Notes: This has been a Boxes production, brought to you by the letters O, M, and G. Thankyou to everyone who read, even if it turned out you didn't enjoy it.
Yes. This is the last chapter.
They agreed to try the exorcism at the brothers' motel room. After going over the facts it seemed like the only place in the entire town that they might get away with performing a freaky-looking ritual and not have anyone call the cops. Graverobber's tomb was out of the question - too small, too much interference, too far away from emergency services if something went horribly, terribly wrong. The woods themselves were both too dangerously open and too filled with trees that could easily become giant standing twigs of death.
The motel was an enclosed space, but not too small. It was far enough on the outskirts of town that it was private, but close enough that an impromptu trip to the hospital wouldn't be all that difficult. The only problem was getting Shilo there, and she had the solution within minutes.
"I'll ask a girl at school to cover for me, bribe her if I have to, and then tell Carol I'm going over to her place for dinner. If Carol finds out afterwards I'll just tell her I was meeting a guy." Shilo shrugged. "It's sort of accurate, and it's not like she can do much more than ground me."
"And you?" Dean asked, looking at the Graverobber.
The creature shrugged its shoulders under the huge furry coat it was wearing. "I'll watch from the woods. It will be easier for Shilo to sneak into a motel alone."
Put like that the whole sneaking into a motel thing sounded creepy. Dean had to wonder if the Graverobber had made it sound that way on purpose.
The exorcism was spelled out neatly (or as neatly as it got) in the second half of John Winchester's journal. For ease's sake Sam spent a few minutes of the afternoon copying it out onto another sheet of paper just to make sure that their father's handwriting wouldn't be an impediment.
Shilo turned up at six in the evening, schoolbag in hand, She was wearing a cameo at her throat, the locket she'd mentioned as having belonged to her mother. She dumped her schoolbag onto the end of one of the cheap motel beds and looked expectantly at the brothers.
"Ok, so... now what?"
Sam cleared his throat. He showed her the sheet of paper with the exorcism written on it. "Ok, we're going to do this in three parts. The first part is going to draw out the ghost and force it to show itself, the second part here will trap it, and the third part forces it to break the connection with you and with nothing to tie it here on earth that should cause it to dissipate completely."
"Great," Shilo sounded more resigned than enthused. "I guess we should get this over with."
Lines were drawn in chalk over the carpet, a basic protection circle and something the Winchesters rarely had use for. Normally it was only themselves looking to take on a homicidal spirit, and with more time to prepare than the few seconds it took to lay salt they might as well do this right.
Shilo stood in the middle of the circle, hands clasped in front of her. She was looking down at the floor, not that either of them could blame her. She didn't look up until Sam coughed politely.
"We're ready to go. Just stay in the circle and you'll be fine."
Shilo nodded and stood up just a little straighter in the chalk circle. Sam began the exorcism, pronouncing the less familiar lines with careful precision. Nothing happened. In fact, Sam got through all three sections without so much as an ectoplasmic twitch.
Dean lowered the salt-loaded shotgun he'd been carrying. "Well that was a waste of time."
"I concur." The voice came from behind them, mellow and pleasant, the sort of reassuring voice that most people found soothing. "I don't understand what this ridiculous farce was meant to achieve."
Shilo froze, her shoulders suddenly tense. She turned around very slowly. "Dad."
Dean had the gun aimed at the spectre within the space it took to breathe. For a moment he was shocked by the ghost's appearance. So far all of the ghosts he'd ever been witness to had given some indication of being dead. Nathan Wallace was sitting on the edge of the bed looking practically alive, and posed like a disapproving parent who'd just caught his very young children doing something a little naughty.
Nathan shook his head. "Shilo, I thought I raised you better than this."
"You raised me in a cage," Shilo retorted, "and pumped me full of chemicals. This is better."
"Uh, excuse me, sir?" Sam piped up, not entirely sure what was going on just now or what the best way to handle it was. "If you're not attached to Shilo herself how are you here?"
"When I was alive I had to find some way of keeping track of her," Nathan explained patiently, even smiling. He reached out and patted the plush rabbit that had spilled from Shilo's bag and onto the bed. "I put a GPS tracker in her favourite toy to make sure I always knew where she was. I wouldn't want my little girl getting hurt."
