Season Four

Episode : Stranger With

By irismay42

Part One

 

It’s dark and he’s lying on the floor.

He can’t seem to get his breath or remember how he got here; why he’s lying on the floor; why he’s cold and he can’t breathe.

Why there are hands around his throat, squeezing.

He blinks, and the darkness shifts above him, a glint of light on something even darker, midnight black and hard as flint and cold as winter ground.

There’s someone here, someone hovering above him; someone with their hands around his neck.

He begins to choke, scrabbling at the fingers digging into his windpipe, trying to draw in enough air to ask, “Why?” but only managing a confused whimper.

No one answers the unasked question and the darkness shifts again, a tiny sliver of illumination glancing off green eyes.

“Sorry about this, little brother,” the voice says, and he recognizes the sound, recognizes the voice. Familiar as a brother, alien as a stranger.

The hands squeeze harder and his vision blurs, just as the darkness shifts once again and a face as familiar as his own reflection bleeds languidly into view.

“Dean,” he manages to gasp out, and a smile ghosts over his brother’s face.

“It’s gotta be this way Sammy,” Dean says, blinking.

The green disappears and as Sam’s vision grays out, the last thing he sees are his brother’s eyes, midnight black and hard as flint and cold as winter ground.


Bonham Inn
Bonham, TX

Sam sat up with a start, gasping for air and scrabbling at the phantom presence of his brother’s fingers about his throat.

His t-shirt was plastered to his back and his chest, cold sweat making him shiver as he fought for air, fought to control his wildly hammering heart, fought to remember where he was and it was just a nightmare.

Dean was flat on his stomach on the other bed, right hand buried between the pillow and the lumpy motel mattress, fingers no doubt wrapped around the hunting knife he’d hidden there every night for as long as Sam could remember.

He snored softly, his left hand scraping the off-blue carpet, blankets twisted around his legs in an arrangement Sam would have found decidedly uncomfortable.

Sam smiled fondly, finally getting a handle on his jackhammer heart and uneven breathing.

Just a nightmare, he told himself again, running his fingers through his hair before ghosting them down over his neck and the bruises he swore he could feel even though they only ever existed in his subconscious.

Nightmare. Just a nightmare.

He swallowed as another thought hit him hard and winded him almost as badly as the feeling of Dean’s fingers squeezing the life out of him.

Vision?

It had been a long time since Sam had had a vision, so long he couldn’t even remember the last one.

And if this was a vision…

If this was a vision and not a nightmare…

Then this was the second time he’d foreseen his own death.

He shuddered, remembering the hangar in New Jersey, the ticking of Haris’ watch as Sam’s time trickled away to nothing.

Just a nightmare, he told himself more forcefully, jamming his fists against his thighs through the ugly comforter and thin blankets, glancing once again at his brother draped across the other bed, sound asleep and oblivious to the thoughts racing through Sam’s head.

Dean would never hurt him.

Sam knew that.

Even possessed, Dean would fight to his last breath if it meant protecting Sam. Had fought to his last breath. Even when Haris’ spawn had tried to possess him. He’d fought so hard. That was Dean’s “job” after all.

Dean shifted slightly and his amulet caught the light from the orange streetlight slithering in between a gap in the curtains, and Sam almost laughed in chagrined relief. Dean couldn’t be possessed. Not completely. Not while he wore the amulet.

So it couldn’t have been a vision.

Nightmare. It was just a stupid nightmare.

So why was he even considering this? Why was he even imagining Dean possessed, his hands around his little brother’s throat? He couldn’t be possessed. Sam knew that. Not with the amulet around his neck. And even if he could, no way he’d ever kill Sam, even with a demonic passenger urging him to do it.

He and his brother were in a motel in Texas. They were safe. They were together. Dean’s amulet was where it was supposed to be. It was just a nightmare.

Sam took a deep breath, willing himself to calm down, willing himself to breathe slowly, breathe in time with his brother. Just breathe.

He shook his head, chiding himself wordlessly—and with Dean’s voice—for being such a freakin’ wuss.

Over on the other bed, Dean stirred slightly as if in agreement, and although his eyes remained steadfastly closed, he mumbled, “You okay, Sammy?”, as if even half asleep, looking out for his little brother was still his number one priority.

Sam chuckled a little in relief, flopping back on his mattress on a shaky exhale. “Yeah,” he reassured his brother, who he was pretty sure had already fallen back to sleep, if he’d even woken up properly in the first place. “I’m fine. Just a nightmare.”


Bonham Inn
Bonham, TX
Later that day

Dean’s pacing was seriously starting to grate on Sam’s nerves.

Backwards and forwards, up and down, round and round in circles. And it wasn’t as if the motel room was exactly large to begin with.

“Dude, I’m tryin’ to concentrate here,” he chided his brother, inclining his head at the laptop screen irritably. “Can you go wear a hole in the carpet someplace else?”

Dean grunted, rubbing his hands down the front of his jeans, pretty much exactly as he did when he was nervous and his palms were too sweaty to grip his shotgun or handgun or whatever weapon happened to be within his reach.

Sam frowned minutely, forcing himself to look back at the computer screen and deliberately not stare at his brother.

“Seriously?” Dean asked, biting at his thumbnail. “A convent? Nuns give me the creeps, man.”

“Since when?” Sam demanded, squinting up at his brother, who merely shrugged.

“Since forever.”

“Dean, six nuns slitting their wrists at the same convent in two weeks is not exactly normal, you gotta admit.”

Dean sighed, his palms once again rubbing against his thighs. “Yeah, okay,” he admitted reluctantly. “But do we have to go check out the convent?”

He sounded all of six years old, and Sam realized he couldn’t even remember Dean at six years old. “You got a better way of us figuring out what’s going on?” he asked, looking up from his computer screen.

Sam knew he’d not exactly been paying his brother much attention these last couple of hours, engrossed as he was in his research, but he was surprised to find Dean sweating and fidgeting nervously, the fingers of his left hand rubbing his right wrist raw.

