They had been tailing the yellow eyed man for a long time and after a while the brothers had stopped pinpointing where they were exactly. What town they were in now or how far they had travelled; such trivial things no longer mattered, the important thing was finding him.
But now, now that was all they had.
They had both waited silently in the graveyard, watching the body for any signs of movement. It was Sam who eventually said he had had enough. The sun was high and soon the streets would be filling up, they needed to move now or they wouldn’t at all.
Using tools they found close by, they dug a hole in an empty patch of the graveyard and reluctantly manoeuvred the body over to it. They then piled the loose dirt back over the top and, both sweaty and drained, the brothers left.
After a bit of asking around, they discovered they were in a small town called Norwood, just south of Lawrence, their home town. The strangeness of having the showdown so close to where both their parents had lost their lives was not lost on them, but neither brother could bring themselves to really care.
It took another day of riding but then they were back in Lawrence, on recognisable ground. They had gone so long without a real home that the thought of having a place they could call their own was a little daunting, but a small part of Dean was looking forward to it.
They rode up to the house just as it was beginning to get dark. Dean let Sam take the horses and he disappeared behind the house. Dean was left standing, unsure outside the porch. He could see the square of wood his father had stood his ground on and as much as he wanted to get inside, he also didn’t want to force himself to remember everything he was now trying to forget.
He was still lost in his own thoughts when Sam appeared back at his side. Wordlessly, they both approached their childhood home.
One of the pros of having an alcoholic father was that when standing in any part of the house, it was always a certainty that a bottle was never far out of reach. It had taken Dean less than a minute to find one, fall into a chair and begin to work on it.
The house was dusty. No one had sent foot in it for at least a year and the disturbance of bodies traipsing through it now had caused the place to erupt into a dust storm. Sam had joined him for a drink at first but after one too many sneezes he called it quits and went to get some rest, leaving Dean to drown his sorrows alone.
Dean leaned forward with a grunt; he grasped weakly at the almost empty bottle on the table and refilled his glass. He had already lost count of how many he’d knocked back and was instead allowing the haze to take over. With his inhibitions lowered, Dean could feel the fatigue weighing down his every move but as hard as he tried he couldn’t seem to finally let himself go. Every time he did let his head droop, in his mind he saw the bastard in the graveyard, the bastard that was still alive.
After the fifth round of nodding off and jerking awake, Dean’s frustration hit a breaking point. He wasn’t feeling particularly drunk, so he surprised even himself when he lunged forwards for the bottle again. Once he had its familiar weight in his hand he hurled it at the closest wall. It hit with a strangely hollow thud and shattered, spraying Dean in glass and the remains of the whiskey.
Some of the glass shards cut into Dean’s skin but he barely noticed. In the background, he could also hear heavy footsteps rushing closer but he ignored those as well. He pulled himself out of the chair and approached the wall, peering at it curiously.
Sam skidded into the doorway and stared at Dean with wide eyed panic. Once he took in the fact that they were safe he relaxed, but continued to stare puzzled at Dean, who was running his hands over one of the walls.
“Dean? What are you doing?”
Dean held up his hand to silence Sam and continued to run his other hand over the wall. Occasionally he thumped against the wood with his fist and listened for the echo. He moved to the side and knocked where the splatter of the whiskey ended and the resounding noise deepened. Dean turned to grin at Sam.
“This part of the wall is hollow,” he said as though it was some kind of precious secret.
Dean dug his fingers into a crack between two areas of the wall where there was a big enough crease and pulled. With surprisingly little effort it came apart from the wall just as Sam moved closer to peer over his shoulder.
In the wall there was a small dusty alcove and resting inside was an aged leather book.
“What the hell?” said Sam as he reached over Dean and pulled the book out. He began to flick through it while Dean waited in suspense.
Sam’s eyes widened as he hurriedly scanned each page, moving onto the next one before he could even begin to read it all. He then turned back to the first page and huffed in disbelief, there was a date and a set of initials scrawled on the page in old ink.
