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13 August 2009 @ 02:09 pm
Not An Ounce of Peace  
The stars were bright and shining in the night sky as Dean drove the Impala over the Tennessee state line. He had Led Zeppelin III blaring, tapes he’d picked up at a yard sale in Tulsa when Sam had still been in California, and his leather jacket still smelled faintly of the smoke and gasoline from the graveyard fire in Kentucky. It had been a fairly routine salt and burn, the ghost of an angry old hoodoo witch lady, but they’d been happy to hit the road, even in the middle of the night. Hoodoo wasn’t something they liked to mess with, not if they were planning on staying in the area.

With Jimmy Page on the guitar and Sammy mostly asleep in the passenger seat and his baby purring under him, it was almost perfect. It was easy to imagine, Dean though, that none of it had ever happened. It was easy to pretend he had never been to Hell, that there were no angels, that Sam hadn’t had this weird, intense distance since he came back. He was quiet and didn’t talk about what happened while Dean was dead, but he didn’t like Dean out of his sight for very long. He didn’t say anything, but Dean wasn’t a big brother for nothing. He saw how Sam got twitchy when Dean was out all night and how he came up with excuses to get Dean into the library, researching with him and even more excuses to follow Dean out to the bars, when Dean did go.

Dean blinked and shook off the sleep creeping around the edges of his mind. He took a long sip of the crappy truck stop coffee they’d grabbed outside Russellville and watched the faint lights of Guthrie wink past the Impala’s windshield. The coffee was dark and bitter, but it did its job. He wasn’t exactly interested in sleeping and it wasn’t just his desire to drop the hoodoo ghost far behind them. It wasn’t even the nightmares of Hell, the memories of having his own living flesh flayed off his bones and of disemboweling and burning and torturing others. When the nightmares receded, on the mornings when he didn’t wake up with his throat raw and dry from hours of silent screaming, he woke up with fractured dreams, partially remembered images of Sam’s face and his own hands and, sometimes, the flash of a knife or the sound of a cocked pistol, and, always, a wild rush of adrenaline and emotions Dean didn’t want to name.

Shaking himself again as they blew past the Welcome to Tennessee sign and into the relatively bright lights of Clarksville, Dean smiled a little bitterly to himself. It was just typical of his dysfunction, of their little Winchester dysfunctional life, that he would be more worried, more bothered by strange dreams of his brother than of flashbacks of pain and suffering and endless death. He snorted. They were quite a pair: a killer, one who knew how to revel in the bloodsports of the damned, and Sam, idealistic, still, despite being fed the blood of a demon. Dean shuddered at the thought. He didn’t like the idea that, even at the age of four, he couldn’t save his Sammy from a demon.

Sam snuffled and made a low noise in his sleep. Dean reached over and pulled a flannel shirt over him like a blanket. Sam leaned into the warmth of Dean’s hand and quieted. Comforted by the rhythmic breathing of his brother and the purr of the Impala’s engine, Dean hit the gas. They had a ways to go before Dean would take his turn to sleep and let Sam behind the wheel.

*

Dean belched contentedly and Sam made a disgusted noise from the passenger seat. Dean couldn’t bring himself to really care about Sam’s disapproval. The day, foully sunny and warm as a Tennessee winter could offer, was finally looking up. He pulled out of the greasy spoon’s unpaved parking lot and back out onto Route 40, finally feeling ready to face the day.

He’d woken up from one of his strange dreams, with broken memories of Sam sliding through his head, to the sight of Sam’s concerned face. He’d been making so much noise in his sleep that Sam had pulled off the highway and woken him up, but Dean couldn’t remember anything about his dreams except that it had been Sam. Sam had watched him, his worried face making Dean uncomfortable in his own skin, and after deciding that Dean wasn’t dying, Sam had pulled them back onto the highway. Dean had watched the Tennessee landscape without really seeing it, trying to remember the dreams that were already gone. He could only really remember what he felt and that didn’t make him any happier about the situation.

