SUMMARY: A ticked-off Mother Nature crashes the party, literally, when the brothers are ghosthunting at a rice plantation mansion in South Carolina. Set mid-Season 2, before the deal.
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Sam & Dean Winchester belong to Eric Kripke who entertains us each week and graciously lets us play in his sandbox when he turns out the lights and goes home for the night. (Or we sneak in when he's not looking, I'm not sure which.) Definitely for fun not profit.
RATING: T, for some minor language.
ALL FALL DOWN
The water drizzled steadily. It was the first thing Dean was aware of as he slowly returned to consciousness, each slow drip echoing loudly inside his pounding head. He frowned, trying to place the sound, figure out where he was.
He was lying on his stomach, his head turned to the side, and whatever he was lying on was as uncomfortable as hell. Of course, that described half the motel beds he'd slept on his life.
He tried moving, but a weight on his back pinned him in place.
"Get off…" His voice was rough and scratchy, and talking made him cough. He forced open his eyes, blinking slowly, and lifted his head. He grunted in pain as his head collided with something hard. "Son of a…" Dean blinked again, trying to clear both his head and his vision. He reached up with his left hand and frowned as his fingers closed around what felt like a thick piece of wood lying angled above him. What the…?
Gingerly, he pushed himself away from the wood. His confusion grew as the floor slipped and slid beneath him, but his breathing eased when the weight on his back shifted suddenly and he had more freedom to move. Dean rolled onto his side and looked up.
It was dark, but there were patches of dim light breaking through from somewhere above him. His pounding headache made it hard to think, but memories suddenly flooded back: memories of falling down the stairs, of the tree falling on the house, of the house falling on them.
"Sam!" Dean's voice suddenly found its volume. "Sammy!"
There was no answer.
"God damn it." Pushing himself up, disturbing more small pieces of wood and debris, Dean squinted around him. In the dim light, he could make out the outline of the substantial beam he had been lying under when he first came to. It was wedged at an angle between the floor and the stairs, and the more Dean stared at, the more he realized it had likely saved his life. It held up other broken beams and pieces of ceiling, keeping them off the ground and their weight off him.
Dean swallowed, also recognizing that if that one beam gave way, the whole pile was likely to come down on top of him. He moved slowly, carefully pushing away smaller pieces of debris until he could roll onto his back.
He closed his eyes, breathing heavily, a sudden memory of the front door slamming into his brother stealing his breath.
"Sammy?" There was still no response from his brother. The only sounds were the constant dripping water and his own harsh breathing. "Sam? Answer me, damn it." He turned to his right and jumped, startled by the small figure crouched beside him. "What—"
The young spirit flickered as he scuttled quickly backward.
"Wait." Dean coughed but held up his hand in a non-threatening gesture. "Don't go – unless you plan on tackling me, again. Not really up to it right now."
The little boy tilted his head, his blond hair flopping over his eyes in much the same way Sam's had when he was that age. He shook his head slowly. "You're angry with me."
"No." Dean frowned, blinking rapidly to clear his vision. "No. I-"
The boy bit his lip. "You're not mad that I ran into you…that you fell down the stairs?"
Dean snorted, which just made him cough again. "Kid, the house fell on top of us." He frowned as the spirit's eyes widened in fear. There was nothing threatening about the young spirit; if anything, he seemed afraid of Dean. He softened his tone. "Relax. All I'm saying is you knocking me on my ass kind of pales in comparison to Ma Nature's temper tantrum."
The spirit still looked skittish. "I don't understand…"
Dean sighed. "I'm just worried, okay?…About my brother." His eyes narrowed. "You got a name?"
The boy nodded slowly. "Remy. Remy Marchand DeWolfe."
"That's quite the handle." Dean coughed. "Think I'll stick with Remy. I'm Dean."
Remy nodded shyly.
Dean forced a smile. "Listen, Remy… My brother, he's around here somewhere." He scrubbed a hand over his face. "I need to know if he's okay. I need to get to him. I—"
"The tall man? He is over there." Remy turned and pointed off to Dean's right.
Dean's breathing sped up. "You've seen him? He's okay?"
Remy's blue eyes, bright even in the dim light, suddenly filled with worry. "He's sleeping."
Dean's chest tightened. "Sleeping?"
Remy nodded. "And he makes a strange noise when he breathes."
Dean exhaled suddenly. "He's breathing…"
Remy nodded again. "But it sounds like a whistle when it's broken."
Dean's eyes slid closed. That wasn't good…but at least Sam was breathing. For now, he'd hang on to that. He forced open his eyes and focused again on Remy. If the young spirit wasn't a threat, maybe he'd help. "Listen, um, I need to get to Sam…my brother. And that means I need to get out from under all this crap. But I really don't want to bring the house down on top of me. Again." He swallowed. "I'm gonna start moving stuff. You think you can tell me if I'm moving the wrong piece, if it looks like the whole thing will fall down? You think you can do that?"
Remy nodded and stood up, his spectral form moving up through the fallen beams that lay over Dean. He looked down, one piece of wood seemingly impaled through his chest, another through his leg.
Dean's eyes widened as he began moving more pieces of rubble off to the side. "Okay. That's kind of creeping me out but…gah." He bit back a yelp as he instinctively tried moving a piece of wood with his right hand. He held up his arm to a shaft of light; his wrist was badly swollen. "Son of a..."
"You are hurt?"
Dean offered the spirit a tight smile as he gingerly flexed his fingers. "A little banged up, but nothing that can't be fixed. Why don't—"
"You're making things shake."
Dean froze at Remy's warning, lifting his hand off the beam he had been about to move. "Okay, then. We'll leave that one alone."
