Season Three

Episode Twelve: Retribution

By irismay42 & Tree

Part One

 

Sulphur Springs, TX

“Sammy! Dammit, son!”

John Winchester pressed the cellphone against his ear, willing his youngest son to respond to the authoritative tone in his voice. It would have worked on Dean. Not so much on Sam.

“Dad, Dean’s here.” Sam spoke as if he hadn’t even registered the entreaty in his father’s voice, his relief at his older brother’s imminent arrival clearly audible.

Something twisted in John’s gut, something born of twenty-some years of experience; something telling him his boys were in danger.

“Sam? SAM!”

John gritted his teeth as static assaulted his ear, pulling the phone away as he realized Sam’s voice was no longer on the other end of the line. He was gone. He was alone.

His youngest was alone.

And she was coming.

“Sam!” He yelled for his son again even though he knew it was futile, the call having already crapped out before he even thought to hit the phone’s disconnect button. His hands balling into fists at his sides as he squeezed hard on the offending piece of plastic, he set his jaw and tried to concentrate enough to clear the cloud of panic beginning to fog his brain.

Plano. Sam had said they were in Plano.

Lucky break – Plano wasn’t that far, maybe sixty-five miles as the crow flies. It’d be a longer drive though – an hour and half, maybe an hour if he broke every speed limit from where he was to where he needed to be.

He glanced at his watch as he tried to force his thought processes back into some kind of order: Get to Plano. Find his boys. Get them the hell away from that half-demonic bitch.

Because he had no doubt she had them.

He’d thought it merely a coincidence at first when he’d realized how close he was to his boys. He’d been in Texas for a while, figuring she’d turn up here sooner or later, like the proverbial bad penny. But with Winchester luck running true to form, he’d scoured almost every inch of this mammoth state – followed every lead, every dead end – and repeatedly come up empty. No one had been able to tell him what had become of Emma Collins; what had become of her after.

He’d found out about the fire; about the murders. But after that, the girl had pretty much disappeared off the face of the planet, and if anyone knew where she was, they sure as hell weren’t talking.

Not to John Winchester anyway.

If his boys had been with him – Sam with his sincere expression and sympathetic eyes, Dean with his easy charm and quick wit – he had little doubt he’d have stood a better chance of shaking something loose.

Maybe he should have told them.

Maybe he should have warned them.

Dad, we’re stronger as a family, Dean had once told him, and even though he recognized the truth in that statement, he just couldn’t bear the thought of intentionally putting his boys in the path of this.

In the path of her.

They say ignorance is bliss, after all…and the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

He should have told them. He should have trusted them. He’d left them vulnerable; unaware; unprepared.

And now she had them, he knew it.

Even before Sammy had mentioned the birthmark on her shoulder, he’d known. Deep down, he’d known. Her just showing up out of the blue; the possessions and the deaths; Dean falling for her so damned hard.

Emma had found his boys before he had found Emma.

Mia.

What a fool he’d been. He should have known to ask after a girl named Cameron. So obvious she wouldn’t be going by the name Collins anymore. He should have known. He should have figured it out.

Still, mentally berating his own shortcomings wasn’t going to get him anywhere. And right now he needed to get to Plano, to his boys. No matter how old, how big, how tough they got, they’d always be his children. And he’d be damned if he’d let that Hellspawn do a damn thing to them to punish him for what he’d done to her.

This was his fight, not theirs.

Hold on, boys….

John wrenched open the driver’s side door of his truck, the graveyard he’d been investigating all but forgotten as he leaped in behind the wheel.

He didn’t even seem to notice the piles of paper littering his usually orderly vehicle. Handwritten notes, photographs and internet printouts were strewn haphazardly over the front and back seats, and as he started the engine his hand brushed the bottle of holy water and the crucifix nestled next to him on the seat, a loaded shotgun and a bowie knife within easy reach in the passenger foot well.

John wasn’t taking any chances on this hunt.

Glancing briefly in the rearview, ignoring the dark circles under his eyes and the few days’ stubble on his chin that spoke of sleepless nights and days filled with worry and with guilt, he shifted the truck into gear and sped away from the sidewalk, trying not to think about the hell he’d gone through this past couple of months.

Since the phone call.

“I found you, Johnny. Wanna come out and play?”

He’d ignored her the first time. Some random chick raving about revenge and retribution, about having his head on a pole. She could have been any one of a dozen demons or monsters he had tussled with over the years. He’d never for a minute thought….

Until the second time.

In Bobby’s rebuilt house in South Dakota, his boys safe and smiling, sipping beer with his old friend, just four guys together and relaxed, talking, laughing… His phone ringing. A familiar number. A familiar voice…

“You’re trying to ignore me, Johnny. I don’t like to be ignored.”

“Cryptic” didn’t begin to cover her end of the conversation, and at first John couldn’t work out who the hell she was. Not until she casually dropped Fort Worth into the conversation. Exorcism. Screaming and blood. Then he knew.

“You made me, John. Now it’s time for you to suffer the consequences. Retribution, Johnny. One family for another. Better find me before I find them. Your boys are fair game.”

He’d hung up on her, spine turning to ice water, fingers gripping the phone so hard he was amazed he didn’t crush the thing.

He’d never thought… He’d never thought….

He’d taken off immediately, explaining nothing to the boys, less to Bobby. Something’s just come up and I need to take off...A friend of mine needs some help....

The lies he’d told his sons haunted him as he put Sulphur Springs in his rearview and drove doggedly into the night...or the early morning. Time had lost all meaning to him as those fears and those doubts, the resignation and the terror he’d felt as he’d left Bobby’s, settled into a tight hard knot in his stomach, a dull reminder of why he’d taken off in the first place: He needed to protect his boys.

