"Sam, I'm telling you, just drop it."

"Why should I?" Sam insisted belligerently. "Why should I always be the one to give up? Why can't he give in, just once?"

"Dad has his reasons, okay? And it makes sense. It wouldn't be fair to a dog to keep it cooped up in the car for all the long drives we take."

"Oh, but it's fair to us?" Sam shot back sarcastically.

Dean rolled his eyes and clumped away down the street.

"I'm serious, Dean. Truckers keep dogs all the time, travelers have dogs, why shouldn't we?"

"Sam, I'm not arguing with you," Dean said, shaking off his brother's hand. "Dad said no, and that's it. There's no point getting into yet another fight with him over it."

"If you'd just be on my side for once," Sam said, thrusting his hands into his pockets and hunching his shoulders.

"Dude," Dean said reproachfully, stopping in his tracks and peering at his fourteen year old brother's sullen face. "I'm on your side all the time, and you know it."

"Doesn't feel like it." Sam shrugged moodily. "I'm sure if you-"

He stopped and Dean tore his glance away in time to see that a hulking, shadowy figure had lurched out of the alley ahead of him. It pulled out a metal canister and sprayed it into Sam's face, and the boy went down with a yell. Dean reached for the knife in his boot, cursing Dad's rule about packing in busy city streets. Before he could get it out of its sheath, the spray was hitting him full on and he gave a strangled scream, clutching at his throat as the air seemed stolen from his lungs, replaced by fiery hot needles that clawed his skin. It was the last thing he knew for a while.

The Promise

By Gillian Middleton

Part One

Dean came awake to a burning pain behind his eyes and the soft, cool dampness of a cloth lying on his face. He groped for it clumsily, pressing it into his burning eye sockets, and then hissed as the cloth soothed the fiery irritation. Memory returned sluggishly and he fumbled himself into a sitting position, clenching the cloth in one fist and blinking at his surroundings.

Long seconds passed as he fought to overcome the disconcerting feeling of waking up in a place he'd never seen before in his life. Still struggling with his blurred vision, he blinked rapidly and scanned the room again, desperately willing his brain to take it in.

Rough brick walls. Dim electric strip lighting in one corner. A cracked toilet and basin. A low groan to his left had him wrenching his head around, in time to see Sammy's hand grope for the cloth on his face.

"D-Dean?" Sam cried out, panting in pain as he pressed the cloth to his streaming eyes.

"It's okay, Sammy," Dean said, coughing a little at the dryness of his mouth and throat. "I'm here."

But where the hell was here? Sam was squinting in the dim light and scanning the room as Dean struggled to take in the details of their prison. Slowly his sluggish brain cleared, and one factor became glaringly apparent.

"Where's the door?" Sam said in a frightened voice.

Dean swung his legs off the bed, noticing his boots were gone and absurdly wishing he'd worn cleaner socks. He took a deep breath and attempted to stand, falling back on his butt the first time.

"Dean?" Sam said, sounding increasingly panicked. "Where's the door?"

"I don't know, Sammy," Dean said, heaving himself to his feet and swaying unsteadily. "Gimme a second to look around, okay?"

"What's to look at?" Sam demanded, thrusting his feet off the bed and groping to a standing position. He swung around, eyes feverishly scanning the brick walls, the sink, the toilet. "There's no door!"

"There must be a way out," Dean insisted, treading unsteadily to the nearest wall and pressing his hand to its rough brick surface. "We're inside, right? There must be a trap door or a hidden door or something."

Dean ran his hands over the cold bricks, fingers searching the old mortar, fingertips stinging as he felt for cracks or the tell-tale whistle of a breeze. On the opposite side of the room, Sam made his way along the wall, wide hands pressing and pushing, around the toilet, past a low wooden cupboard, onto the pipes around the sink.

"There's nothing here!" he exclaimed, stumbling a little in his haste and grabbing hold of the cracked porcelain bowl. "Dean, there's nothing here!"

"Sammy, calm down."

"Don't tell me to calm down!" Sam shouted, reeling from the wall back to the bed, stumbling to his knees, eyes still red and streaming. "There's no way out, Dean! There's no air!"

Recognizing a panic attack when he saw one, Dean dropped to his knees in front of his little brother, hands catching his shoulders and shaking firmly. Sam's chest rose and fell rapidly. His hands clawed at his throat, eyes wide and distressed.

"Listen to me, Sam!" Dean said loudly, catching his brother's panicked eyes. "There's plenty of air, okay? Look at me, Sam, breathe with me!"

"I can't!" Sam gasped, but Dean shook him again, fingers like claws on young shoulders.

"Yes, you can!" Dean said fiercely. "Breathe, dammit! Now!"

Sam tried to catch his breath, chest still rising and falling raggedly as he struggled to obey his brother.

"Good," Dean praised. "In and out. Deep breaths, Sammy, okay? There, see?"

Sam's strained expression eased as he took breath after breath, stiff shoulders slumping under Dean's hands. "I'm sorry," he muttered, and Dean released him and thumped one shoulder gently.

"Don't worry about it." More unnerved than he wanted his brother to see, he collapsed on the edge of the bed, taking a few deep breaths of his own. "I'm just as spooked as you are, Sam. But we can't freak out, right?"

Sam nodded, eyes darting back around the room. Now that his own eyes had stopped watering, Dean could make out a few more details. The room was about twelve by twelve: concrete floor, stained and cracked plaster ceiling, rough mortar dribbling between rusty red bricks.

Dean's gaze narrowed and he stood and crossed to the wall, running his hands over the mortar.

"What is it?" Sammy said, sniffing and rubbing his sleeve across his face.

