One day in the middle of the night, two dead boys got up to fight.

Back-to-back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other.

A deaf policeman heard the noise, and rushed to save the two dead boys.

A paralyzed donkey walking by, kicked the copper in the eye,

sent him through a rubber wall, into a dry ditch and drown them all.

(If you don't believe this lie is true, ask the blind man – he saw it too!)


Woke Up Dead

prologue

The first thing he noticed was the smell. It was a mix of staleness and mildew and dust, long-dead flowers and a hint of moth balls. It was the distinct odor of age and neglect.

But then sound hit. First was the far-away bellow of a grandfather clock. The deep, resonant tone calling out the hour. One chime. Two. Three. And then a faint click and clink-clink-clink of the pendulum and chains.

There were also the general creaks and groans of an old house settling... So, he was in a house. He didn't remember being in a house. The last place he could remember being in was a typical, shabby motel – cheap and half-way to caving in, with miss-matched floral patterns on the bedspreads, carpet, and wallpaper.

It was the booming rumble of thunder that brought him back to his current setting. He could also pick up the sounds of big, fat raindrops pounding on the rooftop and at windows. And further away, he could hear the splashing sound of the drops pouring into the mud outside.

But it was so dark. He couldn't even see his hand in front of his face... and that's when he realized that his eyes were closed. Feeling stupid, he opened his eyes and jumped back, startled, coming face to face with himself. Or, he realized as his heart slowed down again, his reflection.

The large, ornate mirror had cobwebs hanging from its once-beautiful, now-tarnished frame. And there was a crack in the bottom right-hand corner. The wall behind the mirror was painted deep olive green and chipping in many places.

On either side of the mirror, and strategically spaced further down along the wall, were web-filled sconces. Strangely enough, the candles in the sconces seemed fairly new and flickered their small flames in the draft that flowed constantly around him. Now that he'd seen them, he could also detect the burning wax scent. And, looking around, he realized that the candles were the only source of light in the otherwise long and dark hallway.

So, why was he suddenly standing with his eyes closed in this old, empty hallway, seemingly alone, when the last thing he remembered was watching late night infomercials on a muted television while his brother slept in the bed opposite him and his cousin busied herself doing whatever it was that she did instead of sleep in the room next door?

Ah... so he was dreaming.

Of course, most people woke up when they realized they were actually dreaming. But, he seldom did things the normal way and, because of how vivid his surroundings seemed, he could only assume it was one of those dreams. One of his psychic-Sammy specials.

Well, might as well pay attention then, he thought as he walked along the hall. He tried a couple of the doors he passed, but they were locked and he apparently forgot to dream-pack his lock pick set. And, the few doors that weren't locked were unused bedrooms – judging by the dust that was as yet undisturbed.

Finally, the hall ended, curved to the left, and a narrow doorway led to an even narrower winding staircase. Luckily, this was a just dream and he didn't have to worry about the dizzying effects of an area made for someone half his size. He didn't have to worry about hitting his head either.

He ended up in a small opening between the kitchen, the pantry, and another locked door. Unlike the dusty bedrooms, the kitchen had obviously been used recently. In fact, the half-filled percolator (a French press, he remembered from a trip to Jess's great-aunt's house) on the stove was still emitting steam and the aromatic scent of strong coffee.

The cupboards seemed stocked with essentials, as did the pantry. There were no modern appliances – no microwave, toaster, or even refrigerator. But, the stove and the sink, though old, seemed well-maintained. Or at least, newly cleaned and repaired.

There was only a small table in the kitchen, much too small for the size of the house, so he figured that there would be a dining area beyond. Through the swinging double doors, he found a large open area that could put his old student union to shame. And right down the center of the rectangular room was the longest solid-wood table he had even seen. He didn't really know the different types of wood, but this looked like it had been around for a while and it had withstood time.

The room was beautiful, but plain. He could see, as he walked toward the opposite end of the table, that there had once been portraits on the wall. There were still nails, heavy and thick, embedded in the once-ivory walls and voids where the original paint had not yellowed quiet as much, having been hidden from the sun for years.

One of the chairs towards the end of the table had been knocked over, the rest still sitting politely in their appropriate places. In front of the over-turned chair was a mug of coffee, cooling but slightly warm, and couple of open books. In the middle of the display was a worn journal with hastily scrawled notes and drawings, and a pen sitting halfway in the binding.

Leaning over to try and read some of the notes in the poorly lit room, he had to laugh a little. From what he could make out, the sentence structure (if you could call it that) was as bad as his father's and the penmanship was even worse. He couldn't read most of it, but certain words – Tremblay House, R & M Asher, G G, Miriam Baine, Lucy – were written in clear capital letters.

