- I don't own them. Just borrowing :)

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Dean's heart leapt into his throat as Sam was suddenly ripped from his side and tossed against a crumbling headstone with sickening force. The younger hunter's head snapped back against the jagged stone and Dean heard the crack from where he was standing, at least fifteen feet away. The rain came down in sheets and the wind roared.

"Sam!" Dean's fingers fumbled with the kerosene as he splashed it into the freshly opened grave.

The remains of what was probably once a very nice young lady were decomposed beyond recognition, what was left of her funeral dress mere strips of fabric clinging to her bones. The dirt had turned to mud and it was running in streams down the sloping ground of the graveyard, pooling in ditches, carrying great bits of earth away to the road at the base of the hill. Lightning flashed, turning night to day for the briefest of moments.

Dean stole a quick glance at his unmoving brother before striking a match. "Time to go, bitch."

He was thrown to the side like a rag doll before the flame had even had a chance to leave his fingers. It fell to the ground and was smothered in an instant. He landed hard on his side, the mud squelching against his cheek as he rolled to get up.

Again he was pushed, harder this time, coming down on his chest and stomach, the air leaving his lungs in a rush.

A fork of lightning crossed the sky in a violent display of nature, reaching down to the earth and piercing it with a crack that Dean swore he felt rather than heard. With great effort he clenched his teeth and pushed himself up, scrambling against the slipperiness of the mud, trying to get his feet under him. He bent low and made for the grave, snatching the matches from where they'd fallen and hoping they weren't all wet. He expected to be swatted aside again and was confused when it didn't happen. Finding a dry match he struck it to life and turned to check on his brother.

Sam was dangling about a foot above the ground, still unconscious, as if someone was holding him by the scruff of his jacket.

Dean let out a low growl. "Put him down!"

Obediently Sam was dropped, face-first onto a concrete slab.

Son of a- The air around Dean swirled and again he was pushed, the match extinguished. He felt himself falling and landed with a thump in the grave. He mentally kicked himself for letting the spirit get to him by hurting Sam. This was supposed to be an easy job.

Frantically he tried to scramble up the side. The mud made it impossible. If he craned his neck he could just see over the lip of the grave.

He saw Sam's body begin a jerky movement along the ground, being dragged feet-first. "Sam!"

The icy wind carried a laugh to his ears and it made his stomach curl. "Sam!"

More frantic this time, he pawed at the walls, kicked at the mud trying to get some footing. Sam was quickly dragged out of sight, the storm drowning the sounds of his body as it broke twigs and thumped over rocks. Again the lightning came, this time chased by a clap of thunder. Dean felt his anger surge and, fuelled by the fury of the storm, threw himself at the wall of his muddy prison and managed to pull himself to safety.

The matches were recovered and half spilled on the ground as he desperately searched for a dry one. Within a couple of heartbeats he was rewarded with a flare of orange and he wasted no time hurling it and the empty bottle of kerosene into the hole.

For an instant nothing happened, then a sudden glow brought the grave to life, flames arching and licking at the muddy walls.

Dean's head snapped around in the direction Sam had travelled and his feet were moving before another thought crossed his mind.

From up ahead he heard the spirit shrieking as it was sent back to where it belonged, and he used its strangled screams as a guide.

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Sam's eyes snapped open and he was greeted by three things: a flash of lightning bright enough to hurt, a piercing noise that sounded like distorted screaming, and a pain in his head that threatened to tear him apart. The last thing he remembered was dousing some bones in salt and Dean standing beside him.

Sam's vision swam as he slipped and slid his way into a sitting position. His clothes were soaked through and muddy. It was dark and he was cold. He couldn't see Dean nearby.

"Dean!" His voice came out a broken cry, startling him, quickly snatched up by the wind.

Sam felt as though he was about to be sick. His body felt bruised all over. He curled on his side and squeezed his eyes shut.

There was another flash of lightning, and Sam's eyes snapped open, his gaze catching on something in the brief instant of illumination. Reaching a hand out he let his fingers curl around the object. It was wet and muddy, but still soft to the touch.

Thunder rumbled and the wind roared. The raindrops came down in endless succession. Sam slowly sat up again, the object in his hand helping him focus. His head throbbed and he wanted to sleep so desperately but he knew he couldn't. He ran his fingers up and down the object. It was a feather. Possibly the biggest feather Sam had ever seen. Gripping it more tightly, he attempted to stand up.

The lightning flashed again and abruptly he stopped.

All around him, over the ground and in the bushes, were feathers just like the one in his hand.

