The sound had been going on for a while, he realized as he became aware of someone tugging on the sleeping bag covering him, shaking his shoulder with an urgency that seemed totally uncalled for, since he was more soundly asleep than he could ever remember, and it felt so, so good.
"Sammy! Wake up!"
Dean's voice, right next to his ear, whispered and urgent, accompanied more vigorous shaking, cutting through Sam's comfortable sleep-fog like a sharp knife. He forced his eyes open, moved his leaden limbs, and tried to focus.
"Dean? What's wrong?"
"Shhh!" Dean's hand over his mouth made him gasp, pulling the taste of Dean into his lungs, exploding against his tastebuds. "Werewolves."
Sam's body went into sudden defense mode and he was instantly alert, years of training at a young age kicking in. Adrenaline flooded every muscle in his body as he re-assessed the howling he had heard in his sleep for the threat it had suddenly become. He lay still and tense for a moment as he listened again, registering the diminished distance, calculating how fast the weres were moving to cross the distance between howls.
Dean removed his hand from Sam's mouth and put his finger to his own lips, gesturing silently to the north and south, then to the east and west. They were being surrounded. Sam nodded his understanding, reaching for his gun as Dean grabbed the duffel next to the bed, then backed softly down the stairs. Sam checked the chamber of his .45. He loaded the gun with silver bullets, then quietly followed his brother down the stairs to the first floor as another round of howling sounded outside, closer now.
It was still dark out, but the fire cast enough light inside the cabin to see that Jessica was still asleep on the couch where he'd left her. Sam went over the lunar calendar in his mind, confirming that it was indeed the right time of the month for werewolves to be fully changed, despite the fact that the heavy cloud cover hid the full moon from view.
Then he heard them. With his mind.
The werewolves were close, and their purpose was clear. Even though their thoughts were simple, the malice in their intent was almost overwhelming. They wanted blood – hearts – and they could smell the humans in the cabin from miles away. Sam quickly counted at least ten, maybe twelve separate minds, all focused on the same thing, working together to accomplish their goal. He glanced at Dean, who was already crouched in a defensive position, gun pointed toward the door and front windows. Sam took up his position with his back to his brother, covering the back door and windows in the same manner. The salt lines were intact, but as far as Sam knew salt only deflected non-corporeal creatures like spirits and demons, not werewolves, especially this many at once. Five or six each, Sam counted, considering the odds, with the possibility of more on the way, if he was reading the monsters' minds right.
Then it was too late to try to figure out what they were doing here, how they happened to find the Winchesters in their safe house, who might have sent them, why they were working together in such a large group, combining packs in a way the hunters had never seen werewolves do before. Something hit the back wall behind the fireplace, as if one of the werewolves was running headlong toward the house and simply slammed into it, followed by soft whimpering. A low growling came from under the back windows, then a footstep on the front porch, followed by sounds of more growling and snuffling as the weres scented their prey. Feet shuffled under the windows and on the porch, then a face appeared at the front window and Dean fired.
Things happened fast after that. Sam had only a second or two to register the fact that Dean had killed one of the weres before the rest of them slammed into the doors and walls of the house, as if they could collapse the building with sheer brute strength. Their growls intensified, became almost deafening as they pounded, infuriated and blood-thirsty. Sam maintained his grip on his gun despite the way his arm was shaking. This was familiar. This, he could do. Despite the odds. He and Dean had hunted alone before, and even if they'd never been in quite this situation, against quite this many monsters at once, it was similar to other hunts. Sam could let his training kick in, could trust all the hours spent preparing for this kind of scenario. The important thing was to stay calm, to force the monsters to make the first move, then to weaken their number one by one if possible.
Jessica peeked her head up over the back of the couch, eyes wide with fear.
Damn. Sam felt his jaw clench as he glanced at her, taking his eyes off the back door and windows for only a moment, but it was long enough.
Something crashed through the window over the sink and barreled straight into Sam, sending his gun flying. Jessica screamed.
So much for salt, he had time to think as Dean's gun went off and the dead were collapsed on top of him.
