Amber likes to walk and read at the same time. She's good at it, too; she can count the steps in the back of her mind while she devours her book, and that keeps her from walking into obstacles because she has memorised where they are.
That might be the only explanation for why her foot lands on something soft and squishy before she really realises it. She's engrossed in her book, but when the lack of impact from the hardwood floor works its way through the wiring to her brain, she glances up over her book, momentarily confused.
That's when the smell hits her full-force, and she stumbles backwards, acknowledging all at once that whatever she stepped on wasn't a piece of dropped or spilled food.
Holy fuck. She's gazing down at Colton, his eyes glassy and fixed towards the ceiling. He's not moving, and his hands are folded over his chest as if he's been styled that way by an undertaker. She covers her mouth with her hand and tries not to think about it as she steps backward again. Then she takes a deep breath and crouches down, checking for a pulse at his neck. There isn't one.
Amber knows all about how Ryan died, how the police didn't know what caused it right away, but that Ryan was found just like this: hands folded, no pulse, no reason she should be dead.
Amber turns towards the kitchen, and the phone, to call the police.
But the body is almost directly at the bottom of the stairs, and if she hadn't seen the way his body's been arranged, she would have tried to reason away a possible murder as an accident: something simple like Colton falling down the stairs. Hell, she still wants to think that, but there's no way he fell down the stairs and landed neatly on his back, legs straight, arms folded.
There is no rationalising this. The worst is knowing that either there is a killer that can sneak in and out without being seen, or that the killer is a something and not a someone. Or even that the killer is one of them.
Amber reaches the phone just in time for Shannon to come in from outside, some clipped roses in her hand from her garden. Amber has never understood it, but roses grow outside this house year-round, and once the thought of ghosts is in her mind, she can't banish it.
A spirit could keep the roses blooming. A spirit could be responsible for the sick feeling she gets walking through the halls now. It could be responsible for the deaths.
All at once Amber remembers Sam and Dean. They'd been so interested, as if they believed in the preternatural too. She drops the phone into Shannon's hand.
"Colton's dead," she says, watching her girlfriend pale and nearly drop to the floor. The roses tumble from her hands, the snow on the petals drifting off and settling on the floor.
The snow doesn't melt. It should have, because the house is warm, but the flakes remain, and when Amber breathes out again, she can see the puff of her breath on the air.
She wants to believe that it's because Shannon just let in winter air when she opened the door, but she doesn't really think so. And since she's afraid the ghost that killed Colton is still hanging around, she kisses Shannon on the cheek and runs up the stairs, avoiding the practically unmarked body of her friend in her haste to get to the Green Room, the one next to hers and the one currently housing the newest tenants.
She can't explain it, but something tells her that they can help. And she gets the impression that she—and Shannon and the rest of the residents—need all the help they can get.
Sam is dozing when the knock sounds upon the door. He was wading upwards towards wakefulness, but slowly, wrapped in a cocoon of warmth and safety, but the knock shatters that complacent feeling and he turns a little and jostles Dean.
"Someone's at the door," he says urgently. "Wake up, Dean."
Dean mumbles but opens his eyes, and then Sam is out of bed and over to the door, stepping over Dean's boots in his socked feet.
When he unlocks and opens the door, Amber is standing there, breathing heavily, looking utterly soaked in fear.
"What's happened?" he says right away. Amber swallows and tries to calm the shocked look on her face.
"Colton's dead, and I think it was a ghost. I don't think it's a live person, anyway."
Dean is lacing up his boots as Sam talks to Amber, so he opens the door wider and gestures her inside. "Do you want to sit down?"
"No," she says, "I left Shannon alone to call the police. This looks awful for her. We have to figure out some way to clear her name."
"I don't suppose she was with you just now?" Dean says hopefully.
"No," Amber says regretfully, shaking her head. "I mean, I could've seen her outside, if I'd looked, because she was out cutting roses when I found the body."
Sam exchanges a glance with Dean. Roses in winter? Yeah, that's definitely not normal.
"Was anyone else with her?" Sam asks. They have to clear Shannon's name, because this is looking more and more like a malevolent spirit.
"No... I don't think so. Though maybe Katie Baker was. She used to live here—she was Elise's girlfriend, until the first murder, and she was too afraid to stay. But she visits Elise every week around this time, and she could have seen Shannon cutting the roses before she walked in."
"Listen," Dean says gently, "you should go back to your room and lock the door."
Sam's not sure that's going to help, but he's already fond of Amber, and he doesn't want anything to happen to her, either.
Still... it's important for both of them to investigate. Maybe he should... He gives Dean a look that says, EMF upstairs? EMF downstairs? and Dean nods.
His brother smiles at Amber before taking her arm and leading her out of the room. As soon as she's in the hallway, Sam grabs his camera and his EMF metre. He's going upstairs, and Dean's going downstairs to check out the body.
The camera is so that he can see how many orbs there are; it helps to know if it's just one ghost haunting the place, or more than one.
"Please be careful," Amber says. "I always thought... well, after the snow didn't melt on the floor, I'm sure something otherworldly is going on.
The snow didn't melt? That means... "Dean, if it is a ghost, it was still downstairs with them."
All three of them hear the scream at the same time. Amber, just visible through the open door, whirls towards the stairs, the look of terror on her face painful to behold as she begins clattering down the stairs at top speed.
"Go after her," Dean says, "hurry."
Sam drops the camera, stuffs the EMF metre into his pocket, and takes the stairs two at a time, hoping to reach Amber before—he sees her skid to a stop before the body, and it gives Sam the chance to wrap both arms around her from behind.
Dean pushes past them, steps around the body, and bolts into the kitchen. By the time Sam calms Amber enough to keep her from going completely hysterical—"That was Shannon's voice, and I left her alone. How could I have left her alone?"—Sam and Amber enter the kitchen.
Shannon is sitting on the floor, her knees drawn up to her chin, a long, wicked looking scratch on her face.
Dean is crouching beside her, and when Shannon shifts, the front of her shirt is all bloody. Dean meets Sam's eyes, and then Amber's horrified gaze.
"I think we just cleared her name," he says grimly.
