Dean groaned as he rolled over in bed, the weak sunlight stinging his eyes. The beginning of another day...then, as his vision slowly sharpened, he noticed Sam's long, lanky figure slumped across the table. He frowned and prised himself from the bed, staggered to his feet and went over to his brother. Sam appeared to be asleep on top of the laptop, his overlong chestnut hair spilling over his face. He looked vulnerable-unhappy.
"Sammy, c'mon. Wake up..."
Sam started, blinked, then jerked upright, looking surprised.
"Where...where am I...Dean?"
Dean smiled at the kid's bewilderment. "You want to tell me how you fell asleep on my computer, geek boy?"
Sam glanced at the dark screen and frowned, running a hand through his hair. "Uh..." Then his hazel eyes brightened and he looked visibly more alert. "I was checking out anything that could lead to a haunting in the area. Because..."
"Oh, you're unbelievable." Dean turned away and, yawning, made his way over to the bathroom.
By the time he emerged Sam had left the computer again and gone over to his bed. He seemed to have fallen asleep on it, too, and judging by the awkward position he had got himself into, he had not meant to do so. Dean shook his head, decided not to wake his little brother when he was just getting some peaceful, much-needed rest, and headed out in search of breakfast.
Sam was jolted from a dream in which Jessica was again pinned to the ceiling, burning and bleeding, to the sound of someone hammering at the door. He forced himself to his feet, rubbing sleep out of his eyes, wondering how he could have become so tired that he simply fell asleep in odd places like this, and went over to peer through the spyhole. Dean was standing on the other side, looking slightly annoyed.
"I forgot my key," he called through the wood. "Open up, Sammy."
Sam flung the door wide. "It's Sam," he reminded him, then gasped. The ghost he had seen the day before was standing directly behind Dean, looking over his shoulder. Seeing the direction of his gaze, Dean turned, but as his gaze turned towards the spirit it disappeared, leaving Dean staring into thin air. He turned back to Sam, an expression of slight concern in his eyes.
"Uh-will you get violent if I ask you what you were staring at?"
Sam reached out, grabbed his older brother's arm and dragged him inside the protection of the salt line, slamming the door behind them. Dean was looking a little angry now, and Sam faced him with arms folded, determined.
"You must have seen it that time," he said. "It was the same spirit, I know it was."
Dean spread his hands. "Sam," he said. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I swear to you that there was nothing there."
Sam stared, amazed. "But it was right there, Dean! It's stalking you or something! It's this old guy in a suit, only he's got these weird eyes, I swear they even looked red for a second. You ever met someone like that? Maybe it's someone you beat at poker or something..."
"Sam!" Dean stormed past him, grabbing his bag. "We're leaving. You're imagining things, you hear me? Just forget it!"
"But he was there, Dean, I saw him!"
"Listen to me, dude. I know you're new back on the job. Can you tell me if you're maybe just, I dunno, projecting all that crap in your freaky head onto the hunting thing and making you see things? Because there was nothing there, Sammy!"
The brothers drove in brooding silence from then on. They were headed, as far as they knew, away. Dean just wanted to get away from whatever stupid hallucinations his brother was having-Sam was banking on the idea that this spirit would not be able to follow Dean very far. But he was confused-why could Dean not see it? Why, for some reason, was the thing allowing only Sam to see it? It made no sense.
Unless it really didn't care about anything except getting to Dean...Sam shuddered, beginning to wish he had never let his older brother come out from behind the salt line in their room. Why would a spirit set its sights on his brother? What was the point?
Actually, Sam realised, there were many reasons why someone could bear a grudge against Dean Winchester, alive or dead.
"Hey," he said, not looking up. "Hey, Dean, where're we going anyway?"
Dean did not take his eyes off the road. "I got us a job."
Sam's head jerked up. "What? How the hell-"
"Some, uh, problems in some village a few miles from here."
Sam shot him an incredulous look. "You just made that up," he accused. "What the hell is wrong with you anyway? Why won't you listen to me?"
"I am listening," Dean replied, still not looking at him. "And I think there's a thing somewhere in the woods outside Cayford, Maine, which is where we're headed." He turned on the cassette player. "And I didn't make it up, I heard talk in the diner and I was going to tell you when you turned all crazy ghost-whisperer on me."
Sam wanted to bang his head off the window. "Dean-"
"So," Dean shouted over the pounding music. "Some drunk saw something dig up a grave. Then there's a bunch of disappearances in the village."
