Authors – Silverspoon and WelshWitch1011
Authors' Note – This fic is in response to a request by CasRyan. We hope you like it!
To submit your own fic request, please use the form supplied on our blog. We are currently working our way through other fic requests we have received, and hope to have them posted soon.
House of Spirits
For almost two hundred years the residents of Plenty, Iowa had lived in fear of the house at Jaeger's Farm.
Built by one of the town's wealthiest land owners, the old farmhouse instilled an immediate sense of awe and trepidation in those who passed by. Rumours of Mr. Jaeger's raging temper and alcohol fuelled attacks on his wife and the staff that worked his land, spread like wild fire through the town. Over time, stories of devil worship and black magic were quickly and efficiently interwoven with the truth.
Consequently, when the family relocated to Boston not long before the Great War, the property lay empty for almost a decade, until in 1920 the house and all 190 acres were sold at auction.
Matthew Child was a man adept at working the land, and within a year of purchasing the farm had transformed it into a thriving business. His wife had died recently as a result of the flu epidemic that had swept their hometown, which had also struck down their only daughter, Grace. The couple's daughter had made a full if not lengthy recovery, after which Matthew had decided that they should start over in a place where the painful memories of his beloved wife were not quite so many.
Whilst Matthew threw himself into his work and his constant quest to improve the farm, his daughter seemed to sink deeper and deeper into depression, until Matthew's fears for her sanity were thought quite justified by many. When Matthew Child succumbed to an unexpected stroke several years after their arrival in Plenty, Grace locked herself away in the farmhouse for several weeks whilst her father's legacy dissolved into ruin around her.
With the farm failing and the house falling into disrepair, the arrival of a stranger in town injected new life not merely into the farm at which he found employment, but also into the heart of a besotted Grace.
Within a month of meeting, Jackson Carter and Grace Child were married, and barely nine months later they welcomed twin daughters.
Glancing up from the steering wheel, Dean Winchester raised an expectant eyebrow and glanced down at his girlfriend, "Then what? I'm guessing it wasn't a happy ending."
Jo frowned, her brow furrowed as she continued to read aloud from the history journals they had borrowed from the town historian.
"The farm flourished under their joint care, and the mental anguish that had plagued Mrs. Carter during her adolescence appeared lifted. However, their happiness was only to prove temporary..."
"Isn't it always in these things?" Dean remarked wryly, keeping a watchful eye on the road ahead as he sought out the turning that would lead them up toward the farm.
Jo smiled briefly, her expression falling as she clucked sympathetically and read on, "...as only seven years into their marriage, Jackson was killed in a farming accident, plunging Grace into a fit of depression. In an act of lunacy, she started a fire in the nursery, and the resulting blaze would not only engulf the upper floor of the house, but would claim her life, the lives of both Carter girls, and several members of staff."
"Nice," Dean nodded, drumming his fingers along to the music currently playing on the radio, "this place is gonna be a supernatural smorgasbord. Devil worship, sudden deaths, tragic accidents, fires... the crazy lady in the attic thing. I mean seriously, sweetheart, this is one unlucky house."
"And it can be yours for the bargain price of three hundred and fifty thousand dollars," Jo quipped, flicking through the brochure they had picked up from the realtor.
"Tempting," Dean replied, grinning from ear to ear as he turned the Impala up the slightly inclined dirt track that led towards Jaeger Farm.
"You kidding me?" Jo said, pulling her hair into a ponytail and checking her reflection in the mirror, "the last two couples to live in this house were found dead under mysterious circumstances, and no less than five previous occupants have fled claiming they were being plagued by malevolent forces."
"Your point being?" Dean queried, shooting Jo a glance before returning his attention to the three storey Victorian farmhouse that suddenly loomed on the horizon.
"This is like my dream house..." Jo finished with a chuckle, which trailed off abruptly as the hunter's gaze befell the property.
The farmhouse was both beautiful and foreboding, with its forest green wooden window frames, and a sprawling porch that encircled most of the front half of the house. The windows were high and narrow, and although they were numerous on the first two floors, the topmost level contained one vast frame that seemed to dominate the entire building. Jo squinted against the brilliant morning sunshine as a swirling figure flickered in and out of focus, peering out from the window.
Jo tugged at Dean's sleeve and motioned to the window, blinking rapidly as she noted that the figure had disappeared from view completely now.
"What?" Dean gazed expectantly at his girlfriend, watching as her expression shifted from one of shock to utter confusion.
"I don't know," Jo replied with a shrug, exiting the car as she reasoned that the chances of a ghost putting in an appearance upon their arrival were slim, "probably nothing."
"You getting spooked already?" Dean teased, closing the car door behind him as he hoisted out a gym bag filled with ghost busting supplies and various snack foods.
"Shut up," Jo rolled her eyes, snatching up two sleeping bags from the back seat before the couple wandered up toward the front porch and came to a stop before the front door.
Removing a small, metal tool from his pocket, Dean efficiently dispatched with the lock, throwing open the door with a wink and a flourish.
"Ladies first," he said with a smirk, gesturing for Jo to cross the threshold ahead of him.
Jo shrugged and stepped through the doorway, sweeping her gaze around the large and arguably impressive hall. An imposing, staircase curved around the wall to her left, with the living room, dining room and what she assumed to be a kitchen leading off toward the back of the house. A formal parlor room was at her right, with gauzy, billowing drapes blowing steadily in the breeze.
The chiming of a clock caught both their attention, and the couple simultaneously grimaced at the sight of the enormous upright clock that dominated the hall.
"Why do haunted houses always have those things?" Dean groused, removing his phone from his pocket as it vibrated furiously against his leg. After skimming the message, he flipped the phone closed and shoved it back into his pocket.
"Sammy says thanks for leaving the soup," he relayed, his thoughts drifting to his younger brother, who was currently laid up in bed with chicken pox; an ailment he had managed to avoid as a child.
Jo grinned and slid her bag from her shoulder and onto the floor, imagining Sam in his current state, slathered in camomile lotion and tucked up miserably in bed at Bobby's house. She failed to respond however, preoccupied with examining the farmhouse, which once upon a time had undoubtedly been a magnificent home.
"So where do you want to set up the equipment?" Jo queried, directing a glance at Dean, who folded his arms across his chest and adopted his 'all business' stance.
Since Dean had undoubtedly gained the most experience with spirits and hauntings in the past, they had decided between themselves with minimal squabbling that it would be best for him to head up the investigation. Although Jo was aware of her own capabilities, she realised that any information she had compiled in her years of hunting paled in comparison to Dean's knowledge, most of which had been drummed into him from an early age. Despite the fact that Jo had been raised by hunters, her parents had always been careful to keep cases private, and so the little knowledge she had possessed before striking out as a hunter had been wheedled from reluctant older hunters at the roadhouse.
"Parlour looks like it would make a good base," Dean observed, peering around the threshold of the room and nodding in satisfaction. "We should probably try stay away from the upper level, just in case the boards are rotten."
"I guess this place has been lacking in a little TLC," Jo agreed, coughing as Dean playfully blew a cloud of dust mounded on the banister into her face.
"When did you say the last couple were found dead?" asked Dean, slipping the EMF metre from his pocket and beginning to pace the hallway with it. The needle skittered a little and the machine whined, signifying that spirit activity had taken place at the house at some point in time.
"A little over five years ago," she stated, rubbing at her nose as the dust irritated her skin. "Since then, the sightings have been made mostly by the local sheriff's office or kids breaking in to throw parties."
"Five years?" he repeated in disbelief, "this place really went to hell quickly, huh?"
Falling into step beside him, they began to walk up the staircase, careful not to dislodge any loose planks. "Kind of like old times, huh?" Jo smirked, as they ambled down the hall before coming to a stop in front of a closed door.
Dean grinned as he reached to open the door, a sentimental smile settling on his face as he teased, "Think you can try not to get grabbed by a homicidal ghost this time?"
Choosing to ignore his quip, Jo stepped into the room and immediately her mouth dropped open in awe.
"Can you imagine living in a place like this?" Jo breathed, as they stepped into the master bedroom and she swept her gaze over the four poster bed in the centre of the floor. She ran her fingertip over the ornate carvings on the bed post and allowed herself to imagine the room in its original splendor.
"Hey, should we test out some of the furnishings?" Dean inquired, grinning as he shot a pointed glance at the bed. Jo shook her head and jabbed a finger into Dean's chest in warning. He held out both hands in a placating gesture, and proceeded to scan the room with the EMF metre. Again, the machine hinted at remnants of a spirit occupation, however, the needle failed to show a truly significant surge of energy.
