Season Three

Episode Nineteen: Behold A Pale Horse

By Tree

Part One

Paw Paw, Illinois
2 weeks ago

To the outsider, Friday night in the not-so-bustling town of Paw Paw was no more exciting than any other night of the week. Resembling nothing like its distant cousin of Chicago, the small farming community’s only choices for diversion were the high school football game and the cold beer at the Latham Tap.

Straight off the canvas of a Norman Rockwell painting, Paw Paw prided itself on being a refuge from the rat race of nearby Rockford or any of the Windy City suburbs. Residents of the tiny rural village generally loved the peacefulness of the place, and even the few teens that were looking to escape it as fast as they could, oftentimes ended right back there later on.

There had been some brief controversy several years back when the massive wind farm was built, the old-timers fighting against the loss of precious acreage while the city council insisted on dragging the sleepy little village into the twenty-first century. But since that time, the most exciting news in the local paper was either the crop report or the rare occurrence of a brawl outside one of the town’s two bars.

So this Friday night was little exception to the monotonous norm; the crickets chirped, a slight breeze blew the crowd noise from the football field and a lone figure stood at his post outside the Latham Tap.

Mathias Henner was an old man, by his standards as well as anyone else’s. At nearly eighty, he’d lived enough life to fill the biographies of at least three others, experienced great joy and gut-wrenching loss, survived a war and seen mankind land on the moon. And while many would think he was lucky to have lived so long and still have his mind intact, to Henner, it was more a curse than a blessing.

Henner could still hear the ear-shattering blast of bombs as they rained down from the sky over France, the tortured cries of his comrades as they prayed to God, called out to loved ones or screamed for help. He could still remember the angelic faces and sweet laughter of his children, gone so many years following an influenza outbreak that took thousands back in the fifties. He could still feel the gentle caress of his beloved Carolyn, taken from him in a violent collision of metal out on the interstate in 1972.

No, memory wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and neither was longevity.

But still, Mathias Henner wasn’t a man to curse his condition, quite the opposite in fact. He held firmly to his faith that God was watching over him, that the Lord had a master plan in which he still had some part to play.

God-fearing and raised in the church, Henner knew the Bible inside and out. He was proud that he had actually read it cover to cover, twice, in his life. He held sacred the words contained within that promised salvation, peace and eventual reunion with his loved ones. It was what he clung to, his life raft in a world that threatened to swallow up humanity in a wave of violence and degradation.

And while he firmly believed in the promises contained inside the ancient text, Mathias Henner also knew that they came with responsibility as well.

Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature…

It was his duty to spread God’s word, his calling to help save those condemned by their ignorance. While others in the church were content to sit in the pews and pay lip-service to words like duty, accountability and faith, Henner knew their lukewarm dedication was as dangerous as the path to Hell that non-believers tread.

So he took it upon himself to carry on the sacred mission, exemplifying his great faith by works of a similar intensity. He spent his days walking the sidewalks of Paw Paw, the signboard slung across his chest extolling all he passed to “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near” and his evenings either in study of the Word, or, like tonight, at his post outside the local tavern.

Fall was fast descending on the quiet town and the evening breeze gently kissed the bare skin on Henner’s arms. He scratched absently at the small sore near his wrist, trying to avoid allowing his fingernails to tear open the thinly scabbed lesion.

The doctors called the “patches” melanoma, the inevitable result of decades of farming underneath the often harsh Midwestern sun, but to Henner, they were nothing more than just another test of his faith. He was certain the physicians didn’t know what they were talking about, after all, how could he have skin cancer on places that never saw the sun? Regardless, let them call it whatever they wanted, Henner knew that like Job, this condition was something to endure not bemoan. Like all the other tragedies in his life, this too would only make him stronger, would serve to reinforce his devotion and in the long run, like the Old Testament patriarch, he too would be rewarded greatly in the end.

So he stood there, just off to the side of the bar’s entrance, patiently waiting for the Friday night crowd.

When he first took up his crusade, many around the town protested his overt proselytizing, uncomfortable with the old man’s “in your face” warnings about the end of the world. Even within the church, Henner was seen more as a nutjob than as a zealous believer. And when he refused to cease his unsanctioned activity, the good members of the New Life Church of God summarily asked Mathias Henner to never step foot in their “proper” church again.

Many would have been discouraged, others outraged, but Henner took it in stride, convinced that he answered to a “Higher calling.” He was assured the self-righteous congregation would one day be in for a big surprise.

“Hey there, Mathias,” Sheriff Edward McFadden called out as he pulled his squad car up along the sidewalk. “What’s tonight’s message?”

Henner smiled genuinely, a twinkle in his eye even though he well knew the officer had no intention of listening to his speech. Still, he wasn’t about to miss an opportunity.

“The end is coming, Sheriff. The signs are everywhere if you just open your eyes,” he warned.

“Oh really?” McFadden replied with feigned interest. “And what signs would those be? The Cubs haven’t exactly won the World Series yet?”

Henner ignored the humor. “It’s not wise to mock the Lord, Sheriff. God will save his faithful from impending doom and all he requires is your faith.”

“My faith?” McFadden replied with a huff of air. “Why Mathias, I don’t believe I’ve had faith in anything beyond death, taxes and the likelihood that Junior Barlow will get rip-roaring drunk and run naked through town later tonight in a very long time.”

Henner shook his head sadly. “You’re a good man, Edward, with good intentions. But there will be a lot of good men in Hell. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast…”

“Yeah, Yeah, Mathias. Look, you just be careful out here tonight. Been having an increase in calls recently of people getting a bit rowdy, don’t know what’s been possessing folks lately. But, if you need anything or if you want a ride home later, just have Rich give me a call,” the lawman offered.

“Thank you, Sheriff. But I have no fear, God will send his angels to watch over and protect me,” Henner stalwartly replied.

“Just the same, Mathias. Maybe you ought to give your guardian angel the night off. I don’t know what’s gotten into folks, but between Helen Mills beating the stuffin’ out of her husband with an iron skillet the other night and then Doc Keller supposedly assaulting that young girl in his office, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe our little town here is growin’ up in all the bad ways.”

Henner smiled knowingly. “See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her— but now murderers…”

“Call it what you will, but I just don’t care to hear that some jackass has taken a pound of flesh outta some crazy ol’ man that had more faith than brains,” McFadden answered with a tinge of irritation.

“I appreciate your concern, Edward, but it’s the Lord that directs my work here. He never said it would be easy or that those who spoke his word would go forward without persecution. Greater men than me have sacrificed their lives to spread the Gospel. How then can I offer any less?”

