Chapter One

Disclaimer: I don't own anything from Supernatural, and I'm not making any money from this fic. I do, however, own the plot of this story

Summary: AU. The gun that Dean gives Sam in Asylum is actually loaded, and Sam shoots his brother. Dean falls into a coma, fighting for his life… and his soul

Warning(s): Violence; some swearing; possible slight ooc:ness; original characters; Alternate Universe scenario

"What are you gonna do, Sam?" Dean asked. "Gun's filled with rock salt. It's not gonna kill me."

Almost before the last word was out of his mouth, Sam fired the gun, and the force of the blast sent his brother back through the wall. "No… But it'll hurt like hell," the younger Winchester stated, feeling a strange glee come over him. It didn't matter that the force of the shot had knocked Dean out for a moment, rendering him unable to hear Sam's words. He didn't even think about how wrong it was to harm his brother.

Sam wasn't thinking about anything anymore, other than the rage he felt towards Dean. He stepped nearer to his brother, although still kept his distance. Dean was incredibly resourceful, and, just because he was hurt, it didn't mean that he wasn't any less dangerous.

If he doesn't wake up on his own soon, I'll have to wake him, Sam thought, giving a smile that wasn't a nice one at all. In a way, he almost hoped that he would have to wake Dean up. He felt an intense desire to hurt his brother as much as he could. To take his revenge for the way Dean had dragged him along to look for Dad, dragged him away from Jessica.

And that made it Dean's fault that Jessica had been murdered.

Time's up, Sam thought. He was about to slam the barrel of the gun across Dean's face to wake him up, when Dean coughed a few times, and groaned with pain as he regained consciousness.

My brother shot me, was the first thought that went through Dean's mind. My own brother shot me. It didn't matter that the gun was loaded with rock salt and wouldn't kill him. He felt like a part of him had died anyway. Did Sam really hate him that much? Enough to shoot him?

"Sam…" Dean managed to choke out. "We've gotta burn Ellicott's bones, and all this will be over. And you'll be back to normal." Dean was only half-aware of the pleading note in his voice. He wouldn't be able to cope if this was how Sam felt about him – that he wanted to hurt him.

Was I really that bad an older brother?

"I am normal," Sam replied, holding the gun steady, aimed at Dean, his finger itching to pull the trigger again, to hurt Dean even more. "I'm just telling the truth for the first time. I mean, why are we even here? Cause you're following Dad's orders like a good little soldier? Cause you always do what he says without question? Are you that desperate for his approval!" Sam's voice rose on the last part. It was like he was seeing everything through a red haze. Like he was blinded to everything but his rage. He didn't care that it was his brother who was in pain. In fact, he was enjoying it.

"This isn't you talking, Sam." Every word brought agony to him, and not just because of the rock salt embedded in his chest. Every breath caused sharp pain to stab through his body, and it was difficult not to show how much it hurt.

"That's the difference between you and me," Sam stated. "I have a mind of my own. I'm not pathetic like you."

"Are you going to kill me?" Dean couldn't even hear Sam's response over the sudden roaring in his ears. He carefully took the gun out from under his jacket, and held it up to his brother, wincing with every movement. "Then here," he said. "Real bullets are gonna work a hell of a lot better than rock salt."

Sam hesitated, doubts forming inside his mind. Something didn't feel right about this. For an instant, something seemed to break through the red haze that was engulfing him. But it was only for a moment, and then Sam snatched the gun from Dean's fingers, dropping the other gun that was merely filled with rock salt, and aiming it at his brother.

"You hate me that much?" The pain in Dean's voice was obvious, no matter how hard he tried to hide it. He closed his eyes for a moment, but, when he opened them again, he didn't look into Sam's. He couldn't stand to see the hate there. "You think you can kill your own brother? Then go ahead. Pull the trigger."

Still, Sam hesitated, although he had no idea why.

"Do it!" Dean exclaimed.

Sam pulled the trigger, and Dean's body jerked as the bullet hit it. Blood splattered everywhere, and Dean let out an uncharacteristic low cry of pain. "God, Sammy…" he gasped.

Sam's finger started to tighten on the trigger again, but Dean's bloodied body was doing something to him. Horror was beginning to take the place of rage. The red haze was fading.

Leaving Sam with the terrible knowledge of the fact that he'd just shot his own brother… and possibly seriously wounded him.

In a rush of blue light, Ellicott fled from Sam's body, but quickly reformed in front of him, starting to reach with aged hands to touch his head, trying to possess him again. Sam recoiled sharply, but he didn't have to. A shot was fired from behind him over his shoulder, and it was enough to dematerialize the doctor, at least for a moment.

Sam whirled round to see who had fired the shot, and his eyes fell on Kat and her boyfriend – Gavin, wasn't it? Kat was the one who had fired the gun. Gavin was just standing there with a look of shock on his face, and Sam had a sudden, insane urge to laugh hysterically. Or cry.