"You think whatever was here has gone now?" Jo pressed, continuing to inspect the room. She paused in front of the dressing table, noting that a tube of lipstick lay abandoned with the lid still off almost as though the owner had been in the process of applying it when they were called away. Inexplicably, Jo let out a shudder.
"Doubtful," Dean replied finally, frowning as he added, "unless some other hunters beat us to it, and conveniently forgot to spread word."
"It's a cut throat business," Jo agreed, giggling as Dean walked into a large cobweb that had been suspended from the doorway, and began to flail.
"Jo? Hey Jo, wait up!" Dean called, hurriedly brushing the webbing from his face as he walked off after her.
"Creepy much?" Jo grimaced, pausing before a black and white photograph that hung on the wall in the hall. The rather stern, stiffly smiling faces of a young couple stared back at her, along with the beaming grins of two identical twin girls sporting bunches. Dean grimaced as his gaze skimmed the picture.
"It's like the freakin' Shining," he muttered, arching an eyebrow as he added, "Mom's kind of hot though."
Jo rolled her eyes and folded her arms across her chest as she suddenly thought back on the journals she had read about the house's former inhabitants.
"That's gotta be the Carters'," Jo exclaimed, pursing her lips as she scanned the faces of the family intently.
"The crazy bitch who burned the house down?" Dean recalled, debating his previous statement momentarily.
"Uh-huh," Jo confirmed, grinning as Dean merely shrugged and continued on down the hall.
"Whatever blows your skirt up, baby," Jo laughed softly, suddenly turning around as she felt the floorboards dip behind her. Inexplicably, Jo's stomach lurched, and a familiar icy breeze blew across her cheek.
She was almost certain that childish laughter echoed throughout the hallway, and could have sworn blind that in the next instant, a small hand brushed against her bare arm.
Jo took a step back, whirling in a circle as she attempted to spot any signs of the spirit she was certain was stalking them. Seeing nothing but dust particles floating in the air, Jo turned back along the corridor and followed after Dean.
From the shadows, she watched, and waited.
Dean walked his fingertips across the base of Jo's back and smirked, deftly dodging the slap she aimed at him.
"Dean, quit it," Jo demanded, returning her attention to the novel she clutched in her hands. The hunters had set up camp in the parlour as Dean had suggested, and the cameras and sensors had been in place for several hours now to no avail. Whilst Jo had opted to entertain herself by working her way through the pile of overdue library books she had squirreled away at the roadhouse, Dean was bored beyond belief, and seizing every available opportunity to irritate his fellow hunter.
"What are you reading?" Dean asked, sinking onto the floor next to Jo and propping his chin in his elbows as he gazed expectantly at her. Jo rolled her eyes and growled.
"You're like a child," she complained as Dean waggled his eyebrows and attempted to adopt a hurt expression.
Closing the book with a resounding sigh, Jo shoved it into the gym bag and sat back against the wall, arms folded across her chest. With a smug, celebratory grin, Dean shuffled closer and leant his head in her lap, his smile increasing as her fingers began to comb through his hair.
"You're a pain in the ass, Winchester, you know that?" she scolded, allowing her fingertips to drift down across his forehead and trail down to his jaw.
Dean closed his eyes and murmured a reply, enjoying her soothing touch far too much to care.
"So, how long do we wait it out here then?" Jo asked, puffing her cheeks out and exhaling slowly. She had to admit that she was beginning to miss the comforts of home, and even playing nursemaid to Sam seemed more appealing than the idea of spending the night on the hard floor, with God knows how many spiders attempting to crawl over her.
"I say we give it twenty-four hours, should be long enough to draw a spirit out, if there's one here," Dean answered, opening his eyes and sweeping the ceiling with his gaze as he called out, "you hear that? We're waiting here."
Jo chuckled, but a shudder wracked her body as a gust of air blew right past her ear. She could have sworn that she heard a murmur travel with the breeze but Jo dismissed the thought as simple nervous paranoia; it had been a while since she had tackled a spirit hunt, and they were among her least favourite beings to encounter ever since her brush with the ghost of H. H. Holmes.
Leaning down, she instigated a fevered kiss, which Dean returned as he slid his hand around the nape of Jo's neck. From the corner of the parlour room, an unseen couple watched, identical smiles spread across their pallid features.
The gentle whirring of the EMF meter forced the hunters apart, and Jo eyed the device cautiously as Dean sat up and swept his gaze across the room.
Turning on a flashlight, he edged the beam across the parlour. Once satisfied he could see nothing out of the ordinary, he plunged the room into darkness again. Yet the needle continued to flicker across the EMF dial as the couple looked on, unaware of their ghostly visitors.
"You hear that?" Jo asked, glancing over toward the door as a loose floorboard creaked suspiciously.
Dean nodded, although the needle of the EMF meter dropped considerably.
"Well, I guess we know what draws 'em out," Dean grinned, waggling his eyebrows as he swept a slightly disconcerted Jo up into his arms and threw the joined sleeping bag over both their legs.
"Great, we're hunting perverted ghosts?" Jo demanded, rolling her eyes as she settled back in Dean's arms.
"The best kind as far as I'm concerned," he chuckled, pinching Jo's waist teasingly and kissing her cheek as she nestled closer to his body. Jo sniffed delicately, and Dean shot her a questioning glance.
"You smell that?" she inquired with a frown, suddenly sitting bolt upright once again as the scent of smoke and ashes burned in her nostrils. Dean sniffed, and finally shook his head.
"What does it smell like?" he demanded, moving across the room to the EMF metre and seizing it. He held the small black box out in front of his body and began a circle of the room, quirking a brow as he reached the far corner and the needle hit the maximum reading with a shriek.
"Well, I guess we know the place really is haunted," Jo observed, smiling wryly as she added, "though I kinda wish they'd be a bit less subtle about it."
Dean shrugged, replacing the EMF metre into their bag of supplies and returning to Jo's side. He was hardly concerned, knowing that any spirit that indeed lingered in the farmhouse would soon enough make their presence known.
"Anyone ever tell you to be careful what you wish for, sweetheart?" chided Dean. When he received no reply, he peered down into the crook of his arm where Jo's head lay. Her eyelids were fluttering closed and her breathing beginning to even out through her parted lips. Within minutes, she would be asleep.
Dean tugged the sleeping bag up over her and pulled her into his chest, pressing a kiss against her lips before he whispered a quiet 'goodnight'.
Feeling his own eyes beginning to weigh heavy with sleep, Dean cast one final obligatory glance around the room, before he settled down into their makeshift bed, and drifted into a dreamless sleep.
Jo's eyelids fluttered open somewhat hesitantly, and she paused for a few moments so as to allow her eyes to adjust to the darkness. The only light present in the room shone from the square face of Dean's luminous wristwatch, which he had apparently removed and set on a nearby chair before falling asleep. It was as Jo pondered what exactly had awoken her that she realised her sudden rather pressing need to use the bathroom.
Rolling her eyes and groaning, Jo reached for her discarded flashlight and flicked it on. She disentangled herself from Dean's arms and, torch in hand, began to pad across the lounge towards the hallway. Locating a bathroom would require climbing the stairs, an act which Jo viewed with understandable trepidation. She paused at the bottom step, mulling over just how long she believed she could hold it, before deciding that this particular bathroom break was indeed urgent. Cursing the fifth cup of coffee she had elected to drink that afternoon, Jo began to climb the rickety staircase.
She reached the top without event and breathed a sigh of relief before dashing to the end of the long corridor where she had spotted the master bathroom earlier that day. Jo finished up and washed her hands in record time, all the while scolding herself for being so skittish. That was, until she stepped back out into the hallway, and an odd sound caught her attention.
Realising that she had made the potentially fatal error of leaving her gun downstairs, Jo prepared to yell out should the need arise. However, after several seconds, during which the sliding noise grew louder, Jo felt something hard bump her toes. Glancing down, she stooped and picked up the bright red child's ball with a start. Turning it over in her hand, and finding nothing remarkable about the object, Jo took a step forward.
"Hello?" she whispered into the night, "anyone there? I'm here to help."
Jo paused, her ears straining as she listened intently to what sounded like the soft cries of frightened children. Her heart beat accelerated and a wave of sympathy washed over her.
"My name's Jo," she continued, her voice rising a little in volume, "I won't hurt you."
The hunter froze as one distinct word carried to her ears, repeated over and over again by childish voices breaking with terror.
Placing the ball on the ground at her feet, Jo swung the flashlight beam across the hallway, checking the threshold of each doorway that lined the corridor for evidence of movement. Finding nothing, Jo stepped into the nearest room, which although devoid of any furniture beyond an ancient iron bed frame, was still decorated with numerous pictures and wall hangings.
