Be Home For Christmas
Just before Christmas - 1998 Mosinee, Wisconsin
“Hey Dean! What are you doin’ here?”
Sam asked, dipping his head into the passenger’s
side of the black Impala then tossing his over-stuffed
backpack into the back seat.
awesome, big brother that I am, I just thought you might
appreciate the ride home from school,” the nineteen-year-old
replied. “Now get in before you let any more snow
in on the leather.”
limbs followed a nearly six foot frame into the car
as Sam quickly seated himself just before Dean pulled
the old Chevy away from the front entrance to McNulty
High School. The car slid slightly on the street, an
early season snow having coated the roadway, as well
as everything else, seemingly in preparation for the
upcoming holiday. Dean immediately corrected, steering
back into the proper lane and ignoring the angry honk
of a horn from the oncoming car that he nearly missed.
He mumbled something under his breath at the other driver,
but continued on.
eyes narrowed as he watched his older brother’s
show of impatience. He knew Dean had been edgy this
morning when he’d left for school, but had wisely
chosen to remain silent while his sibling grumbled through
his barely touched breakfast. Apparently, the past eight
hours hadn’t improved Dean’s demeanor.
what’s up? Why are you still so pissed off?”
not pissed off, Sammy. And Dad wouldn’t like you
cussing,” Dean reprimanded.
laughed. “You cuss. Hell, Dad cusses worse than
anyone. And you’re changing the subject. What’s
bothering you? You’ve been in a bad mood all morning.
Is it ’cause Dad left last night?”
Dean quickly answered. But the swiftness of his reply
betrayed his denial.
it isn’t it? You are pissed 'cause he
took off,” the younger boy announced triumphantly.
“I don’t get it, Dean. What’s the
big deal? He does it all the time. What’s so different
different, just forget it Sam. You want to stop somewhere
for dinner? I got a couple extra bucks.”
watched his brother carefully as Dean stared through
the windshield. Even at fifteen, the younger boy had
come to read his older sibling fairly well and he knew
right now that Dean was lying through his teeth. Dean,
on the other hand, was pretty good at trying, emphasis
on the word trying, to hide his emotions from
people around him, preferring to show a strong, invulnerable
persona to the world at large. But Sam knew better,
actually knew him best of all. As he looked at him now,
he could see the tight set of Dean’s jaw, nearly
clenched as the young man fought not to let his younger
brother see that he was indeed hurt, angry, what?
such a bad liar. How in the world do you ever con anyone
at pool?” Sam posed with a snort.
you’re such a pain in the ass. How in the world
do you ever keep from getting your butt kicked on a
daily basis for always sticking your nose where it doesn’t
belong?” Dean shot back. “Now, do you want
to eat or not?”
know you’re not mad at me. It’s okay.”
I know you’re just mad ’cause Dad took off
on another hunt and didn’t take you with him,”
Sam announced. He paused for a second then inhaled sharply.
“Wait, you ARE mad at me!”
eyes widened as his head turned to look at his younger
brother. “What the hell are you talking about?
Why would I be mad at you?”
Dad made you stay behind with me. He wouldn’t
take you with him on whatever this hunt is ’cause
I still had school this week before the Christmas break.
He made you stay back and take care of me.” Sam
Dean began, but his brother had plunged head first into
the deep end of the guilt-pool.
doesn’t he think I can take care of myself? When
is he ever gonna trust me? I can get up and feed myself,
dress myself, get myself to and from school. I’m
not a friggin’ baby. Why is it okay for him to
have left you in charge of both of us when you were
my age and I was only eleven, yet I can’t be trusted
to watch out for myself at fifteen? Dammit Dean, it’s
just not fair!” the dark-haired boy whined.
wrong,” Dean replied.
stared at him blankly for a moment before spinning sideways
in the seat to fully face his older brother. “What?
You don’t think I can take care of myself either?
Or are you just siding with Dad again? How the hell
can you defend him? If the tables were turned and it
was you he treated this way, you’d be just as
pissed,” he shouted.
cussing, Sammy. And what I meant was that you were wrong
about why he left me behind. You were wrong about why
I was pissed,” Dean corrected. “Actually,
I’m not pissed, not really I guess.”
teen softened as he saw his older brother’s green
eyes flick back to watch the road, once again avoiding
the tell-tale eye contact that would surely give away
what’s wrong?” Sam persisted.
ignored him, continuing down Barton Street and pulling
into the spot in front of the small apartment they’d
been renting for the past few months. The engine quieted
as he turned back the key, remaining behind the steering
wheel as he sat staring through the windshield at the
snow that had begun to fall heavily. Next to him, Sam
wrapped his arms around his chest tightly, the chill
already permeating the interior as the shadows of the
Wisconsin winter afternoon began to envelop the Impala.
Despite the cold, the younger boy wasn’t about
to budge until he managed to get his obstinate brother
to divulge whatever was eating at him.
stomach growled loudly, breaking the strained silence
between them and forcing Dean to look at him.
told you we should have stopped somewhere. There isn’t
crap in the apartment to eat,” he grumbled, reaching
to turn the key and fire the engine once more. Sam quickly
intervened, his hand snaking out across the interior
and closing on Dean’s wrist.
not hungry and I’m not going anywhere until you
tell me what’s going on,” he insisted.
glared at him for a split second, then flung open his
door. “Fine, sit out here and freeze your ass
off, but I’m going inside and ordering a pizza,”
he snapped, slamming the door shut behind him to punctuate
could still feel Sam’s eyes on him as he stalked
off towards the front door of the apartment. Unlocking
it, he kicked off the packed snow from his boots and
trudged inside, leaving the door open, his meager attempt
to invite his baby brother in from the cold. Tossing
the keys to the car on the small coffee table, he pulled
off his coat and threw it on the edge of the threadbare
couch before moving into the small kitchen. Dean was
peering aimlessly into the nearly empty fridge when
he heard Sam shuffle inside. Pulling a beer from the
top shelf, he turned around to face the teen.
you want supreme or just pepperoni?” he asked
with a wan smile.
tossed his backpack down with a huff.
hungry,” he grumbled, peeling off his own coat
and letting it drop to the floor.
being an ass, Sam. You gotta eat something. Tomorrow,
we’ll go get some stuff to have around the place
since you’re gonna be out of school till after
Christmas. Dad left a few bucks, but if we’re
careful, we can even get something special for Christmas
dinner,” Dean offered.
Will ya?” Sam shouted back. “You’re
so full of crap. Are you gonna tell me what’s
going on or do I have to call Dad?”
you can’t,” Dean reiterated.
can’t stop me,” Sam answered petulantly.
you dumbass, you can’t because I don’t know
where he is and he isn’t answering his cell phone,”
the older boy shouted back in a flurry of words. “Dammit,
Sam, he took off without a single friggin’ word.
I don’t know where he went or for how long. Four
days before freakin’ Christmas and he just takes
the hell off. I mean, what the hell? Two sentences in
a note, not one single word, he just leaves. And after
voice trailed off as he paced back into the kitchenette,
turning away from Sam, unable to face his brother after
the breach of emotion. Thankfully, Sam remained silent,
allowing the older boy a moment’s respite before
he pounced on Dean’s revelation. While he leaned
against the cold edge of the sink, Dean could hear his
brother’s soft footfalls as he came into the kitchen
did he promise, Dean?”
tilted back the bottle of beer, relishing the cold alcohol
as it swept down his throat. He swallowed hard, wiping
the back of his hand across his mouth before turning
to look at his brother and replying.