He’d had no idea what she was capable of – still had no idea – but the more he’d found out about the last few recorded deeds of Emma Collins the more he’d begun to fear for the lives of his sons. If she meant to harm them to get to him, then he needed to find her. To end her. Fast. Even if it meant sacrificing his own life to do it.

But it had been months since that day in South Dakota, since he’d walked out on his boys yet again; as he always seemed to be walking out on them. Dean, still looking like that scared four-year-old sitting on the hood of the Impala, while Sam fought back the inevitable petulant scowl, the “You’re leaving again?” that he had perfected so well as a kid.

And in all that time, he’d still found no trace of the girl who was threatening his family. Every time he thought he had a concrete lead, he hit a brick wall; every piece of confirmed intel nothing more than a red herring. He was starting to despair he’d ever track her down.

And she hadn’t called him again, not after Bobby’s, almost as if she’d found a far more entertaining way of drawing him to her: something more ingenious, more despicable, more fun than merely bating him over the phone.

His boys.

She’d found his boys.

And now he had to find her. He had to.

But his boys first. They were in trouble. He just knew it. Deep down inside, he just knew it.

And if she had them, if she had his boys? If she hurt them, if she so much as touched them? Then she’d rue the day she ever crossed John Winchester.


Plano, TX
Sometime later

John had no real clue where he was looking. He’d screeched into Plano a little over an hour ago, as if the Devil himself was on his tail.

And in John Winchester’s case? That might actually be the truth.

Forcing down the panic gripping his insides, he’d fallen back on his military training, quickly identifying a search grid and methodically checking every street, every nook, every cranny. His boys were here. Or they had been. He just had to be patient. He just had to be thorough. He’d find them.

He would find them.

He’d search every damn street in this town if he had to. Every house. Every room. Every square inch.

He almost knocked the holy water off the seat as he snatched his phone up from the place where he’d abandoned it after the last twenty times he’d tried calling Sam. Pulling it to his ear, he hit redial, not really expecting an answer and not really surprised when he didn’t get one.

“Damn it, Sammy, where the hell are you?”

He rolled down the window, needing the cold early morning air to keep him sharp, keep him focused, sucking in a breath as he prepared to disconnect the call…just as he heard music.

He didn’t recognize the song – anything later than 1983 and he didn’t have the first idea – but it was music. And he was driving at twenty miles per hour down a road on the outskirts of the town, the nearest house a mile away, the nearest car probably in the next town over.

He disconnected the call with his thumb, and the music stopped.

Slamming on the brakes, his headlights illuminated something dark and viscous in the middle of the road, and as he jumped out of the truck his insides lurched when he realized he was looking at a pool of blood congealing on the blacktop.

Hitting Sam’s number once again on his cellular, he pulled a flashlight out of his jacket pocket and began to shine it around the deserted road, distant music again drifting toward him on the early morning air.

“Sammy?”

John played the flashlight away from the pool of blood in the center of the road, following a trail that lead to a ditch running alongside the blacktop. He sucked in a breath, knees almost buckling out from under him as he took one shaky step toward the gully.

Don’t be there. Don’t be there.

As much as he needed to find his boys, he didn’t want to find them like this. Not like this.

He swallowed. Suck it up, Corporal! a voice in his head barked at him. Get your ass over there, right now, soldier!

One foot in front of the other, he made his way hesitantly to the side of the road, the flashlight finally illuminating a dark shape lying in the ditch, unmoving, twisted into an odd position.

He swallowed down bile, trying to keep it together, trying to be strong.

The flashlight played across something small, something glinting on top of the dark silhouette, and John frowned, almost glad of the distraction from the images his mind was creating of its own accord.

Struggling down the slope, his boots sliding a little on the damp ground as he hoped to hell he wasn’t skidding on blood, he came to an abrupt halt inches away from what was clearly a body. John had seen enough corpses in his time to know.

He took another breath before crouching down next to it, his flashlight slowly moving up the broken, bloodied torso to the face.

His son’s face.

“Sammy.”

His youngest was a mess, blood all over, limbs twisted in odd directions, his face a patchwork of bruises and cuts, the skin beneath tinged blue with cold. With…with….

No. His boy wasn’t dead. He just wasn’t.

But he was scared to touch him, scared to check for a pulse. Scared to confirm that worst case scenario making kaleidoscope pictures of white dots in front of his eyes.

He lost what little he’d eaten then, vomiting bile when there was nothing else left in his stomach; throat, eyes, lungs, heart burning.

“Sammy?”

He’d never seen his hand shake so much as it did when he reached out two fingers and gingerly placed them against his youngest’s neck.

Please, please, please… I’ll do anything. Anything. Just please, please….

Any strength remaining in his legs left him when he felt the weak, thready pulse beneath his fingers, and he collapsed to the cold ground with a noise somewhere between a choked sob and the keening wail of a dying animal.

“God, Sammy…”

Somehow, he crawled toward him, still scared to touch him, scared to move him, scared to think, scared to act. There was so much blood and…silver.

The thing he’d seen in the flashlight beam, the thing he’d seen glinting from the road. Bending further over his son’s prone form, John squinted in the darkness, fingers running carefully over his son’s chest until they closed on something cold, something silver; something ring-shaped.

He raised the object up for closer inspection, fearful he might puke again when he realized what he was looking at: Dean’s ring. And it was covered in blood. Sam’s blood? Dean’s blood? John didn’t know, couldn’t tell, and somehow that made things worse.

