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A Silent, Creeping Killer

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The wind rustles in the eaves. The old house creaks and settles, and Shannon McCreary almost doesn't pay attention. But when the wind blows again, there's almost the sound of a low whine undercutting it. Shannon glances up at the ceiling.

The papers on the desk in front of her whisper as some of the wind finds nooks and crannies in the old wood to creep through.

She inherited this house from her grandmother when she died about six months ago, and at first she'd been excited. Thrilled to be trusted with it. Ecstatic to have a chance at something her grandmother would never have let her brother have.

But things turned sour quickly. It's a boarding house, and people moved out in droves not long after her grandmother passed away. Keeping herself out of debt had become nearly suffocating. And while she tried to put a positive spin on it, she was losing money like water down the drain.

Her brother Nathan offered to help out, but Shannon wasn't going to go down that road. He was notorious for beginning projects and then, just as suddenly, abruptly abandoning them. Shannon didn't want her grandmother's legacy to fall into tatters because of Nathan.

Her grandma bought the house in the 1920s, back when things were simpler and quieter in nature. It had originally been one of the first nursing homes in the country, a groundbreaking idea to take care of the elderly in ways that hadn't been done before.

By the time her grandmother bought it, it had fallen into disrepair and disrepute, though her grandmother—Rosa Mae Marie—would never go into any details about it. All she'd ever told Shannon was that she got it for a greatly discounted price and it was exactly what she was looking for when she was in her twenties and 'wild and reckless', as she put it.

Back then, the bottom floor had been opened up for dancing, and the rooms above had been silent and still, unused.

In fact, the rooms on the third floor had still been closed up when Shannon inherited. Her grandma had rented out the second floor, but once their favourite landlady was gone, a bunch of tenants didn't wait around to see how Shannon would do.

Six months later, and only two of the original tenants remain.

More wind, and Shannon can't help the shiver that rolls through her. Even though she'd felt good about her grandmother's trust in her, as she'd begged Shannon to keep it going in the last few lucid moments of her life, she'd always been uncomfortable whenever inside the boarding house. Once, when she'd been in college and the dorms didn't have enough rooms and Shannon couldn't afford to rent, Rosa Mae had offered to let her live in the boarding house.

But Shannon, moments after stepping over the threshold, had felt the same sort of shiver she's feeling now, and she'd turned down the offer.

Back in college, Shannon had dated a girl for a short time, and it had been an open secret in her family. Her mother had been cool and distant, unable to deal, but her grandmother had embraced her, showing suddenly more interest and any time Shannon needed anything, Rosa Mae had been the first one to step out of her comfort zone and give Shannon whatever it was.

Nathan had never liked the idea. At least, it had seemed that way, until Shannon caught him with a photo of her and her girlfriend, and he confessed to liking the idea of two girls together.

She had been disgusted—still is, really—and it had driven a spike of discord between them that remains to this day.

Rosa Mae had once said something strange to her, though. Don't go livin' out that lifestyle in my house, she'd said. It had felt wrong and discriminatory at the time, and then Shannon had discovered that Amber Liv, one of the remaining original tenants, was just as bi as she is. They'd struck up a friendship, and then a relationship, and by the time Rosa Mae died, Amber and Shannon were truly serious about each other.

Shannon wants to pretend she never heard those words, but in the town of Windsor, Connecticut, word of mouth has gotten her a new bunch of tenants. The problem is, they're all part of the queer community and Shannon knows, deep down—especially as the wind trails fingers down her back—that she should have listened.

She'd been uneasy back then, but it's worse now, that edge of creepy that had always been at the back of her mind now not so much so. Now, times like these, when everyone else is asleep and she's alone, trying to balance the books, she can feel that creepy ambience stealing back in.

In fact, when the wind rustles again, she can't stop herself from biting down on her lower lip. It hurts, but it settles her. This is just nature having its way, she tells herself. Nothing to be afraid of. Be an adult, already.

Then the wind gusts, turning the room frigid, and the lights flicker and go out for just a second, but in that time, Shannon hears something from above her. It's on the third floor, and even though she recently started to air out the rooms in hopes of renting them as well, no one lives up there, and no one ever goes up there.

But she definitely heard something up there. She sighs. If one of her tenants is up there fucking around, she's going to be pissed.

She gets up, closing the register, and begins to climb the stairs. But every step she takes brings her into colder and colder atmosphere, as if she left all of the windows upstairs open, which is ridiculous, because it's been warm the last couple of days—for February—and she just closed the windows last night.

Still. A frisson of fear rambles through her. Something is just not right, and she's going to have to investigate, even if she's scared silly.

She raises her hand and puts it on the knob of the first door on the third floor. She hasn't aired this room out yet because Rosa Mae told Shannon to leave it be.

The doorknob is absolutely freezing underneath her hand.

Shannon unlocks it and opens the door.

"Hey, look, this sounds like our kinda thing," Sam says, pushing the newspaper across to Dean. Dean sucks the froth off the end of his straw and picks it up.

"Young woman found dead in boarding house," he reads aloud. "So what? People die."

"The proprietor found her on the third floor, behind a door locked from the outside, in a room no one had used since 1912. Her body was completely unmarked—I got that information from the police report. They don't know what killed her yet, but she was pretty young and with no obvious cause of death, they are treating it as a homicide."

"Okay, so it's a little strange. What exactly pushes this over into our realm of work?"

"I thought you'd ask that. It's in Dad's journal. It's just a footnote, really, but Dad notes that it used to be a nursing home back in 1911. So, you gotta think, old people die, right? Maybe one of them's still there, and he or she has gotten a little angry."

"If it's in Dad's journal, then it's worth checking out," Dean says immediately, finishing up his milkshake. He glances over at the girl behind the counter. Sam sighs. If he didn't know better, he'd think Dean was about five seconds away from seeing if he could get her in the back and score.

Then again... he knows his brother, and that's probably exactly what Dean's thinking.