"This was mortared from the other side," Dean said slowly, feeling the crumbling substance break off under his fingers. "See how it's not smoothed over here?"

Sam bent and peered at the wall, comparing it to the rest of the brickwork. "He bricked us in," he whispered in horror.

"It must be fast-drying," Dean said, searching his pockets for his pen knife, his keys, anything. "If I can start scraping at it before it gets too hard..."

Quick-witted now his panic had quieted, Sam began to search the room, starting with the cupboard, pulling open cracked wooden drawers and sliding open the doors.

Dean," Sam said lowly, and Dean tore his gaze away from the wall. Sam reached into the cupboard and pulled out a tin, twisting it until the label was illuminated by the dim light.

"Beans. There are cans of food in here."

Dean padded over and took the can, squinting at it. Sam groped in the cupboard and pulled out an old fashioned metal can opener.

"I don't know if this is a good sign or a bad one," Dean mused, turning the can over in his hand.

"Sixty cans," Sam said, finishing his quick tally. "Dean? What does it mean?"

"I don't know. The guy doesn't want us to starve?" He looked at Sam, seeing the questions and fear mirrored in his brother's reddened eyes. "Did you see him? Before he sprayed that stuff in your face?"

Sam shook his head. "Just a shadow." He frowned. "Do you think this has something to do with a job?"

"Dad's not working on a job right now," Dean pointed out.

Sam snorted. "Yeah, like Dad tells us everything."

"He'd have told us if we were in danger, Sam," Dean said sternly, and Sam shrugged again. "Maybe if I'd had my forty-five," Dean lamented, tossing the can onto the dresser. "If I'd just been a little quicker..."

"It all happened so fast." Sam dropped down on the end of the bed. "Do you think he's coming back?"

Dean cast the bricked up wall another look. "I doubt it. Not anytime soon anyway. We're just gonna have to get ourselves out of this."

Sam held up the metal can opener, but Dean shook his head.

"I don't think so. I'm not fond of beans, but it might take a while to get out of here. Or for Dad to find us. Either way, I don't want to risk breaking that."

Sam glanced again at the cupboard. "What about one of the cans? If we empty it and flatten it, maybe we could gouge at the wall?"

So Dean wielded the ancient old can opener while Sam took another look around the room. He found air vents near the floor and reported a narrow metal grate in front of the small opening. He crawled under the narrow wooden cot and then felt around the reinforced wiring from the fluorescent bulb, until Dean nervously told him not to mess with it.

"Unless you think this will be any easier in the dark," he pointed out. Sam grimaced but let the cable be. Finally he examined the small hand basin, turning the faucet on and off, and filling a red plastic mug with water. He gulped it down and refilled it for Dean.

"Water, food, fresh air," Dean catalogued, tipping the beans into two red plastic bowls. "A bed, bathroom facilities." He cast the stained old porcelain fixture a disgusted look, and Sam huffed bitter agreement. "Hell, we've stayed in motels worse than this."

"I think we're underground," Sam said uneasily, looking up at the cracked plaster ceiling. Dean followed his gaze.

"It does smell kind of... earthy," he agreed. "Doesn't matter. We get through the wall and get the hell out of here. Or Dad finds us and gets us the hell out of here. Okay?"

Sam blew out a breath and shrugged. "I guess."

"Eat your beans," Dean ordered, "while I have a crack at this wall. Then you can take your turn."

"I was thinking," Sam said, spooning up the beans with a plastic fork. "Those water pipes. Sound can carry a long way through metal pipes."

Dean flattened the edge of the empty can and began scraping at the dribbling mortar. "You mean a Morse code thing?"

"An SOS maybe," Sam confirmed, shoveling down the cold beans.

"Good thinking, 99." Dean nodded approvingly. "You do that while I scrape. The day should just fly by."

"If it is day."

Dean thought about that. "Yeah."

"Dean, what do you think is going on?" Sam looked so young and frightened, his skin pale even in this dim light. The weight of responsibility for his little brother hung heavy on Dean's shoulders.

"I don't know," Dean said honestly. "We just have to trust that Dad is looking for us. He'll figure it out."

"But why would someone do this? Why-"

"Sammy, I don't know why," Dean interrupted. "I just know Dad would want us to keep our heads and work on getting out of here. Okay?"

They worked in silence for a while, Sam tapping out the SOS with the metal handle of the can opener, Dean methodically scraping away at the mortar. After a few minutes, Dean could hear Sam sniffling, and when he glanced over he caught a glimpse of tears running down his brother's face. He looked away, giving Sam his privacy, fighting tears of his own. He had faith in his father, he really did.

But Dean couldn't help wondering if finding them down here was going to be beyond even John Winchester.


The time didn't fly by, but they scraped and tapped and rested until Dean felt as if his arm was going to fall off and Sam was drooping.

"Come on," he ordered, pouring more beans in Sam's bowl and handing it over. "Take a rest and eat. We won't be any good if we drop of exhaustion."

"Do we have enough?" Sam asked, already scooping up the food.

Dean sat on the edge of the bed, hiding the fact that he'd given Sam his share from the earlier meal, as well as more than half of this can. "One can split between us, three times a day," Dean calculated, tasting the beans with a grimace. "That's twenty days. We'll be out of here long before that."

"I just don't get why the guy took us," Sam said relentlessly. "I mean, what was the point? Just to wall us up down here and leave us?"

Dean recognized Sam's method of coping, chewing over a subject until he found answers that satisfied him. Dad did the same thing, it was part of what made him a great hunter. "Well, if the dude was after ransom, he picked the wrong family."

