A/N: This story picks up where "Bi'ee' Łigai" leaves off, so you may want to read that story first. The cover image is by roselani24. Also, in this universe, the part of John Winchester is played by Navajo actor Ray Tracey.
The Dark Wind: Nihighan
by San Antonio Rose
John had taken the hunt in Buda, Texas, because he needed to be close to Sam on Halloween. It was a two-hour drive from there to Bryan and College Station, true, but Buda was also close enough to be in the news loop for A&M, and John had a horrible sinking feeling that as little as Sam wanted him around after their fight at Midsummer, the boy was going to need his father's help. And sure enough, omens started cropping up outside of Bryan on the 30th. He was in the process of sorting out the pattern on the morning of the 31st when he realized that he needed to go to the Catholic church and stock up on holy water. So he finished his breakfast and left the motel room, fully intending to return after his errand was run.
He never made it to the church. The route took him past the bi'ee' łigai's haunting place—and the ghost appeared as he passed, in full daylight. John drove past, but the bi'ee' łigai appeared inside his truck anyway.
"Take me home," she whispered mournfully, seductively.
John sped up, heading away from the haunted place and out of town as fast as he could, reasoning that the ghost couldn't travel too far from the locations to which she was tied. But she kept talking to him, pawing at him, even as he called Dean and hoped against hope that enough of his message could get through over the EVP that Dean would understand and go to Sammy. Something bizarre was going on; he'd never been unfaithful to Mary, so for the bi'ee' łigai to try to attack him... something more was at work here. Something was after him. He had to draw it away from his sons.
So he fled, the ghost being pulled out of the truck with a shriek once he passed the edge of the area to which she was bound. But he kept going, shutting off even his voice mail and avoiding every place where people who cared about him might live. Finally, he reached a safe house in the Smoky Mountains and holed up there, braced for the onslaught...
... that never came. And slowly John began to wonder whether the bi'ee' łigai, overburdened mother as well as rejected wife, had attacked him for breaking faith with his sons.
It wasn't until he went into town the day before Thanksgiving to get supplies that he dared to turn on his cell phone and reactivate his voice mail. He tried to call Dean and then Sam, but both numbers went straight to voice mail, which meant that the boys were in Arizona. He didn't leave a message either time; there was still a chance that something would try to use him to get to Sammy.
The safe house was isolated enough that John couldn't get cell reception unless he went into town, which he did only when he was low on food. So it was another two weeks before he got Dean's snappish message. The tone was a shock, but the reason for it was doubly shocking: Jess had nearly died. Something had attacked Sam after all. And the boys had taken three hunts since—John realized belatedly that he'd left his journal behind in Buda, which probably meant the boys had taken out at least the wendigo... a hunt John had never meant for them to tackle alone. But again, Dean's number went straight to voice mail.
Proud of the boys for continuing to hunt and glad they were safe in Dinétah for the moment yet heartsick over the mess they were in, John sat in the truck for a long time trying to decide what to do. Finally, though, he headed to the library and asked one of the librarians for help in using a computer to look for news from Bryan/College Station. Once she'd left him to his own devices, he looked at the newspaper's archives from October 31 to November 3—and sure enough, there was an article about a house fire... arson, it was claimed, sending senior Jess Moore to a burn unit in Houston and the suspected arsonist to ICU in critical condition. Senior Sam Winchester was unharmed and had withdrawn from school early.
John ran a shaking hand over his nose and mouth as he stared unseeing at the screen after finishing the article. Arson. Sam's vision had almost come true. Jess would live, thank the gods, but it didn't change the fact that John's attempt to draw Bináá' łitso's fire (literally) hadn't worked. The demon was still after Sam.
"Weeell, weeeeell," a female voice suddenly drawled behind John, making him jump. "If it isn't John Winchester."
John spun to face a petite blonde twenty-something with a red leather jacket and a knowing smirk. He'd never seen her before.
"I thought I'd find you here sooner or later, once you heard what happened to your future daughter-in-law," the young woman continued. "But don't worry about her, Johnny. You might have grandkids yet..." Her eyes turned black. "But you'll never live to see them."
John flung holy water in her face and fled.
The brothers' plan had been to leave the ranch the day after Christmas. That lasted just long enough for them to get back to Grandmother's hogan and discover that among the relatives coming in for the holiday was one of their third cousins, Gwen Begay, whose husband Chris was a singer—a medicine man—who specialized in the major healing ways. Suddenly Sam started making long lists of questions for Chris that he didn't want Dean to see yet, and just as suddenly he seemed to remember Dean's suggestion that Amá Sání might be able to help him figure out what was up with his dreams because he spent the better part of a day just talking with her.
Even as aware as he was of the danger they were in, Dean wasn't anxious to drag Sammy away and go back on the road, looking for Dad. Sam needed answers, and if he could get them here, so much the better. For his part, Dean hated to leave the family he still had too soon. Besides, once Sam stopped monopolizing Amá Sání, Dean had a question of his own for her.
He got his chance two days after Christmas, when Sam dragged Chris off before breakfast for a long talk. Shaking his head fondly, Dean went over to Amá Sání's hogan and knocked on the doorpost. "Mind if I join you, shimásání?" he asked as she pulled the blanket aside.