“Mmmm…”

Sam’s low moan somehow snapped John out of his paralysis, and he snatched up his cell once more, hitting 911 with trembling fingers.

“It’s okay, Sammy,” he whispered, one hand ghosting in his boy’s hair. “It’s gonna be okay.”


Abandoned house,
unknown location

Floorboards.

Old and dusty. Splintered in places. Moldy in others. Old carpet fibers stuck to protruding rusty nails.

Walls. Crumbling and dirty. Peeling paper and flaking plaster. Cobwebs all over.

Boarded up window.

Two exits. No door on either, just crooked frames.

Single pool of light from a bare bulb dangling from the cracked ceiling.

Light.

No more darkness.

No more Impala.

No more trunk.

He blinked, finishing his inventory of his surroundings as he turned his attention to himself.

Pain.

Everything hurt.

But he was breathing. And he was in a house. And he was seated. And his wrists and ankles hurt.

There was blood on his jeans. A new hole just above the knee where his leg had snagged on the trunk catch as she’d shoved him in.

No more trunk.

No more Sammy.

He almost choked on that thought, forcing it away, forcing it down.

Not true not true not true….

Paralysis.

Burnt by the amulet.

It knows what she is….

Pulling his ring from his finger.

“Be grateful I didn’t take the whole finger, lover.”

Unconsciousness.

“Go to sleep, baby. It’ll all be better when you wake up.”

He blinked.

This sure as hell didn’t look better.

Get a hold of yourself, Dean!

First things first.

He took another breath.

Okay, he was tied to a chair. Great. Never a good start to the day.

He struggled a little, the white hot pain suddenly shooting up his arms strangely making him grin like a loon. Yeah, it hurt like hell, but he could move. He could move. Not much, especially considering he was trussed up like a Christmas turkey. But at least he wasn’t paralyzed anymore.

He continued his self-assessment, flinching at the agony he felt in his fingers as he was assaulted by vivid images of his hands, bloody and raw, clawing at the lid of the Impala’s trunk. Desperate to get out, desperate to get to his brother.

His brother….

Not true not true….

At least that explained why his fingers stung like they were being gnawed on by a ravenous wendigo.

He tugged at his wrists again, barely stifling a whimper as new agony radiated up his arms. He couldn’t see behind him to where his hands had been twisted at his back, but judging by the copious amounts of baling twine twisted around his torso and his ankles, he was pretty sure that this was what he could feel biting into the already abused flesh at his wrists.

Bitch, he thought to himself, thoughts suddenly returning to Mia and stopping abruptly.

Don’t think. Don’t think.

Okay, rundown house, boards up at the window, filthy curtains, broken furniture… I’ve lived in worse places.

He sniffed cautiously. The place stank. Not just of old and abandoned but of something else. Blood. And death.

He shuddered involuntarily, hunter’s senses instantly on alert as he continued to assess his immediate surroundings. He’d been in a lot of haunted houses in his time. And this place? Well, there was certainly something not right about it, even if it wasn’t haunted. Couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He wasn’t sure if it was the smell or…something else.

Maybe it was the psychopathic half-demon shimmying through the open doorway toward him, a huge self-satisfied smile on her face.

“Glad someone’s having a good time,” he muttered, not quite making eye contact with her.

“Home sweet home, Dean!” Mia burst out, arms wide to indicate their surroundings. “Welcome to my homecoming party!”

Dean grimaced. “Figures a skank like you would live in a craphole like this.”

Mia giggled. She actually giggled. “I didn’t live here long, honey,” she told him. “Your daddy saw to that.”

Dean looked up at her sharply. “What the hell are you talking about, you skanky demon Bitch Queen from Bitchville –”

He narrowly avoided flinching when Mia’s fingers were suddenly pressed to his lips. And a knife was pressed to his throat.

She leaned down toward him, soft chestnut tresses brushing against his cheek. “That’s half-demon,” she reminded him, looking long into his eyes before abruptly straightening and pulling away again, the knife leaving a thin trail of blood across his neck as she withdrew it.

Dean gritted his teeth. “Well excuse me,” he ground out. “I’ll be sure they write that on your gravestone.”

Mia laughed sardonically. “Oh, I don’t think you’ll be around to see me buried, lover,” she told him. “But if you’ve got an epitaph in mind for yourself? Y’know, something punchy like ‘Here’s lies Dean Winchester: Sap.’”

Dean didn’t reply, merely plastered his most winning smile across his face and tried his best to pretend she wasn’t getting to him even a little bit. “So where the hell are we – no pun intended?” he asked at length. “You know, I’d have thought you might have brought me somewhere a little more classy for our first real date.”

“Don’t worry, baby, there’ll be candles and roaring firelight soon enough,” Mia told him. “Of course,” she added, running her fingers playfully across his chest, “it’s gonna be your flesh that’s burning.” She sighed dramatically. “It’ll be such a shame when I have to incinerate those adorable freckles of yours.”

She ran the back of her hand across his cheekbone, and Dean jerked away sharply. “Didn’t answer my question,” he pressed on.

“Why’s the sky blue? Where do bees go in the winter? Did little Sammy go splat when he got slammed by that huge frickin’ truck?”

Dean strained at his bindings, despite already suspecting the damage they were doing to his wrists. “Where. The hell. Are. We?” he demanded for the second time, lip curling at the half-demon in something approaching a snarl.

“Never figured you for the control freak type, Dean,” Mia snarked. “Thought that was more your brother’s thing. Still.” She shrugged. “It’s kinda poetic. This is where I was born. And it’s where you’re going to die.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “You were born here?”

