Two: Kill Or Cure
To those who called themselves hunters, the signs of the coming apocalypse were smaller and more personal. They counted the signs in dead hunters and failed hunts.
“Ace” Garcia ran a bar and motel in southern California, since a wendigo took half his leg back in ’98. Hunters always used his place when they were in the area, and he kept his ear to the ground, much as Ellen Harvelle did in Nebraska. His motel burned to the ground one night, killing twenty seven people. Most of the dead were hunters. Only one person survived the blaze: a teenage boy whose escape, with no apparent injuries, seemed to be a miracle. Traumatised by the event, the boy could shed no light on the cause of the fire. Investigators reported that the boy kept repeating the same thing: that Death came on black wings. Three days after the fire, the boy walked onto a gas station forecourt, doused himself in gasoline and struck a match.
Talk among the hunters in Wisconsin centred on the Winchester boys. The consensus was that the boys were dangerous. No one was quite willing to say they were on Hell’s side, though there had certainly been talk about Sam Winchester for years. But it was undeniable that people just seemed to die around those boys: their own father, for one, and the hunters who died when Harvelle’s Roadhouse burned. There were others: Walker and Kubrick, Pamela Barnes. Pete Creedy figured it was time those boys were put down – for everyone’s good. Two days after Creedy announced his plan, he failed to check the wiring when plugging in a power saw. The cops said it was just a freak accident. Hunters suspected otherwise.
But perhaps there were occasional rays of light in the apocalyptic darkness. Kristy Beckett, who had spent six months tracking down five witches – the Hansel-and-Gretel kind, not the naked-dancing-in-the-woods kind – reached the cave they were using as a lair only to find her prey already dead. When she told the story, after, she said she never wanted to meet whatever killed them. Four of the witches were mutilated, their bodies scattered over the bones of the children they had eaten. But the fifth body was intact and unmarked. Kristy believed it had died from sheer terror.
Sam Winchester, one of the few men alive who would have understood what that meant, knew nothing of the story. He was locked in an iron room beneath Bobby Singer’s home, doing his best not to die as the demon blood he had ingested drove him further and further from sanity.
The fan overhead turned slowly, throwing moving, striped shadows over the faces of everyone in the room. Bobby watched Lenore warily. He still didn’t like that this vampire could walk into his panic room without blinking. The lore said salt was proof against vamps; clearly that was a crock. If crosses were a problem for her she should have at least had trouble crossing the threshold. So strike two. There had to be something that would ward off vamps. Tonight, he was going to order a pizza. With extra garlic.
“…Understand that if I’m wrong, it’s the worst possible thing we could do,” Lenore was saying.
Sam was sitting on the cot with his legs drawn up to his chest, hugging his knees in a futile attempt to hide that he was shaking. His eyes were fixed on the vampire as if it was taking all of his concentration to focus on what she was telling them.
“So,” Sam managed to say, “you’re talking kill or cure.”
Were they nuts? “Before you jump on this bandwagon,” Bobby growled, “do you have any idea how hard it’s gonna be just to get ready for this? You can’t buy blood at Wal Mart, you know.”
Dean answered determinedly. “Sammy and me have the same blood type. We’ve done it before.”
“No goddamn way, Dean. Sam’s going to need more blood than you can spare.”
“Then we’ll find a way to get it. Break into a hospital.”
“That simple, huh?”
“You got a better plan?” Dean demanded.
The truth was Bobby didn’t have any other plan, better or not. He thought Sam was going to die. Kill or cure at least offered a chance. But he saw no reason to trust a vampire and he didn’t understand why the boys did.
It was on the tip of Bobby’s tongue to ask them whether their father would approve of this plan, but that likely wouldn’t accomplish a damn thing. He wanted to tell them both he’d have nothing to do with this, but he knew he would do anything Dean asked…because he couldn’t bear to lose these boys again.
Scowling, Bobby hauled himself up. “You boys are set on this?”
Dean simply nodded.
Sam met his eyes. “Kill or c-cure, right?”
“Then we’d better get moving. Ellen and Jo will be here tomorrow.” Bobby observed Sam for a few moments. “Sam, you need anything?”
Sam’s eyes were bloodshot, his skin almost grey under the bruises. “Whiskey, maybe,” he suggested.