“Dean. I think this was Dad’s. Look at this,” gasped Sam. He tilted the book to let Dean get a better look. Sure enough, in the top left, the letters ‘J.W’ had been scratched onto the paper in a familiar hand.
“I’ve never seen it before. What the hell was it doing in the wall?”
Dean made a grab for the book and Sam reluctantly let him take it from his hands; a hurt look of betrayal was all too evident on Dean’s face and Sam slunk back to let it all sink in.
This time it was Sam that was waiting in suspense as Dean’s eyes glossed over the book. Sam watched as the line of his mouth grew thinner and his jaw clenched tighter the longer he read. The high regard that Dean held their father in was, at times a dangerous thing.
Ever the loyal son, secrets and lies were never a things Dean took to lightly.
“Look, Dean,” began Sam, his tone appeasing, “so Dad kept a journal. It’s not exactly unexpected. I mean, who else could he talk to? Getting all this shit down on paper was probably good for him.”
Dean had stopped turning the pages and was instead glaring down at a particular one. When Sam trailed off, he lifted his head to direct the glare at him. Dean looked more than betrayed, he looked pissed.
“He knew. He fucking knew and he never told me,” growled Dean as he angrily brandished the offending item. Sam held up his hands, placatory in the face of his brother’s sudden anger.
“Knew what?” he managed to say calmly.
“Dad knew it wasn’t a man and he still told us to run while he faced it down.” The words were clearly hurting Dean. “It’s all here.”
Dean suddenly seemed to deflate, his shoulders dropped and Sam could see a slight sneer on his face.
Sam reached over and took the journal back. Not having the weight in his hands apparently unbalanced Dean and he slumped back into his seat.
“What do you mean he knew? What did he think it was?”
Dean didn’t answer and instead hunched over and cradled his head in his hands. The whiskey had reached his head and the extra fumes coming off the shattered bottle were making him dizzy.
Since his brother was ignoring him, Sam picked a page at random from the journal and began to read. The date at the top read ‘May 9, 1881’ in writing he recognised as his father’s. The words underneath filled most of the page.
In the passing weeks, I have found two demons. Neither one was the demon that I am looking for. But, nevertheless, they were helpful, despite their unwillingness to be so. They have given me a name of a town, which is at least something to go on.
As before, my bullets are useless. Although, they appear to cause damage, the bullets simply pass through. They bleed but are otherwise unharmed. I have since stopped wasting bullets on them.
Something I have found that works, though, is salt. A line of salt at any window and door and the demon can be repelled. It is not ideal for the long run but has so far saved my life more than once. A ring of salt can also create a protected area. Surrounding the house is impractical but I have lined the doors and windows in any case.
Finally, when passing a church a few days ago, I decided to let myself test a theory. I filled a flask with holy water and have kept it with me ever since. It stands to reason that it should have an effect against them. I admit I do not understand why salt affects them as it does but the water itself is blessed. I will try it the next chance I get.
The knife still remains my strongest hope.
Sam stared at the page, unsure what to think. Memories of the yellow eyed man screaming black smoke into the air flashed into his mind but contemplating demons was something else entirely. He skipped ahead a handful of pages and continued to read.
October 1, 1887.
I have been practising with the knife. So far, it has never failed. I just hope it is enough to bring him down once and for all.
I think I am getting close. I am beginning to recognise certain patterns when the yellow man gets closer. Droughts and unexplained animal deaths seem to follow wherever he goes. Strangely, it is not fires that mark his trail but missing persons.
Research has finally yielded worthwhile results. Usually, I find nothing that relates to what I need but after a thorough search and a lucky find I have found some symbols that could come in handy. Painting the symbols on a wall or the floor can trap a demon in place. I have copied the information into my journal, memorised them, and burned the book I found them in. My actions are most likely hasty but I cannot afford to give up such a large advantage.
With all the information I have now, it will not be long.
Sam slammed the journal shut, displacing dust into the air. He tossed it onto the table in front of Dean and ran both hands through his hair. Dean watched him with whiskey glazed eyes; he hadn’t even flinched at the noise the journal made as it hit the table, he appeared to be completely calm.
