Twenty-Two: The Art of Dying
Kittsbud & Tree
Morrow pushed up from a seated position, groaning slightly
as cramped muscles, aggravated by the chilling Montana
evening air, protested the deep recline of the Adirondack
chair. Whatever possessed him to sit in the hard damn
thing escaped him now as he struggled to reach his feet,
pushing off again against the armrests.
on the second try, he took a half step and leaned against
the wood railing, breathing heavily as he looked out
along the tree-lined valley. The afternoon sunlight
had descended behind the eastern ridge of the mountains
an hour or so earlier and now soft shadows and the ebb
of twilight were easing across the range.
place was breathtakingly beautiful, or it would have
been had Morrow been able to force himself to consider
it. But the fact remained that he was bitter, a sourness
deep down inside him that curdled every other emotion.
He’d been holed up in the cabin for nearly two
months, healing from the leftover wounds he acquired
in Wisconsin and slowly seething as he thought back
on the ordeal… and the Winchesters.
family,” he grumbled angrily, slamming his palm
down against the rough-hewn rail for added exclamation.
“So help me, I’m gonna get that bastard
John and both of his demonic whelps, and when I do…”
was about to turn for the door to the cabin, seeking
to find a fresh bottle of whiskey, when movement out
of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Instantly
on alert, Morrow slowly backed toward the cabin entrance,
his eyes cautiously scanning the edge of the forest.
his hand bumped into the knob, the hunter twisted the
handle and used his boot to nudge the door open. Without
taking his eyes from the landscape, he reached inside
the jamb and grabbed the rifle that had been propped
against the interior wall.
he raised the weapon to chest level, not quite taking
aim but prepared to shoot from the hip if need be. Listening
intently, he employed all his senses and his keen hunter’s
instincts to detect any sounds or movement that might
signify an approaching threat.
then, just off to the southern edge of the woods, a
flash of white shifted between the tall trunks of the
startled, swinging up his rifle and loosing a single
shot in the direction of the movement. The report of
the rifle echoed between the two mountain ranges, and
the hunter cringed as he realized he’d just potentially
given away his hideaway. He felt even stupider when
the massive brown bulk of a large buck dashed from the
trees and darted back and forth in the clearing before
being swallowed up in the relative security of the forest.
A little jumpy, hey Sid?” Morrow muttered, lowering
his weapon and shaking his head. “What a damn
dumbass thing to do.”
huffed loudly and turned back toward the cabin, his
foolishness replaced once more by resentment. None of
this would be happening if it hadn’t been for
the Winchesters. He could be sitting at a warm bar,
enjoying the company of a loose woman instead of being
stuck out here in no-man’s land, alone and miserable.
bastard,” he mocked himself. “Been up here
shoulder chose that moment to send a sharp spike of
pain that cascaded down into his chest and he froze,
reaching out to grasp the edge of the door as he steadied
himself. Even after months of rest and healing, the
bullet wounds to his body were stark reminders of his
failed plan to take out his enemies. He’d been
so close too, had John and his eldest within his clutches
only to allow Sam - the worst of the three- to sneak
up and rescue them.
at the subsiding ache in his arm, the grizzled hunter
proceeded over to the fireplace, determined to stoke
up the flames and chase away the encroaching nighttime
chill. Tossing a large log onto the dying flames, he
then reached for the poker and stirred the coals back
leaned the tool back against the hearth and then stepped
back, enjoying the increased warmth as it soaked into
his sore muscles and joints. He closed his eyes, his
mind still seething from the thought of the Winchester
clan as he struggled to let the tension seep from his
sudden squeak of the floorboard behind him caught the
hunter’s attention, but he shrewdly remained still.
Sensing movement, Morrow’s eyes rose to the shotgun
that hung just above the mantle, yet he remained motionless
as his mind calculated his response.
never make it to that gun,” a soft voice called
out from the shadows.
chuckled nervously. “If you wanted to kill me,
you would’ve done it by now. Besides, maybe I’ll
stout hunter stiffened when the voice behind him “tsk’d”
You’d better have a rabbit’s foot tucked
underneath that flannel of yours and a couple of four-leaf
clovers in your pockets, cause there isn’t enough
luck in the world that would get you to that shotgun
before I ripped your spine out.”
bitch, huh?” Morrow snapped back. “So, what
the hell do you want with me? I’m nobody special,
just an old man trying to live peacefully up here out
of everybody’s way.”
woman laughed again and he heard her boots strike the
hardwood floor as she took another step closer. Morrow
held his position, hoping for and counting on the fact
that the mysterious intruder would be sloppy and draw
near enough for him to get his hands on her. He was
certain, that in close quarters, his size and skills
would enable him to take any female.
I know who you are and you’re anything but a peaceful
old man, now aren’t you… hunter? Even now,
I’m betting that you’re calculating just
how much closer I need to come so that you can try to
get your paws on me. But trust me, I wouldn’t
suggest you try,” the voice warned.
scowled. She was either really good or he’d let
his skills get sloppy over the course of months he’d
been sequestered away here. Holding his hands out to
his sides, palms opened and face up, he forced a smile
on his face and slowly turned to face his uninvited
was that so difficult?” the brunette asked, her
head cocked slightly as her eyes scanned the hunter’s
shrugged, offering his own lopsided smile back at her.
That she was the most beautiful thing he’d seen
in quite some time didn’t stop him from not trusting
her. Sure, she was tall, slim and had doe-brown eyes
that Morrow was certain he’d loved to get lost
in, but there was an almost predatory quality to the
way she held herself; erect, rigid, muscles tense in
anticipation of action. Maybe she was another hunter;
she certainly seemed to possess the skills. Still, he
wasn’t opposed to a little hot action in the sack;
after all, he liked a woman with a little fight in her.
what do you want with me?” he asked with a leer.
