cri de cœur | chapter six

  • Jun. 19th, 2016 at 5:51 PM
kelleigh: (charleston - sweetgrass rose)



“What if we use that cleansing spell Garth sent us after he took care of that haunted beach house up in Maine?”

Sam shakes his head without looking up from his computer. “Not strong enough.”

“It worked back in Boulder,” Dean points out.

“That was one ghost, and it hadn’t been around as long as Emma. If she’s draining power from the other women she’s trapped, then she’s way too powerful for that spell.”

Dean thinks about it, then concedes, turning to the latest in a thick pile of books Sam wants him to go through.

They’re on a quest for a heavy-duty banishing spell, something that’ll take care of Emma once and for all. With no idea what became of Emma’s body, a salt and burn is out of the question. According to Irene, Emma may have left a good deal of herself behind in the nursery, anyway. The mental picture has Dean cringing.

They’ve been trading ideas since their first cups of coffee. Sam checked in with Edmond before getting down to business, relaying that Edmond planned on getting a few hours of sleep before coming over to help. Dean reads through books and handwritten notes, taking advantage of the resources in Jocelyn’s library, while Sam works his magic with the computer, searching hidden networks and occult pages within the darknet.

Sam had learned so much from Charlie in such a short time. What would she say to the Winchesters now if she was still around, if she could see what they’re going through? Would she provide calm, level-headed advice? Probably not at first. Dean figures she’d slap him on the back of the head and tell him to get over his shit. He never worked up the nerve to tell her about him and Sam (somehow, he thinks she knew), but he has no doubt she would have employed her hacking skills to book them the honeymoon suite at the closest five-star hotel.

“Hey! Did you hear what I said?” Dean startles. Sam rolls his eyes. “What about using the same ritual we tried in Reno a couple years back? I know it didn’t end up being a ghost, but it was pretty strong stuff.”

“I kinda think we need more than a spell,” Dean tells him, stretching his spine. They’ve been at this for hours. “I’m all for torching the place.”

“We’re not burning down the manor, Dean.”

He shrugs. “It’d work.”

“Maybe if there wasn’t a family living there,” Sam says. “We’ve destroyed a lot of property in our careers, but this would be excessive.”

Plus, they haven’t exactly been keeping a low profile: meeting with a real estate agent, scheduling a viewing, introducing themselves to Sayuri and Anna. The Winchesters are all over this thing.

“We’ve gotta destroy the wallpaper, at least.”

Sam agrees with him on that. “From what Irene said, there are gonna be pieces of her all over the back of that stuff.” He shudders. “What an awful way to go.”

Dean flips the book closed. Another dead end. He’s about to grab the next one off the pile when he notices Sam watching him, a hint of something fond and distracting in his gaze.

“What?”

Sam shakes his head. “Nothing. I mean, about what I told you last night...”

“Right now, Sam? Seriously?” Dean waves his hand over the stacks on the kitchen table. “You’re the one who told me to go through these.”

“I know, but I just thought you should know—”

“Less talking,” Dean says, exasperated. He reaches for another book. “More reading.”

Dean knew he’d regret opening this door. That’s the third time Sam has brought up their care-and-share from the night before, when Dean’s insecurities got the best of him. So far, he’s been able to dodge Sam’s attempts at further explanation, but his luck won’t hold forever. Talking about it means Dean would have to admit what he needs to survive after what Amara did to him. Namely, his brother. Dean’s selfish, not cruel; Sam’s better off not knowing.

Talking can wait until after Emma’s been dealt with.

“Hey, I think I’ve got something!”

“A spell?” Dean asks, standing slowly to work out the kinks in his knees. He comes up behind Sam at the counter and glances at the screen over his shoulder.

“Kind of,” Sam says, clicking not on a website, but on an email. “I sent out a few emails when I woke up, seeing if anyone could help us out.”

“Who responded?”

Sam grins. “Cesar, actually.”

“I thought we decided not to drag them back into the game.” Cesar and Jesse Cuevas achieved what few hunters ever got: the chance to retire in (mostly) one piece. Happy and settled. Dean’s a little jealous of what they have, but that doesn’t mean he wants to ruin it.

“I was looking for information,” Sam reminds him, “not assistance. We’d be crazy not to take advantage of their knowledge. Hunting in Mexico, they must’ve come across a lot of different creatures.”

He’s right, of course. Asking for help makes sense.

“So what’d Cesar have to say?”

Sam shifts to the side, giving Dean more room to see the computer. “Take a look at this…”

Cesar has provided the specifics to a cleansing he and Jesse got from a fellow cazador down in Mexico when they teamed up to cleanse a small village under siege from multiple ghosts.

“Sounds like it was bad,” Dean notes, reading through Cesar’s message.

“The village had a pretty bloody history just like Nine Oaks. Left behind more than one nasty spirit hell-bent on vengeance.”

“So what’s the spell?”

Sam continues reading and passing along the details. In his email, Cesar lists the various ingredients for the purification ritual they used along with an old Mexican spell meant to increase the ritual’s potency.

“How’s your Spanish?”

Sam throws him a classic fed-up expression. “No te preocupes, todo esta bajo control.”

“Point taken,” Dean says, wiping that look off Sam’s face with a gentle nudge to his shoulder. “Guess this ritual is worth a try. It seems strong enough. I know we’ve got at least a few of these ingredients in the trunk,” he adds, scanning Cesar’s list. “Maybe Edmond can help us with the rest.”

“A hunter like Jocelyn must have had a stash somewhere,” Sam says. “He might know where it’s hidden.”

Plan in place, Dean leans back and looks at Sam. “We’re taking care of this tonight. We can’t leave the Benbows in that house with Emma any longer.”

Sam meets his gaze, confident and sincere when he says, “I’m with you.”



“Sure you boys don’t need an extra hand tonight?”

Edmond adjusts his glasses as he watches them pack the Impala’s trunk with everything they need to perform the purification ritual at Nine Oaks.

“You’ve already gone above and beyond,” Sam assures him, double checking the small bags containing the mixture of herbs, bone, feathers, and small scrolls with spell runes sketched out in Sam’s blood. “We owe you big-time.”

“I’m just glad I could be of some help.”

“Your aunt would be proud,” Dean says, “carrying on her legacy.”

