“Stay away, Sam.”
“Dean, let me help you.”
“I said, stay away!”
“Did it bite you? It did, didn’t it? Look, Dean, we can figure this out. You just need to come with me. We’ll go back to the bunker, do the research, find the cure, just like we always do...”
“There’s no cure, Sam. I saw what it did to those people. The best thing is to put a bullet in my brain, and it better be silver.”
“No, no, hey, hey, stop that! Put the gun down! Jesus, Dean, I’m not gonna let you shoot yourself!”
“I mean it, Sam! I don’t wanna be a monster! You need to put me down, man!”
“Okay, listen. Just listen, okay? We don’t even know if silver bullets can kill you. You’re not a werewolf! That isn’t what this is! Anyway, we know how to cure werewolves, remember? So we’ll figure out how to cure this, too. Just come with me.”
“I don’t want to hurt you, Sam. Let me go!”
“You won’t hurt me. I promise. Now, come on.”
But Dean’s strong. He tears himself out of Sam’s grasp without even breaking a sweat. He’s also fast. He’s out the door before Sam can try to stop him again, slamming the screen door behind him.
Sam doesn’t have much choice. He knows he should pack it in, head back to the bunker on his own to do his research, but he can’t leave Dean. He suspects that Dean might follow, but he can’t take that risk. Dean’s not in his right mind. He’s suicidal. Sam’s warning that a silver bullet in the brain might not work could be the only thing holding Dean back from taking that course of action, but even that risk isn’t one Sam’s comfortable taking.
The sooner he figures out a cure for Dean’s condition, the better.
The blood-from-a-live-sire cure died with the bullet-riddled monster on the floor, so that’s out. Sam sighs. Looks like he’ll be disposing of the body in the field behind the gym by himself, without Dean’s help.
As he cleans up the site and packs up the Impala, Sam can’t help feeling he’s being watched. The wind has risen and the night is cloudy and dark, but Sam’s fairly certain his brother is watching him from the woods at the edge of the parking lot.
“Dean?” He calls softly into the darkness. “Dean, I know you’re there. Come on, man. Come with me back to the bunker. We’ll get this figured out together, just like we always do.”
When there’s no answer, Sam thinks for a moment maybe he was wrong. There’s no one there after all. Dean’s probably running as far away from Sam as he can get.
But then Sam sees a flash of movement as the clouds part for a moment and the moon comes out.
“Okay, listen,” Sam says as he slams the trunk of the Impala. “I’m going back to the motel tonight to get cleaned up and try to get some rest. Come with me.”
The trees rustle, and now Sam’s sure Dean’s there. Dean’s listening.
Sam sighs. “All right, man,” he shrugs as he crosses around to the driver’s door. “You know where to find me. I’m gonna try to find out what I can with my laptop. Maybe there’s a spell or something.”
Sam waits for a response. When there’s no answer, Sam lets out a frustrated breath and opens the driver’s door. He’s just about to climb into the car when he’s attacked. The powerful creature that Dean’s become spins him around and slams him against the side of the car, overwhelming Sam’s weak struggles with inhuman strength, grabbing his wrists to hold his arms at his sides. It’s too dark to see Dean’s eyes, but Sam would bet his life they’re blown almost completely black. Not demon-black, just creature-black.
“Dean!” Sam pushes against Dean’s body, but it’s like pushing against a rock wall.
“Told you to stay away!” Dean snarls, low and menacing.
“You ran from me!” Sam reminds him. He doubts he’ll get through to Dean in his current state, but he won’t stop trying.
“Mine now,” Dean growls, burying his face in Sam’s neck. He breathes deep. “Mine.”
Sam shivers as Dean’s mouth latches onto his skin, steeling himself for the pinprick of his teeth.
But Dean just sucks, creating a mark that they’ve seen on the necks of the other victims. The creature likes to play with its food, apparently. Claiming is its first step before ripping the victim’s heart out.
Sam lets himself relax, forces himself not to fight. This is Dean, he tells himself. Whatever else he is, whatever this thing has done to him, it’s still Dean, the big brother who raised him, looked after him, took care of him and always had his back. The fact that Dean returned to him, chose Sam as his victim, has to mean something. The other victims were all strangers to the thing that attacked them. Dean choosing his brother over some stranger has to be important.
“Come back to the motel with me,” Sam coaxes. “Dean, we can fix this! Just let me help you!”