Remy pointed to Dean's left. "If you slide under that big piece of wood, you can crawl out there." He frowned as he studied Dean carefully. "I think you can fit."
Dean hesitated, glancing up at the little boy, then nodded slowly. "I'm trusting you on this, kid." He slid cautiously under the large beam, pushed aside a few more big pieces of plaster, and suddenly he could see daylight.
Daylight. They'd been trapped in the ruined house all night. Dean sat up slowly, eyes sliding shut as a wave of dizziness washed over him.
"You whacked the back of your head. Your balance center's back there…" Sam's words echoed through his pounding head.
"Perfect." Dean swallowed, waited for the dizziness to pass, then again forced open his eyes.
The devastation was astounding. The front of the house had been crushed, the top half of the huge tree the storm had felled now lying inside the foyer, wedged against the stairs. Leaves and broken branches mixed with timber and plaster, piled throughout the entrance hall. Through the broken wall to the left of the tree, Dean could see the oak's massive root ball, tipped on its side, rising forty to fifty feet in the air.
Dean slowly stood, almost falling again as the rubble shifted and he lost his footing. He fell back against the stairs, closed his eyes, and blew out a slow breath. He growled in annoyance at the dizziness that stubbornly held him in its grip, opened his eyes, and nodded at Remy. "Thanks. Now, where's Sam?"
Remy pointed to just in front of the gap in the wall where, hours before, the front doors had stood. Dean's chest tightened again. The debris was deep and there were no visible signs of his brother.
"Sammy?" Dean's jaw clenched as he began slowly clambering over the wreckage, slipping and stumbling until he reached the spot Remy had pointed out. He turned to the boy. "Here?"
"Is he still breathing?"
Remy bent down, his flickering form disappearing briefly beneath the beams and plaster. He stood up again and nodded at Dean. "I still hear him whistling."
Dean began frantically tossing aside the detritus. "Same deal, kid. Just tell me if anything's falling on Sam, okay?"
"Yes." Remy watched intently as Dean worked, then suddenly motioned with his hand. "Move this way. You are too far away."
Dean slid across the rubble, following Remy's direction, and resumed digging, cursing the fact that his right hand was useless. "Sammy? If you can hear me, you hang in there. I'm gonna get you out." He glanced over at Remy. "Is he moving at all?"
The boy shook his head.
"Damn it." Dean worked quickly and steadily, pushing big pieces out of the way, tossing aside smaller ones. He ignored the pounding in his head, the sweat trickling down his back and the sides of his face. It was taking too long, way too long.
He moved a piece of plaster and froze; he was staring at Sam's wrist, the face of his brother's watch glowing brightly in the shadows of the rubble. The crystal was cracked, the display stopped at 5:19 p.m., the time the door must have slammed into Sam. Dean swallowed as he reached down and grabbed his brother's arm, fingers locking around the wrist in search of a pulse. It was faint and thready. He closed his eyes and, straining, he could hear the faint whistling of Sam's breath. But his brother's heart was beating and he was breathing; those were two huge steps in the right direction.
Dean gave Sam's wrist a reassuring squeeze. "You give up on me now, Sammy, I'm drop-kicking your ass all the way back to the mainland." With his brother now in sight, Dean began clearing the wreckage with renewed urgency. "Almost there. Hang on."
In little more than a minute, he'd thrown aside most of the rubble and uncovered the door that had slammed into Sam and pinned him beneath it. The end of a heavy beam had dropped onto the door's spine, between its hinges, tilting it up at an almost forty-five degree angle. That meant two things, both in Sam's favor: it had kept the full weight of the heavy slab of wood off him, and the door had sheltered Sam, shielding him from much of the falling debris.
Dean lay on his stomach to peer into the dim light underneath the door and get a better look at his brother. His breath hitched as his eyes adjusted. Sam lay on his back, his head facing Dean. Blood from a hidden gash near his hairline stained his forehead and his breathing was labored. Otherwise, like Remy had said, he looked like he was sleeping.
Dean smiled despite his worry. "If I believed in angels, kiddo, I'd say you've got one watching over you right now."
Remy frowned. "You don't believe in angels?"
Dean pushed himself to his knees and shoved aside a large piece of plaster. "I believe in things I can see." He tossed a long piece of wood off to his left as he glanced over at the young spirit. "Tell me something, why are you here?"
The little boy frowned. "I live here."
Dean's voice softened, even as he kept working. "I think you know what I mean, Remy. Why are you still here?"
Remy's lip trembled slightly. "I could not go." His form flickered, as if he was about to fade away.
"You're not gonna leave me, are you?" Dean held the spirit's gaze. They needed more answers if they were going to finish the job once he made sure Sam was okay. "You're doing a great job helping me. Why don't you stick around while I help Sammy here, huh?"
Remy stared at Dean uncertainly for a moment, then nodded slowly. "Your brother. You wouldn't leave him behind, would you?"
Dean glanced again at Remy. "No way." His eyes narrowed. "Do you have a brother?"
The boy hesitated for a moment, then nodded. "His name was Jean-Marc. He died when he was a baby." Remy smiled sadly at Dean. "But if he hadn't, I would have been a good big brother, too."
"I'm sure you would've." A groan snapped Dean's attention back to Sam, and he quickly lay down on the floor so he could make eye contact. "Sammy? You hear me?"
Sam's eyes fluttered and slowly opened.
