A/N: It's about to get gross. Thanks for reading along - I wrote this in almost a week exactly, which is very fast for me, so any errors remaining after LdyAnne scoured it for me are all mine.

Bradley Said It's Haunted
Chapter Two

The heavy weight on top of him wouldn't relent, smothering steadily. Not for the first time that night, Sam was sure it was over for him. His limbs lost coordination and strength, and the will to fight waned as the air was pressed out of his lungs. Unnatural warmth spread through him, like his body knew it was dying and offered him what small comfort it could. He relaxed into it, stopped battling to lift his face and gulp in fresh oxygen. He grew lethargic, arms and legs like rubber. His brain went numb. The thing on top of him cooed in his ear, a tender and grotesque lullaby.

Sam faded, last thoughts turning to Dean and Dad and sorrysorrydeadsorry.

But suddenly the world shifted. No, he shifted but not by his own power, the strong arms and weight which had been slowly killing him changed tactic. He flopped loosely onto his back, the chain on his ankle rattling loudly, and part of him knew what was going on, but the bigger part of him was floating in a fog. What he did know was that he could breathe, had to. He sucked in a great lungful of the cool, musty air and immediately started coughing. His lungs burned and his muscles shook. His attacker became nursemaid, turning him on his side and patting his shoulder while he rode out the spasms.

He tried to shy away from the touch and signal it was unwanted, but he was too exhausted. He couldn't fight a kitten right now. Sam was the kitten in this situation. By the time he got the coughing under control, the thing he could only see as a huge black expanse next to him was petting his shoulder. Revitalized just enough from the intake of air into his lungs, Sam slid across the bed until his back hit the cool wall, wresting himself away from the hand (or claw or whatever). The bed dipped and rustled as the thing followed his retreat, and while seconds ago he hadn't been able to catch enough breaths now his respiration sped up wildly. He knew either could make someone pass out. He didn't want to hyperventilate, but he couldn't stop.

"The thing you can never do is panic. Keep your wits about you at all times. You hear me, Sammy?"

His dad's voice was gruff and stern in his head, somehow disapproving even as he was imparting important advice. It and many other survival tidbits had been pounded into Sam's head since he was eight, things that a kid shouldn't have to know. Sam hated that Dad was right, and was as angry to hear the mental voice as he was comforted by it. It was always that way when it came to Dad. Love and hate and admiration and loathing all smushed together into something Sam didn't understand. He only knew it made him miserable all the time. He didn't get how it was possible to love someone so much and hate him too.

His misery over simply thinking about Dad saved him. Sam was so focused on his conflicted feelings about his father that he didn't obsess about what was happening to him. Momentarily, anyway. The hand or whatever reached for him again, cupping his jaw for a second and then ruffling his hair. Whatever it was, it was cold. Chained to the wall. Stroked behind the ears. God, Sam thought he was a pet. He really was a kitten to this thing, or a puppy. He took a shaky breath and held it to keep from shouting and kicking. The feel of the pillow was still on his face, like an imprint. He couldn't go through that again, couldn't suffocate, which left him to go through this now. He thought he might go crazy while he let this thing touch him.

He had to be like Dean. Dean never lost his cool. Dean always did what Dad said and Dad was right about this, so that was what Sam had to do. No panicking. He scrunched his eyes closed as the thing rested a hand on his shoulder, and used the other one to caress along his arms, chest and legs. It was almost like it was making sure he was unharmed. His composure was going to last only as long as that hand didn't roam into more sensitive areas. It didn't, his only lucky break since it had taken him. He stayed frozen in place, taking the opportunity to regain his strength. It had already been proven he couldn't fight what was double his size, not physically. He had to either wait for Dean, or find a way out of wherever he was on his own.

The dark shape, apparently satisfied Sam was okay, got up slowly and shambled away. Unable to see, Sam tried to track it by sound. It moved about ten feet away and stopped. There were a few thumps, then the sound of trickling water. It approached him again, moaning. He'd hurt it, he remembered. It seemed like hours ago. Maybe it was. He cringed when it rejoined him on the bed. Two hands invaded his personal space again, tugging at the hem of his shirt.

Sam freaked out, punching and kicking, trying to figure out where he'd knifed it earlier and target that spot. All the fighting in the world didn't do any good. It was determined, pinning him on his back and leaning its weight back on him. Thoughts of remaining calm flew right out of Sam's head. Everything flew out of his head except trying to get away. He squirmed, arm knocking into something unyielding. Wetness on his hip, seeping through his jeans. He gasped in horror. He didn't want to know what that was.

"Shhhh," it said, pulling him upright and close. "It's okay."

"Please," Sam said. He whimpered, horrified by his own weakness. "No. Don't."