“Dean?” Sam asked, more than a little alarmed. “What’s wrong with you?”

Dean stopped his pacing long enough to cast a quizzical look Sam’s way. “What? Nothing,” he said, resuming his pacing as he continued to rub at his wrist.

“Dean?” Sam was half out of his seat, alarmed by the size of Dean’s pupils and his general jitteriness. “Seriously. What’s wrong?”

Dean stopped again, looking down at his red wrist and immediately shoving his hands in his jeans pockets. “Nothin’,” he insisted, still examining the carpet as he added, “It’s just…hallowed ground kinda…freaks me out a little these days.”

That got Sam all the way out of his seat. “At the risk of repeating myself,” he said, “since when?”

Dean shook his head, angling his face away from the sunlight streaming in through the window. He looked pale and drawn, freckles standing out dark against pallid skin, and just for a second…

No, it was a trick of the light. Sunlight glinting off his enlarged pupils as he turned.

Sam closed his eyes and shook his head.

His brother’s eyes did not just turn black.

He swallowed, before finally daring to once again meet Dean’s gaze.

He took a breath and let it out slowly.

Dean’s eyes are green. His eyes are green. Not black.

Dean was looking at him. His eyes were slightly downcast, but undeniably green.

The older brother blinked, before shrugging abashedly. “Since always,” he said, averting his gaze again and shrugging before adding, “Since Stull, maybe.”

Stull! Of course! It would make sense that Dean would be wary of hallowed ground since their all-too-recent encounter at the spectral church.

Sam was losing it.

And he was being an idiot. Dean was not possessed and his eyes had most definitely not turned black.

He smiled weakly, and returned to his seat and his computer.

Just a nightmare, he told himself, only then releasing the grip he hadn’t even realized he had on the Glock secreted in his waistband. Just a nightmare…


Our Lady of Sorrows Convent,
Kemp, OK

“So,” Dean said slowly, guiding the Impala past a tiny gas station that looked as if it hadn’t seen a customer in thirty years, and up a dirt road with more potholes than actual road. “Where’s the town?”

Sam shrugged, glancing briefly over his shoulder and raking his gaze over the dusty cluster of dilapidated buildings crouching in the middle distance. “I think we just passed it,” he observed, returning his attention to the GPS on his cell phone.

“That was it?” Dean burst out, turning his head slightly askew as he tried to read the screen of Sam’s new iPhone. “No wonder the nuns are offing themselves.”

Sam shook his head, feeling kind of relieved Dean seemed to be back to his usual tactful self.

That whole thing back at the motel? Just Sam’s imagination. He was certain of it.

Well, pretty sure anyway.

Although when Dean had shucked out of his suit jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves, his wrist had still been red from where he’d been rubbing at it.

Sam tried not to look at the injury as his brother deftly guided the big Chevy over the uneven road surface, instead concentrating on the little screen in front of him and the big blue pin with the legend “Our Lady of Sorrows” hovering over it, which seemed to be the only thing within miles on the map of Nowheresville, Oklahoma.

“We should be about—”

“Here?” Dean finished for him, pulling the Impala to a sudden halt, which caused Sam to look up sharply.

At the small convent right in front of them.

“Oh,” he said, tucking away his phone and shrugging. “We’re here.”

“Your powers of observation continue to astound me, Sammy,” Dean said dryly, shoving open the driver’s side door and peeling himself off the sticky-hot bench seat.

Sam followed suit, scoping out the high red brick wall surrounding the convent and the collection of single storey buildings just visible through the imposing wrought iron gate. A small chapel was set back in the center of well-tended gardens, half-obscured by beautifully tended trees which seemed almost too perfect to be stuck out here in the middle of this dustbowl.

Retrieving his suit jacket from the Impala’s backseat, Sam shrugged into it and straightened his tie, before turning his attention almost unconsciously to his brother, who was tugging at his shirt collar irritably.

“Dean?”

“Friggin’ stupid FBI and their friggin’ stupid monkey suits…” Dean growled under his breath as he tugged at the knot around his neck, his nervous fidgeting threatening to turn to full-on violence any second.

Not wishing to see an innocent tie fall victim to Dean’s rapidly increasing frustration, Sam grabbed his brother’s hands and pulled them away from the offending material, straightening the knot for him before smoothing down the lapels of his jacket.

Dean just looked at him for a second. “I’m not six, Sam,” he hissed irritably, pushing Sam’s hands away before shoving past him and stalking off in the direction of the convent.

Sam sighed.

Yes, Dean was definitely back to his old self.

Except… He’d stopped a few feet away from the high gate, staring into the convent grounds between ornate curls of wrought iron, a desperately forlorn look on his face.

“You sure we gotta do this, Sammy?” he asked plaintively, once again beginning to worry at the red patch on his wrist.

“I thought you said you weren’t six?” Sam returned, frowning as his brother continued to claw his flesh raw. “’Cause you kinda sound six right now.”

Dean shot him a withering glare before clenching his jaw and marching on up to the gate, shoving it open a little too roughly and coughing as it slammed back against the wall with a nerve-jangling clang.

“Dean!” Sam hissed. “Quit it, dude! You want me to leave you in the car?”

Dean glanced longingly over his shoulder for a second, back at the black Chevy parked a little conspicuously just off the dirt track, before setting his shoulders and shaking his head mutely, and right then, Sam couldn’t help thinking he actually looked as if he was all of six years old.

Sam shook his head and tried to smooth the frown from off his forehead. “Alright then,” he said, leading the way through the gate and into the convent gardens with a hugely put-upon sigh.

Dean followed, at first hesitantly, then suddenly speeding up until he was right at Sam’s shoulder, so ridiculously close he almost bumped into him on several occasions as the two of them made their way up the incredibly neat path between the incredibly neat shrubbery to the wooden chapel door.