I know what I’d like to do with you…
don’t you tone down the testosterone there, big
guy? You might want to listen to what I have to offer
before you make a move that you’ll regret,”
the woman advised.
pretty sure of yourself. If you know who and what I
am, then you know what I do for a living. If you think
your threats are scaring me, bitch, you might want to
think again,” Morrow retorted.
brunette didn’t respond, she merely glared back
at him, her deep brown eyes narrowing as she seemed
to stare right through his very soul.
have something in common actually,” she continued
after a moment. “And I think we can help each
common? What could I possibly have in common with you?”
he snarled back.
froze, any hint of the smile on his face immediately
disappearing at the mention of his nemeses.
do the Winchesters mean to you?”
have a history, starting with John. Suffice it to say
that they owe me big time, and I aim to collect.”
might have to stand in line,” Morrow hissed. “I
have a personal score to settle with those sons of his.
Those bastards are working for the very demon-scum they
swore to hunt.”
hunter didn’t miss the shiver that seemed to cascade
over the brunette’s body following his comment,
but he shrugged it off and continued.
what’s your beef with them? And how do you propose
we work together?”
got a way to take them all out in one fell swoop, and
for good. But I gotta find them first,” she replied,
casually moving around him toward the fireplace and
slowly rubbing her hands together before the open flames.
in it for me?” he asked suggestively, moving up
turned to face him, the firelight bouncing off her long
tresses and illuminating her fine features. He absorbed
the smile she offered, returning it with one of his
own. She moved in closer, her long fingers reaching
out to his chest and smoothing down the flannel of his
was immediately electrifying and he leaned into her
make it worth your while,” she offered in a husky
grinned impishly, extending his own fat fingers to skim
along the side of her face. She pulled away from his
touch, denying him any further contact, teasing him
with a seductive glint in her eye and taking in a deep
breath that only served to jut her ample breasts into
there, big boy. I need to see the goods before I remit
payment…” she warned gently, following
it with a quick dart of her tongue across full red lips.
show you the goods,” Morrow slurred in reply,
a lecherous grin spreading across his face.
turned away from him, her hips swaying as she sauntered
back toward the glow of the fireplace.
watched her move, his body responding to the sexual
innuendo and the appealing form of the brunette. Hurriedly,
he turned and walked over to the large desk in the corner
of the cabin. He tugged on the chain dangling from the
lamp, illuminating the scores of papers littering the
top as well as the myriads of clippings and photos that
were pinned to the nearby wall.
been gathering intel on them through contacts I have
in the hunting community. I don’t know where his
boys are offhand, but I just received information on
John’s location yesterday,” Morrow offered
as he pulled open the center desk drawer.
out a folder, he flipped it open and spread out the
contents. His gnarled hands pushed through the scraps,
coming to rest on a few fresh photographs and a small
bastard thinks he’s so smart, flying under the
radar, but there are hunters out there that would sell
out their own mothers for the right price. The word
is out now that his boys are working for the enemy,
there’ll be plenty of folks wanting to put a bullet
in their brains.”
do you mean, working for the enemy?” the woman
asked curiously, turning and striding over to the opposite
side of the desk, her eyes sweeping over the contents.
don’t know? The oldest one, Dean, was possessed,
working for that sonofabitch Haris. And the younger
one, Sam, well he’s gotta be a near full-on demon
himself. He has all these freaky powers or something.
Word has it that he has Haris after him too, just itching
to recruit him. Hell, he’s no different than the
demons and creatures we hunt,” Morrow stated.
“And John, he’s just too blind to admit
the truth, too stubborn to see that his own flesh and
blood are nothing more than demon pawns.”
woman laughed loudly, her long tresses bouncing as she
shook her head vigorously.
for demons huh? Yeah, real great intel you have there,”
she muttered sarcastically, all hint of seduction suddenly
I’ve seen it myself… first hand,”
the hunter insisted.
brunette shrugged. “Whatever! So, where are they?”
I said, don’t know where his boys are, but a buddy
of mine said John’s been poking around Stockton,
California, chasing down demons,” Morrow stated.
girl came around the end of the desk to stand at the
hunter’s side. She continued to run her long fingers
across the pictures and notes, her touch holding an
almost sensual quality. She was close to him again,
her body nonchalantly brushing up against his own and
instantly rekindling the flutter in his groin.
could smell her, the hint of honeysuckle in her hair,
the smell of musk that seemed to ooze off of her. Closing
his eyes, he pictured her naked, lying next to him atop
the soft fabric of the sheets, a roaring fire gently
illuminating her curves.
Winchester still there?” she asked, breaking him
from his distracted thoughts.
uh… yeah, yes, I’m pretty sure,” Morrow
do you know where exactly?”
my buddy said he was staying at the Comstock Inn. I
got a picture of him just outside the place as recent
as two days ago.”
hunter moved quickly, pushing aside the top layer of
papers until he came across the photograph he was seeking.
He flipped it up and held it for the woman to see.
turned, her face moving in even closer, peering down
at the picture. “Hmm… well, that’s
what I needed to know.”
watched her with disbelief as she quickly spun away
from him and headed toward the cabin door.
wait, where you going? Don’t we have… er…
plans to make?” he asked worriedly.
turned back and smiled, her head cocked slightly to
the left. “What? Were you expecting something
else?” she asked suggestively, her eyebrows raised.
I did share…” Morrow whined.
took a step back towards him, her smile even more demure,
her hips swinging lightly as she approached. “Aww…
don’t worry, darlin’. You’ve been
a big help and I did promise to repay you. You can rest
easy knowing that your enemies will be taken care of.”
grinned broadly and stepped forward, closing the distance
between them. He was directly in front of her once more,
her hands reaching out and rubbing slowly down his chest
and well past his belt before continuing back up to
stroke the side of his neck.
don’t even know your name,” he murmured
as she drew his face down to her mouth.
pressed her lips next to his earlobe, her breath hot
against his skin. He was melting under her touch, his
body reacting to the promise of sex.
real name is Emma,” she purred into his ear. “But
I go by Mia now,” “
brunette pulled away abruptly, her hands still remaining
gently at his neck. Their eyes met, but even in the
darkness Morrow could see her irises glaze over black.