Sheriff Edward McFadden shook his head with a deep sigh. “Mathias, please just be careful and don’t go pissing off the Durham brothers if they show up tonight. You know those two aren’t nothing more than a couple of overgrown schoolyard bullies.”

Henner nodded, hoping to appease the other man’s concern. He watched McFadden’s squad car pull away from the curb and turn down Flagg Street as the officer headed to patrol the high school before the game ended.

The old man turned back toward the entrance of the bar just as a young couple strolled by, arms entwined, mouths greedily seeking each out each other even as they walked past. Henner frowned at the overt display.

Didn’t these people know that they were playing with fire? Hellfire to be precise? Didn’t they realize they would eventually stand before God and account for their wanton behavior?

“For the lips of a harlot drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave…” Henner called out to the couple.

“Shut up, old man. Mind your own business,” the young man shouted back. “Just 'cause your wrinkled ass hasn’t got none in forever doesn’t mean the rest of us have to miss out on a good time.”

Henner ignored the comment, but even as the couple moved away, he couldn’t help but think about Carolyn. Not a day passed that he didn’t miss her smile, her laughing eyes, her soft touch and her soothing voice. He hadn’t slept in their bed since the night of her death, unable to bring himself to ever return to that place of joy, solace and comfort.

But even as his heart ached violently for his lost wife, Mathias Henner didn’t curse his condition or blame God.

Instead, he continued on his way, walking back and forth in front of Latham Tap, calling out to the patrons as they came and went. Most ignored him, other’s engaged him with a verbal barrage of insults, but all in all, everyone merely walked away, content in their sin.

This night, like most others, dragged on slowly, and by midnight, Henner couldn’t stifle the huge yawn that tore through him. The Midwest weather was turning cooler with autumn’s fast approach. Already, the sun was setting earlier and the corn was slowly turning brown as it waited the combine harvester.

Henner glanced at his watch, straining to see it in the flashing neon sign of the bar. He shivered as the cool evening breeze embraced him like a frozen shawl. Surely God would forgive him if he left his post early this one evening?

But no! His discomfort was a small fee for salvation.

Slowly, the old man moved toward the alley, immediately appreciating the reprieve from the slight wind as he tucked in between two buildings. It was darker there, the light from the streetlamp barely breaching the entrance much less the far recesses of the long corridor. But this was Paw Paw, and things didn’t generally linger in the dark.

The soft scratch of boots scuffing against the concrete emanated from the darkness and instantly startled Henner. He twisted around, his ears leading his eyes as he peered into the blackness.

Emerging from the shadows, the silhouettes of two large forms approached the self-appointed preacher. Towering hulks, they easily dwarfed the old man, their loud, boisterous laughter filling the alley like a couple of sailors on shore leave as they staggered toward him.

“Well, what do we have here? If it isn’t St. Mathias of Paw Paw,” the darker haired man mocked.

The second man joined in, his laughter stopping abruptly as he circled around Henner. “Ya know,” he began. “I think ol’ Methuselah here needs to learn to keep his goddamn preaching to himself.”

Henner stood his ground, one hand holding his signboard while the other tightly gripped the worn Bible. “Ray Durham, what would your mother have said if she’d ever heard you blaspheme the Lord?”

“Shut your mouth, old man. Our momma was a good woman, not some crackpot like you,” the burly young man shouted back.

“You’re mother was a God-fearing woman. She raised you boys better. I’m sure she’s sad to look down from Heaven and see what you’ve become,” Henner replied. “You especially, Louis. Your mother counted on you to look after your brother, not walk beside him down the path of the wicked.”

The older sibling looked away nervously, but his younger brother continued his slow movement, stalking Henner like a tiger waiting for an antelope to bolt.

“Wicked?” the younger Durham cried out with a deep laugh. “Mister, this is the path to the bar and a good cold beer. Nothing more.”

“Come on, Ray. Let’s just get going. Leave ’im alone,” Louis advised.

But his brother ignored him, stepping in closer and pressing his chest threateningly against Henner. “Nah, I don’t think so. It’s early and I’ve got all this extra energy. Besides, who does he think he is to judge us?”

The old man held firm, his eyes locking with the bloodshot brown of Ray Durham even as the obnoxious smell of alcohol assailed him.

“Son, you don’t want to do this,” Henner warned. “But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.”

The massive brute smiled, the corner of his lip curling up even as his eyes narrowed. He turned slightly to face his brother, seemingly ready to walk away from the confrontation when in one fluid motion he whirled back around, his left fist connecting solidly with the older man’s jaw.

There was a loud grunt as Henner was knocked to the pavement, his frail-looking body colliding viciously with the thick wood signboard as he fell.

He gingerly wiped the trickle of blood from his split lip as he looked up at the towering figure standing over him.

“Come on, old man,” Ray Durham began, his hands raised skyward as he peered up at the dark night sky. “Where’s the bolt of lightning to strike me down?”

Henner remained silent. He knew what this was about. The Scriptures were filled with accounts of the prophets being taunted, baited into fights by unbelievers, beaten, tortured and even killed.

… Just another test… he assured himself, steeling his body as a heavily-booted foot connected with his left hip, lifting him and propelling him backwards.

He rolled until he came to a stop against the outer brick wall of Haney’s Pharmacy, breathing raggedly as seventy-nine-year-old bones protested the abuse. Pain ravaged his body as additional kicks rained in on him.

“Hey old man, where’s your smart-assed mouth now?” Ray hissed before leaning down and delivering a brutal right to the side of the man’s face.

The miniscule light barely illuminating the alley now threatened to disappear completely as his consciousness succumbed to the violence. Henner struggled to rise up on his hands, blood streaming from his mouth and nose, his body shaking as his respirations came in ragged gasps.

“Stop it, Ray,” the elder Durham called out. “Let’s just get out of here.”

“Screw that, Louis,” the bigger sibling snarled, pulling away from the restraining arm of his brother. “No one talks to me that way.”

“He isn’t worth it.”

“Quit being a candy-ass. Give it a little kick. It feels good,” the younger man tempted, continuing his own ferocious attack.

Henner dropped back to the concrete, protectively throwing his hands over his head as the older brother joined in with a menacing laugh.

O Lord, the God who saves me… day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you… turn your ear to my cry… for my soul… is full of trouble… and my life draws near the grave…

Mathias Henner lifted the silent prayer up to Heaven, fervently believing that the God in whom he had such unfailing faith would see him through this. A soft cry escaped his lips as he called out for celestial protection.