"You put a tracker in my rabbit!?"
The ghost nodded. "It's been there since you were ten years old. This way I can always look after you."
"We need that rabbit," Dean told Sam, feeling stupid just for saying it.
Sam nodded and took just one step to the right and towards the bed before the ghost's attention was on him. Sam braced himself for the inevitable slamming force that would shove him across the room... but it didn't come. "Please," the ghost said, "this is between me and my daughter. I would appreciate it if you stayed out of our business."
"Making little girls sick is not taking care of your daughter."
"I am not the problem." Nathan stood, drawing up to a full height that was admittedly not very impressive. "It's that grave robbing fiend that's the problem. He took my Shilo from me, he's to blame."
Shilo scoffed. "You're totally delusional!"
"I'm a respected doctor, a good man. The grave robber isn't even human. He's a soulless, scum-sucking fiend."
"Oh my God. Are you trying to parent me?" Shilo glared at the ghost with all of the gloom and anger contained within her adolescent body. "Well you can forget it, dad. I'm taking my rabbit, and my Graverobber, and going home." Shilo snatched the rabbit from the bed and held it protectively in her arms - ruining any sneaky plans the Winchesters might have had about setting fire to it while neither ghost nor girl was watching.
The girl was already out the door. Barely a moment later the ghost of Nathan Wallace burst into flames and disappeared. Sam turned to look at Dean, pretty sure that he was wearing the exact same look of confusion as his brother. "Uh..."
"Dude," Dean summed it up pretty succinctly, "what just happened?"
A sudden coughing fit from outside had both brothers on the move, only to stop just outside the doorway no less dumbfounded than before. The Graverobber was doubled-up in the parking lot, Shilo's massacred rabbit clutched in one enormous gray hand while the girl herself rubbed his back soothingly.
"Seriously." Dean might have been staring. "What. The hell."
Claire Wendell's recovery was as sudden and unexplained as her illness. By the time her blood work finally got back from the lab she was already fit enough to go home, leaving the hospital staff to be baffled by her test results. No infections, no chemical imbalances. As far as the paperwork was concerned Claire was, and always had been, a perfectly healthy preteen girl.
The symptoms were gone, and as far as anyone could tell so was the ghost.
Sam and Dean spent a good half a day assuring people that everything was fine, it was all taken care of, false alarm, and that the CDC had no further business in the town of Meadow Creek.
Gear packed up, the brothers were just about ready to leave town.
"There's just one thing I don't get," Sam admitted, watching the retro-scenic landscape of the town pass by through the windshield.
"If all Nathan's ghost wanted to do was take care of Shilo in its own sick, twisted way - why would he target other girls instead of just going after her?"
"Dude." Dean glanced over at his brother, one eyebrow raised. "That's what you're brooding over? You don't want to know why we've never heard of a ghost-eating ghoul before, or why a ghost-eating ghoul would stalk a teenage girl halfway across the country? Or, hell, why she'd be ok with that? You just want to know why the ghost didn't try to kill his own kid."
"Think about it, Dean." Sam shook his head. "Shilo carried him around in that rabbit for years and he never touched her, he just went after girls who looked like her. Why would he do that, if Shilo was right there? Why would he make the other girls sick but leave her alone?"
Dean had no answer for that, and judging by Sam's silence neither did he.
[Between Three and Four Years Ago]
"It's a big deal," Graverobber explained, placing the small ceramic heart into Shilo's palm. He wrapped her hand in his, closing her fingers over the cold porcelain. Shilo could feel her skin ripple, and a sudden prickle of icy coldness. When she opened her hand again the heart was gone, her palm red and tender.
"Now," the Graverobber continued, soothing her palm with gentle strokes of his cool fingers, "I'll always know where you are."
"So when they do send me away you'll know where I am. You can come with me."
"Would you like that?"
"I have your heart now," Shilo pointed out as she smiled at him, "it's a bit late to change your mind."
"So you're stuck with me, kid." The creature grinned. "You've got a graverobber sitting square in your chest."
With her father dead and gone, her 'condition' miraculously taking a turn towards sudden health, and her future in the foster care system... Shilo didn't see that as a bad thing.