: Stranger With
dark and he’s lying on the floor.
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.
there are hands around his throat, squeezing.
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.
someone here, someone hovering above him; someone with
their hands around his neck.
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.
one answers the unasked question and the darkness shifts
again, a tiny sliver of illumination glancing off green
about this, little brother,” the voice says, and
he recognizes the sound, recognizes the voice. Familiar
as a brother, alien as a stranger.
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.
he manages to gasp out, and a smile ghosts over his
gotta be this way Sammy,” Dean says, blinking.
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
sat up with a start, gasping for air and scrabbling
at the phantom presence of his brother’s fingers
about his throat.
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.
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.
snored softly, his left hand scraping the off-blue carpet,
blankets twisted around his legs in an arrangement Sam
would have found decidedly uncomfortable.
smiled fondly, finally getting a handle on his jackhammer
heart and uneven breathing.
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.
Just a nightmare.
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.
had been a long time since Sam had had a vision, so
long he couldn’t even remember the last one.
if this was a vision…
this was a vision and not a nightmare…
this was the second time he’d foreseen his own
shuddered, remembering the hangar in New Jersey, the
ticking of Haris’ watch as Sam’s time trickled
away to nothing.
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.
would never hurt him.
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.
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.
it couldn’t have been a vision.
It was just a stupid nightmare.
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.
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.
took a deep breath, willing himself to calm down, willing
himself to breathe slowly, breathe in time with his
brother. Just breathe.
shook his head, chiding himself wordlessly—and
with Dean’s voice—for being such a freakin’
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.
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.”
Later that day
pacing was seriously starting to grate on Sam’s
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.
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?”
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.
frowned minutely, forcing himself to look back at the
computer screen and deliberately not stare
at his brother.
Dean asked, biting at his thumbnail. “A convent?
Nuns give me the creeps, man.”
when?” Sam demanded, squinting up at his brother,
who merely shrugged.
six nuns slitting their wrists at the same convent in
two weeks is not exactly normal, you gotta admit.”
sighed, his palms once again rubbing against his thighs.
“Yeah, okay,” he admitted reluctantly. “But
do we have to go check out the convent?”
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.
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.
Sam asked, more than a little alarmed. “What’s
wrong with you?”
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.
Sam was half out of his seat, alarmed by the size of
Dean’s pupils and his general jitteriness. “Seriously.
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.”
got Sam all the way out of his seat. “At the risk
of repeating myself,” he said, “since when?”
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…
it was a trick of the light. Sunlight glinting off his
enlarged pupils as he turned.
closed his eyes and shook his head.
brother’s eyes did not just turn black.
swallowed, before finally daring to once again meet
took a breath and let it out slowly.
eyes are green. His eyes are green. Not black.
was looking at him. His eyes were slightly downcast,
but undeniably green.
older brother blinked, before shrugging abashedly. “Since
always,” he said, averting his gaze again and
shrugging before adding, “Since Stull, maybe.”
Of course! It would make sense that Dean would be wary
of hallowed ground since their all-too-recent encounter
at the spectral church.
was losing it.
he was being an idiot. Dean was not possessed and his
eyes had most definitely not turned black.
smiled weakly, and returned to his seat and his computer.
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,
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?”
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.
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.”
shook his head, feeling kind of relieved Dean seemed
to be back to his usual tactful self.
whole thing back at the motel? Just Sam’s imagination.
He was certain of it.
pretty sure anyway.
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.
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,
should be about—”
Dean finished for him, pulling the Impala to a sudden
halt, which caused Sam to look up sharply.
the small convent right in front of them.
he said, tucking away his phone and shrugging. “We’re
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dean was definitely back to his old self.
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.
sure we gotta do this, Sammy?” he asked
plaintively, once again beginning to worry at the red
patch on his wrist.
thought you said you weren’t six?”
Sam returned, frowning as his brother continued to claw
his flesh raw. “’Cause you kinda sound six
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.
Sam hissed. “Quit it, dude! You want me to leave
you in the car?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
paused when they reached the chapel door, looking up
at the building and swallowing hard.
