This one is for the SPNsters, because I was minding my own business, thinking I was going to be done writing fanfic after CD, and they came along and were all like, hey, don't do that.

He Ain't Heavy…

Didn't they JUST do this?

One of them walking whole and well back to the car, one weak-kneed, lurching and leaning drunkenly. Blood everywhere except where it's meant to be.

No, really, Sam thinks, sick to his stomach as he bears quite a bit of Dean's weight on the suddenly horribly long trip back to the car, we JUST did this. He heaves Dean down the drive one step at a time, like they're participating in deranged three-legged sack race.

Their roles were reversed only one short week ago, Dean ribbing him, throwing him professional levels of shit and trying to make his little brother laugh while wiping blood from Sam's neck and chest, hissing in sympathy as he cleaned and bandaged feeding marks, handing over his own blanket when the blood loss from the bites made the night feel cold, cold, cold. And because Dean still thinks the only person who can tell when he's scared is Dean, he did it all like he was being inconvenienced, like he was doing Sam a favor that would need repaying.

Sam didn't expect him to be cashing in so soon.

He adjusts Dean's weak left arm over his shoulder, and the motion jostles the right side of Dean's body to the extent he hums his displeasure through pursed lips. Sam's fingers are gripping warm, wet fabric under Dean's arm as he hauls his brother quickly and safely to the Impala. It feels like too much blood, and it looks like too much blood, but he knows it always LOOKS like too much blood long before it really is TOO DAMN MUCH blood.

And he hates that he knows that, and knowing it doesn't make him feel any better.

Thirty-six hours earlier…

Sam is drifting in and out of a rare nap, stolen minutes while Dean's been on a food, and probably beer, run. He's not known for lazy afternoons but he's still not quite running on all cylinders after the encounter with the vetalas, not to mention the Sam-specific brand of Lucifer that lurks in the corners of his mind and is making it harder and harder to get any rest at night. It's chilly outside but like a lazing cat he's found a patch of warmth in a bit of sunshine splashing through the picture window of the motel room, stretched out in a chair with ankles and arms crossed, the last beer from the pack coming to room temperature on the table next to him.

He doesn't hear the door open or close but all of a sudden there's a newspaper twacking onto his face. Sam brings up a hand to push the paper into his lap and sits up with a groan, rubbing at his eyes while studying the headlines literally thrown at him. "What's this?"

Still in his coat, Dean is leaning against the counter across the small space, hands cupping the edge of the laminate, and he's jittery in a way that shrieks of too much caffeine. Or Zeppelin in the car. Probably both. His boot heel bounces audibly on the narrow path of linoleum along the line of the kitchenette. "A job."

Sam leans forward, bracing his elbows on his thighs and squints at the front page. "Bank robbers in Illinois?"

"Yeah. Get this. White bread couple suddenly turns to a life of crime. Sam, they used to spend the weekends volunteering at local retirement homes. They're part of their neighborhood watch group." Dean says it like that's the most disgusting thing he's ever heard of.


Dean jerks his head. "Demons. Did some digging while you were taking your, uh, little nap there, Sleeping Beauty. Same thing's happened to couples in three other towns within a hundred miles. Good young kids, cut to a crime spree, turn up dead within a week."

Sam scrubs a weary hand over his face and reaches for his sweating bottle. "I thought demons weren't really in our job description anymore."

Dean frowns, points at the paper in Sam's hand as he turns to yank a fresh beer from the mini-fridge. There isn't anything he does, any movement he makes that doesn't seem aggressive, and these days, he's even tenser than usual. "They killed the security guard, they're burning through bodies, and, oh yeah, they're DEMONS, Sam. What part of that doesn't sound like it's in our job description?"

Sam blinks up at Dean, making a face as he swallows a mouthful of warm, fizzy beer. "Crowley said he was keeping the demons in line, keeping them from coming after us."

Dean's bottle slams the countertop. "A demon's a demon, Sam. Just because they aren't coming after us, now we're not supposed to go after them? I don't think so. I find a demon, or hear about one, it's dead. End of story."

"Crowley's not going to like that." Sam shakes his head, setting the drink and the newspaper aside and stretching his arms out in front in him.

Dean smirks, takes a long drink. "I don't give a rat's ass what Crowley thinks."

"I'm just saying, he's, what, the king of Hell? That might not be someone we want to be on the bad side of."