Sam blinked, hunched over, willing the light to return just to confirm what he'd seen. Gingerly he straightened, feeling his muscles pull and his limbs scream. His legs wanted to fold, but he refused to let them. He noticed the ground sloping slightly and remembered that Dean had parked at the base of the hill. They'd walked up to the graveyard from there.

Swaying dangerously he willed his feet to carry him down the slope. His steps were slow and shaky, and he clung to bushes as they clung to him. He felt confused and disoriented. He didn't know how long he'd been unconscious. Where was Dean? And why didn't this look like the graveyard? Panic was starting to seep through his thoughts and he struggled to slow his breathing.

Another flash of lightning revealed more feathers, making Sam wonder whether he'd moved at all. Perhaps a bird had crash-landed in the storm. Perhaps it had been struck by lightning.

Sam's foot slid and he fell, coming down hard. He lay on the ground a moment, unmoving. He had to find Dean. He couldn't think straight and his head hurt. What if his brother was- Oh God, what if his brother was injured? Or worse.

A splinter of rational thought penetrated the haze in Sam's mind and he reached into his pocket for his cell phone.

It wasn't there.

Pulling himself together and getting to his feet, Sam patted all his pockets. They were all empty. Again he felt panic rising and again he did his best to push it aside.

"Dean…?" This time if was more of a question, the obvious tremble in his voice enough to chase away any hint of bravado he'd thought he had left.

"Dean!" He took a couple more shaky steps forward, but he couldn't pick up his feet. His left foot caught on something, toppling him again into the mud. A sob escaped his lips as he pulled himself up onto elbows and knees.

Again the lightning flashed, and Sam froze. There was something lying on the ground beside him. Another flash had Sam recoiling with a wild jolt. Oh God-

The creature's head snapped up and eyes flared an angry green. Its body was a demented, naked mess of burned flesh, streaked with mud and caked in broken feathers. Two splintered stumps protruded from its shoulder blades and most of its hair had been ripped from its scalp.

Sam's breath caught in his chest and it was as if time stopped. Sam's heart stopped. All sound stopped. He was pinned by the gaze of the thing before him. Its eyes were hungry and desperate and haunted, and they spoke of things far too great for Sam's human mind to comprehend. Oh God-

In the flash of lightning that followed, the creature lunged. Sam wanted to move but was too slow. He braced himself for the impact but was suddenly jerked back and out of the way by a pair of strong arms. There was a great flash, too bright to be lightning, and the creature was flung to the ground with an ugly scream. The strong arms pulled Sam further away, but the young man couldn't tear his eyes from the scene unfolding before him.

Something now stood over the screaming creature, but it was too bright to see what. Sam felt his knees give way and he began to lose consciousness. The strong arms held him upright, even as darkness came.

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Dean had followed the sounds of the spirit's screams through the darkness in the hope that it would lead him to Sam, but as its remains were devoured by the flames dancing in its grave the screams began to disappear, fading into the wind and rain until they were everywhere and nowhere at once.

Desperately he stumbled, making his way further across the hillside and away from the graveyard. He'd tried calling Sam's cell but it had rung out and gone to voicemail. He'd tried calling Sam's name but there was never any reply. The storm was getting worse, and Dean was starting to worry. Both their flashlights had been smashed by the psychotic spirit and his gun had been thrown goodness knew where. There was no sign of his brother, and Dean did not like not knowing where Sam was.

After what seemed like hours of scouring the dark and muddy hillside Dean finally heard a sound that gave him some direction and sent him scurrying after its source. It was a high pitched screaming similar to that of a thousand dying rats, and it made Dean's skin want to crawl from his bones.

As he got closer he could see four figures. One was definitely his brother. He wanted to go to Sam but for some reason his feet wouldn't let him. His eyes were suddenly caught on a figure emitting a very bright light, and some sort of screaming thing it was bending over.

He drifted closer, only half aware that he was moving towards them. He was filled with a great mixture of fear and awe and he felt as though he was being pulled instead of moving out of choice. A sudden hand on his shoulder and a rough twist almost sent him to the ground, and he was spun to face an elderly man- the fourth figure of the group.

"No, you mustn't look!" The old man's touch was powerful but gentle. His hands held either side of Dean's face as he forced the older hunter to look at him.

Dean tried to pull away, to twist his gaze back to the light, but the old man held him firm. "You must not look at them! They cannot be seen!"

"But-"

The old man pulled Dean towards where Sam was lying on the ground. "I need you to help me carry him, we need to get indoors."