Then more windows were crashing in and there were growling werewolves in the room all around him; Sam was aware of Jessica ducking down behind the couch again as he pushed the big dead body off him and scrambled for his gun, managing to shoot the were that was attacking Dean before taking a flying leap over the couch.
"Stay down!" he had time to yell at Jess over the deafening sounds of gunfire. He took two more down as they crawled in the front windows, then the back door burst open and Sam shot the werewolf that charged through first before turning his attention to two more that were attacking his brother. He couldn't get a clean shot, so he handed his gun to Jessica, pulled his silver knife out and jumped back over the couch to sink his knife into the back of the beast that was busy trying to choke Dean from behind.
Dean fell forward, sinking his own blade into the werewolf that had been pummeling him, and Sam jumped to the side as the body fell to the floor at his feet. He grabbed Dean's gun off the floor and shot another one coming through the door, then suddenly found himself picked up and thrown against the wall, barely having time to register the shooting pain in his back and shoulder as he hit at an awkward angle before another beast was on him, this time with its claws around his neck, clearly intent on choking the life out of him.
He was aware of Dean calling his name at the same time he could feel something sharp cutting into his leg, while Dean seemed to be fighting two weres at once again, hand-to-hand. The werewolves' growls mixed with Dean's grunts and curses as he threw and received punches. The monster holding Sam down was squeezing harder, cutting off his airflow, making him see stars, then he started to get that darkening prickly sensation in his head that told him he was passing out.
As Sam lost consciousness he heard a single gunshot, so loud it made the house shake. Then nothing.
Sam came to in the Impala, his brain scrambled with half-remembered images of being mostly carried there between Dean and Jessica, Dean muttering an endless litany of, "Come on, Sam, you're gonna be all right. We gotta go before more of 'em come. Hang in there, now, little brother. You're gonna be fine. Just gotta get somewhere safe, then we can check you out. Get you all fixed up."
He was in the passenger seat, and he could vaguely recall Dean insisting on putting him there. "I need to keep an eye on him," he'd told Jessica, who climbed obediently into the back seat, although Sam had the odd feeling she would've preferred to lay Sam out back there with her.
He leaned his head against the cool glass of the window and must've passed out again, waking to the cold grey light of morning and the comforting rumble of the Impala's engine, the car's heater barely counteracting the chill in his bones.
He was freezing.
"Sam?" Dean's voice was momentarily soothing, and his cool hand on Sam's forehead was even better. "Shit, buddy, you're burning up. We gotta stop."
"No, no, I'm fine," Sam tried to say, but his throat felt like it was on fire and his mouth was full of cotton. His teeth were chattering so hard he was afraid he'd bite his tongue, and when he tried to pull his arms around himself for warmth his shoulder protested painfully.
That's when he noticed he was bleeding. The front of his shirt was soaked with blood, as was his left thigh, and he could feel the sharp tingling pain of surface wounds on his chest and leg. He had a moment's panic as he wondered if he'd been bitten. Then Dean was pulling off the road into the parking lot of a motel and he started to black out again.
This time when he woke up, Sam was lying on his back in a motel bed, naked except for his boxers, with bandages covering the worst of his wounds. Dean was seated at the little kitchenette table with his shirt off, and Jessica was applying antiseptic to the small lacerations across his back. Shards of glass, Sam's brain provided. Caused when the window shattered inward. Dean hadn't been wearing his jacket then, but he must've put it on before they left the cabin, because Sam remembered him wearing it in the car, remembered the familiar smell of leather helping him relax after their ordeal.
"Hey," Sam croaked, struggling to sit up, then collapsed again when the pain in his shoulder wouldn't let him.
Dean turned sharply at the sound, and Sam sucked in a ragged breath. The left side of Dean's face was a mass of bruises, his left eye nearly swollen shut, and his lip was split and still bleeding on that side.
"Jesus, Dean," Sam croaked as his brother shook off Jessica's hands and crossed the room to Sam's bed. "You look like shit."
"Right back atcha, dude," Dean growled, but there was a smile in his good eye and a smirk on the uninjured corner of his mouth. He checked the bandage on Sam's chest, then touched cool fingers to Sam's cheek, where he could feel a bruise forming. "How're ya feelin'?"
