Sam woke up so fast he nearly head butted the roof of the Impala.
"Dean!" he said indignantly and his brother just chuckled at him, reaching out to turn off 'Don't Fear The Reaper' currently blasting out of the stereo.
"So, you awake there, Sammy? Cos we're here" said Dean, with a smirk, and Sam just shook his head, still glaring.
"You know sometimes I swear you are still 12 years old, Dean" he said, stretching as he got out of the car.
"Hey, least I made it past puberty" he said, shutting his door, and Sam didn't even bothering to dignify that with a reply.
Looking round Dean took in the sights of the small town.
"Man, do they have some machine out there that just throws these places together? They all look the same" he said with disgust.
"What, you mean normal?" said Sam dryly and Dean shook his head.
"Yeah, cos if these places are so normal how come we're always having to kill the monsters that live in them?"
Sam decided it wasn't worth getting into the 'normal' argument again, and instead looked round for the real estate agent.
"Over there," he said after a second, pointing across the street.
The bell jangled as they entered and a young girl at the desk looked up. Dean fixed her with his most charming smile, which had her smiling back and Sam nudging him with his shoulder while shaking his head.
Throwing a quick glare in Sam's direction, Dean turned back to the girl.
"Hey there. We were wondering if we could talk to someone about an apartment you have vacant, please." he said, oozing charm.
"Of course – I'll just fetch Mr Pierson for you," she said and disappeared towards the back of the room.
"Dude, tone down the 'I'm so charming' act would you? We're trying to get into the apartment, not get you a date. Besides, she probably thinks we're looking for a place together" said Sam with a smirk.
Dean frowned in confusion then his eyes widened as he caught on to Sam's meaning
"Oh come on, no way she thinks that!" he said indignantly but Sam just continued to smirk, knowing how much it was annoying his brother.
At that moment the girl returned with a middle aged man in suit and glasses who smiled at them as he held out his hand.
"Hello, I'm Edward Pierson" he said "I understand you're interested in one of our properties?"
Dean shook his hand.
"Hi. I'm Bruce Dickinson and this is Steve Harris," he said and Sam fought the urge to grimace. One day they were going to have to talk about Dean's penchant for naming them after mullet rockers.
After shaking Sam's hand too, Pierson led them back to his office.
"So which property was it you were interested in, in particular?" he said as they sat down, and Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out a slightly crumpled piece of paper.
"This one." he said, handing it to him.
The agent took the paper and looked at it, and winced slightly before looking back up at them. It was barely noticeable, but both Dean and Sam saw it and Dean raised his eyebrow as he glanced at Sam.
"Right, well this is indeed a lovely apartment" said Pierson, clearing his throat slightly. "It's been vacant for a few months now, but it's in immaculate condition. Would you be planning on moving in together, if you don't mind me asking?" he said looking at them quizzically.
Dean surreptitiously kicked Sam as his brother tried to turn a snort into a cough.
"No, absolutely not! You see we actually have kind of an ulterior motive for being interested in this place," he said and the agent frowned.
"Really?" he said guardedly and Dean nodded.
"You see we're actually science students. We study at the Institute of Paranormal Activity and we heard about the, uh, difficulties you've been having with this apartment. So we'd like to look into it, if you don't mind. See if we can't clear it up for you." he said, using his most disarming smile on the guy.
Pierson frowned. "You know I'm not sure I know what you're talking about" he said, his tone decidedly more frosty than it had been.
"Look, I know it probably seems strange having us just turn up like this but I promise you, we're not cranks," said Sam. "We've had a lot of experience with incidences of the kind you've been having and we really would like to help. I mean the sooner you can clear this up, the sooner you can rent out the apartment right?"
Pierson looked down at the paper and back up at them. "I'm not sure. Exactly what is it you want to do?" he said.
"We just want to spend some time in the apartment, probably a few days, and use our equipment to find out what's been happening and hopefully take care of it for you." said Dean.
"And how much would this cost us?" said the agent.
"Oh no, we don't charge," said Sam quickly, ignoring the glare Dean was giving him.