"What does that mean?" Sam said, deciding to humour his brother. "'A bunch of nasty killings?'"
"Means that the past week since this dude saw the thing rise, there's been three people going missing, plus a lot of animals. They only found one body, and apparently it was kinda dissolved. Plus some stories about a rogue coyote or something in the forest." He shrugged. "Worth checking out."
"Got any theories?"
"Well, I'd say a zombie of some kind, but I don't know for sure."
Sam sighed. "Well-fine. But we need to talk about this ghost-"
Dean turned up the volume. "Sorry, can't hear ya there Sammy," he explained absently, and hit the accelerator.
Dean, who had been leaning against the Impala swigging beer from the bottle, whipped round to see Sam's lanky figure come running across the road towards him, narrowly avoiding being run over by a bus.
"What is it?" he called. "You found a spider in the toilet again Sammy? 'Cause I'm not getting it out for ya-"
"Don't call me Sammy," Sam said, coming to a halt before him. "Jerk. I found something, while you were-what were you doing again?"
Dean grinned. "Researching. The manager of the morgue has a very hot assistant." He wagged his eyebrows.
"You made out with someone in a morgue?" Sam shook his head. "That's sick even for you, you're such a necrophiliac."
Dean frowned. "I'm a what?"
"Never mind. So you saw the body?"
Dean grimaced. "What was left of it."
Sam looked a little confused. "What, something had eaten it?"
Dean laughed shortly. "I love how you're so matter of fact about that, Sammy. No. Dissolved, like I said. No blood, it was more like some kind of acid had burned part of it up."
Sam nodded. "Well, that fits."
"No it doesn't!"
"Not with the zombie thing, no. But check this out-" He pulled a folded newspaper from his jacket and held it up. "Someone smashed up the church door last night."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "Now it's all coming clear," he said sarcastically.
"Shut up. I checked out the church and I found this." He handed his brother a small bottle filled with a kind of grey dust. Dean uncapped it and sniffed, then scowled.
"Oh, great. Corpse powder." He shoved the bottle at Sam. "Skinwalker?"
"Looks like it. Defacing the church, the people going missing...and the powder dissolving the body. It does that. Remember we saw that before somewhere, years ago?"
Dean shoved his hands in his pockets. "Great. So we look for its lair."
"These things only come out at night," Sam said. "In the day they hide somewhere dark, warm and, uh, bad smelling."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "That last in the lore?"
"Not exactly," Sam returned defensively. "But it's still true. They like dead bodies. Kinda like you."
"That would explain the graves being dug up," Dean mused. "They make that powder from bodies, don't they. " He straightened up. "So we find some place in the forest dark and stinky, and we pack the sucker fulla silver."
"Let's go now, then," Sam said. "We don't want to fight it by night, and there's no time to lose. It'll be moving on soon, they never stay in one place long." He opened the Impala door and slid inside. Dean followed, more relieved than he cared to show that Sam had apparently stopped seeing that ghost. He could not help but worry about the kid; he was new back in hunting, and though he was good enough he was still a hell of a trouble magnet, always had been. And now, with his trauma over Jessica's death...It was Dean's job to take care of him, always had been and always would.
Still, they had hunted skinwalkers a couple of times before. Not without Dad, sure, but it was old ground in the way that demons, for example, were not. Dean still shuddered to remember that traumatic exorcism a few weeks ago-the one they had performed on a plane. Still, at least he had a ready weapon for whenever Sam joked about his fear of flying now-clowns was a much funnier phobia. He had only taken the kid to a fair once, when Sam had been about six years old, and when one of the clowns had boomed its hello and tried to hold his hand for a photo he had screamed so loudly you'd have thought he was being molested and not stopped running till Dean managed to tackle him in a field outside the fair.
It was good to be back with Sam. Dean would never admit it, and he knew it could not last forever, that they both had their issues...but he had missed his little brother while he was at Stanford. He was pretty sure that their father had too.
Okay-the skinwalker. When I wrote this part, quite a while ago, I realised that we'd never seen the boys hunting a skinwalker or heard much of anything about them...just thought it might be interesting. There wasn't much information about them anywhere so I made a bit of it up...but this was before the episode All Dogs Go To Heaven. I saw that, thought damn and decided not to bother changing it...that's all the excuse I have I'm afraid!