A/N: Heya, everyone - sorry, sorry, sorry, I took so freakin' long to get this last chapter posted. I got about half-way through finishing it when my brain decided to quit working and then I kept getting distracted by comment fic memes.(I know - excuses, excuses ...)
My bad. :(
Anyway, thank you for reading this story if I haven't already thanked you personally. I'm horribly bad at replying to reviews on this site, but if you ever read my stuff over on LJ, I almost guarantee that I will reply to your comments (for some reason 's reply system really bugs the heck out of me.)
Again, this story isn't beta'd, so I'm sorry again for all of the travesties against the English language you may encounter.
Dean beat a hasty retreat from town, pushing the car's engine as far as he dared while flooring the accelerator. He'd been gone far longer than he had hoped and he hated that he had had to leave Sam behind in that freaking cabin alone all this time.
Sure, nothing had happened to them during their stay this time around yet, but if something did rear its fugly head, Sam was in no condition to defend himself. The cabin was too far out in the boonies for cell reception and Sam had no way to call him if he was in trouble.
Logically, he tried to calm himself by remembering that they had taken care of the problem they faced last time, yet still, he had a creeping anxiety growing in the pit of his stomach and he felt that he couldn't get back to his brother fast enough.
"What do you mean 'she's the drawings'? You're not making any sense."
"Look closer, Dean – doesn't this ink seem a little strange to you?" Dean still didn't see what his brother was going on about. Sam picked up on his confusion and pointed at the drawings, "It's the ink – it's blood. And I'm guessing it's her blood." He added, pointed at the woman in the pictures.
Dean took a closer look at the rust colored ink and he could have slapped himself for not recognizing it for what it was sooner – after all, he'd seen enough if the stuff, in all of its forms – dried and wet. He figured he must have been knocked on the head by those peaches harder than he thought to be so slow in the uptake.
"Shit …" Dean shook his head, "That's just so wrong… that sick mother –"
"Yeah… " Sam agreed.
Fuming, Dean grabbed the drawings and felt them start to crush in his hands, "When we get out of here we gotta track the guy that did this down – ."
"Dean … it wasn't a ghost or monster that did this … it was a person. We don't kill people."
"People, Sam?" Dean took the pages of paper with their gruesome images of a woman they had no name for and tossed them into the fire, hoping she could find some peace as the last of her mortal remains turned to ash. "They're the real monsters."
For several minutes Sam was silent as he stood by Dean staring into the flames, watching the pages curl around the edges, blacken, and then fall apart, mingling into the rest of the ash gathered at the bottom of the fireplace.
Sam spoke up quietly after the last of the drawings disintegrated, breaking the shroud of silence, "You think this is it? That she's gone?"
"Only one way to find out." Dean replied and turned around, "Stay here." He ordered Sam back as he headed for the door. Taking a deep breath, Dean readied himself for another round of flying crap, but when he cautiously touched the doorknob and turned it, heaving a heavy sigh when nothing was hurled at his head. He gave the door a tug and it swung open easily.
"Well … guess that answers that question." Dean confidently stated, "Grab your crap, Sammy. We're outta here."
"You sure? What if we missed something?"
"Door's open and I'd rather freeze my ass off in the car than spend another minute in here, don't you? So are you coming or not?"
Sam looked around the tossed about cabin uneasily with an air of uncertainty, but he shook it off and gave into Dean's desire to flee the cabin that had trapped them, "Okay … just let me put out the fire."
After dousing the fire with a bottle of water, Sam gathered up his pack and tossed in some of his things that had been strewn about. Dean picked up his stuff as well then led his little brother out of the cabin.
Sam stopped just outside the door and looked back at the lonesome shack, "She must have wanted this – wanted us to find those drawings and put her to rest, that's why she wouldn't let us go – she was desperate to get out. Makes me wonder how long she was trapped in there, unable to move on and all by herself – it must have been so lonely …"
Dean looked at his little brother's face. The darkness shadowed much of his features as did his unruly hair, but he could still see the creases of emotion that etched themselves into Sam's face. There was sadness mixed in with anger , like he truly felt for the woman whose life had been taken from her and for the years of loneliness and misery that followed after that, waiting for someone –anyone - to come to this empty cabin and save her from her isolated torment.
Dean didn't think he could imagine such misery and pain – sure, there were times when he felt alone, when he felt like the monkey in the middle between Sam and Dad, but the truth was, he was never alone – he had his family and even when it was a dysfunctional mess, they had each other. He just hoped it stayed that way.
