(Warning: this chapter contains scenes of violence and course language)
“You’ve…got me!” Sam coughed, hopelessly glancing down at the girl passed out next to him. “J-Just let her go, please!”
“That’s very touching…but frankly this isn’t about her, Sam.” answered the mucus looking doctor, circling the hunter and his unconscious friend. “As I’ve told you…this is about something much, much bigger. You, Dean, your friend there, and even me…we’re all just chess pieces in what’s about to come forth.”
Sam’s eyes were glazing from the pain inside his stomach. He groaned, trying to push himself up using the weakened strength in his arms. “What are you…talking about?”
“Oh common, you didn’t really think I planned out this whole thing, did you?” Pestilence taunted. “No, you’re too smart to believe I’d be capable of running the whole apocalyptic show here. This moment has been written in the ancient stone… everything about this day was prophesized before Christ! I’m just one of the key points; this virus was just part of a carefully designed strategy. All I had to do was merely release it.”
“So you’re just a puppet then,” Sam scowled, grinding his teeth. “As long as there’s a…epidemic of plague involved…there’s no way you’d give a shit about the world’s end…. So who’s pulling… you’re strings anyway?”
Pestilence smiled cunningly, strolling towards the window and peeked through the blinds. Sam was preoccupied with Sarah’s safety to concentrate on the agony his body was in. If he didn’t get her out of this office soon…both of them were going to suffocate to death. All he could do for now was to obtain the information he needed to stop the virus.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” chuckled the thin doctor, running his hand over the smooth bald spot of his head. “It took a while for us to officially get acquainted….seeing as how I was a little…cut off at the moment.” Pestilence referred to his severed ring finger then when back to his monologue. “I gotta tell you…I was impressed by this guy who not only restored my powers, with the addition of my new ring, but he basically promoted me to a reserved seat in the apocalypse.”
Sam became suspicious of Pestilence’s role in the zombie outbreak. “But there’s…no way you could’ve found out about Kay’s blood…unless you weren’t the only one brought into this…” the young hunter glared at the repulsive moist skin doctor. “Who’s doing…this? Who’s really behind this massacre, Pestilence?”
“You don’t really expect me to just out him do you?” the doctor put his hushed index finger to his mouth. “That would just make things awkward between us.” Pulling off his glasses and huffing into the glass, he took the corner of his coat and cleaned them respectably. “I will tell you that he’s very pissed at you, Sam… Of all people he wants to suffer, your name seems to be at the top of his list.”
“W-Who… is he!” Sam demanded. “Did he have something to do with those suicides that Kay’s been absorbing? I want answers now!”
Pestilence smirked cruelly at the young hunter, struggling in pain. He took pleasure watching all his plagues destroy every living thing in sight. Sam’s determination to stop him while he was dying a slow and agonizing death amused the Horseman…a slight taste of pay-back for chopping off his ring-finger.
“Oh that wasn’t his handy work; that was another agent of his.” Pestilence replied. “Yah, he’s been trailing the empath all her life prepping her for this moment…torturing her with her own curse by feeding her every painful emotion of the next pathetic head-case pushed to take their life… It was a bit touch and go for some of those deaths…almost killed your friend a couple times, whose pretty vital to this whole operation. I guess that’s what happens when you send a demon to do a real man’s job.”
“W-What demon?” growled Sam, clutching his chest.
“All in good time kiddo,” he answered the sprawled out hunter. “For now…I just want to sit back and enjoy this for a second because pretty soon, you’ll be dead and I won’t have anything to look forward to.”
“I’m gonna kill you! I swear to god…I’m gonna kill you!”
Pestilence just threw his head back and laughed. “Don’t push your luck kid; it’ll wear you down faster.”
“Mind if I cut in here?” interrupted a spontaneous voice in the background. Sam lifted his head off the floor, struggling to view the unexpected visitor in the room. For a moment his optimism rose in his throat, taking in the familiar resemblance of himself and his brother Dean. But there was something about this young man’s voice that felt heavier and a little intimidating to belong inside a human form. “I promise this won’t take long” he wisely nodded to the doctor. “Pestilence.”
