I have a little time up my sleeve so I thought I'd start this, even though I have no idea if I'll get to finish it. It wont be very long. I guess it's AU, seeing as I haven't seen much of S3. I guess general spoiler warnings apply, just in case. It's a bit more relaxed than what I usually write. I thought I'd attempt something (slightly) more...erm... light-hearted :) Maybe. I'll see how I go anyway!


CHAPTER ONE

The boys were holed up in what Sam considered 'just another nameless small town.' For some unknown reason, Dean had insisted they take a break, and, seeing as they were passing through said nameless small town, Dean had decided it was as good a place as any to find a room. He'd pulled them off the road, waving away Sam's suspicious gaze, and had booked them into what was possibly the most unattractive motel Sam had ever seen. Sam had stood outside the door, staring into a room that smelled of mould. He'd asked why in God's name Dean had felt it necessary to pick here.

But Dean, already making himself at home and unloading the contents of his bag onto one of the beds, had simply shrugged and rolled his shoulders. "Why not?"

That first afternoon, they took a walk along the main street. Pokey shops cluttered against one another, most of their windows bare. There was a milk bar, a burger joint, a butcher, and a firearms store. There was a colourful bakery with flashing lights, outdoor tables- despite the cold- and a footpath sign that yelled: PIE. Dean insisted they go in, and purchased two slices of something unbelievably greasy-looking. Sam sat as far back as he could from his sibling, refusing the offer of food and focusing instead on a handful of locals wandering the street. Such a dismally boring place, with not a bar in sight; Sam couldn't help but wonder whether perhaps Dean had come down with something. He asked if Dean was alright.

But Dean was fine, and stood, announcing that he was going to order more pie. "You need to lighten up, Sammy," he called over his shoulder as he made his way back towards the shop door. "And for God's sake, eat something. You look like shit."

Sam threw a look after his brother, but didn't reply. Of course he looked like shit. He hadn't slept well or eaten properly since Dean had started to die, which was going on six weeks now. Hell, Sam barely even felt alive. He was existing, riddled with nightmarish anxiety, and holding on to his sanity by less than a thread. Dean instructing him to 'lighten up' was definitely not what he needed to hear. He scrubbed a hand over puffy eyes and chewed on his lip, wondering whether there was a library around. Pushing his chair back, he resolved to find out.

Dean wasn't happy. "You need to stop, Sam. That's why we're here. We needa break." The fresh slice of pie slopped on the table.

Sam ignored him and made a move to cross the street. "I'll see you back at the motel."

Dean's eyes burned into his back, but the older made no move to follow him.

Sam completely missed the flicker of worry glance his sibling's features as he walked away. He was too focused on continuing his research into demons and God-damned deals to care.

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The library was a waste of space. Sam barely found anything useful there. Frustrated, he resorted to sifting through the endless expanse of the internet, cringing at the sticky marks all over the computer's keyboard, battling with the mouse that appeared to only work when it felt like it. Four hours went by before the little old lady behind the desk asked him to leave. Sam glanced at the clock, eyes taking a moment to focus. Where had the afternoon gone? The sun had disappeared, and it was dinner time already. Trails of smoke wound their way from chimneys as he stalked back along the main street, the air thick with the smell of cooking and the moon beginning its slow ascent from behind the trees.

His stomach churned. The 'lack of answers' he'd come up with was grating on him. He'd been to college, for fuck's sake, he'd done assignments in less time than this. Surely he should have solved Dean's problem by now. Of course, it would help if Dean actually gave a shit. Lately, Sam swore, it was like he was working alone. Like Dean had accepted his imminent death. If they both worked on finding a solution together… well, the older brother would be in with more of a chance. Did Dean care so little for sticking around? It bothered Sam, no end.

Arriving back at the room, Sam found his sibling reclined on the bed. The television was on, and the laptop was set up on a small desk. Dean's eyebrow lifted, and he asked whether Sam was feeling better.

Sam rolled his eyes, pulling the door shut roughly. "I'm going to have a shower," he mumbled, heading towards the bathroom.

Dean was off the bed, rushing to block the way.

"What? Dean, move-"

Big brother shook his head. "We need to talk, Sam."

Sam went to push past, but Dean's arm came up and held him back.

"You're wearing yourself down. You need to stop, and eat something. I'm worried about you. God, have you looked in the mirror lately?"

Sam shook himself away. "I'm fine-"

"You're not."

Their eyes burned against one another.

Sam nervously licked his lips.

"Just take two days, that's all I'm asking," Dean pleaded. "Then we'll get out of here."

Sam wondered again whether Dean fully understood the weight of their situation.

"There's a roadhouse not far from here. Let's go get some dinner."

"You just ate three pieces of pie!"

"Well you're making me hungry with how little you're eating!"

