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18 September 2013 @ 03:20 pm
jai guru deva om: from me to you (chapter 5)  

Something was different. Dean was tucked on his side, knees drawn up, hands curled against his chest when he opened his eyes to a dark room.

A/N: I was lucky enough to get NongPradu, Emmessann, Tifaching to beta this story. My giddy thanks go out to Amanda, Deb, Penny, Sue, and Ginger who all read and poked around in my story, offering me great feedback, advice and friendship as I wrote the story.

Jai Guru Deva Om

Chapter Five
From Me To You

**ॐ**

Something was different. Dean was tucked on his side, knees drawn up, hands curled against his chest when he opened his eyes to a dark room. He recognized nothing, his brain processing little beyond an inchoate understanding that something had changed. Gravity set to work on his eyelids, and he obediently returned to the insensate womb of light he'd been floating in. He took a deep breath. And another. And another. The light expanded and retracted with each breath, up and down, in and out, light and dark. It was relaxing, mesmerizing, enthralling. It was different, he was different—somehow.

He remained in that aspirating bubble for quite a while until sound waves began to penetrate, breaking the rhythm, agitating and churning, twisting things out of shape. The voice—it was definitely a voice, Dean decided—pulled him up and out of the warm swaddle and into the cool, pine-scented room. He heard the scrape of shoe on hollow boards near him and two voices murmuring. The whole surface he was lying on began to rattle and sway, aluminum poles and canvas wobbling together. Dean lazily dusted off the foreign hand shaking his shoulder, trying to rouse him.

"Quit," he mumbled, his eyeballs placidly sweeping the underside of his lids.

"I think he's coming around," a male voice said. The shaking continued.

"Dean, honey? Wake up, now," a female coaxed him. Dean uncurled his limbs and started to stretch them. "Yep," she said, her voice downy and mild. "He's coming to. That's it, honey."

Dean attempted to lift his lids, but they were sticky with long sleep. He raised his hand to his eyes, rubbing at the glue, prying them open. He blinked a few times, staring at the duo.

"S'up?" he drowsed. As he watched their smiles, memories started to trickle back, and he realized the two Jedis watching him were Brad and the woman with the pancakes—he had to dig for her name—Maureen, smiling at him as though it was natural for him to be here. Wherever here was.

He glanced at his surroundings, unhurried and listless, his brain still coming back online. They were in a barren, rustic cabin, no bigger than the average prison cell. Two old, military cots were flush against opposite walls, a narrow walkway between them—a plain window was set into the back of the shack. A small, army-style footlocker sat at the end of each cot, and a single kerosene lantern hung from a hook on the ceiling, illuminating the room from above. He was in one of the cottages. Dean was certain of it. He'd passed out. Fuck. He'd passed out or they'd done something to him and they'd brought him here. He blinked and drew a hand to his face, scraping against at least a day's worth of stubble.

"What the…?" he ground out as more memories returned—Mei, her husband Jason, the freakish cult, lungs that wouldn't expand and brown eyes on a blue-eyed woman. When Maureen reached a hand out to comfort him, he bucked up, hands behind him, levering himself against the wall at the head of the bed.

"Whoa!" Brad called out and both his and Maureen's smiles fell away. "Take it easy, Dean!"

Dean continued to absorb his surroundings, fending them off as he braced himself against the wall with his left hand, his face feral. Maureen snatched her hand back, moving behind Brad, allowing him to take point.

"You're okay, Dean. Relax. Let go, now. Everything's all right." Brad bent toward him, but Dean pulled his fist back, threatening him. Brad stopped short, hands held up in surrender.

"Stay back," Dean demanded. "Don't touch me!" As adrenaline surged through him, his body demanded oxygen, and his breath came in heavy bursts. That's when it hit him—the difference. He could breathe. His eyes went as wild and wide as the pair watching him, and Dean reached a hand toward his torso. There was no burn in his lungs, no back-arching spikes of pain coming from a cracked ribs, no deep tenderness from his surgery incisions—nothing. Nothing at all.

"No one's going to hurt you, Dean," Brad said soothingly, studying Dean's cornered expression. "Easy does it, now." He kept his hands up, palms out, giving Dean some space.

Dean continued to probe, feeling his chest and ribs, pressing and prodding. He pulled up the Jedi tunic he was wearing—a Jedi mother-fucking tunic!—and looked down. There were no puncture wounds from the surgery, no bruising, no stitches—nothing but smooth, healthy skin.

"What did you—?" Panic started to take root. If they'd done this, what else might they have done to him or to his mind? Brad tried once more to approach, but Dean puffed himself up and growled. "Get the fuck away from me," he threatened. "What did you do to me?"

"Dean, we just wanted to—" Maureen started moving out from behind Brad and took a cautious step toward him. Dean cut her off.

"Stay away." His voice was full of menace, remembering her brown eyes watching him. "You especially stay the hell away." Maureen stopped and sighed. "What are you? Huh? What's your goddamned game?"

Brad placed a protective hand on Maureen's shoulder. "She was trying to help you. Now just listen to me, Dean. Listen. We're not going to harm you."

"Yeah? Then what is all of this?" he accused, pulling on his Jedi outfit and gesturing around the room.

"What is what?" Brad said, shrugging and shaking his head. "We just put you in something a little less restrictive than your jeans, Dean. You were unconscious. Look," he said pointing to the locker at the foot of the bed. He approached it, hands still held out in surrender. He bent down cautiously and opened the locker, letting the lid fall back. He stepped away, pointing at it. "See? All your stuff is right there, Dean. All of it. Even your gun. It's still loaded. Everything is right there for you." Brad pulled on the hem of Maureen's tunic and both of them backed away, allowing Dean to pivot off the wall and inspect the contents of the locker. Dean kept one hand held out as the other scooped up his gun. He pointed it at Brad.

"What did you do to me?" he repeated, murder in his eye.

"Me? Nothing. Father healed you," Brad explained. "You were hurt, Dean. You weren't breathing, so Father saved your life. Since then you've been asleep; so, I think it's safe to say your body needed the rest. We helped you."

"Help me? I'll bet," Dean sneered. "How else did you help me?"

"Wh—what do you mean, Dean? Nothing. We didn't do anything else," Maureen insisted. Her tone relayed her hurt at the accusation. "Honestly," she said.

