Title: Wasteland Flame Below

Rating: R

Category: Gen AU oneshot

Word Count: 5809

Characters: Dean, Sam, Ellen and small bits of others

Spoilers: S2: "Croatoan" and "Hunted"

Summary: Even the best hunter can sometimes underestimate his prey.

Warnings: Character death

Disclaimer: The following characters and situations are used without permission of the creators, owners, and further affiliates of the television show, Supernatural, to whom they rightly belong. I claim only what is mine, and I make no money off what is theirs.

After Gordon, other hunters come to kill Sam.

Sometimes Sam has a vision, and he wakes Dean in the night so they can leave the latest motel immediately. Sometimes Sam doesn't have a vision, and the brothers are forced to speed away in the Impala with Dean shouting obscenities and Sam hunkering down in the backseat to avoid the gunfire.

When they stop to rest, Sam will say that they should have stayed to fight. At least then they could have seen the faces of the men who hunt them. But Dean will always shake his head and swear under his breath. They are not going to stay and fight, he'll say to Sam. They just need to lay low until this blows over.

Sam will look away and mutter in disagreement; he'll say that it isn't Dean they want anyway. Sooner or later, Dean's going to get himself killed trying to protect Sam.

Dean never answers that comment and instead tells Sam to get back in the car. He refuses to imagine the possibility that Sam might be murdered, slaughtered like a monster of the night.

They drive and they run. They stay alive.

At last, the hunters find them, and they cannot escape.

- - - - -

Dean awakes to the sound of Sam's voice hissing in his ear. "Dean," Sam says. His voice is so close that Dean can feel Sam's breath on his skin. "Dean, wake up."

Dean groans and nods. "I'm awake," he mumbles, instinctively reaching for the gun on the bed next to him. During the last month, they have been sleeping in their traveling clothes—jeans and boots, coats and keys. Because they never know when the hunters will find them. Because they never know.

"They're outside," Sam whispers; his fingers dig nervously into Dean's shoulder in sharp jabs of pain. Dean does not ask him to move. Sam's fear is Dean's own.

"Are you sure?" Dean asks.

"Yes. I saw them. In my vision. There's about six or seven of them. The Impala is rigged, too. We start the engine, it'll explode. They're going to come in here in about fifteen minutes or so."

Standing in the darkness with his hands laced on his head, Dean is on his feet next to his bed. The blinds are closed against the outside, but he keeps the lights off so that the hunters cannot see their shadows. Fifteen minutes is not enough time. An eternity would not have been enough time.

He fumbles over to his bag, pulls out a pair of guns and tucks them into the waistband of his jeans. Before going to sleep that night, he slipped knives into the tops of his boots. Even though Sam also has a set of weapons on him, Dean knows that Sam and he will be no match for the hunters' assumed arsenal.

"Just let them take me," Sam whispers in a rush of air, hot and fast, across his tongue. "It's me they want. Me. They'll let you go. Leave you alone if they can get me."

"Fuck you," Dean snaps. Shoves his hands into his pockets so he doesn't hit Sam for suggesting such an idea. "I'm not going to let you play martyr just to save my ass. Nobody's getting handed over, gottit?"

"Then what are we going to do?"

"I've got an idea that might give us some time to get away—"

"We have no car," Sam reminds him, and Dean hears his brother pacing in the darkness, soft steps over the carpeting.

"We're not going to just wait here like they want us to. Dammit, Sam," Dean says, and his voice breaks upon saying his brother's name. His heart is pounding in his ears, and the taste of terror, bitter and acidic, is creeping up the back of his throat. But, Dean shakes his head, trying futilely to clear his mind. His brother cannot—will not—die tonight. "Hand me the first aid stuff. Hurry."

- - - - -

After digging through their bags, they have a bottle and a half of rubbing alcohol, less than a quarter of hydrogen peroxide, and a full bottle of tequila that Dean bought a while back and never got the chance to enjoy. Quickly, they rip the bed sheets into pieces and shove the rags down the bottles' necks.

