Chapter 11

Honey, I need you to listen.

Dean took a break between gasps for breath to moan. Loudly. Not just because it was currently easier to breathe using his open throat - but because of whose voice he suddenly heard in his head.

Focus on me.

Great. Just fucking great. The woman had despised him on sight, but now that he was dying, she was the most supportive person there? Surely God didn't hate him that much.

Dean! Do I have to make it an order? You always responded well to those.

"Dad?" he mumbled, eyes open but unseeing. He couldn't feel his body, couldn't feel anything at all anymore. Not altogether unpleasant. It had stopped hurting somewhere around the last twenty minutes.

But he was still dimly aware of Meg's sharp attention. Figuratively and… otherwise.

Tom grasped his jaw again. The voice in his head faded to a dull yet insistent buzz.

Oh, honey. Listen to me, Dean Winchester. I want you to let go.

Okay. Maybe that wasn't Missouri. Maybe Tom was putting something back in his head everytime he took something out. He honestly couldn't decide if he was happier about that option or not.

Your Dad is coming with Sam, Dean, and -

"No!" Dean blurted. What was Dad thinking? He couldn't really shout, wouldn't ever again, but that was damn close. Over his head, Meg and Tom exchanged baffled glances.

Dean, you're better than this. Don't give me away!

Oh, for fuck's sake. When people spoke of white lights and voices of angels, he highly doubted this was what they meant. What the fuck was going on?

I let you get away with that language once, young man.

Definitely Missouri. Dean resisted a probably shock-induced fit of laughter. Perfect. Just perfect. He was being tortured to death, but heaven forbid he cuss!

Tom's eyes narrowed. Something was different about the broken body sprawled beneath him…

Thank you. Now, listen to me. Let go, child. It's not giving up. It's what has to be. You can't protect him like this.

Okay, fun over. Dean would've shaken his head, if the end result wouldn't have been an accidental self-beheading. Sam was coming here. He wasn't leaving until he knew his brother would be okay. Period.

Do you want to save Sam, Dean? It's the only way.

He opened his mouth - to deny it, to protest, to angrily declare that this was fucking insane and he wasn't fucking going fucking anywhere. But then he realized…

Missouri, you'd better be fucking right about this or I swear to God, I will haunt your crystal ball and bitch for eternity.

"Damn!" Tom swore, nearly startling Meg enough to accidentally acquaint her drifting blade with Dean's family jewels. He dropped his knife.

I fucking am, kid.

"What?" she snapped.

Dean Winchester relaxed bonelessly into the bloody puddle surrounding him, his last breath causing a gentle ripple to flow through the circle.

Lawrence 18, the newest sign announced.

Sam was accustomed to being mocked - be it with Dean's aggravated fondness or Meg's harsh purr. But he'd never considered street signs in the same category. Until now. His feet beat out a restless rhythm against the leather floormats.

"Sam," John spoke up, studiously calm. "If you don't stop that - right now - I will make you walk the rest of the way.

Sam stopped, heaving a sigh. He tapped a finger against the side of the door, squirming restlessly against the hot leather until John's hardly subtle glare was enough for to him shove his hands into his pockets. He slumped down in the seat restlessly.

Lawrence 11.

Dean's precious baby roared underneath them, the throttle near-deafening in the silence consuming them. John's foot was planted squarely against the accelerator pedal. If he looked over, Sam half-expected to find a hole where John had stomped the damn thing cleanly through the metal.

"Dad - " Sam started to say, visions of Stanford and his father watching him from shadowed doorframes going through his mind. "Dad, when - "

And then the pain hit.

He might've screamed, though he didn't hear it. With his hands still trapped, Sam's entire body spasmed, eyes rolling back. The tips of his fingers turned blue and every hair on his head stood on end.

"Sam!" John barked, not daring to slow down. The old car was going much too fast - one swift stop would ultimately be a permanent one. "Sam! Focus!"

His son moaned softly, tiny gasps of anguish ripping John's heart to pieces. "Oh, fuck! Dean!" Sam had time to choke, before another wave sent fire shooting up his spine. He wrestled his hands free, fingers clutching his neck as if holding it together.

Lawrence 5.

"Sam! Sam, listen to me!"

Sam collapsed against the window, trembling. Dean's name echoed through the car, and John stared. Blood clearly tarnished Sam's smooth, undamaged throat. He blinked once and when he looked again, it was gone.

Lawrence 2.

"I wasn't finished!" Father raged.

Tom shook the sacrifice mercilessly, slamming the boy's head against the exposed floor. Trying to force the life he hadn't yet stolen to reappear.

"It's not a total loss, Tommy," Meg spoke up, still busily cutting away. Truthfully, she was disappointed. Granted, Dean had lasted far longer than the other humans who had endured the ritual at her hand. Mere test cases, those. But somehow, she'd known he'd last until the end. Humans were such fragile creatures. "Dean's blood is still flowing. The corpse won't stop right away."

No response.

Meg brushed her hand over the one untouched area of Dean's chest. Personally, she would've done this before slashing his throat, so he would've seen it, but her sense of victory wasn't too diminished.

"Sam is coming," Tom spoke suddenly. They're here, Father purred. He concentrated. He hadn't quite finished taking what he needed from the boy, but it would be enough.

Sam Winchester radiated power. None could best him now - except, perhaps, for the one person he loved above all others.

Meg raised her knife, preparing to plunge it into Dean's still, unbeating heart - when it flew out of her hand, tossed aside despite her startled efforts to hang on.

And then, on cue, Meg heard shouts. Feet pounded up the stairs and headed toward the door framed by smoke. Tom rose, rolling up his long sleeves. He bowed his head in a mockery of prayer, facing away from them all.

"Sam, dammit, wait!" A new voice barked, seconds before a blur shot through the doorway, breathing heavily.

Missouri's hands clenched into fists, shaking with effort. Hang on, she thought desperately. Hold on to me!

"Hi, Sammy-boy!" Meg greeted cheerfully. "Okay, I've gotta say it. We've been expecting you, baby."

Time seemed to slow. Following his son, his every move deliberate against Sam's panicked flight, John Winchester entered and locked eyes with her. Meg shivered in spite of herself.

"Johnny," she murmured, typical insolence rapidly fading in the face of his sheer presence, deceptive physical strength tempered with anguish far beyond what his oldest had endured. She swallowed the bile in her throat. For the first time, doubt edged in. John had hardly merited consideration in their plans for Sam.

That was gonna cost them, Meg knew suddenly. But how much?

"Dean!" Sam cried, oblivious to everyone else, staring down at his brother in horror. He lay still, so frighteningly still, more blood outside his body than in it. His body covered with countless stabs, his head lulling to the side and limbs slack, he wasn't breathing. He was…

… dead.

"No!" Sam screamed, his rage, horror and grief building. The standoff between father and kidnapper ended as abruptly as it began. He didn't see John scramble to Dean's side, none of his usual grace in evidence, wild tears already beginning to fall. He didn't see a gloating Meg step out of the way, observing with quiet, cautious delight. He didn't see the thing in Tom's form exhale in satisfaction before turning to face him.

All he saw, all he knew, was his slaughtered brother lying like a present at his feet.

Finally, it ends, Tom's form sneered, and even John was forced to hurl himself out of the way.

Since I last updated this (on 6/26/06), I've been promoted to supervisor at work, moved into my own (first) apartment and learned how to cook edibly. Wheel never stops turning!

One more chapter + epilogue to go.