The southerner looks away, the praise bringing tender emotions to the surface. Dean hopes that this experience, learning more about his aunt and her family’s line of work, helps ease the pain of her passing. She certainly had a hand in raising a kind, strong man.

Edmond was more than willing to assist Sam gather what was needed for Cesar’s ritual. When he showed up at the house early in the afternoon, Dean and Sam had procured about half of what they needed from their small stash kept in the Impala. After hearing their plan, Edmond snapped his fingers and led the Winchesters outside, where they followed him to a sturdy, locked shed behind the house. Edmond pulled out a set of brass keys, jangling the ring until he found the one he was looking for.

“Robbie and Jocelyn made sure I knew this shed was off limits when I was a boy,” he told them, amused by their awed expressions. “Naturally, my curiosity won out. I figure you might find a few more things on your list in here.”

The shed contained shelves, cabinets, and chests full of labeled bottles, tins, and jars, dried herbs and delicate animal bones packed away with various minerals and stones.

Dean glanced in Sam’s direction, both of them silently acknowledging how damn lucky they were to discover a stash like this literally in their backyard.

With Dean and Edmond’s assistance, Sam pulled together the rest of the necessary ingredients. Small chips of clear quartz, downy white feathers, rain collected on a new moon, willow ash. And while he prepared everything for the ritual, with Edmond eagerly watching each meticulous step, Dean checked their weapons and restocked their bags. Plenty of rock salt, shot guns and ammo, lighter fluid and matches.

Dean was going to burn that fucking wallpaper tonight, no matter what his brother said.

Now, the sun is sinking quickly, daylight giving way to the vibrant, warm tones of a Lowcountry sunset. Sam reassures Edmond that they’ll call if they need back-up.

“Hopefully we get lucky,” Dean says. “Place the bags, add Sam’s little spell, and get out before anyone even knows we were there.”

Edmond gives them a hopeful smile. “Just make sure y’all come back, you hear me?”

Dean and Sam look at each other, then nod. Hand on the Impala’s roof, Dean promises, “Nothing to worry about. We’ll be back before you know it.”



Sayuri stands in a trance, absorbed in the sounds around her. Even the faintest noises rage in her ears: the hollow drone of the air conditioning, agitated insects mourning the loss of daylight, the drum beat of her own pulse.

Strange, she's never heard it this loud before. Blood pounding through the veins at her wrists, her temples, behind her eyes.

Nighttime finds her in the study, staring at the wallpaper and waiting for its secrets to be revealed. She's close now. If she could just see beyond the tangled vines, past the limp, broken bodies of all the women who weren't strong enough, she would know where to begin.

It's the only way to make things right, to show Max that she's not crazy. The woman Sayuri is looking for… She's seen everything Sayuri has been through: her husband’s dismissal, Anna’s attempts to win her daughter away from her. The woman knows why Sayuri's mind no longer feels like her own. But Max will never believe her while the woman remains trapped. Sayuri can take care of that. He needs to see, so she knows what she has to do. He won't be able to blame the paranoia, the depression, for her behavior anymore.

Unlike the others, Sayuri is strong enough to do what they couldn't. They must know it, their mangled bodies, sickly pale and empty, gold eyes, swaying away from the sight of her.

She tightens her hand around the knife, its blade clean and sharp. Taken from the kitchen, it was the largest knife in the butcher’s block. She's going to need it; the paper is thick and it clings to the wall behind as if it was adhered with something stronger than glue.

Aware of even the faintest noise, Sayuri doesn't miss the sound of footsteps creeping closer. Someone treading lightly outside the door. Hesitating, coming to stop her. But she won't be stopped. Tonight, the nightmare comes to an end.

She feels the door open, air brushing against her heated skin. It doesn't matter who has come to interfere—they are too late.

Tonight, she'll finally break free.



Nine Oaks is eerily quiet as Sam and Dean approach the manor on foot, the Impala hidden in its usual place.

Sam stops at the tree line. “We have to place the bags before we use the spell,” he whispers, “one at each cardinal point around the house.”

“Do we have to bury them?”

“They need to be touching the structure.” Sam refers back to the notes in Cesar’s email. “It should be enough.”

Dean hopes he’s right. He knows better than to pour blind faith into rituals like this.

They approach carefully, staying out of sight. The shadows are thick and there’s a haze hanging over the property, courtesy of the high humidity. Despite the late hour, there are lights on in the manor. To Dean’s growing unease, he sees an ominous yellow glow coming through the open balcony doors.

“Let’s get this over with,” he hisses to Sam. “You go one way, I’ll take the other.”

Sam opens his mouth to respond, but whatever he’s about to say is obliterated by a bone-chilling cry of pain. He immediately steps beyond the security of the trees and turns back to Dean.

“That came from inside the house!”

Dean is right there with him, rushing forward.

“So much for luck,” he mutters as they hurry towards the manor, adrenaline feeding into his senses.

The side door is closer. Sam and Dean run through the garden, up an uneven stone path, only to find the door locked. Without hesitation, Dean takes a deep breath and braces himself, about to kick it down with his right leg, when Sam grabs his shoulder.

“Dude, your hip,” Sam reminds him, before raising his leg and kicking the old (and flimsy, in Dean’s opinion) door straight off its hinges. “Let’s go, old man.”

Dean scowls and vows to revisit that taunt.

They’re in a large utility room, a sleek, modern washer and dryer set tucked against the original plantation cabinetry. Frantic sobbing and the sound of wooden chairs scraping haphazardly against the floor leads them towards the kitchen they toured only days before, weapons at the ready. The sight that greets them is bloody and not what Dean expected.

“Oh my fucking god—fuck, fuck, stop.” Anna curses through her sobs, a thick towel pressed against the outside of her forearm, once white cotton now heavy with blood from the long cut beneath the material. Dean can see smaller nicks and cuts across her hands. Whatever happened to cause the injury, she had at least tried to defend herself.

Anna’s usually cheerful face is shining with pain and sweat, her cheeks pale and her hair in disarray. There’s blood on her gray jeans, some spattered on her bare feet.

“Anna?”

She whips around at the sound of Dean’s voice, pupils wide with fear.

“What the—” She blinks through blurry eyes. “Wait, you? What are you doing here?”

She’s shaking badly, red smears covering the kitchen counter she’s leaning against, stools pushed aside.

“We’re here to help, I promise.” Sam advances cautiously. “What happened?”