He tried to pull away, but she held him firmly.
you’re a …”
that’s right…” she finished for him
as her nails tore into the side of his throat.
tried to cry out, to scream in defiance, but the blood
was already pouring out of his slashed carotids, his
larynx silenced as she ripped the trachea from his neck.
stepped back, releasing her grasp and watching emotionlessly
as his body dropped to the hardwood floor, the blood
pooling out around the hunter.
down beside his still-jerking body, she casually wiped
the offending ref fluid from her hands onto Morrow’s
a demon,” she spat down at him. “Pity you
weren’t a good enough hunter to figure that out.”
John Winchester rose up from a long-held squatting position,
wanting to stretch to his full six foot plus height
but hampered by the low ceiling of the storage container.
Droplets of sweat beaded at his forehead and stung his
eyes as they trailed down his face. He swiped the back
of his hand across his brow, careful not to lose sight
of the body in front of him as he did so. His hand came
away sticky and John realized that it wasn’t just
perspiration that coated his scalp.
heat inside was stifling, any chance at fresh air lost
to the tightly closed hatch. Adding to the warmth were
the two kerosene lanterns, strategically placed so that
they easily illuminated the entire space, but also throwing
off enough ambient heat to turn the container into an
peered closely at the form before him. Sweating profusely,
the young man looked haggard, nearly dead. But the seasoned
hunter knew better. Bruises marred smooth skin and blood
trickled from the corners of the blond’s mouth,
evidence that neither of them had come out of the initial
gonna die hunter!” Black eyes glared out from
the limply raised head, blonde hair plastered to a face
that bore a natural tan and a youthful complexion.
didn’t react to the threat. Instead he stared
back, matching the angry glower with a nearly sympathetic
young man was not much older than Sam and had it not
been for the long, sun-bleached locks, the kid would
have been a dead ringer in stature for his youngest.
But there the similarity ended. Where Sam was a bookworm,
always trying to figure out the how and why of the world,
this kid was a surfer, a free-spirit unbound by societal
constraints, content to find freedom atop the waves.
chuckled silently, the image of either Sam or Dean hanging
out at the beach, clad in board shorts or a wetsuit,
and ready to hit the surf seemed incongruous with what
his sons had become. But he quickly pushed that thought
aside as the pleading blue eyes of the young man appeared
sighed. Maybe there wasn’t any difference then?
Certainly Sam and Dean lived outside of the norms. After
all, despite his current participation in the “family
business”, Sam had definitely shown his free-spirit
when he’d abandoned his father and brother to
try for a taste of life beyond hunting. His youngest
had certainly always known what he wanted out of life.
wasn’t that why he was here… now? Wasn’t
he trying to prevent the bleak ending that the future
seemed to hold for his sons?
were never yours at all…
shivered; an icy hand seemed to pierce his flesh and
firmly grab his heart and lungs, stealing away his breath
for a split second. The feeling passed quickly enough,
even though the memory of Lucifer’s comment still
echoed in his head just as it had nearly every day for
the past year.
turned back to the ferocious face of the demon-possessed
surfer. If looks could kill, he was sure he would have
been reduced to a boneless pile of steaming flesh by
the evil-spawned hatred pouring off the young man. John
wasn’t fazed, he knew there was no love lost between
himself and the denizens of Hell, and equally certain
that after everything demons had cost him, he didn’t
give a damn either.
were you following the girl?” John demanded, his
attention focused once more on the task at hand.
advanced, his fists clenched at his side. “You
damn well know which girl. Krista Fieser, the little
redhead that works at the IHOP. You’ve been watching
her, following her, nearly every day since I got here.”
maybe I have a thing for redheads and pancakes,”
the possessed man replied sarcastically.
and I enjoy Broadway musicals and sushi,” John
snapped in return. “Let’s cut the crap What
the hell do you sonsofabitches want with her?”
the demon snarled.
I know who she is…”
you know what she is…”
why are you trailing her? Haris is gone, who are you
working for?” John asked.
blond laughed, shaking his head from side to side. “Jeez
Winchester, figured you were smarter than that.”
He has you watching the girl?”
just her,” the demon taunted.
paused as he considered the implication of what the
demon said. He knew there were others like Krista Fieser,
like Matt Teller, like Sam… He’d been compiling
a list of their names, tracking down the others from
cursed families like his own, hoping to find out why
his own son seemed to be on Hell’s short list.
does Lucifer want with her?” the veteran hunter
eyes stared back at him, silently mocking the elder
Winchester. Furious at the unresponsiveness, John stepped
closer and grabbed the young man by a handful of t-shirt.
Yanking him forward, the hunter’s face was mere
inches away from the demon’s.
DOES LUCIFER WANT WITH HER?” John shouted, his
own eyes wide with anger.
to hell,” the creature spat back.
loosed his grip and backed off slightly. “You
a smaller version of his leather-bound journal, he automatically
flipped it open to the section he needed.
te, immundissime spiritus, omnis incursio adversarii,
young man before him began to twitch, his lanky body
struggling against the thick ropes holding him secured
to the chair. He hissed and spat, his eyes flashing
back and forth between blue and black as John continued
the Latin rite.
can’t… save… them…” the
man’s strained voice cracked as the demon fought
against the exorcism.
me what he wants with them… what does he want
with my son?” John yelled again.
laugh echoed within the tight confines of the metal
shed. Perspiration combined with blood and ran in small
rivulets down the surfer’s face. Yet the dark
eyes showed no sign of relenting.
think this is just about your sons? I’d heard
you were an egotistical bastard,” the hellspawn
ergo, et time, satana, inimice fidei, hostus generis
blond writhed more vigorously as blood began to seep
from the wounds created by his thrashing against the
bindings. John didn’t yield. Spurred by the demon’s
taunts, his mind still haunted by the insinuations against
his sons, he continued the ritual.
entire life had been spent in pursuit of the yellow-eyed
demon, culminating over a year ago when Dean had finally
put the bastard down for good. He’d thought it
was all over then, at the time thinking he’d saved
Sam only at the expense of his eldest’s sacrifice.