"And I'm just sayin', he should be a lot more scared of me right now, Sam." Dean's upper lip twitches in a motion neither entirely grin nor sneer. It's a dangerous expression, a glimpse of the pain over losing Bobby he's trying and failing to hide, the release of violence he's craving.

Sam's right thumb worries the faint scar on his left palm, pressing enough to ache, to assure himself this Dean is really DEAN, and not another trick of the mad brain/Lucifer tandem to draw him out on his own and screw with him.

Dean spots the motion and narrows his eyes, swallows roughly but doesn't directly call attention to it. "People are dying, Sam."

"I get you."

"So then what's eatin' at you? You think I…" Dean sighs, fingers sliding his bottle back and forth along the counter but he doesn't bring it up for another drink. "Sam, I didn't go out looking for something, I swear. Especially not demons. I'm totally innocent here. Just happened to see the paper at the fill-up joint."

"No, I know. I get you, Dean." Sam sighs, looking around the room. "Okay. So, let's go piss off the king of Hell."

Sam goes over Dean's research on the drive, earning a few whines and protests and one sharp, unnecessary elbow to the ribs.

"Since when do you grade my homework?"

Sam shoves Dean back and squints at the screen of his cell phone, eyes straining through small text on a bright background. "Since now, I guess. Deal with it."

This pair of demons isn't being at all stealthy. Despite the fact they're burning through bodies like they're chain-smoking cigarettes, they're attacking in broad daylight and don't seem to have any interest whatsoever in lying low, plastering the faces of these poor schmucks they're possessing all over national news reports.

The robbery was only the day before, and the neighborhood of this latest couple is abuzz with excitement and gossip, and littered unfortunately with press vans and local LEOs. Dean pulls the Impala to a stop at the gated entrance and Sam narrows his eyes at the sheer volume of police presence. "We should ask around."

Dean sighs. "Does that mean I gotta wear the monkey suit?"

"You love it."

"No, YOU love it. I feel like a friggin' kid on picture day."

"What? What do you think kids wear for picture day?"

"I wouldn't know." And then, under his breath, "Perv."

A brief afternoon tour of the sparsely populated neighborhood, a few badges flashed and questions asked and they now know this latest pair of victims was not only a well-to-do newlywed couple but also undergoing construction on the spacious home they'd just purchased together at the end of an otherwise empty cul-de-sac in the new edition. They're guessing the stress of the build was the chink in the armor the demons needed to get in.

A pair of humans wouldn't ever return to the house, which is exactly why Dean's betting the demons will. They roll back up after sunset to find the neighborhood quieted down and the victims' house empty and dark and strung up with police tape.

Dean leans over the steering wheel. "Not exactly the brightest of bulbs if they come back here, are they?"

"When have we ever given demons the benefit of the doubt where smarts are concerned?"

"Mmm hmm." Dean squints up at the house. "Okay. Let's do this." He throws open the door with a creak and heaves himself out of the car. They take a tense, quiet moment at the trunk to load up the bags with everything needed to set the mousetrap. Lots of salt, holy water, shotguns with rock salt rounds, and the newer hand-to-hand additions to the cache.

Sam's the one with the history with Ruby, but ever since Dean killed her with it he's thought of the knife as his, as something won in battle. Then they added an angel blade to the arsenal in the trunk and that's the shiny new toy that puts a gleam in Dean's eye when they need to get down to some demon killing, like a perverse flavor of the week of weaponry. It's a curious weapon, made of some metal they've never encountered before, the edges appearing deceptively dull and the entire blade lighter than you would think, but they've each tested its weight and balance and scraped the pad of a wayward thumb across the mother and dull it is NOT.

The angel blade is what Dean reaches for now, sliding it awkwardly into the sheath usually reserved for vampires and the machetes necessary to dispatch them. The pointed blade doesn't quite fit as gracefully into the leather cover, but he makes it work. Besides, Sam's pretty sure Dean could find a way to make a child's bendy straw look like a valid, dangerous weapon. He grabs the knife from its new home in the trunk case, places it carefully inside a deep jacket pocket, and they approach the dark house.

Sam runs a hand along the police line strung up around the porch. "Think this means we got eyes on us?"

"Maybe. Doubt we'd be this far if we did, though." Dean flashes Sam a grin, taps the FBI badge in his jacket pocket. "Besides, we're The Man. With All Access passes."

"Yeah, and dirty duffel bags full of rock salt and spray paint. That's normal."