They’d stopped at a donut shop just south of Charlotte. After filling up on strong, black coffee and greasy fried dough, Dean had taken the wheel. Sam had dozed in the passenger seat until Dean pulled onto Route 40, but Dean wasn’t any happier. The strange dream clung to the edges of his mind, making him feel fuzzy and unreal. When Sam woke up and the sun stopped blinding Dean quite as badly, he put on a new tape. They rode on to the sound of Brian Johnson howling about being back in black to the wail of improbably loud guitars and Dean felt a little more at home.

Dean kept on, south and west down Route 40. They didn’t have a case ahead of them yet, except for the knowledge that if they kept going, eventually they’d find something. They were passing near Jackson and Dean was debating whether or not to tell Sam to dig out another tape from under his seat when Sam told him to take the next exit.

“What, you’re hungry already?” Dean asked, already pulling off the highway. “I know you’re a growing boy, but we just had breakfast.”

“I came through here before, back - over the summer,” Sam said, stumbling a little over his words. “With Ruby.”

“Oh, dude.” Dean made a disgusted face, carefully not looking at Sam’s face. “We are not stopping so that you can relive your little sexcapades. I do not do this to you, ever.”

“Shut up. Turn here, down here.” Sam’s voice was surprisingly short and sharp.

“You want to tell me where we’re going?” Dean eased the Impala down the narrow city streets, curious, but trusting Sam to know what he was doing.

“There’s a little antique store here. It’s not much, but they get things passing through sometimes. I asked them to e-mail me if anything useful came in. You know, useful.”

“I am here. I got out of Hell. You don’t need that anymore.” Dean was more than conscious of the hand print branded on his shoulder, more than aware of what it had taken to be pulled from the burning Pit. He would never tell Sam, could never tell Sam, but he was relieved that Sam had never seen him like that, had never seen him in Hell, standing over the wailing bodies of the damned, had never seen his big brother as a torturer, never saw how Dean walked the path of becoming a demon. Sam didn’t need to see that and Dean would do anything in his power from ever seeing Sam go down that road himself.

Sam rolled his eyes. “If we’re going to be fighting demons, we need more than we’ve got. Caleb used to pick things up through these people; they’re at least halfway trustworthy. Bobby says Brodbeck and Caleb grew up together. Anyway, they’ve got some old school talismans.”

“We don’t need any hoodoo magic,” Dean told him. “We’ve managed to get this far without it.”

“Yeah, with the help of a crossroads demon and your own personal angel. Pull over here.” Sam motioned to a narrow lot by a low building, shaded by live oaks and a couple of beech trees wrapped in green kudzu.

Dean pulled into the parking lot. “And how are we going to pay for it, anyway?”

“You’re not the only one who knows how to hustle,” Sam told him, getting out of the Impala. “Besides, the shop owners might owe me a favor or two.”

Dean followed him the to low brick building. The sign by the door read, “Brodbeck’s Antiques and Sundries,” in scrolling black letters and there were some heavy, expensive looking tables and chairs in the window. They had passed by Jackson countless times in their lives, and a thousand similar, nameless towns and little cities besides, but he couldn’t ever remember stopping at any place like this.

Sam walked through the store, past the tables and chairs and paintings and fireplace screens that were tastefully arranged, until he reached the counter in the back. “Aaron is expecting me,” he told the young woman behind the counter. “Tell him Sam is here.”

She looked at him warily, eying his worn out, second hand clothes and messy hair with care, but knocked on the door behind her anyway. “Mr. Brodbeck? There’s someone here to see you.”

Sam frowned when he saw Brodbeck, but Dean scowled. He was a oily looking man, smaller than him or Sam, but broader. He was older and balding and Dean was pretty sure he didn’t want to know how he managed to convey the concept of greasy, unwashed hair when there wasn’t all that much hair on his head. His clothes matched the store, fancier and nicer than anything Dean had ever worn, but Dean would bet that he and Sam were more honest than Brodbeck.