"Fact is most of the time there's a perfectly rational explanation for these things, but you know what it's like when people start using their imagination."
Pierson thought about what they'd said for a few moments then sighed.
"Well, I suppose it can't hurt. I'll just get the key."
As he left the room Dean elbowed Sam.
"What's with turning down the offer of cash so fast there, Francis? We're not exactly flush right now you know."
Sam glared at him, rubbing his arm.
"I know, Dean, but he's gonna be even less keen to let us stay there if he thinks we're just trying to make a quick buck. And by the way – Institute of Paranormal Activity? I thought we were going with journalists?"
"Hey, I improvised. Sounded more, professional." he said and Sam rolled his eyes
"Sounded more insane you mean. Just try and tone it down a little would ya?" he said.
Before Dean could respondthe agent returned.
"It's just round the corner so we can walk from here." he said
"Great." said Dean as they stood, following him out of the office.
"So when did you start having these problems?" said Sam as they walked and Pierson sighed
"It started about eighteen months ago. The tenant living there reported strange noises, stuff being moved. Nothing major at first. But then they telephoned one day in hysterics, saying there was 'something' in the apartment. We checked it out but couldn't find anything unusual. They packed and moved out the same day though. The next tenant was in there a month before the same thing happened, and then the one after that was found unconscious in the bathroom. They'd had some kind of electric shock, but when they woke up they refused to go back there. We paid for an electrician to check all the wiring and advertised it again, and a lovely young girl moved in about eight months ago,"
His expression became sad.
"She'd only lived there two months when," he stopped and cleared his throat. "She was found by a neighbour. She'd taken her own life. So tragic, at such a young age. Anyway since then we haven't been able to get anyone to even look at the apartment. Bad news travels fast."
"No kidding." said Dean dryly as they rounded a corner.
"Here we are," said the agent, leading them into a pleasant looking older style building.
Inside everything looked pretty normal, although Dean thought an elevator wouldn't go amiss as they trudged up four flights of stairs. Once they got to the top floor, Pierson led them into a small square shaped hall with two doors leading from it. He turned to the one on the right and using the key, let them in to the apartment. He stepped back to allow Dean and Sam to enter first, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by them both.
Inside everything looked as expected. There was a long narrow hallway with doors leading off into a bathroom, bedroom and living area respectively. Once in the living area there was another door that lead to a kitchen. All the rooms seemed clean, tidy and remarkably un-scary.
"So.. I guess I'll leave you boys to it." said Pierson, looking a little nervous.
Dean fixed him with a charming smile as he reached out for the keys.
"Absolutely. And don't you worry Mr Pierson, I'm sure we'll have this whole thing cleared up for you in no time." he said.
The agent didn't look entirely convinced, but his desire to get out of the apartment apparently overrode his mistrust of Dean and Sam, and with a final nod he handed Dean the keys and left.
Dean turned to Sam.
"I'm gonna go bring the car round and get the stuff. You ok staying here by yourself?" he said, with concern that would have seemed genuine had it not been for the smirk on his face.
Sam nudged him with his shoulder.
"I think I can manage." he said, and with a chuckle Dean left the apartment.
While he waited for him to come back, Sam took a look around.
He wasn't sensing anything unusual and there were no tell-tale displays of anything paranormal. He was walking back out of the bedroom when he suddenly shivered. He thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye and whirled round, but there was nothing there.
Something had definitely not felt right, for just a second, but now. He jumped as he heard the front door open and berated himself for getting spooked already. They'd only been in the place 5 minutes and already he was freaking out. No way was he gonna tell Dean about it – he'd never live it down.
Shrugging off the weird feeling he turned round as Dean walked past carrying their bags.
"So any sign of ghosts or ghouls yet?" he said and Sam shook his head
"Fraid not. You want to do the EMF first?" he said and Dean nodded.
"Sure, why not. You take care of that and I'll get the laptop set up." he said.
Shaking his head at the fact he got the job that had him traipsing all over the apartment while Dean sat on his ass looking at a computer, Sam grabbed the meter from their bag and started in the kitchen.