"I don't want to hurt you," it said as the grip on his arms hurt him. "You bleed. You're dirty."

There was soft dampness on Sam's face, gentle dabs against his sore chin.

"Shhh, now."

Sam stopped fighting again, though not through any conscious decision. He turned his face away from the bizarre attempt to administer aid. He was confused by it, and by the shushing. It was like the ing wanted to mother him. He didn't care. He'd rather bleed. He'd rather make it bleed some more. It had taken him and chained him to a wall in a dungeon. It wasn't good, it was evil, and he wasn't going to fall for its tricks.

The creature sighed, sour breath gusting against Sam's face. It released him, laying him gently on the reeking bed. Shuffling off, it paced the room and muttered under its breath. A brief sliver of light sliced into the room, and then everything went dark again.

Door, Sam thought. A way out. He gave it a minute before he started breathing normally again, convinced it was going to be gone for a while. He sat up, shaking again. He felt the wet spot next to him, scooting away from it. He rubbed at his chin, feeling a small gash that oozed yet. It was nothing. The faint burn in his lungs was something to be worried about, though. Near suffocation and being trapped in a damp and cold place couldn't be good. He had to get away.

Sam slid off the bed and took a step, hands out blindly. Without any light, he had to rely on his other senses. He didn't think the creature would have left him able to reach anything useful, but he had to try. It took a minute to realize he couldn't feel anything but the wall standing. He got down on all fours, crawling the scant distance the chain allowed and stretching as far as he could beyond that with his arms. His hands scrabbled for anything, but he didn't expect much. At the head of the bed and without stretching, he encountered something cold and hard. He ran his fingers along it, yanking them back when he realized it was a toilet. Judging from the dirtiness of the bed, Sam didn't want to think what he'd just touched. He sat back on his heels and wiped his hands compulsively down the front of his jeans.

The tank. The toilet tank would have something he could use. Steeling himself, Sam returned to the task, reaching for the lid. There wasn't one. All there was was a pipe and a flusher. It was an industrial-type crapper like in school, not a home one. He thought maybe if he could pull the heavy pipe free from the wall, maybe he could use it to smash the pin out, or maybe loosen the metal plate to which his chain was fixed. He tugged and yanked and tried to loosen the bolts, but nothing worked.

"Fucking A," Sam said, wiping his hands again.

He couldn't let it get him down. Dean wouldn't give up. Sam got back on his hands and knees, heading toward the foot of the bed now. Once again, he struck something. More than one something. He frowned, probing at the objects cautiously and pretending he wasn't skeeved out by filth and germs. Whatever they were, some of them were firm and some spongy and slippery. He picked up one of the hard ones, feeling along the length of it to a knob. It was a little over a foot long, and seemed sturdy. If nothing else, he could use it as a club for when the creature came back. He braced his hand on the ground and prepared to stand.

His fingers contacted something that made his hair stand on end – another hand. A cold, squishy, human, dead hand. One of its fingernails came loose. The smell hit him next, that odor which permeated his prison under all other things. Death. Sam yelped, flinging the club (bone, human bone) away as if it were on fire. He scrambled to his feet. Oh shit. Rotting flesh slimed his fingers. Sam scuttled back, vomit rising in his throat. He didn't try to stop it, aiming at first for the toilet but quickly giving up, falling back onto his knees and puking until he was sure his guts would come right out.

He kept dry heaving long after his stomach was empty, prompted mostly by the residue of decaying tissue on his hands. Sam didn't think it was ever going to wash off. There wasn't soap in the world strong enough. He squeezed his eyes shut, rested his forehead on the wood bed frame, and simply tried to forget about what just happened. Like that would happen. He coughed, a faint rattle in his chest. He was tired, and with this bout of sickness, getting weaker by the minute.

"Dean, I really need you to find me now," Sam murmured. "Please, please find me."

Because Sam knew now without a doubt he was dead otherwise. He wasn't willing to ponder why the thing was treating him nice, like a pet to coddle, if he was going to end up a pile of bones in the corner anyway. It was going to kill him, if not today then tomorrow or a month from now. He shuddered at the thought of being stuck here for that long. Dean wouldn't let that happen. Dad wouldn't let that happen. He resisted the impulse to scream for help, only because he didn't know where his captor was, it could be right outside, and the last time he'd tried that it had almost killed him.

The draftiness of the floor seeped into his bones. Sam climbed onto the bed, sitting just on the edge. He wasn't sure what to do, his mind constantly revisiting the pile of bones. He was glad now that he couldn't see anything. Knowing they were there was bad enough. Defeated weariness flowed through him, but he didn't want to sleep. He couldn't let himself do that. The thing could come back any second, and he didn't want to be off guard. For a millisecond, he thought about getting over his revulsion and taking up the big bone. A weapon was a weapon. Both Dean and Dad would do it. Sam slumped against the wall, drew his knees up and rested his forehead on them. He couldn't. Maybe Dean was right every time he teased him for being a pansy.