Dean claps him on the back and crouches to go to work on the lock. He's tenser still, like a coiled spring. A coiled spring that can't wait to uncoil and rip something in two. Sam's been more than once on the receiving end of these releases of violence, and he almost can't help feeling a little bad for the demons.

He adjusts the strap of the bag over his shoulder and thinks about the blade secured at Dean's hip, the knife in his own pocket. "Are we here to exorcise, Dean, or to kill?"

There's no response, just the clicks of the pick in the lock as Dean works. Sam would have been done by now, but he can't see the situation being helped by his bringing that up. "Dean?"

"Yeah, Sammy, if there's still time." His voice breaks, betrays him. It's been years since Dean was a strong as he pretends to be. It's been since Hell, and yeah, Sam gets that.

"Look, man," Sam says with a sigh. "If you just need something or someone to wail on, I'll take one for the team. Hell, I've done it before."

He very rarely speaks with the intention of guilting Dean. That's a play saved for very dire and specific circumstances. It's not what he was going for, but Dean never cares for Sam's – or anyone's – intentions, and he seems sucker-punched by Sam's words, recoiling a bit from the door before his features resettle into a rock-hard emotionless mask. "Yeah. Shut up, Sam." He finally pulls the pick from the knob and cautiously pushes the door open.

They – or more specifically, Dean – want these black-eyed sons of bitches as good as trapped. Rats in a maze, with no hope of smoking out. A couple of devil's traps painted in the less-obvious places and a line of salt dropped on a handful of windowsills. A light perimeter, because their presence is going to be immediately apparent to the demons as soon as they get anywhere near the house and they don't want to spook them off with a set-up that reeks of professionals. Or Winchesters.

Dean finishes up the trap on the new marble tile in the foyer and tosses the empty can aside. He drops his bag to the floor in the spacious, empty would-be dining room with a thud and cloud of sawdust, and then drops himself next to it, the length of the angel blade jutting awkwardly away from his leg.

Sam finishes the lean salt lines in the kitchen and props himself against the opposite wall. "What if they don't come back here?" he wonders aloud, again. "If they were people, they wouldn't."

"Which is exactly why the demons will, Sam," Dean argues, again.

Sam sighs. "Yeah."

They've been waiting in the dark, empty house for what feels like hours. Dean's eyes had dropped closed a while ago, and he might be dozing with his head back against a wall and his arms stretched over his knees. Despite the fact he knows Dean is getting roughly the same amount of sleep he, himself is, Sam can't help feeling a little jealous. Then the hair on his arms stands straight and he leans over, whacks his brother in the arm. "Dean."

Dean's eyes spring open, instantly alert, and he sniffs.

"Sulfur?" Sam asks.

"Yeah." Dean stands slowly, grabs up the salt can from the bag at his side and tosses it to Sam. "You take downstairs." He withdraws the angel blade from its sheath and grips the hilt, moving cautiously toward the staircase.

Splitting up, Sam thinks, swallowing roughly. Good deal. He moves swiftly to drop a line of salt along the remaining entryways. There's a creeping sensation in the back of his mind as he moves about the lower level, expecting some self-created manifestation of the devil to pop out around any doorway. But the coast is clear, and he moves back to the kitchen to lay the last of the barriers.

When he's emptying the can of salt on the sill of the small window over the kitchen sink, every hair on the back of Sam's neck stands at attention. He drops the canister into the stainless steel basin, and in the same motion whips Ruby's knife from his pocket, spins just in time to be shoved backward with the force of a punch to the chest, without the physicality of an actual punch.

"Hiya, Sammy," the demon, inside a formally well-respected financial advisor, spits with a sneer as he rounds the threshold from the dining room.

Dean takes tentative steps along the hallway upstairs, wary of the faint echo of his footfalls on the hardwood flooring. He can just barely hear Sam puttering around downstairs, and it's an unsettling scene here on the second floor. He feels like victim number one in any slasher flick ever made, just better armed. Thick sheets of translucent plastic billow from doorways and the open holes in the walls beyond, awaiting new windowpanes. A breeze shifts the sheets, allowing random washes of moonlight to stream across his path.

Dean pauses in the middle of the long, dark hall and narrows his eyes. "Screw this." He lifts the angel blade nice and business-like. As always, he marvels at how deceptively light the weapon feels, considering the damage it can so easily inflict. "Come on out, you bitch. I can smell your rotten-egg stinking ass."

