Grover's Point, South Carolina 1886
Melinda Jefferson knew what was happening from the very start. Head mistress of the Grover's Point Orphanage, home of children left without families or parents in the Great War between the States. Really, another name for children, bastard children, the product of slaves and soldiers left to die or fend for themselves. Some white, some black, some a mixture, all were left here.
The good folks of Grover's Point detested what was commonly known as the home for society's rejects, children that should have been left to die before the end of their first day. There were rumors of the place, the odd goings on, strange noises in the night, crazy children talking to themselves, seeing things not there. They were kept well away from town, near the beach, sheltered from too much scrutiny. Out of sight, out of mind.
Melinda Jefferson knew. She knew what their so-called benefactor Hiram Thomas did, night after night, sometimes in the middle of the day. His black heart and blacker soul putrefied these children, claiming to purify their sullied lives. These children, Melinda knew, were guilty of nothing other than being born. That didn't stop Hiram Thomas from doing what he did, abusing their bodies, their minds; pimping them out to the good people of Grover's Point; sick lot all of them.
Hiram claimed he did what he did out of love. He preached over and over how much he loved these children; how it was the only way they'd make it in this world of bigotry and violence, poverty. This post war bit of land on the South Carolina coast was their sanctuary he claimed, he their savior. A savior, who bedded a different child nightly, offered them freely to his friends and business associates. A savior who claimed the blackness of nightmares told him this was how to love his 'children'; this was how to protect them. They were his. This is what they were for.
It wasn't until one little boy, one very special little boy came along that Melinda found hope, an escape. Ezra had no last name. He was sweet and kind, an affectionate boy with a tousled mop of curly dark hair, pale brown eyes and a smile that melted her heart. This boy Hiram wouldn't touch, not because Melinda wished he not be sullied, but Hiram feared him for some reason Melinda never understood. It never mattered. Ezra never saw the black nightmares, the thing going from child to child, to Hiram. He formed a bond right from the first day he arrived with Melinda, she with him.
Hiram tried, but Ezra repelled him at every turn. Some in town claimed Ezra a witch of sorts; it was the only explanation. Melinda taught Ezra to read, write, do his figures. He was a bright boy, a fast learner. A bright and shining beacon in her world of darkness and despair.
It came for them both on the same night; came but no one ever knew what happened with any accuracy. The same night it came, more powerful than ever before, so did a violent storm. Wind and waves and rain assaulted the ocean, drove it to the beach. When it was over the dead numbered in the hundreds, the town, and the orphanage, so many drowned, torn away on wind and waves.
Though the orphanage still stands, since the night a hurricane killed the occupants, it has never been used since. The original building was never torn down, it remains to this day. The orphanage was rebuilt farther inland, to a farm, where today it is home for abused, unwanted, orphaned children. It is one of the oldest orphanages in the United States.
Melinda and Ezra were never found…some say teacher and student still wander the grounds of the orphanage. Some say they still watch for the blackness of nightmares, expelling from its victims, even at the risk of those washed over, drowning in blackness as the orphans did the ocean's waves so many decades ago.
Sam caught a glimpse of Dean's eye roll before he switched off the flashlight, rolled his head around to ease his stiff neck and rubbed at his forehead. He'd hoped the last thing Dean hadn't noticed before Sam turned off the light, flooding the inside of the Impala in darkness.
"You ok? Vision?"
Guess Dean noticed. "Naaa, too much reading by flashlight in a cramped car, driving into the biggest weather front known to man type headache." Sam tried for a smile, knew it was weak. "This," Sam waved at the folder in his lap, "Was written a few years ago for some local paper."
"Why do they all have to be so over dramatic?" Dean laughed a bit, shaking his head. Even though Sam was watching out the front window, he felt Dean's movements. His brother's hand left the steering wheel, reached out, patted his collarbone and rested there for a few seconds before going back to the steering wheel. "You sure you're all right? We can find a place to stop for the night?"