Somewhere on the floor above them, a fist pounds on an unyielding door, muffled shouts echoing through the manor. Three pairs of eyes look up.

“Anna—” This time it’s Dean trying to settle the Benbow’s nanny. “You need to tell us what happened so we can help, okay? That’s why we’re here. We’re not looking to buy this place. We know there’s something going on.”

He watches the emotions flash across her tear-stained face, the same sequence of fear, uncertainty, and acceptance he’s seen in countless victims over the years as they convince themselves that they have no choice but to trust the Winchesters.

“S-Sayuri,” she stammers. “She—she came at me with a knife.” Dean sees the whites of her eyes. “Oh god, why did she have a knife?”

Another shout, a man’s voice edged with desperation. Dean knows they’re almost out of time.

“Did Sayuri say anything to you?”

A fresh wave of shock hits Anna. Sam is at her side in seconds. Carefully taking her arm and checking the towel before visually scanning for other serious wounds. He looks over at Dean and nods.

Knowing she’ll be okay, Dean presses. “Anna, listen to me. This is important. What did she say?”

Anna’s voice is weak, threaded with pain. “I went up to ask her about Lourdes’ formula. I didn’t even get the chance to say anything.” Her long inhale rattles in her wet throat. “Sayuri looked at me and said I was ‘too late,’ that I’d never ‘take them away’ from her now.”

Emma’s got her claws in deep, Dean realizes.

“Was she talking about Lourdes and Max?” Anna gasps. “Max! He went up there! She chased me out of her office, and he ran up there. What if she—”

“We’ll get Max,” Sam assures before she can hyperventilate. “What about the baby?”

As if he’s said the magic word, Anna focuses on Sam’s face, a little life seeping back into her gaze. “Lourdes is in her nursery.”

Grabbing another towel from the floor—Anna must have pulled them all out in a frenzy—Dean helps her away from the counter.

“Go to Lourdes’ room and lock the door. Only open it for Max or one of us. You hear me?”

Spurred by his decisive tone, Anna stumbles off towards the nursery. Sam and Dean watch until she steps out of view.

“The cut wasn’t too deep,” Sam tells him. “We need to get Max.”

Dean follows Sam into the foyer and up the stairs, pressure weighing heavier on his shoulders with every step. Sam runs on, unaffected. When they hit the landing, they find Max all but throwing himself at the study door, calling out to his wife. The doctor, who Dean’s only seen in his hospital staff photo and a few of his wife's posts, pounds on the wood with his fists, knuckles red and raw. There are streaks of blood on the door. It’s difficult to say whether they came from Anna or Max.

He must see Sam and Dean out of the corner of his eye, surprise sending him staggering back into the wall with a loud thunk. Sweat has soaked through his shirt under his arms and down the center of his chest, and his ginger hair is mussed, matted across his forehead.

“Who the hell are you?” he screams, voice hoarse. “What are you doing in my house?”

“We’re here to help.” Again, Sam takes the lead. “We’ve already seen Anna—”

Max cuts him off. “Is she okay?”

“She’s hurt and needs your help,” Dean tells him. “She’s with your daughter.”

Max looks between the Winchesters and the door, eyes bright and frantic, torn between listening and continuing his useless assault on solid wood. Dean can’t blame him.

“Let us handle this.” Dean tries to appeal to sense. “We know what we’re up against.”

“But that’s my wife in there! She’s going to hurt herself!”

“Hey!” Sam slams his hand against the wall, shocking Max into silence. Fed up with wasting precious time, he says, “Anna needs a doctor so get your ass down there and help her!”

If Dean wasn’t close to buckling under the weight of Emma’s power, he would be so turned on by Sam’s show of force. Because damn, he’s missed this side of Sam. Standing tall, not to mention carrying a sawed-off shotgun, Sam cuts an imposing figure. Max finally listens to reason.

“Just-just help her, okay? I don’t…”

“Go!” Sam barks, and they both step aside as Max rushes past, his footfalls uneven as he clunks down the stairs.

Sam looks at the door. In the absence of the noise created by Max’s fists and feet, they’re able to hear the wails coming from within. Low, pained cries that speak to Dean of uncounted horrors: the sad, tragic tale of Emma Summerlin’s short life.

Dean realizes they’ll have to split up. “You go place the bags,” he says, turning to Sam. “You’re the one who knows the spell.”

Sam shakes his head. “No way, I’m not leaving you.”

“I’ll stop Sayuri from hurting herself or anyone else,” he insists, “and I can buy you some time.”

“Dean—”

“I can handle this, Sam!”

There is a fire in Sam’s eyes when he steps up close to Dean, and that’s the last thing he knows before his world breaks apart.

Dean has kissed Sam a thousand times in his mind, each one evaporating into nothing but a false memory. He hasn’t experienced the real thing in fifteen years. He’d starved himself, adapting to the hunger until he couldn’t feel it anymore.

When Sam kisses him now, time doesn’t stop, it shatters. It’s a brutal kiss, hard and pressing. Sam’s lips demand to be taken seriously, and it hurts for how good it feels. Dean is grateful because pain lingers longer in memory than pleasure. He can do no more than withstand the kiss, leaning into Sam’s chest, before he remembers why they’re here. There’s no time to examine what’s happening in his chest, the collision of emotions creating a warmth the likes of which he hasn’t felt in much too long a time.

He pushes Sam away at the same time his fingers curl in the cotton of Sam’s shirt, letting his brother know that this is far from over.

“Go,” he whispers, barely able to believe what his lips, still stinging, are saying.

Sam covers Dean’s hand with his own and squeezes. “I’ll hurry.”

Dean shoves him back. “You’d better.”

With a last look, Sam hefts his bag further onto his shoulder and rushes downstairs. Alone outside the study, Dean braces himself and grabs the doorknob. It gives easily. Dean swallows and tries to keep his hands from shaking. For whatever reason, Emma is welcoming him. Not a good sign.

He steps into the room, shotgun at the ready, and comes face to face with something out of a nightmare.

The wallpaper is moving

Everywhere Dean looks, he can see the women trapped in their two-dimensional prison—more victims than he and Sam knew about. Their gaunt, yellow faces plead silently for help, limbs torn to shreds by the thorned vines that crisscross the walls. Dean has never seen anything like it.

