I couldn't shake the feeling something was off as we drove. At first I thought it had just been lunch settling poorly but four hours in when Dean pulled over claiming fatigue and Jess took over driving it still hadn't gone away.
"It can't be the mutated wolves, right?" Dean said as he slid into the passenger seat
"Bobby seems to think that's what they are."
"There were only the five and I know one didn't get away."
"Maybe they infected others. Before we got to them."
"It's possible," he allowed. "We've just never seen anything like this before."
"We'll figure it out when we get there, Dean. Just sleep." It was the best I could offer. I wanted to theorize too, but it wouldn't get us anywhere- we just had to trust Bobby. I knew sleep wasn't going to come easily for him, a combination of elation and adrenaline still keeping him up. I felt much the same but decided to at least attempt to take my own advice. I closed my eyes, aware of every bump in the road jostling me more than usual. After what felt like ages I dozed off.
I knew it was a dream this time. I wasn't sure though if it was a vision or just another nightmare that the job had the tendency to bring about. It was the wolves; of course we were hunting them. We were in the woods, just outside of God Knows Where, but I could see the lights of the city just beyond the dark blanket of trees. Jess was armed, but held against a tree; Dean was fighting his own battle not far away- doing substantially better than Jess, but he still needed help. I was rooted to the spot, as often happens in these sorts of dreams. I didn't even have anything to shoot at them with. I started screaming when one of them sunk its claws into Jess' chest.
"Sam! Sammy!" Dean's voice. It took a second to realize that the voice didn't make sense in the context of the dream and I opened my eyes.
"You were thrashin' all over the car."
"Just a nightmare. Just a nightmare."
"You sure?" He looked at me speculatively, as if he was unable to discern if I was lying or not.
"Yeah, yeah." I was unable to discern if I was lying or not. I glanced behind me. Jess was passed out in the backseat. It was dark.
"Ok. Thinking of stopping soon. We have about five hours 'til Baker City and I'm beat."
"Not going to wake Jess up?"
"Nah. We pulled over and switched about two hours ago. She was about to pass out at the wheel. May as well just stop."
"Fine. I just wanna be done with this hunt. It's not sitting right with me."
"Me neither." I swore I heard him mutter it under his breath. We found a roadside motel in no time and roused a reluctant Jess into bed. Dean passed out face first into the bed. I didn't last much longer, though I managed to get blankets over Jess and I before sinking into a more peaceful slumber.
We were moving early the next morning- a bit too early in my opinion. It had been late when we pulled in. Bobby had called demanding to know if we were there yet and that while we were dawdling there had been two more fatalities. Dean insisted he had gotten his four hours and was fine.
"We aren't much good to them if we're wrapped around a pole because you fell asleep at the wheel."
You never complained before, Sammy
"God, Sammy, we do it like this all the time. Get your panties out of a twist."
"Yeah, right." I crossed my arms and tried very hard not to pout. I heard Jess snort from the bed anyway. Apparently I wasn't succeeding at the not pouting thing. I tossed the little that had been removed from my bag back in and stalked to the backseat to wait for Dean to check us out. Jess wasn't far behind me. She opened the door on the opposite side of the car and crawled in. she curled against me, head on my chest, but she kept her eyes directed out the windshield.
"You shouldn't be so hard on him."
"Jess, just don't." I sighed, more exasperated than angry.
"I'm going to."
"The relationship between me and my brother is just that- between me and my brother."
"And when I'm with you all I'm affected by it too- whether I want to be or not. Just cut him some slack."
"We fight. It's what we do."
"It's nothing, Jess. Just giving him crap."
"He's trying. He just- he doesn't know everything, Sam."
"Yeah. I know." It was true. I had known Dean wasn't infallible for a long time, since I was thirteen or fourteen. Part of me, the part that was still six years old, and innocent, never accepted it, that knew Dean always knew the answers. This time i wondered if may I was being too hard on him. It was brand new, all of it. There was nothing to know except this horrible feeling hanging over me.
"It's hard, this job. You give a lot to it. Everything really." Jess sounded resigned to it, to being in this for the long haul.
"We got the Colt though. Once this is over we have an out. We can be normal."
"We both know normal-"
"As normal as we can be," I pressed. "We should get a separate room tonight." I changed the subject. It was something that needed to be addressed anyway. Although the three of us sharing a room was significantly more economically sound (and given the things that went bump in the night, a bit more practical) it was going to get to a point where it would be awkward. Well, it had already reached that point in Gunnison. There were just somethings you couldn't do with your brother in the room. I didn't need to have a conversation with Dean to know that he agreed.
"Yeah, we should." She smiled up at me, making eye contact for the first time. Dean came out to the car not long after, and we hit the road.
Eventually, we arrived in Baker City. I tried to block out my previous conversation with Jess. I wondered if she wanted out. Focus, I needed to focus. We had other problems. Werewolves, for one. I didn't like the idea of going up against them again.
I told myself it was just another hunt as I slipped my knife into my belt waiting for Jess to get out of the bathroom. I triple-checked my gun before setting it down. I rested my head in my hands, staring at the fake wood grain of the table, trying to center myself. Jess came up behind me, digging her thumbs into my shoulder blades.
