeves and grabbed the car keys. "Where do we start, Sherlock?"
Sam held up a shiny book of matches. "How about here?"
Dean frowned at the little packet. "What is that place?"
Sam tucked the photo in his pocket. "I checked out their website. It's a pretty popular club in the newer part of town. Indy rock, Alternative, that kind of thing. They have a restaurant and bar that runs during the day and then they open the club about 9 pm. It's strictly Membership Only to the club, but members can be accompanied by up to three guests, so all you have to do is know someone who has a membership there to get in. They have a Members Only webcam section of the website, but all that you can download without a password is a set of demonstrator clips. It might be worth a membership to be able to see it."
Dean made a face accompanied by a gagging sound. "Sounds like my kinda place. Will there be anyone there this time of day? It's barely noon."
"Restaurant, remember? There might be someone from the club there this early or someone that can tell us who we need to ask for. It can't hurt to check, we can always go back later—"
"-Or I can, just in case you're maybe, possibly, thinking about considering the idea of having plans for the evening. So to speak." Sam continued, unable to bite back the grin.
Dean hit him. "Just get in the damned car, Sam!"
The Inside Club was located in a newer, trendy part of town. Lots of glass and steel buildings with landscaped quads and walkways. The club was on the bottom floor and basement of a twelve story office building and had a steady stream of people going in and out of the door. Apparently it was a popular lunch spot as well as night spot.
Megan had worked here for almost a year and had seen a lot, but her attention was still caught by the two men standing outside the door. The tall…holy crap…one was gesturing between himself and the other man, then at the other sharply dressed individuals who were scowling at them as they moved past to come inside.
The shorter one finally shoved the taller one and yanked open the door, sailing blithely up to Megan's greeting station, taking his place in the short line, while the other man trailed along behind, looking slightly embarrassed.
After making sure the other diners were seated, she was faced with tall guy and his friend. She looked them up and down, taking in the shabby clothes, rather aggressive attitudes, the twin bad boy looks and, oh my God, the eyes! and smiled. She had long ago learned that the best presents didn't always come with the fanciest wrappers. Sometimes you had to take the paper off to get to the goodies inside.
The shorter one, who was still over six feet tall and was giving her a much more thorough once over than she had given them. Shaking back her hair, she reached up and tugged self-consciously on one of her heavy silver earrings. She experienced a bizarre urge to cover herself with one of the large menus as those brilliant green eyes swept over her.
"Can I help you gentlemen? A table perhaps?" Megan finally said.
And then he smiled.
Dean smiled at the girl behind the podium, taking in the large gray eyes, dark blonde hair pulled back into a cascading waterfall of curls and the short pencil skirt that accentuated the fact that she was so thin Sam could have snapped her in half with one hand. As he stared, she reached up and touched one of the huge silver loops dangled from her ears. Her badge identified her as Megan.
"I hope so," he began in a rough purr, keeping his gaze at high intensity. "We wanted to talk to someone about a membership in the club. Would that be you?" He reached out and drew a finger lightly down her hand. "Megan."
Behind him Sam snorted, but let Dean work his magic.
Megan swallowed. "Well, actually, you would need to come by the club and fill out an application after opening time, which is 10 pm."
Dean leaned on the podium, looking crushed. "Oh. That's too bad, my brother here wanted to have a look at the Members Only site. See, if this is our kind of place." He caught his lower lip in his teeth and leaned a little closer, speaking in a tone more suited for the exchange of intimacies, which drew Megan closer. He gestured over his shoulder at Sam. " See it's his birthday and I wanted to take him someplace special. Meet some new people. We're only in town for a few days and were looking for somewhere to spend a little… quality time… if you know what I mean." His thumb rubbed a slow circle on the back of her hand and he looked up at her, blasting her with his full gaze and she crumbled before it like a reed in a wildfire.
Swallowing, she glanced around. "Well…I'm only supposed to do this for special clientele. But if you're only gonna be around for a couple of days…" she held up a finger. "Hang on."
She disappeared around a glass screen. Dean looked back at Sam and bounced his eyebrow. Sam rolled his eyes.
Another girl, an almost exact duplicate of Megan except that she had dark hair, took her place. Her name was Regan. She smiled in the face of their stares and went to assist a new group of diners.
Megan reappeared with two gold cards in her hands. "You didn't get these from me," she said, holding them out. "They're VIP memberships. We use them for special guests who don't have a membership, but would like to come to the club and have a good time when they're in town."
Sam and Dean accepted the cards. Sam flipped his over. There was an e-mail address and a website address followed by a series of letters and numbers.
Megan pointed. "That's the website address and the password to get you into the webcam. It's really just for fun, but you can go through the different nights and see who was there and what was going on or just watch it scan through the evening crowd. It's promotional really." She eyed Dean speculatively. "Maybe we can both come tonight."
Dean blinked. "That sounds very…enjoyable," he finally replied. "Thanks for the help. We really appreciate it."
Sam leaned closer. "You work here at night?"
Megan nodded. "Couple of nights a week, but I'm here a lot of other nights, too. Just for fun," she added, eyes on Dean. Dean smiled in return.
Sam pulled the newspaper photo out and held it up. "You ever see this guy before?"
Megan took the clipping and actually looked at the photo. "Yeah, I do know him."
Sam and Dean exchanged a look.
"Well, I mean I've seen him here, I think his name's Mike or something." She handed the paper back. "Why?"
Sam pocketed the clipping. "He's a friend. He recommended this place."
Megan smiled, unperturbed by the non-answer. "Well, I'm glad he did." She grabbed some menus as a new group came in. "I gotta get back to work guys. Maybe I'll see you tonight." She broadened her smile and went to greet the new guests.
"Man," Dean grunted as they returned to the car. "Talk about a hole in one." He glanced at his watch. "What now?"
Sam was fingering the gold card he'd been given. "I'd really like to take a look at the webcam stuff on the site. This is our best lead; actually our only lead. There's no pattern to these killings. They're totally random, nothing for months then three in a row, then one, then nothing again." Sam sighed and tapped his fingers on the car top. "It's almost like whoever's doing this, is doing it when they feel like it, so it doesn't seem to have anything to do with actual hunger. God knows what kind of a criteria she uses to choose a victim." He jerked open the passenger door and slid in.
Dean climbed in to drive. "So back to the motel?"
Sam pursed his lips. "Yeah, I guess so. Maybe I can find something useful on the tapes." He turned to Dean. "How are you feeling?"
Dean shrugged. "I'm fine, Sam, stop asking. Do you want me to help you with your research?" He started the car and pulled out into traffic. "I mean, I know you're way better at it than I am, but I wanta help if I can."