Sammy, he didn’t promise nothin’. Just forget
Dean. You gotta tell me. Please! If Dad’s in trouble
or if you’re worried for some reason, then I want
to know everything. Please don’t treat me like
a little kid, Dad does that enough himself,” Sam
begged, eyebrows raised imploringly.
sighed. Telling Sam what their dad had promised meant
also letting his brother see how much it hurt him that
the promise had been broken. After all, was it really
that big a deal? Was he being childish about the whole
thing? What was Christmas anyway, just another stinkin’
day out of the year? No big deal, right? But deep down,
maybe it was something more than just another broken
promise. What was one more in a long line of them anyway?
Inside, a little voice was screaming in the back of
his head, telling him no way would his dad just take
off like that unless something really bad was going
down. In the end, it was his worry that overshadowed
promised he’d be home for Christmas this year,
Sammy. Swore he’d be around after the past few
years when he wasn’t. Said he had plans for us
to have this real nice Christmas and everything. I mean,
I know it wasn’t gonna be anything all that spectacular,
but you know, just the thought of us all being together,
having a good dinner, a real tree, acting like maybe
normal people for once. It would have been nice Sam,
ya know? I wanted that. I wanted it for all of us, I
wanted it for you.” Maybe I even wanted it
for me. Just once!
waited for Sam’s response, knowing it was coming
as sure as the sunrise tomorrow. Lately, it didn’t
take much of anything to set his younger brother off
on an anti-Dad campaign and Dean had just given him
brand new ammunition for the cannon. So he was more
than reasonably shocked when the fifteen-year-old merely
walked back into the living room and plopped down onto
the couch with a heart-heavy sigh.
What?” Dean stammered, caught off-guard by his
said I was sorry. I mean, here I was thinking you were
just being a jerk cause you were stuck behind with me.
Really, Dean, Christmas is no big deal. We’ll
make do,” Sam offered.
corner of Dean’s mouth curled up slightly in an
almost sad smile. Green eyes centered on the shaggy
brown hair and sincere face of his brother. Sam looked
up and met his gaze, eyes wide and seeking in that manner
that Dean hated the most. He knew that look, knew it
was the face that Sam made when he was trying to pretend
that something didn’t bother him, when he wanted
his older brother to think he was being “tough”
and sucking it up. But Dean knew his baby brother all
too well. That’s what happened when you played
surrogate mom and dad for the past fifteen years.
down at his brother’s eyes, Dean felt the heat
roiling up inside of him. The same irritation he felt
when he woke up this morning to find his dad gone with
a couple twenties on the counter and a note saying that
something had come up, now resurfaced. Suddenly, Dean
was angry, actually furious, all over again. Forget
being worried, forget that their dad might be in some
sort of trouble, he was tired of promises being forgotten
on a whim, of hunts being more important than sons.
the beer bottle down on the kitchen table, Dean strode
purposefully toward the hallway leading to the bedrooms.
He called out to Sam as he passed through the living
room, not even waiting for his brother’s response.
pack a bag, Sam. Warm clothes for a couple of days.
Bring any homework you gotta do while you’re on
where are we going?” Sam asked, jumping up from
the couch and trailing behind.
going after Dad. He might get pissed, but we’re
having Christmas together for once if hell freezes over,”
Dean replied from the bedroom as he hastily tossed clothing
into a gear bag. What the hell am I doing?
he thought with chagrin as he pulled the 9mm from the
nightstand drawer. I don’t need to worry about
hell freezing over if we find Dad, I better pray it
does before he kicks my ass straight there.
John Winchester awoke to pain and the sting of blood
trickling into his right eye. He struggled, trying to
shift his weight off protesting shoulders that were
stretched taut above his head and secured by rope to
a pipe in the ceiling. As the pounding in his head subsided
slightly, he forced himself to focus on his surroundings.
The last he remembered he had walked into the quiet
cathedral, dimly lit by candles and adorned in fresh
holly for the upcoming holidays. John remembered calling
out to Jim, surprised that his long-time friend had
not eagerly come out to greet him at the sound of the
church’s large oak door creaking open. He’d
called out several more times but was answered only
with silence and the echo of his own voice off the high
toward the rectory, thinking that perhaps his friend
might have gone there, John passed by a large, brightly-lit
Christmas tree adorned with multi-colored bulbs and
sparkling tinsel. Below it lay several beautifully wrapped
presents, bows hugging them tightly. The elder Winchester
paused for a moment, looking at the gifts and realizing
that he hadn’t bought anything for the boys yet.
When was Christmas Day? Next week? He still had time
didn’t he? Time just enough to help Jim with this
problem and then hurry back to Mosinee.
turned back around and nearly stumbled head first over
a nun. The older woman paled, letting out a tiny squeal
as the towering man sent her sprawling into a pew. The
hunter rushed forward, extending his hand to help the
nun to her feet.
Sister. I didn’t see you there,” he stammered
smiled graciously, smoothing out her habit before carefully
folding her hands within the long sleeves of the black
robes. “It’s alright, my child. I didn’t
mean to startle you. Have you come for confession?”
laughed, but quickly cut it off as it echoed raucously
within the chamber. “No, Sister. I don’t
think the walls of the church would withstand the shock
of my confession. Actually, I’m looking for Jim
Murphy. He’s expecting me.”
well, I haven’t seen him this morning, but I’m
sure he’s hanging about somewhere. I’ll
be sure to let him know you’re here if I see him,”
to her, John moved off in search of his fellow hunter.
He didn’t see the nun’s brown eyes flash
with quicksilver, irises snapping shut like the lens
on a camera. He also didn’t see the large, ornate
cross she lifted above her head, but he felt the ramifications
of both as darkness enveloped him and he collapsed in
a heap to the floor.
now, the memory flooded back and John knew that he’d
fallen into a trap set by the very thing that Jim had
called him to come and help dispatch. A soft groan to
his left pulled his attention and he twisted slightly,
grimacing as the rope dug into the flesh at his wrists.
he called out tentatively. “You okay?”
John. I’ll be alright. What happened?” the
cleric asked back.
well, I came in looking for you and ran into a nun,
which I assume wasn’t a nun? That the reason you
you saw Sister Mary Agnes? No, not a nun exactly, but
more like what was posing as her,” Jim replied.
You got a shapeshifter on your hands Jim?” John
asked, pulling against the rope on his wrists.
priest groaned as his weight shifted. “I wasn’t
sure at first, I thought it might be demon possession,
but as more of my congregation started acting strangely,
I knew it had to be something else,” he explained.
“Then, I was down in the boiler room the other
day and I came across the skins, knew what I was dealing
Jim. How the hell did the thing get into the church?”
a church, John. It’s always open. We don’t
exactly lock the doors, kinda defeats the purpose.”
fell between the two men as John yanked again on the
bonds holding him suspended from the rafters. His efforts
only produced more pain in his shoulders, while the
warm, slick of blood saturated the cuffs of his shirt
from the skin that abraded away from his hands. He ceased
his struggle and instead took the opportunity to canvas
the space where they were being held. Dark, cluttered
with boxes and very hot, it was undoubtedly the same
boiler room where Jim had first found the shapeshifter’s
anybody gonna think to look for us down here? Anyone
might come and check the boiler any time soon?”
I called Caleb right after I called you. He was on his
way. And I left a message for Bobby Singer, but I don’t
know if he got it,” the priest answered. “Other
than that, we’re on our own. The thing has been
shifting from one body to another right and left though.
