Okay so here it is. The first chapter of the new one. I've just hit chapter ten in my writing, so I'm thinking maybe two or three chapters a week would be a good posting-pace until I've completely finished it! Please give me feedback and let me know what you think!
Back in Black.
Their footsteps echoed loudly around the corridor, tall arched ceilings bouncing the sound back at them as three pairs of shoes plodded out-of-time across the flagstone floor.
The small man in front of them was walking fast, scurrying almost, yet the solid tread of the two figures behind him kept up at almost half the speed, listening with vague interest to the historical narrative being related back to them in enthusiastic tones,
"…one of the stones in the west wing of the girls' school is said to have been part of the foundations of Glastonbury Abbey before they were destroyed by fire in 1184…the Bishop himself has visited twice as a guest of Father Charles…oldest structure in the city…"
The latter was the easiest fact to believe, flanked as they were on all sides by thick stone walls, tall Cathedral windows and austere paintings of former men of the cloth, glowering down at passers-by with looks that seemed to say, among other things, 'hands off the silver.'
"Here we are!" came the chirpy voice from in front of them once more as their guide ground to a halt at the far end of a row of thick wooden doors, this room set half-a-level and four steps up from the others in some sort of deference to authority. It opened with the heavy metallic click of a latch, yet more stone gracing both the interior walls and floor, softened only by a rug that looked both hand-stitched and ancient. Two uncomfortable looking beds, flanked by desks and chairs, a dresser and washstand completed the look, which in terms of sparseness, was obviously going for some sort of record.
A cross hung on the wall between the thin arrow-shaped windows, casting identical beams of sunlight down across the dusty, barren little space.
"Homely," came a sarcastic voice from behind the young Priest who failed to pick up on it, instead turning a broad smile at the newcomers.
"It is indeed."
Silence met his fervour and as two pairs of eyes stared across at him – one genuinely friendly, the other a little more sardonic – he took a deep breath, smiled again and nodded.
"Well in that case I shall leave you to settle in. The staff bathroom is on the next floor down, dinner is at six o'clock in the main hall and the boys should be back from lessons within the hour, although I'm sure Father Charles will introduce you properly at Matins tomorrow morning."
Again he met the sarcastic reply with complete oblivion as the taller of the trainees cleared his throat and returned the smile with a nod of gratitude.
"Thank you, Father – ,"
"Father Matthews. I'm sure we'll be…" slight pause, "…very comfortable here."
"I trust you will."
The silence set in again as the young Priest made to leave, offering one last smile of solidarity before turning and leaving the room, closing the door gently behind them and sighing with gladness as he stepped back into the hall. It was always nice to have new recruits to the cause, especially so young, vibrant and obviously willing to serve the Lord. Yes, he nodded to himself, they would be welcome additions; quiet, respectful, polite…
"What a crap hole."
Dropping his bag onto the floor with a thud, Dean had waited until Father Matthew's footsteps had faded from earshot before un-biting his tongue with a sense of relief. He sat down on the bed heavily, coughing as a cloud of dust billowed up and began to dance in the sunlight.
"I've seen more welcoming crypts,"
Sam's half-snapped, half-exasperated reply came out in a whisper, obviously unsure about proximity and erring on the side of caution at least until they found their feet. Dean snorted,
"Oh, knock it off Sam, with walls these thick people wouldn't hear us if we tried to kill each other in here!"
Sam shrugged the bag off his shoulder onto the comforter, instantly reaching in to pull his beloved laptop out onto the desk to fire her up. He spared his brother a withering glare.
"Maybe that's not such a bad idea."
Dean fixed him a look, mock hurt with plenty of amusement,
"Remember your vows Sam,"
His sing-song tone succeeded in getting the rise he was after, watching as Sam threw the clothes he was carefully unpacking onto the bed in a heap, turning towards his older brother with anger that was fast becoming a whiny-sounding protest – a tone usually reserved for when Dean shoved some outrageous fake I.D into his hands and pushed him towards a reception desk.
"I didn't take any vows! Neither did you," he hissed, punctuating the next sentence slowly and carefully, "We're not real Priests."
"Nope," Dean agreed, drawing a short-lived sigh of relief, "We're Priests-in-training."
Dean – ," Sam stopped short, realising belatedly he was only increasing his brother's amusement and instead turning to continue his unpacking with a groan of disbelief, "This is the worst idea you've ever had."
"Me?" came the indignant reply, "It wasn't my idea."