He grabs the straw that Dean is still holding between his lips and tugs. "Time to go, Casanova," he says, and when he yanks on the straw, the remnants of Dean's milkshake splatter across his face.

"Fuck," Dean says, and turns back to Sam. He's suddenly, irrationally interested in the little white flecks on Dean's face.

"Let's go," Sam says. "Back to the hotel room, we can pack and then point the Impala towards Connecticut, which should be fun. We haven't had a case there since before..." Sam winces and hopes Dean doesn't fill in the blanks with, since before you deserted the family for Stanford.

"Fine," says Dean, wiping at his face with a napkin. The girl behind the counter—Shauna, her nametag says—is staring avidly at Dean, almost like she'd like to lick the mess off. Hell, she probably does. Sam sighs again. Around his brother, girls never pay attention to him. That actually doesn't bother him much. It bothers him more that even the guys check Dean out and ignore Sam.

Sam's so tired of being the invisible little brother, but that's life. He knows that when they find Dad, he won't be invisible, he'll be under a microscope again, and that's just as bad.

He gets into the Impala and waits for Dean.

Taking out a book, he begins to read, the newspaper folded beneath his thigh. If he doesn't miss his guess, Dean's still going to be at least ten or fifteen minutes before he makes it back to the car.

"You know, she had these cherry lips—and I mean, they tasted like cherry, and—"

"Dean, shut up."

"And oh my God, Sammy, she had these panties on, red with black lace—"

"Dean, shut up."

"And they were a thong—"

"Shut up, Dean!"

"Problem, Sammy?"

"It's Sam, and yes, I have a problem. I don't need to think about that, fuck." Sam opens the newspaper and tries to bury himself in the newsprint, but like Dean ever lets anything go that easily.

"Sammy," Dean says, the smug bastard. "Cherry-flavoured lips, Sam, and I don't think it's the ones you're thinking of."

"God, Dean," Sam says, closing his eyes and wondering if he can brain himself to death on the head-rest of the seat behind him.

But Dean is not done. Then again, Dean never is...

"I am pretty sure I popped her cherry," he says, grinning gleefully over at Sam. Sam winces and plants the newspaper over his face.

"If you're not careful, I might be sick over—"

"Don't you even dare mention that around this upholstery," Dean says, suddenly very serious. Never say that two can't play that game.

"Just drive, Dean, and if you're going to talk about something, talk about the case." Sam emerges from behind the newspaper and lets it flutter down to his lap. Dean turns his attention back to the road in front of them, and Sam wonders how long it will take before Dean decides to take annoying him to yet another new level. Ever since he picked Sam up from Stanford, his brother's been a strange mix of conciliatory and absolutely obnoxious.

There's something about this case that's been niggling at Sam. He's not sure what it is, exactly, but he's positive this is their kind of thing, and right now, the current number of victims seems to be just the one. He'd like to keep it that way.

It's growing dark outside the windows of the Impala, shadows stretching tendrils into the car, so Sam clicks on his flashlight and rereads the article.

It takes a few moments, but then it falls into place: Ryan O'Rea. Her name had struck him as familiar, and he thinks he just figured out why.

College sports were never his thing, but he'd been to a couple of parties where her name was bandied around. Of course, the college party scene was never really his favourite place to be, either, but occasionally, if he thought something supernatural was up on campus... anyway. Ryan O'Rea had supposedly been a fantastic womens' hockey goalie, but more than that, had come out as lesbian in her senior year.

It had been a hot topic for college frat boys, in their brash, politically incorrect way, all talking about getting into her hockey pants and showing her what a 'real' good time was like.

It had disgusted Sam back then, but it saddens and worries him even more now. Maybe this isn't their thing. Maybe it's as simple as a case of homophobia gone wrong. Not that all homophobia isn't already wrong, he thinks.

He checks the paper again. The report states that the police did an initial investigation on the proprietor of the boarding house, and that currently she's not a suspect.

"Hey, Dean, this is odd," Sam says, intending to point that out.

Dean grunts, which Sam takes as permission to continue.

"The police don't have any suspects, including the owner of the boarding house. But the body was discovered in the middle of the night and as far as I can tell from this shoddily written article—" Dean rolls his eyes, and Sam knows his course in journalism has made him a snob and it irritates Dean to no end "—she was alone at the time. Why did they strike her off the suspect list?"

"Maybe someone vouched for her," Dean says, but he doesn't sound sure, and Sam really isn't so sure either.

"Unless she was with someone at the time, that wouldn't be enough, and you know it."

"So it doesn't say in the paper," Dean says. "We'll just have to ask her ourselves."

"And another thing," Sam adds, even though he knows Dean's going to try to use this as a brush-off, "the victim was a lesbian hockey goalie. I heard about her while I was in college."

"So it could be totally not our thing at all," Dean immediately says. Sam knows that Dean's just trying too hard, wanting to be like Dad, to be perfect, to save lives, but still, sometimes it's really annoying. Mostly because of times like these when he's so uptight about their thing that he overlooks the obvious. Sam wishes yet again that they could find John, get his help. Even if he knows it would just lead to sparks of conflict flying between them again.

"I still think it is," Sam argues. "How did the killer get in, then?"

"But what would be the point?" Dean turns off an exit that proclaims lodging, and Sam is kinda glad for it. He's tired and his butt is numb from sitting in the car for hours. "And if there was no visible cause of death, maybe it was suicide."

"I don't know. All I know is, this girl is dead, and we owe it to her to look into the suspicious circumstances of her death."

"Why? Because she was some college friend?"

"Of course not, Dean. I never met her. But because this pings my radar, and I don't want to run the risk of ignoring it. Who knows who might be next?"

Dean parks the car in front of one of the crappy, anonymous type of motels they always stay in. Only a few months back on the road, but Sam remembers this well, and he's already sick of the microwaved food and the sticky floors in the bathrooms.

Though the idea of a night of rest, even on a lumpy mattress, even if he tosses and turns all night, does sound appealing. He unbuckles his seat belt and stuffs the paper in the inside pocket of his jacket.