"I dunno." Dean clapped Sam on the shoulder, "But it's over now and I say we get the Hell out of here and never come back. Sound good to you or should we just stand here and stare forlornly at this shitty cabin all night?"
Pockets heavy laden with the supplies the doctor had given him, and with a shotgun filled with salt rounds in his hand, Dean's heart pounded in time to his feet as he ran down the narrow, branch strewn, and uneven trail towards the cabin. His anxiety didn't let up even as the cabin came into his field of vision. Though he repeatedly tried to convince himself that Sam couldn't possibly have gotten that much worse since he left, his gut was still doing somersaults and he knew he wouldn't feel any relief until he got to his brother.
Finally, Dean reached the door to the shack and gave it a push.
But, it would not open.
This couldn't be happening – not again. "Crap."
"Sam?" He shouted through the door while pounding on it, "SAM!"
Dean didn't hear anything from inside and his heart galloped in throat. He lifted his hand to pound on the door once again when he felt the wind kick up around him, tossing fallen leaves into the air. A shiver chased up his spine and he slowly turned around, feeling as though he was being watched. He hoisted the shotgun up and turned around in a circle, readying his nerves for anything. He scanned the trees and listened for any sounds coming from the forest, but there nothing to be seen or heard.
After a second of frenzied anxiety building in Dean's stomach, the wind suddenly died as quickly as it had started and everything was quiet once again.
Dean stood motionless, trying to calm his racing heart and heavy breathing until he finally snapped out of it, turning back to the door. He raised a fist to bang on the only entrance to the cabin once again when the door suddenly swung open, his pale and sweaty brother standing on the other side.
"Dean?" Sam swayed slightly as he held on to the doorknob then grabbed the door jamb to steady his unsteady legs, "Why are you banging on the door?"
"The door wouldn't open … and I thought …"
"Oh …" Sam cut him off, "Sorry … forgot I locked it."
"How'd you lock it?" Dean letting his fear turn into anger at his brother for making him worry, "I didn't even know it had a lock. Why'd you do that?"
"I pushed a chair against the door … Was hearin' stuff … prolly just my 'magination - Stupid, huh?" Sam explained blearily as Dean stepped in, "This place … just makes me a little paranoid, ya know?"
Yeah, that was just how Dean felt as well, but he didn't have time to really dwell on that as Sam took that moment to stumble and if Dean hadn't grabbed his brother around the waist at that moment, he would have been meeting the floor with his face.
"Whoa … let's get you back in bed." Dean helped lead Sam back over to the cot and laid him back down.
Sam groaned and held his wounded side as Dean lifted his legs and got him situated again, pulling a blanket up and over him. He ran a hand over Sam's forehead and swore under his breath. His brother was burning up and Dean didn't need a thermometer to tell him that the fever was dangerously high.
Dean reached into his supply heavy pocket and produced the bottle of antibiotics, shaking out two pills before adding a couple of Tylenol into the mix. "Here … take 'em."
Sam obeyed, wearily taking the pills from Dean's hand and he didn't offer any resistance when Dean helped him sit up. Sam raised the pills to his mouth and popped them in, but when he tried to bring a bottle of water to his lips to chase them down, his hand shook so badly that Dean had to lay his hand over Sam's to steady it.
"Thanks." Sam mumbled once the pills had been washed down and he tried to lower the water bottle, but Dean stopped its descent.
"Drink the whole thing, Sam. You need to stay hydrated and it doesn't look like you even touched any of the water I left you while I was out." Dean chastised as he pointed to the full water bottles next to the cot.
Sam made a petulant groan, but brought the bottle back up to his mouth and drank the rest without another complaint.
When he was finished, he slid down the bed again and blinked slowly until he was out like a light only a moment later.
"'night, Sammy." Dean said, patting his brother affectionately on the shoulder before he took a seat on the floor beside the cot. He pulled the shotgun over his lap, feeling a little more secure with the weapon on him as he tried his best to stay alert.
The curvy, redheaded waitress bent over the counter, her blouse opening just enough for him to get a peek at the pink, lacy bra she wore underneath. He smiled gleefully, tearing his eyes away from her cleavage just long enough to look her in the eyes as she handed him his order – a hot, steaming plate of chili-cheese fries.
"This is just what I needed … thanks, Hon." He said, digging into the greasy pile of fries.