Yet even the utter relief he felt when Dean miraculously
returned to life there on the cold Wyoming dirt was
short-lived when he recalled Lucifer’s final words.
then, he’d spent most of his time researching
and chasing down any lead that remotely related to his
boys. There’d been the nineteen-year-old working
in the grocery store in Memphis, a gold medallion hanging
from his neck for all the world to see. If the boy knew
anything about his Guardianship, it wasn’t apparent;
but then, neither had Dean really. If anything, John
was shocked he’d found the kid at all, especially
after all the rocks he’d dug under back before
his search hadn’t been confined to seeking the
elusive Guardians either. John also followed up on any
report of kids with “special” abilities;
like Sam. He’d checked on the ones he knew about,
starting with Matt Teller and most recently, the former
priest, Kyle Williams, seeing how they were doing, or
rather maybe “what” they were doing. He’d
only caught wind of Krista Fieser after a report of
her involvement in thwarting a recent robbery at her
place of employment.
wasn’t the fact that the petite redhead had stood
up to an armed bandit, what caught his attention was
that she’d supposedly been shot in the process,
only to be miraculously “fine” by the time
the paramedics arrived, not a mark on her other than
a red blotch staining her apron.
was one of them, he knew it. Although he had no idea
how she’d managed to escape Eli’s round-up,
he didn’t know, but John was certain he was going
to find out the truth, no matter how many demons he
had to work his way through to do it. He might have
lost Mary, but no way was he coming close to losing
his sons ever again.
continued on with the exorcism, the words slipping off
his tongue so automatically even though his thoughts
were elsewhere. He ignored the screeching of the demon-possessed
man before him, the blood that ran freely from torn
fingernails as the kid’s hands dug into the wooden
avaritiae, casua discodiae, excitator dolorum; quid
stas et resistis cum scias.”
weak voice rose above the Latin, desperation apparent
in both the tone and the eyes.
What does he want them for?” John demanded, his
patience pressed thin.
dunno, its need to know only and I’m not high
enough up the food chain to sit at the big dinner table.
But I do know that the Boss has big plans for humanity.
Seems he’s tired of being exiled down in the Pit,
wants to reign topside for a bit,” the demon explained.
so? No newsflash there. What does that have to do with
Sam and Dean?”
a threat, a big one. There’s checks and balances
in everything, the Big Guy Upstairs made sure of that.
Haven’t you ever wondered why Haris wanted all
those kids to begin with? And why he was so desperate
to get that amulet off your son?”
was part of Solomon’s sword. He was afraid of
it,” the hunter replied.
alone, it was what it represented in the larger picture,”
the demon continued.
knows. He saw what happened to Haris and he knows what
might happen if the Guardians all banded together; or
worse, if all the special kids from those cursed families
managed to put their freakish talents to use.”
he wants them all out of his way?”
And to think we figured Sam for the bright one…”
scowled at the jibe. “So your boss wants my sons,
all the rest of them, dead?”
alive, he doesn’t really care, so long as they
stay out of the way of his master plan. Of course, dead
is less risky in the long run…”
blond’s demon-possessed face curled up in a smirk,
his black eyes sparkling as though the threat brought
some sort of satisfaction to its evil mind. John merely
turned away. He’d heard enough, it was just a
different verse of the same old song. Something always
seemed to want him or his family dead, that was nothing
new, and even the prospect of their latest enemy being
nothing other than Hell’s Prince really did little
to faze the haggard hunter.
over to the next page, John resumed his oration. “Recede
ergo in nomine Patris et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti…”
WAIT… you promised…”
did? … da locum Spiritus Sancto, per hoc signum
sanctae Crucis Jesu Christi Domini nostri…”
The young man screamed, a thick black fog poured from
his open mouth and rose upward as John finished the
ritual. The dark cloud slammed into the ceiling of the
container, spreading out against the painted sigil before
dissipating into the humid air.
the commotion faded, John closed the small notebook
and laid it on top of a nearby crate. Pulling a large
knife from the sheath at this hip, he slowly moved toward
the silent young man, cautiously watching as small droplets
of blood plopped to the floor.
slipping the edge of the blade beneath the ropes at
the man’s wrist, John quickly cut the bindings,
catching the lanky surfer before his body fell to the
ground. He lowered the unconscious victim to the floor,
cutting away the remaining pieces of rope before rising
to retrieve some clean bandages.
out into the cool evening air, he stopped and turned
his face up to the full glowing moon. Sucking in a deep
breath, John tried to slow the pounding of his heart,
certain that it was loud enough that anyone nearby would
be able to hear it.
he opened his eyes again, he looked down at the drying
blood that covered his hands. Some of it was his, but
most belonged to the innocent kid lying just a few feet
away. Reaching the truck, he pulled an oversized tackle
box from behind the bench seat and a half empty jug
of water from the passenger’s side floorboards.
took several minutes for him to clean up and bandage
the minor wounds that adorned the tanned flesh of the
young man. He did it methodically, forcing himself not
to make any more haphazard comparisons to his own sons.
But his mind was still chewing through what the demon
had told him.
never really considered the implications of all the
remaining Guardians coming together, never really caring
about any of it beyond how it affected Dean. But he
had to admit, reflecting on it now, he could easily
understand the potential threat not just to any demon,
but maybe even to Lucifer himself.
huffed in disgust. He wished he would have checked into
Shadrack Mann and the whole deal with Dean’s amulet
back when the strange old man had first approached him.
Would he have done anything differently? Would he have
kept Dean away, never to take on the peculiar responsibility?