Sam didn't want to be the kind of person who was able to pick up a human bone without batting an eyelash. He didn't want any of this. He didn't have a choice.

He coughed again, closing his eyes just to rest for a second. They burned from throwing up, watered because he was a big baby and wanted to go home, even though home was a crappy extended stay motel. Sam wondered if Dean was freaking out, if he was getting anywhere near to figuring out what happened. He heard a faint scraping noise from outside. Lifting his head, he tilted his head and listened. It was getting closer. He moved to the edge of the bed, thinking again about grabbing for a gory weapon.

Before he could talk himself into it, intense light filled the room. Sam squinted, raising his arms to block some of it out. In a large rectangle of brightness across the way stood a massive person. He couldn't see any features, male or female, only a silhouette. It entered the room, the scraping sound coming from its right side. He didn't know what it was, watched numbly as the person tossed its burden at him.

"Hey," Sam said, grunting as he was hit by something large.

The person backed out, hunched over slightly, shutting the door and plunging the room back into darkness.

Sam's eyes hadn't had time to adjust, and the whole event left him kind of dizzy and confused. He pushed at the thing half on his lap, half on the bed. Almost instantly, he knew what it was. Who it was. A thin leather band wrapped around his fingers, a recognizable shape hanging from it. Hair with too much gel in it.

"Dean," he whispered. "Oh no."

Dean didn't move when Sam shook him. Sam shook him harder, gave up on it when the second attempt did nothing. Heart beating fast, he rose and tugged at his much-larger brother, pulling Dean all the way onto the bed and laying him out on his back. Sam was aware he was doing exactly as the monster (it was just a person) had done with him as he patted Dean down, looking for injuries he hoped were not there. No blood, that was good. He rubbed his knuckles on Dean's sternum, happy when his brother groaned. Sam ran his death-slimed fingers through Dean's hair, finding a large bump behind his left ear.

"Dean, you have to wake up," Sam said.

"Mmmph," Dean said.

Oh God, they were both going to die. Sam really needed for his brother to wake up now and tell him everything was going to be okay. He slapped Dean's cheeks gently, almost smiling when he considered if he'd done that under normal circumstances Dean would make him pay for it.

"Dean, wake up now," Sam ordered, wishing his voice were deeper and that he didn't sound so damn scared.

"Mmm," Dean said again. He shifted, arms jerking a little. "What?"

"Dean." Sam shook his brother's shoulder harder, but tried not to jostle him too much. "You awake?"

"Sam? Is that you? I can't see." Dean raised his shoulders off the bed, then sagged back.

"It's dark. There aren't any lights."

"Hey, it is you. Looks like I found you."

Sam wanted to be reassured by that the way Dean always reassured him, but he wasn't. Especially when Dean passed out.

&-&-&

There were mosquitoes buzzing in both his ears. Annoyed, Dean shook his head to get rid of them. It was a mistake. His whole skull and its insides seemed to turn into a ball of fire and ice and pain. He clutched at his temples with both hands and groaned. He wanted the number of the truck that plowed him over. He didn't even remember seeing headlights.

"Dean?"

Sam. Sammy. Dean still didn't remember the truck, but he remembered why he'd been standing in the middle of the proverbial road. He opened his eyes, expecting to see his little brother's face real close by. Instead, he saw nothing. It made his heart beat faster, which in turn made the pain in his head even worse. He bit back a moan. This wasn't good. This was very not good.

"Sammy, where are we?" Dean said. "Why can't I see?"

"I don't know where we are," Sam said in a quiet, shaky monotone. He gave a wet cough. "I don't think we could be very far from the house, though. There aren't any lights in here. You might start seeing shadows and dark shapes soon. Cracks around the door."

"Oh."

Dean pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to get his brain up to speed. He figured he had a concussion, which was a problem but not the end of the world. He kind of wanted to puke. He gave a moment to quelling that urge. Wasn't easy, because wherever here was, it stank like dead things. He eased himself up, cautiously easing himself so he sat with his back to the wall. Oh damn it, if he felt this awful, he could only imagine how Sam was. The dark was kind to his aching head, but he wanted lights to see his brother with his own eyes.

"You okay, Sammy?"

"I'm all right."

Same subdued tone, and Dean had called Sam Sammy twice in a row without rebuke. Something was up. He might be addled beyond belief, but Dean knew for a fact when his brother was experiencing something bad. Sam was a terrible liar, one of those skill sets Dad wanted him to work on. They couldn't roll into a town if Sam was going to give them away to the wrong person. Someday Dean would have to show him the ropes, get him up to Winchester speed with the lying. Some day, maybe little Sammy would out-lie them all.