When they finish, they grab their makeshift explosives and what remaining weapons they have and go into the bathroom. They line the bottles in front of them and crouch on their haunches, too afraid to move, only able to wait.

"Dean, if we don't make it through this—"

"Shut up," Dean growls under his breath. "I don't want to hear any of your goddamn good-byes. This is not the end. It's not."

Sam sighs heavily. He bows his head in silent compliance.

At last, they hear the quiet scratching of a lock being picked. Dean flicks his lighter and holds the flame near the rag without touching it. Sam does the same as they wait breathlessly behind the half-open bathroom door.

The hunters enter the room, and as soon as the men close the door behind them, Dean presses his flame to the top of his cloth. Rapidly, Sam and he finish lighting the rest of the torn fabric, and then they slip out the open bathroom window. The room explodes behind them just as Dean shimmies out the window. A blast hurls him to the ground, and Sam, soot on his face, is instantly beside him, pulling him to his feet.

They run.

They make it to the surrounding forest as the motel blazes behind them. There are women screaming, frail and high-pitched, and a child wails madly. Men are swearing angrily. Dean only hears the loud pounding of his heart, and he keeps his eyes focused on Sam's shirt in front of him.

Suddenly, Sam yells, trips and disappears through a hole in the ground that has been covered in leaves and twigs. Dean skids to a stop and bends down next to the trap.

"Grab my hand!" he shouts at Sam.

The hole is deeper than Dean assumed, and Sam's fingertips barely graze Dean's when he stretches upward. "Jump! Sam, jump!"

But, then Dean hears the breaking of a stick behind him, and he looks over his shoulder without thinking. The last thing he sees before being shoved into unconsciousness is the butt of a gun flying toward his face. His world turns white with the crack against his chin and then fades to black.

- - - - -

The blackness ebbs, and Dean slowly comes to consciousness. He groans and tries to lift his head, but he finds his neck too sore to move. When he opens his eyes, he sees a gun pointed in his face. He knows, without moving, that his wrists and ankles are bound behind him, strung together in a painful twist of his spine. Flicking his eyes away from the gun, he sees that he is lying in the back of a truck. The trees around him are tall with dark branches reaching to the deep midnight blue sky. The motel is nowhere in sight, and he cannot smell the smoke anymore. He assumes that they must be miles away. Far enough from other people where they will not be found.

"Sorry about knocking you out earlier," the man holding the gun says to him. Dean, vision swimming, vaguely recognizes him as one of his father's drinking buddies.

"Where's Sam? What did you do with him?"

"Let him go," the man says. "He's not human. You should know that by now, Dean."

"He's my brother!" Dean shouts, trying to twist out of his binds, but finding them too tight to move. "Goddammit!"

"He may be your brother now, but soon enough, he's going to be a monster. Look, Dean, I wish I didn't have to do this. But, there's a war coming, and if we humans stand any chance of winning, we've got to get rid of as many of these bitches as we can now."

"Sam's different from them. He's not a monster. He's not."

The hunter shrugs and directs the gun away from Dean as he looks over his shoulder to where men are tossing wood in a large heap. The logs clatter noisily against each other. "Maybe not now. But he will be. I've seen it happen. Once they turn, they're almost impossible to kill without getting killed yourself." He sighs and looks back at Dean, who is glaring up at him. "I'm sorry it has to be your brother, I really am. I knew you guys when you were kids. I saw him grow up. Your dad was a good man, but a monster's a monster no matter where it started. We're all hunters, Dean. You should know that."

As Dean watches, the men light the logs, and a small fire begins in the base of the woodpile. Little orange spirals grow in the depths, and the heap smokes up to spindle skeleton tree branches. Suddenly, he realizes what they are going to do with his brother. "You're going to burn him alive," Dean says. It is statement, not a question.

