Disclaimer: Ha, Me? Own the Winchesters? Only in my dreams *wink*
Summary: Set after 'Jus in Bello' season three. Dean's deal is hanging over him like a freshly sharpened guillotine. Sam and Bobby they are doing the best they can to find a way out. But life still goes on, and Bobby sends the boys to Ohio to look into a haunted farmhouse. Things don't go according to plan.

AN: Sweet charity fic for unplugged32 who bought me in the final auction. She requested lashings of Dean whump and good ole fashion brotherly bonding. Needless to say, I had too much fun with this. Kindly beta'd by ficwriter1966, she's awesome!!! Any other faults my own.


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We cannot banish dangers, but we can banish fears. We must not demean life by standing in awe of death. ~David Sarnoff

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Zeppelin was blaring inside the Impala's chassis, almost inaudible against the gush of wind from wound down windows. Dean's hand dangled out against the door, fingers spread combing through a cool breeze as refreshing as the view.

Lush green meadows, crop fields of golden wheat and corn, rolling hills, mountain backdrop; place had it all. Little house on the prairie, eat your heart out. Bobby was right, this wasn't your usual gig and Dean had to admit the farm, the view, blue skies, the whole picturesque setting, was breathtaking.

"This place is really something, huh?" Sam echoed, a hint of a smile tugging at his lips.

"Tell you what, we finish up early, Sammy, and I'll let you go 'n make daisy chains." He smirked, waggled his brows. Dean wasn't gonna let on that he'd spotted daisies in the meadow. He was more horrified of the fact he knew those lil white 'n yellow flowers were daisies. Totally Missouri's fault. He stockpiled that painful memory back where it belonged.

"Jerk." His younger brother rolled his eyes, continued his gaze out the window.

"Oh come on, Sammy, Bobby bought us a whole week at this joint. That leaves plenty of time to play." The old man sure had connections and what seemed to be an endless supply of cases up his sleeve. Damn, the guy knew how to pull those strings. If Bobby couldn't do it, he wasn't sure anyone could. Bobby also knew when to call it quits and come up for air, unlike Sam, who was drowning in his own 'deal' crap. The stench of defeat clung to his skin, it smothered him. Hell close enough its billowing smoke grew in the horizon.

"I like that you assume this is gonna be an easy job, Dean."

"Hey, didn't say anything 'bout this case being easy. But we got at least five days here. For once maybe we can drag it out a bit-- sit back 'n enjoy the countryside…" He shrugged, pondered for a moment. "Be one with nature?" He wondered when he'd see blue skies and green fields again, whether his lungs would breathe air this pure and clean.

Sam stared at him for a while, brow and mouth scrunched up. He finished the expression with something bordering a sigh. His brother had a knack for looking concerned, pissed and confused at the same time; he'd been giving Dean that look an awful lot lately. Dean didn't really blame the kid; he couldn't say he'd been feeling or acting himself. Some of his recent antics had those concerns rightfully justified.

Sam came back with a question. "Seriously, Dean, are you high?"

Dean gave his brother a playful nudge. Since Sam had found him high as a kite, middle of a field with imaginary evil bunnies, he wouldn't stop asking if he was on drugs. Dean had latched onto the tattered tail of craziness swirling around him. Let its fantastical buzz take him to new highs, he gripped on and rode it hard till he asphyxiated and came crashing down into sanity's arms. He was grateful that for him sanity wore the face of his younger brother.

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The inside was just as impressive as out. Rustic solid oak furniture, worn wooden floors, gag worthy floral and paisley decor.

It was a home.

The kitchen was open plan with a large wooden table in the centre. On it, a vase with wilted flowers and a folded sheet of paper resting on the side. It was addressed 'Sam and Dean'.

Sam dropped his bag on the table, loosened and rolled his shoulders. There was enough rock salt in the bag to last them a month. They knew the basics for the case but they still had a lot of research to do. It was a haunting, that much they knew. Something they could solve. An open-shut case and a much needed distraction.

In the past week, Sam had been living, eating and breathing to save Dean's soul. Even though it seemed every avenue hit a ten foot brick wall, if they'd let him, he would have continued to spend every living moment trying to knock each one down. Bobby finally put his foot down and insisted they take a breather. So in true hunter style, the old man sent them on a case. Most normal people may go on vacation but for the Winchesters, this was just the break they needed. Sam slid a hand round the back of his neck, chuckled silently and looked towards his brother; Bobby knew them well, too well.