Maybe both.

It was Dean's pained whisper that pulled Sam out of his momentary freeze: "Sam… the bones…"

Sam winced at hearing his brother's pain-filled voice, but addressed Kat and Gavin. "Can you… bandage his wounds, please?" he requested. "I need to…" His voice trailed off, and he turned away, unable to look at his brother any longer. He didn't deserve to look at Dean. He had to make this right…

Where could the doctor's body be?

Gavin still seemed to be in shock, but Kat crouched down beside Dean, biting her lip slightly, reaching out to check his wound, and Gavin followed her lead. He also removed his coat to help Kat wrap it round the shot wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding. They tried to be as gentle as possible, but Dean still couldn't help the pain-filled gasps escaping his lips.

Sam still wouldn't look at his brother. He was concerned, of course he was – but it hurt too much to look at Dean and know that he was the one who had hurt him. He'd pulled that trigger.

And it didn't matter that Ellicott had possessed him at the time. It didn't excuse Sam's actions at all.

Besides, finding and burning the doctor's body was first priority right now. Then it was getting Dean to a hospital as quickly as possible. Everything else, even guilt-tripping, could come later. He really wished that he had some way of drowning out Dean's groans of pain, though…

"What happened?" Kat asked, pulling Sam out of his thoughts as the younger Winchester's eyes roved round, searching for the location of Ellicott's body. "He's been shot… Was it one of those ghosts?"

She sounds really calm, Sam thought distantly as his eyes fell on a small storage cupboard. He envied her… She didn't feel like her entire world was crashing down around her.

Then again, Kat hadn't just shot her own brother…

"No, it wasn't a ghost," Sam replied as he walked over to the cupboard and crouched down to open it. He left his answer at that, partly because he couldn't form the words, 'I was the one who shot him', and partly because he needed to concentrate entirely on the task at hand.

Why wasn't Dean making any kind of sound now?

Sam opened the doors of the cupboard, and recoiled sharply, both because of the sight of the doctor's rotted body, and because of the stench of death that hit him in a full wave. It just wasn't something that one could get used to, no matter how many times he had smelt it before.

Sam doused the bones with gasoline, and then started to reach for his lighter, before he remembered that he wasn't carrying one. Dean was.

"There's a lighter… in Dean's pocket," Sam addressed Kat and Gavin. "Can you…" Abruptly, he was cut off by a scream, whether from Kat or Gavin, he wasn't sure. He whirled round, but couldn't bring himself to react to the sight in front of him. I'm in shock, a part of him noted numbly.

Ellicott was leaning over Dean, with his hands pressed to the sides of the older brother's head. Dean was gasping and writhing, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth and his nose.

Sam only stayed frozen for a moment, before yelling, "Dean!" He lunged at the doctor's ghost, not caring that his gun loaded with rock salt was still lying on the floor. All he could see was Dean's pale, drawn face. He wasn't moving anymore…

Sam just went straight through the spirit, and almost landed right on top of Dean. The only thing that stopped Sam from completely squashing his brother were his hands, which he'd shot out to keep his balance.

Is Dean even still breathing? I can't tell…

Sam was only dimly aware of Ellicott gathering himself together for another attack. The younger Winchester attempted to get up, but his entire body felt numb, and he collapsed again, nearly landing on top of Dean, but just managing to stop himself in time. Even so, Sam could still feel the blood from Dean's wounds soaking through his shirt…

Please don't be dead, Dean… I couldn't live with the knowledge that I was the one who killed you.

Sam dimly heard the sound of someone screaming. Whatever Ellicott had done to him had twisted his mind somehow, he was sure of it, and the effects weren't leaving him. He'd have to look into the side effects of possession by ghosts… If they ever got out of this alive.

All of these things we've hunted, and both our lives could be ended by the ghost of an old doctor.

Sam slowly became aware of Kat aiming the gun at Ellicott behind him… The younger Winchester desperately felt in Dean's jean pocket, almost crying with relief when his fingers closed around the solid metal of the lighter. He drew it out, even as Ellicott shot over his head in the direction of Gavin and Kat.

Kat, who was somehow still holding the gun, fired, and the ghost dissipated. Before he had a chance to reform, Sam ignited the lighter, and hurled it back over his shoulder in the direction of the bones, before covering his face with his arm and crouching down over Dean's limp body as the fire blasted.

Ellicott, who had been in the process of reforming, suddenly started to crumble, and then was simply gone, with no sign that he had ever been there.

Well, apart from the bones of his body that were burning, of course…

Sam could feel the heat from the blast that the fire had caused burning into his back, and knew that he would have to get up in a moment. Trouble was, his head was aching fiercely, and he wasn't sure he'd be able to move.