The wailing is louder now, and Dean spins to find Sayuri crouched in the corner of the room. On the floor beside her, a long kitchen knife lies amidst the blood spatter, blade glinting in the amber light. The heat in the room is almost unbearable, so unlike the deep, unshakable chill that normally accompanies restless spirits. Emma’s anger burns brightly.

Sayuri is ripping paper from the wall, a pile of scraps behind her, moaning in pain as the thick strips cut her fingers, adding more blood to what’s already dripping onto the floor. Dean watches in horror as the once happy young mother tears into the next piece, uncovering gruesome, smeared stains, so dark they're almost black.

By simply hiding the evidence of Emma’s demise, how many women, children, and men had Frederick Calhoun condemned to violent deaths?

Dean’s stomach overturns, and it’s only by the narrowest of margins that he keeps himself from retching.

The wailing suddenly stops. Sayuri is looking straight at Dean, her eyes stormy. Gone is the nervous, muted woman Dean met earlier in the week. In her place is a woman overflowing with an anger and pain not her own, tightly wound and ready to explode.

“You,” she hisses. “I knew you’d come back to take this from me.”

“You don’t need to do this, Sayuri.” Dean appeals to her. “Just get out of here and you won’t need to feel like this anymore.”

Her mouth twists into a terrible facsimile of a smile. “You’re too late.”

Dean goes to move forward but an invisible force holds him in place. He feels the wave cresting, trying to pull him under. He wishes Sam was here, a rock to help him withstand the full breadth of Emma’s power.

“I have to do this,” Sayuri is muttering, crazed and trembling. “Then you’ll all understand.”

“She’s using you!” Dean argues, knowing full well what Emma wants her victims to comprehend. “You can’t let her out!”

The headache is building, a vise around his temples. Emma wants to drown him out. Across the room, Sayuri runs her hand reverently across the hideous wallpaper, oblivious to the specters struggling to warn her away. Sayuri is beyond their help, hellbent on releasing Emma. But all Dean needs to do is stall her long enough for Sam to place the bags and complete the purification ritual.

Help me, Dean.

The words creep across Dean’s skin, raising fine hairs in their wake. Forcing his gaze to the left, Dean’s heart turns to stone. Within the wallpaper, a figure steps into the light, more solid than the others. Her skull is cracked open, revealing a black void underneath, and her neck is bent at an unnatural angle, head rolling to one side. The dress she’s wearing is covered in rotting mustard stains, vines shriveling and curling away as she comes forward.

Emma Summerlin.

Release me, and I can help you, Dean.” Her voice is like the wallpaper she haunts, dry and brittle.

“I’m good, thanks,” Dean says, gritting his teeth. Emma’s coal black eyes are fixated on him, ignoring Sayuri completely. Small favors, he supposes.

I know you, Dean,” she rasps. “You and I are the same.

He scowls. “Doubt it.”

The women in the wallpaper behind Sayuri are huddled together, recoiling at the sight of their tormentor. Dean’s only plan now is to keep Emma’s attention away from Sayuri, buy Sam more time.

You know what it is to be not enough,” she tells him. “To feel your inadequacies each and every day.

“Not really a problem for me.”

She doesn’t listen to him, looming larger as she tests the limits of the wallpaper. Sayuri didn’t have enough time to tear it all down. More than half of the revolting paper remains.

I was used, consumed”—her voice gains an edge—“finally turned away. You know what that’s like, Dean. Sam left you behind despite what you felt, did he not?”

It stings. The longer Emma talks, the worse Dean feels. Like a buzzing that rises and rises, starting at the base of his spine and climbing, cutting Dean off from his lower body.

“You don’t know anything about me.”

He’s wrong about that, of course. Emma slashed him open the first time, reopening old wounds and leaving him to bleed out.

My love was not enough for Albert. Yours won’t be enough for Sam,” she taunts, glaring at Dean with that awful tilt to her head.

Grimacing through his pain, Dean says, “I’m not gonna let you hurt anyone else.”

I haven’t hurt anyone.” Her voice crackles like a roaring fire, yellow and golds and reds jumping around her. “I merely show them what they cannot see for themselves.”

“Manipulating them and forcing them to commit murder.”

From the grin she’s wearing, the idea delights Emma, her spirit well past the point of no return.

You’re empty, Dean, but you’re so much more than any of them.” Her onyx eyes dart to her terrified audience as they shrink further into the shadows, Sayuri drained of color and slumped over, watching Dean battle Emma. “I don’t want someone weak to release me. I want you. I can keep you from succumbing to that void. Don’t you want to live? Without me, you’ll remain empty.

Summoning her power, Emma unleashes herself on Dean. His blood barrels through his veins, pulse skipping too fast to measure. Emma reaches deep into his chest, searching, digging, pushing towards the void. And Dean knows he’s helpless to stop her from finding a way in.

Except, she can’t. Because somehow, by some miracle, Dean isn’t empty anymore.

The words Sam used to fight Emma’s influence come rushing back to Dean. I know it’s not true. Everything Emma’s saying, the emotions she chooses as her weapons, are nothing but ruse and distraction.

Dean’s soul is no longer a void. He can still feel the pressure of Sam’s lips on his only moments ago, the resolve in his brother’s gaze. Emma is lying through her decaying teeth. Dean has Sam, and that love is more than enough. Sam is in his DNA, blood calling to blood.

With that comes another instinctive realization: Amara didn’t carve out the void, Sam did. It’s been there since he left for Stanford and took a massive piece of Dean with him. Amara found it and exploited his weakness for her own gain, but it was always Sam’s.

Just like that, Dean’s no longer in agony as Emma loses her hold. Dean takes advantage, finally able to move towards Sayuri, intent on getting her away from harm.

You’re still mine, Dean!” Emma shrieks, the wallpaper rippling like waves in a storm.

Unfortunately, Dean underestimated the influence Emma has over Sayuri. Before he can reach her, Sayuri springs forward, knife stained with Anna’s blood gripped in her hand. She slashes awkwardly at Dean, out of her mind. Dean dodges and deflects as best he can with the aftermath of Emma’s presence ringing in his ears. Rage makes Sayuri dangerous, and Dean doesn’t want to hurt her.

“I need to know,” she cries frantically. “Let me release her! It should be me!”

