The Ruin of Souls

Disclaimer: The Winchesters belong to Kripke et al. The love belongs to us.

Edited: by Teajunkie. Thank you for all your help polishing this piece.

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It took less time than Sam would have suspected to get to the family plot, although his head throbbed and he shivered mercilessly as they walked, so it was entirely possible he'd just lost track of time. Dean thrust the shotgun into Sam's hands and jerked his head toward the gravesite. "Keep a lookout?"

Sam nodded, not trusting his voice past chattering teeth. He leaned against the tree behind him for additional support, using it as a grounding force. He watched his brother begin searching the family plot for the right grave. "Daniel Junior!"

Dean looked up at Sam. "I know," he muttered with an exasperated huff. After a few passes, Dean dropped the weapons bag to the ground. "Yahtzee!" He picked up the shovel and started digging.

It was slow going digging out a grave, even with their years of experience, and down by one man, it was taking even longer. Sam blinked slowly as he fought off growing fatigue. He pulled his collar up to protect his neck from the chilling night breeze and large water droplets falling from the ancient evergreen needles above.

Dean tossed the shovel out of the grave and seconds later, he followed in a graceful leap. As Dean poured the salt, Sam scanned the area. The most dangerous time during a salt and burn was from the exposure of the bones to the lighting of the final match. Just when he thought they might truly have gotten lucky this time, he caught the flicker of light near the trees. "Dean, watch out!" he shouted.

"Sam, stay back!" Dean worked faster, pouring lighter fluid over the salt. He tossed the can to the side, pulled out a cheap book of gas station matches, lit one, and used it to start the entire pack on fire. Daniel appeared behind Dean.

"That gold-digging hussy can't have it. You can't have it. It's my birthright!" Daniel Jr.'s spirit enveloped Dean, sending them both into the open grave in a cloud of sulfuric dust.

"Dean!" Sam sprinted for the grave, praying his brother had managed to smother the flames. Before Sam reached the open lip, Dean was bodily thrown clear to a distance of nearly twenty feet where he hit one of the old stone markers.

Dean groaned, pushing himself up with shaking arms. The spirit didn't materialize this time, it just picked Dean up and tossed him again. Sam skidded to a stop at Daniel's grave and with trembling fingers, fumbled for the matches he kept in his jacket. His hand was shaking so hard from the cold and the excess adrenaline that it took three tries to get them lit.

The matchbook arced through the air, and Sam was rewarded with a plume of orange flames seconds later. He spun on his heels and came face to face with Judith. This just wasn't their night.

"Thank you," she said softly, fading from view with a slight smile on her face.

Sam didn't waste any more time as he searched the area for his brother. On the far edge of the family plot under the spreading limbs of a tall sycamore tree, lay Dean. Sam stumbled toward him, the burst of energy quickly fading and his equilibrium faltering. He collapsed beside his brother. "Dean?"

Dean groaned, his arm wrapped protectively around his middle, and squinted against the light shining over him.

Sam ran his hands down Dean's ribcage and legs, searching for blood or broken bones. "Are you okay?"

"Personal space, dude, and yeah," Dean grunted. "We get him?"

"We got him. Ribs?" Sam asked, recognizing the tightness in his brother's breathing.

"Oh, yeah," Dean said. "I'm good though."

Sam pinched the bridge of his nose and willed back the nausea bubbling in his stomach.

"Are you?" Dean asked.

"Mmm—yeah," Sam hummed, closing his eyes. He tried to swallow the lump in the back of his throat. It didn't work. "No." He twisted his head and vomited, barely managing to keep from face-planting in it. Sam sat back, the world flipped, and he fell to the ground as awareness clicked off.

When Sam opened his eyes, the sky was slightly lighter and Dean hovered over him, his face pulled tight with concern. "Gah," Sam groaned and held his stomach. Great, I fainted like a girl. There was no way Dean would let him live this one down.

"Passed out," Dean corrected him.

Sam's forehead curled with confusion.

"When you save your brother's ass from an angry spirit, it's called passing out, not fainting."

Wonderful. Sam must have said it out loud.

"But you're still a girl." Dean looped an arm around Sam's and pulled him to a seated position.

Sam didn't miss the wince or the way Dean kept an arm wrapped around his torso for support.

"Ha-ha." Sam pressed a hand to the soggy ground to stabilize himself.

"Swooned like a regular Scarlett O'Hara." Dean patted Sam's arm, silently asking if he was ready to stand.

Sam nodded and successfully swallowed back another wave of nausea. "You're a riot."

Both brothers groaned in unison as Dean hauled Sam to his feet.

"Need me to loosen your corset strings there, bro?" Dean teased, but he didn't release his hold on Sam's elbow as they started walking.

"Shut up," Sam bit out past a smile.

"I'm just saying, I'm here for you."

"Yeah, me too."

The sun was barely cresting the horizon when they slid into the car. Sam's head pounded mercilessly, his joints ached from the cold, and Dean? Well, he looked as if he'd gone ten rounds with Ali, but they were both relatively in one piece and at the end of the day—or the beginning—that was all that mattered.

Dean started the car and cranked the heat. Sam didn't miss the way his hand trembled minutely as he reached for the levers. "I need to take a look at those ribs when we get back," Sam said, his tone daring Dean to contradict him.

Surprisingly enough, Dean didn't. He just pressed his lips together in a thin line and nodded. "Same for your head."

"I wish we knew who was trying to make money off that farm," Sam said, abruptly changing the subject.

"It's not our problem." Dean spared Sam a glance before refocusing on the road. "We can't fix everything. Sometimes, just doing our job has to be enough."