"I-I didn't see anything," Shannon stammers. "It was like... all of a sudden, my body was being pawed at, like with claws. I don't know how come I didn't wind up like Colton and Ryan."
"You were lucky," Dean says. "I know this is going to sound weird, but you should go to your room and lay salt lines all around the apartment."
"But I am bleeding," Shannon says. "I need the hospital."
"The hospital will ask too many questions," Dean tells her. "I can stitch you up, if you don't mind."
"I-I don't know," she replies, but then Amber pulls out of Sam's arms and runs to her girlfriend.
"I can do it, you know I can," she says. "Remember?" She doesn't explain where she learned it from, but Shannon nods shakily as if she trusts Amber's judgement—and why shouldn't she?—and Dean helps her to her feet.
Dean gives Sam a meaningful look and Sam immediately goes to the two girls' side and helps them up the stairs. He stops outside of his and Dean's room.
"Hang on two seconds," Sam says. "I'll get the salt."
Later, once the police have gone, and the body's been removed, Sam is sitting cross-legged on the bed, watching Dean as his brother paces the room.
They've spread salt—sneakily, of course—in front of every current resident's door, hoping that helps.
Sam taps his laptop to wake it up, determined to figure out what's going on before anyone else dies or gets hurt.
"We should still check for EMF," Dean says, almost as if to himself. Then, louder, "I don't think it's a demon, I didn't see any sulfur."
"What I don't understand is," Sam says, reading the webpage on his computer, "Shannon said it felt like claws. Are we dealing with some kind of creature perhaps, and not a ghost at all?"
"No," Dean says. "I do think it's a spirit. I can't explain why it would attack Shannon like that, with the way the other bodies were found, but I doubt we're dealing with two different things here."
"Dean..." Sam says, stunned. "This might be both good news and bad news; it changes things. According to a police report on the owner of the nursing home, she buried some of the bodies in the basement."
Dean stops pacing. "Then we need to check the basement too?"
"It says they dug up the bodies, but I wouldn't be surprised if they missed something."
"Maybe a personal item or something was left behind?"
"Dean... there is at least one body they never found. I don't know how you don't find it if they're all in the basement, but..."
"But sometimes ghosts make bodies disappear," Dean finishes. "How long do you think this place has been haunted? And what set off the violence? People seemed to be living here just fine until recently."
Sam thinks about it for a minute, then snaps his fingers.
"Well, Shannon just inherited, right? I hate to say it but... I think we're back to the homophobic ghost possibility. If this place didn't house gay and lesbians before, and now it does, it could have made somebody very angry. After all, that type of change can 'wake up' dormant spirits."
"How do you know that?" Dean asks curiously. Sam shrugs, leaning back against the wall. Dean is half-turned away from him, his profile sending streaks of something strange along Sam's nerves. Especially when he realises that he's looking at Dean's ass and noting how perfect it is.
What the fuck is wrong with him? It's like that kiss from Dean re-wired something in his brain.
"I found an article about how her grandmother had passed it onto her. Plus she said so, remember?"
"We have to find the bones and burn them," Dean says.
"Oh," Sam says. "Jericho Christiansen, exhumed several years later and buried in the local cemetery. So, that gives him time to become 'attached' to the place he died and where his body remained for a few years."
"Any other candidates?"
"Yeah, Michael Gilligan, apparently the proprietress's second husband. His body was found in the basement as well."
"Just the two?"
"I hope so, because that makes it easier to figure out what—or who—we're dealing with."
"I say we burn the bones of both, just to be certain. That's the easiest way to make sure we don't screw up—and this ghost is escalating, both in violence and victims. Which means we need to be sure we get this right."
"Great," Sam says without enthusiasm. "More grave-digging, and it couldn't just be one grave, you know?"
"One a night," Dean says. "I hate that this is going to take at least two nights, but we can't dig up two graves in one night... at least I don't think we could."
"I wouldn't want to," Sam says. "It increases our chances of getting caught by the police."
"Speaking of, they're now sure that Shannon's not the culprit. I guess getting cut up by her 'attacker' is enough to exonerate her. Though it was interesting when she claimed not to have seen 'him'."
"It's dark out," Sam says. "We could go now."
"Which bones should we burn first?"
Sam shrugs helplessly. "I don't know. It's impossible to judge which ghost it might be."
"Sammy, we have to do something. We have to get the people out of here until we've taken care of the ghosts."
"Yes, but, Dean, what are we going to tell them? We can't tell them the truth. We can't just blow our cover like that."
"Speaking of our cover..." Dean comes over to the bed and leans down, tipping Sam's chin up. "I don't think just because we're behind closed doors that we're safe from... our... performance."
"What are you talking about? There's no one to see us now." Sam feels unreasonably uneasy, looking up into Dean's eyes like this.
Dean puts his knee on the bed. He rocks forward, and the bedsprings creak. Sam flushes, suddenly too aware of Dean, his heat, his scent, just... everything. It's overwhelming.
When Dean closes his eyes, Sam follows suit, and he remembers, all at once, times when they were growing up. When he was a surly, bratty teenager, and Dean had spanked him.
When he was a young adult and Dean gave him copies of 'Busty Asian Beauties' and they looked at them together. He'd always assumed it was natural, big-brother stuff, but maybe there is more to it than that?
Dean's breathing is evening out, but also slightly heavier. This is crazy. He's not attracted to his brother. He's not.
He puts his hand in the centre of Dean's chest and pushes him back. Dean's eyes fly open and he's got a confused expression on his face. Almost like he doesn't understand what's happening either.
And Sam does not understand what's happening; why he feels like this. He just knows he shouldn't, and that it's got to stop.
Sam and Dean dig up Jericho first. They had done rock-paper-scissors to decide, and that won out. But the entire scene is anticlimactic: there's no spooky wind, nobody gets knocked around or thrown into trees, and the bones burn like crumpled paper.
So, when Dean suggests a drink, Sam agrees without hesitation. He's exhausted, his arms feel weak from soreness, and a shower, some alcohol, and bed sound awesome, in that order. He might even be too exhausted to dream about Jess.
Walking back to the Impala, Sam is all too aware of the odor of Dean's sweat.