If it’s pretending to be Sister Mary now, then
it’s jumped again. I’m pretty sure it was
posing as Carolyn Richter, our organist, when it got
me. She was practicing this morning when I came into
the sanctuary. We were talking about the Christmas Eve
program on Sunday then all of a sudden she hit me over
the head with a music stand.”
you warn Caleb what we were up against when you called
him or were you as cryptic with him as you were with
me? You’re damn lucky I came with Christmas so
close. I promised the boys we’d do something special.”
like I said John, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure
if I was right. I knew I was gonna need some serious
help trying to contain this thing if it got out into
the community. Besides, I’ve never dealt with
one of these things before. Can you just imagine what
that thing will do if it gets to my congregation on
the darkness of the basement, something other than the
two hunters moved, startling both men into silence and
causing them to scan the shadows for the creature they
knew was approaching. John could hear the thing grunting
as it stumbled about, suddenly crying out as it began
to shed its most recently acquired form. The sound of
wet flesh splattering noisily against the concrete accompanied
the sickening smell of body odor and deteriorating tissue
alerted both men that the thing was soon to take on
a new appearance.
grunted his affirmation to the priest’s earlier
statement. “Well, unless you have a plan or a
knife that’s handy, we’re in a world of
hurt here, Jimbo. You better hope that Caleb or Bobby
figure something’s up when they get here or Christmas
is gonna pretty much suck out the ass for us worse than
called Caleb right after you, he said he’d be
here tonight. I guess we wait?” the religious
man answered as the noise in the shadows continued.
are we going?” Sam asked, tossing his backpack
into the back seat of the Impala for the second time
that afternoon. The backpack was followed by a stuffed
duffle, as Sam stood upright and leaned against the
edge of the passenger’s side door, watching his
brother load similar bags into the Chevy’s trunk.
sure, I called Bobby, but there wasn’t any answer.
I called Pastor Jim too, but some nun said he wasn’t
available. I’m thinking we’ll head towards
South Dakota first, unless we hear from Dad or Bobby,”
you think Dad would have gone to Bobby’s? I mean,
if he took off on a hunt, he could have gone anywhere
couldn’t he?” Sam questioned, watching as
Dean checked a shotgun, then placed the weapon into
maybe. But we gotta start somewhere and if Bobby ain’t
answering, maybe they took off together. Pastor Jim
might know, we’ll keep trying to reach him. Hey,
why don’t you try Caleb?” Dean suggested,
tossing his brother his cell phone.
continued to load gear into the Impala’s trunk,
yet keeping an open ear and occasional eye on his younger
sibling as Sam dialed the demon hunter. Finishing, he
came around to the driver’s side just as Sam made
It’s Sam Winchester. Yeah, Hi. Merry Christmas
to you too! No, I’m okay. Yeah, Dean’s okay
too. Hey Caleb, we were wonderin’ if you’d
heard from our dad?”
was silence from Sam as he listened to the long-time
friend’s reply. Dean waited, fingers tapping impatiently
on the roof of the car.
thanks Caleb. No, I’ll let Dean know. He won’t
like it. Yeah, okay, we will. Bye,” Sam finished,
flipping closed the phone and tossing it back at his
What did Caleb say? Did he hear from Dad?”
But he was on his way to Pastor Jim’s. He said
Pastor Jim called him last night wanting him to come
help with some problem he was having.”
Dean mused. “Let’s go, Sammy! We’re
headed to Blue Earth.”
Jim’s? Why there? I thought you said we were going
to Bobby’s?” Sam reminded him.
were. But now I’m thinking that Pastor Jim’s
problem was probably the Dad, Bobby, and Caleb variety.
Matter of fact, I’m willing to bet on it,”
Dean answered adamantly.
Caleb said something about us just staying put. I think
he thought we might go looking for Dad and I didn’t
get the impression that he thought we should.”
not our dad, Sammy. And Dad’s not here, so I’m
in charge, right?”
I guess, but Dean, I was thinking…”
that’s usually the first thing you do wrong…”
Dean, but seriously, what if we take off to get Dad
and in the meantime, Dad comes home and finds us gone?”
it would serve him right for once! Dean kept the
thought to himself as he ducked inside the black car.
“Get your ass inside the car, Sam, or jog along
behind it, either way, we’re going to Minnesota,”
he shouted out to his brother.
turned the key in the ignition, feeling the deep rumble
of the Chevy’s engine vibrate through his chest
like the reverb of bass from a Metallica song. It was
as instantly comforting as anything else in his world,
sometimes more so, considering that the Impala might
as well be another family member in Dean’s mind.
He was dimly aware of Sam sliding into the seat beside
him, the passenger door slamming shut with a screech.
Without missing a beat, Dean reached over and turned
on the radio.
be at Pastor Jim’s by midnight. Catch a few Z’s
if you want and I’ll wake you when we get there,”
Dean offered. Besides, wouldn’t want you to
miss all the fireworks if Dad really is there when we
show up. My ass is so gonna be grass!
grunted in response, and Dean knew that his brother
was still skeptical about them just taking off to hunt
down Dad in order to have Dean’s version of a
Winchester family Christmas. Yet, as he pulled the Impala
out of the drive and onto the snow-covered street, the
voice in the back of his head told Dean that he was
doing the right thing.
Caleb tucked the phone back into his pocket as he parked
the Camero and killed the engine. Pausing before he
opened the door to the battered old car, he reflected
on the call he’d just received from the youngest
of John Winchester’s boys. While Sam Winchester
was undoubtedly one of the most precocious kids he’d
ever met, it was actually the older one, Dean, who always
impressed Caleb more. The few hunts that he had gone
on with John and Dean, the older boy had always handled
himself well. Striving to prove himself, never faltering,
Caleb watched as Dean prepared for and undertook each
job like a seasoned hunter. To say the kid was a natural
was an understatement. Granted, John had literally indoctrinated
both boys to the life, but Sam hadn’t taken to
it nearly as effortlessly as Dean.
that, then why had Sam just called him? Why were they
looking for their dad? And could he trust Dean to heed
the advice he’d relayed and just sit tight at
not! I bet anything those damn boys are already on their
way here. Friggin’ Dean’s way too smart,
I bet he’s already figured it out,” the
demon hunter muttered. Shrugging to himself, he finally
flung open the car door and took a step toward the large
concrete steps of the church.
took them slowly, taking in the lights shining out of
the stained glass as he approached the oversized oak
doors. The massive entrance groaned loudly as Caleb
pushed it open and walked inside the cavernous interior.
Hello!” he shouted out, continuing to walk down
the center aisle of the sanctuary towards the altar.
Dozens of candles flickered, while the lights from a
Christmas tree sitting at the edge of a row of pews
twinkled rapidly, throwing multicolored hues off the
walls and ceiling. “Jim? You around?”
continued toward the front of the church, senses keenly
alert. Despite the festive decorations and the holiday
preparations, there was an ominous feel to the place.
He wasn’t spooked, but he was getting concerned.
First Jim Murphy calls him, frantically imploring him
to come and help with some emergency, then after he
busts ass getting here, the place is deserted and Jim
is MIA. If something was going on, something big enough
to freak out Jim Murphy, then Caleb was concerned enough
to be cautious.
noise to his right startled him and Caleb spun, his
hand automatically reaching for the .44 inside his coat.
He relaxed immediately, the weapon lowering as the black
suited, white collared form of Jim Murphy peeked from
around a column, smiling generously, his arms spread
open in a gesture of welcome.
Where the hell you been hiding out? I been looking for
you,” Caleb greeted.
I was, um, just a little busy with something,”
the holy man answered.
problem. So, let’s get down to business, what
the hell you got going on here Jim? What’s up
with the emergency call?”
Caleb. All work? What’s the rush, sit down a bit.
How ’bout some coffee first? You have a good trip
eyes narrowed suspiciously at his long-time friend.
Despite the familiar face, the passive, calm attitude,
the gentle demeanor, there was something about the man’s
behavior that was just “off.” Staring incredulously
as the priest motioned him to follow, the hunter followed
obediently but warily, remaining two or three steps
behind, his right hand still tentatively on the grip
of the pistol within his pocket.
reached a large kitchen and dining hall that Caleb knew
was used for church socials and potlucks. It was already
arranged for the upcoming holiday festivities, tables
adorned with red and green clothes, fragrant centerpieces
sitting atop and garlands draped from the ceiling. His
head connected with one of several cut-out snowflakes
and for a moment he lost sight of the clergyman as he
ducked to avoid another of the hanging decorations.
