Disclaimer: If I owned the show or the characters, I guarantee this would've been canon.

Author's Note: Do you remember how Cole tortured Sammy to get to Dean like some kind of deranged psychopath, and then when Dean was cured, being the big brother we love, he hunted Cole down and made him suffer instead of, you know, making friends with the guy?

Yeah, neither do I. And that totally sucks.

So have some fic. :)

Many thanks to Cheryl for the beta and the suggestions.

Rating: PG for violence

Warnings: Minor show-level violence and language. Spoilers through to S10.

Summary: Cole gets what's coming to him.

Off Limits

The thing was, I liked Cole. He seemed like a nice guy. Marine, fatherless, got thrown into the world of monsters and dealt with it the only way he knew how.

He reminded me of Dad, a little.

That was why, when he sent me a text asking for help with a job, I was all set to go.

So, of course, because he exists to prevent me from doing anything fun, Sam bitchfaced as soon as I mentioned it him.


"Come on, Sammy. It'll be fun." He kept bitchfacing, so I said, "You remember fun? Look, it's a Black Dog. We've not hunted a Black Dog in years. It'll be just like that time when we were kids and we went on the hunt with Dad."

"You mean the time the Black Dog almost ate you and I thought you were going to die?"

"I mean," I said deliberately, "the time my little brother took down a monster by himself, saved me, and proved he was a better hunter at fifteen than most people ever are."


"Please," I wheedled, because I know how to get Sam to listen to me. "He's tracked it down. All we have to do is help him kill the thing."

"Why can't he kill it himself? Black Dogs aren't hard to kill."

"He's never hunted something like that before and it's near where his family lives. He's worried it might scent him and go after them. Come on, kiddo. I know you don't like Cole, but what about his wife? And his kid? They're in danger too."

"Dean, it's not… I don't trust him."

"Sammy. I know he tried to kill me, and that sucks, but he didn't hurt me. And I did kill his father. Of course, his father was a murderous monster, but Cole was a kid. Can't we let this go?"

"He didn't hurt you," Sam said, and there was a dull undertone to his voice that told me he was annoyed about something.

Or, worse, disappointed. I don't mind Sammy being mad at me, but I hate it when he's disappointed.

"You're the one always telling me about forgiving people and moving on, right? So how about we forgive Cole and move on? He's not a bad person."

Sam looked like he was wondering whether I was a bad person, but in the end he gave in.

"Fine. I'll do it."

"Try to contain your excitement," I muttered.

Cole was waiting for us at the motel.

"Got you a room," he said, handing me a key. "I've got a feeling there might be two of them. Do they… you know… mate and stuff?"

"I'm going to refer that to Professor Winchester."

Sam rolled his eyes at me. "Nobody is certain," he said in response to Cole. "Lore doesn't specifically mention it. There have been some accounts that suggest distinct males and females, which would indicate that they mate, but there are no confirmed sightings of Black Dog pups."

"So Professor Winchester has jack squat," Cole said cheerfully.

I expected a bitchface from Sam in response to that, but he only shrugged. "It looks like it. Why don't you guys get settled here? I'll go interview the witnesses."

"Let me give you their names," Cole began, but Sam was already handing me my duffel, getting back in the Impala and slamming the door.

"Don't worry about it," he said. "Looked up their names and addresses before we came over. I've got copies of the medical examiner's reports too. See you, Dean."

"Wow," Cole commented as Sam backed out of the lot. "Your brother doesn't like me much."

"Give him time. I'm sure he'll warm up to you. He's probably still mad about you trying to kill me. Sammy can sulk for the country. We're better off leaving the witnesses to him, anyway. Sam can puppy-dog way more information out of them if he's by himself than with us tagging along. So what've you got?"

"I've marked off the sites of the attacks. We can try to work out the location of the Black Dog's lair."

"Professor Winchester would be helpful for that, too," I mutter. "But, sure. Let's get started. Then when Sammy gets back he can bitch at me about topographical charts."

Once we were settled in Cole's motel room, where he already had a hunter's wall going, he got chatty, so we didn't end up doing much work. We exchanged a bunch of hunting stories, and before long I found myself wishing Sam had stayed. Cole was fun, sure, but what was the point of telling hunting stories if I couldn't nudge Sam when I came to the good bits and have him correct me on irrelevant minor details of obscure lore?

But the time went quickly. I suddenly realized it was dark outside, Sam wasn't back, and I hadn't heard from him since he'd left.

"What's wrong?" Cole asked when I picked up my phone.

"It's been a couple of hours. Sammy should've checked in by now."

Cole grinned. "Must be nice having a partner."

