SUMMARY: A vampire hunt takes an unexpected twist, leaving Dean fighting for his life and Sam fighting for a way to save him. What he finds is a little 'outside-the-box' – even for a Winchester. Set mid-season Two.
RATING: T for mild language, some adult imagery
DISCLAIMER: Once again, I am borrowing the wonderful Winchesters, for fun – not profit, from Eric Kripke & Co to be the stars of this fic. I own only the SN DVD sets for Season One through Five.
A/N: In the course of doing research for another fic, I tripped across a legend told in a classic folk song. It seemed to me a perfect fit for the Winchesters and became the basis for this story. More on the legend/song at the end of the fic so as not to spoil things. A great big thanks to Harrigan for the speedy beta and her friendship. Both chapters are being posted simultaneously. I hope you enjoy.
THE WOUNDED KNIGHT
"Mr. Young, please. Your brother is in no condition to leave this hospital."
The doctor was almost jogging, trying to keep up with Sam's long strides as he pushed Dean's wheelchair down the corridor.
"Sorry, doc, but you heard Dean." Sam kept moving toward the exit. "You have the AMA papers. We-"
"This has nothing to do with malpractice, and everything to do with my patient." Dr. Emily O'Brien grabbed Sam by the arm, forcing him to stop and face her. "The virus is still active in his system. His blood volume is down and will keep dropping because his red blood cells are not reproducing the way they should. If we don't keep transfusing him-"
"It's my call, doc." Dean looked up from his wheelchair, his skin drained of any color, dark shadows underscoring his eyes. "You said yourself, you don't have a cure for this."
"That doesn't mean we can't find one." Dr. O'Brien, a tiny, attractive brunette, moved in front of Dean. "I've sent samples of the virus to the CDC, to the Poison Control Center, to the university research lab. There are more tests we can do here. It's way too soon to give up. We-"
"No." Dean motioned weakly for Sam to start moving again. "I'm not a lab rat. I'm done."
Sam glanced worriedly down at Dean, but steered the wheelchair around the doctor and resumed their trek to the exit.
Dr. O'Brien again fell in step beside them. "I can call a judge, have you declared a ward of the state. That would-"
"Just be a waste of everyone's time." Dean kept his gaze fixed on the exit. "We'll be across the state line before the ink's dry on the paperwork."
The hospital's glass doors opened automatically, and Sam pushed Dean outside to the Impala, which was parked at the curb. "Look, doc…" Sam pulled open the passenger side door and bent down to help Dean into the car. "If I thought it would help, I'd make him stay. Tie him to the bed if I had to." He ignored the look his brother shot him as he settled Dean into the passenger seat. "But odds are, your lab's not…not gonna come up with a cure in time to help him." His voice caught on the words, and he angrily shoved the empty wheelchair to the side. "So I'm… I'm following his wishes and I'm taking him home. I'm asking you to respect that."
Dr. O'Brien stared at Sam for a long moment, then turned to Dean while pulling a prescription pad and pen from her pocket. "Against my better judgment, I will – but don't think that means I won't keep working on this." She scribbled on the pad, ripped off the sheet, then pressed the folded piece of paper into Dean's hand. "That's my office number and my cell. You change your mind, you call me. I have your number. If we come up with anything-"
"Yeah." Dean curled his fingers around the piece of paper. "But thanks – you know, for giving it your best shot."
The doctor nodded but looked far from happy. She stepped back from the car, allowing Sam to close the door. He nodded his thanks, then moved quickly to the driver's side and slid behind the wheel.
With a twist of the key, the Impala's engine rumbled to life. Sam put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb; a glance in the rearview mirror showed the doctor shaking her head as she watched them drive away.
Sam shifted his attention to Dean, who shivered as he huddled against the door. "You sure about this?"
Dean forced a grin and waved the piece of paper at his brother. "I've still got it, Sammy. Even looking like crap, I can still get the hot chick's number."
"I'm sure." Dean dropped the paper on the seat. "You said it yourself, they can't fix this. The virus is supernatural. I don't care how many tests the doc does, she's not gonna find a cure."
"But I might, and Bobby's looking, too, and Ayelén." Sam's knuckles whitened as he squeezed the steering wheel, "But until we find…something, Doc O'Brien can keep giving you transfusions, replace the red-blood cells the virus is destroying."
"No." Dean's glare was weak but still made his point. "No more hospitals."