Sayuri stumbles, providing Dean an opening to grab her thin wrist, squeezing until the knife drops with a clatter. She continues to struggle, incoherently raving about Max and Anna and betrayal, forcing Dean to tighten his grip. He sees Emma moving between the strips of paper Sayuri couldn’t rip down, waiting for her chance.

It never comes.

The heat is sucked from the room in a rush, and Dean can finally take a deep, cool breath. In his arms, Sayuri goes still, baffled by the sudden shift. White light fills the room, banishing the shadows from Emma’s domain.

You can free me, Dean!” Emma pleads, clawing at the wallpaper from the other side as she tries to escape her prison. “It’s not too late!”

Heavy footsteps outside the door signal Sam’s return. Dean spins, Sayuri no longer fighting his hold, and meets his brother’s stare. Sam is grinning.

“Yeah, it is,” Sam says, glancing down at the piece of paper in his hand before starting to read. Dean can’t follow most of the Spanish, but whatever he’s saying is having an effect. Emma writhes in the pure white light as if burned by its cool touch. The three of them can only watch as her spirit is consumed, twisting in on itself and fading away to nothing as Sam finishes reading the ritual Cesar provided.

And just like that, the room is quiet. Sam looks across the room, Dean following his gaze to see the other women fading the same way. Instead of struggling, they appear to welcome oblivion, disappearing quietly as if they were never there. Dean hopes they find peace, because he and Sam are so not coming back to this house.

Sayuri collapses when Dean lets her go, the madness gone from her eyes. In two strides, Sam is at Dean’s side, catching him before he, too, slumps to the floor. He hadn’t realized how severely Emma drained him. Sam’s hands are gentle around his shoulders, stroking down his arm. Dean’s heart aches for a new reason, but he finally lets himself relax.



Outside, beneath the dense canopy on the avenue of oaks, a shining silver figure turns away from the manor. Irene Grantham glides away into the darkness, a smile on her translucent face as she bids farewell to Nine Oaks.

A moment later, she disappears.



“Do you think it’s over?”

Leaning against the Impala beside Dean, Sam nods. “That was a pretty serious spell. I don’t think Emma’s ever coming back.”

Together, they watch Max Benbow’s Range Rover drive off into the night, heading for his hospital downtown, Sayuri, Lourdes, and Anna in the car with him. Sam was right, Anna’s injuries weren’t life threatening, but Max was eager to get his family out of the house, filled with guilt and regret for not trusting his wife when things started to go wrong.

“It’s probably safe to come back if you want,” Sam had told the doctor as they helped the family into the car. Sayuri hadn’t spoken since Emma disappeared, numb from shock. Anna was taking it as well as she could, assuming responsibility for Lourdes when her mother could not.

“To hell with that,” Max had said. “We can’t be in that house anymore.”

“Where will you go?”

Max had sighed, drained and exhausted like the rest of them. “There are a hundred hotels around Charleston. I’m sure the hospital board owns one or two condos, too. Who cares where we go, as long as it’s not here.”

Silently, Dean agreed. You couldn’t pay him to set foot in Nine Oaks again.

They’d burned the wallpaper, just in case. Dean refused to let it stay there on the floor like a pile of dead weeds. Sam watched as he poured salt on the ragged strips, the remaining paper on the walls devoid of any figures or prying eyes. It was empty and flat, the spirits banished, but the room and the house will bear the scars for a long time to come, one being the blackened circle beneath the heap of burning wallpaper.

Now, soaking in the peace and quiet of a tranquil Southern night, Dean sighs.

“What happened up there, before…”

“Hey, Dean?” Sam slides closer, a long line of heat against Dean’s side. “Let’s get out of here, okay?”

Dean nods, insanely grateful. It’s the best thing he’s heard all night.



Back at Jocelyn’s house, Dean steps into the upstairs shower alone, tile walls warming quickly with the steam. He stands beneath the spray, senses heightened, and waits. Of course he's nervous. Sam kissed him, but that doesn't mean they are going back down this road, despite it being Dean’s most fervent hope.

And so there are no words for the way he feels when Sam's figure appears on the other side of the clouded glass door. The swooping sensation in his gut is familiar, however. Sam steps wordlessly into the shower, shutting them off from the rest of the world for the time being.

This used to be part of their routine whenever Dad left them alone, sharing the motel room shower as if it were their own little universe, a safe place where they could learn everything there was to know about each other’s bodies. Now, Dean is excited to have the chance to explore what has changed.

Sam pulls Dean back against his chest, demonstrating the first and most obvious change: the last time they stood like this, Dean was taller than Sam by the barest of margins. He likes this arrangement, though. It's calming to have Sam behind him, bodies aligned from knees to shoulders, arousing to feel the swell of Sam's cock against his ass, not totally hard but getting there. Tension bleeds out of his frame as Sam runs his palms down Dean’s arms, chin coming to rest on Dean’s shoulder.

“Been a while,” Sam mutters, raising one of Dean’s hands and running his fingers over thick knuckles.

“Too long.”

Dragging Sam into the shower started as Dean’s way of checking his little brother for injuries. Sam wasn't always honest with Dad about how rough training got, or how much he ached after his first few hunts. He'd skim over Sam's skin, searching out soreness and would-be bruises, soothing each with a kiss and a therapeutic touch.

Tonight, Sam takes that role, hands all over Dean with varying degrees of pressure. Hard when he grips the outside of Dean’s thigh, tips of his fingers digging into firm muscle. Thorough as he feels his way across Dean’s stomach and upper torso, ensuring Sayuri Benbow hadn't done any damage with the knife she wielded. Tender when his fingers tilt Dean’s chin, Sam's lips brushing the corner of his mouth.

A whisper when Sam asks, “Okay?”

A growl when Dean tells him, “Shut up and kiss me, Sam.”

From there, they are driven by a force they have no hope of controlling. Steam envelops their bodies, making Dean feel like soft hands are touching him all over when, in reality, Sam’s massive hands are wrapped around his back. Dean is unprepared for the way Sam’s strength affects him, the thought that Sam could take him however he wanted zipping straight down to Dean’s cock. Before Stanford, when Sam was half the size he is today, Dean naturally took the lead. He was gentle, but not always patient, their need for one another too great and the opportunities too few.

The intervening years, and all that’s taken place, have opened the door for a new dynamic. That’s an idea that leaves Dean delirious with want, aching in all the right ways.