Seeing his brother curled on the ground, unmoving yet with open eyes, was enough to bring Dean to his senses. He dropped beside Sam and pulled the younger man into his lap, checking Sam's vitals and pushing the hair out of the pale face. "Sammy-"

Sam was unresponsive, but alive.

"Sam, hey, c'mon. Sammy-"

The old man bent to get a shoulder under one of Sam's arms. "We can carry him together. We need to go now."

Dean pushed him roughly aside. "Don't touch him."

The old man was steady on his feet and didn't even waver. Gentle grey eyes regarded Dean with compassion and sympathy. "I understand your concern, son. But right now this is not the place to be brave. I have a place further up the hill. It's dry and it's warm. We need to go there. We cannot be here."

"Well I have a car at the bottom of this hill. I say I'm taking my brother there. I don't care where you take yourself."

The old man stepped closer. "It's not safe that way."

Dean held Sam tighter. "I'll be the judge of that."

"You will not make it."

There was something in the old man's tone that prevented any comeback from Dean. The older of the two hunters bit his tongue and narrowed his eyes at the stranger. Who was this man and where had he come from? "I've looked at a map of this hillside, there's no shelter here."

The old man crouched down and Dean saw a large silver cross on a fine chain swing out from his robes and briefly catch the light. "I'm not going to hurt you, son."

Dean watched as the man lifted one of Sam's arms and pulled it gently across his shoulders. "I'm just asking for your trust."

Dean hesitated. "I'm not your son, and my trust is a lot to be asking."

Dean's voice came out small and fragile and it made him cringe. The screaming from the thing behind him was getting louder, causing his skin to prickle and hurt, and his brother looked like a corpse in his arms. The raindrops were becoming like razors and they sliced down into him, freezing his bones. As much as he wanted to believe he could find the way back to the car, the weather and their situation was making him unsure.

He let a hand slip down into his boot and felt the knife concealed there. He locked eyes with the old man and searched for any sign of deception that might have been lurking there, but found none. "You say you've got a place not far from here, and it's warm and dry?"

"Yes."

Dean let another handful of seconds pass before nodding slowly.

The old man didn't wait for any verbal consent. Together they lifted Sam and began moving up the hillside. Once they were twenty or so feet away Dean attempted to look back, but the old man stopped him.

"Forget them."

"I don't understand-"

"Some things aren't meant to be understood."

"Were they demons?"

"They were not demons."

"Spirits?"

"They were not spirits."

"Well what the hell were they?"

The old man fell silent. Dean's heart beat in his ears.

"They were angels."

Dean's heart beat faster. Angels? "There's no such thing."

The old man didn't reply and the screaming reached a tortured climax. There was a great rumble of thunder and several flashes of lightning.

The old man pulled them further up the hill, not once slowing his pace or losing his footing on the slippery ground. Dean was out of breath and Sam felt like a sack of rocks on his shoulder. Just when he was sure he couldn't go any further they reached the top and the ground began to level out. There, before them, stood an old stone church.

Dean's steps faulted a moment. "What the-?"

The old man continued to lead them forward towards some wooden double doors. They carried Sam up the couple of stone steps and shouldered their way inside.

The old man closed the doors behind them and bolted them with an iron bar that fell from one side to the other. "Come, this way."

They made their way through the main part of the church, down a narrow aisle between a dozen rows of pews and then around to the right. The old man pushed open a door and Dean felt the warmth coming from the room it led into. They moved inside and Dean saw a fire burning in a hearth and some comfy looking chairs.

"We'll lay him on the rug before the fire. I'll get some blankets."

Gently they lowered Sam to the ground.

The old man threw another log on the fire. "Take your wet clothes and drape them over the chairs. They will dry in no time. You'll be warm here, and safe."

Dean watched the old man hurry out of the room. Obediently he set about removing Sam's wet jacket, then his own.

The old man returned with a pile of blankets stacked in his arms. He set them down on one of the chairs and bent down to examine the wound on Sam's forehead that was still leaking blood. "We need to clean him up. Are you injured?"

Dean's hand had drifted to rest protectively on his brother's arm. "I'm fine."

The old man waited a moment, possibly for Dean to reconsider, but Dean stared back stubbornly and said nothing more.

Of course Dean was cut and bruised, and his limbs felt heavy and strained. But he didn't trust this old man. Not yet.

When the old man had left the room Dean leaned over his brother and began peeling off the rest of the saturated clothes. Sam's head lolled to rest on Dean's shoulder as Dean sat him up to wrap a blanket around him. "I wish you'd wake up, Sammy."

Dean gently laid Sam back down, placing a blanket under his head. "Or blink, or something."