A pause, and then, "Is that any way to talk to a lady?"

Dean whirls on his heel to face her, gripping the blade. He quirks an eyebrow. "Lady?"

She runs her hands seductively across the body of her host. Tight top displaying ample goods, low-riding jeans; no way the ensemble came from the closet of the buttoned-up chick Dean read of and heard about from the neighbors. "Well, she was." She manipulates the lips into a pout. "No fight, though. Gave up pretty early in the game."

Just as he'd feared, or maybe just as he'd hoped: this package is all demon now, and Dean can't believe how much he's going to get a kick out of killing this bitch. His lip curls in disgust as he tells her so. "I am really gonna enjoy killing you."

She returns the grin, sexy and confident, leaning casually on a hand against an unfinished wall. "And I'm gonna enjoy watching you try."

They stare at each other for a moment, and Dean spins the blade once in his hand, ringing the dinner bell. He wants the fight, and he wants it bad. Almost so bad he can't stand here and wait for her to make the first move.

Her smile widens and her eyes flash onyx as she lunges, and he takes a swipe at her, goes immediately for the kill and misses in spectacular fashion as she dodges under his arm. She kicks backward, connecting with the side of his left knee. He grunts as his leg buckles, and she follows up the hit with a fist brought down hard high on his back, between his shoulder blades.

As Dean's in the motion of falling to one knee she grabs his left wrist with a villainous squeal of glee, forcing him to release his grip on the blade as his reflexes demand balance and his right hand moves to break his fall. Luckily, the hilt is trapped between the fresh hardwood flooring and his open palm as he drops to the floor with an oof.

She laughs again, wrenches his arm up and back.

"Ah," Dean grunts, all of his weight landing in his right hand. Something in his shoulder pops and he bites his lip. "Bitch."

"Cute knife." She stomps on the triangular blade with her right heel and drags it out from under his scrabbling hand, then viciously swings her foot up and sticks the toe of her boot under his ribs, a harsh kick that throws him to the side and into the wall, but probably doesn't break anything.

Dean's struggling to catch his breath and it hasn't even really registered that he's lost his weapon until she stoops to pick up the dislodged blade from a few feet away.

"Now it's mine."

Sam's instincts have him tightening his fist around the curved hilt of the wicked sharp blade as he's tossed bodily across the kitchen. His back puts a crack in the new drywall and he falls to the floor in a twisted heap. It takes a moment to collect his breath but he's still got the damned knife, so there's that.

"Crowley said not to come after you yahoos, but he didn't say anything about what to do if you fell right into our laps. Not the brightest bulbs, are you boys?"

Sam bypasses the irony of the demon's words. His hunter's reflex is to rise and cut this monologuing son of a bitch in half and do it NOW, but the same empathy that's plagued Sam his entire life pleads with him to stand down and at least TRY to save the man possessed. He stands, a little shakily, and wipes away a trickle of blood from his chin with his back of his knife-hand. He squares his shoulders and glares. "Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus…"

"Sam, Sam, Sam." The demon tsks and shakes his head patronizingly. "Little Sammy Winchester. Didn't anyone ever tell you that you can't save everyone?"

"…omnis satanica pstestas…"

"You think this poor bastard is still alive in here?" The demon coughs against the rite and laughs cruelly. "I'm not much for the inner turmoil. I prefer good old fashioned hand-to-hand violence." He punctuates his statement with a heel planted in Sam's chest, throwing him back into the granite counter and cutting off the exorcism.

Just because he's lost the blade doesn't mean he's out of weapons. Dean waits for the demon to put herself within striking distance, then lashes out with his right foot, takes her legs out from under her and sending her to the floorboards. She lands hard but keeps her filthy demonic paws on HIS damn blade.

Dean plants his right hand on the wall and pushes himself to his feet, takes up an offensive stance even though his sore ribs protest him straightening fully and his left arm feels shaky and heavy at his side. Wrenched, for sure, but not entirely out of the socket. Maybe a first. "I want that back."

She laughs, rolls upright quickly, cat-like. "Don't worry, sweetheart. You'll get it back."

He waits again for her to make the first move. He and Sammy have trained long hours to become familiar with the blade, and he expects her to be clumsy and unpracticed with the weapon. A dumb, arrogant, asshole assumption on his part.