And if I'm in a bad state, I can only imagine how Dean must be feeling… Please, whichever god or spirit is listening, please let my brother live.

Even if you have to take my life…

"Is it over now?" Kat, her face streaked with dirt, crouched down next to Sam, shaking slightly, looking like she was starting to suffer from shock. Gavin seemed to already be there…

Is it over now? "I hope so," Sam replied. With great effort, he carefully pushed himself up off of Dean, looking down at his brother's pale face. Dean's eyes were closed… He appeared to be unconscious. Or…

No. Not dead. Dean's not dead!

"What are we going to say about what happened here?" Kat asked hesitantly, biting her lip slightly. She cast an uncertain glance at her boyfriend, who was finally starting to relax some now that most of the danger seemed to be past. "And Dean… He needs to go to the hospital, right?"

"Yeah." Sam stared down at Dean's body, and wiped his clammy hands on his shirt. He couldn't exactly break down, though. There had been many times that Dean had been strong for him, and now it was Sam's turn to be there for his brother. To do his best to make up for what he had just done. "And we're not going to say anything," Sam continued. "There's not much that'll connect us to this place."

"But…" Gavin began.

"Right now, it's more important to get my brother to a hospital," Sam cut him off. "And you two need to get home, really. If anyone does come sniffing around asking questions, direct them to me." After all, the Winchesters were masters at deflecting awkward questions from officials.

"Thank you… for everything that you've done for us," Gavin said quietly.

"I wish that we knew a way of repaying you for what you did," Kat put in. She glanced worriedly at Dean. "Is he… all right?" she asked cautiously.

"He'll be fine," Sam replied, sounding much more confident than he really felt. "At least, if we can get him to the hospital." He glanced towards Gavin. "Can you give me a hand getting him to the car?" Sure, it probably would be easier to call an ambulance – but the fewer questions asked, the better. Besides, who knew how long it would take for it to get there? Sam could probably get his brother to the hospital in half the time.

"Um, sure." Gavin stood up at the same time as Sam did.

Sam checked to make sure that the makeshift bandage was still secure around Dean's body, before carefully picking his brother up, and slipping Dean's arm around his shoulder in an attempt to support him. Dean still hung rather dangerously, though. Gavin's support on the other side helped a little, but not much.

Still, it would have to do…

"Mr. Winchester?"

Sam looked up from the magazine he had been flicking through without really seeing anything, and stood up as his eyes fell on the doctor coming his way. He was trying really hard to stop himself from shaking, but wasn't having much luck. He knew that he was in shock still, but he couldn't exactly worry about that right now. His brother's safety was much more important, and came before anything else.

Please give me some good news, the younger Winchester begged silently. Don't let Dean die. I'll do anything to save him.

"Mr. Winchester?" the doctor said again, and Sam nodded in acknowledgement, but waited for the doctor to give him the news. He didn't trust himself to speak…

It was probably a sign of how worried and frightened Sam was that he hadn't given a fake name to the hospital. It hadn't even occurred to him that Dean Winchester was technically registered dead. The hospital didn't

seem to have looked at any death certificates, though…

Probably because they weren't expecting a registered dead person to be brought into the hospital…

The doctor hesitated a moment, as if he was wondering how best to word what he was going to say. Then, he explained, "We were able to operate on your brother and remove the bullet and all of the rock salt that was in his chest…"

"But…?" Sam prompted, knowing that there was a 'but' coming. He couldn't let go of the fear, and he felt rather faint. Maybe I'd better sit down to hear this, he thought. Then again, Sam was really worried about Dean. It was taking everything that he had not to simply shove past the doctor and rush to his brother's side.

"I'm afraid that Dean Winchester took quite a shock," the doctor admitted, the expression on his face sympathetic. "He's fallen into a coma…"

Sam stared at the doctor in shock. He was saying something else, but the younger Winchester couldn't hear it above the sudden roaring in his ears. He stumbled slightly, and had to grab onto the reception desk in order to steady himself. Dean…in a coma? It's not possible! It had to be some kind of a trick, right?

Except… It obviously wasn't. The doctor's face was obviously serious, and was now concerned as well as sympathetic. Sam wanted to straighten up, to rush to his brother, but he had the feeling that his legs wouldn't support him if he let go of the desk, so he held onto it, at least for now.

"Mr. Winchester?" The doctor's voice abruptly became clear. "Are you all right? Do you need to sit down?"

"No…" Sam mumbled, closing his eyes for a moment, and struggling to get a grip. He knew pretty much what his brother would say if Dean could see how he was acting right now. He'd accuse him of being too sensitive, of letting his emotions run ragged. He'd claim that Sam was trying to turn it into a chick flick moment, and tell him he was having none of it.

But Sam couldn't help it…

Damn it, Dean… I can't lose you as well. I won't lose you as well. People have woken up from comas before, right?