Amá Sání beamed. "Not at all, Dean! Come in!"
He ducked inside. "Thanks. Thousand Books decided to go researching for the day, so..."
She chuckled. "Whatever you boys read out there, it seems to have raised more questions than it answered."
"Yeah, pretty much."
"Did it help, though?"
He nodded. "It did answer some questions. Some big ones."
"Good. Come, sit!"
He sat down beside the fire, and they chatted pleasantly about minor matters over breakfast. Finally, though, there was a break in the conversation, and Dean sighed. "Shimásání, there was... a long time ago, you had Grandfather write Dad about a dream you had. About... about us. Me and Sam."
She frowned a little, studying his face for a moment, before she inhaled sharply as her eyes widened. "Yes. Yes, I remember it now. In that dream, you were older, maybe 30."
He nodded, filing the information away; maybe they still had time to thwart this vision like they'd thwarted Sam's. "You said we had a symbol on our chests. Was it, like, a tattoo?"
"It might have been."
"Do you remember what it looked like? Could you draw it?"
He shook his head. "I dunno, it just sounded important. Maybe it'll help us figure out what the dream meant."
She nodded slowly. "I can try."
He handed her a notebook and pen, and she closed her eyes for a long moment before drawing carefully and shading methodically. When she handed the notebook back, he was surprised to see that the symbol didn't look anything like the sacred signs of the Diné; it almost looked more like a devil's trap, except for the sunburst.
"Do you recognize it?" she asked.
He shook his head. "I think it's for protection, but I'm not sure. I'll ask around, though."
She put a gentle hand on his cheek. "Be careful, my grandson. If the end is coming..."
"I know, shimásání. I know. We'll stop it if we can."
Then she smiled a little. "Our Monster Slayer. May the Holy People protect you."
He didn't know what to say to that, so he hugged her.
About the time Chris ran out of answers, which was shortly after New Year's, Sam suddenly realized with a pang that he'd been without Internet for a month. He'd been too busy to miss it until then, but once he wasn't, the fact boggled him a little. Dean not only noticed but evidently felt the same way; they left the next day, and no sooner had they stopped in Tuba City for gas than each brother had his own computer out, Sam looking for a hunt and Dean emailing Bobby about the drawing he'd gotten from Amá Sání. While Sam ran down particulars about an apparent Bloody Mary sighting in Ohio, Bobby wrote back that the symbol was an anti-possession sigil, and Dean declared that they were getting it tattooed on their chests as soon as they found a decent tattoo place where no one would blink at the design being passed off as a "tribal thing." Said parlor turned up just as the Bloody Mary hunt ended, and despite his hesitation over what Jess would think of the tattoo, Sam was all too happy to do something like that with the big brother who'd just saved his life again.
Yet even once they were back in parts of the country where they could get decent wireless speeds, Sam delayed logging onto his school email account until late February. To be perfectly honest, he didn't want to know what was happening in College Station without him. His main focus was on finding Dad, anyway, and it wasn't likely that Dad would try to contact him through that email address. Plus, he dreaded finding a message in his inbox with bad news about Jess.
His dread proved well founded. Luis had emailed in mid-January that Jess wasn't coming back to school—her parents had looked up one of her high school boyfriends who was still single and still interested in her, and there'd been a shotgun wedding two days after Christmas. Though her skin had healed by Thanksgiving, Jess had still been too exhausted and in too much pain to put up a fight. And by some legal maneuvering that Luis hadn't understood and Sam suspected was barely within the letter of the law, Mr. Moore had ensured that Jess couldn't easily annul the marriage or get a divorce.
"Sammy?" Dean asked, probably for the third time, though it was the first time Sam could hear him over the sound of his heart breaking. "Haidzaa?"
Sam fumbled for a reply for a moment, torn between anger and grief. What finally came out was, "Cut my hair."
Dean paled. "What?"
"I... just... cut my hair, Dean. Please."
"Is... is Jess..."
Something shattered behind Dean's eyes, and the muscle in his jaw twitched a few times before he managed to nod. Then he got up and got the scissors as Sam pulled out the ponytail holder he wouldn't need again for months. Long hair was one of the few outward ways he'd embraced his Diné heritage once school dress codes were no longer an issue; he hadn't cut it at all since he'd graduated from high school. Some of his friends had teased him about it, but it had become a part of his identity... just like Jess had.
He understood the tradition better now. Cutting off his hair would be an outward sign that part of his soul had been cut off.
The brothers met in the bathroom, and neither said a word as Dean gently and carefully cut away Sam's chestnut hair, leaving just enough for it to curl a little around his ears. When he'd finished, Sam got up and stared at himself in the mirror, unable to really process the change. He looked so young now, so awkward, like he didn't fit with either of his peoples. And part of him couldn't help wondering whether it would have made a difference if he'd looked like this in November.
You can't be Sam. Sam's not a half-breed. Almost four months later, the hateful words still stung—all the more now that he knew what they'd led to.
"Hey," Dean said quietly, squeezing Sam's shoulder. "She's alive."