Caleb called out, eyes searching the large room and
wondering where the man could have disappeared to so
quickly. “Jim? Dammit, where’d you go?”
turned to paranoia when the lights suddenly went out
in the dining hall, plunging the hunter into utter darkness
except for the red glare of the emergency EXIT sign.
His hand immediately drew the pistol again, fanning
it back and forth in the darkness, confused as to why
his friend was acting so bizarrely, but determined to
get to the bottom of the mystery.
Come on out. Let me help you,” he offered into
me? I don’t need your help. I just need you to
die!” The threat came as an unfamiliar snarl even
though the voice was the same soft alto that Caleb had
known for years.
possessed!” Caleb muttered softly, shaking his
head. “That’s why he was in such a panic
when he called. He must have known, must have been fighting
for control when he called.”
come on. Where’s your Christmas spirit?”
The sing-song voice called out from the darkness, taunting
hunter moved slowly forward, his free hand skimming
the nearby wall as he touch-felt his way around the
darkened room. His fingers barely skimmed the jamb of
a doorway when something slammed into him knocking the
weapon from his hand and tossing him into a nearby table.
Caleb’s body crashed to the ground as the table
collapsed beneath him, the air driven from his lungs
as his back protested the hard abuse of a chair leg
being jammed into his spine.
he struggled to recover and regain his footing, hands
grabbed at his coat and yanked him roughly to his feet.
In the blackness, he couldn’t make out the form,
but the strength being exhibited didn’t seem proportional
to the physical presence that held him. As his mind
fought to deny the obvious, a fist connected with his
face and his nose erupted in a torrent of blood. Two
more punches landed in combination to his head and abdomen
eliciting a “woof” of air as his attacker
to land a right hook of his own, Caleb heard a satisfying
grunt of pain as his attacker reeled backwards. The
demon hunter sprang to his feet, prepared for the next
assault that came in the form of a flying kick. He took
it in the side of the rib cage, absorbing the blow and
capturing the incoming foot in the crook of his elbow,
wrenching the leg around and spinning his attacker to
the ground. He immediately rushed in, throwing several
punches and absorbing more in return.
the momentum of the fight carried them from the dining
area back into the hallway, Caleb’s eyes widened
as he stared into the bloodied face of Jim Murphy glaring
up at him from the floor. The priest hissed between
his teeth as he lunged toward Caleb, his hands tearing
towards Caleb’s exposed throat and tossing him
backwards to the ground. The hunter fought back, striking
again and again at the man above him while fingers closed
around his windpipe threatening to suffocate him.
… gasp… stop … gasp…
why …” Caleb pleaded, as his vision darkened.
was answered with laughter that bordered on insanity,
stared up into eyes that no longer bore any trace of
humanity. The last thing Caleb heard as consciousness
faded sent a chill spreading through ever fiber in him.
Dean pulled the Impala into the twenty-four hour gas
and convenience store, trying to be quiet and not wake
up his brother. He grimaced as the door screeched upon
opening, looking quickly over to Sam to see if his brother
had stirred. Sam moved, turning slightly and pulling
his coat tighter around him as the cold, night air entered
snow had started coming down heavily again, whipped
about by the swirling wind and quickly covering Dean’s
hair and clothes as he stood outside pumping gas. He
huddled in, trying to shelter himself as the old Chevy
gulped down fuel, silently wishing he had a thicker
coat. Finishing, he dashed inside the store to pay,
also grabbing a cup of hot, black coffee to make up
for what he lacked in winter clothing.
He was about to head back to the car when he spotted
the rack of paperbacks just at the exit to the store.
While reading for pleasure was never something that
Dean could be accused of doing, he knew just how much
his younger brother prized books. Actually, that might
be an understatement. Dean was pretty sure that Sam
would dive in front of a speeding car to save one of
his precious books, few as they were, their lifestyle
not exactly catering to the hauling around of recycled
trees. If Sam was like a fish in a pond at school then
he was certainly a shark at the library, devouring anything
he could get his hands on. That made the three or four
books that Sam actually did call his own all the more
special to the young boy.
scanned through the books in the rack, discouraged when
the first offerings were romance novels. He chuckled
as he briefly considered playing a joke on his brother,
wondering how desperate Sam would have to be to read
about some damsel in distress and her swashbuckling
savior. But no, even Dean couldn’t be that mean,
not at Christmas.
spun the rack a quarter turn then quickly glanced out
the store glass and through the heavy snow to the Impala.
He could make out Sam’s shaggy brown hair splayed
against the passenger’s side window. Satisfied
that his brother was still asleep, Dean went back to
his shopping. He looked up and down the line of paperbacks,
his eyes settling on one that seemed familiar.
Kill a Mockingbird? Hmm? Didn’t I have to
read that once when I was in high school?” he
mused, plucking the book from the holder. It was thick;
thicker by far than the rest of the books in the rack,
and although Dean was more familiar with classic cars
than with classic literature, he was pretty sure he
recognized the title as something his bookworm brother
would be interested in.
turned the books once more for argument's sake, pausing
momentarily when he spotted Stephen King’s Christine
at the bottom of the rack. It was tempting to say the
least. After all, a story about an awesome car and a
haunted one at that had to be better than any book about
a stupid bird, didn’t it? Besides, they made a
movie from Christine. Didn’t that make
it better? Still, knowing his brother, Sam would go
for the boring, way too many pages mockingbird one.
Dean replaced the King book and hefting the Harper Lee
work, proceeded to the checkout once again. The clerk
eyed him strangely, looking at both the dust covered
paperback and the disheveled young man before him.
can I have a bag for that?” Dean requested as
the clerk handed him back his change.
you want it wrapped with a pretty bow and tag on it
too?” the old man asked, sarcasm thick in his
threw him a dirty look, but grabbed the book from the
counter and stuffed it into the interior pocket of his
jacket before stalking out of the store. He dashed back
out to the car, shaking off the accumulated snow as
he dropped into the driver’s seat. Sam stirred
awake, arms stretching above his head as he groggily
looked around the interior of the Chevy.
almost there?” he asked before yawning widely.
About another hour and a half I think. I just filled
the tank, but you want something to eat or drink before
we take off?” Dean offered.
I’m good. Um… Dean, you really sure about
what we’re doin’?” Sam asked tentatively.
rolled his eyes and let out a mixture of half sigh and
when did you start giving a damn lately about what Dad
was gonna think about anything we did? Hell, just the
other day, you and him were arguing about whether to
have corn or peas with dinner. I mean really Sam, what’s
up with you and him lately?
recoiled slightly as his older brother confronted him.
It was one thing to stand up to their dad, but somehow
facing Dean was never easy. Instead of defiance, he
lowered his eyes beneath overly-long brown bangs.
eyes narrowed as he took in the solemn look of his younger
sibling. Those damn eyes! Hadn’t Sam
been playing those eyes on him since, well, nearly since
the kid was old enough to know how to wrap Dean around
his littlest finger? Then why the hell didn’t
they work on their dad? And why did Sam and Dad have
to go at each other these past couple of months like
a couple of junkyard dogs fighting over a scrap of meat?