Sam threw a concerned look back at his brother, who was casting nervous, jittery glances all around him, but especially at the nuns walking through the grounds and tending the gardens.

He paused when they reached the chapel door, looking up at the building and swallowing hard.

“You sure you’re okay, man?” Sam asked, frowning, and Dean just looked at him, pale and sweaty and obviously in a real state of discomfort, if not actual distress. “Dean?”

Dean shrugged, rammed his hands in his trouser pockets before pulling them out again and pushing on the bell set into the chapel wall.

A young novice nun answered almost immediately, as if she’d been waiting there all morning for two hunters pretending to be FBI agents to come a-calling.

“Can I help you?” the girl asked, cheeks coloring visibly when Sam stepped forward and treated her to his most dazzling smile.

“Always with the dimples,” Dean muttered under his breath, as Sam elbowed him in the ribs before pulling out his FBI credentials.

“Agents Benedict and Schultz,” he intoned seriously. “We have an appointment with Sister Mary Emmanuel?”

“Oh, of course.” The young nun lowered her eyes and opened the door wider, motioning them to step inside. “This way please.”

Sam smiled again, waiting for Dean to take point, as he usually did in these situations. When Dean didn’t move, Sam frowned at him before following the nun into the chapel.

He’d been in a lot of churches and holy places in his life, as well as a lot of abandoned and ruined ones, and he was always amazed how different consecrated ground felt to unconsecrated ground.

He breathed in the cool, calming air for a second before glancing back at Dean, who was still hesitating on the stone steps outside.

“Uh. Agent Benedict?”

Dean blinked at him, swallowing again before finally stepping over the threshold and into the chapel, his right leg wobbling slightly as his foot connected with holy ground.

Sam blew out the breath he’d been holding, knowing he should feel more relieved than he did.

Just a nightmare… he told himself.

If he thought that often enough, maybe he might start to believe it.

The young novice had stopped and turned toward them, a quizzical expression on her face.

Sam smiled awkwardly, glancing back to check Dean was following—albeit reluctantly—before striding to catch up with the young woman.

Turning on her heel, the novice led them through the modest little chapel to a small office just off from the chancel, opening a huge wooden door and motioning for them to enter.

An older nun looked up from her position behind a rather battered oak desk at their arrival, warm blue eyes welcoming them into her office, even as her lips offered a rather sad smile.

“Please,” she said, indicating two chairs placed in front of the desk. “Thank you, Bernadette,” she offered to the young novice, who ducked her head, cast another embarrassed look Sam’s way, and exited the room silently.

Sam performed his usual assessment of the room, noting the single exit and the lack of locks on the small, leaded window before realizing with a shudder that the office reminded him a little of the one in the disappearing church at Stull, the one where he had been trapped at Halloween before being thrown into that whole alternate reality nightmare; the one his brother had dragged him into at Spring Equinox when they’d finally busted their dad back out again.

He really didn’t want to think about that right now. Even when Stull church had been visible, it most certainly had not felt like holy ground.

Strange that Dean should be more freaked out here, in a convent in Oklahoma in the presence of a woman of God, than in a dimension-hopping Hellgate rammed full of demons.

“Thank you for coming Agents…?” the nun enquired, causing Sam to pull out his fake FBI credentials once again.

“Agent Schultz,” he supplied, taking the woman’s proffered hand. “My partner, Agent Benedict.”

Dean hesitated for just a fraction of a second before following his brother’s lead, grimacing slightly when the nun shook his hand.

“You must be Sister Mary Emmanuel?” Sam hazarded.

The nun nodded, before once again indicating the chairs. “Please, sit.”

As the boys took the offered seats, the nun ran a hand over her forehead, suddenly looking incredibly tired.

“You don’t know how glad I am to see you gentlemen,” she said, smiling thinly. “I didn’t think the police were ever going to take me seriously.” She looked from Sam to Dean and back again, holding the younger brother’s gaze solemnly. “I know something unnatural is going on here.”

Sam nodded sympathetically. “So there have been six deaths altogether?” he began, flipping open his notebook and pulling a pen from his jacket pocket.

Sister Mary Emmanuel nodded. “Yes. Six of my sisters. In the past two weeks alone.” She continued to hold Sam’s gaze, almost as if Dean weren’t even in the room. “Believe me when I say this to you, Agent: my sisters would not have taken their own lives. Suicide is mortal sin, why would they willingly sacrifice their only opportunity to enter Paradise? It makes no sense.”

Sam shifted slightly in his seat. “I’m sorry for asking this, Sister,” he said carefully. “But were any of them suffering from depression, or delusions, anything that might suggest they were suicidal?”

The nun shook her head vehemently. “No, no of course not,” she said, her eyes drifting distractedly to the sunlight slanting in through the window. “They were all happy, content with their lives here. And their bodies… how they were displayed…”

Sam consulted his notebook. “I understand each of them was found on the altar with no sign of any kind of blade or weapon?” he said.

Sister Mary Emmanuel nodded. “It was… just horrible,” she said. “As if someone—something—had laid them out there on display for all to see; arranged as if—as if…” She had to stop for a second, clenching her jaw before continuing. “In a mockery of Our Lord Christ crucified.”

“And the local cops didn’t think that was odd?” Dean put in suddenly, the nun looking at him as if only just remembering he was there. “The posing of the bodies? The lack of any weapon that could have inflicted the injuries?”

“They dismissed it as some kind of hysterical religious suicide pact,” she told him, more than a trace of bitterness in her voice. “Said one of them could have removed the knife and hidden it until it was their turn to use it. Which is just patently ridiculous. These were women who had devoted their lives to the service of Christ, devout servants of God. Not a sorority house full of teenaged girls who had seen one too many vampire movies and decided to join the ranks of the beautiful Undead.”

Dean snorted a little, and Sam kicked him none-too-subtly.

Turning his attention back to the nun, Sam smoothed out his expression before asking, “Would it be possible to see where the deceased women lived, some of their possessions, perhaps?”