“…Lord… protect me…” Henner weakly called out.

The Durham brothers laughed simultaneously with Ray launching a thick glob of spittle down onto Henner’s prone form. About to deliver another punch, the muscular man stopped abruptly as a new voice sounded from the encroaching shadows.

“Are we having fun, gentlemen?” it called out.

The attack ceased, both brothers looking up as a tall blond figure emerged from the darkness. Standing well over six foot and clothed in dark biker’s leather and boots, the new arrival strode forth purposefully, stopping just shy of the group.

“Who the hell are you?” Ray demanded, boldly moving forward to close the slight gap. “Look, Louis, pretty boy here must have gotten lost off the interstate. Is that what happened mister?”

The newcomer snickered, his head shaking slightly even as he glanced down at the cowering Henner.

“Send your angels to protect me, oh Lord…” Henner pleaded, his eyes closed in prayer, unaware of the stranger.

“The Lord will provide…” the blond whispered down toward the prostrate man.

‘Why don’t you just keep on walking, asshole? This is an A and B conversation, so why don’t you see your way out of it?”

“Wow, is that the best you can do? Unoriginal snipes and beating up a helpless old man that you outweigh by nearly a hundred pounds. You must have serious self-esteem issues,” the newcomer mocked.

“Well, maybe we were just waiting for some lame, piece of crap, city boy like yourself to show so we can pick up where we left off with the crazy old man,” Ray retorted, smacking his clenched fist against his open palm.

The blond looked at him dispassionately, neither reacting nor wavering. He barely flinched when the younger Durham brother launched himself forward, hands flashing as his fists sought out the stranger’s face.

But before the knuckles connected, the burly man’s body veered off to the side, slamming into a nearby row of trashcans with a loud clatter of metal. His brother attacked immediately upon seeing his younger sibling so effortlessly tossed aside. Charging the newcomer, Louis Durham lowered his shoulder and barreled at the blond.

Like his brother, the older man never made contact. Instead, an invisible force stopped him cold, making his body seize up and hold stiffly in place. Louis Durham struggled futilely, his feet kicking back and forth while the veins in his neck bulged.

Recovered, Ray Durham saw his elder brother invisibly impaled and struggling to breathe, and he charged at the stranger from behind, striking the distracted man in the back with a discarded piece of lumber. The two-by-four splintered as it struck, shards of wood flying outward as the post disintegrated.

“What the hell are you?” the small-town bully cried out as the tall blond turned to face him unfazed.

The man smiled, a low growl ebbing from his throat. “Your day of reckoning…” he answered mysteriously.

With a nod of the stranger’s head, the two brothers were thrown across the narrow width of the passageway, their bodies impacting the nearby brick wall the sound of bones fracturing echoing in the darkness.

Silence returned to the alley as the smell of blood wafted on the early autumn breeze. Mathias Henner pushed himself up to a seated position and glanced around, his eyes wide as he tried to comprehend what had happened.

The blond eyed him curiously before reaching down to offer his hand. Henner took it, not surprised by the warmth and strength contained in the grip.

“Are you an angel?” the old man asked.

The taller man laughed gently as he steadied the frail, beaten man.

“You are, aren’t you? God has sent you to protect me, to help me,” Henner said with assurance.

The stranger’s eyes narrowed slightly, his head cocked to one side as though he were considering the man’s statement and debating on how to respond.

“I am a messenger…” he answered finally.

“I knew it… I just knew it. The signs, they were everywhere. I knew if I was faithful, God would provide,” Henner exclaimed excitedly.

His injuries forgotten, the old man dropped back down to his knees, his head bowed in respectful submission. “I am the Lord’s faithful servant,” he whispered.

“Rise up,” the blond softly commanded, reaching down to lift the man to his feet once again.

“But you are Gabriel, the messenger, right? Sent to help me warn others that the End of Days is upon us,” Henner insisted.

“The End of Days are surely upon humanity,” the man agreed with a peculiar grin. “But why don’t you just call me Don...”


Paw Paw, Illinois
5 days ago

Bobby Singer walked out of the hazy late afternoon sunshine and into the small diner. Pulling his hand across his forehead, he wiped at the thin bead of sweat that had collected underneath the band of his ball cap as he quickly took in the empty cafe.

Picking a seat that allowed him to keep an eye on the door and most of the shop, he dropped into the booth and nestled into the corner. Grabbing the menu tucked behind the salt and pepper shaker, he looked at the offerings with feigned interest.

“What’ll ya have, mister?”

Bobby looked up, smiling as he spotted the heavy-set cook. “Ah, I guess I’ll take the dinner special,” he answered, pointing to the chalkboard mounted behind the counter. “And a cup of coffee too.”

“You got it,” the man replied, heading back to the grill.

Bobby watched as the big guy returned with a clean cup and a steaming pot. “Pretty quiet around here,” he casually observed.

“Yeah, guess people are spending more time at home. Afraid to go out, what with folks coming down with that weird sickness and all.”

“I’ve been hearing some things about that. What’s going on?” the hunter asked.

The big man shrugged. “Damned if I know. People getting sick with some sort of wasting disease. Just dropping like flies, like they was starving to death or something.”

“Hmm…” Bobby commented absently. “I heard that folks were covered with strange sores too.”

“Heard that too. Saw Ellen Waters in here yesterday. She looked like a raw piece of meat that had been left out in the sun too long or something.”

Bobby cringed at the visual. He’d already seen one of the “victims,” the man’s skin covered with rupturing, pus-filled blisters.

“I’ve seen rotten hamburger that looked better than Ellen did,” the cook continued as he walked away.

The hunter’s throat bobbed as he swallowed hard and forced himself to ignore the odor of cooking meat from the grill. He lifted the cup of coffee, relishing the strong smell as the steam wafted toward his nostrils.

His head was pounding and the hot beverage seemed to offer a false sense of clarity. Arriving back in the small Midwestern village just a couple of days ago, Bobby had dug right back into the case following his brief detour down to Springfield. He hadn’t minded seeing the Winchester men again, considering the circumstances, and he’d even considered filling them in on the happenings in this tiny rural community.

Yet, once the emergency was over, and God how he still got a chuckle when he thought about John getting taken down by a mosquito, it just seemed more appropriate to leave the family to their own privacy. Bobby knew that John and his boys spent most of their time apart, both physically and emotionally, seeming to only come together when a life-threatening crisis forced them to. It was ridiculous behavior and he rarely missed an opportunity to remind them that family was everything.

