"Okay, I get your point," Dean yelled and without further ado grabbed Sam's arm to pull him upright. "Help me!"
Both men took Sam back in their midst and stumbled towards the door.
"This still would be so much easier if Sam were awake," Dean complained anew. He didn't like Sam being unconscious. It made him vulnerable and vulnerable was not a condition Dean liked his brother to be in.
"How often do I have to tell you I can't do anything about it?"
"Until you find a reasonable explanation to go with that."
They were back to yelling at each other since the wind was so strong it made Dean's clothes flutter. When he opened his mouth to speak, it felt like icy fingers were reaching down his throat to rip his lungs out. Darkness didn't make things easier and even though he had already spent a few days within these walls, orientation was difficult when the world spun around them.
A lamp was hurled alongside of Dean, crashing against a large clothes cabinet. After only a dozen yards, Dean had gotten lost in the numerous hallways and edges and niches of the house. There was no room they could hide in. No safety they could retreat to and Dean started to think they would wander on until a bulky beam would fall on their heads and end their misery. Great plan.
"Basement!" Bob screamed, pulling both Sam and Dean into another direction.
Dean had refrained to stumble blindly. It was impossible to see anything and there was nothing left to do but trust in the stranger who seemed to know exactly where they were going.
Seconds later, they opened another door. One that Dean was sure he had never walked through before. Stairs were leading downwards and Dean stumbled behind Bob, trying his best to walk instead of fall. The stale smell of cold, unused air with a swampy sub-tone hit him in the face and he recoiled, gagging, almost losing his grip on his brother's arms. Hastily, he regained his equilibrium and concentrated on taking one step after the other until his feet hit the floor, which was slightly grainy and slippery.
"We need light!" Dean said and, promptly, a sharp beam of white brightened his surroundings coming from a flashlight in Bob's hand.
"Sorry, I tend to forget how awfully clumsy human beings can be when they're confronted with the lack of light," Bob excused and in his voice dripped with both amusement and pity.
"We need to be on the Bahamas with Cuba Libres and little umbrellas in the glass," Dean went on.
"Hey, I'm not your fairy tale fairy," Bob replied, now actually annoyed. "This way!"
He led the way, guiding Dean through the first room, which was full of stored furniture. Some were covered with sheets, some not. But all were collecting dust like bees with honey. There were chairs with broken legs, cracked mirrors, cupboards missing or on laughable hinges hanging doors. A few of them fell in front of their feet and Dean did his best to avoid being hit or get clobbered over the head with a gung-ho chandelier missing light bulbs and candles that was hanging low from the ceiling, black with rust and dirt.
The entrance door behind them was destroyed with a loud crash and Dean turned around quickly, on time to see a figure come down the wooden stairs. Though it wasn't a solid figure. It was more like a...a swirl of wind that had collected so much dust and dirt that it looked almost like it had grown a body. The embodiment of a natural tornado and Dean was reminded of the cartoon animal of the Tasmanian Devil, whose destruction resulted from a mixture of blind rage and stupidity.
"What...!" He yelled but Bob only lengthened his strides and walked through another door.
The floor beneath Dean shook and the ceiling over his head groaned under the attack of the invisible power of the storm.
"This is not a regular storm!" Dean yelled and warily eyed the tools hanging on plain nails on the walls. The hammers and garden clippers and saws were swinging precariously from one side to the other, falling to the ground one by one. "When we're not endangered by accidental beheading, I want to know what's going on."
"The souls, you dumbass." This time Dean had no doubts. Bob was being pissed off. "The souls in the woods out there."
He felt himself shoved into another room. A room that was small enough to not deserve to be named a room.
"This is a cupboard!" Dean complained appalled and if looks could kill, the angel would have fallen dead where he was standing. "You don't actually want us hide in a cupboard."
The next door was taken off its hinges and various tools were shooting through the air like missiles, getting stuck in the sturdy door only inches away from where Sam's head had been seconds before.