The thin man in the mucus skin and lab coat seemed to barely contain his excitement…whether it came from admiration or fear.
“Hello…Michael.” He said coyly approaching the young man. “This is definitely unexpected…love the vessel it smells…much like a certain relation I know.” Pestilence glared down at Sam.
“He is the younger brother of the Winchesters, yes.” Michael replied in a vacant tone. “My presence could not be contained otherwise. As of now, this vessel proves useful to me…especially in dealing with insolent circumstances.”
“Sorry, I’m confused aren’t you an Archangel?” the doctor puzzled, stoking his chin. “Why would the fragile lives of these two humans…be of your concern?”
“Let’s just say…their insignificant lives will be greatly valuable to me in the long run.” Michael stated plainly, tilting his head. “Now…either you step down and release these humans or I will become very…unreasonable.”
“Michael we both know that can’t happen. “I’m one of the anointed Horsemen in the Apocalypse…even if I die there will always be another chosen to replace me…disease with never lose…it’s always a part of everything.”
The Archangel wasn’t taken, extending his arm out in front of the Horseman. “Last chance,” he warned fierily. “Release them now or perish…your choice Pestilence.”
The slimy doctor just laughed. But Sam’s attention was more focused on Sarah, as he gently cradled her face in the crook of his arm. “Wait, what about…the vile of Kay’s blood?” he interrupted. “We have to find it…and destroy it before he…plants it in another hospital!”
“Oh there won’t be a need for that Sam,” sharply informed the doctor. “Even if you did destroy it, my virus is already out there spreading into every human being it comes in contact with. There’s no containing it now…as I told you before…you’re too late.”
“Fine, lay down your life then.” Michael commanded.
“If you were going to kill me Archangel…you’d done it by now,” chuckled Pestilence, folding his hands together. “Unless there’s not a whole lot of spark going on in that body of yours…” he sniffed at Adam Milligan’s skin. “Your scent is different now…almost too human….What happened to you anyway?”
“I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details.” sneered the Archangel; protectively couching down to Sam and Sarah. Then he turned to the young hunter. “Dean and Kay are safely waiting for you back at the car…there’s not much time… I will send you and your friend to them but you have to get Kay out of the city before she dies!”
“No, I’m not leaving Adam with you!” Sam snapped, lip quivering as he could feel the sickness escape him. “You took him from us once…I’m not letting you do it again!”
Michael irritably rubbed his eyes. “I’ve already had this conversation with your brother, Sam. His stubbornness was irrelevant to me where it concerns the safety of the empath.” Firmly he grabbed Sam’s coat collar, eyes giving off a red glare. “Now you will do as I say and leave this city with the girl when I return you to the car… Adam will be safe with me, you have my word.”
Sam shook his head. “You’re not very big on the whole merciful tactic these days…so why the hell should I trust anything that comes out of your mouth? You tried to kill me and my brother the last time we met!”
“When we met my brother was wearing your meat suit, Sam.” Michael answered gristly. “And for the record you Winchesters are not exactly big on trust either.”
“Well can you blame us?”
“Just shut up and close your eyes!” Quickly the Archangel imprinted his two fingers upon Sam and Sarah’s foreheads; vanishing them out of the room. Michael slowly collected himself back to his previous stance, attention solely focused on Pestilence.
The gooey doctor chuckled, extending his neck out. “What, are we gonna have a throw down now? You of all people should know I’m not big on physicality like you soldiers of heaven…I’m merely an infection.” He laughed harder. “Disease is the number one killer of mankind…and what do you care about a bunch of spineless, low-level beings anyway? I thought humans always disgusted you Michael.”
“I don’t have to explain my actions to you.” crossed the Archangel, raising his palm in front of Pestilence’s face. “But I can’t allow you to leave this room….”
With Sam and Sarah safely united back inside the car with Dean and Kay, the taller Winchester turned the keys in the ignition and punched the gas of the impala out of the parking lot. The bumper managed to hit a line of infected people shambling quickly after the vehicle. Sam didn’t hesitate to ram into them, zombie skulls squishing under the tires. Sarah, now conscious and shoulder fully healed, was frantically directing the young hunter throughout the traffic, desperately searching for the road leading towards a highway out of New York.
