Chapter one of a 5-10 chapter Fic. Set Season 6, after "Like a Virgin."
Disclaimer: As another fan fiction writer so eloquently put it - me no own, you no sue.
Ella had never been the type to type to take undue risk.
It was Stan's fault she was out here, in truth. Lana had gone home early for the night, complaining of cramps. Ella had had been forced to stay until one to help Stan with cleaning and closing the diner, and the inconsiderate asshole hadn't even bothered to drive her home. She only lived a few blocks away, but Riverton was easily the worst city of the metropolitan area, with more murders per capita than Detroit. She tightened her sweater around her shoulders against and imaginary chill and picked up her pace, trotting past a sleeping homeless man and his lazy-eyed dog.
The night was still and inky, as most of the street lights hadn't been functional in over a decade. She used the lighted windows of ground floor apartments and all-night check cashing stores to guide her way to her small apartment above a dry cleaner. The entrance was in an alley that was typically full of people at all hours, but that tonight was as silent as an empty tomb. Unsettled by the unusual stillness, Ella stomped up the metal stairs, terrified the noise would draw out whatever had sent everyone packing.
When the door was closed and locked behind her she leaned against it, breathing hard. Strands of her long, red hair were caught in her mouth, but she made no move to spit them out, so glad was she to be inside.
Even in daylight, her trip home was often accompanied by several lewd requests and a few loud whoops. She hated the crowded streets and constant assaults, but somehow the absence of them was worse. For the last two weeks, fewer and fewer people were on the streets. Most of the local businesses were thrilled with the development, but it made Ella more uncomfortable than she could say. Tonight, the complete vacancy of the alley had sealed the deal.
She was leaving.
She had planned to leave soon anyway – she was starting college in Lansing in a few months, and had wanted to stay in Riverton until the fall because of the cheap price of her apartment. But now, it seemed even that would be too dangerous – she was like to disappear entirely if she stayed another night. She would just-
A chair scraped against tile in the kitchen.
She froze, arresting her breathing and listening intently. He hand moved unconsciously toward the shelf beside the door where she kept a large and sharp knife. She moved carefully, praying she wouldn't knock anything over.
"It's not there."
It was a man's voice, croaky and sick. He sounded young, but frail. He had probably come looking for money or valuables, and not finding any, had waited for her to return with her wallet. He was likely a drug user – it explained the voice – and would leave if she gave him whatever money she had.
"I don't have much," she said, trying to keep her voice steady. Her purse contained about eighty dollars in tips, enough to satisfy most junkies looking for a fix. "Just take it. I won't put up a fight."
He laughed, then started coughing and didn't stop for several minutes. Ella found herself relieved; if he was really ill, she might stand a chance of fighting him off if he tried anything.
"It's not money I need, Ella," he said. The chair moved again, and she kicked herself for not putting a lamp near the door – the only light in the area came from the fixture on the kitchen ceiling, and her guest hadn't bothered to turn it on.
"What then?" Her voice was weak, but she was past caring; if he didn't want money, this would get very bad for her.
"So many things," he said. "But from you, blood. Lots of it."
She turned the knob of the door behind her, her heart trip hammering in her chest when it wouldn't turn. She turned it harder, whimpering.
"No, no, Ella," he said. "It's not going to open." She heard him stand and start toward her, and she turned around and wrestled the doorknob with all her might, tears leaking from her eyes.
"Don't cry," he said, less than a foot from her back. "I won't hurt you, I promise. You might even live. But I've got to have it, Ella. I'm sorry, I really am, but I've got to have it."
She bolted around him, tearing into the kitchen, and ran into him, standing in front of the refrigerator. She recoiled in horror, her breath coming in ragged gasps.
"Hold still," he said.
Sam woke to Dean snoring, loudly and intermittently. He would breathe normally for a while, and then a giant foghorn would blow in his throat, jerking Sam out of his near-asleep state and into full and startled wakefulness. It was annoying, but Dean was beyond tired, and as stressed out as Dean was over this wall business, he deserved a rest.