"Right," Dean said, his vision tunneled down the barrel of the gun at them, his arms tense with deadly intent. "Father helped me, huh? You were the one who was there," he accused Maureen. "What are you?"

Maureen was mystified. "What do you mean what am I?" she asked.

"You sure as hell ain't human," Dean said. "So what are you? Demon? Shifter? What?" Maureen's head ticked to the side; she shook it and blew out a confused breath.

"I—I don't know what you mean," she said. "I've developed some abilities through spiritual meditation and by following Father's teachings. That's it, Dean. Honest. I did nothing but channel Father's love. He healed you through me."

"Bull," he snarled.

"It's true. Look," she said, motioning to the weapon in his hand. "You have the gun. See? You're in control. Father didn't do anything to you, Dean. Nothing other than heal your wounds." Dean faltered a moment, realizing that she had a point at least. He did have the gun. Inspecting it, he ejected the clip with deft hands, checking the bullets and tapping it back. Uncertainty feathered its way across his face, but then he aimed at the pair again.

"Right. So I guess that means I'm free to go then?" he mocked with a curl of his lip, knowing the answer.

"Of course you are," Brad said. "You're free, Dean. If you want to leave, we'll let you get dressed and walk you to your car. It's still right outside the gate. Tim's been keeping an eye on it." Dean's brows pinched at that. Brad went on. "Here," he said, putting himself in front of Maureen again. "We're going to go outside and let you get your things and get ready. Just don't hurt anybody, please, Dean." Both he and Maureen backed up, opening the door and shutting it behind them, leaving Dean standing there pointing the gun at nothing.

He stood there for a few seconds trying to parse what had happened, or what didn't. None of this was making any goddamned sense to him. He looked down again at his stomach, touching the skin there. He rubbed the back of his neck, perplexed. Grabbing his clothes from the locker, he dressed with single-minded intent to get the hell out of there as soon as he could. The binoculars were sitting at the bottom of the locker; he found his car-keys, wallet, watch and amulet rolled into a fold of his jeans. He put the amulet and watch on and pocketed his keys and wallet. Tying his boots, he grabbed the gun again and opened the door. Maureen was gone. Brad stood by waiting, hands in his pockets, grinding a pinecone under his sandal. He raised his head when Dean opened the door.

"Ready?" he asked him.

"Yeah," Dean said, making tactical calculations as he eyed his surroundings. "Where's Maureen?"

"She went back to her work at the greenhouse," Brad said, crisp and cold, pointing toward the center of the compound. "You terrified her. She's a beautiful person, Dean. You didn't have to be such a jerk." Dean said nothing in reply. Brad motioned for him to follow, and Dean soon found himself on the cobble road heading toward the gate. He was coltish and hyper aware of everything around him, swiveling his neck at the slightest twitter of birds in the trees. Brad watched him, disappointment in his eyes; he broke the silence as they walked.

"So why'd you come here, Dean?" he asked, eyeing the gun. Still, Dean remained silent. Brad shrugged. "Whatever, man. It's your life, Dean. I hope you find what you're looking for. Just leave us in peace."

Dean tried to tune him out. He had too much on his mind, and he needed to get out of there and think things through. Every step he took reminded him how incredible it felt to be healthy, to be able to breathe—to really breathe. He felt fantastic, and that alone set alarm bells clanging. It wasn't right. He didn't know what the hell it was, but he at least knew it wasn't natural. Research. He needed to do a shit-ton of research. And drink. Fuck if he didn't need drink—or six—run the iron, silver salt and holy water tests to make sure he was still himself, make sure they didn't put some weird whammy on him.

All these thoughts were swirling through his head when he saw Mei standing outside the gate, arms flying around in animated, angry gestures, her voice rising as she made a defiant stand before Tim who refused to allow her access into the compound. Dean stopped and ducked behind a tree, paying little heed to Brad's surprise. Dean stole another quick glance from behind the tree. It was Mei all right, giving every last neuron of her mind to the guard, angry threats leaping from her lips. Tim kept pointing to the No Trespassing sign and motioned for her to leave. Brad's eyes were flitting back and forth between Mei and Dean, making his own calculations and drawing conclusions. After the hot exchange, the doctor spun around, slamming her car door and peeling out, dirt crunching under wheels, pebbles hailing against the gate and guard shack.

Without a word, Dean resumed walking toward the gate, faster now, making no comment or excuse for his actions.

"Do you know her? Are you a part of that?" Brad asked, pointing to the dust-cloud settling in the wake of Mei's wrath. "Are you?"

Dean eyed Brad, deciding to make some course corrections so as not to burn any bridges. This was still a case, after all. He had no fuck-clue what kind of case, but it was a case. "No," he said. "I just can't get involved in anyone else's shit right now."

They stopped in front of the gate. Brad turned to Dean, confronting him. "You're not a bird-watcher, that much is clear. Why did you come here, Dean?" Brad asked.

Dean peered back, shaking his head. "I don't know," he said, trying to think of some bullshit to tell him. "I was just—" He put a hand to his chest. "Curious. I was alone." He pushed on the gate. "But I can't deal right now. I gotta get out of here."

Tim stepped out from the guard shack, and Brad motioned for him to open the gate. The bewildered guard raised his eyebrows in surprise but punched a code into the keypad and stepped back as the gates swung open.

"Dean's heading out, Tim," Brad said. The two exchanged glances.

"Uh, okay. Hey Dean, we were all worried about you. Hope you're feeling better, man," Tim said. Dean nodded.

"Yeah, thanks," he said, not stopping until he was outside the gates. Brad followed part of the way.

"Dean," he called as he stopped not far from the gate. "Listen, you know you're welcome here, right? I'm sorry if we freaked you out. Believe me, we never intended you any harm. If you want to come back, the door is open, okay?"

"Yeah," Dean said, walking away. "Yeah, sure." He checked over his shoulder when he was halfway to the car. Brad and Tim were still standing back at the guard shack. He made a fluid beeline to the car, opened the door and climbed in, starting the engine. The two Jedis stood watching, making no move to follow him. Brad even had his hand held up in farewell.

Dean pulled out, turning the car around and driving onto the highway, making his way west at about 25mph over the speed limit. After a few moments, Dean shook his head in utter bewilderment.

"What the hell just happened?" he asked himself.

**ॐ**

The town of Deming, WA was a tiny hamlet, consisting of a grocery store, a gas station, a bar and the Nooksack-Nation gambling casino. And that was good enough for Dean. He pulled into the gravel parking lot of the Deming Tavern and made his way inside.