"Dude, there's pie." Dean was by the fridge waving a yellow post-it note. His eyes lit up as he ogled at the dish. For a split second Sam was sure he saw something he hadn't seen in his brother for a while.

Sam smiled back and went to read the letter on the table.

Gentlemen,

I understand you deal with these type of situations. I don't know what to tell you other than there is something evil dwelling in our property. On many occasions I have feared for our lives. Whatever is here is angry and relentless. Needless to say we are both grateful and in debt to you.

My husband found some documents on the property; deeds, albums, all of which are in a box by the landing. There may be more in the attic and basement. There is a pull down ladder to the attic and the door to the basement is open. The room downstairs opposite the landing has a bed and bathroom. It seems to be the least active and safest room left, and we would lock ourselves into this room at night. Nights are the worst, it's just unbearable.

I'm not sure what else you need to know, but if there's anything else, anything at all, don't hesitate to contact my husband and I on 555-675-1180.

Yours faithfully,

Mrs. Littman

Sam sighed as he folded the paper in half. The Littmans' fear was etched in every word; a desperation he could relate to coated every dotted 'i' and crossed 't'.

It looked like a nice family home, and he hoped they could restore it to that for the Littmans . They say sometimes helping others can help yourself, Sam reminded himself

Dean slapped the post-it on the table and pointed to the fridge. "There's enough home cooking in there to feed an army. This job is sweeeet."

Sam looked down at the table, savored the sweetness of denial and smiled back at Dean.

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Bobby's cooking wasn't half bad when he made the effort. Dean wouldn't file it under comfort food but it was close. Simple, basic chow and according to Bobby and Sam, it was nutritious. It was safe to say when they stayed at Bobby's they usually ate well. Between motels, cheap diners and fast food joints, it'd been a long time since he'd had some real home cooking. Good old fashioned food that had been prepared from scratch, put together and then cooked rather nuked.

Dean licked his finger. There was no denying Mrs Littman kicked butt in the kitchen. The woman could bake a mean apple pie. Add that to the list of casserole, lasagna and roast he found in the fridge, Dean took this opportunity to indulge.

"You done yet?"

Apparently Sam didn't appreciate the grub as much as he did.

"What's wrong with you?" Dean took another forkful of pie. "You can't deny this is probably the best pie you've eaten in months--years."

Sam nodded and inhaled deeply. "True…but come on, we've got lots to do and we still have to scope the place." He gave his brother a lopsided smile. "Preferably before it gets dark. From the reports, looks like Casper comes out to play at night."

Dean nodded and scarfed down the last forkful, washing it down with some beer. He stood tucking his inner shirt back into his jeans, then refastened his belt – the one he'd loosened to allow him to gorge. With his mouth still stuffed of food, he beamed at Sam, shimmied his belt up and down, and stated, "Had to make room."

"I worry about you."

"Likewise, Sammy, likewise."

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"In 1976, Fred Hudson murdered his wife and three sons. He stabbed them to death then later shot himself. Police recovered four bodies from the scene." Sam looked up from the document, leaned against the wall, he watched as Dean loaded the shotgun. The Littmans hadn't mentioned that.

"You're kidding me, right?" Dean paused, pointing the muzzle to the ground.

"What?"

"Four bodies? What happened to the fifth?" He sat cowboy-style, placing the gun against his right leg.

"Never found." Sam gave him a grim expression.

"Well, looks like we found our ghost." They nodded in unison.

"Basement or attic?" Dean dug into his jeans pocket, pulled out a nickel. "I'll flip ya."

"What no rock, paper, scissors?" Sam bit his lip and smirked.

"Haha, you're hilarious -- I call heads." He flipped the coin and slapped it over the top of his hand. "Well lookie here, Sammy, you got the attic."

"Gee, and I wanted the basement so bad, Dean. You really lucked out this time." It was smothered in sarcasm and taut with mockery.

"Smartass. I already checked the attic ladder. Termites have had a feast so have fun getting up there," Dean said smugly. "Oh, and the cobweb haven you're about to trudge through?" He watched Sam pale and frown as he picked up his weapon. "Enjoy." The boy wasn't a wuss but when it came to spiders, Sam sure could act like one. Sam grimaced at the thought of his face wrapped in weaves of tacky webs.

They'd already checked all the bedrooms, and all other rooms in the house. There was still no sign of their ghost. Reports mentioned flickering lights, strange noises and moving objects, none of which they'd seen yet. But the EMF said otherwise. The Littmans had to have been completely freaked out to have given up their house to strangers so easily.