Sam slammed his fist into the wheel in frustration. "This…virus, it's not in the lore, it shouldn't exist. This shouldn't be happening to you."
"But it is." Dean shivered again and pulled his jacket more tightly around him. "Lore's just a game of telephone, and something got lost in transmission." He glanced out the window, watching the Impala eat up the blacktop. "Bottom line, I'm not gonna waste away in a hospital bed. I want a case of El Sol, I wanna watch Butch and Sundance. Then, if it comes down to it… if we can't find something to fix this… I'll eat a bullet. Go out on my terms."
"No." Sam shook his head. "No way."
"Yeah, Sammy." Dean was losing the battle to keep his eyes open. "My crap luck. My call."
"Well, it won't come to that. You..." All the fight went out of Sam when he saw his brother was asleep, head resting against the window, his arms still wrapped around his torso, pulling his jacket tight. Sam reached over and pressed his fingers against Dean's neck, but there was little reassurance from the slow but steady pulse.
Sam cranked up the heat, wishing he'd grabbed a blanket from the trunk for Dean, then turned his attention back to the road. He slammed his fist into the wheel again; this case had been jacked from the get-go. They'd come to town expecting a vampire fight and now Dean was dying from a virus that shouldn't even exist.
He glanced again at his brother and watched him sleep; pretty much what he'd done for the past three days. And as doctors ran every medical test at their disposal, he and Bobby had researched every supernatural means they could think of to neutralize the virus. So far, both camps had come up empty, but now…now Sam had a lead.
It was the reason he hadn't fought Dean too hard when his brother insisted on leaving the hospital. If what he'd found was legit, it just might be what they needed to cure Dean. Oh, it was crazy, buckets of crazy – Sam would be the first to admit that – and Dean was going to fight him on it, no question, but it just might be the answer.
Once back at the motel, he'd get Dean settled, check in with Bobby, then make a few more calls.
One week earlier…
"I don't get it." Sam pulled the sheath from his machete and tossed it back in the car. "Three abandoned buildings, all perfect for a nest, but no sign of a vamp anywhere. What are we missing?"
"A nest of vamps, for starters." Dean slammed shut the trunk after grabbing his own machete. He pointed with it to the rust-covered warehouse in front of them. "Let's see what's behind Door Number Four."
The brothers had rolled into Hartford, Connecticut the previous night to investigate what appeared to be a series of vampire attacks. Five people were dead, each body drained of blood, each victim bearing fang marks. After scamming copies of the police reports and coroner files on each murder and noting the location of each crime scene, they'd defined the probable hunting ground and begun checking out potential nest sites. The abandoned printing plant in front of them fit the bill, but then so had each of the previous three buildings, all of which proved empty.
Sam picked the lock and slowly pulled open the door, wincing when the hinges groaned almost as loudly as the Impala's. Dean warily entered first, machete raised. Sam followed close behind.
Once he was sure the lobby was clear, Dean gestured for Sam to go left while he went right.
Sam nodded and moved off to the side. The lobby ran along the front of the warehouse, linking two long corridors which ran the length of the building on each side. Offices flanked each corridor, the two banks of offices framing the printing plant in the centre.
Sam crept along the wall, glanced over his shoulder to see that Dean was doing the same thing, then peered around the corner. The corridor was empty, the doors to the offices open, at least as far as he could see. He turned and signalled to Dean that the way appeared clear, receiving the same signal back. Dean then disappeared around the corner, and Sam did the same.
The first two offices Sam checked were empty but as he approached the third, he heard a strange, high-pitched whistling, soft at first, but growing increasingly louder as he neared the open doorway. He frowned; no vampire made a noise like that.
His hand was halfway to his pocket, reaching for his phone, when his vision blurred and dizziness almost toppled him. He dropped the machete and slumped against the doorjamb, the whistling filling his head. He screwed his eyes shut and tried to lift his hands to cover his ears but his arms stayed stubbornly, limply, at his sides.
He had to call Dean and warn him. Tell him… Sam lifted his head and peered into the darkness beyond the open doorway.
No…He had to go inside…see what was in there. He pushed himself off the wall and moved robotically into the room, the whistling controlling him, pulling him in.
He blinked as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, the only illumination the spill from the security lights in the hallway behind him. The whistling in his head was now punctuated by a soft hissing, Sam scanned the shadows. His gaze jumped to the far corner when something moved. Whatever it was froze briefly then, still masked by shadow, moved toward him.
