A/N: Thank you, everyone for your reviews! This chapter's a little longer, but I think it moves pretty fast; hope you enjoy! And yes, as promised, the whumpage begins in this chapter.
Gary shut the front door behind him and seriously considered collapsing in the place he stood. The house was silent and he wondered if Bethany had returned from wherever she had gone. He walked down the foyer, peered into the still-empty nursery and then shuffled into the living room.
Bethany was curled on the deep cushions of the beige, leather couch, fast asleep; she looked so tiny. Bethany wasn't a wife or a daughter and certainly not a pet. It was sad for Gary to think that she didn't need him for anything, but she was a companion that would probably always be there with him. He knew he would be there for her as long as he could be.
It had never been spoken between them, but he knew that she could make him what she was and that he would never have to worry about disease or death (well, a natural death, anyway). He also knew that he would never accept that life and he wondered if it was selfish of him; once he died, she would be alone. He often wondered what she would do when he was gone. He doubted she would go on a murderous rampage, but Bethany's loneliness wasn't something he liked to dwell on.
He went to the linen closet, got an afghan and laid it over her so that only her face was showing. She stirred a little bit but settled back into what Gary hoped was a restful sleep. Though she was a predominantly nocturnal creature, she had been up at all hours with Abby. He supposed even werewolves needed rest.
He sat for a while and just watched Bethany sleep until he could no longer ignore his grumbling stomach. He decided that some sustenance would do them both some good. After all, he wouldn't survive for very long on just the hospital cafeteria's food and he knew that Bethany's appetite could be seemingly insatiable at times. Rising, he went to the kitchen.
A short while later, he had prepared some sort of beef-and-potato stovetop concoction that he served over rice. He knew he was no Emeril Aggassi but the food would be accepted. The sound of plates and silverware being placed on the wooden surface of the coffee table roused Bethany.
Though she had just woken up, her eyes were bright and alert.
"Hey," She said, smiling with her mouth and stretching her arms and legs outward. Though she wasted no time picking up her food, her eyes seemed to be imploring him not to ask about what she'd done.
"Hey," he replied, sitting down in the seat across from her. "You needed to talk to me about something?"
Bethany seemed to sigh with relief as she simultaneously shoveled a forkful of the stew and rice into her mouth. She chewed hastily and nodded.
"We can't do this alone," She said, and then promptly took another bite of food. Gary only took a bite of his own food, waiting for her to continue.
"I was outside the Adelson's hotel the other day and I saw these two guys. I just got this…feeling about them. I saw them at the Coroner's office and…"
"You went into town?" he asked, wrinkling his brow. "What did you do for clothing?"
"You won't turn me in for a little B and E will you?" She asked with a ghost of a smile on her face. "I snuck into someone's summer cabin on the outskirts of town and got some." Gary knew that those clothes were probably lying in shreds, in some forgotten part of the Van Auledge forest and would eventually become convenient nesting material for some woodland animal.
"After that," she continued, "I caught up with one at the Bradley's farm. I accidentally gave away my position and he chased after me."
Gary looked at her with only a vague conception of what she was trying to say.
"They're hunters, Gary." She said around a mouthful of food. Any other day, her expression probably would have seemed cute.
He scratched his chin, taking in the information; he had a feeling he knew where she was going with this. He'd never met a 'hunter' but from what Bethany told him about them, he wondered if that particular course of action would be advisable.
"You think we should approach them?" he asked in a tone that suggested caution.
"Are you getting protective over me, Gary?" She seemed intrigued by the possibility. He only smiled tiredly.
"It's entirely up to you." he said. The werewolf and the doctor focused their attention on their dinner plates for a few moments.
"I don't see any other options." She said.
They both eased back in their seats, contemplating their situation.
"What else do you remember about them?" Gary asked.
"They were both good-looking," she said; "probably brothers. Um, one was taller than the other with darker hair and…" she paused, chewing her lower lip tying to recall what she could about the hunters. Then her eyes lit up. "Oh, they had a really nice car," she said with surprising enthusiasm. "It was an older one, black; really very beautiful."
Gary's mouth went dry.
"Sonovabitch," he said, setting his plate on the coffee table a little harder than was necessary. He quickly recalled the Impala and knowing that her matching description of the vehicle and at least one if its passengers couldn't have been a coincidence. "I saw them."
"Where? When?" Bethany asked, surprised and excited setting down her own plate in the same manner. Gary was waiting for her to grab him by the shoulders and shake him to get the information.