"Here," Dean threw Sam a newly purchased EMF device. "You know I hate that thing. This right here's the real deal." He held up the meter he'd made from an old Walkman back while Sam was away at Stanford.

"Right." Sam refrained from further comment.

"You find anything...you holla. Got it?" Dean was by the door holding up one of a pair of walkie-talkies. Banter aside safety always came first. They might be scoping out some rooms separately but they dealt with things together.

Sam saluted him sarcastically. "Over 'n out," he replied through his radio.

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There was nothing but a strung-out sizzle of static and white noise.

Dean hit the EMF against the palm of his hand and shook it. The needle danced but remained in the same position. Maybe his custom-made kit had crapped out after all. He shook it again, but it merely buzzed.

Something was either seriously wrong with this ghost or his EMF was fucked.

Both equally feasible, neither the case.

He heard Sam's muffled voice through the radio.

"Dean, get your ass up here and give me a hand. I got something."

By something, Sam meant a worn, moth-eaten sack containing remains. Thirty three years abandoned in an attic hadn't left much but rubble of fragmented bones. From the reports and research it was likely to have been, Matthew Hudson, the missing ten year old boy.

"This right here is our fifth body." Sam coughed through the sprinkling of dust dancing around them as he analyzed a piece of cracked skull.

"It's not right, dude". Dean shook his head, disapproving. It didn't add up. He couldn't quite put his finger on it but it was too cut-and-dried for his liking.

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Dean squeezed the pliable plastic bottle generously, spilling accelerant over the remains.

Lighter fumes instantly hit their senses; usually it a welcomed scent that carried with it hints of resolution and peace. However, as Dean waited and watched his brother flick a burning match into their makeshift grave, he shook his head again. "It's not right."

Sam looked up at him and sighed sympathetically. "I know, least he's at peace now."

"I didn't mean the kid, Sam. It's just…this whole thing felt too…easy."

Sam huffed. "Easy?"

"Seriously, dude, it doesn't bother you that the body was tucked away in the attic? In an unlocked chest? I mean come on, that's just… And the fact Casper let us carry his bones out here without so much as a flickering light? It never plays out this way."

"I dunno, Dean. Maybe we're just good at what we do?"

Dean rolled his eyes.

There was a pause as they watched the red and orange flames dance and sputter in the wind.

"I think I know what this is about."

Dean turned and faced Sam. "Oh yeah, what's this about?"

"I'm not trying to start anything but I know you're stalling. And look, I get it, okay. The Deal, Hell, finding a way out – I know none of this is easy on you, dude. I honestly have no idea how you're supposed to deal with this crap. Just… you have to know that I'm not giving up on you without a fight?"

Dean pressed his lips together, took in a deep breath, did his best to calm his nerves. Sam may not have been meaning to start an argument but he sure knew which buttons to press. There was truth in his words; he had to give him that. But for once this wasn't about his damned soul or the fucking Deal, this was about the case, the one right in front of them. Sam was so blinded by everything else he couldn't even see straight. It seemed no matter what they did, the whole screwed up mess became part of every single thing he did, it hijacked every thought, every encounter, every last living day he had left.

Dean took one look at his brother, saw the desperation and concern on Sam's face. He sighed, tried to explain. "Sammy--"

He was cut off before he could finish. "You're my brother, Dean. I can't not do anything about this. You would do the same for me."

For Dean the conversation was over. Sam was right, though – situation turned, he would do the same a hundred times over and they'd find themselves in the same vicious circle over and over again. He didn't know which fact made him sadder. Winchesters had kamikaze flowing through their blood.

"I'm tired, Sam. I'm gonna grab a shower and hit the sack. We'll leave tomorrow."

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Sam watched his brother walk back into the house.

He looked down at the burning rubble. The last time they'd had that conversation, it hadn't ended so well. Dean was more sensitive than he'd like to admit. His brother had many layers, and the more Sam scratched on the surface the more he'd reveal how deep they went. Less than a month to go and he was still finding new sides to Dean.

Sam's breath caught. He dropped to his knees. Less than thirty days left and he still hadn't found a way out.

He's said it to Bobby many times before – he couldn't lose his brother. His brain wouldn't even entertain the idea. With help from the Trickster, he'd tasted life without Dean. Tasted it and regurgitated it with a vengeance.

If everything played out the way Lilith wanted, there'd be two souls that would die on that coming day, one banished to the lower pits of Hell awaiting endless unspeakable torture, and another left to rot and suffer on earth.

Sam smashed his fists into the ground. Picked up a handful of dirt, violently chucked it into the smoldering grave. He did it till his nails were caked with soil, till the pressure made them ache and bleed.