There was more discussion. In some ways, Sam’s second attempt to detox from his diet of demon blood was easier than the first. This time Sam was co-operative. But Sam was treating himself like a dangerous animal. He lived in the panic room, insisting they lock him in when he was alone.
Bobby flatly refused to lock Sam in with a vampire who’d just had her first taste of human blood in years. He wasn’t thrilled about leaving them alone together at all, with Sam in this state, but there weren’t many options. Dean settled it by telling him he trusted Lenore with Sam and she could watch him while they found a hospital with suitably poor security.
“You need anything?” Dean asked Lenore as they prepared to leave. “You know…to eat?”
Lenore’s face was utterly unreadable. “Thank you, no. But I’d like to make a phone call to check on my family.”
“Phone’s through there,” Bobby agreed. He followed Dean from the house and they left Sam behind them, locked in his iron cell.
Sam had been staring at the thin, blue vein running down Lenore’s neck for at least five minutes before he caught himself wondering what it would be like to taste vampire blood. The very casualness of the thought scared the crap out of him. He knew what happened if you tasted vampire blood. There was no cure for that except decapitation.
But it came with power. That was the truth of Sam’s craving. There was something about the intimacy of taking blood from Ruby but in the end it had been about power.
Lenore raised a cool cloth to his forehead. Sam reached up to stop her. “It’s okay, Lenore. I’m okay.”
“You’re a bad liar,” she told him with a hint of a smile.
Sam raised the whiskey bottle to his lips and took a long drink. “Why are you really here?” he asked.
“Dean asked,” Lenore answered, brushing a lock of hair back from her face.
Sam looked into her eyes: dark irises rimmed with red. “You’ve got Dean believing you came out of the goodness of your heart. But he doesn’t know you like I do. Why are you so willing to help?”
Lenore didn’t answer. She dipped her cloth into the iced water and wrung it out.
“Is it the demon blood?” Sam persisted.
Lenore’s eyes flew open in surprise. She smiled, a wide, genuine smile. “You’re afraid I want the power.”
“No,” she answered firmly.
Lenore studied him for a moment, her look as frankly appraising as Bobby’s had been earlier. “I know what’s happening. The angels. Lucifer.” She laid the damp cloth down across her knee. “Sam, what do you think will happen to people like me, when Hell rises?”
Sam frowned. He hadn’t really considered it. “I guess I thought evil was on the side of…well, evil.” Lenore gave him an arch look and Sam tried to take it back. “Not that you’re… I didn’t mean…”
“Yes, you did,” she corrected. “What you call evil is all one to you, isn’t it? It doesn’t work that way, Sam. Demons and vampires have…a history.”
Sam sat up, all pain forgotten as the meaning of her words filtered through his still-fuzzy brain. “Lenore, what do you know?” he asked eagerly.
“Legends,” Lenore answered. “I’m old, but not old enough to have seen it first hand.”
Sam waited expectantly.
“Lucifer was cast out of Heaven because he refused to bow down to humanity,” Lenore went on after a while. “It’s said a whole legion of angels fell with him. In the first war between Heaven and Hell, all but nine of the rebel angels were destroyed and Lucifer was chained.”
“So there are eight left? Nine including Lucifer?”
“That’s the legend,” Lenore agreed. “It’s said that during the war, Lucifer and his legion wiped out the Children of the Dark. He wanted the Earth for himself.”
“Children of the Dark? That’s a bit Anne Rice, isn’t it?”
Lenore didn’t smile, but he saw the twinkle of amusement in her eyes when she looked his way. “It means supernatural beings confined to darkness. Not only vampires, but werewolves, unseelie sidhe…many things.” She closed her eyes. “If Lucifer rises to power again, we’re all going to die.” Lenore met Sam’s eyes unhappily. “I suppose you’re thinking that’s a good thing.”
Sam shook his head. “I wouldn’t mourn, but no.” He watched he thoughtfully. “So…the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That’s what this is?”
“It’s as good a reason as any,” she agreed.
It was a motivation Sam understood. “What will it do to you?” he asked, determined to get an answer this time. “My blood…will it…change you?”
“I don’t know,” Lenore confessed. “Like you said, kill or cure.”