Dean growls, clutching Sam’s wrists more tightly. He presses a little harder against him, shoves one leg between Sam’s so that Sam can feel his erection. He sucks harder on Sam’s neck, worrying the skin with his teeth just enough to make Sam gasp, but not hard enough to break the skin.
“Dean...” Sam’s wrists are going numb; his fingers tingle from lack of blood flow. Dean’s pressed so tight against him that he can’t take a deep breath. When Dean ruts against his leg, a stab of lust threatens to short-circuit his brain. He moans before he can stop himself. Dean growls again in response, squeezing his wrists and pressing against him almost painfully.
“Can’t — breathe — “ Sam chokes out.
Dean releases him instantly, stepping back with a look of utter confusion on his face.
Without Dean holding him up, Sam’s legs practically collapse beneath him. He gasps, sucking air into his lungs, grabs onto the car for support.
“Dean — “ Sam reaches for his brother, but Dean steps back. Horror and dismay replace his former confusion as he stares at Sam, at Sam’s neck, combined with guilt as he seems to realize what he’s done.
“No...” Dean breathes, blinking.
Sam reaches for him again. “It’s okay, Dean. Dean, we’ll figure it out! It’s okay...”
“No!” Dean shouts, shooting Sam a determined glare as he turns and bolts from the parking lot, back into the bushes.
But he’s gone. This time, Sam can feel the night’s emptiness, and after waiting a few moments he gets into the car, jams the keys into the ignition, and drives back to the motel. Dean knows where he’ll be. He can join him there if he wants, or find someplace to sleep off the effects of the poison.
Sam’s got work to do.
</i>Three Days Before:
“Three people, all from small towns in the same county in Nebraska,” Sam announces as he stares into his laptop. “All three had their hearts ripped out. Local authorities are saying animal attack.”
Dean sets a short stack on the table in front of Sam and sips his coffee. “Werewolves not tied to the full moon,” he speculates. “Not like we haven’t seen those before.”
Sam takes the coffee Dean offers. “Right.” He shakes his head. “Maybe we should call Garth.”
“It’s only a two-hour drive, Samuel,” Dean says. “We can be in and out in a day.”
“Right.” Sam frowns. “Why are you calling me Samuel all of a sudden?”
Dean shrugs. “That’s what other me called his brother. He seemed to like it, so I thought I’d try it out. Sounds kinda distinguished, don’t you think?”
“No.” Sam makes a face. “Don’t.”
Sam cringes at the thought of those other Winchesters. Their very existence reminds them that Chuck’s destroying other worlds, getting ready for the final showdown.
Taking this hunt will take their minds off things, which is something both of them desperately need to do.
Jack is still recovering from having his soul restored, so the Winchesters leave him with Castiel and head out that morning.
The latest victim died only last night, so they start at the morgue to check out the body.
“Heart punched right out of her chest and out her back,” the coroner says.
Sam nods. He can see through the hole to the lab table underneath. He notices something else, too.
“That bruising on her neck,” he says. “Does that look like a hicky to you?”
The coroner shrugs. “Could be,” he says. “She was single, but there might have been a boyfriend, I suppose.”
Sam glances over at Dean for confirmation. Dean knows a lot about hickies. But Dean’s in the corner trying to hold onto his breakfast.
Sam rolls his eyes as he picks up one of the victim’s hands.
“She fought back,” he says, noting the human skin and blood under her nails, some of them broken. “No fur, no hair. Looks like her attacker wasn’t an animal after all.”
The coroner shakes his head. “No human could do that,” he insists, gesturing at the hole in her chest.
“Did you find the heart?” Dean asks, apparently recovered enough to join Sam at the table after all.
Sam smirks, but Dean’s not looking at him.
“Uh, no,” the coroner admits.
Dean exchanges glances with his brother. See? He says silently. Werewolf.
But Sam’s not so sure.
“No full moon,” Sam notes when they’re back in the car. “No fur. If it’s a werewolf, he’s not transforming.”
“So?” Dean shrugs, shifts uncomfortably in his suit. “We’ve seen werewolf variations before. This is just some new breed.”
The next victim was killed a week ago, so the body has already been buried, but the coroner shows them the photographs of the body when they show him their FBI badges. It’s another female, mid-thirties.