Perhaps it was better that he didn't sleep, anyway. His dreams were made of stuff Dean would have a heart attack over if he knew about, and they frightened Sam, too. He'd done things, even worse things than Dean knew, and it was better that he didn't dwell on them. Most of them couldn't be helped, he sensed, and would only serve to weaken the wall, and himself. Even as he tried to push them away, images flowed unbidden into his waking consciousness, soaked in blood and pain. He pressed his fingers against his eyelids, as if he could physically push the memories away, but it only served to hurt his eyes while he watched flashes of a dying man on the backs of his eyelids.
He sighed, turning onto his back and hoping the ceiling patterns had some advice for him. He was thinking of going out for an early breakfast when he heard Dean stirring.
Dean clapped his hands to his face and grunted, rubbing his hands against the stubble on his cheeks. "What time is it?" he asked, yawning and looking over at Sam.
Dean sat up, stretching his arms over his head. "You're up early."
"Couldn't sleep," Sam murmured. "Too much noise."
Dean looked confused, then shrugged, rolling off the mattress. "I got first shower," he called, half in the bathroom already. Sam sighed, picking up the newspaper from the day before.
When Dean emerged from the bathroom fifteen minutes later with a towel around his shoulders, Sam beckoned him over. He came, tossing the towel onto his bed.
"Maybe," Sam said. "Michigan. Bunch of people missing. Mostly locals, but one or two out-of-towners, too."
"How many we talking?" Dean opened an empty pizza box, picking up an old crust.
Sam made a face as Dean shoved the stale crust into his mouth. "Seven or eight official, but the article says there's a few vagrants missing, too. Lived in a place called Riverton. Not the best area of town."
"Think it's our kind of thing?"
"Well, they've all gone missing this month, and even for an area like this, it's enough to get attention. Couldn't hurt to check it out."
"Yeah, why not." Dean pulled on a shirt. "Maybe a fresh hunt'll convince you to leave the past where it belongs."
Sam tossed the paper onto the bed, climbing out. "Don't start, Dean."
"I'm just sayin'," Dean said with a shrug, "that it'll be good to get your mind off it, is all. Fresh start."
Sam scoffed. "I hurt people, Dean. A lot of people."
"You don't know that."
Sam gave him a look.
"Okay, so maybe you went Dexter Morgan on a few folks. But you didn't have a soul then, Sam, and now you do. I'm just trying to protect it. Sue me."
"What about the people I hurt, Dean?" Sam didn't bother with a shower; there wasn't enough hot water in the building, and it wasn't exactly warm outside. "Who protected them? They deserve more than a damn shrug and a platitude."
Sam rolled his eyes, buttoning a blue plaid shirt. "You have no idea how this feels, Dean."
"This isn't happening to you, okay? It never does. And maybe it's because you're better, or cleaner, or saved, or an angel's vessel – I don't know."
"Don't do that-"
"It's true, and you know it. Remember that hunter I killed when I got possessed? He's still dead. They have no idea what really happened to him, do they? Demon viruses, Satan, every fucking nasty dark thing loves to ride Sam Winchester."
"It wasn't like that, Sam."
Sam gave a rueful laugh, turning away. "The point is, I'm the one who gets to wake up to a pile of blood and bodies, wondering what horrible things I've done. So don't tell me to forget it, Dean. Don't tell me not to worry about it. You have no idea what it's like. None."
The motel door slammed behind him, and Dean watched as he paced in front of the window, shaking his head and murmuring to himself. Dean cleaned what he could, then grabbed their wallets and his gun and headed outside. Sam was leaning against the car, looking at something far off to his right.
"Well, MapQuest says that Riverton, Michigan is only two hundred miles from here, and that it'll take us three and a half hours to get there. Want to see if we can make it in two?" Dean wiggled his eyebrows, but Sam just sighed, opening the passenger door with a loud squeak and getting in.
"Tough crowd," Dean murmured.
He'd have to let it go for now, but eventually they would have to button up this guilt-fest that Sam was having over the people he may or may not have hurt. The kid was having nightmares, a sure sign that things were going to shit at the best of times, and the last thing they needed was for him to go exploring dark corners of his mind, looking for clues about his Van Damme period.
Dean sucked his teeth, spitting a piece of hardened pizza crust and settling behind the wheel.
