Defining Normal

Summary: Bobby's plan to give Sam and Dean a simple, probably-not-a-possession job turns ugly. Takes place near the end of season 4. Angst and whumping and humor. So it's a mixed bag.

Spoilers: As above. Don't read if you haven't seen season 4.

Genre: General

Characters: Dean and Sam (naturally). Bobby. O/C characters.

Rating: M (for sailor talk)

Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural, Dean or Sam but I do own this laptop. I'm borrowing Dean and Sam for a while but promise to return them washed, dried and neatly folded.

Thanks: To my friend who got me hooked on Supernatural after four years of telling me to watch it. Now I'm writing fanfic. Is that any way to treat a friend?

Author Notes: This story tries to show both Sam and Dean's POV's near the end of season 4. In other words, no one starts drinking demon blood without motivation and big brothers don't suddenly bounce back from torture. Consequently I struggled to write this story and now loathe it with a white hot irradiating heat like the molten core of the sun. The only reason I'm posting this is to get it out of my hair. Oh, and it's complete. I will be posting chapters as I complete final edits. Expect a new chapter every couple of days.


It was night. Seven to be exact. Sam drove the Impala through Fulton county, Arkansas, aiming for the state line into Missouri. He'd peeled off the 9 and into Republican Road, figuring a drive through the back country would be a good way to avoid the unnecessary attention you attracted when you set a church on fire. Deliberately. To kill a nest of vampires hiding out in the church's mausoleum.

The vampires had taken it upon themselves to convert the church's congregation to a life of sin and feed on the left overs. If nothing else the vampires definitely had a sense of macabre irony.

Dean sat next to him, worse for wear. He'd been knocked around, had scratches and cuts that needed to be doused with holy water. He was also sporting a livid bruise on his cheek and a split lip. When they'd briefly stopped for gas half an hour back, he'd staggered out of the car like an old man.

"Fucking vampires," muttered Dean. "Always with the sneak attacks."

"It wasn't a sneak attack. She was sitting in the pews. You could spot her a mile away."

Dean glared at him. "Oh, I'm sorry – I didn't think an 80-year old woman who needed a walking frame was gonna be a threat."

"An 80-year old vampire woman. Dude, what part of superhuman powers did you forget?"

"My guard was down. Besides, those vampires were weird. And not sexy."

"Converted senior citizens were never going to be sexy."

Dean dabbed at the slow ooze of blood from his bottom lip with a tissue. "All I'm saying is that I can usually spot a vampire due to their good looks and emo-dress sense. Not their varicose veins and short sightedness."

Sam laughed. "That's how you spot vampires? Good looks?"

"That, and the teeth. The teeth confirm it."

Sam thought about it a moment. Having to stake a guy who looked like an overweight accountant just seemed a whole lot creepier than usual. "Okay, yeah... Actually, I'm in agreement with you. That was strange."

"Besides, even if she was a vampire, no way am I ever going feel good about punching an old lady in the face." Dean settled back against the passenger side window, folded his arms across his chest. "I'm gonna try and sleep. Wake me when we get anywhere that has food and beer."

Sam nodded. Food and beer would be a great idea. Just as soon as they hit Missouri and kept driving for another two hours. However, since they were the Winchesters and their lives were just one long roller coaster of stomach churning brushes with all that was unholy as soon as he crossed the state line his cellphone started ringing.

He fished out the phone, checked the caller ID. Bobby.

"Hey, Bobby. What's up?"

"You boys free for a job?"

Sam glanced over at Dean. His brother's head was against the glass, resting on the corner of the passenger seat. Asleep already.

"We were hoping to take a break," said Sam. He wasn't lying. He was hoping for a couple of days just to unwind, maybe make some money, and not set any houses of worship on fire. He couldn't speak for Dean of course.

"Look, I know you boys have been busy of late but... Well, it's a favor for a friend of mine."

"Yeah? What's the problem?"

"Cheryl McTierney. She thinks she's got a possession on her hands."


"She can't confirm but the woman has good instincts and I owe her. I'd do it myself but I've got a whole bunch of tax paperwork I have to take care of."

"You're more scared of the IRS than demons?"