Take it from me, he added silently.

Still, if there were three people that he cared most about on the planet, then Dean, Sam and John were at the top of the list. And while he often pretended that he'd sooner be alone, there were times when the antic-laden company of the brothers was a welcome relief to the solitude of his South Dakota salvage yard.

Regardless, there was no point in dragging the hunting clan into this. He still wasn’t one-hundred percent sure what was going on here. At best, it might have been some sort of demonic activity; certainly the strange electrical storms and crop failures might indicate that. But even more likely, what was happening in Paw Paw might be nothing more than some freakish epidemic. Not like that wasn’t in the news with increasing regularity; Ebola, Avian flu, even West Nile Virus had all been leaving high body counts in their wake.

“Demons or plagues… peanut butter and jelly,” Bobby grumbled aloud. “Not like all of this couldn’t be part of some demonic master plan.”

Bobby never considered himself a highly educated man, but if there was one thing he well knew, it was signs, more specifically, supernatural signs. He’d spent most of his adult life devouring every tome and scrap of information about the supernatural that he could get his hands on. His house was laden nearly floor to ceiling with volumes from every corner of the world. It was like a library gone amuck, yet the older hunter rarely had a problem putting his fingers on whatever reference he needed.

Still, despite the semblance of clutter, regardless of the appearance that he knew little about anything other than evil and engines, Bobby was also no stranger to the word of God.

He well knew the Bible, could nearly quote verbatim the books of Daniel and Revelation. It was that knowledge that had drawn him to Paw Paw. Plagues, pestilence, death. If anything screamed "demonic" more than that, Bobby didn’t know what it was.

There’s a storm comin’…

“Here ya go, mister.”

Bobby startled, his head jerking upward as the cook broke him from his thoughts. The man placed the plate before him and quickly turned away, disappearing into the back of the diner and leaving the hunter alone once more.

He toyed with the offering, stabbing his fork into the gravy-covered meatloaf and stuffing a large piece into his mouth. The flavor wasn’t bad and Bobby knew the slight sourness in his stomach had more to do with the strangeness of the hunt than the quality of the food. He was about to scoop up a bite of mashed potatoes when the jingle of a bell hung above the diner’s door brought his head up.

“Bobby!”

“Mathias!” the hunter replied eagerly. “How you been? I’ve been looking all over town for you.”

“When did you get back?” Henner asked as he dropped into the seat opposite the hunter.

“Couple of days back.”

“How’s your friend? I’ve been praying for him.”

Bobby laughed. “He’s fine. Came down with West Nile fever from a stupid mosquito. Can you believe that?”

Henner nodded thoughtfully. “God watches over all his children,” the older man replied.

“And how’s God been doin’ watching over Paw Paw?” Bobby sniped. “Seems like things around here have gone from bad to worse.”

The hunter watched as his old friend’s face broke into a wide, excited smile.

“Oh Bobby, God hasn’t forgotten us, quite the contrary. He’s sent his messenger to guide his children through the trials and tribulations of the end of times,” Henner exclaimed with a bright gleam in his eyes.

“Mathias, I admire your faith, but honestly, taking a look around here I’d have to put my money on it being something a little south of heaven that’s responsible for everything that’s going on.”

“Oh, I agree. These are definitely signs of the times, strange storms, bizarre illnesses, crops that are healthy one day and rotten the next, but it’s nothing that we weren’t warned about,” the weathered old man insisted.

“Yeah, I know, I know; famine, pestilence, war and death, I’ve read Revelation too,” Bobby grumbled.

“Then you know!”

The salvage man scratched at the dark scruff of his beard, his head shaking slowly. “Mathias, I’m not saying I don’t believe, but I just haven’t seen Death riding in on horseback.”

“Well, not exactly. See that’s the problem, people think God’s word is literal, but it’s filled with imagery and symbolism. Come on, Bobby, you know as well as I do that all of this fits together,” Henner stalwartly replied.

Bobby let out a long breath of air. He liked Mathias Henner, no doubt. The old man was as passionate about serving God as Bobby was about sending demons straight back to the hellfire that spawned them. But sometimes arguing with a religious zealot required more energy than the seasoned hunter was willing to expend.

“I just don’t think God picked Paw Paw, Illinois as his launchpad for the end of the world. But, I will agree with you on one thing,” he acceded. “There’s definitely something suspicious going on around here.”

Henner smiled and Bobby felt the man’s callused and worn hand reach out to touch the bare skin on his forearm.

“Ah, Bobby. Fear not… for he sends angels to watch over his faithful in their time of distress.”

Bobby’s eyes narrowed. “Mathias, what in the hell are you talking about?”

“That is what I’ve been trying to tell you. It’s the most wonderful miracle,” Henner continued, his voice rising with excitement.

The hunter nodded the man on, his eyes glancing down at the meal that was quickly growing cold. Still, he liked Henner, the least he could do was let the lonely old man talk.

“I’m listening,” Bobby muttered.

“An angel, an honest to goodness angel came to me a week ago, saved me from the Durham boys and seriously kicked their butts,” Henner began.

“Mathias…”

“I swear, Bobby. The Durhams caught me outside the Latham as I was wrapping up Friday night. I honestly thought they were gonna kill me, kicked me around something fierce. I’m on the ground, bleeding and barely conscious, just waiting for the Lord to take me home, when all of a sudden this tall young man appears in the alley. Before I know it, he tosses Ray across the alley and has Louis dangling in the air.”

“And then what?” Bobby asked, his forehead creased with concern.

“Then the two brothers just go sailing through the air, crashing into the outside of Haney’s.”

“Kill them?”

“No, but hurt them real bad, not that they likely didn’t deserve worse.”

“So this angel…”

“Don, his name is Don.”

“Your angel’s name is DON?” Bobby could not restrict the humor from his voice, barely containing the snicker that was threatening at the back of his throat.

“Yes, that’s what he said,” Henner repeated with irritation.

“Mathias…”

“Bobby, I swear on all that’s holy, he’s an angel. I can prove it too!”

“How’s that?” Bobby asked.

“I can introduce you!”

***


Bobby walked cautiously into the Latham Tap. The place was dead, even for a Tuesday night. The quietness of the bar only served to make it a more peculiar place to meet an angel.

Still, whoever or whatever Mathias Henner wanted to introduce to him, Bobby felt obligated, even curious to find out. Part of him wanted to believe that the old man had actually met an angel, but the hardcore hunter in him just somehow “knew” better.