Would it have changed anything at all?
what about Sam? Was there really anything he could have
done to have prevented putting his youngest in Hell’s
crosshairs? There was still so much about the cursed
families that he was in the dark about. Just as with
Dean, he couldn’t help wondering whether there
was any way he could have kept Sam from taking on the
cursed family and a Guardian family; maybe Lucifer’s
taunt held a modicum of truth after all. Sam and Dean
never really were his, their destiny sealed from the
minute he and Mary first met: nature’s way or
even the “Man Upstairs” desperate attempt
to keep things in balance. Maybe there was nothing he
could do to protect his boys from whatever
fate held in store.
John shouted defiantly aloud. He wouldn’t admit
that, couldn’t… absolutely refused to with
every red blood cell currently coursing through his
sudden sound of his voice caused the young man to stir
before him. Bloodshot blue eyes peeked from between
rapidly blinking lids, struggling to focus in the dimly
where?” the blond stammered out weakly, his hand
reaching out to clutch John’s shirt.
okay… just relax. You’re going to be alright,”
happened to me? Where am I? Please… please don’t
hurt me…” the young man begged, his eyes
wide with panic.
all right, son. I’m not going to hurt you,”
John assured him, gently holding a shoulder as he offered
the tepid bottle of water.
kid drank greedily, water splashing from his mouth and
trickling down the side of his chin as it mixed with
the drying blood.
nodded and eased the bruised body back down to the floor.
be right back,” he grunted, rising back up to
a pronounced sigh, the hunter moved to the door to the
container. He pushed it open and made a quick scan right
and left before leaving the relative safety of the metal
truck was parked only a few feet away, but John knew
that it never hurt to be cautious. It was impossible
to know if the demon possessing the surfer had been
working alone, and if it hadn’t, then it was highly
likely that he may have been followed despite his great
care to obscure his trail.
the past several days, he’d felt as though eyes
had been watching him. In fact, ever since he’d
arrived in Stockton, he couldn’t suppress the
sensation that someone had been following him, holding
to the shadows, just out of eyeshot.
was disconcerting, and he hated the feeling and the
implication of weakness. But John knew that the hair
on the back of his neck didn’t lie, knew equally
that those sorts of feelings were not to be taken lightly
if he wanted to survive. Experience had taught him that
valuable lesson several times over, and so John embraced
his paranoia as just another of his well-honed hunter’s
the coast seemed cleared, he moved toward the black
GMC, his eyes warily watching his surroundings. He grimaced
when the passenger’s side door opened with a loud
screech of worn hinges. It briefly reminded him of the
Impala and a flash of Sam and Dean whisked through his
that the noise hadn’t attracted any unwanted attention,
John stretched inside and pulled two more bottles of
water from underneath the seat. Tucking them underneath
his left armpit, the weary hunter was about to turn
back when the breeze suddenly stilled.
bent inside the truck cab, he froze, his movements becoming
slower, more methodical as he nonchalantly reached for
the glove compartment.
nothing in there that will help you,” a female
voice called out from behind him.
knew the voice; would go to his grave remembering the
tone and timbre as it had launched vile threats at him.
he snarled, standing up straight and turning slowly
to face the newcomer.
Johnny… I get the distinct impression you’re
not happy to see me,” Mia snarked in reply. “I’m
surprised really… I didn’t think I’d
sneak up on you so easily, the great hunter that you
are and all.”
shrugged, “Yeah, I’m shocked too. Don’t
know how I missed your stench. What sewer did you crawl
out of this time?”
brunette chuckled and shook her head. “Always
with the comedy. You really took up the wrong profession
I think. You and Dean could have gone on the road together.”
do you want, Mia?” he asked, masking his concern
right down to business with you isn’t it? No time
for pleasantries,” she taunted.
only thing pleasant in dealing with you, Mia, would
be to see your lifeless body beneath my boots.”
woman laughed once more, but her eyes narrowed betraying
her next actions to the wary hunter.
lifted her hand, pointing a crimson-tipped index finger
at John’s chest. He tried to lift the weapon he’d
managed to pull from the glovebox, but her demonic power
was already launching him backwards into the side of
back slammed into the black metal, the open edge of
the door jamming into his spine with an explosion of
pain. John struggled to move, his eyes going wide as
he watched the hybrid demon approach with a slow saunter.
your energy,” she advised him as she drew near.
to hell,” John grunted back as he fought against
the invisible force holding him pinned against the truck.
I have every intention of it, John…” she
sneered as she drew closer.
tried to pull away from her contact, but his body would
not respond. Instead, all he could do was cringe, his
flesh crawling as she stretched up onto her tiptoes
and put her mouth next to his ear. Mia lingered there
without speaking for a prolonged moment, and the hunter
flinched as her lips skimmed the side of his neck.
she purred. “Like a more refined version of Dean.
Pity, you and I never got to spend the type of quality
time that he and I did.”
should have killed you when I had the chance,”
if you could have. I seem to remember leaving the three
of you bleeding and licking your wounds back in Texas,”
she reminded him.
seem to remember you running for your life,” he
smiled, canting her head slightly with a shrug. “Yeah…
well, see the last time I went about it all wrong, I
tried to separate your boys, I tried to bait you in.
But you were too smart… too cautious or calloused…
to rush headlong into save your sons. But now, I’m
smarter and I know which bait works best. See, I know
Dean… he’d do anything to save his family
and then there’s Sam… he’d do anything
to save Dean. Like dominoes… one by one…
you’re all going to fall.”
won’t get them!”
shook with anger, every muscle in his body contracting
as he fought to free himself from Mia’s trap.
He ceased abruptly as the soft warble of a ringtone
emanated from his pocket. His eyes betrayed him as he
glanced down following the noise.
snuggled up against his chest, her hands seeking out
the cellular, her fingers sneaking into the front pocket
of his jeans and freely roaming within the worn denim.
John sucked in a breath and bit into his lower lip as
she fumbled against his groin.
smiled into his face, emitting a soft titter that for
all its girlishness still held a sadistic, evil quality.