They grind together, soap creating a frictionless slide between their bellies. Sam kisses him through a sheet of warm water, his tongue slipping in alongside Dean’s. There are long moments of breathlessness between deliberate strokes of a sure hand or the even bite of Sam’s teeth against Dean’s throat. Sam clearly remembers Dean’s sweet spots from when they were teenagers, exploiting that knowledge until Dean is rutting against his thigh, cock hard and eager.

Dean has spent years imagining scenarios like this one, turning memories into fantasies and revisiting countless nights hiding under the covers in anonymous motel rooms. He never forgot the things he learned. Sam isn’t the only one who can put that obsession to good use.

He fists one hand in Sam’s hair and kisses him hard, swallowing the moan he knows is coming. Digs the fingers of his other hand into Sam’s solid flank, crushing their hips together. Dean loves the weight of Sam’s cock against his abdomen, longer and thicker than the last time he had the pleasure of holding it. Seeing it wasn’t the same. Living in such close quarters, Dean’s been treated to glimpses (and several full-frontals) over the years, and each time he found himself fighting the urge to drop to his knees.

Getting Sam’s cock in his mouth is definitely on his to-do list tonight.

For now, he succumbs to his need, running on nothing but adrenaline and lust. Sam wraps one hand around their cocks, adapting to the new angle. Dean has no hope of proving his stamina, Sam’s long, encompassing strokes spell certain doom, but he prides himself on giving as good as he gets. With limited space and nothing in the way of decent supplies in the shower, Dean settles for squeezing Sam’s ass, walking his fingers further and further in until he’s pressing against his hole. Warm water slicks the way as Dean plays along the rim, enjoying the way Sam squirms and gasps against his lips.

Dean tries to hold out as long as he can, but when Sam switches to fast, even strokes up the length of Dean’s cock, the choice is no longer his own. His come lingers only a moment on Sam’s skin, washed away by the hot water.

By then, Sam is desperate, bucking against Dean and trying to find any kind of friction. Leaning back into the tile, Dean thrusts his hips forward, creating a groove for Sam’s cock. He fucks into it, lips at Dean’s throat, cursing and moaning into his skin. Dean can do nothing but encourage Sam with one hand still dancing around his hole, the other with a firm grip at the back of Sam’s neck.

Watching Sam’s expression go tight with pleasure when his orgasm hits is almost enough to set Dean off again. Age and exhaustion get the best of him, though. He hangs onto as Sam rides out his climax, his come soon lost to the heat and the spray of the shower.

He bears Sam’s weight for a full minute before his knees begin to protest, forcing them apart. Dean wonders if this is when Sam will distance himself from what happened, chalk it up to the stress of the hunt and circumstances they couldn’t avoid. Dean doesn’t want to question Sam’s intentions—whether this was a spark quick to burn out, or a flame to light the way.

And then Sam takes the bar of soap in his hands and cleans them both, rain-scented suds washing away the rest of Dean’s fears.



Fantasy and memory don’t hold a candle to the reality of having Sam back in his arms.

When they finally make it to bed, having foregone clothes after stepping out of the shower, a half-used bottle of lube pulled from Sam’s bag tossed somewhere within reach, Dean hardly knows where to begin. His brother is spread out on the sheets, offering whatever Dean wants. Sam’s flushed mouth, his pink nipples tempting amidst the patch of soft hair, not to mention his cock, half-hard and clean, all make for enticing ports of call.

Sam makes Dean’s mind up for him, dragging him atop his body and holding him there while they kiss until their lips are bruised, Dean sweeping his tongue across Sam’s lips and pressing inside.

When they arrived in Charleston, Dean was suffering as the void in his soul ate away at him, threatening to rob him of what little strength he had left. Now, his soul is so full, it’s painful for an entirely different reason. The change is overwhelming, relief and security compounded by love, the likes of which Dean never thought he’d experience again.

Sam’s arms tighten around him, and Dean realizes he’s been shaking, fine tremors running the length of his body.

“You okay?” Sam whispers, drawing his fingers up and down Dean’s spine, something he recalls doing to Sam when his little brother woke up from a bad dream. “Leftover adrenaline?”

“Nothing wrong with me, Sam,” Dean says, dropping his forehead to Sam’s chest and breathing him in. “Just having a hard time believing this.”

Sam huffs. Dean feels the small movement roll through him. “Yeah, me too. Long time coming, though. Right?”

Dean looks up, frowning. “What are you talking about?”

Unfazed, Sam returns his gaze. His hands have reached Dean’s shoulders, caressing the planes and slopes of his upper back.

“We’ve been heading in this direction for a while, Dean. When you rescued me from the Trials, I thought we were on the same page. We'd finally circled back to one another. I knew this was what I wanted. But then the angels fell and it's been non-stop ever since. After we banished Amara, and all the crap she put us through, I kinda figured it was only a matter of time. And then—”

“Then I realized what she’d done to me.” Dean sighs, pushing all those wasted moments to the back of his mind where, fingers-crossed, they’ll remain until forgotten completely. “But now I realize that was just bullshit. She just wanted me to suffer, and I believed her because it hurt so damn bad after she was gone.”

“Sometimes the healing’s just as painful,” Sam reminds him. “You’re good now, though, right?”

“Good as new,” Dean assures him, rocking his hips forward an inch or so, coaxing Sam away from this particular conversation. One day, Dean will tell Sam just how important that kiss in the manor was, and how Dean might not have survived his battle royale with Emma Summerlin if Sam hadn't acted on his feelings. One day, far in the future, he'll tell Sam everything. Tonight, he has better things to do.

“Sounds promising,” Sam teases, answering with a shimmy of his own, stoking the fire.

“You have no idea, Sammy. I’ve got a list—”

Sam grins up at him. “A list? We’ve just banished dozens of ghosts, Dean, and you had to fight off a knife-wielding blogger. Pick one thing.”

Dean stops moving, pretending to consider his options even though his mouth is already watering, until Sam is fed up, flipping them with roar that is equal parts amusing and arousing.

Sam’s lips tickle the edge of Dean’s ear. “You want to suck me off, don’t you?” He grinds his hips into Dean’s. “You always did like putting that mouth of yours to good use.”