"It's nice having Sammy as a partner." I shrugged. "I wish it hadn't happened that way, though. Sammy's smart and fast and good at the job, but I wish he could've had a normal life."

"You don't wish you could've had a normal life?"

"Hey, this is my normal. Sammy's different. It's… he…" I broke off, shaking myself. There was no need to have a chick-flick moment about Sammy with Cole.

"Sammy's what?" Cole asked.

"Never mind. And don't let him hear you calling him Sammy. It pisses him off if anyone other than me does it."

"Oh. I didn't know that."

"Why would you?" I looked down at my phone again, scrolled to Sam's name, and hit Call.

He picked up on the first ring. "Dean."

"Are you OK? Why didn't you call or text?"

"I'm fine, Dean."

"Are you going to be much longer?"

"Yeah, I think I'm going to hit the library."

"The library? What for? We know it's a Black Dog. I mean – you showed me those pictures off Victim Number Three's cell phone."

"Doesn't hurt to be sure."

I glanced at Cole, got to my feet, and slipped out of the room. "Sammy, is this about Cole? Because, man, you have to get over this. Every time I make a friend, it doesn't mean I'm trying to replace you."

"Seriously?" Sam asked, voice short and clipped. He was pissed off now. "That's what you think? I'm jealous of Cole?"

"That's how it looks from where I'm standing." I took a deep breath. Sam was being ridiculous, but the last few years had been rough on both of us. I couldn't blame him for being bothered. "Look, Sammy, I don't want to fight."

"Good. Neither do I."

"Great. Let's both be reasonable. You're my little brother. Nothing's going to change that. But Cole needs our help. He's a good guy, Sammy."

"Dean," Sam said, and there was a defeated tone in his voice that made my stomach churn. "I'm sorry. I'm willing to help him, but I can't sit around drinking beer and trading stories with the guy. You do what you have to do. I'm going to the library. I'll be back in time for the hunt."

The line went dead.

I stared at it for a moment. This was more than just Sam being pissy. Something was wrong, something bad enough that my brother, who was the one who saw the light at the end of the tunnel, who was the one who never gave up, sounded ready to throw in the towel.

I was tempted to go find him and sort it out right away, but we were still on a case.

Right. Finish the job, kill the Black Dog, say goodbye to Cole, and then figure out what was bothering Sam.

I went back inside.

"Let's speed this up a bit," I said. "Sam's hitting the library, just to eliminate the other possibilities. How about we go over your research and make sure we're all set to leave when he gets back."

"Sam has a problem with me. Doesn't he?"

"I'm sorry, man. It's not his fault. It's the way we grew up. To be honest, I didn't really get along with his friends from college or high school or anything."

"I guess." Cole flipped open his laptop. "I managed to get video from one of the victims' phones. It was the fourth attack, where it went for a group of three people. We can watch it and figure out its weaknesses."


Half an hour later, we'd watched the four-minute video so many times I was going to end up dreaming of it.

"Man, this is annoying," Cole muttered, leaning back in his chair and rubbing his eyes.

"Why do you think I let Sam do all the research? Little geek likes things like this."

"I think we need a break. There's a vending machine down the hall, I'm going to get some soda. You want anything?"

"I'm good."

Cole pushed back his chair with a scrape and left, slamming the door behind him. I closed the video – looked just like any other Black Dog attack, teeth and claws and rage – and, because I'm not Saint Samantha, I looked over the other files in Cole's Videos folder.

My name caught my eye.

It was one of the earliest files, near the top of the list, labelled simply Dean Winchester. I checked the date. It was when I'd been a demon.

So probably CCTV footage of me killing somebody or something.

I hesitated. I'd done horrible things as a demon, but I was getting past it. There was no point making myself feel worse about it.

But it was like picking at a scab. I knew it was stupid, but I couldn't help clicking.

The video opened to a large, dimly-lit room. Looked like a warehouse. It didn't seem familiar… Not from my time as a demon, anyway. I've been in plenty of warehouses as a hunter. It could've been any of them.

Then the camera shifted and Cole's face came into view.

"Hi, Dean," he said. "I hope you remember me. This is Cole. Now, I know you're not interested in my proposition, but I thought I'd give you an idea of what's on offer."

The camera spun again. Whoever was holding it – probably Cole – started to walk. The picture rounded a pillar, and then suddenly there was a lot more light. There was also a chair, and a man slumped in it.

A big man, with too-long dark hair.

My heart sped up.

The camera moved closer, and oh god, it was Sammy. Sammy, with his head hanging forward and his arm in a sling, tied to the chair.

