Author's Note – I started writing this over a year ago. And then when I changed shifts at work, my muse abandoned me. I'd had absolutely NO motivation to write (let alone time). But now, dammit, I NEED to get back in the game. So this is what I've got to offer. I know it's short, but its better ithan nothing!! I still hope it meets your expectations.

Starts out pre-series, and may dip into some flashbacks… or not.

June 2005

Dean cursed as the sweat dripped into his eyes, the salt stinging, forcing them shut. Rubbing his forehead with his sleeve did no good; it was already soaked and wouldn't absorb any more moisture.

He'd run through and from the hospital as fast as he could, away from the prying eyes and pitying looks from the old nuns he'd practically run down upstairs, and the shouting orderlies and nurses who must have suspected he'd done something illegal as he raced past them in the Emergency Room downstairs.

He wasn't running fast enough, though. The ghosts were catching up to him. He stumbled as the first one tripped him up.

"No, not a ghost," he whispered to himself, picking himself up off the sidewalk. "It's not real."

When the second plunged its knife into his belly, Dean couldn't help but double over, dropping to his knees as he tried to catch his breath.

"It's not real, there's no knife," he ground out, refusing to look down at his abdomen, knowing he'd just see his clean tee, not the blood the ghost promised.

Bracing himself to rise again, Dean took a deep breath and regretted it almost instantly when his stomach heaved, bringing some traces of red along with bile and this morning's meal – a microwaved breakfast burrito from a highway gas station.

He squeezed his eyes shut and pushed the pain away once again. After a few seconds, he looked up and saw the car down the street. Salvation was just another block away. He took another deep breath and held it as he pushed himself to his feet, grabbing onto a signpost after the ghost pushed him to the side again. "Stop it!"

One foot in front of the other, slowly, unsteadily, focusing on the black steel that was more than just a car, Dean finally made it to the Impala. Shaky fingers got the key into the driver's door lock on the third try and opened it up.

He slid into the driver's seat, locked the door and reached over to the glove box, not even giving himself a chance to feel or enjoy the relieved sigh that escaped his lips. Trembling hands fumbled with maps, weapons and fake IDs until he found the small plastic case hidden underneath them all.

Opening the case, he brought out the syringe. It didn't take long for his practiced hands, shaky as they were, to fill it with the liquid he'd gotten at the hospital. A few moments later, after the needle slid home into a vein inside his left elbow, Dean felt the burn rising up his arm and through his body and then the blessed numbness that always followed, both sensations chasing the ghosts away.

It had been too close this time. Too close to losing himself to the ghosts. Too close to not finding the fix in time. He couldn't say which was worse anymore – the nightmares the ghosts brought, or the fear of them – the anticipation of what happens when he doesn't take the hit. He knows he can't beat these ghosts. They aren't real – not in a salt and burn sense, anyway. These are untouchable. They are his ghosts, of his making.

Later, when he could feel again, when the world stopped spinning, when the last of the tremors calmed, Dean opened his eyes. He looked at his current supply. He nodded to himself as he put the syringe back in its case, hiding it in the glove box, below the other illegal items, as if finding it would be worse than finding the IDs and weapons. The rest of the stuff he shoved under the seat. He hoped he could last longer until the next time he needed it.

October 2005

"Sammy!" Dean shouted, banging on the bathroom door. "Come on, I gotta go!"

"Give me a minute, will ya? I just got in here!" Sam shouted back.

Dean paced impatiently outside the door, clutching the shaving kit in his hand, cursing the delay. He rubbed his hand across the back of his neck, feeling the familiar twinge starting up. "Goddamn," he muttered, ready to head outside, his need growing.

Sam opened the door then, and barely got out of the way in time as Dean shoved his way past, slamming the door in his wake.

After muttering a few choice names at this brother, Sam moved across the room and sat down tiredly on the motel bed. They'd come out pretty lucky that morning, surviving the Wendigo attack – if just barely. Though Dean was a little worse for wear, sporting some bandages and suffering from a badly bruised up shoulder, that seemed to be par for the course for the Winchesters, Sam remembered.

He and Dean hadn't been back together for too long, having been apart for years, but he had easily slipped back into his role as a hunter and brother. His and Dean's ability to work together hadn't changed either, hadn't suffered from their years of separation while he'd been at school.

Lying back on the bed, one hand tucked under a pillow, Sam closed his eyes and thought of Jess. It was impossible not to think of her, her fiery image coming to him in his dreams each night, but this time he forced himself to think of the happy times, bringing up a smiling, laughing image.

Inside the bathroom, however, happy times were the last things Dean had on his mind. The injury to his shoulder was making him clumsy, sending sharp pains down through his elbow and wrist. He nearly spilled the contents of his shaving kit. And then the first whispers began.