Dean nodded encouragingly. "Just another few seconds. I'm gonna get this damn door off you." He found two short, thick pieces of wood and wedged them underneath the front edge of the door to stop it crashing down on Sam when he moved the heavy beam off its spine. Then, sliding around to the opposite side, he sat down and placed both feet on the beam. Exhaling audibly, he used his legs to shove it off to one side. "Almost there, Sam." He pushed himself up, moved back to the front side of the door, dropped to a crouch and put his shoulder under the edge. With a loud grunt, he stood slowly, lifting the door up and off his brother. Dean gave it a push and it fell backward, raising a cloud of dust as it toppled onto wreckage piled behind Sam.
Breathing heavily, Dean glanced down. Sam lay on his back, his left arm perpendicular to his body, his right flopped over his chest. His eyes slid closed again as Dean dropped to his knees beside him. "Come on, man. Wake up. I got someone here I think you wanna meet."
Sam's eyes opened, his gaze sliding toward his brother.
Dean nodded encouragingly. "That's it. All the way."
Sam's eyes stayed open but took a few long moments to focus. He frowned up at Dean, opening his mouth although no sound came out. Still, to Dean, the question was clear.
"The house fell on us." He smiled tightly as Sam's eyes widened. "I know. It could only happen to us, right?" He pressed his fingers against Sam's neck, again checking his pulse. Reassured that it remained steady, he slid his left hand over Sam's torso, unknowingly playing out the same routine his brother had done for him the previous night, but with far different results.
Sam hissed in pain as Dean slid his hand along his left side. Dean grimaced in sympathy. "You've got a busted rib here, maybe two. Definitely some movement where there shouldn't be."
The cracked bones were on Sam's left, about where the wooden beam had hit the door. Dean hauled up Sam's shirts and placed a hand gently on his brother's left side, then his right, the silence as he worked punctuated by Sam's sharp inhales.
Dean nodded as he sat back. "The good news is both lungs are expanding so I don't think you've punctured one." Sam opened his mouth to speak, but Dean cut him off. "And to make sure it stays that way, no moving around. Got it? Non-negotiable."
Sam's jaw clenched but he nodded tightly.
Dean returned the nod. "Good. You hurt anywhere else?"
Sam's eyes slid closed as he spoke, his voice raspy. "Headache."
Dean shook his head. "Yeah, congratulations on another Winchester first. You got taken out by a door. Gave you a pretty good shot to the head, by the looks of it." He frowned worriedly as he pushed Sam's hair out of the way and stared at the jagged gash that ran from the peak of his brow to just above his ear, now crusted over with dried blood. "You seeing double? Feel like you're gonna puke?"
Sam briefly moved his head. "No."
"Good. That's good." Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He shook his head at the display that read No signal. "No surprise there." He shoved the phone back into his jeans pocket, his eyes darting back and forth as he considered their next move. He glanced at the fallen door, nodded, then began quickly stacking debris behind Sam.
Sam twisted, and winced, as he tried to see what Dean was doing. "What…?"
"Hey, I said don't move." Dean stood up and began pulling the door back toward Sam. "Phone's not working, so I can't just call for help. That means we go with Plan B."
Sam scowled as he watched Dean. "Which is…what?...Put me back…under the door?"
Dean snorted. "Don't give me ideas." He wedged the door horizontally against the stacked rubble, pressing on it until it was at a forty-five degree angle with the floor. "No. Your breathing is a little off, so we need to get you sitting up. This is just a nice, solid backrest for you to lean against while I use the emergency radio in the shelter. Bill said he'd be monitoring it in case we needed help." He returned to Sam's side and crouched down. "You ready?"
Sam grimaced and shook his head. "No. Let's just go…you drive."
"Gotta find out if the causeways off this island are open first. Here—" Dean reached a hand behind his neck and yanked off his t-shirt. After folding it in half and rolling it, he placed the soft cloth lengthwise against Sam's injured ribs, then folded his brother's arm across his abdomen, holding it in place. "That should cushion your ribs a bit while I sit you up. Here we go." He slid his good arm around Sam and slowly helped him sit up. Sam inhaled sharply as he moved, but with a minimum of jostling, he was soon leaning back against the door.
Dean smiled tightly. "Better?"
Sam's arm remained curled protectively around his injured side, his breathing harsh and shallow, but he nodded curtly. "Thanks." His eyes took a long moment to open, but when they did, they widened at the sight on the massive oak lying against the stairs. "There's a tree in the house."
Dean snorted. "Nothing gets by you." He shook his head as he glanced at the fallen oak. "Took out the front of the house when it came down. Almost took us out, too." He turned and grinned at his brother. "Almost. Now sit tight. I won't be gone long. Just…"
Sam reached forward and weakly grabbed Dean's arm. "Saw…the ghost."
Dean's smile widened. "Yeah. Me, too. In fact…" He looked over Sam's shoulder to where Remy was standing. "I'd like you to meet someone. Remy, come say hi to my brother."
The young spirit, who had silently watched, fascinated, as Dean ministered to Sam, flickered, then disappeared, reappearing almost instantly at Dean's side, looking down at Sam. The younger Winchester shifted in surprise, hissing at the pain the movement caused.
Dean raised his eyebrows at the boy as he placed a comforting hand on Sam's shoulder. "Geez, kid. What's wrong with walking?" His expression softened at the look of fear on Remy's face. He shook his head as he turned to Sam. "Kid's a little jumpy, so take it easy on him, okay?"
Sam frowned at the boy staring shyly at him from behind tousled blond hair. "No."
Dean's eyes widened. "No?"
Sam swallowed, trying to find the breath to push out the words. "Not…him."
Dean canted his head, puzzled. "Not him who?"
Sam stared at Remy, his breathing still labored. "Not…spirit…I saw."
Dean's eyes widened further. "'Scuze me?"
Remy turned to Dean. "He saw Josiah."