“Fort Worth, Texas,” Mia confirmed. “Of course, the house was a little less –” she paused, searching for the right word, “– shabby back then. It’s been abandoned for years. Ever since…” She trailed off, a thoughtful expression flitting momentarily across her face. “Well. You know how it is. When something bad happens in a place. Upsets the karma or the chi or whatever. No one wants to live here. Bad vibes. People keep seeing things. Hearing screams in the middle of the night. You know, your kinda deal.”

“What happened here?” Dean asked slowly.

Mia wagged her finger at him. “Naughty naughty. Wouldn’t want to blow the ending for ya. Let’s just say this was my parents’ house.” She laughed hollowly. “Well, Emma’s parents’ house.”

Dean frowned. “Who the hell is Emma?”

Mia’s smile slipped and she drew one slender finger along the blade of the knife she still held. “Maybe we’ll ask your daddy when he gets here.”


Plano Medical Center,
Plano, TX

John rolled Dean’s silver ring between thick fingers, dried blood still clearly visible both inside and out. He sighed long and hard, the fingers of his other hand clutching at Sam’s wrist as the machines surrounding his youngest beeped out the symphony that indicated his boy continued to live.

He turned his attention to Sam’s pale face, relieved that he’d not required the ventilator, but a little confused as to how he could be breathing by himself when his chest had looked like it had been run over by a tank.

There were still tubes and wires attached to various parts of his son’s body, their presence perhaps more frightening to John than the bruising to the boy’s face and all over his bare torso and arms. He looked like he’d lost a fight with a wrecking ball.

John liked to think not much scared him, but he was never as scared as he was when one of his boys was hurt. He’d never forget the first time either of them got injured on a hunt – that sick feeling that welled up in his stomach, that voice in his head chiding him, “This is all your fault. You didn’t protect them!”

He certainly hadn’t protected Sammy, he reflected, his thumb rubbing gently over his son’s pale skin while his hand balled into a fist around Dean’s ring. Hadn’t protected Dean so good either, he told himself.

He forced back the tears prickling at his eyes as Sam suddenly groaned.

“Sammy?”

He straightened, fingers tightening unconsciously around his son’s wrist as reddened eyelids parted to reveal unfocused blue-green eyes.

“Dad?”

“I’m here. I’m here, son.” The relief was obvious in John’s voice as he leaned forward, further into his boy’s still limited field of vision.

“What…?” Sam slurred groggily, trying to raise a hand to his face, but only succeeding in lifting it half an inch off the hospital bed.

“It’s okay, Sam,” John told him confidently, despite his insides fluttering wildly. “You were…hurt. But you’re okay.”

Sam stared at him for a second before his eyes drifted shut…and then suddenly opened wide. “Dean!” he yelled, his shoulders lifting a good few inches off the bed before his father’s firm hands pushed him back down again. “Dad!” Sam continued to protest. “Dad, Dean – he was – and Mia – she –”

“I know, son, I know,” John said soothingly, not releasing his grip on Sam’s shoulders.

“But Dad she’s gonna kill him!” Sam continued frantically, eyes wild as he struggled against his father’s hands. “Dad, she’s gonna kill him! We gotta find him! We gotta –”

“Sam!” John interjected firmly. “Sammy, I know. I know. Okay? But we need to take care of you first, son.”

Sam blinked at him. “How – how can you know? Dad, she – she’s some kind of demon! And she’s got Dean! And she wouldn’t tell me what she’d done with him and – and…She – she paralyzed me somehow – I couldn’t move – and this truck – this truck just kept coming and –”

“I know, son.”

Sam took a breath. “How am I not dead?” he asked suddenly. “I should be dead.”

“You’re a miracle boy, Samuel James Winchester,” John told him, a tiny smile flickering at the corners of his mouth. “Or that’s what one of the nurses said.”

Sam frowned at him. “Dad. What’s goin’ on?”

John shrugged, a sigh parting his lips. “I don’t know, kiddo,” he said at length. “The docs don’t get it either. I mean – there was so much blood…” He trailed off, shaking his head, not insensible to Sam averting his gaze at his father’s uncharacteristic show of emotion. “Sammy, the ER doc who admitted you – swears up and down that when he performed his initial exam, you had a broken left leg, six broken ribs, a punctured lung and a fractured collarbone.”

Sam glanced down at his obviously uncast limb and wiggled his toes, before checking he could move his arms and shoulders and take a deep breath without any discomfort. “Then how…?”

John looked distinctly uncomfortable. “Maybe it’s a miracle,” he commented, shrugging his shoulders.

Sam snorted. “Yeah, because we Winchesters are always on the receiving end of miracles, right?” He shook his head, trying to figure another explanation… “Dean called me demonic,” he muttered suddenly, and John looked up at him, the frown deepening on his dark features.

“He what?”

“We were fighting – it was stupid. We both said some things…”

“You’re not demonic, Sam,” John assured him. “That’s not what this is.”

Sam met his father’s level gaze. “Then what is it?” he asked, his eyes almost pleading John to have an answer.

John didn’t reply, just turned his attention back to the ring still clutched in his hand.

Sam’s eyes widened when he caught sight of it. “Dad! Is that –?”

“She left it on you, Sam,” John confirmed, nodding. “The bitch left it on you. For me. So that I’d be able to see what she’d done, what she was capable of doing.”

“Dad,” Sam huffed as he tried to sit up a little, and John immediately moved to help him, catching him beneath the shoulder and propping him up on a hastily assembled stack of pillows at his back, all the while trying to ignore the fact that the bruises on his son’s chest seemed to be fading right in front of his eyes. “Dad, tell me what’s going on. Why’s she doing this? Mia. Why’s she after us? Why’s she after you?