"You're going to be fine," Amber whispers, with fleeting little touches to Shannon's belly. Shannon wants to drag her lover's hands away, because the wounds are so ugly, but Amber refuses to let her wallow.
"I don't want to be fine," Shannon says, but she can barely muster up any anger. "I want to forget this ever happened. I want to sell this stupid place and let someone else deal with it."
"It's a ghost, Shan. And Sam and Dean promised they'd take care of it." She kisses the side of Shannon's face, then slides down, licking a thin, hot trail from her jaw down to her collarbone, where she bites down just a bit.
"I don't know what you think they're capable of doing," Shannon argues, but it's half-hearted at best, really just a chance to vent her displeasure.
"I don't know, because they didn't say, but I trust them. Don't you trust them, love? I mean, come on, it's obvious how much in love they are. Anyone who loves that honestly would have a hard time tricking me."
She kisses the tip of Shannon's breast, lips touching the side of her peaked nipple. Shannon shudders, but it's not so much the pleasure as the embarrassment of the ugly stitched lines slashed across her belly like grisly tattoos.
"They do seem very much in love," she says pensively. "Still, I don't see how that makes them qualified to dispose of ghosts."
Amber smiles against her skin, tongue flicking around her nipple in a circle.
The first beer goes down so easy that it's even easier to pop open a second one, which is what Sam does. And pretty soon, around beer number four, he acknowledges—slightly drunkenly—that he's not just trying to forget about their case and the tragedy of the victims, but he's trying to drench the part of him finding Dean attractive in booze so that he can pretend it's not there.
There's something so fucked up about this case. When it started, it hadn't seemed like it would be so bad to pretend to be in love with Dean... but now he feels like he's in over his head. At some point he stopped thinking the idea of brothers pretending to be gay was preposterous and started noticing Dean in ways he absolutely shouldn't.
Dean isn't messing around. He stopped at the 7-Eleven before they went to the liquor store and he bought Little Debbie pies—stating that he has to have something resembling pie—and then he bought a six-pack of beer for Sam, a six-pack for himself, and a huge bottle of vodka.
He hasn't touched the beer; he's been swigging the vodka straight like it's water.
"Dean," Sam slurs, listing to the side and allowing his sweaty cheek to hit the pillow. He can almost forget he hasn't showered yet. He doesn't even know why he said Dean's name. He doesn't know much of anything at the moment, actually.
"Sammy," Dean replies, then finally he puts down the bottle. But if Sam had been relieved for even a second, that relief disappears when Dean comes over and, clumsily, shoves his way into the bed.
"You stink," Sam says, but at some point—and he'd like to know when, he really would—the scent of Dean's sweat stopped being repulsive and started being oddly attractive.
"S'do you," Dean reminds him. Yeah, that's right, they were both digging up a grave not long ago, and sweat has dried salty and grimy on his skin.
"I need a shower," Sam mumbles. Dean nods, agreeing with him.
"Should take one together to make sure you don't crack your head open," Dean says.
"Or yours." Sam opens his eyes—when did he close them?—and stares directly into Dean's green ones. Sure, he always knew Dean's eyes were green, but somehow they seem different this close. More green. More vibrant. More enticing...
He doesn't know what he's doing when he grabs Dean's face and manhandles him even closer, Dean's vodka breath washing over him, as their lips come close, so perilously close together.
Amber's fingers work feverishly, her mouth on Shannon's skin, her breath blowing away the painful and ugly memories.
Shannon clenches her fists in the sheets and arches her back, feeling her muscles ripple, and the tugging of her stitches, but she doesn't ask Amber to back off.
Amber's lips drift downward, and the lights flicker. It's just for a second, and Shannon thinks maybe she just closed her eyes briefly, until the lights flicker again.
And then they go out.
Their lips touch, and something very much like electricity flows between them, and then the lights flicker, once, twice. And go out.
"What was that?" Shannon asks, pushing Amber away and fumbling for the flashlight by the bed.
"I don't know. Old wiring? Is it windy outside?" Amber asks, looking ghostly and shadowed in the beam from the flashlight.
"I hope that's all it is..." Shannon says, frightened.
"Not good," Dean slurs, breaking up what could have been the beginning of something very dangerous. "Obviously, Jericho not our ghost."
"Do we have time to dig up Gilligan?" Sam asks, but he feels too fuzzy-headed, much too drunk actually, to do anything of the sort. Oh, the worst kind of irresponsibility.
"No," Dean says. "And I'm too drunk too shoot a gun."
The lights come back on.
"Maybe it's just faulty wiring?" Sam asks hopefully.
They lie there in silence for a minute or two. No one screams, and the lights stay on. Whatever it is seems to have passed.
"Okay, getting wasted: stupid idea," Sam points out unnecessarily.
Dean grunts in response.
"So that thing that just happened..." Sam says. "That didn't happen."
Dean grunts again.
Sam takes that for agreement and shoves Dean. "Time for a shower."
Dean takes the hint and gets out of the bed.
He also takes the first shower, leaving Sam alone with his thoughts, much gloomier as he sobers up from the seriousness of the situation that they're in.
What was he doing, anyway?
In the end, even though it's almost two in the morning, Sam and Dean take their freshly showered selves back out to the cemetery.
It seems like a waste of perfectly good hot water, but at the same time, Sam feels nearly sober after the shower, and everyone in that boarding house is depending on them.
"When we find Dad," Dean says suddenly, as they are carrying their shovels and walking through the cemetery, "we can't tell him about this case."
This might be the closest thing to a chick-flick moment, maybe, Sam thinks; Dean is referring to their ruse, and possibly also to what happened while they were in bed together. God, that sounds wrong.
Sam had so hoped Dean would put it down to drunkenness and maybe also taking the pretence too far, and that he wouldn't bring it up again, but here he is, basically talking about his feelings.
"I don't want to talk about Dad," Sam says, instead of what he's really thinking, which is, shut up, Dean, don't talk about it, please don't talk about what happened back there.
Maybe Dean reads his mind and decides that he wants to be obstinate, Sam isn't sure.
"What happened back there," Dean says softly, literally like he's been squatting inside Sam's brain, "it's not something you need to be ashamed of, Sam."