And that was all the permission Sam needed to break down and weep. Anger, anguish, remorse, all came raging out in torrential sobs, and Dean pulled him into a tight hug and shed a few tears of his own. A niggling thought in the back of his mind marveled that he was allowed to mourn like this for the living but wouldn't be allowed a single tear for the dead, but he ignored it as best he could. He was, after all, half-Scot, even if Dean and Dad forgot sometimes; Scots didn't have those taboos.
After he'd cried himself out, Sam accepted Dean's suggestion that he doze for a few minutes while Dean disposed of the hair according to Diné tradition and then went for food. Eating helped him get enough strength and clarity of mind back to be able to finish catching up on emails. He didn't pay much attention to most of them; he really wanted to go kill something. But the email from his friend Rebecca about her brother being framed for murder caught his eye, and after some discussion, he managed to talk Dean into going to St. Louis to check it out.
And a doozy of a case it turned out to be. The culprit was a shapeshifter—and a racist one at that. It got the jump on both brothers and evidently planned to assume Dean's identity, but after it downloaded Dean's memories, it didn't do more with them than taunt Sam and spew racial epithets at both brothers. It chose to shift back into Zach's form to attack Rebecca and was still in that form when Sam and Dean caught and killed it, which caused the police no end of headaches, seeing that they could prove that the real Zach had been in custody all along. The hookman in Ankeny was almost a lark after that one.
But then things went quiet. Too quiet. The only hunt that crossed the brothers' path was in Oklahoma, on Euchee land, and Dean thought it sounded like a curse that might be aggravated by Navajo investigators. Sam agreed and passed that one off to Caleb. But Caleb hadn't heard from Dad, and neither had Pastor Jim; most of the other hunters they knew, including Bobby, were currently not on speaking terms with Dad and naturally wouldn't know where he was. The brothers had hit a dead end, and it frustrated Sam immensely.
It was both a shock and a relief when he had a nightmare that left him feeling the same way his dreams about the attack on Jess had. But the relief of having something to do faded when he realized that the house in his dream was none other than their old house in Lawrence. Unsure what to do, he told Dean everything.
And Dean, predictably, balked. "Dude. There is a reason our ancestors destroyed or abandoned hogans people died in. And now you want to go back?"
"Dean, it's not like we haven't been in haunted houses before."
"Those ghosts didn't know us; they didn't have any way to get a hold on us. This is different. You're talking about our house. We don't... we don't know..." Dean trailed off, shaking his head, unable or unwilling to finish the thought.
But Sam wouldn't accept that reasoning. "We don't know what is in that house, but even if it is a chindi, we have to do something. Someone else is living there now. Someone else is in danger, someone totally innocent. Are you really willing to let her get hurt just because you don't want to break a taboo?"
Dean looked miserable, but he finally looked down at the floor and replied with a barely audible "No."
"Look, I get it. I do. But there has to be a reason this dream came to me. We need to check it out."
Dean nodded. "I know we do."
So they headed back to Kansas. But if Dean thought Sam didn't know he called Dad at the first opportunity, he was mistaken. The only reason Sam didn't say anything was that part of him wanted Dad's help on this one, too.
Dean did his best to think through every possible angle from which to approach finding out what Sam had seen. It wasn't all that unlikely that something was in the house, chindi or no. They needed to go to the house to find out for sure what it was. They needed to handle it like any other hunt. But Dean just didn't think he could make himself set foot in that house until he knew for sure that the haunting wouldn't be transferred to them.
Lawrence was still about 200 miles away when Dean caught his train of thought going in circles. So he sighed and ran through it out loud for Sam in Gaelic.
Sam nodded thoughtfully and replied in kind. "Why don't we split up, then? I'll take the house; I haven't been there since I was six months old, so I can play it off as curiosity about the old place. And you can try interviewing some of Dad's friends."
Dean nodded slowly. "That might work. The thing is..."
"You think they'd recognize you?"
"Well, we left kind of suddenly, didn't we?"
"Yes. We did."
"So maybe you could say something about Dad disappearing again and wanting to try to figure out what would have set him off, based on the way he disappeared after Mom died."
Dean considered the idea. "Yes, that could work. FBI profiler?"
"Something like that, sure."
"Yes. That might work."
There was a pause before Sam said, "You know... if this were any other hunt, we'd be interviewing witnesses."
Dean sighed heavily and stared out at the road. "I don't know how much I can tell you, Sammy. Even this far away."
"Talk around it, then."
"All right. Well, I... had gone to bed, you know that. Dad yelled, and it woke me up. And... then... well. Anyway, he gave you to me, told me to take you outside. So I carried you out of the house." Dean paused. "And then Dad... came out alone."
He could feel Sam looking him over, studying him. "You never told me that."
Dean shrugged a little. "Wasn't a big deal."
Sam looked at Dean a moment longer before looking back out at the road. "Thanks."
Dean reached over and squeezed the back of Sam's neck quickly.
"So. We know Dad's story; we know what's in Mom's journal. I don't think Yellow-Eyes is what's in the house, unless he's trying to set a trap for us."
"Which might be possible."
"Not likely, though."
Sam sighed. "All right. Well, I guess we'll have to see what we find when we get there."