"Last night and today," Gary said quickly and then remembered the reporter he'd treated and that he hadn't even told Bethany about her. "They were posing as Animal Control officers because they wanted to talk to this reporter that got attacked last night; said she's a friend of theirs."
"Was she bitten?" Bethany asked with reluctance in her voice.
"No, not as far as I can tell," he said. The relief on Bethany's face was instant and then the rest of Gary's words hit her.
Her pale brow furrowed in thought. "Could she be a hunter too?" Bethany said more to herself than to Gary.
"I don't know," he said. "The ambulance picked her up at the Freemont Hotel last night and…"
Bethany was already out of her seat and walking toward the door. She undressed as she went, but she never made a misstep. (Anybody else would probably have run into a wall.) Gary trailed behind, watching as her fingernails became longer and thicker. As she got to the door, she was completely bare but Gary didn't look away. Though most men would call him insane, he'd felt little desire for her. The first time he'd ever seen her in human form, she'd been a patient of sorts. After adoration, what he felt for her was a close cousin of fear; it was awe. He could barely fathom how something so beautiful possessed such power.
"Where are you going?" he asked. If he didn't already know the question was inane, the look Bethany gave him let him know it.
"If she's a hunter, she'll have weapons. I can go to her room now and a find out. Besides, even if she's not, at least I'll be able to pick up a fresh trail." Gary didn't miss the fact that her teeth were becoming sharper and that her ears were developing small tips.
"Don't you want me to drive?" He asked.
"No," she shook her head briskly, "I can get there faster if I run as the crow flies."
As the crow flies? He thought.
"What about clothes?" he yelled after her; but she was out the door and gone. Was she going to break into another cabin? And if not, could a werewolf be convicted of indecent exposure?
Dean stuffed a shirt that had 'Fitch' written in dark letters into the duffel bag he assumed Val was using for clothing. He made a mental note to later make the 'F' look like a 'B' when he could get his hands on a marker or some electrical tape. Since when did hunters where name-brand clothing?
He carried the bags of Val's belongings outside to her nondescript, white Toyota and set them down before popping the trunk. The morning had been at least sunny but Mother Nature had apparently had a mood swing, because the sky was now thick with clouds that were probably holding rain. He threw the bags in the trunk and glanced around the parking lot. No one was in sight.
Sauntering around the back of the hotel and keeping an eye out for any prospective witnesses, he made his way to the dumpsters. He hadn't seen a single person since his arrival. How does this place stay in business? He wondered. Are they sacrificing people to werewolves?
He decided that it was unlikely much for the same reasons he knew the town wasn't made up of werewolves; the deaths didn't occur on a specific time table and a lack of victims that could have been considered 'outsiders'. Taking another cursory glance around, and seeing no one, he flipped open the first dumpster lid and looked down grudgingly, not immediately seeing the knife or gun. In the back of his mind, he was thankful that he wasn't in sweltering, summer weather that would have made the trash reek.
Hoisting himself up, he felt the brim of the dumpster dig into the muscles of his torso as he tried to balance himself and move the trash bags around in search of the knife and .38. So undignified, he thought. It would have been a very inopportune time for someone to sneak up behind him.
Fortunately, it didn't take long to find the discarded weaponry. Taking a handkerchief out, he wrapped the knife in it carefully and then tucked it safely in his inside jacket pocket. He checked the revolver's bullet chambers –two of which were full –and then flicked the cylinder back into place with a movement of his wrist before putting it in his waistband.
He shut the dumpster and stood for a moment with his hands in his pockets after straightening the back of his jacket's collar the way he liked it. In his right hand, he felt the keys for Val's car, but his gaze wandered to his left, toward the edge of the woods. Sam had more than intimated that Dean should be back at the hospital by no later than five o'clock. Dean had simply shrugged and tried to ignore the look on Sammy's face. It was the expression that tried to be stern and unbending but beneath that was a young man, pleading.
It was only just after four o'clock and Dean was confident that he could make it from the Freemont to Adelson's and back to the hospital with time to spare. He doubted if the 'hunting party' he and Sam had seen earlier turned up anything useful and the weather that was apparently approaching would wipe away a good deal of clues. What could a little look around the woods hurt?
Sam sat in the hospital chair with a faux leather cushion that was an ungodly shade of green as he stared at a point on the floor; and Val sat in her bed dividing her attention between Sam and the window. A small yard sat outside her window and because the apple tree close by had lost most of its leaves, it afforded them a view of the small parking lot beyond as well as the rapidly declining weather.