"Did I step into a romantic movie when I wasn't looking?" Sam asks, swinging his shovel. What is Dean getting at?
"No, I'm serious. It's my fault. It was always..." Dean stops walking, turns to face Sam, his face shadowed and highlighted in turn by the moonlight.
"What, Dean?" asks Sam. Maybe he's still drunk after all. His mind feels fuzzy, like he doesn't quite understand what's happening here. Maybe he didn't step into a romantic movie—maybe he stepped into The Twilight Zone.
"Sammy, just take my word on this. Don't think too much about what happened. I know how you dwell on things."
"I don't know why you're not punching me right now," Sam says. And once the words are out, he realises it's true. Why didn't Dean punch him for kissing him? Kissing his brother, for fuck's sake?
"Because... you know what," Dean says. "I'm not going to have a mushy conversation, but I am going to show you what I'm talking about."
And in spite of the fact that they're standing in the middle of a graveyard, in the middle of the night, planning to dig up a grave... Dean leans his shovel against a tree and steps forward. The closer he gets to Sam, the more the moonlight silvers his hair but also, the more in shadow his face is.
So Sam doesn't know what Dean's planning until his hands come down hard on his shoulders, and then Dean's sliding his hand up Sam's neck, around to the back, drawing his head down towards Dean's.
Dean's lips are softer this time; Sam has a moment to wonder if Dean puts on chapstick or something when Sam's not looking, and then he's not thinking anything, because Dean's tongue is probing at the seam of his lips, and Sam is opening his mouth...
His eyes close naturally, his face grows hot, and he parries Dean's tongue. He allows Dean free rein for a moment, allows him all of the control, and then he realises he doesn't just want to be a passive party in this.
He wants to control it. He drops his own shovel and grips the back of Dean's skull and, fingers sensitive to Dean's prickly-yet-soft hair, he angles Dean's head so that their lips slide messily together, their mingled saliva spilling over Sam's lips and down his chin and it's probably disgusting, or should be, but instead Sam discovers that he's getting hard, cock swelling in his jeans, pressed up against Dean's thigh.
He shifts, and in doing so, their bodies realign and all of a sudden, Dean's cock is pressed up against his thigh, and Dean's just as hard.
It warms him up, despite the cold air of a New England winter: Dean's body so firm against his, and it feels like the heat of Dean's kiss is going down his throat as he swallows and filling up his entire body.
He's lost for a few more seconds in the heady, alcoholic rush of Dean's kiss, and then he jerks away, eyes open wide, hand to his mouth.
He's fucking making out with his brother—like a horny teenager—in the middle of a graveyard, for fuck's sake.
"What are we doing?" he asks hoarsely, wishing he could see Dean's eyes. Dean might be able to hide his true feelings from everyone in the world—but not from Sam. Sam could read Dean's eyes in the dark.
Or not, since he can't see Dean, not really, and the moon's gone behind a cloud.
"We're making a pretence a reality," Dean says softly. "I can't tell you how long I've wanted this to be my reality. Please don't turn me away, Sam. Or if you do, let me down easy. You can punch me, if you want. But don't leave me, please, Sammy."
Sam cups Dean's face in his hands. "I won't leave you," he says earnestly. "But I don't know... this is wrong, you know that, right? I don't think I'm ready for this."
Dean gently extricates himself. "We should get to work."
Sam shakes off the haze left behind from that kiss. "Yeah, we've wasted enough time already."
But walking is difficult with the hard-on still pressing insistently against the confines of his jeans. Great, when he gets back to the room, he's going to wish he could jerk off, and they're sharing a fucking bed, for Christ's sake. Hell, he thinks, thoughts sputtering around in his brain, how are they going to sleep in the same bed after what just happened?
Luckily, digging up a dead person is enough to both distract him from his morbid thoughts and also take care of his hard-on.
By the time Dean finishes spilling the salt over the body and Sam has lit the match, light is starting to streak the sky. They are cutting this dangerously close—they are barely going to have enough time to fill in the grave before dawn breaks completely.
"It's nice here," Dean says, "I am going to be sorry to leave. Especially since Shannon and Amber are such nice people."
"We don't have to leave right away," Sam says, and then it's like, fuck, what is he thinking? The longer they stay here, the longer they have to pretend to be gay for each other, and with each passing hour, Sam loses more and more perspective. Are they even still pretending? Or did things become horribly real sometime when he wasn't looking? "We can stay until we find a new case."
Sam starts filling in the grave, and Dean follows his lead, also throwing dirt back onto the broken casket.
They work in silence, but—and Sam doesn't know if this is his own paranoia speaking—it feels heavy, oppressive, as if it's filled with all kinds of unspeakable things.
In spite of the fact that Sam has already filed the experience away and decided he's not going to mention it again, he can't quite keep from thinking about it.
"I've got a bad feeling about this," Dean says as he slides into the driver's seat. Sam gets in the car and all he can think about is how he can feel the heat of Dean's body, even across the bench seat. Sam buckles his seat belt and examines his fingernails. There's grave dirt beneath them.
"Why?" Sam asks, trying not to meet Dean's eyes. Whether it's because he's afraid of what he'll see there, or because he's afraid he'll drown in their green depths again, he can't tell, and he doesn't really want to know.
"It was too easy," Dean says. "Just... too easy. Shouldn't there have been more action? Violent ghosts don't want to be laid to rest. They are angry and want to fight."
"It's almost morning, and we need sleep. We'll be in the house if anything happens."
Dean drives them back to the boarding house and it's a stiff drive, the Impala feeling as if it's stuffed with cotton—and Sam actually is grateful for that, because it makes him feel like Dean is far away, not close enough to brush against if he leans too far over to the side.
As a matter of fact, Sam's exhaustion must have caught up with him, because he finds himself blinking and yawning when the car stops and realises that, even during the short drive, he must have drifted off.
"C'mon, Sammy, I'll feel safer with my gun," Dean says, striding around the car and propping the trunk open. By the time Sam has convinced his legs to unfold and carry him out of the car, Dean is handing over Sam's shotgun, loaded with rock salt.
