"You don't know what you want until you find it
I believe you'll tell me so."
—Lilies of the Valley, David Byrne
Sam pulled the collar of his jacket up and ducked his head, seeking the cover of anonymity with his elbows nonchalantly perched against the grease-slicked counter of the dimly lit Chinese restaurant where he sat. He resisted the urge to go into his pocket again after the name and address written on hotel stationary. This was the place. He didn't need to check. And he knew the name of the man he was supposed to be meeting.
The constant drum-beat of rain sounded against steam-fogged windows, the air inside thick with cooking oil. It was almost too warm, but Sam kept his jacket pulled close around himself, feeling that it provided an extra barrier between himself and the other patrons there. It didn't seem to matter, though. They ignored him as much as he ignored them.
A hand flattened on the counter beside him, accompanying the resonant voice, and Sam startled, highly annoyed at himself for being caught off guard. He looked up warily into the man's face, his kind eyes deep-set and sheltered behind a mop of gray hair. Sam started to stand in greeting, but the man reached out and laid a firm hand on his shoulder, effectively lowering him back into his seat. "Good to see you made it, son," he said, shaking rain water from his coat and nodding to the storm outside. The overcast skies blocked out nearly all of the mid-afternoon daylight, bringing on the streetlights and making it feel much later than it was.
"You're…" Sam frowned. Suddenly, he wasn't sure what sort of meeting he'd been expecting, but this elderly man in a fraying, navy blue raincoat was definitely throwing him off.
"That's right," he confirmed, taking Sam's hand and squeezing it. "Derril Anderson. Broker." He added with a grin, his yellowed teeth clustered together behind dry lips.
"Right," Sam nodded, returning the handshake. "Thank you for… for setting this up."
"Pleasure's all mine, Sam," he said, taking a seat beside Sam at the counter. "You order?"
"Uh, no." Sam glanced around nervously. "I wasn't… But you go ahead."
Derril plucked a menu from the metal rings that held a stack of them upright, giving it a cursory glance before tossing it back down on the counter's surface. "You understand the terms from my client? You have any questions?"
Sam took a breath. Client. It was a strange thing to call a vampire. A strange situation to find himself in at all.
"What about Dean?" he said finally.
Derril raised his eyebrows, looking curiously entertained. "What about him?"
"You need to give me some kind of assurance," Sam insisted, his voice dropping to just above a whisper. "If I agree to this—"
"I was under the impression you already had agreed to it."
The pretense of fatherly warmth was suddenly gone from the man's voice, and when Sam looked up again his deep-set eyes reflected a solid, gleaming black leaving Sam feeling cold to the very depths of his soul.
"I need to know Dean will be safe."
Derril laughed. "There's no such thing, Sam," he chided. "You know that."
"That's not what I meant."
"Your arrangement with my client voids the contract on Dean's soul. Yes."
Sam licked his lips, his mouth suddenly gone dry. "And you definitely have the power to do that? No tricks. No surprises?"
"You get what you asked for, explicitly. Your brother's soul in the free and clear. I'm not in the business of making people unhappy. I work on commission. I have a referral-based clientele."
Sam studied the older man, searching him for any sign of deception. Demons lied, he knew that, but this was different. He finally had something to bargain with. Something he could use. His blood was special. One of a kind. Azazel's. At length, he nodded and said, "Okay. Yes."
"And you understand the terms. You agree to them?"
Sam nodded again once, sharply and resolutely, his eyes never leaving the old man.
Derril slid smoothly to the side, easing his weight off the bar stool to stand in front of Sam again. He held out his hand with a sly smile. "You should be glad my division seals these things with a handshake instead of a kiss. Just as binding, but no bodily fluid exchange required. Far more sanitary, if you asked me."
Sam hesitated only a fraction of a second before slipping his own hand again into the warm, leathery palm of the older man and clasping it tight.
"All right, then. Done." Derril looked down at himself and patted the pockets of his raincoat, feeling for something he was carrying with him. Then he found it, and extracted a plastic, zip-lock back filled with what appeared to be medical equipment. Syringes, tubing, collection bags, antiseptic wipes. He handed it to Sam. "This will get you started. You know your way around a needle, or do I have to show you?"
"I know how to take blood," Sam said with quiet resolve, taking the bag and examining its contents.
"Good boy. Now, I believe there's a restroom behind the kitchen you can use."
Sam looked up, surprised. "What, now? Here?"
Derril shrugged with a grin that was all yellow teeth and feigned apologies. "First payment is due upon time of signing," he explained.
Sam turned the plastic bag of supplied over in his hands. There was a sealed transfusion needle, alcohol pads, gauze. Everything he would need.
"That's a six-week supply," Derril said, anticipating Sam's question.
Sam looked up at him sharply. "Six week?"
"Yes. Week. One pint of your blood per week in exchange for your brother's soul."
"But that's not what you…" Sam felt sick. "One per month, that's what you said before." He couldn't hand over a pint of blood every week, it wasn't possible. That would kill him.
"The terms are per week."
Sam inhaled, understanding hitting him all at once that he wasn't the one with the leverage. "I'm not any good to you—to whoever you work for—dead."