"Damn straight."

"Okay. Yeah, we'll take it. What's the address?"

"49 East Maple, Swisstown, South Dakota."

"What's happening?" Dean was semi-awake and trying to determine what Sam was talking about. Or who he was talking to.

"And Sam," said Bobby. "Cheryl's a nice lady and she's not stupid about the supernatural. She's gonna pay you a fee and she's got a place for you to stay that's pretty decent. So don't let Dean piss her off."

Dean was getting irritated. "Who're you talking to?"

"It's Bobby," he replied to his brother. Then he continued the phone conversation. "We should be there tomorrow."

"Thanks. It means a lot to me."

"No problems."

Dean reached over to grab the phone. "Let me talk to him."

"Sure." Sam handed the phone to Dean and concentrated on driving and making sure he remembered the address.

"Hey, Bobby."

Sam listened in briefly to the rest of the conversation but it was hard figuring out what was happening when it was all one-sided. As always with Dean, it was mostly about nothing much. Dean had always been good at the nothing-much conversation. Even more accomplished at it than their father. John Winchester had been a man of grunted acknowledgements, to-the-point exchanges, and barked commands. Dean had taken it a step further by being able to appear to have a meaningful conversation, when in fact it was really about nothing at all. They could talk for hours in the car about a variety of crap and it was, in the end, completely pointless. After four years together there was fuck all to talk about anyway. Even less when you told your brother to stop whining. Because, yeah, torture was really nothing more than a boo-boo.

Dean closed the phone, handed it back to Sam. "Did you know South Dakota has the world's largest pheasant?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Bobby told me. It's 28-feet high. Made of fiberglass and steel. We have to check it out. It's in Huron."

"You want to go and look at a pheasant?"

"Yeah. After the case. We'll visit Bobby and then go visit the pheasant."

So, this is what it came down to now. Stilted conversations and, in the space of five minutes, an itinerary to go and look at a gigantic fake pheasant. Then again, Dean had been begging to see the world's largest ball of twine for months and they'd passed through Minnesota four times already. Or was it five? Maybe a fake, giant, fiberglass bird was what they needed to lighten the load a little, and maybe give Dean a break. Maybe it would make up for telling his brother to stop whining.

Sam grinned. "Sure. It'll be fun."

Dean nodded, smiled back. A job, a pay check of sorts, a place to stay and a 28-foot high pheasant.

Things were looking up for the Winchesters.


The motel in Missouri was one of their worst picks. A busted fridge, mold, and a toilet that you prayed that you didn't have to use, but were going to have to anyway. The shower walls were the color of coffee grounds. Not because the tiles were colored brown but because no one had cleaned them in months.

Dean eyed the bathroom with wariness. "That explains the vacancy sign."

Sam eyed a piece of crumpled wallpaper that appeared to trying to slide down the wall but was arrested in mid slide. If Dean was worried, it confirmed that the level of sanitation was at an all time low. But it was either the motel or the car and they both hated sleeping in the car.

"I'm sleeping on the covers and I vote we steal something." Dean continued the conversation while surveying the room for items to purloin. He moved to the kitchenette with a slight limp and rummaged around in the drawers until he found something he considered worthy. "Like this teaspoon."

He shoved the teaspoon into his duffel bag.

Sam just shook his head. "How many does that make now?"


"What are you planning to do with fifteen teaspoons?"

Dean paused like he'd never considered the answer before. "Don't know but if we ever need to stir lots of coffee, we're made."



"Is your leg bothering you?"

"No. It's my back. I think I pulled a muscle when the old lady threw her walking frame at my head. Now shut up and help me try and get the coffee maker off the wall."

Sam looked at the coffeemaker, hard wired into the wall and chained to the top of the kitchen bench. It was late and he was too tired to play DIY electrician.



"Go to sleep."


The next day they drove the Chevy through Missouri, cut up the middle of Iowa and Nebraska on the 29, straight into South Dakota before taking a left at the 90. Their destination was nowhere near the giant pheasant. It was a small sleeper town about an hour away from Rapid City.