"Unless he wants a trunk full of old guns and holy water," Sam agreed. He scraped out the last of the beans and ran his finger around the rim of the bowl, collecting the sauce and savoring it. "Man, I could eat six of these."

"We're on short rations for a while." Dean finished his smaller serving and tossed the bowl onto the bed. "Let's get back to work."


Hunger and exhaustion hit them after what Dean figured was another few hours. Without his watch to tell time, he felt lost and disorientated. How long had they been unconscious anyway? Long enough for their kidnapper to drag them out of the alley and bring them here, wherever here was. Then lay them out all nice and neat, even providing washcloths for their eyes. Before bricking them up in this tomb-like room.

Dean shivered, wondering if the guy was experienced at this. Had he done it before, stolen people away? Walled them in? Waited for them to die?

They had yet another meal of cold beans, Dean surreptitiously doling out more for Sam. Then Dean stretched out on the narrow bed, groaning as his aching shoulders made contact with the thin mattress. Sam sat on the edge of the bed beside him, shoulders hunched.

"What do you think Dad's doing right now?" he asked lowly.

"Tearing up town looking for us. Ripping it apart, inch by inch." Dean cast a look at the brickwork he'd labored over for hours. "Brick by brick."

Sam stretched out beside him, and Dean cast him a glance, seeing his brother gazing sightlessly up at the ceiling. "You think he called the cops?"

"Once he knows it's nothing supernatural."

Sam met his eyes for a moment, then looked away. "Are we so sure it's not?"

Dean sighed and yawned. "No symbols, runes, sigils. No objects of magic, black or otherwise. If this is some kind of spell or sacrifice, it's the no-frills kind. I don't know, Sammy, it just doesn't feel like a job to me."

Sam chewed his lip. "Me, either," he admitted.

"Don't sound so disappointed. I'm so not in the mood to be sacrificed to some earth-demon tonight."


"Earthworm demon?" Dean joked and Sam rolled his eyes.

"I just mean, if it was supernatural, Dad would be on the case," Sam explained. "If it was some other-worldly thing then Dad would be the best person in the world to find it. Us. But if this is just some psycho who gets his kicks kidnapping kids off the street..."

Dean wished he could find something positive and reassuring to say. But in truth he'd been thinking the same thing, wondering how long it would take their authority-shy father to give in and go to the cops. Wondering what exactly John Winchester could tell them.

"Yeah," he said softly, and Sam rolled over on his side, presenting his narrow back to Dean's concerned gaze. Closing his eyes, Dean willed himself to sleep, to have a few more hours pass while he was oblivious. To be just those few hours closer to rescue.

Beside him, Sam's shoulders shook a little as he fought to keep his soft crying to himself. Dean clenched his hands, wanting to leave his brother to his privacy, fighting the urge to comfort him like he used to when Sam was little. Sam wasn't like this. Sam was more prone to bad temper than tears. But Sam was only fourteen years old, and Dean was eighteen, and he could feel the tears trembling behind his own eyes as the close quarters of their prison seemed to close around him.

Rolling over on his side, Dean lifted a tentative hand and laid it on Sam's shoulder, and for a second his brother stiffened as if in rejection of the comforting touch. But then he was turning and slamming himself against Dean, hard chin butting his shoulder, thin hands clutching his ribs.

And to Dean he was Sammy again, four years old, running across the rough ground of some rest area. Plump hands held out, tears streaking the dust on his round cheeks.

"Owie, Dean," he'd say, holding out scraped palms for his big brother's inspection.

And Dean would tell him to suck it up, that big boys don't cry, but his hands would take Sammy's little hands and he'd press all-better kisses to damp, sweaty palms. He'd lift Sammy's t-shirt and wipe his eyes before smoothing it back over Sam's round belly. Then Sam would fling dimpled arms around his neck and hug him before haring off again.

Sam was taller and thinner and years older, but his hard chin still pressed against Dean's collar bone, and his tear-streaked cheeks were damp against Dean's throat.

They fell asleep like that.


Dean woke first and took the opportunity to use the toilet before Sam woke up, then took another can from the cupboard. To his surprise, it was canned peaches, and in a sudden panic he dragged all the tins out, worried for long seconds that they weren't all full of food. What if they were coffee or something that couldn't be eaten?

Luckily they were all edible, the second layer peaches, the third some kind of Irish stew. Sinking down onto the ground in front of the worn wooden cupboard, Dean pressed his hands to his face. This was all they had, all that stood between them and starvation. Yesterday it had seemed weird that their kidnapper had left cans of food for them. Today it was the most important thing Dean could think of: that Sam could eat, that Sam wouldn't get weak with hunger. Behind him Sam stirred and moaned, and Dean quickly opened a can and ladled the lion's share of peaches into Sam's bowl.

"Shit," Sam groaned from the bed. "I thought it was just a nightmare."

"Nope, sorry," Dean said lightly. "The food situation's looking up, though."

Sam sat up, blinking groggily. "What is it?" he said as Dean waved the dish tantalizingly under his nose.

"It's not beans, which is all you need to know."

Sam took the bowl but didn't start eating. Instead he shifted his legs to the side of the bed and hunched over.

"Sammy?" Dean asked, wondering what the hell he'd do if Sam got sick. "What is it?"

"I have to go," Sam said, eyes darting to the toilet and away. Flags of red painted his pale cheeks, and Dean breathed out a sigh of relief.

"Is that all?"

Sam shot him a look of pure poison, arms crossing over his chest. "Yeah, that's all," he said sarcastically. "Sorry if you think I'm making a big deal about crapping in front of another person."