Brodbeck smiled when he saw Sam. “Sam Winchester, it is good to see you again. Oh, and who is this? You brought a friend with you?”

Dean stepped closer to Sam, not liking how the man was eying his little brother like a piece of meat. Sam’s frown deepened and he suggested, “Why don’t we just step into the back room? I think we’ll all be a bit more comfortable there.”

Dean stepped in front of him to get between Sam and Brodbeck and followed the man into the cramped back room of the shop. The room was the same as Dean expected: cramped and dominated by an ancient wooden desk and crowded with books. Dean recognized many of the titles from Bobby’s library and Pastor Jim’s before that. Even if Dean didn’t trust him or enjoy the idea selling magical pieces on the black market, where any idiot could get his hands on any kind of cursed artifact, it looked like Brodbeck did know what he was doing.

“So, you’re a friend of Sam’s?” Brodbeck asked, his smile slick and unpleasant. “You’re nothing like that pretty little brunette he had last time. But I suppose tastes change, don’t they?”

Dean didn’t say anything, but he saw Sam’s jaw tighten. Dean fingers twitched at his waist, brushing against the Bowie knife he had tucked into his jeans.

“I’ve set aside Sam’s pretty piece already, can’t get quality like that every day, you know, but, oh, I have some nice things that might suit a companion of his.” Brodbeck reached into the chest on his desk and pulled out a fancy looking talisman, shining silver with handsome bronze scrollwork and quartz inlays. “You might find this to be useful, if you’re going to be spending an extended time with Sam here. Our Sam, he’s a dangerous man. Don’t want to leave you wandering about unprotected.”

Dean curled his lip in disgust as he looked over the piece, refraining carefully from touching it. “That piece of garbage? I’ll get more ‘protection’ from my Bowie knife. What the hell do you think you’re doing, selling a half-assed Goetian amulet to a supposed demon?”

“Oh, you’re no demon, son,” Brodbeck told him, his voice smooth as an oil slick. “If you were, you would have had the same problem his pretty little girlfriend did and you wouldn’t have made it into this room. But you’re smart, for a smooth faced greenhorn.”

“He’s my brother, Dean,” Sam said, choosing his words carefully.

Brodbeck started, his pale eyes going wide. “But you said - He’s dead. Your demon girl told me as much.”

“And now I’m not.” Dean grinned, baring his teeth and enjoying Brodbeck’s clear discomfort. “And ain’t that a fucking miracle?”

Sam smiled, something hard and feral. Dean saw Brodbeck’s face pale a little, knowing what Brodbeck would think, knowing how it looked: the hunter that opened Hell, in company with dead men and demons. It wouldn’t hurt, though, to keep Brodbeck a little on edge, a little scared. He reminded Dean a little too much of Bela to leave him comfortable.

“Why don’t you show me the amulet you e-mailed me about?” Sam asked sharply.

Brodbeck pulled an old lockbox from his desk, one marked with protective symbols. “Leland actually found this gem, off at an estate sale a couple weeks back. Was in the old missus’ jewelry collection, if you’ll believe it. We’ve got the rest of them up front, if you’d like to pick up something pretty for your girl. Diamonds never do go out of style.”

“Aaron,” Sam warned.

His hands shook minutely as he pulled the iron piece out of the box. It wasn’t much to look at: a small round disc inscribed deeply on both sides. “This is it. You usually don’t get pieces this old on this side of the Atlantic, but Leland and me, we figure it must have been in the family, maybe they brought it with them when they came over. Didn’t look like anything else they had, those ladies liked their pretty little pieces, so we looked into it. Powerful magic on this one and all protection. It’d take a damn powerful one a good, long time to turn this one against you, if they even could. It was Leland who said we should give it to you, that you could use it better than most of the usuals.”

Sam picked it up and weighed it in his hand. It looked heavy and broad, not like anything Dean had seen an old woman wear. “Is this as good as you say it is?”

