Chapter One

Sam dropped his crowbar, swiped the sheen of perspiration from his forehead and waited as Dean lowered himself into the stone-lined hole. Another grave, another coffin to salt and burn, yet another angry spirit's bones to lay to rest. Lately, it seemed their lives consisted of nothing but one-night stands in dark, creepy cemeteries unearthing rotted flesh and setting their ritual fires.

Sam stretched aching muscles. Something was wrong. He couldn't shake the nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach something was very wrong. There were just too many angry spirits, all in such close proximity to each other. Too many sleepless nights hunting them down. Too many nightmares plaguing Dean afterward.

Of course Dean refused to talk about them. He is such a damn stubborn ass! Sam knew his brother's lack of sleep and the oppressive heat was starting to affect his ability to hunt. Would it really kill the great Dean Winchester to admit he needs a little help for once?

Dean tried to act as if nothing was wrong, laughing and joking as usual, but the weariness haunting his haggard features and dark smudges beneath his eyes spoke volumes. Damn it, Dean, why can't you just tell me what's wrong? If you don't get a good night's sleep soon, you're gonna crash.

Slowly, Dean pulled himself out of the grave, stood and struck a match, setting ablaze the remains of Cynthia Caldwell, one time peppy cheerleader, turned vengeful spirit after she was brutally raped and murdered. Golden-orange flames licked greedily at the edges of the ground, casting eery shadows over Dean's inscrutable features, green eyes haloed in dark lashes.

They stood watching the glowing embers for a while, smoke curling up through the limbs of moss-festooned oaks bending protectively over the final rest of the deceased, until the task was complete and Dean motioned for Sam to help him close the cover on the above ground grave. With tired muscles straining against their sweat dampened T-shirts, Sam and Dean pushed the heavy stone lid back into place.

"I don't know about you, Sammy, but I could use a drink." Dean flashed Sam a quick smile, wiping the sweat from the back of his neck with his hand. "Man, this heat's a bitch."

Sam let out a deep sigh, and nodded.

"What's wrong this time, Sammy? You've been sulking all night." Dean strode away without waiting for a response, dried dead grass crunching beneath his feet.

Sam followed, ducking beneath a thick curtain of Spanish moss, its snaking tendrils snagging in his long brown hair. He brusquely raked his fingers through his hair, freeing it from the moss. "I don't sulk, Dean."

"Sure you do, dude. Hell, I'd be worried if you didn't have at least one angst-filled moment every hundred miles or so." Dean cracked a smile as he clapped Sam on the back. "So out with it."

"You know this really sucks."

"What are you talkin' about?"

"How many salt and burns have we done in the last month alone? Ten . . . fifteen?"

"Seventeen, but who's counting." Dean grasped a stray branch, pushed it out of the way, and held onto the limb until Sam passed.

"That's my point, Dean. Seventeen. Doesn't that sound a little high to you?"

"Nope, but then again, I don't analyze everything to death. I have you to do that for me, geekboy."

Sam pursed his lips, eyes narrowing as he grimaced at his brother. "Dude, I'm being serious."

"When aren't you being serious, dude?" Dean sidestepped a border marker and turned left toward the entrance of the cemetery. "Come on, Sammy, first round's on me."

"Look, I know something's wrong. Why won't you just tell me what the nightmares are about?"

Dean green eyes darkened as he paused and scowled at Sam. "M'okay Sammy. Why can't you just leave it alone?"

"Just tell me what it is, Dean, so I can help."

"I don't need your help. There's nothin' wrong." Dean picked up his pace, long angry strides kicking up dust.

Sam turned and glanced back at Cynthia's grave one more time. Damn it, Dean. Can't you see it's as if something's baiting us? Leading us on, making us run to keep up. Just waiting for you to mess up? With a frustrated sigh, Sam hurried to catch up to his brother.

They strode past row after row of old family cemetery plots, Dean never slowing his pace. Sam scowled at his receding back and lengthened his stride to keep up.

A sudden gust of strong wind whipped across their faces, moaning and howling through the cemetery. The trees groaned, swaying; bits of leaves and small twigs raining to the ground. Sam aimed his flashlight toward the noise, the hairs on the back of his neck bristling. Slowly, he swept the narrow beam of light across assorted grave markers. Statuary mingled with plain headstones, the pristine marble of the newer sites and bleached white of older ones — some so old the engraving had all but faded away.

Both boys halted, at the sound of twigs snapping close ahead of them as the wind abruptly died away, and saw a warm amber-glow spilling across the darkness. They quickly exchanged knowing glances as they heard the soft mournful sound of someone crying. The background chorus of peepers went eerily silent. Not a single croak broke the oppressive stillness.

Dean gestured toward a grouping of thick, flowering shrubs. The mournful sighs and sobs continued, echoing eerily in the darkness. Silently, he motioned for Sam to go around the thicket as he cautiously crept toward the noise. Sam nodded, he knew this routine well, and stealthily made his way through the darkened cemetery.

Sam crept around the copse, to find Dean standing and warily staring at a woman kneeling at a graveside. A tall statue of an angel, hands clasped in prayer, stood guard above and the woman's long copper-colored curls spilled down on the gray cloak that pooled around her, draping onto the dry scorched earth, the lantern at her side cast writing shadows.

As if she knew she was being watched, the woman glanced up at Sam, light gray-blue eyes glistening with unspent sorrow. She reached out to him with long slender arms, and he took a step forward.

"Sam." Dean raised his hand and shook his head in clear warning.

Sam stopped immediately, looking from his brother to the strange woman and back once more. His pulse quickened as a tingle crept up his spine.

"They're all dead you know," she uttered in a sad forlorn voice. "All of them."

"Umm . . . yeah, graveyard." Dean cocked a brow as he took a tentative step toward her, his hand reaching behind his back for his .45.

She swiveled around to face Dean, tears streaming down her face. "And so are you, Dean. So are you . . . you just don't know it yet."

Before either Dean or Sam had a chance to react she let out a deep screeching wail and disappeared in a wispy trail of black smoke.

Sam's head jerked up to look at Dean, his stomach clenching in knots. Dean frowned, his hand tightening around his .45. A look of resignation flickered in his eyes before they turned hard and determined. Dean shoved the gun back in his belt, lips tight, the muscle in his jaw jerking. "Let's get that drink."

Chapter notes...I've been kicking this story idea around a while in my mind...hopefully it will be an interesting story...let me know what you think...thanks, Bambers;)