That was the last coherent conversation Sam managed. By the time Dean and Bobby returned, Sam was drifting in and out of consciousness. When conscious, he seemed delirious, reacting to things that weren’t there and talking to people Lenore couldn’t see. When the seizures began again, Lenore was strong enough to tie him down so he wouldn’t hurt himself, but then she was afraid to untie him or to leave him alone. That was okay in daylight – she was comfortable down in the cellar – but once the light filtering through the fan turned to dusk she became restless.
Lenore took refuge in what she knew. She’d worked as a nurse for a long time, before things like ID checks and blood tests became routine for hospital staff. Her training was a long way out of date, but she could keep Sam clean and comfortable and encourage him to drink a little water when he was lucid. Still, it was a relief when she finally heard Bobby and Dean returning.
Dean dashed past her to Sam’s side. “Sammy!”
Lenore watched him frantically trying to wake his brother. “The seizures started again,” she explained to Bobby. “I’d gotten some food into him before that but he didn’t keep it down.”
“When was the last seizure?” Bobby asked. He seemed beyond worried. He looked resigned. Lenore realised Bobby expected Sam to die.
“Not long before you arrived. Half an hour at most.” She let Bobby see her concern, but she wanted him to see her hope, too. “I don’t think he’s going to wake up any time soon.”
“You a doctor now?” Bobby growled.
“I was, a few centuries ago. I’ve been a nurse more recently.”
“Lenore!” Dean called, desperation in his voice.
Lenore understood. Better than most humans, she knew how strong the bond of family could be. Her kind needed family, too. Right now Dean would do anything to save his brother. Anything. She could have taken advantage of that. Once, she would have. Now she crossed the room to his side, her only concern to save Sam if she could.
She laid her hand on Sam’s cheek, her vampire senses easily checking his life through her touch. Breathing, heart-beat, the strength of his blood-flow…he was alive, but weak.
Dean seemed to know it. “What you’re going to do for him,” Dean said, pleading, “you have to do it now!”
She had hoped to have Sam conscious for this, so he could consent to what she had to do, but she agreed with Dean. Sam would not wake up again. If she was to help him, it had to be before his condition deteriorated any further.
Lenore believed that the demon blood he ingested had been slowly poisoning Sam. A gradual build-up of a supernatural toxin in his system explained most of his illness now. A doctor would try to bleed him, flush out his system, but that wouldn’t work if the poison were supernatural. She was supernatural. She could take it from him. But to do that, she would need to drain massive amounts of his blood. Enough to kill him, if she did it all at once.
The real danger was what could happen if she was wrong about this poison. If what Sam was going through was some kind of withdrawal, as Bobby believed, then the shock of the sudden detox might kill him. Kill or cure, as she’d warned them.
“Do you know how to set up a transfusion?” Lenore asked Dean.
He did. They had the blood they needed and all the equipment for a transfusion. Lenore stood back while Dean and Bobby set it up. All that blood could not tempt her: fresh from the body was what she needed. But watching Dean slide a needle into Sam’s vein…that made her breath catch, and she had to concentrate hard to stop her fangs descending. Had she still been human, and alive, her pulse would have been racing. But if she still had a pulse to race, the thought of Dean bleeding Sam wouldn’t affect her in this way.
Medical science had moved on since Lenore ended her medical career, but this procedure hadn’t changed much. Working nights in a battlefield hospital secured her a ready supply of blood. Sam was so much like those young soldiers, wounded and dying, dependent on her for care…or for an easy death. Lenore turned away, fighting down the memories and the feelings they aroused in her. She could not think like that. Not now. Not about Sam.
“Lenore?” Dean called warily.
“I’m ready.” She schooled her features to neutral and turned to face them. “With Sam unconscious, it will be up to both of you to…control me. I have to take as much of his blood as I can, but not so much that his life will be in danger.” She looked at Dean. “You must listen to his heart. Massive blood loss makes the heart pump faster and harder. When that happens, stop me if I don’t stop myself.”
“You think that’ll be a problem?” Dean asked grimly.
“I’d be a fool if I didn’t prepare for it. It’s been a very long time for me, Dean. I may not have enough control to stop myself.”
Dean looked at Bobby, who nodded. “We’re ready.”