Dean rolled his eyes. "I don't think you're making a big deal," he said patiently. "I know what you're feeling. I'm here as well, aren't I?"

Sam shrugged, jaw still set sullenly.

"I just think we have bigger things to worry about than being embarrassed. Look, I'll turn my back, okay? And put my fingers in my ears."

Sam rubbed the back of his neck. "Okay," he agreed reluctantly. Dean turned and jammed a finger in each ear. "Can you hum as well?" Sam asked, and Dean saw his point, as he could still clearly hear what his brother was saying. He decided to take the high road and began belting out a favorite Metallica tune, bobbing his head in time to the beat. After all, he wasn't always going to luck out and get to go while Sam was asleep. Start making fun of Sam now, and the evil little bastard would surely get him back later on.

Sam held a mean grudge.

A tap on his shoulder brought Dean out of his self-imposed exile, and he let Sam avoid his gaze and totally dropped the subject.

"Eat," he advised.

"Peaches?" Sam said, already savoring a mouthful of the soft fruit.

"Yeah, our captor decided to provide us with a more varied diet than we thought," Dean said, polishing off his smaller share quickly. He wondered how long he could keep his strength up eating half as much as Sam, but the sight of his brother chowing down hungrily kept the thought at the back of his head. He'd worry about that later.

"Shame he didn't give us a nice ensuite as well," Sam remarked sarcastically.

"Yeah, with a bidet."

"And a fountain."

"And soft fluffy towels," Dean sighed. "Man, I need a shower."

Sam ran his hand through his hair and grimaced. "I guess we could wash up in the sink."

Dean scratched idly at his neck. "We should," he decided. "Just because we're bricked up in a basement doesn't mean we should let our standards slip."

So after eating they took turns washing as best they could over the small, cracked basin, despite the lack of soap or towels. Dean sacrificed his flannel shirt to the cause, and they splashed and dipped their heads under the faucet and then rubbed themselves dry on its folds.

Dean had to admit he felt better afterward, but the drudgery of the day soon caught up with them and they fell silent as they worked, Dean scraping, Sam tapping while leaning against the wall, his head wilting.

Sam pushed his hair out of his eyes and flexed his shoulders. "Swap for a while?"

"Just a second." Dean wrenched, fingers scrabbling for purchase as he pried one brick out of its socket. "Got it!" he announced triumphantly.

"And it only took one day," Sam commented, peering in through the gap. He gingerly put his hand in. "More bricks," he reported, but Dean was high on his success.

"So what? A few more on this side, and I can start on that side. We will get out of here, Sam."

Sam smiled with his lips, but his eyes were still doubtful as he took his turn with the next brick.


Dean woke to the sound of his brother's low groan, the feel of his elbow as he pumped rhythmically, then paused, panting. Years of experience sharing a room kicked in, and Dean knew instantly what Sam was doing.

"Really, Sam," he drawled, and Sam jumped a mile and curled in on himself. "Is this the time or place?"

"Shut up," Sam muttered, voice muffled by the thin pillow. "I just thought it would take my mind off how damn hungry I am."

Dean considered this. "It probably would," he conceded.

"Yeah, but I can't." Sam sighed in frustration.

Dean scooted closer and slid one hand over Sam's hip, laying it flat against his belly where his t-shirt had ridden up. "Want some help?"

Sam shot him an incredulous glance over his shoulder, and Dean snorted.

"Not that kind of help, perv-boy."

"What am I supposed to think?" Sam sputtered. "With you copping a feel?"

"I just thought I could, you know. Talk you through it."

"Talk?" Sam said, his voice still wary.

"Yeah," Dean said generously. "Share a story of one of my many and varied sexual experiences. Get your motor running, so to speak."

Sam snorted. "No way could anything you have to say turn me on." He shrugged his shoulder irritably. "Now get off me."

"No, no, wait a minute," Dean said, pressing harder with the flat of his hand on Sam's belly, which fluttered beneath his touch. "Wanna bet? I bet I can turn you on with just the power of my words. What do you say?"

Sam's stomach rose and fell shallowly with his breathing as he glanced dubiously over his shoulder. "Not gonna happen," he finally pronounced.

"Oh yeah?" Dean leaned closer and whispered in Sam's ear, as if someone nearby might hear. "I could tell you about my first ever blow-job," he said softly. "The prettiest waitress you ever saw on her knees, red lips open, little pink tongue coming out."

Sam shivered, and Dean grinned. He waited for Sam to say something else, to reject the notion, but his little brother stayed hunched over, hand still covering his groin.

"This diner," Dean murmured, taking that for consent. "Middle of nowhere. I'm like, fifteen, not much older than you are now. She's like twenty, twenty one, small and a little plump, blonde hair pulled back, all these tiny golden curls around her face. She drags me to the back room, but I wasn't fighting too hard. Store room, big jars of mayo and ketchup, me backed against the wall while she lifts her hand to the top button of her blouse, flicking it open."

Sam shifted a little, hand moving, adjusting himself under the thin fabric of his boxers.

"Now, I deny anyone to tell me that the prettiest sight on earth isn't a plump cleavage, framed by a white lacy bra with little pink roses on it," Dean crooned, shifting himself a little at the memory. "Man, this bra was cut so low I could see her nipples, you know? That round part on the outside."

"The aureole," Sam muttered, hand shifting again.

"Figures you'd know that," Dean chuckled, and Sam's tummy shivered again as Dean's hand smoothed the warm curve. "Yeah, so there's me, all instinct, not much in the way of practical experience. So I just go for it, straight for the aureole," he snickered. "Yeah, licking and kissing and tasting all that pale, creamy flesh. And she is so into it, hands in my hair, and dude, she's guiding my head."