Sam's legs gave out without warning. He toppled backwards, hitting the wall at the side of the door and sliding down it. He landed on his ass, legs splayed out in front of him, arms falling limply to his sides.
The whistling and hissing stopped abruptly, Sam's harsh breathing the only sound breaking the sudden silence. He couldn't move, couldn't look away as the thing in the shadows came toward him. It slid through the shaft of light from the hall and Sam's breathing hitched as he got his first look: it was a massive snake.
It was as big as an anaconda, but jet black with a greyish-white underbelly and blood red eyes. Sam's breathing sped up as it slithered soundlessly closer, forked tongue testing the air. Its red eyes stayed locked on him, even as it reached his side, slid over his legs and reared up so its head was level with his.
Sam felt like his heart was about to punch its way out of his chest, but he couldn't move and the snake didn't, except for the occasional flick of its tongue. Then, in a blur of movement, it stretched open its mouth, the fangs in its upper and lower jaws lengthening, and dropped, burying those fangs into the exposed skin of Sam's forearm and biting down hard.
Sam screamed silently, his voice like his body, not his to control. There was momentary pain, pressure on his arm like it was being crushed in a vise and then rapidly increasing light-headedness. He stared at the snake, realization quickly turning to shock: it wasn't injecting him with poison – it was siphoning his blood.
The snake was the vampire they'd been hunting.
He wanted to pull it off him, he wanted to grab his machete and cut its head off but, still paralyzed by whatever the snake had done to him, he could only watch in morbid fascination as it fed.
Sam's gaze snapped upwards when a shadow loomed over him.
Dean appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and turned Sam's thoughts to action. His machete glinted in the security lights as he brought in down on the reptile's neck – but the blade didn't behead it; even with the force of Dean's fury, it just glanced off the snake's skin.
With a sound that was half scream, half piercing whistle, the snake ripped its attention, and fangs, from Sam and turned on Dean.
Dean stumbled backward, tossing aside the machete and yanking his gun from his waistband as the snake lunged at him. He then scrambled to the left, staying out of the snake's reach and pulling it away from Sam.
The snake froze abruptly after testing the air with its tongue.
Take the shot. Take the shot. As much as Sam silently willed Dean to pull the trigger, he knew his brother wouldn't shoot until he was sure he wouldn't hit Sam in the process.
As Dean sidestepped slowly, getting into position for a clean shot, the snake suddenly morphed…into what, Sam wasn't sure, but its body began to shrink, wings unfolded from its back and its head elongated. It screamed as it launched itself into the air, and disappeared through a large hole in the ceiling, chased by three bullets from Dean's gun.
Dean kept his weapon trained on the snake's exit until he was sure it, or whatever it had become, wasn't coming back. Then, his attention quickly turned to his brother.
"Sammy?" He crouched down beside Sam, placing his gun on the floor, within easy reach. "Talk to me."
Sam wished he could. The snake's hypnotic paralysis was wearing off, but he just couldn't get his voice to work. He turned from Dean to stare at his right arm, the puncture marks jagged and torn after the snake had wrenched out his fangs to go after Dean. Blood ran heavily from the wound.
"I see it." Dean reached in his pocket for his flask of holy water, flashed an apologetic smile, then poured the water on the snake bite.
Sam's voice came back in an agonized yell, the holy water bubbling and frothing on his skin, his back arching and every muscle tensing as pain shot through him like an electrical current. It hit hard and fast, and then it was over. Sam slumped back against the wall, chest rising and falling rapidly, and nodded at Dean. "Thanks."
Dean pulled a kerchief from his pocket and quickly bound the wound on Sam's arm. "Hospital's not far. We'll have you there in no time. Just have to figure out what kind of poison we're dealing with."
"No poison…" Sam cleared his throat and blinked against a wave of dizziness. "It was…drinking my blood."
"Drinking…" Dean's eyes widened. "That thing was the vampire we're looking for?"
Sam shrugged. He'd had a front row seat, and he was having a hard time processing it, too.
"Son of a bitch." Dean pressed his fingers against Sam's neck, taking his pulse. "Doesn't mean there's no poison, though. Can you walk? Just to the front door, then I'll get the car."
Sam swallowed. "Yeah."
"Then let's get the hell outta here before that…thing comes back." Dean pulled Sam's arm over his shoulders, slid his arm around Sam's back and hauled him to his feet.
Sam closed his eyes while he found his equilibrium and felt Dean tighten his hold.