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?”
shrugged, rammed his hands in his trouser pockets before
pulling them out again and pushing on the bell set into
the chapel wall.
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.
I help you?” the girl asked, cheeks coloring visibly
when Sam stepped forward and treated her to his most
with the dimples,” Dean muttered under his breath,
as Sam elbowed him in the ribs before pulling out his
Benedict and Schultz,” he intoned seriously. “We
have an appointment with Sister Mary Emmanuel?”
of course.” The young nun lowered her eyes and
opened the door wider, motioning them to step inside.
“This way please.”
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
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.
breathed in the cool, calming air for a second before
glancing back at Dean, who was still hesitating on the
stone steps outside.
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.
blew out the breath he’d been holding, knowing
he should feel more relieved than he did.
a nightmare… he told himself.
he thought that often enough, maybe he might start to
young novice had stopped and turned toward them, a quizzical
expression on her face.
smiled awkwardly, glancing back to check Dean was following—albeit
reluctantly—before striding to catch up with the
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
you for coming Agents…?” the nun enquired,
causing Sam to pull out his fake FBI credentials once
Schultz,” he supplied, taking the woman’s
proffered hand. “My partner, Agent Benedict.”
hesitated for just a fraction of a second before following
his brother’s lead, grimacing slightly when the
nun shook his hand.
must be Sister Mary Emmanuel?” Sam hazarded.
nun nodded, before once again indicating the chairs.
the boys took the offered seats, the nun ran a hand
over her forehead, suddenly looking incredibly tired.
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.”
nodded sympathetically. “So there have been six
deaths altogether?” he began, flipping open his
notebook and pulling a pen from his jacket pocket.
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.”
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?”
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…”
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.
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.”
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
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.”
snorted a little, and Sam kicked him none-too-subtly.
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
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
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.”
nun inclined her head slightly, herself rising. “Not
at all. This way please.”
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.
spared him only the most dismissive of glances before
following the nun out into the chapel.
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.
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.
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.
Mary Emmanuel nodded. “Yes,” she confirmed.
“Although we only have three dormitories, so I
don’t know whether that’s particularly relevant.”
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?”
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.”
smiled again as the nun retreated, closing the door
need to get the hell outta here,” Dean
muttered through clenched teeth, causing Sam to shoot
an annoyed grimace in his direction.
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.
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.”
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
it’s like minus ninety. It’s a convent.”
nodded. “Exactly!” he burst out. “We’re
not gonna find anything in a convent, Sam.”
squinted at him. “This is where the dead women
lived, Dean, why wouldn’t we find—?”
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—”
I need more time to—”
in the sunshine driving my baby along a deserted highway.”
yanked open the dormitory door, taking a startled step
back when an elderly woman almost fell on him.
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
didn’t appear to be a nun, clad only in a nightdress,
her long white hair sticking out at odd angles all over
Dean began, retreating another couple of steps until
he was almost standing on Sam’s feet. “Can
we help you with—?”
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!”
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
lady,” Dean grimaced nervously, ignoring Sam completely.
“You’re confusing me with—”
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.
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!”
she shoved at him, either intent on pushing him over
or pushing him out of the way.
she was tiny and Dean wasn’t.
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
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.
that only made her shriek even louder.
of Satan! Brimstone will rain down upon your head!”
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.
Dean ground out. “I think the bitch ripped off
be such a baby, Dean,” Sam returned over the woman’s
screaming. “I thought you said chicks dig scars?”
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.
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!”
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.”
and Dean exchanged a glance.
took her in and we’ve cared for her ever since,”
the nun continued, shrugging sadly. “She sees
demons everywhere,” she added.
know the feeling,” Dean murmured, throwing a loaded
look in Sam’s direction.
Sam barely noticed, his insides having turned to ice.
Beatrice saw a demon. She looked at Dean and
saw a demon.
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.”
blinked at her.
did she just say?
he mumbled, Dean deftly stepping in before Sam could
ruin his cool FBI demeanor.
a common delusion,” the older brother said smoothly.
