Dedicated: To the amazing, incredible and beautiful Muffy Morrigan. Not only has she been an incredible support to me, and many others, but she is an awesome writer too! (If you don't already know that, then what are you doing here? Go read her stuff!!!) Muffy's going through a difficult time, her health isn't good and she's in need of surgery. However, the insurance company, in their infinite wisdom, is making her wait and so she's stuck in bed with limited computer time no less! I wanted to write this to put a smile on her face, to know that she's loved and, even though I cant be there in person, you know I'm sitting here thinking of you. EVERY word that's coming up is written with love and understanding, AND whilst thinking of you, my friend :)

Hope you're up for some hurt!Dean, hun… a little birdie told me it might make you feel a little better! Hmmm… wonder who that could've been?

Special thanks to – my little birdie, TraSan, who is also an incredible friend to both myself and Muffy.

Beta'd by TraSan. Thanks again!!!

DEAN

Chapter One

Dean Winchester. Older brother. Eldest son… well, to deceased parents, so what does that even mean anymore? Older brother. That's it, that's all I am. And what good am I at that anyway? I let Sam die. I was too late, I didn't get to him in time and he died in my arms. What the hell good am I if I can't even protect my little brother, my one and only reason for living? The only family I have left…

The deal… yup, another Winchester in hell. Two out of three dead Winchesters in hell… well, Dad's not there now, but he was. At least he got out, at least he got to move on. Me? Nah, I get yanked out by a bunch of angels wanting me to save the world! I couldn't save my brother, what the hell makes them think I could save the world? I'm useless! I mean, geez, I cant even save-

"Dean? You okay?" Sam asked, breaking into Dean's thoughts. Dean looked up at him from sharpening his favourite hunting knife. Cleaning the weapons always made Dean think, it was usually a peaceful time but today it just made him reflect on everything he had. Everything he had left. "Dean?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Dean assured his brother, offering up his best attempt at the shit-eating grin that he had perfected over the years. It didn't seem to work as well anymore. Guess I don't have as much to smile about these days. "You were talking about this weirdo ghost?"

Sam frowned. He didn't believe Dean was okay, not by a long shot, but he didn't press him on it. He knew Dean wasn't ready to talk yet. He'd learned one thing since Dean had come back from hell, and that was when not to push. He didn't know how to recognise when Dean was ready to talk, though. He thought that's because Dean didn't do a lot of talking anymore.

"Yeah, the weirdo ghost," Sam nodded. He turned back to his laptop but was keeping an eye on his brother out of the corner of his eye. Dean hadn't been quite himself since he'd come back, but this just seemed like something else. "Apparently he's been around for the last year or two. Got a couple of victims that he's killed rather violently, beaten to death."

"Really?" Dean asked, suddenly interested. Ghost generally didn't beat people to death, normally the deaths were unexplained.

"Yeah, beyond recognition."

"Cool," Dean nodded.

Sam chuckled.

"Trust you to be interested now," Sam told him. He glanced at the screen once more before turning back to face Dean. "Apparently he was a pretty nasty sort when he was alive, too. There were a number of murders that the police were sure he was responsible for but they couldn't prove it. The one investigator who came close died. He was the private investigator of one of the victims and he had arranged to meet the detective on the case, but when the detective got there-"

"The dude was dead?"

Sam hesitated.

"What?"

"He was, well, a little beyond dead," Sam told him. He turned the laptop so that Dean could see the screen. On it was a full screen image of something that Dean was certain was supposed to be the remains of a human being, but it looked more like mince meat. The face had been pummelled beyond recognition, his stomach had been hacked at by some kind of sharp implament until it had split open and the insides had been shredded too.

"Whoah," Dean hissed, gritting his teeth. "If that's what this guy did when he was alive, what the hell's he doing now he's dead?"

Sam didn't answer. He didn't have to. Dean knew that this ghost was about as bad as it got and there was just one thing they could do about it.