Dean nodded. "Listen, would you do me a favor? See if you can find the address for that garage where Dad used to work. I'll see if anybody there remembers why we left, maybe see if there's some connection to the night Mom and Dad blacked out so bad."
"Good idea. What was the last name?"
Sam nodded and got out his laptop. A few moments later he jotted down an address and directions. Dean thanked him and turned up the radio, trying to distract himself from the impending investigation.
The brothers stopped in Topeka for food and so that Dean could change into his Fed suit. From there, it was only another half hour to Lawrence. Once they got to the old neighborhood, Dean dropped Sam off a few blocks from the house and followed the directions Sam had written down to Guenther Automotive. He barely remembered Mike, but he was prepared for the chance that Mike would remember him and decided to go ahead and introduce himself as "John Winchester's son." Mike didn't recognize him immediately, but that introduction and the mention that Dad was missing again opened the floodgates of decades-old gossip.
"Yeah," Mike said, "your dad, he'd just take off every now and then—with your mom sometimes, but sometimes not. I remember when they eloped; John called to say there was some kind of family emergency that he'd have to miss work for. Next thing I knew, John and Mary were off somewhere in Colorado and Mary's parents were dead. Lot of people figured it was the shock that killed Samuel, but I never was sure." He paused. "Not that I figure your dad had anything to do with it. It was a heart attack, after all."
Dean nodded. "No, I understand. It's just a strange coincidence that the Campbells died the night Mom and Dad eloped."
"Something like that, yeah. And then there was the time our old boss died trying to stop a robbery—or something like that. The whole thing was bizarre. Your mom and dad evidently had too good of a time the night before, 'cause John didn't hear the phone ring until almost time for him to be here. But the place was a wreck. Police never did figure out who broke in, who got stabbed, or why things were trashed so badly."
Dean frowned. "Stabbed?"
"Yeah, there was a tire iron covered in blood, like somebody'd used it to run somebody else through. Only body was old man Woodsen's, though. He'd died of a heart attack, too, but somebody'd burned out his eyes somehow."
"This tire iron, what was it made of?"
"Hell if I know, son. It was pretty old, probably mostly real iron. And then there was some weird symbol that was painted on the wall in blood—couldn't tell whose. That was back before we had DNA testing, y'know, and it was scorched in the middle. We tried to paint over it, but in the end we had to replace the metal."
"Huh. Do you remember what it looked like?"
Mike shook his head. "Sorry."
"That's okay, just curious. What about when we left after the fire? What happened to set him off?"
Mike sighed. "I never did get a straight answer out of the Chief. Near as I can figure, though, he'd been to see some psychic here in town. Next thing I know, he's packing you kids into the car and taking off for Arizona like the whole NVA was after him. Never saw him again."
"Do you remember the psychic's name?"
"Think it started with an M, but I can't be sure. Sorry."
Dean tried to think of another question, but before he could, his phone rang. It was Sam, sounding a little unnerved. "There's something in the house, all right," he reported in Gaelic. "I can't tell what, though."
"All right," Dean returned in Navajo, mindful of his audience. "Where are you?"
"At the park."
"I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Was that John?" Mike asked as Dean hung up.
Dean shook his head. "No, my brother, needs me to pick him up. He wanted to look around the old neighborhood, see if Dad had contacted anyone."
"Not likely. I don't think anybody in Lawrence has heard from John since the fire."
"Well, we had to check." Dean plastered on a smile and took his leave as pleasantly as he quickly could.
The park Sam had mentioned was a small neighborhood park just a few blocks from the old house. There wasn't much to it beyond a decent playground—nicer now than Dean remembered it being in his childhood—and an area with a few picnic tables, which was where Sam was sitting, only the bouncing of his knee giving any indication of his anxiety level. Dean pulled up to the curb, and Sam jumped in quickly.
"Her name is Jenny," he began in Gaelic without preamble as Dean drove off.
Dean blinked and replied in kind. "Who?"
"Lady who owns the house. She has two children. And there's definitely something there. She's seen lights flickering and heard noises that sound like rats, and her daughter says there was a woman on fire in her closet."
Dean cursed quietly. Granted, it could have been a death echo or something else other than a chindi, but...
"Find anything at the garage?"
"Not much that's helpful, if that's what you mean. Unless you know of something that would burn a man's eyes out."
Sam boggled at him.
"Only other thing that might help is that Dad apparently went to see a psychic the day we left. If whoever it was is the real deal?"
"It can't hurt to find out. Let's find a phone book."
So they drove until they found a pay phone that looked like it came with a phone book. Sam found the section for psychics in the yellow pages and read the ones beginning with M until he reached "Missouri Mosely."
"Wait," said Dean. "That sounds familiar." He retrieved Dad's journal and opened it to the first page, then read, "'I saw Missouri and learned the truth.' I never could figure out what that meant; I thought he might have meant the state, but it didn't make sense because we went to Arizona."
"So do we look her up?"
"It's worth a shot."
Sam nodded and wrote down the address, and off they went.
Dean had no memory of ever meeting Missouri, so it startled him when she greeted them not just by name, but the way Great-Aunt Sarah's second cousin from Shiprock had greeted them at Thanksgiving after not having seen them since Sam was still little enough to think running was something other than a life skill. Before he could ask, though, she chuckled. "No, honey, we haven't met, but I remember your daddy and his thoughts about you. You both take after him, though Dean, you sure favor your mama."