Lenore lifted Sam’s body into a sitting position. He was heavy, but his body was relaxed and she sat him up with an ease born of long practice. She slid one hand beneath his arm to hold him in place. It was awkward, especially when Dean moved into the position she instructed. They should have stolen a stethoscope, but it was too late to correct the mistake.
Dean muttered something about Sam owing him for this. He sounded irritated, but Lenore knew he would hold Sam forever if he had to. Dean drew back suddenly and looked up at her. “Lenore. If this doesn’t work…I mean, if he dies…”
If Sam died, Dean would kill her. Lenore had no illusions about that. Dean’s tone wasn’t threatening and perhaps he really believed he could handle it, but she knew better.
“I know,” Lenore told him. “He’s your family.”
Dean’s frown deepened and she knew she’d said the wrong thing. “He is my family,” Dean snarled. “Not the twisted version of it you vamps talk about.”
Anger flashed through her. He had no idea how many of her family she had lost to men like him. Hunters. Self-righteous bastards who cared nothing for the grief they left behind them. Her hands tightened on Sam’s body, her fingernails digging into his arm.
Bobby snapped, “Play nice, kids.” He gave Lenore a meaningful look then added to Dean, “Don’t piss off the nice vampire when she’s about to snack on your brother.”
Dean muttered an insincere apology.
Lenore ignored it, pushing her anger back down inside. “Let’s do it,” she said.
Dean shifted into position once more. It was an odd embrace: Lenore behind Sam, supporting him against her body and Dean in front, holding his brother, his head on Sam’s chest so he could hear his heartbeat.
Sam hadn’t washed or showered for several days at least and this close to him Lenore could smell stale sweat and traces of vomit on his clothing. She didn’t find it unpleasant. It was the scent of life, and she was from an age before the modern obsession with hygiene.
“Just do it,” Dean urged.
So she did. Lenore’s fangs descended. Her strike was under perfect control – she had to pierce the vein in the neck but avoid the artery. She didn’t want to bleed him out. Sam reacted to the pain, but did not wake as his blood, hot and delicious, filled Lenore’s eager mouth. She drank him down greedily, her first true meal in decades. Human blood, living blood given freely…there was none better.
The rush of blood filled her hearing, Sam’s heart pumping more of his gift into her. She had forgotten how good this was. Power sang through her veins and she knew this was working.
She didn’t hear Dean’s voice telling her to stop. She didn’t hear Bobby yelling. Not until hands grabbed her shoulders and she turned on her attacker, hissing angrily.
“Lenore!” Bobby shouted. She saw the flash of a knife in his hand an instant before she felt the pain. She shoved Sam’s body away from her and lunged for the hunter. Then she felt it and put her hand to the shallow wound his knife had made. Shock brought her back to herself.
“Dead man’s blood,” she whispered.
Bobby backed away from her, raising the blood-streaked blade. “Insurance,” he agreed.
Ellen was driving an old blue truck with a trailer. Bobby recognised both, and they weren’t hers. There was something wrong with the engine: he could hear it from a long distance away.
Bobby and Ellen went way back. He’d been friends with her husband. He watched young Jo grow up – from a distance – and had been there for both of them when Bill died. She’d called him for help now, and that created a terrible dilemma.
The Winchester boys were in big trouble. If what Sam had done in Ilchester got out, he would be hunted. Gordon Walker telling anyone who would listen that Sam was the anti-Christ was one thing; Walker had a bad rep even among hunters and only a minority took his ravings about Sam seriously. In a way, John Winchester’s reputation protected his son: no one who had known John could believe a son he’d raised would be evil. But reputation only went so far. Folks knew by now that John sold his soul. Bobby had no idea how the story got out – certainly he’d never told anyone – but get out it did. They knew he’d crawled out of the Pit, too. Bobby had heard talk about the boys. Some said Dean went the way of his daddy. Some said Sam was a demon; others thought he was something else. Some said he was working on Hell’s side; others thought he was still John’s son. Bobby’s standing policy was to deny knowing anything about anything. The most he’d say was that the boys were still hunters.