“I wouldn’t lie to a paying customer,” Brodbeck said, a thin sheen of sweat glistening on his broad forehead. “You get what you come for at Brodbeck’s. Wouldn’t do you wrong, no sir, not with my clientele. Can’t afford that.”

“Does the book come with it?”

“That’ll be more. I mean, the book’s as old and rare as the piece itself, Sammy, my boy. I can hardly bear to part with it, got it from my own daddy, I did.”

“Aaron,” Sam warned again. “Remember why you contacted me.”

“You drive a hard bargain.” Brodbeck pulled a cracked, leather bound book from one of the overflowing shelves and slid it across the maple desk. “Here you go. Book and amulet for the agreed upon price.”

“And not a penny more.” Sam pulled his wallet from his pocket and counted out the bills. “If we find out that it isn’t real or that you’ve double crossed us…”

“I wouldn’t.” Brodbeck’s face grew serious as he took the money. “You learn that double crossing in this business is bad business all around. And, besides, double crossing over a debt isn’t exactly going to repay it, now is it?”

Dean frowned, looking from Brodbeck to Sam. “This your debt or this Leland’s?”

“Is there a difference? Blood’s blood and I don’t know anything worth a damn that can tell the difference. Leland holds the same.”

“Fair enough.” Dean waited for Sam to pocket the charm and the book, eying Brodbeck and the whole room with disgust. “Come on, we’re leaving.”

Dean was quiet as he drove along the edge of town and then onto a new highway, heading west. He kept the radio on low, a local classic rock station that was intermittent with static as they passed into rural Tennessee. Sam flipped through the book and compared the amulet to the detailed figures in the book. The sun was high in the sky, but Dean didn’t turn the music up to hear more than the murmuring wail of guitar riffs or pull off the road for a greasy spoon lunch.

“What the hell was that back there?” Dean finally asked, dropping the volume on the radio even further down.

“What?” Sam asked, trying his innocent Boy Scout face on Dean, like Dean hadn’t been the one to tell him he needed to use it on witnesses and cops more often.

“That thing you pulled with the sleazeball, where you just stood in the corner and glowered him into shutting the hell up.” Dean scowled at the road. He knew that Sam didn’t want to talk about what had happened when Dean was dead. In all honesty, Dean would have been happy enough to let sleeping dogs lie and never bring up those four months (forty years), but sometimes things need to be said. And Dean would rather face Hell and all its torture again than not know what was going on with Sam, not know if his little brother needed him.

“Dean…”

“Don’t you ‘Dean” me, Sammy. You gonna tell me what’s going on?”

“Last time we met, Brodbeck and I didn’t exactly… It wasn’t exactly pleasant.” Sam hesitated and looked out his window, like the dead tobacco fields held some kind of answer for him.

“Do you want to elaborate on that?”

“I’d saved his son’s life, I don’t know, three days before. But when he caught up to us, I was pretty drunk. And pretty mad.” Sam blinked, as though remembering that night. “It was the anniversary of Dad’s death…” He paused and stared out the window again, as though the Tennessee highway held the secrets of life and death. “I had been drinking… beer and then whiskey. It was a lucky thing Ruby was there. I was just as likely to throw punches as to let him talk, so Ruby did the talking for me. He wanted to thank me for saving Leland. She might have made me out to be a kind of powerful psychic. I think I might have threatened to shoot him in the head.”

“What?”

“Ruby was kind of pissed. Once he figured out she was a demon, he kept trying to sell her this cursed tiara since he said it couldn’t kill her. I think she wanted to scare him.”

Dean drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “Looks like it worked.”

Sam shrugged, clearly uncomfortable. “He said they owed me, that they would pay their debt to me somehow. I didn’t think that much of it.” He paused again for a long moment. “When I sobered up, Leland told me he was a psychic, a decent one, too. He said he’d find some way to repay me. I pretty much forgot about it until I got an e-mail yesterday. Brodbeck said he had this for me, that it would pay the debt.”

Dean was silent for a long moment as he passed a fourteen wheeler, the roar of engine louder than his thoughts. “You can trust him?”

