Author's Note: So, this is a sequel to another fic that I wrote called "The World As We Know It." However, if you haven't read that one, I'm planning to write this one in a way so that it will stand alone. Eventually, all will be explained, I promise. But, as I've never done a sequel before, I'm kinda counting on your feedback to let me know what's working and what isn't. So please, please, please enjoy and review!
Sam Winchester grew up melting down the family silver to make bullets. When most nine year olds were reaching for their teddy bears when they were scared, Sam was reaching for the salt. In high school, when asked to write about how he spent his summer vacation, he wrote about hunting down a werewolf with his father and brother. He grew up in a family where going to college—a top-tier school that most other kids would give their first-born son to get into—was an act of rebellion. Sam Winchester spent the majority of his childhood—and most of his adult life to date—thinking that he would never be closer to another human being than he was to his brother. To say that his life had been strange was something of an understatement.
So for Sam Winchester to say that someone was acting strange really meant something. Especially when that someone was his brother.
Because the thing is, Dean Winchester was the one who explained why they had to melt the silver to make bullets. Dean was the one who tried to keep Sam reaching for that teddy bear as long as he possibly could because he didn't want his brother to be afraid of the things that go bump in the night. When Sam was working on that paper for his high school English class, Dean was the one who teased him about how everyone was going to think he was a complete geek for writing a fantasy piece when the prompt was nonfiction. Dean was the one reservation that Sam had about leaving for Stanford. To say that Sam knew his brother well was also something of an understatement.
So when Sam Winchester says that his brother's acting strange, it really means something.
"What's up with you, Dean?" Sam asked.
"Nothing," Dean answered, not taking his eyes off the road. It's a good thing, too, because if they were to get in a wreck at ninety-five miles an hour, they were both going to be dead as a doornail.
"Don't give me that. You've been acting strange ever since I found this case for us. As soon as I started telling you the details, you were tearing out of there like a bat out of hell."
"It's nothing. We just needed a new case, you know?"
Sam stared at his brother, who—again—didn't look up from the road to see Sam's look of disbelief. Of course, Dean's peripheral vision wasn't really the best right now considering that his right eye was still bruised and partially swollen. But then, letting Lucifer beat the hell out of you will do that to a person.
"We just needed a new case, huh? Then how come you were so quick to say 'Hey man, we just beat Lucifer. Let's take a break, you know?' Until I started telling you about this case, you wanted to sit on your ass on a beach somewhere sipping margaritas."
"Margaritas? They give me heartburn."
"Yeah, that's not what you said on Cinco de Mayo."
Very briefly, Sam saw a flash of the brother he was used to: the one who liked lots of booze, violence, and pretty women—not necessarily in that order. Dean grinned at him, and then it was gone in an instant and he was staring intently at the road.
"Dean, something is going on—"
"Sam, just stop, okay? I'm not in my sharing and caring mood right now. We've got some kind of evil son of a bitch out there raping and killing people. Now isn't exactly time to be sharing our feelings. Now tell me a little more about the case."
Sam sighed in frustration and looked down at the news clippings and files in his lap. Thankfully, the police department in Winston-Salem had been more than forthcoming in their files—especially to an FBI agent who was eager to take the case off his hands—and had promptly e-mailed all of them. This included crime scene photos, witness statements, and a full timeline of events.
"So far, we've got five victims. The first two are dead, the third and fourth are sick, and I'm willing to bet that the fifth will get sick within the next twelve hours. The first victim was Katherine Walters, age 23. She was a philosophy major, women's and gender studies minor. A 9-1-1 call came in at 1:23 AM. She said that someone had broken into her house and attacked her. When paramedics and police arrived, they realized that she'd been…sexually assaulted."
There was a long, uncomfortable silence in the Impala, broken only by the sound of the engine roaring as Dean shifted gears and continued flying down the highway. His jaw clenched as he considered the words, but he said nothing.
"According to her statement, she said that she had just gotten settled in bed when she saw a bright light outside her window. Her words were, "It was like a bright, floating ball of fire." The police suspect that it was a blown streetlight outside of her house—"
"A sign of demonic activity?" Dean suggested.
"What demon causes a burst of fiery light? Flickering lights, sure. But none of them cause lights to appear out of nowhere."
"Alright. What else do we have?"
"Katherine said that was just starting to drift off to sleep when the bright light woke her up. She said that was when she realized that someone was in her room. She tried to get up and run, but they sat on her chest and she couldn't get away. That's when he…"
"Yeah, I got it."