"Damn, Sammy. It drink you dry?"
Sam wanted to say he was fine, but he knew how heavily he was leaning on his brother, how tired he felt. He frowned as he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. "At the hospital - what the hell do say bit me?"
Dean guided Sam toward the door, and the Impala. "We say we don't know. And, for once, that's the god's honest truth."
Sam woke with a start. He still lay on a gurney in the treatment bay, curtains pulled around him for privacy. Two IVs were connected to his left arm, one in the back of his hand delivering fluids, the other at his elbow replenishing the blood the snake had taken. He was tired, but felt a hell of lot better than he did when Dean had first hauled him into the ER.
He frowned when he realized that Dean wasn't parked in the chair at the side of his bed, as he had been when Sam fell asleep, then jumped when the curtain at the bottom of the gurney was pulled back suddenly. Dr. Ben Kaplan, the ER physician assigned to Sam's case, smiled. "Sorry, didn't mean to startle you. Feeling better?"
Sam nodded. "Yeah. Where's Dean – my brother?"
Dr. Kaplan, a sixty-something, grandfatherly type, moved to Sam's side. "After making me swear on my first-born grandchild that you were out of any danger, he said he had a couple of things to take care of, and to tell you he'd be back as soon as possible."
Sam smiled. That sounded like Dean. "When can I get out of here?"
Dr. Kaplan inflated the blood pressure cuff wrapped around Sam's right arm. After checking the reading, he nodded slowly. "Your pressure's rebounding nicely. Another hour or two, and we'll talk." He peeled back the bandage that covered the snake bite on Sam's arm and shook his head. "You were damn lucky it was a dry bite. Without knowing what kind of snake-"
"I know." Sam studied the bite mark; there were two large puncture wounds on the inside of his arm, two smaller holes on the outside of arm where the snake's lower fangs had locked on. "So there's no trace of poison?"
Dr. Kaplan shook his head as he reached for a clean bandage. "We got your blood work back from the lab; it's clean. There's some minor infection at the wound site, so we've put an antiobiotic in your IV as a precaution and given you a tetanus shot, but the wound itself should heal quickly." He looked up at Sam. "The main thing that concerns me, is why you lost so much blood relative to the size of the bite. There's no way your blood volume should have dropped so much, so quickly."
Unless you're bitten by a vampire snake. Sam shifted uncomfortably. He was pretty sure that explanation would get him a free pass to a rubber room. "It bled a lot after I was first bitten," he offered, lamely, "until Dean got there and bandaged it."
The doctor nodded, but didn't look reassured. "I'd like to run a few more tests, to make sure there's no underlying cause, unrelated to the bite."
Sam exhaled slowly, knowing the monitor to his left would broadcast any change in his heart rate, but the last thing he needed was an extended hospital stay while well-meaning doctors poked around for a cause they weren't going to find. "I don't think-"
"What's the problem?" Dean now stood at the open curtain of the treatment bay, frowning as he picked up on the agitation beneath Sam's calm façade.
Dr. Kaplan turned to Dean. "It's not a problem, per se, but your brother's blood loss is a concern. I'd like to be sure there isn't some cause for it, unrelated to the snake bite."
Dean offered his most reassuring smile as he moved to Sam's bedside. "Doc, I appreciate you being cautious but, the business we're in, the crap we deal with, regular physicals are a must. Sammy here had one less than two months ago. He's as healthy as a horse, or was until that snake bit him."
Dr. Kaplan checked Sam's chart. "You're exterminators?"
"Family business." Dean grinned. "Like they say, it's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it. Nobody like critters in their walls."
Dr. Kaplan frowned as he turned back to Sam. "You didn't recognize the snake? I'd have thought, in your line of work, that-"
"I didn't get a good look before it disappeared into the wall," Sam cut in with a shrug before turning to Dean. "But I don't think it was domestic…definitely not one we've ever run into."
"Chances are it's someone's exotic pet that either got away or was let go when it grew too big to handle." Dean handed Sam a large bottle of orange juice he'd brought with him, then looked over at the doctor. "Now, about my brother, here – you sure that snake didn't poison him?"
Dr. Kaplan made a notation on Sam's chart. "Yes. I'm concerned about why he lost so much blood, but there was no trace of poison in any of the tests we did. Still, I'd like to look into why-"
"What if I promise to go see my own doc when we get home? You know, for a check up." Sam looked hopefully at the doctor.