"Please, show yourself," Jo encouraged, forcing a smile across her lips in an effort to reduce the threat that her own presence presented. She had barely taken one step into the room when an ear splitting bang resounded throughout the house, and the walls themselves seemed to pound as though battered by invisible force. In perfect synchronicity, each of the seven picture frames of varying sizes were flung from the wall and into the centre of the room, the glass in their frames shattering upon the impact of landing.
Silence descended once more as quickly as it had been interrupted and, no matter how hard or long Jo listened, she did not hear weeping again. With a sigh, Jo turned on her heel and returned to the parlour.
The sound of birdsong wrenched Jo from her slumber, and she sighed contentedly as she swept her hand over Dean's chest and nestled her face into the crook of his neck. Despite the one odd occurrence during the night, the stakeout had proven uneventful, and Jo had enjoyed the best night's sleep she had had in a while. Keeping her eyes closed against the unwelcome glare of the morning light, Jo pulled the covers up over her head and smiled as she felt a path of kisses trailing down her neck.
Dean grinned against her skin, refusing to open his eyes and ruin the perfectly cosy cocoon he had awoken to find himself in. Jo's fingertips danced through his hair and down to the nape of his neck, and she stretched languidly beneath him. Dean rolled her over and her head hit the pillows with the gentlest of thuds.
Jo's eyes flew open in surprise and as her senses began to awaken, she took in the sight around her with a mixture of surprise and horror.
"Dean!" she called out uncertainly, sighing in momentary frustration as he bit down on her throat in response and slid his hand down to her thigh, responding to what he assumed was her lustful impatience.
"DEAN!" Slapping the top of his arm, Jo struggled to sit up as he shot her a confused glare and rolled off her.
Dean frowned as he noticed the startled expression on her face, yet as he shook the final vestiges of sleep from his mind, his own eyes widened. "Oh, shit."
"Where the hell are we?" Jo demanded, peering around the bedroom they had awoken in. Her eyes flitted in abject horror from the four poster bed they lay in to the furniture and personal effects that littered the room.
Dean shook his head, rubbing at his eyes as he tried to refocus on the unfamiliar yet glorious bedroom. In his first few moments of waking, his mind had yet to catch up with the details of their surroundings, and he had in fact forgotten all about the ghost hunt. Waking up in bed with Jo in his arms had hardly seemed a strange occurrence, and his sleep addled brain had assumed they were at home, or else in some motel or other.
"I think we're in the bedroom," Dean stated, ignoring the venomous glare that Jo directed at him. He shrugged, flashing her a smile that signified he had been attempting to lighten the mood. Jo opened her mouth to respond when the thudding of footsteps drew the hunters' collective attention to the bedroom doorway.
The door was flung open unceremoniously, striking the adjacent wall, and Dean almost leapt to his feet, until he realised that his jeans were gone and in their place was a pair of striped blue boxer shorts and a string vest. Dean stared at his attire before his eyes ticked to Jo, who was peering down at her own apparel with a similar look of disgust. Instead of the pair of sweat pants and tank top she had drifted off to sleep in, Jo was now wearing a cream lace nightgown that ended at her ankles. She wrestled momentarily with the billowing sleeves, which were adorned at the elbow by large bows that Jo eyed as though she would attempt to rip them off at any moment.
However, the sound of thundering footsteps upon the wooden floorboards alerted them to the arrival of a very unwelcome presence in the bedroom. Dean released an audible gasp as the two seemingly identical blonde haired little girls darted into the bedroom.
"I know where we are, genius, what I mean is... how are we here?" Jo spat through clenched teeth, and her head whipped around as two little bodies flung themselves on top of the bed with peels of childish laughter.
"Mama!" With a beaming smile, the child threw her arms exuberantly around Jo's neck, failing to register the distinct expression of panic that settled across the young woman's features. She noted the pale, ghostly pallor of the child and the dark circles ringing her eyes.
"But I... I..." Jo stammered, growing evermore uncomfortable as the blonde haired child rested her cheek against her chest and threw her arms around Jo's waist. Jo shuddered at the cold sensation of her skin, and was instantly nauseated by the smell of smoke that seemed to cling to the child's hair and clothes.
Jo looked to Dean for help, but found that he too had been tackle-hugged by the other child, whose arms were fastened around his neck as she bid him good morning.
"Uh... hey there," Dean gulped, patting the little girl's back as he tried desperately to formulate a way out of their current situation; or indeed establish what their current situation may be.
"Can I ride Henry today, Daddy?" the child pestered, beaming up at Dean in evident excitement. It appeared that neither girl was aware of the fact that the strangers in the bed were not their parents.
"Uh... sure?" Dean stammered, exchanging glances with Jo, who was eyeing the apparition still hanging onto her.
"Do they know they're dead?" Jo hissed, leaning closer to Dean so that the children would not overhear her. He shook his head, doubtful that the spirits even realised that anything was amiss in their world. He felt a pang of sympathy, which was quickly followed up by a considerable wave of disgust as the child in his arms reached up and planted a kiss on his cheek, allowing him to fully take in the acrid stench of burned flesh.
Dean swallowed down the bile that rose in his throat, and disentangled himself from the child's arms. His eyes ticked to the doorway as the sound of someone pointedly clearing their throat alerted them to a new presence. The woman poised in the hallway wore a long charcoal skirt and a peppermint blouse, the collar of which was fastened with an ornate broach. Her dark hair was swept up into an intricate and neat bun, and she gazed at the couple with her hands clasped before her. With her lips pursed, she glared at the children, who visibly shrank against the hunters.
"Margaret, Emily..." the woman barked, tipping her chin as she narrowed her eyes at the apparently insubordinate children, "did I or did I not ask you to have yourselves washed, and suitably dressed for morning lessons?"
Jo and Dean stared back at the apparition with a level of horror equal to the twins, and Jo felt herself grow uneasy under the woman's black eyed glare that seemed to be lingering in her direction.
"Who the hell is that?" Dean whispered, subconsciously angling his body toward Jo as she shrank further into his arms.
"The governess?" she shrugged back, smiling weakly as the woman offered a curt nod in their direction. The two little girls walked solemnly from the room, and the door slammed shut as if of its own volition, leaving Dean and Jo to recover from their ordeal.
"Okay... what just happened?" Jo shook her head, glancing down at herself and running her hand over the nightgown she now wore, "and why are we dressed like this?"
Dean shrugged, pressing a kiss to her temple as he promised, "I don't know, but we'll figure it out."
"So... they think we're the Carters?" Jo rubbed her forehead as she struggled to make sense of their new surroundings, "how?"
"Some kind of possession?" Dean suggested, sweeping his gaze over Jo as she stepped out of bed and walked over to the mirror.
She intercepted his stares and planted her hands firmly on her hips, "Dean? A little focus here?"
"Sorry," he smiled apologetically, clearing his throat as he added, "you just look... you look really pretty."
A blush rose up Jo's cheeks and she consented to smile before continuing from her previous train of thought.
"Possession? But, we know who we are and..." she glanced in the mirror and winced, "aside from the two hundred pounds of tulle, lace and ribbon I'm wearing right now- I still look like me. You still look like you!"
Dean peered at his own reflection in the mirror, grimacing once again at his clothing, but finding that his own familiar features stared back at him.
"I guess they don't see us," he answered with a shrug. "We just gotta poke around and see what we can find."
"But what if we don't find anything?" Jo demanded, striving to hide the note of panic she detected in her own voice. "What if we're stuck... where ever the hell we are?"
"Well, we know where we are," Dean pointed out, ignoring the glare that Jo directed at him, "we just don't know... 'when'... we are."
"Cos that is so much better," Jo answered sardonically, striding over to the closet and throwing it open. All that greeted her was a rack of neatly hung women's clothing, most of which would not have seemed out of place in a museum.
"I am not wearing some dead woman's clothes," she added, slamming the door closed and wheeling round to face Dean. She crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiently on the floor, realising for the first time how the entire room appeared oddly rejuvenated. The cobwebs and layers of dust that had affected it upon their arrival were gone, and the room was now dressed with the elegance of a real country farmhouse.
"I think our clothes are the least of our worries sweetheart," Dean quipped as he motioned to the leather bound journal he had spotted resting on the edge of the dressing table. Jo's eyes followed Dean's extended finger, before widening in comprehension as they came to rest upon Grace Carter's diary.
"You don't think..." Jo began, licking her suddenly dry lips and shuddering, "you think we're going to live out what happened to them?"
Jo's eyes widened as she reached for the open journal. A deep surge of panic overcame her as she flipped to the last entry in the book, which had been recorded in a feminine, spidery scrawl.