Sam's eyes were still open and glazed. Dean resisted the urge to close them. "I don't know who this guy is or how he found you, but I've got my eye on him. We're just gonna stay here a while until you wake up, then we'll go."

Dean took the last blanket and wrapped it around his own shoulders. "You might want to hurry it up though. There's something not right about all this."

The old man re-entered with a large bowl of water and a cloth. He set them down beside Sam and rinsed the cloth.

Dean moved forward to intervene. "I'll do it."

The cloth was handed over and Dean gently began cleaning the cut on Sam's head. It was quite deep and full of mud. "We're going to need antiseptic. Do you have any alcohol?"

The old man looked amused for a moment. "My dear boy, this is a church. I do not have any alcohol."

"Don't you have anything? This cut's dirty and could get infected."

The old man regarded Sam with what Dean considered an infuriatingly gentle gaze. "He will be well by the morning."

"Oh I doubt we'll be staying that long."

"You cannot go back outside."

"We'll be on our way as soon as he wakes up."

The old man's eyes travelled from Sam to Dean. "He will wake up soon, but you really must stay. It's not safe for you out there. Not tonight."

"You really need to explain that, you know, because I'm not buying the whole angels thing. Sam and I can handle ourselves, whatever it is that's scaring you, whatever those things were back there."

The old man gave Dean a tired smile. "I don't doubt you can handle yourselves. You both strike me as very brave. But not everything can be dealt with by throwing salt or holy water. There are some things that can't even be harmed by guns."

Dean's eyes narrowed as he struggled to mask his surprise at the depth of this stranger's insight into his and Sam's lives. Perhaps Sam had told him something. "Were you tracking those things? Is that how you found my brother?"

"I was not tracking them."

"Did they do something to him, to make him like this?"

"They did not."

"Well how did you know he was out there then, how did you know I was out there?"

The old man clasped his hands in his lap. "I received word that you would need some help."

There was a moment of silence. Dean was confused. As far as he knew, he and Sam had been careful to cover their tracks. They couldn't have been followed. They'd hunted down the nasty spirit that had been haunting this particular stretch of road and found her grave. They'd been alone in the graveyard, or at least that's what he'd thought. "Who sent you?"

"My father."

"Are you a priest?"

"Yes."

Dean raised his eyebrows. "Are you telling me God sent you?"

"Yes."

Dean laughed, unable to help himself. "Oh Christ, tonight just keeps getting better, first angels, now this. I'm sorry, but I have trouble believing in the supposed Man Above. I've seen more things than even Stephen King could dream of, but I've never seen any evidence of Him. Now why don't you cut to the chase and just tell me what the hell happened tonight, who you are, and how much you know of what happened to my brother."

The priest nodded slowly, his eyes still gentle as Dean's harsh words bounced off him like stones against a wall. "Your brother saw something he wasn't supposed to see."

Dean's eyes narrowed.

"It's temporarily blinded him."

Dean's narrowed eyes went wide. "He's blind?"

"It's temporary. When the eyes witness something too great for the soul to comprehend, the body is unable to cope. He will be well again, but I don't know what he will remember. I don't know how much he saw. I do know that they would have killed him if he'd stayed. And they would have killed you too."

"You're talking about angels again."

"I am talking about the truth."

"I thought angels were supposed to be nice. I didn't think they went around killing people."

"They don't."

"You just said they would have killed us."

"Being there would have killed you."

"Because our souls wouldn't have been able to cope?" Dean was far from convinced.

"Because some things are too great for us to fathom."

The priest stood slowly, brushing off his robes. "Now there are a few things I must attend to, if you'll excuse me. I will bring you both some water and something to eat. There is some more wood in the corner if you wish to build up the fire. I will be back, in a moment."

Dean watched him make his way to the door. "Don't you even want to know what we were doing on the hillside this late at night, in the middle of a storm?"

The priest stopped and turned, the gentle smile resting across his features once again. "I know what you were doing, Dean Winchester."

Dean's heart skipped a beat at the mention of his name and his hand stilled, gripping the cloth more tightly.

The priest held his gaze. "You may not find it in yourself to believe in certain things, son, but that doesn't stop them from believing in you."

Dean's reply died upon his lips, and he watched the priest's retreating back. Sam must have said something to the old man, there was no other way this guy could know so much about them, unless he was psychic.

Dean regarded his unconscious brother. "You talk far too much sometimes Sammy."

Ironically, Sam couldn't reply. Dean continued his gentle wiping away of the mud and blood that covered his brother's face. "When you wake up we're going to have a talk about this."