Sister Mary Emmanuel frowned slightly. “Nuns don’t require much in the way of personal belongings,” she told him. “But if you believe it will help with your investigation, I can show you to their sleeping quarters?”

Sam nodded, pulling himself to his feet and making sure Dean followed suit. “That would be very helpful, Sister,” he said neutrally. “If it’s not too much of an imposition.”

The nun inclined her head slightly, herself rising. “Not at all. This way please.”

She led them out of the office, Dean parroting, “If it’s not too much of an imposition,” in a nasal whine he obviously believed to be a stunningly accurate impersonation of his brother.

Sam spared him only the most dismissive of glances before following the nun out into the chapel.

She led them to a small, unobtrusive doorway at the side of the building, across a beautifully maintained quadrangle of lawns and gardens, and finally into another wing of the convent, the warm sunshine outside contrasting markedly with the chilly interior of the small dormitory in which the boys now found themselves.

There were several beds lined up in two neat rows on either side of the room, none of them appearing to have been slept in for some time, while dust motes danced in the hazy sunlight slanting down through the tiny windows spaced equally along the length of the room.

“Did all of the women who passed away sleep in the same dormitory?” Sam asked, carefully examining a shelf of books above one of the empty beds. Bible. Prayer books. Hymnals. Sheet music.

Sister Mary Emmanuel nodded. “Yes,” she confirmed. “Although we only have three dormitories, so I don’t know whether that’s particularly relevant.”

Sam shrugged. “Anything could be relevant at this point, Sister,” he told the nun, pausing for a second before adding, “Would it be possible for us to take a moment to examine the room?”

He figured the nun understood what he was actually asking when she ducked her head slightly and nodded. “I’ll be down the hall,” she said, backing toward the door through which they’d entered. “If there’s anything you need, don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Thank you, Sister.”

Sam smiled again as the nun retreated, closing the door behind her.

“We need to get the hell outta here,” Dean muttered through clenched teeth, causing Sam to shoot an annoyed grimace in his direction.

But the rejoinder he had on the tip of his tongue died the instant he noted the sheen of sweat on his brother’s forehead and the way he was once again worrying the red patch on his wrist.

“Dude, what is with you?” Sam demanded, grabbing his brother’s hand and pulling it away from his wrist. “Seriously, you’re acting—” possessed “—really weird, man.”

Dean blinked at him, yanking his hand out of Sam’s grasp before tugging at his collar. “It’s just really hot in here,” he offered by way of explanation.

“Dude, it’s like minus ninety. It’s a convent.”

Dean nodded. “Exactly!” he burst out. “We’re not gonna find anything in a convent, Sam.”

Sam squinted at him. “This is where the dead women lived, Dean, why wouldn’t we find—?”

But Dean had turned his back on him, heading for the door with his hands thrown into the air. “I’m outta here,” he declared shortly. “I’m not wastin’ another second nosin’ around a bunch of nuns’ habits in a musty old convent that’s hotter than the Devil’s ass in July when I could be—”

“Dean, I need more time to—”

“—outside in the sunshine driving my baby along a deserted highway.”

He yanked open the dormitory door, taking a startled step back when an elderly woman almost fell on him.

“Uh.”

The woman didn’t seem to respond to Dean’s oratory, instead just squinted wild, frantic eyes at him before taking a step into the room even as he took another step back.

She didn’t appear to be a nun, clad only in a nightdress, her long white hair sticking out at odd angles all over her head.

“Ma’am—” Dean began, retreating another couple of steps until he was almost standing on Sam’s feet. “Can we help you with—?”

The woman cut him off by crooking a long, bony finger in the boys’ direction, narrowing her eyes and hissing, “You!” before jabbing her finger at them accusingly. “You bear the mark of Satan!”

Dean blinked dumbly at her, his mouth opening and closing soundlessly a couple of times before Sam caught hold of his sleeve, pulling him another precautionary step back.

“Dean—”

“Sorry lady,” Dean grimaced nervously, ignoring Sam completely. “You’re confusing me with—”

But the woman suddenly lurched forward, apparently not the slightest bit interested in who she was confusing him with, reaching out for Dean with her bony claw and almost pulling him over as her fingers yanked at the fabric of his jacket.

“Lucifer!” she shrieked, clawing at Dean while he endeavored to stop her gouging his eyes out. “Lucifer’s reek oozes from your soul! Spawn of Satan!”

Again she shoved at him, either intent on pushing him over or pushing him out of the way.

But she was tiny and Dean wasn’t.

“Lady, just calm down—” Dean began, trying to grab a hold of the old broad’s wrists as one of her nails took a chunk out of his earlobe, her hands clawing at the air beyond his shoulder. “Ow! Dammit!” he yelped, grabbing at his ear before bringing his hand away bloody.

Figuring maybe his six foot one inch brother might need a hand restraining a five foot nothing elderly lady in a nightie, Sam made a move to help him, grabbing at one of the woman’s hands over Dean’s shoulder.

Unfortunately that only made her shriek even louder.

“Spawn of Satan! Brimstone will rain down upon your head!”

“Ooohkay, lady, thanks for the warning but, y’know, kinda been there, done that,” Sam explained, gently trying to extricate the woman’s flailing limbs from the vicinity of his brother’s face.

“Sam,” Dean ground out. “I think the bitch ripped off my ear!”

“Don’t be such a baby, Dean,” Sam returned over the woman’s screaming. “I thought you said chicks dig scars?”

Thankfully, at this point Sister Mary Emmanuel appeared in the doorway, two other nuns in tow who quickly moved past her into the dormitory and gently began to pry the woman off Dean, speaking calmly and soothingly to her as they carefully lead her from the room.

Sister Mary Emmanuel shook her head, her attention following the woman down the corridor, as she continued to punctuate the sudden silence with yells of, “Satan! He has the Devil in him! Hellfire and brimstone!”