"It's September 18th," she said quietly, her finger brushing over the rough page of the journal.
"Okay," Dean nodded, trying to dampen down his own impending panic; he recognised the date from their research- the day that Jackson, or now rather he, was going to die.
"What are we gonna do?" Jo tossed the journal down onto the dresser and walked across the room to stand in front of Dean, her eyes and tone both betraying her desperation.
"How did this Jackson guy die?" Dean inquired, figuring that if he avoided all risky activities it might perhaps constitute some semblance of a plan.
"I don't know," Jo waved her arms emphatically, " some sort of farming accident, it didn't go into details. He was found by an unnamed member of staff."
"It'll be ok," Dean soothed, taking a step towards Jo and gathering her into his arms. She rested her cheek against his chest for a moment, unnerved by the unfamiliar and scratchy feel of the fabric of the vest he sported. When she pulled away, holding Dean at arms length, his green eyes swept her features.
"Well, I guess I don't plan on going crazy and burning the place down," Jo said, sighing as Dean simply chuckled.
"How long after Carter's death did the fire occur?" he asked, his brow furrowing in a clear sign that he was now engaged in deep thought.
"The same night he died," Jo replied, feeling her heartbeat quicken unbidden at the thought. "I guess this explains what happened to all those other couples. They must have somehow relived the whole thing."
"We'll work this out," Dean vowed, leaning forwards and kissing Jo's forehead, "we always do."
Jo nodded, and Dean stared at her askance as tears began to pool in the corners of her eyes, before making a steady trail down both cheeks. They sploshed onto the lace bodice of her nightdress, soaking the fabric through and leaving transparent spots in their wake.
"I just can't lose you Jackson," Jo murmured, her expression somewhat vacant as she continued to stare at Dean.
"Huh?" Dean drew back and peered at her closely, holding her by the tops of her arms as he stared down into her eyes, "what did you just say?"
Jo looked up with a quizzical expression and merely blinked as she sniffled self-consciously, "I said... I don't want to lose you."
"Yeah, but what did you call me?" he arched an eyebrow, running his eyes over her face as he tried to ignore his building sense of foreboding.
"Dean?" she shook her head, peering back at him as if he had lost his mind.
"No, no you didn't," he shook his head, placing his palm to her cheek and tilting her head, "you just called me Jackson..."
"No, I..." she scoffed, suddenly pausing at the concern she saw etched on his face.
"Okay, you... you don't leave my side," he stated, brushing his thumb over her cheek as he widened his eyes imploringly.
"Okay," she murmured, glancing over toward the closet, her mind clearly distracted, "we should get dressed."
Dean nodded, watching as Jo ventured over to the closet that before had her so irate, and began to select an outfit. There was something about the way she moved at first that set alarm bells ringing in Dean's mind but, after several moments, her posture loosened up and she was quite clearly Jo again. As Dean set about dressing, he desperately attempted to push down the voice in the back of his head that told him they were well and truly screwed.
Breakfast had been a disconcerting affair. They were served lumpy porridge by a maid with third degree burns scarring most of her face and hands, and forced to sit opposite the excitable yet unwittingly terrifying twins who chattered non-stop throughout the whole ordeal. Dean watched Jo intently for half an hour for any signs of possible possession, but found her actions un-faultingly characteristic as she pushed her breakfast around her bowl without touching it, and kept a watchful eye on the spirits.
Dean found it difficult to play along with the charade, but knew that the pantomime was vital now that they had been catapulted into such a scenario.
The woman's voice hauled him from his reverie and Dean turned to its owner, finding himself suddenly staring into the eyes of the governess. She hovered in the doorway of the kitchen, where Dean had retreated immediately after the breakfast things had been cleared away so that he might salvage a few iron knives and a couple of bags of rock salt. Upon waking, their weapons were nowhere to be found, leaving them essentially defenceless should one of the spirits launch a surprise attack. The governess watched expectantly, her thin lips twisted into a genuine smile that did little to reduce the severity of her appearance.
"Uh... uh, Miss... Miss..." he stammered, cursing under his breath as he found himself unable to recall the governess' name.
"Must I ask you again to call me Elizabeth?" she purred, stepping toward him as Dean took a noticeable step backwards, his body colliding with the kitchen dresser, "Beth..."
He shuddered at her breathy tone, his eyes darting furtively around the kitchen in hopes that Jo would return from the bedroom. At this juncture, he would even settle for another member of the household making an appearance.
"Are you to reject me once again, Jackson?" she pouted, her pale, smoke streaked face adopting a frown as one cold finger trailed down his chest.
Dean moved swiftly from her reach, swallowing back his disgust she stepped toward him again, the black pits of her eyes blazing with that appeared to be lust.
"I... I love my wife," he stated, folding his arms across his chest as he sidestepped toward the door.
Elizabeth sighed for effect and shot a mocking smile in his direction, "Must we pretend, Jackson? I'll be waiting, as always."
With a swish of her skirts, the apparition literally blinked from view, and Dean sagged back against the countertop for support. He thought he never would get used to the decaying, spectral staff that walked the house, and the hunt that thus far ranked top of his list of the most bizarre to date.
Actual solid footsteps alerted Dean to Jo's presence before she even rounded the corner and stepped inside the kitchen. She tripped over the hem of her skirt and cursed in a very un-ladylike manner that seemed so oddly comical given her now prim appearance. She wore a lengthy brown skirt complete with a high necked white blouse, and had been forced to endure one of the less putrid maid's braiding her hair, before winding it into a bun.
"The sooner we get out of here..." Jo grumbled, hitching her skirts up in both hands and stomping across the room towards the highly amused Dean. He wisely chose to hide his smirk behind his hand, and silently offered Jo one of the two iron knives he had been able to locate. Jo stared down at the glorified butter-knife proffered to her and rolled her eyes, not bothering to conceal her disdain. Her arched brow said enough and Dean replaced the knife onto the counter without a word of protest, realising that it would more than likely prove useless anyways.
"Did you find anything out from the kids?" Dean inquired, attempting to ignore the murderous glare that Jo directed at her.
"A little," she bit back, jabbing her index finger into Dean's chest as she added, "and I don't see why I drew that short straw. I had to have a tea party with two dead little girls, Dean. You owe me big."
"Hey, listen sweetheart, whilst you were upstairs sipping tea out of china cups, I was getting sexually harassed by Casper the overly friendly ghost," Dean relayed, glancing around him in apparent fear at the prospect that the governess may still be lingering.
"What?" Jo arched an eyebrow, the faintest trace of a smirk playing on her features.
"That creepy looking governess, she... she..." he stammered, sensing whatever he said would provoke an amused chuckle from his girlfriend.
"She came on to you?" Jo filled in, folding her arms across her chest as she nodded, "well, that'd make sense with what the twins just told me."
At Dean's expectant expression she continued, "Apparently Miss. Rennick is... was leaving. Her replacement was arriving on Saturday. The girls weren't exactly cut up about it either. So, what... you think she went all 'Fatal Attraction'?"
"Maybe," Dean replied, shrugging. A perplexed frown twisted his lips as he added, "Or maybe ol' Jackson wasn't quite so resistant. Would explain why Grace went all Carrie and burned the place down."
Jo nodded absently, wringing her hands as she agreed, "I guess."
"You don't think she did it?" Dean queried, cocking his head as he observed Jo intently. She shifted under the weight of his scrutiny and shrugged. "What makes you so certain?"
"What makes you so certain she did?" Jo shot back, her arms folded and her mouth set into a grim line. "You think she murdered her own husband? Her children? She loved them Dean!"
"Jo, calm down," Dean soothed, staring askance at his girlfriend as she continued with her uncharacteristic outburst.
"Just... let's look at other options, okay?" she sighed in frustration, swiping at a tendril of hair that had escaped its confines.
"We will," Dean assured her, gesturing down the hall toward the stairs, "let's go take another look at that journal, see if there's anything about this nanny chick in there."
"Governess," Jo corrected, already starting toward the stairs before he had so much as moved.
"There's a difference?" Dean shrugged disinterestedly, following on her heels and clambering up the stairs behind her. He nodded politely at a maid who scurried past them, and they ducked into the bedroom and closed the door with a quiet click.
"Where are the uh... twins?" Dean swallowed, looking around the room with a clearly disconcerted expression on his face.
"Don't worry," Jo grinned, swiping up the journal and sitting on the edge of the bed, "they're taking a Math lesson with your new friend."
"Great," Dean enthused, the smile he mustered evidently false, "just... peachy."