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Dean wasn't sure how long he sat there beside Sam in front of the fire. The priest returned, bringing some water and bread with cold meat. Despite his growling stomach Dean didn't eat much, choosing instead to assess the building from where he was seated, monitoring the priest's movements about the place with constant suspicion. He was tired and his eyelids kept sagging, but he wouldn't let himself sleep. He sat with one hand rested on his leg, ready to draw his knife if need be, and the other rested on Sam's arm, waiting for any sign of movement from his brother.

It seemed like hours had passed but finally there was a stirring from beside him and Dean was instantly focused. "Sam? Can you hear me?"

The stirring became a sudden jerk, and Sam's eyes regained their life, his body stiffening in confusion as he tried to work out where he was.

"Hey, hey, calm down. Sam-"

Sam's eyes ceased their frantic searching and came to rest on Dean's concerned face. "Dean?"

"Right here buddy."

The relief that washed over Sam's features couldn't have been plainer, and Dean squeezed his brother's shoulder reassuringly. "Take it easy, you've hit your head."

Sam's hand floated up as he attempted to feel the cut on his forehead, but Dean swatted it away. "Nu-uh, no touching."

"Oh God, what happened? Dean, I saw something out there. There was this thing and it had fire in its eyes. I tripped over it, and then there was this bright light and this other thing, and then you grabbed me and pulled me away and-"

Dean's eyes narrowed. "I didn't grab you Sam."

"-the first thing was screaming and I wanted to turn but I couldn't and-… What? Yes you did, you grabbed me and pulled me away because I couldn't move."

"It wasn't me."

"What do you mean it wasn't you?" Sam's eyes left Dean's face and resumed their wandering about the room. "Dean?"

"Yeah."

"Where are we?"

Dean sighed and rubbed a tired hand over his face. "We're in a church, Sammy."

Sam swayed as he sat up straighter, turning his head around to get a better look.

"Sam-"

"Where did the church come from?"

"I don't know, someone obviously decided to build it at some point. Would you take it easy, please?"

Sam sat still and Dean watched his younger brother's eyebrows knit together in confusion. "How long was I out?"

"I don't know."

"I was unconscious when you found me?"

"I didn't find you, Sam. Someone else did."

"Someone else was out there? Who?"

As if on cue, the priest appeared in the doorway. Sam's eyes followed Dean's and both brothers regarded the old man, who smiled, and entered the room. "It's good to see you back with us, Sam."

Sam looked to Dean, obviously sensing his brother's uncertainty about this stranger. As the priest came closer, Sam edged slightly more towards his brother.

The action didn't go unnoticed by Dean. "Yeah, he's awake now, he seems okay. It's been really kind of you to let us stay here but we'll be good to head off soon. The storm doesn't sound so bad anymore, I'm sure we'll be just fine."

Dean stood up and went to gather his jacket as the priest took a seat.

Sam's eyes drifted from his brother to settle on the old man. "You were the one who found me?"

Dean slipped on his jacket. It was still slightly damp. He moved to gather Sam's clothes.

The priest nodded. "I was sorry I wasn't a moment earlier, son. I feared maybe I'd arrived too late."

"You saw those things?"

Again the priest bobbed his head.

"What were they?"

Dean chose this moment to intervene. "Come on Sammy, your clothes are dry. Get dressed and we'll head off and leave this guy in peace."

Sam ignored him and kept his focus on the priest. Dean eyed his brother. Surely Sam would see the absurdity of the old man's story.

The priest motioned to Dean. "As I told your brother, they were angels."

Sam's eyes grew wide, but to Dean's horror it wasn't in disbelief, it was in awe. "Angels?"

"Yes."

Dean dropped Sam's clothes beside him and put a hand on Sam's shoulder.

Sam shook him off. "I found feathers, they were everywhere. I didn't know where they'd come from but then I saw it. It-…That was an angel?"

"Yes."

"And the other thing, the thing that came with the bright light-?"

"-Was an angel also."

Dean could almost hear the cogs in Sam's mind working from where he stood as his younger brother tried to process the information. None of it made any sense, and Dean was sure Sam wouldn't find the logic in it. They'd been raised to analyse things, and this priest's story had one too many holes. There had definitely been creatures of some sort, and Dean intended to find out what, but angels just weren't on the list of likely suspects.

Sam finally shook his head. "I don't understand."

Dean noticed his younger brother looked like a kicked puppy.

The priest regarded Sam with something close to sympathy. "You saw something you weren't supposed to see. You were never meant to understand."

Dean rolled his eyes. Oh here we go…

"What do you mean, something I wasn't supposed to see? What was the angel with the light doing to the one on the ground?"

