Notes: So, this is it, this is where my mind has been for the past weeks. This is the first part of what could become a verse but serves as a stand-alone (or mood-setting if you will) for the time being. As usual, this started out with a short scene that confused me a lot and which got longer and longer until I sat down at my laptop and started to write it down. I'm having mixed feelings about posting it, not because I think it's bad or anything, but because I've worked so long on it that I can't tell if I actually got it out the way I wanted to when I started this and that just feels weird.

The biggest THANKS ever goes out to my "twin-sister" Ghost4. She put sooo much time and effort into this story that I should list her as my co-author (and I would SO do it if I knew she would accept it (sadly she won't)), without her I wouldn't have written it down nor worked up enough courage to actually post it. She doesn't know I'm already posting it, so this is a surprise for her, I hope she enjoys it. I love you, hun, this is for you, I'm dedicating this fic to you and you can't stop me! *evil laugh*

Just another side-note before I go on with the story: Since I've been asked this a few times now I want to stress that this fic has nothing to do with Skag Trendy's awesome "Hunter of the shadows"-AU, it wasn't inspired by her story (though I have to admit it's one of my all-time-favourite stories ever) and I am not trying to copy it. I don't really know why I feel I have to include this into my notes, but after a few not so nice experiences with other writers/reviewers I've become a little nervous about stepping on other people's toes and I love her verse way too much for that.

Disclaimer: I don't own the Impala, I don't own Dean, I don't own Sam. Or John. Or Bobby. I do own the idea though and I'm not giving that back!

If you could only see the beast you've made of me,
I held it in but now it seems you've set it running free.

Florence and the Machine

June 9th, 2010

We're at the motel, waiting for Bobby. Dean called, he won't make it tonight, he'll be here tomorrow around noon. Already checked the equipment, everything's where it's supposed to be, this nest is going down.

Sam's restless; whatever magic is in the air it's driving him nuts. And it's starting to piss me off. He's twitching and growling all the time – and on top of that he keeps changing forms almost every thirty minutes now. He just won't stop pacing the damned room; I'm so close to tying him to the bed post, just to make him stop. I've tried ordering him to quit changing, but it seems like he just can't hang on to either form. I wish I could tell him to run this—whatever it is— out of his system. Like when he used to get mad at me for no reason and he would jog around the block for hours. But this time I can't send him outside, somebody might see him; it's not even dark yet. I need to look into why this is happening. Why here? Why now? We- I need to get a grip on this – what if something like this happens when we're out on the street? It's never been this random before. Sam says he can taste the magic in the air on his tongue, that something really powerful is out there but he has no idea what it is. Only that it's here, somewhere.

Maybe I should get out of the room for awhile, work on the busted headlight, give him- both of us some space to cool down. Sam'd stay in the room if I told him, maybe calm down if I got out of his hair—

A low, throaty growl echoes through the room.

John looks up from the journal and turns in his seat, tired eyes setting on the dark form slipping out of the shadows between the beds.

The wolf's ears are flat against its head, its shaggy body is tense, its movements are slow, almost stiff as it stalks toward the door. It's a fairly large animal with a thick, gray coat. Its hackles are up, making it look twice as big as it really is. Its golden-brown eyes never leave the knob as it moves closer to the door, lips peeling back to reveal sharp, pearly-white fangs.

The next growl is barely audible and if possible the wolf gets even more tense, almost still as a statue, but there is a subtle bunching of muscles in its haunches as it gets ready to strike, its body language screaming at John louder than words ever have.


"What is it?" John gets out of his chair and pulls his gun, holding it behind his back as he slowly approaches the window. The wolf lowers its head a little, staring at the doorknob. John knows the moment he opens the door it will be at the throat of whoever happens to be outside.

There is a soft knock on the door. "It's me."


The wolf doesn't back down at the familiar voice – in fact, it doesn't move at all, fangs still bared.

"Sam, down." It's not an order, not yet.

He can see how the wolf tries to calm down for a moment, one massive paw rising slowly to take a step back.

Suddenly there's a sound outside, somewhere distant, down the hall, but it's close enough; the wolf's ears twitch and it moves forward, fur brushing against the chair in its path.

Another growl.

This won't work.