John sighed heavily. “It’s a long story, son.”

“Then I think I better get comfortable.”

John held Sam’s stubborn gaze a while before finally shaking his head in resignation. He couldn’t protect his son from the truth any longer.

“It was 1985,” he began slowly, a sigh in every word. “Two years since we lost your mother. I was still a rookie as far as hunting went, didn’t really know what the hell I was doing…”


Fort Worth, TX
November 2nd, 1985

He was glad, in a way, that he wasn’t around his boys today. Today of all days. It had hit him hard last year, too hard, so hard he hadn’t even been able to look at Dean for most of the day. Couldn’t bear to see Mary’s eyes looking back at him. It wasn’t fair on the kid, he knew that, and he also knew that Dean might still have been a little kid this time last year, but he knew. He knew what day it was when November 2nd rolled around. Just as John knew he should have been there for him last year. But he wasn’t. He couldn’t be. Just as he hadn’t been there for Mary a year earlier.

This year, he’d abandoned Dean altogether. Him and Sammy both. He knew the boys were safer with Pastor Jim than they would be with him here, but that didn’t really make him feel any better about leaving them. Not today. Of all days.

Still, he reminded himself, it was better for all concerned that he was here lost in a hunt than there lost in a bottle of Jim Beam. Better for him, better for Sammy. And, he tried to convince himself, infinitely better for Dean. Dean didn’t need to see him that way, the way he’d seen him last year. He didn’t need to see that again. Not ever.

He sighed, readjusting his coat as he scrunched lower in the Impala’s front seat.

Better for all concerned that he was here, hunting.

Although he wasn’t entirely sure what he was hunting.

All Jefferson had been able to tell him was that he’d heard some noise about demonic activity in Fort Worth – electrical storms, cattle mutilations – typical signs of the presence of demons, just as Bobby had explained to him as part of the Demon 101 course the older hunter had insisted he take before he let him anywhere near a book of exorcisms.

At this point in his hunting career, John was pretty much tracking down anything that might be the bastard that killed Mary.

He glanced up through the windshield at the ordinary suburban house that would have looked right at home on their street back in Lawrence.

It had been an odd trail of strange happenings and whispered rumors that led John to the home of the Collins family.

They were the epitome of “normal,” completely ordinary in every way as far as John could tell. Dad worked security at the mall; Mom was a dental hygienist; and they had two small boys about Dean and Sam’s age.

Completely normal.

Problem was, demons seem to prey on “normal,” and it hadn’t taken much in the way of surveillance for John to figure out Mom was possessed. Two nights running she’d snuck out of the house just after midnight and disappeared into a building in a less than salubrious part of town.

John had tried to follow her inside on both occasions, but even though his lock picking skills were improving under the patient tutelage of Jefferson and Caleb, his knowledge of electronic security systems still left a lot to be desired.

Still, the oily film of black he’d seen ripple across Mom Collins’ eyes as she exited the building was all he really needed to know about her.

She was possessed. She had to be exorcised.

She was also heavily pregnant. Which was a problem.

Bobby had offered to come help him out if it turned out there was a demon stalking the suburbs of Fort Worth. But John had stubbornly declined the assist, informing his friend that he had to perform his first solo exorcism some time. Why not now?

Of course, that was before he knew about the baby.

He knew he should have called Bobby the second he found out, gotten some advice. Sure, he’d seen the grizzly hunter and Jim Murphy both perform exorcisms a whole bunch of times, but watching and doing were two completely different things, and he knew there was a hell of a lot more to it than just reading Latin from a book.

And he’d never seen a pregnant woman exorcised before.

Could he really banish the evil entity within her without hurting her or her baby? Could he risk destroying another family, leaving two little boys motherless? Today, of all days?

The light snapped off in the upstairs window, and John glanced at the time: 11.20pm. He pulled his coat tighter around him, wondering if he could squeeze in half an hour’s shuteye before Mrs. Collins went for another nocturnal wander.

Maybe that would be the best time to take her out – when she was away from the house and the boys – take her someplace quiet and get that damn evil thing out of her.

His eyes drooped shut before he was aware of it, his head lolling forward tiredly.

He came awake with a start as the Texas night was ripped asunder by the sound of a terrified scream.

A man’s scream.

John wasn’t sure why, but for some reason he glanced at the clock on the dash: 11.27pm. The exact time Mary’s scream had ripped him from his slumber in front of the TV, two years ago tonight.

No….

He leapt out of the car, sprinting across the road and hurdling the Collins’ garden gate, feet pounding up the pathway as another scream tore through the night.

“Daddy! No! Mommy please – please stop!”

It was the oldest boy. The one Dean’s age.

As John reached the front door, the boy’s screams stopped abruptly. And then the man stopped screaming too.

John paused for just an instant, the blood pounding in his ears.

No sound could be heard from inside the house.

Not until he heard…laughing.

Rearing up on one leg, he kicked hard at the door, the wood splintering beneath his boot as the smell of blood and death assaulted his nostrils.

He almost gagged, almost turned and ran away, but the thought of those two little boys – same age as Sam and Dean – made him muster the courage to hold firm and enter the house.

Two years of hunting hadn’t even remotely prepared him for what he saw.

There was blood everywhere, blood and lumps of flesh; muscle, sinew. Bone. Internal organs. Strewn everywhere, all around the room. The eviscerated remains of what had once been Vincent Collins were a bloody heap in the center of the family room, and the little boys…the little boys….