The address Bobby gave them lead to a large Victorian two-story house with a tidy lawn, a rose garden, and a picket fence. It looked peaceful and well heeled and normal. They parked the Impala right outside the house and it couldn't have looked more out of place. Pretty suburban street, up market houses, and one muscle car that might belong to serial killers.

Dean took a few extra minutes to haul himself out of the Impala. Placed a hand on his lower back.

"Son of a bitch. What'd that old lady do to me?"

Sam walked around the other side, then crossed the sidewalk to open the gate. Walked slowly so Dean could keep up.

"Should we be taking this job if your back is so messed up?"

"It's not messed up," replied Dean. "It's a kink in a muscle. I'll do some stretches and it'll be fine. Stop being such a girl about everything."

"If you wind up in hospital, don't blame me."

"Believe me I won't. Samantha."

"Samantha. Hah, hah. It's always funny when you say that."

They made it up the three short steps, onto the porch and Sam rang the doorbell. They heard the sound of footsteps on hardwood floors before the door opened.

A woman in her late fifties, maybe early sixties, stood in the entrance and sized them up. She was dressed in jeans, sneakers, a sweatshirt that had seen better days, and couldn't have been more than five feet, two inches tall. Her hair was gray and tied back in a ponytail. She had a smudge of flour on her forehead, blue eyes and an expression that made it clear she wasn't going to stand for any nonsense.


Sam took the lead. As always.

"I'm Sam, this is my brother Dean..."

He didn't get a chance to finish. She grabbed his hand, shook it, then gestured that they should both come into the house. "Oh. Bobby told me about you. I'm Cheryl if you hadn't guessed."

She didn't bother to check if they were following, just headed for the kitchen, calling over her shoulder, "Shut the door behind you. I was just baking cookies."

Sam glanced at Dean, and it was like watching some narc dog catch a whiff of marijuana. His entire focus was in the general direction of the kitchen.

They both stepped inside, Sam politely did as he'd been told and shut the door. They followed their noses to find the woman armed with a baker's slide shoveling industrial quantities of cookies onto cooling racks.

"Damn bake sales. Too much work. I don't know why I keep volunteering."

She gave them a once over at that point, her eye scanning them for any signs of dishonesty, or out and out hunter craziness. They seemed to pass the test because she went back to her task and popped another tray of cookie dough into the oven.

Dean meanwhile, began fixating on the cookies. Sam noticed his eyes were flicking between her and the cookies, his face wearing an expression that said he's probably died and gone to Heaven but he wasn't entirely sure.

At least he was predictable.

Cheryl noticed too. "You want one?"

Dean hesitated. Sam knew that Dean's instincts were telling him that they had no idea who this woman was, that she could be a witch, and that she could be baking for the sole purpose of fattening up small children and using them as the main ingredient in a human hamburger.

"Hey, go ahead, I've got some spare. Take one from the container. They should be cool enough to eat by now. You're not allergic to nuts or anything are you?"

Caution and willpower gave out about three seconds later. "Are you sure?" Dean asked to be polite.

Cheryl said,"Sure I'm sure. I'm not exactly in short supply at the moment."

Sam continued the adult portion of the conversation while Dean reached for the prize. "So, Bobby said you may have a problem."

"Yeah, I run a Marigold troop and-" Cheryl never got a chance to finish.

"-Oh my God, these are fucking AWESOME!"

They stopped. Dean had a mouthful of cookie, bliss written all over his face and he seemed to have already lost interest in the job. "Sam, you gotta try one. The inside is soft and the chocolate is gooey and I think there's pecans in here."

Sam shook his head. Dean reached for the container, thrust it under his brother's nose. "No. Seriously. Try one. You have to try one."

"Not now."

"Yes, now."

Sam shook his head again and his brother reluctantly put the container back down on the counter. This current interaction summed it up. Dean had been sliding between general crankiness and complete distraction for months now. His mood was good one day, his mood not so good for a lot of days and that seemed to have been the theme ever since he came back from hell. It was hard to keep up with the swings and roundabouts of exactly where Dean happened to be in terms of his emotional state on any given day. Today, Sam thought, was a pretty good day, except for Dean's complete inability to concentrate in the presence of food.