Don't be stupid, Dean, Sam thought. Just get the stuff and come back. Why did Dean choose that time to become a Rock-Paper-Scissors professional? And even worse; why did Sam select such a childish method of settling the dispute? Because you thought for sure you'd win, stupid, Sam scolded himself. Dean had pointed out several reasons why the trip would be harmless but Sam had to struggle to convince himself of them. He exhaled through his nose. He'll be fine, Sam told himself.
"So," Val said in voice that though quiet, seemed loud in the small room; "How'd you and your brother start?"
He looked over at Val whose attention was still focused on the window. In their line of work there was only one thing that question meant: What ripped your heart out and forced you to live this life?
He sat up straighter and debated what to tell her and at the same time wondered why she wanted to rake over the coals. To understand him and Dean better, maybe? He decided to tell her a very abridged version of the Winchester family's misfortunes; leaving out the part about Jess, and anything that had to do with Yellow Eyes and his blood.
He told her stories about spirits and corporeal beings that he and Dean had sent screaming back to whatever abyss they had come from. Some of the stories made her laugh and others seemed to make her ponder; maybe having stories told to her was what she wanted.
"You don't believe in aliens?" she said after Sam told her about the Trickster that had, for a period of time, made his and Dean's lives miserable.
"No," Sam said, smiling himself.
"Oh, come on," she said, "There's way more proof out there supporting alien life than most of the stuff you just told me about. I can't believe you don't believe in E.T.'s."
"What proof?" he asked, finding that there was humor in his voice.
They continued to banter and laugh about extraterrestrial life for a while but eventually, their chuckles died down to sighs.
"Ow," Val said, putting a hand up to one of the scratches on her face and letting out a breath. "That's gonna scar." She said in a way that said 'oh well, what's one more?'
Sam wondered what stigma the facial scars would leave Val with; perhaps they would match internal ones she bore already.
"What about you?" he asked after a minute.
Val expected Sam to ask that question of her but of all the things she expected to feel, relief wasn't one of them. She'd never had the chance to tell someone the honest-to-God truth about what had happened to her and her family and now she had no idea where to begin but she just let the words come to her.
"This wasn't even my fight to begin with; I was just kind of born into it. My mom lost her parents and…really, I suppose it was your basic werewolf-kills-woman's-family-woman-stocks-up-on-silver-bullets sort of story." Val tried to smile at her attempted joke, but she saw that Sam was watching her carefully with his intelligent, dark eyes and that he was really listening.
"Well, life as a hunter can get lonely I suppose," Val continued; "She met another hunter and about nine months later, I was born. By then she had split with him but probably never tried to settle down anywhere; she did the best she could –I know that –but I had the benefit of knowing that monsters aren't only in closets. She raised me and trained me for the sole purpose of killing werewolves, but no matter how much she pushed me to it, I thought there had to be a better life out there for me –us –somewhere." She saw Sam nod, she knew from the stories Sam had told her that he could relate.
"About a year ago, my mom got a call from my dad and then for a few months, it was like we were all one big, happy family. The family that slays together stays together, ya know?" She smiled but she doubted that distracted her audience from the fact that her eyes were welling with tears. "We were hunting a werewolf that was stirring up problems in Georgia and one night it got the drop on my dad. It scratched him up pretty good but that…coward failed to mention that it bit him too."
She needed several minutes to compose herself before continuing in a voice that was still thick with emotion.
"The next night, we were stopped at a motel and he turned. We'd just fallen asleep and he woke us up. He tried to come after me but my mom got between us. Before she could get to her gun, he…he bit her.
"It all happened in the space of seconds. I had left my gun in the trunk of our car but I barely had my knife unsheathed before my mom pushed him off and shot him in the heart three times and then…and then…" Fortunately, the nurses had earlier unhooked her from the heart-rate monitors as her heart rate was now escalating. "Then she turned the gun on herself. No goodbye, no anything; she just…she just…smiled like she wanted to say 'I'm okay with this' and…she pulled the trigger. She never gave me the chance to try to help her."
Val wrestled with her features, trying to keep them from crying but she had so many conflicting emotions fighting for attention, that she could not keep them entirely bottled and tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. Although she knew it would do no good to save face, she turned hers away from Sam.
She had been angry at her mother, yes, but she blamed herself and the 'if only's' kept building up on her. In the end, after all her brooding, there was always that selfish relief that her mother hadn't asked Val to shoot her. In the end, her mother was still dead and the fight had been left to her.
All muscle and dark fur, Audra made her way to where she and Nathan had failed so miserably the previous night. Her father told her to recover the weapons that the hunter may or may not have lost. He said he didn't want to leave anybody any clues as to how to kill them. Though Audra didn't foresee the townspeople of Van Auledge supplying themselves with silver weaponry any time soon, she had simply nodded and went to carry out her 'mission'. No good would come of arguing with her alpha.