Sure, Dad had been pushing for Sam to take a more serious
interest in hunting lately and of course Sam had resisted,
choosing instead to focus on math and science rather
than crossbows and Latin rites. Still, if Sam only put
half as much enthusiasm into reading Binsfield as he
did Biology then maybe everyone could get along a little
those damn eyes, Dean’s voice softened
slightly. “Look Sam, maybe this started out about
wanting us all to be together for Christmas for once
okay, but now, I just think there’s something
more going on. I just have this feeling. I’ve
tried Dad, Pastor Jim, even Caleb again while you were
sleeping and none of them are answering. Something’s
you think it’s smart for us to be heading in there
then if something bad is happening? I mean really, Dean,
if Dad and Caleb can’t handle themselves, what
are you and I gonna do?”
shrugged. “I dunno, Sam. But we ain’t gonna
just sit at home with our thumbs up our asses wonderin’
if Dad’s gonna come back or not. Besides, look
at it this way, when all those other dweebs at school
talk about their Nintendos and whatever else they got
for Christmas, you can tell them about the spook we
laughed. “Yeah, right Dean. Is that before or
after Dad would kick my ass for telling about what we
do or better yet, right after they call the school counselor
to come down and have me evaluated for a padded room?”
well there is that. Look, it’s gonna be okay.
I promise. Dad can’t get too mad ’cause
it’s Christmas, right? And even if he does, we’ll
have Pastor Jim and Caleb and maybe even Bobby to protect
us,” Dean assured him.
it’s all the same to you, Dean, I think I’d
rather keep the shotgun full of rocksalt handy for protection
against Dad,” Sam joked uneasily.
loosed a brief laugh as he pulled the Impala back onto
the highway. Deep down, he shared Sam’s sentiment
and in the back of his mind as he drove the ninety plus
remaining miles to Blue Earth, he did a quick mental
inventory of just how many rocksalt shells he had thought
to pack in the trunk of the jet black muscle car.
awoke with a groan and a migraine. The throbbing in
his head was soon accompanied by the steady ache of
his ribcage with every inhalation. He coughed, regretted
it, and then coughed again when the first only brought
the coppery taste of blood to his tongue.
Jim’s here too.”
is?” Caleb asked. “Then who or what tried
to choke the crap out of me upstairs?”
John replied. “Been living here in the church
basement for a week or so. That’s why Jim called
us in. He needed the help in getting rid of the thing.”
Caleb,” Jim apologized. “I figured between
you and John and Bobby, you guys would make short work
of this thing. I just wanted it gone before Christmas
well, I guess we should have come a little better prepared.
By the way, where’s Singer?” Caleb chanced.
sign of him yet. I don’t know if that’s
good or bad,” John answered. “Haven’t
seen the creature either since it dragged you in here.”
it’s a shapeshifter huh?”
a skinwalker I think 'cause it’s been taking off
out of here looking like one of us. You ever dealt with
one before?” John questioned.
demons are my thing, John. Hey, Jim, what do you know?”
priest snorted. “I think that’s why I called
all of you. Looks like we all need a Hunter
101 refresher course maybe?”
Caleb and John both muttered simultaneously.
where does that leave us?” Caleb added as he twisted
against the ropes that held him in a similar fashion
to his comrades.
leaves me with a church full of parishioners that will
fall prey to that damn thing if we don’t get ourselves
out of here and find a way to stop it,” Jim reiterated
considering the three of us are hung up here like deer
carcasses, I think you better start praying for a Christmas
miracle or that Bobby figures it out when he gets here,”
was moment of quiet, only the creak of the pipes sounding
as steam heat from the old furnace rushed through them.
The three hunters each tested their restraints, struggling
to free themselves as thoughts of the creature running
rampant among a throng of holiday worshipers ran through
stilled their movements abruptly as the sound of footfalls
broke through the darkness of the basement room. John
twisted to his right as a flash of movement came near
smelled the creature before he actually saw it, the
thing’s body odor assailing his nostrils and nearly
gagging him with the stench. Before he could cough against
the smell, a set of nearly iridescent eyes flared right
in front of him.
startled, flinching backwards as far as the ropes would
allow him as he came face to face with Jim Murphy. The
seasoned hunter knew it wasn’t his longtime friend,
if for no other reason than he knew that the real Jim
Murphy was hanging next to him just a mere five feet
away. Beyond that, this version of the cleric just wasn’t
right. To the naked eye, the shapeshifter was a good
copy, despite the odor. But on closer inspection, there
was wildness to the face and a snarl that seemed to
hover just behind the lips.
do you want with us?” John snapped. “Why
are you keeping us here?”
Jim-creature held in front of him, sniffing the air
like a predator. John cringed as the thing pulled in
even closer, nearly touching him as it reached out with
a hand bearing tissue that was already beginning to
thing grinned broadly, stepping back slightly to take
in all three trapped hunters.
never hurt anyone before, not really. I only ever did
what I needed to survive. Tried to stay under the radar
and avoid attracting the attention of hunters like you.
So, imagine my surprise when I decide to hole up in
a church. I mean, what could be safer, right?”
it asked as it began to pace in front of its captives.
“And just my damn luck, I end up in the church
where the damn priest knows every friggin’ hunter
in the country!”
laughed loudly. “You stupid sonofabitch, the priest
IS a hunter. You sure picked the wrong church to shack
shapeshifter whirled back around, striking the hunter
squarely across the jaw and causing him to slam backwards
into the concrete block wall.
case you haven’t noticed, despite the slight setback,
I seem to have managed the hunters just fine,”
it snarled back.
you haven’t finished us off yet,” John added
the creature agreed. “But, I’ll be taking
care of that soon. Actually, I don’t need either
of you two. I’ve got the priest’s face,
that’ll get me plenty of mileage.”
have you done with Sister Mary Agnes and Carolyn Richter?”
Murphy stared at Jim Murphy as the shapeshifter turned
toward the priest. The creature was beginning to falter,
more of its assumed skin beginning to melt away as it
started to tremble. It staggered slightly, righting
itself before it spoke.
I assume Carolyn must be the blonde that tried to bite
me. She’s still stuffed inside one of the closets
in the back of the church. A little beat up, but still
alive I assure you. As for the nun, well, I didn’t
mean to hurt her, I’ve never killed anyone before,
but the old girl’s ticker apparently couldn’t
handle seeing me change into… well, her, right
before her very own eyes.”
dear God! She’s dead?”
creature didn’t respond. Instead, it spun away
and into the shadows with a cry of pain. The hunters
listened as it began its tortured shedding of skin,
banging around from one point to another as pieces of
flesh fell from its distorting body and fell to the
concrete floor with a sickening sloppy sound. Groans
mixed with growls from the darkness as the shapeshifter
altered its form once again.
it hurts like hell, you sonofabitch!” Jim shouted
into the blackness.
Little harsh for a priest, and in your own church no
less,” John teased.
was for Mary Agnes. She was a dear woman, John. She
might have been suspicious about what I was doing around
here, under cover, but she never questioned me. Never
demanded a single explanation for the many hunters that
have sought refuge here over the years.”
know you’re upset about her Jim, but it isn’t
solving our immediate problem,” Caleb reminded
just have to hold on to the hope that Bobby will make
it here and figure it out. Until then, we’ll just
have to keep trying to get free of these ropes…”
was interrupted as the sound of the main doors to the
building being opened and then slammed shut echoed throughout
the silent church. The three men held their breath as
they listened intently to the footfalls on the hardwood
floor above them.
heavy enough for Bobby, John thought as the steps
moved slowly across the sanctuary on the main level.
suddenly a second set of footsteps joined the first.
Separate and trailing, they seemed to shuffle rather
than plant determinedly as the others had. To the trained
ear, one set wore boots, the other, something softer
its Bobby, then he brought someone with him,”
John whispered. “Someone smaller, a woman maybe?