"Salt and burn it is," Dean announced. He glanced outside and saw the moon high in the sky. "Know where he's buried?"

"Yup."

"Good."

Without another word, the brothers grabbed their bags and walked out the motel room. They meant business, and this time things were gonna be messy. The mess was supposed to be for the ghost as its bones were burnt to dust, its spirit sent straight to hell where it belonged.

They didn't expect things to go any different, but sometimes thing just don't work out the way you expect.

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Sam had been digging the grave for over an hour while Dean leaned against the shovel grinning down at him. Sam was getting pissed off at him, but he didn't want to say anything because he just wasn't sure what to expect these days. Usually they'd help dig the grave until they'd reach the coffin and then one would jump out to keep watch for the angry spirit while the other broke in to expose the body. This time, however, Dean had decided it was time for a change, claiming that as the older brother he could delegate the jobs he didn't want to do.

Sam gritted his teeth and ignored him. He was used to digging graves himself, anyway, his dad had made him do that plenty of times claiming that it would teach him to obey orders and that sometimes the hunt was about doing the dirty jobs. Besides, he was the weakest link and, aside from needing to learn who was in charge and build up a little muscle, John had stated it was best he dig and let the real hunters cover the grave.

It was crap, all of it. Sam hadn't believed it then and he didn't believe it now. It was just an excuse, a lets-pick-on-Sammy joke. Again.

Dean went to hell for me, Sam reminded himself. And I couldn't save him. I couldn't get him back. He should make me pay for that, he should hate me. He's been through enough, the least I could do is to dig a damn grave without getting pissy about it.

"Come on Sam, put your back into it," Dean grinned. "That end looks a little high to me, you know you have to dig down level or you'll reach the body at one end and piss the ghost off before you can expose the whole thing!"

Sam sighed and headed for the other end of the grave, knowing that Dean was right. It wasn't getting any easier to bite his tongue, however. It only took him another ten minutes to level the grave down and suddenly he struck wood.

"Dean?" Sam looked up at him, his face serious. "I'm there. Get ready, coz this guy is gonna be pissed."

Dean nodded. Sam broken into the coffin, prying the lid open. A cry from above him made his heart leap into his throat.

"Dean?" he called, standing up. Dean was flying through the air, landing on a nearby headstone before falling to the ground. "DEAN!"

Sam began scrambling out of the grave, the dirt at the edges falling away and making it a lot harder. It was taking too long.

"Dean!" Sam called again. The grave gave in again and Sam fell against the coffin, landing in the lap of the ghosts body. "Shit, shit, SHIT! Dean!"

Sam got to his feet again, trying desperately to get out of the grave to help his brother, but he just couldn't get a grip on anything to get out. He looked for his brother around the graveyard, but couldn't find him. His heart was racing, palms were sweating and fear was threatening his sanity.

Suddenly a sound forced its way though the blood pounding in his ears. It was familiar.

A gurgling?

Sam hesitated, listening carefully. No, not gurlging.

Choking?

GASPING!

Oh God, where is he? Sam looked around desperately, but his brother was nowhere to be seen.

"DEAN!" Sam called again. "Dean! Come on, man, where are you?!"

There was another sound. It sounded like-

"DEAN!"

"Sam?" Dean's voice was weak, but it was there. It sounded hoarse, like he was forcing his voice through a crushing windpipe. "Look… up…"

Sam looked up. About ten feet from where he was stuck in the grave, Dean was held by some invisible force above the ground. Sam couldn't see enough of Dean to know for sure, but he thought there was blood dripping down Dean's face.

Sam looked around the grave, desperate to find a way out or something to help Dean. He saw his shotgun, loaded with rock salt, but it was too far from the grave for him to reach. It wouldn't have helped, anyway, since Sam wasn't sure where he would aim it. He couldn't see the spirit and he couldn't risk aiming it at Dean in the hopes that the spirit was there, holding him up. Dean was clearly hurt and he didn't need to be shot with rock salt to add to the pain.