Following the unexpectedly spry old man, Bobby strode toward the long bar, noting the absence of a bartender but also spotting another patron at the far end.

The lone figure leaned against the counter, standing out amidst the small, dark pub. His long flowing blond hair and black leather pants and jacket screamed big city, or biker bar, not to mention the midnight black boots with gleaming silver buckles adorning the sides. His face was lowered, his features obscured by the yellow locks, and Bobby raised an eyebrow when he spotted the amber-filled shotglass nestled protectively within his hands.

“Don!” Henner greeted enthusiastically. “I’ve brought him to meet you.”

Bobby smiled tentatively, his hand moving slowly forward toward the stranger.

The blond turned to face him and the hunter’s hand recoiled instinctively at the flash of reddish-orange orbs set amid the man’s handsome face.

“He’s a friggin’ demon,” Bobby shouted, stepping backwards, his hands reflexively reaching for the flask of Holy Water within his jacket pocket.

Looking over to Henner, the hunter saw that the devout old man had fallen to his knees, his head bowed in submission or prayer as he kneeled before the demon.

“Mathias, look at him. He’s no angel!”

“Ah, Mr. Singer, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? I seem to recall that you have innocent blood on your hands,” the demon growled, stepping around the end of the bar.

“Mathias!” Bobby pleaded. “Look at him!”

“It won’t do any good. He sees what he wants to see.”

“Who are you?” Bobby sneered, torn between bolting for the door and attempting to rescue the otherwise oblivious man from the hellspawn.

“Didn’t Mathias tell you? My name is Don,” the demon replied with a broad smile.

“Don? You gotta be kidding me. What demon goes by the name Don?”

“Well, I must confess, it’s actually short for something else.”

Bobby’s eyes narrowed in suspicion even as the tall demon closed the gap between them. Secretly, he unscrewed the cap from the flask, prepared to fling the contents at the blond once he was within striking distance.

“And what would that be?” the hunter snapped. “You assholes pretty much are all one and the same when it comes to being evil.”

The demon laughed, shaking his head. “You couldn’t be more wrong. Some of us are so much worse.”

“And you’re one of the worst?”

“Let’s just say that next to the Big Guy, I’m the nastiest thing out there.”

Bobby flinched, his heart hammering in his chest as the demon’s eyes swirled a brilliant red-orange once again.

“Abaddon…” he murmured.

“I see you’ve heard of me.”

In that moment, Bobby’s hand flew out from underneath his jacket, the contents of the flask spraying out and soaking the tall demon on the face and chest.

There was a brief hiss, steam rising off Abaddon’s body like a runner having exercised out in the cold. But if the sacred liquid had any effect, it wasn’t obvious.

The demon laughed, hands wiping off the remaining droplets from his face.

“I bathed this morning, thanks!”

Bobby began backing off, his feet scuffing across the worn wood floor of the bar. Nervously, he glanced around, knowing the main door was well behind him and scoping out any other means of escape.

“Try for it… I dare you,” Abaddon taunted, eyes following Bobby’s sideways glance. “You might even make it.”

“You’d like that wouldn’t you?” Bobby sneered back.

“It will only prolong the inevitable. Actually, I’m sorta impressed. I didn’t expect to attract the attention of a hunter so soon. Still, sooner or later, I’m gonna be bathing in your blood.”

“Then what are you waiting for?”

Abaddon shrugged, moving closer to the trapped hunter. “Maybe I just want an audience. You know, it’s just no fun if you work so hard on a project and no ones left to admire the end product.”

Bobby lunged, his fist lashing out in an effort to attack the larger form the demon was assuming. His knuckles stopped scant inches from the blond’s jaw, his body suddenly frozen in place by Abaddon’s unseen power.

Jerked roughly upward as his feet elevated off the floor, he could feel an increasing pressure crushing inward on his torso, an invisible vice tightening and restricting his ability to breathe.

“What… do… you… want?” Bobby gasped.

“For me, nothing. But the Master demands everything…” Abaddon hissed.

Drawing next to the older hunter’s ear, the demon’s hot breath assailed Bobby.

“Would you like a taste of what I’ve been doing here? A small sample of what’s to come for humanity.”

Bobby groaned, his lungs absent of enough air to form any words.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Abaddon sneered.

The hunter could only stare as the demon ripped open the thinning fabric of his button-down and underlying t-shirt. His chest exposed, Bobby could feel the bile rising in his throat as Abaddon’s fingers skimmed down the center of his sternum, leaving a numbing sensation in their wake.

He dropped to his knees, the invisible restraint holding him up suddenly gone. His entire body felt as though every muscle had been turned to wet mush. His mind was foggy, as though he was suffocating under the effects of a heavy head cold.

He had no idea what the demon had done to him, but deep down inside, he knew he was dying. Watching as Abaddon casually strode back to the bar and tilted back the glass of whiskey, Bobby struggled to crawl towards the door.

“Run away, old hunter,” the demon called out. “Tell the others what you’ve found here. Let them know that the end is near.”

Memphis, Tennessee
Present day

Dean threw the pamphlet into the trashcan, kicking the small metal container to punctuate his disdain. He continued across the room, stretching and grimacing as he rolled his right shoulder and making no effort to hide the discomfort from his face.

Whatever works… he thought.

“Come on, Dean. It’ll be cool. It’s like going to the White House,” Sam pleaded, trailing behind and stooping to retrieve the discarded brochure.

“I said no,” Dean repeated. “And besides, it’s nothing like visiting the White House.”

“And you would know that how?”

“First, because it’s just some stupid mansion with a bunch of stupid furniture and second, because the president doesn’t live there.”

“Wow, and you have the audacity to call me Captain Obvious?” Sam snarked.

“It’ll be boring, Sam. There’s nothing really there to see,” the elder Winchester whined.

“It’s history, rock and roll history. I’d think you of all people would be interested.”

“Dude, that’s not rock. Yeah, granted I can respect what Elvis did in his day, but Sammy, I just can’t get the image of an overweight, sequined, sweaty Elvis out of my head. Besides, not like he’s gonna be there…” Dean grumbled.

“Well, you never know…” the younger sibling joked.

Dean glared at him. “If you think I’m dumb enough to go to Graceland with you on the premise of a hunt, then I want to know who cheated for you on your entrance exams to Stanford.”

He dropped to the bed as he waited for his brother’s inevitable reply, absently rubbing his right shoulder once more.

