In Lawrence, Kansas, fake palm-reader and genuine psychic Missouri Moseley read the signs of the growing darkness with little surprise, but a great deal of fear. The last time she saw her old friend John Winchester he warned her that the end of days might just be around the corner. Thanks to John, Missouri was at least prepared. Since leaving things neat and tidy was a lifelong habit, she put her affairs in order, paid her debts, closed her accounts, locked up her house and left the keys with her attorney.
Missouri was a practical woman. She knew that the lines of communication everyone relied on so heavily these days would go down, but she figured that the US mail would be the last to go. So before she left Lawrence for the last time, she walked down to the post office and mailed three letters. There was very little she could do to make a difference in this apocalyptic war. Knowing that might have been a relief had she not also known on whose shoulders that heaviest of burdens now fell. It was for the sake of John’s boys that she sent her letters and prayed, harder than she ever had in her life, that her small effort would make a difference.
In Lost Creek, Colorado, Haley Collins routinely bought twice as much food as she needed every time she went shopping. She bought things that would last: tinned food, dried goods, water in bottles. And salt. Always salt. Her store-cupboard was full to overflowing, but she continued to buy more than they needed, filling boxes for the attic when space ran out elsewhere.
Two years earlier, Haley saw a story on the local news about a gas explosion which destroyed the sheriff’s department of nearby Monument. A lot of people died in the explosion, but there were only two who mattered to her: Dean and Sam Winchester. She cried herself to sleep that night, surprised by how much she cared about two young men she had known for only a few days. The following day, not really knowing why, she drove to Monument to find out for sure what happened. What she learned there frightened her more than anything had since that monster on Blackwater Ridge almost killed her and her brothers. But she knew what she needed to do: protect her family. No matter what.
Tommy never stopped teasing her about her obsessive hoarding of food and salt, but he was the one who started ordering extra propane for the generator. And when they heard the news from Ilchester, Maryland, it was Tommy who bought guns.
Every night they talked about the latest news. Every night they asked each other whether they ought to tell people, try to warn them, maybe. But they never did.
Dean opened the bedroom door without knocking. He saw Sam sitting on the edge of the bed. He seemed okay. His wet hair was combed back from his freshly-shaved face and he was dressed in clean clothing. He had removed the dressing from his neck, or perhaps the shower unstuck the tape, and the vampire bite on his neck was livid against his skin. The vampire bite that had saved his life.
“Sam?” Dean said, when Sam failed to react to his presence.
Sam looked up and the look on his face had Dean halfway across the room before he realised he was moving.
“Sam? Are you still in pain?”
“No. No…not like that,” Sam answered. His voice seemed stronger than before.
You’re scaring me, man. “Then why didn’t you come down and join us? Bobby’s cooking garlic chicken.”
“Sounds good,” Sam answered, unsmiling.
Dean sighed. “Okay. What’s wrong?”
“Dean, how much do you remember about Dad after Mom died? Right after, I mean.”
Dean was startled by the question. Where did that come from? It wasn’t something he enjoyed talking about, but he took a deep breath and plunged in. “Not much. I was four.”
“And I was just a baby. Whatever you remember, it’s more than I do.”
That was true. Dean considered other objections, but it seemed important to Sam. So he thought about it. “I can’t remember what happened right after the fire. I just remember the fire trucks on the street. The next day, we moved in with someone, neighbours or friends. Their place was small and I had to share my bed with you. You wouldn’t stop crying most of the time, but sometimes I could get you to quiet down. Dad…he started giving you to me when he thought you’d been crying too long. He’d say, ‘Watch out for Sammy. He feels safe with you.’”
“I’m glad you did. But Dad? What was he like?”
