A/N This is a special gift for bhoney's birthday.
I would just like to point out that I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone with strong religious beliefs. The story is intended to be (hopefully) humorous and entertaining, and reflect the views that have already been expressed by the characters onscreen. I am very definitely of the opinion that everyone is entitled to believe what they want and be respected for it..
Finally, there is a reference at the beginning that relates directly to one of my other stories, Meditation & Murder. You don't have to have read that one first though, I just didn't want anyone who hadn't read it thinking 'I don't remember that in the show…'
And I really am going now….
"Ok, I think I got one."
Dean looked up from the knife he was sharpening. "Yeah?"
Sam nodded, glancing across. "Yeah."
Dean waited and when nothing more was forthcoming, raised an eyebrow. "You do know you're the only psychic in the family, right? You're gonna have to actually say it out loud."
Sam shot him a dirty look before scanning through the last bit of info he'd been reading and sitting up straighter. "You really should try the whole patience thing one day, Dean. As I was about to say, it's a bunch of disappearances over near Centerville."
"And they look like our gig because?" Dean interuppted.
"Because of a witness description. Guy here says he saw a 'grey figure', too big to be human, chasing him. The article puts it down to hysteria, since he was found out in the woods after being missing for a week, but when you look into it further he's not the only person to go 'missing' in that area – I've managed to find at least 10 so far, and that's only going back two years."
Dean frowned. "Does anything tie them together? Any other witness reports?"
Sam shook his head. "Not that I've found. All the others are still missing, but they did all disappear from the same place. Or at least not long after visiting the same place."
"And the cops never linked them?"
"Not that I can see. They're pretty spread out and all the victims were, according to the folks that reported them missing, the kind to just take off so I don't think anyone's really taken it too seriously. Could be they haven't picked it up yet either, given it's a pretty well populated area."
Dean put down the knife and threw the block after it as he walked over to the table. Peering over Sam's shoulder at the laptop, he scanned the article. "You know 'big grey thing' doesn't really give us a lot to go on."
Sam shrugged. "I know, but we've looked into jobs on a lot less. It does seem kind of a coincidence, all these people vanishing into thin air in the same place."
"Yeah, or it could just be this town attracts a lot of flakes."
Sam rolled his eyes then fidgeted slightly, wondering how best to broach the bit he'd left out so far. Dean noticed and gave him a look. "What?"
Sam glanced up, trying to look innocent. "Nothing."
"Don't 'nothing' me, Sam. Unless you got itching powder in your pants again there's something you're not telling me, so just spit it out already."
Sam shifted his chair a little further away, still going for complete innocence. "It's nothing important."
Responding to the warning tone Sam grimaced slightly. "Ok, it's just a little thing. But you have to promise not to make a big deal out of it."
Dean folded his arms. "Oh, I'm loving the sound of this already."
Sam tried not to look exasperated. "Seriously, it's not even like the last time."
"What last time?"
There was a silent battle of wills until finally Sam looked away first and expelled the words in one single breath. "."
There was a brief look of confusion as Dean tried to separate the words in his head. When he finally did, he glared at Sam. "Oh no. No way, Sam. Not a chance!"
"Come on, this sounds totally different."
"Uh huh. Do you not remember the last time we investigated some mystical retreat? Getting chained in the basement, me nearly drowning – this ringing any bells with you?"
"Of course I remember but there's no reason it would be the same. This sounds like a creature, not some human psycho looking to live forever."
"I don't care, we are not going to another retreat. End of story. I'm still trying to get over the whole incense and tofu thing." said Dean, shuddering.
Sam gave him an incredulous look. "Right, cos that's the bit that bothers you most. Not that you nearly died, but that you accidentally ate tofu."
Deciding that it really wasn't even worth trying to contradict that, Sam instead turned his efforts back to persuasion. "Look putting aside the whole bad experience issue, this is a completely different place anyway."
Sam looked awkward again. "Well, it's. They do. It's sort of a.."
The last word was mumbled and Dean leaned closer. "It's a what?"
Sam sighed. Might as well get it over with. "It's a religious retreat."
Dean blinked. "Religious?"
"As in God-bothering kind of religious?"