She pulled out the cell phone… finally…
her eyes sneaking a peek at the display.
its Dean. Should I answer? I imagine he’d love
to hear from me,” she taunted.
you’re going to do, Mia… just get it over
with. I’m tired of your games,” John hissed.
took a playful nibble on his earlobe and her breath
assaulted the whiskered side of his face. The cell rang
twice more before John’s voicemail picked it up.
watched as Mia glanced back at the now-silent phone.
Her fingers clenched around it, the plastic and electronics
suddenly exploding outward as Mia crushed it within
her hand. She looked back up at him, her hazelnut irises
giving over to the obsidian of her pupils.
John, the game is only beginning. I’ve captured
the king, and the knights won’t be far behind.
Before long, the queen will be the only piece left on
flipped the cellular closed with a grunt and tossed
it across the room where it bounced twice on the lumpy
mattress before coming to rest on the garish green bedspread.
don’t know why he even carries a damn cell, not
like he ever uses the goddamn thing,” Dean grumbled,
stalking back to the edge of the window and pushing
aside the curtain to peer outside.
take it out on the phone, Dean,” Sam advised,
his eyes peeking up from underneath the long tendrils
of brown hair. “You of all people should know
how Dad is.”
he heard Sam groan. From the corner of his eye, he watched
as his brother looked up from the laptop, stretched
and extended his arms up and behind his head before
reaching to massage knots born of too many hours hunched
over the computer from the back of his neck. Dean listened
to the movement, but continued staring blankly out the
window into the rainy, darkening night.
was bored, having spent the better part of the day inside,
watching Sam pour over every conceivable website dealing
with angels, feathers or anything even remotely hinting
at the two. Never mind that they had just managed to
escape from a mountain of collapsing rock or an open
Hellgate flooded with demons, Sam was obsessed with
that damn feather, spending every waking minute
digging through every resource both electronically
or in print at nearly every library between
California and here.
don’t you give it a rest, Sammy?” he suggested,
instantly regretting the poor choice in words when his
brother erupted with a hostile reply.
don’t bitch at me!” Sam yelled angrily.
“I’m just working here, trying to dig up
anything more about that friggin’ feather. If
you’re gonna be pissed at Dad, fine… but
don’t take it out on me…”
mean it, Dean. Funny, when I complain about how the
old man doesn’t respond, about how all he ever
seems to do is avoid us, you’re the first one
to defend him…
when you’re pissed off at him, when you need him
and he’s not there, it’s all okay for you
so sick of you always sticking up for him… it
never changes… not with him, not with you…”
moved closer, his hands out in front of him open-palmed
as he tried to explain and soothe his suddenly upset
sibling. Behind the small table, Sam rose abruptly,
his hands pushing off against the arms of the chair
and causing it to fly backward where it crashed into
the wall. He stalked out from around the makeshift desk,
approaching Dean with wide eyes.
me to give it a rest…” Sam continued. “Why
don’t you save that advice for yourself…?”
elder Winchester recoiled slightly as Sam stopped right
before him. With barely a hands-breath between their
chests, he braced himself, certain his brother was about
to hit him.
he shouted, hoping to distract the taller man from his
vehement tirade before fists started flying.
Sam yelled back and Dean didn’t miss the rigid
musculature of his brother’s arms as biceps seemed
to stretch the fabric of the thin t-shirt in direct
proportion to how tight his brother was wound.
I didn’t mean it …” Dean began, but
his next words were cut off as Sam’s palms slammed
into his chest.
stumbled backward, trying to catch himself as his hands
flailed out grabbing nothing but empty air. He landed
hard on his hip, feeling the resulting concussion spread
up his spine and jar his teeth. Sitting there, he looked
up at his brother, trying desperately to mask the suspicion
from manifesting on his face.
had seen what Sam had done in the caverns; in fact,
over the past couple of years he’d had a front
row seat to the Sam Winchester Superpower Show. And
while repetition might breed familiarity, it did nothing
to ease the pesky voices in the back of Dean’s
wasn’t frightened, not that he’d ever admit,
not of Sam, more like he was just concerned, worried
that somehow he was losing his brother over to the likes
of Gudrun… or worse. It wasn’t that Dean
was afraid of what Sam could do, he’d certainly
seen his fair share of “strange” in his
life; it was more that he just didn’t understand
it, and that bothered him… being out of control,
not having answers.
Sam’s voice broke through the older man’s
inner turmoil and he looked up, focusing first on the
look of regret that covered his brother’s face
and then down to the hand, extended outward.
got it,” Dean grumbled back, swatting away the
proffered hand and pushing up from the floor.
was tired, and undeniably angry now, neither of which
made him reasonable. Add in the nagging thoughts about
his brother and the little business of having the world
come to an end, and who could blame him really?
I’m sorry…” Sam offered again, his
head dropping low, his eyes obscured by hair that needed
cut since before Paw Paw.
okay, Sam. We’ve both had a lot on our minds,”
Dean replied as he moved to the side of the bed and
flopped down, bouncing nearly as much as the cell phone
had moments before.
looked beyond his brother, avoiding any eye contact,
content to fuel his anger just a little longer and knowing
that if he caught sight of Sam’s sorrowful look,
he’d have no choice but to cave. It had always
been that way.
just gonna blow me off now? We need to talk…”
Sam stated, moving over to drop down on the edge of
the second bedside.
to talk about…” Unless you count bleeding
angel feathers, hordes of demons pouring out of Hell,
and oh, Lucifer wanting our asses in a sling. And jeez,
don’t let me forget about baby brothers that can
swallowed audibly; loud enough that Dean could hear
it despite feigning a sudden interest in the laces on
his boots. As he untied them and yanked off first the
right and then the left, he heard his brother’s
soft exhale of air. He recognized that particular respiratory
pattern, knew it was a telltale sign of Sam preparing
his boots to the floor at the bottom of the bed, he
scooted back up and grabbed for the remote.
let me get the T.V. on, fill the room with mindless
noise and Sam can go back to his research and we can
pretend that nothing happened…
staying in tonight?” Sam asked above the din of
a Budweiser commercial.