“Demons,” offered Sam. “Dad was tracking demons for years apparently and we never knew.”
Life returned to Dean and he sat up expectantly.
“I know. I can’t believe it,” he said breathlessly, almost reverently.
“I mean, I knew he drank a lot, but demons?” Sam continued, not catching Dean’s tone.
“What?” Dean hauled himself out of the chair to stand opposite Sam. “You don’t believe it?”
Sam spluttered inarticulately and gestured uselessly. “You do?”
“Well, yeah,” Dean shrugged, “it makes sense. Think about what we just saw, Sam. That wasn’t human. And if it wasn’t human, then a demon is as good a guess as any.”
“But it’s insane,” argued Sam.
Dean reached out and clapped his hands onto his brother’s shoulders. “Sam, I shot him and he got right back up to bitch at us. Something is wrong there.”
Sam nodded but he didn’t look convinced. He pulled away from Dean and dropped into the chair. Dean began pacing while he tried to rub the gritty, tired feeling out of his eyes.
“He said he was giving us a head start. What do you think he meant by that?” said Sam after a prolonged moment of silence.
“I don’t know but it can’t be good.”
“I’m beginning to think we shouldn’t have gotten ourselves involved in this.”
“Maybe you’re right but it’s too late now.” Dean sounded resigned but Sam could hear the underlying rumble of adrenaline and anticipation.
“In his journal, Dad said he had found a way to kill it, something about a knife.” Sam still sounded unsure, but with a lack of anything else to believe he was quickly latching onto the idea.
“Yeah? Well it’s a start, I guess.” Dean stopped pacing; one hand was on his hip while the other rubbed at his mouth. “I think we’ve got some reading to do, Sammy.”
Several months later.
The church was bigger than Dean had expected. He could only vaguely remember the last and only time he had set foot in one, and even then it was only for a short amount of time, not nearly long enough for the place’s supposed grace to affect him. Now, years later, as he stood outside the church of a town he couldn’t remember the name of, he found himself surprised that he felt a little overwhelmed.
The doors were tall and despite only being made of a decaying wood, they were somehow ornate. A well-worn dirt path let up to the base of them and, as Dean stood there, he looked up at the rest of the impressive building towering over him. The church was obviously this town’s pride and joy.
Dean risked an appraising eye down at himself; he was filthy. A couple days’ worth of dirt and grime coated his clothes and running a hand over his face only elicited a scratchy rasping sound reminding him that there was a couple days’ worth of growth as well.
He almost turned away. What was he even thinking? A church was one of the last places he belonged. But something stopped him. Something made him press on, regardless of how morally wrong it felt.
True to their appearance, the large doors creaked as Dean gingerly pushed on them. He cringed and willed them stop, the disturbance bringing back the urge to turn tail and run, but they continued to creak until Dean’s, admittedly rather weak, push brought the doors open fully.
Light spilled past Dean and his outline stretched out eerily across the floor, making it halfway to the altar at the front before it stopped. The place appeared to be empty.
Dean wanted to call out, make his presence known but again a sense of morality held him back. He may be the last person to ever call on God for guidance but he still had some decency; barging in and hollering out was not something you did in a church, no matter what your faith entailed.
He stepped over the threshold and finally stood fully in the place of worship. For some stupid reason, Dean had this inane idea that doing so would make him feel different, that somehow his new life of demon hunting would mean that the yin to their new yang would also rise to a higher purpose.
But he felt nothing. He wasn’t particularly surprised.
Dean reached up and removed his hat. The heat had plastered his damp hair to his head and it caused him to feel inexplicably itchy. He ran a hand through the short strands a few times, hoping to shake the heat off and also in a probably vain attempt to make himself look even remotely respectable.
He carefully strode down the aisle, glancing at the empty pews on each side. He chose one at random and slid in; he was three rows back from the front and the distance felt about right, close enough so that it was clear he was not just ducking in away from the sun and far enough away that his reluctance to believe was made obvious.
Now all he had to do was remind himself why he was even here in the first place because, truthfully, he really wasn’t sure.