She hefts it once to test the weight, then surges forward, slashing wildly, and Dean jumps away, finds the wall at his back again and ducks gracefully enough under the second swipe. The angel blade skims the top of his hair with a whistle and he launches, tackling the demon with both arms wrapped around her slender midsection.

She hits the floorboards and roars, clamps her free hand around Dean's throat and brings the blade around. He grabs her wrist with his weakened left hand, calling up enough strength from the reserves to keep the point of the weapon mere inches from his chest.

"Let go of me, bitch," he gargles with what little air he's pulling in, pinning her in place with a knee ground into her thigh.

Since she can't seem to force the blade down, she momentarily shifts all of her weight to her other hand, pinching off Dean's windpipe.

His vision's graying out around the edges and his arm is badly shaking, so he starts pawing frantically with the hand not currently preoccupied with holding the blade at a safe distance. Short on oxygen and finally brought to the point at which playing dirty is all he's got left, Dean redirects that free hand to claw at the hollow of her cheek, directly under her eye. He draws both blood and a scream from her, and she angrily throws him away.

The amplified strength of the demon coursing through such a petite body allows her to toss him easily across the hall, even one-handed. He goes right through one of the plastic sheets, ripping it down from where it had been stapled to the doorframe. He lands hard and rolls twice, coming to a tangled stop in the middle of an empty, sizeable bedroom.

"All right," she snarls from the hallway, feeling out the deep, desperate gouges carved under her eye. Blood runs freely down her face, drips from her chin. "No more foreplay."

Dean's nowhere in the vicinity of one hundred percent, his body fighting against his mind, gasping, lungs demanding oxygen and brain telling the rest of him to calm the FUCK down and do it now. He coughs once, sucks in a deep breath. "Then let's get right to the good part," he rasps, rolling back into an upright position and kicking the plastic sheet from his legs.

The corner of her mouth curves upward. "My pleasure."

He meets her back in the hallway as she moves forward, and she stabs at him repeatedly with the blade, like an animal, and it's taking everything he's got left to dip, duck and dodge every swing of the weapon. But the demon's no idiot, knows she's wearing him down, and is quickly adapting to what tricks he's got left.

Dean zigs when he should have zagged, and the tip of the blade catches in a fold of fabric high on his chest and she shoves her weight behind it, eyes gleaming in victory. It's ice and fire at the same time as the sharp tip cuts too easily through jacket, shirt, skin and muscle, and he feels every layer of it. His vision sparks in a brilliant white flare before going completely black for a moment that seems to turn into a lingering forever, and when the colors of the world come back he's not quite sure he's seeing them all quite right.

When she yanks the blade out, he's doesn't give a flying fuck what color anything is or should be. She takes what's left of his strength and a hell of a lot of his blood with it, leaves a drip across the floor, a spray across the wall.

Dean follows the line of the wall at his back and drops to the floor, unfeeling legs kicking out in front of him and he fumbles his slow left hand to apply pressure to the leaking hole in his right shoulder.

"Now, Dean, honey." The demon chuckles, twirling the bloody blade like a baton.

He doesn't even bother marveling at the fact she knows his name, because they clearly jacked something up with this hunt. These two knew they were coming the whole time, and maybe, obviously, not every demon enjoys being told what to do by Crowley.

She drops to a crouch in front of Dean, grabs his chin roughly and forces him to meet her eyes. "I'm not one to leave a job unfinished." She throws him away with a grin and bounces back to her full height, taking big, cocky steps away. "But I don't think I need to wait around for the curtain to fall to know this is the last act for you, Winchester." She hefts the blade like a hard-won trophy and saunters toward the staircase.

Dean wants to throw a snappy comeback at her but can't seem to bring one to his lips, just forces the heel of his numb hand against the wound in his chest and drops his heavy head against the wall.

The demon taps her fingernails on the railing as she clomps down the stairs. "Think I'll go say 'hi' to little brother. If he's still breathing, that is."

There's a promise, not a threat, behind her words, but even that's not enough for him to gather enough strength to shove to his feet. Dean's got a sudden, selfish and terrified feeling in his gut, that she's right. That she's not so much leaving him for dead as she is leaving him dead already.

It only takes about ten more seconds for Sam to realize they have gravely underestimated this job and these demons, in a big, bad, first time 'round the neighborhood on training wheels kind of way, and things are about to go fantastically pear-shaped.

He groans as the small of his back connects once more with the edge of the kitchen counter. The unfinished granite hurts like a mother, biting into his spine through three layers of clothes.

