Standard Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters belong to Kripke and a bunch of suits. I'm just taking them out for a ride.

Duty Protect

by Liz Bach

"Where is he?"

"I know you love him, Dean. I know you do."

Verona Crawford had a small, cold hand on Dean Winchester's arm. Her thin fingers hooked onto the seam of his sleeve, and she gave it a gentle, almost flirtatious tug. The sensation of her soft skin against his made Dean's own flesh crawl. The way she touched him – like she knew him, and maybe even cared about him – only intensified the apprehension he'd been trying to suppress since the minute he realized Sam had been gone too long.

He looked down into her earnest face, not wanting to believe they could have made so grave a mistake. A hollow ache settled in the pit of his stomach as she gazed back up at him. Her eyes were so warm, so deep. She stared at him with all the conviction of a true fanatic, a tentative half-smile on her face. Her free hand came up to catch his other arm and squeeze. She was attempting to reassure him, and the very gesture made his apprehension shift into full-blown panic.

"Where is he?" he demanded, twisting out of her grasp and instead clutching her upper arms with a much harsher grip. "Answer me!"

"I saved his life," she asserted.

"You're not answering my question, bitch," Dean ground out, teeth clenched, his hold on Verona's silk sleeves growing ever tighter.

"How long ago did you lose him?"

Dean faltered momentarily, surprised and confused by the question. He couldn't figure out at what point this job had spiraled out of control.

"What?" He was searching her face, trying to understand what was happening. How had this woman, who had been so kind and sympathetic for the past two days, who had so helplessly beckoned them to her in need of assistance and relief, so abruptly morphed into a complete lunatic? He shook his head in frustration, and his voice was unexpectedly calm and oddly patient – like Sam's – when he next spoke. "What are you talking about? Verona, where is my brother? Where's Sam?"

"Somewhere safe," she breathed, with that same damn, sad smile on her obscenely red lips. "He's safe, Dean."

Suddenly, Dean snapped, and he slammed Verona's small, frail body hard against the kitchen wall. Dishes rattled in the cabinet beside them. She brought both hands up in supplication, but never broke eye contact.

"Dean, please," she said. "I understand how you feel. Trying to protect him from the things that are after him."

Dean's blood ran cold, and his eyes widened a fraction, betraying his dismay. He prayed this woman couldn't feel his hands shaking and pressed his fingers even harder against her silk-sleeved biceps in an effort to hide it.

"This was the only way," she whispered, tears forming in her eyes as the pressure on her arms slowly turned into pain. She never fought him, though, just let him squeeze. "And he couldn't trust you to do it. You couldn't trust yourself to do it. I saw that," she insisted, her voice elevating in pitch and volume. "You wanted this! You needed my help!"

Dean shook his head slightly, partly in disbelief and partly in an effort to clear away the encroaching fog that threatened to overwhelm him. It was hot and red, clouding his judgment, reflecting his anger.

"Lady, you have five seconds to tell me what the hell you've done to my brother," Dean growled, his voice rising from someplace deep within his throat, "or I swear to God, I will rip your fucking head off."

Verona shrank before his eyes, cowered in his grasp. Suddenly, she looked so small, like her long, wool skirt and her soft, silk blouse were several sizes too large for her body. The nine-foot ceilings absolutely towered above her, as if she were a child-sized doll living alone in this haunted house.

"I protected him," she maintained, her voice low. "Dean, he wasn't safe here – "

"Where is he?" Dean yelled.

Her eyes went dull, like a light had been extinguished. "I buried him," she murmured. "In a shallow grave…but deep enough. He's going to be okay." Her eyes never left his. She shook her head in an unbelievable mixture of accusation and disappointment, and Dean wanted to deck her for her audacity. "I did what you couldn't. I protected him. I saved him when he needed to be saved. He's not going to suffer for your weakness any longer."

It was one of his least proud moments, and Dean was ironically glad his brother was not there to witness it. His fist slammed hard against Verona Crawford's face, and the spray of blood that escaped her newly broken nose was spectacular. It spread out like a fan across the stark white wall against which Dean had her pinned. The impact of her head hitting and bouncing off the drywall left behind an indentation the diameter of a baseball or a large peach.

He was unduly gentle as he lowered her to the floor. His legs trembled, and he stumbled slightly as he rushed down the hall and out of the house. In the churning haze that was his panicked mind, Dean tried to calculate the amount of time that had elapsed since he'd last seen his brother. The amount of time that Sam had been dying.


It was so dark, and the absence of sound was deafening. The space was claustrophobically tight, and his limbs were still numb; all he could feel was the damp warmth of his own breath as it hit the surface above him and weakly ricocheted back down across his cold, clammy cheeks and forehead. It was almost like complete sensory deprivation, except Sam could smell the acrid stench of his own fear all around him. It filled his nostrils and was so pervasive that he could taste it, harsh and bitter toward the back of his throat. It was a scent that he knew – if he survived – would stay with him forever. And the next time he smelled it, it would recall to him this particular moment in hell, and he would be tempted to give up just to escape it.

A/N: Hmm. So. Just an idea I've been tossing around. This is either a one shot or a prologue/teaser; I haven't decided yet. There's obviously a backstory to this. I just haven't committed to writing it yet, and I didn't want to lead you on and then take three months to update. ;)