"Okay, I get the point!" Dean admitted and entered the small but sturdy looking compartment. Bob followed, closing the door behind them.
The dimensions weren't larger than eight times twelve feet and ancient furry cloaks were hanging on two wooden rods, wrapped in plastic. It smelled like mouldy clothes and mothballs. The wooden walls surrounding them were strong and thick, not the usual chipboard quality that was common practice today. This one was old, with a robustness of real craftmanship. Dean was sure it would keep them safe for a while. The door was closed from the inside with metallic clamps on the top and the bottom. Still the door was rattling under the impacts of the storm.
Breathlessly, Dean let Sam sink down on the ground and leaned his upper body against the wall so he wouldn't fall sideways.
"So, what souls?" Dean asked again, when he had gotten his breathing under control and sat down next to brother, one knee bent to put his arm upon.
"Didn't Sam tell you?"
Dean only glanced at his brother. Sam's mouth was slightly open and he could hear his soft breathing. His hair was ruffled, his clothes crinkled, his face dirty but relaxed and peaceful.
"My brother tends to not talk he's being kept unconscious which...by the way...WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE?" Dean flared up.
Bob's face didn't even twitch and he copied Dean's posture on the other end of the cabinet. His facade did crumble a little, though, when he answered. "Your brother..." It could have been the light of the torch but Dean could have sworn Bob made a painful grimace. "He gives me an itch."
"Uh...okay? I'd be thankful if you didn't scratch."
"You're one weird human being, you know that?"
"Sure, I tend to hear that a lot."
A tense silence rained down on them but turned out it was just a mixture of dust, chipped wood and said moth powder.
"So, spill. Why Sam?" The door rattled and Dean held the door closed even though they had barricaded themselves already pretty well.
"You're asking the wrong questions, Dean." Bob answered.
"Look, I have a long list and it doesn't look like we can go anywhere any time soon." His finger knocked again the door. "So, since we have some time and such a cuddly atmosphere, why don't you start to tell me, why there's a tornado out there trying to do us in?"
"It's the souls, I told you."
"Just souls. Old ones. Angry ones. It's not their fault they're being held here." Bob sighed dramatically and Dean felt like a schoolboy who was asking the same question a third time. "That's what your brother was researching about when I...visited him. I'm pretty sure he could explain it much better than I could. I'm bad with words and explaining and stuff."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Really? Who'd have thought? Unfortunately, all Sam's notes are upstairs, blown to confetti."
"I could try to get them for you?" Bob looked clearly uncomfortable now and he was glaring at the confined walls like a caged animal. He shrugged his shoulders when he noticed Dean's amused gaze. "I have a problem with small spaces."
"A narcissistic and claustrophobic angel. God must hate us really much, Sam." Dean said to his unconscious brother and when he turned back towards Bob, the angel was gone.
"Awesome!" Dean ground out and after he made sure that the cabinet they were in was still more or less intact, he fought himself back on his feet and looked through the clothes.
After the exhausting trek downstairs, now the cold got an issue again. His fingers were getting stiff and he was sure he'd be losing at least a toe or two. His teeth begun to shatter and Sam had started to get alarmingly pale. Only dressed with long-sleeved shirts, they would freeze to death...though only if they didn't get slain or ripped apart first.
Quickly, Dean collected all the cloaks he could reach and tore them down, ripping away the protecting bags and spreading one behind Sam's back, the other one under his legs. He wrapped two more cloaks around his brother's torso. Only then did he grab for another jacket for himself. The smell made his nose itch and his eyes water, but it was warm. After dumping the rest of the clothing around them to trap as much warmth as possible, he finally sunk back on the floor and grabbed for the flashlight, turning it off to save batteries.
"You're missing all the fun here, Sammy." He whispered, exhausted. "And I'm so going to have a talk with that idiot of an angel about that itch thing, I promise."
"I can hear you. You know?"
"Bob!" Dean yelped at least one octave over his natural pitch of voice and felt himself blushing before the sound had echoed out of existence. "Stop doing that!"