Dean is just sitting, hands still on the wheel, obviously in thought. So Sam waits him out.

"It could be a homophobic ghost," Dean says finally.

"See, that's the spirit," Sam grins.

Dean groans, and Sam throws open the car door. Every once in awhile, it's nice being able to pay Dean back.

Sam doesn't sleep. He knows Dean does, because even though Dean's not quite snoring, his breathing is audible in the quiet of the room, the silence of which is literally only broken by that and the hum of the heater.

But Sam knows from experience now that if he closes his eyes, if he does more than nap—and sometimes even then—he'll see Jess. Maybe some people would think dreaming about their dead lover is a good thing, like a chance to see them again, connect with them again, but for Sam, it's not like that. Because of the way she died, it can't ever be like that.

When he sees Jess in his dreams, she's either burning to death on the ceiling and asking, why, Sam? or she's standing eerily in some field—sometimes it's a deserted streetcorner or some other desolate place—dressed all in white, her blonde hair so pale it blends against the paleness of her skin, and even if she's not asking, why, Sam? he still feels guilty.

Those dreams are actually the worst, because he thinks sometimes she's mouthing something at him—it could be I love you, but it's more likely, How could you leave me alone? and so he just doesn't want to close his eyes and go to sleep.

And that doesn't even take into account the fact that sometimes he thinks he sees her standing on streetcorners in her nightgown even when he's awake.

He'd rather think about their upcoming case and try to solve the mystery.

So it's still with a start of surprise that comes when his phone rings into the blank darkness. Sam reaches for it, trying to get it before Dean wakes up, and manages to get it up against his ear the right way and says,


"You're not wanted." It's crackly with static and the voice is thready and insubstantial, but the intent is clear: malice and warning.

"Who is this?" Sam asks, quickly on high alert. If this is some kind of prank...

"You're not wanted here. Your kind is not allowed here. Stay away."

"Hey, who is this," Sam says angrily, "don't try to scare me, I don't exactly scare easi—"

He's interrupted by the dial tone, and the sudden absence of the static.

"Who was it?" Dean asks sleepily from the other bed.

Sam stares at his cell phone for a long time. This is going to sound unbelievable, even for them, but...

"I think it was our ghost," he says slowly. "This has gotta be our kinda thing, because I'm pretty sure I just got warned away from investigating." He sets the phone down on the night table, carefully, lining it up square. "I know it sounds weird, but I could hear the EMF. It was definitely EMF. I think."

"Ghosts don't usually make phone calls," Dean says. Pause. "Unless they call collect."

"Very funny, Dean. I don't think it's the spirits that call collect, though. I think it's the demons."

Dean actually laughs. "Touché," he says. "What did our ghost say, then?"

"'You're not wanted here,'" Sam repeats for Dean's benefit. "Not particularly original, except for the part where the ghost made a freakin' phone call."

"It may not have been the ghost," Dean reasons, "after all, how would it know we were coming? It may be someone who has a vested interest in the case."

"Well, you know, I couldn't really tell gender..." Sam lets the sentence hang.

"And this is confusing, you're right. If it's not our ghost, well, we didn't exactly tell anyone we were coming to investigate... But how would the ghost know either?"

"Another plane of existence, right? Maybe it knows we're on our way."

"You know what, the whys don't really matter. I think the point is, we just got a warning, and that's a pretty good indication that this is something we should be looking into."

Sam very carefully doesn't tell Dean the rest of what the ghost said. And the more he lies in bed, talking things over with Dean, the more he's convinced that it is, in fact, their ghost. Dean yawns; Sam can hear the near-violence of it in the dark.

"I'm gonna hit the hay again, Sam," Dean says, sounding sleepy once more. Sam nods, but Dean doesn't ask him for an audible response.

It's comforting that Dean can still read Sam, even after the years away. Dean knows Sam nodded, even though it's dark, even though he didn't say anything aloud, because Dean knows Sam.

But, Sam asks himself as he continues to lie awake in the dark, Dean doesn't know everything, does he? No, he tells himself. No, he does not.

Shannon can't believe it. She'd been so sure that the problem would be simple, but it's been over a week and there's still police tape everywhere, and she's been questioned over and again.

The police have been really nice about it, actually. They don't seem to think she's a suspect, though she can't imagine why not. It's not like she has a good alibi. The only alibi she technically has is that she had logged into her computer three minutes before she found the body, and it seems weak, even to her. Even though the police keep assuring her that if anything changes, she'll be the first to know.

They offered her counseling services, and she accepted, because, worst of all, Ryan O'Rea was a friend. Is a friend. She doesn't like to think of her in the past tense already, even if it's true—Ryan had been young, vibrant, talented. It's almost impossible to believe she's gone, that life can be so fragile.

Shannon puts her head down on her desk. Her tenants, living as they did on the second floor, have been allowed back into their residences now, but Shannon, a couple of tears sticking her lashes together, wonders if this is an isolated incident.

After all, the feeling of being disturbed—or more accurately, the house being disturbed—is worse than ever. And while Shannon can't explain any of it, she knows deep in her heart that this could be one of those things where everything gets worse before it gets better—and she doesn't want to know how bad worse is going to be.

She's thought about shutting the place down, sending her tenants elsewhere, but she can't do that. This is their home. And even if it weren't for that, there's still the fact that without the rent money, Shannon herself will be on the street.

For a split second she allows herself to imagine the boarding house being foreclosed upon, closed up, and Shannon allowed to live someplace else, someplace where she doesn't have this awful dread crawling through her veins every day and even more so at night, but she knows she can't do that.

If nothing else, this is all she has left of her grandmother, and she's not going to let the bank take that away from her.

She swipes at her eyes, trying to remind herself that death is a fact of life, but she can't stop the feeling that a death like this—violent and abrupt—is not the way someone's life is supposed to end, especially not someone with so much promise, like Ryan O'Rea.

Ryan hadn't just been out and proud, in a way Shannon envied. She'd been trying to change the culture of her sport, if not on the most public level, but starting with her college and trying to get womens' hockey programs in other colleges on board. She could have really done something awesome, something amazing, but now this.