It's early, but still not quite light out, which gives them the opportunity to sneak the weapons inside without—hopefully, anyway—anyone seeing them.
Sam opens the doors of the empty wardrobe and places the shotgun inside. Dean puts his under the bed. And then Dean begins to strip out of his clothes, right in the main room. Sam catches himself staring, eyes wide, as Dean's body is revealed, bit by bit with the loss of each piece of clothing.
What is Dean doing? He's never done that before... well, never undressed so blatantly, as if he's showing off. Sam can't even remember him doing that when he was a cocky, arrogant teenager too proud of what he looked like.
"Dean," says Sam. He shifts from foot to foot, still exhausted and arms aching, sweat gathered in every hollow in his body and dried there, and he wants a shower, and he wants to forget about the graveyard and what happened there and the fact that he's in some kind of thrall now, trapped under the spell of Dean's naked body.
Dean turns around, and if his naked ass had been distracting, it's worse now. Sam is watching Dean's face, but it's taking everything in him not to glance down.
Never before has the mere thought of Dean naked done this to him. And, well, they've been in each other's space for years, and plus this is his brother, but no matter how much Sam tries to convince himself that this isn't any different, his body knows.
His body is responding to Dean even as he tries to berate himself into submission.
"See something you like?" asks Dean, grinning smugly. But Sam knows his brother, and he can see the slight tightness at the corner of his eyes, the crinkled lines drawn finely into his skin. Dean is trying not to show it, but he's not as carefree as he's pretending to be. He's worried, vulnerable.
Sam can't bring himself to take advantage of that vulnerability. Almost anything he could do right now would hurt Dean.
Sam waves a hand as if to encompass the universe at large. "I said I'm not ready, Dean. I don't know if I'll ever be ready for that."
Dean pushes past him towards the bathroom. "Then don't stare at me like that."
"I wasn't staring."
"Yes, you were. I'm not an idiot, Sammy. I know what you're thinking."
"Do you?" Sam puts his hands on his hips. "What am I thinking?"
Dean is in the doorway of the bathroom now, but he pauses, lips twisting down a bit in a frown.
"You know what, this is too much like a chick-flick moment."
"You started it," Sam says, trying not to care about how childish he sounds. Dean grimaces.
"I know I did. But you know what, unless you're going to finish it, there's nothing to talk about." And then he disappears into the bathroom and shuts the door with a resounding click.
Sam thinks about leaving his clothes on until it's his turn to shower, but the shirt and jeans are stuck to him with sweat and grime and he feels nasty and gross, so he divests himself of his own clothes—leaving on his boxer-briefs, though. He's not an exhibitionist like Dean.
He sits down on the edge of the bed and puts his head in his hands. He screwed up somewhere. Or, maybe more accurately, he's screwed up—in the head.
He wants to blame Dean, but he knows it's not Dean's fault, not really. Dean came up with this stupid idea, Dean might have even had the stirrings of these feelings before, but Dean didn't re-wire Sam's brain. Sam did this on his own—though how he went from brotherly love to brotherly love he doesn't know.
What he does know, however, is that he's not ready for this, and he doesn't want to be. Even admitting to himself that he might have some... feelings... for Dean is uncomfortable and terrifying. He'd rather face up against a murderous ghost or a wendigo.
So, he's not going to think about it anymore. He's not going to allow himself. Simple.
Dean leaves the bathroom in an explosion of steam, towel wrapped around his waist, and immediately Sam pictures him as he was fifteen minutes ago: naked.
He jumps up from the bed and hurls himself into the shower almost violently. He turns the water on, hot, so hot, and scrubs the sweat from his skin.
When he washes his hair, he grinds his fingers into his skull as if it can make him forget.
But it doesn't work, and when he climbs out of the shower, skin reddened from the heat, he finds Dean lounging on the bed in nothing but what God gave him.
Dean's pushing too hard. He's making Sam angry.
"Fuck you, Dean," Sam says, practically a hysterical yell. "I'll show you—I don't want to be pushed into anything, don't you get that?"
He throws himself onto the bed, grabbing Dean's wrists and yanking them over his head, getting all up into Dean's face. He opens his mouth to hurl something else suitably venomous at Dean. but without conscious permission, he finds himself capturing those lips and swallowing down Dean's disbelief.
He kisses him on that knife's edge of violence, sweeping his tongue throughout Dean's mouth with absolute possession.
Dean moans and tries to wrest his arms from Sam's grip; Sam lets go and Dean threads his fingers through Sam's hair. It feels good. So good.
He almost can't remember why he was angry in the first place, now that he's kissing Dean.
And Dean's nude and hard beneath him, and Sam's only partially dressed, and all of a sudden it's too much. He tears his mouth away from Dean and rips his underwear off, flinging it away from him, then it's back to kissing Dean, but now his hand is on the flat planes of Dean's stomach, feeling the way the muscles flutter and contract under his palm.
Dean's hands leave his hair and slide down his sides, pausing at his hips before he grips them with his thumbs, the pads rough against the smooth skin of his hipbones.
Sam takes the plunge and moves his hand down, fisting Dean's cock. This isn't the first time he's had a dick in his hands.
It's been his secret for a long time, that he experimented in college and came to the conclusion that he was bi.
But Dean's heavy and thick in his hand, and it feels so different than the boys from college; it feels like it's the right thing to do, which is all wrong.
Sam swallows hard, turning his head away from Dean's lips to nibble at his jaw, trying to forget how wrong this is. Trying to understand how he can want this, and how it can feel so right.
Dean's hand leaves one hip and wraps around Sam's own cock, and he begins to stroke it gently. Sam shudders and mimics Dean, realising that he's just been holding onto Dean's dick like it's some sort of handle, like an idiot.
He pumps his hand up and down once, then swipes his thumb over Dean's slit to catch at the fluid there and use it as he begins to jack Dean off in earnest.
Dean matches his rhythm, and Sam finds himself sucking a bruise just underneath Dean's ear on the porcelain column of his neck.
The stitches tug and pull, but the painkillers have dulled the pain for Shannon. She's alone in her room, trying to sleep, but the house feels all wrong around here, like it's escalating.
