AN: I had no internet, and then Real Life punched me in the face. I'm sorry. But, in better news, the third instalment has finally made it to a computer screen near you! And – bonus – it got big. This turned itself into a TwoShot. I didn't expect that.

Here's hoping that y'all received the Email Alert for this – they've been playing up this week…

Dedicated to: Everyone who reviewed, for starters (thank you all so much), but in particular for Guest, who sorta requested this particular topic; Lacrymosa94, for whom this is an awfully belated Grad present; sami markham, who has been checking every day for an update; and CHiKa-RoXy, who gave me a delightful prompt.

Disclaimer: I own neither Supernatural or Dark Angel.

Driving In Cars With Strangers

They're just shy of In The Middle Of Absolute Nowhere, which is a solid three-hour drive from Anywhere Else, they're hunting something that's already scalped three men and two women, and Sam's been sent on a grocery run.

A grocery run.

Not a lunch run; not a food run; not a pie run – a grocery run. Because the town they're in is so small that they don't even have a diner ("No pie?" Dean and Alec had whined in tandem), just a small General Store that doubles as the Post Office and sells everything from milk to bolts and screws.

Well. They're supposed to sell milk.

"You don't have any milk?" Sam asks again, because since when does a General Store not sell milk?

"Nope, sorry," the oldish-guy at the counter says, a lazy drawl dragging at the edges of his accent. "Delivery truck broke down on it's way out here. Time they got it goin' again, all the colds had spoiled. Whole lotta other supplies I didn't get either, side from milk, and there ain't another delivery due til Wednesday."

Wednesday. It's Friday, and there's not going to be another stock delivery until Wednesday. Alec's not going to like that too much.

The Winchester brothers haven't known Alec for all that long, in the scheme of things, but somehow it feels like they've known him for forever. He's slotted into their lives so easily that it's kind of hard now to imagine not having him with them.

The fact that he's so like Dean is probably at least three-quarters of the reason he's fitted in with them so easily. Sam doesn't know if Alec's naturally into all the same stuff as Dean, or if he's actively trying to be more like his DNA donor (because it took maybe two days after they met the kid for Sam to notice that the little clone practically worships Dean), but there are so many similarities between the two of them that Sam now finds himself wondering how he could have ever doubted the clone theory.

For instance: after meeting Alec, the very first time Dean put on one of his so-ancient-Sam-doesn't-even-know-how-they-still-wo rk cassette tapes, the kid had listened quietly to the first few bars, blinked once in a very contemplative fashion, and announced firmly, "I like it."

Dean had sent a grin back at Alec and said, "Course you do. We've got good taste."

(That last bit had been said with a significant look thrown in Sam's direction, and the younger brother had rolled his eyes and sighed a little, because really – his music tastes aren't half as bad Dean makes them out to be.)

Alec, it turns out, really likes ACDC, Black Sabbath, and Metallica. He also enjoys Blue Oyster Cult, Motorhead, and other such appalling (in Sam's opinion) examples of Mullet Rock. He's not a fan of anything labelled as Sam Music, but again – that might just be because he's emulating Dean.

(That being said… the utterly disgusted expression that comes on his face any time Sam gets the Music Rights does look a bit too genuine to be a fake.)

The similarities don't end with music preferences, though. Alec likes the same kinds of food that Dean likes and he laughs at the same jokes Dean does (the perks of having a sense of humour that's literally identical – Sam's pretty sure that Dean thinks that Alec is the funniest person in existence, and he knows that Alec returns the sentiment, and on the odd occasion that Sam says a joke that they both understand and actually think is funny, the two of them laugh in perfect tandem), and Alec takes to jeans and jackets like a fish to water and he avoids green food like it's some kind of plague.

But for all the similarities, there are still a good number of differences between Alec and Dean, and Sam's sure that there are even more than the ones they've noted so far.

For one, Alec's a lot more wordy than Dean is. Dean's not a dumb guy – hell, he's probably the smartest person Sam knows, to be honest – but he's willing to let people believe he's all brawn and very little brain (No one ever expects the dumb guy to be able to outsmart them, after all), but Alec delights in appearing just as smart as he is, and one of the ways this manifests is in words. Dean tends to (in the absence of movie references that sometimes baffle even Sam) use simple, straight-down-the-line language to get his point across, whereas Alec… Alec likes to decorate his speech with words that most people (to say nothing of seven-year-olds) don't use in day-to-day life. Words like intriguing, and trivialities, and impasse, and aggravated, and predisposed.