Sam elbowed him. "Dude, have a little respect would you? Yes, it's a Christian retreat. It's run by the Catholic church actually – monks, I think."
"Oh well, why didn't you say so? In that case no, we're definitely not going."
"Dean, be reasonable."
Dean interrupted him before he could finish the sentence. "I am being reasonable. I'm reasonably certain that there is absolutely no way we are going to spend time surrounded by chanting monks asking me to 'praise the lord' while we look for some vague creature that may or may not be killing people."
As he spoke Dean moved back over to the bed, picking up the knife and block he'd discarded earlier and turning his attention back to it. Sam wasn't about to give up though and followed, sitting down on the opposite bed and facing his brother. "Come on, you can't say no to this just because you don't happen to believe in God. If there really is something out there then it's killing people."
Dean didn't even look up. "Still not going."
Sam sighed. "Fine. If that's what you want. I must have been wrong I guess."
Dean could hear the line coming a mile away and knew Sam was pulling out all the stops to manipulate him, but he answered anyway. He was curious which angle his brother was gonna go for this time. "Wrong about what?"
"About what we do. I thought it was about saving people, I never realised we had to check out their religious beliefs beforehand."
Dean smirked. "Nice try, Sam, but a little predictable don't you think? Going for the whole 'it's about saving people' angle - I seem to recall you've used your quota on that one this year already."
Sam inwardly cursed but outwardly pretended to ignore the jibe. It was kind of irritating sometimes, trying to get something past someone who knew you so well. "Whatever. I was being serious. But if you're so convinced this is nothing then I could go check it out myself. Save you from the chanting monks."
That got him a sharp look. "Oh, so you're skipping the others and moving straight to that one, eh? Well the answer's still no. We don't hunt alone, you know that."
"You do realise I don't actually have to ask permission, since I'm old enough to vote and all."
There was a certain bite to the words that warned Dean they were suddenly standing on shaky ground. Putting the knife down and deliberately keeping his tone even, he met Sam's gaze. "This isn't about that, so don't start ok?"
Sam glared for a brief moment then backed down. They'd been over this argument enough times for him to know he didn't want to do it again. "I wasn't starting. But my point still stands – these people need our help, Dean. And you're always the one telling me this is what we do. 'The family business' and all that. Last time I checked we don't just pick the jobs we like."
Dean watched as Sam got up and went back over to the table, sitting back down in front of the laptop. Dean carried on sharpening the knife for a few minutes then gave a frustrated sigh.
He really hated when Sam was right.
Sam heard the sigh and managed to stop himself grinning. He knew full well what it meant but he also knew that looking too pleased was a bad idea.
Especially when Dean had a knife in his hand.
The word was spoken through gritted teeth and Sam briefly considered asking Dean to repeat it then discarded the thought, still bearing in mind the whole armed thing. "Great. I'll sort out the directions."
Thirty minutes later they were on the road, complete with Dean still muttering under his breath that he would stab the first person who tried to hold his hand and Sam deliberately ignoring it. "If we don't stop we should be there in a couple of hours." he said.
Dean just grunted.
Sam wisely decided to leave his brother to his sulking and watched the scenery go by. In the end they did have to make one stop, for gas and an appeasing bag of M&Ms that Sam picked up on his way to the register. Dean didn't exactly become Mr Sunshine when they were dropped on his lap, but he did lighten up a little and stopped sulking long enough to finish them in fifteen minutes flat.
As they entered the driveway that lead down to the retreat Dean shoved the empty bag on the back seat and looked over at Sam. "You do realise we might not even get in."
Sam smirked. "You don't have to sound quite so hopeful you know. If we can't get in we'll have to think of another way to get a look inside. But until they say no for sure let me do all the talking ok?"
Dean was silent until Sam eventually elbowed him. Glaring and rubbing his ribs Dean grudgingly conceded. "Fine, you do all the talking. Like I wanna be the one chatting with these guys anyway."
He pulled into an empty parking space near a large stone building. Switching off the engine he glanced around, noting that there were only a few other cars besides the Impala. Sam got out first, heading for the front door, and Dean reluctantly followed. He eyed the building suspiciously and was so engrossed he nearly walked into Sam's back when his brother suddenly stopped in front of him.
"Can I help you?"