Sam cocked an eyebrow at him. "You want go see Ashley don't you?"
"No,!" Dean objected. "That's not it at all! I'm hurt you would think that."
Sam smirked. "It's okay, Dean. It's dumb for both of us to sit there for hours staring at a computer screen. How about this?" he offered. "I'll do the laptop research, you go spend some time with Ashley, and then we can meet at the club tonight around ten thirty or eleven. Ask around about Matt, who he was seen with lately. Judging from the number of matchbooks he had, he was there a lot."
Dean was honest enough with himself to realize Sam was handing him an out. And he was shameless enough to take it. It wasn't like Sam would be in any danger from his laptop. "Good idea. But how'll you get to the club? I can pick you up."
Sam shook his head. "Nah. I'll get a cab. That way you won't have to worry about it. Take her to dinner or something. I'll meet you there. Maybe by then I'll have something worthwhile."
Dean nodded. "I'll drop you off at the motel." He frowned. "I guess I need some better clothes, I don't think that club is a torn jeans and ratty t-shirt kinda place." He gave his battered clothing a quick look. By the same token, he had to admit, he wasn't a dress pants and evening shirt kinda guy. He wasn't a dance club kinda guy either, come to think of it.
Dean drove them back to the motel and dug around for some decent clothes. To Sam's astonishment he even took the time to run the motel-provided iron over his chosen shirt and pants.
Dean paused as he was getting dressed, "Are you sure you don't want some help?"
Sam watched Dean quietly for a moment. "Dean, for once I'm pimping you out. I don't need you. I want you to go out with an actual nice girl and have an actual date. Not a hit and run. Try it. You might like it."
Dean had looked so uncomfortable at that, Sam was almost sorry he'd said it.
Dean's expression was a study in mixed emotions and he was obviously at a loss for a smartass comeback. Instead, he grabbed his jacket and headed for the door, turning back at the last second.
His, "Thanks, man," was almost too soft for Sam to hear.
Sam had laughed softly, feeling a little bit like he was sending Dean off on his first date. Dean threw himself completely into whatever he did, if he put half the effort into his attempts at actual romance, Ashley didn't stand a chance.
Sam powered up the laptop, ordered a pizza and then settled in for a long session, deciding to do more follow up on his myth theory. It was shooting in the dark, but somehow it just felt right. By the time an hour had passed he was writing furiously, eyes jumping from the screen to his notepad, a line drawn between his eyebrows.
It was just before five when Dean walked up to the café where Ashley worked. He sat at an empty table and watched her move among the patrons. He was amused when she bustled up to his table with a menu.
"Hi! I'm Ashley, what can I get –Oh, it's you!" She sounded both surprised and pleased. She stepped back as he stood, her eyes looking him over. "Wow, I didn't recognize you. You look…great. You must be feeling better."
Dean shoved his hands in his pockets. He hadn't had a lot to choose from, settling on a pair of black dress pants that were only a little worn, a black t-shirt and a long sleeved charcoal shirt thrown over it. He had stolen Sam's dress belt with the silver buckle. His amulet hung around his neck as usual. He glanced away, mouth quirking. "Yeah, I'm a lot better, thanks."
Ashley smiled, pen to her lips. "You, uh…you're kinda dressed up. You going out tonight?"
Dean looked back at her, head cocked, returning her smile. He scratched his head. "Yeah, well, I was thinking about it. Nice night, all dressed up, nowhere to go." His smile broadened into a grin. "You know someone that might have some ideas?"
Ashley's eyes sparkled as she grinned. "If I say yes, do you promise not to throw up on me?"
Chapter 5: Primal Instinct
Dean had gone back to Ashley's apartment with her so she could shower and change for the evening. Sitting in the same overstuffed chair he had that morning, he listened to the shower running.
She returned in a surprisingly short time, trying to fasten a necklace. The deep blue halter dress she wore was made of some silky, clinging fabric that caressed every part of her when she moved and left Dean breathlessly in doubt as to whether she had anything on underneath it. It was devoid of decoration, accented only by her silver earrings and bracelets. Her sneakers had been replaced with high heels held in place by thin silver straps. Her hair was tumbling around her shoulders in soft waves.
Dean stood without thought when she entered, staring at her.
She paused and smiled at him. "Well, aren't you the gentleman." Her words were amused, but her tone did not imply she thought it was funny. "Can you help me fasten this?" she added, holding out a chain.
"Sure," Dean said, as she stood in front of him, facing away, drawing her hair into a soft bundle to get it out of the way. He took the delicate chain and carefully put it around her neck, his large fingers fumbling with the clasp. The scent of roses wafted over him. He swallowed and finally got the necklace fastened after a few awkward false starts.
"There," he forced out, helping her resettle her hair, enjoying the silky touch against the roughness of his fingertips.
She turned, eyes wide, looking up at him. "Thank you," she said, reaching out and straightening his collar.
Dean closed his eyes briefly, wetting his lips. "You look beautiful," he finally murmured, unable to stop himself from reaching back out to her hair and drawing the strands through his fingers.
Ashley gave a tiny, surprised smile. "Thank you," she said again, more softly. She tilted her head to the side. "For you to say that to me means a lot."
A small line appeared between Dean's eyebrows. "What? I meant it. You are beautiful." He found his constant confusion around her incredibly…confusing. "You're…spectacular."
Ashley placed a hand against Dean's face. The touch of her fingers against his cheek was soft and warm. He leaned into it, eyes closing again.
"I know you mean it," She said gently. "I suspect those kinds of words are hard for you to say when you really mean them. When they're more than just a means to an end." She raised herself slightly and touched her lips gently to his. "And I thank you for them."
Dean floundered mentally, the brush of her lips like an electrical shock, not sure, for one of the very few times in his life, what to say. He reached up to rub his forehead. "Do you want to go? To dinner I mean? If you're hungry..."
Good grief…he had been smoother when he was fourteen.
She studied him for a long moment — to the point of discomfort for Dean. "You're very special, do you know that?" When Dean didn't—couldn't—reply, she smiled again, turned away and scooped her bag off the table. "Where do you want to go?"
Sam straightened stiffly, stretching his arms out, yawning, giving up trying to focus on his notes.
After staring at the computer for hours and gorged on pizza, he was having trouble staying awake.
He finally heaved to his feet and shuffled into the bathroom to splash some water on his face and try to wake up. He still had some time to kill before he had to meet Dean at the club. Grabbing a towel he dried his face, slinging the towel over his shoulder as he moved back into the main room.
Sinking back into his chair, he reached out and called up the website for the club, keying in the password for the webcam. He could scan some of the videos until it was time to go. He maximized the window on the player and sat back, idly surveying the items he had assembled on the table based on what his research had told him.