"Hey," the bartender greeted him. The bar was empty except for two older women playing pull-tabs at the end of the bar. Checking his watch, Dean realized that it wasn't quite lunchtime yet. "What can I get you?"

Dean took the stool. "Double whiskey, neat," he ordered, pulling his cellphone out of his pocket and setting it on the countertop. He reached over and snagged a leaflet menu offering the usual tavern fare; his stomach rumbled on cue. He was ravenous. Feeling his torso again to verify that he was still…still—he had trouble even thinking the word—still healed…he nodded to the bartender when he set the drink down.

"Too early for a double-bacon-cheese and fries?" Dean asked. The bartender shook his head.

"Nope. Hey, Kato…" he called over to a hot blonde who was chatting up the middle-aged gamblers playing pull-tabs.

She tossed the man a mischievous eye. "Hey, Tony…" she answered.

"Double-bacon and the fixin's, darlin'," he told her.

Kato ambled through the double doors to the kitchen. "Comin' up," she tossed over her shoulder.

Dean downed his drink, relishing the burn and tapped the glass for a refill. After Tony poured him another double, Dean nodded, sliding off the stool and pointing to one of the back booths. Tony nodded and continued with his work. Dean opened his cellphone, checking for messages. Nothing from Sam. Nothing from his dad—not even a set of coordinates for his next granny salt-and-burn. Dean shut his eyes and massaged his temples as the alcohol warmed his empty belly. He sighed and opened the phone again, dialing a number.

"Hey boy," Bobby answered. "Whaddaya want?"

"I love you, too, Bobby" Dean snorted. There was a slight hesitation.

"Well, you sound different," Bobby ventured. "What's going on?"

Dean twitched and shifted. "What do you mean I sound different?" he asked.

"Listen to yourself. You don't sound like a three-pack-a-day smoker with asthma anymore for starters."

"Uh, yeah," Dean said and shifted the phone from one ear to the other. "Yeah, I got a good night's sleep. M'feelin' better."

"I guess, so," Bobby said. "So you good enough to come meet me? I'm getting a bite at a truck stop right now, but I'll be in South Dakota before the end of the day. Could use some company, boy."

"Uh well," The younger hunter whiffled. "I'll do my best. But I got a few things to take care of first." He heard Bobby's weary sigh. "I'm okay, really. Listen Bobby, I got a question for you."

"I'm all ears."

Dean cleared his throat. "Have you ever come across anything…good?"

"Come again?" the old hunter sounded baffled.

"Well, I mean, have you ever come across something that maybe shouldn't be killed? You know of anything supernatural that might not be evil?"

"This another one of them hypotheticals?" Bobby snorted.

"Just askin' to ask," Dean said. "So? Have you ever come across anything like that?" He could hear the wheels whirring in Bobby's head. The pause was so long that he was about to ask the hunter if he was still on the line when Bobby began to speak.

"This conversation ain't gonna go no further than just you and me, you hear me?"

"Uh, okay…"

"I mean it boy, you breathe one word, and I'll deny it first and strip your car of every part you've commandeered from my yard second. We clear?" the hunter snapped.

"Geez, Bobby, okay." Dean heard the baseball cap come off and hit the countertop.

"'Bout fifteen years back, me and my partner were on a case in Louisiana. Hoodoo priestess gone bad. That's beside the point, though. This experience had nothing to do with hoodoo. Anyway, we were taking care of business, but before we could put an end to things, the priestess sent a few of her sidekicks after us. We bolted and got separated in the bayou. I was able to evade them just fine, but I got lost." There was another long pause.

"And?" Dean prompted.

Bobby cleared his throat. "And two days later, I had a little help finding my way out," he said. Silence.

"From…?"

"Near as I can make out." Dead silence. "Near as I can make out, it was a nymph of some kind." More silence. And then more silence.

"Bobby. You didn't."

"Shut up."

"Holy shit, Bobby. You did."

"I said shut up."

Dean waited a moment. "And she didn't hurt you? I mean, at all?" Kato came over with his burger and set it down. Dean mouthed Thank you, Sweetheart. She gave him a broad smile and walked away with a slight swing of her hips.

"Hurt me? No. Exhausted me?...Well, let's just say I ain't drawing you any pictures." The hunter sighed. "Anyway, bottom line—not a scratch on me. She got me to the road, and she gave me a wink and a smile and turned back." Bobby cleared his throat. "Fifteen years on and I still don't quite know what happened, but I know it was a couple of the best damn days of my life. There's no accounting for it, though. Maybe she wasn't good, but she sure as hell wasn't bad. So, to answer your question—I don't know. Maybe."

"Jesus, Bobby," Dean blew out a breath.

"There's a lot of things we know as hunters. But there's a lot we don't. I learn something new with most every hunt. Maybe there's good out there that tries to balance out the bad, but if that's so, why they're so few and far between is beyond me. All these years spent hunting evil sonsabitches, only came across that one that didn't try to eat my brains."

"Why would she try and do that when she had her mouth full of—"

"Shut up, Dean." Bobby cut him off. "And quit smirking," the older man huffed. "Anyway, I'll never forget those two crazy days. So maybe. Maybe there are some that does good." They were both silent for a moment. "Why do you ask?"

Dean let out a huff of air, savoring his ability to do that without any pain. "I dunno, Bobby. I've been on my own for so long now. Just thinkin' too much, I guess."

"So you comin' over or what?" the old man prodded.

"I'll work my way there eventually," Dean retorted. "I'll talk to you in a couple days, okay?"

Bobby sighed again. "Dean—"

"Yeah?"

"Quit thinkin' so much, wouldja?"

Dean blew out breath. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, Bobby. I'll try." He snapped the phone shut and swallowed the rest of his drink.

**ॐ**

"What the hell are you doing?" he asked himself aloud. If he was smart he'd head in the other direction, getting as far away from that place as he could. He could turn back now, get through Seattle's traffic before rush-hour hit—hop onto I-90 and it'd be a straight shot all the way to Bobby's. Put this place in his rearview mirror and never set foot in this soggy, tree-huggin', latte-swilling, Birkenstock-wearing, slug-infested fucked up state again. His dad would be pissed if he knew he was working a case unscreened by Sergeant Winchester himself. A hint of a wounded smile tightened Dean's lips at the mere thought. His dad's anger would be something, at least—better than his silence, anyway. Dean picked up the phone one more time, noting no new calls or messages. He snapped it shut and regripped the steering wheel with an angry twist.

