“Looks like they rolled out the welcoming committee for us, Sammy.” Dean throws the car into park, kills the engine but leaves the headlights on.
The witch stands in front of the church door, shadow cast hugely behind him, the light sinking into his black clerical coat. He’s got the face of an angel, sweet and open like something out of a Botticelli painting, a mop of dark hair and a full mouth. A rag-tag crew of a dozen or so flank him in formation, housewives and homeless people, a vacant-looking postal worker and some sorta executive, judging from the cut of her business suit. Their eyes are inky black and they’re rocking side to side in unison.
“The priest is controlling them,” Sam points out, wipes his brother’s come off of his chin and smears it on Dean’s jeans, then takes a shot of whiskey to wash his mouth out. He’d needed to mark the car, make it their territory again, counts the minutes until Dean has the chance to return the favor.
“That’s a neat trick. Why didn’t we ever come up with that trick?”
“We were too busy taking them out, I think,” Sam answers.
Dean sighs happily. A platoon of demons before them awaiting certain destruction, and leave it to Sam’s brother to be content. “If I had to do it over…”
“You wouldn’t change a thing.”
Baring his teeth in a screwed up parody of a grin, Dean says, “I mighta done it slower.” He snaps open the holster strapped to his thigh and tests the edge of his knife. “You ready?”
The demons charge in as one entity, mindless and obedient, and before Sam gets twenty words into the Roman ritual, Dean has already laid two of them low. Sam wades into the mess, breaks three wrists and snaps one neck when the latin doesn’t work. The mailman comes in a little too close, almost takes out one of Sam’s eyes with a vicious swipe of a clawed hand, but Sam stays calm. He’s already dead. Dean’s already dead, and that’s sorta the epitome of nothing left to lose. All the rest of this is merely a formality, a means to what hopefully will prove to be the end.
Dean’s spouting nonsense, words that are all mixed up and muffled to Sam’s ears, don’t start to make sense until Dean’s fought his way to Sam’s side and covers Sam’s back with his own. The words untangle then. Enochian, stuttered and halting, because Dean’s never had a mind for rote memorization. He learns by touch, always wants to get his hands dirty.
Sam takes over where Dean left off, might fudge the middle some since it’s been a while, but it turns out that intent is enough to let him slide. All around them, people are puking black smoke laced with blue lightning, collapsing to the ground, limbs and necks and spines at wrong angles.
“I gotta say I’m disappointed, padre,” Dean says. The guy remains still as a statue in the doorway of his church, as if playing possum might get him out of the mess he’s stepped in. “Is that the best you got? That was barely a warm-up.”
“Wall fodder,” the priest says in a voice that’s light, a touch effeminate. “You didn’t actually think that I’d throw all my cards on the table from the start, did you?” He retreats to the shadows of the interior of the church.
“A priest with a pack of demons,” Dean deadpans. “I hate hypocrites.”
“But you’re a hypocrite,” Sam points out.
“Yeah, well. I hate it when other people are hypocrites.”
“And I hate churches. Nothing good ever happens when we end up inside of one.”
They stride down the center aisle, the echo of their footsteps bouncing off of the vaulted ceilings. The place is worn, ragged velveteen cushions on the rickety pews and that particular musty smell that old buildings get. The priest is nowhere to be seen and Dean kicks open the confessionals looking for him, knocks over a statue of the Virgin Mary and a downright appalling rip off of the Pieta that Sam thinks should have been put out of its misery ages ago and decides to let the guy come to them. Sam wanders over to the stand of votives and starts pinching the flames, the prayers of strangers extinguishing between his fingertips.
Dean moves on to the stained glass windows next, shooting them out one by one and trying to hit each saint between the eyes. He’s giddy at the sound of broken glass and giggling like a kid, beautiful like this.
“Not that one,” Sam says as Dean takes aim at St. Francis. “I sorta like that guy. Patron saint of animals and stowaways. Maybe the poor too. Can’t remember.”
Dean sniffs, gives Sam the fish eye but spares the saint. “Where do you think they keep the communion wine?” He stands in front of the dias and flings his arms up, a mirror to the crucifixion that hangs on the wall behind it, and for a few moments, Sam forgets they have a job to do, gets stuck on the curve of his back, how pretty Dean might look spread out on the white altar cloth, crushed flowers beneath him, how sweet it would be to lick the blood of Christ from his skin.
The smell of smoke interrupts Sam’s daydream. The priest emerges from one of the doors in the back corner of the church, swinging a golden censer from a chain. The smoke is sweet like frankincense, curls around his body and gathers behind him. It intensifies, becomes completely opaque, a faint fiery glow in the center of it pulsing like a heartbeat. The priest snaps his fingers and the thing solidifies into a tall humanoid shape, its skin the color of swirling grey ash. It towers above its maker at over six feet tall, and Sam finds himself looking into a set of eyes the same hazel as his own, recognizes the shape of his own shoulders, the same ski slope of a nose.
It runs past Sam and he can feel heat blasting from it, hotter than a well stoked stove, tackles Dean and sends him crashing into the pews, old wood splintering with a crack.