Dean let his thoughts drift to Sam, who was grabbing them a room somewhere, probably wondering where his brother had disappeared to again. He could imagine it perfectly; Sam’s indignant huffs at thinking Dean had gone off to get drunk while he was left to do the practical things, muttering to himself about how being the younger brother sucked. Dean let a small smile creep onto his face at the thought.
Except, thoughts of Sam invariably led to thoughts of their father and, in turn, thoughts of their mother. Both of their unjust deaths seemed strangely sharper while Dean sat uncomfortably on sacred ground. The fact that he could just sit here didn’t seem right, for some reason. Sure, they were doing their best to avenge their parents, but having a life while they didn’t had never felt more wrong, until this moment.
The urge to get up and run was too much to ignore now. Seeking refuge in a church, of all places, was a stupid idea. Dean clutched at the back of the pew in front and swiftly pulled himself up.
The still open entrance meant that the place was haphazardly lit, light glinted off random objects and religious paraphernalia, but the thing that caught Dean’s eye as he hastily tried to make his escape was the man standing by the opposite set of pews. He was clearly a religious man, judging by his choice of clothing and Dean could have kicked himself for not sensing another person coming into the room. The light hit the man oddly and only one side of his face could be seen. His blue eyes and white collar stood out almost eerily compared to his dark hair and equally dark clothing.
Dean, on the other hand, must have been standing in full light because the man had obviously caught his startled expression and was stepping closer with his hands raised in a comforting gesture.
“Do you need assistance?”
The man’s voice could only be described as a growl, which surprised Dean a great deal and seemed as out of place on the man as it did for Dean to be willingly standing in a church. It took a moment for Dean to find his voice in answer.
“Ur, no, sorry preach. I was just leaving,” Dean finally managed, wincing slightly at how loud it sounded in the empty room. When the man had spoken it had just sounded deep, not loud.
“You must have come here for a reason?” The man stated diplomatically.
Dean edged his way out of the pews and both men were now standing in the aisle. Shrugging, he let a small amount of humour leak into his voice, not enough to be disrespectful but enough to hopefully convey the truth.
“Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m here. So I think I’m just going to go,” he laughed lightly.
The man didn’t return Dean’s smile, if anything his face grew even more serious. His brow furrowed ever so slightly and he cocked his head to the side. Dean had never met anyone, besides Sam, that could pull off that curious puppy dog look and on the man it even managed to look deeply serious. His laden words, however, belied the comedic expression.
“The Lord always welcomes the lost and unsure.”
He said it so gravely that Dean almost believed him.
“Yeah? Well, if it’s all the same, I still think I should get out of here,” said Dean, gesturing weakly at the door.
The man nodded his head so minutely that Dean would have missed it had the man not been making it impossible not to keep his prying gaze.
“I hope you change your mind. I’ll be waiting here when you do,” said the man.
Dean smiled back good naturedly and lifted up the hat in his hand as a half-hearted goodbye salute. He then turned away from the preacher and began walking towards the open doors. The too blue eyes of the preacher never left his retreating back.
Dean was halfway down the aisle when the front doors slammed shut so violently that it couldn’t have just been the wind, even though Dean really hoped it was just that. The warm beam of sunlight that had been spanning the floor was now gone and the church was dim, lit only by a spattering of candles around the edge of the room.
“Shit,” mumbled Dean as panic began to set in. “Not now.”
Dean quickly gave the room a once over. The building’s size was a weakness but the place seemed to be quite sturdy from the looks of it and the doors alone would require a lot of brute force to break down. He then turned to himself, patting down his legs to take inventory. His favourite knife was strapped to his thigh and the Colt was on his opposite hip, loaded and ready to go. Not that they would have any affect against what he thought was outside but just feeling their familiar weight was something of a relief.
Besides a useless gun and an equally useless knife, though, Dean was empty handed. He hadn’t thought to arm himself because he was going to a church. What kind of demons attack a church?
He ran his hands over himself again, sweeping over his jacket, desperately hoping that he would find something new this time. There was a lump in one of the pocket and when Dean pulled it out he was relieved to find a small bag containing salt. The bag was almost empty but it was something at least.