Cheryl finished scooping another batch onto a cooling tray, then wiped her hands. "That's the last of them for now. Why don't I get coffee and we can go talk in the living room?"

Dean was still chewing, but seemed happy to mumble his agreement. She grabbed a couple of mugs, filled them up, gave one to Dean, one to Sam, pointed them down the hallway.

"Turn right at the door. Can't miss it. I'll bring more cookies."


Dean didn't have a clue who Cheryl McTierney was having known her for all of 15-minutes, but any woman who could bake had his attention. Sure, her skill with sugar, flour and eggs could just as easily be connected to some major hoodoo but Dean told himself that it was highly unlikely. Bobby had sent them to this address and as far as he knew, vampires, demons, ghosts and ghouls weren't known for offering straight-out-of-the-oven cookies to their next victim.

When she'd opened the front door, every neuron in his brain had lit up because at the same time she spoken the magical words, "baking cookies", the smell hit him. Chocolate and dough, and the dough rising in the oven and it was like he was four again, which was completely unfair but really, for one brief moment he was pretty sure if he just turned a corner he'd see his Mom baking up a storm. Because he remembered that. He remembered her letting him help with stirring and for some reason the perfume of domesticity wafting around the house seemed to have made that fuzzy memory clearer.

Dean wanted to comment about the smell and how for a change, it was a good smell and not the smell of death but then he thought that his comment would earn a look from Sam that would hint that as far as Sam was concerned, he'd lost the plot.

The living room had two huge couches, knick-knacks, a flat screen TV. A fireplace, no fire, and photos of Cheryl and the other people who were, or had been, in her life. There was also a photo of Cheryl with Bobby. It looked like it had been taken at a restaurant of all places. Bobby had his arm around her and he was smiling and he was wearing a tie and no cap. Dean surveyed the long line of framed photos that featured Cheryl with a stethoscope around her neck, surrounded by a bunch of other military personnel. Then he scoped the room out, scanning for little clues in regards to their new employer. Sam did the same, checking through the titles on her bookcase.

So far, so lacking in signs of evil. No witch like activities, hex bags, spells, or the bones of small animals strewn around.

She'd followed them in, carrying a plate of cookies, and her own cup. Noticed Dean scrutinizing the photos on the mantelpiece.

"I used to be a doctor in the Army. Retired two years ago. Keep my hand in at a free clinic I started."

She placed the the cookies on the small coffee table, gestured that they should sit down. Dean was more than happy to comply, but sitting down proved problematic. He lowered himself slowly, hunched forward and then shifted so that he'd positioned himself in front of the plate. He reached for another cookie. His hand was slapped away by his brother.

He shot a pissed off look Sam, who had started with the supervision routine shortly after Dean had made it back to the land of the living. Dean would be doing something like drinking shots back-to-back, or eating more than two slices of pie, or compulsively replaying the Led Zeppelin II album for three hours straight and Sam would get a pinched look on his face and say, "Enough, man. Enough." Quietly, like Dean was doing something fucked up and crazy. Annoyed and embarrassed, he put his hand down, and tried to ignore the scent of warm chocolate wafting around the room and instead, took a swig of coffee.

"Oh my God! What the hell is in this coffee? This coffee is awesome."

Cheryl smiled at him, and it was a genuine smile. He knew that because he could spot when people faked happiness. Mainly because he was so damn good at it himself.

"That," said Cheryl. "Is a blend I've been working on. I've been experimenting with buying different beans and seeing what works."

Sam, clearly getting impatient, interrupted and put the conversation back on track."Yes, it's very good. Now Dr. McTierney-"


"Cheryl. What seems to be the exact nature of your problem?"

"Possession. I think the word you're looking for is 'possession'. I thought you said Bobby sent you."

"He did. Could I ask how you know Bobby?"

"Let's just say Bobby is quite the lady's man when he's in the mood."

Dean tried not to make a face. Images of Bobby rampaged through his mind without asking, and it was as bad as the time he figured out how sex worked and where babies came from and then promptly realized that it must have also meant that his parents had sex too.

"What's the exact nature of the possession?"