"Sam, back off, now." He means it this time, and he can feel Sam's furious gaze on him as the lean body slides away from the door and settles down beside him, still half in front of him, guarding him. Powerful muscles tremble nervously against John's legs where Sam is leaning against him and this contact more than anything else tells him that his son is really worried; Sam, human or wolf, would never be this close to him if he could help it.

He carefully brushes a finger against Sam's sensitive ear (message received), then moves his hand into Sam's line of sight and shifts it in a certain way, a silent command (cover my back). Sam obeys reluctantly, disappearing into the shadows under the table John had been sitting at.

John aims his gun at the door, stands in the middle of the room so he can move freely if he needs to and calls out, "Door's open, Bobby."

There's a moment of silence and he can feel his heart slam against his ribs, then skip a beat as the door slowly opens. Out of the corner of his eye he can see Sam crouch low on the floor, ready to leap at whatever is in front of them.

The door swings open and Bobby looks at him, hands raised to chest-level to show he's unarmed. The older hunter doesn't move, just stares back at John evenly. "You want me to slow-dance now?"

Before either of them can move a shadow dashes toward the newcomer and John has enough time to realize that Sam isn't staring at Bobby but at something? behind him before his son disappears through the open door.

"Son of a—SAM!"

He's after him in a heartbeat, just in time to see the lean form cross the parking lot at top speed. He's still within earshot and John doesn't really care that he literally barks after him to "GET YOUR ASS BACK INSIDE THE ROOM!"

Even after all those years it still amazes him how Sam's body responds to the command, even though his brain certainly doesn't agree with him; it almost seems as if he freezes in mid-stride and then his son jerks around and starts trotting back toward them. He might not be in control of where he is going until he is back inside the room, but he is definitely aware of what's happened, and his eyes are glaring at John, burning with a fury at being forced to obey. John can feel that look all the way down to his toes. He senses another endless argument about this coming his way and sighs wearily, running a hand across his face as he waits for Sam to get back to them.

Bobby is watching, not looking at either of them. Sam brushes against Bobby's legs in a silent greeting before he finally disappears into the motel room.

The moment Sam's out of view John feels himself sag a little. He stares at his car for a moment, almost forgetting about Bobby and his enraged son inside the motel room. It's one of those moments where he just wants out, wants to go back to before Mary's… or at least before the damned curse. Their lives had been fucked up before, but ever since—


He's still too aware of where he is so he isn't really caught off-guard by Bobby's voice, but it takes him a second to pull his thoughts together before he turns around and eyes the old man.

Bobby's standing in the doorway to their room, eyes trained on Sam inside. John can't see Sam from where he is standing but he is pretty sure Bobby's watching him.

"He's in pain."

It sounds like both a question and an accusation - and John knows that's exactly what it is. As if he's responsible for everything the kid goes through.

He joins the older hunter at the door and sure enough there's Sam, pacing the small room nervously, body tense, fur standing on edge all over the place, panting softly. He is clearly in some sort of distress and doesn't acknowledge their presence with more than a fleeting side glance at them whenever he passes the door. John nods absentmindedly, remembers that the last change took place about half an hour before Bobby joined them. So, any second now…

Bobby's still waiting for an answer and turns to look at him when he doesn't respond. "What's wrong with him?"

Sam lets out a growl that sounds both pissed off and pained. Before John can say anything the large body turns abruptly and dashes off to the bathroom, almost tearing down the half-open door in his haste to get inside. A second later it is slammed shut.

Bobby raises a worried eyebrow and John can't suppress a soft sigh as he steps into the room.

"Something's wrong with this town. He's been like this ever since we got here," he says, closing the door behind Bobby. "He keeps changing and we can't stop it, he can't settle down, insists that something is out there and he needs to go after it. I don't know what this is, Bobby, there was nothing on the news, nothing I could find to cause this."

Bobby scratches his beard, eyeing the closed bathroom door for a moment. "Think it's the nest?"

The shower comes on.

John walks over to their cold box and gets three beers. He hands one to Bobby, and leaves the second on the desk, then he sits down with his own on his bed. He shrugs. "I don't know, he's never been like this before."

"I don't see how vamps could do that to him," Bobby says, taking a long sip. "You think it's the town?"