Dean reassuring smile returned. "And I'll happily kick his ass if he doesn't."
"Very well." Dr. Kaplan closed the chart and looked over his glasses at Sam. "You dodged a bullet so, if you're going to go after this snake, or any snake, again – don't tempt fate. Take whatever precautions you have to so-"
"We will." Sam nodded. "Thanks, Doc."
Dr. Kaplan replaced Sam's chart in the hanging folder on the end of his bed. "I'll be back in an hour for a final check up and then we can talk about getting you home." With a nod to Dean, he left the bay and pulled the curtain closed after him.
Sam uncapped the juice and took a long drink. "Where were you?"
Dean lowered himself into the chair at Sam's bedside. "The doc said you were out of danger so, while you were sleeping, I wanted to do some research to figure out what the hell it was that bit you."
"And…" Sam looked expectantly at his brother.
"And," Dean pulled a folded piece of paper from his inside jacket pocket and handed it to Sam, "the little bastard is a Peuchen."
Sam quickly capped the bottle of juice, took the paper from Dean and unfolded it. It contained a picture of the creature and a brief description. "A blood-sucking, winged snake…" He looked up at Dean, "with shape-shifting abilities?"
Dean nodded as he sat back. "Apparently, it's a distant cousin of the chupacabra. It mesmerizes its victims into paralysis, then sucks them dry. But, if threatened, it can also shapeshift into just about any animal form."
Sam was still reading. "How'd you narrow it down to this thing?"
Dean feigned hurt. "You not the only one who can do research, you know." When Sam shot him a look, Dean grinned. "On the drive over here, when you were blathering on about the area where the vamp attacks had taken place, you said something about it being home to a large number of Chilean immigrants."
Sam frowned. "I didn't think you were listening."
Dean shrugged. "I wasn't, but for some reason, that bit stuck. Anyway, I started digging through Chilean lore, and there it was. I'm guessing the Peuchen hitched a ride with one of the immigrant families when they came to this country."
Sam looked again at the picture of the snake, and shuddered. He could still hear the strange whistling that had robbed him of control then paralyzed him, still see the Peuchen's huge eyes and the blood red gaze that-
He jumped at his brother's voice. "I'm good." Sam cleared his throat. "So how do we get rid of it?"
"We need a machi, which is a shaman or medicine woman of the Malpuche tribe."
Sam snorted. "And just how the hell do we find one of those in Connecticut?"
Dean grinned. "Once again, little brother, you underestimate me. It's yin and yang. When evil's around, there's usually something to protect people from it. So…," he pointed to the bottle of juice he'd given Sam, "I stopped at this little bodega on the way back here, picked up that, and had a chat with the muy caliente senorita behind the counter."
Sam turned back to the information of the Peuchen. "Don't tell me - this hot chick, she's the, what did you call it, the machi?"
"No. But..." Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out a receipt with writing scrawled on the back, "the Chilean community around here is apparently pretty tight. Everybody knows everybody. So, the lovely Isabella gave me the name of someone who is a machi. I had Bobby check her out and looks like she's the real deal, so I have an appointment to see her this afternoon."
"Drink this." Ayelén Lloncon passed a small, ceramic cup to Sam. When he hesitated, she motioned again with the cup. "You must drink – to restore your strength."
Sam had been released from the hospital only a couple of hours earlier. Dean had wanted to drop him off at their motel while he met with the machi, but Sam had insisted on coming along. He was steady on his feet, but still pale and the climb to Senora Lloncon's fourth-story walk-up had sapped much of what little strength he'd recovered.
That fact did not go unnoticed by the machi. Even as the brothers introduced themselves, her dark eyes studied Sam and took in the bandage on his arm. She welcomed them into her small but tidy apartment and directed them to take a seat on a large couch covered in brightly coloured throws. She disappeared into an adjacent room, returning a few minutes later with the drink for Sam.
He shook his head. "Thank you, but I'm okay."
The small, fifty-something woman smiled. "You are wise to be cautious, but the Peuchen has left you weak. This tea will restore the balance."
The brothers both startled at her use of the word Peuchen. Dean hadn't mentioned the purpose of their visit.
Dean leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. "How did you know about the Peuchen?"
Ayelén placed the cup on the table beside Sam, her attention still on him. "I smell him on you."
Dean snorted as he glanced over at Sam. "Told you you should've showered first."