Dean huddled in the backseat; struggling to console Kay’s thrashing body. Normally he was pretty skeptically about letting other people drive his car, but under these circumstances he didn’t give a rat’s ass. All he cared about was reviving Kay before she went into shock…she needed his support. He’d never forgive himself if anything happened to her. Brushing the hair away from her face, Dean cradled Kay’s limp head in his arm as he supported her upper body on his lap. She was convulsing, eyes nearly rolling in the back of her head.
“Sammy, what the hell are you doing!” he snapped at the driver. “Move your damn ass!”
“And what does it look like I’m doing?” Sam grilled behind the wheel, avoiding an out of control semi-truck. “There are too many cars out here! I’m doing my best!”
“Yah well your best isn’t gonna save this girl!” Dean snapped, stroking his fingers through Kay’s soft hair. “If we don’t get her out of this city, she’s going to die!”
“I know that but yelling at me isn’t gonna help the situation, Dean.” Sam stressed maneuvering the impala through a sea of shambling people rising from smashed vehicles, some off in the ditch. Looking closely, Sam could see some of the fatal wounds they carried…skin almost the shade of lavender. They were dead and hungered for the living. “If we could just concentrate on not dying at the moment, that would be great!”
“Alright, shut up both of you!” Sarah piped, clamping her hand on Sam’s shoulder. “If we’re gonna waste time arguing, we might as well hang out here and get torn to shreds. Kay doesn’t need this crap right now!”
Awkwardly, Sam glanced over at Sarah’s convincing blue eyes. “You’re right Sarah, I’m sorry. We’re all under a lot of pressure…the best we can do is hold it together until we find an exit.”
“Well you’re the resident here,” Dean referred to the young woman in the front seat. “So navigate already!”
“It’s not like I have a G.P.S stapled to my forehead!” she added excitably, pointing towards a tunnel. “Head there, probably take us out to West Side Highway.”
As the impala turned a corner aiming for the tunnel, a truck came spiraling in the opposite direction and skidded straight for them. Sam roughly spun the wheel creating a parallel line as the truck spun around and smashed into a road sign, creating an explosion. Sarah screamed, ducking her head over her lap. The jerk of the car, flung Kay out of Dean’s grasp, though he caught her before she slammed into the window.
“Holy shit!” Dean cried as his brother barley avoided the entrance to the tunnel.
“We can’t go in there.” Sam said switching on the windshield wipers as the rain pounded like nickels against the glass. “For all we know it could be jam packed with vehicles and infected people.” He turned to Sarah. “Tell me you’ve got another route.”
“Take Route NY-9A!” replied the young woman pointing though the packed buildings of the city. “It’s our best shot yet.”
“No, can’t risk too many dead men walking around.” snorted Dean.
“I doubt the outbreak has gotten that far already,” Sarah countered at the young man behind her seat. “But if you got a better idea then by all means.”
Kay covered her ears, continuously screaming. “It hurts! It hurts! Please make it stop!”
“Kay, hang in there sweetheart we’re gonna get you outa here.” Dean tenderly assured the empath girl, caressing her porcelain face. “It’s gonna be okay…I promise.”
She eagerly fought to open her eyes, staring back at the young man consoling her. “Dean…y-you won’t let me go right? You…won’t let the darkness t-take me?”
“Shhh, don’t talk.” He gently rubbed his thumb along the creases of her forehead, avoiding the bandage taped over her gash.
Sam tilted the rearview mirror, glimpsing the crucial moment between his brother and the empath girl. There was a closeness formulating between them as it had even since the moment Kay Forster entered their lives. Dean was a different person when he was with her…unlike how he was with the other women who’d come into his life…even Lisa was unable to break through that barrier of his heart. Everything that Pestilence had told Sam back at that hospital warned him of the pain Dean and Kay were going to endure if their connection got any deeper.