“I think so,” Sam said in the low voice that told Dean he wanted the conversation to be over. “They both seemed to take the debt idea seriously. And I think Ruby terrified Aaron more than he wants to admit.”

Dean nodded and flipped on the tape deck. Robert Plant’s voice filled the car, telling them that he’d leave them when summer came.

*

They had continued heading west, the Impala weaving a little north and little south as the cases took them closer to the Mississippi River. Dean played his cock rock too loudly, but didn’t spend his nights out at the bars anymore. Dean tried not to think about his dreams or the fact that he always seemed to wake up to see Sam watching him. Sam spent his time in the passenger seat and in the diners trying to research Brodbeck’s charm, but he made little headway beyond the book. Early in the morning, when he picked up the newspaper at a gas station northeast of Koko, Sam found a case in Stuttgart, between Memphis and Little Rock, of a Baptist minister suddenly speaking in tongues.

It was unnerving, dealing with a case and high tension between them. Dean turned down the Zeppelin as soon as Sam read the article out loud, riding out of Memphis with the pewter amulet new and cold, catching the morning sunlight from where it rested in Sam’s hand. The minister was a good man and pillar of the community, according the Memphis Daily News. He stood up for his beliefs and helped the other members of Stuttgart get through life with prayer, hope, faith, and charity.

That night they’d pulled into Stuttgart, too late and too dark to help anyone or even look into anything; Dean had checked them into one of the last rooms at the motel. Sam had muttered something about a local duck calling festival as they hauled their duffels into the motel room, but Dean hadn’t really paid attention. He’d felt Sam’s eyes on him as much as they’d been on the road since they’d left the diner that afternoon, even though he’d barely said a word, even when they’d stopped for gas and soda along Interstate 79.

Sam sighed when they got into the room, decorated almost entirely with game birds: pheasants and ducks, mostly, and even the matching bedspreads had hunters and ducks on them. Sam dropped the weapons duffel on the low, brown table by the door and stretched his neck, cramped from a day in the Impala. Dean dropped their shared clothing bag onto the bed closest to the door and grabbed the remote, a sure signal that he was planning on staying in for the night. With a minister speaking in tongues, he didn’t need to go out. They were still pretty flush from a couple of pool games in Kentucky and most of their credit cards still seemed to be in the clear. What Dean really needed was a decent night’s sleep without strange dreams.

“What’d you say to pizza?” Dean asked, perching on the edge of the bed and searching for the Sci-Fi channel and their nighttime B-horror movie fests. “The guy behind the counter said that the local Pizza Hut delivers pretty cheap.”

“Pizza Hut always delivers cheap,” Sam told him, frowning as an overly muscled man on the television screen attacked a werewolf with a machete while someone else seemed to be covering him with rifle fire.

“Yeah, well, thought it’d be a treat for you, princess.”

“Hawaiian?” Sam pulled out his best gun, his Taurus pistol, to clean.

Dean groaned, just as Sam knew he would. “Oh come on, don’t give me that California put-fruit-on-your-pizza bullshit. Meatlovers, all the way.”

Sam pretended to gag. “Ugh. I do not want sausage and pepperoni on the same pizza.”

They argued amiably over what kind of pizza to get, just as they had since Dad had left them on their own in motel rooms around the country, before agreeing, as usual, on one pepperoni and one meatball and mushroom pizza. The argument, familiar as the open road and as comfortable as the Impala’s worn seats, was a succor in the tense air that had surrounded them since finding the case.

Dean tried to keep his eyes on the television screen, watching the bad werewolf movie with the hot chicks who couldn’t act, but he kept getting distracted, the motions of Sam cleaning his guns catching the corner of his eye. He almost wanted to leave and find a local bar, to pick up some blonde who hand never left Stuttgart, to relax, to just leave Sam alone. He wanted to tell himself that Sam would be fine in the motel alone, that Sam had been alone for months, but the thought bothered him. Sam hadn’t been fine; he hadn’t been fine, not Hell and not now. It was probably pretty creepy, but Dean liked to be able to keep his eyes on Sam and, from what he had seen, the feeling was more than mutual.

