Dean filled Sam in as they drove, though there wasn’t much to report. The hunters who’d called in their help were Nathan Jones and Toby Myers. Neither registered on the Winchester radar but that was nothing out of the ordinary. The world was crawling with brothers-in-arms they’d never met and Dean liked to keep it that way. Bobby had kept it short; vouched for the pair of them as being of good reputation, given Dean the address of the meet point and hung up.
They were approaching Scottsbluff, Nebraska when he began feeling antsy. They’d been on the road almost two hours and he cast a sidelong glance at Sam in the shotgun seat. His brother was wide awake, bent over the roadmap and plotting the fastest way to North Platt. Dean knew the bottle of pills was in his coat pocket, had watched Sam stash it there while pretending not to notice or care. Now he was stuck with the task of getting it back. He nudged the heater up higher; perhaps he could smoke the damned garment off his brother…
Or he could be upfront and just ask for the meds but that wasn’t his style. It would open up another can of worms and he really couldn’t handle the lecture Sam would lay on him, not to mention the doe-eyed looks of concern and quiet research of addiction websites when he though Dean was asleep.
Sam had just about bought his story back at the motel and Dean almost believed it himself. He’d honestly though a challenging, dangerous case would sort his head out and get him back in the game. While the prospect of ganking a nest of vampires was exciting enough to keep his pulse racing and the Impala’s speedometer hovering around ninety, the underlying anger and frustration was still present.
Dean knew why the feelings wouldn’t go; he was stubborn but not stupid. The bar fight had been momentarily satisfying but come morning, nothing had changed. Short of confronting Sam on key issues involving trust, truth and loyalty, which was never going to happen, he was stuck with the problem. He’d tried to deal with it the same way he’d done all his life; keep it quiet, bury it deep, add as much liquor as necessary to keep it there and hope it eventually went away. Except this time the nagging doubt wouldn’t budge. Then he discovered the magic side-effects of the painkillers.
Dean liked them: they made him feel good and pushed all the issues into a safe place where he could ignore them. When he was loaded he could pretend everything was okay. Sam hadn’t shot him in the shoulder four weeks ago, hadn’t shot him in the chest with a salt-loaded shotgun in Rockford last year… Whichever way he looked at it, Sam had tried to kill him twice already and it really didn’t matter what monster was pulling his strings.
Deep down, Dean knew Sam hated him, even if Sam didn’t realise himself yet. He felt it instinctively and the knowledge was slowly killing him. He was hardwired to protect his brother and he could never change that. They’d be chained together until the final confrontation and Dean would die because there was no way he’d ever be able to pull the trigger on Sam. Part of him wanted to cry, a bigger part wanted to punch his brother’s lights out. He wasn’t about to act on either urge anytime soon.
Dammit he needed those pills.
He forced some jocularity into his voice. “Ready for a pit stop? All that coffee’s banging on the door…”
“Sure.” Sam didn’t look up from the map and didn’t budge when Dean swung the Impala into a gas station. He was still sitting in the car when Dean came out the can so he moved to Plan B. He bought up a pile of road food, loaded it into paper bags and carried them to the car. He tapped the back door with his boot.
“A little help here, Sammy.”
Sam sighed. “Why’d you buy all that crap? It’s gonna kill you.”
Dean stared at him, his heart hammering. Maybe his awareness was skewed but he could’ve sworn Sam just said I’m gonna kill you.
Sam got out of the car, his face full of concern.
“Dean, what’s wrong? You’re white as a sheet.”
Dean shook his head. “Just get the door, will you?”
He thrust the bags at Sam and as he turned to put them on the back seat, lifted the pills deftly from his coat pocket. He headed for the men’s room fast and Sam called after him.
“Where are you going?”
Dean waved a dismissive hand. “Too much grease for breakfast.”
Sam would go for that, wouldn’t ask awkward questions about how much breakfast got yakked up into the john. He hurried inside, shook two pills from the bottle and swallowed them dry. They’d take about ten minutes to kick in and he stared at himself in the mirror, pale and sweating. He used his sleeve to wipe the sheen from his forehead then splashed cold water onto his face. His hands were shaking.
Dean knew this thing wasn’t going anywhere good and he needed to kick it before it got in the way of a job. He owed it to himself to deal with it like a man and resolved to flush the pills down the nearest toilet… once the vampires were taken care of.
He felt light headed as he walked back to the car and not-so-graciously accepted Sam’s offer to drive. He didn’t want his hyper-intuitive brother smelling a rat. He felt chilled enough to doze in the shotgun seat while the Impala ate up the miles. By the time they hit North Platt he was right on top of his game; focussed, alert and ready for action.
He directed Sam to the address Bobby had given and Sam eased the Impala down a long dirt track which opened into a yard. There were decrepit farm buildings surrounding it, a beat-up truck and dusty SUV outside one of them. Sam pulled up alongside. Dean slid the clip from his Colt .45 semi and checked it was full before getting out of the car. He tucked the weapon down the back of his pants and Sam was watching him.
“You sure that’s necessary?”
Dean shrugged. “Bobby knows these guys, I don’t.”
Nathan Jones and Toby Myers must have heard the rumble of the V8 because they came out the nearest barn, all smiles and handshakes. Dean sized them up as Sam made the introductions. They were older, he’d put them mid-forties with the jaded, calculating look of men who’d been doing the job too long. When he was bored with the pleasantries he barged into the conversation.
“You two worked together long?”
Nathan shot him an irritated look. “You always this rude?”
Dean bristled and Toby put himself between them. He smiled easily. “Me and Nathan been partnering a couple of years now. We like to think we got most things covered but this vamp nest we found, there’s gotta be twenty of the bitches inside.”
Dean grinned. “Party time.”
Nathan looked him over appraisingly. “Think you’re up to it?”
Dean arched an eyebrow and Nathan shrugged. “Heard you got shot up in Duluth a few weeks back.”
Dean smirked. “Where’d you hear that, Betty? The girls’ toilet?”
“Don’t matter where I heard it. Is it true?”
Dean eyed him coldly. “Last I heard, you called us in on this. If you got doubts you can shove ‘em up your ass and we’ll be on our way.”
Toby was between them again, voice calm and placating.
“Come on now, save the fighting for the bad guys. Dean, Sam, come inside and have a cold one. We’ll show you what we’ve got and work out a strategy, huh?”
Beer sounded good and Dean followed them inside, Sam bringing up the rear. He kept his right hand close to his pistol as Toby led them through the main body of the barn. It smelled of rotting straw, stagnant water and horses. The roof was open and leaking and there were a few wooden partitions still standing among a lot of fallen and rotted wood. He realised this place had once been a stable.
Toby opened a door at the far end of the barn and ushered them into a smaller space, probably the old tack room. The roof was intact, it was dry and considerably warmer and the hunters had set up shop efficiently. Two airbeds were pushed against the walls and there was a gas heater turned up full. A table and chairs stood in the centre of the room and Dean spotted a case of beer in the far corner. Toby motioned him forward.
Dean scoped out the table as he passed. It was strewn with maps, books, pizza boxes and empty cans; the usual hunting paraphernalia. There was something off about it though; something missing and he tried to figure out what it was as he stooped to snag a couple of brews. It came to him in a flash. Where were all the damned weapons?
He found out a second later as something heavy slammed into the back of his head and knocked him sprawling.