Dean couldn't suppress a flinch.
But Missouri was more focused on Sam, her smile fading as she took his hand. "Oh, honey, I'm so sorry about your girlfriend. People sure can be cruel in their ignorance. And your father, he's missing?"
Sam and Dean exchanged a look. She was the real deal.
"Do you know where he is?" Dean asked. "Is he okay?"
"I don't know. I ain't a magician. Sit, please."
The brothers exchanged another look and sat down while Missouri explained how she'd met Dad by chance at the grocery store and how Dad had taken her to the house to see what she could sense there. Even after all this time, the memory still clearly chilled her.
But when Sam told her that something was in the house, she frowned. "I've been keeping an eye on the place, and it's been quiet. No freak accidents, no ghost sickness, nothing. Why's it acting up now?"
"We think something's starting," Sam confessed.
And evidently enough of what they'd learned since Dad's disappearance surfaced in both brothers' minds for Missouri to read, because she recoiled with a gasp. "Mercy. That's... mm. I don't know what to tell you. But one thing's for sure; we need to figure out what's happening in that house. Come on."
Dean couldn't very well refuse to go in this time. So he and Sam followed Missouri back to the house and arrived just after Jenny had apparently had some kind of scare regarding her son. Sam apologized for the interruption and introduced Dean and Missouri, but when Jenny tried politely to get them to leave, Missouri bulldozed her way through that objection and Jenny's skepticism to convince her to let them inspect the house. Once they had permission, Missouri led them unerringly up to the room that had been Sam's nursery and announced that she sensed two spirits in the room.
"Your people aren't totally wrong about evil spirits being attracted to houses where people died traumatic deaths," she explained. "Real evil walked this house. That kind of evil leaves wounds. And sometimes wounds get infected. This one's attracted a poltergeist, a nasty one."
"You said there was more than one spirit, though," Sam stated.
"There is. I just can't quite make out the other one."
Dean's blood ran cold. "The woman on fire?"
Missouri frowned. "Mm, could be—"
That was it. Dean grabbed Sam and hustled him out of that house as fast as he could, then sped all the way back to Missouri's house, where he plonked Sam down on the couch, checked the wards, and poured a thick salt circle around the couch before sinking onto it himself, burying his face in his hands and shaking like an aspen leaf.
"Dude," said Sam. "What. The. Hell?"
"He never should have sold it, Sammy," Dean replied through his hands, unable to keep his voice from breaking. "He shoulda torn it down, buried it with rocks, and made sure nobody would ever build anything on that land again."
Sam huffed. "Dean."
Dean looked up at him then. "Don't give me that, Sam. You know what she saw!"
"That doesn't mean—you know what ghosts are like."
"Yeah, vengeful spirits that can't even remember what it was like to be human. How is that different from Diné lore?!"
"Hey, now," Missouri interrupted—and when she'd come in, Dean had no idea. "Your people have one thing wrong. The soul doesn't split. If that second spirit is your mama, it's all of her, not just the bad."
Dean cringed without meaning to.
Sam suddenly seemed to get why Dean was so on edge, because he sighed. "Look. Whatever it is, we have to get rid of the poltergeist. And then we need to do something to restore hózhǫ́ to the house. If it's a chindi, that'll drive it off, and if it's... if Missouri's right, then maybe we can help her let go and move on."
Dean sighed. "What are we supposed to do, huh? We're a thousand miles from Dinétah; it would take two days for Chris to get here, never mind finding dancers who would come. And even if the rituals work out here, it's not like we've got time to do a full nine-night chant. We can't keep Jenny out of the house for that long."
"I know. That's one of the things I talked to Chris about—what we could do in an emergency like this. I didn't know why at the time, but I... just wondered," Sam finished, sounding a little pathetic.
Missouri scoffed. "Child, if we put gris-gris bags in the right places, that house should be as clean as the day it was built."
Dean bristled, but Sam put a hand on his arm. "Missouri, please. Just—for our own peace of mind? We can do the gris-gris bags first, but... I feel like we need to."
She sighed. "All right. If it'll make you feel better. The house probably could use some blessing, even when it's clean. But I don't stock those supplies."
"That's okay. Chris gave me all the components we'll need for our part. I've even got the right kind of sand to put down for the base."
Dean blinked. "You brought—huh."
Sam shrugged. "Well, if Mohammed can't go to the mountain..."
Dean rolled his eyes, but the prospect did give him a measure of peace. Unlike most of the pagan gods they'd come across, the Holy People did seem to have some real power, even if it was likely limited to the land between the four sacred mountains. Maybe enough of that mojo would be tied to the supplies Sam had gathered there to make whatever abbreviated chant he had in mind effective. And if nothing else, they'd be able to say they tried.
"You're such a nerd, Thousand Books," Dean said fondly, and Sam laughed in relief.