The iron stiletto he had found in the bottom of the trunk buried under a box of books and a collection of assorted hand weapons. He remembered having it, but was surprised to actually find it. It had been blessed countless times, but Sam had carefully and generously re-blessed it with fresh holy water and wound the black rosary from their stash around the grip, kissing the cross before tying it in place. The leather-bound book of rituals lay open to the needed page, a few notes scribbled on sticky notes stuffed here and there in the pages.
Next to these was an ashtray filled with the burned remains of a piece of hemp, the ever-present rock salt, oil and herbs from several small bottles scattered on the table, and including, as Sam's bandaged finger attested, ten drops of blood.
Lighting a squat red candle, he crumbled a few small leaves into the fire, an aromatic scent filling the air. Reaching out for the stiletto, he ran the blade several times through the flame, then dipped his fingers into the greasy ash, carefully wiping down every inch of the blade, rubbing in the ash, taking up more, murmuring soft words as he did so, binding the blade with their power.
Blood rituals were serious. Taking out an evil this ancient would be tricky and dangerous and the one item that was apparently required to seal its effectiveness was the one thing that would be the most difficult to find and control. Only a blessed blade of iron, properly anointed and wielded in an act of love could destroy the creature.
They had the blessed, anointed blade, the ritual to make it work, all they had to do was figure out who the next victim was going to be and convince him to knife the woman he was making love to before she turned into a giant snake and killed him first.
No problem, Sam thought.
Yeah, he'd take care of it right after he sprouted wings and flew off the roof. He shook his head disgustedly and went back to dressing the blade, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. They'd work out the fine details as they went, just like always.
His eyes drifted to the computer screen to watch revelers from past evenings at The Inside Club as his fingers continued to work the blade, ancient words of power shaping his lips.
Dean toyed with the steak he had ordered. He had been starving when he ordered it, but after a few bites had lost interest. He hoped he wasn't getting sick again. He had a feeling it had more to do with the intimate classiness of the restaurant Ashley had taken them to. It was all small tables, white tablecloths, candles, soft music, waiters wandering around with huge pepper mills and a wine list thicker than his Dad's journal.
Dean was well out of his element and knew it.
Ashley, on the other hand, didn't seem to notice Dean's awkwardness with the atmosphere and the surroundings. She was so casually confident about it all, he tried his best to relax and enjoy her company. Two and a half glasses of wine had done nothing to lessen the tension he was feeling.
"Is your steak all right?" Ashley asked as he pushed the food around his plate.
Their conversation had become a little stilted after they were seated. Dean had been searching his mind for anything to say to keep from revealing how uncomfortable he actually was in the rather elegant surroundings and as a result was saying pretty much nothing.
His eyes flicked upwards at her question. He nodded. "It's great. Really." He looked down again. "I guess I'm not as hungry as I thought."
Picking up his glass he downed the remainder of the wine in it, warmth spreading through him as it hit his stomach. It was a little too sweet for his taste and surprisingly strong. He rarely drank wine. It had a tendency to sneak up on him before he realized he'd had too much and always left him with a killer hangover.
"Are you okay? You seem a little…uncomfortable." She lifted a bit of chicken to her mouth and teased it off the fork, chewed delicately, her tongue drifting over her lips to collect stray drops of the reddish sauce.
Dean watched her mouth as she chewed. Suddenly realizing he was staring, he tore his eyes away and started rolling the stem of his wine goblet back and forth between his fingers. He gave a small laugh.
"I guess I'm just a little nervous," he confessed.
Ashley laughed in return. "Am I that scary?"
He shook his head. "No. No. Not at all." He laughed again. "It's just…"
He swallowed and rubbed his hand across the lower half of his face, glancing around for inspiration. His other hand flopped as he tried to find the right words, the trouble being that the wrong words came so easily to him.
"I go out with a lot of girls-" He bit that off the instant he said it. Don't tell her that! "I mean, this is the first time I've been on an actual date date since I can't even remember. When I wanted it to be more than-" He closed his eyes and covered them with his hand. "God, I don't know what I'm saying…" He hadn't thought it was possible to feel more stupid than he already did.
Ashley rested her warm hand on his cold one. His muscles tightened at her touch and he almost drew away. Her own grip grew stronger and she kept looking at him until he met her gaze, seeming to know he was really seeing her. "I like you, too, Dean. Don't be afraid of me, I don't expect anything more than what the evening gives us."
Dean sighed. "Can I ask you a question?"
In for a penny, he thought.
He shifted uncomfortably, then just spit it out. "Did we have sex last night?"
Sam finished wrapping the stiletto in a clean cloth and slipped it carefully into his jacket pocket, more to know where it was than anything. He had laid out some clothes and after a futile search through both his and Dean's bags for his dress belt with the silver buckle, he had given up and used his regular belt, worn as it was.
Sitting down in the chair by the laptop to pull on his shoes and socks, he idly watched the screen as the club webcam swept over the shifting crowd. He stopped as a sudden close up brought him face to face with Matt Lewis. He hit the stop button and ran it back, checking the date stamp. It corresponded with the evening Matt had died.
"I can't believe this," he whispered when the camera caught a woman with dark red hair from behind as she slipped between Matt and the girl he had been dancing with, a small object dangling from her fingers. Sam watched breathlessly as the scene played out before him, cursing when the camera moved on. "Go back!" he barked at it, leaning closer.
The camera failed to listen, and for several nerve-wracking minutes Sam stared at the screen as it panned back and forth over the crowd. The song in the background came to an end and the lens resettled itself in its former position just as Matt swung his partner around, his lips inches from hers as the camera pulled in for a close up.
Sam's eyes widened and a look of horror swept over his face. "Oh, my God…" He frantically finished jerking on his shoes and grabbed up the motel phone to call a cab.
It was just past 10 p.m. when they arrived at the club and there was quite a crowd milling around outside already.
"Wow," Dean said as he surveyed the gathering, relieved to see his choice of attire would pass muster. Casually trendy for the men and anything went for the women. "This must be quite a place." He pulled out his wallet and fished for the gold card he had been given earlier.
"How did you get a VIP card? I thought you'd never been here." Ashley whispered as Dean flashed the card at the doorman, who waved them through, after a cursory glance.
"Low friends in high places," he replied. "Have you ever been here?"
He took in the glass floor, light show, already crowded dance floor and music that was so not his type, although he did like the heavy bass vibrating in the air. Tendrils of artificial fog drifted through the dancers and crept along the edges of the floor.
Ashley shrugged. "Once or twice, as someone's guest. I don't have a card."