“That’s Beatrice,” Sister Mary Emmanuel explained, sighing. “She’s lived here for years—lost her mind when her husband and baby daughter were killed in a house fire.”

Sam and Dean exchanged a glance.

“We took her in and we’ve cared for her ever since,” the nun continued, shrugging sadly. “She sees demons everywhere,” she added.

“I know the feeling,” Dean murmured, throwing a loaded look in Sam’s direction.

But Sam barely noticed, his insides having turned to ice.

Demon. Beatrice saw a demon. She looked at Dean and saw a demon.

“It’s all part of the poor woman’s delusion,” Sister Mary Emmanuel went on, apparently not having heard Dean’s comment or noticed the way Sam’s complexion had paled visibly. “She claims a demon came for her baby and burnt her house down when her husband tried to intervene.”

Sam blinked at her.

What did she just say?

“It—what?” he mumbled, Dean deftly stepping in before Sam could ruin his cool FBI demeanor.

“That’s a common delusion,” the older brother said smoothly. “Demons. People see ’em everywhere.”

The nun nodded. “It certainly seems that way of late,” she agreed cryptically, before suddenly seeming to shake herself mentally. “Well, if you gentlemen have finished here, perhaps I should show you the altar?”

Sam nodded, swallowing the ball of questions that had suddenly risen up into his throat and attempting to focus on the case at hand.

Whether Beatrice’s family had fallen victim to Haris’ machinations was something they could investigate another time.

“Yes, that would be helpful,” he managed to croak out, having to clear his throat at the end of his sentence.

Dean looked up at him, something unrecognizable flooding his eyes, before he followed the nun as she led the way out of the room.

Sam trailed to the rear, reluctantly following Sister Mary Emmanuel and his brother back toward the chapel.

They stopped at the ornate stone altar, and he shivered involuntarily at the sudden chill enveloping his body, his breath coming out as a white mist in front of his face.

“Cold in here,” he observed, even as the sister rubbed at her arms, and he realized he could see her breath too.

But not Dean’s.

He frowned, trying to ignore the pit yawning in his stomach as he followed the nun toward the altar, Dean hanging back and examining his feet, his face inclined away from the large image of the crucified Christ to the rear of the chancel.

No, no, no, just a nightmare, he tried to tell himself, even as Dean shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably, obviously wanting to be anywhere but where he was standing.

Surely the amulet would protect Dean from possession like it did before? What if a demon’s got in him but can’t get full control, like Haris’ spawn?

Would Sam be able to tell? Would Dean? Surely Sam would know if a demon was in his brother? He knew Dean better than he knew himself, after all. Didn’t he?

Trying to remember to breathe, he once again tried to focus on what the nun was telling him, as she pointed out where her sisters’ bodies had been displayed, the position in which they’d been posed, arms outstretched and faces toward the crucifix.

But while Sam was trying to listen, was trying to concentrate, he kept finding his attention slipping back to Dean, who was still lingering toward the door of the chapel, seemingly unwilling or perhaps unable to come any closer, his fingers once again prying at the sore on his wrist.

“So do you think you can help?” Sister Mary Emmanuel asked suddenly, and Sam abruptly shifted his attention back to the nun, trying to remember what she’d just been telling him.

“I hope so,” he said with what he prayed was a confident smile. “There’s obviously something not right here.”

“Then you don’t believe my sisters took their own lives?”

Sam shook his head slightly. “It seems unlikely to me, Sister,” he confided, sighing as he fished in his jacket pocket for one of the business cards Dean had made up at the Kinkos back in Bonham. “This is my cell number,” he explained as he offered the card to the nun. “If anything else—uh—unusual happens, don’t hesitate to call me.”

“Something unusual like another of my sisters apparently committing suicide?” the nun asked archly.

Sam swallowed, his eyes flicking from the nun, to the altar, to Dean, and finally back to Sister Mary Emmanuel. “I hope it won’t come to that,” he said solemnly. “I really do.”

* * * *

“Boy, am I glad to be the hell outta that place,” Dean declared, ripping off his tie and shucking out of his jacket before tossing both of them onto the back seat of the Impala. “Now all I need is to be out of this monkey suit and into some real clothes and I’ll be all set.”

Sam cast his brother an uncertain look as he loosened his own neckwear, joining him in the hotbox that was the old Chevy as Dean stretched out behind the wheel like a cat on a sunny garden wall.

“There’s no place like home,” Dean murmured contentedly, opening his eyes and taking a long look at the convent before finally gunning the V8. “I hate these creepy ass places,” he declared, shifting into reverse and deftly turning the car around despite the road’s yawning potholes.

“Since when?” Sam asked, shifting uncomfortably on the sticky leather seat and trying not to eye his brother suspiciously. “You’ve never had a problem with churches before.”

“Not a church, Sammy,” Dean pointed out, aiming the Impala back toward Kemp while noticeably not looking in the rearview. “Convent.”

Sam shrugged. “So?” he prodded. “It’s holy ground. You’ve never been creeped out by holy ground before.”

Convent, Sammy!” Dean reiterated. When Sam didn’t respond to that, he sighed heavily and rolled his eyes. “Like in Mobile?”

Sam’s brow furrowed. “Mobile?”

“Alabama,” Dean prodded. “Convent school. Remember? We spent a month there when we were kids.” He shook his head, visibly shuddering at the recollection. “Nuns kept rapping my knuckles and telling me I was destined for Hellfire. Hell, like they knew the half of it.” He smiled bleakly, and Sam tried not to think about Mia being torn to pieces by hellhounds in a reality that may or may not have been the actual Underworld.

Blocking that image out of his head for a second, he cast his mind back through the myriad of schools he and Dean had attended throughout their childhood, suddenly vaguely remembering classes taught by stern-looking nuns and prayers at the beginning and end of each day.

Wow, why hadn’t he remembered that until now?

“I… I guess I’d have been six or seven?” he hazarded.