The waitress, 'Rhonda' her name tag read, smiled back at Dean while he ate, then rapped her knuckles on the counter to get his attention. But Dean was so hungry and intent on finishing this plate of fries in record time that he ignored her at first – there'd be time to charm her into showing off more of that pink bra after he was done. But, she wasn't one to be ignored and she knocked on the counter again, this time louder and with an air of irritation.
With a small, internal sigh, Dean stopped eating to look up at the waitress, but nearly fell of his chair when the pretty young redhead wasn't there; instead he was met with the angry, bearded, and grizzled face of John Winchester, who strangely enough, still wore the waitress' uniform - hairy chest, arms, and all.
"Dad?" He gulped.
"Open the door, Dammit."
Oh crap …. Dream … this is a dream.
Dean shot up, his head nearly colliding with ceiling of the car and he was instantly fully awake and alert, meeting his father's face as he knocked on the window of the door.
"Open up, Dean." Dad demanded and he bolted into action, unlocking the door and pushing it open.
From the backseat, Sam mumbled as he sat up and rubbed his eyes, "Wha? … Dad?"
"You two - get out here right now!"
Dad was pissed - nothing new or unexpected there. Dean was pretty sure it had to do with finding his sons sleeping in the car rather than in the cabin he had ordered them to stay in and his assumption proved correct a moment later after he and Sam had exited the car.
"What the Hell are you two doing in the car? I told you to stay in the cabin."
"Yeah … about that …" Dean started.
"The cabin was haunted." Sam finished testily and before Dean could stop him, Sam's eyebrows knit together in a sharp V and he slipped on one of his patented bitchfaces. Dean knew his brother and knew when an explosion was imminent.
He kicked Sam in the shin, but that still didn't stop him starting in on their father and damning the consequences, "But, you knew that … didn't you, Dad?"
Dad met Sam's intense gaze head-on, but didn't lie or beat around the bush, "Yeah, I did. But, I knew you boys could take care of it."
"We could have been killed." Sam voiced incredulously as he pointed to his brother, "Dean got hurt. Don't you think we should have known about the spirit first before you sent us in there?" Sam asked, his voice rising along with his anger.
"Sam –" Dad took a step forward until he and his son were toe to toe, equaling the young man's temper. "You and Dean both need to be ready for anything that comes your way whether you like it or not. Sometimes you won't get the luxury of researching and planning before a monster comes at you and sometimes you just need to deal with unexpected crap. That's why I sent you two there – to learn how to handle a case when it suddenly lands in your lap and work as a team."
Sam at least had the good sense to back down after Dad's brief explanation. Dad then turned from Sam and wheeled on Dean, "Now … you boys took care of the ghost, didn't you?"
Dean swallowed, "Yessir." he replied quickly as Sam continued to make a pinched face that expressed his anger, but wisely kept his mouth shut.
"Good." Dad eyed Dean carefully, his gaze settling on the cut and bruise adorning his temple. "You okay?"
"Yeah … just a little bump." Dean assured him, even if his head still ached miserably.
"Good," Dad nodded then added a heartbeat later, "well … since you boys took care of things here, let's go. You guys hungry?"
"God yes." Dean responded immediately. He was starving and last night's rabbit hadn't exactly been filling.
Dad headed back to his truck wordlessly after that and Sam and Dean followed their father down the road a few moments later in the car. Dean was just happy to be out of the forest, back on the road and heading for the nearest diner, yet Sam sat sullenly in the passenger seat, a scowl permanently etching his face.
"What?" Dean asked Sam.
"Nothing." Sam replied, looking out the window.
It was twenty minutes later that their father pulled into the parking lot of a small diner and they followed him inside to a booth. They ordered coffee and breakfast and little was said between the three of them until after their food arrived. Dean dug right in to his plate of bacon and eggs while Sam mostly ignored his omelet and leveled his gaze on their father.
"So … who was she, Dad?" Sam asked, clearly not ready to let Dad's decision to send them out to a haunted cabin without warning them thing go so easily, "—the woman in the cabin?"
Dad sighed and took another swig of his coffee before he responded to Sam's question, "Her name was Lillian White …"
Dad went on to explain the story, speaking low so no one could overhear.
" She was a nurse at the state mental hospital and she went missing right about the same time James Jackson, a patient from that same hospital escaped. He was a gifted artist until he had a psychotic break in his twenties and killed a model that posed for him, and when she was found, she was missing a pair of eyes – like they had been scooped out of her head with a spoon."