Making the gris-gris bags wasn't too difficult, and it didn't take much more effort for Missouri to convince Jenny to take the kids to a motel for the night. Even with three people working together, though, they barely managed to get the bags into the walls in time to stop the poltergeist from killing Sam. Once he'd recovered enough to be able to do so, he worked on patching the drywall while Dean and Missouri cleaned up the mess the poltergeist had made of the kitchen. And when all of that was done, Missouri declared the house safe and went home.
Dean didn't buy that, and neither did Sam. Together they went back to the Impala and pulled out the Tupperware containers and medicine bundle Chris had sent, carried them upstairs to the room that had been Sam's nursery, and cleared a large space in the middle of the room.
Then Sam picked up the container of corn pollen and stood for a moment as if listening for something. "I think we have some time," he said quietly in Gaelic. "Let's start downstairs."
Dean nodded and followed him down to the first floor. Starting from due east, they began spreading the corn pollen on the walls of every room as high as they could reach while Sam sang the house blessing chant, then repeated the process on the second floor. Something in the house felt displeased—Dean didn't know how he could tell, but he could—yet nothing attacked, so apparently the gris-gris bags were doing some good.
Once that was done, they returned to the nursery, and Sam spread a layer of regular Arizona sand in the middle of the floor. Dean marked out the compass directions while Sam arranged the other containers near the edge of the sand. Then Sam had Dean sit down and gave him instructions on the painting he needed to make—one from the Blessing Way that featured Changing Woman and her sons. While Dean worked, cautiously and precisely, Sam sang several of the prayers from the Blessing Way and a few from the Enemy Way. It was a slow, painstaking process, but to Dean, it felt little different from setting any other kind of wards and gave him some of the same sense of rhythm, balance, and control as cleaning guns or working on the car usually did.
Yet no sooner had they finished than a humanoid figure seemingly made of fire appeared in the middle of the painting. Dean startled back and was about to go for his shotgun when Sam's hand landed on his arm.
"'Át'ah!" Sam cried.
The fiery figure settled to sit on the painting, and then the flames went out to reveal a face Dean could never, ever forget. And she looked straight at him.
"Dean," she said, smiling a little. Then her smile faded into a sad look. "Oh, Dean, your hair—are you still grieving?"
Dean was petrified. It looked like—sounded like—didn't seem... but he couldn't risk ruining the memories of the mother he loved if... if it was...
"Mom," Sam breathed.
She looked over at him, and a tear ran down her cheek. "Sammy... oh, Sammy, I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. We read the journal. I forgive you."
"If I had known, I would have done something to stop him."
"Mom, we don't have much time. We know about Yellow-Eyes. What did he want? What did he do?"
"His blood—he dripped—"
Mom's reply was cut off by the window exploding, and the poltergeist's tell-tale stench billowed into the room.
Before either brother could react, though, Mom clenched fiery fists and glared up at the ceiling at something the living couldn't see but the dead evidently could. "Enough," she growled. "Get out of my house!"
A lamp lifted off of a table—and suddenly Mom was airborne, a ball of flame driving back the darkness. Dean almost forgot to breathe as she fought with everything she had. And then something... gave, for lack of a better term, and a gust of fresh air through the broken window blew the stink away as the lamp crashed harmlessly to the ground.
Herself again, Mom sank to the ground, chanting breathlessly: "In beauty it is finished. In beauty it is finished. In beauty it is finished."
Sam repeated the chant in Navajo—and Dean was startled to hear his own voice joining Sam's.
Mom looked over at them, utterly spent. "I'm sorry, boys. I love you. Hagoónee."
"Hagoónee," Dean whispered.
"Bye, Mom," Sam said, his voice breaking. "Rest in beauty."
She smiled weakly and faded away.
Neither brother moved for a long moment. Then Dean got out the EMF meter and forced himself to his feet to check the room. There was a field generated by the sand painting, of course, but the reading where their mother had stood last was weak and fading. While Sam swept up the sand and carried it into the backyard for proper disposal, Dean swept the rest of the house for EMF and found nothing.
Sam met him in the hall. "We clear?"
"Okay. Let's head back to Missouri's."
Dean nodded again, and they left the house. But the enormity of what had happened caught up with Dean just about the time they got back to the Impala, and he stumbled and braced himself on the hood, having to fight just to breathe without crying.
Sam's giant hand landed gently on his back. "Hey. I'll drive."
Dean nodded, drew in a ragged breath, and let Sam steer him to the passenger side.
Missouri was out when John arrived at her house, but he found the side door he was going to use to break in unlocked with a sticky note telling him to make himself comfortable. Chuckling, he shook his head and let himself in. And true to her word, Missouri was back by the time he finished the cup of coffee he'd poured himself from the pot she'd left to brew. Once they'd caught up on life—which took far less time with her than with most people, since she had little news of her own and could read all of John's in a heartbeat—she filled him in on what was happening at the old house.
John sighed heavily. "I shouldn't have sold it. Dean's right about that. There just..."
"Things are different here," Missouri agreed, nodding. "Even if you'd tried to tear the house down, the city might have given you even more grief than you got."
"Don't think there's any might about it."
"Oh, John, they weren't that bad."
"They wouldn't have told you to go back to Africa."
"Some people have," she confessed quietly. "Some of 'em have even said it."
He sighed. "Sorry, Missouri."
