By the time they caught up to Tinsley and Sam, Tinsley had Sam on a chair at the table in her kitchen and was kneeling before him wiping a dampened washcloth over his face and neck and cooing to him all the while. Sam gazed at her in apparent rapture, his wide eyes never leaving her face.
Dean took a few hesitant steps into the kitchen, his eyes narrowed as he watched Tinsley bewitch his little brother.
He tossed a glare at his father over his shoulder, who had snuck back outside to drag Sam and Dean’s duffels into the house. John, for the first time seemingly relaxed, stood leaning against the frame to the open entrance to the kitchen. He saw Dean’s glare and winked at his son. Dean gaped at him.
“John, really,” Tinsley began, though she hadn’t looked up when John and Dean entered the kitchen. “This child is soaked and-” Tinsley paused as she patted Sam’s cheeks. “Probably hungry and thirsty, yes?”
“Yes!” Sam shouted, beaming at Tinsley in adoration.
Dean was not pleased with this development. Sammy was being sucked into the perky and loud vortex that was Tinsley far too easily. Maybe she was a witch?
“And you.” Tinsley stood and spun toward Dean with near ballerina like grace. Before he could protest she cupped his face gently in her hands. “You must be exhausted. And so dirty, oh dear.” Industriously, Tinsley bega to swipe the damp cloth across his face. Dean sputtered in indignation and got a mouthful of damp cotton for his trouble. Blinded by Tinsley’s vigorous scrubbing of his face, Dean’s ears could nevertheless pick out the deep rumble of his father’s chuckle and the breathy, high pitched giggle of Sammy trying to hide the fact he was laughing at his brother.
“There!” Tinsley shouted in triumph, though Dean was pretty sure she had merely moved the dirt around on his face. “Much better. Now, we have food! John, come sit down. Sammy, you stay there; Dean, you help. Come on, come on.”
Tinsley began to bustle around the kitchen, taking out pots and pans that to Dean had incomprehensible purposes.
At this, John straightened and moved further into the kitchen. He stepped into Tinsley’s path as she whipped around with ladle in one hand and a tomato in another. Dean was sure those did not go together.
Tinsley let out an ‘oomph’ as she barreled into John, then beamed up at Dean’s father, one eyebrow raised questioningly.
Dean looked away.
He thought of his mom, briefly, then locked that thought back into the drawer where he kept it, gathering dust. An anger began to grow in him. Tinsley should not have brought the thought of his mother out, not at all. No woman should. Certainly not any woman who stood gazing doe-eyed up at his father like she was doing right then.
“Tinsley, I’m going to head out now.”
Dean could tell by the shift in his father’s voice that the amusement from just a moment before had vanished, but he kept his gaze averted and missed the look Tinsley must have given his father, judging by the tone of John’s next words.
“Tinsley, I told you I couldn’t stay long.”
“Yes, but I thought-”
“Walk me to the door?”
Dean jerked his head back around just in time to see Tinsley give his father a weak smile before nodding. John turned to look at Dean and cocked his head toward Sammy. “Take care of your brother.”
Gently, John laid his hand on Sammy’s head for just a moment. Sammy reached out his arms and John swiftly turned away, turning his back to the confusion and disappointment on Sammy’s face.
John left the kitchen, Tinsley shuffling despondently after him. With a glance at Sammy, who sat quiet, looking to his brother, Dean edged out of the kitchen and followed in John and Tinsley’s wake. John opened the door, his back to Tinsley, and Dean thought for a second he would simply walk to the car and drive off without saying another word. But he stopped, and turned, almost reluctantly, to look at Tinsley standing subdued now behind him, the ladle and the tomato still in her hands.
“Thanks for watching my boys.” He kissed her, and Tinsley dropped the tomato to wrap an arm around his neck, almost as she could keep him there by the strength of her fingers curled into the hair at the nape of his neck.
Dean stared, unnoticed and shocked into a profound stillness in the hallway. He watched as his father rested his hand at the small of Tinsley’s back and buried the other in her dark hair. Tinsley stood on tiptoe, her toes turning red with the strain of her balancing on them. Dean could see the fine delicate lines in the skin on the soles of her feet, the soft skin at the small of her back, revealed by her rucked up t-shirt, scrunched between John’s fingers. He could see the shape of the nape of her neck, and then he couldn’t as John wrenched his hands out of her hair and the black waves fell, obscuring the pale skin like a stage curtain. John stepped back, followed by Tinsley’s gasp as the pressure of his lips left hers, and she tipped toward him, overbalanced on her toes. John steadied her with a hand at either elbow and Tinsley landed hard on her heels with an audible smack against the tile floor.
“I’ll call you when I get to the motel.”
One last brush of his fingers across her hairline, arranging a strand just so, and then John was turning, leaving, and shutting the door behind him.
Dean came awake then, the sound of the door closing releasing him from his strange paralysis. Silent on the tile even in his kid-size boots, Dean skittered back to the kitchen, his insides hollow.
Dinner had been served far more subdued than it started. Tinsley had never used the tomato – or the ladle – as far as Dean could tell, instead serving up a pair of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with a side dish of Cheerios for each.
“We’ll have to go shopping tomorrow” She had murmured, as a sort of apology.
Sam never noticed, gobbling the food down enthusiastically, and Dean had remembered himself enough to thank her. At least here, the bread wasn’t old and the Cheerios weren’t stale.