Dean stared incredulously at the young spirit. "Jo…wait. There's two of you?" When Remy nodded, the elder Winchester scrubbed a hand over his face. "Okay then, I'll bite. Who's Josiah?"
Remy stared back at Dean, almost defiantly. "My friend."
Dean's eyes narrowed. "And he's around here, too?" Again, Remy nodded. Dean's gaze darted around the foyer. "Where? Why haven't I seen him?"
"Your brother saw him." Remy shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his black trousers, shrugging his shoulders. "He—"
Sam coughed, then groaned at the sharp pain the cough caused. He screwed his eyes closed, pressing his face against the door as he waited for the pain to subside.
Dean's attention snapped back to his brother. "Swear if it helps, Sammy. Four-letter words always make me feel better." He smiled weakly. "And remember, coughing's good for you. Keeps your lungs clear."
Sam's eyes snapped open as he looked up and scowled at his brother. "This sucks…big time."
Dean's eyebrows peaked. "Sucks, huh? Kinda grade-school as far as curses go…" He glanced at Remy, his smirk fading to a sheepish grip before muttering, "but, since we have a grade-schooler here, good call."
His attention turned back to Sam. Lying against the door, face too pale, pain deepening the lines in his forehead and around his mouth, his hulking little brother looked very small. Dean patted Sam on the shoulder, then pushed himself up, stumbling as he tried to find his footing on the piles of rubble. "Okay, I'm gonna get help." He glanced over at Remy. "Listen, I think we can help you. And this Josiah, whoever he is…help set things right. But first, I need to call in the cavalry."
Remy's eyes widened. "Soldiers?"
Dean shook his head. "Relax, kid. It's just an expression." He crouched in front of the young spirit. "Can I trust you to watch out for Sammy for me? Just for a few minutes. If his breathing sounds funny or he falls asleep, do that flicker thing of yours and come get me right away, okay? I just need to go down to the cellar for a minute."
Remy glanced from Dean to Sam and back, then nodded.
"Good." Dean, still battling his own headache, blew out a breath to steady himself and began climbing over the wreckage toward the door to the back hall that led to the root cellar. He glanced over his shoulder. "When I get back, maybe you can talk Josiah into showing up, huh? We'd like to meet him."
Sam watched his brother move over the rubble. When he disappeared into the back hallway, Sam turned his attention to Remy, who'd sat down in front of him, knees bent, arms wrapped around his long legs.
Sam smiled, fighting to control his breathing. "Remy…how old…are you?"
"What year…were you born?"
Remy's eyes narrowed, as if trying hard to remember. "Eighteen-hundred and thirty-seven."
"And you…were born here…in South Carolina?"
Remy nodded. "In this house, like my papa."
Sam winced as he shifted slightly, trying to get more comfortable and not having much success.
Remy's face crinkled worriedly. "You are in pain?" His image flickered. "I should get your brother."
Sam shook his head. "No…I'm okay." He concentrated on his breathing, on slowing it down to lessen the pressure on his injured ribs. "Who's Josiah?"
Sam's eyes widened. "And where…is he?"
Remy leaned forward, lowering his voice. "He's not supposed to be here. We're not allowed to play together anymore."
Sam studied the little boy carefully. "But you used to?"
Remy nodded. "When we were little. But now…" He shrugged. "Papa says it's not proper. Not now we're older."
Sam nodded slowly as the pieces started to click together. "But he was…in here…before."
Remy shifted uncomfortably. "He thought I was in trouble for knocking your brother down the stairs." He shook his head vehemently. "I didn't mean to. We were just playing. We play tricks on people sometimes, you know, move things around when they're not looking…but we don't hurt them."
Sam smiled tiredly. "It's okay. Dean's…just a little banged up. He's not mad." Sam closed his eyes while he regained his breath. "What were you…doing, anyway? What…was that noise?"
"We were making the thunder go away."
Sam twisted toward the new voice, biting back a cry as bone grated against bone with the movement. Flickering into sight next to Remy was the young African-American boy Sam had seen earlier on the stairs.
The boys were close in age, Josiah a little younger. They were dressed similarly, each in a white shirt and black pants, although the quality of the clothing was noticeably different. Sam also knew that, given the time of slavery in which they lived, each would have led a very different life. And that made their apparent friendship all that more remarkable.
Sam nodded at the second spirit. "Josiah?"
The little boy, slightly smaller than Remy but of a similar build, looked shyly up at the stranger while taking a step closer to Remy's side.
Screwing his eyes closed as his headache climbed another notch, Sam was quiet for a moment before turning back to the boys. "What did you mean…'making the thunder go away'?"
Remy encouraged Josiah to sit beside him. "My mama, she hates the thunder. She goes to her room every time there's a storm, pulls closed the curtains, and stays there until it is over. And so she doesn't have to hear it, I'm allowed to take one of the big tin trays from the kitchen and ride it like a sled down the stairs."
"It makes a lot of noise," Josiah offered as he sat cross-legged at Remy's side, "so Madame Collette can pretend the thunder she hears is just Remy playing on the stairs. And then she's not scared anymore."
Sam smiled at Josiah. "You do it…too?"
The younger boy hesitated, looking at Remy.
His friend grinned. "If my papa is away, we both play. We have races."
Josiah's smile returned. "You can go very fast, and sometimes we crash." He and Remy looked at each other, gave each other a playful shove, then dissolved into a fit of giggles.
Sam shook his head at the thought of these two little boys tobogganing down the main staircase of the plantation house, the tin trays banging and clattering as they clipped each stair before skidding into the wide hallway. The boys' sledding explained the "thunder" they'd been hearing inside the house.