"Focus on the case, Dean," he chided. Of course the case was a jumbled mess of questions and supernatural anomalies. Untangling it was going to take pulling on a few of its strings and poking at it. He couldn't do that from Sioux Falls. He couldn't even do that from the Shamrock Motel in town. He needed to contrive a way, find some angle that would allow him to observe—give him some access to this teacher-Father-dude.

"They let me go," he reminded himself. "Why'd they let me go?" If they'd been evil—if they'd wanted him, they could have had him. He'd been unconscious for an entire day, and the worst thing that had happened was that they'd dressed like him like a nerd. Why hadn't they taken him—had their way with him when he was down? That he could have dealt with. That he could have understood. Evil was predictable. This? Not so much.

"Goddamn it," he said to the dash. "Just one more day." If he could take another look and make sure that everything was on the level—well, not on the level, because there was no damn way in hell that this was ever going to be in the ballpark of being on the level—but if he could satisfy himself enough to be sure that this was nothing more malevolent than Bobby's water nymph, he'd feel better about cutting his losses—or his gains—and turning tail and bolting. He owed it to Mei to be sure. Hell, he wouldn't be surprised if they didn't let him back in the joint after the way he acted. He'd drawn bead on two of their members, two members who had been nothing but kind to him the entire time he'd been there.

"Sonofabitch," he said, shaking his head as he turned onto the dirt road that led to the guard shack. One more day. He could pretend to be a needy loser for one more day. After all, it wasn't such a stretch, he thought to himself with a depreciative snort.

He pulled off to the side of the road, catching a flash of honey-brown skin as Gypsy peered out of the guard shack, a wide smile on her lips.

"Show time," he said, turning the car off and opening the door. Brad was there, too—both he and Gypsy seemed unsure what to do. He saw Brad turn and say something to the girl. She shook her head, but he pointed to the shack. Gypsy slumped in defeat and turned, going inside while Brad walked toward him.

"I'm sorry," Dean said as he and Brad closed in on each other. Dean had his own hands up this time, indicating that he was unarmed. Of course, he'd tucked a knife into his shoe before heading back from the tavern, but Brad didn't need to know that.

"What do you want, Dean?" Brad asked. "Did you forget something?" The boy folded his arms, watching Dean with cool dispassion.

"My manners," Dean replied, his boot toying with the dirt in the road. "You all did right by me, and I freaked. I totally freaked," he admitted. Brad made no reply. "Um, I—" Dean fumbled. "I didn't know what was happening. I still don't. But I'd…I'd like to at least tell Maureen how sorry I am, you know? You're right. I was a jerk. That was wrong of me."

"Is that all? Because I can call and have her come out to you."

"Naw, man." Dean ran his fingers through his hair. "You were all so nice to me, and I shouldn't have bolted like that, you know? I thought maybe you could…I dunno…I thought maybe you could show me that aerie at least, huh? Maybe hang out a while or something. Is your teacher guy ever around? I thought I'd tell him thanks…you know—for what he did for me."

"Father doesn't meet with outsiders," Brad informed him. Dean put his hands in his pockets, discouraged. "But we're having our Sacred Haoma Ceremony tonight under the stars. Father will be there. You can come if you want."

"That sounds great," Dean said. "Should I park somewhere else?" he asked, thumbing over his shoulder toward the Impala. Brad glanced at the car and shook his head.

"It will be fine here. Come on. We have time to go see the aerie before the ceremony."

Brad walked Dean to the gate. Gypsy opened the door and came out, rushing toward Dean, her face beaming. She stopped, uncertain.

"Dean," she said with quiet expectation.

"Hey Gypsy," he said. "Sorry, about running off. Thanks for helping me and everything," he said. Gypsy gave him another toothy smile and reached up, embracing him.

"I knew you'd be back. Father told us you would. You belong here. You'll see," she beamed. "You just need to let go."

**ॐ**

It was mid-afternoon as Dean watched two mottled-brown eaglets perched on a branch not far below their aerie.

"See, papa's over in that tree to the north watching. You can spot his bald head right there," Brad said pointing.

"Papa? How can you tell?" Dean asked.

"Well, can't be completely sure, of course. I'm just judging by the size. Male eagles are a bit smaller than females. Also his head is pristine and sleek. The females generally have an off-white head color, and they're poofier. Dunno why. Mama's probably out hunting. Eagles share parenting duties."

"Huh," Dean said as he looked through the binoculars.

"The eaglets were born about three months ago, and now they're getting ready for their first flights. The one on the left is all twitchy and ready to go, see?"

Dean swept from the adult eagle back to the babies and watched as one of them continually stretched and flapped its wings while shifting position in seeming impatience. Dean could relate. He had a lot more on his mind other than bird watching. Before heading up to the aerie, Brad had walked him through the compound that had been alive with activity. Everyone had been making preparations for their big ceremony that night. Jedis had passed them, walking by on different errands. Everyone had made eye contact and greeted him by name with a smile and a wave. It would have been downright creepy if the Jedis weren't so open and genuine in their interactions. Dean tried to process it all as he watched the eagles.

"So what's this big ceremony-thing tonight all about?" he ventured as he kept his eye on the birds.

"Hmm? Oh," Brad said, coming out of his thoughts. "It's the Sacred Haoma Ceremony. Father will come and impart teachings, and anyone who has reached a new step in our four-fold process will receive new knowledge and new titles," Brad explained as he focused his binoculars and pointed. "I think that one is about ready to fly. He looks like he's on a mission. Look at his eyes," Brad chuckled as he watched the birds.

"Yeah," Dean said absently. "I remember you saying something about four steps or something. What are they?"

Brad continued to watch the birds as he talked. "Father cannot change anyone's perceptions until each soul is ready. Most people aren't even capable of taking the first step of becoming an Initiate. If they are not open, dedicated, loyal—if they are too engrained in their egos, there is no reaching them, even if they are worthy in all other respects. One must be open on a deeper level, must have a need for the teachings in order to take the first step of the Initiate. Each step after that—progressing from Initiate to Disciple to Adept and finally to Master—takes a lot of work."

"And which step in the process are you on?" Dean asked.

