Dean sees the pickup truck pull into the alley alongside an abandoned factory, "something-ville Stoneware" according to the warped and weather beaten sign out front. The rest of the lettering has deteriorated too much to be legible, and anyway Dean doesn't give a shit what it says or what backwards-ass town he's in. What he does know is that the nest of vampires he's been tracking seem especially interested in this place, and that makes him interested in it.
He ducks down and leans in close against the side of his Impala, keeping out of site as the truck's tires grind over gravel and steer to a halt in front of what was once the loading dock, a boarded-up hole in the back of the building. Barely waiting for it to roll to a halt, the two doors swing open and five well-built guys leap out of the cab, landing lightly and setting to work at different tasks. They unload large crates from the truck bed while the others take crowbars and hammers to the wooden slats barring the doors, prying them free and tossing them to the ground with a loud clatter.
Dean can't see what's in the boxes, but he can guess. He has a vivid image of the ugly, bruised needle marks on the inside of his brother's arms fueling the rage that brought him here.
Dean still can't seem to catch his breath. He leans forward as the ambulance takes a hard turn, making him glance up anxiously at the monitors above Sam's head, but he doesn't understand the rising and falling lines and numbers. Only the steady blip of the meter above Sam's head does anything to reassure him that his brother's heart is working. He looks down at Sam's limp hand in his, too pale and still, and Dean feels an ache blossom in the center of his own chest. Stop it. He shrugs it off, bringing his shoulders in defensively. He looks down at the plastic bag in his other hand, the one he picked up off the ground, the one filled with needles and tubes and blood donation bags. And this can't be what it looks like. It can't. He doesn't understand.
"...acutely hypovolemic. Unresponsive," someone is saying. "Check for internal bleeding."
Dean numbly clutches Sam's hand and leans close, whispering his name.
They finish unloading the crates and began carrying them inside. Dean takes the opportunity while they're distracted to dart from behind the Impala around the other side of the building, peering in through one of the partially covered, grime-obscured windows at eye-level into the space inside.
He expects to see the empty, broken remains of a long-ago abandoned manufacturing plant. But what he sees is a line of gleaming refrigeration units, conveyor belts, metal shelving, and sleek-looking computer systems that can't be more than a few months old.
"What the fuck," he mutters.
He watches as one of the guys from the truck sets a crate down on a conveyor belt by the entrance and a second man pries the lid off of it with a crowbar. Then he slides the box over to the refrigeration unit and unhinges the massive door to reveal bags and bags of blood, and his stomach lurches involuntarily, because Sam.
He's just turning away from the window, intent on killing every last one of them, when a second truck pulls up and parks just a few yards from where he's standing. Two guys hop out and stack another round of crates on the ground beside the entrance, then immediately go inside, leaving the crates unattended.
Well, fuck this. For all he knows, some of the blood in those crates is Sam's blood, and the mental image of his brother dropping to his knees, clutching his chest and struggling to breathe is too close to the surface for Dean to act rationally.
With a quick glance at the open door, Dean races to the second truck and flicks open his pocket knife, crouching down beside the stack of crates, and stabs his thin blade through one of the gaps in the slats, dragging it the length of the crate. He grins with satisfaction as the blade catches and easily glides through layers of plastic, spilling red blood out of the side of the crate and onto the dust at Dean's feet.
He slices through the slats of each of the crates, the pool of blood growing larger. After wrecking the last one, he tucks the knife back into his boot. He's just in the act of standing and pulling out his gun to go inside and finish the job when he feels a cold steel blade press against his throat.
"Hold it," commands a voice close to his ear.
Dean straightens, slowly bringing both hands up, barrel of his gun pointed skyward, finger studiously lifted off the trigger.
"It's okay," Dean says, "I, uh... I'm with the band."
The pressure of the blade lessens just a bit, and Dean takes full advantage, spinning around and clubbing his attacker in the side of the head with the butt of his gun. The man staggers back, dazed, and Dean fires off a round point-blank just for good measure before taking off at a run back toward his car. The bullets barely irritated it, and Dean kicks himself for not planning this better.
He hears shouts from the building behind him, footsteps close on his heels, and then someone grabs his arm and yanks him backwards, pulling him off balance. His gun is wrenched out of his hand, his arm twisted up behind his back at a wrong angle and it forces him down with the threat of snapping bone.
Dean is seething, his breath coming in hard gasps, glaring up at the fanged faces surrounding him. "You want to finish this?" he spits, and then he laughs as uncertain glances flicker between them. "Yeah, that's what I thought. Let me talk to somebody in charge."
"Well aren't you something."