Considering the circumstances, though, Dean was willing to let it slide. He knew Sam would tell him if there was something seriously wrong. Something more serious than getting abducted and tossed into a dark prison cell, that was. At the moment, all he could think about their situation was that they were screwed. Closing his eyes, he let his head fall to the side and rest against the wall. The pressure against the lump behind his ear hurt, but the coolness soothed the throbbing just long enough for him to remember the blood covering the cellar door's handle. He pulled away from the wall.

"I found blood. Be straight with me, kid – are you hurt?"

He hadn't realized Sam wasn't on the bed with him until he heard a metallic scraping sound and felt the rank mattress dip a little. Sam fumbled a bit, hands bumping into Dean's knee and shoulder while he situated himself right next to him. Dean could feel the way the kid trembled.

"It wasn't my blood."

"Way to go, Sam," Dean said, knowing full well his brother wouldn't exactly appreciate the praise. Sam never seemed excited to hunt.

"Didn't help much. I … I tried to fight it, Dean, I really did, but it was so much bigger than me. No matter what I did, I couldn't, I couldn't…"

Sam shivered against him, huddling himself tighter. Dean didn't understand a whole lot at the moment, but he got that. He understood Sam needed a second to pull it together. He sat there without saying anything, trying not to think about his scrawny brother trying to fight something twice his size. Maybe bigger. There was only so much a person could do when outweighed like that, despite all the training they had.

"I'm here now," Dean said at last. "It'll be two against one. Did you see it at all?"

Sam hesitated.

"No, but it talked to me some. It touch … Dean, I think it's just a person," Sam said. "A really strong person."

Dean stiffened. He didn't like the way Sam had said really strong or the way he kept trailing off just when it sounded like important stuff was going to come out. His headache and the fact he was taken down easily was proof of how strong the thing was. Maybe now wasn't the time to make Sam relive his ordeal in detail, but Dean would get it out of him eventually.

After he killed the son of a bitch that had taken his brother and made him so scared he could barely talk straight. So help him, if that thing had laid one pervy hand on his brother, it was beyond dead.

"Anything else? Like what this fine fellow wants with us?"

Sam emitted a near hysterical laugh.

Oh, that was not good. Sam was many things. Irritating, whiny, mopey and too damned smart for his own good, but one thing Sam wasn't was one to freak out at the drop of a hat. He didn't panic. He wasn't Mr. Stoic like Dad, but he kept a rein on his emotions, for the most part. That he was still shaken after a few minutes was a bad sign.

"Sam, spit it out."

"I think we're either pets or..."

Sam squirmed next to him, and there was a corresponding clank and rattle. Dean frowned. That sound was familiar, not in a good way. Rather than trying to get it out of Sam, Dean gingerly moved, reaching his left hand out to grab Sam's arms one at a time. Finding nothing, he moved to the legs. His frown deepened when his fingers hit hard, sturdy metal. He traced it, feeling it circle Sam's ankle, found the thick chain and followed it to a secure plate.

"Sam, are you shackled to the fucking wall?"

"Yeah," Sam said miserably. "I can't get it off."

Dean knew he had probably tried everything. He gave Sam's ankle a pat. It wasn't anything like the assurance Sam needed, or he needed himself.

"I think we're pets or worse, Dean. Th-there are bones and b-bodies over there. People die in here. I think a lot of them. We might be dinner."

The smell. The horrible, now-he-recognized-it stench of decay that he had noticed immediately now became even more apparent. Dean understood why Sam was so freaked out, though somehow suspected this was still only part of it. He and Sam had been separated for a short while, but that time had apparently been packed full of terrible, unspeakable things for Sam. Oh yeah, something was dying tonight. There was no just about this person. It wasn't human like they were; it was evil like any supernatural thing. Maybe even more evil.

"I'm nobody's dinner," Dean announced, putting as much bravado behind it as he could. "Neither are you. We're getting out of here. Maybe you're chained, but I'm not. Thing probably thought I was going to stay unconscious longer. I'll get us out of this, Sam."

"I know you will." No hesitation in that response. Sam straightened his shoulders, so that he pressed into Dean. He still trembled slightly, but it was from cold, not fear. "I looked for something to loosen the pin, but I couldn't get very far from the bed. Maybe you can find something where I couldn't reach."

Forgetting Sam couldn't see him, he nodded. His head protested, and for a moment it felt as though a spike were being driven through his skull. Dean clenched his jaw, trying not to let his pain be obvious. The last thing Sam needed was to worry about him. His brother's clammy fingers grabbing at his wrist told him no amount of faking it was going to work. Sam knew him pretty well, which was disconcerting and yet encouraging.