Dean was concentrating so hard on the screen in front of him that he didn't notice anything untoward until a decidedly female, decidedly not-Sam, voice said "So are you two a couple or what?"
Dean leapt a foot in the air as he cursed and was reaching for the knife in his belt even before he saw who had spoken.
Sam, hearing the exclamation, came running from the other room and skidded to a halt as he saw a young woman standing in front of the window. She was in her twenties, about 5"6 and had shoulder length blonde hair.
And was looking at Dean with some amusement
"Sorry, did I startle you?" she said with an innocence that would have seemed genuine were it not for the grin on her face.
Dean glared at her.
"Startle me? You nearly gave me a damn heart attack, lady!" he said and the girl's grin just got wider.
"Um, not to be rude – but who are you exactly?" said Sam, defusing the battle of wills he could see coming a mile off.
Dean hated being taken unawares and Sam was actually surprised that he had been, but he was so not pointing that out right now given the expression on Dean's face.
"Who am I? I should be asking you that question." she said indignantly.
Sam raised his eyebrows and glanced at Dean who gave him a 'I have no idea' look in return.
"This happens to be my apartment you two clowns are bumbling around in. And by the way, what the hell is that exactly?" she said, indicating the EMF in Sam's hand.
"Your apartment?" said Dean in disbelief and she rolled her eyes
"Yes, my apartment. As in the apartment that is mine."
She looked at Sam.
"Is he always this slow?" she said and Sam quickly spoke before Dean could get in a reply
"Actually we're both just a little surprised. You see the Realtor who let us in here said it was empty."
"Yeah, as in 'nobody's' apartment" said Dean triumphantly.
"Yeah well, some people have no respect for the dead." replied the girl with an annoyed tone.
"Dead?" said Sam incredulously and the girl nodded
"Yes. Dead. Which means annoyingly I don't even get squatters rights," she sighed.
Dean rubbed his hand over his face.
"Ok, back up here sweetheart. You're saying this is your apartment, but your dead. So you're aware you're basically haunting this place?"
"Got it in one. Maybe you're not so slow after all." she said brightly and Sam tried ineffectively to smother a grin.
Ignoring Dean's glower, Sam pointed the EMF in the girl's direction and sure enough it beeped loudly. He raised his eyebrows.
"Looks like she's telling the truth." he said to Dean, who shook his head
"Gee, ya think?" he said and it was Sam's turn to glare.
"Ok, as entertaining as this is, you still haven't answered my question." said the girl impatiently.
Dean threw his hands up in the air and gave Sam a look that said 'be my guest'.
Sam cleared his throat.
"Ok, well, we're sort of paranormal investigators. We were asked by the real estate agent to try and find out what was going on here." he said.
"You mean you're here to get rid of me." said the girl with a frown.
Dean glanced at Sam.
"Well, you gotta admit you are kind freaking people out, sweetheart." he said.
"Ok, first off I am NOT your sweetheart, and secondly this is my home! Why should I be the one to leave?" she said angrily.
"Well, how about because you're dead?" said Dean and Sam whacked him on the arm.
His brother shot him a 'what?' look and Sam shook his head.
"What my ever-sensitive brother meant to say was, you can't expect them to just leave this place empty and not many people are keen on sharing their home with a ghost." he said sympathetically.
The girl's shoulder's slumped and she sighed.
"It's not my fault I'm dead." she said sadly and Dean winced.
"Hey, look I'm sorry about the dead crack. It was uncalled for." he said looking uncomfortable.
The girl looked up at him and smiled.
"Well, I'm sorry I called you slow." she said and Dean grinned back.
"Ok, so now you two have made up," said Sam dryly "What's your name?"
"Anna. And you two are Sam and Dean, obviously." she said and they nodded.
"Do you remember how you, well.."
Sam paused trying to find the right word.
"Died?" said Anna helpfully and he nodded with a rueful grin. She shook her head.
"I'm not sure. I remember bits and pieces. Something was wrong before it happened. I can't remember what. And then I think I remember being scared, really scared and then. Nothing." she said.