"Better now," Sam croaked, unable to contain his purr of pleasure as Dean pressed his palm to Sam's forehead to check for fever.
"Yeah, well, that's just the pain meds," Dean muttered, but his voice was soft with relief and fondness. "Thought I might have to take you to a hospital."
"Nah, I'm tough," Sam smiled, leaning into Dean's touch as he pressed his palm to Sam's cheek.
"Yeah, I know you are," Dean murmured, letting Sam snuggle into the caress. He closed his eyes and breathed deep, ignoring the ache in his ribcage, and he might've pressed his lips to Dean's wrist if Jessica hadn't picked that moment to clear her throat and shuffle noisily just a few feet away.
"I'm gonna take a shower," she announced, digging around in Sam's duffle. "Sam, I'm borrowing some clothes."
"Go for it," Sam croaked, keeping his eyes closed another moment as Dean drew his hand back.
"How's she doing?" he asked when the bathroom door clicked shut and he looked up at his brother again.
"Seems okay, considering," Dean cleared his throat. "She's tough." He let his hand slide down over Sam's bare chest, too slow and deliberate to be checking for injuries. When he dragged his thumb over Sam's nipple Sam let out a tiny gasp. His eyelids fluttered closed and his lips parted. "She saved your life."
"She did?" Sam's dick twitched and he was momentarily grateful that everything was still working down there.
Dean's hand moved down over Sam's stomach, his treasure trail, and the muscles trembled. His dick hardened.
"Yeah. She shot the bastard that was choking the life out of you," Dean murmured. "For a few minutes, I thought she was too late."
Sam's eyes fluttered open, and now he could read the haunted look in Dean's eyes. Now he understood the way Dean was touching him.
"You thought I was dead," Sam croaked, his voice a hoarse whisper.
Dean didn't answer. He didn't have to. His eyes were shining with a layer of tears and his mouth trembled. His gaze locked with Sam's for a moment, then dropped to Sam's mouth.
"I'd kiss you if it didn't hurt so much," he said, and Sam felt suddenly weightless, free, relieved beyond the fact of just being alive.
"You would?" he croaked, more hopeful than he could remember feeling in a very, very long time.
Dean raised his eyes to Sam's, nodded. "Don't remember why I ever thought it wasn't a good idea," he admitted, and Sam's heart soared.
Sometimes it takes almost losing someone to realize how much you love them. Sam's head provided the line he was sure he'd heard in some sappy movie or read in some romance novel, except he really didn't watch those kind of movies and he definitely didn't read romance novels.
"Me, neither," Sam croaked, reaching for Dean's hand. He pulled it up to his face again, this time pressing his lips against Dean's wrist as he'd wanted to do before. Now Dean allowed it, blushing as Sam's tongue darted out to taste the tender pale skin.
"I need to call Bobby," Dean breathed, his voice shaking a little as Sam suckled his wrist.
"It can wait," Sam croaked.
"Jessica'll be out of the shower any minute." Dean was panting a little now.
"She knows about us." Sam cradled Dean's entire forearm, tugging on it to get Dean to lie down with him.
"She does? But how – " Poor Dean. He seemed genuinely confused.
Sam shrugged. "She's perceptive," he said. "And we're not exactly subtle."
"I am," Dean huffed indignantly. "I mean, I was. I never even touched you. I know because it took effort. I had to force myself not to touch you. I got pretty good at it."
Sam didn't bother explaining how completely unsubtle Dean's long looks and seductive gazes were, even when he wasn't crowding into Sam's personal space every time Sam turned around. But Sam didn't care if Dean thought he was the most subtle person in the universe, as long as he was lying down next to Sam, pressing his warm chest along Sam's back, spooning him carefully so it almost didn't hurt at all because it felt so good.
"Hmmm," Sam hummed contentedly, hugging Dean's arm against his chest and pressing his lips to Dean's bruised knuckles as Dean breathed deep into the back of his neck, obviously pulling Sam's long-denied scent into his lungs.