"It's just a headache," Dean said. "No big deal."

Yeah, except he knew if there were lights in their prison he would be seeing two of everything. Another reason it was better to be in the dark, he decided. As if the pile of bones and flesh Sam had apparently had an up close and personal encounter with wasn't reason enough. He didn't need to know one single thing more about who had them.

"Right," Sam said.

Dean figured they didn't have much time. He wasn't sure how long he'd been out, thought it couldn't have been more than a few minutes. Sam hadn't said it in so many words, but from the way he spoke, it made Dean believe he'd spent one-on-one time with their captor. His mind conjured up many unpleasant possibilities on what had gone down. He frowned. In any case, it didn't seem likely the guy was going to leave them alone for long. He had to get past the brutal, sharp pains in his head and the corresponding nausea, for both his and Sam's sakes.

"The door's straight across from the bed. I think there might be a sink next to it." Sam stood, taking Dean's left arm and pointing with it to help give an idea of direction. "There's a toilet that way. I thought I could use something from it, but I couldn't get the pipe free. The bodies are over there. And I puked somewhere really close to the bed."

Gross. Understandable, but gross.

"Okay."

Most of that information was pretty helpful. For as unenthusiastic as he was about hunting in general, Sam was resourceful and had an eye for details. Even in the dark. Dean bumped his brother gently on the shoulder before setting off in the direction of the toilet. He found the wall, running his right hand along it to keep himself steady. He'd take a loop around the room and see what his hands could find. He moved carefully, but quickly, knowing every second could count. He expected the door to burst open any second. He didn't like leaving Sam undefended.

The room seemed mostly empty. He didn't run into anything, and all his fingers picked up was wetness and dirt along the first two walls. Partially through the third, when he thought he was across the room from Sam, Dean finally found something. Running his hands along it, he guessed it was a small table, about waist high. There were no drawers or cupboards. He might be able to bust off the legs, but they wouldn't do jack to help get Sammy free. On top of the table there was a basin of water. His hands shook in his haste, knocking it over onto the floor.

"Found the sink," he muttered over to Sam.

That meant he was near the door. Dean got moving again, sliding his hands along uneven stonework until they contacted a wood frame and a flat expanse. It was sturdy. There was no handle, though it seemed there used to be. A flat metal panel was there instead. He didn't expect an easy way out, but it still sucked. Thin draughts of air came in through the small spaces between frame and door, but not much. Pressing his ear against the door, he listened for movement outside. He heard faint thumping sounds, and a voice too muffled to make out. His heart beat faster. If he could hear them, they could hear him and Sam.

"Door's one way."

Sam remained silent, but his chain rattled a little. Dean took a deep breath, stepped away from the door. It was only a matter of a few steps before he got to the bones that unnerved Sam. He didn't blame the kid. It took a sick freak to not even bother burying the remains. As he was thinking about it, his foot contacted something that didn't yield for a moment, then snapped and part of it rolled away.

"Oh God," Sam said. He sounded ill. "That was a head, wasn't it?"

"Probably," Dean said, not sounding like the picture of health himself. Human skull soccer was not an approved extracurricular activity. "Don't think about it."

Sam choked out a whimper.

Sam hadn't been wrong. It was a pile. Dean took his own advice. He didn't want to think of how many people had been chained up in here, didn't have any hope at all that any had gotten out alive. He and Sam were going to break that trend. He let go of the wall, using his right foot to gauge where there were bones and bodies, shuffling around back toward Sam. His journey had given them squat to work with, but that didn't have to mean rolling over and giving up. He bumped into his brother, and his kneecap hit the edge of the bed frame.

He sank down on it, resting his elbows on his knees. Leaning, he allowed himself a second to cradle his aching head. The journey around the room had accomplished nothing but loss of time they needed. Beside him, Sam sniffled and coughed. Dean frowned. He had to think. If his head would stop hurting for one minute, he would think of somethi … something obvious.

"Damn it," he said.

"Dean?"

Jamming his hands into his coat pockets, Dean fished around in the rock salt until he claimed his prize. It should have been the first thing he thought of when he found that shackle around Sam's ankle. He pulled out the switchblade, hand shaking slightly. He crouched, feeling around until he found his brother's foot. He flicked the blade open and set to work.

"The knife. I had this the whole time. I'm an idiot."

"You got your head bashed in, Dean. You're not an idiot," Sam said softly. "The guy who has us is dumb for not checking for a weapon. Besides, you thought of it eventually anyway."