Sam and Dean promised the salt would be a protection, though she doesn't understand how.
She places her hand on the bandages on her stomach and her lips turn down.
The knock on the door is furtive, almost silent, but Shannon hears it anyway and leaps up out of bed, wincing as the movement pulls on her stitches, and she throws open the door and grabs onto Amber like she's dying and Amber is the only thing that can save her.
Amber kisses her, softly, sweetly. "It's okay, baby. I love you. I'm here."
"This is so hard," Shannon whispers, towing Amber into the room and shutting the door.
"I know, baby. But it's okay, you'll see."
Amber leads Shannon by the hand back to the bed, and they curl up under the covers on it, facing each other as if telling secrets like teenagers.
"I. Am. So scared," Shannon admits miserably. "I just wanted to make this a good place for people to live. But instead I killed them."
"You didn't kill them," Amber says forcefully. "You didn't do this."
"I love you," Shannon says, and then they're kissing again, Amber's hand sliding down over her hip.
Dean comes first, proving Sam's still got it, but he doesn't really have time to gloat, not even in his own head, because then Dean is dragging him right up to the pinnacle and over and Sam gasps and jizzes all over his hands and Dean's hands and their stomachs, because by now Sam is lying up against Dean almost completely, their bodies touching with every breath.
Sam is trying to wipe his hands on the blanket when the lights dim.
"Dean," Sam says urgently, looking up towards the fixture.
The lights brighten. Almost too much. It hurts Sam's eyes, leaving spots dancing in his vision, just before the quality of the light wobbles and flickers and goes so dim Sam blinks blearily.
"Get... we gotta..." Dean pushes away from Sam. But Sam is already throwing on his jeans when they hear the first scream.
Dean's barely into his underwear when they hear the second scream. Sam throws his button down on over his arms, not bothering to button it, and dives for the wardrobe, getting his gun and running to the door. He's a few steps behind Dean, who is still wearing nothing more than his underwear and the badge of Sam's mouth on his neck.
The screams are coming from Shannon's room. Dean pounds on the door, and Sam hears frantic crying from inside as the doorknob rattles.
"I can't get the door open," Amber says, tearful.
"Back away," Dean says, and gives her a minute to do so. Then he throws his shoulder into the door again and again until it splinters open.
Sam notices the salt line is broken just before Dean bursts into the room, gun cocked and ready.
The ghost is an old woman, hovering in the air like she's not quite there, and her fingernails are long and clawed and extended towards Amber.
Dean takes aim and fires, and the rock salt dissipates the ghost.
"Not taken care of, then," he says unnecessarily. "Fix the salt line, Sammy."
Sam does, and Dean steps back out of the room, careful not to smudge the line.
"Stay here," he says. "In fact," he looks around, then to Sam. But Sam is already running to get their store of salt.
He runs back as fast as he can, and he's making a circle around Amber and Shannon, who are huddled together, when he notices the people gathering in the hall.
"Back to your rooms," Sam says. "Stay behind the salt lines and don't break them."
The other tenants mumble anxiously and shuffle away. Dean shoulders his gun, and Sam gives Amber and Shannon each a brief hug.
"We will figure this out," Sam says.
They nod, and then Dean says,
"I think it's time to do the hands-on investigating we never got around to doing. We really fucked this up, this time."
"Can we have the key to the room upstairs?" Sam asks, and Shannon nods.
"It's on the dresser. Third one on the ring."
Sam snags the keys and knows that, as he walks out of the room, Dean's following. He wonders if the girls noticed that Dean's in his underwear.
Strangely, it bothers him less that other people might know what they'd been doing than the fact that they did it at all.
Sam and Dean only stop long enough to grab the EMF metre and a flashlight, then climb the stairs up to the third floor.
Almost immediately, it gets even colder, though whether that's from the weather or something supernatural, Sam's not sure.
Sam shivers and flicks on the flashlight. Dean slips the key into the lock, and there's a burst of frigid air as he turns it, the latch clicking as it opens.
Inside, in the corner of the room there is a desk, the roll-up type, and it looks like no one has touched it in decades—the dust has to be at least two inches thick.
There's a fine layer of dust on the floor as well, broken by where the body of Ryan O'Rea lay and Shannon's footprints, which stop only a couple of inches inside the door, indicating she got the hell out of Dodge as soon as she saw the body, and the myriad of footprints that are most likely from the police.
Sam's shining the flashlight around the room, looking for clues, when the EMF metre beeps, and he turns to see Dean crouching over the smudged dust where Ryan was, and the beam from the flashlight, for a brief moment, illuminates the fact that Dean is still in his underwear.
It makes his heart thump once, hard, against his ribcage.
"Jesus, Dean, couldn't you at least have gotten dressed?" Sam asks, crankily. This case is not going smoothly, and to top it all off, Dean's body is fucking distracting and Sam has a job to do—they can't afford to make any more mistakes. They've already put the residents in danger by not doing their research thoroughly enough.
"It is freezing up here," Dean concurs, then gets to his feet. He begins to do a slow sweep of the room with the EMF metre, and it stops reacting as much as Dean gets farther away from the middle of the room.
Sam realises that, in his own haste, he's just as much of an idiot as Dean: his shirt is still unbuttoned, and his stomach and chest are freezing.
He buttons up his shirt awkwardly with one hand, still directing the light from the flashlight around, but other than the desk and a piece of furniture covered with a sheet, there's really nothing in the room.
But Dean goes over to the desk, so Sam follows, because Dean will need the light if he's going to search the desk.
"Do you suppose this key will unlock the desk?" Dean asks musingly, but Sam pokes him in the back with a finger.
"I doubt it."
"Do you have your lockpicks?" Dean asks, and looks over at Sam sheepishly. In his underwear, he has no where to stash his own. He's got the shotgun at his side, the EMF metre in the other hand... it's strangely hot, the tools of their trade decorating Dean like accessories, especially when he doesn't have any real clothes on.
Strangely, this time the hot lance of guilt is much more subdued than it has been.
He stuffs his free hand in his pocket and digs around, gratified after a moment that he does, in fact, have them on him.
"I do," he says. "I must've put them in these jeans when we were going to come up here last night."