There was a heavy moment of silence, before Sam reluctantly gave in. He wasn't hungry but if it would shut Dean up, he was willing to try anything. "Will you move so I can have a shower first?"

Something not quite a smile ghosted Dean's lips.

"That doesn't mean I want to stay here," Sam added. "I think we're wasting time."

Dean shot him a look.

Vanishing into the bathroom, Sam restrained himself from reminding his brother of the time bomb constantly ticking in their ears. Six weeks down; forty-six to go. Four hundred and sixty-three thousand, six hundred and eighty minutes had never seemed so short a time to Sam in all his life, until now.

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The roadhouse was a happening place. A shabby pool table stood lonely and forgotten in a dingy corner, and an ancient duke box cranked out a medley of unrecognizable tunes. Sam squeezed a smile, nodding as they took a seat at a wobbly table. "You sure know how to pick 'em." They were the only patrons in the room.

Dean ignored the sarcasm, and flashed a smile towards a bearded man behind the bar, who waddled over, fumbling with a wad of paper and a pen.

"Evening, boys." The voice was thick and gruff, but the man's eyes were warm enough. "Just passing through, are we?"

Dean nodded. "We're just here for a couple of nights, thought we'd stop and take a break." He looked pointedly at Sam, who looked pointedly back. "Been on the road for a while now, so it's nice to stretch our legs."

The man regarded them suspiciously.

Sam wondered how Dean managed to make people wary, even when he was acting as normal as possible.

"You ain't here to poke around the old Witherson place, are you?"

Both brothers were sufficiently confused.

"Ah-" Dean furrowed his brow. "No. We just wanted to get some food. Why do you ask that?"

The man's suspicion withdrew slightly, though he continued to regard them in a hawk-like manner. Eventually he shook his head. "Never mind. Just thought I'd ask. Sometimes we get folk like you, young and crazy-"

Dean pulled a face.

"-Thinking they'll come have some fun, you know, usually high on something-"

Sam cocked an eyebrow, unable to decide whether he was offended or amused.

"-They head out to that old house just to see whether the rumours are true. Well-" He leaned forward to accentuate his point. "-I've been living here all my life and I ain't ever seen or heard anything to say that old place is haunted. It's all just a load of garbage if you ask me."

Dean's expression shifted from confusion to plain curiosity. He went to open his mouth, but Sam cut him off.

"Well," Sam said calmly, employing the respectful tone he often used with strangers. "You needn't worry. We're not here for that. A haunted building, you say? I agree, it sounds ridiculous. No, my brother here insisted we come out to dinner, if you have any food available?"

The man nodded, accepting Sam's reasoning and placing a menu on the table.

Dean pinned his sibling with a look.

Sam flashed his dimples, knocking his boot against Dean's shin.

Big brother jumped. "Son of a-!"

The bar man narrowed his eyes at Dean, again regarding the older hunter with suspicion.

"I'll have a steak burger," Sam announced, pushing the menu towards his scowling sibling.

"Make that two," Dean growled, barely glancing at the options.

The man nodded, oblivious to the wordless conversation taking place before him.

Sam and Dean threw glares back and forth, having one of their infamous silent arguments.

As soon as he'd gone, big brother piped up. "What the hell did you kick me for?!"

Sam jabbed a finger. "Because I knew what you were thinking."

Dean threw up his hands, as if to say Go on, tell me.

"You were going to ask more about that building."

Dean hesitated. "No- I wasn't."

But Sam had him sussed and nodded defiantly. "Yes you were. I could feel it."

"What, are you able to read my mind now?" Dean snorted and leaned over the table. "Tell me what I'm thinking then. Come on, what's going through my head?"

Sam narrowed his eyes. "Don't be an idiot."

"You started it."

Sam shook his head, unimpressed. "Just don't get any ideas, alright."

"About what, Sam? There's nothing to get ideas about."

But Sam could hear the cogs in his brother's mind working. As soon as the bar man had mentioned the rumours of a nearby haunting, Dean's radar had screamed, sparking his curiosity.

"We're here to rest, remember?" Sam told him. "You said it yourself."

"I didn't think you were keen on that idea," Dean teased, grabbing the salt shaker and swatting it around the table.

Sam watched as it bounced back and forth between his brother's steady hands. "I'm not," he admitted. "But I'm not keen on a hunt, either." His hand struck out, rescuing the shaker from its turmoil.

"Hey-" Dean was annoyed at having lost his toy.

Sam shook his head. "God, you're as bad as a little kid sometimes."

"And you're as anal as an old man. Give it back."

"Shut up."

"Shut up, yourself."

From where he stood behind the counter, the bearded man threw a troubled look their way.

"Yeah, pipe down, Dean," Sam chided.

Dean stole the shaker back. Bitch.

Sam pulled a subtle finger sign. Jerk.