"Uggg, Dad … I'm tryin' to eat here." Dean interrupted, dropping his fork and giving up on trying to enjoy his eggs.
"But the police found him, right?" Sam asked, enthralled with the story, ignoring Dean's displeasure.
"Yeah ... he was caught, but at trial he was found not-guilty by reasons of insanity and committed to the funny farm indefinitely. He was there for about ten years before Lillian White began working there and he became obsessed with her - drawing her over and over again, filling his walls with his pictures of her. Repeatedly, he asked her to pose for him, but she refused each time. She started to become concerned with his fixation on her and asked for a transfer. But Jackson flipped out when he learned she wasn't coming back to his ward. He found a way to escape and tracked her down, kidnapping her after she was leaving work one night and took her out to that cabin in the woods. He tortured her for days until she died then burned her body in a shallow pit behind the cabin. Jackson was upset that his 'muse', as he called her, had died and went out to find a new one, but he was caught trying to kidnap a girl from a mall parking lot. He was arrested and confessed to murdering the nurse. This time though, the insanity defense didn't work for him and he was sent to death row ... they executed him a few years later."
Sam sat with his mouth agape, "But … how did you know that the cabin would be haunted? How did you find out?"
Dad took another sip of his coffee, "I got wind of it from Caleb. He heard from the local yokels out here that the police never searched the cabin as thoroughly as they should have – they had a confession and the remains of the body that had been burned and felt that was enough to put him away. But over the years the cabin garnered a sort of reputation - there were stories about it being haunted and about kids daring each other to spend the night there only to be spooked away. I figured that there had to be some truth behind those rumors and perhaps that there was something left of the nurse within the cabin. I wasn't 100% positive that it was actually haunted,but I thought if it was, then this might be a good case for you two to cut your teeth on alone."
Sam grumbled, picking at his food "Still … would have been nice to know all of this before … we didn't even have any salt or iron..." Dean shot Sam a silencing glare and elbowed him, hoping that his little brother would take the hint and not pick another fight with their father.
"Sometimes you won't have those things and you'll need to improvise, that was the whole point of this." Dad returned Sam's glare with one of his own, but suddenly softened a little, "Actually, Sam … I never went on any salt'n'burn with Caleb… I was in the woods keeping an eye on you two the whole time – if things had gotten too out of hand, I was ready to help."
Sam wasn't impressed and grumbled under his breath. Dad quickly switched back to looking as if he might blow a gasket.
"Well … either way." Dean spoke up before either his dad or brother could much more than exchange heated glances, meaning that it was his cue to step in and diffuse the tension, "Thanks to my incredible hunting skills I found the drawings that sicko made in her blood and we burned them. So, that's the end of her and that counts as a win in my book."
Sam stomped on Dean's foot and added sarcastically, "Oh yeah … you found them alright ... or should I stay you literally stumbled upon them and nearly took your face off in the process."
"Hey ... at least I don't trip over my own feet, like some people." Dean grinned at Sam. "When I fall, I fall with style."
Dean shot awake from an uneasy nap, his back resting up against the wall next to the cot with the rock-salt loaded shotgun still lying across his lap. His senses were on high alert and he was sure he had heard something, like a whisper that was too low for him to make out the words, but when he turned and looked at Sam, his brother was fast asleep and silent.
He sat stock still and listened hard for anything, unable to shake the feeling of being watched while hisgut churned in a way that made the little hairs on the back of his neck stand at attention. And if their dad ever taught them one thing, it was to listen to their gut.
Dean slid his shotgun off of his lap and stood up carefully, looking all about the cabin. Nothing appeared to be amiss, but there was one thing he felt the urge to check and he walked over to the door.
Grabbing the doorknob, he gave it a twist and it turned freely and when the door swung open, he breathed a sigh of relief. Yet still, he felt wary and couldn't fully explain to himself why. He took a careful step outside the door and peered out into the woods, his eyes trying to penetrate the darkness for any movement and ears straining to listen for any noise.
But there was nothing.
All was quiet.
Dean turned back to the door to go back inside when a gust of wind suddenly kicked him in the face and the door slammed shut.
"Shit." Dean tried the door immediately, but it was sealed tight and no amount of pulling or banging on it would open it.
Sam was still inside.
Shit, shit, shit , shit
And Dean was trapped outside.