It's hard to believe 'last night' was only a few hours ago; there's a covered window that faces what Sam thinks is the back of the house, but even though it must be daylight by now there's really no light coming in through the window.
Dean takes the lockpicks and goes to work on the desk.
He pulls open a drawer after a minute. There's nothing inside, nothing to explain why it was locked in the first place.
"Nothing," Dean says, disappointed. He unlocks the other drawers, but there's nothing in any of them.
At least until Sam goes to scratch on itch on the back of his neck and the flashlight shines on the very back of one of the drawers.
There's something there.
"Dean," he says, but his brother is already reaching out towards it.
The EMF metre goes off, and they exchange a pointed glance. Dean takes out what looks like an extremely old, yellowed piece of paper. But when he turns it over, it's a photo.
There's a woman in a black dress, with a high neck, and a bible and rosary in her hands. Sam would almost guess she was a nun if not for the fact that the dress isn't quite right and she's not wearing a wimple.
Dean flips it over again.
"Flashlight, Sammy," he says, and when the light falls on the back of it, there's extremely faded writing there. "Amy," Dean murmurs, squinting. "Amy Archer-Gilligan," he reads off the back of the photo.
In a breath, there's a gust of freezing cold air and then Dean goes sprawling to the floor, violently, his head cracking against the wooden floorboards.
The wind through the room blew the sheet half off of the furniture in the corner, revealing a standing mirror.
And in the mirror, staring straight at Sam with a menacing look on her face, her eyes nothing but dark holes boring into Sam, is the woman in the photo.
He's almost expecting it when he goes crashing to the floor next to Dean, the flashlight bouncing away.
Dean's rubbing the back of his head, but the shotgun is closer to Sam, so he grabs and aims, then realises the mirror is—unsurprisingly—just the reflection. He turns his head just in time to see Amy Archer-Gilligan coming at him with her clawed hands.
He cocks the gun and fires, and she's dispersed, but he knows now that they have to do something, and quick.
"Are you all right?" he asks Dean as he gets back to his feet. He reaches out and helps Dean up, and then they both stare into the depths of the room for a moment.
"Maybe living inside the haunted place we're investigating wasn't the best idea," Dean says ruefully. Sam shakes his head.
"No time to worry about that now. Come on." He drags on Dean's hand, pausing to pick up the flashlight, and Dean retrieves the EMF metre, and then they back out of the room, looking for the ghost, but they don't see her as they lock the door.
Back in their room, Sam fires up the laptop and begins typing furiously. He's looking for any information on Amy Archer-Gilligan that he can find. He's about to ask Dean if he thinks that she had anything to do with the house when he finds a few dated articles about her.
"Amy Archer-Gilligan," he says. Dean is currently pulling his jeans on, thank goodness; one less distraction if they're possibly facing their death. "The proprietress of this house when it was a convalescent home, and the woman allegedly responsible for all of the murders."
"Of course," Dean says. "Why didn't we think of that before? It makes sense. This was her house. She'd be angry if someone did something with it she didn't like. And did you notice? A lot of the phenomena has happened when we were doing... something... together."
"And she was a murderer when she was alive. She wouldn't even have to be twisted that much by death to be a murderer again." Sam meets Dean's gaze. "I looked up the autopsy reports. You know what we missed? In the bloodstream of both Ryan and Colton was a fair amount of arsenic." He groans and covers his face. "If we'd just been more thorough, we would have figured out it was Amy from the beginning, solved the case, maybe saved Colton's life, and also wouldn't have had to dig up two fucking graves in one night. God, I'm exhausted."
"There needs to be a moratorium on gay sex on this place until we find out where she's buried," Dean says, but Sam groans again.
"Dean, she was cremated," he says, defeated. "How will we ever figure out what she's tied to?"
Dean snaps his fingers. "The basement. She buried people in the basement, right? We need to check down there."
Sam brightens. "That's a really good idea, actually," he says. Dean smirks at him.
"I have those sometimes," he says, as if Sam were mocking him. Then again, maybe he was; they've been at it so long that sometimes Sam doesn't even realise he's teasing Dean.
"All right," Sam says. "Down to the basement."
"But first we have to tell Shannon and Amber: no sex."
"I don't think that matters that much at this point," Sam points out. "Amy's getting angrier, probably because she knows we're going to get rid of her."
The lights flicker. Sam gestures towards them. "See what I mean?"
The lights in the basement won't even turn on. If Sam didn't know it was a bad idea, he'd be asking Amy why she couldn't just cooperate.
The floor of the basement is still packed dirt. Creepy.
"This is going to be like searching for a needle in a haystack," Dean says, sounding annoyed. "Why can't any of our cases just be simple?"
Sam thinks about Jess, for some reason. He doesn't know why she comes to mind right now, but... "Wait, Dean, scan for EMF. Anything she's left behind must give off EMF, don't you think?"
"Well, how do we know it wasn't the photograph that she's attached to, then?" Dean asks, hand on his hip. He's shadowed by the darkness, in spite of Sam's flashlight.
At least this time, Dean has clothes on.
"Because that photo probably doesn't have any of her essence on it," Sam says reasonably; something Dean would have thought of for himself if he weren't so annoyed by Amy messing up his case.
"Bring the flashlight over here, Sam," Dean says all of a sudden. "The dirt's messed up over here."
Sam trots over, pointing the flashlight at the floor. Dean's right. The dirt is all scuffled, like someone's been running their fingernails back and forth over it.
But the spot is in the darkest, furthest corner of the basement, and Sam can't imagine any of the tenants, or Shannon either, would have been messing around here. And why would Amy show them where they should be looking?
"This is too easy," Sam says. "Amy wouldn't show us where to look. I think..." He pauses, then turns and walks over to a spot near the stairs. If the basement lights were working, this would be a well-lighted spot.
And if Amy were going to bury someone down here, wouldn't she want to be able to see what she was doing?
Sam gets down on his hands and knees and starts digging in the dirt. Dean comes over and sweeps with the EMF metre, and after a moment, it goes off a few feet away from where Sam is digging.
Sam turns his attention to the new place. He digs until something sharp in the dirt scrapes against his fingertips.