Sam was mostly asleep when he heard the door of the bathroom open softly, heard the soft sound of someone crossing the room to the other bed and turning off the light, plunging the room into the gloomy half-darkness of mid-day with the blinds closed.
"I don't know, Bobby. It's like those things knew we were there."
Through the haze of sleep and painkillers and aching muscles, Sam became dimly aware of Dean's voice, and he struggled to wake up enough to listen.
"Yeah, sorry about Rufus's house," Dean said. "We had to leave the bodies."
Sam managed to open one eye. Dean was pacing not two feet away, fully clothed and with his phone to his ear. Jessica was nowhere to be seen, and since the bathroom door was open, Sam guessed she must have gone out.
That thought brought Sam to full wakefulness. He turned over, managing to put weight on his sore shoulder, and he moaned involuntarily, reaching for the bedside table with his good arm in his struggle to sit up.
"Bobby? I gotta go," Dean said into the phone. "Sam's awake."
Sam swung his legs over the side of the bed. He was still wearing nothing except his boxers and a couple of large bandages, one over the six-inch gash in his mid-section, just under his left pectoral, and the other one on his thigh. The thigh wound was bleeding through its bandage, although Sam could feel stitches pulling on his skin. The pain was making him sweat, and he grabbed onto Dean as his brother bent over him, fresh bandage in one hand, pain pills in the other.
"Hey, kiddo, how're ya feelin'?" Dean murmured. "Why don't you take these, huh? Looks like your fever's back, and I better change that bandage, what do you say, huh? How about you just lie down again so I can fix you up, how does that sound?"
"Dean, I'm not a child," Sam protested through chattering teeth, but he let Dean help him sit back against the headboard while Dean elevated his leg and helped him swallow more pills. "Where's Jess?"
"She went out for a run," Dean said, and that made Sam sit up again.
"What? You let her? Dean, are you crazy? She's still a target. Things are still after her! Those werewolves knew exactly where we were! I heard you tell Bobby you don't think that was a coincidence."
"I don't," Dean nodded grimly, holding Sam down with one hand on his good shoulder. "But we're safe here for a while, and she was going nuts cooped up. Not sleeping, not eating. You always say exercise is good for your state of mind, and I think she's doing pretty well, considering. All day long cooped up in a sick room isn't good for anybody."
"I'm not sick!" Sam protested, teeth chattering so hard he almost bit his tongue.
"You're lucky you didn't get bit," Dean mumbled as he peeled the bandage from Sam's leg. "At least I don't have to shoot you."
"Not funny," Sam hissed as Dean dabbed antiseptic onto the sutured wound, which looked fairly clean, at least. No sign of infection. "Why am I feverish?" he wondered out loud, and Dean shook his head.
"No idea," he muttered as he worked. "You're a freak, what can I say?"
"Shut up," Sam gasped. "We need to go, Dean."
"Hey, hey, you're not going anywhere, Superboy."
"The hell I'm not!" Sam protested, struggling to sit up again. "We've got to get to Lawrence. Gotta save those kids!"
"Damn it, Sam, you're in no shape to go anywhere right now," Dean shook his head, using more of his weight to push Sam back, to hold him down.
Sam's shoulder and ribcage protested painfully, and he collapsed back on the bed in defeat, panting and sweating with pain, forced to admit that Dean was right. He was no good to anybody like this. He could barely go to the bathroom without help.
Sam closed his eyes, tears of pain and frustration seeping out of the corners and slipping down his cheeks. As the pain medication started to kick in, he heard the door to the room open and Jessica came in with bags of food. She and Dean spoke in whispered voices for a few moments, then the bathroom door clicked closed and Sam heard the shower running.
He dozed fitfully for a while until Dean woke him up to eat a little soup and take some antibiotics, then he slept soundly, especially when Dean scooted into the bed behind him and spooned him again, pressing his body along Sam's from shoulder to ankle, breathing against Sam's spine.
When Sam woke again he could tell the fever was gone. So was Dean. Jessica sat on the other bed, reading a thick paperback novel. She looked up when he moved, flashing him a million-watt smile so bright it lit up the room.
"Hey," Sam smiled back because he couldn't help it. "Whatcha reading?"