The man shakes his head, eyes downcast. "We're not cruel. He won't suffer. We'll make it quick…for both of you. We just want to make sure that his ghost doesn't try to come back at all. Basic hunting knowledge."

Dean feels sick and bites his lip as a roll of nausea sweeps over his body. He lays his head against the cool metal of the truck bed and tries to think. He hears his father telling him to watch out for Sam, telling him to save Sam, telling him that Sam is his responsibility now. His father's words drum a headache on his temples.

Then, he hears Sam's voice, a screaming plea bursting through the trees. Dean lifts his head at the sound, and the man with the gun turns and holds him down forcefully. "Sam!" Dean yells, thrashing against the grip of the hunter. "Sam!"

But Sam does not answer him. Sam only continues to shout in the distance, and Dean cannot see his younger brother. "It'll be over soon," the hunter says quietly as if he does not want to be heard by the others. "It'll be over…"

A gunshot.

Sam's voice stops and silence follows.

"Sam!" Dean flings himself forward, pushing the hunter over and tumbling out of the truck bed. He hits the ground sharply, and the wind is knocked out of him. He lies, gasping, on the cold dirt, until his father's friend from so long ago, picks him up and rests him back in the truck.

"It's over, Dean, it's over," the man is saying, almost trying to be comforting as Dean chokes on his tears and rising screams. The mud, from when he fell, is cold and wet on his face. "It's over now. Don't worry…" Dean will not break in front of these men. Sam cannot be dead.

The man rests his hand, large and rough with calluses and age, on Dean's shoulder. "Look, I'll take you back now. Your car's fine. We took off the explosive we had on there before we hotwired it. It's not far from here. You can go on with your life."

Dean shakes his head numbly, vision blurring with hot tears in his eyes. The muscles in his back burn with pain from the distorting form they have tied him in. "No," he whispers, voice hoarse and pinched. "No, I can't go."

"Dean, you don't want to stay for this…"

"He's my brother," Dean replies weakly. "Let me stay. I need…to…" His statement fades to nothing, voice lost on the passing wind. He needs to see Sam. He needs to touch Sam. He needs to know.

The man pauses and his face is hard with confusion, then his features soften and he nods. "All right," he mumbles. "All right, if you say so." He pulls a switchblade from his pocket and cuts the ropes from Dean.

When at last Dean is free, he slides off the tailgate of the truck and goes to stand by the fire. He wipes the mud from his face and closes his eyes tight together. Rubbing his wrists, raw and red, he concentrates on breathing. One breath in. One breath out. Sam is not dead. With every burst of air to his lungs, he further convinces himself that Sam is not gone, and he slowly opens his eyes to face the night.

A group of men, walking slowly and steadily, appear from the forest with a large bag wrapped in black canvas slung over their shoulders. They heave the bundle onto the fire where the logs break beneath the weight and snap flicks of orange. With the gesture, the canvas parts just far enough for Dean to see the face beneath, unmoving and blood splattered.

Sam's still eyes stare vacantly up at the sky.

- - - - -

The next few hours are a mindless blur.

Dean sees himself falling to the ground, unable to cry or speak, unable to move or fight. He sees himself being lifted upward by the hunters, their hands under his arms, and they load him into the cab of the truck. In the backseat, he lies on unfamiliar leather that smells of gunpowder and gasoline. He dumbly watches the way his fingers curl and uncurl over the edge of the seat as the truck bounces through holes in the road. The radio is a crackle and the hunters' voices a murmur in the background of his mind where the only thing he can hear is Sam screaming at the end. Sam.

Sam can't be—

He sees himself helped out of the truck and being handed the keys to his car that is parked on a dead-end road in the darkness. The man, who saw Dean and Sam as children when John was still alive, pats Dean on the shoulder and apologizes again. Dean only looks up at him impassively, eyes as empty as Sam's were. Then, the hunters climb inside their truck and drive away, red taillights fading into small specks as they disappear over the hill. Dean remains alone, a little boy lost, standing next to his car.