It was an unspoken bond, not talking about what happened over the summer anymore. They were both broken; both torn beyond belief, beyond repair. It was enough that they had each other again. Dean could find his way back to the straight and narrow on his own, could leave Hell behind or at least, that’s what Dean figured Sam was thinking. The angels didn’t look like they were going to help him on that score. They seemed to have their own problems and their own overriding agenda.

Dean didn’t know what to say to Sam or even if he should say anything about Hell at all. Sure, Sam had been dead for a couple of days, but he didn’t remember it, not like Dean did. Maybe that made demons more merciful than angels, Dean dared to think sometimes. When Castiel tore Dean from the fiery pits, he didn’t give him any balm, didn’t soothe him, didn’t save anything but his soul. When the red eyed crossroads demon pulled Sam from death into life, he hadn’t even known that he’d ever been dead. The more time he spent back on earth, the more time he had to remember the souls he had destroyed and torn into pieces, the more he realised what a gift that was. There wasn’t anywhere Sam could have been but hell; he didn’t entertain hopes of a heaven awaiting them, not even his baby brother. No, when they died, thieves at best and killers at worst, Dean knew all too well what would lay in wait for them.

Sam frowned, pulling Dean’s gun from the duffel, and began to dismantle it for cleaning. Dean turned up the volume on the television, as the werewolf movie ended and a new one began, one with the dubious name of Manos: The Hands of Fate, came on. Sam stretched out on the bed, relaxing his cramped legs, and kept half an eye on the television screen as a young family drove through what looked like Texan scrub country.

When the pizza finally arrived, a seemingly interminable amount of time later, Dean flirted a bit with the underaged pizza girl, complimenting her and grinning his come-and-get-me grin, despite the fact that she looked about seventeen and had pimples. It wasn’t worth it, not really, but he felt he had to do something other than stare at Sam all night, like he needed to remind himself that there was more to the world than him and Sam and angels and demons. He paid with some hustling cash from two states back and winked when she blushed. When Dean closed the door, Sam rolled his eyes and grabbed the pizza boxes out of his hands.

The night was quiet, for them. Dean jealously guarded the television remote, forcing Sam to watch the cycle of bad movies, until Sam pulled out his laptop and started to research the afflicted minister. Dean huffed at him at bit, but there was no real argument. The internet wasn’t very helpful, not even the pages and sites that usually came up with the most out there, crazy theories. It bothered Dean, just a bit, that the Internet seemed to be silent on the plight of Richard Lawley.

*

“Are you fucking serious?” Dean asked through a mouthful of Krispy Kreme doughnut as they drove toward Lawley’s church.

“What is it?” Sam looked up sharply from the morning newspaper he had spread out across the dashboard.

“Look at that. It’s a 1933 Chrysler Imperial in mint condition. And he’s actually driving it,” Dean said, his eyes firmly on the car in the other lane.

“At least we won’t be out of place, then?” Sam turned back to the newspaper, combing it for any useful information.

“It’s crazy,” Dean said. He turned the Impala into the parking lot behind the white washed church. “You shouldn’t be driving that. It should be in a show room or something. Fuck, how do you fill a beauty like that up?”

Sam studiously ignored him and kept his eyes trained on the newspaper.

Dean swallowed the end of the greasy doughnut and put the Impala in park. “So, do we have anything new? Or is it the same old, same old?”

Sam shook his head and folded up the newspaper, more neatly than he would have before Dean died. “More of the same. It’s not even that he’s having trouble with English, just that he is periodically speaking in tongues. They’re talking about bringing in some linguistics experts soon, but I think that’s just talk.”

