Welcome Back to my vision of the end of Sam and Dean’s fight to save the world! “With or Without You” is a multi-part, complex tale that brings the Supernatural saga to a close in a way that’s quite different than the “Unity”/”Despair”/”Inherit the Earth” finale that was presented in season 15. Yes, there’s mystery, danger, old friends and familiar enemies, but the ending – well, that just might surprise you. Begin at the beginning with part 1, then over the next several weeks, return with us to the Supernatural universe to again immerse yourselves in the lives of Sam and Dean Winchester!
“With or Without You”
The cabin was out in the middle of nowhere deep in the woods. Nobody knew when it had been built but it looked every day of a hundred years old. Inside were several gas lanterns set up around the main room to give it a bit of light. Against the wall on the left of the entrance was a half rotting couch. Opposite it, built into the right wall, was a fireplace that hadn’t been lit in years. In the middle of the room was a metal chair that stood out by virtue of it looking new. Tied to the chair by her wrists and ankles was a blonde teenage girl.
From a room in the back that once served as a kitchen, another girl emerged humming merrily. She wore a ratty sweatshirt and sweat pants and her black hair was pulled back in a loose braid. “I’m so hungry,” she shouted out. She walked over, stood behind the metal chair, and began massaging the bound girl’s shoulders as she continued, “What about you? Are you hungry, Claire?”
Claire kept her head down and muttered something.
“What’s that? I can’t hear you?” The dark-haired girl moved around and sat down in Claire’s lap, facing her. “Are you hungry?” she asked as she grabbed Claire’s cheeks and lifted her face up. “Want some food? I bet you do. Your stomach now growls louder than you do.” She began rubbing and kneading Claire’s cheeks. “I know how you feel. Oh I do…”
The dark-haired girl opened her mouth, revealing the few sharp, needle-like teeth within as her jaw unhinged. Claire fought as hard as she could but her mouth was forced open. A wisp of pale blue smoke emerged from it and went into the mouth of her assailant. As soon as it did, the dark-haired girl closed her mouth and her olive cheeks had a faint glow for just a moment.
She sighed. “Oh Claire. Isn’t it funny how the human body never gives up the soul until it’s dead?” She ran a finger down the exposed neckline of Claire’s flannel shirt. “One little heartbeat is all that separates me from my meal…” The dark-haired girl sat there for a minute, contemplating that, before she stood up. “But no. You’re our trail mix. I’ve got to make you last for the entire trip.” She placed her hand on the arms of the chair and leaned over so that her mouth was right next to Claire’s ear as she whispered, “Your soul has a… ‘flavoring’ that’s like nothing else I’ve eaten. I wonder how long it will last like this – a little bit at a time.”
The half-rotted front door of the cabin exploded as it was kicked in. The dark-haired girl whirled around just in time for a shotgun blast to strike her right shoulder. She screamed in pain, then in rage as she charged the intruder. The man in the leather jacket who had stormed through the door cocked the second barrel on his sawed-off shotgun and aimed down, hitting the girl’s knee with his second shot.
Her leg suddenly useless, she pitched forward right into the butt of the man’s weapon. It cracked her in the temple, dazing her just long enough for the man to grab her braid, and spin her into a slam against the wall. He withdrew a silver, triangular blade from under his coat and jammed it into the back of the girl’s neck. He waited until her body stopped twitching, then pulled out the weapon and let the corpse fall.
“Got to hand it to those angels,” said Dean as he approached Claire, flipping his weapon around in a show-off manner. “They make the best blades. Never dulls nor breaks. Never needs sharpening,” he said as he bent over to cut ropes binding her.
“Don’t strain yourself, it’s ok now.”
“What did you say?”
Dean was grabbed from behind and thrown against the wall hard enough to wind him.
“Think you can come into my home and kill my offspring?” demanded the enraged man. Unlike the girl, he was almost freakishly pale with a bald head.
Dean threw a front kick into the monster’s gut. It doubled over, giving Dean the opportunity to smash his knee into its nose. It rose up, grabbed Dean’s jacket and slammed the hunter into the wall again. It bared its inhuman, needle teeth inches from Dean’s face as it said, “I’m going to kill you.” It slammed Dean against the wall. “Painfully.” Slam.
Dean coughed as he held up his hands in a time out signal. The monster cocked his head to the side with a quizzical look. The hunter smiled as he said, “Bigger things than you have tried.”
A silver, triangular blade jutted out of the monster’s throat. Dean pried its grip off his coat, and let the corpse fall.