There's a knock on the door.

"Enter," Shannon says, because she's in her office, and she quickly picks her head up and straightens her blouse, her hair, tries to touch up her eyes and hope her mascara hasn't run—even though the girls at the house who are her friends already know how wrecked she is about this.

It's Amber. Shannon tears up all over again. Amber, she can't deal with. She can't, because what if the killer had chosen Amber instead of Ryan? And then she feels a crushing wave of guilt for even being thankful it wasn't Amber.

"Hey, baby," Amber says softly, crossing the room and drawing Shannon's head to her chest, cradling it there. "You've been shut up in here for hours. It's not healthy. Come for a walk with me or something."

"I can't," Shannon says, but she doesn't actually have any earthly reason why not. "Amber—" she begins, but she doesn't have anything to follow it. Just her lover's name, like a prayer.

Amber's always been the cool, reasonable one, and she's talked Shannon down from many a ledge. But she doesn't judge. She holds Shannon and sings softly under her breath, the words lost to how quiet her voice is, but still, it's soothing.

"Amber, I feel so responsible," she whispers.

"It's not your fault." Amber lets her go, but takes both hands and draws her to her feet, bringing her body close and then, just before she lays a kiss on her lips, Amber murmurs, "You know it's not your fault."

Shannon closes her eyes and lets her girlfriend kiss her, then slowly pulls away, still holding both of Amber's hands. "I'm just grateful you don't think I did it," she says, the words feeling strange in her mouth.

"Of course not," Amber says, giving her a stern look. "I know you're not capable of that kind of violence."

"I love you," Shannon whispers. But as Amber draws her in close for another hug, Shannon wonders if she imagined the flicker of the lights when she said those words.

It's almost like the house is listening—but that's ridiculous. She basks in the feel of Amber's arms around her, soaks in the comfort being offered.

She refuses to think about anything else.

"Windsor is the first English settlement in the state," Sam reads from the computer screen, having begun with consulting Wikipedia. "Settled in 1633."

"Hey, queen of research, less information about the town and more information about the possible haunting," Dean says, trying to take over like he always does.

"Sometimes it's good to do some research on the area," Sam says, affecting an aura of absolute patience that is also meant to clearly convey how long-suffering he is. "You know, graveyards, all that shit."

"It was a nursing home, Sam. It's not like we're looking for cursed ground." Dean has affected the exact same tone. Sam curls his lip and hits the 'x' button on the browser tab, opening a new one.

He's in the process of pulling up all the information he can find on the address—37 Prospect Street—when he notices Dean staring over his shoulder. He sighs. He doesn't even have to look behind him to know that, obviously, some pretty girl has pinged Dean's radar.

"Hey, this is interesting," Sam says, trying to draw Dean's attention. "The nursing home at the address opened in 1907. It was one of the first of its kind in New England. According to this article, it paved the way for today's industry."

Dean hums in response, so Sam sighs again and turns to glance over his shoulder. Sure enough, Dean is watching a girl. She has long, slightly wavy, thick auburn hair and stylish glasses perched on her nose. Sam doesn't think she's the librarian, but Dean's distraction is pretty easy to quantify: he does love a girl who he can roleplay with, even if only in his own mind, and Sam has seen enough of Dean's porn to know that the naughty librarian is one of his favourites.

She's slender, with a willowy build, and high, small breasts, which Sam would ordinarily say weren't Dean's type, but then, 'girl' and 'heartbeat' are usually Dean's type, so he groans and turns back to the computer. He highlights some of the article, then selects 'print'.

While he's waiting, he scribbles down the address and directions. The house in question really isn't far from the public library, so Sam figures they can be there in a few minutes. Unless Dean manages to convince the girl to bang him somewhere, in which case Sam might as well go get a room at the Windsor Townehouse hotel by himself.

Sometimes he wonders why they bother to share a hotel room, when not sharing would make it easier for Dean to fuck as many girls as he'd like.

Then he remembers that he'd have to hustle pool, too, if he wanted his own room, and answers his own question. Dean thwacks him on the back, startling him.

"I'll be back, Sammy, just keep working the computers," he says, and Sam knows his brother is going to chat up the hot chick. Honestly.

Sam opens his blog and decides to complain, under the cover of a pseudonym, about his life. It's too bad that not only is his name fake, but so is much of the information he posts, since he can't exactly describe his true life—and while this blog is a way to keep track of his friends from college, he knows that sooner or later Dean is going to cotton onto it and make Sam shut it down. After all, Dean's opinion on Sam having friends is legendary. At this point, he's not so sure that Dean's wrong, but still, it doesn't hurt to keep track of them, right? In case they need something? After all, he misses them; they don't know what happened to him, either, not truly. He dropped off the face of the earth.

He updates it quickly: roadtrip now taking a break in New England, checking out the historic houses, bored in library because brother is a horndog and then quickly closes out of the browser entirely.

He balances his chin on his hands and waits. Now he's bored. And it's getting late, which means waiting till tomorrow, most likely, to check out the house.

Hell, it's too late today to check out the corpse. That is, if the body is still at the morgue, and hasn't already been released to the family or cremated and released to the family.

Sam wonders if he has time to go find a book to curl up with and read while he waits for Dean, when his brother comes back, whistling under his breath. Sam takes that as an indication that Dean is going to get laid at some point today when Dean plops down in the computer chair next to him and flicks his forearm with his finger, making Sam flinch.

"What?" he asks, trying not to sound sullen, like the irritated little brother he is.

"Lesbian," Dean says, but not with disappointment; no, he says it with delicious glee. Sam rolls his eyes.

"What, and even you couldn't still get her into bed with you?"

"Now, Sammy, I have my standards," Dean says loftily. "I would never try to corrupt something as pure and beautiful as the love between two women."

"Yeah, maybe not, unless it meant watching them in action," Sam says sardonically.