"I don't know..."

"Then why don't you get out of town then 'til everybody's here?"

John actually freezes for a second, he hasn't thought about this. He considers it for a moment, tries to remember when exactly Sam had started acting strange. He believes the first change had been around the moment they had been near the city limits. So if this somehow connected to a specific area then Bobby is right, they have to leave and get Sam out of this. Regroup out of town, Sam is of no use to them like this.

When he looks up the 'useless' son in question is standing in the doorway. He's wearing his jeans and a white T-shirt, his wet hair is plastered to his skull and he looks tired, the last lines of pain slowly fading from his face as he stretches slightly. A warm smile crosses his lips when his eyes settle on their guest.

"Hey, Bobby."

Bobby lifts his bottle in greeting. "Hey, kid, feel any better?"

Sam's eyes immediately dart to the closed front door, then to John, the smile turning into an almost-snarl before he forces his features into a noncommittal expression.

"I'm fine," is what he says, but this isn't over is what he means.

John simply looks back at him, fighting hard not to rise to the bait.

It is.

Sam stares at him, too edgy, too fucking stubborn to look away first. John knows it's as much a wolf-thing as it is a part of Sam's inherent tendency to do whatever the fuck he pleases; he knows Sam won't back down from what could easily become a tense staring contest. To break eye contact would mean to give in, to draw the short straw and dammit, they've done this a billion times before. They don't have time for this rebellious shit right now.

"Pack your stuff, we're leaving." Sam's aggressive mood is rubbing off on him and for a moment he isn't even sure if he has just given another order that Sam won't be able to resist. The way his son squares his shoulders and remains where he is tells him he hasn't.

"What about the nest?"

John barely refrains from rolling his eyes, his hold on the bottle tightening briefly. It's whatever Sam's sensing in the air around them that's driving him up the walls, makes him an even bigger pain in the ass than usual, John knows that. Not that knowing it helps. Sam's attitude has always hit a nerve with John, and now it's painfully obvious that he's trying to pick a fight to relieve some of the stress he is in. And he should do something to help him.

But he can't. He remembers what happened in Wisconsin, how the argument had gotten out of hand and they'd ended up winding each other up more and more until one of them had snapped. He doesn't remember who, his memories are somewhat hazy about that, but he does remember the fight after. How neither of them had held back or backed off, not even at the sound of a rib snapping or glass breaking beneath them. It had cleared the air a little between them for a few glorious days, but they don't have time for this, not now. Not with Bobby watching them.

"We need to get you away from this."

Sam doesn't snarl at Bobby, doesn't even scowl at him when the older hunter speaks softly, he just looks over at him, looks at him with the kind of respect in his eyes that John hasn't seen in years. And then he nods. Just like that, a quick movement of his head, no growl, no argument. Sam simply turns around and starts packing some things into his duffle.

And John is this close to throwing his old friend out of the room.

Bobby meets his eyes and shrugs slightly, watching as Sam disappears into the bathroom again and closes the door behind him. John forces himself to give his friend a nod he hopes seems at least a little thankful, then turns around and puts the few things he had used back into his bag. He is closing it by the time Sam comes out of the bathroom and moves toward the door, then stops. He doesn't say anything just remains standing in front of the door, duffel in one hand, shoulders tense.

It takes John a moment to realize that Sam can't leave the room after his earlier order and for just a second his lips want to break into a contented smile. It shouldn't feel this good, he should feel horrible for even thinking that he is actually enjoying getting back at Sam for his insolent behavior, the never-ending arguments, the whining, growling, snarling… His conscience kicks in, hard, the part of him that wants to protect his boy and keep him from harm. The part that always seems to hide on days like this, no matter how hard he tries to be fair, forgiving, how hard he tries to remember what this curse did to them, to both of them.

"Get out, Sam, but don't go chasing after it again." He tries to keep his voice soft, make it as much a not-order as he can while still releasing Sam from the previous command. His son takes a deep breath and opens the door without looking back, is out of the room just a second later. John stares at the door for a moment, he doesn't really want to leave and spend the long drive with Sam scowling next to him, he's had enough of that now.

But they have no choice.