Does Bobby know any female hunters?”
to him, Caleb groaned, realization striking him.
shit, John. It’s not Bobby,” he whispered
doesn’t matter who it is. They won’t be
able to help any of you!”
hunters looked up to see the shapeshifter had recovered
and was again standing before them. Eyes wild once more,
it strode up to face the elder Winchester this time.
you have one more hunter coming to join the holiday
party?” it sneered. “Let’s go greet
him with a familiar face, hey John?”
whirled away and into the darkness before John could
shout out a protest. The hunter yanked at the ropes
holding his arms above his head to no avail, grunting
with pain and frustration until Caleb’s voice
cut through his angry fit.
are you listening to what I just said?” Caleb
No! What?” John demanded angrily.
said that right before I came in here, I got
a call from your boys, from Sam actually. They were
looking for you. I didn’t tell them you were here,
but let’s face it, they aren’t dumb those
two. I tried to convince them to stay put, but I got
the distinct impression that they probably wouldn’t,”
the demon hunter explained.
and Dean? No. No way. Dean wouldn’t. I mean, he’s
been calling my cell but he knows I don’t always
answer when I’m on a hunt. I left him instructions
and Dean always follows orders,” John insisted.
Christmas, John, and you left them. I’ll bet you
anything those boys were determined to find you come
hell or high water,” Jim added in. “When
are you ever gonna listen to me about that? Been warning
you for years that sooner or later, Dean was gonna get
tired of following orders and was going to take matters
into his own hands. Especially if he was doing it for
you’re preaching to me, when it was your ass I
came to bail out? Besides, I know Dean. He does as he’s
told. He knows how important it is.”
men became silent once more as the footsteps in the
sanctuary continued again. John listened as the sounds
moved across the first floor of the church, his mind
filling with doubt and concern.
Dean would stay put in Mosinee and watch out for Sam?
Hadn’t Fort Douglas taught him the very valuable
lesson about following orders to the letter? No, they
were in Mosinee, safe, sound and waiting.
Jim? Caleb? Dad?” Dean’s voice carried
throughout the empty church, augmented by the vaulted
ceilings and the silence that permeated the place. “Pastor
and concern turned into full-blown worry and fear as
John listened to his oldest son calling out, knowing
that the thing that was about to answer Dean’s
call was neither his father nor even human.
he shouted back, tugging with a new fervor on the ropes
that held him, desperate now to save his sons.
“Pastor Jim? Caleb? Dad?” Dean called out
as he walked toward the altar. “Pastor Jim? Hellloooo!
him, Sam shuffled slowly down the main aisle, his tennis
shoes scuffling along the hardwood floors as his backpack
bounced from the back of one pew to the next.
turned back to face his brother, shrugging his shoulders
to indicate that he had no idea why no one had come
to meet them. Even though it was a little late, he was
still surprised that no one had responded to his shouts.
The church was still lit up and after all the time he
and Sam had spent here, he knew that Pastor Jim rarely
turned in early.
they aren’t here after all?” Sam said, dropping
down into the nearest pew dejectedly.
ought to be,” Dean insisted, moving over to the
Christmas tree and toying absentmindedly with one of
the ornaments. “Didn’t you say that Caleb
told you he was on his way here?”
Sammy, something’s up. I can feel it.”
just ’cause you’re inside a church, Dean,”
turned, the start of a dirty look marking his face when
one of the large oak doors to the church swung open
and forced him to look up instead. The gust of cold
winter air that rushed through the entry caused the
candles within the church to flicker, dimming briefly
before they settled and began glowing again as a body
blocked any further onslaught.
Both Winchester boys exclaimed simultaneously as the
hunter closed the door behind him.
tore from his seat, charging down the center aisle toward
the bearded hunter.
good to see you. We came looking for our dad and there’s
nobody here, not Dad, not Caleb, not even Pastor Jim,”
he rambled. “Caleb said you all were coming here,
but now no one's here.”
easy there. Take a breath,” Bobby directed, raising
a hand to stave off the eager young boy.
retracted, taking a step back and quieting as Dean joined
him at his side. Bobby looked at both boys, obviously
confused by the presence of the two teenagers.
now, what the hell are you boys doin’ here?”
When Dean averted his eyes and Sam smiled sheepishly,
Bobby groaned and shook his head. “You come after
your dad didn’t ya? Damn dumb kids. We didn’t
come here to help Santa deliver presents, what were
both boys still remained silent, Bobby turned directly
to the older Winchester brother, reaching out and grabbing
Dean by the shoulder.
you know better. What are you doing here, dragging Sam
into the middle of a hunt no less? And so close to Christmas
too?” the veteran hunter asked.
tried to avoid Bobby’s piercing gaze as he scrambled
for some believable lie to tell the older man. As words
fumbled from his lips, Sam suddenly intervened.
just wanted Dad to be around for Christmas, Bobby. He’s
always promising, but then just like now, he takes off
again, like there’s always something more important
than us,” the younger boy explained.
just shut up…” Dean interrupted, pulling
his brother behind him. “Really, Bobby, we’ve
both been on our fair share of hunts. We can handle
ourselves just fine. There was no reason Dad couldn’t
have brought us along.”
well, I got twenty bucks says that argument won't get
your ass out of a sling when your daddy shows up,”
Bobby suggested. “So, you ain’t come across
none of them yet?”
relaxed slightly, recognizing that the family friend
wasn’t immediately going to continue with the
chastising or worse yet, send the brothers packing back
but we just got here a few minutes before you. It’s
kinda strange that not even Pastor Jim has come around.
He’s usually somewhere in the church, usually
meets us at the door when we’ve come here before.
We were yelling for everyone pretty loud.”
nodded as Dean updated him. The hunter looked around
the dimly-lit open sanctuary, taking in all the darkened
crevices and becoming uneasy. A sudden movement in the
shadows put him fully alert and he drew a sawed-off
shotgun from underneath his camouflage coat while moving
in front of the two boys.
pushed forward to stand at Bobby’s side, pulling
a 9mm from the interior pocket of his own jacket with
his right hand while his left kept contact on Sam’s
sleeve. A nerve-wracking silence filled the cavernous
sanctuary as the three waited on guard.
Sam called out as the figure stepped out around a column
and into the candlelit nave.
How the hell are ya? Where’s Jim? What the hell’s
going on 'round here?” Bobby rapidly questioned.
moved in closer to the trio, but then stopped, remaining
at the far edge of the long pew. He forced a wry grin
as he looked at Bobby and the boys.
there. You all made it finally, huh?” he greeted.
yeah,” Bobby replied suspiciously. “Sorry
to keep you guys waiting.”
problem, everyone was just hanging out, reminiscing
about old times,” John assured him.
him, Bobby could feel Dean tense and could see that
the older boy still held the pistol in his hand down
at his side. Good! Smart boy! You know your daddy’s
not acting right.
Dad, I’m sorry that Sammy and I are so late getting
here. The uh, truck blew a tire outside of Chicago,”
alright kiddo. You made it here safe, that’s all
that matters. Now what you say we all head out and grab
a bite to eat or something?”
shook his head and laughed low and deep. Raising the
gun, he aimed it at his father’s chest as Bobby
leveled the shotgun once more.
are you?” Dean demanded.
eyes flashed as the creature’s mouth widened in
a broad smile. “Why son, is that any way to treat
dear old Dad at Christmas?” it sneered, leaping
forward over the end of the pew.
grabbed Sam and dragged his younger brother with him
as he broke for the main aisle. He heard the blast of
Bobby’s shotgun followed by a loud huff of air
as the hunter was tackled by the thing wearing his father’s
the archway to the back hall, he cast a quick look over
his shoulder, seeing that Bobby was engaged in exchanging
blows with John. Sam froze beside him, confusion apparent
on the younger boy’s face as he stared at the
melee between the two older hunters.
he called out.
not Dad, Sammy. Come on. We gotta get out of here. Bobby
can handle himself. We gotta find Pastor Jim or Caleb,”
Dean directed, tugging on Sam’s sleeve.
if that’s not Dad… it looks like Dad…
what if…” Sam stammered, unmoving and still
staring back at the form of the man that wore his father’s
IT’S NOT DAD! I don’t know if he’s
possessed or what, but I’m telling you it’s
not him.” When his brother still didn’t
respond, Dean spun him around, grabbing Sam by both
arms and nearly shaking him as he shouted. “Dude,
were you not paying attention? Did you not hear what
Dad said? He didn’t even care that we were here.