Jo giggled in amusement, obviously finding a twisted sense of glee in Dean's fear of the ghostly children who, as of yet, had not presented a single threat to the hunters.
"Relax, they think you're their Daddy," Jo attempted to soothe Dean, who only looked more alarmed by that particular prospect.
"That makes it so much worse," he growled, his voice carrying undertones of desperation as he demanded, "why would you say that?"
"Just... relax..." Jo instructed, returning her attention to the journal which she began to leaf through quickly. Her eyes scanned each page as they sought out mention of one name in particular.
"Gotcha!" Jo declared, her features immediately brightening as she tapped the page in front of her. She cleared her throat before she proceeded to read the entry she referenced aloud, "August 21st 1920, Miss. Rennick has been served her notice. Today, I rode the horses into town with the girls, and whilst I was gone she attempted to proposition Jackson..."
"You think that was the whole story?" Dean asked, leaning over her shoulder and glancing down at the journal page.
Jo appeared to think this over and then nodded contemplatively, her hand pressed over Dean's as she smiled up at him, "Of course I do, I trust you... you know that."
Dean frowned, patting her hand as he regarded her in confusion, "Okay, well... good, but we're not talking about me, here sweetheart."
Jo blinked, shaking her head as she felt a sudden ache stab at her temples and she let the journal fall from her lap.
"Huh?" trying desperately to focus on Dean, she sat up straighter, her head swimming as her vision blurred and his voice seemed to drift further and further away.
"Jo?" he shook her gently, staring down at her face and reeling back as he noticed a pale sapphire blue flash across her usually deep brown eyes.
Jo failed to respond, simply continuing to stare up at Dean. She was aware of his voice repeating her name, and of the concern that licked at his tone, yet she found herself unable to respond. Her lips felt numb and strangely as though they were no longer a part of her body. Without warning, Jo tumbled from the chair, her eyelids fluttering closed as she lost consciousness.
"Jo?" Dean demanded, dropping down onto the floor at her side, the journal now forgotten and abandoned. He laid his palm against her forehead, surprised by the icy cold feel of her skin beneath his own.
"Hey, Jo," Dean urged, tapping her cheek lightly with the back of his hand. When he received no response, Dean scooped Jo up into his arms and carried her over to the bed. He laid her atop the covers, which had been smoothed and replaced presumably by one of the maids, and attempted to rouse her once again. Jo let out a barely audible groan, but her eyes remained closed, scrunched tightly almost as though she were in some kind of discomfort.
"Jo?" Dean heard his tone growing increasingly more desperate, urging her to open her eyes.
He frowned as he felt moisture against his hand and as he bent to examine her skin closely, he found tears tripping her cheeks.
"Jo... sweetheart, come on... don't do this to me," he felt an overwhelming sense of panic descend upon him as, with a sharp intake of breath, Jo's eyes flashed open.
She stared up at him as if somehow surprised to find him holding her, and she reached up with a shaking hand to caress his cheek.
Dean's heart skipped a beat as she shot him a watery smile and he noted the pale blue that had inked across her irises.
"Jackson?" she whispered, hurriedly wrapping her arms around his neck and holding him in a fierce embrace as she wept into his shoulder. Dean struggled free from her grasp, holding her at arms length as he examined her for any other noticeable signs of change. Her skin seemed to have paled considerably, and dark bruises were rising up underneath her eyes. Dean swallowed hard as he watched the black circles appear, giving Jo an otherworldly look that frightened him.
"No," he muttered, shaking her a little by the shoulders, "Jo, it's Dean. Are you in there? What the hell have you done to her..."
Dean trailed off as Jo, or the spirit within her body, attacked his lips with her own, pressing a fevered and desperate kiss upon him. Dean shuddered as icy lips descended upon his own, and her hands wound themselves around his neck.
"Jackson, we have to hurry," she hissed, pulling away from Dean, her expression alarmed.
"What..." Dean began, frowning as Jo swung her legs over the side of the bed and climbed a little unsteadily to her feet.
"Jo, wait up!" Dean called urgently after her, rounding the corner into the nursery mere seconds after her. A large doll's house stood abandoned in the centre of the room, and the figures that belonged inside it rested on the ground where they had evidently been dropped.
"Where are they?" she demanded, her eyes scanning the room as she looked up at Dean and grabbed at the lapels of his shirt, "where are our children?"
"I... I don't know," Dean shook his head, debating whether playing along would be a less futile option, "they uh... they had a Math lesson with Miss. Rennick."
Jo's hand flew to her mouth and she ran out of the room, her heels assaulting the wooden floorboard as she dashed down the hall and towards the staircase.
"Not again," Jo screamed, tears forming in her eyes as she shook her head determinedly, "she won't hurt them again. We have to stop her, Jackson."
Running his hand through his hair, Dean blew out an unsteady breath and groaned in frustration. Given Jo's history with spirits, he made a silent vow that if they ever got out of this alive and relatively unscathed, his girlfriend was never setting foot on a ghost hunt again.
By the time Jo reached the bottom of the winding staircase, Dean barely recognised her. Although she still looked the same, every aspect of her demeanour had altered, even down to the way she walked. The spirit now in possession of her body drove her towards the front door of the farmhouse at lightning speed, and it finally struck Dean as somewhat bizarre that before that point the thought of leaving the house had occurred to neither of the hunters.
Jo flung open the door, barrelling past a shocked and obviously deceased maid cleaning the step with a wire brush, and ran into the farmyard calling out the twins' names. Dean followed behind, matching Jo's pace easily despite the extra encouragement that her panic afforded her.
"Maggie... Emily... girls?" Jo shrieked, her tone panicked in a manner that disconcerted Dean. As a hunter, Jo was genuinely in control of her emotions and, should she feel the slightest prickle of fear or alarm, had become rather adept at masking it. Thus, it was both strange and unnerving for Dean to watch her ricocheting around the yard from one ghostly employee to the other, sobbing and demanding to be told of the location of her 'daughters'.
"Jo..." Dean called, and then suddenly thinking better of it, amended, "Grace... Grace, wait!"
Jo swiped at her cheeks as tears streamed rapidly from her eyes, and she turned and all but threw herself into his arms.
"We have to find them, we have to find them..." she sobbed, looking up at him and pressing her hand to his forehead, "I can't lose you all again- I won't."
Dean wrapped his arms around her, conflicted as he realised it was not Jo currently weeping in his embrace, only the shell of her body he held. A part of him felt compelled to push her away, yet she looked, sounded and even smelled for all the world like the woman he loved.
Dean rubbed her back hesitantly, trying to remind himself it was not his girlfriend in his arms, "We'll find them... I promise."
"Where would she have taken them?" Jo murmured, her eyes furtively scanning the land. Dean swallowed hard, acutely aware now of the several pairs of eyes upon them. The other apparitions, who had until this point been engrossed in a pantomime of carrying out their work, were staring at the couple in silence.
"She?" Dean queried, certain that he already knew the answer to his question.
"Miss. Rennick," Jo snapped, raking her fingers through her hair and succeeding in causing half of her bun to unravel beneath her fingertips. "I can't stand here... I can't just do nothing... I have to find my daughters..."
With that, Jo spun on her heel and took off in the direction of the barn before Dean could move to intercept her. Then before Dean had a chance to react, Jo's figure blinked from view.
"Jo?" Dean yelled, his eyes widening in horror as she disappeared from view as if all laws of nature now no longer applied to her.
Making a split second decision, Dean took off in the direction of the farm; his own expertise and logic told him that the key to saving not only their own lives but the souls of those trapped in the house had to be preventing the tragedy from being played out once more.
Throwing open the door, Dean stormed through the downstairs, searching every possible hiding place as he called out to the twins. Running upstairs, Dean halted as the apparition of Miss. Rennick drifted down from the hall toward him, her eyes narrowing as she reached his side.
"Where are they?" Dean demanded, ever conscious of the iron knife in his back pocket as he decided to forgo any pretense of small talk.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Jackson," she shrugged, smiling as she watched his expression closely.
"The hell you don't... where are the..." he sighed as he hastily corrected himself, "where are my children?"
The figure of the governess suddenly blinked in and out of view several times, before finally reappearing at Dean's side, her own skin now horribly burned and features disfigured. Instead of the stiff, day clothes she had worn only seconds ago, she now stood in a cream nightgown similar to the one in which Jo had awoken. However, the gown was streaked with soot, and badly singed on one side. Dean shuddered, and resisted the urge to take a step backwards.
"Please..." Miss. Rennick pleaded, her voice now scratchy and barely more than a breathy whisper. "Help us."
"Help you?" Dean demanded incredulously, his lip curling back into an impressive sneer as he glared down at the ghost. "What the hell..."