He looks up to find Bobby looking at the door, lost in his own thoughts as it seems, and John clears his throat slightly but doesn't say anything. He can't read his friend's face, but whatever the older hunter is thinking it's definitely not happy thoughts. Bobby senses his gaze, turns and catches his eyes for a moment. They just look at each other, John somehow at a loss for words and Bobby studying him without saying anything. Then the moment is over, Bobby gives a short nod and John finds himself following him out of the room. He locks the door behind them, deciding to keep the keys for now since he has paid for the room for three days in advance and steps out onto the parking lot.

The cool night air refreshes his senses for a moment and he takes a deep breath before he gets to the trunk of their car. He pops it open and throws his duffel inside, waiting for his son to do the same. It takes him a moment to realize that Sam is not at his side and his head snaps up. He almost expects to see Sam's discarded bag lying next to their door, thrown away in yet another fit of rage. It wouldn't be the first time. But there is no bag, no –


He turns around to Bobby and freezes. Sam is standing next to the passenger's door of Bobby's truck pointedly not looking at him, just staring off into the darkness. Bobby catches John's eyes again in a silent question. John feels too stunned to do more than roll his eyes and shrug. He isn't going to comment on that, there isn't anything he can say. Without taking another look at the older hunter and his son, John gets into his car and starts the engine. Bobby pulls out of his slot and up onto the street and John follows, fingers tightening on the wheel as he watches their silhouettes through Bobby's rear window.

Twenty minutes into the drive Bobby suddenly pulls over onto the side of the road and stops. John isn't quick enough to break and passes him, pulls over a second later and rolls to a stop in front of Bobby's truck. A quick glance in the rear view mirror tells him Bobby has left his car and is jogging toward his passenger's side. He doesn't open the door though.

John is out of his car a moment later and he crosses the distance with long strides. From what he can see through the windshield Sam has changed forms again and is currently pressing his furry head against his door, his wet nose smearing a weird pattern across the glass. When he gets closer he can hear a miserable whine from inside the car and suddenly the wolf explodes into movement, starts to scratch at the door with his front paws, his eyes fixed on something in the distance. John follows his stare but all he can see are trees.

Bobby doesn't take his eyes off the wolf. "He started shaking all of a sudden and then he changed, said something was calling him…"

As they watch, Sam doubles his efforts at trying to burrow through the door, the sounds escaping his throat turning into desperate whimpers. His head comes up again and again, staring off into the distance, before he drops it and goes on scratching. He doesn't seem to notice them, or simply ignores them, John can't really tell. He takes a step closer, goes right into the animal's line of sight, blocking his view of the forest. When the wolf's head comes up again he stops, looks up at John and lets out miserable a whine, ears flattening against his head as he shakes his head vigorously, then visibly tries to calm himself down. Small tremors start coursing through his body and only a moment later he starts panting heavily, then suddenly turns his head and sinks his fangs into the headrest.

"Sam, STOP it!"

The wolf backs off immediately, literally jumps back from the door and starts growling deep in his throat, then twists awkwardly and starts going at the seat with his claws again, his whole body twisting and shaking uncontrollably.

"Damn it, what is this?" John is growling himself at this point, hands going for the door handle. Bobby holds him back before he can open the door.

"You sure he's not going to just run off if you let him out?"

"We can't leave him inside, he'll take your car apart if I don't stop him."

"You think you're strong enough to hold him back?"

John barely looks at him, eyes locked to the shivering wolf. "We'll have to find out. Bobby, get out of the way."

Bobby steps around the car and watches worriedly. John bends down to look at the animal through the side window, clearing his throat. "Sam, down."

The lean body instantly collapses onto the seat, paws twitching restlessly. The wild eyes meet John's for a moment and he is shocked at the miserable pain he can read in them.

"Damn it, Sammy…"

His protective instincts kick in, his kid is suffering in front of him and he needs to do something to help him. He opens the door, grumbles a soft "Stay" when the wolf makes a move to try and get out and Sam complies, settling back down on the seat. His breath is coming in harsh pants and his tongue almost touches his paws as it lolls from his foam flecked mouth. The shivering becomes worse. John looks up at Bobby watching them worriedly through the front window.

"Bobby, get the collar and the leash out of the trunk."