Sam winced as he shifted, his expanding lung tormenting his broken ribs, but he couldn't help but smile at the unlikely friendship between the two spirits. Had both boys lived, one would have been destined to own the other, social and cultural mores of the day dictating they could never be friends. Yet, as spirits, their color-blind friendship, built in the innocence of youth, had lasted almost two centuries.
He opened his eyes to find both spirits staring at him worriedly.
"M'okay." Sam forced a tired smile. "You know, you tell my brother…that story, he'll…want to try it."
"What' ll I want to try?" Dean's voice came from the back of foyer as he returned from the root cellar. The two young spirits tracked him closely as he clambered over the rubble, a small duffel slung over his shoulder, blankets tucked under his arm. He winked at the smaller of the two boys. "You must be Josiah."
The little boy nodded.
Remy gave his friend a playful shove. "It's all right. He won't get you in trouble."
Dean's eyebrow quirked. "That's why you've been hiding? Because you thought you'd get in trouble?"
Josiah nodded. "I'm not supposed to be in here. I'm only allowed in the kitchen."
Dean shook his head. "Who's gonna yell at you? You're ghosts. That's kind of a trump card."
Remy shrugged. "We just wanted to play together. Most times, we play outside. Nobody bothers us there. But when there's a storm, we come inside to go sledding."
Dean sat down on the floor next to Sam. "Sledding? Inside?"
Sam's laugh turned into a painful cough. When he got his breathing back under control, he smiled up at Dean. "They toboggan…down the stairs…on tin trays. That's the banging…we heard."
Dean grinned as he took one of the folded blankets he carried and slid it under Sam's head as a pillow. "Awesome. If that big-assed tree wasn't blocking the stairs, I'd have to try that myself."
Sam looked over at the young spirits, giving them a told-you-so wink.
Dean unfolded a second blanket and draped it over his brother. "The radio Bill left down there actually worked. Got through to him, and he's gonna contact Search-and-Rescue. Early reports say flooding is minor and both causeways onto the island are good. They're not open to the public yet, but emergency vehicles can get across, so he suggests we stay put and let them come to us. Should be here in about an hour."
Sam studied his brother. Dean looked tired, was a lot paler than he should have been and, as much as he tried to disguise it, was favoring his right wrist. "How're you doing?"
Dean snorted. "Better than you."
Sam rolled his eyes. "That's…not saying much."
Worry tempered Dean's grin. "Yeah, well we need to get some drugs into you and tape up those ribs. Then you'll feel better." He glanced at Remy. "So, this sledding on the stairs. That's what you were doing when you knocked me down?"
Remy nodded slowly, and Josiah looked frightened.
Dean shook his head. "Relax, kid. Accidents happen. No harm, no foul."
Josiah leaned closed to Remy, whispering loudly, "Does that mean he's not mad?"
Dean smiled. "I'm not mad, Joe. You're not in trouble." He dug out a bottle of painkillers from the duffel and, with Sam's help, popped off the cap and dumped three into Sam's hand. He wedged a bottle of water between his arm and his side as he unscrewed the cap, then handed it to Sam, holding the bottle steady while Sam took a drink. He glanced over at the spirits, then turned back to Sam and lowered his voice. "You find out why these two are hangin' around?"
Sam shook his head. "Not yet."
Dean nodded, recapping the bottle of water when Sam was done. He placed it on the ground, then hauled up his brother's t-shirt. Sam's eyes widened, a reaction which drew a smirk from Dean. "Don't get your panties in a knot. We just need to tape you up to keep your ribs stable. You can tell me what I missed while I patch you back together."
Over the next ten minutes, Sam and Remy, with a few interjections from Josiah, brought Dean up to speed on what they had shared. At the same time, Dean applied strips of evenly spaced adhesive tape from sternum to spine down Sam's left side. He then placed Sam's left arm in a sling to keep it immobilized and prevent it from jostling his injured ribs before easing him back against the door and re-covering him with the blanket. Finally, he cleaned and dressed the gash on Sam's forehead.
Dean sat back, seemingly satisfied his brother was as comfortable as possible until help arrived, and reopened the water bottle to take a drink himself.
Sam noted Dean had grabbed a clean, dry t-shirt from his duffel in the shelter, although he still wore the same mud-stained jeans. He also squinted occasionally, a telltale sign he was still battling the effects of the previous day's head injury.
Sam picked up the bottle of painkillers lying at his side, shoving them at Dean. "Take them."
Dean scowled at his brother. Sam said nothing but simply gestured again with the pill bottle.
Dean looked for a moment as if he was going to protest, but quickly decided against it. As Sam held the pill bottle, Dean twisted off the lid. He scooped up three pills, tossed them back, then washed them down with another long drink of water. To close the pill bottle, Sam again held the container while Dean twisted on the cap.
Dean shook his head as he lobbed the pill bottle back into the duffel. "There's a bad joke in there somewhere. How many hunters does it take to close a pill bottle?" He sighed. "It's pathetic."
"Forget the…pills. " Sam gestured with his head toward the spirits. "We need to find out…about these two."
Dean stared at his brother for a moment before turning to face the two boys. "Listen, Sam and I, we're trying to figure out why you two are still hanging around here. You know you shouldn't be here, right?"
Josiah shifted guiltily but, for the first time, Remy seemed angry. "We tried to go. But Josiah couldn't… because they forgot him. And I'm not leaving him by himself." He stared defiantly at Dean. "You wouldn't leave your brother, would you? Well, I won't leave my friend."
Dean's eyes widened in admiration over Remy's protectiveness and fierce loyalty. He shifted around to face the boys. "You're a good friend, Remy. But what do you mean, they 'forgot' Josiah?"
