Author's note: - Couldn't help it, the muse bit. Hope you enjoy.

I feel I should also point out that I had only seen the first half of season 1 when I wrote this, although I have subsequently read enough fanfic to get what the season finale was about. The similarities in plot were unintentional, so take this as set mid season 1

Synopsis: What would you give for your brother's life?


Sam coughed and blinked his eyes open, curling into the pain as it drew his breath, and he coughed again.

"Sam, Sammy," the voice was slightly rough, insistent, not matching the gentle touch to his cheek, the supportive hand around his back and shoulder. There was a deeper impatience to it, tinged with fear.

Sam finally blinked the pain induced tears from his eyes, and forced some sort of focus. His brother's eyes were wide and dark, and, whereas the fear had barely sounded in his voice, it was practically incandescent in his features.

"Dean?" Sam forced the name out and it sounded gravelly and weak, but from the way his brother's expression changed it looked like all of his Christmas wishes had arrived at once, the fear melted away for just a second and Dean gave a smile that flashed white teeth in stark contrast to his blackened features, and Sam heard the barely audible, "Thank God."

"Yeah Sam, you're gonna be OK," Dean stated, this time clear enough to be heard, and for a moment Sam thought he was going to pull him into a full embrace and hug him. Right about that moment it wouldn't have felt so bad, except maybe for the pain that still bit across his chest. He looked into his brother's eyes.

"What happened?" he asked, searching the fragments of memory that would not coalesce into a whole, for some idea of why he was lying on a filthy stone floor, in a room lit only by candlelight, of why pain stabbed across his chest and his head pounded and. . .The memories practically collided with his consciousness, drawing air from his lungs. He winced, not sure if it was from the physical pain or the terror that engulfed him. That thing had been literally tearing him apart and there was nothing he could do. He had seen the bodies, knew what was happening, with a sickening clarity, he knew.

"No," he whimpered, pulling back and scooting to the side, afraid of the figure next to him. For a moment unaware that it was his brother, that he was trying to help.

Dean felt the returning tension, saw the terror return as his brother pulled away from him and his heart ached with his own pain. He should have been here sooner, should have stopped it sooner.

Sam frantically scanned the room for any sign of the Demon that had been killing him. Not that he had much chance of seeing it. It only ever half formed, clouds of swirling blackness and flashes of silver and white, were all you ever saw, just before the claws raked down, and pain wiped vision, even as the form twisted again and disappeared in a swirling cloak of nothingness, and then there was the agonising wait, jumping at half shadows, watching and turning, not knowing where it was, where it would come from, where it would strike next. The fear stole his focus, the panic blurred his senses and consumed him for a moment in its intensity. Where was it now? Why couldn't he see it? When would it strike?

"Hey," Dean chased after his brother, "Calm down Sammy he's not here, he's gone." He bit off the for now, Sam did not need to hear that. Dean just had to get him out of here before he had to face that eventually and he swallowed hard, almost baulking at how difficult that task would be, but he had to, had to make him leave before. . .had to save at least one of them. He moved forward, allowing his hand to rest on his brother's cheek again, his other settling on his shoulder, drawing strength from the warmth, as he tried to quell the panicked reaction. "Can you hear me Sam? He's gone."

Sam continued to look around frantically, his head twisting in his brother's cupped hand, the words danced unprocessed at the edge of his consciousness. "Where was it ? How. .? Why. . ? Dean's presence suddenly registered again and he looked at his brother as thoughts finally connected. Dean? . .Dean was there? Dean was in danger too. He looked into his brother's eyes. "No," he stated with conviction. "You have to get out of here, you have to. . ."

Dean was having a hard time controlling his own fears, he couldn't remember seeing his brother this terrified before, small shivers ran through trembling muscles, blood dripped from the open wound that ran across his chest. "Sam," his hand dropped so that he now gripped both shoulders, attempting to stop his brother from twisting away again. He gave a slight shake. "Sam can you hear me? He's gone," he repeated as forcefully as he could.

Sam stopped struggling and stared into his brother's eyes as the words finally registered. "Gone," he repeated numbly.

Dean repeated it back to him "Gone," he stated.

Sam's shoulders, relaxed minutely, and Dean loosened his grip a little, but he was not ready to let go, not yet. He could still feel his brother shaking, could see the raw fear in his eyes.