She patted his hand. "Don't you fret none, John. I didn't sense a thing when I left there. And those boys, they'll bless it well."
But John couldn't help worrying, and Missouri, though she plainly disapproved, let him stew. And his fear wasn't only for what might be happening to the boys. He couldn't be sure that he wasn't bringing them further danger just by being in the same town; he hoped he'd managed to elude the demons by staying on the move for the last few months, but he had no way of knowing whether the game was pursuit or ambush.
He was still debating whether to let the boys find him there or to hide in another part of the house long enough to make sure they were okay when Missouri's eyes went wide. "My land," she breathed.
"What?" he asked, and seconds later, he heard the Impala drive up.
"Sam's drivin'. Oh, I was wrong, so wrong..."
Alarmed, John looked out the window, prepared to fight or run if needed. But Dean's pale, dazed face gave him pause, and then... then he saw Sam.
Sam had cut his hair.
That was it. Pursuit or no, his sons needed him. John jumped up and hurried to the kitchen door, flinging it open just as the boys walked up to it. All three froze for a moment.
"Dad," Sam whispered.
Then John had his arms full of Dean, each hugging the other with all his might. "Thank the gods you're okay," Dean half-sobbed.
John gave him another hard squeeze, then patted his back. Dean took the hint and let go, stepping aside and into the house. Then John looked at Sam. "Sammy..."
"Hey," Sam replied softly.
John gestured to his hair. "What..."
"Jess. She's alive, but her parents did what Hell couldn't."
"Oh, Sam." John stepped forward and pulled Sam into a hug just as tight as the one he'd given Dean. Sam tensed at first, but then he melted into the hug the way he used to do when he was tiny.
"You're lettin' all the cold air in," Missouri stated, which was Kansas code for Get in this house.
John thumped Sam's back and released him. Sam wiped a stray tear off his cheek and came inside, and John followed, closing the door behind him.
Then Sam cleared his throat. "So, uh, Dad. We, um... guess you got Dean's message the other day."
John nodded. "What happened?"
"We're okay. Kinda rattled," Sam added with a glance at Dean, who had his nose buried in a mug of coffee, "but... the... the house... we're okay."
John looked at Dean for confirmation, but Dean only swallowed, nodded, and sat down, avoiding eye contact with everybody. John's heart squeezed; he hadn't seen Dean this withdrawn since the boy was four.
"It ain't ghost sickness, John," Missouri stated before turning to Sam. "You knew, didn't you? You could sense those spirits were still there, even when I couldn't."
Sam nodded. "I think maybe..."
"The gris-gris bags weakened 'em both. But what you did, it gave Mary the strength to fight back and win. She would have destroyed herself taking out that poltergeist if you hadn't brought that blessing."
Dean drank his coffee with the kind of desperation most men reserved for whiskey.
Sam didn't seem to notice. "Missouri, what's happening to me?"
She shook her head. "I don't know, child. I don't know. And I don't know what to make of what she said, either."
Sam nodded grimly, and Dean shivered hard.
"All right," John said. "Boys, we need to talk. But not here."
Missouri rounded on him. "John Winchester, I could just slap you! There ain't no danger here! Mary's at rest now, all of her!"
"Even so, there might be other ears trying to listen here. Dean, you think you could make it to Tulsa tonight?"
Dean made eye contact and nodded.
"Hell, no," Sam retorted. "I'm driving. And that's final, Dean."
That coaxed a hint of a smile out of Dean, who acknowledged the comment by looking at Sam and raising his mug before drinking again.
Sam looked back at John then. "Are we following you or meeting you somewhere?"
"Follow, but let's plan to meet in case we get separated." John gave him the name of a motel in Claremore, just off Route 66, and Sam nodded.
Missouri huffed, clearly put out with John's refusal to take her word about whatever she'd read from Sam's mind. But Sam gently thanked her for her help while Dean rinsed his mug and left it in the sink, which seemed to help. Then both boys hugged her, nodded to John, and left, Dean humming a tune that took John a moment to place. When he did, he couldn't help chuckling—it was one of his dad's favorite songs.
Take me back to Tulsa, I'm too young to marry...
"I'm sorry, Missouri," he said aloud. "But I do thank you for your help."
She sighed and shook her head. "John, you don't learn to trust, it'll be the death of you."
"That thing is still after Sam. Not a lot of people I can trust."
Missouri sighed again. "Go on. They're waitin' for you."
John nodded and started for the door.
"You did do one thing right. Those boys do need you right now. You hidin' would have made matters worse."
He smiled. "Thanks, Missouri." And he left.
The three-and-a-half-hour drive to Claremore was uneventful, and Dean seemed somewhat recovered when they got to the motel; at least he was smiling whenever Sam said something worth smiling at. But Sam was still doing all the talking, and that worried John. So once they were checked into adjoining rooms and had the wards set, John went into the boys' room and sat them both down.
"Okay," he said. "We're safe enough here, so talk to me. Haidzaa?"
Dean let out a long sigh, and his face turned ashen again.