"I am an Adept, as are Gypsy and Maureen. Jason is still a Disciple, which is a challenging stage, much like being a teenager. I wasn't so sure I'd make it through that stage, but Father and my brothers and sisters helped me. We don't call ourselves The Kindred for nothing. I wouldn't have gotten this far without their love and support. Jason is struggling right now, especially since his wife tried to get in to see him this morning."

"Oh?" Dean raised his eyebrows. "So that chick was his wife?"

"Yes," Brad said. "Jason is struggling with his ego and attachments right now. He is unsettled. But being a Disciple is always challenging. It's a hard step on The Path."

"Maybe he just loves his wife," Dean said. "Is that so bad? Can't he love his wife and love The Kindred?"

"He can, but his wife is not receptive to Father's teachings, and her struggle is becoming Jason's struggle, hindering his development." Brad sighed. "It's unfortunate, but we all have our attachments that we must let go of if we are to reach our potential. If the process was easy, everyone would do it. This is why each accomplishment is celebrated with a high ceremony." His face lit up with memories. "One of the highlights of my life has been witnessing the moment an Adept becomes a Master. We call that The Blessed Transformation. Gypsy's fiancé, Andrew, and Maureen's husband, Jonathan, are both Masters now. They were transformed on the same night—the first Blessed Transformations I ever saw." His face shone with profound awe.

"Oh yeah? What's it like," Dean asked. One of the young eagles stretched its wings again, a full flare, this time, and moved sideways out on the branch to accommodate its wingspan. The other eaglet wobbled back and forth and watched its sibling.

"It's indescribable," Brad said, searching for the words and coming up empty. "Maybe one day you will bear witness. Tonight, however, there is only one to become an Initiate, so you will not see The Blessed Transformation."

At that moment the eaglet flapped its wings and pulled its feet up, gliding off the branch. "There he goes! See! Wow, look at that," Brad marveled. The bird began to flap its graceful wings, too fast at first, causing the bird to bobble in mid-flight but then correct itself, finding a rhythm that not only kept it aloft but gave it more lift. The other eaglet remained on the branch, watching intently. "Look that's got Papa's feathers ruffled," he said as the adult took flight right after the young bird, scooping its wings through the air to hover above the youngster.

"That's amazing," Dean admitted. The birds were breathtaking, no doubt about it.

"I love living out here," Brad said. "Oh, oh! Look at the other one. He wants some action, too. He's not gonna stay behind."

Brad and Dean watched as the young eagle who'd been sitting on the branch suddenly hurled itself off in an attempt to follow the others. It had not prepped or stretched its wings and the bird lurched and twisted in the air, flapping and flopping through the branches as it tumbled toward the ground. It finally found purchase on one of the lower branches and shook itself and let out a mournful squawk.

"Poor little guy," Brad said. "But these birds usually take a few tumbles before they make their first successful flight. He'll be okay." Brad looked at the sky. "Come on. It's getting late. We need to get back and get ready for the ceremony," he said. "It will be an amazing night. One you'll never forget."

**ॐ**

By the time they got back Dean was so hungry he wondered what pinecones tasted like. His healing must have sent his hunger into overdrive, and he was eager to make up for lost time. The burger he'd inhaled at the tavern was long gone, and hours of hiking with Brad only exacerbated things. His stomach rumbled loud enough that the others heard.

"Sorry," he said, turning red after an impressive gurgle as they strode into the compound. "I guess my appetite is returning." He checked his watch. It was after 7:00pm and he was wondering what their normal mealtimes were.

Brad was apologetic. "Sorry about that Dean. I should have warned you. We always fast before the Sacred Haoma Ceremony. It's our custom. Maybe Maureen could fix you something, though," he said, doubtful.

"Naw," Dean said with an awkward shrug. "No big deal, man. I'll grab something in town after the ceremony," he said. Brad gave him a smile, pointing to Maureen who was coming out of the greenhouse, carrying a large basket filled with roots and a tangle of leafy vines.

Brad swerved, greeting the woman, taking the basket from her and giving her a hug. "You're on caapi duty tonight?" Brad asked her, fingering the roots in the basket.

"Gypsy is going to swing by and help me prepare it when she's done with gate duty." She turned toward Dean. There was no surprise in her eyes at seeing him. "Big night tonight," she said, her smile somewhat guarded but true. "I am so glad you came back, Dean. Father told us not to worry," she said, reaching her hand out and gripping his arm.

"I'm sorry, Maureen," Dean said, lowering his eyes. "I was an ass this morning."

She shook him off. "You were frightened and overwhelmed. We all feel that way sometimes. It's forgotten." She drew him into an embrace. "I'm just delighted that you are joining us."

Dean broke the hug, pulling away with forced indifference. "Well, for tonight, at least. I'm not much of a joiner and all. I'm still thinking of heading up to Alaska, but I wanted to thank your leader for what he did for me. Thank you, too, by the way. I'm—I'm really grateful."

"Here," Brad said, hefting up the heavy basket and taking Maureen's hand in his. "Let's walk you back to the kitchen and then we're going to find Jason and get ready before the ceremony."

Maureen gripped Brad's hand and took Dean's arm with her other, regarding him as the trio walked toward the kitchen. "It wasn't me, by the way," she said to him.

"Huh?" Dean asked.

"Your restoration," she said nodding toward his middle. "I was merely the conduit for Father's power," she insisted. "He granted you healing because you were worthy of it, Dean. You already have Father's blessing on you. You're worthy of so much more, too. No matter what you think of yourself, remember that always, okay?"

**ॐ**

Dean did a double take. "You mean I have to dress like a Jedi again?"

Brad and Jason laughed. "Hey, it isn't that bad. Besides, when in Rome, right?" Brad said, clapping his shoulder. "Come on, I promise not to take any pictures."

Dean followed them into one of the pavilions and found himself in the men's shower room, devoid of any stalls or privacy whatsoever. Although it was spotless, Dean took one step in and two steps back.

"Whoa," he said. "I don't think so. I'll take a pass on this. I'm good."

Jason's ruddy eyebrows shot up. "Did you not take P.E. in school, Dean? Trust me, this is a lot more sanitary than any locker room." Jason looked around. Only one other Jedi was there, and he was already dressed and shaking out his wet hair. "No one else is here. Hurry. We're late as it is, Mr. Modesty."