Secondly, Dean's around about as fond of flying as Sam is of clowns (which is to say: Not At All), and he really isn't that huge-a fan of heights in general. Alec, on the other hand, thinks that tall trees are the Greatest Playground Ever, has to be physically held back from peering over the very edge of tall cliffs, and has expressed a wish to one day climb to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge (when that had come out, Dean had very firmly – if slightly palely – announced that no such thing would happen on his watch, thank you very much).

And, of course, there's the fact that Alec's DNA was spliced with cat DNA when he was created. It is, quite frankly, utterly ridiculous how fast the kid can run. And how far he can jump. And his reflexes are so damn fast that he's managed to duck every single spit-ball Dean's ever fired out of a straw at him. (And Alec pretends not to like it when either of the brothers scuff a hand over his hair, but Sam's seen the way the kid preens into the touch, just like a cat might.)

Those are some differences.

And then there's the one where Alec really, really likes milk.

Sam doesn't think he'll ever forget the day that Alec knocked on the brothers' motel door and invited himself in, but one of the things he remembers most clearly is how Alec raided their fridge and helped himself to a carton of milk, and Sam only remembers it so well because he'd barely been able to believe at the time how utterly brazen this child was. It makes Sam chuckle now, because brazen is so much a part of Alec that it could be the kid's middle name, but the point here is that Alec really likes milk.

Whenever they're at a diner and the waitress asks him what he wants to drink, "A glass of milk, please," is always the answer. When they're picking up supplies for the road, there's always a "And some milk!" chirped from the back seat, and all up Sam reckons the kid drinks at least half a litre per day (but possibly more).

And it's never flavoured milk, either – just straight, plain, full-cream milk. And maybe Sam's wrong, but he doesn't remember Dean ever being like that. Dean's been a beer-drinker for years, but obviously he had other preferences as a child, and yet the only thing Sam can remember Dean ever having a particular fondness for was coffee. He'd steal sips from John's mug all the time when the Winchester patriarch wasn't paying enough attention, and that went on for years before John finally threw in the towel and allowed a fourteen-year-old Dean to just start getting mugs of his own, and damn the stunted growth that may come from it (Sam's not altogether sure that Dean doesn't regret that now, what with Baby Brother standing a good few inches taller than him, but his love of coffee has never wavered, despite that potential betrayal).

So Sam's not sure why Alec loves milk so much. He doesn't get it from Dean; that much, Sam is fairly certain of. Hell – who knows – maybe it's all thanks to the cat DNA. Either way, Sam's 100% certain of the fact that Alec's not going to be particularly pleased about being milk-less for five days (or until they get this job done).

"Right," Sam says to the old man at the counter. "Well – I guess this is it, then."

The old man nods and starts ringing up the various items that Sam's collected, and once he's done the hunter pays for his groceries, thanks the man, and heads out to the Impala with his shopping. Thankfully, the motel that they're staying at has a fully functional kitchenette, and Sam plans on making the most of this unexpected opportunity, even though he knows Dean is going to bitch about it for hours.

"What the hell's this?" is, predictably, the first question out of Big Brother's mouth once Sam gets back and dumps his bags of shopping on the table.

"You send me on a grocery run, you gotta know I'm gonna come back with food, Dean," Sam replies, shucking off his jacket and dumping it on the end of his bed. "Like actual food, not the plastic-bagged heart-attack crap you call food."

"This isn't food," comes the completely unsurprising response, and Sam resists the urge to roll his eyes at the indignation in Dean's voice. "This is… I dunno – rabbit rations or some crap."

Sam does roll his eyes at that one.

"I've never known any rabbit to eat peppers, Dean," he says, and Dean scoffs and mutters mutinously under his breath about how Sam doesn't know any rabbits.

"You're gonna cook, Sam?" Alec asks from where he's propped against Dean's headboard, TV control abandoned by his leg as he quirks his head curiously at Sam. "I didn't know you could cook."

"He can't," Dean says, at the same time that Sam says, "That's because Dean never lets me."

The brothers pause for a moment to narrow their eyes at each other.