Sam shot Dean a worried look before answering. "So, Missouri probably told you what happened this afternoon." When John nodded, he continued, "Well, um, over Christmas, I'd been discussing emergencies like this with Chris—Gwen's husband—and so I already had some idea what to do. So we placed corn pollen, sang the blessings, and then... upstairs, in my room, I had Dean do a sand painting. And when it was done... she just appeared, Dad. We didn't summon her or anything; we were careful. She just... was there. And... I spoke to her for, like, a minute before—honestly? I don't think that poltergeist was just randomly attracted there. I think Bináá' łitso sent it, because... it interrupted us. But... she fought it. And then she said goodbye and moved on."
John frowned, puzzled. It was clear enough who she was, even if Missouri hadn't said anything; Sam seemed to be treading carefully more for Dean's sake than for the sake of the taboo against speaking about the dead. He also seemed sure there was no chance of a chindi being involved, and not just because they were well out of range of a ghost tied to Lawrence. "But why do you think the poltergeist was sent?"
Sam kept eye contact with John, almost defiantly. "Because I had a vision, just like when Jess was attacked. And because I... my question was what Bináá' łitso had done to me."
"What do you mean?"
"We read the journal, Dad."
"Amá Sání told us to," Dean added softly.
John cursed inwardly. He hadn't meant for the boys to see those until after he was dead. Still, he knew better than to question Amá Sání's advice, so he sighed. "And? What... what did..."
Sam spared him from having to finish the question. "Well, that's when the poltergeist came back. But... she did say something. It was blood-magic, Dad. Whatever he did, he used his own blood."
And an echo of a voice—a voice that sounded an awful lot like Sam's—stole through John's memory: You are gonna die, and your children will be cursed.
John's heart sank. The Diné knew what to do to break curses cast with corpse-powder or teeth or bone, any of the kinds of spells most witches and skinwalkers or voodoo practitioners could cast. Their medicine would have been strong enough for that; John had even given serious thought to trying to arrange a Nidáá for Sam that summer if they weren't able to kill Bináá' łitso before then. But blood-magic was stronger still, and he didn't know whether anything could break a blood-curse like that.
"We need to end this," he said aloud. "We've been on defense long enough. It has to stop, now."
"How?" Sam returned. "What do we do against a demon that strong?"
"There's a weapon. I don't... the less you know, the less you'll talk if something happens. But there's a weapon that's supposed to kill anything. I'll steal it if I have to, but I'll get hold of it somehow. And then I'll kill that damned thing."
"Okay. Where are we going?"
John held up a hand. "You're not coming with me."
"Dad!" both boys cried, distressed.
"It's too dangerous, boys. I know there are demons after me; I can't be sure there aren't any after you. We'll all be safer if we split up."
"But Dad, we just got you back!" Dean objected.
"Let us come with you," Sam pleaded. "Let us help."
John shook his head. "Sammy, I don't want you caught in the crossfire. You have to let me go."
"Dad, you don't have to worry about us."
"Yes, I do. I'm your father." John paused. "And I can't... I can't lose you, too."
"So what are we supposed to do, go back to the rez and wait? Go back to school while you could be getting killed? Something wanted Mom dead. Something wanted us hunting, enough to try to kill Jess, enough to prompt her dad to force her into marriage. We need to be part of this fight, Dad. I need to be part of it."
"You will be, Sam. We'll all have a role to play soon. But in the meantime, there are still other people in danger from other kinds of evil. Dean, do you still have my journal?"
"Good. There are a couple of hunts in there that I'd meant to take this spring—a haunted asylum in Illinois, and a possible fertility god in Indiana. You two take care of those while I work on getting that weapon."
Dean nodded again, resigned but visibly miserable.
John reached over and put a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Hey. I'll keep in touch this time, I promise."
Dean drew in a ragged breath and tried to smile. But even without ghost sickness being an issue, this ordeal had plainly ripped open wounds in Dean's soul that had never truly healed. He was hurting, and the prospect of having to part from John so soon wasn't helping. The Marine in John was irritated; the father in him was heartbroken.
And for once, the father won out. "I'll stay for breakfast."
That got a genuine smile, and Dean grabbed John's wrist and squeezed. "Thanks, Dad."
John squeezed Dean's shoulder and let go. "You both look beat. I'll let you rest and see you in the morning."
"Night, Dad," Sam said softly.
"Night, son," John returned and went back to his own room. There he sat down on the bed and wrestled with his emotions for a long moment. Then at last the Marine took over again, and he grabbed his phone and dialed. "Elkins? Winchester—dammit, man, I need that gun!"
Nihighan – Our Home
bi'ee' łigai – woman in white
Bináá' łitso – Yellow-Eyes
Amá Sání/Shimásání – (maternal) grandmother
Haidzaa? – What happened?
Diné – The People (Navajo)
chindi – evil spirit; usually believed to be a ghost—specifically the evil remains of a dead person's spirit, the part that could not be brought into harmony with the rest of the universe; failure to observe taboos regarding the dead is believed to attract a chindi's attention and lead to hauntings and/or ghost sickness
hózhǫ́ – peace, harmony, beauty (somewhat akin to the Hebrew concept of shalom)
'Át'ah! – Wait!
Hagoónee – Goodbye
Nidáá – Enemy Way ceremony, intended to exorcise the ghosts of aliens and the effects of violence; frequently sung for returning veterans