"Hey," came Cole's voice. The camera moved closer to Sam, and a hand reached in from off-camera to tilt his face up, and I got a front-seat view of a split lip, bloody nose and several bruises. "Say hi to your big brother, Sam."

"Screw you," Sam growled.

"Fine. Be that way. Just give me a moment."

The camera moved away, steadied, still focused on Sam. I could see his whole body, see the way he was hunching in on himself as much as the ropes would let him. Broken ribs. Worse?

I felt a little sick.

Then Cole stepped into the frame and crouched in front of Sam. "We're going to try this differently. You're going to take me to your brother."

"Screw you."

Hard uppercut to Sam's jaw. "There's no point trying to be a hero. He obviously doesn't care about you. Just take me to him and I'll let you go."

Sam raised his head and glared at Cole. "Go to hell."

Cole laughed. "Oh, I'm not going to hell, Sammy. But I can send you there."

He hit Sam again, this time aiming for his injured elbow. There was a grunt of pain. I could feel my blood boiling.

I heard the door open. I turned, swinging the laptop around to face Cole.

"What the hell is this?"

"What?" Cole watched the video for a couple of seconds. "Oh, man, you found that? Better close it, it might be a bit hard to watch."

"A bit… a bit hard to watch?" I slammed the laptop shut anyway. I didn't need to see anymore. "You did that to my brother?"

"We're not raking that up again, are we? Can't we let bygones be bygones?"

"Bygones be… Yeah, sure. We can let bygones be bygones." I got to my feet. "Bygones is you trying to kill me. Bygones isn't you torturing my little brother!"

"I'm… sorry… I mean, I've got nothing against Sam."


"I needed to get to you, Dean. Sometimes you have casualties in war. You ought to know all about that… Oh, you think this is why Sam's pissed at me? Great, now we know, so we'll explain it to him when he gets back."

"I'm sorry… we?"

"Well, he's likelier to listen to you. And I don't want to have to worry about Sam shooting me instead of the Black Dog."

I took a deep breath. It was like the world had gone crazy. "You captured and tortured Sam. And you're worried about Sam shooting you."

"Weird, isn't it? That guy Kenny told me Sam was the forgiving one. But you seemed to get over it a lot quicker than he did. I mean, we had that little chat, and now we're good."

"We had that – wait – what?" Then something else struck me. "You spoke to Kenny? Kenny Stratham?"

"Yeah. He said he knows you guys pretty well. Used to know your daddy. Nice guy. I liked Kenny."

"Yeah… Hang on. I need to have a word with him. Why don't you sit down and watch that Black Dog video again?"

I moved away and scrolled through my contacts list to Kenny's number. I kept an eye on Cole, but the dude wasn't even trying to run away. He sat down, opened his laptop again, and went back to the Black Dog video like he didn't know how close he was to dying bloody.

"Dean?" Kenny's voice said. "What can I do for you?"

"Hey, Kenny. Um… Do you know a new guy called Cole?"

"Cole? Oh, yeah, the guy with the demon obsession. Yeah, I spoke to him a couple of times. Came across him on a job. He was trying to hunt a demon without even learning the exorcisms. Can you believe it?"

"Yeah, never mind that. What'd you tell him about Sam?"

"You mean the thing where he grabbed Sam to get to you? I told him Sam'd get over it. He's a sweet kid, your brother."

"Yeah, he is. That's all you told him?"

"What do you mean, Dean?"

"I mean…" I lowered my voice. "He tortured Sammy, and you told him Sam would get over it? You didn't warn him what happens to people who touch my brother? And keep freaking videos of it?"

"Oh… you're mad."

Kenny sounded surprised.

Seriously, what?

"Did you think I was going to be happy?"

"Well, no, of course not, but I thought you were done with that overprotectiveness thing. I mean, Cole said he spoke to you and you told him he could have Sam."

That made my throat seize up.

"I was a demon," I got out.

"Yeah, but after Sam cured you, you didn't go after Cole. And he said you were pretty friendly when he met you. So… you know. It happens, right? Kids grow up."

"This is what everyone thinks now in the hunting community? Kids grow up?"

"Don't worry about it, Dean. It's a good thing. Healthier."

I forced myself not to fling the phone into the wall. "Thanks, Kenny," I said. "Bye."

So it looked like everyone we knew now thought that I was done watching out for my baby brother.

Wait. Did Sam think that?

Was that why he'd sounded so defeated?

Oh, no. No no no no no.

But what else was Sam going to think? I'd known what Cole did to him, and I'd let it go. I'd told Sam to let it go. I'd told Cole he could kill Sammy, and sure, that had been demon-me talking, but still.