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit
"Sam!" Dean shouted into the door. "SAM!"
The air temperature around him dropped enough for his breath to mist in front of his face as he banged frantically on the door, channeling all of his anger, his fear, and his strength into beating it down. But for all of that, the only thing all of his efforts gave him was shortness of breath.
On the other side of the door, Dean heard a series of thumps and a muffled shout of, "Dean!", that was undeniably Sam's.
"Hold on, Sam!" Dean yelled back.
More scuffling could be heard from inside followed by a loud shot gun blast. "Sam?"
"She's gone for now, Dean … but hurry … She'll be back." Sam called out.
Dean pushed aside his anxiety for the time being and focused on a way to get inside the cabin so he could finally destroy whatever it was that was haunting the cabin before it could hurt his little brother.
He turned around in a circle until his eyes landed on a rusty hatchet lying next to a pile of logs. Wasting no time, he grabbed the hatchet and started swinging at the door, smashing the dull blade against the old wood.
The door still wouldn't budge, but he was making some headway as the hatchet cut deep gouges into the planks with each impact. Three more times Dean slammed the heavy tool into the door when a loud crack hit his ears when one of the more rotted planks gave way at the bottom of the door.
With a small hole now created, Dean gripped the edges of it and began pulling at the wood, ignoring the sting of splinters digging into his skin while he enlarged the hole and broke the door apart, piece by piece. On the other side of the door, Dean could just make out Sam trying to lend a hand to the process.
With two pairs of hands working, it wasn't long before the hole was big enough for Dean to crawl through on his hands and knees. He shimmied through the tight space and pulled himself headfirst into the cabin, grunting, growling and swearing until he was completely inside.
Dean lay on his back, catching his breath then glanced over at Sam who sat with his back against the wall equally as winded.
"You okay?" Dean asked.
Too breathless for words, Sam nodded and raised a hand to give Dean a sarcastic thumbs up.
For the moment, the cabin appeared to be quiet again, but when he got up from the floor and tried the door, the cabin began to shake from the foundation up - they were trapped inside - again.
Damn … this was getting old.
At least they had a hole they could both climb through should they have to beat a hasty retreat, but Sam really wasn't in any condition to go crawling around on the filthy floor when he already had a raging infection. Besides, they had a ghost on their hands that was practically begging to be put down and they needed to take care of it.
"Okay …" Dean turned to Sam, who looked far too pale for his liking, "I guess we missed something the last time we were here."
Sam snorted weakly, "Ya think?"
"Did you see it?"
"Yeah … Same lady from the drawings."
"You sure? I mean … it's been years since we burned those things… why didn't she show up then?"
" I dunno - maybe she didn't have enough juice to stop us last time - maybe there's only so much energy that a ghost can expend at one time and burning the drawing weakened her. But, I'm sure it was her again this time … she was cut up just like the pictures - except for one thing -"
Sam paled even further, "She didn't have any eyes, Dean."
"No kidding." Sam continued, slow blinks making his eyes droop, "It was like they'd been cut out - remember what Dad said about that artist guy and what he did to the first woman he killed? He must have done the same to the nurse - he just didn't include that part in his drawings. Dad said that her body had been burned, but what if the guy kept a memento of her besides the pictures and it's still hidden around the cabin?"
"Great ..." Dean grumbled and threw up his hands in exasperation.
"We should start searching again." Sam suggested, wrapping his arm around his waist, gritting his teeth and trying to push himself away from the wall.
Dean walked over to him quickly and pushed him back gently before he could get up. At the same time, his eyes traveled down Sam's chest and landed on a slowly spreading spot of blood staining his t-shirt.
"Crap… Sammy," Dean lifted up the shirt and pulled off the bandage to inspect the new damage his brother had done to his wound. Sure enough, the stitches were snapped where they had been pulled from the skin and fresh blood was trickling down Sam's side.
"Sorry." Sam apologized.
"Don't be. S'my fault - I shouldn't have gone outside." Dean reached for a fresh dressing and pressed it onto the wound, causing Sam to emit a sharp groan.
"Not your fault either." Sam grunted back.
"Here …" Dean grabbed Sam's hand and placed it over the wound, "You sit here and keep pressure on that. I'm gonna grab the stuff to get you patched up again then I'll start looking around for what's keeping this girl here – one way or another this ghost is toast."
"How poetic, Dean." Sam sighed with a weak grin.