The doors suddenly lurched inwards and, for a second, Dean thought that they would not hold but they eventually shrank back into place once more. He turned back to the preacher, who was watching the doors with a slight frown.
“Do you have any salt?” demanded Dean, over the clamour.
The preacher didn’t answer and kept his eyes trained on the shuddering doors. Dean tried again, positioning himself between the man and the noise to force his eyes on him instead.
“Father, do you have any salt here? Pure salt?”
The preacher’s frown turned puzzled.
“No. I don’t think so,” he answered calmly.
“But you have holy water, surely?”
This time the preacher nodded and his eyes flickered over to a wooden basin by the doors. Dean nodded and opened the small bag of salt; he grabbed the preacher and dragged him over to the area in front of the pews. Dean then leaned down and began to pour the salt sparingly in a circle around the man. The lack of salt meant that the circle was weak but it would have to do. Once he was finished, Dean straightened back up and addressed the preacher.
“Now don’t move. Don’t leave the circle for any reason.”
The doors surged again as if they had heard his warning but the preacher only stared back at Dean. He had thought that the man would put up more resistance but he simply nodded, immediately understanding the danger they were in. Dean took a moment to thank any God that was listening for that.
With the preacher safe for the time being, Dean turned his attention to the holy water. He didn’t like the idea of getting closer to the doors but he needed something else to fight with, a ring of salt would not hold up for long.
Dean reached inside his jacket and fished out the flask he had placed there this morning. There was a small amount of whiskey left. Dean unscrewed the cap, shrugged and then downed the rest. Usually, the taste would be calming but right now it did little to nothing for his nerves.
Once the flask was empty, Dean submerged it in the wooden basin, watching as bubbles quickly rose to the surface. Dean then swirled the liquid around a bit, trying to clean the flask as best he could and then poured the contents onto the ground by his feet. Although the floor
was made up of rough stone slabs, the layer of unavoidable dirt turned a darker colour as the water puddled on top of it.
Dean filled the flask up a second time. Hopefully the small traces of whiskey would not dilute the power of the holy water; they had never bothered to test the boundaries because it had never been a problem before. Dean definitely regretted that decision now as he made his way back to the preacher, the possibly useless flask hidden back inside his jacket.
The doors continued to rattle and shift at odd angles behind him and there were sounds resembling a hurricane surrounding the building. Dean tried his best to ignore them; it wouldn’t be long before they found a way in, although it did seem that the church’s natural resistance to evil was actually helping Dean at this point.
Not seeing any other possible plan, Dean reached for the knife strapped to his thigh. He tested the familiar weight in his hand and looked up to meet the preacher’s eyes. The man had been silent throughout all of this and, even upon seeing a knife in this stranger’s hand, he was still calm. Dean had never really met a man of God before, something about them had always unnerved him, but there was something about this one that Dean liked. The preacher had not shut down at the first sign of the unnatural and Dean knew that stance; this preacher was ready for a fight.
Dean dropped his eyes and placed the knife over his cupped palm. As he pulled the blade sideways he felt it slice through the layers of his skin and blood immediately welled to the surface.
“What are you doing?” The preacher’s deep voice surprised Dean as much as it did the first time he had heard it, and when he looked up he expected to see outrage on his face or at least disgust but instead he just looked curious. Well, that was strange.
“Protective wards,” Dean answered as though it was obvious what he was doing. “They need to be drawn in blood.”
The man tilted his head again. Dean had to turn his back on the preacher to hide his smile.
Dean worked quickly on the sigils, his hands sweeping in practised arcs and lines on the stone floor hidden between two pews. He placed one on either side of the room, hoping that the created wall would be enough to keep the demons at a distance.
He was just finishing the second when all the noise stopped. Dean smoothly stood straight and ready, his still bleeding hand held at his side, endlessly dripping life onto the stone floor. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the preacher take a step forward. Dean immediately held up his hand to stop him.
“Don’t move. Not yet,” he said with his eyes trained on the doors. The preacher settled back into the centre of the circle of salt without saying a word.