Don’t you think that was a little weird? And then
he didn’t even pick up on when I said anything
about losing a tire on the truck outside of Chicago.
It was like he had no idea what I was talking about.
I’m telling you, whoever or whatever that is,
it isn’t John Winchester. Bobby knew it too. Now
get your ass in gear and let’s get the hell out
boys spun around as they heard Bobby yell out a warning.
They watched the hunter go down in a bloody spray as
the thing that looked like their father brought the
stock of Bobby’s shotgun smashing into his face.
stood up over the unconscious hunter, surveying its
handiwork before turning to scan for the absent boys.
Making eye contact with the shapeshifter about the same
time it spotted them, Dean pushed Sam ahead of him with
his younger brother running down the back hallway before
him, Dean slowed for a second to see if they were being
followed. He didn’t have to wait long as the large
form of his dad turned the corner and lumbered down
the dark corridor towards him.
on son, don’t make Daddy chase you down and beat
your ass,” the creature taunted Dean.
to hell,” Dean shouted over his shoulder and sped
know, I already got the other hunters. Do you really
think I won’t get you too?”
ignored the voice, focusing instead on protecting his
brother and escaping the thing that was now hunting
them through the church. He caught up to Sam near the
entrance to the small library, ushering him inside and
slamming the thick door shut behind them.
moved to the farthest wall away from the entry, his
eyes wide as he panted breathlessly. The elder Winchester
sibling turned the lock on the door then pressed his
back into the wood as though his slight weight would
keep anything from getting in.
if that isn’t Dad, what the hell is it?”
Sam questioned. “And if that isn’t Dad,
then where is Dad, and Pastor Jim and Caleb?”
do I look like a crystal freakin’ ball? Do you
mind if I concentrate more on keeping 'Dad' out there
from truly killing our asses?” Dean snapped back.
moved away from the door, pacing the room nervously
as he ejected the clip from the 9mm and checked it.
Looking over at Sam, he then reached for the knife tucked
into the side of his boot and flipping it around, offered
it hilt-first to his brother. Sam looked at him cautiously,
but accepted the weapon, dropping his backpack to the
you’re gonna hide your ass over in that closet
and I’m gonna go try to find everyone else.”
going out there? With the… Dad-thing?”
it might be your dream come true to spend Christmas
in a library surrounded by books, but I didn’t
drive all this way to be trapped in here with your sorry
ass on one side and a Dad-thing on the other,”
Dean teased, laughing slightly and reaching out to playfully
slug his brother in the upper arm as he moved back over
to the door.
withdrew, clutching his bicep in mock pain and trying
to appear wounded by his brother’s comments. More
than anything, the younger Winchester didn’t really
want to see his brother walk out that door alone. But
if he knew one thing, it was that there was no dissuading
a determined Dean.
wait here and bury that knife in anyone that can’t
tell you how you got that little scar on your ass,”
Dean warned, chuckling as he peeked out the half cracked-open
door before sliding out into the darkened corridor.
hugged the wall as he quietly made his way through the
silent church. He silently berated himself for dragging
his brother into this mess, whatever this mess was,
knowing full well if and when he ever found his dad,
his real dad, he truly was in for the ass-chewing of
moment of fear overtook him. What if his dad was dead?
What if they were all dead, Dad, Pastor Jim, Caleb,
maybe even Bobby.
think that way,” he rebuked aloud.
down another hallway, he found himself at the back of
the altar just at the base of the stairwell that led
to the choir loft. Pulling back the heavy curtain, he
peered out into the candlelit sanctuary, cautiously
looking for any sign of his dad.
church was silent once more, something Dean despised.
In all the times he’d spent at Pastor Jim’s,
he’d never liked it when the church was quiet
and empty. It was eerie, unnatural. Not that Dean particularly
liked the church or what it stood for to begin with.
Empty churches were empty promises; just like his mother’s
promise that angels watched over them or that God would
somehow protect them, just like the empty casket in
the ground that would never hold her body, all empty…
flinched away from the memory, hating that he had managed
to be distracted by thinking of his mother at this moment.
He knew she’d probably be disappointed by his
lack of “faith,” especially at this time
of the year. But then, if she were still alive, chances
were he’d be in a church at some sort of Christmas
service rather than being on some sort of hunt.
around, Dean came face to face with the copy of John
Winchester. Without hesitation, he raised the 9mm and
fired off a round that tore into the upper arm of the
shapeshifter. The creature howled in pain, lashing out
and knocking the weapon from the young man’s hand
as it flung him into the nearby wall.
stunned, Dean scrambled back to his knees, hands searching
in the dim lighting for the lost gun. Within seconds
the shapeshifter was on him, one hand clawing for his
throat while the other connected solidly with his abdomen.
Dean threw both of his hands around his attacker’s
arm, fingers tearing frantically as his lungs screamed
darkness threatened to overtake him, Dean looked up
into the familiar face of his father that was now sneering
down at him. Desperate to escape, Dean let go of the
arm and put everything he had behind a punch to the
face hovering above him. As his knuckles connected with
the ridge of the cheekbone, several inches of skin peeled
away in a long ribbon of bloody flesh leaving raw fatty
tissue exposed underneath.
gross,” Dean choked out in a raspy voice. He swung
a left hook that connected as well, this time bloodying
the creature’s nose and causing the thing to step
back from him.
young man managed to get to his feet but was immediately
driven into the stairs as the creature tackled him.
you really think you can beat me? I’ve already
taken care of the other hunters, do you think I’m
worried about some dumbass kid?” the fake-John
knew you weren’t my dad, but so help me, if you’ve
hurt him, I’ll freakin’ kill you,”
Dean hissed back as he climbed backwards up the stairs
to break away from the thing.
creature laughed, charging up the stairs behind Dean
and grabbing the young hunter by the material of his
jacket before lifting him up and throwing him effortlessly
back down to the floor below.
head and shoulder drove into the hard wood of the floor
as the rest of his body crumpled behind. He curled in
protectively, momentarily dazed as he tried to force
himself to get back up.
Sam’s voice rang out as the boy dashed to his
What the hell are you doing? Get out of here!”
Dean ordered, grimacing as he rose up on an elbow, looking
over his brother’s shoulder for sign of the creature
Dean could react, Sam was snatched away from his grasp,
an echo of sadistic laughter accompanying the action.
he shouted, jumping to his feet and rushing after the
fleeting shadow of the creature as it pulled his brother
behind it up the stairs toward the choir loft.
could hear Sam struggle, yelling in defiance as he fought
against the thing that wore their father’s face.
He smiled briefly as he listened to the string of curses
come out of his brother’s mouth in response to
the hollow sound of a fist connecting with Sam’s
the steps two at a time, Dean flew up to the loft, arriving
at the top of the stairs just as the creature slammed
another fist into Sam’s stomach. Dean shouted
out, distracting the fake-John, causing him to divert
his attention back to the older sibling and allowing
the younger boy to sag to his knees, a thin trickle
of blood seeping from his nose and mouth.
away from my brother, you sonofabitch,” Dean demanded.
that’s just not the Christmas spirit. I don’t
think Santa’s gonna bring you anything but coal.”