Dean swallowed hard, hand pressing into silky flesh, while below it Sam's fist gripped his dick, pumping up and down.

"Let me just say, thank god for the man who invented front-opening bras," Dean breathed reverently. "Because she clicks it open and spills out, and Sam? I think I've died and gone to heaven. Soft white tits, hard little nipples, cherry red, just begging for my lips, you know? And me and this girl have never even kissed, but I got my mouth on her tit and I am sucking like I'm starving."

Sam's hand moved faster as he smothered a moan.

"She's straddling my leg and I feel her shaking, and dude, she is coming, just from that, from me squeezing one tit and sucking the other."

Sam's fist pumped harder and he arched back against Dean, sweat under Dean's hand now as he smoothed it lower, the tips of Dean's fingers just brushing crisp curling hair, pressing hard as Sam slammed his fist back and came.

"Whoo, Sam," Dean said, chuckling hard as Sam convulsed and spilled over his own hand. "I never even got to the blow job part."

"Shut up," Sam slurred, then snuffled into a soft snore as he finally dropped off to sleep.

"Yeah," Dean whispered, carefully reaching for the waistband of Sam's boxers and drawing it up. "I'll save that part for next time."

Then he rolled over onto his back and brought himself off, visions of pink tits and red lips dancing behind his eyes.

And, oddly, that moment when Sammy pressed back against him and came.


"Dean?" Sam kept his head low as his hand beat out the automatic code against the pipe. "I want to say I'm sorry."

Dean frowned. "For what?"

"That fight we had the other day." Sam shrugged his shoulders. "I know you're not always on Dad's side."

"I'm not on anyone's side, Sam," Dean said for what felt like the thousandth time. But Sam wasn't listening now any more than he had then.

"Doesn't feel like it sometimes," Sam said moodily.

Another time - a thousand other times Dean might let it drop, not wanting another fight, another argument. But he couldn't walk away from Sam today. Today they were trapped in here, trapped with each other, with no secrets between them. And suddenly Dean wanted his brother to understand.

"Want to know how it feels to me sometimes?" he said lightly, and Sam's head came up and he turned a frown on him.


"It feels like I'm this bone between two dogs, snapping and snarling at each other."

Sam was staring at him, looking dumbfounded.

"It feels like neither one of you really cares what I think or want or feel. You just want me on one side against the other. Your side against Dad's."

"Dean," Sam faltered. "You never told me you felt like that."

Dean shrugged. "You never asked."

Sam paused, hand hovering above the pipe, long fingers clenched around the can opener. "I do care what you feel," he said earnestly. "I just... never thought about it like that before."

"Yeah, well, things were never quite as bad before as they've been lately," Dean admitted, still scraping hard, fingers already numb. "You and Dad don't seem able to have one conversation that doesn't end in yelling."

Sam shrugged. "I just feel so... frustrated," he said. "Like I talk and talk and no one's listening, you know?"

"I'm listening, Sam. And Dad listens, too."

"Yeah, but then he just ignores what I say," Sam said bitterly. "And throws out another order."

"You know the trouble between you two?" Dean took a break, flexing tired fingers. "You're too much alike."

"I'm nothing like him!" Sam said vehemently.

"Hey, that wasn't an insult," Dean told him, raising one brow. "I just mean that Dad's a take-charge kinda guy, and so are you. In our little family unit, Dad is the general and we're the grunts."

"I don't remember signing up for this man's army," Sam muttered.

"Yeah, and that's the problem. Because you're not the grunt type. You're the general type, just like Dad. And two generals in one unit? I think that's like the Chinese symbol for war or something."

Sam tapped away a few moments longer. "So does that make you a grunt type?"

"I'm a lover, not a fighter," Dean said, grinning at the thought.

"Yeah, right." Sam shot him a glance, and Dean read all the things his brother wanted to say. Apology. Regret. Fear. He smiled back his forgiveness, and Sam ducked his head and went back to work.


The mattress underneath them was little more than stretched canvas, and Dean shifted onto his side in an effort to find a comfortable spot. Sam sighed and pressed back into him, and, suppressing a grin, Dean leaned forward.

"Want me to finish my story?" he whispered.

"If you like," Sam said carelessly, but his hand dropped to the waistband of his shorts.

Dean snuffled a laugh but obediently picked up the tale, whispering into his little brother's ear the delights of a willing waitress. Sam shifted for a moment or two, but his hand continued toying with the elastic waistband, and Dean paused, wondering if his storytelling abilities had failed him.

Then Sam huffed impatiently and reached over, snatching Dean's hand from where it rested on his hip and dragging it around to his belly under his t-shirt.

Dean spread his palm, feeling warm flesh quiver, and just for a moment he paused, a tendril of doubt creeping in. It had never occurred to him that this might be crossing some line. He was just helping Sammy out, wasn't he? Making this nightmare just a little easier so they could both get through it?

"Dean?" Sam whispered, and Dean's doubts dissolved. There was nothing wrong here, between him and Sam. He smoothed supple skin again and took up his story, and Sam was squinching his eyes shut and panting through his lips as he pumped himself to orgasm. This time he didn't fall right to sleep; he rolled a little on his side and watched through slitted eyes as Dean freed his dick from its cotton prison and brought about his own release.

Again Dean felt a touch of uneasiness, but minutes later Sam was sleeping, the lines of worry on his face smoothed out, the hollows of his cheeks not so obvious. And Dean shook the unwelcome feeling off.