The wolf growls deep in his throat at those words and his furious gaze meets John's, his eyes burning brightly with barely suppressed rage. John forces himself to stay calm, he knows how much the wolf loathes them, that he will do anything not to have them put on – but they have no choice, he can't take the risk that the wolf might simply take off on them. "I don't want to, Sam, but you leave me no choice…"

Bobby returns with the baby blue collar Dean had picked all those years ago to annoy Sam to no end and a strong leash that is actually able to hold Sam back. They had learned the hard way that not all were strong enough if he really put some four-legged strength into it, but the horse lead-rope had put an end to that. It's at least thrice as strong as the leashes they'd tested and the first two feet are made of chain so that the horses – or Sam – can't chew through it. It still doesn't mean Sam can't free himself if he really wanted to since he'd pointed out – more than once – that he would simply bite through the part of the leash that wasn't made of chain, but it is enough to hold him back if they are out in public or on a hunt and Sam decides to get overly excited about a trail.

The wolf eyes the hated collar and his hackles rise, lips peeling back to reveal his fangs as he growls at the offending thing, but John doesn't hesitate, he leans into the car toward the pissed-off wolf and closes the collar around the thick neck and prickly hackles mane, then attaches the leash to it. "Get out."

One moment he is kneeling in the open door, the next he is on his ass on the ground, his right shoulder screaming in pain as it is almost wrenched out of its socket when the animal explodes from the car with the speed and force of a freight train, snapping the leash connecting them tight within a second. John barks out a pained curse, then looks at where the wolf is digging his paws into the ground, straining against the leash with all his might, strangling himself with the collar. He makes a pathetic wheezing sound that almost has John drop the leash as it sounds as if he is suffocating. "Dammit, Sam, stop it!"

As before, the wolf collapses to the floor, wheezing air into his lungs. He looks utterly exhausted and miserable and still can't seem to calm down. Bobby goes over to him and kneels down next to him, resting a hand on top of his head. He murmurs something under his breath and is answered with a low whine as the canine's tail begins thumping the ground sluggishly. Bobby runs a hand through the thick fur, doing what John is only allowed if the wolf is heavily injured and too out of it to notice.

Because Sam isn't really an animal, not even in this form. The spell has made damned sure of that. He has wolfish instincts, a lot of them when he is in this form, he has a better sense of smell, his hearing increases and his first reaction in a tense situation often is to run away. He always comes back though, he hasn't ever let them down. Because he is still Sam beneath all that freaky ass fur, wolf slobber and dog breath as Dean would say. He doesn't tolerate to be petted, he doesn't sleep at John's feet at nights, and he sure as hell doesn't answer to his orders if he doesn't have to. So far Dean has been the only one who isn't growled at or snapped at if he showed affection to the beast, and that doesn't really surprise John in the least.

But somehow Bobby seems to break through to him, is able to calm him down when all John's touch would do is drive his son up the proverbial wall even further. Bobby stays next to Sam until the hectic wheezing turns into normal pants for breath and the whine is completely gone from the wolf's voice.

John lets go of the leash but orders Sam not to run away from them. He watches as one ear is turned into his direction but the head doesn't turn to look at him. It hurts him to see his son like this, in pain – no matter what Sam might believe he hates feeling this helpless, and he would give anything to help him through it, or to find something that could help him. He runs a hand over his face and takes a deep breath, looks into the small forest the wolf doesn't take his eyes from.

"You wanna go after it?" Bobby's voice is soft and when John looks at him the older hunter is still threading his fingers through the fur although his attention seems to be on the forest as well. Every instinct in John screams 'yes, I wanna hunt down whatever is doing this to my son', but they are not prepared. To go in like this is too risky, they have no weapons, no plan, nothing. He shakes his head no.

"Too risky." He thinks about it for a moment. "Bobby, before he changed, what exactly did he say?"

"He said it's calling him again and he has to go. And then he started shivering all over, looked like he was in pain."

The change is a very painful process, Sam doesn't just go poof and suddenly has four legs and a tail like in the movies. It usually leaves him exhausted and disorientated. John can only imagine how bad it has to be for Sam to be forced from one form into the other on a half an hour basis, no wonder the kid is at the end of his rope and snarling at everybody.