Dean took the quickest, coldest shower in history. He didn't know if he'd gotten there too late for hot water or if these nutcases thought heat was something keeping them enslaved to their egos. In any event, he made quick work of the ritual and got dressed as fast as he could. The Pacific Northwest was not particularly warm, even in early June, and he was shivering by the time they left.

**ॐ**






When they reached the orchard, Dean was hopping beside Jason and Brad, trying to extricate a pebble from one of the sandals they made him wear. Oh, for fuck's sake! Because, it seemed, Father had a thing for the open-toe style. That might be fine for the Dead Sea region or where ever the hell he came from, but here they were nudging the ass-crack of Canada. The ground was cold, wet and riddled with Godzilla-sized slugs—not a great combo for Jesus-shoes.

The sun hadn't yet set, but there were twinkling lanterns hanging from the trees, some strung in festoons from branch to branch and some from tree to tree, encircling a huge bonfire. Several dozen Jedis were milling about, greeting each other, offering hugs and friendly pats on the back. They couldn't possibly be this happy with each other all the time, Dean thought. When he spotted Maureen and Gypsy, they smiled and waved the three of them over.

"Dean! Come on," Maureen said, reaching out her hand and coaxing him into the crowd of Jedis. "Let me introduce you around."

He spent the next hour in polite conversations and introductions—Jedi after Jedi, half of them bearing names like Heavenly, Celeste, Rejoice, Zipphora, Luna, Dante, Gabriel, Nevada, and Kimo. Dean started to get the giggles. Maureen sensed that he was reaching his New-Age-tolerance threshold and drew him away, keeping him close to Jason, Brad and Gypsy until the ceremony began. When the sun reached the western lip, dipping below the horizon, all the Jedis hushed and witnessed what Maureen called the ‘celestial transformation' of day into night. Soon after that, Maureen and Gypsy began to hand out Dixie Cups—another thing that gave Dean the snorts for the sheer absurdity of it—filled with a brackish liquid.

"None for me, thanks." Dean's voice was firm. Maureen nodded.

"You must be at least an Initiate to partake of the sacred Hoama, anyway," she told him. "Though, this isn't actually Haoma; it's ayahuasca made from the caapi vine, but Father says it is a good substitute, and it isn't illegal. Haoma itself has been extinct from the world for over two thousand years, but the ayahuasca helps to open the soul to Father's teachings just as Hoama once did." The foursome ‘clinked' their paper cups together and downed the muddy tea in a couple of gulps.

"The chanting will begin soon," Gypsy said. "Sit back and enjoy, Dean. We'll be right here with you."

The group of Jedis formed a circle and began lowing and humming as they swayed back and forth, like the damn Whos in Whoville on Christmas morning, Dean thought. As goofy as it was, the sound was not unpleasant. Their ability to change the tempo and beat of their humming with no normal rhythmic cues impressed Dean. He wondered how much practice they put into it or if they were so in-tune with each other that they were able to anticipate and carry out abrupt changes in their tonal inflections with no perceptible warning. It was strange and interesting to listen to, until it became apparent that they weren't going to be stopping anytime soon. After at least a half hour of this incessant purr, they began a new chant. Dean's eyes wandered around, not knowing what to do. No one was paying attention to him, so he joined the circle, sitting down awkwardly next to Gypsy and Maureen.

This chant had words in it, all of them giving praise and thanks to Father for his teachings. It was extreme worship, calling him the Soul Keeper, pledging their souls to him, declaring him their savior. Unlike the humming, this made Dean feel more than a little uncomfortable. This all-consuming surrender couldn't be healthy under any circumstance.

On the same shared breath, the group arose again as a single unit, and Dean could tell that the Jedis were now clearly under the influence of whatever drug was in their black-sunshine teaHaoma or caapi or whatever they called it. Maureen and Gypsy were closest, and Dean watched them chant, their pupils profoundly dilated and glassy as they offered all sorts of bizarre praises to their teacher. Dean smirked. Not like he was a choirboy when it came to indulging now and again, but these dopey Jedis were stoned out of their gourds.

Without warning, the Jedis began bounding in place as though they had pogo sticks attached to their feet. Up and down, up and down, their chanting took on a fervent and frenzied warble that unsettled Dean. Their stamina was impressive, though, he had to give them that. He shifted his glance from Jedi to Jedi, and each wore an expression of absolute rapture on his or her face. Brad was lost in the moment, his eyes closed, head thrown back, delirious as he chanted words of complete devotion to Father. The chant changed yet again. They were now calling on Father to welcome their new Initiate, and Dean looked around, wondering which of these nutjobs was the star of that freak show. The non-stop chanting and repetitive jumping became hypnotic, and Dean was close to slipping into an altered state himself just from watching them.

Right about the time that Dean began to fear for the poor bastards jumping in place like that—worried that they might start passing out at any moment, especially after fasting all day—Dean saw a flicker of light on the edge of the orchard. The Jedis' eyes remained closed, lost in their spiritual ecstasy or whatever it was, but they all stopped their leaping in an instant, their arms dropping to their sides like overcooked spaghetti. Bowing their heads, they started that low, droning murmur as their leader approached.

Dean turned and watched as Father moved with liquid grace through the trees. He was dressed in a white Jedi tunic with white pants and sandals, offsetting his natural olive complexion. Dean immediately recalled his long weekend with one of the hottest chicks he'd ever slept with—a yoga instructor named Lisa. She'd had pictures of her Indian guru all over her small apartment, and spoke about his teachings. It had all gone completely over his head at the time, mantras, tantras—whatever—it had all boiled down to great sex and nothing more as far as he was concerned. Now, however, Dean saw the similarities between Lisa's guru and The Kindred's teacher—a dark skinned, diminutive, lean-figured man with a serene face—it was all there and more. A lot more.

There was a shine to him, a shimmering aura of light—unspeakably beautiful light—that emanated from him. The glow dappled the trees around him and the ground beneath him as he walked. In his entire life, Dean had never seen anything so compelling, and he felt an urge to reach out and touch that light. But he wasn't a fool, either. He kept a close watch on this thing, this creature, for it was definitely some kind of something up his alley, and he needed to keep his hunter-hat on if he was going to make any kind of sound judgment. Pretty is as pretty does, so they say. The circle parted a moment, allowing Father access to the bonfire. Once he was inside, the Jedis opened their eyes and reformed the circle, their actions crisp and uniform as though ruled by one mind.

Father began to speak to them.