—not Sam, anybody but Sam—

He searches out the Impala's key among the others he has collected over the years, and when he goes to fit the key into the lock, his hand wavers and the clutch drops.

Dean follows them to the ground.

He slides down the side of the car to his knees; his clenched fists move down the window above his head. He bends his neck, pressing his forehead to the cool metal, and the grief he has been holding back surges forward in a powerful whip of emotion. His hands fall stupidly to the ground where he slams them against gravel until blood gathers on his knuckles. The rocks grind under his knees, digging through his jeans into his flesh, as he shifts and struggles to rise. He doesn't think he'll ever find the strength to stand again. Eventually, his screams and sobs become the same.

In hacking bursts of agony, he cries as the sun rises over the horizon to welcome the first day of his life without his brother.

- - - - -

He does not remember how he makes it to the motel where he awakes the following night. His bag of clothing is opened on the floor below him, and he has pulled Sam's clothing bag next to him. Very few of their possessions were destroyed in the explosion at the previous motel where they left their clothes in the car as Sam and Dean were constantly on the move. Now, Dean presses his face into the rough material of Sam's bag, smelling his brother and hating himself for not being able to save him.

During these days, Dean does not move from the bed, does not eat or drink. He drifts in and out of sleep, haunted by dreams of Sam and plagued by Sam's final scream before the end.

The gunshot that ended it all ricochets endlessly through Dean's nightmares.

His grief has turned his stomach to a pit of heavy lead that dampens his movements. Outside, he can hear the people continuing about their day, bright and bubbling, and he wants to run to them. He wants to grab them by the shoulders and scream and ask them when they got the right to be so damn happy. His brother is dead, and Dean is the only one who mourns for him. The rest of the world doesn't give a fuck.

Finally Dean's starvation drags him from the bed, and he is forced to stagger outside to find some mediocre food from the snack machine near the building. He tears open the bag of chips and eats them madly, becoming acutely aware of his overwhelming hunger. But, when he has finished and his mind rights itself on what has happened, he is yanked back to Sam.

Dean has failed Sam and in doing so, has failed his father. He has seen every member of his family die and burn, and he knows the smell of their bodies as they crumbled to ashes. The loneliness of his world hits him like a cruel slap.

He pulls the gun from his coat and holds it in his hands, testing its weight as if he has not used it a hundred times before. The thought of ending it right here outside this motel in the middle of nowhere is so tempting he goes so far as to cock the gun into place. But, he lacks the strength to lift the weapon to his temple and pull the trigger.

Under the bloated white moon that watches him from the treetops, Dean decides right then that he will never hunt again.

Not without Sam.

Not like those men.

His life as Dean Winchester is over.

- - - - -

He finds a job at an auto shop where he changes his last name to something traditional, something ordinary and safe. During the day, he barely talks to his coworkers and customers and instead remains buried under the curved metal of a car's belly. At night, he goes to the bars and drinks by himself. Never enough to feel the prickled joy of being drunk, but enough to numb his emotions to live through another day. He'll pick up a girl occasionally and fuck her before he can change his mind. When he comes, it's always quick and violent. There is never joy in the sex. The actions, his sweat and her moans are only distractions from reality. In his apartment, he never asks the women to stay until morning with him. They never offer.

He parks the Impala outside his apartment and leaves it there, refusing to touch the thing for all the money in the world. The car still smells of Sam and his goddamn fancy shampoo and college boy deodorant. Dean throws Sam's clothes and his into the trunk as the outfits are all too reminiscent of their time hunting together. The fancy suits as Homeland Security, the tweed sports jackets in the hospital, the cassocks, and more. Dean decides it can all fucking rot right where it is.

When he starts his new job, he buys himself a new set of clothes, different from the ones he had before. He puts his leather jacket away, his protective amulet, everything that is from those unmentionable days. The only things he keeps are the weapons. The guns and the knives he stores throughout his small apartment just blocks from the shop.