He barely noticed the snap before hearing the crash of breaking and scattering of glass, feeling the vibration through the floor. He ran through the doorway and into a wide open hallway and then further on through an already opened door. The room was large, like a great room or ballroom, and lit only by the wild flames in the fireplace.

He thought it was strange that he could feel the shattered glass breaking further under his feet as he walked further into the room, and yet there was no accompanying crunch. He could see that there were at least two other people in the room, but couldn't make out any details.

"You OK?" one asked, voice only slightly louder than a whisper, but it was still obvious the speaker was male. A gruff mmmph of assent let him know the second person was a man as well.

Then, there were footsteps – first running downstairs, then through the hallway, and finally into the room. He couldn't tell how many – definitely more than one other person – and a large dog. Though, he knew the animal was a dog more by the sudden growl than the sound of its movement.

A chorus of voices began speaking/yelling. Over there. Look out. Behind you. Duck.

It was a spirit, that was certain, maybe more than one. He was beginning to feel dizzy with all the sudden action surrounding him, hearing and feeling it without being able to really see anything more than shapes.

The humans in the room began taking action against the ghosts. Definitely hunters. He could hear chanting, feel salt being hurled around and weapons (he hoped they were pure iron) waving around him – idly wondering what would happen if he was hit.

Look out! shouted a voice in motion, as another yelled No don't!

A gun very close to his left ear fired and all sound, save the buzzing in his head, stopped.

Very muffled, as if speaking from another room, voices started to come through again.

"The hell did you think you were doing?" a somewhat familiar voice said. "A bullet ain't gonna work on a ghost, boy. You can't kill what ain't alive!"

"Iron rounds, old man," a younger voice justified. "And you'll notice they're gone!"

"For now," mumbled a voice behind him.

"Hey, hey, hey," a voice near the young one said. "He did good. You did good, son."

"Thanks, Pop," the young voice said proudly.

He noticed that the storm outside was letting up, the heavy raindrops now a constant light drizzle. The wind was dying down as well, which in turn caused the flickering flames to calm and help light the dark room. As his eyes adjusted and his hearing came back into full range, he noticed a man standing up from the floor and hurrying over to a spot behind a sofa.

"Hey! Hey man, you OK?" the voice, the original voice he heard in the room, asked again. It was no longer a whisper, but it was even more panicked. "John! Johnny, you OK?"

He was about to move forward when the mumbling man behind him charged ahead – almost through him.

"What it is, Oz?"

Joining the mumbler, he could now see a figure lying on the floor between the fireplace and the sofa. He pushed me out of the way. There was a hole – a bullet-sized hole – in the man's chest and an expanding pool of blood beneath him making a run for the fireplace. 's heart, man. Direct hit. The chest was not moving – the man was not breathing. Even as the mumbler reached down to try and find a pulse, he knew...

I'm sorry...

He didn't want to – well, that was the monster of all understatements – but he had to. Sam looked at the man's face.

"Dad?" he whispered, sounding all of five years old.

John Winchester lay on that cold, hard floor in a pool of his own blood and it didn't matter how hard he shook his head or how loudly he denied it, there was nothing Sam could do about it.

"DAD!"

oo0oo

It took him a moment to fully wake up because, let's face it, he didn't exactly want to leave the dream where he and a Tyra-Heidi-Gisele amalgamation were in the middle of...

"No, Dad!" the pleading yell came a second time.

Dean turned over in his bed to see Sam sitting up and breathing heavy. His first thought, of course, was to make a joke about the rating of Sam's dream, but the fact that his kid brother looked like a terrible mix of scared and sick (not to mention the dream he was just pulled out of – and, no, he was definitely not going to snicker at that!) made him reconsider.

"Sam, are you all right?" Kole asked, rushing in from the adjoining room.

There had only been a couple of instances since their cousin had been riding with them that Dean had stopped at a motel that didn't offer any adjoining rooms. Strangely, even the crappy places they frequented had apparently once been reputable enough to be considered 'family friendly'. Never wanting to be even a locked door away, on those few occasions he insisted the three of them share a room. After the third time, in which they had each decided never to speak of again, Dean made sure to stay only at places with adjoining rooms – and they never locked or closed that shared door at night.

"Vision?" Dean did his best not to grunt the question.

"I think so," Sam said, distracted by his own thoughts. "I hope not."

"Sam," Kole, sitting on the bed next to Sam now, started, "you called out for your father..."

It wasn't a question, but the trailed off statement obviously wanted more detail. Kole had never seen Sam during a waking-vision, only ever seeing the aftermath of a psychic-dream. But, she had seen the way Dean reacted to them enough times to take them seriously and find out as much as possible, as quickly as possible.