Yet somehow, the stories got out. When Rufus called just before Sam ran off with Ruby, he seemed to know everything. Rufus wasn’t one to gossip, but he must have gotten the story from somewhere. It meant others knew. It meant sooner or later someone was going to figure out that Sam broke the last seal on Lucifer’s prison. It meant hunters would be coming after them.
The last thing Bobby wanted was more hunters around the place, especially with Sam still sick. If it had been anyone but Ellen Harvelle, he would have said no. He almost refused Ellen…until she told him she’d found Jo.
Jo Harvelle went missing last July, while Dean Winchester was in Hell and around the time Sam vanished off the grid. Bobby knew about it because Ellen called him. She’d called everyone, most likely, looking for news of her daughter. A few weeks after Ellen’s call Bobby heard that Nan Franklyn, the hunter Jo had been partnering, had been found. In six pieces. He called Ellen and found to his relief that she already knew. Nan was dead; there was no trace of Jo. Though Bobby kept an ear out for more news, that was the last he heard. Six months later, when there was still no news of Jo, Bobby figured she was most likely dead.
So when Ellen called, begging him for a place she and Jo could stay for a while, it did occur to Bobby to wonder if he had been right. After all, Jo wouldn’t be the first hunter to come back from the other side. Sam and Dean had both done it.
“I know it’s a bad time, Bobby,” Ellen told him, “but I’m desperate. Jo needs to be somewhere she’ll feel safe.”
He tried to put her off. “Ellen, I’ve got no room. The Winchester boys are here…”
She cut him off. “I’ll pack a tent if I have to. She’s in a bad way. I’ve done all I can.”
Bobby quit arguing because it wasn’t like Ellen to beg, nor to sound so desperate. “Hell, Ellen, what happened to her? I mean, I can do some basic doctoring, but this ain’t a hospital.”
“We don’t need a hospital. Physically, she’s recovering. But we can’t stay where we are. It’s not safe and Jo’s…fragile.”
Bobby didn’t press for details. Reading between the lines he knew it was bad. For Jo’s sake as much as her mother’s, Bobby could not say no. Not even if it put the Winchester boys in danger.
He waved to Ellen as she drew close. The truck window was open and he could see Jo. At least, he assumed it was Jo: her hair was different and she wore big sunglasses that obscured her features. She didn’t look his way. The trailer behind the truck looked old, but adequate. It would help with the space issue if someone slept in the trailer.
Ellen smiled for him as she climbed out of the truck. “Bobby! It’s good to see you again.” The words were normal and her expression was relaxed but there was a tension in her movements as if she was struggling not to give something away. Struggling not to look at Jo. Ellen was worried…but Bobby had known that already.
Bobby returned her smile warily. “Good to see you, too.”
“The boys still around?”
“They’re around,” Bobby agreed. Ellen would have to know everything, but he didn’t want to say too much upfront. “Sam’s been ill,” he revealed. “He’s still in bed. Dean’s barely left his side.”
Ellen’s smile vanished. “How badly was he hurt?”
“It’s not an injury. He’s sick. It’s why I wasn’t sure about you coming. But you’re here now and you’re both welcome.”
“Been hearing a lot of stories about those boys,” Ellen said. It wasn’t, quite, a question.
Bobby nodded. “Some of it’s even true,” he answered gruffly. Then, to change the subject, “That’s Kane’s truck, ain’t it?”
Ellen nodded, her mouth set in a grim line. “He don’t need it any more.”
Oh, hell. “When?” Bobby asked.
“Ten days ago.”
Damn it to Hell. Kane was a good man. “Come on inside,” Bobby suggested. He looked past Ellen to Jo who opened the truck door and stepped out into the light.
Jo’s hair had been cropped brutally short and looked darker because of it: the pale highlights she used to sport were gone. What he could see of her face beneath the sunglasses was thinner than Bobby remembered; it could be just the loss of her youthful puppy fat but to Bobby it looked as if she’d been ill. The flannel shirt she wore hung on her in the same way Sam’s clothing had begun to hang off his broad shoulders – in Sam’s case it was because the long illness had robbed him of both weight and muscle mass. As Jo slammed the truck door closed Bobby saw that she was armed, and not trying to hide it. It made him look more closely at Ellen, but if she was carrying it was well concealed.