"Tess of the d'Ubervilles," Jessica laughed, turning the cover so Sam could see the haunting face of Nasstassja Kinski staring out at him. "It was in a box of free books in the motel lobby. I had my choice of Tom Clancy, Stephen King, or this." She made a face. "My dad reads Tom Clancy. Well, he did." She lowered her eyes for a moment, then looked up at Sam with a shrug, her smile only slightly diminished. "And no way will I ever, ever read Stephen King again."
Sam sat up and Jessica put the book down, slid over the bed to give him a steady hand.
"He went out to get food and gas," Jessica said as she helped him stand up, slid under his good shoulder so he could lean on her as he limped over to the bathroom door. "He said he'd be right back."
"Are you okay?" Sam asked as she released him, and Jessica gave a little laugh, tossing her golden curls. She looked good, he realized, all tan and fit, with sparkling eyes and a smile that just wouldn't stop. Nothing like the grief-stricken, traumatized girl in the cabin.
"I'm fine," Jessica nodded. "Great, in fact. I feel really good. I mean, I know it's a lot to take in, all that's happened over the past week, but I'm doing pretty good, actually."
"Over the past week..." Sam frowned. "Wait. How long was I out?"
"We've been here three days," Jessica reached up and pushed the hair back from his face, tucking it gently behind his ear. "And you need a shower. Just don't get those bandages wet."
Sam took her hand, meaning to give it an encouraging squeeze, then he saw it. On her forearm, just below the elbow so that it was almost hidden under the sleeve of her plaid flannel shirt – his shirt. Her stuff got left at the cabin, he remembered, so she was wearing his clothes.
"Jess, where did you get that?" Sam held her wrist in one hand and slid his other hand up her arm to the elbow, pushing the rolled-up sleeve out of the way. The wound was almost healed now but was still visible on her otherwise perfect skin. A perfect almost-human bite mark.
Jessica gave a little nervous laugh and shook her head. "Yeah, crazy, right? I guess something bit me. I don't even remember when it happened. It doesn't hurt. I mean, I don't remember much about what happened in the cabin, but I guess that's where it happened. When we were attacked, right? I was really scared when I first saw it. I mean, I've seen American Werewolf in London. The bite of a werewolf turns you into one. But I'm fine. I really am. I've never been better. So I guess that's not real after all, right?"
Sam lifted his eyes to hers, and he knew he wasn't hiding the horror and anguish he was feeling very well because Jessica blanched, pulled her arm away and rolled the sleeve down over the bite, as if somehow she could make it disappear altogether. Her smile slipped, and she started as the door opened and Dean came in, carry-out bags in hand. He paused just inside the door, glancing from Sam to Jessica, then back to Sam again, and Sam could see the moment he realized what had happened.
"Hey, Sammy," Dean laid the bags on the table, then slowly laid his keys and his gun next to them before raising his eyes to Sam again.
"Jess, could you excuse us for a minute?" Sam asked quietly. His voice was still a little hoarse, but at least his throat wasn't so swollen and sore anymore.
Jessica blinked, glanced at Dean, at the gun on the table, then back up at Sam. Her eyes were clear, her expression solemn and without fear.
"Sure," she nodded. "I'll just take a walk. I need to get out anyway."
The brothers watched her as she took her jacket off the back of the chair, shrugging it on as she headed for the door. She threw a final glance at each of them when she had the door open, and Sam nodded at her, falsely reassuring in a way that made him feel like a traitor and a cheat for pretending everything was fine when it pretty obviously wasn't.
"You knew," Sam stated after the door was shut and he and Dean were alone. Sam suspected Jessica could hear them through the door if she wanted to; elevated senses and excessive good health were early signs of lycanthropy.
"Yeah, I knew," Dean nodded, keeping his eyes down.
"And you let her go running?" Sam accused.
"She hasn't turned," Dean shrugged. "But her body needs to run. She hasn't slept since that first night. Bobby thinks she won't turn until the next full moon."
"So we've got almost a month to find a cure," Sam breathed, hope flickering through the crushing sense of failure that threatened to overwhelm him. Again.