“This bruising on her neck,” Dean says. “Any idea what did it?”
The coroner shrugs. “Boyfriend, maybe?”
After confirming that there was no fur under her fingernails, nor was the heart recovered, Sam and Dean head to the local sheriff’s office.
“The FBI thinks it’s a serial killer,” the sheriff suggests after confirming that the third victim died the same way, a week before the second. “A serial killer who collects hearts and has super-human strength that can punch through a person’s ribcage, front and back.”
Sam and Dean exchange glances. “Actually, we think there’s a definite connection between the three murders,” Dean says. “We’re just not sure what that connection is yet. You say the vics didn’t know each other.”
“Not that I know of,” the sheriff agrees.
“And there’s nothing linking them, nothing they have in common like a bar they all frequent or a club they all belonged to. Maybe they all went to the same high school.”
The man shakes his head. “Nothing. They don’t even have the same marital status.”
“Sir?” This is news to the Winchesters, which makes Sam nervous.
“Yeah,” the sheriff preens, aware that he’s caught them off guard. “The first vic was married.”
“So you think the husband’s our killer?”
They’re sitting in a diner after their visit to the sheriff’s office, going over the case. Dean’s on his second bacon cheeseburger and Sam’s picking at his salad, as usual.
“Dunno,” Sam answers. “Maybe.”
“So we go talk to him,” Dean suggests. “Take his measure. See if we can shake him loose when he realizes what we really are.”
“I dunno, Dean.” Sam shakes his head. “Something’s not adding up about this.”
“So you wanna split up, interview the families first? See if these women have anything in common?”
“No, I think the husband of the first vic is our best shot,” Sam says. “I’m just trying to figure out why he’s still around. I mean, if he got bit by a werewolf, then went home and murdered his wife, why would he still be living at his house? Going to work every day at the — “ Sam checks his notes. “Big Y Gym?”
Dean shrugs, stuffing the last bite of his burger into his mouth and chewing noisily.
“Dunno,” he admits through his mouthful, grinning when Sam rolls his eyes. “Let’s see if we can find out.”
The first victim’s widower is seriously grieving.
“I already told the cops everything I know!” he protests when the Winchesters display their badges at the door to his office and ask to talk to him.
Once they’re sitting across the desk from Mr. Hannigan, the man loosens up. It’s obvious he wants to complain to somebody.
“They thought it was my fault,” he confides. “As if I would kill Tracy! She was the love of my life!”
“We’re very sorry for your loss, Mr. Hannigan,” Sam says sympathetically.
“But those other women who were killed — I don’t even know them!”
“Right,” Dean says. “We’re still working on that. You weren’t getting a little on the side, Mr. Hannigan? You know, after ten years of marriage, a man can get a little antsy, if you know what I mean.”
Hannigan stares at them like they’ve suddenly grown five heads.
“I loved my wife, agent,” he says, tight-lipped. “I never needed to cheat on her. She was everything I ever wanted. Everything.”
Both Winchesters pause, reconsidering. This is not their guy, Sam realizes a millisecond before glancing at his brother.
“All right, Mr. Hannigan,” Dean says, speaking for both brothers. “We understand.”
“Thank you for your time,” Sam adds.
As they’re leaving the gym, one of the trainers stops them.
“Are you here about Duncan?” the young woman asks.
“Duncan?” Dean gives her a puzzled look, then glances at Sam, who shrugs.
“He used to work here,” she says. “He disappeared the same night Tracy Hannigan was murdered. I figured you must be looking for him.”
Sam and Dean exchange glances. Dean raises his eyebrows.
And just like that, they’ve found their man.
Armed with a photograph of Duncan Smith, former trainer at the Big Y Gym in Kearney, Nebraska, the Winchesters spend the afternoon interviewing grieving relatives, roommates, and co-workers of the other two victims.
“I think that’s the guy who was hanging around just before Shelli was murdered,” one of the waitresses at Mae’s Diner tells them. “He was being creepy. Watching Shelli. I thought of him first thing when I heard what happened to her.”
“Did you tell the cops?” Sam asks.
The waitress shakes her head. “They never asked,” she says. “They said it was a wild animal that got her, so I guess it wasn’t Mr. Creepy here, right?”
Sam and Dean exchange glances and Dean rolls his eyes. “Local cops,” he mutters.