Dean was in the kitchen when they entered the house. He’d been raiding the refrigerator and had a plate piled high with sandwiches and cold meat. He poked his head and shoulders around the door as they came in. “Hey, Bobby. I thought you – ” he broke off, seeing the women, and moved fully into view, revealing his pilfered lunch. “Oh. Hi. I forgot.”
Jo shrugged off his odd greeting and looked up at the ceiling where one of many devil’s traps was painted. She studied it for a moment. “Do you have salt around the place, too?”
“And a few things you won’t have seen,” Dean answered her lightly.
Jo didn’t smile. “Don’t bet on it,” she retorted.
Ellen laid a hand on Jo’s arm, a silent signal. “You look well, Dean. How’s Sam?”
Dean glanced at Bobby; he nodded slightly, confirming he’d told Ellen what they agreed.
“He’s still…sleeping,” Dean answered. “I’m going back up there now.”
Consciousness wasn’t too welcome at first.
Sam woke to a bone-deep ache in his muscles, a bitch of a headache and a truly disgusting taste in his mouth. He opened his eyes, expecting to see the iron roof of Bobby’s panic room with its devil’s trap built into the fan. Instead he saw the cracked plaster of a once-white ceiling.
“Sam?” It was Bobby’s voice.
Sam turned his head to the side and saw Bobby sitting beside the dusty window, a book in his lap. He looked tired.
“Hey,” Sam said, his voice cracked and hoarse. “I guess I made it.”
A rare smile cracked Bobby’s face. “Looks that way.”
“He’ll be pissed you picked the only five minutes of the day he ain’t at your side to wake up,” Bobby evaded. “How are you feeling, boy?”
Sam noticed the evasion, but paid no attention. It was just Bobby’s way. “I feel…awful,” he answered, then realised what that meant. “It worked. Damn, it worked, Bobby.”
Bobby looked worried. “We don’t know that yet,” he said carefully.
But Sam was sure. “I know,” he said simply. He didn’t know how to explain it, even if his voice had been working properly. Ever since his first taste of Ruby’s blood, he had felt…different. It was a constant buzz, a high…an ever-present reminder that he was no longer entirely human. Now that feeling was gone.
Sam reached across to the cannula in his arm. He fumbled with the tape holding it down and winced as the needle-stick moved beneath his skin.
“Cut that out,” Bobby ordered.
“Then take it out for me.” Sam stretched his arm out toward Bobby.
He sighed but obeyed, ripping off the tape and then carefully extracting the stick from Sam’s arm. “Take it slow, Sam. You’re still short some blood.”
Sam struggled to sit up. The movement made him aware of the dressing on his neck and he touched it. “Is Lenore still around?”
Bobby took his time answering. “She’s around.” He looked as if he was about to say more, but the door opened to reveal Dean.
Dean stared a them for a moment, then leapt across the small room and pulled Sam into a bone-crushing hug.
Sam tried to laugh. “Okay, Dean. I’m okay.”
Dean released him. “Are you…uh…” he didn’t seem to know how to finish the sentence.
“Clean,” Sam said for him. “One hundred per cent.”
“Don’t think God had much to do with it.” Sam remembered what Lenore said about Lucifer and the angels who fell with him. It made him think of Uriel, the angel who despised humanity so much he finally rebelled and joined with Lucifer, and he wondered what side he, Sam, was on now.
Dean’s smile vanished. “I guess not,” he agreed. He glanced at Bobby. “Did you tell him?”
“Haven’t had the chance.” Bobby closed his book and stood up.
“Tell me what?” Sam asked.
No one answered him.
“What? What’s happened?”
“Lenore fed from you three times,” Dean answered. “The first time she almost took too much. Bobby had to cut her with dead man’s blood.”
Sam nodded. It explained why he felt like crap. “I knew it was a risk.” Lenore hadn’t tasted human blood for a long time. She got by and she had incredible control, but giving her blood was like laying a full banquet before her when she was starving.
“Yeah. Well, after that we were more careful. The second time went just right, but the last time…when she was done, Lenore kinda went nuts. She screamed at us to get away from her. So we carried you out of there and locked her in the panic room.”
“She’s still in there?”
Dean nodded. “It’s been…” he checked his watch, “sixteen hours. She screamed the place down for the first ten.” He sighed, taking the chair Bobby vacated. “I don’t know what to do for her, Sam. I think…my instinct says we should put her down…but she helped us. Helped you.”