“And talk’s cheap?” Dean asked. He still felt on edge, off kilter. Speaking in tongues was usually a sign of demonic possession, one of the classic signs really, even if most demons had the brains to avoid it. But after Hell broke loose and with Lilith out there, breaking the seals, no one really knew what kind of demons were out there. The ones who stayed in the Pit, who hadn’t left Hell in millennia, they might not know any different. And they were just the type to think it was funny to wind up a Baptist preacher and his parish by making him speak in tongues. “Come on. Let’s figure out what was going on.”

Dean headed toward the little church, comforted by the steady rhythm of Sam’s footfalls just behind his own. The church was simple and low, the same as they could find in any small city or big town throughout the Bible Belt. There was a sign on the front lawn reading, “Jesus died for your sins.” Dean wasn’t sure how many new parishioners they’d get with such a catchy slogan, but he bit his tongue and didn’t point it out to Sam. If they could finish the job the old fashioned way, no avenging angels, no friendly demons, no psychic whammy, he’d be happy enough.

“Reverend Lawley?” Sam asked, as they reached the church offices.

“Call me Richard,” the man said with a smile. “Can I help you? I don’t think I’ve seen you in the congregation.”

Lawley was a fair haired young man with a paunch. He was dressed in a pair of worn out jeans and a red sweatshirt. He hardly looked like Dean’s idea of a Baptist minister in Arkansas and certainly not like a demoniac. Life taught hard lessons, though, and one of those was that appearances were deceiving.

“We’d read about the miracles happening here,” Dean told him, doing his best to be both eager and innocent, even if that was usually Sam’s job. “We just had to come see.”

Lawley actually blushed. “The miracles?”

“We’ve read about them in the paper, back in Memphis.” Sam somehow looked like he believed they were miracles, like he still had faith. Dean pushed that hope to the back of his mind. “Your faith must be great.”

“Oh, it’s nothing to do with me,” Lawley told them, his cheeks still pink. “It is God who honours us with his gifts.”

“His gifts?” Dean asked.

“Dean!” Sam whispered, jabbing him in the ribs with a well placed elbow.

“Dean?” Lawley repeated, looking more closely at them. “Are you Dean Winchester?”

“Christo.”

Lawley simply smiled, a broad and honest grin. “You don’t have to fear any demons residing here. This is a place of faith.”

Dean could feel Sam getting tense beside him, could almost hear his muscles knotting in on themselves. “You’d be surprised.”

“I do believe that I’ve passed your test, however,” Lawley pointed out amiably.

“How do you know his name?” Sam asked, the faithful innocence gone from his voice, replaced by something cold and sharp.

“I -” Lawley caught himself short and paused for a moment, fiddling with the papers on the desk for a moment. “I suppose you’d be Sam Winchester? Yes. Well, then it wouldn’t be mad to tell you, now would it?” He looked up again, this time meeting their eyes. “You’ve seen the angels, too, haven’t you? They’ve talked about you.”

“Angels?”

“I am - was, I suppose, now - what they called a vessel. An angel, he needed a body, needed to enact some things on this earth.”

“And he just took you?” Sam questioned sharply.

Lawley shook his head, still smiling like he knew something they just couldn’t understand. “I wanted it. He came to me and I asked for it. There was no ill will.”

Sam and Dean exchanged a disbelieving look.

“It wasn’t a problem, I assure you. It was an honour and a gift to have a member of the heavenly host manifest himself inside me. It was such an intense experience, almost painful, but so beautiful. If you are concerned… well, it won’t be happening again. They have told me as much.”

“What?”

“He is gone. The other angels told me as much.” The minster shrugged and looked vaguely apologetic. “They told me that he wouldn’t be returning to me and that I should return to my church, that I should continue God’s work in my own life.”

“And that’s it?”

“If the angels want my help again, they know where to find me. Is there anything else I can do to help you?”

Dean looked at Sam who was looking as lost as he felt. “If something comes up, you can call us. You know a problem or something.”

Lawley smiled again. “Yes, I do know what you do, Dean Winchester. And let me extend the same offer, even if I normally deal with the more mundane issues of everyday life.”

*

Part Two
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