They maneuvered through the crowd and down a shallow set of steps. Dean guided her over to a table away from the floor, where the lights were much dimmer. Once they were seated a waitress came over immediately and took their drink order. A beer for Dean and a glass of Riesling for Ashley.
"Not that I mind, but this doesn't strike me as your kind of place either," Ashley said, raising her voice to be heard over the throbbing music.
Dean was searching the crowd for Sam, but he obviously wasn't there yet. "What? Oh." He shrugged, turning his attention back to Ashley. "Well, you're right there. I like bars with pool tables, frankly. But, like I said, Sam wanted to check it out." He glanced at her. "If you don't like it we can leave, but I need to wait for Sam."
Ashley shook her head. "No, I think this place is great. It's so lively, pretty clothes," she leaned closer and nudged him, "hot looking men and honestly, I love the music they play."
Dean made a face. "Really?" He lifted his eyebrow, trying to hear lyrics over the blaring music. "No accounting for taste, I guess."
He eyed his watch, hoping Sam showed up soon. He'd give him another fifteen minutes and then call him in case he'd fallen asleep over the computer again. He felt a little guilty that Sam had been doing the bulk of the work between Dean's illness and Dean's interests.
Their drinks came and Dean gratefully gulped some beer. Ashley sipped her wine, watching the dancers. Dean found the constant and frequently subtle changes in the lighting to be distracting, but he also began observing the dancers, feeling himself getting caught up in the sway and roll of the packed bodies despite himself. There was a rhythm, harder to find than what he was used to, but there among the scream of sound. He could feel it more than hear it, unconsciously began to move with it.
He jumped when he felt Ashley's hand cup over his and her lips brushed his ear, sending a tingle down his right side. The she spoke the words that sent a jolt of horror through Dean.
"Will you dance with me?" she asked, rising and taking his hand.
Sam bounced impatiently in the backseat of the cab, dialing and redialing his phone, desperately trying to get Dean to pick up. He finally admitted to himself that in all probability, unless Dean had the phone on vibrate, if they were already at the club, he couldn't hear it ringing.
"Can you hurry it up, please?" Sam requested anxiously.
The driver eyed him in the rearview mirror. "A couple more minutes, buddy. Chill."
Sam rolled his eyes and forced himself to sit back. Nervously tapping his fingers on his leg.
"Dance?" Dean choked. "You wanta dance?"
Ask me to take on a full grown werewolf barehanded, but please, God, don't ask me to dance.
Ashley grinned and shifted her body in a way that sent more jolts through Dean. "Yeah. Dance. It's a dance club. I'll bet you're a great dancer. You move so gracefully. C'mon." She inclined her head in the direction of the dance floor and tugged his hand.
Dean's eyes roved over the undulating crowd with something akin to panic racing his pulse. Dancing for him was something you did in a smoky bar with a hopefully drunk woman who mostly wanted to press her body to yours and rock back and forth as an appetizer before the main course.
"I don't…I've never…know how…like that…" he floundered verbally, feeling his I.Q. dropping by tens.
The song changed and Ashley became even more insistent. "Please, I love this song. You'll enjoy it. I promise. Don't be embarrassed. No one pays any attention to anyone else. Pleeease?"
Damned if she didn't bring out her own set of puppy eyes that put any Sam had to utter shame.
Dean very reluctantly allowed himself to be drawn to his feet and onto the floor. He normally didn't give a damn what people thought about him, but deliberately making a fool of himself and doing it accidentally were two different things. The fact that several women gave him an appraising look as they drew closer didn't keep him from trying to pull back at the last second shaking his head, but Ashley only grinned and hauled him into the crowd with surprising determination. Fog curled around them as they disappeared into the crowd.
Sam threw some bills at the driver, tucked the laptop under his arm and leaped from the cab, bounding up the steps to the bouncer at the door. The tallest bouncer stopped Sam with a hand to his chest.
"I'm sorry, sir. This is members only-" polite but insistent.
Sam jerked the magic gold card out of his pocket and flashed it. "I am a member; I'm meeting my brother here!"
The bouncer backed off instantly and opened the door for Sam. "Have a pleasant evening, sir. Sorry for the misunderstanding."
"Thanks," Sam spat, stuffing the card back in his pocket and moving into the foyer.
He could see the strobe lights and feel the music from the dance floor. Scanning the crowd for Dean's face, it was impossible to identify anyone in the moving crowd as fog rose and fell, obscuring some people and revealing others. He traversed most of the surrounding area and peered into the shadowed tables at the fringe, but had no luck spotting Dean.
He HAD to be here.
Dean felt himself breaking out in a sweat as he tried to take Ashley in his arms. She shook her head and patiently placed his hands on her hips, pushing herself close to him. She put her hands on his upper arms and rolled her pelvis against him. Dean couldn't help it and flinched away. She hauled him back.
"It's okay," she encouraged. "Listen to the music. Feel it. Let it become part of you. You told me you like music; find the rhythm you respond to." As she spoke she shifted her body, pushing him.
Dean eyed the other dancers, watching the smoothness of their movement, the way their bodies answered the rhythms playing over them. This was not his kind of music, but there was a primal feel to it and, added to the heat of Ashley pressing against him, using her body and hands to urge him to move this way and that, it wasn't really that hard to get the feel of it. She was right. No one paid them the slightest attention and a few of the couples he saw looked as though they should be in a hotel room rather than on a dance floor. He did have natural grace and years of martial arts training had given him a fine sense of timing and balance.
Dancing was just sex standing up. And he knew he was good at sex.
Wanting to please her, he hesitantly began to move with her, trying to mirror the way her body turned and twisted, pressing against her, feeling her heat as they came close and mourning at the loss of it as she moved away. His brain searched out the slower beats of the song, slowing them down to match.
As the music progressed he felt himself anticipating the next move, the next throb of bass, and gradually he started controlling the movement of her body with his. She responded eagerly, following his lead as he became more self assured.
Pulling her closer, swaying, bodies melted together from shoulder to crotch, hips rolling in a slow, grinding figure eight. It may not have been exactly what everyone else was doing, but Ashley wasn't complaining.
His muscular body took them lower to the ground and lifted them up again. Sliding a leg between hers, he braced her as he bent her backwards, lips tracing down the flesh from her throat to where the deep plunge of her neckline ended. Her thigh lifted, knee bent as she slid it over his side and down, eyes on him, her hair trailing the floor. Every breath he drew flooded his senses with the scent of roses. Want suddenly made him tremble, as he grasped her tightly.
He pulled them both upright with a snap, swinging her around, his hand tangled deeply in her hair, their mouths almost touching, a teasing brush of lip to lip.