God, Sam, why are we talking about this? “He was…distant. Cold, even. That’s how it seemed at the time. He would go out to work each day – at least, that’s what he told me – and he went out most nights. He’d come home smelling of whiskey and cigarettes.” Dean shrugged. “After what happened, I can’t blame him.” Dean moved across to the dusty window and gazed out across the junkyard. “Just before Christmas day, something changed. Dad packed everything we had left into the car and we just hit the road. I guess that’s when he met Missouri. After that, it was better, you know? I mean, once we were on the road, Dad was almost the way I remembered. For a while.”
“For a while,” Sam repeated.
Dean nodded, lost in memory for a moment. “Why are you asking me about Dad?”
Sam sighed. “I’ve been sitting here thinking about him. There were times I really hated him, you know?”
“Yeah, I noticed,” Dean grimaced.
“But I loved him, too. And it kills me that he died, that he went to Hell, thinking I hated him.”
This conversation was going nowhere Dean wanted to follow. But he couldn’t escape it now. “Sam, you and Dad are a lot alike. You drove him crazy, but he was proud as hell of you. He knew.”
Sam nodded, not answering. Dean got the feeling there was more. It wasn’t Dad Sam wanted to talk about. But wherever this was headed, Dean was sure it would be uncomfortable. There were times when he could open up with Sam, but these days he needed a whiskey buffer before he would even think about it.
He slapped Sam on his back. “C’mon, Champ. You up for some chicken?”
Sam shook himself and the awkward moment passed. “Yeah. I could eat.”
The last time Sam saw Jo Harvelle was in Duluth, when he was possessed and the demon riding his body attacked her. She’d left home to be a hunter, but as far as Sam could tell she’d just been waiting tables in that waterfront dive. She was a tough kid…but she was a kid.
No longer. Jo sat next to Sam in Bobby’s living room, nursing a beer. The long, golden hair that had been her best feature was gone, replaced by a short, spiky cut. Her eyes were dark hollows, her skin tanned by the sun but not in a way that looked healthy. She wore a flannel shirt with the sleeves ripped off at the elbows, jeans with bloodstains that hadn’t washed out very well and heavy army-surplus boots. Her gun was in a shoulder holster outside her shirt where everyone could see it. She looked much older.
Ellen, on the other hand, hadn’t changed a bit. She’d downed her first two shots of Bobby’s whiskey like she had a bet on it; now she nursed a tumbler with a generous measure, sipping occasionally as they talked.
Sam himself was simply listening, eating his meal slowly while the conversation continued around him.
“…But the news services can only invent so many gas leaks and domestic terrorist attacks,” Ellen was saying. “They called what happened in LA the work of a doomsday cult. Anyone who knows anything about our world knows what’s really going on.”
Apocalypse, Sam thought, but that was wrong. The bomb in Chicago, the massacre in Los Angeles – they were just the warm up act. The real Apocalypse was still to come.
“What are they saying about us?” Dean asked.
Ellen’s look said clearly that Dean should know the answer without asking. “Nothing good,” she reported. “Sam’s working with the demons. Some say he’s one of them. They say you came back from Hell, and the only way that could have happened is if you’re on their team. You were both in Maryland when He broke loose. Some think you did it.”
It was no worse than Sam expected, but he still didn’t like hearing it.
“So we’re the bad guys,” Dean concluded. “Anyone coming after us?”
“Not that I’ve heard,” Ellen answered and shrugged. “But they wouldn’t tell me if they were.”
“Is it true?” Jo asked: a challenge.
“Is what true?” Dean asked her.
“Any of it.”
Dean studied Jo for a moment. Sam watched her, too. He knew she’d been through something horrible. Jo looked…haunted.
“We ain’t demons,” Dean answered. “It’s true we were in Maryland but we didn’t break the seal. Lilith did. We were tryin’ to stop her.” That was a lie: Sam did break the seal. But Dean caught Sam’s eye, silently telling him not to explain further. Sam gave a small nod in reply. He was just as happy not to bring it up and what Dean said was almost the truth, from a certain point of view.
Jo looked unconvinced. “Then why aren’t you fighting?”
Dean glanced at Sam again. Sam raised his beer to his lips. Your call, the gesture said.