A legion of zombies shambled through the wreck as the city erupted into flames around the impala. The inflection was spreading faster. Both Sam and Dean knew this was beyond them now as they looked into the chaos spilling out into the streets. Hordes of six infected surrounded woman, children…even young couples…biting, ripping…feasting into their flesh. The rain could only rinse away the blood as it bleed out on the roads, sidewalks and buildings. Civilians were scattering about, shrieking as some of their loved ones were being torn to shreds, others tried to outrun their assailants only to be unfortunate in the end.
“Dean, we have to stop this.” Sam said arrogantly, gripping the wheel tighter. “Whatever it takes…otherwise…all this blood is going to be on our hands.”
“We’re already soaking in it Sammy.” Dean crucially reminded the driver, flaring his nostrils bitterly. "All we can do now is…find someplace to buy us time until we can come up with a plan to take these undead jackasses out.”
The rain was heavier by the time Sam and Sarah managed to find an exit out of the city, crossing the bridge towards the main highway out of New York. When the car was far enough out of city limits, Sarah switched spots with Dean as Sam climbed into the front, either side if the stirring wheel. Dean felt like driving, share some clarity with his brother while the girls rested peacefully in the backseat. The only things they needed to be concerned with were the temperature of the air conditioning and the crammed space, which didn’t seem to irritate either of them.
Sam slapped his cell phone shut when he realized their friend Bobby wasn’t answering. The only thing switched on inside the car besides the draft of air flowing through the vents, was the radio. All hours of the night up until dawn approached, the news broadcast reported disturbances of the outbreak occurring throughout Manhattan and New Jersey.
By 5:30 am the virus had spread further into other states…pretty soon there would be no where left to outrun it. Dean swore under his breath, turning it off. He couldn’t stand listening to what he and his brother allowed to happen. It was worse than being poked and prodded by Alistair’s knife, but even that was bearable compared to this.
“Have you tried calling Lisa?” Sam broke the silence after yawning.
“I tried four times…kept getting the busy signal.” Dean answered hazily. “Damn technology is useless.”
“Yah, Bobby hasn’t returned any of my calls either… do you think they’re okay?”
“I don’t know” Dean exhaled, digging the dust out of his eyes. “God I hope so…because my son…he’s out there Sammy. I just want someone to tell me he’s safe.”
Sam swallowed hard, squeezing his brother’s shoulder. His expression was sympathetic. “We’ll find him Dean, I promise… Adam’s out there too, with Michael…oh man I hope he’s alright.”
“You and me both, dude.” Dean pressed. “Cause if that jackass hurts him I swear to hell and back I’m gonna tear his friggin head off!”
Dean carefully looked over his shoulder, checking to see if Kay was still asleep. Her eyes were comfortably shut, leaning against Sarah’s shoulder, resembling an innocent little girl. A tender smile seemed to find its way on Dean’s lips as he took comfort in sound of her light breathing. Sam’s face was grave, pursing his lips together. It was always nice to see his brother smile and yet he couldn’t forget everything Pestilence revealed to him. Somehow he felt Dean becoming closer to Kay was going to become painful for both of them.
“Sure wish Cas was back from that great big cloud in the sky right about now.” said the older Winchester plainly. “I mean for all we know he’s probably sitting on his ass, watching the world fall a apart around us.”
“Common Dean, he wouldn’t do that.” Sam encouraged. “Cas has been on our side since day 1…why would he turn on us now?”
Dean shot his brother a sour expression. “Well Sam, I don’t know he is working for the Big Man upstairs now…just another winged-bitch.” It pissed him off having no contact with the trench-coated angel since he’d told the boys about the oncoming threat. Castiel was always loyal and protective of the Winchesters but ever since his recent promotion…things had been extremely murky.
“Dean while we’re on the subject of what’s happening,” Sam started, leaning against the window sill. “There’s something I think you should know.”
“Okay, what is it?” Dean asked.
“Back at the hospital when I went to get Sarah…Pestilence was there.” Immediately the tension drifted into the older Winchester’s face, turning his skin almost a beat red. Sam continued. “He unleashed the virus into that hospital…infected all those people and tried to kill Sarah and me… But before he could… he told me some things…things you’re not gonna like.”