"All the others were the same. They saw the light, realized someone was in their room, and that's when they were attacked."
"Okay, anything else they've got in common?" Dean asked, despite the fact that they had been over all of this before.
It had been a perfectly normal morning—well, as normal as a morning can be for two guys who go toe-to-toe with Lucifer himself and manage to walk away from it—until Sam had started telling Dean about this case. Dean had been taking his time in the shower—clearly working up to another lazy day of lounging in the bed watching bad infomercials—when Sam had started pestering him about this case. When he had started going over the details of it, Dean had flipped his shit.
It hadn't been in a loud, angry sort of way. No, that sort of emotional display was a bit beyond Dean, who was pretty much an emotional shut-in. Instead, Dean had very calmly but quickly packed up his stuff—all fives shirts, four pairs of jeans, and various firearms—and encouraged Sam to do the same. It was the fastest he had moved since they'd beaten Lucifer the week before.
"All of the victims were young—the oldest one was twenty-four—women in the Winston-Salem area. All of them were students at Wake Forest University; all of them had red hair. Four out of the five had alcohol in their systems, but it wasn't over the legal limit—"
"I know that already. Tell me about how they're dying."
"I don't know. I mean, obviously, they're getting sick. They've all been admitted within twelve hours with a high fever. It's like the fever is frying their brains, and they've all been dead within ninety-six hours of the attack. The doctors suspected an infection or virus, but they haven't been able to nail down an exact one."
"Alright. When was the last attack?" Dean asked, eyeing the speedometer carefully. They had left Lawrence nine hours ago, and had been pushing ninety-five on any road where it wasn't immediately life threatening to do so. According to Sam's directions, it should have taken them sixteen hours to get to Winston-Salem. At this rate, they would be there within the next hour and a half.
Sam glanced at his cell phone. "Nineteen hours ago. If this girl is following the same pattern that the others are following—"
"She'll already be sick. She's the newest one. Let's start there. What do we know?"
"I don't have as much information on this one. All I've got is her statement and the crime scene photos."
"Well then maybe you should tell me what you do know," Dean snapped. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he was sorry for them.
Sam knew a lot about his brother, but then, so did Dean. Dean knew that even though his brother had professed to be long past wanting a normal life with a house and a white picket fence in the suburbs—complete with a wife and 2.3 kids—he had a reason for it. Dean was the king of low self-esteem, yes, but Sam had some of his own. Sam would never have the white picket fence life because he would spend the rest of his life trying to overcome his destiny. He was the one that was destined to have Lucifer wear him to the prom; he was the one that was chosen by a demon to help end the world, and even though he hadn't—even though he had helped save the world more times than anyone could ever guess—he would spend the rest of his life trying do as many kind deeds as he could to make up for his destiny.
So, no, he didn't really need his brother snapping at him.
"The victim was Charlotte Preston, age twenty. She went out to a bar with her friends, got home around one o'clock and was attacked shortly afterwards. She's got red hair and green eyes like all the others. She said she saw the fiery light outside her window, felt someone sitting on her chest. Tried to get away, but she couldn't."
"Blood alcohol level?"
"Nothing. She was the designated driver for her some other friends."
"Alright. When we get there, you take talk to the girl. I'll head to the bar and see what I can find."
For the next hour and seventeen minutes, Sam looked over the files he had and took note of anything interesting. He kept Dean up to date on the little things he noticed; normally, Dean wouldn't be interested in all the gory little medical details. This time, he ate them up. Every detail that Sam threw at him, he devoured and committed completely to memory.
"Let me know what you find out," Dean told Sam as he dropped him off at the hospital.
"Yeah. I'll meet you at the motel."
After traveling on the road for the many years that they had, they knew their way around choosing skeezy motels. There was one right off the interstate that was everything they were looking for: sketchy enough to keep away any real decent clientele, but safe enough that they didn't have to worry about their room being broken into while they weren't there. Sam knew that Dean had the same little motel in mind and that they really didn't need to spell it out for each other.
Sam had barely set foot out of the car when the Impala peeled away, tires squealing, leaving the younger Winchester staring at tail lights and wondering what the hell was going on.
As soon as Sam was out of the car, Dean whipped out his phone and dialed Bobby. Before the older man even had a chance to ask questions, Dean was already giving him orders.