They were still on the road five hours later, thanks to some road construction and a truly confusing accident. The department of transportation had narrowed the road to an alternate merge, which somehow caused an accident involving a cow and an overturned semi. Dean put the car in park, closing his eyes and resting his head against the seat. Sam was on the phone.
"Any security camera footage?" he asked someone. Dean looked over at him, interested; the area where the disappearances had happened was seedy all around, so there weren't like to be any cameras. Sam must have uncovered some new information. "Okay. Thanks, Bobby."
"How'd this thing get caught on tape? I thought he frequented the red light district."
"Not the thing; one of his victims. A woman, Ella Thomas. He dumped her from his car in front of a Detroit emergency room last night. They didn't think anything of it at first, until she started talking."
"How could they not think anything of it?" Dean frowned. "He rolled the woman out of a car in front of the emergency room. That didn't strike them as a little off the wall?"
"Apparently it's not all that uncommon," Sam said. "Lots of gang activity in this area, people trying not to get caught dropping someone off at the hospital."
Dean raised his eyebrows, then shook his head. "Dark days."
"Yeah. Anyway, she said a man was waiting for her in her apartment, saying he needed her blood. Told her he was sorry before he bled her like a cow."
"Never heard of a vamp who left a victim alive, let alone gave 'em an apology and courtesy ride to the hospital."
"I don't think it was a vamp. She was bled from her wrists and her thighs. No neck. Clean cuts, almost surgical."
"What the hell?"
"I know. Bobby couldn't get anything else. The FBI is there, they think it's a serial killer or something."
"Peachy. Like this isn't going to be hard enough without the Keystone Kops crawling up our asses." Traffic began to move and Dean restarted the car. "Bobby have any idea what this thing might be?"
"Lots of monsters like blood, but almost all of them kill their victims. Could be demons working some kind of ritual, I guess, but then why drop her at the hospital? Doesn't make sense."
"Are we sure this is even connected to the disappearances?"
"It's not guaranteed, but the girl's from Riverton, and she lives smack dab in the middle of the area where most of the missing are from. There's no way it's a coincidence."
As traffic thinned, Dean floored the pedal. "Fabulous. So we got seven missing, one woman carefully drained of blood, the feds, and an apologetic, blood-stealing-non-vamp-maybe-demon who's M. I. A."
Sam gave a sideways nod. "Sounds about right."
McNair Memorial hospital was eight stories high, though only the first four seemed to be in use; most of the windows of the upper four were dark and broken, with cheap blinds swinging in and out of the building with the breeze. The building was constructed out of old red brick, and reminded Dean of many an orphanage and mental hospital they had visited while hunting. The day was gray and drizzly, and he had to squint to keep the water out of his eyes.
The sidewalks outside were cracked and overgrown, and forty or fifty people were seated against the wall of the building, coughing and cradling various injuries. The doors were sheets of scratched and cracked glass, and the line of people stopped there. There was a security guard leaning against a steel trash can, talking to a woman with thin hair and a small child clinging to her thigh. He straightened his posture when Sam and Dean approached, smoothing nonexistent wrinkles out of his pants.
"Do you need something?" he spoke with the tone of a man who wasn't often permitted to ask questions.
"I'm Agent Sharp, and this is Agent Keen," Dean said. He ignored Sam's curious glance and raised his eyebrows at the Rent-A-Cop. "We're here to speak to a witness, an…" Dean pulled out a note pad and pretended to read it. "…Ella Thomas."
"Wait here," he said, giving Dean a derisive once-over as he pulled hard on the old metal frame of the door, yanking it open. He disappeared around a corner once inside.
"I think he likes you," Sam said.
"Shut up." Dean looked down the sidewalk. The people were glancing at him warily, especially the men. One of them stood and limped away once Dean made eye contact with him. Dean turned to Sam, gesturing in the man's direction.
"Detroit FBI Fan Club president. Ran to get his t-shirt for me to sign."
"Agents Sharp and Keen?"
Dean shrugged. "Saw it on South Park."
Sam gave a humorless smile. "Seriously, we might not get many leads from the people here, Dean. Gonna make things more complicated."