Remy stared at the floor. "After the big storm, after I died, I saw my papa find me. I watched when they put my casket in the ground, right next to my baby brother." Arms still wrapped around his bent legs, he rested his chin on his knees. "But then they all went away. Nobody looked for Josiah."
Sam winced as he took a deep breath. "Why don't you start…from the beginning. Tell us…what happened."
Remy turned to Sam. "There was a storm, a big one, like the one that hurt you. Mama was in her room, Papa was in Charleston, so Josiah and I could both go sledding on the stairs. But then the wind got really loud and the house started to shake.
"When a storm gets bad like that, we're supposed to go to the cellar, but I wanted to make sure Mama was safe. I went to her room and told Josiah to go the cellar."
Sam looked at the smaller spirit. "So that's where you…waited for him? In the…cellar?"
Josiah shook his head. "I had to make sure my mama was safe too. She was in the summer kitchen, so I ran over there."
The brothers had studied plans of the plantation, and the summer kitchen, long since demolished, was a brick building set some distance from the main house. Dean smiled encouragingly at Josiah. "And was she there?"
Josiah's lip trembled. "I don't know. I never got there. I ran around the old overseer's cottage and there was a really loud noise…" His voice grew shaky. "The wind pushed me over…" He looked up, his large brown eyes shiny. "And then all the bricks tumbled down on top of me."
Sam felt nauseated at the thought of the little boy crushed under a pile of bricks. Dean looked equally sick.
Neither of them said anything for a long moment, then Dean cleared his throat and turned to Remy. His voice caught as he spoke. "Remy, how did you…?"
Remy looked up at Dean, suddenly seeming far older than he was, the experience of nearly two centuries as a spirit far outweighing the nine years he'd lived as a boy. "I was running down the hallway to Mama's room when the wind lifted the roof right off the house. For a moment, it felt like I was flying." He bit his lip. "I hit something really, really hard…and then suddenly I couldn't feel the wind anymore… And I didn't hurt anymore. I was just standing outside, looking at our house…only it wasn't really our house anymore. It was just a big pile of wood."
Sam's jaw clenched. During his research into the history of the plantation house, he'd discovered it had been almost destroyed twice—once by a hurricane and once by fire—and rebuilt each time. Between the painkillers and the blow to the head, he couldn't recall all the details, but he knew when the hurricane hit, the owner's son had been killed and his wife seriously injured. After their son's death, the parents had never returned to Pawley's Island. The house was slowly rebuilt over the next two years, and another branch of the family had moved in to run the plantation.
Sam glanced over at Josiah. When his head was clearer and he had his computer, he knew he would be able to dig up all kinds of information on Remy's family, but history appeared to have forgotten Josiah. In the plantation records of the storm damage, he could recall no mention of his death, only a vague, cold reference to "twenty-something slaves lost."
Dean leaned toward Remy, his voice softening. "But if you had a funeral, if your family said good-bye, you should have moved on. Gone to a better place than this."
Remy's stare turned defiant. "I told you. Josiah couldn't go. They forgot him. If I went, he'd be by himself."
Sam looked at Josiah, remembering what he'd said about his mother being in the summer kitchen. "Was your mother…part of the…kitchen staff?" The little boy nodded. Sam turned to Dean. "When the house was…destroyed, it took a couple…of years to…rebuild." Sam coughed as he struggled to catch his breath.
Dean's jaw clenched worriedly. "Take it easy, Sammy. Breathe slow." His hand stayed on his brother's shoulder until Sam's breathing evened out.
Sam nodded. "With the house gone…there would be no need for house staff... They would have been, um…sent to work at other plantation houses." Looking into Josiah's face, he couldn't bring himself to say the word "sold." "I'll bet Josiah's mother wanted to stay…to keep looking…but she wouldn't have…had any say in it."
Dean scowled. "People suck." He turned back to Josiah. "What about your dad? Your father?"
Josiah shook his head. "My papa had to go away." For the first time since they'd met him, anger burned in the young spirit's eyes. "They made him go away. Remy told them not to but they wouldn't listen."
Sam and Dean exchanged knowing glances; "go away" was just another euphemism for sold.
Sam shifted, inhaling sharply at the pain the movement caused.
Dean's expression quickly shifted from anger back to worry. "Sammy?"
"Damn it." Sam grit his teeth. "Just…moved the wrong way."
Dean frowned. "The deal was, no moving."
"It's okay." Sam peeled open his eyes and nodded at his brother. "I'm good."
Dean shook his head. "A good liar." He turned back to the young spirits, both of whom had watched the exchange between the Winchesters closely.
Remy turned to Dean, worry creasing his young face. "Sam…he will be all right?"
Dean turned back to his brother. "Well, there's a few screws loose no doctor can fix." Both spirits looked puzzled, Dean's humor not translating well over the generations. His voice softened. "Yeah. He'll be okay. I'll make sure he is." He glanced from one spirit to the other. "Listen, what if we can fix it so you can both move on?"
Josiah shook his head. "I can't go."
Dean pushed himself up, away from Sam, and crouched in front of the little boy. "Yeah, kid, you can. I think you got stuck here because, like Remy said, you were forgotten, because nobody ever found you." He smiled softly. "Once we get Sammy patched up, we'll find you. Take care of things so that when the door opens, you and Remy can both go through together."
Josiah's eyes widened. "I can go with the angels?"
Dean nodded. "You bet."
A puzzled expression crossed Remy's face. "You said you didn't believe in angels."
"Me and my big mouth," Dean muttered. He glanced over at Sam, then turned back to the young spirits. "See, I have a hard time believing in things I can't see. But if you wanna talk about angels and what's beyond the light, talk to my brother. He's the believer. But, from everything I've seen, you're both good kids. If there's any truth to this 'better place' yarn they like to spin down here, you two deserve a piece of it."