“Sam’s been sick,” Dean answered. He sighed. “I guess I’ve been stalling. I wanted to hear from…” he stumbled over an appropriate word for Castiel. “…Someone,” he concluded, “before we rush back into the fight.” He glanced around at the others. “It’s been too long. Cas must be out of the picture.”
“Who’s Cas?” Ellen asked.
The crash and scream from below them saved Dean from answering. Jo jumped at the sound and spilled her beer.
“Nothin’ to worry about,” Bobby said laconically. “We’ve got a vampire locked in the cellar.”
“I’ll go,” Sam volunteered. He stood, setting his barely-touched beer on the table.
As Sam crossed the room, he felt the stiffness in his joints and muscles. If something as simple as walking across the room hurt, he was a long way from being recovered. Training, Sam decided. Lots of training.
“Rise and shine, princess!”
Sam looked up from the computer, annoyed. “I’m not sleeping, Dean.”
Dean grinned. “I can see that.”
Sam ran both hands through his hair. He was actually glad of the interruption. There was nothing but bad news out there.
Dean came further into the room. “I think we should do some training,” he suggested. “We’re both out of condition after…” he shrugged, letting the gesture stand for everything.
“Training,” Sam repeated. “Like what?”
“I was thinkin’ Dad’s way. I know,” Dean added quickly, “but – ”
“I’m in,” Sam interrupted. He shut the computer down.
Dad’s way could have meant several things: their father had endless training regimes when they were kids. But Sam knew what Dean meant as soon as he said it. Injuries aside, only once in their insane childhood had Dean been really sick: he caught a bad case of the flu and had been unable even to get out of bed for two weeks. Their father had been so worried he let Dean convalesce slowly for a while, let him off the usual training and chores. When Dean decided he was ready, Dad complained that he was slow and out of condition. No surprise, really. Dad made them fight – spar – and because Dean was so weak Sam beat him easily. The humiliation of being taken down by his little brother, and Sam’s elation at his unearned victory, spurred both of them on for a while.
Dad’s way. They would spar, because that would demonstrate for both of them where their weaknesses were. Then they’d work on fixing those weaknesses.
Sam remembered to find bandages to protect their hands, and they both cleared a space in the junk-yard. Sam wrapped the bandage around his knuckles, knotting it in his palm. He glanced up as he finished the second knot to see Dean waiting for him. He was surprised how much he was anticipating this.
Sam dropped into a crouch. He felt his smile turning feral. Out of condition he might be and he wasn’t going to hurt his brother…but this was going to feel good.
Dean smiled, too, circling Sam slowly. He made a “come on” gesture, but Sam didn’t take the bait. He moved as Dean moved, keeping an eye on his brother but noting, too, the place where they were. He committed very detail to memory: where the ground was uneven, where the sun reflected off the junked cars, anything he might be able to use against Dean. He noted, too, potential weapons: a broken piece of pipe, glass, a jagged edge of metal. He wouldn’t use them, not against Dean, but he saw them just the same. He knew Dean did, too.
Dean made that gesture again. “What are you waiting for? Rescue?”
Sam struck before the last word was out of his mouth, aiming his punch low. The point was exercise, not combat, or he’d have gone for the head. For an instant he thought he’d actually got past Dean’s guard. Then Dean twisted away, avoiding the blow and sweeping his foot around. First contact to Dean: he hit the side of Sam’s knee and Sam had to go down or risk breaking it. He grabbed Dean’s upper arms as he fell; they fell together to the ground. Sam used his greater mass and momentum to get above Dean, so he was straddling Dean’s hips while Dean lay on his back.
“That’s all you’ve got?” Sam panted, but even as he spoke he felt Dean’s muscles bunch beneath him as Dean moved, bucking him off.
“Just gettin’ warmed up, princess,” Dean returned as he rolled them both over, bringing one knee up to Sam’s groin – not to hurt, but to demonstrate that he could.
Sam grinned back and the real fight began.