"Oh, you wound me, baby brother," Dean says, throwing a hand out over his chest. His dramatics are going to garner them a lot of attention in a quiet place like the library.

"I'm still surprised you didn't try it anyway," Sam says.

When Dean speaks again, he sounds vaguely angry and a lot more serious. "Honestly, Sam, it's not so much about the lesbian thing as the fact that she's in a steady relationship, and I really do have some standards."

Sam nods a little bit numbly; he's exhausted from barely any sleep and it has been several years since he spent this much time with his brother. Maybe Dean has changed.

Maybe the only thing more unreasonable than expecting him to be the same person he was four years ago is not realising that it is possible for someone to change that much.

After all, in high school, Dean probably would've been one of those guys who claimed a good dicking would cure a lesbian forever. Is it so unreasonable to believe Dean still thinks the same way?

"All right, look, can we just go back to the hotel and start trying to break this case down?"

Dean has a contemplative look on his face. "You know, Sam, I'm not entirely useless. I learned something from Amber over there. She says one of the best places in town is the boarding house where she lives."

"That boarding house?" Sam asks incredulously. How in the world does Dean do it? He can even get lesbians to fall for his charm, if not for the sensual promises he makes with his lips and his body.

"Yeah, new plan," Dean says. "You and I are in a relationship—"

"Ew," Sam says, blushing. "You know how wrong that is, right?"

"Everyone already assumes we're gay," Dean says a little testily. "This is the perfect cover. It'll give us a chance to investigate from the inside without having to sneak around too much."

"You just came on to her, you think she's going to believe you're gay?"

"Bi," Dean says smugly. "And then—"

"And apparently trying to cheat on your lover," Sam interrupts again.

"All right, so I'm not perfect," Dean says a little more heatedly. "I'm sure they'll believe us if we show up together with luggage and first month's rent. Amber told me that the proprietor is hurting for tenants right now."

"I don't think—"

"Sam," Dean says grumpily, "fine, so I might have insinuated that you and I were thinking about getting married."

"You what?" Sam asks dumbly.

"Well, she..." Dean swallows a little uncomfortably. "I had to do something quick to try and make it less like I was hitting on her, and it was the first thing I thought of."

"Dean, couldn't you have run our cover by me first? Maybe I'm not comfortable pretending to be gay."

"Oh, please," Dean scoffs. "You're already as gay as they come, and you know it. Maybe if you actually slept with a girl sometimes..."

"I'm not gay," Sam protests. "And besides, Jess, remember?" He ignores the pang he feels at saying her name in favour of trying to win the argument with Dean, though he should know better, because Dean never plays fair when it comes to winning arguments.

"It's not important," Dean says, waving a hand as if Sam's protest is nothing more than a mildly irritating insect. "Did you take drama class in high school, or didn't you?"

"It was only in one of our high schools, Dean, and that doesn't automatically equate to being—"

"No, I mean, you should be able to act the part. It's just a part to play like any other, and like I said, people seem all too ready to believe it about us, anyway."

Sam bites back further protest. "Fine," he says. "Let's go see how believable we are."

"That's the spirit," Dean says, clapping Sam on the back. Jesus, this gay thing is going to be impossible.

It's bad enough Dean's his brother... but what if Dean knew the truth? Would he still think this whole ruse is okay?

"I feel stupid," Sam says, tugging at the collar of his t-shirt. He's got his duffle bag, and Dean has his, and he feels naked because the only gun he currently has with him is buried in the bottom of the bag. Dean might have his on his person, Sam's not sure, but they both agreed to leave most of the weapons in the Impala for now.

There is holy water and a rosary in Sam's bag, too, along with his two other pairs of jeans and his few t-shirts, plus a flannel shirt and a jacket. He's afraid that the woman who runs the place will think that they don't have nearly enough belongings to be moving in.

"Just concentrate on acting natural," Dean says. "You look fine. Except you might want to stand a little closer to me—"

"Jesus, Dean," Sam mutters. But he takes a step closer to his brother—God, his brother—and tries to pretend he's in love with the man next to him.

It'd be easier if he could forget about the blood they share; Dean's hot enough, sure, but still.

Though he remembers what a good actor Dean is, and even if they're not wearing their FBI suits, Dean will probably be fine.

On impulse, as Dean rings the bell, Sam stuffs his hand into Dean's back jeans pocket. Leans a little closer. Dean smells like old leather and old sweat, and while Sam has obviously smelled his brother before, this is somehow different; he's more aware of the smell, right down to the faint cigarette smell clinging to his leather jacket and the slightly sour smell of well-chewed bubblegum on his breath.

It makes his stomach do a half somersault. He files away the strange reaction when the door opens. Dean, to his credit, didn't flinch when Sam put his hand in his brother's pocket.

"Hello?" the woman says to them as she stands in the doorway. She looks faintly confused. Almost as if the last thing she is expecting is two people who might want to move in, as opposed to more police.

She has chin-length black hair and brown eyes, and a beauty mark next to her left eye. She's curvier than Amber, with a Playboy Playmate-sized chest, and Sam can practically see Dean running through them in his head to see if she's one of them.

He rolls his eyes inwardly.

"Hi," Dean says, probably unintentionally turning on the charm that makes him so irresistible to women. That and he probably still hopes he can get her into bed, even if she's the proprietor. "This is Sam. We were hoping we could move into one of the empty apartments? Amber suggested it when I ran into her at the library." Dean positively twinkles after this last bit.

"Oh!" The woman smiles, though it's a bit worn, as if she's been really stressed—not a surprise, considering, Sam thinks. "Yes, come in. I'm Shannon McCreary, and this is my boarding house—though you probably already know that if you've spoken to Amber."

"Amber raved about this place. She said my boyfriend and I just had to at least come take a look around."

Sam feels a funny little feeling go through him at being referred to as Dean's 'boyfriend'. Dean is still smiling, as if that lie isn't all that is wrong in the universe.