But the fact that Dean's even in a coma at all is a bad thing…

"No…" Sam said again, making a huge effort to calm himself down, and pushed himself off the reception desk. "I'm fine… I just need to see my brother, please." He wouldn't be of any use to Dean at all if he just lost control of himself.

"Yes, of course…" The doctor frowned a little, not looking very convinced by Sam's assertion that he was fine. Then again, he had just been told that his brother was in a coma. People tended to react quite badly to news like that. "If you'll just follow me…" He turned to lead the way to the room that Dean had been put in. "I would like to know what happened to him…" he continued. "Was he mugged or something similar? And what about the rock salt? I haven't heard of people using rock salt to harm before."

"I don't really know what happened," Sam said. In a way, that was true. Sam had been there, but he could hardly believe the hatred he'd felt towards his own brother. He loved Dean – he'd die for his older brother – how quickly had that love been turned to hate? How had it even been possible?

And if Dean woke up, would he ever believe that Sam would never have tried to kill him had he not been possessed?

Not if, when Sam mentally scolded himself. Dean would wake up. He had to wake up, otherwise how would Sam deal with things? His brother had always been there for him, no matter what. If Dean was taken away from him as well, how could he go on living? He wasn't strong enough…

As the doctor led Sam into the room, the younger Winchester couldn't help a gasp from escaping him at the sight of Dean lying pale and still in the bed, hooked up to the life support machine. Sam felt tears pricking at his eyes as he sat down on the chair next to his brother's bed, and reached out to place his hand over Dean's. "God, Dean…" I'm so sorry…

"How likely is it that he'll wake up from this coma?" Sam asked, without looking up at the doctor. His eyes were on Dean's face, as he silently prayed to whichever gods or spirits watched over them to let his brother wake up, to let him be all right.

But Dean remained pale and still.

"It's difficult to say," the doctor admitted. "A lot of it depends on whether his brain is damaged in any way. We'll need to run tests to check on that. At this stage, I can't say anything for certain."

Sam fell silent, and just sat on the chair next to Dean's bed, his hand clasped over his brother's, as he tried to work out just how he would be able to bring Dean back.

Maybe he should look into the issue of possession and its side effects… If it could help save his brother's life, Sam would do anything.

Dean slowly stirred, and groaned softly, putting a hand to his forehead. Wow… Bad hangover. His head was pounding so violently that the older Winchester brother was half-afraid that it was going to fall off. For a moment, he just lay still with his eyes closed, trying to get rid of the nausea that was threatening to overwhelm him.

What happened…? The last thing that Dean could remember was Sam, his own brother, shooting him in the chest, first with rock salt, and then again with proper bullets.

Shit… Does this mean that I'm dead?

Dean couldn't hear anything that suggested his brother might be nearby, and, as far as he could tell, he wasn't lying on anything but a floor. An apparently well-carpeted floor, but still…

Dean finally decided that he wasn't going to find out anything by keeping his eyes firmly closed. So, with a great effort, he forced his eyes open, and winced as the first sight that greeted him was an empty wine bottle. Trouble was, unless he had been really out of it the previous night, he was pretty sure that he hadn't touched a drop of alcohol.

In fact, Dean was pretty sure that he hadn't left the asylum at all, which really only went to prove his whole being dead theory.

Trouble is… Death isn't supposed to hurt this much, right?

A glance around the room he was in revealed to Dean that he was laying on the floor in the hallway of an apartment. For some reason, the place seemed somehow familiar to him, but the older Winchester brother couldn't quite place it…

Wincing, Dean pushed himself to his feet. His chest felt pretty sore, though a hand pressed lightly there revealed that there wasn't actually any injuries there at the moment. Purely psychological, then… Dean wished that he knew what had been the cause of him coming here and apparently healed, though.

He wasn't going to put his trust in something, or someone, that he didn't even recognise…

Dean quite quickly realised another problem – he couldn't see Sam anywhere.

"SAM!" Dean yelled, looking around in a panic, forgetting momentarily about the fact that Sam had, although possessed, shot him full of rock salt, and then shot him with a real gun.

It was all my fault for handing the gun over to him in the first place… But Dean had trusted Sam, had believed strongly that his brother would never turn against him like that, would never hate him. It was possibly the worst torture that could be devised for the older Winchester – to cause his brother to turn against him.

To know that he had failed in his duty as older brother…

I could be brave with a ton of demons and spirits, but do anything to either of my family that I have left, and I'll revert back to a helpless child, unable to do anything other than cling to what little light's left.

Dean rested his hand on the wall as he started to move off further down the hall. However, his sharp ears, finely tuned by years of hunting, caught the sound of the front door being unlocked. Dean whirled round, ready to confront whoever was coming through the door, just in case they were some kind of threat.

But the sight that greeted Dean as he turned abruptly pushed him into believing even stronger that he was dead…