Her eyes never left his as she allowed him to move her as he willed, her body his to command. She could feel the swell and contraction of the muscles in his arms and legs as he moved them about the floor, the pound of his heart as he held her against him, her own heart responding.
The song ended. Another began, the sound of it beating in time with Dean's pulse. One of his hands dug into the small of her back, the other cupped the back of her head, crushing her mouth to his in a blast furnace combination of lips, tongues and teeth. He couldn't block the moan that boiled from his chest or the shudder of his body as sensation after sensation ripped through him at the feel of her lips on his.
Chapter 6: Thank you Murphy's Law
Frustrated, Sam turned and stared over the group of dancers. All the effect lighting made it difficult to see anything clearly, but a dark clad figure on the floor caught his eye, and he moved closer, mouth open, staring.
It was Dean, beyond a shadow of a doubt. But…he was dancing. With other people.
On a dance floor.
To the best of Sam's knowledge, Dean had a rudimentary grasp of the waltz, on par with a gorilla's knowledge of metaphysics, but that was it.
Sam continued to gape as he watched Dean dancing with Ashley as though he had been doing it all his life. Their bodies synchronized and moving in sinuous, graceful steps, an extension of the music surrounding them. Their rhythm took on a familiar look, but was executed in such a slow, languid manner, Sam felt heat on his cheeks as he watched. If this was how Dean moved on a dance floor…
Sam brought himself back to reality with a jerk. This was not why he was here.
Ashley and Dean pulled apart when the need for air became too much, Dean breathing heavily and Ashley panting in small gasps. Dean kept one hand tangled in her hair, his eyes blazing.
Ashley's eyes darted over Dean's face. She almost looked frightened.
"Let's get outta here…" he growled, pulling her closer, but not quite kissing her, just a quick dip of his head in her direction.
"What about your brother?" she asked.
"To hell with 'im," Dean growled. He nuzzled against her throat, nipping. "He's a big boy; he can find his own way home."
Wide-eyed, she moved her head in a short nod and followed him as he left the floor, their hands locked together.
Dean was startled when Sam pushed his way through the crowd calling his name, one long arm streaking out to grab Dean's arm.
Dean!" Sam exclaimed. "Thank God, I've been looking all over for you!"
Dean whirled, jerking Ashley behind him, eyes flashing. "What, Sam?"
Sam took an uncertain step backward. "Dean…I've been trying to call you. We need to talk and I need to show you something." He gestured with the laptop, glancing over Dean's shoulder at Ashley who was watching warily. "Alone," he added.
Dean frowned at him. "Whatever it is, it can wait!" he snapped, turning away, "Tell me in the morning!"
Sam caught his arm again. "No! It can't. In the morning it'll be too late. You have to see this. Where are you going?"
Dean yanked his arm free. "None of your damned business, Sam. I'm an adult; I don't have to account for my whereabouts to you."
"I've got to talk to you!" Sam insisted. "Please! Just five minutes! Let's go outside." He took a step toward the foyer and turned, clearly expecting Dean to follow.
It was on Dean's tongue to tell Sam to fuck off, but then he huffed in annoyance and rolled his eyes. "Fine!" He pulled Ashley to him. "I need to talk to my brother for a minute. It won't take long. Then we'll get outta here."
Ashley nodded. "Sure, I'll wait in the foyer for you until you're ready."
She suddenly seemed very nervous.
"Are you all right?" Dean asked, watching her.
"I don't want to start anything between you and your brother-" she began.
Dean pulled her close and kissed her. "This'll just take a second. It has nothing to do with you."
She nodded and smiled. "Go talk to Sam." She crossed the foyer and sat down on one of the plush couches.
Dean grabbed Sam's arm and practically dragged him out the door onto the sidewalk, walking him a short distance away from the waiting people.
"Man, what's wrong with you?" Sam demanded.
"What's wrong with me? What the hell's wrong with you? Is this how you're getting back at me for not being more help on this?" Dean braced his feet apart, arms down, hands fisted, radiating pissed off.
Sam stared at him. "Are you nuts? What are you talking about?" He laughed in disbelief. "Have you totally forgotten why we were meeting here in the first place?" Sam waved his hands. "Never mind, never mind! Dean, I think it's Ashley!"
Dean spread his hands. "You think what is Ashley? Dude, you're not making sense!" He rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand, a headache suddenly spiking behind his eyes. His body felt like it was coming down from an adrenaline rush. He sank down on one of the raised flowerbeds behind him, shaking his head.
Sam sat down next to Dean and opened the laptop. "Dean, listen to me!"
"What, Sam? What the hell is so damned important?"
"I was watching footage from the club the night Matt Lewis was killed." Sam replied as the screen booted up. Dean, he was with Ashley! She looked…different… but it was her! I'm sure of it!" Sam shut up as a couple walked past, staring at them. "Dean," he began again, more quietly, leaning closer. "Please, just watch-"
"Sam, for God's sake-"
Sam thrust the laptop at Dean who grabbed it reflexively. Rolling his eyes, Dean finally looked down at the screen as the footage began to roll. "I don't see anything-" Dean began, watching the camera pan the crowd.
"Wait," Sam delicately scrolled forward.
Dean squinted at the screen as a woman with deep red hair and a full body came into the picture. His body stiffened and he brought the laptop closer. Sam tapped the keyboard and froze the picture of the woman with the cherry brushing her lips. "Well?"
Dean made a face. "Well, yeah, she sorta looks like Ashley, but look at her. The hair's different, her eyes, the body's different. Sam, I just don't-" Dean struggled to pull his mind from the morass of feelings assaulting him to try to listen to what Sam was saying.
Sam bit his lip. "Dean, I think she's seducing you. I think that's why you're acting this way-"
"What way? Why?" Dean snarled, forcing Sam to take back the laptop. "So, she's a succubus now?" Dean jumped up and took an angry few steps away then turned back and shoved a finger at Sam. "You're the one who said I should ask her out. I'm pimping you out, Dean! So now that I actually have and I admit I like her, you're telling me she's this evil thing you dreamed up?" Dean closed his eyes and clamped his hand over his mouth. "Is it so hard to believe I could actually want to be with a girl for more than sex?" He demanded finally, looking long and hard at Sam, who stood wide-eyed with his mouth open. "That she might want to be with me for more than that?"
Sam's mouth shut with a snap. "No…Dean, I didn't mean it like that…." Sam sighed. The last thing he intended to do was hurt Dean, but there was no way around this. "Dean, this isn't like you…. Deep down you know it. I'd think it was great if you could find some girl you could- listen to me!" Sam suddenly barked, grabbing Dean's shoulder.