Dean lifted his eyes then. "There is no cure, Sam," he said softly. "She's going to turn, and when she does, she'll be a mindless killer, just like all the other monsters we've had to put down over the years."
"No," Sam clutched the doorframe. "That's just not possible. Not after all she's been through. Not after she's come this far. She's a survivor, Dean, like us!"
"Not any more, Sam," Dean shook his head. "It's the end of the line."
"Are you sure?" Sam felt tears smarting at the backs of his eyes. "I mean, you've checked with Bobby, right? Isn't there something we can do? She isn't a full-on werewolf until she kills somebody, right? So isn't there still a chance we can fix her? Find an antidote for the poison?"
"Well, there was one thing." Dean seemed reluctant to share, but Sam persisted, so Dean took a deep breath. "Bobby said he'd heard that it might be possible to reverse the effects of the change if we could find and kill the werewolf that infected her."
"Yeah? So? Let's do that!" Sam insisted. "We can do that, right? Go back to the cabin, track the thing back to wherever it came from – "
"Yeah, we could," Dean agreed. "Except the thing is, I already killed it. Silver bullet through the heart. Between you and me and the one Jessica offed, we killed twelve werewolves, Sam. Bodies all over the place, and every single one of them dead as a doornail. Including the one that bit Jess. Dad would kill me if he knew we left a mess like that and didn't go back to clean it up."
"Uh – slightly bigger fish to fry?" Sam huffed out a breath. "I need to tell Jess. I have to explain it to her."
"Whoa there." Dean put a hand on Sam's chest – Sam suddenly realized he wasn't even mostly dressed but this was definitely not the time to think about how good Dean's hand felt on his chest. Not even a little. "You know what you need to do, Sam. I left it to you because she's your friend, but if you don't want to do it – "
Sam looked down at the gun in Dean's hand and couldn't remember how it got there. Sam's gun, its mother-of-pearl handle lying in the palm of Dean's open hand, barrel pointed at the floor, of course.
"You probably want to get dressed first," Dean said, his voice gentle but firm.
Sam had forgotten how cut-and-dried things were for Dean, how little sympathy he spared for the monsters they hunted. Sometimes it frustrated Sam, who had known monsters who were kind to him as a child. The irony of his own status as a demon-blooded psychic who might not even be fully human seemed to be completely lost on Dean, who simply refused to see anything monstrous in Sam at all.
But Sam knew better. He knew there was something dark inside him, waiting for the right combination of events to set it off. He'd already decided he didn't believe in destiny, despite what the demons possessing Jesse and Brady had told him. But he could feel the power he hosted inside his blood, inside his own body, and he knew that it was only a matter of time and circumstance before he did something he couldn't forgive.
He would never forgive himself if he killed Jessica.
But if he let her go, and she killed innocent people, that was on him. Their deaths would be Sam's fault because he couldn't do what needed to be done to save them.
"I need to take a shower," Sam announced, stalling for time, needing to think through what he was about to do.
Dean hesitated, reading the agony in Sam's eyes. "Why don't you let me take care of it, Sam," he suggested, and Sam shook his head vigorously.
"No. She's my friend," Sam said. "She deserves to know, and I need to be the one to explain it to her. I'll do it. I just need a couple of minutes."
Dean nodded reluctantly and left Sam to his privacy. In the shower, Sam considered putting Jessica on a bus for Alaska, some unpopulated place where there weren't any people for her monster to kill. But he knew hunters would find her, especially if she ever did kill someone, and that would be Sam's fault again. And round and round and round we go, Sam thought as he washed the cheap motel shampoo from his hair, relishing the sting as the stuff got into his eyes, making him cry.
And once he started, he found he couldn't stop. The floodgates opened and he let the tears flow freely, running down the drain with the dirt and grime and pain of the past week, all the deaths he couldn't prevent, all the dreams and hopes and futures thwarted. Jessica, her sister, her parents, Brady. He couldn't save any of them, had however indirectly caused their deaths. Not to mention the students and faculty at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, more innocent people, some of whom were already dead. Bobby estimated there were at least six dozen demons in Lawrence, last time he checked, all possessing people who didn't deserve for that to happen to them. There were rumors that Azazel himself was there, orchestrating.