But Shannon is smiling too, more relaxed than previously, and she ushers them inside and shuts the door behind them. The entrance opens into what seems to be a sitting room, possibly a common area, and she gestures to a couch that is a pale cream colour with green vines scrolling over it.

"Please, sit. I'll take you on a tour afterwards if you're still interested, but I feel like I should give you some information about the place before you make a decision."

Sam sits first, half-expecting Dean to sit down at the other end, but instead he plops down directly next to Sam and slings his arm over Sam's shoulder.

It's very difficult for Sam not to twitch away from the embrace, not when he knows they have to convince this woman that what they say is true, to give them the best possible chance at discovering what's going on in the house.

So he musters up his own smile and leans back against the couch, casually turning his body a little bit towards Dean to imply closeness. It's not too hard to do, since he and Dean are close, even they've been estranged for several years.

"Now," Shannon says, clasping her hands together in her lap, "if you've been reading the newspapers, or turned on your TV at all—" she pauses, looking pained. Her eyes flick down and settle on her clasped hands.

Sam decides it's his turn to say something. "No, we're just visiting. We're considering moving here since civil unions are legal."

Dean tacks on, "Yeah, we're not actually married yet, but we thought we'd come up to New England to..." he hesitates just enough that Sam knows he's not sure what lie to weave into the tapestry next, so he smoothly continues Dean's sentence,

"...see the fall foliage that's so renowned, and maybe get married up around here."

"Oh, yes, it's lovely," Shannon says, latching onto the subject. "There are some beautiful areas around here especially. You should absolutely have a ceremony here, though. When are you thinking of having the ceremony?"

Sam smiles at her, kindly. She might still be frazzled by the murder in her boarding house. But before he can speak, Dean sticks his foot in it.

"Well, probably in the fall."

"Oh, yes, of course. Have you been around here long?"

"We've been roadtripping," Sam says. "Since November. We actually missed the fall season, coming from California. Though the snow has been pretty."

"You did just miss the season," she says. She clears her throat. "But actually, even if you're planning to stay in the area, you need to know that there's been a murder here."

Sam brightens, all part of the act, and says, "Oh, wow, really? We're true crime buffs and—"

"—we fell in love over true crime novels," Dean finishes, which Sam would totally give him a dirty look about if they weren't playing at being lovers. Since it's not like Dean reads, or anything. "I saw him across the library reading the same book I was, and it was like the sky opened up and the sun shone down on him," Dean continues, and Sam wants to disappear into the sofa cushions. He risks giving Dean a dirty look anyway.

"Oh, well," Shannon says. "I'm not even sure I should take on any new tenants while the investigation is ongoing, but I really need the mo—I mean, I need to keep this place running, so, if you'd like the tour, you're welcome to it."

"Lead on," Dean says, hopping to his feet and reaching for Sam's hand. Sam smothers a sigh and takes Dean's hand. Hell, he wasn't this touchy-feely with Jess, and he'd definitely considered marrying her. But Dean seems to have decided that being gay means constantly touching each other.

"You'll have your choice of apartments, because several are empty presently." She leads them through a kitchen, around a corner and up some stairs.

The stairs are dimly lit, a couple of wall sconces visible, but far apart enough from each other to add to the faintly creepy vibe Sam is getting from the place.

If Dean's picking up on it, he's not showing it; he's practically skipping up the steps. Sam wants to grab him and pull him aside and point out that not all gay guys walk like they're in a musical production on Broadway, but if it makes Dean happy... well, as long as Shannon doesn't question them.

She opens the door to the first room on the left after the landing, and they walk into a small front room with a double bed against the wall and an open door that clearly leads to a bathroom. She's giving Dean a funny look, almost like she has seen through them, so Sam, without really thinking it through too much, grabs Dean after all and plants a kiss on his cheek, perilously close to his pouting lower lip.

"Isn't it lovely?" he says, in a whisper meant to be heard by Shannon.

Sam does wonder a little bit about Dean's sanity when he doesn't immediately jump and punch Sam in the throat for kissing him, even if it wasn't on the mouth.

Shannon smiles. "This is one of our smaller apartments. There's no room for a kitchen, so if you take this one, you'll be able to use the kitchen downstairs, and there should be room for a table and chairs if you'd like. Otherwise you can eat in the kitchen, if you want."

The walls are painted an airy, light-green colour, and the bed has brass fittings. There's a wardrobe in the corner that is built of some sort of pale wood, with two doors and a drawer at the bottom.

There aren't any curtains, but Dean takes care of that by saying, "Ooh, Sammy, we can pick out curtains together!"

Sam wants to close his eyes and maybe punch Dean for sounding so excited, but Shannon isn't paying attention; she's going on, saying,

"If you don't like the walls, I have a room down the hall that's got a lovely panelled look, rose-toned wood. It's very pretty, and still very masculine. You know."

Sam thinks about how little they've brought with them. Before Dean can say something—he's going to give Dean such a lecture later—he grins at Shannon.

"No, this is perfect. We don't need a lot of space, really, and I do like the color green."

"Amber lives next door to this room," Shannon says. "If you need anything, I recommend asking her first, if you can't find me. Why don't I show you the kitchen and then I can get your keys? After you sign the lease, of course."

Sam is about to ask a question when Shannon says,

"In light of recent events, it's probably even more important to point out that the lease has a fifteen day grace period. So if you want to move out at any time, you just need to give fifteen days advance notice. Come on, I am having an outdoor lunch today, even though it's cool, if you'd care to join us."

It's not just cool, it's cold, seeing as it's February, but Sam thinks it might be nice to meet the other tenants, so he nods and is grateful when Dean doesn't contradict him.

"Just as soon as we settle in a little," Sam says. It's early, not yet eleven in the morning, so they have some time to get their things in order.

He does wonder how much trouble they'll be in when they sign the lease under assumed names, particularly when the almost-lawyer within him cringes at breaking yet another law.

"Oh, of course. And the outdoor lunch is something I do at least once every winter, because the trees behind the house are so beautiful—especially today, with the leftover ice on them from the ice storm a few days ago."