"We got this, Sam." I straightened up.
"Yeah, I know. Let's go get Dean." I stood and slid my gun into my jacket pocket. She nodded and followed. I pounded on Dean's door who promptly answered and ushered us in. His 1911 was in pieces on the table. I questioned him silently and he shrugged.
"Where are we looking for them?" I assumed Bobby had given some information he had yet to share.
"There's a warehouse that's apparently at the geographic center of the attacks. Surrounded by an empty field. The whole nine. Bobby thinks that's where they're based."
"Of course." Jess said it like she expected it. I crashed onto the wicker chair; legs splayed, and hand on the back of my neck, as the chair groaned, my weight an abuse on its old frame.
"We're treating this like any other hunt, Sammy."
Never let it get personal, Sammy
"We don't have any idea what we're getting into. I just don't like it."
"Jess, can you give me a moment with my brother?" I assumed she nodded, and I heard the door open then click shut. "Ok Sam, she's gone. Now what in the hell crawled into your boxers this morning because you've been acting like it was the devil himself since we hit the road."
"Well, you keep second guessing everything anyone says and that nothing is going to get us all killed. And don't give me that bad feeling crap again."
"Drop it, Dean."
"No." He settled into the chair across from me and began reassembling his gun, slowly.
"You don't want to have this conversation."
"Damn right I don't, but we're having it anyway."
"This is hard. It's not supposed to be like this."
"I thought you had your little 'hunting isn't supposed to be my life' crisis already."
"I did. I've accepted I'm stuck. That we're stuck. But I don't know if you've noticed but we've got demons on our tail and a pack of wolves that came from god knows where in front of us."
"Yeah, I am. Terrified in fact. It's coming down around us and you don't seem to care."
"We have a job to do, Sam."
"And I'm doing it."
"You had better start. Scared doesn't have a place in this job, Sammy, and you know it."
"I've got it together. I'll just be happier when we get this taken care of."
"So will I. Let's get it taken care of then."
"Ok." I stood, ignoring the budding feeling of doom. Dean was right. I was going to get us killed if I didn't get focused, get whatever had gotten into my head out. This was just a hunt. There was absolutely nothing to worry about.
That's what I chanted to myself all the way to warehouse. Jess, in the backseat, kept her hand on my shoulder the whole time. For the first time in a long time it wasn't her touch that was keeping me centered but rather the cool press of my knife against the skin of my lower back.
The majority of the windows in the old metal building had long since been blown out or otherwise shattered, the fragments of glass having been trampled back to sand or blown away in the wind. Graffiti decorated the outside; the work of bored teenagers in a small town. It was sostereotypically creepy, I almost had to laugh- at least there wasn't any ominous thunder.
I closed my eyes. We got out of the Impala and I felt the extra bullets in my pocket clatter around. It felt too loud. We were silent- Dean taking point. My gun felt heavy in my hand. It was hand signals and prodding touches. I recognized the same kind of growling and snarls that had characterized the wolves' communication that night at the diner. Dean glanced back at us and we both offered a curt nod. We breached the building and by some miracle the old doors didn't creak.
The wind surged and the door clanged shut against the corrugated metal. It was dark, nearly pitch inside, but I trusted my eyes to adjust quickly. The clamor from the wolves stopped as soon as the door shut. Any hope of in and out quickly slipped from my mind. I clicked the safety off my gun as I heard the clatter of dogs' claws against the cement floor.
These were not as well-groomed as the ones in Washington had been. I got a whiff of the pungent combination of human body odor and wet dog before I saw the glint of teeth in the darkness. I readied myself, steadying my hand. One lunged towards Dean, knocking him off balance. The other swiped a claw across him, and the ripping of fabric reached my ears. I sensed Jess cocking her gun and aiming and I followed suit. Silver flew into them and they went down with a whimper. Dean hauled himself up before anymore could get on him and drew his gun.
"I'll live." I could hear the pain in his voice, but chose to ignore it. I couldn't get a count in the dark, but from the sounds of the claws circling us it sounded like there was about another six. We were surrounded and backed against each other in a triangle, firing off shots into the dark, where we thought we could discern hulking shapes. We only heard two bodies hit the ground, though. There was a yelp and then a responding growl, and we heard claws head for the back exit.
Dean sprinted ahead, Jess wrapping around the other flank, leaving me to head off any that might try to escape. They were trying to be quiet, not wanting us to find them. We had the luxury of not worrying about that.
"Sammy get up here and watch our backs!" I surged forward, familiar muscles working to get to them. I reached them just in time to see one of the wolves surge forward, illuminated by the moonlight, and tear its claws into Jess' back. She went down with a scream. I realized vaguely they were going for kills, as messy as they could make them. They didn't want to change anyone. Just kill them.
"JESS!" The words left my mouth before I could help it. A cardinal rule, always unspoken: never show your weakness, not in front of monsters. Teeth glinting, claws tore into Jess. The rest of the pack came to help, one knocking me over into a pile of wood. I felt my shoulder leave its socket and skin tear loose as it found a rusty nail. I didn't feel the pain as Jess' screams died into gurgles.
A/N: I'm back and with a vengeance. Reviews are lovely (and may help speed along the resolution of that lovely cliffhanger)