Flames lick at Dean’s skin. He can feel his face turning red. Sam’s not wrong. The first time his lips touched Sam’s cock, he was a goner. Sam was just so damn responsive, Dean often had to struggle to hold his brother down, that lean body rolling and shaking under his palms.

Sam lets go, reclining back against the pillows. Head down to hide his flushed cheeks, Dean shuffles between Sam’s wide-spread legs, one arm over his thigh. Sam hisses as the first touch of Dean’s mouth lands not on his cock but on the sensitive skin over his hipbone, gradually gliding across until Dean is nosing through soft hair, inhaling more of that fresh, rain scent. Dean torments Sam by keeping his mouth just out of reach, the tip of Sam’s cock brushing his bottom lip.

“I’ve been safe,” Sam promises, his voice strained, as if that’s what’s holding Dean back.

“I know.” And Dean does. He’s usually the one buying the condoms, although neither of them have had time for diversions like that in months, for which Dean is thankful. “Just enjoying the view.”

Dean is so eager, so starved for this, that when he does get his lips around Sam’s dick, he takes too much, too soon, and comes up coughing.

Once he can breathe again, Dean says, “Guess I’ve been on the other end of these for way too long.”

Sam runs his hand over Dean’s cheek and down along his jaw. “Feel free to practice on me anytime.”

Just like that, Dean foresees many lazy afternoons in the bunker, devoting hours to Sam’s cock and finding out how much pleasure he can take.

Dean settles into a rhythm, massaging the inside of Sam’s thigh while he trains his mouth to accommodate the length and girth of a full-grown dick. This was a hell of a lot easier when Sam was a lanky teenager. The stretch feels amazing, though. It’s messy, as far as blowjobs go, too wet, and there’s no way he can take the entire thing. That doesn’t stop Sam from undulating beneath him, groaning and losing his breath each time Dean’s tongue flicks against the tip.

Almost unconsciously, Dean has moved his hand further up and around Sam’s leg, rubbing the heel of his palm beneath Sam’s balls, pressure in all the right places. Throwing his arm to the side, Sam fumbles around for the lube and flips it towards Dean.

Hard to mistake what his brother wants. Dean’s happy to oblige.

Sam is even harder to restrain once Dean’s got a lubed finger in his hole and a second slipping around the rim. He goes from enthusiastic to incoherent, gasping Dean’s name and trying to thrust with his hips. Dean keeps him pinned, smug smile ruined when he takes Sam’s cock back into his mouth. It’s difficult to coordinate his movements, trying to slide another finger alongside and find the best angle, but Sam is too far gone. Dean wraps his tongue around the tip, careful not to choke as Sam goes taut, his entire existence boiling down to a single sensation.

Dean pulls off just in time to watch Sam’s come shoot onto his stomach, his ass gripping Dean’s fingers. He absolutely cannot wait to feel that around his cock.

Sam is slow to recover, hazel eyes watching Dean softly as he crawls up the bed to lie by his side. They slide closer, lips meeting naturally in the middle. This had always been one of Dean’s favorite feelings: the way Sam kissed him after Dean finished with his cock. Soothing, like a balm, so gentle as if there’s nothing to rush.

Dean’s raging erection would argue differently. It’s music to his ears when Sam whispers, “I wanna try something,” especially when that something involves Sam squeezing what’s left of the lube into his cupped palm and letting it soak up some heat from his skin before wrapping that hand around Dean’s dick. He’s already primed from the blowjob, thick in Sam’s grip.

Then he sees the wisp of a smirk flash across Sam’s face and knows it won’t be that simple. Sam is keen to use his mouth, too, only his target is Dean’s chest, biting into the flesh around Dean’s ribs and kissing away the sting. Dean moans as Sam works him over, licking circles around his nipples and flicking the sensitive points.

“So not fair,” Dean mutters, failing to hold himself together. “How’d you know?”

“I have eyes, Dean,” Sam responds, laving over Dean’s left nipple until it’s as red as the right one, gingerly holding it between his teeth and tugging until Dean’s spine arches off the bed.

Dean thrusts up into Sam’s fist, fully appreciating the way the lube eases the friction—they need to stock up before they hit the road—as Sam lets him move. Dean has a funny feeling, a sharp tingle originating in his chest, that if he hadn’t come once already tonight, it’s possible Sam could’ve gotten him off using only his mouth. He apparently knows all the tricks, where to bite and where to be tender. Dean adds it to his quickly expanding mental list of things they need to try back home.

No chance to test the theory now as Dean already feels the unstoppable cascade washing over him. Clutching Sam’s face as he comes, this orgasm claims the last of his energy.

They’re unable to do more than kiss sluggishly, neither wanting to move until a trip to the bathroom becomes necessary. After cleaning up, they collapse together, Dean’s eyes closing almost before he hits the pillow.

Emma Summerlin is no more, the Benbows are safe, and Dean’s exactly where he belongs. If there was ever a day to stick in the win column, this is it.



Sam is the first to reach the door, pulling it open it before Edmond knocks a third time.

“You don’t have to knock,” Sam tells him. “It’s your house.”

The man is all smiles. Sam had spared a few minutes to check in with him last night on the drive back from Nine Oaks to assure him that everyone was alright, and that they’d completed the ritual.

“It’s the polite thing to do,” Edmond says, glancing between Sam and Dean. “Besides, seems like I’m interrupting.”

“No,” but Sam is completely flustered, “not at all. Come on in.”

The three of them step into the kitchen where, before Edmond knocked, Sam had Dean pinned against the counter, hands under Dean’s gray t-shirt, well on their way to getting naked right there. It’s probably a good thing Edmond caught them by surprise before. Control is hard to come by when making up for fifteen years of not being able to kiss one another whenever they want.

“I won’t keep you. I’m sure you’re eager to head out.”

“We’ve got time,” Dean says. They aren’t trying to rush, but Dean wants to be home. Of course he does. He has Sam again. It’s a whole new fucking world.

Over coffee, they share a bit more about what happened at Nine Oaks, how they’d rushed in to help the family instead of finishing the purification ritual from outside the manor. The southerner appears fascinated. He takes a deep breath when Sam finishes his wrap-up.

“We couldn’t have done it without you,” Dean adds. “Finding all those ingredients for the ritual, the history of the manor…”

Edmond defers the honest praise. “It all belonged to Jocelyn and Robbie.”