“Demons. People see ’em everywhere.”
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?”
nodded, swallowing the ball of questions that had suddenly
risen up into his throat and attempting to focus on
the case at hand.
Beatrice’s family had fallen victim to Haris’
machinations was something they could investigate another
that would be helpful,” he managed to croak out,
having to clear his throat at the end of his sentence.
looked up at him, something unrecognizable flooding
his eyes, before he followed the nun as she led the
way out of the room.
trailed to the rear, reluctantly following Sister Mary
Emmanuel and his brother back toward the chapel.
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.
in here,” he observed, even as the sister rubbed
at her arms, and he realized he could see her breath
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, 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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
hope so,” he said with what he prayed was a confident
smile. “There’s obviously something not
you don’t believe my sisters took their own lives?”
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.”
unusual like another of my sisters apparently committing
suicide?” the nun asked archly.
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.”
* * *
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.”
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.
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
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.”
a church, Sammy,” Dean pointed out, aiming
the Impala back toward Kemp while noticeably not looking
in the rearview. “Convent.”
shrugged. “So?” he prodded. “It’s
holy ground. You’ve never been creeped out by
holy ground before.”
Sammy!” Dean reiterated. When Sam didn’t
respond to that, he sighed heavily and rolled his eyes.
“Like in Mobile?”
brow furrowed. “Mobile?”
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.
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.
why hadn’t he remembered that until now?
I guess I’d have been six or seven?” he
nodded. “Yeah. The penguins were nice to you.
You were adorable.”
call them that.”
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.”
forehead creased as he tried to remember the place and
the time more clearly. “Boarding school, right?”
he offered. “Dad was away…?”
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
needed someplace safe to ditch us.”
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
you hated every second of it?” Sam asked.
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
Sam agreed, keeping his voice neutral. “Because
Dad would never ditch us.”
Dean ground out by way of warning.
Dad didn’t ditch us. He abandoned us for our own
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—”
y’know. Kinda accurate.”
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.”
swallowed. “Because you thought he’d ditched
wasn’t a question, and Sam didn’t really
expect an answer.
he wasn’t disappointed when Dean cleared his throat
and snapped on the radio.
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.
explain Beatrice though.
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.
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
yourself,” Bobby returned, gruff voice surprisingly
clear despite the spotty signal around here. “You
boys still dicking around with that convent thing in
Bobby,” Dean chipped in. “We’re investigating.”
Bobby returned skeptically.
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.”
libraries in Ardmore, boys,” Bobby told them.
glanced briefly at his brother. “What’s
in Ardmore?” he asked a little uncertainly.
idjits seen the local news today?” Bobby asked.
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.”
shut your yap, smartass, and you might learn somethin’,”
touchy,” Dean commented.
been a fire in Ardmore,” Bobby continued, as if
he hadn’t been interrupted. “A fire in a
church?” Sam echoed. “First nuns apparently
killing themselves and now a church burns down not—”
miles,” Dean supplied off the top of his head.
squinted at him. “Not seventy miles away. There’s
gotta be some kind of connection there.”
think?” Bobby returned. “Apparently the
local priest locked his congregation in the church at
evening service yesterday before burning the place to
paused for a long moment. “You think maybe he
was—uh—possessed?” he asked cautiously,
deliberately not looking in his brother’s direction.
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.”
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?”
glanced sidelong at Dean, who frowned at him.
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.”
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
nearly laughed, but didn’t, his nightmare and
Dean’s odd behavior today still nagging at the
back of his mind.
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
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?”
Dean reminded him. “You just said. Its ninety
minutes away. If the penguins need us, we’ll come
been watching Jake and Elwood again, boy?” Bobby
asked on a barely-disguised chuckle.
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.”
the middle of the day, Dean.”
Dean and Bobby huffed in unison, and Sam was pretty
sure he heard Bobby’s eye roll.
you got no soul if you don’t love that movie.”
shook his head. “I got a little tired of watching
it every night for six months when I was ten,
snickered. “Yeah, I guess you didn’t get
to see My Little Pony, huh?”
scowled at him.