Dean's angry eyes shot to Sam's face. He tried to pull away, but Sam had him in a death grip. "Sam!"
"NO!" Sam's fingers bit into Dean's shoulder. "I'm not sure what the hell is going on here, but I know this girl was with Matt Lewis the night he died. This girl is Ashley. Somehow she's involved! Hell, for all I know it's her psycho twin sister, but I can't let you just leave with her like she was any other girl until we know for sure!"
Dean glared at Sam, furious without understanding exactly why. Despite himself, he knew something wasn't right; the wild need to be with Ashley was fading in the night air, the intoxicating scent and feel of her body against him.
But still…. He made a frustrated noise. "Dammit, Sam! What am I supposed to do?" He raked his hair angrily. "What if you're wrong?"
"Then I'm wrong" Sam hastened to reply, his grip loosening slightly, "and I owe you and Ashley a major league apology for being a total asshole, but Dean, you saw Matt Lewis. What if I'm right?"
Dean let out the breath he was holding, looking away. "So what are you telling me? If what you're saying is true, then what?"
Sam relaxed visibly. "Take this." He held out the wrapped stiletto.
Dean unwrapped the cloth and stared at the iron dagger. "And do what with it?" One eyebrow cocked sharply toward his hairline.
"Go home with her," Sam replied. "If it is her, we have to try to end this. The only way to destroy her is by using a knife like this in an act of love."
Dean's other eyebrow shot up to join its partner. "Wait one friggin' minute!" He exclaimed. "You think Ashley is the creature we're looking for, you want me to take her home, have sex with her…and then while…." Dean stood up, outraged. "Are you out of your frigging mind? Even I can't do that!" He shoved the knife back at Sam. "Screw you, Sam!" He stormed off down the sidewalk, seriously rattled.
Sam caught him before he'd gone five steps, forcing the knife back into Dean's unwilling grip. "It's the only way! You think I haven't tried to find another? It's how it started; it's how it has to end."
Sam was deadly serious, Dean could see it.
"No," he said, voice low. "I think you're fucking crazy. That is not Ashley on that video. And I'm keeping this cause I don't want to see you anywhere near me or her with it. Do you understand me?" He crammed the wrapped blade into his waistband under the shirt. He pointed at Sam. "Stay the hell away from both of us!"
With an angry twist he turned and stalked back into the club, Sam's glaring disbelief a physical presence at his back.
The ride back to Ashley's apartment was quiet. Ashley kept glancing sidelong at Dean as he brooded silently, grappling with his thoughts.
"What did Sam say to you?" She finally ventured hesitantly. "You seem upset."
Dean shot a look at her, then back at the road. He shrugged. "Nothin'." Feeling the handle of the dagger dig into his stomach, he continued, "We just had a stupid argument. I really don't want to talk about it." He shifted uncomfortably, swinging the big car into the parking space by her building.
He got out, opened her door and accompanied her in silence up to the door of her apartment.
She unlocked the door and he followed her in. He walked out to the balcony as she locked the door and leaned against the railing, looking out at the lights.
After a moment she joined him, standing close, but not touching. "Dean…," Ashley began.
He sighed, turning to look at her.
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea." She said, toying with the necklace he had fastened for her earlier, her eyes taking in the glow of light below.
"Why? What's wrong?" he asked, taking her arm.
Ashley shook her head, glancing up at him. "I really like you, Dean." Then her eyes drifted to the floor and across the room.
Dean closed his eyes, stroking her arm, feeling that electric spark as he did so. Sam was out of his mind. "I…I like you, too," he said hesitantly. "I like you a lot."
He lifted his hand and used it to raise her face to him. To his surprise tears filled her eyes, one spilling over the dam of her lashes and rolling slowly down her cheek.
"Tell me what's wrong," he said, frowning.
Ashley shook her head again. She put the flat of her hand against his chest and gazed up at him. The contact sent heat through Dean's body and set his heart racing, causing his breath to hitch. She opened her mouth to speak, obviously torn over what to say.
"I think," she began in a low, controlled voice, "that you have such an old soul. That you are so sad and so lonely…." Dean's brows drew together as she spoke. "I think you are so beautiful inside, and I can feel how much pain you're in and I want to make it all be better for you." She lowered her head, voice breaking. "I don't want to add to that pain, to hurt you."
"What are you talking about?" he demanded, putting one hand over hers, the other caught a new tear as it drifted from her eye.
"I'm so lonely," she whispered, almost to herself. "I've been alone for so long." The pressure from her hand against his chest grew stronger and began to feel very much as though she was pushing him away. She abruptly shook her head. "You need to go, Dean," she said, suddenly loud. She actually did push him this time. "I want you to go. Now.Please."
"Not until you tell me what's wrong," Dean insisted, catching her face between his hands and forcing her to look at him.
Her eyes implored him. "Please…."
Dean stared into her shimmering eyes, then lowered his face, taking her mouth in a gentle kiss.
At first she tried to break away, but even as she was shaking her head, she suddenly moaned. Before he could move she was pushing herself up against him with shocking strength. His back slammed painfully into the door frame behind him, her fingers clutching around the back of his head, nails digging in, forcing herself even closer.
It was so unexpected and strong, Dean felt his teeth cut into the inside of his lip, bringing the taste of blood to his mouth.
Ashley moaned again as she tasted it too, her movements became wilder. She was all over him, hands sliding everywhere, his shirt pulled half off, fingers sliding under his t-shirt, her leg sliding between his, shoving up.
Dean made a strangled sound, trying to push her away, but she clung to him like skin, her mouth devouring his, teeth digging in. His eyes went wide as liquid fire suddenly seared his mouth and throat. Crying out, panicked and agonized, he found the strength to shove her away from him, losing his balance and falling heavily to his side. Spitting and gagging, the skin of his hands burning where they wiped frantically at his face and mouth. Blood and saliva dripped on the floor.
"I told you to go!" Ashley cried, turning away from him, her hands twisted in her hair. "God, why didn't you go?"
Standing outside the club, staring after Dean and Ashley, Sam swore with rare virulence. Going after Dean now would only get him a punch in the face. He needed to get to Ashley's, hoping to God that's where they went.
A taxi at the curb a few feet away and Sam ran for it, grabbing the door as another young man with a stunning blonde on his arm reached for the handle. "Sorry!" Sam snapped, flashing his gold club card to fast for the other couple to really see what it was. "Police emergency!" he slid into the backseat and slammed the door. He yelled out Ashley's address and hit the seat, adding, "Step on it!"
The taxi screeched away from the open-mouthed couple.
Traffic was a nightmare downtown. Everyone in the whole frigging city had decided to go out it seemed and they were all determined to get totally in the way. Sam was leaning over the front seat screaming at the other cars as loud as the driver.