"Sam, they weren't angels." Dean tried to make his voice firm but again Sam ignored him.

The priest closed his eyes a moment, before opening them again. It was as if he was trying to decide how best to answer.

Finally coming to a decision he lifted his eyes to meet Sam's.

"Performing an execution."

Sam's eyes widened. "What? Why?"

"Because it needed to be done."

The priest's eyes left Sam's and travelled to meet Dean's, again bearing sympathy. This time he spoke, as if to Dean only. "It is a frightening thing, when something good turns bad, when our choices become the noose around our necks."

Sam's terrified gaze caught Dean's and Dean's jaw clenched. Who did this priest think he was, saying something like that? Sam didn't need to hear that. Hell, neither of them needed to hear that, not with their lives heading the way they were.

Sam pushed himself up, hugging the blanket around him, and wobbling towards the door.

Dean moved to follow. "Sammy wait-"

The priest caught his arm. "Let him go, son."

"Like hell I'll let him go." Dean yanked his arm free and glared down at the old man. Sam disappeared through the doorway. "I think we've outstayed our welcome."

"I know you worry for your brother."

Dean had started towards the doorway again, but now his steps slowed.

"You want to help him but you don't know how. You're afraid that you'll lose him and you're scared there's nothing you can do."

Dean stopped completely, his heart hammering once again in his ears as he clenched his fists. "You know nothing about me or my brother."

"I know you love him."

Dean turned and stared hard at the priest. "You don't know anything."

"I know you'd die for him."

Dean didn't reply.

The priest sighed, clasping his hands and leaning forward to stare into the fire. "You're wrong, son. Saving him isn't your responsibility."

Dean's eyes began to prickle. The faintest hint of emotion rippled across his well-controlled expression.

The priest continued to trace the flames with his eyes. "And Sam's wrong too. He's not a monster. Despite what he believes and despite what he will be lead to believe, he will always be a man."

Dean's jaw clenched tighter.

The priest smiled warmly. "There is hope, for man. Men are not like angels. If we fall, we are lifted up again. When angels fall, there is no going back. You're a good brother. You have a good heart."

Old eyes travelled to meet Dean's. "You do an excellent job, watching out for Sam. Why don't you lighten the load a little and accept the fact that something else is watching too?"

Dean's jaw didn't unclench but his shoulders did loosen a little as he weighed the old man's words. "That's what I'm afraid of," he eventually admitted.

The priest nodded understandingly, sadly. "Not everything is evil, my friend. The night sky may be dark, but the stars always manage to shine through."

The fire continued to crackle and hiss as the words settled in Dean's mind. Silence uncurled itself to stretch between them and the priest bowed his head. A handful of heartbeats passed by before Dean turned away and went to look for Sam. The priest did not rise from the chair, and Dean did not look back.

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To Dean's relief Sam hadn't travelled far. His sibling sat, hunched over with his face in his hands, on the end of one of the first row of pews. As Dean approached, Sam hastily sat up, wiping an arm over his eyes. The cut on his forehead had started weeping again, thin trails of blood coming down the right side of his face. He looked a mess and Dean resisted the urge to wrap him in a hug like he'd done when they were kids.

Sam stared at the floor like he was trying to bore a hole with his eyes. Dean sat beside him, and stared at the same spot.

Seconds ticked by, the silence settling between them. Words didn't come easily to Dean. Words were Sam's thing.

Finally the older brother sighed heavily and regarded the figure beside him. "Sam?"

Sam didn't move.

"Sammy, look at me."

When Sam still didn't look, Dean gently reached a hand to turn Sam's face towards him. Dean chased Sam's gaze for a moment before their eyes finally locked.

"That's better." Dean pushed a smile. "Now listen to me."

Sam didn't pull away.

"I know what you're thinking." Dean's tone was gentle but firm. "You need to stop, okay. Some crazy shit has gone down tonight and I can't explain it all just yet, but I intend to. All I know is you've hit your head, we're both really tired, but we're okay and we're still in one piece. That's all that matters. Are you hearing me? Stop freaking out about what could happen tomorrow when we're not even done with today."

Dean paused to let his words sink in. "And don't listen to the old man. I don't think he knows what he's talking about. Those things weren't angels. They were probably demons or something. We'll get to the bottom of it."

Sam broke their gaze and shook his head.

Dean stared at him, trying to read the expression on his brother's face.

Sam swallowed roughly. "What he said, about good things going bad-"

"Forget it."

"It was a little close to home, Dean."