“So the mucus king came back for a little snuggle huh?” Dean stressed. “Never saw that coming… what did the clown have to say for himself?”
“Dean, he mutated the croatoan virus…” Sam paused, bracing himself for his brother’s next reaction. “And he used Kay’s blood to complete the strain.”
“What? That’s impossible!” Dean cried in outrage. “There’s no way in hell you’re gonna convince me that Kay had anything to do with the carnage back there!”
“Believe me, I know how you feel,” Sam pressed eagerly. “I didn’t want to believe it either but it’s the truth. Pestilence told me there was something off about Kay’s blood…it was why he was able to reassemble it into the original croatoan stain.”
“Well that bastard’s full of shit, alright!” barked Dean, clenching his jaw. “Kay’s just an empath!”
“And Cas warned us before that she wasn’t an ordinary empath! Her abilities are so far beyond controllable, it’s like every emotion she absorbs into her body packs a hefty punch.” Sam paused, glancing at the young women slumbering in the back. “And that’s not all… about those suicides…a demon was assigned to trail Kay for years, so he could torture her by pushing every severely depressed person over the edge. I think whoever was controlling this demon to do it was also trying to manipulate Kay…drive her crazy so that her abilities would manifest.”
“What are talking about dude? Who’s controlling a demon?” Dean demanded.
“It was the same thing responsible for sending Pestilence to that hospital where Kay was kept.” Sam explained, voice slightly rising. “Dean something else is trying to jumpstart another apocalypse and he’s targeting Kay for some reason I don’t know.”
“Well then we regroup and find out who the son-of-a-bitch is!” Dean promised; taking another glance at the young empath curled up on Sarah’s shoulder. “I’ll be damned back to hell before I ever let so much as a scrap hurt that girl. I don’t care what happens to me as long as she’s safe.”
Sam’s eyes glazed, avoiding the determination on his brother’s face. What bothered him was how much Dean was willing to sacrifice for the young woman. He cared for her, devoted himself as her protector and this level of compassion worried Sam.
“Dean…you and Kay seemed… to have been getting pretty close lately.” He said plainly.
The hunter in the driver’s spot scrunched his face sourly. “What? Nah, I’m just helping her out. I mean she’s a nice girl and all but…it’s just strictly supernatural business.”
“That’s not what it looks like from where I’m sitting.” Sam reminded, throwing his brother a distraught look. “You really care about this girl…more than you’ve ever cared about any girl.”
“Shut up.” Dean scoffed.
“I’m serious… I’ve never seen you like this…not even when you with Lisa.”
Dean couldn’t contain the urge to pull over on the side of the road and clock his brother in the jaw. Instead he gritted his teeth and warned. “I said shut up Sam!”
“Alright!” Sam held his hands up submissively. “But all I was gonna say was… be careful… I mean we never get close to anyone on the job for good reason…If you really care about Kay,” before he considered the possibility of the empath girl as a threat to them, Sam reprised himself. “Don’t mess with her… the one part about the Winchester curse is…people always end up getting hurt.”
"So is that concern really aimed at me...or you?" Dean countered, referring to the young brunette woman sleeping next to Kay. Sam decided to shrug off the discussion before it escalated.
The impala disappeared down the hill in the road and as it did Dean found himself wondering about the people closest to his heart. Sam who was sitting next to him anxiously awaiting on a plan, Ben the illegitimate son he shared with a woman named Lisa whom he thought of affectionately, Adam the younger long-lost half-brother who for all he knew was a prisoner to an unpredictable Archangel, Castiel the guardian angel who allowed himself to become a slave to his lord in the sky, Sarah the woman his brother still felt affectionate towards and now…Kay the empath girl who somehow burrowed her way through his heart strings.
Things always felt simpler to Dean, even when he was hunting but this girl was an obstacle he could barely dodge. Since the moment she first smiled at him back at the garage, gentle unguarded brown eyes shining back in his…he was weak. Normally Dean could spout all his useless pickup lines and briefly have a little fun with the next bimbo that crossed his path…but with Kay he just couldn’t bring himself to do that. He’d promised to protect her and yet he wanted more…in spite of all the constant denial he wanted to really get to know her.