"Yeah." Dean grimaced, putting his hands in his pockets. "The good news just keeps on coming, doesn't it?"
A doctor emerged from the hospital, walking briskly. The guard followed close behind, looking cowed and sullen.
"I'm so sorry," she said, beckoning. They followed her inside to a nurse's station, doing their best not to bump into anyone. It was a bustling place, and gurneys moved past with surprising speed. "Guntrip can get a bit overzealous, but he's a good guard. Prevented some real tragedies, you know?"
The light above the nurse's station flattered her brown skin much better than the natural light over the overcast day had done. She was young, perhaps twenty eight, and pretty, despite her cheap, ill-fitting clothes and harried appearance. She had an air of competence about her that Dean rarely saw in doctors anymore. Granted, the last doctor he'd seen had set up shop in the back of a Chinese restaurant, took cash only, and had literally killed him. Perhaps he was a bit biased.
"I'm sure he is," Dean said. He gave her his best charming smile, and was rewarded with a reluctant grin. He could feel Sam's irritation radiating at him. It just made him grin wider.
"I understand you're here to see Ella Thomas?"
"Yes," Sam said before Dean could speak. "Please."
She led them through two more doorways, walking so fast that Sam struggled to keep up. The halls were packed with people – doctors, nurses, patients, visitors, children – and Sam wondered how anything ever got done. Something else about the crowds bothered Sam; even for an inner-city hospital, this place was busy. It reminded him of something, something important, but it lay just out of his grasp, in a part of his mind that he couldn't access. It wasn't behind the wall, he could sense that, but it was connected to it. Somehow. He shook his head in frustration, nearly running into Dean when he stopped suddenly.
"She's right in here," the doctor said.
She had lowered her voice, so Sam followed suit. "The middle bed there?"
Sam and Dean exchanged knowing glances, and Sam headed over to talk to Ella while Dean stayed to talk to the doctor. Dean wiggled his eyebrows and winked, looking far too pleased with the arrangement. Sam shook his head, hoping that Dean would get something useful out of her.
He turned to Ella.
Her arms were bandaged heavily from her wrists to her elbows. He couldn't see her legs, but it was likely that they were bandaged, too. She was deathly pale and thin, and her red hair only exaggerated the effect. She reminded Sam of Anna Milton, only taller. She turned her head in his direction when she heard him approach, and he pulled up a rolling stool, sitting beside her.
"Hey," he said. "I'm Sam."
She smiled, her green eyes trying and failing to sparkle. "You're cute."
Sam looked down and smiled. "Thanks."
"And nice, too." He voice was weak, hardly more than a whisper. She eyed his suit. "Another Fed?"
"Guilty as charged." He took her hand. "You know why I'm here, don't you, Ella?"
Her smile sank into her face, like water into the ground. "Yeah."
Sam stroked her arm over the bandage. "What do you remember about him?"
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "He was young," she said. "Younger than me, like a teenager, maybe. And he was afraid."
Sam blinked. "What? Of you?"
"No," she said. "Of something else. I thought at first he was sick or something, but he wasn't. He was terrified of someone. I don't know who." She shifted her position on the bed.
Sam filed the knowledge away for later. This case was getting crazier by the minute.
"He wrote on me, too," she said. "On my arms and legs. With a chalk or a rock or something. It disappeared, because it wasn't there later when they wrapped my arms, you know?"
Sam frowned, squeezing her hand. She smiled gratefully, but kept her eyes closed. "Did you see what he was?"
She shook her head, then winced. "It was dark. I don't know how he saw, either." She swallowed. "Then, he said I had to fight. Fight as hard as I could. He begged me."
Sam couldn't think of anything to say, so he remained silent.
"So I did. He chased me around my apartment, breaking things and apologizing over and over again. It was insane. And when he caught me, he held me down tight. He wasn't much bigger than me, but he was so strong. But it didn't hurt," she said. "When he cut me. There was no pain at all. Just like he promised."
"He promised you there wouldn't be any pain? He said that?"
"Yeah. He seemed like a sweet kid, apart from the whole bleeding me out part." She chuckled.