Days passed in the unrelenting rhythm of the bricks on the wall, loosened and removed one by one. Dean finally ripped the sleeves off his flannel shirt and wrapped them around his hands, terrified of a blister or cut turning septic on him down in the increasingly close quarters of the room.

They varied their meals as much as possible given their limited options, but the cold, dull fare barely satisfied their appetites, and Dean was forced to increase their rations as they began to grow weak alarmingly quickly. It cut down their long term chances of survival, but as day after day passed with no sign of rescue, it began to seem as if their only chance was going to be getting out of there themselves. And they couldn't do that if they were too weak to work.

As the long hours wore past, Dean found his mind turning more and more to the time when they would put down their tools and rest. The moments of comfort with Sam seemed to be the only thing either of them had to look forward to, and more than once during the day Dean looked up and caught Sam's curious glance at him, before his brother flushed and turned away.

Dean still worried a little about it. After that second night, he didn't ask Sam if he wanted to hear a story, he just let Sammy curl against him while he began to whisper some tale or another. Mostly they were made up, fragments of fantasies and one or two movies he'd seen when Dad forgot to lock out the porn channel in some motel.

It didn't matter to Sam, anyway. After a while, Dean realized that his little brother was barely hearing the words; it was Dean's voice in his ear, Dean's breath against his skin that stirred him. Dean's hand sliding over his belly, up to stroke over his smooth chest, down to the fine curls of pubic hair above his dick.

And then finally, inevitably Dean's hand was wrapped around Sam's down there, and Sam was throwing his head back into the curve of Dean's neck as he moaned and panted his pleasure. Then, while his body was still trembling through the pleasurable aftershocks, he was turning in Dean's arms, pressing his mouth to the hollow of his brother's throat and returning the favor.

They never talked about it outside of the bed. But, curiously, there was never anything awkward about it either. And Dean thought maybe that's why he eventually just stopped worrying about it. If Sam had seemed uncomfortable or embarrassed... If it had seemed like what they were doing was changing their relationship for the worse...

Then Dean was sure he could have stopped it.

But, in fact, Dean felt like it was actually strengthening them. As if all the words they couldn't say, all the things they were feeling were being conveyed in those touches, unselfish, loving, hot as hell.

And the days passed.



Dean banged out the rhythm. Dot dot dot. Dash dash dash. Dot dot dot. "Yeah?" he said wearily.

Sam gazed at him across the dim room. "We're going to die down here, aren't we?"

Dean's hands dropped away from the pipe. He wanted to lie to Sam, to repeat the same tired mantra he'd been chanting for days and days. That they would get out of here. That Dad would come. But only a dozen bricks removed and yet another wall behind it made it harder to repeat the comforting story. "I don't know," he admitted quietly. "I hope not."

Sam looked down at his grimy hands, bruised and scratched despite the frayed cotton wrapped around them. "Aren't you scared?" he asked in a low voice.

"Not really." Dean frowned, dropping the can opener and climbing to his feet, stretching tired muscles. His belly felt hollow, his arms and legs like lead. He felt as if he'd slept days and days away, and yet he was so tired he barely made it to the side of the bed. "I'm not afraid to die," he said pensively, making room as Sam sat down beside him. "I don't want to, there's stuff I still want to do. And I'm worried about what Dad will do without us. But I'm not afraid."

"I wish I could be like you," Sam said softly, looking down at his hands. "I'm scared all the time."

Dean pressed against Sam's shoulder with his own. "Hunting with Dad, we've seen a lot of strange things. Enough to know that there's more to life than most people see. I'm sure there must be something to come, after this life. I'm sure there is."

"You think Mom's there?" Sam asked in a small voice.

Dean couldn't help a fleeting smile at the thought. "Maybe. But whatever comes next, Sammy, you don't have to be afraid. Because I'm here, right? You're not alone."

Sam lifted his gaze and stared at him.

"You and me, we'll go there together."

"Together?" Sam asked quietly.

Dean wrapped his arm around Sam's shoulders, tears prickling his eyes at how fragile Sam felt, how thin. "Together," he said firmly. "And there's nothing we can't face together."

Sam turned it over in his mind, and like a balm to a wound Dean saw as acceptance smoothed some of the lines of worry from his young face. He lifted damp eyes and caught Dean's. "You promise?"


Sam studied his eyes for long moments, and Dean looked back, noting the tired smudges under Sam's eyes, how pale his skin was. He lifted his hand and cupped his little brother's thin face, thumb stroking one blue shadow.

Sam's mouth trembled for a moment, then he leaned forward and tucked his head into Dean's neck, lips brushing Dean's throat, breath warm and damp on his skin.

And Dean turned a kiss onto Sam's cheek, skimming it over quivering skin, finding Sam's lips and brushing them with his. The kiss skimmed, then clung, Sam's lips parting, breath coming faster. He hummed his frustration at the soft caress, and Dean lifted his hand and stroked his thumb over his brother's lower lip, opening his mouth a little before kissing him again, harder this time, deeper.

Sam's hands clutched and he moaned, falling back onto the bed as Dean pressed him down, losing himself in warm, trembling flesh, glorying in the feel of life under his hands and mouth, Sam's life, Sam's lust as he quivered and squirmed and returned kiss for kiss, stroke for stroke. Long fingers pushed under his waistband, buttons slipping from the holes, Dean's dick wrapped and encircled by Sam's hand.

No whispered stories this time, no memories of stolen delights. Just the two of them, Sam moaning Dean's name as his big brother's hand caught his dick and stroked it, pumped it, eased the aching hardness and brought him to searing release.

"Promise," Sam sighed and panted into his mouth.