Dean nodded. “Yeah. The penguins were nice to you. You were adorable.

“Don’t call them that.”

Dean grinned, and Sam just knew he thought the Blues Brothers reference had gone over his little brother’s head. “C’mon, Sammy, those women hated me. It’s a wonder I don’t got a complex.”

Sam’s forehead creased as he tried to remember the place and the time more clearly. “Boarding school, right?” he offered. “Dad was away…?”

Dean nodded again. “Some Big Hunt he had goin’ on,” he confirmed. “Couldn’t leave us with Bobby or Pastor Jim because they were goin’ with him, and he didn’t want to leave us on our own for the amount of time he thought the job would take.”

“He needed someplace safe to ditch us.”

“He didn’t ditch us, Sam,” Dean corrected him. “But it was…” he broke off for a second, shifting awkwardly in his seat. “It was just after that thing with the Shtriga. I guess… I guess he wanted to make sure we were safe. Protected.” A sheepish half-smile that wasn’t much off a pained grimace tugged at his lips, turning suddenly bitter. “I thought Dad was punishing me at the time,” he admitted on a sigh. “And it was only years later I realized a boarding school on holy ground where we were surrounded by priests and nuns twenty-four seven was probably the safest place Dad could have left us short of locking us in the Impala’s trunk for a month.”

“And you hated every second of it?” Sam asked.

Dean steadfastly kept his gaze fixed on the road ahead. “Pretty much,” he said. “And… And I guess, yeah, at the time it felt like Dad had ditched us. Although he hadn’t.”

“No,” Sam agreed, keeping his voice neutral. “Because Dad would never ditch us.”

“Sam,” Dean ground out by way of warning.

“Okay, Dad didn’t ditch us. He abandoned us for our own protection.”

Dean sighed again. “Whatever, dude,” he conceded. “All I know is I spent a month gettin’ treated like an idiot, shoved from one ‘remedial’ class to another, told I’d never amount to anything and the Devil would one day lay claim to my soul—”

“Which, y’know. Kinda accurate.”

“And all the time you just kept askin’ me, ‘When’s Dad coming to get us?’ and all I could tell you was, ‘Soon, Sammy,’ while hopin’ I wasn’t lyin’ to you.”

Sam swallowed. “Because you thought he’d ditched us.”

It wasn’t a question, and Sam didn’t really expect an answer.

So he wasn’t disappointed when Dean cleared his throat and snapped on the radio.

All he could get was a country rock station and he swore softly under his breath as Sam considered the very real possibility that Dean’s experience in Mobile might have left him with a phobia of convents, and could quite possibly explain some of today’s odd behavior.

Didn’t explain Beatrice though.

He was almost relieved when his cell started to buzz in his pocket because it meant he didn’t have to think too deeply about what the nutty old woman had said to his brother.

Finger deftly touching the phone’s screen, he switched the cell to loudspeaker, offering a cheerful, “Hey, Bobby,” which he hoped didn’t sound too much like, “Oh thank God you called I think my brother’s possessed because a mad old woman said so.”

“Hey yourself,” Bobby returned, gruff voice surprisingly clear despite the spotty signal around here. “You boys still dicking around with that convent thing in Oklahoma?”

“Investigating, Bobby,” Dean chipped in. “We’re investigating.”

“Uh-huh,” Bobby returned skeptically.

“We’re on our way to the library in Durant,” Sam added. “See if we can check out the convent’s history. Maybe there’s something we’re missing.”

“Plenty libraries in Ardmore, boys,” Bobby told them.

Sam glanced briefly at his brother. “What’s in Ardmore?” he asked a little uncertainly.

“You idjits seen the local news today?” Bobby asked.

“We’re in Nowhere, Oklahoma’s slightly less interesting suburb Pointless, right now, Bobby,” Dean informed the older hunter. “We don’t exactly get Fox News in our motel room.”

“Well shut your yap, smartass, and you might learn somethin’,” Bobby snapped.

“Ooh, touchy,” Dean commented.

“There’s been a fire in Ardmore,” Bobby continued, as if he hadn’t been interrupted. “A fire in a church.”

“A church?” Sam echoed. “First nuns apparently killing themselves and now a church burns down not—”

“Seventy miles,” Dean supplied off the top of his head.

Sam squinted at him. “Not seventy miles away. There’s gotta be some kind of connection there.”

“Ya think?” Bobby returned. “Apparently the local priest locked his congregation in the church at evening service yesterday before burning the place to the ground.”

Sam paused for a long moment. “You think maybe he was—uh—possessed?” he asked cautiously, deliberately not looking in his brother’s direction.

Bobby sighed. “At this point, I’m ready to believe anything,” he said. “But if it is demons out there? You boys need to take precautions. Don’t want you getting possessed too.”

“You know, maybe we ought to look into some kind of permanent anti-possession thing,” Sam ventured. “Charms are all well and good, but maybe something like—I dunno—a tattoo or something might work better as a more long-term solution?”

He glanced sidelong at Dean, who frowned at him.

“Hello? Magic amulet?” the older brother reminded him, looking down at his necklace. “I already got protection, dude. And after that thing with the warlock in Seattle? I’d have thought a tattoo would be the last thing you’d wanna get.”

Sam smiled weakly, reassuring himself that Dean’s amulet was glinting gold around his neck, the little charm having turned black when Dean had been almost-possessed before.

He nearly laughed, but didn’t, his nightmare and Dean’s odd behavior today still nagging at the back of his mind.

“So are you two gonna go check it out?” Bobby reminded them he was still on the end of Sam’s phone. “Or should I see if one o’ the grown-ups can swing by?”

“No,” Sam said quickly, waving his brother’s no-doubt pithy rejoinder into silence. “No, we’re, like, ninety minutes away, Bobby. And this has to be connected to the convent somehow. Only thing is, I gave my number to Sister Mary Emmanuel, so what if she needs help and we’re not around?”