They both watched the doors in silence until, with a sickening crunch, the wood splintered and flew inwards. The unhinged doors flew down the aisle and skidded on their momentum, only stopping at the boundaries that Dean had created as traces of the demon’s power still thrummed through the wood.
In the now open doorway stood three men. Each was of equal height and build; judging by their clothes Dean guessed they were ranchers, they probably came from the ranch he and Sam had passed on the way into the town. The rancher in front, the one clearly in charge, took one passing sweep of the church with his blackened eyes before he stepped into the building. The action was done very deliberately and with a plastered on grin aimed at Dean.
“Part of you was still hoping we’d be stopped by this, wasn’t it?” The demon spoke jovially with its stolen voice. “Well, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this but,” he paused to gesture all around himself, “all this, it means nothing. Sacred ground? It can’t stop us.”
Dean clenched his bleeding fist and tucked the injured hand into his jacket pocket as naturally as he could manage.
“A man can hope,” smiled Dean with an accepting nod.
“Then this is the place to do it, I guess,” said the demon.
Dean eased himself out from between the pews to stand back in the aisle, using his body to draw attention away from the presence of the preacher. He was outside the ward and the preacher was still the safest inside the salt circle.
The two lackeys trailed after the rancher as he walked further into the church. Dean took an equal number of steps backwards, hoping that he could pass the boundary before they noticed, but they were quicker than Dean had expected.
A feeling of constriction, like his lungs had forgotten how to breathe, wrapped around his chest; an invisible force not unlike the pressure of thick ropes stopped him from backtracking any further.
“Not so fast, Freckles.”
Dean suppressed the urge to fight and writhe, knowing the satisfaction it would provide his captives, and instead looked up from his chest to meet the rancher’s dark eyes.
“Can’t have you crossing that line, can we?”
Dean had a split second to register the slight upturn of the rancher’s mouth before he felt weightless. The next sensation he felt was the harsh impact of his shoulder hitting the wall of the church and then the cold stone floor on his face when his battered body crumpled.
By the time Dean pulled himself to his feet, shook out his disorientation and then faced the aisle again, the rancher and his two henchmen had crowded close to the sigil built wall. While the henchmen busied themselves testing its limits, the rancher turned his attention to the preacher, who, whilst still in the circle, was staring at Dean in apprehension.
“A man of the cloth, huh? You know, my father would love the irony of this,” mused the rancher, drawing the preacher’s eyes away from Dean. “How about it, Padre? You interested?”
The preacher’s eyes turned steely. The rancher laughed. Dean began to wonder if maybe he should have been the one hiding in the circle of salt while the preacher fought against the demons. With a glare like that maybe he would have been able to hold his ground instead of being flung across the room like a ragdoll.
“The thing about us, though, is that we don’t need permission, just the opportunity,” continued the rancher. “Think about that the next time you’re praying to your Father.”
The demons were distracted, thought Dean. The preacher had captured the attention of the rancher wholeheartedly and the others were still busy with the wall. Dean looked down at the blood drying on his hands and started to shuffle back towards the gaping opening to the church. If he could finish with the sigils before they turned back to him then he could gain a slight advantage. Hopefully the preacher would be able to hold them off long enough.
“You do know what we are, right Father?” The rancher tilted his head in question.
“I can guess,” answered the preacher, his voice dripping with malice. The disgust just made the rancher smile wider.
“Say it,” he ordered.
The preacher’s eyes flickered up over the rancher’s shoulders towards Dean, who was slowly creeping around the edge of the room.
“Evil,” said the preacher after a pregnant pause.
Sardonic laughter bubbled out of the rancher’s throat as the preacher’s answer struck him the wrong way.
“Try again. Be more specific,” he laughed.
A wooden rosary was wound around the preacher’s wrist and before he spoke again he snagged the dangling cross with his fingertips and pulled it into his palm. His fingers closed over it; the familiar touch was a comfort.
“Demons,” tried the preacher a second time.
When the rancher’s smile disappeared, the preacher knew his second guess had been better.