"Whatever," Sam huffs after a moment. "There's no diner in this place, you wouldn't know what to do with half the stuff I've bought so I'm cooking, and it's going to be something healthy. I need to take every chance I can to get some decent food into you two junk-food addicts."

Alec shrugs nonchalantly and rolls off the bed to inspect the bags, and Dean rolls his eyes and turns around to tear one of the bottles of beer free from the cardboard. He makes a disgusted sound.

"Sam!" he says, and there's a definite whine to his voice. "What the hell's this?"

"They didn't have our usual brand," Sam replies irritably, because seriously – a simple thanks for doing the shopping, man wouldn't go astray, but no. "You should be thankful they had any beer. It's a tiny store as it is, and apparently they had some issue with their supplier this week. Store's half empty."

Dean gives him a dark look and then glares at the bottle of beer in his hand. To be honest, Billy Bill's Beer had looked a bit sus to Sam too, but he'd known that coming back with weird beer was far more preferable to coming back with no beer.

"Where's the milk?" Alec asks, looking up from the plastic shopping bag full of vegetables.

"Victim of their supply issue," Sam says. "They didn't have any. Won't have any until Wednesday, apparently. Sorry buddy."

"Oh, so you apologise to him about the milk, but not to me about the beer?" Dean snarks, and Sam rolls his eyes.

"Again – at least you have beer. Quit complaining. You can go shopping next time."

"Whatever," Dean scoffs in irritation, and then notices Alec. Alec, who usually watches the brothers' verbal spars with rapt attention and amusement, but who right now is looking down at the bags like he doesn't quite know what to do. "Y'alright, dude?"

Alec blinks and glances up, and both brothers are looking at him with vague concern. He grins.

"I'm always alright," he says, and then pokes the vegetables. "A bit bummed about the lack of milk and the overabundance of healthy crap, that's all."

"Hear hear," Dean agrees, scowling again at his beer before popping the lid off with an irritated huff.

Sam's busy bitchfacing at his brother and Dean's busy tentatively trying out Billy Bill's Beer with a decidedly unconvinced expression, so neither of them notice the way Alec glances back at the milkless bags of shopping as his eyebrows flicker down with and expression that might be labelled as concern.

Sam cooks.

It's not half bad, if he does say so himself. Sure, the peppers are a bit over-cooked and the carrots are still a little crunchy, and the beef is chewy enough that one could be forgiven for thinking it was strips of melted plastic, but on the whole, it's not too bad.

"This is why we eat out, Sam," Dean says morosely, pushing his food around on his plate as though looking for something edible amongst a plate full of poisonous weeds. "Seriously – how is it even possible to screw up a stirfry?"

"What kind of meat is this?" Alec asks, poking curiously at a strip of brown.

"It's beef," Sam replies shortly, and Alec looks up, surprised.

"Seriously? I thought it musta been, I dunno – crocodile or something."

Crocodile. As in tough. The implication is clear.

"Crocodile is apparently a very tender meat, thank you very much," Sam says, a teensy bit waspish.

"Really?" Alec says, looking surprised again, and then he looks down and pokes his meat a second time. "Huh. Definitely not crocodile, then."

Sam narrows his eyes at him.

"And what's this?" Dean asks, spearing a piece of green something and holding it up for inspection.

"It's bok choi," Sam says, through slightly gritted teeth. "It's an Asian vegetable, and very good for you. Eat it."

Dean gives him a Look.

"You were able to find some weirdo Asian green thing, but you couldn't find any actual food?"

Sam doesn't even dignify that with a response.

"Can we get chicken tomorrow, instead of beef?" Alec asks, talking around a mouthful of rice. Just rice, Sam notes. There are absolutely zero vegetables in that mouthful. "Or turkey?"

"Ahh, crap," Dean says, with the air of someone who's just realised something decidedly unpleasant. "We're gonna be forced to cook our own food the whole time we're in this place. We gotta get this job done, like, yesterday, and get the hell back to civilisation. Civilisation and pie."

"Hell – fish, even," Alec continues. "Say… tuna?"

"Ew – what?" Dean says, throwing a horrified look at his clone. "No. No fish. If he does this to beef, whatd'ya think he'll do to fish?"

Alec screws his face up.

"Good point," he says.

Sam throws his hands in the air in frustration.