She continued on at what could be considered a jog and took in the evening. The woods were unnaturally quiet and the she-wolf took pleasure in knowing that she was the cause of it. Any birds that were chirruping as they roosted had ceased and while Audra could smell the previous presence of other creatures, nothing scurried. Then another scent caught her attention.
The site where Val had been ambushed was all very interesting, but it wasn't long before Dean abandoned it for the trail of the perpetrators. One set was similar to the one he'd followed the day before in that it was on all fours but this was the one had obviously been favoring its right hind leg and was going at a much slower pace. There was also a pair of very human foot prints that trailed closely along side the beast's.
He noted that these set of tracks were headed East, while the ones from the previous evening, he remembered, had been headed roughly North. Interesting. He looked at his watch; it was nearly five, which meant he had already spent far too much time on the trail and if he wanted at all to appease Sam in order to attempt avoiding an argument –not something he was ever very good at –he'd have to turn and walk back the way he came. Pronto.
The prints in the ground begged to be followed but the weather –Dean noticed that it was becoming quite crappy –and the speedily setting sun overruled his need to chase after something; he was slightly more compelled to return to civilization. Not enough hours in the day, his mind sighed.
Dean had walked a few steps and stopped when he heard a rumble from behind him; as much as he would have liked to, he wasn't able to entertain the possibility that it was a someone's dog who had run off or even more unlikely, a distantly rumbling engine. Slowly, he reached for his Colt.
"What would you have done if your father had bitten you?" The question was out of Sam's mouth before he could stop it. I have a point though, don't I? He thought; because for a moment, he forgot what it was. He watched, rather embarrassed by his question as Val reacted to it.
Her eyes flickered over him with momentary anger but they quickly softened and shot downward to her blanket. "I would have done the same thing," she confessed in a whisper. "I would have put a bullet in my heart because she wouldn't have done it for me and she knew I couldn't have done it for her."
Sam heard the pain in her words, but he also sensed an acceptance in them. His question may have been rather unexpected or even unsympathetic, but maybe it needed to be asked. Would I be able to shoot my own family? He allowed his mind ask the question, but hi his heart he knew that he would never willingly shoot his own flesh and blood and Dean had already more than proven that he would not either.
He looked at the clock on the wall; it was a few minutes after five o'clock. He felt worry begin to tie knots in his stomach; but it was that worry that he would hide behind a mask of fraternal irritation for as long as he possibly could.
It was a name Dean had called numerous creatures but the insult wouldn't apply to this thing, this werewolf. About thirty yards from him, the black beast rose from all fours to a height that dwarfed Dean. Not that he would have admitted it aloud, but it possessed an odd beauty. Its coat was so black it was bright. The muscles apparent beneath its black coat were bunched, poised to attack and its fangs glinted almost brilliantly in the half-light as it snarled at him.
He pointed the muzzle of his gun at it and fired a half-second too late. It veered to its right and Dean could see splinters fly from the branch of a birch instead of blood from the werewolf's chest.
It barreled toward him with inhuman speed and was practically on top of him by the time he had the chance to fire another round, which grazed its left shoulder. A small amount of blood sprayed backwards, but the animal kept coming.
The impact with which it hit him jarred his body viciously and he could only watch in horror as his gun flew from his hand. The two bodies slammed into the ground and the air was nearly driven from Dean's lungs. He was able to grasp hold of the animal's wrists and attempt to shove them away from him as best he could. Thrusting a leg upward, it connected with the werewolf's muscular abdomen.
Thankfully, it moved away enough for Dean to reach the .38 and pull it up. The thick-knuckled hand –each digit tipped with a claw –tried to swat the gun away but Dean had it in a death-grip. He ignored the pain in his forearm as claws sliced into it and pulled the trigger. This shot hit and took a chunk from its hip; it howled in pain and anger as it clapped its hands to the wound and glared from the blood pooling in its palms to Dean who regarded it with equal disgust and rage.
He hastily rose to his feet and leveled the Colt with the lycanthrope's chest and pulled the trigger.
That was never a good noise unless it was coming from the gun of your enemy, but this enemy didn't need guns, did it? The thing's ears flicked in his direction, followed by murderous golden eyes that leered at him. The corners of its muzzle drew upward and Dean swore it smiled. It knew what the sound meant too. He pulled the trigger two more times in rapid succession but with the same result. A dud.