Dean sat down on the sofa and picked up the laptop again. He tapped in a few words and then scrolled down the screen.
"Ok, well according to the newspapers you were found in here by your neighbour after they hadn't seen you for a few days. They broke in and you were, er, hanging from the light fitting in the bedroom." he said, looking at Anna awkwardly.
"Hanging?" she said looking horrified, and brought her hand up to her throat.
"Can you remember if you were feeling depressed or worried about something before then?" said Sam gently and Anna shook her head.
"Absolutely not. Suicide is something I would never do." she said vehemently.
Sam glanced at Dean who nodded that he believed what she'd said.
"Well, something must have happened to make you do something like that." said Dean and Sam frowned.
"What if it had something to do with what the other tenants saw?" he said. "I mean people had been reporting weird stuff long before Anna moved in, and the tenant before her was found electrocuted in the bathroom."
"Could be." he said and Anna looked from one to the other
"What are you thinking?" she said.
"Sometimes you can get malevolent spirits haunting a place. Normally they would try and hurt someone themselves, like a poltergeist, but occasionally they can influence people to do things." said Sam.
"Like kill themselves?" said Anna excitedly and Sam nodded
"Yeah. It's a long shot though and so far the only thing we've seen unusual here is you." he said and Anna rolled her eyes
"Well then you're just gonna have to look harder aren't you?" she said and Dean raised his eyebrows
"Yes ma'am!" he said sarcastically and Anna just shot him a withering look.
They spent the better part of the afternoon researching anything and everything that had happened in the apartment block since the building had gone up in the late 1920's, while also scanning every inch of the Anna's apartment for traces of spirits.
Unfortunately their job was made more difficult by Anna's presence interfering with their readings and by her constant comments on what they were doing. Dean was so close to boiling point that Sam actually sent him out to get some food before he ended up exorcising Anna on the spot.
It wasn't that she wasn't also annoying him a little – she was – it was just that with Dean she seemed to know how to push all his buttons and listening to them go back and forth with the insults, whilst highly entertaining, was also starting to grate on Sam's nerves.
Anna stood just behind Sam as he looked for anything they may have missed in their research. At her third loud sigh in 10 minutes, Sam slammed the laptop shut and turned round with an exasperated look on his face.
"What?" said Anna, looking innocent, and Sam shook his head
"I thought Dean was bad enough but you have zero patience, do you know that?" he said and Anna threw her hands up in the air
"Well excuse me for wanting to know why the hell I was found in my bedroom hanging like some weird piece of interior design!" she said and it was Sam's turn to sigh
"Look I know this must be hard for you," he said, pointedly ignoring her muttered 'Gee, ya think?' "But you gotta understand this isn't exactly straightforward. And having you look over our shoulders sighing every 3 seconds isn't exactly helping." he explained, as gently as possible.
Anna rubbed her hand over her face.
"I get that, and I'm not trying to be annoying – despite what your brother thinks – but I really need to know what happened. And it's not like I have anything else to be doing." she said sadly.
"How about you try and give us a little more space, and I promise we'll do everything to find out what happened to you ok?" he said and Anna replied with a grin
"Ok. You'll have to excuse me if I don't shake on it though."
Sam chuckled and at that moment heard the front door open.
"No, Sam it's the friendly neighbourhood burglar using his keys." came the reply and Sam shook his head
"Hilarious." he said dryly as his brother came in the room smirking at him.
Dean handed a bag of take-out food to Sam as he shrugged his jacket off. Sam opened the bag and reached in to take out the cartons. Having set them on the table, he and Dean started taking the lids off until a pointed 'Ahem' sounded from the window. They turned to look at Anna.
"What?" said Dean and she shook her head
"Honestly, were you two dragged up? I have plates and cutlery you know." she said.
Dean looked at Sam
"You gotta be kidding me." he said and Sam just grinned.
"You're right, Anna. I'll go get them." he said getting up.
Dean rolled his eyes.