"It's like trying to feed a pair of three year olds!" he snaps, and gathers his plate up to stomp over to his bed, snagging the control on the way. "You two are doing the dishes, just so you know. I did the shopping, and I did the cooking, not that you're exactly thankful for that, and now I'm going to watch that history documentary they were advertising earlier and neither of you is going to bitch about it, got it?"

Dean and Alec trade an amused mom-just-told-us-off expression.

Sam ignores them both and surfs through until he finds the right station, then settles down with very clear I'm-not-even-going-to-look-at-you-for-the-rest-of- the-evening vibes rolling off him in waves.

"S'alright Alec. We'll go shopping again tomorrow, and then I'll do the cooking," Dean says under his breath, once he's sure Sam's not listening anymore, and Alec gives him a dubious expression.

"Can you cook?" he asks blandly. "Otherwise, I might just have to go and charm some old lady into taking me in and feeding me. I can't live like this, I'll have you know."

"Tell you what," Dean promises. "If it turns out I'm a crap cook, you and me'll go and charm the old lady together, and Sam can stay here and eat his packed chai."

Alec grins.


The grocery store doesn't have any chicken.

Or any turkey.

Or any kind of meat other than beef, and even that's in limited supply. They've just picked up the last packet of it, actually.

"Sold outta pretty much everything," the old guy at the counter says the next day to Dean and Alec, when they ask where they can find the rest of the meat. "Word got around that the delivery truck didn' come through this week, so folks came in and stocked up on what I had left."

"And there's nothing else out the back?" Dean asks, as Alec wanders away to browse the limited aisles dejectedly.

"Nothin, son, sorry. Lookin' forward to Wednesday meself, to be honest. Runnin' dangerously low on butter, and you can't have toast with no butter."

"True that," Dean says, and glances down at his basket. "Ok, well – thanks. I'll just grab a few more things."

Dean turns and heads back towards the aisles, and spots Alec in front of the small vitamins stand. He leaves the kid there and goes hunting for things like dried pasta and potatoes and other such foods that pretty much just need a sauce over the top of to make them edible.

By the time he's done, they've got enough food to see them through to Wednesday, if they're here that long. It's not often that Dean's thankful for all the times John left him and Sam with limited funds when they were kids, but now's one of them, because he's able to draw on that childhood experience in order to come up with some kind of meal plan that will see them through the week without having to resort to rabbit hunting or something.

"Alec?" Dean calls, once he's got everything (and he's collected some vegetables, because he's not stupid enough to think that they should go four days on nothing but pasta and cheese sauce, but he's going to compromise by chopping them up really small, so that none of them will be able to taste them). "You ready?"

Dean turns a corner and finds Alec still in front of the vitamin stand, eyes roving over the limited number of bottles intently.

"Alec?" Dean asks, and the kid startles a little and turns to face Dean.

"Concerned about our vitamin levels?" Dean asks blandly, wondering why the kid's so interested in the little stand of mixed pills.

Alec chuckles.

"Nah – just curious," he says, and it's only because Dean knows himself so well that he's able to pick up on the tiny little waver in the kid's voice that says he's not telling Dean everything. "Didn't know you could buy pills for all this stuff!"

Dean glances at the stand, which has a really rather pitiful collection. He's seen stores with whole walls devoted to this crap, while this tiny little under-stocked General Store only has about six different vitamins available.

"That's nothing," Dean says. "You should check out the range that proper pharmacies have. I didn't even know so many vitamins existed, let alone that there were pills for all of them."

"Huh," Alec says, and Dean quirks his head a little at that note of something else that's there again.

"Well – sh'we get outta here then?" the kid goes on cheerfully, and Dean decides to let it slide for now. "Sam's probably wasting away by now. We gotta keep that kid fed, Dean. It's gotta use up a lotta energy, lugging that huge body around."

Dean snorts, and reaches out a hand to propel Alec in the direction of the old man waiting patiently at the til.

"Well, if he's not wasting away, I know I am," he replies, and then scoffs. "Stirfry. Sure."

Dean can cook, as it turns out. Sure, it's just pasta with a tin of tomatoes over the top, but it's leagues more palatable than Sam's creation was, and the three of them munch on their bowls of starchy goodness while going over notes for the hunt.

They've made some progress with the case, but not a whole lot, and Alec's starting to get twitchy.

They need to get out of here and back to somewhere they can buy real food, and they need to do it soon, because it's already been two full days and Alec's not sure how long he'll last before he starts showing symptoms, and he doesn't want Dean and Sam finding out about this little genetic quirk – not if he can help it.