One of the vamps grunts and stumbles to the side as he's pushed inconsequentially out of the way by an older man with dry, calloused hands and a navy blue jacket that's seen better days. Dean recognizes him at once. This is the man he saw with Sam. The one who handed Sam a bag of needles just before his brother's heart seized. With a surge of anger, Dean lets out a yell and lunges at the bastard, only to be held back by the inhumanly strong hands holding him.
The man smiles mildly at Dean, and his eyes flash to demon-black.
"I don't believe we've been formally introduced, Dean Winchester," he says. "My friends call me Derril, but I think I'd prefer 'Mr. Anderson' from you, seeing as how I'm the one holding the deed to your soul."
"You stay the hell away from my brother," Dean threatens. "Whatever deal you made with him is done, you get me? Don't you fucking touch him again. If I catch you anywhere near him, I'll-"
"Charming, but that little destruction of property stunt you just pulled out there? You've put me in an awkward position. Let's take this inside."
Derril makes a small follow me gesture and Dean is dragged inside the warehouse. Once inside, two of the men push Dean down into one of the ridiculously modern looking office chairs. Derril pulls a second chair up close to Dean and spins it around facing backwards, wrapping his arms around the back and leaning forward into Dean's personal space.
"You study economics in finishing school, there, Dean? You know anything about supply and demand?" He raises his eyebrows as if he's actually expecting this to be a two-way conversation. Dean makes an exaggerated you-got-me face.
"Supply, that's what I don't have anymore now, thanks to you. You get it? And demand, that's where I demand that you pay me back for all the damages you've cost me."
"I'm pretty sure you picked up the remedial version of that course. Maybe a little distance-learning while you were getting your ass spitfired down in Hell?"
"I love that you still have your sense of humor."
He straightens and rolls his chair back into place at the computer desk, then opens one of the metal desk drawers and pulls out a box cutter, dragging a switch on the handle that raises an angled blade into view.
"We can talk about this," Dean says anxiously, making a move to stand up only to be pushed roughly back into the chair by the vamps on either side.
"I need a blood sample," Derril explains. "So roll up your sleeve and cooperate or we'll do this the hard way."
"You're the one with the sense of humor."
Dean shifts in the chair, weighing his options between simply bolting and fighting his way out. Finally, he shoots Derril a sarcastic grin. "Nah, why don't I tell you what you can do with that thing instead? Here's a hint. It involves your ass."
Derril shrugs and watches impassively as one of the men forces Dean's arm out flat against the armrest of the chair, pulling his sleeve up over his forearm. He picks up a small glass vial off the desk and leans in to make the cut. That's when Dean brings both legs up and thrusts straight into the man's chest, sending him stumbling to land hard on his rear. The momentum of the kick rolls the chair back and loosens the grip that the two vampires had on Dean. He tears free and spins, looking around frantically for a weapon. There are five more vamps closing in, blocking his escape, and Dean makes a grab for the box cutter that Derril dropped, bringing it up and holding it out in front of him.
He feels a little bit like an idiot, having put himself in a situation with no backup after he'd just given Sam the 'all in this together' speech. But hell, that was for Sam. That was what his brother had needed to hear. It didn't mean he wasn't going to try and gank the asshole that had fucked Sam over.
But not going in alone has always been one of Dad's rules for a reason, and he gets that. Holding a glorified razor blade against a horde of vampires and a demon, yeah. He very much gets it.
"Put that down. Now."
The deep, melodic voice seems to come out of nowhere and everywhere all at once.
Dean stops and looks at the blade in his hand, something twinging in his mind that he doesn't like, and he doesn't want to bend down and set it on the floor, but that's what he does. He's screaming at himself to run. Now. Snap out of it. But he stands there, blinking and staring at the blade on the ground as if he's forgotten how to do anything else.
He feels a hand on his shoulder, soft fingertips on the underside of his jaw lifting his head up to look into eyes that are ancient and hypnotic. His heart is hammering hard and he can feel his pulse in every inch of his body. It's as if even his blood is responding to this... thing that has him trapped in its gaze.
"Keep this one," it says, running a hand through Dean's hair. "I like him. His blood is... similar to the one I like."
"We'll go ahead and get him set up as a supplier," Derril says.
There's a pause. Then, "Don't lose the other one." It's clearly a threat.
"We won't. It's just that... well, you know they only last so long..."
Dean's hearing the words but they aren't registering. He can't look away. He can't move.
"I need him to last longer. If you can't make that happen, I'll find someone who will."
"We'll figure something out."
It's Sam, he thinks. They're talking about Sam, about Sam's blood. Somehow, he's sure of it, and if he had any power to move he would have ripped this creature's throat out and fed it back to him.