Great, Sam thought. This is going to be an awfully long two days. They were already driving each other nuts.

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Sam awoke with a start and scrubbed a hand across his face.

There was a snort from nearby. "Dribbling in your sleep, Sammy?"

Sam groggily spun around, fixing his brother with an unimpressed glare that clearly said shut up.

Dean passed by the chair Sam had fallen asleep in, slapping him affectionately upon the back. He pulled out another chair and sat facing his sibling, the amusement slowly fading from his face to be replaced with something a lot more serious. "You're having nightmares again." It wasn't a question, it was a statement.

Sam opened his mouth to deny it, but Dean's no-nonsense expression stole his words. He settled for rolling his eyes and peeling himself from the chair instead, standing, stretching, and crossing the room into the tiny bathroom, leaning over the sink and twisting the tap. Cold water re-ignited his senses and he splashed it over his face.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Dean's voice was a vague sound in the distance.

Sam pressed a towel against his eyes, squeezing them tight and taking a deep breath. Eventually he spun around, and stalked back into the room. "No thankyou, I'm fine."

Dean laughed nervously, unconvinced. "Sure. That's what you always say."

Sam pulled a clean shirt from his bag and shook it in an attempt to eliminate the creases. He was having nightmares again, yes, but he'd be damned if he wanted to talk about them. Least of all to Dean; the protagonist in his dream-films that always ended with the older brother being dragged feet-first into the fiery pits of Hell. "Just drop it, okay. It's no big deal."

Dean bit his tongue, holding up a hand in surrender.

Sam silently berated himself for his careless choice of words. No Big Deal. Like hell it wasn't; it was eating him alive. He'd woken last night in a cold sweat, tangled in bed sheets and shaking from head to toe. He'd resorted to firing up the laptop and taking a seat at the small desk, preparing himself to do some research. His red-rimmed eyes had flicked between the computer screen and his peacefully sleeping brother, until about 4am, when he'd been snatched back into dreams. Thankfully, they'd been disjointed and only mildly disturbing; the type of sleep that hardly counts as rest. He'd woken with a crick in his neck from being positioned at such an odd angle, and that's when Dean had teased him about dribbling. Sam shot another glare at his brother, just for good measure.

"So," Dean said, his tone reflective of his agreement- albeit reluctant- to change the topic. "I've been thinking."

Oh here we go, Sam thought, massaging his temples and glancing at the clock. It was barely 9am.

"Maybe we should look into that Witherson place? It'd give us something to do, could be a bit of fun?"

Sam gaped at the suggestion. "What the hell are you on about? I thought we agreed we were taking some time out?"

"Well, you've hardly stuck to that, have you?"

Sam pulled a face.

"Don't give me that look. I know you were doing more research last night. I turned the laptop off this morning when I found you zonked out in front of it."

"That's different."

"No, it's not, Sam." Dean's words were firm. "Now if you're not going to listen to me when I tell you to stop burning yourself out trying to find ways to save me, I'll be forced to kick your ass until you turn your ears on and pay attention."

Sam's breath caught in his throat.

But Dean continued, relentlessly. "We've had this discussion before, a thousand times, and you know how it goes. I wont let you solve this, because the demon made the rules quite clear; if I try to weasel my way out of our agreement, you go back to being dead. And that's not going to happen, Sammy. Not so long as I can help it. How many times do I need to tell you this?"

Sam felt anger and bile rise and his hands ball into fists.

"Go on. Hit me if you want to." Dean came to stand before his younger brother. "Whatever it takes, Sam, whatever makes you feel better, because it's killing me to see you like this. Come on, take a swing."

Sam's knuckles tingled, and, God help him, he almost did.

But he couldn't.

Exhausted, he dropped onto his bed, feeling Dean's eyes track the unmistakable sadness Sam knew was flickering across his face.

Big brother came and took as seat on the bed beside him, leaning forward and clasping hands in his lap. "For what it's worth, I'm not sorry."

Sam's tired eyes met his brother's.

"I don't regret making the deal. I don't regret bringing you back."

Sam didn't respond.

"You've got to know that, Sammy."

Sam swallowed roughly, breaking his gaze away. He knew. Of course he knew. But that didn't make it okay.

Dean waited another heartbeat, before taking a deep breath. "So what do you say, shall we go check out this mysterious house the locals claim is haunted? It's a nice distraction. Who knows, we might even get lucky and find something there."

Sam played with the thought. It was so much less than appealing. "If I say no, will you go anyway?" He already knew the answer.

Dean nodded. "Yes."

"I really don't want to go, Dean." But I don't want you to go by yourself either.

"Come on, what's the worst that can happen?"

Again Sam gaped at his brother. "Have you gone senile? Given our history, I don't even want to answer that."

Dean grinned, his eyes flashing cheekily. "So is that a yes?"

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tbc