One day, a new kid starts at the shop. Dean is to train him, the boss says, show him the ropes. The kid has blonde hair pulled back in a scraggly ponytail, and he spits as Dean tries to explain procedures to him. He is foul and rude, bitches about life and how the world is going to hell, how his brother is a stuck-up jackass and his mother is a drunken slut. Dean decides that he hates him when the kid picks his teeth and swears as a customer enters the store.

"What's your name, anyway?" Dean asks, shoving his hands in his pockets and focusing on the floor.

"Who the fuck cares? It's Sam."

Dean looks up at the kid and punches him in the face before he has a chance to stop himself.

- - - - -

The years pass over each other, slow and cold in a way that Dean hasn't seen since the time that Sam left for college. After a while, Dean stops going to the bars and starts buying his booze to take home and drink by himself. He stops picking up women and stops caring about how he looks. He simply goes to work, does his job and comes home. His boss only warns him about the incident with the kid named Sam, who quits a week later, and after that, Sam is never spoken of again. A couple of the shop guys ask about Dean, want to make sure he is okay, but Dean brushes them aside and ignores them. As much as he tries not to think about his brother's death, it is the only thing on his mind.

Dean decides that the pain he feels every waking moment is his punishment for what he failed to do. For not saving Sam, this life is his punishment. The way that he can show his father that he is sorry. The way he can show Sam that he didn't mean for it to happen.

This is his Hell. His wasteland now.

- - - - -

One day, Dean receives a phone call while he is sitting at his table and eating a microwavable dinner by himself. He lets the phone ring six times—he does not have an answering machine—before deciding that the caller is persistent enough for him to answer.

"Is this Dean Winchester?" the female voice on the other end asks. No one has called him Dean Winchester in years. Not since Sam died. That part of him left with Sam. He instantly prickles at hearing the name again.

"Who is this?" he says cautiously, leaning against the old refrigerator that leaks every now and then. There are only two magnets, left by the previous owner, on the outside of the door.

"Dean, baby, is that you? This is Ellen. From the Roadhouse?" He can hear the clinking of glass bottles in the background and the gruff voices of men.

Dean swallows something hot that suddenly rises up from his stomach. He's thought of Ellen and Jo, other hunters his father knew, but he has not spoken to them since moving on. He clears his throat and tries to be nonchalant. "Hey, Ellen."

"Oh Dean, I heard about Sam and I—"

He shakes his head. He can't do this. Can't stand here and listen to her mothering platitudes of fucking sympathy. "Ellen, don't. Okay? Don't. Please."

She murmurs in agreement. Not a willing agreement, but enough that she won't mention Sam again, and she continues, "The reason I called is that there's something killing hunters."

"Yeah? So? I quit that a long time ago."

Ellen sighs, a flurry of static across the phone line. "I know you did. We've been keeping tabs on you—how do you think I got your phone number? Look, I know you quit it, but I just wanted to warn you to be careful."

"Maybe they're cursed or something. Bad hunt."

"Maybe," she agrees. "But, watch your back, Dean. Whatever's after them is nasty and angry."

"Who are the hunters?" he asks.

Ellen pauses before answering, as if she's thinking about not giving him the names. He won't blame her if she doesn't; he really doesn't have any right to know. After all, he's the one that turned and left. Gave up that world for safety and normalcy. For a place where he can survive without driving himself to suicide. But, then she tells him the names of the hunters, and he immediately knows how they're connected.

Dean presses a hand to his forehead. He feels nauseous and dizzy, and he reaches for his chair to sit down before he collapses to the floor. "They killed Sam," he whispers distantly. "They were the ones who killed Sam." Goosebumps creep across his skin.

"Dean?" Ellen's saying, her voice tight with concern. "Dean, you okay?"

"I bet," he breathes, bending his head to look at the floor that twists and swims in his vision. "I bet it's the demon that's after them. They killed Sam, so now the demon's going to kill them."