Dean wanted to tell Sam that he was sounding like an FBI agent but kept his mouth shut and tried to concentrate and not look at the cookies. The cookies that were all stacked up on the plate like they'd fallen out of a Martha Stewart magazine. The magazine that he'd occasionally sneak a peek at when they were at a convenience store or whatever, and he'd just open it up, look at all the sickeningly sweet layouts of perfect, perfect food and wonder why he never got to eat stuff that good looking.

"I'm the Earth Mother to a troop of Marigolds."

"Marigolds?" Dean thought he knew what a Marigold was in terms of enforced group activities for children but wasn't sure.

"Yes. Marigolds. Little girls in uniform gaining proficiency badges and selling cookies door-to-door. Not my fabulous cookies mind you. The prepackaged ones."

"The mint flavored ones? I ate a packet of those once."

Sam raised an eyebrow at his brother. Trying to signal that he should reign in his current obsession with baked goods. "You were saying?"

"Like I was saying, I'm Earth Mother to a Marigold troop. There's one girl. Emma. Whenever she's around, something happens. Items disappear and turn up in the wrong place. The other girls won't invite her to sleepovers. Apparently on one of the nights Emma turned up, the brother of the girl holding the sleepover woke up covered in fingertip bruising. The parents thought Emma might have been the culprit but they couldn't prove anything. They say that she's creepy but they're never very specific about why they're frightened of her. Of more concern is that Emma sometimes seem to be covered in the same bruises."

"Okay... You know, that doesn't mean it's supernatural," said Sam. Dean thought he sounded vaguely patronizing. Sam hastened to extend his explanation. "It could be due to human causes. She might have behavioral issues. If she was being abused, it would make sense..."

Cheryl didn't seem to take offense, but did look at Sam as if he were a slow-witted child. "Yes, I do realize that. I've also noticed temperature drops of up to ten degrees when she stays here. Bobby gave me an EMF meter a few years back and it's been showing some signs of activity. I discussed it with Bobby and he thought it was worth checking out."

"Then maybe your house is haunted."

"No. I wouldn't buy a house that was haunted. What I'm saying is that wherever Emma goes, spooky things happen."

From the way Cheryl was describing the possession, it didn't strike Dean as what he'd consider to be a 'normal' case of demon ride sharing. "Look," said Dean. "There's no such thing as a mild case of possession. If Emma was possessed everyone at the sleepover would be dead. Not slightly annoyed."

"He's got a point," said Sam.

"Well, what else is it?" Cheryl asked.

Dean wasn't sure. But facts were facts and these facts didn't add up. EMF activity and a drop in temperature meant a haunting. It could also mean a draft in the room, and faulty wiring. Bottom line, Sam was probably right. Weird kid, yes. Demons, no. Ghosts, maybe.

Cheryl took a sip of coffee, seemed to be taking their skepticism calmly. "So what's the plan?"

Despite it all, Dean's interest was piqued. At least it was something different, in that it didn't appear to be immediately life threatening, and there was no desperate urgency to kill something and he wasn't talking about a haunting while freezing his ass off in the car.

"The plan is that we go and meet this Emma kid, and figure out what's happening."

The expression on Cheryl's face was one of amused disbelief. "Have you looked in a mirror lately? Emma will get one look at you and run screaming for her mother."

Dean didn't reply even though he was insulted by the comment. He was reasonably sure the reason that they didn't get into more trouble with the general public was in a large part to their boyish good looks. And he, for one, wasn't above freely turning on the charm when it came to women. To be told they looked shifty was insulting.

Cheryl continued. "Besides, your back is bothering you."

He opened his mouth to say no, no it wasn't bothering him, but didn't get that far. She just talked straight over the top of him and he had no option but to close his mouth.

"Your gait is off, and I'd hardly call what you're doing a relaxed sitting posture."

He opened his mouth again, and he was going to lie that automatic lie. He got beaten up in a bar, he was in a car accident, he pulled a muscle at the gym, all of those thousand and one lies that didn't raise the suspicions of ordinary people. But here he was, no chance to say anything because Cheryl was still talking and he was beginning to feel like he was doing his best imitation of a fish.