It felt good to just cut loose. They had always been competitive and in that sense their combat was serious, but neither man had any interest in hurting the other. A few bruises, sure, a black eye if they could manage it, but nothing worse. In minutes both were covered in dirt and dust. After half an hour Sam’s t-shirt was soaked with sweat and he had lost the protective bandages from his left hand. The knuckles were a little sore. Dean looked no better off: he was breathing hard from the exertion, sweat leaving tracks in the dust clinging to his face and chest.
It was Sam who finally called a halt. The truth was the weeks of detox had taken a toll and when Dean’s punch – just a lucky punch – to his kidney sent Sam to his knees he held up one hand in surrender. “O-okay,” he panted, struggling to catch his breath. “Enough.”
Dean switched instantly to concerned-brother mode. He slid his arms around Sam, helping him to stand. “You okay, Sammy?”
“I’m good,” Sam agreed, though he wasn’t, yet. He met Dean’s eyes; Dean’s face was still very close to his. He saw Dean struggling to hide his satisfaction at beating Sam. He felt like sticking out his tongue – or some gesture equally childish – but he didn’t do it. He stripped off his sweat-soaked t-shirt and used it to wipe the sweat off his face.
“You were right,” Sam admitted.
“Training.” Sam tossed the t-shirt over his shoulder. “My reflexes are fine, but I’m not strong enough to hunt and my endurance is shit.”
“You did better than I thought you would,” Dean offered judiciously.
“Gee, thanks. That’s flattering.”
Sam grinned. “Jerk.”
Lenore didn’t know how long she had been locked in this cellar. She thought she might have woken up before, but didn’t remember clearly. It felt as if a lot of time had passed, though. She was hungry.
Hunger sharpened her vampire senses and she knew someone was nearby. Lenore went to the door. It was locked, but whoever was on the other side heard her try to open it.
“Lenore?” It was Sam’s voice. The slot in the door opened and Lenore saw Sam’s eyes.
“I think I’m recovered now,” she told him.
His eyes crinkled as if he were smiling. “You think? Do you mind if I come in and check?”
“I don’t mind, but I need…”
“Blood,” Sam interrupted. “I figured you’d be getting hungry by now, even after the three-course banquet you had. It’s been a while.” He closed the slot, then she heard the clank of the lock and the door opened. “I’m safe…I hope?” Sam checked.
“So do I,” she answered with a teasing smile. She was hungry, but she was a long way from starving. She remembered the taste of Sam’s blood, delicious and warm, but she wasn’t so out of control she would attack him for a fresh taste.
Sam walked in, leaving the door ajar. “About the blood thing. What do you need? I can get animal blood from a slaughterhouse or something.”
She recognised the generosity of his offer, but she shook her head. “You know what dead man’s blood does to us?”
“Well, blood taken from a slaughtered animal is much the same. Even human blood from a blood bank is unpleasant, though we can live on it if we have to. I need to drink directly from a living creature.”
Sam looked uncomfortable. “Oh. Well, maybe we can…”
“It’s okay, Sam. I’d rather hunt my own prey and I can wait a few days.”
That surprised him. “A few days? How often…?” He stopped awkwardly. “Sorry. Not my business.”
Lenore didn’t mind answering a few questions. It made the conversation easier. She sat down on the bed and gestured, inviting Sam to join her. “Most of us feed the way you do, two or three times a day. That way we can eat small meals, so we don’t have to kill. If you go without food for a few days, how does it affect you?”
Sam sat down on the end of the bed. “I get hungry sooner than that. A few days without food would weaken me. If I had no water as well as no food I’d be dead in a few days. With water…I’m not sure. Ten days, two weeks at most, I guess.”
Lenore nodded. “You can’t eat a huge meal and make it last a week. Your body doesn’t work that way. But mine does.” She looked at him seriously. “I took a great deal of blood from you, Sam. I’m hungry, and if I don’t find more blood soon I will weaken, but for now I’m fine.”