"It's been many years since I last saw one," Ayelén moved to a chair opposite the couch and sat down, "but it's a scent I'll never forget."
Sam subconsciously ran his fingers over the bandage on his arm. "You knew it was here?"
Ayelén shrugged. "I suspected. I read in the papers of the deaths, of the victims drained of blood but, until I picked up its scent on you, I did not know for a fact." Again, she studied the two of them. "Certainly, it is not a suspect the police are seeking. How did you come to hunt it?"
"It's what we do." Dean sat back. "Course, we came to town expecting to find a two-legged vampire. Had no idea this thing existed 'til…," he glanced at his brother, "'til it went after Sammy."
Ayelén played with the beads of her long necklace. "It is a powerful creature. Its scales are like armour, will repel all but a silver blade. It mesmerizes its victims or those who would attack it, takes control so they are helpless… easy prey. And then it feeds." She turned to Sam. "But you know all this – too well, I fear."
"Yeah…" Sam felt sick, the memory of the Peuchen's attack still too fresh, but the nausea subsided when he focused on one thing the machi had said. "Except the part about the silver knife – that can kill it?"
Ayelén nodded. "There is an incantation to read first, other magic to neutralize its hypnotic powers, and to mask your presence, but yes – silver can kill it."
"That explains…" Sam turned to Dean. "I wondered why the Peuchen didn't go after you."
Dean shot him a look. "Gee, thanks, Sammy."
Sam shifted in his seat to face his brother. "What was the first thing we did when we rolled into the state yesterday?"
Dean frowned. "Stopped at that pawn shop."
Sam nodded. "Yeah, to pick up old silver jewelry to make into bullets. What'd you do with the jewelry?"
"Nothing." Dean reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a small plastic bag, full of broken necklaces and odd earrings – all made of sterling silver. "It's still…oh."
"Yeah. Snakes have an acute sense of smell. If the Peuchen could smell this," Sam tapped the bag of jewelry, "it wouldn't know what form the silver was in – it would just know that you had the means to kill it. That's why it changed into… whatever the hell that was, and took off."
Dean's knuckles whitened as he squeezed the bag of silver. "Okay, so I swap this for some silver bullets, then we launch Round Two." He turned to Ayelén. "How do we draw it out into the open so I can plug the son of bitch?"
Ayelén's gaze was locked on Dean, as if trying to decipher his many layers. "You have no fear of this creature."
Dean shrugged. "It almost killed Sam… did kill five other people. It's overdue a little payback."
"I see." The machi smiled and glanced over at Sam. "Despite his size, he is the little brother, no? Always yours to protect."
"We look out for each other," Sam cut in. "So, you'll help us…. with the incantation? With the magic?"
"Yes. But on one condition." Ayelén smiled at Sam's raised eyebrow, and gestured to the cup on the table beside him. "Drink that, and you'll have my help. You must be strong if we are to confront the Peuchen."
When Sam hesitated, Dean jumped in. "We have our own condition. Look, you seem like a nice lady and you come with good references, but we just met." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the flask of holy water. "Now, I want Sam better, too, so he'll drink up if you drink this."
Sam's eyes widened. "Dean…"
"No offense," Dean ignored Sam's protest and offered Ayelén the flask, "but we've been burned before by enemies posing as friends."
The machi's dark eyes showed no surprise, no anger. "I sense much betrayal in your lives, so..." She stood up, took the flask from Dean and took a long drink. After handing back the flask, she smiled at Sam. "See, my only motive is to see you recover your strength."
"And you do look like crap," Dean gave his brother an elbow in the ribs, "so down the hatch."
Sam shot Dean a look, but picked up the cup, forced a smile at Ayelén, and downed the contents in one go. His face crumpled in disgust as soon as he swallowed. "God!" His eyes were watering as he looked at the machi. "What the hell was in that?"
Ayelén chuckled. "You don't want to know, but the bad taste will fade quickly. Soon, you'll feel better. That, I promise." She took the cup from Sam. "Now, I shall find my book and, together, we shall take care of this Peuchen."
Ayelén nodded at Dean as she finished reading the incantation, raised her knife and slashed the inside of his forearm, allowing the blood to drip into the circle drawn on the floor.
They were back at the abandoned printing plant, in the office where Sam had been attacked, the machi believing the connection to the Peuchen would be strongest in the place it was last seen. She had drawn a series of symbols on the floor, scattered the contents of a small cloth bag over them, then read the summoning spell.