Every obscenity he knew rushed through his mind, but none verbalized in the split second before he was pinned against a tree by two deadly weapons that had probably, at some point in time that day, appeared to be entirely human. Claws dug into his shoulders but he tried not to give even the slightest indication of his discomfort. He tried to wrestle and kick his way free; once he was certain he'd caught the thing between the legs and in the back of his mind he was convinced his opponent was a female. After all, a dude was a dude.
Claws dug in deeper still and ivory jaws snapped shut a fraction of an inch from his face; it was a fairly clear message: Hold still or I will bite your face off. Fair enough; Dean liked his face right were it was.
Her eyes glared balefully into his. In them, knowledge fused itself with pure ire in a way that was truly frightening. They were eyes that watched so eagerly for prey and delighted in watching that poor, stupid, hunted thing suffer until the gruesome end finally came. Dean refused to become its prey.
Screw it, he thought.
With his fist balled around the handle of the .38 and swung upward, slamming metal and fist into her skull with a solid, thud. It must have been a good hit because the wolfish head snapped to one side, although Dean didn't get the chance to appreciate it. The claws in his right shoulder dug in hard and then ripped through leather, cloth, flesh and muscle; Dean clenched his jaws shut, trying to keep a scream trapped behind his teeth as he felt the sickening sensation of claws scraping over his clavicle.
"You bitch!" he growled, meaning it in every sense of the word.
He watched as the bright-black animal began to circle him. You're being played with, he told himself as he instinctively began to move his feet, countering the werewolf's motion and ignoring the pain in his shoulder.
Keeping the beast in his sights, he searched his periphery frantically for his Colt but didn't see a hopeful silver glint on the ground. His boot hit something substantial on the ground and he didn't need to look to know that it was a branch. Okay, not silver, but it's better than nothing, he thought. Crouching and continuing to move, he traded the gun for branch and gripped it in both hands, fully prepared to take a swing as the wolf continued to circle.
The anticipatory tensing of his muscles, his steady breathing, his measured movements, the odd, oily tickle of blood slowly creeping down his chest; all of it was preamble to more bloodshed and the waiting was making him wild.
"Come on!" he shouted. And with a snarl, she obliged.
The beast came at him with inhuman speed but like a batter timing a fastball, he swung the branch and hit its target. She staggered to the side and shook her head as though in denial that she had been struck. Her lips twitched and curled upward, again baring its malicious, white fangs. Irate, she lunged at him again with flailing appendages and again Dean landed a blow to her head.
Now on all fours, she began to circle again, crouching low as she folded her ears back on her skull and the hair on her full rough stood straight on end.
"Sorry," Dean said. "My heart belongs to someone else." It was a blatant lie, he knew, but in that situation, it seemed to be as good a thing to say as any. He felt the bark of the branch dig into his hands as he clutched it tightly, awaiting the next attack.
Staying low, the werewolf ran at him. This time, Dean stabbed at it in a downward arc but at the last second, she dodged to her right. The motion was slight, but it was enough to knock Dean off balance and that was all it took.
Though adrenaline fueled her rapid movement, Bethany was no less exhilarated by her run through the woods. Her muscles expanded and retracted; she went faster and faster, drawing nearer and nearer to her destination.
The wind shifted and with the chilly gust came the unmistakable scent of blood that had just been spilt and beneath that was the familiar musk that her species bore. Her canine brain told her to move faster and her body readily complied.
Dean felt his body steadily loosing strength as he struggled beneath the monster that held him down by the throat with one hand and was taking her time digging into his midriff with the other. He knew that the thing could have reduced him to confetti several times over if she had so chosen, but she was clearly enjoying his every involuntary cry of pain and the feeling of his tender flesh tearing beneath her claws.
He kicked with his left leg –the one that was still uninjured –and hit and fought with his left arm while his right arm tried futilely to pry the werewolf's iron grip off of him. The lack of oxygen caused blackness to dot his vision but everything went red when white-hot pain sliced into his abdomen. He screamed and blood spilled as his back lifted from the ground but there was a roar that came from his right, drowning him out. Then the black wolf wasn't there; she was seemingly thrown to the side.
Dean's head flopped to the side and he saw two animals, black and white, crash to the ground with such force that Dean thought it shook. Leaves, sticks and dirt flew into the air as the beasts clawed and bit at each other in a frenzy of muscle and fang. The interruption was short-lived, though; he was dragged back to a much smaller world of wholly felt, physical pain.