“I know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that you’re probably going for some sorta metaphor here, but you’ve gotta be kidding,” Sam says and tries to dodge the thing but it’s quick, hooks him with a roundhouse punch and tosses him on top of his brother in a tangle of arms and legs, sharp elbows and pointy knees.
“It was your blood,” the priest muses, looking his handiwork up and down. “The man I bought it from was a little shady. Good to know I got my money’s worth.”
“Fire monster,” Dean whispers, pushing at his brother and rolling out from beneath him.
“Ifrit?” Sam asks.
“That’s what I said,” Dean shoots back, and paws through the remains of the pew surrounding them, one eye on the beast as it slowly moves in.
“So I was murdered,” Sam says to the priest, matter-of-fact. “I’ve been wondering about that. But I know something you don’t know…”
“Please,” the priest says, “do tell.”
Dean takes Sam’s wrist, flattens his hand on the floor with his palm facing upward and mumbles a quick and unnecessary apology. He drives a nail through Sam’s hand with the butt of his knife, and the ifrit freezes, instantly passive.
Sam grits his teeth as Dean pulls the nail free, curls his hand against his chest and waits for the pain to fade. “We’re already dead,” he explains, “we can’t die again.”
“It’s a shame we can’t say the same thing about you,” Dean adds and pulls Sam to the center aisle.
With a nudge to his doppelganger's back, Sam says, “Go on. You know what to do.”
The ifrit dashes at the priest and doesn’t stop, wraps his arms around the man, skin rippling as it squeezes. The priest’s scream is muffled, choking. Smoke billows out in a thick cloud and when it clears, all that remains is pile of ash. Dean scatters it with his boot, rummages behind the altar and settles onto the steps leading up to the platform. He’s found the wine, loosens the cork with his teeth and spits it out.
Sam snatches the bottle from him and takes a long pull from it and wrinkles his nose. He’s a whiskey man, through and through. He can feel Hawthorne in the back of his head, a constant beckon now that the job’s done, an itch that’s barely out of reach. He shoves it even further back, surprised at how easy it is.
“Last night on earth,” Dean says.
“That line’s never really worked for you before.”
“Is it gonna work this time?”
“First time for everything.” Sam runs his hand up the inseam of Dean’s jeans, follows the curve of his thigh to his crotch. Dean’s wearing his maniac smile, teeth dug into his bottom lip, stained red from the wine. “But I think I figured it out. How to take the motherfucker down.”
“Oh, kiddo, I love it when you sweet talk me.”
“Mind the paint job. You have no idea how many people I had to fuck, maim or kill to get my hands on that thing. Hunters are cagey.” Hawthorne saunters toward them. His leg doesn’t hurt anymore, his limp is gone and all his aching bones have gone quiet. His face is whole, unscarred. Miracle of miracles. He’s going to take himself out later, get a manicure and a haircut, pick up a pretty young thing--or two or three--to fill up his bed.
His boys are worse for wear, blood everywhere and precious little of it their own. It’s soaked into their shoes and the cuffs of their jeans, splattered across their chests. There are fresh gashes across Sam’s face and it’s as if they’ve come out of the bad end of a slasher movie. Scratch that. The good end of a slasher movie.
Sam’s silently disobedient, staring at him with a single-minded intensity that causes Hawthorne’s skin to crawl. It’s another unforeseen consequence, like their increasing sentience since that very first night, as well as their surprising amount of free will. It’s loophole big enough to sail a cargo ship through. Perhaps it’s the sunrise, hazy and faintly red, the color of diluted blood. Perhaps it’s because they’ve finished what Hawthorne set out for them to do, or it’s possible that it’s been an act the whole time, a way for them to come back once a year to fuck and murder and fuck some more because they like to fuck and murder and fuck some more.
Anyway, Hawthorne knows when he’s screwed, and it looks a lot like this.
“Say the word, Sam. Tell me what to do,” Dean says. His mouth is slack, a dead man’s expression on his face. He flips the knife in his hand, blade to handle, blade to handle, blade to handle, spins the point of it on the tip of his finger like it’s some kind of psychopathic parlor trick. He takes one step forward, and it’s one nail in Hawthorne’s coffin.
“Stay right there,” Hawthorne commands and brings the full force of his will to bear. It’s no good, wasted breath. His control over them is draining quicker than a handful of water. He’s been wrong. So very wrong. Ask around and everyone says that Dean had been the dangerous one, short-fused and spoiling for a fight, the one that needed the choke chain. There’s some truth in that, sure, but Sam’s much more of a threat, so much more dangerous because he’s the one with his finger on his brother’s precarious hair-trigger. He’s the one with all the control.
Dean takes another step, bangs in another nail. “Fast or slow. Tell me,” Dean repeats.
Sam grins, and Hawthorne’s blood runs cold. He slides from the car and comes up behind Dean, hands wrapped possessively around Dean’s upper arms. He’s the angel and the devil on his brother’s shoulder, all wrapped up into one, whispering into his ear. “Hey Dean?”
Dean leans into him with a soft hum and a shaky smile, and it reminds Hawthorne of a junkie who’s finally gotten his first fix of the day. “Yeah, Sammy.”
Thanks for reading.