Sam licked his lips and tried hard to swallow. He still looked like he was lost, though both Dean and Kole knew that he was actually trying to sort through the things he had just seen in his own mind, his own way.

"Hey Kole..." Dean started, but Kole was already standing up from the bed and walking toward her own room.

"I'll get you some water, Sam," she told him, told them, then saw Sam squeeze his eyes shut and hold his head as if he was afraid it might come apart if he didn't. "And some aspirin."

She retrieved one of the bottles of water she placed in the mini-fridge the night they checked in, shut the door, and then opened it again to grab another bottle. Then, she grabbed an aspirin bottle from her bag and handed them to Dean, who was standing in the adjoining doorway.

"Let me know if you need anything else, OK?" she told him, knowing when to back out of the conversation. The boys had let her into their lives, allowing her to see a lot, but there were still some things that they needed to keep to themselves. She had gotten pretty good at knowing when to back off.

"Thanks," Dean said, and both he and Kole closed their doors (though still didn't latch them) to give the Winchesters some privacy.

oo0oo

"OK Sammy," Dean said quietly as he handed a bottle of water to his brother and began opening the container of aspirin. "What'cha got?"

"Huh?" Sam stalled, opening his water and then shaking four tablets into his hand. He popped the pills into his mouth and chased them down with almost half of the water.

"Dude, you know how this has been working lately," Dean said patiently. "We gotta get the details before they disappear, man."

Sam was barely keeping his dinner at bay as it was. He really didn't think it would stay down for long once he began telling Dean about the dream. He knew, as his brother did, that his psychic-dreams acted the same way any garden variety dream did – they faded fast, and the harder he tried to remember, the quicker they melted away. But he really couldn't imagine ever forgetting these details, even if he wanted to. Which he did.

"Um... haunted house, more than one spirit, middle of the night..." Sam trailed off, hoping the bare minimum would satisfy his brother.

"And Dad?" Yeah, he knew it wouldn't work.

"What?"

"Dude, you're stalling," Dean told him. "You called out for Dad."

"Oh," Sam said, looking away, "right. He was already on the case."

"Does he need help?"

"No, no, he already had a few guys with him," Sam said before thinking. He knew as soon as that part slipped out... "Dean, I didn't mean - "

"No, that's good," Dean told him quickly, standing up and turning his back to his brother. Sam realized was grabbing some fresh clothes from his duffel bag.

"Dean?"

"Well, you know, more than one spirit... good to have more than one guy on the job..." He was rapidly getting dressed.

"Dean, what are you doing?" Sam asked and saw his brother grab his phone and shove it in his pocket, then head towards the door. "Where are you going?"

"Its only 12:30 and that bar down the street seemed to be open late last night..." Dean opened the door without looking back at Sam. "We're gonna need some money soon..." And with that, he was gone.

oo0oo

Sam stared at the closed door for a couple of minutes before shaking his head and turning to grab the motel stationary from the drawer of the nightstand. There were so many different directions he wanted to move in and so many different thoughts going through his head, but he knew if he didn't write down a couple of the details from his dream they would be lost.

He closed his eyes to try and picture the journal page, but even in his head he couldn't pull all the words out again. He scrawled out what he could remember: Asher, G G, Miriam, Lucy. And there was something about a house... Asher House? It didn't look right when he wrote it. He drew a line through 'Asher' and put a question mark after 'House'.

He knew his cousin was probably climbing the walls in the next room, having heard Dean leave and still not knowing what was going on, but there was one more thing Sam wanted to do on his own. He grabbed his phone and dialed his father's number.

"Yeah," came the gruff voice on the other end of the line. Sam knew time didn't really mean anything to the Winchesters. They kept odd hours and traveled to different time zones frequently, but he still felt bad that he may have woken his father.

"Hey, Dad," Sam started timidly. "Its um... its Sam."

"I know that Sam," John told him. "I have caller ID, too. What's up, son?"

Sam had heard John angry and irritated enough to know what those voices sounded like. Right now his father was, well, as patient as possible. Ever since the accident, ever since Dean nearly died, and John nearly died, his dad had been trying. Sam could see it – John was scared with how close they came to losing one another and, while he still felt it safer (for all of them) to be separated, he was actually checking in and keeping the lines of communication open.

As much as Sam had hated his father's decision to split up before, he understood now. Funny how things had changed. Now it was Dean that was upset by the separation. He accepted it, of course, because that's what Dean always does, but he wasn't happy about it. And Sam had finally figured out why – and knew why the careless slip earlier had caused Dean to withdraw.

