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[personal profile] carole_c
All the windows and doors were boarded over on the back of the house.  Dean made a quick circuit of the whole place, scanning for any obvious way in.  There was nothing.  Back where he started, he pulled out a crowbar.  

 

Whoever had closed up this house sure knew what they were doing.  Dean was sweating through his shirt by the time he had the lower six feet of a tall French window uncovered.  It was locked, of course.  Whoever shut the place up had been a real belt and suspenders kind of guy.  Dean loathed him posthumously.  

"Screw this," he muttered, dropped the crowbar, crouched and grabbed the bronze handles of one of the marble urns that flanked the doorway.  He swung it up with a snap of his hips, then released it with a shove at the top of its arc.  Momentum sent it on a shallow trajectory that took out both glass and mullions in the window.  The urn rebounded off the wooden floor inside with a couple of solid thumps.  

Dean slung his duffel across his back again and jacked a shell into his sawed-off.  He stepped through the generous opening where the window used to be.   He heard a door open somewhere in the house with a squeal of rusty hinges. 

He was instantly surrounded by arctic temperature air.  Almost before he got that sensation processed, he had to deal with a new one.  Being punched in the gut so hard he skidded back across the floor on his ass.  

Dean gasped for air, wildly searching the room for whatever had walloped him with an invisible two-by-four. 

An apparition of a very angry young girl shimmered into view in front of him.  "Get out of my house!" 

A ten-gauge blast of salt and iron filings dissipated her instantly.  

"Kid, this is so not the day for that shit," Dean grumbled, and shoved his aching body back up onto his feet. 

 

-oOo-

 

The lock was as easy to pick as Sam had hoped it would be.  When he turned the knob, the door opened with a rusty screech.  "Ok, let's get out of here," he said to the kids clustered round his shins.  "Everybody hold hands and follow me.  Do exactly what I say." 

Sam settled Ethan on his hip again, and the rest trooped along behind him as if they were attached to a string tied to the back of his belt.  He led them across the wide landing and down the stairs, testing each one before he committed his full weight.  

They crossed the dusty carpet of the second floor landing.  Sophie sneezed.  Abby wiped Sophie's snot-draped nose with the hem of her own pajama top.  Alex declared them both gross.  A mighty crash and a couple of solid thumps reverberated through the old house.  Sam shushed them all. 

They'd made it halfway down the main staircase when a shotgun blast made them all jump.  It was the sweetest sound Sam had heard all year.   

"Stay on the stairs!" he hissed to the children, then crept towards the sound of the blast.  "Dean? Is that you?"  Sam called softly.  

"Sam?"  Dean's shotgun muzzle peeked around the corner first.  "You clear?" 

"Yeah—and the kids are with me.  All of 'em."  

Dean stepped into the foyer with a huge grin.  "Thank god for that.  Everybody ok, dude?" 

"Not a scratch on any of 'em.  They're just scared and hungry." 

"Well, guess you heard me get rid of your little girlfriend," Dean grinned wider.  "So we can stroll right on out of here." 

"Olivia?" Sam blinked.  "She's not the problem."  

Sam lunged and grabbed Dean by the forearm and shoulder, swinging brother and ten-gauge around bodily.  "That is!" 

Dean fired almost point blank right between the kelpie's eyes.  

It shrieked like something out of the Pit and retreated fast, hoofs clattering and sliding against the smooth marble of the foyer.  

Sam jerked up a big iron doorstop, chased after it and tried to smash the thing's skull—did it even have a skull? 

The kelpie shook that blow off too, though now the skin of its head and neck hung in ragged tatters, exposing a macabre mingling of slimy wet wooden bones and muck-green muscle beneath.  

It was clear that the monster considered them only obstacles in its path.  The kelpie sprang forward and swerved around them both, trying to get to the screaming kids.  

Sam slammed it upside the head again with the doorstop, shattering an amber glass eye into little golden shards that scattered across the marble tiles.  "Stay on the stairs!" he yelled to the kids. 

Dean dropped his shot gun to grab a can of lighter fluid and a book of matches out of his jacket pockets.  He sliced the squirt cap off the can with a determined whack of his hunting knife.  "Drive it this way!" 

Sam bellowed like a berserker, slamming the kelpie with blow after merciless blow with his makeshift war-hammer.  