"Suck up." he muttered and ignored the glare Anna was giving him to grab a piece of sweet & sour chicken and put it in his mouth.
"You are so disgusting." she said and Dean just grinned, until he felt a whack on the back his head from Sam.
"Hey!" he said indignantly and Sam gave him an exasperated look.
"Try not to totally embarrass me for 5 seconds, would you?" he said and was surprised to see a quick flash of hurt in Dean's eyes.
Before he could react to it though Dean just reached out, grabbed one of the plates Sam was holding and, putting some of the chicken on it, stood up.
"I'm gonna grab some fresh air with this." he said and headed into the bedroom, which had a small balcony leading from it.
Sam's gaze followed Dean as he left the room and he frowned. He didn't know how, but he was pretty sure he'd somehow just managed to upset his brother.
Anna cleared her throat and he looked up, almost having forgotten she was there. She looked at him ruefully
"If you're trying to work out what it was, I think it was the crack about embarrassing you." she said helpfully.
"I didn't mean anything by it." said Sam defensively and Anna shrugged.
"Maybe not. But I reckon you hit a nerve, don't you think?" she said quietly, before disappearing.
Sam sighed. He really hadn't meant anything by the offhand comment and it was a surprise seeing Dean react so badly to, well, anything. Normally he was the master of hiding what he was feeling. Not that Sam thought that was a good thing either, but at least he understood it. This...
Deciding to sort things out before they got any worse, and having lost his appetite when he'd seen that look on Dean's face, Sam got up and went into the bedroom. Dean was sitting on the balcony, his plate of food untouched on the small table next to him, just looking out into the distance. Sam sat down on the other chair.
Dean turned his head slightly to look at him.
"For what, Sam?" he said flatly and Sam sighed, running a hand through his hair.
"For what I said back there. I was only kidding you know – I never meant anything by it."
Dean shrugged. "It's no big deal. I just felt like some fresh air, that's all."
"Come on, Dean – there's more to it than that. Talk to me, man – what's bothering you?" said Sam quietly, leaning forward so he could get a better look at his brother.
Dean stood up, and went over to lean on the railing. There was a pause, so long that Sam thought Dean wasn't going to reply, but eventually he spoke.
"You know just because I didn't go to College doesn't mean I'm totally stupid, Sam. And I really hate when you make out like I am ok? Especially in front of other people."
Sam frowned. "I don't think you're stupid Dean! You're one of the smartest people I know. And I don't put you down in front of people – do I?"
The last part was said quietly and when he turned round to look at Sam, Dean saw he had a guilty look on his face.
"Yeah, actually you do. Maybe you don't realise it, but you do. And sometimes, well, it sucks."
Sam came over to stand next to Dean.
"I'm really sorry, Dean, honestly. I didn't realise I did that - I'd never deliberately say anything to hurt you. You know that, right?"
Dean rubbed the back of his neck and nodded awkwardly.
"Yeah, sure. Look there's no need to go all Oprah on me ok? It's no big deal."
"It must be a pretty big deal for you to say something about it. You sure there's not more to it?"
Sam was looking at him with a concerned frown, and Dean looked away. He really wished he hadn't said anything now, but it was too late to take it back.
Deciding he might as well go the whole hog since Sam was too stubborn to let this go, he spoke in a rush before he could change his mind.
"Would you have ever introduced me to Jess? If Dad hadn't gone missing?"
Sam's eyebrows shot up.
Where the hell did that come from? he thought.
"Of course I would, eventually. All that stuff with Stanford – I was mad at Dad mostly, not you. Yeah, it hurt that you took his side but I got it. I just couldn't stay in touch with you when you were with Dad all the time, so it was easier not to call. And besides" Sam stopped, swallowing the lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat.
"Besides what?" said Dean.
"I knew if I spoke to you, if I heard your voice. Then it would have made it impossible, to stay there, to do what I was doing. I missed you badly enough as it was – talking to you would have made it unbearable."
Dean stared at Sam, surprised.