Same damn shoulder that got messed up in York… he reminded himself. But this time, the joint wasn’t dislocated and even if it was, no way was Dean going to end up in an ER mainlining Demerol again. He’d sooner have the damn thing rot and fall off first, considering how that particular injury turned out.

“Shoulder bothering you?” Sam asked, breaking into Dean’s dark reverie. “You slammed into that bar pretty hard.”

“No need to remind me, I was there, dumbass,” Dean replied. “It’s all right, just a little tender. Not like it was the first time some pissed off poltergeist decided to use me for a tetherball.”

“Yeah, but if you’ve dislocated it again or something, maybe you ought to get it checked out.”

“Its fine, Sam! It’s not dislocated and it doesn’t need checked out. What it needs… what I need… is some peace and quiet… and maybe a stiff belt,” Dean snapped back.

“Yeah, some R&R would be nice,” Sam agreed, barely concealing a mischievous grin. “You know, go do something fun, something that doesn’t involve ghost or demons or saltguns.”

Dean looked up at Sam from underneath narrowed eyebrows. “Nice try, but I’m still not going on a tour of Graceland, Sam. If you want to go so bad, then go. I’m just gonna snuggle in here with a cold six-pack and some AC/DC so I can wash the vile taste of country out of my mouth. Scoping out that stupid bar for nearly a week, being subjected to all that whiny-assed, cry-in-your-beer crap nearly burned out my eardrums.”

“Yeah, ’cause you blasting that crap you call classis rock hasn’t already ruined your hearing,” Sam retorted.

“I’m sorry, did you say something? I think all the music has ruined my hearing,” Dean mocked with a smirk, immediately jamming the earbuds to his cell phone into each ear.

He vaguely heard Sam’s voice above the din of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb, absently waving off his brother’s offer to go for food as he closed his eyes and sunk down into the lumpy mattress.

His face creased into a broad smile when the motel room door slammed shut and while Dean knew he’d pay for his obstinate behavior, tonight he seriously didn’t care how much of a tantrum Sam threw. He was tired, sore, and for once, he didn’t want anything more than to kick back and sleep. It had been a long couple of weeks, between worry over his father and then immediately taking on this hunt, Dean was emotionally and physically wiped out.

Somewhere between Dream Police and Warrant's Cherry Pie, Dean drifted off, the familiar rock as soothing as a mother’s lullaby to the hunter’s worn psyche. Jani Lane’s voice was interrupted as the annoying beep of an incoming call disrupted the music-induced dream of a hot blonde delivering him a warm slice.

Grumbling, Dean opened his eyes and glared at the screen. Expecting the incoming call to be from Sam, he instantly became more alert when Bobby’s name appeared on the caller ID. Considering the last time the older hunter had called him, Dean couldn’t help but feel his heart begin to hammer within his chest.

“Bobby?” he answered eagerly.

“Dean…”

The weakness in his friend’s voice did nothing to reduce the anxiety coursing through the short-haired hunter. Sitting up in bed, he called out once again.

“Bobby… are you all right?”

“No…”

With that answer, Dean was on his feet in an instant, one hand holding the cell to his ear while the other began tugging on his boots.

“What’s going on? Are you hurt?”

“Dean… need help… things bad… demon… sick….”

“Bobby, where are you? What’s going on? Dude, you aren’t making any sense,” he nearly screamed across the phone.

“Dean… it’s bad… really bad…”

“Are you okay? Where are you? Dammit, Bobby, get it together and talk to me,” Dean pleaded.

The silence on the other end of the cellular scared the young hunter worse than the incoherent babbling that came before. He knew, honestly relied on, the competency and steadfastness that Bobby Singer represented. More than just a trusted friend and comrade in arms, the older man was something akin to a family member, something Dean cherished and fiercely protected more than life itself.

“Bobby?” he called out again. “I’m coming, but where are you? Please… tell me where you are.”

Static crackled across the receiver followed by a low moan that made Dean’s stomach twist in knots.

“Paw Paw…” the feeble answer ghosted faintly from the phone.

“Paw paw? What the hell is paw paw?” Dean demanded. “Bobby, what does paw paw mean?”

The static returned, screeching so loudly that Dean had to pull the phone away from his ear. When the noise ceased, so had the call, the line going dead and leaving the young man staring blankly at the dark screen.

“Sonofabitch, Bobby. What’s going on?” he mumbled at the silent cellular.

He quickly redialed the older hunter, but wasn’t surprised when the call went to voicemail. Simultaneously rummaging through the room, quickly tossing his belongings into his duffle, he punched up the number to Sam’s phone.

Hearing the mellow notes of whatever emo-pop song Sam currently had as his ringtone, Dean looked up in surprise when his brother walked through the door.

“Let’s go, Sammy,” he ordered as he continued his desperate packing.

“What’s going on?” Sam queried.

“Something’s wrong with Bobby,” Dean answered shortly, relieved when his brother joined in collecting his belongings without further question.

“Is he okay?” Sam asked as he dropped the paper bag he’d carried in with him and began putting away his laptop.

“I don’t know… don’t think so. Hey, keep that out,” Dean stated, pointing at the computer.

“Why?”

“Need you to look up ‘paw paw.’ That’s the last thing Bobby said and I don’t know what the hell it means.”

Dean took the initial load out to the Impala as Sam dropped into the nearby chair and began typing on the keyboard at a frenetic pace.

“So?” he asked, returning inside for the last of their belongings.

“Northern Illinois. Paw Paw is a small town just off I-39, about an hour south of Rockford,” Sam replied, closing the lid on the laptop.

“Illinois? Just great! I have so many wonderful memories of Illinois,” Dean grumbled as he glanced around the motel room once more, waited for Sam to exit before him and disheartened shut the door.

Paw Paw
Next morning

Dean slowed the Impala as they entered the village limits of Paw Paw, Illinois. Surrounded by gently waving cornfields as far as the eye could see, the only other remarkable structures were the distant wind turbines, the sun gleaming off the blades as they spun lazily in the afternoon light.

The main street through town was devoid of any traffic and the lone pedestrian that slowly strolled the sidewalk took only a moment to look up at the new arrivals and cast a disdaining glare.

“Dude, are you sure they didn’t film Children of the Corn here?” Dean snarked as he tossed a half-hearted wave in the direction of the hostile-looking citizen.

“It’s just a small town, Dean. People are bound to be wary of strangers, especially ones driving up in a jet black muscle car,” Sam answered, looking up from the screen of the laptop.