“Dude,” Dean reminded him. “You just said. Its ninety minutes away. If the penguins need us, we’ll come back.”

“You been watching Jake and Elwood again, boy?” Bobby asked on a barely-disguised chuckle.

“It’s seventy miles to Ardmore,” Dean said. “We got a full tank of gas, a trunk full of weapons, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

“It’s the middle of the day, Dean.”

Both Dean and Bobby huffed in unison, and Sam was pretty sure he heard Bobby’s eye roll.

“Boy, you got no soul if you don’t love that movie.”

Sam shook his head. “I got a little tired of watching it every night for six months when I was ten, Bobby.”

Dean snickered. “Yeah, I guess you didn’t get to see My Little Pony, huh?”

Sam scowled at him.

“Well this has been fun and all, boys,” Bobby interjected. “But there’s only so much o’ you two bitchin’ at each other I can stomach in one day.”

“Okay, stay safe, Bobby,” Dean chirped brightly.

“Yeah, bye Bobby,” Sam echoed, ending the call.

Dean took a breath, eyes still fixed on the road, before suddenly asking, “What was with the tattoo crap, anyway?”

Sam shrugged. “Nothing. Just thinking out loud.”

“I can hear you thinking from over here,” Dean informed him.

Sam had no reply to that.

If Dean really could hear him thinking, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t like what he heard.

“So,” Dean continued. “Ardmore, huh?”

Sam nodded. “We should check it out.”

“Yeah,” Dean agreed. “Definitely somethin’ goin’ on around here.”

Sam stole a sideways look at his brother, before quietly agreeing. “Yeah,” he said. “Something’s going on all right.”


St. James’ Church
Ardmore, OK

Yellow police tape fluttered in the light breeze gently caressing the burnt-out remains of St. James’ Church.

The whole place looked like a bombsite, blackened ceiling tiles scattered across pitted concrete littered with chunks of masonry, charred timber and shards of broken stained glass.

Sam surveyed the scene cautiously, wary of other interested onlookers who might find it odd that two young men would want to sift through the ruins of a burnt out church in the middle of the night.

Fortunately, time itself was on their side; it was well after midnight, the police and the fire department investigators having left hours ago, while the only other living things in the immediate vicinity were a drunk passed out on a bench at the bus stop and his dog, who was more interested in the contents of a nearby trashcan than two guys skulking around a crime scene.

They were good to go.

The place had been pretty much razed to the ground, Sam realized, as he made his way toward the police cordon, and he couldn’t help wondering what could have caused the building to burn so quickly and so completely. Earlier enquiries—Sam at the library and Dean in the nearest bar—had revealed the fire department got there within five minutes of a passerby calling 911, but still there was virtually nothing left of the place.

Twenty people were dead, including the priest, a Father Bonney, who, according to parishioners and non-attending locals alike, had faithfully served the parish of St. James for the last forty years, never having shown any signs of mental illness or depression, nothing that would make him act in such an uncharacteristically heinous way.

Just like the nuns back at the convent in Kemp.

Ducking under the police tape, Sam began to pick his way through the scattered debris and into what little was left of the church itself, casting a surreptitious glance over his shoulder at his brother as he did so. Dean didn’t appear half as nervous and fidgety as he had at the convent, and Sam had to admit he was more than a little relieved about that.

Sure, Dean seemed pretty disturbed by the scale of the destruction, and Sam knew the fact that four of the dead had been kids wasn’t sitting too well with his brother, but his pallor was much improved, he wasn’t sweating or clawing at his wrist, and there was absolutely no hesitation when he crossed over onto holy ground.

Sam blew out a breath he seemed to have been holding since this morning.

Sniffing the air cautiously, it didn’t take him long to identify the powerful odor assaulting his senses as he picked his way between blackened chunks of timber that had been pews only the day before. “Accelerant,” he observed.

“Gasoline most likely,” Dean agreed, heading off toward the chancel end of the church.

Sam lingered to the rear, carefully examining the debris for signs of sulfur, and flipping on his EMF meter just in case, even though he was already pretty positive restless spirits hadn’t been responsible for what had happened here.

Unsurprisingly, the EMF remained stonily silent, and Sam switched it back off again, just as he heard Dean curse rather colorfully from the other end of the church.

“Sonofa—”

“Dean, you okay?” Sam called to him. Receiving no response, he glanced up from his examination of the pieces of a shattered window which had been blasted across the rear flagstones.

There was no sign of his brother.

Unconsciously, he began to hold his breath again.

“Dean?”

Still there was no response, and Sam instantly dropped what he was doing, striding off in the direction he’d last seen his brother.

“Dean?” he repeated, rounding the pulpit and abruptly coming across the older Winchester bending over the font while wrapping his hand in a handkerchief.

Almost choking down a relieved breath, Sam asked, “Dean, you okay? What happened?”

Dean motioned to the font, which was miraculously still intact. “Saw something glinting at the bottom,” he explained. “Put my damn fool hand in to find out what it was. Y’know, thinking it might be some kind of summoning charm used to conjure up a demon? A demon who then decided to torch the place while taking the padre out for a test drive.”

“Holy ground, Dean,” Sam put in. “How would a demon get in, even if it was summoned?”

Dean frowned at him. “Remember Pastor Jim, Sherlock?” he chided his brother. “His little run-in with your buckets of crazy girlfriend Meg? She ganked him in the basement of his church, dude.”

Sam nodded, a little abashed, and a little bit freaked that he’d not thought of that.

Maybe he was too busy trying to convince himself his brother wasn’t possessed because he just walked into what was left of a church without flinching.

“Anyway,” Dean continued, sighing theatrically. “I didn’t find out the thing at the bottom of the font was just a piece of broken glass till I cut my hand open on it.”

Sam snorted. “Dude, you’re such a magpie!” he burst out, laughing for the first time in what felt like millennia. “Aww, did Dean want the shiny?”