Hearing the unknown voice Dean peered round Sam and saw a man stood in front of them, dressed in a brown monk's habit. He looked like he was in his sixties at least and was about a foot shorter than both of them. Smiling benignly up at them he waited patiently for his answer.
"Um, hi. We were wondering if you maybe had a room free for a couple of days?" said Sam, giving the monk a brightly hopeful smile. He didn't look behind him but hoped Dean at least wasn't scowling.
"Do you have a reservation?" asked the monk and Sam shook his head. "No, we were just in the area and we heard about this place and wanted to try it. We just needed somewhere to relax for a while and work through some stuff."
Dean resisted the urge to snort at Sam's serious expression and earnest tone. He really was laying it on thick. The monk however obviously wasn't a cynical man and he smiled again. "Well, I think you may be in luck. We're actually very quiet at the moment, only a few guests, so I'm sure we could accommodate you. Why don't you come with me?"
Without waiting for an answer the monk turned round and walked towards the building. Shooting Dean a triumphant look, that earned him a shove from behind, Sam followed.
Inside the place was darker than he'd been expecting and Sam blinked a little to adjust his eyes. He could sense Dean behind him so he concentrated on the monk and the surroundings. The entrance hall was big, the ceiling so far up he couldn't see it. The walls were stone and there was nothing on them, except the odd wooden crucifix or a picture of the Virgin Mary. There was no front desk or any furniture and the monk led them straight through and into a smaller room just off to the left. He stopped and turned, indicating that they should take a seat on the small leather couch that sat against the wall. "If you would wait here, I'll be right back." he said and Sam nodded.
The monk silently disappeared through a second doorway and Sam sat. Dean stayed on his feet, looking round, until Sam yanked on his arm. "Sit down." he hissed, mindful that they could be being watched.
Dean pulled his arm away but did as he was told. Saying nothing he continued his scan of the room, all the while leaning back nonchalantly, and he easily spotted the tiny hidden camera in the corner of the ceiling. Casually turning as if he was simply looking at the books on the case next to them, he caught Sam's eye and almost imperceptibly shifted his head in the direction of the camera. Sam moved and his gaze flicked upwards, equally as casually, before looking back at Dean again as he gave the tiniest of nods.
Satisfied his brother had seen the device as well, Dean went back to appraising the room. Most of the books looked religious, and old, and aside from the couch there was a medium sized desk against the other wall with a chair sitting beside it. The desk itself was freakily tidy. In fact, the whole room looked like no one ever used it and Dean was about to comment on this when the door opened again and the monk came through, this time followed by a slightly taller, more severe looking man.
"Here we are, Father. These are the young men I was telling you about." said the original monk, sweeping one arm in their direction.
The new addition seemed less than impressed and Sam quickly stood, relieved when Dean followed. The first monk seemed to feel his work was done and bowed low to all of them before leaving by the other door.
Feeling slightly uncomfortable under the piercing gaze of the man they were left with, Sam struggled not to fidget. After a few moments the priest waved a hand at them. "Please, you may be seated."
"Gee thanks." said Dean, under his breath, and Sam found himself hoping the guy didn't have perfect hearing.
"I understand from Brother Jerome that you wish to spend some time with us, is that correct?"
The priest's voice was strong and steely, giving away nothing of his emotions. Sam met his gaze unflinchingly and nodded with a slight smile. "Yes, that's right. We were hoping you might have a room for a few days?"
The priest's eyes moved to Dean and then back to Sam again. "As Brother Jerome may have mentioned, we are very quiet at the moment. We will be able to offer you both a room, for as long as you wish."
Sam was surprised at the speed of the offer and tried not to show it. "That's great."
Yeah, terrific thought Dean, but he kept it to himself.
"Do you know how long you will be staying?"
Sam paused, as if considering the question. "A few days, maybe longer – if that was ok?"
The priest smiled, but it wasn't particularly reassuring. "That would be fine. If you would like to collect your things I will have someone show you to your rooms."
Taking that as the dismissal it was Sam stood up, nodded his thanks and headed back out the way they'd come. They passed no one else and as Dean opened the trunk Sam leaned in next to him, so they wouldn't be overheard.
"What do you think?" he said quietly and Dean looked sideways at him.
"You really want me to answer that?"