“Yeah, whatever. So have you found anything suspicious about the place? Other than the fact it looks like a carbon copy of Gatlin, Nebraska,” Dean asked, noting the vacant businesses and frequent “closed” signs hanging in the store windows.

“No, nothing,” Sam answered, confused by his brother’s strange reference. “But I was thinking. Didn’t Bobby say he’d been checking out some demonic omens or something nearby when he was down in Springfield with us and Dad?”

“Yeah, guess so. He never really elaborated and I was a little … distracted,” the elder sibling replied.

“Well, whatever he was checking out, I can’t find anything worse than some mention about a few fields of corn going bad.”

“Great work, Sam. Good to know the research has paid off and we know exactly what we’re walking into here,” Dean groused.

His brother shot him a dirty look and Dean feeling bad for snapping was about to apologize when something else caught his attention. Just ahead of the dark Chevy, a nondescript white church stood out in stark contrast to the other buildings in town. Its lot full of vehicles, it seemed to be the one place showing any sign of life.

“Sam, look there.”

“It’s a church, so?”

“It’s Tuesday, dude. Kinda odd for everyone to be in church don’t ya think?”

“Funeral maybe?” Sam offered. “I s’pose that might explain why everything was closed back there.”

“Maybe,” Dean reluctantly agreed. But silently, he couldn’t ignore the strange prickling at his spine.

They continued on, stopping two blocks later as Dean pulled the Impala up to the curb in front of the Lucky Diner. He killed the engine and reached for the door.

“Dean, don’t you think your stomach can wait till we find Bobby?” Sam called out from inside the car.

Turning around and leaning down to peer inside the window, Dean’s eyes narrowed with irritation.

“Jeez, let’s see, smartass. We have no idea where Bobby is, hell he might not even be here for all we know. The town appears to be empty, except for the church, and oh… have you seen a motel in this bustling metropolis yet?”

Not waiting for his brother to reply, Dean continued. “So, considering that the diner appears to be the only thing open in town, maybe, just maybe, we might find some info that will help us.”

He heard Sam’s grunt, knew he was grating on his brother’s nerves, but couldn’t help that his worry for Bobby was manifested in his short temper and equally snide conversation.

“Sorry, dude,” he offered as Sam exited the car. “I’m just worried.”

His brother waved him off with a flash of his hand and sad smile, indicating that he too, was just as fearful for the well-being of their old friend.

Inside, they took a seat at the counter, unable to avoid staring at the massive man that stood behind it at the grill. Well over three hundred pounds, the man was clothed in a grease-stained white t-shirt and an equally dingy looking pair of denim overalls.

“Wha’ can I ge’ you boys?” he asked, leaning down heavily on the countertop and stuffing the remnants of a thick burger into his mouth.

“Uh, the special please,” Dean answered, pointing to the chalkboard just over the man’s shoulder. “And a Coke.”

“Grilled cheese sandwich,” Sam added. “And coffee.”

“You got it,” the cook answered, turning back to the grill and gathering the food.

The brothers watched in disgusted fascination as the huge man continued to cram pieces of bread and cheese into his mouth. It appeared that he was eating as fast as he was cooking, soft grunts escaping him as he tried to chew and breathe at the same time.

His behavior was so repulsive that Dean considered canceling his order. Renowned for being able to eat anything, anytime, anywhere and under any conditions, the hunter thought he might actually puke if he had to sit there and watch this grotesque behavior.

Clearing his throat and sucking in a deep breath to settle his churning stomach, Dean looked away and stared out the large plate glass window.

“So, where’s everybody at today? Kinda quiet for lunchtime isn’t it?” he asked. Or maybe everyone loses their appetite once they’re here…

“All over at the church,” the cook replied between bites of mashed potatoes.

“Yeah, we saw that. What’s going on? Somebody die?”

“Can tell you boys are from out of town. Everybody around here is convinced the world is coming to an end,” the obese man answered sarcastically. “Simple fools. Spending night and day over there praying that God will save them.”

“Why would they think that?” Sam interjected, sourly looking at the sandwich as the man casually tossed it down on the counter.

“How the hell should I know? Nutjobs, all of them. Once in a while someone comes over and gets some food to take back, but otherwise they’ve been locked up in there for nearly three days now. Praying, singing, listening to the damn preacher going on and on about repenting their sins.”

“I take it you don’t subscribe to any of that?” Dean asked as his plate was delivered.

“Religious mumbo-jumbo, people thinking they can wipe out all the bad things they’ve done all their life just by saying some prayer. Think that God’s just gonna wipe the slate clean.”

“So getting back to the end of the world stuff, why are people freaking out?”

“Probably cause folks been taking sick, sudden like. Others have just gone out of their minds, attacking family, friends, whoever gets close, usually decent people just going mad. And then of course there’ve been the crop failures and weird storms. Guess folks are just spooked and looking for anything to explain it all,” the man answered before turning back to the grill and shoving a large piece of deep-fried chicken into his mouth.

“Uh, so we’re looking for a friend of ours,” Sam stated, pushing away his grilled cheese in disgust. “An older guy, dark beard, was probably wearing a baseball cap of some sort.”

“Yeah, he was in here,” the cook answered between the sound of bones crunching between his jaws. “Haven’t seen him a few days though.”

“Do you know where he was staying?” Dean asked anxiously.

“Nope. But Henner there probably does,” the man answered, pointing toward the door and the frail-looking old man that was just entering.

“Hi there, Ben,” the newcomer called out. “You feeling any better?”

“Not a damn bit,” the cook responded, grabbing another piece of chicken. “What can I get you, Mathias?”

“Just some coffee. How are you boys doing? What brings you to town?”

“Fine, sir,” Sam answered respectfully. “We’re looking for a friend of ours. Ben here said you might know where he’s staying.”

“I know most everyone around here,” Henner replied. “Who you looking for?”

“An older man. Dark beard, would have been driving an old Charger,” Dean offered.

“Bobby? You boys are looking for Bobby Singer?”

“Yes!” both brothers answered simultaneously.

Henner was about to answer when a loud crash distracted the three men. Behind the counter the large cook dropped to the floor in a clatter of metal pots and utensils.

A strange gurgling sound emitted from the huge man just before he went ominously silent.

Dean vaulted the counter in a single leap with Sam just behind him. Rolling the cook onto his back, the elder Winchester pried away several layers of sweaty flesh in an attempt to feel for a carotid pulse.

“Call 911, Sammy,” he ordered, trying to find purchase on the rotund chest in order to start compressions.