Kneeling on the ground behind him was Claire. Dean had noticed that she had tilted the chair over while he was fighting and used the dropped angel sword to free herself. Half dead, she had stumbled over to deliver the killing blow while Dean kept the monster distracted.
“Cas would be proud, you using his sword to save people,” said Dean as he picked up the weapon and returned it to the sheath on the back of his belt.
Claire said nothing.
“Any more of them?”
She shook her head.
Dean retrieved his sawed-off shotgun, then helped Claire to the Impala.
Once she was in the front seat and buckled in, he retrieved a bottle of water and granola bar – the kind dipped in chocolate – from the green, Coleman cooler in the back. He handed the refreshments to her before firing up the car and heading back to the Roadhouse.
He waited to speak until she had drunk half of the bottle. “So. Two crocotta?”
“They got the drop on me,” she said with a sigh. “Turns out they’re extra strong before breeding.”
“Well, there’s one for the books. How do they breed?”
“They eat a few extra souls then the new one… ‘buds’ off. Like a… fungus.”
“That’s how you found it. The extra vics raised too many red flags.”
“Yeah,” said Claire before she finished off the rest of the water and tossed the empty bottle to the floorboard. They drove in silence for another minute before she said, “Dean? Thank you for the save.”
He shrugged. “Rule 1 of the Winchesters – you never leave family behind.”
“We’re not family.”
“Rule 2 of the Winchesters – family don’t end with blood.”
It was quiet at the Roadhouse when the Impala pulled up given that it was too early in the week and late in the day for many folk to be visiting. By now Claire was feeling much better and walked in mostly on her own, though Dean had to catch her from stumbling a few times. They finally made it to the bar, where Jo was waiting for them with a bright smile.
“Welcome back!” she said. “What will it be?”
“Whiskey,” said Dean.
Jo poured him the drink then turned to Claire. “Good to see you’re still alive.”
Claire didn’t say anything.
Dean put his drink in front of Claire. “Here. Drink this. I’ll get you a proper meal.”
Jo sighed. “Dean, I can’t condone underage–”
“Then ignore it. I’ll be in the kitchen.”
He headed into the back to find Anna there, talking with John as he ate a grilled cheese sandwich. “That looks good,” said Dean. “Got one for me?”
Anna hugged him and gave him a kiss.
“Mm. Even sweeter.”
“You want me to make you one?” she asked while he greeted his son.
“No. I’ll make one while I’m preparing something for Claire.”
“You found her? She’s ok?”
“Well, I can make something for her. I don’t mind,” said Anna.
“No. You need to go talk to her.”
“The whole car ride here and you didn’t?”
Dean sighed. “I tried but… it’s you she needs to talk to.”
“I don’t know for certain, but I think it’s about Castiel.”
Anna nodded her understanding. “John needs to be tucked in.”
“I’ll handle it,” said Dean, offering his son a high five. “Why are you up past your bedtime anyway, buddy?”
The kid returned the high five. “I wanted to see you.”
Anna looked through the kitchen door at the lonely girl sitting at the bar. “Alright. I’ll do what I can,” she said with a sigh.
She looked back at her husband to see that his expression was the same one he had the other night while they were watching a movie.
“Whatever you decide with Claire? I’ll support it. One-hundred percent.”
Anna nodded, and left her boys behind, the two of them already breaking into a playful squabble over the remains of the sandwich. She went over to the bar and with a bit of effort, hauled herself onto the stool next to Claire who had an empty whiskey glass in front of her. “Jo? Can I get a shot of bourbon?”
“I can’t let a pregnant woman–”
“Pour it,” said Anna, her eyes narrowing.
Jo took one look at her expression and hastily poured the bourbon, Anna staring at her the whole time. As soon as she was done, Anna placed her hand over the drink and – her eyes still on Jo – slid it over to Claire.
“I’m still a few months from twenty-one,” said Claire.
“And I’m pregnant,” said Anna, finally turning to look at the girl beside her. “And I need a drink. So, you are going to drink that – for me.”
Claire downed the bourbon in one gulp and started coughing.
Anna patted her on the back. “Oh, don’t put on a show. We know you’ve tried it before.”
“Beer – not bourbon,” said Claire between coughs.
Jo silently excused herself during the coughing, leaving Anna and Claire alone. Once the fit had passed, Anna said, “We worry about you, Claire. We promised your father and Castiel both that we would look out for you.”