Sam nodded, looking relieved. “Yes, I think you are.” He smiled, a full and genuine smile. “You saved me, Lenore. I don’t know how to thank you.”
Impulsively, Lenore reached up and drew the collar of his shirt away from his neck, exposing the healing bite-wound. Sam, when he realised what she was doing, tilted his neck to one side to give her a better view.
The wound had scabbed over, the puncture marks of her fangs clearly visible. It would scar, marking him forever. But the mark he bore was more than the physical scar and Sam needed to know that. “It’s healing well,” she remarked, wondering how she could explain. “I don’t need thanks, Sam. You and Dean saved me and my family. I hope this makes us even.” His skin was warm under her fingers and without thinking she let her hand drift to his face, caressing the rough texture of his unshaven cheek.
Sam drew away from her. “Lenore…”
She withdrew her hand quickly. “I’m sorry.” She stood and walked a few paces. “Sam, have they told you what I did?”
His forehead creased in a worried frown. “To me? Yes, Dean said you drank my blood three times.”
She nodded. That was a good beginning. “There are some things you should know, Sam.”
The bed creaked as Sam shifted his weight. “Okay. Tell me.”
Lenore wasn’t sure how he would take it. If he weren’t a hunter she wouldn’t have considered telling him at all, but he was. He would encounter more vampires. “I didn’t only feed from you. Each time, I had to drink enough to bring you close to death.”
“And they replaced what you took with transfusions. I know.”
“You were unconscious, but you had agreed to let me do it,” Lenore went on. But she could see she wasn’t making herself clear.
“I know,” Sam began.
She cut him off. “You don’t understand. There’s a bond between us now.”
His eyes narrowed to slits. “What kind of bond?” he asked suspiciously.
“Nothing you will notice, but it’s a mark other vampires will see. That’s why I needed to explain.”
Sam sprang to his feet. “You’d better explain!”
Sam’s height was intimidating, especially as she was still seated, but Lenore held her ground. She wasn’t impressed by his anger. “I am very old, Sam Winchester. In the old days, this was how we marked the humans we chose. To another vampire, it means you belong to me.”
“What the hell does that mean? I didn’t sign up for – ”
“Sam! This doesn’t give me power over you. It doesn’t have to mean anything. It might even protect you.”
Sam stilled, listening. “How can it protect me?”
He still sounded suspicious, but at least he was paying attention now. Lenore took a step back. “Some of the youngest vampires don’t know or respect our old laws. But all of the old ones will. If you are marked, it means no other vampire can feed on you or try to turn you. They can’t hurt you except in defence of their family and they can’t…keep you, they can’t take you prisoner.”
Lenore could see him considering it. More than that, she could feel the edge of his emotions as the ideas flitted through his brain. She couldn’t read his thoughts, not literally, but his feelings and the context of their conversation made Sam’s train of thought transparent to Lenore. It went from a thread of excitement and interest – that could be kinda cool – to almost coldly calculating – in fact, it might be very useful – to suspicion that she wasn’t telling him everything. On the heels of that came guilt, so strong that Lenore backed away a little.
Sam saw her movement. “Why do I get the feeling there’s more to this?”
“There doesn’t have to be, Sam.”
“Stop avoiding the issue, Lenore. Just tell me!”
“Then stop interrupting me!”
Sam was startled, but he backed off. “Fine.”
Lenore took a deep breath. She was dead and didn’t need to breathe except to speak, but the sensation of air filling her lungs helped to settle her nerves. “If you and I were…close, if we had some sort of relationship, the mark you now carry would mean something. No vampire ever marked a human casually.” She hesitated, choosing her next words carefully. “The next time you encounter another vampire, he or she will recognise your mark and will assume two things about you. First, that a vampire values you as a – ” slave “ – companion, or servant. Second, that someday you will be a vampire yourself.” Lenore saw him react to that and added, “I mean the mark indicates it’s been promised to you, not that you’re infected.”