"I am within you, children. I am without you. I am he who keeps the souls of men, the warden of The Enlightened Ones. I offer myself to you freely. If you love me, if you worship me, you will be in me and I in you for all eternity."

Well, that nugget of wisdom wasn't anything to write home about, Dean decided. However, the Jedis all dropped to their knees, and Father spread his arms like Jesus welcoming his flock. A few of them crawled to him, surrounding him, touching their foreheads to his sandaled feet. Women with long hair were using it to wipe his toes clean, kissing them in an incredibly disturbing display of submission. Dean scrunched his face up, unable to suppress a squeamish swallow. Something was off, here. Big time.

The teacher touched his followers, offering his blessing, stroking them in turn, murmuring to them as they kissed his palms. The strange love-fest went on for a cringe-worthy long while until Father held his hands up, putting the kibosh on their worship kink.

"Where is this Warrior who is to be my new Initiate?" he asked.

Dean eyed the group, trying to spot him. Searching the crowd, he realized to his horror that he had over fifty sets of eyes focused on him. Warrior? Initiate?

"Here, Father," Brad called, putting his hand on Dean's back, giving him a reassuring pat and pressing him forward.

"Oh," Dean stumbled, trying to hold his ground. "Hey, uh…no need. I'm not…I'm not the one," he tried to assure them. It didn't matter, though. The crowd parted like the Red Sea and Father strode forward.

Jesus. Dean could feel more hands on him as he tried to back away, people closing in behind him. Maureen was on one side of him, Brad on the other. Jason and Gypsy also had their hands on him, more Jedis joined in. Fuck!

He turned and tried to walk away. "Yeah, this isn't really my bag, you know? I'm not your guy. I need to go." Their grip on him only tightened, and his casual façade dropped like a stone. "Get your goddamned hands off me!" Dean demanded, digging in and throwing them off. It was no good. As soon as he'd gotten rid of them, more came, mobbing him and latching on. A thick arm slithered around his torso and his arms were pinned behind him.

"Don't fight us, honey," Maureen said, blithely. "You're worthy. This won't hurt at all."

"Father's going to help you, Dean. Listen to me, man," Brad came into his field of vision. "You just need to let go."

"We're here for you, Dean. Let Father show you the way," a voice shilled from behind him. It sounded like Gypsy, but he couldn't tell for sure. Other voices joined in. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

Father remained patient and poised even as Dean fought harder. Dean tried to yell, scream, swear a blue-streak, fight his way free—anything. He should have known better. The guru, or whatever the hell this creature was, approached, swathed in scintillating light, coming so close that his aura spilled over Dean, encompassing the two of them as they stood face to face. The young hunter flinched as the light hit him and his eyes went saucer-wide at first with fear and then bewilderment. Instead of a painful attack, it felt as though he were suddenly standing beneath the summer sun. Father held his hand up, drawing the attention of all.

"Ah, my young warrior," he bowed. "Do not tremble, my child." Reaching up, Father set a gentle hand on Dean's shoulder, and a blissful warmth flowed into him. His breath hitched as a drowsy, pleasant vibration spread through him like ripples on a pond. Dean's determination to flee evaporated in an instant and the arms holding him eased up, providing support now rather than restraint. Dean was dimly aware of voices offering soft encouragement from behind him, but they soon silenced, falling away as Father gazed at him.

Father cocked his head, locking eyes with Dean, and the young hunter fell in line, compelled by the sudden flare and swirling brown mist that surrounded those large, placid pupils. They commanded him to be still, and so he was. The teacher read Dean's face—read far more than Dean intended to share. Father was looking into him—viewing not only what Dean showed the world, but what he didn't. It was a raw humiliation to be so exposed, all of his weaknesses flapping like a tattered flag in the wind. The sage did not flinch or recoil, and his face remained compassionate and tender. How could Father not turn away in disgust? How could he not reject Dean as everyone else had? Moments passed and those strange, beautiful dark eyes, set deep in an ageless face, softened with sorrow, love and acceptance.

"Oh my dear child," Father cooed. "You hunger and thirst so." Dean gave him a cocky smile and snorted, shifting his glance away from those vast, brown depths. Father tilted Dean's chin back down, forcing him to meet his eye. "Motherless," he murmured, reaching up and thumbing a delicate circle on his cheek. "Fatherless." Dean went to say something, but Father shook his head and touched Dean's heart with the fingertips of his other hand. "Brotherless," he said.

His hand flattened over Dean's chest. "This was never meant to be, noble warrior," he told him. Dean's breath was coming in gusts and gasps, now. Years of terror, loss, and pain bubbled up, like venom sucked to the surface of a snake bite. He tried to turn his face away again. Father's grip was gentle, his hands drawing Dean's most private torments to the surface.

The longer Father held him, the more keenly he felt the pain spreading like a wildfire. His eyes closed and he watched with horror as his mother burned on the ceiling in full Technicolor, felt his father put Sam into his arms and order him to get out as fast as he could. He felt the crushing weight of that responsibility, the years of yearning for an emotionally unavailable father more concerned with vengeance than with his sons. Dean relived the soul-shattering disappointment and shame for all the years he spent striving to earn his father's respect, years of obedience and toil only to be cast aside as an inept failure when he couldn't keep his brother from leaving. And he felt the naked anguish of Sam's absence—the betrayal of being shorn away as just another disposable item in an unwanted life. He felt the agony of every single unanswered phone call, the humiliation of deliberate snubs and turned off cell phones, the bitterness of having begged his brother for help when he was dying and receiving not so much as a message out of sheer courtesy. He was nothing to them. His knees started to buckle, and he would have fallen had his friends not braced him as Father continued to agitate those waters.

His eyes opened, wet and raw. All the hands holding him from behind pulled away, leaving Dean in Father's arms. The sage regarded him with milky sadness and a serene smile. He removed his hands a moment, adjusting and placing them on Dean again, one on his heart, one on his brow, filling him now with peace and comfort. The warmth of Father's love spread through him, soothing his misery like a buttery salve.

"You are not lost, Dean. I have found you. I have chosen you—a light out of millions of lights. Yours shines as one of the brightest. Your family is right here. Father. Mother. Brother. And more—so much more. You are worthy, Dean."

A salted tear trickled down Dean's cheek and Father palmed it away. Father's unconditional love, understanding and acceptance drenched him as the teacher drew close, bending in and placing a soft, chaste kiss on Dean's lips.