John blinked hard, trying not to picture the faces of his own sons on the broken little bodies lying amidst the scattered remains of their father; two broken shells lain at their mother’s feet.

And it was she who was laughing.

Emmaline Collins surveyed the devastation wrought by her own two hands with something akin to glee, black eyes flashing joyously as bloodstained fingers smeared pieces of her family across her face.

She laughed maniacally, obsidian eyes coming to rest on John Winchester, who stood frozen in horror, silhouetted by the moonlight streaming in through the broken doorway.

“You’ve been following me,” Emmaline – no, John reminded himself, the thing inside Emmaline – commented. “What can I do for you, John Winchester?”

John baulked. It knew him. The thing knew him.

“Why?” was all he managed to ask, even as his fingers fumbled for the bottle of holy water in his coat pocket.

Emmaline shrugged. “Why not? Family only ties you down. Doesn’t it John?” She took a step toward him, casually licking blood from her index finger. “Where are your little boys tonight, John? How safe do you think they are?”

The blood in John’s veins turned to ice water, and for a second he was completely incapable of any rational thought.

Then the fury hit him, and before he really knew what he was doing, he was dousing the screaming woman with holy water and shoving her backwards into a dining chair positioned further into the room.

Emmaline didn’t fight him, and the demon within her barely protested as he pulled a coil of rope from his duffle and proceeded to tie the woman to the chair.

He’d expected more of a struggle, remembering Bobby’s talk about protective circles and devil’s traps and other tricks of the hunter’s trade usually necessary to subdue a demon.

But whether it was the holy water, or the simple fact of the host’s pregnancy, or something else entirely, this particular demon seemed to offer little resistance, the smile still dancing across Emmaline Collins’ bloodied face as John fumbled for the well-worn book in his pocket, trembling fingers hastily searching for the Latin ritual inside.

“Exorcizámus te, omnis immúnde spíritus, omni satánica potéstas...”

“Go ahead, Johnny,” the demon encouraged him. “Do your worst. I already got what I came for.”

John paused, momentarily distracted from the Latin. “What do you –?”

“...Omnis incúrsio infernális adversárii, omnis légio, omnis congregátio et secta diabolica...” the demon continued for him. “Come on, Johnny. Don’t keep a demon waiting!”

John wiped sweat from his brow, resuming his chant uncertainly. “...In – in nómini et virtúte Dómini nostri Jesu Christi, eradicáre et effugáre a Dei Ecclésia, ab animábus ad imáginem Dei cónditis ac pretióso divíni Agni sánguini redémptis...”

The woman – or was it the demon inside her? – groaned, her head thrown back in obvious agony as John continued to chant the Latin from the pages of the little book, glancing up at her between sentences as she writhed and bucked against the ropes binding her to the chair.

“Ab insídiis diáboli, libera nos, Dómine,” he continued, trying to remember to breathe. “Ut Ecclésiam tuam secúra tibi fácias libertáte servire, te rogámus, audi nos...”

He glanced at the woman, swallowing hard as he swore he saw the shape of a baby’s foot kicking out from its mother’s stomach.

“Ut inimícus sanctæ Ecclésiae humiliáre dignéris, te rogámus, audi nos.”

Emmaline Collins threw back her head and screamed black smoke, screamed until her throat was raw and she could scream no more, her stomach jumping as the baby kicked harder against her.

And then she stopped. Everything stopped.

John drew in a breath, barely daring to move.

The woman had slumped against her bindings, eyes closed, a single trail of blood running down her chin from her mouth.

The demon was expelled.

John rushed to her side, anxiously checking for a pulse and blowing out a long-held breath when he found one.

He’d saved her. He’d saved her. And he’d saved her baby.

It was then that she started to moan, bloodied hands clutching at her stomach, breath coming in short hard pants. “Coming…” she breathed. “She’s coming…”

No. No! Not now! Not when he was so close to saving them!

“She’s coming!” The woman turned dark brown eyes up to his, pleading, begging. “Help me. Please help me!”

Scanning the room around him, he spotted a phone on the wall in the adjoining kitchen, rushing over to it and dialing 911 urgently.

“Yes. Ambulance. Right now!”

Reciting the street address before hanging up even as the dispatcher was still talking to him, John rushed back to Emmaline’s side, pulling out his pocket knife and slicing through the ropes. She collapsed forward and he caught her awkwardly, lowering her gently to the floor even as he grimaced at the blood everywhere beneath her.

She caught hold of his hand, smearing her children’s blood onto his skin. “Please. My daughter. Please, save my daughter!” There was horror in her eyes, horror and revulsion and John knew that she’d been aware of what was happening, of what her own hands had done to her husband, her boys.

“I’m going to help you,” he promised, stroking her hair gently. “The paramedics are on they’re way. You’re going to be fine. Your baby’s going to be fine.”

“Please! Please – it’s – my daughter – if she – if she…” She broke off, tears streaming down her face as she closed her eyes tightly and shook her head. “Monster,” she whispered. “Monster.”

She screamed anew as contractions hit her, and John looked around himself helplessly – at the blood and the remnants of the bodies, and this woman, this pregnant woman, lying here at his feet, blood on her face and her hands and in her hair.

He’d never be able to explain all this.

When the paramedics arrived – and the cops. When the cops arrived. How was he going to explain this? He’d left Lawrence under a cloud – CPS on his tail and the cops still wary of his involvement in Mary’s death. How the hell was he going to explain showing up two years later to the day in Fort Worth Texas, the bodies of a father and his two sons in pieces all around him?