"Go and sit down. Behave yourself," the stranger says to Dean, both aloud and in the strange echo inside his head, and No! Fuck no, Dean's shouting at himself at the same time that he numbly returns to the chair and sits, both arms obediently positioned on each of the armrests. The vampires follow him with a length of rope this time, tying him to the chair while Dean passively sits, struggling to throw off the effects of whatever mind-fuck this was and fucking do something.
As soon as the stranger leaves the room, everything snaps back. Dean exhales, testing how securely he's tied up and tries to judge how long it will take to work free. Derril notices. He smiles and picks up a phone off the desk, dialing a number.
"Hold off on that, would you? It's ringing." Then he pauses, listening, as someone picks up on the other end.
"Hi there, Sam," he says. "Got someone here you might want to say hello to."
Derril thrusts the phone against the side of Dean's face. "Say hello to your brother," he says in a tone that's not a request.
Dean grits his teeth and considers saying nothing. Until he hears Sam's voice on the other line, equal parts fury and terror, and he can't not answer. He has to at least let Sam know he's all right.
"Hey Sammy." He swallows, trying to make his voice sound more like he has everything under control. What he knows Sam needs to hear. "Yeah. I lied… said together, didn't I. Shoulda waited for you. Sorry about that."
"Dean! Where are you? What's going on?"
He opens his mouth to answer, but Derril takes the phone away. "Sorry, Sam," he says, throwing another sardonic grin Dean's way. "Your brother can't really talk right now. I just wanted you to know he's with me, and he's fine. Just how long he stays that way is completely up to you."
Dean strains hard against the ropes holding him. Oh fuck, no. You're gonna torture me, fine, but you don't get to hold that over Sam."He's full of shit, Sammy," he calls, hoping Sam can hear him in the background. "Don't fall for that."
Derril glares and turns his back, talking over him into the phone.
"See, I figured you might need a little extra incentive to play ball after last week, Sam. So this is your incentive. You keep everything calm and on-time between us, and Dean here will get to stay alive. I'll even let you talk to him now and again."
"Sam, don't listen to him!"
There's a pause where Sam is saying something, and then Derril answers, "That's really not the attitude I want to hear from you, Sam." He turns to Dean. "Dean? Talk sense to your brother." Derril shoves the phone up against his face again, and he doesn't know what Sam said, but he hopes it was something trademark bitchy Sam. He hopes Sam is keeping it together and telling Derril exactly what he can do with himself.
His hopes fall a bit when he hears Sam's voice waver, and he knows this bastard has Sam exactly where he wants him.
"Sammy?" he says forcefully, with as much reassurance as he can muster. "Whatever that bastard tells you to do, don't liste—gaaah!"
The blade of the box cutter comes down hard into his arm, catching him completely off guard, and he winces not just from the sharp pain but from the knowledge of what he's just given away, what Derril now has as ammunition to use against Sam.
He looks up, meeting Derril's steady, impassive gaze, and fucking dares him to try that again.
The blade in his arm twists, and Dean bites his lip hard but he can't stop himself from screaming, and he hates himself and he hates this, and most of all he hates this fucking bastard who took advantage of the little brother Dean has only ever wanted to protect from assholes like this and yet somehow, somehow he just always ends up putting back in the line of fire. Because there's not one goddamn thing Dean has ever been able to get right. He apparently can't even sell his soul to the devil without it putting his brother in harm's way.
Derril says something else into the phone about Sam's attitude and he twists the blade again, and Dean clenches both fists as the pain makes him break out in a cold sweat, he grits his teeth and thinks about Sam, and berates himself for being weak when the next scream is ripped out of him.
He tunes out the rest of the conversation, concentrating on not giving anything else away that Derril can use as psychological weaponry against Sam.
Derril ends the call with a smug click of a button and sets the phone back down, leaning a hip against the edge of the desk. "Well, I think that went exceptionally well, don't you?"
"Why don't you blow me."
Derril laughs. "No really, Dean. Thank you. You really came through for us. I know I said some harsh things back there, but let's be honest. After Sam had his little episode, I really had no idea how were were going to get him to continue making deliveries. I thought he was done. But then you, you came storming in here on your high horse, just begging to be a bargaining chip. You're like the kid who kicks the soccer ball into the other team's goal!"
Dean closes his eyes for a fraction of a second longer than a blink. "Shut up," he says, wishing it sounded more like a threat than a plea. He just wants it all to stop. He wants to wake up in a hotel room next to his dad and Sammy, to find breakfast waiting and a hunt on their radar. He wants to stop breaking everything he touches.
"Big day tomorrow, Dean," Derril promises, and Dean wonders if Sam will sleep tonight.