"Sorry, I should have knocked." That, of course, was clearly a sarcastic offer since the cabinet was being hit louder and more forcefully than a stoned, unfaithful wife during the Middle Ages. "I got the notes. Or at least what left of them."
Switching the flashlight back on, Dean took the pile of loose paper and started searching through it, looking for the ones Sam had written his notes on. He discovered them between some excerpts of a dictionary and quickly read through them, cursing not for the first time about Sam's experimental handwriting that looked more like stenography than anything else. But after a few minutes he managed to get the scrambled information in an order that made at least some sense.
It didn't surprise Dean that the whole area was known to attract strange weather. People usually believed it was because of the high mountains in the northern and western ranges. The weather phenomena happened a few times a year, not necessarily at the same times but their arrival tended to be more often during fall and winter, rarely during the summer months. This in itself was nothing to get curious about, until Dean recognized Sam's handwriting on an old news article about the occupation of the house by a group of new age hippies, who were rumoured to perform strange rituals in the adjacent woods. Another news article, almost forty years later when the house was used as a youth hostel, reported about a number of missing teenagers who got lost in on of the blizzards.
It wasn't much to work with but Sam with his brain as big as Minnesota had obviously connected those incidents. The words NIYA SICA were written in capital letters next to the article.
"Niya Sica?" Dean read aloud, adjusting his cloak closer around his neck. Breath was condensing in front of his lips and he was appeased when he could also see little clouds of breath forming in front of Sam's. "What does that mean?"
Dean paused, holding his hand in front of his mouth and blew into it, sniffing like he wanted to check for bad breath.
"No," Bob rolled his eyes. "Breath as in wind. They mean the wind. There's something in the wind. It's filled with the souls of the ancient ones, the forefathers."
"Uhuuh!" Dean nodded. "Nice. Couldn't those people—" he gestured at the news article about the Native Americans. "—just invite them for a BBQ and bury the hatchet?"
"There is not hatchet to bury. They just tried to communicate with their ancestors whom this land be belonged to once. Maybe they even tried to appease them."
"Well, if they did they weren't very successful, were they?"
"No," Bob answered and worriedly eyed the door that was rattling while the "Evil Breath" was rioting right in front of their safe haven. "Obviously not."
"So, how do we stop them?"
These words didn't belong to Dean's vocabulary and he looked at the angel suspiciously. "There's always something we can do. Salt and burn their bones."
"There are no bones to salt and burn. They aren't ghosts. They are just distant echoes of the lives once lived. You can't destroy, burn or kill this."
"Then," Dean reasoned "...we should destroy the object they're tied to. There's got to be..."
"There isn't one, Dean!" Bob interrupted, now serious and with all the conviction he could muster. "You don't understand. These souls? They are the wind. They are pure energy. And they just are. They return every few months just to show they're still there. Like a charged battery that empties in a rush and then needs months to recharge. I know you're good in what you do but you can't fight the wind. Even Cervantes knew that."
"Cervantes?" Dean asked, confused. Not even sure he wanted an answer.
"Don Quichote?" Bob offered as an explanation, Dean's face not losing any of its bafflement. "You know, the guy fighting windmills? Okay forget what I said."
"But..." Dean looked at his peacefully sleeping brother. "Then what do we do? I can't just sit around and wait for the souls out there to end their temper tantrum. And..." He snapped, the last word coming out loud, as if he'd only just thought of it. "...what has it got to do with Sam? Why would it be worse if he was awake?"
"NO! I want you to tell me!" He yelled, his anger now boiling hot in his stomach. He wondered whether an angel would choke if a coat hanger was stuffed down his throat. "You can't expect to stalk me for months and months and then show up all of a sudden to play the mysterious Samaritan with wings, crack some shitty jokes and then ride into the sunset. Whoopee! Day saved. That's not how it works."
"It could if you weren't such a Mr. Smarty Pants."