“You don’t have to,” Claire muttered.
“Really? How would you be right now if Jo hadn’t tipped Dean off about your location?”
The young woman said nothing but just sat there, squirming.
“You’re a smart girl, Claire. You should be in school, not trying to get yourself killed.”
“I can’t!” Claire shouted before burying her face in her hands.
Anna let the words echo through the bar. Her voice was soft as she asked, “What do you mean, you can’t?”
“I can’t… I can’t… just sit there, in a room, listening to some old guy prattle on about… I know what’s out there!” Tears began falling down Claire’s cheeks as she became more animated. “I try – I try concentrating on a chalkboard, and all I begin thinking about is the evil shit out there, just waiting to corrupt and destroy… I hear someone going on about a party or who’s kissing who or… what Allie said to Marion – I just want to grab them and scream that it doesn’t matter! None of it matters! There’s angels and demons and worse out there and they’re trying to destroy the world!”
“I was ten!” she shouted, turning to face Anna. “I was ten and I let Castiel climb inside me because I was kidnapped and scared and do you know what it’s like to have an angel inside you?”
Anna gave a warm smile and placed her hand over Claire’s.
The realization struck Claire, and she collapsed into Anna’s arms, sobbing.
“I know,” Anna said as she stroked the other girl’s hair. “I still hear those echoes, too. It’s why no matter how much I hate it, I can never stop Dean from going out there. Why I go with him every time I can. Some nights, when I can’t sleep, I think I can still hear all their prayers for help.”
“I want it to stop,” Claire sobbed. “Please, just make it stop…”
“Come back with us to the bunker.”
Claire straightened up. “What?”
“We have plenty of spare room in the bunker. Come back with us and let Dean and me teach you how to hunt – properly.”
Claire wiped her eyes. “Will the nightmares stop?”
Anna handed her a napkin. “No. But you’ll learn how to fight them.”
*** Sam ***
Sam and Victor sat in a booth near the corner of the local diner discussing what they had learned. The dozen or so other patrons eating in there were spread out, giving everyone a bit of extra privacy. As usual, Sam had ordered a salad, while Vic took his chances with the nightly special – which was meatloaf. Between bites he confirmed that the disappearances were real and the sheriff’s office had no explanation. He had contacted the Grissom Joint Air Force Base and the Indianapolis International Airport – neither had seen any unexplained air craft on radar.
“I don’t know, Sam. If it’s aliens, seems like we’d have more than a few lights and some crop circles.”
“It’s not aliens. No idea what it is, but it’s not aliens.”
“Got a clue you’re not telling me about?”
Sam weighed his options, then placed the photograph Crowley had given him onto the table. “He’s disappeared too.”
Victor picked it up and studied it. “Didn’t see him on any reports.”
“He was an out-of-towner. Nobody would realize he was gone.”
“So how did you find out about him?”
Sam took a deep breath. “Crowley.”
“Crowley!?” shouted Victor. “You promised me that son of a bitch was dead!”
Sam gestured with his head at the rest of the diner.
Henriksen noticed that everyone was staring at their table. He settled back down into the booth and in a harsh whisper asked, “What the hell, Sam?”
“I know you’re pissed off–”
“We are beyond ‘pissed off’ here. I would have to calm down to reach ‘pissed off.’ Why is he even still alive?”
“After he helped us with Lilith and Abaddon, I…” Sam shook his head. “We can talk about that later – right now, he’s given us our best clues for this case.”
“And what are they?”
“That the victims are not on Earth. And whatever is happening, it worries the King of Hell.”
Victor muttered something under his breath. “So? That’s not much to go on.”
Sam shrugged. “I’ve been checking on everything involving lights and vanishings. The problem’s that there’s a lot of lore out there. Maybe… maybe one of us needs to get abducted.”
“Good luck with that, Sam. I’m not getting probed. And I’m not coming to get you if the ‘aliens’ don’t send you back.”
Sam stared out the window in thought while Victor finished off the remainder of his meatloaf. When the waitress came by to deliver their cheques, Victor asked her about their desserts.
“Three different kinds of pie? Sam, you want to try any?”
Sam snapped out of his meditation and shook his head. “No. No pie.”
“Just some soft-serve for me then,” said Henriksen.
“Cup or cone?” asked the waitress.
Once the waitress was out of earshot, Sam asked, “Victor, you see that fortune telling place across the street?”
He looked out the window and spotted the storefront with a tacky neon sign flashing ‘palm readings.’ Looking back at Sam he replied, “Are you seriously going to ask Miss Cleo for help on our case? Your abduction idea was better.”