"Yeah, I know." Sam wasn't sure what he would do with the information even if he had it, but an anonymous tip to either Ray or the Zoning Committee would have been satisfying.

"We're done here," Dean announced firmly. He waited until Sam nodded in agreement before turning the car around and heading to the motel.

Sam leaned back against the seat and closed his eyes. His brother was right. Sometimes, just doing their job had to be enough. Perfect endings didn't really exist.

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They'd only taken time to shower and patch up the worst of their injuries before they'd crashed for the night two towns over. The various takeout containers scattered about the room kept track of time. Between the Chinese and pizza boxes and the crumbled burger wrappers, Dean knew they'd been there for nearly two days.

Sam sat at the table, hunched over the laptop, with a blanket wrapped tightly around his shoulders. Dean didn't know who his brother was talking to, but Sam was using his I'm-a-lawyer tone of voice. "Yes, I'll pass along your message. Thank you, Mr. Johnson." He thumbed off his phone and looked over the computer at Dean. "You're awake."

"It's overrated." Dean sat up farther in the bed, tucked extra pillows behind him, and reached for the television remote. He nodded toward Sam's phone. "Ray?"

"Yeah," Sam admitted. "I contacted him yesterday morning to warn him about the zoning change and how someone seemed interested in his property. He just called to inform me that once officials started an investigation, some schmuck down in records admitted to not only changing the zoning, but also to finding a body in the mine and moving it." He fixed Dean with a pointed look. "Of course, vandals had unfortunately started a fire in the icehouse where he'd stashed it."

Dean smirked. "He'd have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for our meddling."

Sam groaned, rolled his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Dean, you just compared us to Scooby Doo."

"Well, you are enough of a geek to be Velma," Dean said, with a shoulder shrug. "And I definitely have Fred's way with women."

"With your appetite?" Sam shook his head as he turned his attention back to the computer. "Try Shaggy."

"Whatever." Dean turned on the television and flipped through the channels. He'd said it before, but daytime television really did suck. He sighed dramatically and tossed the remote onto the table. "I'm bored."

Sam looked up from his laptop. "Oh, God."

"What?" Dean asked. It sounded as if Sam had found them a hunt by his tone. At least his hearing seemed to be improving every day.

"You and bored always means me on the receiving end of some very annoying behavior." Sam closed his laptop and started packing it away.

"No it doesn't," Dean said, not bothering to keep the indignation out of his tone. "I'm a joy to be around."

The snort of derision from Sam came complete with a wet sounding raspberry of disbelief.

"Hey!"

"What about the time you kept launching M & Ms into my coffee?" Sam curled his legs around the edge of the bed to sit facing Dean.

"I was going for a record," Dean explained, turning to mirror Sam's position. "I'd think my brother would want me to go for the goal."

Sam nodded, pursing his lips. "And the time you lined up all those beer cans on the inside of the shower curtain?"

Dean smiled at the memory. "You screamed like a girl."

"Did not," Sam contradicted. "And so not the point." He stood and started stuffing his clothes into his duffel. "What about when you took apart my iPod?" he asked over his shoulder on his way to the bathroom.

"I thought it might work better than the Walkman for an EMF meter," Dean defended loud enough for Sam to hear in the other room. "It's not like you don't have any annoying traits."

Sam appeared in the doorway and raised an eyebrow. "Shoot."

Sam had annoyed him plenty of times, but given the opportunity to vent one free and clear, Dean couldn't come up with a single legit thing. "You do this thing."

"Thing," Sam said, nodding his head. "Wow, that's specific."

Dean narrowed his eyes and tossed the pillow at his brother. "You're doing it right now."

Sam chuckled and stepped around the pillow to grab his duffel and the laptop bag.

"Sam?"

Sam stopped at the table, dug into Dean's jacket pocket and retrieved the keys to the Impala.

"Sam?" he growled.

Sam stopped and smiled innocently. "Yeah?"

"What're you doing?" Dean asked. The hard edge in his voice was enough to stop most men in their tracks, but not his younger brother.

Sam smiled wider, dimples appearing. "Driving."

"What?" Dean fought with the blankets to get off the bed. "No, you're not."

"I am." Sam held the keys over his head and jingled them noisily.

Dean cursed himself for all the times he'd done that to his much shorter younger brother when they were kids. It was damn annoying. With bruised ribs there was no way he could jump for them so he settled for scowling instead. "Sam!"

Sam simply laughed and headed out the door, forcing Dean to scramble madly to catch up to him. He didn't even bother with his boots, just threw all his stuff into the duffel and ran out the door, bag in one hand, shoes in the other. He half-expected to see Sam in the passenger seat laughing at his expense, but no, his brother really was parked behind the steering wheel.

Dean stomped to the car as well as he could in his socks and tossed his bag into the backseat. He crossed his arms and glared sullenly at Sam who was giving him an odd, raised-eyebrow-of-amusement look. "What?"

Sam shrugged and twisted the key in the ignition. "If it were me, I would have gone with shoes, is all."

Dean glanced down at his attire: jacket, shirt, jeans, socks. "That's because you're a stick in the mud, Sammy," he said with a smirk.

Sam chuckled and turned the car onto the highway. "A stick in the mud with shoes on." He flicked on the radio.

Dean smiled. It wasn't all bad. No shoes meant he could put his feet on the dash if he wanted—not that he ever would—and it wasn't often that he could rest in the car while Sam drove for hours. He'd have both hands free to eat, or harass his brother. Yeah, this not driving thing could be okay.

Just this once.

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Author's Note: Thank you so much for reading!

Author's Note 2: I separated it into pieces strictly for ease of reading, but I posted them all at once so you can still read it as a one-shot, too. :)