Dean didn't know how long he'd slept but he came awake in a sudden shock of sound. Metal clattered and clanked against the brick wall, the loud noise shocking after days of only their voices surrounding them. Heart pounding, head spinning, Dean jackknifed to a sitting position, staring with shock at Sam, who was standing by the pile of empty cans, his chest heaving and his fists clenched.


Sam shook his head, seeming for a moment beyond words. "I woke up and thought I'd open the cans for once," Sam said through clenched teeth. He nodded to the two red plastic bowls on the wooden cupboard. "How long did you think it would be before I figured it out?" he demanded angrily, kicking again at the pile of empty tins, the noise making Dean flinch.

Dean pressed his hand to his chest, his heart still feeling like it was trying to pound its way out. "Notice what?" he said incredulously. "That you're losing your mind?"

"You've been giving me your food!" Sam bellowed. "Haven't you?"

"Oh." Dean swung his legs around and sat up. "That."

"Yeah," Sam hissed. "That! Jesus, Dean, I'm not a little kid any more. I'm not a baby! Why did you do it?"

"Force of habit," Dean said lightly. "It's no big deal, Sam, okay?"

Sam huffed a disbelieving breath, shaking his head. "No big deal?" he repeated. "Look at you, Dean. You can barely stand up. I feel as weak as a kitten on what I've been eating, and you've been surviving on what? Half that?"

"You're making too big a thing out of this," Dean told him firmly. "I've been giving you an extra spoonful now and then, but you're still growing, Sam. You needed it more. And you've always had a bigger appetite than me."

"You don't get it, do you?" Sam appealed, anger crumbling. "I was just starting to feel like we were... equals in this." His glance took in the rumpled bed and he looked away, his pale cheeks reddening. "Is that what the last few weeks have been about as well? Pity fucks for pathetic little Sammy?"

"Okay, that's enough," Dean said, pushing himself to his feet, ignoring the spots behind his eyes. He caught Sam's shoulders and squeezed. "Look at me," he said, and Sam swallowed hard and looked up. "I don't pity you, Sam, and I never did."

"But that's what it feels like," Sam mumbled. "You're always doing this, Dean, you're always taking care of me."

"Yeah, what a bastard that makes me," Dean shot back sarcastically.

Anger sparked in Sam's eyes again, and he shook Dean off. "Well, what does it make me?" Sam demanded. "The other day you were telling me how selfish I was, thinking only about how I was feeling and not about you."

"I never said that!"

"And you were right, Dean, I was being selfish. I was acting like a kid, taking you for granted, getting mad when you weren't on my side."

"It's not like that at all," Dean said lowly.

"I don't want it to be," Sam said, hands coming up and grabbing Dean's forearms. "I don't want to always be the baby you take care of, Dean. Okay? Last night, in bed, I wasn't a baby then, was I? It wasn't just you making me feel good. We made each other feel that way, didn't we?"

"You know we did," Dean said.

"Well, that's the way I want it to be all the time. Partners. Equals. Me taking care of you now and then."

Tired all of a sudden, Dean swayed, and Sam gripped his arms tighter and pushed him gently back on the bed. "You can barely stand up," Sam said again, this time without heat. Tears trembled on his lashes, but he dashed them away with the back of his hand. "You promised we'd do this together, Dean. How can we do that if you starve yourself for my sake?"

Dean rubbed his brow, pressing fingers into the aching crease, acknowledging the truth of Sam's words. He would never have believed he could grow so weak so quickly. The nearest he could figure, they'd been down here the better part of two weeks. Surely a person could survive on short rations for a few weeks?

"I'm scared, Dean," Sam confessed, voice shaking. "What would I do without you?"

"I'm sorry, Sam," Dean said quietly. "You're right, I shouldn't have gone behind your back and done that."

Sam dropped to the ground in front of him, long, thin legs crossed. "It's okay," he sighed, shoulders slumped. "I know you meant to take care of me."

"Yeah, but it's not all unselfish and heroic like it sounds," Dean confessed. The guilt and fear in Sam's eyes was almost more than he could stand. He had to explain, to make Sam understand. "Taking care of you... Well, that's how I get through things. I'm just as scared as you are, Sam. I feel like I'm falling apart sometimes too, like I can barely hold it together. But if I have to be strong for you, I can keep myself from flying apart. You see? It's not you, Sam. It's me."

Sam reached out and took his hands, and Dean looked down at them, tears blurring his eyes. He barely recognized his own hands, his knuckles bruised and scraped from the bricks, calluses on his fingers from the hours gripping the tin cans and scraping at mortar.

"You don't have to hide that from me, Dean," Sam whispered. "I don't want you to. You can tell me anything, you know that. And if we're scared, we can be scared together."

Dean gazed into his brother's eyes, no longer seeing little Sam running to him for love and attention. Now he saw the traces of the man Sam would grow up to be, strong and kind. His chest ached at the thought that Sam was never going to be that man, that he was never going to see his little brother grow up and become everything he could be.

"I don't think we're going to get through the walls," Dean confessed. There was a gap large enough to fit through on the first wall, and the second had a half a dozen bricks removed. But behind it was ragged blocks of concrete and twisted rebar, like the detritus of a building site tipped down into the hole. Two weeks ago, Dean would have been on his knees, dragging the heavy lumps and jagged shards away as he dug their way out. Today it was all he could do to keep scraping at the mortar, to keep widening the hole.

"But we'll keep trying, right?" Sam said firmly. "When you're not strong enough, I'll keep trying. And when I can't dig any more, I'll keep sending out the SOS."