They follow her back down the stairs and into the kitchen. She motions to the table and they sit, waiting for her to come back with the lease.

They sign the lease and then Shannon gives them each a key, and by the time Sam shuts the door, he just wants to yell at Dean, dude, not all gay men are that flamboyant! Tone it down a little, but he doesn't. At least not in those words.

Sam pulls the printouts out of his duffle and immediately begins taping them to the wall behind the door, where they won't be visible unless someone enters the room completely.

Dean flops down onto the bed, and for the first time, Sam takes notice of the fact that it is one double bed.

"Dean, that's a double bed," Sam says warily, wondering if Dean's figured out the significance of that yet.

"So?" Dean puts his hands crossed behind his head and closes his eyes.

"Do you see a couch anywhere for me to sleep on?"

"It needs to be authentic, Sammy," Dean replies lazily, without opening his eyes. "Besides, you don't sleep."

Sam wishes Dean hadn't noticed that. But after the thing with Bloody Mary, it's been even closer to impossible to hide how he feels about Jess, and the fact that she haunts his nights.

It's going to be even harder to sleep, though, if he has to do it two inches away from Dean. Why the fuck is there only one bed? And what has he gotten himself into?

He thinks about that kiss; it may have been innocent enough by his own intention, but it was still a kiss, and it was meant to be misconstrued, but it still makes him uncomfortable that it has, no doubt, been interpreted as a kiss between lovers.

Sam tapes the last photo of Ryan O'Rea to the wall and faces Dean again. This time, Dean is watching him. As if reading his mind—and Sam should be used to that by now—Dean says,

"We shared beds all the time in cheap motels, Sammy."

"Not after I turned twelve, we didn't," Sam points out weakly.

"We can sleep in shifts if it really bothers you that much," Dean says. But Sam knows that Dean is just pointing out, again, how little Sam sleeps these days.

"I think the lunch will be a good thing," Sam says instead. "We'll have a chance to meet some of the other tenants. It would help if we could get a read on the other people living here."

"I hope they are all hot lesbians," Dean says, slightly dreamily. Sam snaps his fingers to get Dean's attention.

"You better hope they're not, or it will blow our cover," Sam says, injecting annoyance into his tone. "And it's bad enough, your act so far. Seriously? Skipping? This is not a Broadway musical."

"I was feeling cheerful," Dean says defensively.

"I've never seen you skip anywhere before."

"I've never seen you kiss me before," Dean retorts.

"...shut up," Sam says weakly. He'd kind of been hoping Dean wouldn't bring that up. But Dean smiles wolfishly.

"No, it's good. I think that pretty much convinced her."

"I had to do something," Sam mutters, "the way you were acting, Jesus."

"How soon do you think we can sneak upstairs with the EMF meter?"

"Probably not till after dark," Sam replies. He thinks maybe he should change his shirt, but he only has a few, and this one is already dirty... He pulls a different one, with stripes on it, out of his bag and sniffs it. It smells only faintly musty, so it's probably good to go... but he might need a clean shirt for later.

It's amazing how many shirts he loses to things like burning bones. Or digging up graves. He sighs.

"It'll be like a date!" Dean says, and Sam gives up and throws his shirt at Dean's head.

"Yes, because everyone wants blood and guts on their first date," Sam says. When he realises he just implied that he's actually going on a date with Dean, he wants to crawl into a hole.

What the fuck? Like, no, seriously—what the actual fuck is wrong with him?

"Do you mind if we ask you some questions?" Dean has toned down the gay act, but Shannon does turn to him with a bit of a startled expression, as if she weren't expecting that. Sam kicks Dean under the little Victorian style patio table in white, scrolled metal.

"About the..." Dean smiles at her. "I did say we were obsessed, didn't I?"

"You should ask Amber," Shannon says. "I'd rather not talk about it anymore, but Amber's loquacious, she'll talk about anything you like for hours."

"But you did find her, didn't you?" Sam asks, turning up the soft compassion in his voice. He'd feel bad about manipulating people this way, but to help them... well, it's important to get as much information as they can so that they can stop whatever nastiness is occurring and keep these people safe.

"Yes," Shannon says with a heavy sigh. "It was gruesome." She shudders.

"Did you notice anything... strange?" Dean chimes in. "Like, besides the locked door?"

"You know, now that you mention it... it was odd, that door being locked. I mean, I always kept it locked, so how did she even get inside? It isn't even just about the killer getting in, but Ryan shouldn't have been in there."

This is not precisely the clues they were hoping for, but it is something useful. Knowing that Ryan somehow wound up inside a locked room, too, lends credence to the fact that this is something supernatural.

Dean is watching Shannon closely, but Sam is pretty sure his brother doesn't think she's responsible. Still... if Shannon is the owner, then she had the key.

Sam decides he better be the one to ask the question, or Dean might make her angry and closed off to further questioning.

"And the police questioned you already?"

Shannon's brows draw together, as if she's becoming suspicious. Sam hopes not, though.

"I don't know why they don't think I'm a suspect," she says, quietly. "I have an alibi, but it's weak. I'd logged into my computer during when Ryan must have been killed. But I could've given out my password, you know? I mean, I didn't, of course. I didn't kill her. But nevertheless, the police should be all over me. Picking apart my story."

"I believe you," Sam murmurs. "This was a... weird... murder, wouldn't you say?"

"It was!" Shannon exclaims. "The way she was... she was all arranged, and... God, I can't think about it. Please don't ask me any more questions."

"All right," Sam says. "It's no trouble."

"Let me introduce you to everyone," Shannon says. She stands up, and Dean gets up right away. Sam gets to his feet and steps close to Dean, leaning against his shoulder.

"That—" Shannon points to two men practically feeding each other, snuggled up in their extremely warm coats, "is Simon and Jesse. They've been living here for a couple of months. They didn't freak out about the murder, so..." Shannon pauses, then gestures to a young woman eating by herself.