Dean paused, turning to glance at Sam even though he couldn't see anything more than indistinct shapes. Dad would probably have agreed with his self-assessment with no lenience given for a head injury. He didn't deserve Sam's reassurance, but he had to admit it made him feel better. For all of five seconds. What a sorry sack he was, wasting time feeling good. He pursed his lips and returned his concentration to the shackle's pin. Doing it blind wasn't that challenging, except he nicked his fingers a couple times. The scratches were a small price to pay for the success of the pin falling with a resounding clatter.

"Yes," Dean hissed.

Sam's hands butted his out of the way, releasing the shackle as if it had been causing him pain. Dean doubted there was any physical injury associated with the manacle. He dodged out of the way when Sam swung his legs rapidly.

"Sorry," Sam whispered.

"It's okay. I get it." He'd want to move freely too, if he'd been restricted like that. "We gotta be ready when he comes back in. There's a table by the door. I can bust its legs off to use as weapons."

"No. That'll make noise. He'll hear it." Sam took a step from him. "You've got the knife. We can … we can use some of t-the bones. I was gonna before."

Ew. Smart, but ew.

"Yeah, a femur might make a good bat," Dean said. "We stand on either side of the door and jump him when he comes in."

"Okay."

Dean moved toward the bones, not looking forward to feeling around for a suitable weapon. The closer he got, the worse it smelled. His stomach roiled from the odor, and along with the barely contained nausea from the head injury he thought for sure he was going to toss his cookies.

"Oh, this is gonna be disgusting."

"Yes, it is," Sam told him, voice hollow and knowing.

His foot hit bone, so he crouched and extended his hands. Dean forced himself to stay on task when the first thing he touched was malleable and slick, but he couldn't stop the gagging. He heard Sam retch too. He also heard something else. He stopped searching, fumbling instead for Sam. The thumps he had heard earlier from outside were getting louder, closer. It was now or never.

"If you see an opening, Sammy, you run," Dean ordered, ignoring the revulsion to grab for a suitable weapon and getting lucky. He handed it to his brother and searched for another. "Run as fast as you can."

"Dean, I changed my mind," Sam said with resolve. "If you think I'm leaving you here, you are a huge idiot."

&-&-&

Sam's heart felt like it was in his throat. He'd known it was only a matter of time before the guy came back, and he felt better now that Dean was here and his leg was free. But still, there was this intense, almost paralyzing fear that wanted to take over his whole body. Thinking about how he'd been treated before, tenderly even as he was being smothered, didn't help; it still confused him. He grasped the femur with both hands, wildly hoping whomever it belonged to hadn't had bone cancer or osteoporosis or something. It was an insane thing to think.

"You aim low, Sam, and I'll aim high," Dean said, displeasure at Sam's refusal to run clear in his tone.

Dean wouldn't just aim high. He'd aim for the jugular with the switchblade. As much as part of him wanted that, Sam couldn't keep from thinking how this was a human being they were about to ambush.

"It's a person," he whispered.

"Yeah, I know. That's a technicality."

"When we can, we both run."

There wasn't time for a debate. Sam heard the door handle grate, a soft metal-on-metal clicking that served as a head's up. He shivered and bit back a cough, his arms and legs trembling. It was just his luck, getting sick so fast. He knew if Dean hadn't been put in here with him he probably wouldn't have made a great pet for very long. Didn't matter. He didn't know why he was thinking about all this, when he should be thinking about saving himself and Dean.

The room flooded with light, and thinking became something Sam couldn't afford to do. He couldn't see very well, but he swung with all his might at the enormous, hairy person towering in the doorway. He aimed low because that was where he reached on the guy, arms jolting from the strength of the hit on a wide thigh. Something cuffed him on the side of the head, hard enough for his vision to gray but not go out. He grunted.

It was like he was in a tornado. Too much going on all at once. Sam didn't know which way was up. He only knew down was where his feet were. Eyes tearing from the light, he blinked them away and started to be able to see. Dean was there, knife and bone in both hands. He watched as the guy – Sam couldn't make out its appearance, it was still a dark mass – flung his brother aside like he weighed ten pounds. There was no tenderness in this monster; that had all been part of its sick game. He heard Dean moan, and that did it.

"No," Sam shouted.

Sam swung and swung, landing only one hit in three. Dean was next to him again, and they were getting the upper hand much easier than he'd thought possible. The guy went down on his knees, lashing out. The air whooshed out of Sam's lungs, and only then did he realize he'd taken a strong hit and was sprawled on his back. He tried to suck in air and couldn't, flopping about. His head tipped to the side. A partially decayed face stared back at him. Its eyes were cloudy, features soft and feminine. Brown, dull hair. Sam convulsed, unable to breathe or puke and needing to do both so bad.

"Sammy," he heard Dean say angrily.