The muffled bangs and thuds coming from the second floor let Sam know Dean's having no easier time with stunt demon number two. The Bonnie to this jackass's Clyde. A particularly loud thump draws Sam's attention momentarily skyward.

"What's the matter, Sammy? You're looking a little tired, and I could do this all day."

And he's really getting sick of the bad guys always knowing who they are and when they're coming. And here he and Dean had thought THEY were the ones setting this trap. Sam grips the sharp edge of the counter and lifts up, shoves the mouthy demon away with both feet.

Clyde grabs one of his ankles and yanks, and Sam's head clips the counter on the way down. But still he doesn't lose his grip on the knife, so even though his ears are ringing and he's blinking around double-vision, he can't help thinking he's managed to maintain the upper hand.

Sam's fingers tighten around the hilt of the knife and he slashes in a wide, wild arc over his head. He can't yet actually SEE well enough to know the demon is hovering over him, but he gets lucky, feels the serrated edge of the knife connect solidly with some unidentified outstretched limb, a hiss of released heat and a pained grunt from the demon.

Sam crabs backward, feels the unsanded cabinetry behind him and pushes himself awkwardly to his feet. By the time he's fully – or, mostly – upright, his vision has all but righted itself.

Clyde is grasping his left forearm, and there is blood EVERYWHERE. His eyes are narrowed in fury, and when he releases his death grip on the wound, Sam catches sight of a deep cut and a flash of ivory. The resistance Sam had felt, the blade skipping off the bone. His stomach flips, and the demon snarls.

Sam kicks it into the next gear, fights through the stubbornness of muscles that are quickly growing stiff, and while his vision has cleared, a hot, angry pulse at the base of his skull persists. He raises the knife as the demon rushes him, left arm a gruesome sight, cut to the bone and spraying blood like a geyser. His red, slick fingers reach for Sam like he intends to tear his head off with nothing more than the bare hands of his poor, dead host.

The demon's blind rage has pushed any thought of strategy to the back burner, and Sam has a small window of opportunity laid out before him like Thanksgiving dinner. He pounces, launches away from the counter and meets the demon in the middle of the kitchen, ducking under his outstretched arms, and plunges the knife hilt-deep into his left chest wall.

Clyde stops his assault, frozen in a scream of pain and rage. Sam gives the blade a twist for good measure before wrenching it free with something of his own shout, and it comes away gory, with a nauseating tear of flesh. He's not typically squeamish, but the knock to the head has thrown his senses into overdrive, and the sight of the carnage and the coppery scent of blood in the air sends him reeling, bringing the back of his hand up to his mouth and nose as the demon dies in a bright orange flash and the empty body crumples.


Frantic footfalls follow the cry of anguish, and Sam shakes off his nausea to turn and face the demon's partner in crime as she barrels toward him from the direction of the staircase, features distorted by grief and rage and a nasty grouping of gashes running down her cheekbone.

Huh, he thinks first. A demon with feelings.

And then, more simply, Dean.

Because evil things don't walk away from Dean. They crawl away, at best, and usually not even that.

And because she has the angel blade in her hand, and its tip is shiny and black in the darkened house.

He'd been so preoccupied with this asshole he never noticed the sounds of struggle from upstairs had come to a stop. Sam's heart skips a beat, and he makes quick, unemotional work of the second demon, takes a raking of fingernails across the cheek and repays the favor with a backhanded slash to her throat. He moves past her so quickly he catches some of the arterial spray in the face, and he takes the stairs two at a time.

The sight of his brother sitting at the end of the hall, with his back ramrod-straight and in a pool of his own blood, seems so absurd that Sam doesn't properly process the information immediately, and stands dumbly while precious seconds go to waste. There may also be some degree of concussion playing a part, but that's a paper cut in comparison.

There's a delicate threshold at which point bleeding becomes bleeding out, and Dean had crossed that line some time before Sam's boot hit the first riser.

Sam presses his scar just long enough to realize this is REAL and HAPPENING and RIGHT NOW, and he falters, puts an unsteady hand against the banister. "Shit, Dean."

A sloppy, agonized grin cuts Dean's pale face as he raises his eyes. "Sammy..."

"SHIT, Dean."

Dean's got his left hand clamped tightly over a wound in his chest. Blood pumps thickly through the narrow gaps between his white fingers, tracks down the front of jacket. The olive coat is streaking with crimson in some sort of grotesque tye-dyed pattern, cargo pockets filling with blood.