He’d be arrested in a heartbeat. He’d be arrested, and charged with triple homicide and thrown in jail forever and his boys… What would happen to his boys? They’d be alone. They’d be defenseless. He couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t. He had to put them first. He had to.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered to the young woman lying in front of him. “I’m sorry.”

He let go of her hand and it fell limply to the blood-soaked floor. Her face had drained of all color, her eyes squeezed shut. She didn’t see him anymore.

“I’m sorry.”

He rose to his feet, backing away from her even as he heard the distant wail of sirens, finally turning and running for the Impala, only stopping when he was inside, the engine running.

He got four blocks before he turned the car around and drove back.

There were two ambulances and three cop cars parked outside the Collins house, boys and girls in blue erecting sawhorses across the street, stringing them with yellow police tape.

After a few minutes of waiting, a young paramedic brought a bundle out of the house wrapped up in silver blankets.

The paramedic was trembling, his face as white as Emmaline Collins’ had been.

But John heard the sound of a baby’s wailing and a part of him almost cried with relief.

He’d save her. He’d saved the baby.

He watched as she was carried into one of the waiting ambulances, the sirens sounding and the lights flashing as the vehicle sped away down the street.

He sat there a long time after, watching, waiting. More marked patrol cruisers showed up; a couple of unmarked detectives’ cars.

And the County Coroner’s van.

He bit his lip as he counted four body bags being carried from the house.

He’d saved her baby. But he hadn’t saved Emmaline. He hadn’t saved her husband. And he hadn’t saved her boys.


Blue Earth, MN
November 3rd, 1985

John pulled the Impala to a gradual stop in front of Pastor Jim Murphy’s house, shutting off the engine and for a second just staring up at one of the darkened second story windows.

His boys were behind that curtain. Safe and whole and alive. All he had to do was get out of the car and go upstairs to them.

But he couldn’t move.

He could barely even breathe.

“That bad, huh?”

John started at the insistent rap on the window, rolling it down hurriedly as Jim Murphy leaned in toward him.

“How are they?” he asked, always his first question when he’d been gone any length of time.

Jim sighed. “They missed you. They always miss you. You should come inside.”

“They’ll be sleeping.”

“You should come inside, John.”

John recognized the steely tone in his friend’s voice, and he sat up a little straighter. “I shouldn’t…” He looked up into Jim’s sympathetic blue eyes. “Maybe I shouldn’t bring this home to them. It’s not fair on them. This life. They deserve more. They – they could get hurt. I could get them hurt. I could hurt them –”

“Whatever happened in Texas wasn’t your fault, John.”

John blinked up at him. “How did you…?”

The pastor shrugged. “Don’t have to be psychic to know that story didn’t have a happy ending.”

John shook his head, gripping the steering wheel tightly. “I could have saved them, Jim. I should have saved them. That little girl – she’s an orphan now. If I’d done something differently, if I’d moved on them sooner, if I’d –”

“Did you do your best?

“What I thought was best, yes.”

“Then that’s all anyone can ask of you.”

John didn’t reply, just rested his forehead against the steering wheel.

“Go see your boys, John.”

* * * *

Sammy was snoring softly as John entered the boys’ bedroom. He figured the kid would probably snore like a freight train by the time he was ten. Dean would probably never sleep again.

Bending over his youngest, he ran gentle fingers through his mass of curls, softly kissing him on the forehead before straightening. “’Night, Sammy,” he muttered quietly, gaze lingering a little longer on the toddler. “You have sweet dreams now.”

“Daddy?” Dean’s voice sounded across the darkened room, still half asleep, obviously unsure whether he was dreaming.

The boy sat up, rubbing sleep out of his eyes, and as John approached his bed he must have realized he wasn’t dreaming and his dad really was there, because his face lit up with an incandescent smile. “Daddy – you’re home!”

John perched himself on the edge of Dean’s bed, running his thumb along the boy’s cheek before pulling him in for a hug. “Yeah, kiddo. Told you I wouldn’t be gone long.”

Dean pulled away a little, squinting up at him as his expression altered slightly. “You okay, Daddy?” he asked. “Nothing hurt you, right? The bad things? The bad things didn’t hurt you?”

“No, no,” John assured him, gently planting a kiss on the top of his boy’s head. “I’m fine, little man. Nothing for you to worry about. Now go back to sleep.”

Dean pulled away again, looking up into his dad’s eyes, and John knew the boy could sense something was wrong. “Daddy?”

John drew in a breath. “Long day is all, kiddo. Long day.”

“Did you kill the bad thing?”

John nodded. “Yeah. Sort of. I think so.”

“And you saved some people from the bad thing?”

John considered that for a long moment, looking away from his son and lowering his eyes. “I saved a little girl,” he said at length. “She was the only one I could save.”

He felt a small hand clutching at his shoulder, and glanced back up to see his boy looking at him with Mary’s eyes. “Then it’s okay, Dad,” he said firmly. “If you saved someone. It’s okay.”


Plano Medical Center,
Plano, TX
Present day

“The baby,” Sam said slowly, a look of horror creeping across his face. “The baby you saved. That was Mia?”

John couldn’t look at him as he nodded in the affirmative. “I thought – I thought I saved her, Sam. I thought I saved a life that night.”

Sam swallowed, placing a gentle hand on his father’s shoulder. “You did, Dad. You did the best you could for her.”