“Yeah, but you were willing to step in and help. That doesn’t happen a whole lot in this business. You didn’t have to do that.”

“Yes, I did,” Edmond insists.

As Sam refills their mugs, Dean thinks about the assistance they received on this hunt. Edmond’s contributions to this case, Irene’s invaluable insight, Cesar’s ritual and purification spell, and even Bennett’s thorough knowledge of local history that couldn’t be found in any of the books or articles Sam found. The Winchesters couldn’t have cleansed Nine Oaks without them.

“In any case, I came over to thank you boys. You didn’t have to come all the way down here to help me out.” Risking not only their lives, Dean thinks, but their sanity, too. “You finished the job the Campbells started.”

Sam ducks his head, and even Dean has to look away before Edmond catches the expression on his face.

Edmond claps his hands and stands, pulling a piece of paper out of his jeans’ pocket. “Speaking of the Campbells, I’ve got something I think you boys might want to see before you bid farewell to the Lowcountry.”

Sam scans the paper. “Where will these directions take us?”

“To a place that’s special to the Campbells,” Edmond says, all joking aside. “You ought to pay respects to your own family.”

Sam and Dean look up at the same time, but it’s Sam who speaks first. “You knew?”

“Got that intuition, I suppose, just like Jocelyn. You boys reminded me of her, especially you,” Edmond says, indicating Sam with a nod, “but it was more than that.”

Dean doesn’t know what to think. “Yeah, but how’d you know for sure?”

Edmond merely smiles, the enigmatic expression of a man who will always keep some things close to his chest. “I have my own resources.”

That’s all he’s going to give them.

He sticks around for a while, offering a hand when Sam and Dean are finally ready to pack up the Impala and head out. Watching him talk to Sam, Dean can imagine swinging back through Charleston someday soon. At the very least, Edmond is sitting on a trove of information and resources that need to be preserved.

They’ll come back, Dean tells himself, nothing ahead of the Winchesters but time. For now.



“The Old Sheldon Church burned down twice.” Sam reads from his phone as Dean steers the Impala down an oak shaded, two-lane road. Through the trees to his left, Dean catches the occasional sparkle of sunlight hitting the creek that winds through the marsh.

“Once during the Revolutionary War and once during the Civil War. It was never rebuilt after the second fire,” Sam continues. “Whatever materials remained were stripped and used for repairing homes that had been destroyed by General Sherman.”

“Does it mention anything about the Campbells?” Dean asks, following the signs for the historical marker. “Or give you any clue why Edmond wants us to see a bunch of ruins?”

“Not yet, but I’ve only read the first two articles that came up.”

Less than a quarter-mile down the road, Dean pulls onto a large patch of sandy gravel on the side of the road, another marker proclaiming that they’ve reached the site of the Old Sheldon Ruins. The sign doesn’t reveal anything more than what Sam has already found.

“Guess we should check it out.”

“Or we could stay in the car, eat our food,” Dean suggests, thumbing towards the three take-out bags from Loretta’s in the backseat. They’d stopped before making the drive thirty miles south to the site of the ruins.

Sam somehow resists the temptation of the extra serving of mac and cheese Dean ordered.

“Come on, Dean.”

The church ruins—formerly the Prince William’s Parish Church—are remarkable. There’s nothing left now besides the brick skeleton of the building and its columns, surrounded by gravestones and monuments dating back several centuries. Across the wide property, massive oak trees, even more grand than those leading to Nine Oaks, stand watch over the ruins.

It’s beautiful.

Sam and Dean have the site to themselves for now. They wander silently, each walking in a different direction. Dean winds through the trees, stopping to examine wrought iron gates warped by time and the elements and a few of the large, stone tombs. Sam is inside the church, holding his phone up to take pictures.

Maybe he’ll start an Instagram, Dean imagines, grinning to himself.

As he’s checking out the arches of the main building, Dean hears Sam call out.

“Dean! You need to see this.”

Making his way towards the back of the site, well away from the ruins themselves, Dean steps up beside his brother.

“Look.”

He’s pointing to a row of small, unremarkable gravestones a few feet in front of them. Unlike the other headstones around the cemetery, these are polished, some of them bearing metal plaques.

“Guess I know why Edmond sent us.”

Each stone marks the grave of a member of the Campbell family. At least a dozen named, although Dean has a feeling the site entombs the ashes of many more. The markers span nearly seventy years. Sam indicates one in particular.

“Thomas Campbell,” Dean reads. “Jocelyn’s father.”

To the left, Sam discovers a larger plaque set at the base of one of the expansive oaks.

In recognition of the Campbell Family
Of Beaufort and Charleston.
For their caretaking efforts and
Maintenance of Prince William’s
Parish Church and its grounds.

The Town of Sheldon
1985


“You think they meant our kind of caretaking?”

“Could be,” Sam says. “This place had a violent history, too. They might’ve needed to lay a few spirits to rest around the grounds.”

“And make sure none reappeared,” Dean adds.

Instead of getting back on the road right away, the Winchesters linger at the ruins. As the day wears on, they share the site with families and tourists stopping to sightsee on their way up to Charleston or down to Savannah. Sam grabs a bag of food and a couple of beers from the Impala, and they eat at one of half a dozen picnic tables set near the entrance, taking their time.

Every now and then, Sam and Dean walk amongst the graves of the Campbells they never knew, noting the names. It’s odd, the feeling of being connected to a place like this, where they’ve never stepped foot until today.

Dean resolves to help Sam dig deeper into the family history when they get back to the bunker.

Late in the afternoon, Dean and Sam pack up and head to the car. Before Dean pulls out, he looks over at Sam, his thoughts once again drawn back to the last time they were in Charleston.

“It’s been almost twenty years, Sammy,” Dean says. “You ever planning to tell me what you wished for that night?”

Sam shakes his head before leaning across the seat to kiss Dean, choosing to keep his secret a little longer.

And that’s okay, Dean thinks. He doesn’t need to hear the wish anyway.




Cri de Coeur MASTER POST.
Go to [livejournal.com profile] stormbrite's ART POST!



end notes. The ruins, the cemetery, and the graves of the Campbells (who truly were the caretakers for the monument) are real, and that's truly what inspired this story.

Thank you so much for reading! These days in fandom, every single comment, even a simple '♥' to show that you enjoyed this, or every kudos on AO3, are truly appreciated!


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