"Hunters. You're all the same. Shoot first, worry about your body parts dropping off later. You boys are going to take a couple of days off, and recharge your batteries before you go galloping after the unknown. If you're going to gank demons, I would prefer you did it when you weren't sleep deprived."

Gank. The woman had just used the word gank. In a sentence. It was like a spelling bee for fringe dwellers. Yes, sir. Gank. G-A-N-K. Gank. At that point, Dean gave up trying to argue. He saw Sam shrug out of the corner of his eye, and that seemed to be about it. Cheryl wasn't a hunter, that much was certain, but she knew the lifestyle. She was an older version of Ellen.

"Okay," said Sam, also on unsure ground. "Great. So. Research?"

"No," interrupted Cheryl. Her tone of voice made it clear that she'd been an effective commander in her Army days. "You clearly didn't hear what I said. There are to be no hunting related activities for the next two days. At least."

There was nothing much more to say. Dean knew a command when he heard it. Didn't matter if it was from a guy or gal. It was John Winchester's marine voice coming out of a tiny woman who was probably just as tough. If not tougher.

However, it was a tone of voice that didn't sit well with Sam and never had.

"Cheryl, I don't think we should waste any time," said Sam. "We need to confirm if it's a possession and go from there. The sooner we can start researching the sooner we might have an angle on this."

Cheryl stood up, crossed her arms. "Like I said. Not now. For one, I'm paying for this gig so you can do what your employer tells you."

Dean was about to let the whole thing go when a thought dropped into his mind with a fairly large dose of suspicion attached to it. "Fucking Bobby." Dean turned to his brother, irritation all over his face. "He planned this."

"Planned what?" Sam obviously didn't have a clue what his brother was talking about.

"Planned for us to come here. Remember two months back and he told me I needed some sleep?"

"Uh. No."

"Yes, you do. He said, 'Dean, you're getting bags under your eyes.'"

"And you translated that into a plot to make us take a break by lying abut a job involving Marigolds?"

Dean gestured impatiently, "No, not the Marigold thing. The not-being-able-to-work-on-the-case-for-a-few-days-at-least thing. Because apparently, we're in need of a vacation."


Sam frowned. Still no idea what his brother was talking about. Bobby got to the point immediately. Dean either ignored him or didn't. It was a fairly straight forward transaction in terms of conversational technique and neither Bobby nor Dean were big on subtext. For Dean to think Bobby had cooked the job just to get them to take a break was paranoid, even for Dean. Besides, Sam didn't need a vacation. Dean did. Needed to stop trying to save every damn person he encountered. Maybe sleep longer than three hours. Maybe not be so fucking irritating all the time.

But that's not what he said. Instead he said, "I think you're overreacting."

"I think both of you are reading more into this than there is. Like I said, I don't want Emma to be traumatized by the sight of a tall, scary man with a roughed up a face." Cheryl interrupted.

Dean bristled at the description. "I'm not scary. Jesus, what is it with the scary? I'm cute. Damn it."

Cheryl didn't seem inclined to back down. "Then how about cute and intense?"

Dean seemed about to throw something else into the mix but thought better of it. "Oh, fine. Just fine. I'll let my face get less scary. But there had better be food and beer while that happens. That's all I'm saying."

She just snorted at his agreement. "I keep a well stocked fridge. Now, since I'm a doctor, let me look at you and make sure you didn't do any serious damage."

"We've only just met!" Dean was looking highly indignant.

"There's cookies in it for you."

Dean looked dubious.

"And beer."

Still dubious.

"And a bacon cheeseburger with chili curly fries followed by homemade apple pie with ice cream."

He sighed, rolled his eyes. "Okay then."

"My office is down the back. The exam will take fifteen minutes if you're lucky," said Cheryl. Reassuringly. "Sam, why don't you make yourself comfortable here for a while? Turn on the TV, help yourself to the contents of the fridge if you want."

It was like she was talking to a ten-year-old. Sam thought she was probably right when it came to Dean but wrong when it came to him. Then again, maybe when you moved into the later stages of life, everyone looked like they were ten. He nodded his agreement.

She reached over, helped Dean to his feet, even though he was trying to pull his arm away as soon as she touched him.

"Come on Hop-Along. Let's get you sorted out."