His lungs unlocked at last, allowing him to wheeze. Sam clutched at his chest, gasping and gagging. Twice tonight he'd felt himself suffocating. It sucked. Buzzing in his ears. He coughed and scrambled to his feet. He'd lost his weapon somewhere, couldn't get another. Not with that woman there, looking at him. Dean went flying again, back hitting the corner of the table. He crumpled to his side and lay there, stunned. Sam lurched forward, not fast enough. The guy grabbed Dean and picked him up with one hand wrapped around his throat.

"Run, Sam," Dean choked out.

Sam did run. He ran straight for the behemoth that had his brother, jumping on his back. He was too weak and he knew it. On a good day he would have been useless. Through the mass of smelly hair, Sam saw Dean's face. He hooked an arm around the guy's throat, yanked at his hair with one hand. The monster pretending to be human howled, reaching back for Sam. It gave Dean a chance to use the knife.

The guy fell to his knees, letting go of Dean, whose gasps came harsh and fast. He tipped forward, dumping Sam off his back. He held its stomach, but didn't go down all the way.

Sam knew he … it was only temporarily stunned. He also knew neither he or Dean had the power to fight anymore. They had to go while they could. Get out, get help.

"Run, Sam," Dean said again, as if reading his mind.

"I will if you will," Sam said shakily, holding out a hand.

Dean took the help to his feet, where he wavered for a second. Actually, Sam wasn't sure they weren't in the middle of a bizarre Midwestern earthquake, because he wasn't steady himself. They ran a wobbly, crooked path out of their prison. Barely sparing a glance around, Sam still noted the filth of the outer room. The walls out here were stone. There were no windows. Handmade, crude furniture. A baby's crib. Didn't care. Door.

They were almost there when he heard it, a low crooning. Sam nearly tripped Dean up when he froze in fear. He knew that sound. Dean towed him forward, but he turned and looked for the source of the sound. Two of them, Dean, he said, only he didn't. He couldn't speak for the lump in his throat. It was too late to try again. Dean pulled him toward the door, but something stronger pulled him the other direction.

"Dean," he said.

"Shhh," the thing said in his ear. "Stay here."

Sam got over his fear. Dean was with him. His brother wouldn't let this thing have him. He thrashed, kicking once before he was hugged too close to move, trapped in place. Panting, he looked for Dean and let out a pathetic cry. It was going to squeeze him to death. Again.

"Hands off," Dean said, drawing a fist back.

Suddenly Sam was on his knees and he could breathe again. He laughed, couldn't seem to stop. He shook, stared up at Dean shaking his hand as if it hurt and looking back at him with a glazed and unsettled expression on his face. Sam turned to look at what had grabbed him, a slightly smaller version of the thing that was bound to recover any second and come for them. Female. She was laid out, unconscious. There was a large, brownish stain on her torso from where he'd stabbed her. Good.

"Sam, we have got to go." Dean got him to his feet. "Come on."

They ran, the door leading up a rough set of stone steps until they were above ground and in the woods somewhere. Sam looked back once, trying to get his bearings, but Dean moved relentlessly forward. There was a light somewhere near, the sky a hazy orange to the east. Morning. It had only been hours, felt like days. Forever. He and Dean moved faster than either of them should have been able to, bursting out of the cluster of trees into a clearing. They couldn't have been more than a hundred feet from the Peabody house. So close, and no one in town seemed to know what monsters were right next door.

"Bradley said it's haunted," Dean gasped.

"Fuck Brad Hoffstedler," Sam said. "I hate that kid."

Dean laughed.

Behind them, something crashed through the trees. Without speaking, they picked up their pace again. Sam had a feeling if they could make it off the property and into the open, they'd be okay. Alive, anyway. His lungs burned and ached and he knew the only reason he was still on his feet was adrenaline. He no longer heard anything chasing them, but when he'd first been taken he hadn't heard a thing. It, both things, could be standing next to them now. He turned his head as they hustled to the end of the driveway and into civilization.

There was nothing on the road behind them. Sam's legs nearly buckled with relief. He couldn't let weariness win yet. They had to make it back home first. He peered at Dean, who looked terrible and wonderful. He'd never tell Dean that. Dean didn't want to hear that, but Sam couldn't help it. He had almost died tonight and his brother saved him, like Sam knew he would. He trotted next to Dean, semi-aware they were weaving all over the place, semi-aware of everything. He was foggy again, so tired. Just move, keep moving. Don't think.

He blinked bewilderedly when Dean stopped him, taking a minute or two to see they were at the hotel. Sam felt in his pockets. He didn't remember if he had the key or if Dean did. Either way, the door opened and he went inside, falling onto a bed more than sitting. Dean patted him down, looking for injuries. Too tired to argue, Sam let him. He coughed every time he breathed too deeply.