“I hope you don’t mind, but you’ll be sleeping in the den tonight.” Tinsley stopped at the open room at the top of the stairs. There were two couches, big enough for two growing boys to sleep comfortably on. A low coffee table squatted in the middle of the room. Tinsley dropped their duffel bags carelessly on the glass surface and turned sheepishly to the boys.
“I didn’t get much warning and the other rooms in the house are basically shut up. But I’ll get sheets tomorrow, and then you guys get your own room!”
“Won’t Daddy be back tomorrow?” Sammy wanted to know.
Tinsley hesitated and glanced at Dean. Dean shrugged noncommittally. John could be gone for a few days or a few weeks. Dean hoped John had made that clear to her.
“I don’t know, Sweetie. But either way, we’re going to have lots of fun!” Tinsley knelt in front of Sam and ruffled his hair.
“Are we?” Sammy said dubiously, patting his hair back into place.
Tinsley made an odd, nervous sound in her throat and clumsily stood back on her feet. Dean turned away to hide his grin, then blinked as the many more windows on the second floor caught his attention. At the sight of so many entries into the house, John’s training kicked in and the prospect of finding a way to salt all the entrances into this giant house caused Dean’s shoulders to droop.
Dean realized he had never been on a normal family shopping trip to the grocery. Well, perhaps when he was very little. Maybe John and his mother, Mary, took him grocery shopping together, with him in the seat in the cart, and Mary hunting through the aisles for whatever was on her list. John, with his hand on the small of her back, or mussing Dean’s hair, or lifting the heavy stuff because Mary had been pregnant with Sammy.
Then she burned to death six months after Sammy was born.
If Dean had been in a regular, normal family, he could barely remember, and it sure as hell didn’t matter now.
“Okay,” Tinsley huffed a little as she lifted Sam into the seat and took hold of the cart. “What should we get first?”
“Candy!” Sam cried, lifting his arms into the air if he was on a roller coaster ride to a sugar coma.
“Dad says-” Dean started, then stopped short in mid-sentence. He glanced at Tinsley who was grinning at him for no discernible reason. Then she wriggled her eyebrows at him.
“Just a little candy, if you’re good.”
Sammy beamed at Tinsley, a smile taking over his face. Dean squinted as if it blinded him and made a face at him, though Sammy barely noticed. He was certainly enjoying himself.
Dean wasn’t so sure. He was still trying to figure out how John even knew Tinsley and what kind of relationship they had where he could just dump his kids on her. And the fact that Tinsley had no idea what sort of supernatural forces were out there waiting to devour the unsuspecting made him nervous.
Dean followed Tinsley and Sam to the candy aisle, brow furrowed in though, though he made sure his attention were on his surroundings. Just because they were in a grocery store in the middle of the day didn’t mean a monster couldn’t try to eat them. Especially if they were the kind that could blend in.
It took Sammy forever to choose a candy he wanted. He sat leaning over the handle of the cart contemplating the colorful bounty on the shelves, stopping just short of rubbing his hairless, dimpled chin with his fingers. Tinsley watched Sam stare at the shelves for a little while, a fixed smile on her face. After a good minute or two, she slid a questioning gaze to Dean, who merely shrugged at her.
“Sam, maybe if-” Her mouth snapped shut as Sam deliberately put a finger to his mouth and shushed her.
Dean turned away, coughing into his hand. He heard Tinsley mutter something in disbelief, a string of indistinguishable words that suddenly evaporated into a gasp.
Dean whipped back around to find Tinsley off-balance and hanging on to the side of the cart. A man in a hoodie rushed pass, a muttered sorry coming out from under the hood.
Dean rushed to Tinsley’s side and helped her regain her balance against the cart. Sammy, obviously distraught, but silent, like he was taught, gripped Tinsley’s other arm in his, as if his tiny four year-old arms could haul her up.
Dean glared at the man’s retreating back. “Nice move, asshole.” He called after him, in perfect imitation of his father.
Tinsley gasped again, this time at Dean’s mouth. “Dean!”
“Well, he practically pushed you!” Dean protested.
“No, I don’t he meant too.” Tinsley sighed and smoothed out Sammy’s hair with her other hand – the one Sammy didn’t have a death grip on. “I don’t think he was paying attention.”
“Well,” Dean muttered, only slightly abashed at the cussing, though that was increasing with the stare the old lady at the other end of the aisle was giving him. “I guess he was in a real hurry.” Again, the sarcasm laced tone was in imitation of John, and Dean saw Tinsley give him an odd half-concerned, half-amused look.
“Probably,” Tinsley shrugged, then smiled brightly, reaching out to softly bump Sammy’s nose with her finger. “We’re alright, aren’t we? Sam, why don’t you pick your candy.”
Sam didn’t loosen his grip on Tinsley’s hand, his mouth starting to form that stubborn line Dean knew so well. Then Sammy’s eyes went limpid and he gazed up at Tinsley. “No, you can pick, Tinsley.”
Dean nearly rolled his eyes into the back of his head.
The man in the hoodie, was not, in fact, a man, nor any monster that Dean had yet encountered or been told about by his father. He was a vampire, and he had slunk into the grocery store for a couple of six packs, and on his way out, Tinsley had breezed in with Sam and Dean in tow. A vampire’s sense of smell was acute, and this particular vampire, without a nest, was especially in tune with the vulnerable.
Sam’s scent had hit him first, but then Tinsley had passed by and the aroma of her almost overwhelmed the vampire’s hard won self-control. But he had prevailed, failing only to stop himself from rushing pass Tinsley to once again get her scent in his nostrils, and now deep into his memory, to ferment and simmer and tantalize him.
He was on the hunt now. He was in a fever of desire.