"We're trapped here," the spirit hissed, tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks, "she trapped us here."
"She..." Dean began, his voice failing him as the horrifying reality of the situation struck him. Miss. Rennick bobbed her head in confirmation, one hand shooting out and latching onto Dean's wrist. He noted the now blistering hot feel of her touch and withdrew his hand with a hiss, finding his skin red.
"She did this to us..." Elizabeth wept, her tears merging with the soot on her face, and dropping onto the white fabric of her nightgown in large black spots.
"Jo... uh... Grace?" Dean narrowed his eyes in disbelief as he retreated backwards down two steps, and the governess edged closer.
"Don't let her hurt us again. You have to stop her... she's holding us here. You have to help us," she pleaded, reaching out a hand toward him.
Dean faltered momentarily, unwilling to believe that, even in Jo's present state she was capable of harming anyone.
"You must come with me- I know what she did to the children... I can take you to them," she implored, her hand grazing his jaw. Dean shuddered and shied away from her touch, his mind in turmoil.
"Please..." begged Elizabeth, her hands clasped in a gesture of prayer at her chest, "I can show you what really happened."
With evident reluctance, Dean allowed himself to be led outside the farmhouse and towards the old, ramshackle barn, where Elizabeth assured him he would find both Carter children, and subsequently learn of their true fate.
Grace materialised in the upper corridor of the farmhouse, and wasted no time in flying at the wooden staircase that would lead her to the attic. From behind the door, she could already hear the panicked whimpers and murmured pleas that alerted her to the presence of her daughters.
She rammed her shoulder into the door frame with as much strength behind her body as she could muster. She grunted as the door refused to budge an inch, and pounded at it unrelentingly with her fists. Tears streaked her cheeks, and her mind raced as she searched for a solution to their current predicament.
"Emily... Maggie?" she called out, her voice catching as she spoke the second child's name. "Hold on, my darlings. Mama's coming..."
Staring at the door, her chest heaving with sobs, Grace suddenly lifted her hand and pressed it against the wood panel. The door began to vibrate violently beneath her touch, and within seconds all that remained was the splintered frame of the door jamb.
Rushing into the attic, she began to search for the missing children, throwing open trunks and chests and anything large enough to contain them. She cocked her head suddenly as she heard whimpering from the corner of the room, and she dashed to the source of the noise.
Cowering in a corner, the two little girls sat side by side, arms hugging each other as they peered up fearfully at their mother.
"Girls!" Grace cried, dropping down to her knees as the children's eyes widened in surprise and they ran into her arms, hiccupping with tears, "it's okay, it's okay... Mama's here, I won't let her hurt you, I promise... not again. Not again."
She rocked them in her arms as they each sobbed into her shoulder. Grace's eyes narrowed, and she scooped her daughters up against her body, vanishing as she strode towards the doorway of the attic with both of her children clutched to her chest.
The door to the barn swung open as Dean and the governess approached, and he shot the apparition a wary glance as she paused in front of the building.
"After you," Dean insisted, watching carefully as Elizabeth stepped over the threshold of the doorway and into the barn. The lighting was dim, mostly supplied from the one small window set high in the wall just above the hay loft. The ladder to the loft was absent, and a rancid smell hung thick in the air, causing Dean's stomach to lurch.
The governess whirled around, the remaining length of skirts of her nightgown twirling in the air with the movement as though effected by slow motion. She faced Dean, her expression impassive, and he found himself folding his arms across his chest in an undeniably defensive gesture.
"So, where are they?" demanded Dean, suspicion beginning to creep into the inflection in his tone as he regarded the spirit, whose fearful expression suddenly melted away to reveal a calculating smirk. The double doors of the barn slammed shut, and the sound of a lock sliding into place sent a heavy sigh reverberating from Dean's chest as he realised that he had indeed walked right into a well baited trap.
"You're not afraid of me, Jackson?" she inquired with a smile, walking toward Dean and placing her hand against his jaw as she looked him up and down in a predatory fashion.
Dean shuddered at her touch and backed away from the apparition toward the barn door. He slid his hand into his back pocket where he found the iron butter knife remained, and his fingers closed around the handle.
"Poor Grace will be appalled to think you believed she would harm her own children," Elizabeth chided, shaking her head as she folded her arms across her chest and then disappeared from view.
"Why don't you come up here, Jackson?" she purred, causing Dean to crane his neck to regard her, as she walked steadily across the hay loft above.
"I'm real good down here thanks, sweetheart," Dean replied evenly, his eyes darting to the walls of the barn where a row of horse bridles and scythes hung from hooks; they all began to tremble violently, and Dean took an involuntary step backwards.
"Shame," Elizabeth clucked, pursing her lips as she regarded Dean from her advantageous position in the hay loft. Dean scouted around the immediate vicinity for a more substantial weapon to use against the ghost other than the somewhat pathetic knife still contained within his pocket. Finding little of obvious use, Dean returned his gaze to the governess, who appeared to almost flicker in and out of view.
"Just let us go Elizabeth," Dean called out, aware that his tone lacked the ring of authority he had hoped for, instead coming across as wholly desperate and already defeated. "There's nothing you can get out of this."
"Oh but you're wrong," Elizabeth hissed, suddenly disappearing entirely from view, only to reappear in front of Dean. The tip of her nose was mere centrimetres away from Dean's, and he resisted the urge to wretch as the stench of charred flesh taunted his already churning stomach.
"If I allow you to live, then they win," the governess spat. Her displeasure was evident not only in her expression and tone, but in her stance and the way in which her hands had curled almost to claws at her side.
"I know who you really are," she hissed, smirking as she watched Dean visibly blanch, "or should I say, who you're not. Who is she? Your wife? Girlfriend?"
Dean watched as a bridle flew from the wall, crashing against a stack of grain barrels with such velocity that the barrels began to shudder.
"Leave her alone, she's done nothing to you," he warned, hoping his confident facade was at least partly convincing.
"I am afraid I don't really care," Elizabeth shrugged, "you see, as long as you two are here, I'm free. If I let you leave, and let the pitiful souls who inhabit you, cross over... then... I might find my surroundings considerably less hospitable."
Dean's eyes widened in sudden understanding and he felt his grip on the knife in his hand tighten at the revelation, "You killed him. You set the fire and Grace took the fall."
"Yes," she nodded, her tone and expression both entirely devoid of emotion or the slightest trace of repentance, "and I have no intention of moving on, you understand." She smiled, tossing her mane of dark curls as she stared at him, "You've been there."
Her lingering gaze aptly punctuated her insinuation, and Dean's jaw set as he realised her inference.
"You're handsome too, it's a shame I have to kill you," she remarked, sighing for dramatic effect as she blinked from view and instantaneously a scythe flew from the wall in Dean's direction.
Dean hit the floor and the blade whistled harmlessly over his body before striking the wall beyond, where it stuck in the wood, quivering. Elizabeth reappeared upon the hayloft, wearing a sour and infuriated expression. Her eyes gleamed as she glared down at Dean, still spread eagle on the floor as he had been momentarily winded by his own descent. With little warning, several barrels that stood on the precipice of the loft began to tremble and shudder as Elizabeth focused all of her wrath upon them. Dean's eyes widened as the first of the grain barrels came tumbling down towards him and he rolled left, narrowly missing being crushed beneath the weight of it. However, he was unprepared for the descent of the next barrel, which plummeted to the ground a mere split second in the wake of the first. Dean attempted to crawl out of its oncoming path, but instead found the barrel landing heavily down on his lower leg.
Dean let out a howl as agony tore through his body almost in the same moment that the barrel shattered as it impacted with his leg. His vision clouded and Dean slumped to the floor, his breathing ragged and strained as he attempted to ignore the pain that had been ignited in his evidently broken leg. Despite a long and varied career as a hunter, Dean Winchester had broken a bone only once before, and as a small boy at that. In fact, the injury had occurred only months before his mother's death, back when his life had been normal and he had still felt very much like a child. His father had taken him to the playground and an older boy had shoved Dean from the top of the jungle gym, resulting in a broken arm. Dean had all but forgotten the pain of that day, until the barrel had quite literally brought the memory crashing down upon him.
"Son of a bitch..." Dean choked out, struggling to focus on the spirit through the sudden haze that hampered his vision as she flickered into being a few feet away from his side.
He blinked repeatedly as he strained to make out the figure approaching him, and he felt around the ground for the knife. The governess drifted across the barn, each step measured and precise.
A sudden banging and jarring of the doors behind him caught both their attentions, and he winced as the head of an axe cleaved through the wood, sending splinters sailing through the air around him. With a final blow, the door swung open, revealing a very angry and flustered looking Jo, axe propped against her shoulder.