One of the neighbors of the third victim claims Duncan Smith was stalking her. “I saw him outside when she was leaving for work,” the neighbor says. “Just watching her. I figured he might’ve killed her, but the cops said it was an animal attack.”
“You know, if I didn’t know how incompetent and lazy small town cops can be, I’d think there was a conspiracy,” Dean says as they get back into the car. “This guy is either the luckiest serial killer ever, or he’s exactly what we think he is.”
“Where do you think he’ll strike next?” Sam’s got a pretty good guess, but he likes to let Dean drive the boat.
“If he keeps going East on 80, his next victim could be anywhere between here and Omaha,” Dean says.
“You think silver bullets will kill him?”
“I think it’s worth a shot,” Dean shrugs. “Or a silver knife through the heart. I mean, unless your research turns up anything more specific than ‘sorta-kinda-werewolf.’”
So far, it hasn’t.
“It’s definitely a form of lycanthropy,” Sam announces after they get back to the bunker. He’s used the samples he collected from the last victim to perform a spell that serves as a kind of supernatural DNA identifier. “It’s transferred through the subject’s saliva or blood, the way werewolves transform humans. So our guy could have been human, originally.”
“You mean before he turned into a heart-eating monster,” Dean says.
“And silver kills it? I mean, now that he’s killed three innocent people, he’s not exactly a candidate for being cured, is he?”
“Probably not,” Sam agrees with a wince. Losing innocent people to supernatural tragedy always disturbs him. Losing innocent people to monsterhood is particularly disturbing. It cuts too close to home, for both of them. “What I still can’t figure out is, why does he take the time to put that mark on their necks first? If he’s going in for the kill, why waste the time doing that?”
Dean shrugs. “Maybe he’s got something in his saliva that calms them or paralyzes them. You know, like spider venom. Easier to drive your fist through their chests if they’re drifting along on a purple haze.”
“I guess,” Sam agrees reluctantly. Something about that mark bothers him, but he’s not sure what it is.
“So, any idea where he might strike next? Specifically, I mean.”
Sam draws in a breath, lets it out slow. “Well, Duncan Smith grew up in Pleasant Dale, just outside Lincoln. He might be headed home.”
They do the research, discover that Duncan’s parents still live in the family home in Pleasant Dale.
“Maybe he’s running scared, Dean,” Sam suggests. “Maybe he thinks he can figure out what’s happened to him if he can just get home where he feels safe.”
“Or where he can eat the hearts out of two more people who aren’t likely to resist,” Dean growls darkly. “You got an address?”
Duncan Smith’s parents are already dead when the Winchesters arrive. Freshly dead. Both killed in their bed, both bodies still warm.
“Okay, what now, Sherlock?” Dean growls. This is not going their way. This was supposed to be a milk run. Dean’s angry.
Sam thinks fast. “Duncan used to work out at a place called Fitness World. It’s right down the street. That’s where he got his first job.”
The place is closed, a For Sale sign in the window. It’s dark, everything locked up tight.
Not tight enough for the Winchesters, though. Sam’s got the lock picked in under thirty seconds, and Dean’s impressed. Sam tries not to let it go to his head, but he’s got a smug smirk on his face as he lets Dean go in ahead of him. He likes impressing Dean. Loves his approval more than he’ll admit.
Once inside, they move quietly and efficiently from room to room, flashlights and silver-bullet-filled guns at the ready. If Duncan’s in here, he’s already heard them. Sam half-hopes he’s left, anyway.
All hope dies when a crash from behind them alerts them to danger seconds before it slams into them, sending guns and flashlights flying. Something that moves too fast and too powerfully to be human slams Sam against the wall, breathes against his neck for two horrifying seconds before Dean screams “Sammy!” and the thing lets him go.
Sam falls to the floor, scrambles for his gun as he hears Dean cry out. He spins in the direction of the sound and fires, aiming above the position of Dean’s voice, hoping he’s hitting the thing because damn, it moves fast.
The thud of a body dropping makes him panic.
Dean moans, then calls out, “I’m okay! You got him.”
Sam crumbles to his knees in relief, breathing hard. The light from the street shines into the room just enough for him to catch movement in the direction of Dean’s voice. He can make out a lump on the floor as Dean rises to his feet, unsteady. He’s clutching his neck with one hand, leaning against the wall with the other.
“Dean? Did he get you?”
The silence that follows is deafening.