Sam, though he had once vehemently denied it, was just like his father – stubborn, headstrong, and always (well, maybe sometimes) right. They both had their moments of guilt and sadness, especially when it came to the fate of the women they loved, but for the most part they thought themselves righteous.

Dean was different. Sam once tried to apply his Psych-101 knowledge to his older brother and soon found that there was no preset pattern, no blueprint already in place that depicted Dean's childhood. Really, who could have come up with that?

Sam had spent the better portion of his pre-teen and teen years hating the way he was raised, how he lived. It wasn't until much later, quite recently in fact, that he realized that the measly amount of normal he was granted was because his brother tried to make it so. His older brother, older by a mere 4 years and yet forced to become an adult way before his time, gave up his own life to try and give Sam what he needed and wanted. And yet, he could see that there was a part of Dean that still felt he had failed, that he hadn't given Sam enough.

Coming to that realization, Sam could at least explain why Dean often seemed immature. He never really had the chance to take his time and grow up.

"Sam? Sammy, you still there?" John's voice brought him back to himself.

"Yeah, sorry Dad. I was just wondering what you were working on... you know, are you on a hunt?"

"Well, I just finished a job," John said, clearly confused. "I'm in the middle of some research for my next gig... practically finished, actually."

"A haunted house?" Sam asked quickly. "Do you have back-up? Maybe someone a little trigger-happy?"

"What? No, no son, its actually just a routine exorcism - "

"So it is a haunting?"

"Sam, no, its just a case of people thinking they've seen a ghost when in fact its just a shadow person. A pretty tame one at that."

"One? Don't they usually manifest in groups?"

"Usually yes," John said with a hint of pride, his son remembering an obscure detail taught years ago. "This time though, there's just one. And like I said, just a routine exorcism to clear it. Sam, what's going on?"

"Oh, well..." how exactly do you tell your father you just had a dream (a psychic dream) of his death?

"Sammy, what's wrong? Are you OK? Your brother..."

"No, no Dad we're fine," Sam lied. "I just wanted to check in, you know?"

There had been a lot of checking in going on since the accident. Sam would call John, John would call Sam, John would call Dean and get the typical expected responses to his questions, then John would call Sam again and find out what was really going on. Checking in was no longer really questioned.

"Oh," John answered, only sounding half-convinced. "You would tell me if something is wrong, right Sam?"

"Of course I would, Dad," Sam responded, the question pretty loaded but Sam could give an equally-evasive answer. "Everything is fine here. You know... same old, same old."

"OK," John wanted to call him on the cryptic response, but found he couldn't ask anything specific without getting into the touchy-feely, decidedly non-Winchester way of life. "Feel free to call me any time, Sammy," and he meant it. Then he threw out one more line, "Tell your brother that too, OK?"

"I will, Dad," Sam said, appreciating the sentiment. "Thanks," and he meant it as well.

oo0oo

Sam took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and leaned his head back until it hit the wall behind his bed. After hanging up with his father, he felt better. Really, he did. Of course, if he allowed himself to analyze the situation, he could probably make himself angry that such a little, a normal gesture, such as a phone call, could bring him such peace of mind. But that was teen-aged, rebellious Sam. Now, he was happy to take the calm where he could.

But why did it seem that he and his brother could never find happiness, tranquility, at the same time? And once again, he was regretful at the thought that his older brother seemed to sacrifice his own happiness for him.

He knew that Dean felt guilty in the aftermath of the accident. Hell, its not like Dean had felt vindicated just before the semi T-boned the car. Sam could see it in his brother's eyes. As their possessed father ranted and raved about Dean being unloved and unneeded, he could see the belief and acceptance there as his brother taunted the son-of-a-bitch even more. It was as if he knew it was true but still felt the need to protect his baby brother.

Sam wanted to tell Dean, to explain, so badly... but how do you go about telling your brother that your father loves him just as much, loves both of his sons the same? It seems like something a child, a man trapped forever inside his worst childhood fears, should just know. How do you tell someone that? When all he sees are his failures, what he perceives as failures, and an inability to measure up?

If you would have told Sam – young Sammy, not adult Sam – that his older brother felt he was never good enough, he would have never believed it. Not only did Sammy see Dean as practically perfect in every way, but he was Sammy's hero. How could a hero have such doubts?

But every loss, every hunt that didn't go perfectly, every time he was too late to save someone, Dean held onto it. It was like an anti-trophy he used to try and make himself better. And, when John used their one weapon against the demon to make a deal, to save Dean's life, and in the process nearly lose his own? How could he explain to his brother that it had all been worth it? How could he explain that he had never been so proud of their father (so proud of himself) as when their chance at revenge was put aside because it was not worth Dean's life?

And how did he explain in a way Dean would understand and believe?