"Grace," Elizabeth smiled dangerously, watching as Jo stepped toward her, axe poised to strike.
"I won't let you hurt them again," Jo snarled, clearly still possessed by the spirit of the ill-fated land owner.
"Jo!" Dean yelled, struggling to get to his feet as he gritted his teeth against the throbbing in his lower leg.
Her eyes, still an alarming shade of crystalline blue, ticked to Dean in a second, taking in the site of his useless leg and the mask of pain stretching his features taught.
For a moment, Jo seemed to falter, before a determined expression crossed her face and she took a step towards the governess. However, when she spoke, her words were directed at Dean.
"You have to let him in," she declared, eyes narrowed as she glared icily at Elizabeth, and the two women began to circle each other.
"What?" Dean slurred, beginning to feel himself lose his grasp on consciousness as tendrils of pain licked at his body, and threatened to overwhelm him.
"Jackson..." she began, trailing off as with considerable effort Dean yelled back at her.
"I'm not... him... I'm not Jackson..."
He slumped almost immediately back against the barn floor as though the effort of simply raising his voice had claimed the last of his energy.
"I know who you are, Dean," Jo replied in an impatient tone that was most definitely not her own. "Jo has given this body over to me for now, and you must do the same if you want to live through this."
"Are you crazy?" Dean demanded, gritting his teeth and closing his eyes as a wave of pain gripped him mercilessly.
"If you wish to return home..." Jo warned, "if you want to be with her again, you will do as I say!"
Dean groaned in both agony and hesitancy, yet he closed his eyes and desperately forced his mind to focus. He was unsure of exactly how the process was supposed to work, having been unaware that he had been successfully fending off Jackson's spirit. Yet as he relaxed, a strange, heavy sensation floated over Dean, muddying his thoughts.
"Don't!" Elizabeth yelled, her eyes blazing as she watched an unearthly, golden light suddenly descend over the man's body, "don't listen to her!"
Elizabeth raised a quaking arm and the entire upper level of the barn creaked and groaned, threatening collapse. Dean's body was still poised half beneath the hayloft, and the enraged spirit narrowed her eyes as she attempted to focus enough malevolent energy to bring the structure crashing down upon him.
Without warning, Jo rushed forward and swung the axe at the other woman's head. The iron blade seemed to dissolve the figure as it passed through her harmlessly. However, Elizabeth was forced to reappear in another location, affording Dean enough time to finally reopen his eyes and drag his body to relative safety. When he glanced up at Jo, his irises had become so dark blue that they almost appeared black in the dim light.
"Jackson?" Jo breathed, a smile twitching at the corners of her lips as she took a step towards Dean.
A smile of utter disbelief graced Dean's lips and he clambered unsteadily to his feet, now no longer caring about the pain that had previously racked his body. Reaching out a shaking hand toward Jo's face, he swept his gaze over her and shook his head, "Gracie?"
Jo nodded through a torrent of tears, staring down in awe as their hands met and for the first time in over ninety years, their skin made contact. A quiet chuckle of disbelief drifted from his lips, as he ran his fingertips across the back of her hand, looking up to meet her eyes only when her fingers were enclosed within his own.
"How..." he began, finding himself silenced as he followed Grace's steady gaze over toward Elizabeth, and all at once the memories of his life and tragic death flooded over him.
"You," he accused, starting towards the apparition and then abruptly halting as the injured leg of his host prevented him from moving. "You did it... you killed me, and then you murdered my family."
"I..." Elizabeth faltered, her mouth dropping open and tears beginning to spill from her eyes as she stared at the couple. "I never meant... I only wanted to talk to you that day, to reason with you about my unemployment, and when you..."
"When I rejected you again, something in you finally snapped," Dean finished, although the words tumbling from his lips undoubtedly belonged to the spirit in possession of his body. "You were waiting for me in the hayloft."
"My mother could no longer afford her rent," Elizabeth explained, her tone evidently desperate and her eyes wild. Her head whipped around the barn as suddenly, numerous figures began to materialise around them, including those of the Carter twins, hands interlocked and expressions frighteningly sober.
"She was sick," Elizabeth pleaded, "she was to be made homeless with my sister. I needed employment."
"I offered to help you," Jackson replied coldly, watching as the other apparitions began to form a smothering circle around the governess. She wept openly, clutching at her chest as though the hammering of her long still heart was plaguing her.
"I could have found you work elsewhere, but you couldn't let go of your childish infatuation," he accused, shaking his head sadly as he stared evenly at the woman. "If you couldn't have me, then no one was to. You murdered me, and then you killed my family."
Elizabeth swept her gaze around the faces of the farm's inhabitants as the pale, ash stained image of a maid flickered repeatedly beside the twins, before finally solidifying.
Jo placed the axe down on the ground, resting her hands on the shoulders of the twins as the governess stared back in horror at the seven inhabitants of the house, who had all perished at her hand.
"You must pay for the things you did," the maid stated, taking a step toward the woman. The others beside her did likewise.
"No, no... you can't send me there," Elizabeth protested, gasping in horror as a swirling, black mist began to pool at her feet and swept around her legs with an unearthly growl.
"I was to be married a week later," the maid said above the roar of the wind that had suddenly whipped up in the barn. She glared at the governess, her arms stiff at her sides.
"You took the life of my husband, and then my children," Grace, still speaking through Jo, snarled as she continued to watch whilst the floor beneath the governess' feet cracked and opened up. Elizabeth screeched, throwing her arms up above her head as the black smog wrapped around her limbs like a rope, and began to tug her downwards into the abyss.
"No, please, please, I beg you..." Elizabeth yelled, her eyes blazing as she shot desperate glances at the apparitions watching her descent. With one last final howl that was an undeniable mingling of terror and fury, Elizabeth was dragged down into the pit, and the wooden planks sealed closed behind her.
Jo lifted her head and offered a sad smile to the staff, all of whom began to turn their faces towards the ceiling, from which an iridescent white light emanated. It bathed their cheeks and warmed them, extracting smiles from the assembled spirits that bespoke their utter elation; finally, they were free of the prison that Elizabeth's Rennicks misdoings had confined them to- free to be reunited with their loved ones on the other side.
The maid, the housekeeper, and several farm hands disappeared from view as though swallowed by the light, and Jo was left standing to regard her 'daughters'. Their identical faces were turned towards her, and they gnawed on their bottom lips in similar states of confusion and trepidation.
"Mama, we're afraid," Emily whispered, reaching up a hand to Jo's cheek and frowning as she found that her fingers now passed through the woman completely.
"It's alright my darlings," Grace smiled in reassurance, and the little girls' heads whipped around. Their mother and father now stood hand in hand, separate from the mortal bodies of the hunters they had inhabited for a time.
Jo watched as the two ghostly children skipped over to their parents where they were immediately embraced, and a second equally brilliant beam of white light descended upon the family. The twins waved at Jo and, as the Carters huddled together, Grace mouthed her own silent thanks to the couple who had reunited them after almost one hundred years.
"Jo?" Dean said uncertainly. Jo darted to his side and immediately dropped down to her knees.
"What the hell happened?" she demanded, placing her hand gingerly against his leg as Dean shook his head and reached out to tug her closer.
Dean stared into her eyes, relieved beyond measure to find a pair of deep, chocolate brown orbs reflected back at him.
"Dean?" Jo demanded, wondering how badly he was hurt as he continued to stare mutely up at her. "Are you okay?"
Their attention was simultaneously drawn toward the apparitions that remained; Grace and Jackson, arms encircled around their daughters, directed grateful smiles in the direction of the hunters before vanishing.
Jo peered down at herself, suddenly realising that her body had been returned to the sweatpants and tank top that she had fallen asleep in the previous night. With a relieved sigh, she foraged in her pocket for her cell phone and began to stab at the buttons desperately. Dean sagged back against the floor with his eyelids lightly closed as Jo made the 911 call, her voice trembling and cracking horribly. He was aware of her stroking his brow, but Dean was too overcome by both pain and exhaustion to respond much beyond a muted grumble of thanks.
"The EMT's will be here soon," Jo soothed, carefully lifting Dean's head with both hands and then placing it in her lap. His eyelids fluttered open and he reached up to finger the strap of her tank top.
"You look... Like you." Dean murmured as the burning in his leg began to ebb at his mind, and caused his thoughts to blur into an incoherent and fuzzy mess. Jo laughed softly, evidently concerned but aware that Dean's injuries were by no means life threatening.