Ellen curses quietly something about a war after all, and Dean knows what he has to do.

- - - - -

He gathers his weapons from where he hid them around his apartment, and he takes the Impala's key off its dusty hook in his bedroom. The key is cold against his palm, and he rolls it through his fingers as he thinks about what he's preparing to do. While a part of him believes that he is too out of practice to be undertaking something of this magnitude—it's been over five years since Sam died—he knows that when the moment comes, he'll be ready.

He's been ready for this his entire life.

So, he cuts his hair and shaves his face. He pulls his clothes from the Impala, his jacket and necklace, his boots and jeans with the holes in the knees. He changes, and he sharpens his blades and cleans his guns. When they shine new, he puts the key into the ignition and turns it. The engine instantly comes to life with a growled snort, and he thinks it's laughing at him. Laughing at him that he ever thought that he could escape being a Winchester.

- - - - -

It takes him three days to make it to the Roadhouse. Once inside, Ellen hands him a cold bottle of beer already uncapped and a manila folder sealed shut. Dean accepts the beer, and he pauses before he takes the folder. Once he's seated, he looks up at Ellen curiously, curling his lips around the lid of the bottle and drinking slowly. The liquid slides down the back of his throat in a cool and slimy way.

"That's photos of the men who have been killed," she explains, tapping her nails against the bar where the folder rests. "It also…" She pauses and glances over her shoulder to make sure that no one is listening to their conversation. "It also has the names of all the men we think are associated with killing Sam. Where you can find them."

Dean narrows his eyes, but does not open the folder or answer.

"You don't have to look at it if you don't want to." She runs her fingers through her hair, pulling it away from her face in a nervous fashion. "Ash has all the information. The demon's heading west, taking one hunter then the next. If you want to save him, the hunter we think is next…Well, his name is circled on the list."

Dean chuckles then, a sound that he hasn't heard from himself in ages. He shakes his head, traces the small droplets of condensation gathered on the neck of his bottle. The jukebox is playing something classic and melancholy, a song that Sam used to mock Dean for singing in the car when the miles were long and the only people they saw for days were each other.

"What's funny?" Ellen asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Just." Dean shakes his head again. "Just, I'm not going to save any of those fuckers." He stares up at Ellen, who crosses her arms, watching him carefully. "I'm going to let them die and lead me right to the demon."

"You're going to try to battle this demon—the demon—on your own? The one that killed your parents? Dean…" Ellen's features are surprised instead of disapproving, and Dean thinks she even looks a little bit scared.

He shrugs and lifts his beer, finishing off the last of it in one swig. When he sets the bottle back down on the bar, he grins at her. It's a crazy little grin with insanity at its edges, the kind that means he doesn't care anymore. "Ellen, what do I have to lose?" he asks. "Seriously, what the fuck do I have to lose?"

She doesn't answer.

- - - - -

Dean is not to the first hunter's house soon enough to meet the demon. By the time that Dean arrives, the man is slashed open, heart ripped from his chest; there is blood everywhere. His body, still dripping wet innards, is pinned against the wall. When Dean walks closer, he sees that the man is stapled there. The office stapler, guilty with blood splattered across its black back, is lying opened on the floor.

As Dean moves around the room, flipping through the aged journals and books on the tables, he notices the yellow powder fingerprints on the books' covers. He does not have to smell the dust to know that it is sulfur. Dean smirks. He will finally get the chance to kill the demon that caused his brother's death. Finally.

- - - - -

Ellen calls him two days later. "It got Jo," she says and he hears her voice waver with the onset of tears. The air pops and crackles between them as she fights to control her crying.

"Jo?" Dean echoes, setting down the gun that he was cleaning. "But, she wasn't—She didn't…"

"I know, I know…" Her tone trembles, and she clears her throat in a punch of static. When she speaks again, she sounds far away. "This is breaking the pattern. Maybe it's not just Sam's hunters that it's going after, but all hunters."