As Dean worked silently on his third sigil, he strained his ears to hear the conversation going on across the room. Catching the word ‘demon’ out of the preacher’s throat, he risked a surprised look. Maybe the preacher was more aware of his surroundings than Dean had given him credit for. Maybe that was why the preacher seemed so calm. For the first time since he had set foot inside this church, Dean found comfort in the preacher. This could have been going a lot worse, but at least the preacher was keeping calm.
Dean quickly finished the third sigil and judged the distance he would have to sneak to start the fourth. He was doubtful he could make it across the room undetected. His left hand was throbbing in constant pain as blood continued to well to the surface while his right was stiff from being used as a makeshift paintbrush. He waited a moment longer, until the rancher took a daring step closer to the salt ring and the preacher inside that was amusing him so far.
Dean was just about to make a break for it when another shadow fell across the gaping doorway. The familiar outline of his towering brother blacked out the sunlight, and if that wasn’t enough to alert the demons, his loud shouting made him impossible to miss.
“Dean? Are you in here?”
Sam appeared from around the corner and stood completely unaware in the doorway. Dean would have laughed at the shocked look on his face, when he spotted the four men, if he hadn’t already been cursing him under his breath.
Now that his cover was effectively blown, Dean made a dash for the other side of the room. As he passed Sam, he made sure to slap a hand across his shoulder, the one without the oozing knife wound, to quickly snap him back into action.
“They’re demons, Sammy. I hope you’ve finally memorised that exorcism,” supplied Dean as he passed Sam in a blur.
“What?” answered Sam, sending panicked looks between Dean and the other men. He began patting down his jacket, searching for what Dean had dubbed his ‘cheat sheet’, as he followed Dean. “Have you seen how long it is?”
“Well, we’re shit out of luck here, Sam, so remember it,” grunted Dean. Once he reached the other side of the church, he dropped to his knees and began working on the fourth and final sigil. Hopefully, Sam’s arrival would garner enough attention to keep both him and the preacher safe for a moment longer, at least until he could finish.
“Ah, the second Winchester. I was wondering when you’d show up. Attached at the hip is what he said and I guess he was right,” smiled the rancher, finally turning his back to the preacher and facing Sam. “Did you know he’s been watching you?”
Sam’s quick hands stole the Revolver from his hip and aimed it at the talking man. The search through his pockets was quickly forgotten.
“I guess it’s only fair,” answered Sam. “We’ve been tracking him for years now.”
“I think he’s surprised you’re both still alive. I know I am,” added the rancher while he started a slow but sure journey over to the brothers, leaving his lackeys by the preacher. “He wants to see how far you’ll get, how much you’ll sacrifice, how much you’re willing to lose before he kills you.”
“Is that why he sends you guys after us? You’re here to scare us. Push us to our limits?” said Sam.
The rancher laughed. The sound echoed around the church walls.
“Oh no, I volunteered,” he smiled, showing off a set of dirty teeth. “I’ve wanted to throw your brother around for a while now.” The rancher turned his attention to where Dean was crouched behind a pew adding the last lines to the sigil. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing down there Dean. All you’re doing is wasting blood.”
Dean swallowed around the lump in his throat and rose up from behind the pew; the fourth sigil was finished. He locked eyes with the rancher while trying his best not to let his uncertainty show.
“You can’t kill us. Trapping us like this is pointless. Exorcisms take us back downstairs, that’s all. It’s nothing but an inconvenience. If anything, you’re saving us a trip.”
“So stop bitching,” sighed Dean.
He pulled a stained handkerchief out of one of his pockets and clumsily wrapped his hand up. Sam lowered his Revolver and made a gesture to help but Dean waved him off with an irritated look. Once his hand was dealt with, he trekked around the edge of the church and made his way back to the preacher’s side.
He stared at Dean with his too blue eyes but didn’t say anything, not even when Dean told him he could come out of the circle. From there, he shouted back over to Sam.
“You remembered that exorcism yet?”
Sam blinked and then continued his search patting down his pockets.
“I think I’ve got most of it. But I don’t like doing it without the words right in front of me,” Sam admitted to the room.
Even from across the church, Dean knew Sam was rolling his eyes.