Dean knew that. He didn't know how the old priest had known so much and it troubled him, but he didn't want Sam worrying about it too. "You're taking it out of context, Sam. He wasn't referring to you."

Sam was obviously unconvinced, but Dean didn't have anything else to say. Lies could only be stretched so far. Sam knew he was lying, but the younger brother didn't say anything more.

Dean's eyes travelled back to the doorway leading into the room where the priest was seated by the fire. "What do you say we get out of here?"

Sam pulled his blanket more tightly around himself and nodded.

Dean stood up and extended a hand. "After you get dressed, of course. Unless you prefer to stay as you are."

Sam pulled a face as he got up and followed his brother into the room to retrieve his clothes. He almost ran into Dean's back as the older hunter stopped abruptly just inside the door.

Sam sidestepped at the last moment. "Dean, what-?"

Dean just blinked at the empty chairs before the fire. "He's gone." He spun around, searching the room in disbelief. "The old man was here just a minute ago. I saw him. He didn't leave."

"He could've slipped out."

"He didn't."

Sam shuffled closer to the fire and lowered himself into one of the comfy chairs. The fire was so nice and warm, the flames almost hypnotizing. He was so tired and his whole body ached. He leaned his head back and felt his eyes sag closed.

A moment later Dean dropped heavily onto the chair beside him. The older brother scrubbed a hand over his face and shook his head. He was exhausted and his mind was all muddled. A small voice in the back of his consciousness screamed at him to stay awake, that something wasn't right and that they needed to leave, but it was too far away and he couldn't bring himself to listen. His body settled deeper into the chair, despite his weak efforts to fight it.

The last thing Dean saw before he drifted off to sleep was his little brother sleeping peacefully beside him. He wondered once again where their strange old host had disappeared to, but there was no answer. He felt warm and safe. Sam was warm and safe. He felt that it would be okay to close his eyes. The crackling fire was gentle and reassuring. The last time he could remember feeling this way had been when their father was alive.

Abandoning all thoughts of leaving, Dean gave up his fight against the sudden fatigue. His vision dimmed, his muscles relaxed, and within a moment he'd joined Sam in the land of nod.

The priest did not return to the room, and the fire burned bright and warm all night long, despite the fact no extra logs were added.

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Sam's eyes cracked open. He felt warm and snug, but he didn't feel like he was in a bed. The last thing he could remember was… sitting in a chair by a fire. They'd been in a church.

Slowly he sat up and blinked the sleep from his eyes, trying to make sense of his present surroundings. He was on the ground, outdoors, and Dean was lying beside him. Sam felt his heart skip a beat as he reached over to check his brother.

Dean woke with a start as Sam's fingers touched his neck. "Gerrof me."

Sam's hand was swatted away as the elder of the pair sat up, groaning and grumbling himself awake.

Sam sat very still, waiting for Dean's reaction.

Dean suddenly froze, his gaze darting from his younger sibling to the ruins around them. For a moment neither man spoke, they were both shocked into silence.

Sam's hand fluttered up to trace the cut on his forehead. It was no longer there. It had vanished along with the room they'd been in and the rest of the church. They were sitting on hard ground on a hilltop, surrounded by grassy piles of rubble.

Cautiously they rose to their feet.

The clouds rolled low overhead, and it looked like it was raining but… They weren't getting wet. Dean took a few steps to his left and felt raindrops patter the top of his head. He turned his face skywards and stepped back towards Sam. The rain stopped.

Sam looked intensely confused, his brow knotted as he tried to piece together his jigsaw memory of the previous evening. His eyes jerked to his chest and he patted his shirt, his jacket and his trousers. He was dressed.

Dean was crouched in the spot where the fire had been. He placed his hand palm down on the ground and was startled to find it quite hot. He quickly withdrew his hand. It was almost as if coals still burned there.

"Dean?" Sam was beside him.

Dean didn't say anything and Sam hovered, expectantly. Dean didn't have an explanation.

"You saw the church too, right?" Sam's voice held a small amount of desperation. "Tell me I'm not going crazy."

Dean straightened and shivered involuntarily. He cast his eyes once more over the ground, trying to remember where everything had been. Yes, he'd seen the church. No, Sam wasn't losing his mind. He shook his head. "It takes a lot for me to say it, Sammy, but this is really weird."

The answer did nothing to reassure Sam.

Dean's gaze settled on his brother as he took in Sam's seemingly healthy condition. "You feeling alright?"

Sam nodded. "You?"

"Fine."

"Dean, what happened to the old man? What do you think he was?"