Glancing around the barn, Jo was relieved to find they were once again alone, and there appeared to be no sign of any of the apparitions, friendly or otherwise. As they awaited the arrival of the ambulance, they sat in a silence that was punctuated only by the soft, soothing sounds Jo made low in her throat as she ran her fingers through Dean's hair in comfort.
Dean's eyes flickered open at regular intervals, and he seized her free hand in his, watching his fingertips brush over her warm skin.
"Just checking," he smiled weakly, closing his eyes and wincing as a dull yet hot pain shot through his lower leg.
"It's really me, I promise," she stated, leaning over him and pressing a tender kiss against his lips, as if to prove the truth behind her words.
Squeezing her hand, Dean allowed his eyes to slip closed once again as Jo resumed stroking his forehead, and he murmured in reply, "I know."
Ten minutes later the paramedics arrived, and Jo began relaying the most convincing story she could formulate to explain their presence at the abandoned farm. The on-scene EMT was able to confirm that Dean's leg was most definitely broken, and they set about loading him into the ambulance after a shot of morphine that knocked him out almost instantly.
Once Dean was safely encompassed inside the ambulance, Jo stayed behind to pack their equipment in haste, before making her way to the local hospital in the Impala.
Dean shifted in the armchair in evident discomfort, his mouth twisted into a grimace that communicated irritation rather than pain. His leg was stretched out before him, propped up on a stool and mounds of pillows, and encased in a heavy looking white plaster cast, that Sam had already threatened to graffiti should Dean continue posing an annoyance to him. The former Winchester was also still in recovery from a particularly nasty bout of chicken pox, and was currently swaddled in his duvet on Bobby's couch with a stack of pillows behind his head, and lotion coating his skin. Despite this, he still seized every opportunity to scratch at his spots when he believed Jo to be looking the other way.
News of an important hunt had drawn Bobby away to Alaska, leaving Jo alone to tend to the two patients, both of whom were seriously beginning to creep up on her very last nerve.
"Where do you think you're going?" Jo challenged, hands firmly on her hips as she stared down at Dean, who had been contemplating hobbling over toward the kitchen.
"To make a sandwich," he retorted in frustration, sighing and grumbling as she gently placed her hand in the centre of his chest and pushed him back down into the chair.
"I'll do it... whilst I go heat up some soup for Sam," she added wearily, her gaze befalling the latter, who mumbled pathetically to himself.
"Jo... could you pass me the TV remote?" Sam sighed, flopping back against his pillows as he reached out feebly toward the remote that was positioned only inches away from his right hand.
"Are you kidding me?" Jo's eyebrow arched dangerously in response and she stood between the brothers, her tone thoroughly exasperated. She pointed towards Dean as she barked, "You- quit trying to get up, I know it's gotta be a pain in the ass not being able to get around, but the doc says you can't put any weight on your leg for at least another week, so I'm warning you now Winchester, you try getting out of that chair one more time and I'm gonna tie your ass to the bed!"
She narrowed her eyes at the suggestive grin that settled on his face, and added pointedly, "Not in a good way!"
Dean cleared his throat and nodded, accepting defeat as he folded his arms across his chest and Jo jabbed her finger in the direction of his brother.
"And you! Your arms aren't broken, so, no! I am not gonna get the TV remote for you, or fluff your God damn pillows, or drive to the store because you want chocolate ice-cream instead of vanilla again. I am not your Momma! You boys are making me crazy! CRAZY!" Jo emphasized, running her hands through her hair in evident desperation.
"We're sorry," Dean mumbled, his tone genuinely repentant as Sam nodded in agreement and gazed up at Jo through wide, puppy dog eyes that had little effect on her resolve.
"Yeah, sorry Jo," Sam added quietly, frowning and allowing a lock of brown hair to fall in front of his eyes, "we didn't mean to make you mad."
"And don't think that will work on me either, Sam," she challenged, narrowing her eyes in warning at Sam, who looked suitably chagrined as he scooted further under his blanket. "Now, I'm going into the kitchen, and by the time I get back, you guys better have strapped on your big boy pants."
They mumbled their obedience under their breaths and, as Jo began to wander from the room, Sam leaned forwards and seized the remote.
"Jo?" he inquired, his tone turning hopeful as the blonde whipped around to face him, seeming less irritated than she had several seconds ago. "Could I get a sandwich too? P.B. and J... with the crusts cut off?"
Jo shrieked in frustration and stomped from the lounge, causing the brothers to exchange glances.
"Dude, you made her mad," Dean accused, his expression petulant as he glared at his brother.
"I'm sick!" Sam retorted, wrinkling his nose as he scratched at his arm. He immediately halted as Jo yelled out a seemingly psychic warning from the direction of the kitchen.
Dean tossed a nearby cushion at his sibling, momentarily impressed at his own aim as it struck Sam square in the face.
"Oh shut your pie hole, Sammy. You piss her off and she's gonna be a whole lot less nice to me... so stop making my girlfriend angry and just suck it up!"
"Well I'm sorry if my suffering puts a dampener on your love life, Dean. You're unbelievable, you know that? You've got a broken leg and that's still all you're thinking about?" Sam griped, opening the bottle of lotion and sniffing at it gingerly.
"Yeah, well my leg may be broken, but everything else is in full working order, so... cut the crap and quit being such a baby." Dean hissed, clearing his throat as he heard Jo's brisk footfalls returning in their direction.
The brothers dissolved into heated bickering as Jo returned to the room with a tray of drinks and a stack of sandwiches, which she promptly slammed down on the coffee table.
"Ok, enough," she yelled, thrusting a bowl of soup at Sam and a bag of pretzels at Dean. "One more word, just one more, and I'm calling on a cross roads demon."
"Sorry Jo," Dean said, this time adding more conviction to his tone, and also offering his girlfriend an apologetic smile. "We'll behave. Promise."
"Suck up," Sam grunted, stirring his soup as Jo perched herself gingerly on the edge of the chair at Dean's side.
"How's the leg feeling?" she inquired, resting one palm on the top of Dean's thigh and squeezing gently. He shrugged and resisted the urge to start up complaining once again about how the plaster cast itched, and stumbling up Bobby's stairs to take a leak required a good thirty minutes of foresight.
"Showering's a bitch," Dean simply replied, glancing up quickly at Jo as she giggled and lowered her lips to his earlobe.
"Well, if that's all that's bothering you, we could always switch to bed baths," she whispered, shooting Sam a glare as he almost choked on his soup; an evident consequence of having been eavesdropping on the couple's conversation.
A suitably lurid grin emerged on Dean's face, and he hauled her uneasily onto his lap, bending his head to whisper in her ear. Sam rolled his eyes, noting the deep, red blush that rose up Jo's cheeks at Dean's words.
"Avert your gaze, Sammy," Dean directed, wrapping his arms around Jo and pausing to brush the tip of his nose against hers as they exchanged grins.
Sam dutifully diverted his gaze, grimacing as he saw them out of the corner of his eye, caught up in a slow, uncomfortably eager kiss.
Guys... really?" he complained. In his current, queasy state, and with Dean laid up with a broken leg, he had figured that the couple may perhaps have elected to lay off the public displays of affection at least for a little while.
"Go take a nap," Dean ordered unsympathetically, running his hands in circles over Jo's back as he enjoyed her closeness and the unmistakable tenderness in her touch.
Sam sighed out loud for dramatic effect, lifting his lunch tray from the table before he padded out of the room, the comforter slung over his shoulder.
"Well, that got rid of him," Jo said, nodding in approval at Dean, and the wicked gleam present in his eyes. "I guess I really owe you one now, huh Winchester?"
Dean's grin erupted instantly, and he bobbed his head in confirmation of her words.
"I guess you do," he replied, stroking her cheek with the back of his hand, and watching without protest as she placed his uneaten plate of food onto the table before straddling his knee, careful not to jar his injured leg. Dean rested his hands on her waist, and peered up at her, evidently expectant.
"I think we should get you to bed," she murmured, leaning in and brushing a kiss against Dean's forehead, "in my professional opinion that is."
"Yes, nurse," Dean breathed, stealing another heated kiss for good measure, which Jo finished up by nipping at his bottom lip before affixing him with a predatory look.
Dean's mouth dropped open and, allowing Jo to support his weight beneath her shoulders, he clambered to his feet. He would have plenty of time, as the two hunters struggled to hoist him upstairs with his cumbersome cast, to contemplate the unsuspected merits of the situation, which he now most definitely hoped would include sponge baths, massages, and possibly even the appearance of an outfit or two.
With a smug, satisfied grin in place, Dean Winchester decided that, every now and then, he could get to like being 'sick', just so long as his girl was there to nurse him back to health.