Sam’s frown deepened, but it wasn’t anger now. It was concentration. “If they think I want to be a vampire, won’t that put me in more danger?”
“Oh, no! Sam, do you understand what family means to my kind? How important it is?”
Sam nodded. “I think I do.”
“The mark declares that my family has accepted you as one of us, even as a human. No other vampire will violate that. It’s not total protection, Sam. You’re a hunter and they’ll kill you if they think they have to. But that’s all they’ll do if they think you…belong to another.”
“Belong. Like a slave?”
“More the way a child belongs to a parent. It’s family, Sam. I know you well enough to be able to see you’re thinking of how this can work for you.”
Sam shrugged. “Like you said, I’m a hunter.”
“The thing you need to remember is this. Other vampires will see that you’ve been marked. All but the youngest will respect it, but because you’re a hunter, they’ll be very…curious. They’ll want to know who you belong to. If you want that protection, you mustn’t tell them it’s me. I’m old, which usually means powerful, but a lot of the old vampires see me as weak.”
Sam nodded as if he understood. “Because you don’t kill people,” he said.
This was too close. It hurt too much. Lenore felt tears fill her eyes and turned away from him so he wouldn’t see. “No, Sam,” she said quietly but clearly. “Because of the thing that made me stop.”
“I need to take the car,” Sam announced.
“Where are you going?” Dean dug into his pocket for the keys, but Sam could see he was about to offer to come along. They’d been at Bobby’s for nearly two months without a break. Sam had been sick for most of that time, but Dean hadn’t been. He must be going stir crazy.
“I’m going to take Lenore somewhere she can…eat.” Sam almost said hunt – Lenore’s word – but corrected himself. He saw Bobby look up sharply, but kept his eyes on Dean.
Dean tossed the keys to Sam. “If she’s well enough, we can take her home.”
“I thought of that,” Sam agreed, “but I don’t know how well she is. I’m not sure she knows.”
Dean turned the page of the newspaper he had been reading. “You’re gonna feed her cow, right? Not some person?”
Sam gave him the look that deserved, but even as he did, he heard a woman’s panicked screaming Just…just listen to me, okay? My name is Cindy McKellen. I have a husband named Matthew, we’ve been married six years and I don’t even know who you are, I’m not gonna tell anybody anything. No! No! Please, no! Sam could still see Cindy’s terrified face as he forced her into the trunk, could still taste her blood…
Dean caught him as he staggered. “Whoa, Sammy. I was kidding.”
“Bad joke,” Sam said shakily. He wasn’t sure what just happened. He hadn’t seen Dean move; it was as if he’d lost a few seconds. Dean steadied Sam with one hand on his back. Sam leaned on him gratefully.
“I’ll take her,” Dean offered.
“Son,” Bobby interrupted, “you don’t look like you should be drivin’.”
“I’m fine, Bobby.”
Dean drew back from him. “You’d better be fine. If you crash my car…”
Sam smiled. “Dude. Stop.”
Sam did stick around long enough to have coffee, partly to stop Bobby from fretting and partly to calm himself. The flashback scared him. Sam knew where he was, but the sound of Cindy screaming, that had been real. He heard it. He could have saved that woman. He’d saved so many from possession, but not her. He murdered her. Coffee couldn’t fix that. Nothing could fix that. But coffee gave him time to calm down.
An hour later, Lenore sat beside him in Dean’s car as they drove down the country roads. Sam had not planned a particular destination. He knew she and her vampire family fed on cattle: cattle mutilations were what led Dean and Sam to her in the first place. He knew there was a big cattle ranch in the next county so he headed in that direction, but he was trying not to think about what would happen at the end of this journey.
“What are we looking for?” he asked her.
Lenore looked over at him. “You’re uncomfortable with this, aren’t you?”
“No!” Sam protested, but the protest was mere reflex. “Well…yeah. A little.”
“You kill things all the time,” she said reasonably. “And you eat meat.”