The flashlight is ripped out of his hands by a violent twist of wind. Dean cries out, and Sam watches, stunned, as Dean is whacked in the back of his head with their own flashlight.
"Hurry up, Sammy, I think you found it," Dean says, grabbing at the back of his skull.
Sam doesn't even know what it is—not in the dark like this—but he scoops it up into the palm of his hand and jumps to his feet, running over and grabbing the flashlight from where it's fallen.
He directs the beam onto what he's holding, and he thinks it might be a fingernail, though he's not sure—"I think maybe she broke a nail burying someone down here," he says, and Dean groans, joints creaking as he gets back to his feet.
"I wish I'd stop getting beaten up by ghosts," Dean says. He fumbles with the lighter as he pulls it out of his pocket.
Sam's got the salt, so he runs up the stairs, closely followed by Dean, and drops the fingernail in the sink, liberally dousing it with salt. Dean stares doubtfully.
"I hope this burns," he says, and sets the flame close to the fingernail. They hold their breath, but then it catches, burning merrily in the sink.
"Dean! Head's up!" Sam cries out, and Dean turns just in time to see Amy's ghost barrelling down on him with her fingers curved, out for blood.
And then she disappears in a shower of sparks, and the lights in the kitchen brighten. The air warms, and that feeling—like the house is diseased—slides off Sam like water off a duck's back.
He turns on the faucet and douses the charred remainder of Amy, washing it down the drain.
"You think it's over?" Dean asks, staring at where Amy had been about to carve out his innards.
"Yeah," says Sam, "I think it's over."
"You sure you won't stay?" Shannon asks. "I can give you a month's free rent. You can't imagine how grateful I am to you for saving our lives and ending this nightmare."
"No, we really can't," Dean says, but he gives her a smile to take the sting out of it. "It's an awesome place and I can't thank you enough for what you've done for us, too. Sam and I are more in love than ever."
Sam's not really sure that's true, though. It is true that they've done things with each other Sam would have never have considered doing before, and it may even be true that Sam is in love with Dean, but it's not something that should have happened.
"But thank you," says Sam. "We're going to ask to put into effect the fifteen day clause in the lease, though." Sam gives Shannon a hug, mindful of her healing scars.
It's been two days since Sam and Dean burned Amy Archer-Gilligan's fingernail, and the house has been quiet. There has been no indication of supernatural activity... but just in case...
"How does the house feel now?" Sam asks.
"Totally different," Shannon admits. "Like a thunderstorm that was pelting us with darkness has finally cleared. I actually can't believe the difference. My grandmother had told me not to live out my lifestyle here, but I didn't understand what she meant until now. It's not a coincidence that the people who died were gay, is it?"
"Probably not," Dean agrees. "But please don't blame yourself. The thing about violent spirits is, they find something to be upset about no matter what."
Amber enters the room carrying a glass of lemonade, and Sam is forced to laugh.
"Cheeky," he says. "Toasting Amy with her favourite beverage? Don't you think that's a little bit like graveyard humour?"
"Nah," Amber says with a straight face. Then, "Okay, yes. I do have a black sense of humour."
Shannon puts an arm around Amber and pulls her close. "She does, but she's one of the best people to spend time with. I love you, baby."
"I love you too. Lemonade?"
"No thanks," Shannon says.
"Anyway," Sam says, trying to move things along. Now that the case is solved, there's really only one thing left to deal with, and that's Dean. Since they don't have another case just yet, it's not too slothful to wait at 37 Prospect Street a little bit longer.
Even if it does mean that everyone he talks to will think he's planning to marry Dean.
He wonders suddenly: would he marry Dean if he could?
And answers himself: of course not. Dean's his brother.
"Yeah," Dean says. "We're going to go... spend some time with each other." Dean smiles. Sam has to struggle to keep from grimacing at Dean's innuendo.
"Let me know if you change your mind," Shannon says. "You've made this place a lot safer; I wish you both would stay. At least until the wedding?"
"We'll invite you," Dean says with a huge grin. He's got to know that right about now Sam is wishing he had his own store of arsenic and lemonade to use on his brother.
Okay, maybe not, but it would be nice if Dean wouldn't stir the pot.
Shannon turns and kisses Amber, quick and familiar like lovers do, and in that moment, Sam thinks that he and Dean already share that familiarity with each other because they're brothers.
Dean must be reading his mind again, because he grabs Sam and slaps one right on his lips. Sam's eyes close, his mouth opens, and he doesn't question if this is just for show anymore.
"We need to talk about this," Sam says after Dean closes the door to their room. "This can't go on."
Dean lifts one shoulder. "I don't see why not."
"Because it's wrong, Dean. It shouldn't be happening." Sam is frustrated, and he knows it shows. But Dean can be so maddening.
"Who says?" Dean is absolutely adamant all of a sudden, all serious business. "Just come here."
"No, Dean, I think—"
"Shut up, Sammy."
"Dean, I'm serious. If—"
"I swear, if you don't shut up, I'm going to gag you."
"With my dick." Dean looks especially pleased with himself. His temper is high, and his cheeks are flushed, his lips berry-red. Sam is trying to argue against fucking his brother, and all he wants to do right now is throw Dean down and mark him up, bite at those lips until they shine so red they look almost bloody. He should be insulted by the fact that Dean is such a pig, but instead he finds himself wishing Dean would just take charge, shove his cock into Sam's mouth...
"Sammy," Dean says, his tone soaked in pure sex. It's like he knows what Sam is thinking. Hell, he might.
"Aw, hell," Sam says, and gives up. There will be plenty of time to feel guilty about it later, but for now...
He storms over to Dean, yanks him in close, and essentially mauls his lips with the ferocity of his desire.
Maybe before he would have said that the flickering lights, and Amy's anger, were spurred on by the wrongness of this, but even with his eyes closed he can tell that nothing changes. The air remains warm. Dean still smells of old leather and chewed bubblegum. Anything but sweet, and that might be the sweetest thing of all.
And the lights? They stay on, steady and dependable.
And for fun! A link to a page that pictures the actual house plus a little about its history: http://www.jwocker.com/2011/10/visit-