"Are. . Are you sure?" Sam asked as his breathing became less ragged.

Dean nodded and even managed a half smile. "I'm sure. He won't be coming back after you," he stated with confidence.

Sam pulled a hand across his chest and dropped his head slightly as he attempted once again to breath through the pain. Complete trust in his brother's words sent relief coursing through his body like a warm flow. The adrenaline surge began to dissipate and he suddenly felt incredibly tired. The last of his memories finally connected and he gave another nod. "You found the crystal." It was a statement not a question. Destroying the crystal was the only thing that would stop the Demon and if it wasn't coming back then Dean must have found and destroyed the crystal.

There was only the slightest of shifts in the atmosphere in the room as Dean stood and backed away, but Sam sensed it, sensed that there was something wrong. Even if it wasn't a question Dean should have confirmed it. Should have been gloating about the fact that they had finally finished off this bastard that had been praying on. . He looked up and caught the flash of guilt on his brother's face.

"You didn't find the crystal?" He asked, his tone incredulous, fear and anger rising again in equal measure, as he pushed himself to his feet. "But you said it wasn't coming back. You said. .?" He couldn't stop himself from sweeping his gaze around the room again.

"Not quite what I said," Dean admitted, meeting and holding his brother's gaze. He would dearly have loved to have continued lying, to maintain the relief, to wipe that look of panic completely from his younger sibling's features, but that was not a luxury he could afford, not if he had any chance of getting his brother to leave without him. Sam had to go and he had to go now. He was already hurting, in terrible pain, he didn't need to go through any more. Dean wanted to spare him what was to come. He had just lived it, he didn't want his little brother to go through that. He had to get him to leave.

Sam rewound the conversation in his head and let out a breath. "You said he wouldn't be coming back," there was the briefest of pauses before the critical words, another breath "after me." He looked deep into his brother's eyes as tears formed in his own. "No," he shook his head. The ideas were connecting in his head and he tried to stop them, as though that would somehow alter the truth. "You didn't?" he asked softly.

The guilt and love in his brother's eyes was all the answer he needed, but he still didn't want to believe it. "Tell me that you didn't." His tone was more forceful as he scanned his brother's features, but there was still only guilt and love and. . and was that pain?

Denial burned up from his gut, and, although he knew the truth, he searched for evidence that he was wrong. He couldn't have. . .His eyes swept across the room to the rough stone table that eerily resembled an alter in some bad horror movie. There were the tell tale fragments of burnt parchment. Nausea threatened to overwhelm him as the true horror of his brother's actions hit. He turned back to face him and swallowed hard. Shook his head once more. "Why?" he asked, and he could see tears to match his own forming in his brother's eyes, but like his they didn't fall.

"That thing was killing you," Dean replied. "I couldn't. . ." He blinked and swallowed hard, fighting now to control the emotions that the memory evoked as his gut twisted in an agony of tension. "You were screaming," the words were almost whispered now, his head shaking minutely with each phrase. "I couldn't just stand by and let it. . " He paused as his brother's scream echoed clearly in his head. " I couldn't hear you. ." The image of his brother's face contorted in pain. "C. .couldn't watch you. . ." The words choked off.

Sam stared at him for a moment. "So now I have to watch the same thing happen to you? Is that it?" There was more than a hint of anger mixed with the pain. "Don't pull this big brother crap with me Dean," Sam almost spat the words as the emotions coiled around each other and distorted any perspective he had. He was shouting now. "You really think that's better?"

Dean glanced down the guilt twisting a little deeper. His brother was right, surviving this would be far harder, it was not something he was strong enough to do. Wasn't sure that Sam was either, but he had denied his brother the same choice that he had made. There had been only one parchment, only one shot at this. He shook his head, he couldn't have let him die, not for anything, not even if it meant. . . . Still his brother did not have to be here, did not have to watch. "You don't have to stay," he stated. "Get out of here. He won't. .can't come after you now." He took a step forward. "Just leave." It was as close to begging as Dean had ever come. "Please, just leave. Before. ."

Sam was about to argue, about to tell his brother that he was insane that they had to come up with something else that. . . but he saw the tell tale swirl of black and the words froze in his throat. He was too late.

Dean just had time to register the terror on his brother's face before his back ignited in agony and he screamed.