“The demon blood did this to her,” Sam said. “My blood.” It wasn’t a question.
“It’s a good bet,” Dean agreed. He was tense, like he was waiting for something.
Sam realised it was him. Dean wanted him to agree they should kill Lenore. Or to say they couldn’t. He wanted Sam to decide. It had been Sam who insisted on saving her when they first met Lenore; in Dean’s mind that made it Sam’s call now.
Sam swallowed. “If it has to be done,” he said, “I’ll do it. But give her time, Dean. She told me she thought it was poison, but she’s not human. She’s strong.”
Dean nodded. “Are you up to coming downstairs? We’ve got company.”
“Ellen and Jo. I remember.” Sam looked down at himself and wrinkled his nose. He stank. “Is there enough hot water for a shower?”
Sam locked the bathroom door. He stared at the lock for a moment – just a simple deadbolt screwed into the wooden door – then he unlocked it again. He’d spent far too much of the past two months behind a locked door. It wasn’t as if anyone was likely to walk in on him.
He set the bag that contained his shaving gear and toothbrush beside the sink and stripped off his shirt before looking into the cracked mirror. Sam barely recognised himself. He couldn’t recall when he’d last been stable enough to shave but it looked like at least two weeks. His hair badly needed cutting…and Sam found a small smile curving his lips when he thought about what Dean would say to that. It was true, though. Sam liked his hair long, but he looked like he belonged on an 80’s album cover…and not a good one.
Sam turned on the tap and splashed water over his hair, slicking it back from his face to keep it out of the way. He pulled out his shaving gear and began to soap up the week-old beard. Focussing on the familiar task helped Sam avoid thinking about…everything. What he had done, what was happening in the world because of it, what he and Dean could possibly do to fix it. Armageddon. Nothing in their lives or training prepared them for this. Sam winced as the sharp blade cut into his cheek. He dropped the razor into the basin and leaned closer to the mirror, examining the cut. It wasn’t serious, just bloody, as cuts to the face so often were. He blotted it with a towel and went on shaving.
When he was done, he looked at himself in the mirror. The bruises down the left side of his face were fading to yellow-green. Sam remembered slamming his head against the iron wall in an idiotic attempt to distract himself from a far worse pain. There was a cut above his eye. Sam couldn’t remember how that happened, but he knew he must have done it to himself. He turned his head to examine the mark Lenore’s fangs left on his neck. No one could mistake that for anything but a bite: the puncture wounds stood out in two livid semi-circles against his pale skin. He ran a finger over the marks; it hurt, but only a little.
Sam rinsed the last remnants of blood and soap from his face. The cut was more than a nick: he had a thin red line parallel to his cheekbone, but the bleeding had stopped. Sam removed the rest of his clothing and stepped into the shower.
The water was warm, but not hot. Sam tipped his head back under the spray, letting the water saturate his hair. The patter of water on the tiles made him remember, for some reason, the lawn sprinklers around the house where they’d tracked down Lilith…the place where Bobby found the water main and got the sprinklers spraying holy water…the house where Dean died. Where part of Sam died, too.
It crashed through the emotional barriers he’d worked so hard to erect. The desperation of those last days, Sam’s inability to accept that he could do nothing to break Dean’s deadly contract. Sam’s throat felt tight, his chest hurt – physically hurt – remembering Dean’s scream of pain when the hellhound attacked, remembering Lilith in Ruby’s body laughing in delight, remembering a storm of white light and the weight of Dean’s dead body in his arms. Dean was alive now, he was back, he survived…but as Sam stood under the shower none of that mattered to him; the pain was as real, as raw as the night it happened. He fell to his knees, slipping on the white tiles. Tears blurred his vision and he choked out a wordless cry of grief.
Sam had no idea how long he was there, crying like a child under the shower. By the time he came back to himself, the water was cold and he was shivering under the spray. Sam reached up to twist the dial and turn the water off; his hand was shaking so much it took three attempts. He struggled to his feet, his hands slipping on the wet tiles as he tried to haul himself up. Finally he stumbled out of the shower and wrapped a towel around himself, grateful for the warmth.