"Bobby, we're working at case in Winston-Salem, at Wake Forest. The name is Cason Butler. I need you to find me anything and everything that you can find about her and call me back."
"Dean, what's this for—"
But it was too late. Dean had already hung up.
Dean pulled up in front of the bar where Charlotte Preston had spent the evening before her attack four minutes later. It wasn't the hole-in-the-wall type of dive that he was used to sitting in, the type where he could pick up a date for the evening and impress her with bad booze. Instead, it was respectable. Not the kind of place where women would wear cocktail dresses and men would wear a coat and tie, but it was nice enough. Somewhere where friends could go to have a drink, or maybe where co-workers could go get a casual drink after work.
As he pushed the door open, he eyes the bar staff. There's more than one bartender on duty, and they're all wearing button down shirts in various colors paired with dark blue jeans. He knows that sometimes places like this one will have rotations so that their staff don't get burned out, but he's also willing to bet that there's at least one person who was working last night. He took a seat at the bar to wait for a bartender to take his order. He didn't have to wait long.
"You look like you've had a long day. I'm betting you're a whiskey man."
The voice was young and female with just the right edge of lightness. It was the kind of tone that would make a desperate man spill all his secrets and make a teetotaler buy a drink. The voice was familiar—he had been reliving it over and over again in his head for the past seven months.
He studied the bartender that had spoken. She was young—twenty-four to be exact—but she handled herself like someone older. Her red hair was pulled back out of her face in a ponytail, but he still found himself fascinated by the way it swished around her neck. The green button down that she was wearing brought out her eyes—and the makeup helped a little bit—and she looked beautiful.
She didn't look the same as she had the last time he'd seen her, but she was just as beautiful. The tired circles that he had seen under her eyes last time were gone; she didn't have the worry lines around her mouth. The determined glint he had seen in her eyes was now playful. But her smile was the same. It was still a smile that could turn razor sharp in a minute or that could charm the birds from their nests.
"Are you alright?" she asked when he didn't answer her.
"I'm doing just fine. I'm Dean," he answered, extending his hand.
"And do you have a last name, Dean?"
"Winchester. Dean Winchester."
"Well, it's nice to meet you Dean Winchester. I'm Cason. Cason Butler," she said, shaking his hand. When her fingers touched his, he was struck by how very familiar it felt. She held on for a long time and didn't let go. When she finally did release his hand, she kept staring at him.
"It's nice to meet you too, Cason. I'm wondering if you could help me out. I'm with the FBI, and we're investigating the recent string of sexual assaults in the area. I was wondering if you could find me someone who was working here last night."
"I'll have to pull up a schedule to get you the full list, but I was head bartender last night. What can I help you with?"
He pulled a photo of Charlotte Preston out of his pocket. "Do you know this woman?"
"Yeah. That's Charlie. She's in here all the time. She's not old enough to drink yet, so we legally probably shouldn't be letting her in here, but she never tries to buy booze. She's just the designated driver for her friends. Why? Did something happen to Charlie?"
He took a deep breath and tried to focus on how grateful he was that she was safe. Even if he had to deliver bad news for the rest of his life, at least she would be safe.
"Early this morning, Charlie was attacked and sexually assaulted in her home. I'm investigating the case."
He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but it wasn't what he got. Maybe he should have known better than to expect tears and hysterics—yeah, he did know better than to expect tears and hysterics—but he was still shocked when she started swearing a blue streak. Apparently, the other patrons of the bar were, too, because they all started to give them strange and disapproving looks.
"Is she…okay? I mean, obviously after something like that, 'okay' is a relative term, I guess. Is she…?"
"She was admitted to the hospital several hours ago with a high fever. Otherwise, she seems to be physically alright."
"Shit. Fuck. That couldn't have happened to…Charlie's a good kid, you know? She keeps herself together, doesn't do drugs. Hell, she doesn't even drink yet. Seems too damn unfair that shit like this has to happen to a good person like her."
"A good kid? You can't be that much older than her," Dean said.
Cason smiled sadly. "Four years. Charlie has a good head on her shoulders, but she isn't…she isn't a worldly woman, if you know what I mean. She likes to think that everyone is as good as she is, which means that sometimes she puts blinders on to the things she doesn't want to see."
"Did she put blinders on about any of the people she hangs out with?"
"No. They're a solid group. Maybe one or two that drink a little much, but she's the type to take care of them and hope that they grow out of it. Confrontation isn't really her thing."