"Well you were the one that convinced me to go along with it,"
Dean snorted unsympathetically, leaning back against the stone wall and crossing his legs casually,
"Will you stop bitching and relax already?"
"Relax? How am I supposed to relax Dean?" Sam demanded, holding his arms wide, a t-shirt clutched in one out-stretched hand, "Did you even hear Father Matthews? We're expected to be at Matins tomorrow morning. We don't even know what the hell Matins are! And that's before we're left in charge of a dormitory of seven-to-eleven year olds all night."
"They're Bible-bashers Sam," Dean responded lazily, "They'll all be in bed by eight o'clock reading psalms and saying their prayers."
Sam groaned. Why was that sentence always the beginning of the end? Shaking his head, he opened his mouth to fire off another tirade at his under-whelmed brother only to be interrupted by a tentative tap at the door.
Both men froze instantly, sharing identical looks of alertness.
Climbing from his bed Dean positioned himself quietly behind the door, nodding once to Sam as soon as he was in position. One hand on the latch, Sam waited for the signal and then cautiously poked his head out into the corridor beyond. His sigh of relief told Dean the visitor was no cause for alarm and instantly he took a step back, almost colliding with the figure that bustled in past him, long black habit billowing out behind her.
"Quickly now boys," she began breathlessly, barely giving Sam time to shut the door, "Can't be standing around out there all afternoon."
Dean regarded the woman in front of him in surprise, sharing a dubious look with his brother, both of them silently asking the same question. Dean decided to verbalise it.
"Are you supposed to be here?" he began hesitantly, offering a clueless shrug, "I thought this place was like sexual apartheid or something."
Sister Helena fixed him a look, part disapproving, part amused, folding her arms across her chest but unable to stop the quirk that turned up the corners of her lips.
"Well," she began somewhat flippantly, "I thought in view of the fact that his servants are being murdered in his own house of worship, the Lord might forgive my audacity just this once."
Sam smiled. He loved it when older women got the better of Dean, an event that was rare in any case. Nobody, but nobody – with the exception of himself – could insult Dean's intelligence, actions or character without getting a beating, but from Sister Helena, Ellen and especially Missouri, his older brother simply took it, albeit with a hint of bewilderment playing across his face.
Sister Helena smiled at the sight of it, reaching over to give his arm a comforting pat. Sam cleared his throat,
"So, anything since we last saw you?"
Sister Helena shook her head,
"No. Mercifully it's been quiet of late,"
"Well that's not good, " Dean chipped in as Sam offered the nun a chair, both turning to look at him in surprise, "Because unless this thing just upped and left town – which, by the way, doesn't usually happen – then it's been sitting somewhere re-charging its batteries and waiting for round three,"
Sister Helena sighed, missing the look Sam flashed his brother, a frowning dude, go easy admonition that made Dean roll his eyes,
"Oh dear," she murmured, hand reaching to start thumbing at the rosary looped around her neck, "I'm afraid I'd feared as much, and with the children returned for school as well. How awful."
"Well, whatever it is…" Dean began, crossing to the bed to unzip his bag, drawing Sister's Helena's attention as he began to root around through a variety of clunky-sounding metallic objects. Her eyes widened as he drew out a handgun, ejecting and re-positioning the clip before clicking back the slide to load the cartridge into place – all nice and prepared, "…we'll be ready for it."
Not for the first time that day, Sam rolled his eyes, wondering just when he'd inherited Rambo for a brother. No wonder poor Sister Helena was wide-eyed at the spectacle, he doubted she'd come across many semi-automatics during Eucharist. Forcing a smile, he quickly took the gun from Dean's hand and placed it down on the desk, ignoring the protest that went with it.
"It's going to be fine," he offered. Watching the nun nod slowly, a warm smile slipping across her face once more,
"Bless you both,"
The youngest Winchester shrugged in response, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment and realising that Dean too seemed uncomfortable with the praise. Quickly, he changed tack, his expression darkening in severity as he turned to the older women before them with a sudden sense of purpose,
"But right now we've got bigger problems," he began, sharing a look with Dean and taking a deep breath, "We need to know everything a trainee Priest of four years would know and we need it by six o'clock this evening."
There was a vague pause as Sister Helena took in the request, then, gradually, her lips turned up in a smile once more and she moved across the room quickly to sit down on the edge of the bed, instinctively smoothing her habit out across her knees,
"Well," she breathed, "The Lord loves a challenge. Now, we've got two hours so listen up, don't interrupt and for Heaven's sake start praying. We're going to need all the help we can get."