You think you can hide from us. You think you can hide us from your brother.

"Stop it."

We're getting stronger.

Dean cursed as the syringe dropped into the sink; picked it up.

You're only putting us to sleep.

We're still here. We'll always be with you.

"Shut up."

You're getting weaker.

He doubled over, thought he would fall, reached out and grabbed the sink edge for support. Grunted loudly as his shoulder protested.

"Dean?" Sam's voice.

"I'm fine, Sammy," he ground out. "Just moved my shoulder the wrong way. I'll be out in a minute." He filled the syringe, flicked it, getting the bubbles to rise before pushing them and a drop of the precious liquid out.

"You sure? Dean?"

"I'm fine, Sammy. Leave it alone."

Maybe we'll get to play with Sammy, next.

"Fuck you," Dean cursed and plunged the needle into his vein, pushing the contents home, silencing the voices.

Ten minutes later Sam was waiting outside the door, hand raised, ready to knock, when Dean emerged from the bathroom.

"You okay?" he asked, giving Dean a quick look of concern before reaching for his shoulder.

Dean batted the hand away, though and continued into the motel room. "I'm fine. Just need some sleep is all."

December 2005

"Come on, Dean," Sam muttered. "Come on."

Sam looked at his watch again before firing the salt filled shotgun at the ghost. Mrs. Brightman, or her ghost, was not being too cooperative when it came to leaving her house. It was supposed to be a simple salt and burn. The old lady hadn't been happy about her children fighting over who got her house, so to help them decide, or to stop arguing, she'd screamed that whoever got the house would have to deal with her. Of course, she didn't plan on the kids selling off the house to a new family…

Sam ducked as a lamp headed his way and pulled the shotgun trigger again.

"Dean, what's taking you so long?"

Dean had headed to the small family cemetery out back to dig up Mrs. Brightman's grave and do the actual salt and burn of her corpse. Normally a job for the both of them when digging with shovels, Dean had spotted a small backhoe that the current family had rented to do some renovation work, and volunteered to do the digging so that Sam could distract the ghost.

When the vase headed his way stopped and crashed to the floor three feet in front of him, Sam let out a breath. Finally. The ghost was gone. Sam was about to let out a sigh of relief when he realized that while the ghost may now be out of the house, it didn't mean it was really gone.

"Shit," he swore and ran out of the house, heading for the cemetery, and Dean.

Dean had indeed met up with the ghost of Mrs. Brightman. She'd lifted him up and out of the grave just as he'd gotten the casket lid open, sending him crashing into the scoop of the backhoe.

Sam had arrived as she'd begun to lift him again. Raising the shotgun, he aimed and fired at the ghost, banishing her for another few minutes – long enough for him to do the salt and burn, he hoped. Glancing quickly at his brother as he grabbed the gas can, Sam called out, "Dean?" but got no reply. He could feel the air getting colder as he emptied the gas can and began dumping the salt onto the corpse. Sam dropped the empty salt bag and reached into his pocket for his box of matches.

"Dean?" he called again, looking at his downed brother, as he struck the match and dropped it into the grave. It was not a moment too soon, either, he saw, as their tools and weapons had just started rising off the ground.

The flames rushed up from the grave and their tools and weapons dropped back down, but Sam still couldn't let out that sigh of relief he'd needed. Not with Dean still unconscious, and as he saw upon closer examination, bleeding.

"Shit, Dean," Sam swore, putting a gentle hand to Dean's cheek, turning his brother's head to the side, to see the cut just above his left ear. "Dean? Hey, you with me?" he called softly. He received no reply. He lifted Dean's eyelids one at a time and wasn't happy with the results of his findings.

Looking around them, seeing the Impala off in the distance of the property's front yard, Sam made a quick decision.

Hauling his brother in a fireman's carry was nothing new to Sam. Between the physical injuries Dean had received on the job and the drunken stupors he'd gotten into to deal with the emotional ones, Sam had the carry down pat.

It was a ten minute drive to the local hospital. Dean had moaned a few times, moved his head side to side a few times, but Dean hadn't been even close to regaining consciousness.

Sam didn't have to call out, the sight of him carrying his brother in his arms, blood dripping from Dean's head dripping onto him and the floor garnering him attention enough.

"What happened?" one nurse asked, moving the gurney toward Sam, allowing him to place Dean upon it.

"Slipped and fell, hit his head, I think," Sam replied. "I didn't see it happen," he added, just in case the medical staff found some other injuries.

"What's his name?"

Sam looked around the treatment room, now, seeing an entire medical team surrounding his brother now. "Dean. Dean Simmons," Sam replied. Then, as one of the nurses started to lead him out of the treatment area, he added, "He's my brother,"