"You are one strange angel, Bob!" Dean shot back but didn't lose any of his anger. "Tell me what it's got to do with my brother."
Blindly, he searched for Sam's arm under all the furry cover and squeezed it gently when he found it.
"Sam," the angel begun with a soft voice."...is touched by evil, Dean."
"That is not true!" Dean answer, his voice laced with anger.
"It is! But..."
"No, this can't be. Sam is the purest person I know. Hell, he saves kittens from a tree and breaks his arms in the process. He..." Dean searched for the right words. "He would rather die than let anything happen to me or...any person on the fucking ungrateful planet. Once, he already did." His fingers dug harder into his brother's skin.
"That's true." Bob affirmed. "That doesn't stop a person from being unwillingly touched by something he has no control over."
"But...this is Sam. Sammy." Dean didn't dare looking at his dialogue partner in the yellow beam of the flashlight. "He's my brother."
"As was Romulus to Remus." Bob sighed again and Dean had the impression he was really sorry about what he had had to say. "Look, Dean. I know you love him and I do not deny that your brother loves you in return. Heck, you'd make a great couple, seriously."
Dean shook his head in disgust. "You're so going to Hell for that."
"Anyway," Bob said ignoring Dean's remark. "I don't have anything against Sam. On the contrary. But his powers...give me an itch. And not just me. I can't explain. They're what the souls out there are seeking." He motioned to the outside of the closet.
Dean didn't even hear the noise any more that was made by flying tools and falling stones and crumbling walls.
"His powers are like the light in the darkness. Or, to be more precise, the soothing darkness in the everlasting light. Those souls are searching for quiet and peace and Sam's powers are strong. Strong enough, in fact, to give them what they want. But I'm not sure what it would take Sam to give that gift."
"So, you're protecting him?"
"Yes. Him and you."
Dean pondered, letting the information settle in. "That is the stupidest explanation I've ever heard. You're an angel for God's sake, pun totally intended. Do something. If you don't, I will."
"I understand your mistrust, Dean. I really do. But this is the only explanation you'll get. I'm sorry, Dean. There are just things you can't change. Wars you can't end and battles you can't win. As much as your ego would like you to be, you are not almighty. You're human."
Somehow, Dean doubted the angel was only talking about Sam and the situation they found themselves in. Another awkward silence ensued and Dean felt a headache rising with the information that had fallen on him like an anvil on the roadrunner.
"You are safe in here. The closet should be stable enough to withstand the storm, I made sure of it. I'll try to do something to distract them, but the storm should tire out in the morning, at the latest, without my interference," The angel finally offered but his voice didn't hold a lot of conviction of being successful.
There wasn't any sound when he vanished, just like that. Leaving an empty space where only a second ago a man had sat. And for Dean, nothing else could be done other than waiting and listening to the sounds of whole tornadoes sweeping away everything in its way, searching for their light or darkness.
"Almighty angel, my ass," Dean grumbled and sank lower into the self-made cushions.
Sometime in the early morning hours, Bob must have popped back in because when Dean opened his eyes, rotating his neck with a painful grimace, he stared into the mildly amused face of the angel.
Dean felt warm under the countless layers of fur and he quickly looked for Sam, putting a hand on his brother's cheek to feel the warm skin and the light breath on his fingers. His thoughts were still a muddled mess, his eyes still blurry with exhaustion and sleep that was—though very blissful—still not enough to shush away the burning fatigue they had both suffered over the last weeks and months. But Sam seemed alright and all of a sudden, Dean realized the quiet around them. Not just in his head, but also outside of their little hiding place.
"The storm has receded. The souls are tired now."
"That is..." Dean groaned and pushed himself into the air, fumbling with the lock of the door. A sudden claustrophobia made his fingers shake and the air paste-like. "That is nice, Bob."
The door finally gave way...about three inches before it hit something hard and didn't open any further. However, it was enough to make fresh air stream into the cabinet. A biting cold yet not cold enough to make him close the door again. Bright, clear day light fell in a sharp beam into Dean's eyes and he blinked owlishly. He felt giddy, like he hadn't seen sunlight for weeks. But the door wouldn't budge any farther, which brought Bob to childish giggles and Dean to fury.