He'd missed Sam like crazy every day he was gone, but he'd never thought Sam felt the same. That's what had hurt so much – that Sam could just go off without a backwards glance, and cut off all contact from him. Whatever issues Sam had with their Dad, Dean felt that had been a direct kick in the teeth to him.
But now, hearing that Sam had found it as hard as he had. Now Dean was the one swallowing the lump in his throat.
"I guess I got the wrong end of the stick then. I always thought you stayed away because you were as mad at me as you were at Dad. And then seeing you and Jess, and hearing you talk about your new life. I sort of thought." Dean stopped.
"Thought what, Dean?" said Sam gently.
"I thought maybe you were embarrassed. You know.. of me."
Dean said it so quietly Sam wouldn't have heard properly if he hadn't already been standing right next to him. Shaking his head, he put his hand on Dean's shoulder, waiting until Dean looked at him before he spoke.
"I would have been thrilled for Jess to have known you properly Dean, I swear. And I've never been anything but proud to be your brother"
Dean's face flushed with embarrassment, but he couldn't stop the pleased smile that twitched at his lips.
"Well of course you are, Sammy – who wouldn't be?" he said, desperately trying to lighten the tone.
Realising they'd somehow strayed into territory Dean was inherently uncomfortable with, and knowing that they'd reached his limit, Sam just rolled his eyes.
"Right of course – what was I thinking?" he said dryly and Dean smirked, but Sam could see the gratitude in his eyes and knew it wasn't just for going along with the subject change.
"So – we gonna eat this food or what?" he said, turning round to go back inside.
"Hey, you're the one standing here gassing while it gets cold" said Dean, following him in.
The rest of the meal was spent in far safer territory, discussing Anna's situation and what could possibly be causing the tenants of the apartment to freak out and, in some cases, hurt themselves.
They'd trawled through John's journal but neither of them had been able to find any references to a spirit being able to actually 'force' people to hurt themselves.
"Alright that's it – I read one more word I swear my brain's gonna explode." said Dean eventually, throwing the journal on the table in disgust and rubbing his eyes tiredly.
Sam stood up and stretched, grimacing as he heard the muscles in his back pop into place.
"You're right. We're getting nowhere, we may as well call it a night." said Sam wearily.
"That gets my vote."
Dean stood up too and went into the bedroom, coming back a few moments later with a blanket and pillow which he threw on the couch. Sam looked at him with a wry grin.
"So, we gonna toss for it?" he said.
Dean shook his head.
"No point – with your freaky ass legs you'll never fit on there and I'll just end up awake all night while you toss and turn trying to get comfortable."
Sam stared at Dean.
"Christo" he said, trying to keep a straight face.
Dean rolled his eyes.
"Cute – just remember, next time there's only one bed it is so mine."
Sam grinned and grabbed his bag as he went into the bathroom to shower.
Twenty minutes later both of them were in bed – or in Dean's case, on the couch. It was actually pretty comfortable.
Not that he was gonna tell Sam that of course. He could easily get some guilt-mileage out of giving up the bed to Sam at least for a few days.
Sam for his part lay listening to Dean's breath evening out, a habit he'd got into after Dean's electrocution.
He'd never forget the night his brother had discharged himself from the hospital. It had been too late for them to set off for Nebraska, but Sam had gotten no sleep anyway. Listening to Dean fight for every breath had been hell. He'd been so tense, dreading hearing the rasping wheeze on one hand and dreading not hearing it even more.
That had been one of the longest nights of Sam's life, followed by one of the longest drives. Dean had been so exhausted he'd slept for most of that too and Sam had been concentrating on him so hard he was still amazed they hadn't crashed.
It had made such an impact on Sam that ever since he'd taken to listening to Dean breathe at night – revelling in the normality of it.
Not that he was ever gonna admit that to him. Dean would be fitting him for a cheerleader outfit in five seconds flat.
But despite what his brother might think of such 'Hallmark' thoughts, Sam wasn't going to stop. He'd grown up listening to the sounds of his older brother in the same room as him and even after all these years, it was inherently reassuring.
Smiling to himself, Sam shut his own eyes and within minutes was asleep.