Dean glared at him. “Ass monkey,” he returned, before stalking off in the direction Sam had just come from.

Sam grinned to himself, before glancing briefly down into the font.

There was still holy water in it.

Bloodied holy water.

And no pieces of glass anywhere in sight.

Sam swallowed, the smile instantly melting from his face.

Oddly, his brain appeared to be trying to distract him from the fact that Dean may have lied to him, may have put his hand into holy water and burned it, rather than having cut it on a piece of broken glass like he’d said. Instead, Sam found himself wondering how the water had avoided evaporating in the fire and why Dean would have put his hand in there in the first place if he was possessed.

Dean’s not possessed.

He’s not.

“Sammy, I don’t think we’re gonna find anything here,” he heard Dean observe, and it sounded as if his brother was standing a hundred miles away and under water. “Sam?”

Sam shook himself mentally, nodding his agreement with his brother. “No,” he said slowly. “I don’t think we are.”

Not anything I want to find, anyway.

“You know, I hate to say this,” Dean continued, as Sam approached his position. “But maybe this is just what it looks like: a human being taking his own life.” He shrugged, scrubbing his uninjured hand over his face. “Although, admittedly, Father Bonney took nineteen other lives with him.”

Sam nodded again, trying to regain his voice from somewhere in the vicinity of his knees. “There doesn’t seem any obvious connection to the convent, either,” he observed. “None of the bodies were posed like the dead nuns. And self-immolation isn’t exactly the same MO.”

Dean sighed heavily. “Maybe we should get out of here,” he suggested. “Leave the dead be. At least for tonight.”

Sam shrugged his agreement. “I guess,” he admitted reluctantly.

But as he followed his brother back out toward the waiting Chevy, pondering what the hell could have happened here, and why Dean may be lying to him about the nature of his injury, he couldn’t help thinking he was missing something…


Chief Motel
Ardmore, OK

Sam was beat. And frustrated. And just a little bit uneasy.

Dean had insisted on driving home from the church, despite the injury to his hand, and Sam couldn’t help but notice the lack of blood on the handkerchief knotted about his palm.

Surely there’d be more than just a little blood in the font if he’d cut his hand open?

Not that Dean would actually let Sam take a look at his injury; the second Sam had opened the door to their room, Dean had shoved past him and disappeared into the bathroom without a word, locking the door behind him.

“Its fine, Sam,” was all he could get out of his brother, and that had been filtered through a couple of inches of plywood.

Sam knew he was being ridiculous. Of course Dean had cut his hand. Why would he lie? But a tiny part of him still wanted to check to make sure that wasn’t a burn hiding under his big brother’s handkerchief.

Gritting his teeth together, he starting yanking stuff out of his duffel, throwing clothes, his wash bag, a couple rounds of silver bullets, onto the bed with a violence that suggested either Sam was really pissed off with his possessions or he wanted to shove someone through the nearest wall.

Whether that someone was Dean or himself he wasn’t sure.

Finally, he located the large canister of salt buried at the bottom of his bag, crossing over to the doorway and beginning to lay a line of the stuff across the threshold of the room, just as he or Dean had done every night for as long as he could remember.

“Sam, what are you doing?”

Sam spun around to find Dean standing in the bathroom doorway, shrugging out of his jacket and frowning at his little brother’s handiwork.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Sam returned, frowning right on back, before continuing to lay the salt line. “What we always do. What we’ve always done since we were kids.”

Dean shifted minutely, his expression morphing from angry disbelief to awkward discomfort in a matter of seconds. “I—I was going to go get a soda from the machine in the office,” he stammered, and for some reason he really couldn’t explain, Sam totally didn’t believe him.

“Yeah, okay,” Sam responded neutrally. “It’s a salt line, Dean. I don’t think it’s going to stop you going to fetch soda.”

Dean paused almost imperceptibly—almost imperceptibly to anyone who wasn’t Sam and didn’t know Dean’s every nuance. “It’s okay,” he finally said with a dismissive shrug, flopping down on the bed furthest from the door and flipping on the TV. “I’m not that thirsty.”

Not possessed. Not possessed…

* * * *

There are hands around Sam’s throat and he can’t breathe.

Dean’s looking down at him, eyes jet black and sparkling, a grossly misplaced smile tugging at his lips.

“Don’t fight me, little brother,” he says softly, fingers almost a caress as they crush Sam’s trachea. “Gotta do this. You know I do.”

Sam’s struggling this time, putting up a fight, fingers scrabbling at Dean’s hands. There’s a burn across his brother’s palm.

Sam’s bigger than his brother, and he knows he should be able to fight him off. But he’s not just fighting Dean. He’s fighting the demon inside Dean too.

The amulet’s dangling from Dean’s neck. It’s black. Black like Dean’s eyes, black like Dean’s smile, black like it was when Haris’ spawn had tried to possess him before.

Sam wants to scream, to run, to rail at the world for its unfairness; for doing this to him, to his brother. For taking Dean away.

But all he can manage is a choked, “Dean, please…” and Dean just laughs and squeezes harder.

“Just go to sleep, Sammy.”

And Sam slips into unconsciousness.

* * * *

Once again, Sam woke with a start, drenched in sweat, his heart hammering at a hundred miles an hour. He couldn’t breathe, fingers scrabbling at his throat, at the place where his brother’s hands had wrapped around his windpipe.

“Just go to sleep, Sammy.”

He froze as he felt his brother’s gentle hand on his shoulder, and when Sam looked up, just for a split second he could have sworn Dean’s eyes were black.

Sam blinked, the light flickering, and Dean was looking down at him with concerned green eyes, and Sam realized he was trembling.

“It was just a nightmare, Sam,” Dean murmured. “Go back to sleep.”

Just a nightmare.

Just a nightmare.

Sam didn’t need sleep.

Sam needed help.

If Dean was possessed, Sam needed help.

Sam needed to get Dean some help.

But he needed to get away from him first.

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The Winchester Chronicles

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