Like he was just waiting for Sam to get here, the very sight of him at the end of the hall seems to be Dean's cue to relax, which is a very, very bad idea. His fingers slacken, and a spurt of blood rushes around them.

"Nononono," Sam says in a rush, approaching in as few steps as possible and falling to his knees on the dark hardwood, in a swirl of Dean's blood. He clamps a hand over his brother's, pushes two fingers of his other into the underside of his jaw. Dean's pulse is too fast, his skin cold, clammy. Shit, Dean.

Dean's eyes search Sam's bloody face, brow furrowed in concern. "Y'okay?"

"I'm fine, Dean." Sam huffs out an unamused laugh, rubs his cheek against his shoulder. "Jesus."

"You're bleedin.'"

"Yeah. Keep pressure on that." Sam shoots an anxious glance around the hallway, but there's nothing there for him to find. "We've gotta get you out of here. Get, you, uh…"


"Shut the hell up, Dean. Just…shut up."

Dean presses his lips together in a thin, startlingly white line. The usually faint smattering of freckles stand out on his cheeks like an odd swarm of ants marching across a field of snow.

The hole is concerning, but not gaping. Benign placement high on the chest, near the shoulder joint, nothing vital in the path. Probably nothing vital in the path. HOPEFULLY nothing vital in the path. The blood already lost and still sluggishly escaping – that's the problem. Sam needs something better than the heel of Dean's trembling hand to keep pressure on, digs swiftly through his brother's pockets for his bandana. The blue one he's had for years, that's grown feather-soft from countless washes; peroxide in motel sinks for the blood, sickening amounts of detergent in dingy laundromats for everything else. Soft, and faded, and in spots the white of the pattern has blended into the deeper pigment of the navy backdrop.

Sam wads the bandana and lifts Dean's cold fingers just enough to squeeze the ball of fabric between them and the hole. "Okay, bro, we're gonna get you out of here."


Sam's heart flutters in a manner than almost has himself believing he's hearing the dead angel's wings. "What?"

"Call for…" Dean swallows hard around the effort of speaking. "Cas. I already…tried."

"Dean…" He hesitates, because Dean is paper-white and heavy-lidded and not thinking clearly, but above all else, because his own instincts are exactly the same. Sam can't believe how they took it for granted, Cas and all of his easy, healing mojo. All of the clean 'im ups, and repairing broken noses and reversing the effects of a nasty bite from the mother of monsters.

Castiel is gone, and that last luxury they had isn't something they have anymore.

Dean's eyes widen suddenly, then fall closed. "Cas is gone."

Sam shifts his weight, brings his hand up again to overlap Dean's and press on the wound. "Yeah."

"Bobby's gone." Eyes still closed, voice sad and listless.

Sam grips Dean's jacket with both fists and gives his big brother a quick, firm shake. The back of his head glances off the wall, and it does the trick, blows his eyes open and clears the clouds away. "You've still got me."

"And me," comes Lucifer's voice from somewhere behind Sam, and he releases Dean long enough to grind a knuckle into the scar on his palm.

Not now, he pleads. Please not now.

Sam thankfully doesn't hear the voice again, and he grips Dean's left shoulder, which still draws a hiss from his brother. The arm or joint is bothering him, but it doesn't seem to be out and isn't at all the priority right now. "Dean, I need you to be with me if we're gonna move."

Dean blinks, coughs. "Yeah," he says, sounding stronger, because if Dean is anything, he's exactly what Sam needs him to be at any given moment. "I'm with you."

"Okay," Sam says gently. "You're getting shock-y." Not to alarm him, but to motivate him, challenge him. And it does the trick.

Dean shifts his shoulders with a wince, licks his lips. "No, m'okay."

It's kind of wonderful, how predictable his big brother is. And he's good at slinging shit but he's bad at lying to Sam. He's not at all okay. Sam grips under Dean firmly under the left armpit. "You want a count?"

"You wanna black eye?"

"Just keep pressure on that." Sam stands, dragging Dean to his feet as he rises, and that's somewhat like a five-year-old lifting a sack of potatoes. Dean is heavy enough to begin with, ridiculously so when it's all rubbery limbs and dead-weight and slipping in his own blood on the floor.

It takes a stupid long time to maneuver down the hall, and Dean needs a quick rest against the banister when they reach the staircase.