Struggling, he pushed with his left leg and his elbows and slid backward on his rump until he was able to prop himself up against a tree trunk, every movement, agony. He realized he was breathing fast and concentrated on regulating it. Feeling the warmth of his own blood as it flowed from wounds and blanketed him, he was afraid of what he would see if he looked down.
After allowing her momentum to build, the white wolf bowled the black one over with little difficulty; her feral mind barely realized the man on the ground. Silver and golden eyes glinted at each other with mutual hate for the briefest of moments before the two melded together in a furor of snarls and wildly thrashing, limbs.
The white wolf's jaws sank into the black one's shoulder and she squealed in yipped in pain. With a burst of energy that caught Bethany off guard, the larger female twisted in her grip and managed to free herself. The two circled, teeth bared and claws ready to rend flesh; the darker animal made the first move, flying at the other, older werewolf. Bethany moved to the side and used the black wolf's momentum to shove her to the ground and pin her there again.
They both snarled and snapped at each other and Bethany soon found teeth embedded in her right forearm; she relinquished her grip slightly but that was enough for the other to begin to wriggle away. Bethany snarled in anger and lunged after her hastily; finding purchase on a haunch and twisting her head back and forth, trying to inflict on her opponent as much pain as possible. The ebony animal whirled around with dizzying speed and slashed claws into Bethany's muzzle but Bethany only bit down harder.
The other werewolf then twisted around further and tried her best to ravage Bethany's side, staining her ivory coat crimson. Bethany let her hold go and then clashed head on with a wall of muscle intent on ripping her to shreds.
Alice Freemont sat at the front desk of her parents' hotel trying to hide the fact that she was trembling, if not from anyone who walked through the door then from herself; she was failing miserably. She prayed that she was just imagining the din coming from the woods; that finding the girl the previous night had caused her mind to manifest the wild snarls.
Was there anyone else in Van Auledge cowering in a room, hoping they were crazy just because the alternative was so much worse? She knew that even if there were others, no one would discuss lycanthropes around the breakfast table the next morning. She would do what the rest of her town was doing: Pretend the problem didn't exist until it came scratching at your door.
You're not in such good shape, dude, Dean told himself, and then almost laughed at the mental understatement.
Holding the bandana to his stomach, he watched the two monsters clash. Was that what all the commotion in Van Auledge was about? A turf war between werewolves? He lacked the strength to cover the distance back to the hotel; should he call Sam and drag his little brother into the thick of a situation that he himself should have avoided? You've gotta get the bleeding stopped, man, he reminded himself.
As he weighed his options, he found himself mesmerized by the ferocity with which the animals joined each other in combat. Though the white one was noticeably smaller than the other, it seemed to have the upper hand…or paw, or whatever. Dean saw the claws of the white werewolf carve bloody lines into the black one's abdomen and somewhere in himself, he felt a jolt of righteous pleasure. Not that he wouldn't have killed both of them in a heartbeat, but he found himself rooting for the white team.
The two creatures tumbled in a ridiculous white and black parody of a yin-yang and then the one that Dean had mentally dubbed 'Snowball' had the other (Dean had a few choice names for her.) by the throat. Yes! He thought; but just as it appeared the black wolf was going to meet her end, she apparently delved deep into its reserves of lycanthropic power and freed herself from Snowball's grasp. Dean saw the black wolf's golden eyes and he knew that she knew that she had met her match. She turned and with a tail tucked between her hind legs, she ran.
New pain –or, perhaps pain that the fight had distracted him from –swelled within him and his breath caught in his throat. He didn't notice Snowball's ears twitch backwards in his direction.
The white wolf watched as the black wolf fled and had to struggle to keep herself from pursuing the other female. Every ounce of her still wanted to rip and bite and claw but the sounds from about thirty feet away drew her attention to the man who, in her riled state, she vaguely recognized as being one of the hunters. His jaws were shut tight and he was drawing short, ragged breaths in and out his nose. As if trying to keep time with his breathing, he moved his head forward and backward so that it lightly struck the tree trunk he was leaning against, undoubtedly trying to distract himself from the hurt.
His pained, rhythmic breaths seemed to draw her closer and as she approached, his gaze centered on her and while fear was there in his eyes, there was also the look of a determined man who seemed to dare her to come any closer.