The car that blasted through the intersection, trying to clear the yellow light before it turned red slammed into the driver's side of the cab with an explosive crash, throwing Sam into the driver's side door, knocking him cold.
Dean pulled himself to his feet, one hand hovering over his mouth. He stumbled away from her, other hand reaching out to support himself against the door to the kitchen. He slumped against the wall, leaning over. The initial flash of pain was gone, in its wake a sickening burn.
Dean coughed, grimacing, spraying his hand with fine drops of blood, the fire on his tongue and palate making his eyes water. "Wha'd you do t'me?" His words slurred from trying to talk without causing himself more pain. His tongue felt too thick and his breath was starting to wheeze. He was going to try for the door, but knew he wouldn't make it.
Still turned away, Ashley's voice was rougher, deeper. Her hands still tangled in her hair, started sliding through the long satiny locks, the dark hair seemed to lengthen into a sudden waterfall of deep red curls that fell almost to her waist.
Shaking out the mahogany tresses, she lazily released the hook that held her dress in place. With a slow turn she allowed the silken fabric to drift down her body and pool at her feet. She was naked underneath.
Dean couldn't help but watch her garment slither to the ground. Coughing, he slowly lifted his eyes again, seeing the slender body that had been Ashley's, become fuller, rounder, curvier in a way you didn't see much anymore. Her skin became more golden as he watched. The face he saw was still Ashley's, but while Ashley had been pretty, very much so, this was the sensuous beauty of full lips, heavy lidded eyes, now a startling silver rather than bright blue, an elegance of form and motion unlike anything he had ever seen.
Comparing the Ashley he had known to this woman before him was like comparing a cheap print to an original masterpiece. Looking in her eyes was seeing down the centuries, experiences you could be lost in. Moments to die for….
Dean forced him self looked away, away from those compelling eyes, his head buzzing. It was getting hard to breathe. He twisted himself to the side and fell through the doorway into the kitchen, staggering back against the cabinets.
Ashley kicked off her heels, one at a time, and stepped delicately out of the blue puddle of fabric. Pausing before a large mirror, she studied her reflection with a pleased smile, hands tracing over her curves. "God, it's like shedding an ill-fitting piece of clothing getting rid of her. A convenient, but uncomfortable disguise.""
She undulated slowly into the kitchen, watching him. "Does it hurt? I just gave you a little taste, but that's usually enough to bring them down. You're very strong." She leaned closer, reaching out to Dean, who tried to pull away. Her fingers pressed to his face, following him down as his legs gave out and he slid to the floor. "I'm not surprised you were attracted to poor, lonely Ashley. I sensed you'd respond to her rather pathetic existence. A kindred spirit if you will. Silly boy," the tone in her voice was one of patient indulgence.
"You are Ashley!" Dean rasped, as if reasoning with her would help.
She slowly shook her head, moving her leg and comfortably straddling him as he lay there.
Dean fumbled for the blade in his belt, managing to get his fingers around the grip, but couldn't get it free.
Elana drew back, looking down in mock surprise. "Darling, you brought me a gift!" she crooned, pulling the black knife from his weak grasp and twirling it in her fingers, admiring it. She looked down at him sideways, eyes narrowed. "How very clever you and your brother are. Maybe I'll take him next."
"No, sweetness, you have it backwards, I'm Elana. Ashley helps me survive, day to day; It's a tough new world and a girl has to make a living. I am Ashley, she's my buffer, a mask. My alter ego if you will. Sometimes, like with you, because you are so strong and so pretty and so obviously damaged, she's my bait. As time has gone by, unfortunately, she's somewhat taken on a life of her own. It gets a little harder each time to shed her, like an old skin."
Elana leaned close, dragging her tongue up the side of Dean's face.
He twisted away. "Ge' off me, bitch!"
Elana ignored him, continuing in the same conversational tone. "She's started thinking it'll be different, she'll be able to hold on; I won't come out to play." She whispered in Dean's ear, "I let her have her fun, but I'll always be here."
She pressed her body against his, it didn't take much strength to clasp Dean's chin and turn his face toward her. Her lips drew closer.
"Sam…," he rasped.
Elana made a clucking noise, her fingers left his chin and began brushing through his hair. "You told him to leave us alone, remember? I think if he was coming he'd have been here by now, don't you?"
Her voice hardened and she grabbed his arms, jerking him down to lie flat on the floor. He grunted as the back of his head slammed on the tile.
"Play time's over." She spat. "I'm hungry." She ground her pelvis against him. "You know this can only be used in an act of love." She dragged the thin blade down his shirtfront playfully. "You might have loved pretty little Ashley. But I don't think you could have used this on her." She laughed. "What about me, Dean? Do you love me?"
"Gimme knife…show you…."
She laughed and tossed the blade across the room. She nipped at his bleeding mouth, her eyes staring deeply into his. "Do you love me, Dean?" She said in a low voice.
Dean struggled to draw in air, tried to close his eyes as she came nearer, blocking everything out, until she became everything.
"Do you love me?" She whispered, rocking against him. "Do you love me? Say it!" She demanded. "Tell me you love me!"
No! His mind screamed.
"Yes…," he gasped, unable to deny her, "…love you…."
Sam awoke with a jerk, a blast of pain over his left eye, stickiness coating the side of his face. His ears were filled with some kind of screaming….
"Easy, fella," a voice said, to close to his face, "the paramedics are here. You were in an accident-"
His taxi had been hit by another car.
Shaking his head, Sam became aware of a crowd of people. He was lying across the back seat of the cab. Sitting up with a snap, ignoring the accompanying dizziness, he caught sight of himself in the tilted rear view mirror. Blood pooled around his eye from a wound under his bangs and trailed down his chin. A hand grabbed his arm.
"Take it easy! You shouldn't move 'til the paramedics take a look at you."
"Get away from me!" Sam snarled, shaking off the other man's hand like a fly. He pushed his way out of the cab, swaying back against the fender.
"Sir! Sir, please, we need to check you out-" A more official voice attached to a uniform tried to touch him, getting shoved back for his trouble.
"No!" Sam barked, forcing himself to focus. "I'm refusing medical assistance, now get away from me!"
Fighting off the hands that tried to stop him, Sam took a few stumbling steps from the wreckage, straightened himself and looked around to get his bearings.
Then he ran.
Dean watched in horror as Elana gasped and reeled back, clasping her arms over her chest, her skin instantly taking on a dusty grey color, scales forming in delicate, black edged ridges.