"Is there a pattern besides hunters?" Dean can feel a headache building in the corners of his mind, and he pinches the bridge of his nose.

"So far, nothing. Ash is working on it. But, Dean?"

He sighs. "Be careful, I know."

"Stay alive."

- - - - -

Six more hunters who did not murder Sam are killed that month before it comes for Dean.

He feels it coming, receives the phone calls from Ellen and Ash and other hunters that the monster is in his area. That he should leave as soon as he can. That someone can come and help him. But, whenever they call, he does not feel fear. He only feels the sharp burn of revenge that he is going to kill the fucker like he should have done a long time ago.

He waits for it, relishing in the slow and building anticipation.

The years without Sam have made him hard, have made him bitter and cynical in areas that he kept alive for his brother. He has no qualms about letting the other hunters die merely to lead him closer to the demon. Likewise, he has no regrets about having to die alongside the demon when he meets it face to face.

Tonight, as the door to his motel room opens, Dean rises to his feet in the darkness and holds the gun that he stole from one of the dead hunters' homes. The gun, although not the infamous Colt, nevertheless is cursed and supposedly has the ability to kill a demon if shot directly at the heart. Dean swallows back his rising excitement and decides that this is for him and all his years lived in despair. For Sam. For his father. For his mother.

For Sam. Above all.

The monster walks into the room and closes the door silently behind it. Dean can smell smoke, and he levels the gun at the demon. "You bastard," he hisses to its shadowed back.

The monster snickers, a low throaty sound, and it turns to face Dean. As it comes farther into the room, it steps into the moonlight that streams weakly through the window. The demon lifts its head, fire in its eyes, and a smile forms on its face.

Dean drops the gun.

Dressed in the clothes that he died in, now with charred fabric, Sam looks at his older brother. His eyes glow yellow, and blood falls from his chest to the floor when he walks. His shoes, scuffed around the edges with dark ashes on their toes, move soundlessly across the carpeting.

"Sam," Dean says, backing away, having not expected this. Not knowing that his brother was the killer. Not knowing that his brother still existed. Not knowing so damn much.

Sam cocks his head, as if he's trying to recognize a word of a language he once knew. Part of his face is bubbled flesh, seared red around white blistered rings, and Dean smells that too familiar scent of burning skin. Of burning human.

"Sam, it's me," Dean whispers, pressing his hand to his chest to emphasize the point. "Sam, man, please."

"You're a hunter," Sam says. His lips are burnt black flesh, and when he speaks, they dribble blood from their corners. The pitch of Sam's voice is there in his statement, but the words lack depth and emotion. They lack Sam behind it.

"I'm your brother," Dean pleads as Sam approaches him steadily. He should have stayed where he was at the shop with his cars during the day and his booze at night. Then he wouldn't have to be here. Wouldn't have to see his brother like this.

The hunters, he thinks miserably, were right after all. His brother has become a monster in the end. Even death wasn't enough to stop such a destiny.

"You're a hunter. Hunters killed me. Now, you can die too."

"Sam, please..."

"Beg if you want, but it won't save you. You killed my kind. You killed me. It's your turn."

Dean looks down at the gun on the floor, and he knows that if he were to pick it up, he will be able to shoot this monster wearing his brother's face. He will be able to kill it. But, he'll also live for the rest of his life with the image of Sam's face crumbling when the bullet penetrates his burned skin. Then Dean will return to his mundane life and suffer for the remainder of his wretched years.

No, he decides, there must be end somehow. It must come now or never.

So, instead, he falls to his knees and looks up at Sam, who regards him curiously with narrowed eyebrows and a puzzled twist of his lips. "I'm sorry," Dean whispers, voice cracking. He feels hot tears pooling in the corners of his eyes, but he makes no move to bat them away. This is what he deserves. "I'm so sorry, Sammy."

He bows his head and lets it come.