Dean quickly grabbed the medical supplies and stitched Sam up again, placing a clean bandage over the wound. When he was satisfied his sewing job would hold and he warned Sam to stay still or face an ass-kicking, he pushed himself up to his feet again and turned around in a circle, unsure where to look first whatever was tying the ghost to the cabin.
"Any ideas?" He asked, "We searched this place pretty thoroughly before - I'm not sure what's left."
"Actually ..." Sam sighed, looking down at the floor, and the planks of wood underneath them, "there is one place we didn't look last time ..."
Dean glared, not liking where his brother was suggesting he begin his search, "Son of a bitch!"
Sam was quiet which was never a good thing. It meant he was brooding and thinking too hard again and sure enough, when Dean turned his sight away from the road, he could see the furrow in his brother's brow that meant he had something on his mind.
"What?" Dean asked, turning his eyes back to the road and the big, black truck he was following, "You still mad about Dad's little test for us?"
"Aren't you?" Sam snapped.
Dean sighed, "Look ... he would have come and helped us we had been in any real danger."
"We were in real danger, Dean."
"It wasn't anything we couldn't handle by ourselves. If you ask me ... I think we did a pretty damn good job, don't you?"
Sam worked the muscles of his jaw and shook his head, "I dunno ... that's just it. What if we missed something? I mean ... we've taken out ghosts before and each time we saw what burning their remains did to them - the screaming? - the fire? There wasn't any of that back at the cabin."
"Maybe some ghosts just go quietly." Dean suggested.
Sam shrugged, "Maybe." He agreed half-heartedly, as he turned his attention on the passing scenery again, "Any idea where Dad's going this time?" Sam asked wearily, making Dean grateful for a change in topic, even if his brother was still acting like a girl with PMS.
Dean shrugged in response, "Do we ever?"
Despite the fact that the floorboards were dry as hell and half-rotted from years of disuse, it still took Dean the greater part of an hour to smash open a wide hole with the hatchet he used on the door and pry them up. And even then, he was still coming up empty.
"Dammit." Dean grumbled, wiping sweat off of his brow and looking at the hard packed dirt under the boards. He was dreading the fact that he might have to dig through the ground without a shovel. But the worst part was, he had no clue what it was exactly he was looking for.
"Need some help?" Sam asked, holding a flashlight into the hole for him. Sam's hold on the light was far from steady and he still had a glassiness in his eyes that spoke of fever, but he was just as stubborn as ever and wouldn't sit still while Dean did the work. He was half-tempted to strap Sam to the cot so he wouldn't bust open the second set of stitches he had to sew, but he needed the light - it was far too dark to see much of anything.
"Nah ... just sit tight, Sam. I got this."
Dean stooped and grabbed the edge of another plank, pulling on it with muscles stiff from the repetitive exercise. God ... he was gonna be sore for a week after this.
Feeling the plank give a little he yanked harder until the wood cracked and splintered in half. At the same time, Sam's flashlight began to flicker.
"Damn." Sam slapped the malfunctioning light, making it hard for Dean to see what he was doing, "I think the batteries are dying."
"Peachy." Dean muttered grumpily, that's just what they needed - digging in the dark - things couldn't get more perfect, he thought sarcastically.
Sam hit the flashlight one last time. It snapped back to life and he shined it back down into the hole only for it to flicker again and dim. Sam again started to assault the flashlight, but it was while the light bobbed back and forth under Sam's ministrations that Dean's eye caught something reflect off the beam of light.
"Whoa ... Sam, move the light back over there, " he directed with his index finger to the point where he had seen the silvery glint of something metallic just under the remaining intact floorboards. Suddenly, the light came back on fully and remained bright as Sam pointed the light in the direction of Dean's finger. Getting on his knees, Dean practically had to lie on his stomach to see under the floor, but there was something definitely there. He scooted closer to the edge of the hole in the floor and attempted to reach for the object he knew was there. His fingers skidded around the dirt, but whatever it was, it was just out of reach and there was barely enough room for his arm to fit between the boards and the ground.
"Crap." Dean moaned before letting loose a string of curses and pulling his arm back out. There was only one way to get at the thing.
He grabbed the hatchet again and stepped out of the hole. Aiming the blade of the tool over the wood where he approximated the object's location, lifted it high over his head and slammed it into the planks. It took several mighty whacks at the wood before it finally broke apart and he was able to reach inside the new hole he created. He could just make out the outline of the object embedded in the dirt and he had to dig around a little, but finally his finger found the bumpy edges of something round and metal. He dug deeper and soon felt glass under his touch.