I'd left my brother to die, and when I'd met Cole again I'd pretended it hadn't happened.

Why had I done that? I'd known Cole had had Sam, had hurt him, and I'd let it go… Because I hadn't wanted to think about it, I realized. Cole had hurt Sam, but I'd known he was doing it. He'd threatened to kill Sam and I'd been ready to let it happen. Thinking about that meant realizing how much I'd failed.

Right. It was time to set a couple of things straight.

"Hey, Cole," I said.

He turned in his chair.

He never saw the punch coming.

An hour later, I called Sam.

"Hey, Dean."

He still sounded a little pissed, and there was still that exhausted note in his voice that I didn't like. Fortunately, I had the perfect cure for that.

"Why don't you get back here, Sam? I think we're about ready to head out."

"Now? At night?"

"Just come, Sam."

"Yeah, OK."

Sam ended the call. I put the phone in my pocket and turned to Cole, who was now a groaning heap on the floor. My jaw was throbbing – he'd got a lucky punch in – but Cole now knew what happened to people who touched Sam.

"How you doing there, buddy?" I asked, nudging him with the toe of my boot.

"You're a psycho!" Cole moaned. "I think you broke my arm."

"Just your arm? You got off easy." I pulled out a chair and sat. "Now, here's how it's going to go. Sam's going to get here in about ten minutes. When he comes, you're going to apologize to him – nicely – and then you're going to hope like hell that he's as forgiving as Kenny told you."

While I was waiting, I took out my phone and took a bunch of pictures of Cole. I was contemplating taking a video when the door opened and Sam came in.

He looked from me to the man on the floor. "What happened?"

"Sit down, Sammy," I said. "I'm going to tell you a story."

"A story? What the hell is going on, Dean?"

"Sit." I tugged Sam into the chair next to me. "Want some soda?"

"No, I want an explanation. Did someone get in here and beat him up? Where were you? What happened?"

"Well, someone did beat him up. OK, here's my story. Once upon a time there was a big brother who was the most awesome big brother in the entire world. He watched out for his little brother, and if anybody looked at him wrong the big brother made them very, very sorry. Then one day the big brother got turned into a demon."

"Dean –"

"Shut up and listen. A guy who was way more evil than any demon kidnapped the little brother and did horrible things to him. The big brother knew this, but he couldn't bear to think about it after he got cured because thinking about it meant thinking about how he had let his little brother be tortured and would have let him be killed without doing anything about it."

"You killed my father," Cole wheezed.

I kicked him. "You talk out of turn again and I'll break your other arm. So the big brother blocked out all thoughts of what the evil guy did to his little brother. He eventually realized that because he'd done this, a lot of their friends thought that people could hurt his little brother and he wouldn't hunt them down and make them regret the day they were born."

Sam sighed. "Dean."

"Now the end of the story," I went on, "is up to you, kiddo. The big brother can either beat the evil guy into a pulp and leave him here for the housekeeping people to find in the morning, or he can beat the evil guy into a pulp, take him into the forest and feed him to a Black Dog. What's it going to be?"

Sam shook his head. "Let him go, Dean."

"You sure? Because I'm serious about the Black Dog. We could use Cole as bait."

"You said it yourself. He has a family. It's OK. I mean… He did a terrible thing, but his son doesn't deserve to grow up without a father."

I leaned down and lifted Cole by the front of his shirt. "Lucky for you," I told him, "Sammy is as forgiving as Kenny told you. So we're going to leave you here, get rid of the Black Dog, and get the hell out of town. Before we go, we need to clear a couple of things up. I killed your father, you came after me, that's fine. I'm good with that. But you tortured an innocent person to get to me. You tortured Sammy to get to me. So you'd better make sure I never see you again, because if I do, I'm going to kill you. Slowly. Am I making myself clear?"

"Perfectly," Cole snarled. "Lunatic."

"Awesome." I dropped him. He fell to the floor with a satisfying thud. "Hold that thought."

I took out my laptop.

"What are you doing?" Sam asked.

"Setting something straight."

I uploaded the pictures I'd taken of Cole, picked the most vivid, and put them in an email. In the Subject line I typed SAM IS OFF LIMITS.

Then I sent it to every hunter we knew.

"Come on," I said, getting to my feet and accidentally stumbling into Cole. "Let's gank that Black Dog."

I opened the door and gestured Sam through it ahead of me. He smiled at me as he went, the shy little smile I hadn't seen in months, and I did a mental fist pump. That smile was only for me, and it meant I was officially the most awesome big brother in the world again.

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