Sam nodded tiredly. "You'll be able to see…your mama and your papa again." He turned to Josiah. "And nobody…will make them…'go away.'"
Dean sat down again next to Sam, frowning as he saw his brother's eyes sliding closed. "Oh, no, Sammy. No sleeping until the docs check you out." He glanced over at the two spirits. "Listen, I need your help again. We have to keep Sam awake, so ask him anything. Anything at all. Trust me, once he gets going, he's hard to shut up."
That quip earned a giggle from the boys and a glare from Sam.
Remy leaned forward. "You had a funny box that sparkled and made noises. What was it?"
Sam smiled tiredly. "It's called an EMF meter. It tells us if somebody…like you, is… stuck here. If somebody…needs our help." He frowned. "Wait. So, you were…watching us?"
Both boys nodded. Josiah's voice was hesitant. "You scared me. I thought you were a giant, like in the story Remy told me."
Dean snorted. "Good one, Sammy. You scared the ghost." He turned to Remy. "What was the story about giants?"
Remy leaned forward. "It's called Gulliver's Travels. It's about a man who meets little people and then giants. My papa told it to me, so I told it to Josiah." He turned to Sam. "But 'til you came to our house, I didn't know giants were real."
Sam glared at Dean, who was having a hard time keeping a straight face. "I'm not a giant. I—"
"Yeah, Sammy. Actually, you are." Dean's eyes danced mischievously as he turned to the boys. "Although, personally, I think he's more of a Sasquatch."
Sam scowled, but Remy's grin widened. "What's a Sasquatch?"
"A big, hairy, smelly beast." Dean offered his brother an exaggerated grin. "Now doesn't that sound like Sammy here?"
The boys dissolved into laughter, and Sam rolled his eyes. "Oh, God… don't encourage him."
The next hour went by quickly as the brothers gathered as much information as possible from the two spirits. In turn, the young boys peppered Sam and Dean with their own questions.
Dean's head snapped toward the front of the house when he heard vehicles approaching. He pushed himself up and scrambled through the destroyed foyer to stare out the gaping hole where the front entrance had once been. A search-and-rescue vehicle and an ambulance were rumbling toward them up the long drive, swerving sporadically to avoid fallen tree branches.
He turned and grinned over at Sam. "Cavalry's here." Dean glanced at the spirits, both now flickering uncertainly. He slid back over the debris until he was in front of them. "Look, I gotta make sure Sammy's taken care of. But we're coming back here, and we're gonna make this right. You believe me?"
Remy and Josiah each glanced at the other, then nodded slowly at Dean.
"Good. Now go off and play. I promise you, we'll be back." Dean turned to Josiah and smiled. "No one's gonna forget you this time."
The next few hours were a blur for Dean. The rescue crew arrived and, at Dean's urging, quickly swarmed over Sam. In minutes, his brother was secured inside a litter, fitted with an oxygen mask and IV, and carried to the waiting ambulance.
In less than half an hour, they were back on the mainland and in the ER of Georgetown Memorial Hospital. Sam was whisked away, but when Dean tried to follow, he found himself shepherded to a treatment cubicle of his own. After a series of tests and x-rays, his wrist was bandaged securely, and the gash in his head cleaned and treated. Only then was he allowed in to see his brother.
Sam lay in the center of the room, the head of his gurney propped up to an almost forty-five degree angle. He was shirtless, a blanket pulled up to his waist and his ribs freshly taped. Butterfly bandages also held closed the cut on his forehead, and an IV in the back of his left hand pumped him full of quality painkillers.
"Hey." Dean walked up beside the gurney, frowning at Sam's deep scowl as he stared down at his hands. "Why so pissed off? You need stronger drugs? I can get a nurse to—"
Sam didn't look up. "I don't wanna be here."
Dean rolled his eyes. "It's a hospital. No one wants to be here."
Sam shot his brother a look. "I've got broken ribs. No big deal. If all I'm gonna do is lie around, I can do that back at the motel where at least I have my computer. We need to find out more about Josiah so we can—"
"Sam!" Dean said the name a little louder than he'd intended but quickly recognized his brother was building up to a full-scale rant. "Trust me. We're not sticking around here any longer than necessary, but you're not looking so hot right now. So chill."
That crack earned him a glare.
Dean shrugged. "Pull all the bitchfaces you want. You're staying put 'til the docs give you an all clear. Besides, we know exactly what needs to be done. The only thing we're not sure of is where Josiah died. He can show us but, let's face it," he held up his bandaged wrist for emphasis, "neither one of us is in any shape to dig him up right now."
"I know, I know…" Sam sighed, dropping his head back against the gurney. "It's just…Remy and Josiah have been stuck in limbo way too long. I just want to help them."
Dean nodded slowly, pulling up a stool beside his brother's gurney and sitting down. "Yeah." His expression turned thoughtful. "But what happened to them, in the grand scheme of things, maybe it wasn't such a bad thing."
Sam's eyes widened. "What happened to 'kids shouldn't be ghosts'? They died, Dean."
Dean shook his head. "You're missing my point. The way they joke around, look out for each other, they're a great team." He smiled softly. "Reminds me of someone I know.
"But the time they lived in, it wouldn't have lasted. They would never have been allowed to just hang out, be friends. And, sure, Remy probably had a pretty good life ahead of him, but what did Josiah have to look forward to? Life as a slave? And when we talked about his dad being sold, you saw the anger in his eyes. However righteous, that was gonna eat him up before he was out of his teens.
"At least as spirits, they got to play, just be kids…hang onto the friendship life would've poisoned before their voices changed."