He worked on the downed cook until Sam came back to relieve him, both of them sweating profusely and breathing hard by the time the first EMTs arrived. They moved out of the way so the rescue squad could work and joined the old man outside the diner. The threesome stood by silently as the cook’s body was removed from the little restaurant and hauled away in a blare of sirens and flashing strobe lights.

“What in the hell just happened in there?” Sam mused.

“My guess is that the big guy’s heart just couldn’t keep up with his mouth,” Dean snarked.

“It was God’s will…”

The brothers spun to face the old man, slightly surprised by his off-handed comment.

“God willed that man to eat himself to death?” Dean asked sarcastically.

“God didn’t force him to do anything. This is simply His master plan being carried out. If Ben would have only heeded His warnings,” Henner answered mysteriously.

“Just great, we’ve officially entered the Holy friggin’ Twilight Zone,” the elder sibling grumbled.

“You should not mock the Lord,” Henner warned.

Dean started to reply when Sam’s strong hand closed on his arm, stilling him to silence.

“Look Mister, we know there’s something strange going on here, but we’re just trying to find our friend. You said earlier that you knew where Bobby Singer was?” Sam asked softly.

The old man nodded, pushing up his sleeve as he absently scratched at one of the many sores covering his upper body. Dean took a step back, repelled by the red, weeping wounds that covered Henner.

“I tried to save Bobby, you know. He would have been all right if he would have only believed.”

“Believed what?” Dean demanded, his worry increasing by the way Henner spoke of Bobby in the past tense.

“Believed in God’s messenger, sent to save those would repent and show their faith. Don would have saved Bobby from the pestilence, if only he would have believed,” the old man informed them.

“Don?” Dean repeated. “Who the hell is Don?”

“An angel, sent from God to protect His faithful from His wrath.”

“The angel’s name is Don?” the young hunter asked, making no effort to hide the humor from his voice.

“Dean…” Sam’s low voice warned.

“Aw, come on, Sam. I may not have read the Bible from cover to cover, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any angels by the name of Don mentioned in it.”

“You seem like a nice young man, but your lack of faith will be your downfall,” the self-appointed preacher warned him.

“Mr. Henner, please. My brother means well, he just doesn’t always readily embrace spiritual things. Now can you tell us where we can find Bobby?” Sam pleaded, shooting a look at Dean that cautioned him to remain quiet.

Henner smiled warmly and nodded. “Of course. He’s staying out at the old Wahlstrom farm, three or four miles outside of town. I haven’t seen him in a couple of days, but that’s where he was.”

“Thank you, thank you so much,” Sam replied gratefully as he turned to follow an already moving Dean toward the Impala.

“If you find Bobby, please tell him that it’s not too late to repent. The same goes for you boys too. I’d be happy to take you to meet Don as well,” Henner called out behind them. “Take care boys and make sure your souls are right with God. It’s not too late….”

Dean watched as Sam waved his acknowledgement, shaking his head at the man’s crazy dialogue. Turning the key in the ignition, he quietly murmured, “Stupid fool… it’s been too late for a long time…”


Wahlstrom farm


Both brothers remained quiet during the short ride out to the deserted farm, each lost in their own thoughts. Had it not been for the mysterious phone call and the strange behavior of the residents of the small agricultural community, the drive would have likely been accentuated by booming rock streaming from the Impala’s speakers. But as it was, only the rush of the wind and the soft chirp of cicadas broke the afternoon stillness.

Slowing as he approached the overgrown driveway, Dean grimaced as the Chevy’s undercarriage scraped on the gravel road. Still, his thoughts were centered more on finding Bobby than any potential damage to his precious car and he continued up the short lane.

Reaching the top of the slight grade, the rundown two-story loomed above the landscape, weathered siding and broken shutters adorning the frame like tattered clothes on a beggar. The house had likely been beautiful in its day, but now, abandoned and left to decay, Dean feared it was an ominous portent of what they would find inside.

“There’s Bobby’s car,” Sam announced, pointing towards the Dodge parked just to the side of a nearby barn.

Dean stopped the Impala, forcing himself to slowly exit the car. Part of him wanted to rush the rotting house, screaming Bobby’s name, but the hunter inside demanded caution. Drawing his .45, he approached warily, his eyes scanning the immediate area and beyond into the tall rows of corn.

“Sam, check his car. I’m going inside,” the elder sibling ordered as he continued toward the back door.

Pulling open the screen, he entered the house, cringing as the smell of decay assailed his nostrils. It wasn’t the odor of death, but it sent a shiver down his spine nonetheless.

“Bobby?” he called out tentatively. “Bobby…you here?”

A soft groan emanated from the next room and Dean charged through the kitchen doorway toward the noise. Rushing to the fallen hunter’s side, Dean slid to his knees quickly lifting Bobby up into the crook of his arm.

“Bobby. Come on, please, open your eyes,” he begged.

The older man shifted slightly, his eyes flickered open yet remaining glazed and unfocused. He reached a shaking hand up toward Dean’s face, fingers barely skimming the thin shade of stubble.

“Dean?” Bobby called out weakly.

“I’m here, I’m here. What happened. Are you hurt?”

“Dean?”

“Yeah, Bobby. Its me.”

His old friend shuddered within his grasp, muscles tensing then relaxing even as Bobby sucked in a gasping breath.

“Be…careful… bad here… not…”

Dean listened intently, his heart pounding within his chest as he willed his own strength to transfer through the slight physical connection.

“What? Not what?” he encouraged.

“…End of the world… angel… careful…”

Sam entered the room, instantly taking in the scene. Dean looked up, unable to mask the mixture of concern and fear on his face.

“Is he?” the younger Winchester asked hesitantly.

“Sammy, get a blanket and water from the car,” Dean ordered.

As his brother dashed off, Dean turned back to his injured friend. Bobby was feebly trying to speak, his mouth moving even as his hand strained to grasp the edge of Dean’s jacket.

“Bobby, come on man, just stay awake, stay with me. What happened to you?”

Dean strained to hear the words, but Bobby couldn’t manage more than a whisper.

“…Destroyer…”

Three slow syllables and Bobby’s eyes rolled back in his head as his body went limp in Dean’s arms. The young hunter grabbed the still form tightly, his heart refusing to admit what his brain was telling him.

Desperately, his fingers sought out the thick artery at Bobby’s neck. Finding no pulse, he gently lowered the man’s torso to the dust covered floor.

“SAAAAMMMM!” Dean screamed out, barely able to pull the next breath into his lungs as he fought back the tears that were threatening his eyes.

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The Winchester Chronicles

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