Dean moved his gaze away. His thoughts were swimming all over the place. "I think…" He couldn't quite pin them down. "I think I'm not quite sure. He was a priest. He gave us a place to stay when we needed it. I don't know what happened to him, or why he helped us. But he kept us safe. He didn't harm us."

"Do you think he was a spirit?"

"I don't know, Sam."

Sam hesitated a moment before venturing further. "Do you think he was an angel?"

Dean's answer came in the form of a hard stare. "He was not an angel."

"Dean, those things I saw-"

"Were not angels Sam."

Sam bit his lip. Dean wasn't going to budge on this one, but Sam knew what he'd seen.

"Come on." Dean was suddenly moving. "We have some guns to find, and a car."

Sam took one last look around before following his brother. He flinched as he felt the rain drops on his head and noticed the distinct line between wet and dry ground.

They traced their way through the bushes and trees, following no particular path down the hill. The earth was still slippery and more than once Sam had to grab at branches and trunks to stop from falling. A couple of times he looked back, because he kept thinking he heard someone following them, but there was nobody there. He moved along behind his brother in silence.

A strange tingling at the back of Sam's neck caused his steps to slow. This particular spot was familiar... This was where he'd seen them.

Dean detected silence in the place of Sam's heavy footfalls and he stopped suddenly, spinning around. His brother was standing like a statue with a strange expression on his face. "Sam?"

No response.

"You with me?"

Sam crouched down and studied the ground. He heard his brother's impatient exhale.

"Sam-"

"They were here, Dean. This is where I tripped over the creature. This is where the angels were."

Dean rolled his eyes. Enough was enough. The rain was starting to soak through his clothes and his feet were numb in his boots. "I'll see you at the car."

Sam narrowed his eyes at his brother as Dean began to walk away. He traced a hand over the muddy earth and noticed it was slightly blackened. In fact, the trees and bushes around this spot were all slightly black, as if charred by fire. Again the tingling rippled over his neck and down his spine and he stood quickly. As fascinated as he was, he didn't feel like losing sight of Dean and trying to find the car alone. Not that he really believed Dean would let that happen. His older brother was far too protective.

Dean was relieved to hear Sam following once again, though he didn't let Sam see it. The sooner they were out of this crazy place, the better. They could search for explanations once they were back in their motel room. Right now they had to focus on getting out of here.

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It took over an hour, but finally they reached the car. They'd collected their guns and broken flashlights, and made sure they'd left nothing traceable behind in the graveyard. Dean finished loading the last of their things in the trunk and slammed it shut, striding to the drivers door and slipping in behind the wheel before reaching over to unlock the passenger door for Sam.

Sam eased himself into the car more gently, taking a moment longer to close the door. Dean had the engine started almost before Sam was properly inside. The wipers cleared the windshield and Dean flipped on the heating. Sam slouched lower in the seat as Dean pulled the car out onto the road.

"I can't say I'm sorry to be leaving that place." Dean's grip was tighter than normal on the wheel.

Sam stared blankly out the window.

Dean noticed his brother's demeanour. He knew something was bothering Sam, but he really wasn't in the mood to try to unearth whatever it was. Sam would talk, eventually, if he wanted to. In the meantime Dean decided to lighten the mood. "I could seriously murder a steak right now. What do you say we find somewhere to eat after we get cleaned up."

Sam merely shrugged. "Sure."

Dean popped out the tape that was currently occupying the deck and swapped it for a new one. Sam cringed inwardly as his thoughts were invaded by mullet rock. One day, he swore he was going to accidentally destroy all of his brother's road music (accidentally, of course.)

He shifted around, trying to get more comfortable. Dean was already singing and drumming the wheel. The fact that Dean was completely tone-deaf at the best of times did nothing to help Sam. The younger man twisted his body away from the offensive noise and tried to lean his head back on the seat. Something was sticking into him.

"You got fleas or something?" Dean was watching Sam shift around.

Sam shot his brother an annoyed glare and shifted some more. It felt like something was digging into his thigh. He pushed his hand into his pocket and felt his breath catch in his chest as he realised what was in there.

"For goodness sake Sam, would you sit still?"

Sam stopped moving and stared down at the feather he'd half pulled from his pocket.

Dean flicked his eyes from the road to his brother, and back again.

Sam quickly pushed the feather back out of sight and stared hard out the window, his mind working furiously. A whisper of a smile crept across his features, but it was too faint to be noticed by Dean.

The older brother just pressed harder on the gas, feeling satisfied as the hill where they'd spent the night faded and blurred behind them until it couldn't be seen anymore. Yep, a steak was definitely in order.

After a nice hot shower of course.

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Thanks for hanging in there :