Derril snorted. "You're a tough kid, you'll get along just fine. I suggest you do whatever it takes to stay alive. Because if you die, if you kill yourself, if you let yourself get killed, it constitutes a reversal of our agreement."
"Dean's soul reverts to the original holder."
"No!" It came out as a shout, and he glanced around nervously, consciously bringing his anger back under control. "No, you can't do that. You can't change the terms like this, it's not fair."
"I'm not changing anything, Sam. It's not my fault you misunderstood. You know, when a guy is desperate sometimes he'll just hear what he wants to hear."
Sam clenched his teeth, the muscle along the side of his jaw jumping in frustration, deliberately not letting himself think about what this meant, what he was agreeing to. It was just blood. A pint of blood every week for the rest of his life. In exchange for Dean's life, Dean's soul. As long as he could manage to stay alive. It was worth it. It was even fitting, in a way. Appropriate. Poetic. Dean bought back his life and now he would use the very life flowing through his veins to buy back Dean's.
"When we collect from you each week, I'll check in," Derril assured him. "Make sure you have all the needles you need." He glanced at his watch, and then back up at Sam pointedly. "Anything else?"
Sam stood up, pulling his jacket straight, and walked past the man toward the back of the restaurant, feeling black eyes follow him as he went. He pushed open a grimy, wooden door bearing a plastic sign that said "restroom," giving it a shove closed when the door stuck in the door frame and refused to shut properly.
He locked the door and hung his jacket on a hook. Then he sat down heavily on the seat of the toilet with the plastic bag of supplies balanced on his knees. He unbuttoned the cuff of the sleeve on his left arm and rolled the flannel cuff up over his bicep.
He could feel his pulse starting to pick up speed, and he took in a slow, deep breath which echoed too loudly in his ears within the close confines of the small bathroom. "Okay," he said out loud, to steady himself, even though his voice was nothing more than a whisper. "No big deal. This is nothing."
He assembled the needle set, attached the tubing to the needle and the collection bag. Then he pulled out another length of rubber tubing and tied it securely around his upper arm, snapping tight and trapping the blood in his veins. He made a fist, then flexed his hand a few times, watching the veins rise under his skin on the thin, inner skin of his arm. He took another steadying breath, ripped open an alcohol swab and ran the pad in a rough circle over the inside of his elbow.
He flexed his fist a few more times, and forced himself not to flinch as the needle bit through his skin and punctured his vein, releasing a stream of red down through the tube and into the bag.
It burned as the vein emptied, sending a tingle down his arm as the trapped blood escaped. He struggled not to think of how many times he and Dean had fought to keep blood in. This was different, he promised himself. This is necessary. This was for Dean. A blood sacrifice of sorts. One that he was gladly willing to make to keep his brother alive.
He watched the bag fill to the exact measure marked along the side. One pint. He pinched off the tube and gratefully slid the needle out of his arm, fumbling for a cotton ball to staunch the trickle of blood that followed when he did. He felt an odd sense of accomplishment. A bit dizzy and strange, but overall fine. He could do this. This would work. He would save his brother. He packed away the tubing and threw away the needle and opened wrappers, everything wrapped securely and secretively in a wad of toilet paper. He rolled his sleeve back into place and put his jacket back on, and tucked his pint of blood into the inner pocket.
He could do this.
He nodded to Derril, still seated at the counter, and Derril rose to follow him outside, turning the collar of his raincoat up.
They stood for a moment under the awning out of the rain, off to the side, backs turned to the darkening, overcast street and the few passers-by moving from streetlight to streetlight under the canopy of umbrellas. Sam handed Derril the sealed bag of blood, which Derril quickly slid into his own pocket. Then he reached out and shook Sam's hand again.
"See you again, next week. I'll contact you about the drop-off." Derril looked at him critically. "Go drink some juice or something," he suggested. "Don't stick around here. I have client-side business."
"Right." Sam blinked hard against a wave of dizziness, feeling a pit of nausea settle in his stomach. He brought his shoulders up protectively as he stepped away from the cover of the awning, wincing as a stream of cold rain water made its way past the collar of his jacket and down his back. He took a few steps down the shadowed, unlit alley between the buildings, heading for the back lot where he'd parked the Impala.
About midway through the alley, he turned and pressed his back against the rough brick of the building wall, watching with great interest as Derril warmly greeted another figure coming toward him. The streetlights caught the edges of their outlines, illuminating their features with stark splashes of harsh light.
Derril gestured animatedly as he spoke, while the newcomer – tall and ominous, standing solemnly in a dark trenchcoat with long, dark hair pulled back from his face – barely moved, except to infrequently nod. After a moment, Sam saw Derril take the bag of blood from his jacket, which elicited a tightly controlled reaction from the taller man. His long, pale fingers reached out and closed possessively around the commodity, and he leaned down to say something to Derril.
Even from such a distance, Sam recognized the expression of blatant fear that passed over Derril's face before he recovered his used-car-salesman demeanor and enthusiastically shook his client's hand, gesturing with both hands in what Sam was sure were platitudes of assurance.
The taller figure nodded, slipping his hands into his pockets and turning to part ways. As he did so, he glanced between the buildings, into the alley where Sam held his vantage point.
He looked directly at Sam, caught his eye, and smiled.
To be continued