He'd done that once, he'd never do that again. He'd never turn a gun on Dean again.

Ever.

There was one other choice.

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The minute Dean heard Sam say he'd reached the coffin he knew that things were about to get dicey. He glanced up, prepared for a fight, prepared to defend Sam and the grave to the end. He had the gun ready, heavy in his hands, but he didn't get a chance to even raise it when he was hit by something he couldn't see. Before he even realised what had happened, he felt himself sailing through the air. He tried to call out for Sam, but the breath had been knocked out of him and what resulted was a strangled cry.

Pain shot through his body, jarring his back and making the edges of his vision turning black. He wasn't sure what had happened, couldn't form the thoughts to figure it out. It didn't matter, he didn't have time to think anyway as a moment later he was yanked up and then, all he was aware of was the burning in his lungs.

He couldn't breathe.

The ghost, the damn ghost! Dean thought, struggling for air. Shit, Sam! I have to get to Sam!

Darkness threatened to overcome him, but he refused to give up. He'd given up once before, let fear overwhelm him and it had caused his brother his life. He wouldn't let that happen again, he wouldn't fail his brother again. He fought desperately against whatever it was that was blocking off his airway as he heard his brother calling out for him. He could hear the fear, the panic in Sam's voice.

Oh man, this was bad – crossing the beams bad.

"Sam?" he wheezed, forcing his voice out painfully. "Look… up…"

Dean raised his hands to his throat, trying to push away whatever was strangling him, but he could feel nothing. He couldn't get a grip on anything and the result was his arms flailing around him uselessly. His head was pounding.

Then, suddenly, the pressure around his throat, the pain in his chest was relieved and Dean sucked in a huge lungful of air before-

Thud!

The air was knocked out of him again as Dean hit the ground. He lay there, dazed, his arm bent awkwardly beneath him. Pain was shooting through his body as he lay there, unsure of what to do next. He was panting for air, his vision clearing, as he wondered what the hell had happened. He was as good as dead, he'd been sure of it. But then-

"Sam?" Dean croaked out. He lifted his head weakly as he tried to look for his brother. He'd expected Sam by his side by now, but all he saw was flames. Fire leapt from the grave and Dean knew that Sam had finished the salt and burn. He'd saved his life.

But where was he?

"Sam?" Fear once again threatened to overwhelm him as Dean looked for his brother. He forced himself to his knees, keeping his sore arm against his abdomen as he looked around the grave. Sam had to be there somewhere, otherwise how had he managed to get rid of the ghost. No one else would have done it. He scratched at his hip, the world tipping around him. "Sam!"

Dean's voice grew stronger as his breathing returned to normal. Something caught his attention through the flames that had Dean on his feet, all thoughts of pain gone as he ran to the other side of the grave.

"SAM!" Dean shouted, falling to his brothers side. Sam was crawling from the grave, his jeans and jacket on flames. "Shit, Sam! What'd you do?"

Dean pushed Sam to the ground, rolling him onto his back. Sam immediately started to roll, trying to put out the flames, while Dean patted at his jacket to put out the more immediate threat. It didn't take long to put out the fire, but it scared the crap out of Dean to see Sam on fire. Sam had been rescued from a fire too many times in their lives, and seeing him on the verge of burning alive…

"You okay?" Sam asked, pulling Dean further from the flames. "Dean?"

Dean nodded.

"We gotta get outta here," Sam continued, narrowing his eyes in concern. "You sure you're okay?"

"A bit sore, maybe," Dean admitted. They got to their feet and as the world tilted around him, Dean felt strong arms grab him, holding him up. "Maybe a bit more than-"

The darkness won.

FOR MUFFY!

A/N – hope you like it Muffy! Then is more to come :)

To everyone else, please send well wishes to Muffy. Every review will be another wish, another prayer, more hope for my dear, dear friend.