|Badlands Epilogue: The Drifter
Author: Guede Mazaka
“If I didn’t need to feed, we could’ve been in Iowa already,” Dean fretted. He walked around the room again, angrily beating back any drowsy feeling he got. For Christ’s sake, it was still two hours till noon. “I could’ve just slept in the back and we could—”
John let out a tiny sigh and put down the pistol, which he’d been studying for the millionth time in the past few days. “Dean, sit down and sleep if you need it. This demon’s the biggest son of a bitch out there, and going in tired and weak isn’t going to help any.”
“At least we have the pistol. Figuring out the bullet composition shouldn’t take too long—there are only so many things that are effective against demons,” Sam patiently echoed, as if that made it even remotely true. Also for the millionth time. He even synced his typing to it.
“Then maybe Sam should take a break from researching, too. Wading through all that black magic isn’t good for him—I thought that was clear back—” Someone knocked at the door, making Dean lose his train of thought.
He wasn’t sure whether it was accidental, or whether it’d been deliberate on his part. They’d already had this fight a few times, and every time Dean just wound up feeling sick at how guilty Sam got about the reminder; he could already see that look start on Sam’s face. But Sam still refused to believe that he was totally innocent of Mom’s and Jessica’s deaths, no matter how many times Dad pointed out the fires had started from the women and not from him. So Dean would still have to bring it up.
Nevertheless he was happy to have the interruption this time—maybe he’d manage to collect his thoughts into a good enough argument in the meantime—and was over to the door before either Sam or Dad could get up. He yanked it open, ready to rip a new asshole in whoever was standing outside.
Instead, he ended up staring. It took him a good ten seconds to make sense of what he was seeing.
Dark blue jeans, plain dark green shirt beneath a black buttondown shirt, unbuttoned, shapeless thigh-length coat of nondescript brown. Hair slicked back just enough to get it out of the eyes: the whole effect was to make Luther look like one of a thousand other joes walking around town. Except for his skin, which was chalk-white where it wasn’t reddening with a rash. He hadn’t been eating much, and…he smelled faintly of stale sex, but had none of the bile-and-shit stink that inevitably accompanied death. If Dean had to guess, he’d say Luther had been charming ladies at a certain point in their month instead of killing.
Dean twisted his hand so the comforting weight of his hunting knife’s handle fell into his cupped palm. “Finally decided to leave the nineties? And you’re even in sunshine.”
“I thought the sheer shock would keep you from killing me right away. I need to give you something.” Luther slowly lifted his hand to show Dean a small leather pouch. Then he handed it over.
Taking it was a little awkward since Dean didn’t want to let go of the knife and had to do it with his left hand. He rolled it around: it was filled with little hard oblong shapes. Using his thumb, he worked the drawstring open and cautiously peeked inside, keeping one eye on Luther.
“The right bullets. I got back earlier than I said. I really couldn’t remember where I’d seen the revolver before, but I’ve seen guns kill vampires and I wasn’t going to leave it lying around loaded till I’d remembered why it made me so uneasy,” Luther said. He talked softly and slowly and didn’t have a trace of smugness in his voice.
Not that it made Dean any more well-disposed towards the son of a bitch. “So that’s why they set you up in that circle, and why they came back. It wasn’t for Sam—it was because they wanted to know where you’d hid these. You goddamn lying piece of shit. I should—”
“—it might’ve been for me, but they wouldn’t have said no to picking up your brother into the bargain.” Still no arrogance, but Luther hadn’t lost his backbone. He had lost something—some dimension of himself, and it was oddly sad to see it. He looked…almost dead.
Dean glanced behind Luther, but didn’t see any new cars in the parking lot. The unasked-for sympathy pangs made him even more irritated, but he couldn’t work up the rage to outright kill the bastard. “Took you a while to make up your mind, huh.”
In the room behind Dean, everything had gone quiet as soon as he’d started talking to Luther, but now a chair creaked. Dad, he thought. Luther either didn’t hear or didn’t care—probably the second one. “I gave what was left of Kate a decent burial. And tracking you on whatever blood I can scrounge without leaving bodies isn’t exactly easy.”
“Was that so you didn’t leave a trail we or the demon would notice, or because you were planning on using that to suck up to us?” Dean asked, leaning back. He drew the top of the bag shut, held it up for a second, then tossed it over his shoulder. He didn’t hear it hit the ground. “What would you say if I let you in?”
“Where you could kill me in peace?” A hint of black humor tinged Luther’s voice. It disappeared after he took his next breath. “Ask you where you’ve tracked the demon to.”
“Why?” Dad said. Even though Dean had heard the other man come up, it was so abrupt that it startled him.
Luther shrugged nonchalantly, but his face was too serious for the gesture to mean anything. He flicked his eyes to Dad and held his gaze. “It’s responsible for too many graves in my life. And I’ve seen what it can do—with it, you can either run till you collapse or you stay and can try as hard as you can to kill it. I don’t have a reason for running anymore.”
He and Dad matched stares for a long time. Long enough for Dean to step completely out of the way and put his knife back in his sheath, since it was obvious this wasn’t going to be his call. Not that he liked that, but…hell, the looks were too intense even for him.
“You said you knew how it works through people, and how your friend tried to kill it last time—with that Colt. And something of how the bullets and pistol were made,” John finally said. He glanced briefly to the side, pursing his lips, then returned his gaze to Luther. “You’ll put up with whatever I think is necessary to make sure you don’t hurt my sons. You don’t kill any other people either, and you understand this: I’ll make your end slow if you hurt my family.”
“Perfectly,” Luther replied.
After another long look, Dad stepped away. Dean wasn’t satisfied with that and didn’t move. “And you’ve got a reason for staying?”
“My reason for staying—” Luther started. His teeth clicked as he shut his mouth and glanced past Dean.
“What the…what are you doing here?” Sam pushed in beside Dean to stare at Luther. Then he shook his head and withdrew. “Oh, my God. I can’t believe this. Dad--Dad--”
That tone meant Dean was shortly going to be shoving himself between his brother and his father, which really made him feel less than friendly towards Luther. He pushed up just as Luther was taking a step forward, then tipped his head so he could whisper into Luther’s ear. “Look, I know all that power smells good. I know if you get a taste, you’re going to want it so bad it hurts. But don’t even think about it. Jesus—vampires have short grieving times, don’t they?”
Luther abruptly pushed forward so his teeth grazed Dean’s ear with every word. His hand thumped up hard against Dean’s chest, but dropped before anything happened to call Sam and Dad back. “Don’t. Talk about Kate. And yeah, it does. It does hurt you, doesn’t it? But I wouldn’t. I would kill the thing that’d be left if anyone ever did turn your brother into a vampire, though.”
His shoulder nudged hard at Dean’s, the force just a shade too small to qualify as a shove. And after a second, Dean gave and let Luther in. He didn’t feel good about it, but then again, these days the things he felt good about were the evil ones and the things he felt rotten about were the good ones. He just hoped Dad knew what he was doing.
He just hoped they could kill the goddamn thing once and for all, and be done with this edge-walking.