"You're right, I know that…" Sam's jaw clenched. "But, if they'd lived, they both would have seen the Civil War, hopefully seen things start to change for the better."
"Not in their lifetime." Dean sighed. "I know what you're saying, Sam…they should have had the chance to grow up, grow old, have kids of their own. Maybe if that had happened, if each of them had had kids who were encouraged to play together, the world would be a better place today. But that's not how life works. Not in my experience, anyway. If it was, Dad would have handed you a baseball autographed by Cal Ripken when you were nine instead of a .45." He shook his head. "All the crap we see on a daily basis, all the evil, it was just nice to find two good kids who, in their own way, gave the world the finger when it told them they couldn't be friends."
Sam looked over at Dean and smiled. "Careful, your soft side's showing."
Dean scowled. "Bull. There's nothing soft about me." He stood up, pushed the stool away, and reached over the gurney rail to squeeze Sam's shoulder. "Hang tight. I'll go round up a doc, see how long it'll be before we can blow this pop stand." He cleared his throat and disappeared down the hallway.
Sam dropped his head back on the gurney, his smile widening. No, big, bad Dean Winchester didn't have a soft side. Not at all.
The brothers shook hands with Pastor Dan Matthews, who offered them a hopeful smile. "Tell Bobby I'd like to see his butt in one my pews before I hang up next year's calendar."
Dean grinned. "Can't guarantee results, but I'll pass on the message." He pushed the door closed after the pastor climbed into his Jeep. "And thanks for this."
Pastor Dan nodded. "Helping a child find peace is the only thanks I need." He turned to Sam. "As for you two…look out for each other."
Sam smiled. "We always do."
The pastor turned the key in the ignition and, with a wave of his hand, drove slowly away from the tiny cemetery.
The brothers watched him go, then turned back to the freshly filled-in grave.
It was six weeks since they'd met the two young spirits. Dean's wrist had healed quickly, as had both Winchesters' various cuts and bruises, but Sam's ribs had taken time to knit. Only now was he strong enough to take part in digging up Josiah's remains and moving them to the small cemetery in the far corner of the plantation property. Even so, Dean had insisted on doing most of the physical labor.
Josiah had shown them where the brick wall had fallen on him. Without his help, it could have taken them months to find him; the overseer's cottage, believed to be empty when the hurricane hit, had never been searched and never been rebuilt. Over the decades, tall grasses and weeds had overgrown the site, completely burying the brick rubble.
Even knowing the location, it had taken a full day's digging to unearth the small skeleton. They'd wrapped the remains in a blanket, placed them in a casket the pastor had provided, then carried him to the DeWolfe family cemetery. Josiah now shared a gravesite with Remy.
Pastor Dan, an old acquaintance of Bobby's who was well-versed in the world of hunting, joined the brothers to bless the remains and give Josiah the proper burial he'd been denied for 162 years.
After the pastor drove away, Sam returned to pick up his shovel, glancing around the cemetery. He rested his hand briefly on top of Remy's headstone before walking over to the car. Dean had the trunk open when he got there. He tossed in the shovel, then turned to look back at the boys' grave. "We should swing by the house, check that they've gone, make sure—"
"They'll be fine, Sammy. We've said our good-byes." Dean slammed the trunk shut and smiled at his brother. "Josiah's been found, buried in sacred ground with his best friend. Call it gut feeling, big brother instinct, whatever you want, but they're good now. Both of them. Remy will look out for him, like he always has. When they're ready, they'll move on."
After a final look at the cemetery, Sam smiled softly at Dean. "You liked the irony, didn't you? Burying Josiah in the DeWolfe family cemetery. They didn't want the two boys hanging out together, but now his final resting place is right beside Remy, surrounded by DeWolfes."
Dean grinned. "Let's just say, next time I hear thunder, I'd like to think it's Papa DeWolfe rolling over in his grave."
Sam shook his head as he climbed into the car.
Dean glanced back to the boys' gravesite, his smile widening as fat drops of rain fell heavily onto his face and a slight rumble was heard in the distance.
Inside the house, the two little boys tobogganed down the wide, curved staircase, oblivious to the scaffolding and cans of paint lying around as repairs continued. The tin trays the boys sat on collided near the bottom, spilling their riders onto the polished wood floor, now strewn with drop cloths. Remy and Josiah rolled easily, crashing into each and dissolving into a fit of giggles.
Remy sat up, punching Josiah affectionately in the shoulder. "Come on. It's time to go." He pushed himself to his feet, then offered his hand to the smaller boy to help him up. "Don't be scared."
Josiah glanced up the stairs, took his friend's hand and scrambled to his feet. "I'm not scared." He glanced up at the light that now glowed at the top of the stairs, and his face broke into a wide grin. "I'll race you."
Remy returned his grin. Laughing as they ran, the two boys pounded up the stairs, side by side, disappearing into the warm light.
A/N: My family is from the U.K., not the U.S. south, but a piece of this story is pulled from my family history. As a kid, I hated thunderstorms but my grandmother loved them. One day, I saw her standing in front of a big bay window watching lightning fill the sky and I asked her why she wasn't scared. It was then she told me the story of tobogganing down the stairs on tin trays. It was her mother who hated storms and so allowed her four children to 'go sledding' to drown out the noise of the thunder. Of course, that meant each of the kids absolutely loved storms because it was the only time this game was allowed. Long into adulthood, storms readily brought back those happy memories. From there on in, I understood her secret smile and had a whole different take on thunderstorms. Of course, I also ran to my mum and asked if I could try stair tobogganing but the answer was a resounding, "No." The excuse? We didn't have any tin trays!
Thanks so much for reading. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. Until next time, cheers.