“I know it doesn’t make sense. I’m not squeamish. I don’t know.” The Impala’s headlights were the only light on the road. Sam could see the glow of city lights in the distance but that was very far away. They were alone out here.
“I need…” Lenore began. “Well, I need to feed on an animal. If we were in the city I’d look for a stray dog – ”
Sam stared at her, swerving the car a little.
Lenore laughed. “You humans are so sentimental about dogs! Honestly, what’s the difference?”
“I guess you have to be human to get it,” Sam suggested. “Just…don’t let Bobby know that puppy is on your menu. He already doesn’t like you.”
“I noticed that. You should tell your friend that garlic doesn’t work any better than crosses.”
Sam grinned. “He was a bit freaked because you could enter the panic room. He built it to keep supernatural things out.”
“Ah, I see,” Lenore said thoughtfully. After a moment, she added, “Devil’s bane. It’s a herb native to Europe; I don’t think it grows here but you could probably get some. And wild rose ash would work as a weapon. It’s not fatal, but it hurts us the way the stories say holy water should.”
“You’re taking a risk, telling me that,” Sam commented.
“No, I’m not,” she answered softly. “I trust you, Sam.” She hesitated, then took a more businesslike tone. “We need a farm. Sheep or goat is probably best.”
Sam kept his eyes on the road. “That shouldn’t be too hard to find.”
When Lenore returned to the car, Sam could see the change in her. The hunt had left bloodstains on her pink blouse, and there were scratches on her skin, probably from a thorn bush. Her hair was a little mussed and Sam thought he saw a flush on her cheeks. Lenore’s eyes were bright. She looked…alive. It would not last, Sam knew that, but for a few moments she was as beautiful as any woman he had known. Had she looked like this after drinking his blood?
Lenore settled into the front seat. “Thank you, Sam.”
There was something in her voice that made Sam look at her. When they first met, Lenore had described surviving on animal blood as “disgusting”. She wouldn’t thank him for that. She met his eyes and suddenly seemed sad.
Sam gave her a quizzical look. “What is it?”
Lenore shook her head. “It’s just…nothing.”
Sam slid across the seat to be closer to her. “Lenore, I know we’re not exactly friends, but I think we’re past that. What’s wrong?”
“The last time I marked someone the way I have you, this is the kind of thing he used to do for me.”
“He helped you steal food?” Sam quipped, not sure how to react.
“He helped me survive hard times. Whatever it took.”
Sam frowned. “That means you fed on him, doesn’t it?”
Lenore nodded, combing her fingers through her hair to straighten it. “Often. He wasn’t a victim, Sam. He fed me willingly.”
Sam wondered if that were true; why would anyone willingly volunteer to be vampire chow? But he pressed on with his original question. “And, if I understood you today, that mark means you made him a vampire.”
Lenore nodded again, avoiding Sam’s eyes. “Yes. He wanted to be one of us. He was my human companion for many years and when he was ready, he joined my family as a vampire. He was killed by a hunter…but I think you guessed that.”
“I’m sorry,” Sam said, and he was. If he understood anything, it was the pain of losing family. He laid his arm across her shoulder; the gesture was meant to be comforting, but Sam felt awkward.
Lenore surprised him when she slid closer to him. She silently leaned her head on his shoulder. Her hair brushed his fingers and he stroked the silky locks gently.
Dean killed one of Lenore’s family. Not Sam. But Sam still felt the guilt of it. Dean struck the blow only because he got there first. It could easily have been Sam. They hadn’t known the vampire Dean killed wasn’t a killer. Neither of them had seen Lenore’s family as anything but another pack of monsters to hunt.
Lenore knew that, and she still helped him. She risked everything to save him.
After a long, silent pause, Lenore lifted her head to look at him. Their eyes met. This close, Sam could see how inhuman her eyes were: the pupils dark pinpricks, but not dilated by the darkness, the irises rimmed with red. He brushed her cheek with his fingertips and found her skin soft to his touch. Sam tried to see her as a vampire, a creature, ancient and inhuman, but all he saw was Lenore herself. She was a lovely woman.