Body shuddering and twisting as it reformed itself, her eyes remained locked on his. She laughed, a hiss of air through lips that thinned and drew back almost to her ears as they retreated into her head, hair disappearing into the skin of her skull as it flattened and grew broader. Her arms vanished into her shoulders, legs melting together and she sank to the floor in a graceful roll of elongated flesh covered with sparkling silver skin, each fine scale tipped in black. Her writhing body was as thick as Dean's thigh and at least three times his height.
Elana's now serpentine head dipped low to brush his face with her long forked tongue. Dean shuddered inwardly, closing his eyes as it fluttered across his skin, but his body refused to obey his commands to move. The spell was broken, but he was too far gone to respond.
Her head bobbed a few inches above his face, mouth slowly opening, a pair of long curved fangs unfolded from the roof of her mouth. A green droplet fell from one fang and sizzled as it hit his t-shirt and burned through. She slowly pulled back for her strike.
As death stared him in the face, Dean reached deep and drew strength from a place he didn't know existed, his body bucking upwards in an uncontrolled spasm of locked muscles.
Certain her prey was helpless, Elana was caught by surprise and thrown sideways. Dean slumped back, incapable of further movement. She reared angrily above him, fangs bared.
Both the serpent and Dean jerked as the door was suddenly kicked in and Sam burst through. His shirt was torn, splattered with red and blood streaked one side of his face and clumped in his hair.
Elana's lower body coiled over Dean's helpless form, crushing him beneath her weight her head bobbing against the ceiling.
With an ear-piercing hiss, she struck at him.
"Holy shit!" Sam yelped, falling back, crouching low as Elana's head snapped at him. "Dean!" Dean didn't move.
Looking around wildly, Sam spied the iron stiletto lying on the floor against one of the cabinets and threw himself at it in a rolling dive, scooping it up even as Elana struck at him again. He ended up at the far side of the living room, well out of Elana's strike range.
She pulled back, her body curling around Dean, constricting. Dean's head rolled limply and he groaned with the pressure as she tightened the coils around his chest. Lifting her head once more, she opened her mouth wide, green venom dripping, a sound like fat frying filled the air and her tongue rolled out to twitch and wriggle over Dean's face, each drag leaving a red welt behind it.
"No!" Sam yelled, realizing she was choosing Dean over him. He was throwing himself forward even as she drew back to make that last fatal strike. His body landed on top of Dean, blocking Elana's attack, the coils of her body rolling beneath him like a wave. He lunged with the knife, twisting the blade where it entered the slick body and slicing upwards into her throat.
Sam twisted to shield Dean as hot blood spewed over them both and the dead weight of Elana's body slammed into them.
Frantically, Sam kicked the still writhing body away, pulling Dean free of it's coils and hauling them both back against the cabinets. In horrified fascination, he stared as the twisting form changed and morphed back into a semblance of a human body, still covered with the silvery scales, but recognizable as a reptilian combination of both Ashley and Elana. Her eyes rolled to him, a hand stretching out.
Tightening his grip on Dean, but unable to tear his eyes away, he gasped when her body suddenly crumbled into dust.
Snapping himself out of it, Sam looked down at Dean, who was watching him blearily, but couldn't do more than roll his head, his hands jerking impotently on the floor as he tried to move them.
"…sorry…," Dean mouthed, he eyes swept over Sam's bloody appearance. He clutched Sam's arm. "Wha…."
"I'm fine, Dean," Sam snapped in exasperation. "We'll talk about it later. Did she bite you?" he demanded, grasping Dean's face.
Dean shook his head minutely and managed to lift a hand enough to drag it clumsily across his mouth. "Kiss…."
Then Sam registered the burns on Dean's mouth. "Oh…crap. God, that's gotta hurt. Okay, hang on a sec-"
He pulled Dean into a sitting position then ransacked the cabinets until he found the Alka Seltzer Ashley had given Dean that first night for his upset stomach. Filling a pitcher with water, he dumped in the whole box. While it bubbled, he dragged a stool over to the sink and hauled Dean up into it. The paralyzing affect of the toxin was wearing off already since Elana had not injected it into Dean's bloodstream, but Dean was incapable of holding himself up.
"It's okay, Dean. It'll be okay," Sam breathed.
Repeated rinsing with multiple doses of the Alka Seltzer nullified the acid Elana used to burn Dean's mouth, but his lips, the inside of his mouth, tongue and throat were blistered and incredibly raw. Sam forced him to drink one dose just in case any had made its way into his stomach. By the time they were done, both men were soaked.
Mixing some crushed pain killers with water so Dean could drink it, he forced Dean to lie down and rest until his breathing had eased by threatening him with a hospital.
Just before dawn Sam had cleared the apartment of any trace of them both. Before the first rays of the sun had cleared the trees, they were gone.
"Here you go," Sam said, getting back into the car and handing Dean the milkshake he had requested via pen and paper.
Dean smiled a weak thank you, and took the straw out of the cup, opting to use the spoon. He had been using ice chips and throat sprays to try to numb the pain, but Sam figured Dean's taste buds were fried when he could only tell the flavor of the milkshake by the color. They were icy cold though and undoubtedly chilled his throat. There had to be at least a little pleasure from even that slight relief.
He knew Dean would heal in time, although he couldn't eat anything solid and talking was almost impossible. He had taken to scribbling on a legal pad, when gesturing and face- making failed him in his attempts to communicate.
As Sam started the engine Dean touched his arm.
Sam glanced at him, "Yeah?"
Dean scribbled on the yellow notepad and held it out for Sam to read. "Sorry. I was an asshole. Should've trusted you."
Sam sighed. He knew how guilty Dean felt about everything. "We already did this, Dean. I know you're sorry. It's okay. You weren't in control."
He went to start the car again. Dean made a growling noise and scribbled again, holding the pad out once more.
Frowning Sam read the words.
"You killed her."
Sam's frown deepened. "Yeah, Dean, I did. I didn't have any choice. I know how much you liked Ashley. If there'd been another way—"
Dean shook his head, making an impatient noise and began writing again. "How? You said I had to do it. Killing had to be in an act of love."
Sam took the pad and read it slowly, glancing up at Dean.
Dean hit the pad with his fingers for emphasis, closing his eyes in a grimace as he swallowed, putting his hand against his throat before returning his eyes to Sam.
Sam handed the pad back. "I think I was being too literal with the legend," he finally said, putting the car in gear and backing up.
Dean rolled his eyes, drew a large question mark and held the pad up, shaking it, his eyes angry and confused.
Sam sighed and gazed at his brother for a long moment. "Dean…it was in an act of love."
Aware of Dean's frown, he shifted into drive and hit the gas. Keeping his eyes ahead as they gunned down the road, he added.