John looked up at him, expression pinched and eyes dark. “My best wasn’t enough, Sammy. I thought she was okay. I mean, a couple years later, next time I was passing through Fort Worth, I tracked her down to her grandparents’ house – her mom’s parents. She – she seemed like a normal, happy little kid. I watched her playing on their front lawn – she was giving her dolls a tea party or some dumb little girl thing. Laughing, singing. I – I saw the birthmark on her shoulder. That’s how I knew – when you were describing her…” He trailed off, and Sam nodded.

“I wondered if it meant something. Like – like she’d been marked by something – maybe one of the demons trying to possess her.” Sam stopped. “Except, they weren’t actually trying to possess her, were they?”

John shook his head. “I don’t know what it means, Sam. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. I spoke to a couple of the neighbors. She was an ordinary kid, they were an ordinary family. I figured she’d dodged a bullet and was fine.” He sighed heavily, running thick fingers through his hair and down his beard. “But now…” He met Sam’s questioning gaze with a look of distressed anguish that aged his features by about twenty years, shoulders sagging under the weight of his little portion of the world. “Sam, I thought I was saving her but – but I think – I think I brought something bad into this world, Sammy. Something worse than bad. Something demonic. A hybrid. I don’t think I exorcised that demon. I don’t think it ever left her mother.”

“Dad –”

“I caused it, Sam. I created her. The demon – it fused with her somehow. She was what it wanted all along. And it’s my fault. It’s my fault she hurt you – it’s my fault she has Dean. And if she hurts him, if she – if she…” He trailed off, unable to finish the sentence. “Sam, if she hurts your brother, it’ll be my fault. It’ll be my fault and I’ll never forgive myself.”


Abandoned house,
Fort Worth, TX

“I don’t get it,” Dean said, squinting up at Mia as she hovered over him, the knife still clutched menacingly in her hand.

“Bet that happens a lot, don’t it?” Mia commented, running the tip of the blade along his scalp as if she were running her fingers through his hair. “Huh, Barbie?”

Dean scowled at her but didn’t rise to the bait. “Why my dad?” he demanded instead. “What’d he ever do to you?”

Mia’s face was suddenly inches from his own and he jerked back instinctively.

“You want me to tell you a story, Dean?” she breathed into his ear, the tip of her tongue grazing his earlobe. “Well let’s start at the end, shall we?”

She pulled away from him, straightening, fingers toying with the blade in her hands as Dean’s eyes followed the movement warily.

“You know your precious baby brother’s dead, right?” she told him, obvious glee radiating from her voice.

Dean somehow managed to fix her with a steely glare, barely any emotion showing on his face even as his blood pounded loud in his ears and the room began to swim a little before his eyes.

Mia’s smile twitched. “Pretty stoic, Dean. I’m impressed. Not so impressed by little Sammy, though. Those craptastic ‘powers’ of his? Wow, what a letdown! Couldn’t even move outta the way of that truck with I whammied him! Lemme tell ya, that was one helluva mess he made on that guy’s windshield. Worse than a whole swarm o’ bugs! Guy’ll be scraping bits o’ Sammy off o’ there for months.”

Dean continued to gaze at her levelly, wrists straining at the twine which continued to bite into his flesh, his own blood making an insistent drip-drip-dripping noise as it hit the floorboards behind him.

Mia’s grin widened. “You know what I did then, baby?” she asked, bending forward and running the tip of the knife from his knee up along his thigh until his mask of controlled indifference finally slipped a little. “I left him there. All alone. To bleed to death.” Smiling at him, she pushed the blade through the denim of his jeans and he had to force himself not to flinch as the tip found first skin then muscle. He sucked in a breath and gritted his teeth, refusing to take his eyes off her as she pulled the knife back out. “Just a little love bite, honey,” she told him. “Nothing compared to what I’m going to do to you. What I did to little Sammy –”

“Goddammit, you bitch –!” Dean hissed, and Mia just smiled at him serenely.

“Poor little Sammy. All messed up and bloody by the side of the road. Left him in a ditch, miles away from anywhere. I doubt anyone’ll find his rotting, putrid corpse for weeks –”

“I’m gonna kill you –” Dean swore menacingly, all pretence at calm stoicism evaporating.

“Be sure to let me know how that works out for ya,” Mia taunted. “’Cause from where I’m standing, I’d say the odds are pretty much on my side, babe.” She pressed the tip of the knife just below his eye, relishing the way his whole body stiffened in response. “Oh, Dean,” she sighed, running the blade down the side of his face. “Don’t you get it? It’s you who’s going to die here, sugar. Just like Sam. All alone. Bleeding to death in a ditch. Your story’s gonna end just like his, Dean. I’m only keeping you around till Daddy shows up.”

“He’s not gonna fall for this,” Dean snapped.

“Oh, ’cause he’s the uber-hunter, right?” Mia hazarded. “So very, very smart.”

Dean smirked at her. “You bet your slutty ass he is.”

“Ooh, pot, kettle, Dean. Better take a good look at yourself before you go calling anyone a slut. That’s probably the real reason you don’t think Daddy’s gonna come charging in on his white horse to save you, right? ’Cause you’re not worth saving?”

When Dean didn’t respond, she continued, “You know, in hindsight, you’re probably right. Johnny might have made more of an effort to save Sam. But he’s not half as much fun to play with as you are, baby. I only needed one of you after all. One down, two to go. As soon as John gets here, you’re history. Just like Sammy. This is where your story ends, Dean. Right here where mine began. Poetic justice. Time for me to get a little revenge, a little retribution.” She bent down close to him, a hand on each of his knees as she gazed deep into his eyes. “This is it, Dean. This is the place where your family dies. Just like mine. Because you know what’s gonna happen next, Dean? I’m going to wipe the Winchesters off the face of the earth…”

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The Winchester Chronicles

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