Sam didn’t know which of them initiated the kiss. It was just a chaste touch of lips at first, her top lip just brushing his bottom lip. That didn’t seem to turn the world upside down, so Sam kissed her again. He slid his hand into her hair, holding her to him. He felt Lenore melt into his body and it was perfect, so natural that Sam stopped thinking. He parted her lips, probing with his tongue and ran his free hand up her arm. Lenore’s tongue touched his as his fingers found the top button of her blouse.
He half-expected her to stop him, but her hands caressed his back and shoulders, tracing the shape of his muscles. She shifted her position on the car seat and drew him down on top of her. The Impala’s front seat was bigger than most but there wasn’t enough room for them to lay down, especially not for Sam. But he managed to avoid getting tangled in the wheel as he raised himself above her. Sam kissed her again, deeply, thrusting his tongue into her mouth. Lenore responded eagerly, her hands tightening on his body as she explored his mouth with her tongue.
Sam could taste the blood she had been drinking. Sweet and copper, a taste that made his body react before his mind caught up. He thrust against her, wanting – needing – for her to feel his arousal. He got the last buttons of her blouse open and pulled her bra down, exposing one breast and cupping it in his palm. Lenore moaned as Sam broke the kiss, his lips moving to her neck. He nibbled at the flesh and sucked hard enough to mark her.
He heard the words, but they meant nothing to him. He was lost in her body and his own lust. She moved her body against his, her hands caressing him, willing and eager. Sam kissed the small hollow at the base of her throat and licked along her collarbone to the strap of her bra.
“Sam, don’t!” She pushed at his shoulders. “Please, don’t!”
Sam finally got the message and stopped. “What’s wrong?” he asked, confused. What did I do wrong? She had seemed so willing…
Lenore pulled the blouse closed, but didn’t button it or fix her bra. “Sam, you… We can’t…” she looked up at him, her confused expression a mirror of his. When she sat up her blouse fell open again and Sam saw the scratches on her chest. They were shallow cuts, mostly, and already closed, but he saw a bead of red blood welling from a cut just below her collarbone an inch from where Sam’s mouth had just been.
Sam’s confusion vanished in a wave of terror. He’d been so caught up in the moment he almost tasted her blood. He could have…would have…
…turned himself into…
“Oh, God.” Sam wiped his lips with the back of his hand. He reached blindly behind him for the door, found the handle and scrambled back away from her. He fell backward out of the car, rolled, scrambled up and stumbled away into the darkness. But Sam wasn’t running from Lenore. He was running from himself.
If I didn’t know you, I would want to hunt you.
You turned yourself into a freak!
You’re a monster, Sam. A vampire.
Bile rose into his throat and Sam fell to his knees, retching. He knelt in the dirt as his stomach spasmed and he emptied its contents onto the grass. It was a long time before Sam straightened, but even then he stayed on his knees, wishing he had some water to get the taste of vomit out of his mouth.
A plastic bottle appeared in front of his eyes. Sam took it gratefully, opened it and rinsed his mouth. He spat water onto the ground and looked up to see Lenore. God, what must she think of him?
Lenore knelt beside him and laid her hand on his shoulder. “Sam, it’s okay…”
Sam, it’s okay…it’s all me inside of here…and it’s nice inside this body, Sam…
I can feel it inside me, Ruby…
I don’t even know who you are, I’m not gonna tell anybody anything. No! Please, no!
Oh, God, what have I done?
As Sam began to turn away, Lenore’s hand on his shoulder tightened. She drew him into her arms. The lump in Sam’s throat threatened to choke him. He tried to breathe and it became a sob. Sam’s shoulders shook with the effort of holding all his emotion inside. Lenore held him close as Sam struggled.
“It’s okay, Sam. Let it go,” she whispered into his hair.
As if that permission were what he needed, Sam clung to Lenore, tears overflowing as he finally allowed himself to break.