"You okay, Sam?" Dean asked worriedly.

"Tired. I'm just tired. What about you?"

"Tired too." Dean wandered off.

Sam heard Dean puking in the bathroom. He walked over, grabbing a washcloth and running cold water on it. He knew Dean would tell him to bug off, but he folded and pressed the cloth on the back of his brother's neck anyway. Dean only reached up and took it from him, still hunched over the toilet but not throwing up anymore.

"You should go to the hospital," Sam said, because someone had to be the voice of reason.

"Like hell. Dad's already gonna kill us for letting those things live."

"We didn't let them live." The protest was instantaneous and Sam wasn't sure why. "We saved ourselves. A regular dad would be happy about that."

"Dad's not a regular dad."

Sam knew that. Oh, he knew it. He went back to the bed and sat, deciding whether or not to take off his shoes. Not. He lay down and closed his eyes, slipping into half-sleep. Visions of that dead woman danced in his head. The smell of rot was still in his nose. His lungs hurt as if they were starved of oxygen.

Dean flushed the toilet and followed him. He sat on the bed next to Sam. The washcloth, now warm, swiped at Sam's chin.

"You shouldn't need stitches." Dean put a hand on Sam's forehead. "I think you've got a fever."

"Good," he murmured. "And I think I caught a cold."

Dean muttered something about pneumonia and something else about taking the shotgun out there and ending those people.

"Police," Sam said.

"Yeah, the human monsters get police treatment. Time to make an anonymous tip," Dean said. "I don't get people."

Sam dimly heard Dean pick up the phone and call in a report of something awful at the Peabody place and explain it wasn't a prank, to look in the grove to the south of the house. It took a long time to convince the person on the other end of the line to send a car or three out there, and even in his semiconscious state Sam couldn't blame them. No one expected a haunted house to actually possess evil. No one believed in spooks and monsters until they saw them for themselves. He could hear the thing cooing in his ear as if it were happening that second. He turned on his side, curling into a ball.

"Stop thinking about it, Sam, or you'll never sleep," Dean mumbled, off the phone now.

It was apparently that easy, because the next thing Sam knew the room was dark again. He groaned and turned onto his back, aches that he hadn't felt yesterday now there big time. His lungs felt tight, uncomfortable. He looked at the clock. It was five till five. PM. He squinted at the other bed, seeing Dean there and relaxing … until he remembered the blow his brother had taken. Imagining intercranial bleeding and swelling and comas and subdural hematomas, Sam launched himself off the bed, his own aches and pains forgotten. He grabbed Dean's shoulder and shook it.

"Dean, get up. Dean," he said.

"Mm, go away," Dean groaned. "Leave me alone."

"Not until you wake up."

"Fine." Dean opened his eyes, glaring at him. "What time's it?"

"Five. We slept all day."

Sam clicked on the lamp. His stomach growled. The diet would start tomorrow. He turned on the TV, habit more than any real desire to watch. Plus, it would distract Dean so he could grab the first shower. They stank like dirt and death. The tones of a news broadcast filled the room, and two serious and overly-made up people appeared on the screen.

"Up first tonight – horror in a small town. Earlier today, the police department in Fairmont, located near the Iowa border, received an anonymous call regarding a local legend. Rumors of ghosts at an old farm home near the edge of town were common for this community, but no one could have ever anticipated what police uncovered when investigating what they thought was a simple Halloween prank call."

Sam swallowed. He didn't need to hear the rest. He knew what was out there. He fumbled with the remote, trying to turn it off. Dean took it from him and turned up the volume instead. All Sam could see was the pile of bones and flesh as the anchorwoman tossed the story to an on-site reporter. He closed his eyes.

"Thank you, Leah," a grim, deep-voiced man said. "I'm standing right now outside what is locally known as the Peabody House, where this morning the remains of at least thirty people were found in an underground structure believed to have been at one time an icehouse now converted into some kind of dwelling. The remains were reportedly in various states of decay and included children. No one alive was found, but I've been told based on evidence collected police believe at least two people, possibly a family, lived in the dwelling and were likely responsible for the murders."

"Ron, do we know yet who the victims might be? In a town the size of Fairmont, surely someone would notice that many people were missing," Leah asked.

"Police are not willing to speculate at this time, though there are already rumors that Peabody House was a frequent stop for transients. It could very well be the victims sought a place for shelter, and paid for it with their lives."

"This is truly terrible," Leah said with practiced gravity.

At that, Dean did turn off the TV.

"Shit," Dean said.

"They got away," Sam whispered. He looked at Dean, fighting the urge to cry. "They got away."

Sam swore the tightness in his chest wasn't from illness, but from the monster hugging him close and never letting go.