She took his scent in. Concealed beneath his relative calm was the intoxicating reek of panic. That combined with the rich, metallic redolence of his pooling blood made her salivate…
Dean watched as the white wolf came closer and closer. It had won and now he guessed that he was its prize. He tightened his grip on the knife in his hand but even that seemed to take too much of his precious energy. He didn't kid himself into thinking he'd be able to fight it off, but at least he could get a few stabs in; he would go out fighting like he always swore to himself he would. He'd always considered that a promise he could live up to
I'm sorry, Sammy, he thought. I shoulda listened to you and now I'm gonna be kibble. Sam was going to be alone; that was the thought that hurt Dean the most. Sammy, who only had his best interests in mind had tried to reason with him but Dean just did as he damn well pleased. Dean's subconscious manifested itself in Sam's voice. You're just being a stubborn jerk, it said. His own mental voice wanted to call the other a bitch, but the only bitch around was the one that was eyeing him like a steak.
Steak wouldn't be very good if it's frozen, though, he thought dazedly as he realized how cold his body felt.
It was odd to think that a short while ago, the blood that had been flowing through his veins was now staining his clothes and the ground, getting tacky in the chilled, evening air. He heard a noise and barely realized it came from him.
The white wolf heard the noise he made in his throat; it was so full of hurt that it reached beyond her animal instinct and gripped her heart, bringing out her other, more human side. She blinked her wolfen eyes and it seemed the small movement allowed her to see things more objectively: He was going to die.
Emotions and instincts flooded her. She had wanted to beseech this man for help and now here he was, bleeding out. Tearing his throat out right then and there would probably be the kindest thing to do; just put him out of his misery, because she knew that what hunters feared more than anything else, was becoming the things they waged war against. The thought of tearing living, bleeding flesh appealed to her canine brain; it was something she rarely indulged in aside from the occasional deer.
Bethany shoved the thoughts away. Looking at the bloody ruin of his body made her hurt for him. If the other wolf had bitten him, she couldn't tell; but on a base level, she knew that if he had been bitten, he wouldn't be dying.
His right thigh had been horribly sliced open as well as his right shoulder; and she noted less serious lacerations on his arms. Because he kept his right hand over his belly, trying to staunch the bleeding with a kerchief that was by that time, completely saturated with blood, she could not see the extent of the injuries, but she guessed that his abdomen had suffered the brunt of the assault.
Time was not a luxury she or the hunter had. She knew she couldn't leave him to suffer alone in the dark and cold and she knew that she could make him physically whole again; but at the same time, she wondered what would be the crueler fate in his eyes.
Impulse won out. She would help him the only way she knew how.
Only the pain reminded Dean that looking into the wolf's eyes was not a dream. They were just as sharp and brilliant as the knife in his left hand and…hadn't Sam said something about a wolf's eyes? What had he said? Dean let out a harsh breath through his mouth which only brought on a fresh wave of dizzying pain. Why was something like that going through his mind? Because you're dying, his mind answered bluntly.
He willed his arm to move but his shredded muscles screamed and he groaned, but that didn't stop him from trying again. This time, the knife rose; which only resulted in the wolf's ears pricking up.
He tried to swing the knife at it, but his hand was caught, almost delicately in the clawed, calloused hands of the predator. It seemed to look at the weapon curiously but then grabbed it from him and discarded it. He watched as the blade fell to the dirt, his heart falling with it.
A chill went through his core. So this is how it ends, he thought as his chest hitched and he continued staring into the wolf's eyes. An odd, but not unexpected flood of relief washed over him. Goodbye, Sammy, he thought.
Bethany took his cold, pale hand in her own and raised it up to her muzzle. For the first time, true fear showed in the hunter's eyes as her intentions dawned on him. Weakly, he tried to pull away but it was pitifully easy to keep him there. A murmur of a protest reached her ears and she wished she could say something to him; comfort him, but her wolf's tongue would not permit her to speak. She placed the hand in her mouth and bit down gently; just enough to draw blood.
"No," He said in a voice that sounded sickened, enraged and broken all in the same miserable note.
Just that one syllable cut into her. She had been taught only to turn those who were worthy, the strong, the…Bethany pushed her old lessons from her mind; she swore she'd never make another like her, but for the sake of the town she loved, she violated that and had probably robbed the man that sat before her of a hunter's proper fate.
She didn't know how long they sat there, looking into each others' eyes but his hazel gaze was quickly dimming. His head bobbed up and down as he tried to remain conscious but the combination of blood loss and her bite was far too much for him to overcome. She felt an odd sense of relief when his chin finally rested on his chest. He was a fighter; that much was certain.
She looked at his inert form and let out a keening, whine; she was so very sorry for what she had just done to him. What would she do now?
She breathed slowly, deeply and commanded her muscles to relax and re-form themselves until she was a much smaller, pale form on the ground. As the night set in almost completely, and she sat there with her legs folded beneath her, everything was quiet until something on the hunter began making noise that her human ears recognized as rock music. She had jumped at the sudden noise, but she quickly realized it wasn't a threat to her or the unconscious man.