heard Sam sigh again following his reply. That’s
a lot of sighing, never good… Dean mused
absently as he changed the channel.
brother rose from the bed and for a moment Dean thought
that perhaps Sam was going to head back to the laptop
and grant him a reprieve from dealing with what had
just occurred. Instead, the younger man swirled back
around and faced him, emotional turmoil clearly displayed
on his face.
do this, Dean. Not now… I got… we’ve
got… enough problems to deal with that we don’t
need to be at each other’s throats,” Sam
pleaded as he began pacing. “First there’s
this whole end of the world thing, demons coming at
us like we’re the main course on the menu, and
then there’s that freaky feather…”
tried to stop the grimace when Sam mentioned the word
“freak,” but he knew he hadn’t been
able to mask the involuntary reaction when his brother
suddenly stopped speaking. His mind scrambled frantically
for the words to either deflect his obvious slip or
to explain, but he wasn’t fast enough.
it isn’t it?” Sam continued, his frenetic
pacing increasing as he ran his hand through his hair,
grabbing the strands and tugging them upward. “It’s
what you saw me do back there in the caves… with
a horrible liar, Dean. I could see it on your face then
as well as now. It freaked you out…”
hell it isn’t.”
you’re making something out of nothing,”
am? I remember what you said back in Texas, Dean. I
know how much it scares you when it comes to the things
I can do. You’re transparent where it concerns
stuff like that,” Sam threw back at him. “Just
like you are with Dad.”
not going there again are we? Cause I’d prefer
just to lay here on the bed instead of the floor,”
Dean snarked, trying desperately to lighten the tone.
I tried to say I was sorry about that. It’s just
that all this stuff feels like it’s piling up
on me. All the crap that’s happened lately and
there’s nothing but more questions, never any
answers. And now, what happened with me back in the
caves, dude… I’m worried…” the
young man confessed.
watched his brother stop as he came to the motel room
window. Sam stood there, not moving, not speaking, not
even pushing the curtain aside to stare blankly outside
as Dean had earlier. The elder hunter groaned silently,
internally hating to see his brother this way. Broken
bodies he could deal with, stitches he could place,
fractures he could splint, but fixing the emotional
stuff was well beyond his means of handling. Still,
this was Sam, his brother, his charge, his ultimate
reason for sucking in the next breath; no way could
he sit there and remain silent.
nothing to be worried about, Sammy,” Dean began,
snapping off the television and plunging the room into
stark silence. “Look, dude, what happened back
in Cali, it’s no big deal…”
swear. You’re my brother, I trust you. Hell…
your psychic crap has saved my bacon more than once
lately. I just…”
paused, cautiously choosing what he was about to say
what, Dean?” Sam asked, turning back to face him.
just afraid for you, Sammy,” Dean admitted. “You
had Haris after you before because he wanted your powers,
and even though he’s gone, I’m just afraid
of what else is out there. Maybe something worse, maybe
something I can’t stop this time. Maybe something
you can’t stop…”
Lucifer… maybe Mia…
there’s always something gunning for us…”
older sibling shook his head. “I’m not talking
about run of the mill demon trash, Sam. What if…”
laughed, a hearty chortle that rose up from deep inside.
Dean looked up at his brother, a look of confusion pinching
his eyebrows together.
finding all this funny now? Dude, have you been smoking
something while I wasn’t looking?”
hilarious, Dean. We’re hilarious… or pathetic,”
Sam answered cryptically.
ok, you’re making complete sense,” Dean
serious. Look at us, I’m afraid of this weirdo
mojo of mine getting you killed and you’re worried
about keeping me alive. And do you know what the best
but I’m sure you’re gonna tell me.”
continued to chuckle. “Dude, we have the Big Bad
himself looking to burn the world down to ashes, we
might not live long enough for any of this to make a
damn difference. Game over… ”
aren’t you the eternal optimist,” Dean joked
with his own snicker.
have to admit, it puts things in perspective. Hell,
Dean, have you considered how many times in just the
past few months, we’ve been up against either
Lucifer himself or some of his troops? Whatever happened
to a good ole’-fashioned salt and burn? When’s
the last time we put a black dog or a ghost down? Lately,
it’s just been one demon after another.”
that’s not true, have you already forgotten all
the whacked-out spirits of serial killers lately? Oh,
and how about all the fun we had with that pack of chupas
down in West Texas?” Dean suggested.
and then there’s reincarnated Egyptian gods…”
Sam lightheartedly added.
artists dabbling in black magic…”
half-breeds…” Sam offered.
went silent, the easy-going game suddenly coming to
an abrupt halt. His smiled immediately faded as memories
of the sadistic brunette flashed through his mind.
I didn’t mean to bring up Mia…”
right, Sam,” the older man replied, waving off
know I don’t blame you for any of what happened,”
Sam said softly.
don’t have to…” I blame myself
enough for both of us…
room became silent again, a heaviness settling back
between the brothers like a suffocating wet tarp.
leave it, okay Sammy?” Dean begged, his voice
little more than a whisper as he stood abruptly.
was his problem, her continued existence a direct result
of his poor judgment. Granted, he hadn’t created
the bitch, but he was certainly responsible for the
fact that she still roamed free and perpetrated her
brutality on innocent victims. Like Erin…
he reminded himself.
the sanctuary of the bathroom, Dean was halfway across
the room when his cellphone began to play his current
ringtone. He paused, glancing back to the bed where
the device still lay. He quickly rushed to grab it,
thinking, hoping, that just maybe it was their dad actually
returning his earlier call.
up the phone, Dean stole a look at the displayed number,
a dejected sigh escaping him when he saw the return
number for Bobby instead of his dad’s cellular.
Bobby,” he greeted.