“Okay, um, how did it start? …Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus…”
Sam’s unsure voice carried around the church. All eyes were watching him as he spoke Latin, words spilling out of his mouth in a strange stilted rhythm. So far, Dean could see no change in the demons.
“This man is your brother?”
Dean turned to face the rasping voice, confused by the sudden question. Standing by his side, the preacher’s brow was furrowed as he waited for an answer.
Unsure, Dean muttered a short, “Yeah.”
Dean scoffed and shook his head. “No, younger.”
The preacher nodded in understanding as he regarded Sam once again. “He is very tall.”
Dean laughed and scratched at the stubble on his face. “He’s a giant.”
“…cessa decipere humanas creaturas…” continued Sam, unaware of the conversation going on across the room, his words only gaining in confidence and speed.
It was then that Dean started to notice a change in the demons, or at least in one of them. The rancher had turned away from Sam as he had started to recite the exorcism and was now facing Dean and the preacher. As Sam started a new verse, the rancher twitched.
His face immediately tensed as though he was in excruciating pain and he brought up his clenched fists to push against his temples. Dean could see his lips moving, muttering words quietly to himself or maybe to a voice only he could hear.
As charged Latin words continued to fill the church, the rancher’s eyes snapped open and up, zeroing in on the preacher. Instead of a weary accepting look, there was malice in his eyes. One hand still clutched at his head but the other was stretched out towards the man at Dean’s side.
“It’s you,” he snarled, sounding almost surprised as he appeared to recognise something in the preacher.
Dean felt the preacher tense, where their shoulders touched, under the rancher’s sudden shift in attention. For the first time, Dean saw uncertainty in the preacher; he held an expression verging on frightened.
“He’s been looking for you,” continued the demon. His voice was pitched low and his eyes were dark pits.
There was something about the demon’s expression, the sudden shift in attitude and his utmost belief in his words, that made Dean throw an arm out to his side. The preacher had stepped out of the salt circle when Dean had told him to, but with a gentle commanding push from Dean’s arm he retreated back inside.
“He’s got something special planned for you.” The rancher had approached the limits of the sigil created wall as he addressed the preacher.
“…Ut inimicos sanctae Ecclesiae humiliare digneris…” recited Sam on the opposite side of the church. The Latin appeared to be no longer affecting the demons; it was as if the rancher’s sudden interest in the preacher was more than enough to keep them grounded.
It was then that Dean remembered the flask he’d hidden away in his jacket.
“Say your final prayers, Father, because we’re coming after you next.”
The rancher deliberately emphasised the word ‘Father’, stretching the title until it became clear he was mocking it. Dean hated the smug expression on the rancher’s face and felt it needed to be wiped away.
He pulled the flask out, unscrewed the top and moved into the rancher’s line of sight. Over the demon’s shoulder, Dean could see that Sam was nearing the end of the exorcism and realised he had to act fast. He raised the flask until the sunlight glinted off the metal, catching the rancher’s eye in the process.
“Make sure to tell your boss that we’re done playing.” With that said, Dean swiped the flask through the air, whipping the demon with a face full of holy water. Immediately, the demon flinched. The water sizzled and smoked where it came in contact with skin and the rancher hissed in pain.
Their timing was perfect. While the rancher recoiled, Sam reached the last line of the exorcism. As soon as the words “audi nos” left Sam’s mouth, all three demons trapped in the square Dean had created froze. Then, in unison, their mouths dropped open and a huge cloud of black smoke began to congregate in the air above them. The cloud swirled for a moment, discharging an odd air of static electricity before it jerked to life and shot out of the church. The once inhabited bodies of the ranchers dropped heavily to the ground and in their wake the church was left in an uncomfortable silence.
It was Dean who eventually broke the silence. With a look bordering on betrayal, Dean spun around to face the preacher he had just moments before been rather impressed by. There were already too many questions he was dying to ask but only one that was important enough to be first.
“Just who the hell are you?”
In answer, the preacher drew his mouth into a thin grim line, tilted his head down and looked up at Dean through his eyelashes. He shook his head but didn’t say a word.