Damn, he should have noticed it sooner—

"You ever heard about something like this?"

Bobby looks up from where he is still kneeling, running a hand over his face. "There is all sorts of lore about creatures calling people to them. Most of them lead their victims into a trap to feed on them or kill them. There are sirens, changelings… I wouldn't really know where to start." He takes his cap off, scratches his head for a moment, looks down at Sam. "I'd say this is different, Sam's case pretty unique, I've never heard about something going exclusively after animals."

"Sam's no animal, Bobby!" John snaps at his friend before he can stop himself. Bobby looks up at him again, a silent warning glimmering in his eyes.

"I know that." He gives Sam's head a pat and gets back to his feet. "Sam's fine as long as he is human; it only gets this bad when he's like this."

John is taken aback; the truth is he hasn't been paying attention to that particular detail. All he knows so far is that whatever is out there has Sam acting strange in general. He thinks back to the three hours they had spent at the motel and now that Bobby's pointed it out to him he realizes that the old man is right, Sam had been tense all day but he had not been feeling miserable. Whenever he had changed though he had changed, he'd been edgy and panting and pacing the room, unable to settle down.

And goddamn it, again, he should have seen that, it should not have escaped his notice, he'd been too focused on the tension between them, what it was doing to them on a personal level. He'd lost sight of the case at hand, something he'd sworn to himself would never happen again. He hadn't bothered to ask Sam, had been too relieved every time Sam had changed back and gone quiet, dozing on his bed until the next change hit. They should have left the town hours ago.

He looks down at his son cowering on the ground, watches the minute shivers coursing through the tense body, the way the wolf licks his lips again and again, ears once again flat against his head as if he is listening to their conversation, paws twitching restlessly.

This ends, now, he'll get them—him out of this ASAP.

He bends down, snaps the leash off the collar. "Get in the car, we're leaving."

Sam doesn't even growl at that, he struggles to get to his paws and once he's upright he sways precariously for a second, then slinks around Bobby's legs and pads over to their car. His head is hanging low, tail almost brushing the ground, if you weren't familiar with canine body language you could easily mistake his posture for one of respect and obedience, especially since he doesn't even growl at the prospect of driving in the same car as his father. John knows better, Sam's exhausted, it's taking his last reserves of strength to move at all and John doesn't wait, coiling up the long leash as he follows him to the car. He opens the backdoor, waits until Sam is settled on the back seat and puts one of their spare blankets next to him. It will take them at least another half hour to pass the city limits; if Sam starts changing he will need something to cover himself with.

He closes the door and turns back to Bobby. The older hunter is still standing where the wolf had been lying and he's watching the forest, scratching his beard thoughtfully.


Bobby turns to him, looks at the car, then at his own, then back at John. "I know someone who could look into this, gonna phone her on the drive."

John gives him a grateful nod, then opens his door and gets inside. A quick glance over his shoulder tells him Sam has curled up on the seat, his back to him, still panting softly.

"We're not gonna stop again, try to keep it down." He keeps his voice low, as non-dominant and friendly as he can. Sam doesn't react, at least not in words – or sounds for that matter – but his hackles go down fractionally and his legs relax against the seat, there might even be a soft sigh but the sound gets lost when John starts the car. They are back on the road a moment later.

They've left the city limits behind them for about 5 minutes when Sam suddenly jerks violently on the backseat, makes a strained whining sound at the back of his throat and John's alarmed gaze into the rear view mirror shows him the familiar twitches that indicate a change. He doesn't know what might happen once Sam is back to having two legs instead of four and so he pulls over, listening to the sounds of bones shifting —breaking—under skin, eyes on the road in front of him. He knows Sam hates being watched as the curse takes him over but it's hard not keeping an eye on him when he knows how much pain his son is in during the transformation. Sam had once told him that it is gone as soon as it stops, but hearing him wheezing in pained breaths during the change makes it hard for John to believe that. He has done research on this part of werewolves and the entrance in one of the few journals he'd managed to dig up has been haunting him ever since.