With his fingernails acting as mini shovels, he was eventually successful in freeing what he discovered was a small Mason jar. Lifting it out of the hole, he heard sloshing sounds from inside the jar. He gave the jar a little shake - finding it to be filled with some kind of liquid, but it was so filthy and covered in earth that he wasn't able to see what was inside of it at first, but after a few swipes to clean it off, he wished he hadn't.
"God ..." Sam whispered leaning in a little to get a look, the flashlight's beam illuminating the contents of the jar, "Is that -"
"Yeah ..." Dean lifted the jar up closer to his face to confirm that the things floating within the fluid were indeed what he though they were, "They're eyes."
Sam shook his head, looking sick once again, "Shit ... he saved them." he breathed.
"Pickled them is more like it." Dean added, feeling gross just holding the damn thing.
A small, cool breeze fluttered through the cabin and chilled the sweat on Dean's skin. Goosebumps rising, Dean looked up just in time to see a figure appear behind his brother.
"Sam!" Jumping up, Dean lunged for the shotgun.
Sam turned at the same time in surprise, pain evident on his face as he jolted, but a second later, he held out a hand to Dean, stopping him from raising the weapon and firing, "Whoa ... wait, Dean. I don't think she wants to hurt us... look!"
Dean swallowed and fought his instinct to blast the hell out the clearly dead woman standing before them. She didn't move, just stood there, naked, bloody and blind with a hand reaching out beseechingly. Her mouth was moving, but Dean couldn't hear what she was saying past the blood rushing in his ears, but he knew the single word her lips were forming: 'please'.
"Dean ..." Sam whispered breathlessly, "The jar - "
Duh ... why didn't he think of that?
Dean dropped the gun and gripped the jar, heading quickly to the fireplace .The ghostly apparition did nothing to stop him as he stooped down and unscrewed the lid. A foul stench escaped from the jar and he held his breath against the offensive odor while he poured the majority of the liquid onto the floor until all that was left in the jar were the soggy orbs, their faded and cloudy irises glaring out through the dirty glass.
Dean grabbed the salt and poured some into the jar before tossing the contents into the fire without ceremony, watching as they began to smolder and burn. He turned just in time to see the woman smile briefly as flames surrounded her and claimed her spirit, delivering her into nothingness.
"Damn ..." Dean uttered, looking back at his brother. "You okay, Sam?"
Sam sat panting and turned his eyes on Dean, relief evident on his pasty and sweaty face, "I think we finally got it right this time." He said as his eyes rolled up in his head and he gave up on trying to stay conscious.
Two days later ...
Sam and Dean emerged from the cabin, neither one of them bothering to close the broken door behind them.
Sam's fever had finally broken that morning and Dean was more than ready to leave. In fact, he would have packed them up and taken off right after they got rid of the ghost, but Sam hadn't been in any shape of go for a hike through the woods and even now, he was still a little shaky on his feet. So, for two days, Dean kept them holed up in the demolished cabin, feeding Sam antibiotics and pain-killers until his brother was finally past the danger point.
It was a slow trudge through the woods with Sam moving slow and wincing now and then at the movement, but when the Impala finally came into view, they both exhaled a great sigh of relief as if they had both just come home - and in a way, they sorta had.
Sam refused to let Dean help him into the car, his pigheadedness a good sign that he was on the road to recovery and would be back in shape soon. For once, Dean was glad to see the eye-roll Sam gave him when he asked him if he was okay to sit in the front seat.
After packing their gear away, Dean turned the engine of the car over and headed for the road, certain that enough time had gone by since their great escape from prison that the cops wouldn't be actively searching for them anymore.
They drove through the same town where Dean had gone to get Sam the medicine he needed and passed by the big house owned by the red-headed, gun-toting doctor. He grinned a little recalling his run-in with her and said a silent word of thanks to the occupant inside. Sam fell asleep not long after that, lulled by his lingering exhaustion and the rumble of the engine, his soft snores the only sound in the car for many miles.
When he woke up about 50 miles later, Dean forced Sam to take another round of pills and drink a full bottle of water and when he was finished with the water, Sam looked out the window then back at his older sibling, "So ... do we have any idea where we're going?" he asked.
Dean glanced back at his brother and shrugged, curling his lips up into a wry grin, "Do we ever?"