He can't believe this damn town doesn't have anything that can help him. He even looked for soybeans earlier, because he'll choke them down if he absolutely has to, but no. Nothing.

They need to get the hell out of here as soon as possible, damn it.

But their beastie of the week has taken two more victims since they arrived in town, and the hunters still have no idea what it could be, and there's no way they're leaving here before they get the job done.

Alec's expressed an interest in everything hunting since he first found out about the supernatural and he's quite happy about that now, because it means it doesn't come across as at all odd when he throws himself enthusiastically into the research and theorising.

It starts the next morning, and Sam's the first to spot it.

"Alec?" he says, brows pulled down and together in concern. "Your hands are shaking."

Dean looks up from the newest coroner's report he's reading, a matching set of frowny-brows on his face, and Alec glances down at his hands.

Yep. It's just a minor tremble through the length of his fingers, but it's there, and it's kinda noticeable.


Fortunately, Alec suspected this might be coming.

"Oh, yeah – I may or may not have stolen some of Dean's coffee earlier this morning," he says flippantly.

And he did steal it. Technically. He just didn't drink it. No sense in adding caffeine into his system when he's already going to be shaking without its help, so he'd tipped splashes of it down the drain each time Dean wasn't looking in order to prepare an alibi.

"Turns out," he goes on, holding his fingers up for inspection, "they weren't lying when they said caffeine gives you the shakes. Also turns out, black coffee is disgusting. Drank a fair bit of it before I came to that conclusion, though."

"You stole my coffee?" Dean asks, looking irritated. "Not cool, dude. For one, that shit stunts your growth. You ain't drinking any coffee til you're done growing – I need proof that Sam was never meant to be the tall one."

Sam looks decidedly amused at that.

"And secondly," Dean goes on, "my coffee. Mine. It did feel like I finished it strangely quickly this morning. You can go make me another cup now, thanks."

Alec pulls a face at Dean at that last bit, then rolls his eyes and sighs like it's the biggest thing anyone's ever asked him to do before he dutifully makes his way into the kitchenette to prepare a replacement cup of the hellish black liquid.

Now, if they can get this hunt worked out and wrapped up and get the hell out of this pokey little milkless town, he might manage to get away with this.

"It's an *Arach," Sam announces later that day, triumphant, and Dean squirrels one brow down to give his brother a look of confusion.

Sam elaborates without further prompting, paraphrasing from the information he's somehow managed to dredge up online.

"It's an ape-like creature, originally from Africa, but they have been known to travel. They're pretty rare, apparently, and they prefer to live in holes dug underneath wide-trunked trees. They make their bedding primarily with human hair that is – and this is a little gross – 'still attached to the human scalps which are sewn together to create a patchwork-like blanket,' according to this site."

"Ew," Dean and Alec say in tandem, twin looks of disgust flashing across their faces.

"Explains the scalpings," Sam says, giving his laptop a vaguely disturbed look.

"So how to we kill it?" Alec asks, and Sam sends him a grin.

"Silver blade. Terribly unusual way to kill something – I don't know if we'll be able to find anything like that around here."

The sarcasm is heavy, and Dean and Alec both send him smirks of amusement.

They go; they hunt; they triumph.

They find the Arach's nest under the largest tree in the nearby woods, and the ape-like creature stands no chance against the three of them. It's not long before they've killed it and raided it's miserable little hole to fetch the "blanket" it had been building.

And that's when it happens.

They're standing there, Sam and Dean on the sides with Alec in the middle, watching the ape-thing and it's blanket of human scalps burn (they'll make sure the rest of the victims are salted and cremated too, because it's this kind of crap that can lead to a violent spirit), and then – very suddenly – Alec's vision goes black.

He has one second to think, Ah, crap, and then he's on the ground convulsing.

to be continued…

AN: There we are – part one! I'm aware that I haven't made it clear what's wrong with Alec, exactly – and that's intentional. This whole 'verse is written predominantly from Supernatural's point of view, so anything that the boys don't know, I'm writing as though we don't know either. All will be explained in the next chapter though, which (vague prediction) should be up by the end of the weekend.

*Arach. Completely made up creature. If this actually does exist, then holy crap run as fast as you can as far away as you can away from it, because that's just nasty.