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Dean woke to the smell of fried bacon.

He'd finally fallen sleep on the bed in the guest room. It was a decent bed and his back was thankful for it. He stood and stretched, then followed the tantalizing aromas to the kitchen.

"Hey." Dean pulled out a chair and sat at the polished oak table.

"Sleep well?" Sam placed a cup of steaming coffee in front of him.

"Like a baby. What's all this?"

"Breakfast." Sam huffed. Dean could see through the mask his brother had on and he decided he'd let it go, for now.

"Listen, I still have a funny feeling about this case--"

Sam cut him off. "I know. Look, man, how 'bout we do more research? Make sure we've covered all bases and leave later today?"

Dean took a sip of coffee, smooth, strong and sweet, the way he liked it.

"Yeah, sounds good."

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They ate breakfast in peace before they hit the books.

Sam surfed the net and scanned through old papers. EMF pulled up nothing and Dean was finally satisfied that the case was well and truly over, and the Littmans' property was clean. Not so much in the housekeeping way; dust from the attic managed to get everywhere, and there was a mounting pile of dishes from Dean's clean out of the fridge. But the job was done, the house free from ghosts.

Dean packed up while he checked in with Bobby to let them know they'd be on their way soon.

Minutes later they were in the car almost ready to go. Apparently Dean wasn't.

Sam cleared his throat, glanced over to the driver's seat.

"Okay, okay, sheesh, we're going." Dean sat up straight and placed a hand over his stomach, grimacing. "Right after I get back from the john."

Sam rolled his eyes. "Quit stalling."

"I'm not stalling, Sam. There's a limit to how much good food a man can eat on his own. You leaving me to it wasn't such a good idea – I'm cramping like a son of bitch." He grimaced again. "Seriously, dude, I gotta take care of business." Dean stepped out of the Impala.

"Thanks for the detail."

He ducked his head to eye level and grinned. "You're welcome."

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Ten minutes later, Sam stopped reading; he let the book slide from his lap onto cold leather, and glared down at his watch.

Twenty minutes in and the sun had dipped into the horizon staining the sky with blood orange hues. The moon peeked in the shadows, chasing it all away. Business or not, Dean wouldn't be gone this long. He eyed his cell phone then shook his head. He was past twitchy.

Sam got out of the car and made his way up the drive, gravel and dirt crunching under his feet. As he approached he noticed no lights and the front door gaping open.

As soon as he stepped inside he knew something was wrong. Same squidgy feeling you get when you know you've stepped in shit.

The house was cloaked in darkness with only sparse beams of light offered from the retreating sun. There was an eerie silence and a spine-chilling whirl of wind floating in mid air.

His gun was drawn as he moved cautiously through the rooms.

Sam's heart throbbed hard against his chest. Before he could register what he was doing, he was yelling Dean's name, his voice strained and desperate.

The only response came from the house. It creaked and groaned furiously, as the unnatural wind gathered around him and picked up speed.

He reached the landing and began making his way up the stairs. He may not have been able to see the entity in the house, but his gut and the hairs on the back of his neck told himthe entity could see him.

A chilling screech rang through the foyer, tense and vengeful – nothing close to a human voice, but it was a clear threat.

At the top of the stairs, something swirled and brushed past him, enough that he felt the nudge on his shoulder, and it left every hair on his neck standing.

The lights flicked violently. He was about to shout out for Dean when a hand clapped over his mouth. Dean poised a finger over his lips. "Shh." He had his shotgun —drawn and ready.

Dean slowly removed his hand from Sam's mouth.

"Dude, I hope you've washed your hands." Sam took a deep breath and searched his brother's eyes for the next move. Dean had been right all along.

"We got company," Dean stated, calm and collected, completely unfazed, an ability he'd inherited from their dad. Sam wondered if he could ever learn to be like that.

"Yeah, I gathered," Sam countered, swallowing hard. Dean gripped his shoulder and ushered him towards the stairs.

They were halfway down the stairs when wood began to splinter and shatter into pieces. A thunderous groan vibrated through the house, its frame curving inwards, sides concave like a crushed can. Then came the smell of rotten eggs. Sulphur usually meant demon, but the hiss that followed suggested otherwise. Gas snaked and ate its way through any breathable air.

The entities materialized at the top of the stairs, first one, then another, grinning maliciously.

It took only a second for a match to scrap against sandpaper, less than a second to send the Winchesters into a world of pain.

The explosion that followed turned the room into a cloud of unforgiving flames.

-----End of chapter one-----

TBC

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