Dean,” Bobby returned. “How you
and Sam doin’?”
you know… just livin’ the life. What’s
going on? Everything okay? You okay?”
heard Bobby chuckle. “Settle down, son. I’m
fine. I just wanted to give you boys a little head’s
up on some intel that’s floating around the hunter
have a network?” Dean joked.
some of us do. Some of us actually play nice with the
other boys and girls,” the older man returned.
I play nice, just ask anyone…” Dean refuted,
looking back at his brother for support. “So,
what did you call about? Hunter intel? Please tell me
that this year’s convention is being held at the
heard Bobby’s irritated huff on the other end
of the receiver and he smiled. He could picture the
disgruntled frown crossing the hunter’s face,
the roll of the eyes as Bobby suffered through his antics.
But Dean likewise knew that despite his old friend’s
gruffness, the salvage yard owner was smiling inwardly.
you dumbass. Would you just shut up and listen for once.
I just found out that your old buddy, Sid Morrow, was
paused, his eyes going wide as the news sunk in.
what is it?” Sam asked, drawing closer.
Dead? How? When?” the elder sibling asked, leaning
over so that his brother could tilt his ear toward the
phone and hear the conversation.
before yesterday. Friends of his found his body up at
some cabin he’d been holed up in since Wisconsin.
Word is… he was torn to shreds,” Bobby
good riddance, I say. One less asshole out there we
have to look over our shoulder for,” Dean groused.
killed him, Bobby? Does anyone know?” Sam interjected.
Sam! Nope, Morrows boys aren’t talking, but word
has it that it weren’t no animal. Morrow bought
it inside his cabin and the lunar cycle isn’t
right for a werewolf,” Bobby replied.
but maybe it was something else. Not like Morrow didn’t
make enemies on either side of the supernatural line,”
the younger hunter observed.
I say who gives a damn? Whoever or whatever did it,
I owe them a cold beer,” Dean added in.
more, boys,” Bobby continued. “Morrow
aint the only hunter to wind up sliced and diced lately.”
both brothers exclaimed in unison.
a dozen or so that I know about. Hunters, all over the
U.S., each one of them torn apart like some critter
got to them. I’ll email you what I’ve dug
up so far.”
any connection?” Dean asked, becoming more serious.
than being hunters? No. Far as I can tell, they each
had their specialty, they all mostly ran in different
circles. You know how hunters are,” Bobby
do you think?” Sam asked.
I dunno. Lots of demons roaming around out there lately.
More than ever. Might just all be a part of Lucifer’s
endgame. Look, boys, I just wanted to warn you to watch
your backs. Don’t trust any strangers, keep an
eye out for anyone, or anything, suspicious,”
the sagacious hunter cautioned.
just like always…” Dean muttered.
be careful, you two. You got a tendency to attract trouble
like a crap attracts flies.”
chuckled and said his goodbyes, immediately heading
back toward the laptop. Dean watched him and when he
thought his brother’s attention was back on the
computer, he shifted away slightly, turning so that
his back was to Sam.
he spoke quietly, “Have you heard from our dad?”
long pause while Dean waited for Bobby’s response
did little to set the elder Winchester at ease.
son. I haven’t. But you know your daddy, not like
he’s the poster child for reaching out and touching
“Yeah…” Dean admitted sullenly.
you worry, I’m sure your daddy’s fine. No
news is good news, right?” Bobby suggested.
“Look, you know I’ll keep my ear out
for him. I hear anything, you’ll be the first
to know, okay? Now, you two just make sure to keep yourselves
safe or I’ll kick your asses personally.”
snorted. “Bring it on, old man. Seriously, we’ll
be careful… and Bobby… thanks!”
ended the call but stood there with his back turned
a minute longer. Sucking in a deep breath, Dean jammed
the cell into his pocket. He paced back over to the
window, his ears picking up the tap-tapping of Sam’s
fingers on the keyboard.
aside the curtain, he watched as the rain outside fell
in sheets, the trees across the parking lot swaying
gently in the cold breeze. He gazed out blankly, his
mind going back weeks before to the job in Tahlequah.
hunters out west surely didn’t make it as exciting
as you Winchesters do. It was all about the screaming
and the begging. It could really drive a person nuts.”
did you kill them?”
and giggles, mostly. And the fact that I knew how connected
the hunting community was. I knew it wouldn’t
take long for the message to get back to you. I wanted
you to know I was still out there.”
words sounded hauntingly in his mind, the image of her
standing in the motel room as she flaunted her deeds
she the culprit here again? Was this more of her brutal
handiwork? What was the point? She’d already revealed
that she was alive and kicking, why kill more hunters,
especially someone like Morrow?
rubbed the back of his neck, the tension of the evening
suddenly returning with a vengeance. He considered mentioning
his suspicions to Sam, but he couldn’t bear to
bring up her name to his brother, guilt still consuming
him over what she’d nearly done, over what he’d
allowed her to do.
this doesn’t look good,” Sam announced,
breaking the silence. “Nearly a dozen hunters,
all found dead, like some big animal got to them.”
blame it on Yogi,” Dean huffed.
to what Bobby put together, in most of these cases there
was no sign of forced entry and nothing seemed to be
we know better don’t we?”
not like they need a key to get in,” Sam added.
“Sid might be the latest, but some of these go
back for a couple of months.”
was an ass, Sam! He got what he deserved,” Dean
not really arguing that, but we gotta know what we’re
up against, Dean. If this is Lucifer’s handiwork,
we need all the info we can get.”
sighed and let the curtain fall back. “We could
be in Montana by morning,” he conceded.
let’s leave first thing. We should get a good
night’s sleep. I’ve a feeling we’re
gonna need it,” the younger man advised, flipping
down the lid to the laptop and rising.
nodded, but remained standing there.
a good night’s sleep…” he agreed quietly.
But as he dropped down on the sagging mattress and began
flipping idly through the channels, he knew full-well
that even if he managed to drift off, his slumber would
be marred by the recurring nightmare of his brother
laying bloody and broken in the dirt and the visage
of a brunette, laughing sadistically as she killed them
all one by one.
the episode here