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.”
stay safe, Bobby,” Dean chirped brightly.
bye Bobby,” Sam echoed, ending the call.
took a breath, eyes still fixed on the road, before
suddenly asking, “What was with the tattoo crap,
shrugged. “Nothing. Just thinking out loud.”
can hear you thinking from over here,” Dean informed
had no reply to that.
Dean really could hear him thinking, he was
pretty sure he wouldn’t like what he heard.
Dean continued. “Ardmore, huh?”
nodded. “We should check it out.”
Dean agreed. “Definitely somethin’ goin’
on around here.”
stole a sideways look at his brother, before quietly
agreeing. “Yeah,” he said. “Something’s
going on all right.”
St. James’ Church
police tape fluttered in the light breeze gently caressing
the burnt-out remains of St. James’ Church.
whole place looked like a bombsite, blackened ceiling
tiles scattered across pitted concrete littered with
chunks of masonry, charred timber and shards of broken
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.
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.
were good to go.
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
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
like the nuns back at the convent in Kemp.
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.
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.
blew out a breath he seemed to have been holding since
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,”
most likely,” Dean agreed, heading off toward
the chancel end of the church.
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.
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.
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
was no sign of his brother.
he began to hold his breath again.
there was no response, and Sam instantly dropped what
he was doing, striding off in the direction he’d
last seen his brother.
he repeated, rounding the pulpit and abruptly coming
across the older Winchester bending over the font while
wrapping his hand in a handkerchief.
choking down a relieved breath, Sam asked, “Dean,
you okay? What happened?”
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.”
ground, Dean,” Sam put in. “How would a
demon get in, even if it was summoned?”
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.”
nodded, a little abashed, and a little bit freaked that
he’d not thought of that.
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.
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.”
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?”
glared at him. “Ass monkey,” he returned,
before stalking off in the direction Sam had just come
grinned to himself, before glancing briefly down into
was still holy water in it.
no pieces of glass anywhere in sight.
swallowed, the smile instantly melting from his face.
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
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?”
shook himself mentally, nodding his agreement with his
brother. “No,” he said slowly. “I
don’t think we are.”
anything I want to find, anyway.
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.”
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.”
sighed heavily. “Maybe we should get out of here,”
he suggested. “Leave the dead be. At least for
shrugged his agreement. “I guess,” he admitted
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
was beat. And frustrated. And just a little bit uneasy.
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.
there’d be more than just a little blood in the
font if he’d cut his hand open?
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
fine, Sam,” was all he could get out of his brother,
and that had been filtered through a couple of inches
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.
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.
that someone was Dean or himself he wasn’t sure.
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.
what are you doing?”
spun around to find Dean standing in the bathroom doorway,
shrugging out of his jacket and frowning at his little
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.”
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.
okay,” Sam responded neutrally. “It’s
a salt line, Dean. I don’t think it’s going
to stop you going to fetch soda.”
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.”
possessed. Not possessed…
* * *
are hands around Sam’s throat and he can’t
looking down at him, eyes jet black and sparkling, a
grossly misplaced smile tugging at his lips.
fight me, little brother,” he says softly, fingers
almost a caress as they crush Sam’s trachea. “Gotta
do this. You know I do.”
struggling this time, putting up a fight, fingers scrabbling
at Dean’s hands. There’s a burn across his
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.
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.
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.
all he can manage is a choked, “Dean, please…”
and Dean just laughs and squeezes harder.
go to sleep, Sammy.”
Sam slips into unconsciousness.
* * *
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
go to sleep, Sammy.”
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.
blinked, the light flickering, and Dean was looking
down at him with concerned green eyes, and Sam realized
he was trembling.
was just a nightmare, Sam,” Dean murmured. “Go
back to sleep.”
didn’t need sleep.
Dean was possessed, Sam needed help.
needed to get Dean some help.
he needed to get away from him first.
the episode here