I’ll be glad to shove right up your ass…”
creature laughed loudly, amused by the brazen defiance
of the young man before it. It growled like an animal,
extending its arms and broadening its chest, taunting
Dean to attack it.
it on!” it invited.
took a step forward but halted, a flash of silver catching
his eye. He watched as Sam rose behind the fake-John
and drawing the blade that he’d been given earlier,
plunged the knife into the back of the creature.
thing screamed in a voice that no longer resembled anything
human, much less their dad’s, whirling around
as it tried to reach for the hilt that rested squarely
between its shoulder blades. In a flurry of motion,
it rammed into Sam, grabbing the young boy with one
arm firmly around his neck as it backed away towards
the edge of the balcony.
moved in closer, determined to retrieve his brother
and put an end to the thing that had been hunting them
through the church. As he drew near, Sam’s hands
tore free more flesh from the bare arms of the creature;
chunks of skin fell off and dropped to the floor with
a resounding plop. Yet the thing never cried out, never
the hell are you?” Dean asked one last time as
he rushed toward the creature.
am whoever I want to be,” it answered, swinging
around and throwing Sam over the edge of the choir loft.
yelled in defiance, screaming his brother’s name
as he threw himself toward the edge in an effort to
grab any portion of Sam’s body. His hand’s
closed on nothing but air as his body slammed hard into
the oak handrail.
quickly, he spotted the creature still hunched over
the balcony. Looking over the side, he saw that Sam
clung to the edge; legs dangling out into the open space
above the altar below.
hang on!” Dean pleaded, hands reaching to grab
his brother even as the creature tried to push Sam off
to his death.
the tug-o-war over the youngest Winchester waged, the
shapeshifter swung a backhanded fist at Dean, catching
the younger man on the side of the head and sending
him sprawling backwards.
and dazed, Dean knew he had to get back up, could see
the creature still trying to dislodge Sam’s precarious
grip. Launching himself across the small gap that separated
them, Dean ripped the knife from the back of the shapeshifter
and in one continuous motion drove it upward into the
base of the creature’s skull, twisting the blade
as he felt it hit home.
creature went limp almost immediately, its brainstem
severed. With the blade still in place, Dean pushed
his shoulder into the back of the shapeshifter and heaved
it up and over the edge of the loft, watching as it
smashed into the altar below.
was only Sam’s panicked voice that snapped the
older boy out of the transfixion of staring at the familiar
open brown eyes that stared back at him from the corpse
wasn’t Dad, it couldn’t be! Dean assured
himself. But even as he pulled his bruised and bloodied
- but alive - brother back to safety, the voice in the
back of his head nagged at him. What have I done?
in the world have those boys gotten off to now?”
John whined as he dropped the duffle bag into the pew
with an irritated groan.
pretty sure I saw Sam back in the kitchen with Jim,
loading up on sugar cookies and reading some thick-ass
book,” Caleb answered. “Not sure where Dean’s
at. Why don’t you all just hang out here anyway,
John? No point in busting ass home with Christmas just
I gotta Caleb. I promised the boys a real Christmas
this year, err at least something close. I’ve
spent too many Christmases away from ’em. I guess
that’s why they showed up here the other day.
Figure Jim was right, they were pissed, figurin’
I ditched ’em again,” John rationalized.
well damn good thing they did,” Bobby added. “Seeing
as how the rest of us pretty well got our asses handed
to us by that skinwalker. Seems like it took your boys
showing up to do a little ass-kickin' of their own.”
grunted in disapproval. “Seems like they both
nearly got killed. I could have been burying them for
Christmas. Pretty damn stupid, I’ll be speaking
to Dean about it, but not now.”
back off. They’re both going to be great hunters
someday. You mark my words. Give them time to grow,
to learn. Be proud of what they did here,” Caleb
counseled the father.
merely nodded, “I am proud of them Caleb, very
proud. I guess I just need to tell them that a little
three men became silent as Jim and Sam entered the large
sanctuary. Laden with packages, Sam dropped into the
nearest pew with an exasperated sigh.
you got there kiddo?” John asked.
ham, sweet potatoes, rolls, and Pastor Jim says we can’t
open the other two boxes till Christmas morning,”
you’re sure you all won’t stay? The ladies'
auxiliary will be putting on a huge spread tomorrow.
This is just a small sample,” Jim said temptingly.
Jim, I appreciate the offer, but I’ve got a surprise
for the boys,” John replied. “All we need
now is your brother. Have you seen Dean, Sam?”
nose buried in a book once again, the young boy didn’t
respond. Raising his voice and pulling the thick paperback
from his son’s grasp, John repeated the question.
in the world are you reading?” he asked.
looked up excitedly. “To Kill a Mockingbird. Dean
got it for me for Christmas. Gave it to me early. It’s
a totally cool story Dad. About these two kids and their
dad who’s a lawyer that defends this black man
accused of rape. He doesn’t stand a chance but
their dad doesn’t give up. It would be so cool
to be a lawyer like that, standing up for justice no
matter what,” he rambled breathlessly.
then. Wish you could be as excited about Binsfield,
but, whatever dude. So, where is your brother?”
John asked again.
shrugged. “Haven’t seen him since breakfast,
then, I guess if we’re gonna get out of here sometime
today, I better go find him.”
strode out of the main sanctuary and down the hallway
that broke off toward all the ancillary classrooms and
offices. He peeked into each one in turn, but there
was no sign of his eldest son. He circuited the entire
church, large as it was, nearly giving up, when he decided
to climb the stairs to the choir loft.
the top, the area was dark and for a moment John nearly
turned around and headed back down again to resume his
search for Dean elsewhere in the church. It was only
the quick bob of movement that drew his attention back
to one of the short pews and the cropped-hair of his
son barely rising above the top.
John called out tentatively, walking over to where his
son sat quietly. He dropped into place next to him,
observing that the boy seemed to be lost in deep thought.
“You okay, son?”
ready to go?”
wrong? You okay? You hurtin’ still?”
Christmas tomorrow. I haven’t forgotten my promise.”
Dean, it's not. I know that and I’m sorry,”
really, it’s okay. I thought that if we weren’t
together on Christmas it was a really big deal. But
after the other day, I kinda realized that… well…
it is just another day… and not being
together for it isn’t nearly as bad as not being
together ever again… like with mom… or like
with…” Dean’s voice trailed off.
what?” John questioned.
You or Sam.”
that instant, John knew what was eating his son. Fighting
the shapeshifter had been difficult enough, but the
thing had worn his skin, had looked just like him as
it had hunted and threatened his sons. He couldn’t
imagine the turmoil Dean must have suffered as he fought
to save his brother while seemingly killing his father.
wasn’t me. It was never me,” he assured
Dean, one hand reaching out to encircle Dean’s
know,” Dean replied quietly. There was a moment
of silence before the young man broke into nervous laughter.
John looked at him incredulously. “What?”
knew it wasn’t you from the start,” Dean
said simply between laughs.
wasn’t pissed enough at me for coming here in
the first place. You would have been.”
straight,” John agreed, joining in the laughter.
“And we’ll be discussing that at some point,
you can count on it.”
not anytime soon, I don’t think. Now, what do
you say let’s hit the road and have that Christmas
I promised?” John offered.
know I was pissy about that and all and I know I said
I wanted you home for Christmas, but um… well…
Pastor Jim, and Caleb and Bobby, they’re all here,
and we’re here, and well, this is pretty close
to home anyway… so, I was thinking, maybe staying
here, with them, for Christmas, if you didn’t
mind of course, that would be okay?”
smiled and patted his son on the back, knowing that
in the darkness and seclusion of the loft, the show
of affection was allowed.
Dean, I think that would be fine. We’ll all
be home for Christmas this year.”