Dean smiled at the determination in Sam's voice. "Damn right," he said with as much strength as he could muster. "Now hand me my bowl and I'll eat my fair share, okay? Gotta keep our strength up."

"Damn right," Sam repeated.

Unspoken between them was the night before, all the nights before. Dean giving comfort had turned to mutual comfort, had turned to something Dean no longer struggled to put a name to. It didn't seem like something to be troubled about any more, what they did and said between the two of them.

Sam handed him his bowl and the plastic fork and then sat by him on the bed while they ate. Dean let himself lean on Sam, Sam wrapped one arm around his waist and supported him.

They leaned on each other.


More days passed in a daze of repetitive work and rationed meals. They fell into bed and each other's arms, but no longer had the desire or energy for more than comforting kisses. Every day they grew weaker. The cool damp air seemed to get into Dean's lungs, and he developed a hacking cough that kept him awake and miserable. While Sam slept fitfully, Dean would sit on the side of the bed, head in his hands, feeling wretched and ill.

True to his word, Dean divided up the rest of the food evenly under Sam's watchful eye, but it was plain that the rations weren't nearly enough. Sam's cheeks grew gaunt, and Dean stumbled whenever he stood up, black spots behind his eyes as he swayed dizzily. The gnawing ache in his stomach had become familiar; he tried to fill it with water but soon just felt bloated and sick. One day in the middle of a coughing fit, he felt it coming back up, and barely made it to the toilet bowl in time to throw up the contents of his stomach.

Sam helped him back to the bed and handed him the cup to rinse his mouth out with, thin hand shaking. They abandoned their work for the day and curled up on the bed. Sam gave into his grief, and Dean allowed himself to as well, weak tears running down his cheeks and into his hair.

"Don't forget," Sam mumbled into his shoulder. "You promised. You won't go without me."

The prison was spinning around him, and Dean closed his eyes. "I won't forget," he whispered past the burn in his throat. Hours later, Sam awoke from a nightmare and shivered beside him.

"I'm sorry," he wept. "I'm sorry, Dean. I dreamt I was in here alone, and when I woke up I was glad to see you. I'm sorry."

"Sammy." Dean rolled onto his side and caught his brother's arm as firmly as he could manage. "Listen to me, okay?"

Sam blinked swollen eyes and peered at him.

"If I had a choice, right now," Dean said hoarsely, groping for words. "I mean, if an angel or something came down and offered me freedom, out there, with Dad, looking for you, or being here with you... It's no contest, man. The only thing worse than you being here with me would be you being here alone."

"Y-you'd be safe," Sam said shakily. "You wouldn't be sick."

"I wouldn't be with you," Dean said, squeezing Sam's arm. "Together, remember? Whatever happens next, we go there together."


It was one thing to talk about dying together. But it turned out that dying was hard. It hurt, and it was slow. And it wasn't so easy going together.

The last time he worked on the wall, Dean paused for one of his increasingly frequent rests and gazed down at the latest piece of tin he was using to scrape with. The rough mortar had honed the edge to a knife-like sharpness, and Dean turned it over in his hand, admiring the sharp edge. Without consciously thinking about it, he put the piece of tin aside and started using another.

One day, Dean couldn't get up from the bed. The food was gone. Dean had insisted Sammy eat the last of it, as he could barely keep water down any more, and eating his share would just be a waste. Sammy shoveled it down like he was shoveling fuel into a fire, eyes alive with guilt. But when Dean couldn't even stand unaided to pee any more, Sam could still slump against the wall, beating out his persistent tattoo of distress.

Once Dean stirred awake from his groggy stupor and found Sam crouched next to him, the sharp tin in his hand, his eyes fixed on the thin bones of his wrist.

Dean lifted his hand and caught feebly at Sam's arm.

"Not yet," he pleaded, because even through his daze he winced at the thought of that jagged metal tearing Sammy's fragile skin. "Don't give up yet."

The next time he stirred to consciousness, Sam was holding his hand, head bent over, face pressed to his palm.

"Please don't leave me, Dean," he was whispering, breath ghosting over Dean's skin. "Please don't leave me alone."

Dean tried to lift his hand again, to touch Sammy's head, to run his fingers through shaggy hair one last time. But he was too weak, and his free hand collapsed back onto the bed.

The rest of the time all Dean could hear was the persistent tattoo, that SOS beating against his skull, as Sammy fought valiantly to the last. As he used the final vestiges of his strength up in hope.


"I'm telling you, Boss," Jimmy Hagman said, taking off his hard hat and wiping at his sweaty brow. "I've been hearing it off and on for days. This weird... tapping noise."

Carter Wallace rolled his eyes and followed his foreman down to the condemned property. "Probably just the wind banging a shutter or something," he said dismissively, grimacing up at the dilapidated old property. Paint hung from the wood in ragged strips, boards were missing, and one side was a blackened wreck after a lightening strike the year before. It was about time it was pulled down, he thought.

Jimmy paused and cocked his head. "Nah," he denied. "It sounds like it's coming from underground. I'd swear-" He broke off, listening hard. "There, that's it! You hear that?"

Carter tilted his head, an old, familiar memory sparking in his brain.

"I think-" Jimmy began, but Carter cut him off with a abrupt gesture.

"Shh," he said, the sound clearer now. "My god," he whispered. "Jimmy, you idiot. That's an SOS!"

Jimmy stared at him, dumbfounded.

"Don't you get it? Someone must be trapped down there! Sully! Jack! Get an axe over here! I need some help!" Carter threw down his clip board and tore off his jacket. "Don't just stand there gaping, man!" he bellowed. "Call 911! We need a rescue team, ambulances, cops, too, probably! Hurry!"

End of Part One