"I'm sorry to have to ask this, Ella, I really am, but did you see what he did with the blood? Did he do anything unusual?"
"I'm sure he did," she said. "But I didn't see what it was. I passed out, and when I woke up, I was here."
Sam let go of her hand and looked away, thinking. He had never heard a story like Ella's before, and after all they had seen, that worried him. Something niggled in the back of his mind again, but he couldn't see how it was connected to this. Nothing behind the wall could have anything to do with this.
He took her hand again. "Yeah?"
"Do you think he'll come back again? After me, I mean, since I'm not dead?"
"No," he assured her. It was quite true; if this thing had left her alive after all that, it was unlikely that it cared about being caught. It made Sam even more nervous, and even less sure about what was going on. "No, I think he's done, Ella. People like him usually leave town pretty quick after stuff like this. You have absolutely nothing to worry about."
She was visibly relieved, and Sam was glad. It felt good to give someone comfort after all of the awful things he knew he'd done, even if he didn't remember them. "Okay."
He stayed with her until she fell asleep, then waited for Dean in the crowded hallway. He emerged from an office not far from Ella's room, reading his notepad.
"Please tell me you weren't banging Gabrielle Union in there," Sam said. "We have a serious problem here, Dean. We don't have time for this."
Dean made a face and waved his notebook. "Information gathering, Mr. Celibacy," he said. "And I got some pretty interesting stuff. Pull anything useful out of The Little Mermaid?"
Sam's brows knitted in confusion.
"What?" Dean said. "I'm low on redhead references, okay? Haven't had much time for TV lately."
"Yes, Dean, I got a lot of info out of Ella. But I don't know how much of it is going to help us. I've never heard of anything like this."
Sam relayed what Ella had told him as they walked down the hall and out the doors. When they reached the impala, Dean's optimism had waned.
"I know." Sam sighed. "What did the doctor have to say?"
The slammed the Impala's doors in unison. "I dunno if it's got squat to do with these vanishing residents or your Apologetic-Bleeder-Artist-Anesthesiologist, but it's definitely weird. It might not even-"
"Spit it out, Dean." Sam snapped.
Dean gripped the steering wheel and shot Sam an irritated glance. "You wanna run that by me again?"
"Sorry," Sam said, running a hand through his hair. "It's just, I don't know what's going on, okay? I want to wrap this up. I've got a really, really bad feeling about all this." Sam wrung his hands and avoided Dean's gaze.
Dean's irritation shifted to worry. "Are you okay?"
Sam leaned his head back and sighed. "Just tell me what you've got, Dean. Please."
Dean stared at him for a little while longer, then shook his head, starting the car. "She says blood's been going missing from the hospital for the last few weeks. Bags of it. Started out just one or two, but yesterday? Twelve. Nothing caught on camera, nobody saw anything, no cars speeding off, the cops haven't caught anybody trying to sell it, no registered vampires in the area – squat. Everything points to some monster with a taste for B positive, but vamps don't apologize or leave witnesses, and nothing else needs blood by the boatload. Demons don't take victims to the hospital, and they don't need to steal blood from anywhere, especially not this much."
"So we've got stolen hospital blood now, too?"
"That's not all," Dean said. "There've been a lot more bleeders rolling up to the emergency room doors lately, and I don't just mean the kind the homeboy drop-off kind. The worst part – I don't think these stabbings and shootings and beatings were committed by our mystery monster. There's just been a random uptick in asskicking. She says the crowds we saw today are nothing compared to nights."
Sam shook his head and tapped his tongue on the back of his teeth. "So we have a pile of new information that he can't do anything with? Fucking great."
"Relax, Sam," Dean said. "We haven't even run all this by Bobby yet, and there's even Samuel, if we get really desperate."
"Don't fucking tell me to relax while people are dying, Dean." Sam bit his lip.
"I was just-"
"I know what you were doing." He rested his head against the window. "Just…let's just get to a motel and call Bobby, okay?"
Dean waited, but Sam didn't turn back to him or say anything else. Eventually, he turned back to the road. The rain was coming down in earnest, and he turned up the wiper speed, wishing he could see things more clearly.
Hope you enjoyed chapter one! Please leave a review if you have the time.