"Alright, don't get excited. I think the place is like something out of a hammer horror film and that guy in there is creepy as hell. Satisfied?"
Sam winced. "Could you maybe not use that word while we're here?"
Dean rolled his eyes and pulled his bag out. They'd already moved some weapons into their bags before they left the motel, so they wouldn't have to do it in plain sight, although there were less than Dean would have liked. They'd each taken a handgun, one of the larger knives, some silver rounds just in case and Dean also had John's journal, while Sam carried the laptop.
Even though Dean had already laughed at the idea of them having wireless in a place like this.
Closing the trunk and taking a last look to make sure the car was ok, Dean frowned. "You notice he said rooms, right? As in plural. That might be a problem if we want to go over a plan of action."
Sam didn't look any happier. "Yeah, I know, but what can we do? We'll just have to talk when we get the chance and hope we don't get overheard."
As they walked back inside Dean shook his head. "This is going well already." he said, loud enough only for Sam to hear.
Before Sam could reply Brother Jerome appeared again. "Follow me." he said, still smiling pleasantly.
Paying attention to everything they walked behind the monk, their footsteps echoing on the flagstones as they went down a long corridor. Brother Jerome stopped halfway along, reaching out and opening two doors next to each other. "Here you are." he said and stepped back, allowing them to move past him.
Dean eyed the room, which was just big enough for a single bed against the wall, a small desk with a chair, and a chest of drawers. He turned to face Brother Jerome. "Let me guess, none of the rooms are locked, right?"
Brother Jerome smiled serenely. "Of course not." he said, as if genuinely puzzled that anyone should want to lock a door. "Dinner is at 5.30pm, followed by Vespers. After that you will be free to walk the grounds or use the library for quiet contemplation. Lights out is at 10pm, and we do not expect guests to attend the night services. Unless you specifically wish to, of course." He paused and reached into a pocket hidden somewhere amongst the folds of his habit. "If you could fill in these cards with your details and give them back to me that would be most helpful."
Handing the cards to Dean he bowed low again and swept back down the corridor, leaving them alone. Sam, who'd heard the explanation as well, leant against the doorframe of Dean's room. "I'm gonna assume you want to skip the night services." he said, dryly, and Dean grimaced.
"I'd skip all of them if I could."
"Well you can't." said Sam firmly. "We don't need to draw attention to ourselves. Which, by the way, means acting like you go to church all the time and not sitting there rolling your eyes and looking at your watch."
Dean looked indignant then dropped the act when it was clear Sam wasn't buying it. "Fine, I'll do my 'amens' like a good boy. But we better find out what it is that's taking these people and fast, cos I do not want to stay here any longer than we have to."
Sam let it drop, reflecting he'd done well to get that much out of his brother. Walking the five steps it took to get back to his own room, he looked around hoping for a hiding place for the weapons. He ran a hand through his hair slightly frustratedly when there was none. It wasn't like he really expected monks to go rummaging through his stuff but there had been something about the priest that was 'off'. He was still trying to decide on a course of action when Dean appeared in the door, pulling his shirt down at the back.
"Come on – grab your gear and lets go check the place out."
"What do you mean grab my gear?"
Dean looked at him like he'd just asked a dumb question. "What, you were planning on leaving your weapons in here? In the unlocked room? I'd love to see you explain that one to Brother Jerome."
Sam suddenly realised why Dean had been rearranging his shirt. "You're gonna walk around the place and go into a church armed?"
"No, Sam, I'm gonna walk around the creepy retreat looking for a murderous creature with just my sharp wit to attack it with."
Dean held up a hand. "No buts, just get your stuff and let's get on with this, ok? What do you think they're gonna do anyway, frisk us on the way in? Or maybe you think the church has a metal detector by the door?"
Sam glared at him but, not having a better idea, reluctantly tucked his own gun in the waistband of his jeans and quickly buckled the sheath for his knife to his ankle before slipping the blade in. He pushed the duffle to one side, now containing nothing more incriminating than his crumpled clothes, and followed Dean out of the room.
"We'll try outside first." said Dean, over his shoulder. "That way we can avoid the men in frocks until it's absolutely necessary."
Sam cringed. He had a sudden feeling this was going to be a long few days.