Its other eye shattered.  Blinded and its hairy ass well and truly whipped, the kelpie retreated from Sam's attack, wheeled and bolted back towards Dean.  

Dean sloshed the entire can of butane over it, struck the book of matches.  

The kelpie burst into flame as if the damn thing was made of thermite.  Dean scrabbled away, pretty certain his eyebrows were singed off. 

The kelpie shrieked and bucked and kicked, engulfed in a ball of sparking, roaring fire.  It ran away farther into the house, bouncing off walls and sheet-draped furniture, spreading flames like splashes of water. 

Sam and Dean grabbed up a pair of terrified kids each and ran like demons busting out of Hell.

 

-oOo-

 

At the edge of the growth that obscured the path back to the road, Sam paused and looked back at the mansion.   It was already fully involved, flames licking along every crack in the boards over the windows and doors.  

He looked up, to the attic windows.  They were bright now, lit up from within by fire.  Suddenly, a girl appeared in one, silhouetted against the fire's glow.  

Olivia lifted her hand. She waved. 

The window exploded in a cloud of flames and glass shards.  Sam followed Dean down the ruined driveway to the car and didn't look back again.

 

 

Four deliriously happy Happy Meals and two hours later, all the kids were back in their parents' arms, and he and Sam were getting the hell out of Pennsylvania before one of those parental units calmed down enough to start asking awkward questions.  

"Got a preference where to head next?" Dean asked as he pulled out of the motel parking lot.  

"Nope, just put as many miles between us and here as possible without falling into saltwater," Sam settled his sunglasses on his face and stretched out as much of those stilts he called legs as possible.  

"We could lose ourselves in L.A. for a few weeks," Dean shrugged. 

"San Diego, then maybe L.A." 

"I'm the pilot, you're the navigator," Dean grinned and punched the gas. "San Diego, lock up your daughters, Dean Winchester's comin' to party!" 

"Gah, will you get over yourself?" Sam groaned, but then a smile pushed at the bottom of his sunglasses.  

 

-oOo-

 

They weren't a third of the way through Ohio when Dean realized Sam had been quiet for too long.  He glanced over at Sam's profile.  Sam stared out the windshield, most likely seeing nothing outside his own head. 

"Wow.  Didn't take long for the shiny sparkles to wear off this time.  You gotta learn self-validation in this profession, Sammy.  You're not going to hear many thank-yous, and the ones you do get don't last long.  Heck, this one was a win-win.  Nobody died, and we didn't bleed.  Well, you didn't, and I didn't bleed enough to ruin another damn shirt." 

Sam chuffed and met his gaze in the rear view.  "You think I didn't learn that, oh, about a week into this life?  Look, it's nothing like that.  I feel great about getting those kids home.  We're frickin' heroes.  Again.  I don't like leaving loose ends, that's all." 

Dean managed to scowl and raise his eyebrows at the same time.  "What loose ends? We ganked the monster and got the kids home alive and probably not too emotionally scarred for life. From where I'm sittin', looks like we tied all the ends up in big perky bows!" 

"What about Olivia?" 

Dean gave that one a half a mile of thought.  "You don't think the fire released her?" 

"Maybe not. You saw how powerful she is, and it's not like there were any of her remains there." 

"Yeah, but her reason for sticking around was to protect kids from that kelpie, right? To redeem herself that way? Well, she's done that now." 

"I promised her I'd help her get back to her little brother," Sam answered softly.  "I feel like I didn't keep that one." 

"You can do what you want, but I am not goin' back to Pennsylvania any time soon just so you can torch some kid's bones." 

"I'll talk to Bobby, see if he can pass the word to anybody heading that way," Sam shrugged.  

"Ok, super.  Can you please lighten up now?" 

"There's one other thing," Sam informed him glumly. 

"Why does that not surprise me? What now?" 

"The other toys from the Earl's estate.  What if they were all cursed some how?" 

Dean slapped the steering wheel.  "Dude! You are totally harshin' my mellow." 

Sam snorted, and called Bobby.

 

-oOo-

 

An electronic beep sounds as the lights click off.  The antique shop is closed for the day. 
 

Inside a glass case, a Victorian doll's eyes slowly slide open.

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