"And that is Sara. She's one of the last original tenants from before I inherited. Next to her is Elise, and there's Colton in that chair over there." Shannon smiles at them. "You picked the right place to stay, as long as you don't mind the recent events. This is a boarding house for people..." she stops, shrugs. "Sara and Elise have become best friends, but they're not a couple. Colton's boyfriend died of AIDS before he moved in. And of course, you know Amber already." She blushes a bit, gives them a shy smile. "Amber is my girlfriend."

"Oh," Dean says, smiling. "Naturally. You two look like you're perfect together."

"I'm going to leave you to your lunch," Shannon says. "Let me know if you need anything." She walks away.

Without even needing to glance at Dean, Sam knows they are both thinking the same thing. They go over and sit at the little table with Amber.

She gives Dean a very welcoming smile. "Oh, I am so glad you decided to move in! You seemed so nice in the library. And who is this? Is this your fiancé?"

Dean wraps an arm around Sam, yanking him close, and before Sam realises what's happening, Dean's lips—warm and slightly rough—are covering his own.

It's brief, but a feeling Sam can't put a name to runs through him. It's not the disgust he's expecting, but even as he's trying to identify it, Dean is using those lips to talk to Amber and the kiss is nothing but a troubling memory—Sam's mouth is tingling every place his brother's touched.

"This is Sam," Dean is saying. "He is the love of my life." There is a ring of truth to Dean's statement, as if Sam is the love of his life, though he probably—right?—doesn't mean romantically. But Dean has spent his whole life practically living for Sam; it's why it ripped Dean apart when Sam decided to go to college and leave the hunting life behind. Dean took it personally.

"That's so sweet. Hey, did Shannon tell you about—"

"Yeah," Sam says. "The murder?"

"It's a strange story, isn't it? I mean, it's almost... well, this house can sometimes feel... sinister. And I do mean the house, not someone in it. I can't explain why Ryan died, but..." She twitches one shoulder, a half-hearted shrug. "Do you believe in ghosts?"

"Surely a ghost can't just kill someone," Dean says, putting just the right amount of skepticism in his voice.

"I don't know," Amber says. "Maybe not. But, you know, I'd lock your doors at night."

"Of course," says Sam. "It's really nice to meet you. Have you always believed in ghosts?"

"The house I lived in as a little girl was haunted," Amber tells them. "I had an 'imaginary' friend. But my mother thought I was suffering from some mental illness, and we moved up here, and..." she darkens, as if the memory is painful. "I was in an institution for awhile. When I got out, I learned not to tell my mother if I saw or experienced anything strange."

"Did you see anything strange here?" Sam enquires.

"This used to be a convalescent home," Amber says. "And there were a bunch of killings here. It's a bit of local history. Look up the Arsenic and Old Lace story," she says, and it's a clue, even if Amber doesn't know it. "Happened in this house. I'm not sure if Shannon knows. I don't want to tell her and worry her, or anything. I mean, up until recently, this house didn't have the same feel it has now."

"What does it feel like now?" Dean asks.

"Menacing," Amber says. "Disturbed."

"Like something is angry?" Sam questions.

"Yes, exactly like that," says Amber. She pushes her glasses up on her nose. "It's frightening. I've lived here the longest, and I've never been afraid like I am now. Oh, my God, I forgot, I have an appointment. I have to go, sorry," she says, and jumps to her feet.

As she strides away, Sam is fairly certain Dean is thinking the same thing: something spooked Amber, and it wasn't just the story she was telling.

"More research," says Sam. "First, the play."

"Yeah, about that," Dean says. "What is Arsenic and Old Lace?"

"Well, the story goes..." Sam starts walking back towards the house. Dean follows, and as soon as they get into their room, Dean throws the latch and Sam continues. "two old women were living in a house, and they'd poison old men with arsenic. But that's obviously not the reality here." He boots up his laptop as Dean lays down the salt lines in front of the doors and windows.

"If this was some kind of slaughterhouse..." Dean flomps onto the bed. "We have our work cut out for us. It could be any ghost, and figuring out which one could be complicated."

"Yeah," Sam agrees. "We might be missing something in the murder, though. Maybe there's some kind of clue the ghost left behind."

Dean lies back on the bed, sideways. "Let me know if you find anything out."

Sam's stomach twirls a little. "You know, Dean, it's pretty sick to kiss your own bro—"

"Shh!" Dean says adamantly. "You don't know who might be listening. Or the walls could be thin."

"Fine, but you know what I am trying to say."

"Sammy, it wasn't anything. Just part of the act." But something about Dean seems squirmy, smarmy, like he's not quite telling the whole truth.

Sam types rapidly into the search box. After a couple of seconds, he says,

"There may have been as many as sixty-six murders committed in this house. It was called the Archer Home for Elderly People and Chronic Invalids, and the owner allegedly killed her patients with cocktails of lemonade and arsenic."

Dean has sat straight up. "Sixty-six? Jesus fucking Christ. That's insane."

"Well, it certainly gives us plently of possible ghosts," Sam says, but he's not really happy about this news, either.

"Let's get some sleep, Sammy," Dean suggests. "We're going to be going upstairs tonight to scope out the scene, so we need to be alert." This is a veiled reference to Sam's lack of sleeping again. He doesn't really want to climb in bed with Dean—his body still feels strange after that kiss—but he puts the laptop to sleep and kicks off his shoes. Dean is removing his boots, then flipping back the covers. He climbs in first, holding the covers back for Sam.

When Sam lies down next to Dean, his body suddenly calms. Everything that's bothering him feels kind of muted this close to Dean; he remembers when he was a child and Dean could soothe any nightmare, assuage any hurt. How Sam used to cuddle up to Dean because he knew his brother could protect him from any of the monsters in the dark.

How simple his life used to be, and how complicated and twisted up it is now.

Dean snuggles into the bed, lying beside the wall, and the bed's not really big enough for the two of them to keep any distance between them, so Sam allows his body to come into contact with Dean's, and he closes his eyes.

Sleep overtakes him more quickly than he's expecting, and he doesn't dream.

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.

"Yeah, right."

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.