"Did you notice anyone hanging around that doesn't usually hang around with her? Anyone trying to buy her drinks?" Dean asked.
Cason shook her head. "No. I mean, not anyone unusual. There's this guy—Miles—who always tries to buy her a drink, but she always turns him down. She's pretty polite about it, too, and he always takes it like a champ. I think it's more of a game now than anything. Truthfully, though, when she's old enough to drink, I think she'll accept it," she explained. Eyeing a patron at the end of the bar, she flagged down one of the passing staff. "Hey, I'm cutting Frank off. He's already had one too many. If he wants anything, tell him he can have water and if he doesn't like it, he can take it up with me."
He wondered what she would say if she knew that two of the previous victims were dead and that the other two were well on their way to joining them. She wasn't an idiot—though he had known that going in—and would probably pick up on the pattern pretty quickly. After hearing what she had to say about Charlie, he knew that she would be upset.
"You're pretty observant," he commented, eyeing the man at the end of the bar. He was a short, stocky man in his late twenties, and unless he had been looking closely, Dean never would have noticed that he was drunk. Dean also wouldn't have noticed that he'd seen this guy before—very shortly before he'd seen Cason last time.
"I've worked here since I was old enough to tend bar. I should know everyone at this point. Do you have any more questions for me?" she asked.
"Yeah," he answered, though his tone said that they had nothing to do with his investigation. "In the past two weeks, five young women with red hair—"
"—Have been raped, and you want to know why I haven't dyed my hair," she finished for him.
"Something like that, yeah."
"I'm not going to let some sick son of a bitch change me. From what I've read, a lot of rapists that follow a pattern want their victims to be afraid, and I refuse to let him make me afraid."
"Even if it means putting yourself at risk?"
She grinned wickedly. "I've taken some precautions to lessen the risk. My dad bought me a pistol for my—"
"Twenty-first birthday," he finished, before he could stop himself.
She stared at him. "How did you know that?"
"That's the legal age that you can buy handgun ammunition in the state of North Carolina. Safe guess," he said with a grin, trying to seem less like a stalker. "You realize that you're not supposed to have guns in a bar, right?"
She grinned. "Amongst us female staff, we have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. It works wonderfully. Now, if you don't have any more questions about your case, I really should get back to work."
"Yeah, of course. Thank you for your help."
"If you have any more questions, I'll be here." She started to wipe down the bar as he walked away. She called after him. "Hey, you gonna have that shot?"
He turned back to see her holding up a shot of whiskey.
"What makes you think I want a shot?"
"You look like someone beat you like a red-headed stepchild. You want a drink, but you don't have time to sit in a bar and sip it, so you're going to have to make do with a shot."
He took the shot from her hand and tossed it back. It was smooth on the way down and warmed him to his toes, definitely higher quality than he was used to drinking. He eyed the top shelf behind the bar and saw several bottles of bourbon whiskey that would have made even the best critic proud.
"What is this?"
"Knob Creek. Kentucky bourbon whiskey. 100 proof. Catch the asshole who hurt Charlie, and you can have another one, on the house."
He nodded as he left the bar. As he walked to the car, he contemplated sitting in it and waiting until the bar closed at two before heading back to the motel. Then he remembered that Sam was waiting on him and that the faster he solved this case, the faster he could guarantee that Cason would be safe. Besides, he knew a thing or two about her self-defense abilities, which were nothing to laugh at.
Sam's expression as he saw his brother walk through the door of their motel room was nothing to laugh at, either. Normally, Dean would brush it off as a serious case of bitch-face. This time, though, he was holding a picture of Cason in his hand, complete with several sheets of paper.
"You want to tell me what this is about?" Sam asked.
"How'd you get—"
"When you called Bobby, he got to looking. Since we work our cases together—or, we used to, anyway—he sent the information to me. Now, who is this girl, Dean?"
"Her name came up in the investigation—"
"You called Bobby before you even went to the bar. I'm not stupid, Dean. Ever since you got back from your little stroll down futuristic lane, you've been off. I don't know what you saw in the future, since you don't want to tell me everything, but I'm smart enough to know that it has something to do with this girl. You've been saying her name in your sleep," Sam said.
"After we beat Lucifer…you were saying her name in your sleep. So tell me, who is this girl, and what's so important about her that you drop everything and go running half way across the country?"