Blood was final ingredient. Sam had wanted to be the bait, citing unfinished business, but Dean had dismissed the offer outright. While Sam looked much better, thanks in part to Ayelén's tea, Dean knew the last thing his brother needed was more blood loss. So, Dean was the bait while Sam held the gun loaded with silver bullets.
Once Dean's arm was cut, Ayelén and Sam melted into the shadows, masked by magic, leaving Dean alone in the centre of the room.
He exhaled slowly, keeping his heart rate steady, as he scanned the office. There was still the hole in the ceiling where the Peuchen had disappeared after attacking Sam, there was the doorway to the hall and, unnoticed the first time they'd been in the room, three holes in the walls where neglect or four-legged tenants had eaten away at the drywall. The snake could enter through any of them.
Dean had been pacing inside the circle for more than fifteen minutes when he first heard the noise: a faint whistling, distant but growing louder.
Sam's whisper came from over Dean's right shoulder. "You okay? Still in control?"
Dean nodded, clenching and unclenching his fists and shifting his weight from one foot to the other just to be sure. "All limbs still working."
"Here." Sam couldn't quite mask the worry in his voice. "Take the silver knife – just as back up."
"Uh-uh." Dean kept scanning the space for any sign of the Peuchen. "If it can smell silver, it won't come after me. Now shut up." He swallowed. "Just shoot the damn thing when it shows – and don't miss."
He spun around when the whistling seemed to get louder to his left, but there was nothing there. Then the noise intensified above him, originating from the hole in the ceiling. He took a step forward to peer up into that space, but the noise shifted to a hole in the wall down by his feet. "Son of a bitch."
Ayelén had warned them that the Peuchen may sense magic at work. Thanks to her incantations, it wouldn't be able to see her or Sam, wouldn't be able to control Dean, but it would be wary. She believed, however, that its hunger for blood would ultimately override any mistrust.
That belief proved sound when Dean picked up on a soft hiss through the whistling filling his head, and that hiss came from above him. His head snapped up, and he saw it – glowing red eyes staring down at him from the pitch black inside the hole.
"There you are, you little bastard." Dean slowly lifted his bloody arm. "Chow time. Come and get it."
But the Peuchen just maintained its hypnotic whistle, and kept its unblinking gaze locked on Dean. Neither of them moved.
How long the stare-down lasted, Dean wasn't sure but when the Peuchen attacked, it was with lightning-fast speed. It launched itself at Dean, fangs extended. Dean dove out of its reach, rolled to his feet and found himself staring right at the creature, the Peuchen rearing back to strike. It darted toward Dean just as Sam's shot rang out, the report deafening in the confined space.
Sam's aim was true, but the shot wasn't fatal. The Peuchen flipped twice with the force of the hit then, as it righted itself, wings extended from its back, and it began to morph.
Dean's heart rate sped up as the creature lifted off the ground: it knew it was in trouble and, like before, was making a run for it. He launched himself at it, grabbing it in mid-air, the Peuchen snapping at his arm as his hands locked onto it.
Sam stepped from the shadows, gun raised, as Dean spun around and threw the creature against the wall. It hit hard and dropped.
Sam shifted his aim and fired three shots, all three hitting the target. The Peuchen screamed, its body jerking with each hit, and then it stilled.
Ayelén appeared suddenly beside Sam, reciting another incantation. As she finished, she pulled a silver, ceremonial dagger from a sheath on her belt and handed it to Dean. "Finish it."
Dean took the knife, dropped to one knee and drove the dagger through the base of the Peuchen's skull. The snake's body grayed and turned to dust.
Still breathing heavily, Dean pushed himself to his feet and smiled at Ayelén as he handed back her knife. "It's finished."
"Dean, it got you." Sam stowed his gun in his waistband and snapped on his flashlight to inspect the two jagged bites that now joined the ceremonial cut on his brother's arm.
Dean waved his hand dismissively. "It's not poisonous and it didn't have time to feed. I'm fine."
Sam snatched the small duffel from the corner of the room, and pulled out the bottle of holy water. "Why the hell didn't you just drop, give me a clean shot?"
"That – son of a bitch!" Dean swore as Sam poured holy water over the wound. "That thing was fast and morphing." He glanced over at Ayelén. "Would the silver bullet still work if it turned into…something else?"
The machi was gathering up her things. "You pose a good question. In whatever form it takes, it is still a Peuchen, but I have only ever known of it being killed in its natural form."