"You got the stairs?"

"Yeah, I got the stairs," Dean parrots, feigning annoyance and strength because he feels like it's what SAM needs.

It's slow-going, and Dean leans heavily against the railing, tracking bloody spots and smears as he descends. Sam doesn't have anywhere near the time to properly clean up the mess they're leaving behind: the bodies, and the sheer volume of Dean's blood staining the floor upstairs, like a can of spilled paint. He's gonna have to burn it all, which is just another wrench in the plan.

An abundance of fresh wood in the home, but lighter fluid isn't a typical part of demon-killing gear, which means Sam's going to have to leave Dean either here at the house while he goes to the car or leave him in the car when he goes back to set the fire.

The car's the safer bet, and Sam sets a course for where she's waiting at the end of a suddenly too-long drive, thinking, didn't we JUST do this?

They haven't had to make a hospital run in years, not since Alastair beat Dean down but good. But here they are for the second time in just a few months, in need of more medical attention than Sam could hope to provide on his own.

They're supposed to be off the grid and Sam knows everything Frank's told them is important and relevant but fuck it ALL right now, because he wants to pack Dean in clean gauze and thick blankets and shove his ass through the doors of the nearest emergency room, but his brother is just coherent enough to keep that from happening. Sam could make it happen, could too-easily overpower the stubborn son of a bitch right now, but the entire time Sam is rooting for a pad of gauze and anything to wrap around his brother to keep him from shivering like he is, Dean keeps dipping into moments of stone-cold awareness, blinking at Sam with perfect clarity and saying, "I'm fine" and "it's not that bad" and "Leviathans." And once, "suck it up, buttercup." Like SAM is the one whose vital fluids needed mopped up from that second story hallway.

It's not the threat of Leviathans, it's the idea of the hospital, of ANY hospital, that's beckoning Dean to the brink of lucidity at random intervals and causing him to buck. It's too soon since Bobby, and the attack of sense-memory and stalled grief will do more damage than the blood loss, so Sam's play is to play field medic the best he knows how, the passed-down talents and know-how of the fathers he's lost living on in his ability to hopefully keep his brother alive.

Sam's no medical professional, but he can do well in a pinch and he knows what Dean needs, and knows none of it can be found in their motel room. He goes ahead to unlock and kick open the door, then returns to the car to fetch his heavy, hypovolemic brother.

"M'be fine, Sammy," Dean mutters, because the son of a bitch can't take a hint when Sam thinks a girl in a bar is hot but he's apparently a fucking mind-reader when he's bled nearly to dead.

"Just shut up, Dean," Sam pleads again, dragging him across the room to his bed. He doesn't bother with a drop sheet or an extra blanket. He really should have gone pre-med instead of pre-law, and he morbidly doubts that Dean's got enough blood left to make that much of a mess.

It's the first night in a while that Sam doesn't care about the sleep he's losing, perched in a chair next to where Dean isn't so much sleeping himself as he is merely unable to be conscious. He's got one hand firmly gripping his brother's wrist, fingers on constant check of his pulse. Which is erratic, and still fast, but it's there.

And it's there when the sun wakes up, peeking through the gap in the gray curtains. In the past few hours, Dean's pallor has gone from chalk-white to more of an eggshell tint, and his heart rate has settled. Still nowhere near normal, but he seems to be out of the woods. Sam rubs his tired eyes and checks his watch. It's just stupid, how often Dean laughs in the face of death and statistics and biology. Anyone else would be dead right now.

Sam releases his hold on Dean's wrist and massages a cramp in his hand. He straightens in his chair and his back, curved uncomfortably for hours, sings a tormented tune. Blood on his hands and his face and ash in his hair, he needs a shower, bad, but can't just yet tear himself from Dean's side. His brother hasn't really MOVED in hours, but his eyebrows suddenly jump and pull together, like he's wading in the shallow end of consciousness.

Sam frowns thoughtfully. "Sometimes, I think you wanna get yourself killed, big brother," he says, quietly at first, then increasing in volume as he goes on. "And I know this might sound silly, considering how often we seem to bite it…but that's the easy way out. And you're a lot of things, but you're no coward." He leans in, the corner of his mouth twitching upward. "So suck it up, buttercup."

There's no change in Dean's expression, but his breath hitches, just barely. Just enough for Sam to know Dean's heard him. He just doesn't know what that counts for. Not yet.