The contact surprised him, but he couldn't pull away—then didn't want to pull away. Father's lips worked to open his mouth slightly and even through his closed eyes, Dean could see a blazing white light burst against his eyelids. The sound of chanting leapt up and filled his ears as the floodgates flung wide and Father's light and love entered him. It flowed into him, snaking down his throat and into his hungry belly, becoming a part of him. The power radiated through his body like a rush of adrenaline, his teacher binding himself to him, curling around his spine, imprinting himself onto Dean's spiritual DNA, rewriting it. Father pulled away, but Dean followed, leaning in for another kiss, emotions and thoughts storming through him—want, need, kinship, love, acceptance, family, brother, sister, mother, father, father—father—Father!

"Not yet, Initiate," Father said, his denial mild, kissing his brow instead. "We are bonded now, you and I, and you would protect me with your life if need arose, but you are still clay yet to be molded. You have taken the first step, and with The Kindred's love, with my love, you will take each successive step. If you are sincere, if you are loyal and true, one day you and I will become one mind and one soul."

Cradled in Father's arms, Dean gazed into his teacher's beautiful eyes and smiled at the thought.

Continue to Chapter 6

 
 
 
arlissarliss on September 19th, 2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
Yikes! Now I'm ALL curious. What kind of beastie IS Father?
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 19th, 2013 07:48 pm (UTC)
We won't know that for a while, but I'm thinkin' whatever he is...it ain't good. :)
inanna_maat: Jen dragoninanna_maat on September 19th, 2013 07:51 pm (UTC)
oh oh OH !!! *again xD*
My God!! The man has powers... really...
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 19th, 2013 08:09 pm (UTC)
Oh yes indeedy he does. I think Dean is in for it now... YIKES!

:)
i dream of colors that have never been seenetoile444 on September 20th, 2013 01:52 am (UTC)
Wow! That Father knew Dean was vulnerable. Im guessing there's some sort of god here that enjoys the worship and sucks energy. I really love your writing.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 20th, 2013 01:57 pm (UTC)
Heya etoile :)

Good guesses...you are not too far off. Poor Dean! Why does he always find himself in these situations (I mean...other than we all KEEP PUTTING HIM THERE!) ;)

Kat
darkrose_9darkrose_9 on September 20th, 2013 03:50 am (UTC)
This is creepy as fuck - and I'm loving it!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 20th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
Spot on assessment, there! Yikes for Dean.
aerynsun5: beer bottle!Deanaerynsun5 on September 20th, 2013 06:21 am (UTC)
Ooo! Exciting! Creepy! Exciting! Creepy! Can't wait till Monday.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 20th, 2013 02:00 pm (UTC)
Right? Very heavy on the heebs and the jeebs with this chapter. Don't fret, though...things will get better. You know...in about another 9 chapters or so. ;) Bwah!

Thanks for the comment, hon!

Kat
aerynsun5: Despairing!Deanaerynsun5 on September 21st, 2013 03:53 am (UTC)
I'm trying very hard to be patient. It's very hard, though. I'm dying to see The Father. And more Mei, OK?
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 21st, 2013 01:49 pm (UTC)
There will be much more Mei to come. I pwomise! ;)
lidia1991_anlidia1991_an on September 20th, 2013 02:27 pm (UTC)

Great chapter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can't wait for the next,oh Dean,so vulnerable! Bad,bad Father!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 20th, 2013 04:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks lidia! I'm so glad you liked this chapter.

Bad, bad Father for sure! Dean's certainly in the soup now. Ugh!

Kat
stazzijenstazzijen on September 27th, 2013 07:52 am (UTC)
Oh boy..Dean Dean Dean get out now...oops too late.

xx
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 27th, 2013 01:37 pm (UTC)
Eeeyeahh, he's a little bit caught, I think! Yikes!

Thanks again, sweets!

Kat
maguiemaguie on October 9th, 2013 07:47 am (UTC)
OMG,,, What are they going to do to Dean? D:
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on October 9th, 2013 01:01 pm (UTC)
Whatever it is...it sure isn't good! Ack!

Kat
JJ1564jj1564 on October 12th, 2013 09:01 am (UTC)
Dean, how could you fall for the old 'come to the weird ceremony' trick?! Father sure knows how to prey on the vulnerable. Loved it!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on October 12th, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)
This really is Father's M.O. Had Dean been in less psychological "need" at the time of his arrival I don't think things would have gone this badly. But if it hadn't gone so badly, we wouldn't have a story to read...so yay for Dean being reckless! ;)

Kat
serendip50serendip50 on October 20th, 2013 03:15 am (UTC)
Whoa....Dean has literally be sucked in!

Dean's journey into this ominous cult has been edged with pain, loneliness, curiosity and subtle coaxing. The disconcerting narrative that has driven him into his final submission was compelling. Of course Dean's loss of family contact has left him more vulnerable to outside influence and thus his kidnap was inevitable but oh so brilliant!

I'm guessing the enigmatic leader of this cult is a supernatural entity which preys off the life essence, much like a succubus. I have a niggling suspicion that becoming a Master has more to do with death than living.

I loved Dean's shock at being the initiate, the possessive kissing and Dean wanting more and being cradled in Father's arms....What a compelling read.


PS
I have now finished WAW and it was a beautiful and wondrous tearjerker.
John's farewell to his dying son was the most perfectly phrased and gut-wrenching speech I have ever read in a fic and it moved me to tears.
Thank you for a most stunningly captivating story.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on October 20th, 2013 04:22 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, serendip!

Indeed, Dean's state of mind definitely made him a prime target for a cult. Poor thing.

Hee! It would be nice if Dean found a true benevolent supernatural creature, but we all know that wouldn't be HIS kind of luck. I'm afraid Father does not have The Kindred's best interests at heart. Your guesses are very intuitive. :)

Thank you again for your WONDERFULLY encouraging words for While Angels Watched. I am so, SO glad you liked the story. I enjoyed playing with John Winchester so much (it was my first pass at him ever). He's such a confusing, marvelous, many-layered character. But with all of his flaws, I do believe that he loves his sons wholly, and that certainly shone through in his "goodbye" to Dean. I'm so glad you thought it affective. I think everyone who has ever lost someone close (as MOST of us have) will readily empathize with John in that quiet moment.

Thanks again for such a wonderful review. Have a wonderful weekend!

Kat