Sidling yet closer, she reached into the pocket the noise was coming from and withdrew a cellular phone. Its screen glowed and the words: Sam's Cell Calling were displayed on it. 'Sam' was likely the other hunter and –if her previous guess was correct –the brother of the injured man and that was just another dilemma.
Should she answer the call? No, of course not, answering the call would only bring more questions that she would not be able to answer; and how would 'Sam' react to the news of his brother? Would he come after her and then hunt his brother as steadfastly as any other monster? Or would he be sympathetic to her cause? She doubted it.
She wondered how deep a bond the two men shared.
She looked at the little machine in the palm of her hand as it stopped ringing. At least the phone solved one problem.
Sam paced outside the well-lit front entrance of the hospital; he stuffed his phone back into his pocket. Damn it! He thought; Dean didn't just not answer his phone. He huffed a breath out of his mouth and his bangs fluttered upward. Sam hoped Dean had just stopped off at some restaurant, and was seducing some girl but the knots of worry in his stomach cautioned him otherwise. There was work to be done and that wasn't something Dean forgot.
Sam took his phone out and redialed his brother's number and continued to pace with the phone digging into his ear as though he could wedge himself into it, travel the line of the connection and get to Dean.
There was a busy signal.
Gary nearly jumped out of his skin when the phone rang. Because neither he nor Bethany kept a crowded social calendar and Bethany wasn't there, he had little difficulty guessing who would be on the other line. He swiped the phone off of its cradle and before he could even so much as utter a 'hello', Bethany's desperate voice came over the line.
"I need your help!" she said in a shaky, unsure tone that was so unlike her.
Gary's heart leapt into his throat.
"Are you hurt?" He asked, needing to know the answer to that question before he could begin to think of anything else.
"No," she said, although her answer sounded more like a question.
"Where are you?"
"I, uh…I'm close to the Freemont Hotel so, uh, just park there and I'll meet you."
"Are you sure you're okay?" He asked as he picked the keys to his Santa Fe.
"Yeah, but Gary; bring the first aid kit and hurry…please."
A/N: So…how'd ya like it? I've noticed that people have compared how much they like getting reviews to their favorite food (i.e. chocolate), so I thought I may as well do that too. Reviews, to me, are like pizza! The cheese, sauce, pepperoni and crust all meld together to create the perfect dining experience as well as providing me with sustenance. In much the same way, your reviews –your advice, and excellent readership –give me the encouragement to continue to improve upon my craft.
Okay, so now that that's out of my system (and as you probably wonder how high my cholesterol level is), I can tell you about the only pop-culture reference in this chapter: Well, it wasn't really a reference per se, but the scene where Dean kicked the werewolf between the legs is sort of nod to the 1987 movie, Monster Squad. It's a movie about these kids who have a monster club and when monsters (Dracula et. all) actually show up, it's up to them to save the day; it's rated PG-13 and really isn't intended for little kids. In the movie, the kids have an argument about whether or not the Wolf Man (played by Jonathan Gries who also played a werewolf in Fright Night Part II) has 'nards'. (I'll give you two guesses as to what 'nards' are.) At one point, the kids get the chance to settle the matter once and for all; and as it turns out, the Wolf Man does indeed have 'nards'. I absolutely adore Monster Squad; it's really funny and some of the special effects aren't bad.
Did all of you like what Dean was going to do to Val's 'Fitch' shirt? It was a little prank I pulled on one of my younger sisters and while I was writing this chapter, the scene just kind of appeared.
Oh, I thought I'd mention also, that this AU fanfic won't really contain any SPN episode references beyond 'A Very Supernatural Christmas'. Really, I'm just picking what moments would be best for affect. (People do that, though, right?) So, it's like this: If I mention something, it exists in this little AU world and if not; it doesn't. (You have my permission to give me a metaphorical smack upside the head if I'm coming off as a little bit megalomaniacal; it'll keep me grounded!)
In later chapters, there'll be some sick!unhinged!Dean and of course angsty!Sam (and possibly a little whumped!Sam too). What can I say? Insert sarcastic eye-roll I'm a people-pleaser. But in all seriousness, folks, have a great day (or night, or whenever you're reading this), and Happy Writing/Reading!
I'll be working on the next chapter; but just remember: Patience is a virtue! (And that school's a pain in the ass.) And to anyone who hasn't yet read the happy news: New episodes are supposed to start April 24th! (See? It pays to read A/N's.)