"I'm fine. Let's get there, get this done." He hadn't meant to snap. A sideways glance at Dean made him feel worse. The quick flash of hurt across Dean's face was covered almost instantaneously. Almost. He pulled in a breath, let it out slowly.
"Sammy, I know this thing…" Dean licked his lips, obviously not knowing what to say, if anything. "It's not going to…"
Sam decided to put him out of his misery and cut him off, making sure his voice was softer this time. "Can we stop for a few, take a break and stretch?"
"Sure." Dean's voice dropped an octave, but his hands gripped the wheel tighter, he stared straight ahead, no sidelong glances at Sam. Instead Dean's eyes scanned the roadside for a place to pull over. They traveled the back roads; there were no nice rest stops on these like there were on the main highways. But the main highways were only open heading north to allow evacuation of the areas likely to be hit by Hurricane Willa. Sam figured he and Dean were probably the only two people stupid enough to be driving into the storm.
When the throbbing in his head stopped, or at least slowed down he'd apologize. Until then he took solace in the fact he knew his brother understood, and never held it against him…much. He was seriously nauseous by the time Dean pulled the car off onto the shoulder where it widened for a few yards. The cool night air blew across his face, refreshed him enough to shove the bile down his throat. Gratefully he twisted his torso side to side, stretched his arms high above his head before swinging them in a circle at his sides.
"Aargh…good idea Sammy." Dean did a few deep knee bends, shook his hands at his sides, stretched his back until it popped and cracked, making Sam smile. "How you feeling?"
Sam shrugged. "I'll live." He didn't miss the sidelong glance Dean gave him, chose to ignore it. He'd long ago come to terms with Dean and his never-ending need to watch over Sam. It made Dean happy, it didn't hurt anything and, even though he'd never admit it to Dean, Sam liked it. It was who and what Dean was, Sam never wanted his brother to change, Sam thought his big brother was perfect the way he was. Not that he'd ever tell Dean that either.
"You know what I could go for about now?" Dean yawned.
Sam leaned against the car beside his brother, looked over expectantly.
Dean nudged his arm, grinned, "A pepperoni and mushroom calzone from Carlito's. Damn, those were beyond awesome. Up there with sex. I can still taste them."
Even Sam's curdled stomach growled at the thought. "They have those here?" This brightened his night. "I thought it was just a one person place, there was one in Palo Alto, makes my mouth water just thinking about the food."
"Lots of it and cheap." Dean nodded. "The only one I know of was in Palo Alto, though it's probably a popular name for Italian places."
"How'd you know about…" Sam's voice trailed off when he realized they were talking about the same tiny Italian restaurant.
Scuffing the roadside gravel with his toe, Dean sighed, stared out at the countryside, then up to the sky, clear between the wisps of clouds. "I lived not too far from it. Had an apartment there, on the other side of town from the campus, could walk to Carlito's."
"You had a…" this stunned Sam. "I used to think I'd see the Impala once and a while, but I never thought…you lived there? For how long?"
"Moved in about three months after you got there." He finally looked at Sam, rolling his shoulders, "Did you think I'd not be around if you needed me? I went on jobs, but was there at least half of every month, most times more. It was a nice place. I liked it there." Crowding against Sam until he moved away from the driver's door, Dean opened it, leaned on it for a minute before saying, "I thought you might like to know that." He slid out of sight into the car.
Sam stood at the front of the car, staring into it until Dean hit the horn, making him start. "Hey, Sam, you gonna ride in the car or on it? Or you just gonna stay here?"
Bumping the fender on his way around the car, Sam couldn't help stumbling; the ground was terribly unsteady all of a sudden. Opening the passenger door, he slipped into the car, closed the door softly behind him. Dean barely gave him a glance as he started the car.
Shaking his head, capable of nothing more than staring out the front window between a few stolen looks at his brother he finally got a, "I'm okay," around the mushy part of his throat and out of his mouth. "Thanks."
The slight nod Dean offered was all Sam needed. His brother knew the gratitude wasn't solely for asking about his headache.