By the time he turned off the lukewarm water, Sam knew what he had to do.
Jessica had heard every word he and Dean had said in the motel. Sam could tell she had by the look she gave him when he came out of the bathroom to find her sitting at the table with Dean, not eating while he scarfed down a burger. Sam's Taurus lay on the table between them.
They packed up in silence, then drove almost fifty miles to a look-out point on the edge of the highway. At night the surrounding mountains and the lake below were dark, but the cloudless sky overhead was a canopy of tiny lights, endless and infinite. Dean took a walk down into the trees so Sam and Jessica could have their privacy, and they sat on the hood of the Impala, soaking up her warmth as the engine cooled. Jessica snuggled up against him, and Sam put his arm around her, and it was almost romantic, in a completely twisted way.
They sat so long Sam began to be afraid Jessica would never say anything again, no last words, nothing to let him know how she felt about what was about to happen to her.
Not that he deserved it. If she withheld her forgiveness now, it was more than he deserved.
"I heard you guys, in the motel," she said, and Sam had been so convinced she wouldn't speak that it made him start a little when she did. "I thought about running away, but you'd just come after me, right?"
"But what I don't understand is, how are you so sure I'm gonna turn into one of those things? Isn't it possible that it might not happen to me? I mean, maybe the one that bit me wasn't that strong or something."
Sam sighed. "Jess, there's no cure," he said. "Eventually, whether this week or next month, you'll turn."
"But it's been four days, Sam," she protested. "Isn't it possible to dodge the bullet on this thing?"
Sam winced inwardly at her choice of words, but she didn't seem to notice.
"Not in our experience," Sam shook his head. "Not from what we've read or seen. Not according to all the lore Bobby has on lycanthropy. You haven't been eating, haven't been sleeping, so maybe the first time you do, that's when it will kick in. You might not even be aware of it. You'll just wake up with blood all over you somewhere, alone and scared and not knowing whose blood it is. Could be some random stranger's, could be mine. Or Dean's."
Jessica shivered, and Sam pulled her closer against him. She tucked her head under his chin and lay her hand on his chest, over his heart.
"I had this idea that I could be your third wheel, you know?" she said. "Like the Mod Squad. Or Katherine Ross in Sundance. You and me and Dean, three crazy kids on the road, fighting crime and monsters, doing good in the world."
Sam tried to smile. He shifted a little so he could get his other arm around where he needed it. He squeezed her shoulder gently and buried his face in her hair.
"I don't want to die," she said, the last word choked off by a sob, and Sam nodded.
"I know," he whispered into her hair, fighting the lump in his sore throat.
She tensed as she felt the barrel of his Taurus pressed up between their bodies, but she didn't speak again, just closed her eyes and clung to him as he pulled the trigger, the kickback making both their bodies jump as the sound reverberated across the lonely mountain scene, making Sam's ears ring.
"I'm sorry," Sam whispered, although Jessica probably couldn't hear him anymore. Her hair was wet, and he realized he was crying again, tears streaming silently down his cheeks.
Dean was there a moment later, reaching in to untangle Sam's fingers from his grip around the Taurus, putting the safety on and tucking it away in his own waistband before reaching for Jessica. He pulled her gently out of Sam's arms, and Sam watched her go, closed eyes and slack lips, blood spreading on her chest like a red flower blooming, soaking his borrowed shirt.
They wrapped her in a blanket brought from the motel for just that purpose, then dug a grave on the edge of the hill, below the highway, facing the view. They decided to forgo salting and burning the corpse, not because they believed Jessica wouldn't come back to haunt them, but because they didn't want to draw attention to themselves by putting up a literal smoke signal as to their whereabouts.
They drove another hundred miles, mostly in silence, until Dean pulled off at a motel where they could shower and sleep for a few hours.
"We head to Lawrence in the morning," Sam announced as he climbed into the king-sized bed, bone-weary and aching from the digging and the car-ride, exhausted with grief.
Dean said nothing, just pulled Sam against him and laid kisses along the back of his neck and shoulder until Sam fell asleep, still weeping.