"This is not funny," Dean grumbled between clenched teeth. "I could use a little help here."
"Okay, okay," Bob replied and vanished. Only seconds later, the door swung open to reveal the proverbial battleground. Only now, Dean's brain had caught up with him and he squinted into the air, where the ceiling of the basement should have been. Huge gaps were scattered on both walls and even ceilings. The one from the basement as well as the roof, which meant Dean could see right through two floors into the sky. The remains of the building, or what was still standing of it, was groaning and whining around him and the wind was whizzing through the broken leftovers of the house.
"What the Hell?" Dean yelled, his mouth hanging open. "What did these souls do? Bring a wrecking ball?"
Bob stepped beside him, letting his gaze sweep over the chaotic arrangement and clapping his hands as if having accomplished an important task. "Not bad for a night's work." He said and grinned. It looked like he had the fun of his life.
"I know, I'm repeating myself, but you are really, really strange," Dean replied without looking at Bob. "Now what? I'm not sure we can carry out Sam out of this hole."
"You don't have to. He'll be waking up soon."
Relief seeped through Dean and he looked back at the closet where Sam was still sleeping. "I'd say thanks but I won't since you're the one who put him to sleep at first place."
Dean huffed. "Actually, I'd like to not see you again anytime soon."
"I can't promise that."
"Why did I know you'd say that?"
"Because you're really smart?"
"Drop the question mark, would ya?"
Bob didn't answer and when Dean wanted to glare at him, the angel was gone.
"Dean?" A small, confused voice sounded from behind him, dampened by layers and layers of coat and fur. "Dean?" This time, the voice was stronger but also more panicked.
"Sam?" Hastily, Dean rushed back and opened the door to look at his brother who was blinking at him with big, dazed eyes.
"What the...? Please tell me you have a good explanation," Sam murmured, his tongue still heavy with sleep and Dean couldn't help himself. At the sight of his brother's lethargic confusion, a large grin split his face. Reaching out his arm, he grabbed Sam's outstretched hand before pulling him up, supporting him when Sam's legs faltered from not being used for a while.
"Careful, Sasquatch," Dean lectured, good-tempered. "You need your legs to get out of here." Sam's jaw dropped when he saw what Dean referred to and they started climbing, sending broken furniture tumbling and loose earth falling until they finally stood back on solid ground.
Where once had been a house was now a skeleton of frames and bulks was swaying, some walls still crackling as they watched, amazed. Enough snow had fallen to cover everything with a ten-inch high blanket of white. A ridiculous Christmas tree in a snowy winter wonderland. The air was crisp and fresh, cleaned by the night's turbulences. Everything lay in ruins. Devastatingly so. Searching for their stuff in there would be a bitch.
Sam swallowed. "Don't tell me we've been in there when this..." He made a gesture towards the demolished remains. "...happened."
"Well..." Dean began but stopped when the reality struck him. This night, they had a house fall upon them and they didn't even have a scratch. Not even a frozen toe. "I guess we had a guardian angel."
To his surprise, Sam laughed, then held his head as if in pain. "I must have hit my head pretty hard for sleeping through this all. What happened?"
"Yeah," Dean confirmed. "Uhm, you kinda got hit over the head..." ... by an angel. He added without speaking it out loud.
"What do you mean? Kinda?"
"That is a long story." He patted Sam's shoulder and turned around to search for the car that luckily had been parked far enough away to not be further harmed by falling debris. Except that the broken window had caused snow and twigs and other things that did not belong in a car had collected on both of the front seats.
He could feel Sam's gaze on his back when he stared at his baby, fury rising like well-shaken soda.
"Looks like the car could have used a guardian angel too," Sam said, really not helpful at all and Dean blinked. He would so have a talk with Bob about that when he saw him again.