**The werewolf heart is about two-thirds the size of a human's, but in order to shrink, first it has to stop. In other words, he has a heart attack. All the internal organs are smaller, so while he's having his heart attack, he's having liver and kidney failure too. And if he stops screaming, it's not because the pain is dulled; his throat, gullet, and vocal cords are tearing and reforming – he literally can't make a sound. By now the pituitary gland should be working overtime, flooding his body with endorphins to ease some of the pain, but that, too, has shut down. Anyone else would have died of shock long ago, but it won't kill him.** [1]

Sam isn't a werewolf, whatever magic is behind his changes doesn't have to work like this, but it still has Sam crying out in agony every time it hits and he knows how bad it has to hurt for Sam to make sounds like that. Every time John has to watch he curses the bitch that did this to them, wishing he could kill her again to make her suffer just as much but he can't. And that's what it always comes down to, even after all these years, all he can do is wait it out… and feel helpless.

Something is dropped down onto the passenger's seat and John turns in his seat to find the collar next to him. Right, he'd forgotten to take that damned thing off.

"You okay?" He turns all the way and Sam looks back at him with tired eyes. He's already wrapped in the blanket, fighting hard to keep his eyes open. His skin is a little paler than normal and his sweaty bangs fall into his eyes, but he doesn't seem to be in pain anymore. He is twisting in his seat, trying to find a comfortable position, but gives up and eventually leans back, head resting against the window.

"I'm fine…" He is still a little out of breath and his voice sounds strained, but he settles down gradually. "Clothes still in Bobby's car?" He's slurring his words now, his eyes taking longer and longer to open and before John has the chance to answer Sam relaxes into the backrest with a soft sigh, his breath evening out within a few moments.

John doesn't bother to get the clothes; he rolls down his window, gives Bobby a thumps-up and pulls onto the street again. His gaze keeps darting back to the rear view mirror and he watches Sam closely for any signs of distress. His son is out like the proverbial light, he doesn't move an inch, even starts snoring softly a few minutes into the drive. Something inside John slowly loosens up at the sight and he is finally able to take a deep breath.

They cross the town to get as much distance between them and that damned city. Sam's been asleep for about forty minutes and shows no signs of changing again when John finally spots a motel. He pulls over onto the parking lot, gets out of the car as quietly as he can and meets Bobby at his trunk. The older hunter is carrying a pile of rumpled clothes that look vaguely familiar.

"Sam okay?" He hands them over, including the shoes Sam had been wearing. John takes them, nodding at his friend.

"He's asleep. That friend of yours find anything?"

"She's looking into it, promised to call as soon as she does."

It's already taking way too long for them to solve this; he needs to know now what it is so they can hunt it down. He nods at Bobby, turns back to the car and opens the backdoor. Sam doesn't stir which is another painfully obvious proof that he has reached the end of his strength. John puts the clothes down next to him and closes the door quietly. Bobby's already getting his own stuff from the trunk of his truck and they get inside to book their rooms. The guy at the desk doesn't spare them more than a cursory once over, hands over their keys and goes back to watch some late-night movie that involves too much screaming.

When John gets back to his car he's surprised to see Sam standing next to it. The blanket is still around his shoulders but he's wearing his jeans and his shoes. He's blinking tiredly in the dimly lit parking lot and has a hand on the roof of their car to keep himself upright as he stares into the darkness with a far-away look on his face.

Bobby quietly wishes them a good night and disappears into one of the rooms. John watches Sam for a moment, taking in the tired droop of his shoulders and the way he sways slightly and even though he seems far from okay or happy some of the worries disappear from his mind; Sam is able to stand on his own and doesn't seem to be injured. Whatever was happening back then seems to be over for now and they can catch a much-needed break.

"Bobby find anything yet?" Sam's voice is low and tired and he doesn't turn his head back to look at him. For once John doesn't sense any resentment from him, it seems to be one of the rare occasions where his son is too exhausted to fight.

"He's having someone look into it, maybe we'll know more in the morning."


John opens the trunk and pulls his duffle out, almost reaches for Sam's when the kid is suddenly next to him and takes his own bag out, slinging it across his shoulder. John locks the car and together they walk toward their room in what John would almost call companionable silence.

Maybe, for this night at least, they're getting a break from more than just what is out there.

[1] Quote from the UK TV series Being Human