“No. I mean… look at the markings on her window and door. Some of those are legitimate wards.”
Victor looked out the window again, squinting. Night was falling and it was getting darker outside. “Are you sure?”
“Pretty sure.” Sam pulled out his wallet and tossed a twenty-dollar bill on the table. “Take care of my bill. I’m going to check it out.”
“I’ll cover you until my ice cream is gone, then you’re on your own,” said Victor.
Sam left the diner, zipping up his coat against the chilly night air. Once there was a break in traffic, he jogged across the street and entered the fortune teller’s establishment. A small bell attached to the door tinkled as he entered. Now that he was inside, Sam could get a better look at all the mystical nick-knacks that filled the shelves surrounding the room. Near the door he noticed a small witch, like a bobble-head except her spring was under her dress attached to her legs. He tapped it with his finger to watch her shake.
“I normally don’t permit customers this late of hour,” said an accented voice from behind the beaded curtain at the opposite side of the room. “But for a tall, handsome boy like you,” said a woman with blood-red hair as she emerged from the curtain, “I’ll make an exception.”
Sam put on a nervous smile. “Th-thank you! I just have nowhere else to turn,” he said as he sat at the round table in the middle of the room.
“Don’t worry, dear. Mistress Ruth will have all the answers you seek,” she said as she sat down in a sultry manner opposite of him. “Do you have a preference on methods?”
“Whatever you’re best at,” he said. Sam couldn’t identify her accent. It sounded like it was from somewhere in the UK but he could never tell those apart. She was very poised and beautiful, even though Sam knew she had to be older than he was – probably far older than she appeared.
“I’ve always been partial to tarot,” she said, placing a deck of the cards on the table. “It’s always been faithful…” She drew a card with her left hand and examined it in silence. Her eyes looked at Sam as she slowly turned the card around and said, “…in warning me about hunters.” In her hand was an upright seven of swords.
Before Sam could respond, the woman threw a hex bag onto the table and shouted an incantation. Sam found his legs unable to move. He was rooted to the chair and floor.
The woman leaned forward. “How about this time you answer my questions?”
“I’m not here to kill you,” he said as he reached into his coat pocket and withdrew his lighter.
“You expect me to believe that? When you’ve been lying to me from the start?”
“I’m trying to stop the disappearances!”
“I know how this goes – blame the witch and try to burn her.”
“If you were behind it, why did you put up protection bags?” asked Sam, unfolding his right hand to reveal a second hex bag. It looked identical to the one sitting on the table except for the symbol painted on them.
The fortune teller’s eyes grew wide and she looked behind him to notice the space next to the bobble-witch was empty.
Sam flicked on his zippo and brought the flame close to the bag in his hand. “I’m betting that if your protection circle is broken, whatever you’re hiding from is going to notice any spells you cast. Unfortunately, I can’t get up to put this back.”
The fortune teller glared at him with cold fury.
“I’m unarmed because I came here for answers, not blood,” said Sam.
“Put that back and let me search you.”
Sam flicked his lighter closed, extinguishing the flame, and nodded.
The fortune teller picked up the hex bag on the table and muttered something.
Sam felt like his legs had been suddenly released from a vice. He stood up and lifted his arms. The fortune teller came around the table, then knelt down to search his feet. Sam tried to be patient as she ran her hands along both legs, but he did grimace when she took a lingering squeeze of his butt. The fortune teller ran her hands over his chest, then over his back, then over his chest again.
“Satisfied,” asked Sam, taking a step back.
“Not nearly,” she said with a mischievous smile. “But you are unarmed.”
Sam tried not to roll his eyes as he placed the protection bag he had stolen back where it belonged.
“My real name is Rowena,” said the fortune teller as she went back to her chair.
“Sam,” he said as he sat back down.
“Well Samuel, I can’t tell you much about aliens,” said Rowena as she flipped over another card of the tarot deck, revealing an upright justice.
“It’s not aliens.”
“Oh, we are a smart one, aren’t we?”
“Please,” begged Sam, doing his best puppy eyes. “If you know anything, tell me who’s doing this.”
Rowena chuckled. “You’re dangerous, Samuel. I doubt I could ever say no to you.” She leaned forward and quietly said, “It’s the servants of Oberon. You’re looking for Fairies.”
*****To Be Continued*****
Story and Illustration by Nate Winchester
Edited by Nightsky