"Well, I wasn't taking chances. No damn way was there gonna be a Round Three with that thing." Dean looked on as Sam pulled a bandage from their field kit and quickly wrapped the bite. "I kept it in the room, you shot it. We're done." He shrugged. "That's worth a little scratch."
Ayelén looked from one brother to the other and nodded. "You are a good team."
"I dunno." Dean grinned. "There's been a few times I've wanted to put Sammy here on waivers. Ow!" He scowled at Sam who had pressed the tape onto the bandage with a little more force than necessary.
Ayelén shook her head. "Come. We will go to my place. I must make you some tea – to be sure you stay well."
Dean's face fell. "That crap…I mean, that tea you made Sam drink?"
Now it was Sam's turn to grin as he swung the duffel over his shoulder. "Come on, Dean. Don't be a baby." He clapped his brother on the back. "Besides, it only tastes bad…really bad…for a minute."
"But…" Dean fell in step behind Sam and Ayelén as they walked back to the Impala. "I didn't lose much blood. Not like Sam. I'm fine. Really."
Ayelén smiled. "It's good to be sure. I will make you the tea."
"But…I…" Dean lowered his voice as he leaned toward Sam. "Seriously, just how bad was it?"
"On a scale of one to ten…" Sam tried, and failed, to keep a straight face. "Ninety-four."
Two Days Later…
Sam turned off his razor and tossed it into his shaving kit. After running a brush through his still wet hair, he grabbed his kit, pulled open the door and crossed the motel room.
He frowned when he saw that Dean was still sleeping. "Dude, wake up." He smacked Dean's feet with his kit as he passed the bed. "It's almost nine. Day's a-wasting."
Dean startled awake and groggily lifted his head off the pillow. "What?" He rolled onto his back, scrubbing a hand over his face as he squinted up at Sam. "Where are we?"
Sam dropped his kit into his duffel bag and shook his head. "Just outside Poughkeepsie. And, yes, I know you think it's a dumb name because…" His retort died when he got a good look at his brother. "Dean, you look like crap."
Dean tossed back the covers and sat up, pulling his legs over the side of the bed with a groan. "Good morning to you, too, jerk."
"No, seriously." His brother's skin was grey, the shadows under his eyes more like bruises. "What's going on with you?"
Dean shook his head and rubbed his chest. "Think I'm coming down with something." Scowling, he batted away Sam's hand as he tried to press it against his forehead to check his temperature. "Dude, personal space."
Sam's worried frown deepened when he took in the bloody bandage on Dean's arm. "When did you last change that? If it's infected, no wonder you-"
"It's clean." Dean stared at the wrapping that covered the snake bite. "I changed it last night. I do know how – hey!"
Sam grabbed Dean's arm, pulled the tape off the bandage and quickly unwound it, ignoring his brother's weak protests. "It's been two days since you were bitten. No way should it still be bleeding." His eyes widened when he saw the wound. "This isn't healing." He looked up at Dean. "How long have you known something's off?"
Dean's breathing was shallow and audible. "Since yesterday."
"Yester-" Sam was fighting to control his temper. "And you said nothing because…?"
"Because the damn Peuchen's not poisonous and this is just a scratch." Dean shrugged. "Maybe this is normal."
"Normal?" Sam rolled his eyes, and grabbed his phone. "That thing almost drained me dry and my bite mark is almost healed. That is not normal."
Dean frowned. "Who you calling?"
"Ayelén." Sam scrolled through his address book. "She'll tell us if you bleeding out, looking like crap is normal. I'm guessing no."
"Sam-" Dean stood up, trying to grab the phone from his brother, then crumpled almost immediately, clutching his chest, his face twisted in pain. "God…
"Dean?" Sam tossed aside his phone and caught his brother in time to stop him from hitting the floor, then eased him down onto his bed. "Talk to me."
"My chest." Dean had one hand knuckled against his sternum, the other fisted in Sam's shirt as he started to wheeze. "Can't breathe."
"Forget Ayelén." Sam grabbed the car keys from the nightstand. "We're getting you to the hospital."
Dean shook his head. "Just give-"
"Shut up, Dean." Sam was scared. "The guy who's already had one heart attack before thirty doesn't get to fight me on this." His words were terse, but his hold on his brother gentle as he half-carried Dean toward the door. "We'll be there is five minutes. Just hold on."
Continued in Chapter Two…