A/N: This is set about a week after AHBL2 and assumes that the events predicted for season 3 have not yet occurred. Rated for violence, bloody gore and language.

Disclaimer: All characters and references to SUPERNATURAL remain property of Kripke's amazing brain. And, come on, you think I'd really say if I did own them:-)


It was only when he finally stopped that he realized how bone-tired he was. Sinking into one of the tattered old armchairs, he closed his eyes and could feel sleep beckoning at the edge of his thoughts.

"Dean?"

He forced his heavy eyes back open and peered up at the concerned face that frowned down at him.

"Why don't you go in back and put your head down." Bobby suggested quietly. He saw the slight shake of the younger man's head and watched him force himself to slowly sit upright. "Come on ..." Bobby continued quietly, "We've not taken a break for god-knows how long."

Frowning in annoyance and edging forward in the chair, Dean gave a more determined shake of his head and stifled a yawn.

"Dean!" Bobby sighed in frustration and then paused for a moment as he decided a change of tactic was required here. "We need you sharp." He chided gruffly, "You're no good to us like this."

Dean regarded the sombre, slight anger in the scruffy man's stern expression and seemed unsure how to respond.

"Go get some sleep. That's an order."

"Yes, sir."

Bobby watched Dean wearily get to his feet and he managed to hide the smile of relief that pulled at his mouth. He waited for Dean to stumble through to the back of the sprawling single story house and nodded in satisfaction.

Balancing his rifle against a book-covered table and shrugging off his jacket, Bobby heard footsteps approaching and turned to smile briefly.

"We need to re-stock our supplies." Ellen stated, combing her hair back into a ponytail at the nape of her neck and continuing towards Bobby. "I'll head back out."

Bobby nodded in agreement and delved a hand into the pocket of his jeans. Pulling out a collection of notes, he began to sort through them and then shrugged wearily as he held out the lot.

"Thanks." Ellen smiled thinly and turned from him.

"Ellen?"

She halted at the front door and turned back to meet the concern in Bobby's eyes.

"You know … my home is yours for as long as you need it." Bobby gave a short, uneasy laugh and shrugged his shoulders. "Such as it is." He waved his arms to indicate the disorganized furniture and scattered filing systems in the long room.

Ellen smiled and nodded her thanks. Pausing as if to say something, she then decided against it and held up the money he had given her, nodding once again before heading from the house.

Outside the day was starting to fade, the sun setting beyond the chaos of the scrap-yard that sprawled outwards from the small house. Amid the rusting car parts and pieces of broken vehicles, the sleek black Chevy seemed out of place. Ellen smiled as she looked towards the open trunk and could just make him out as he searched amid the contents within.

He heard her approach and flicked his head up, dropping back into the trunk the large hold-all he had been sorting through. "Heading for the store?"

Ellen nodded.

"I'll come with you." Sam stood up straight and closed the trunk lid.

"S'okay," Ellen shrugged, "Go inside and chill for a bit. God knows you need - "

"I'm fine!" Sam countered quickly, and a little more harshly than he had intended. He saw her flinch back from him and quickly sighed an apology. "I mean … I'd like to help."

"Sure." Ellen smiled thinly and followed him to the front of the car. Heading round to the passenger door, she slid in beside him and watched him gazing out through the windshield in silence.

Sam paused, his hand holding the key in the ignition and his pale face suddenly troubled.

"I know." Ellen leaned towards him and placed her hand on his arm. "It seems an impossible task …"

"There's just so many of them." Sam confirmed quietly, turning to her with a weary sigh.

Ellen nodded and met his tired, tear-filled eyes. She gave his arm a gentle squeeze and her smile grew. "There's a lot of us too, Sam."

"I guess."

"Come on." Ellen sat back up straight and took a deep breath. "God knows, the four of us could use a decent meal and a couple of beers." She watched him nod in agreement and the car rumbled into life beneath them. Seeing him slip the car into gear and then suddenly pause once again, her heart sank and she shook her head slowly. "Don't, Sam."

Sam turned warily to face her and frowned slightly.

"There's no point second guessing. What's done is done." Her throat was tight but she managed to keep her voice even and gave him a warm smile. "We have to move forward now."

"Yeah …" Sam took a deep breath and looked away from her as he cleared his throat. "I know." Shrugging his heavy shoulders and sighing in determination, he gunned the car forward and headed out for the highway.

XXXXX

It was quite possibly one of the strangest trolley-loads she had ever collected. Ellen guided the shopping cart towards the line of cash registers and smiled in amusement. Parking the cart at the end of the belt, she began unloading the supplies and watched the sales assistant in interest, sure that the boy would remark on her odd collection.

"Someone sure likes their candy." The shop assistant shrugged, scanning through yet another super-sized bag of M&Ms.

Ellen nodded and laughed in wonder as she tucked yet another packet of salt into a paper bag. She began to transfer full bags back into the shopping cart, amused that the boy should make comments about what was perhaps one of the most normal items she had bought.

Turning back to continue packing, she saw Sam hurrying towards her and frowned in interest as she saw his arms full of packages. Dumping his collection at the end of the belt, he jogged over to help her and saw the intrigue in her merry smile.

"What?" Sam shrugged, "This place has everything!" He enthused, "We normally scrape by with mini-marts and 7-11s." He waved his hand about to indicate the massive supermarket and shook his head in wonder. "This is so cool!"

Ellen laughed and peered along the belt towards the underwear, toiletries and first-aid supplies he had added.

"Just don't tell, Dean."

Laughing a little harder, Ellen glanced up at him fondly. "Sure."

"What?" Sam defended merrily, "We got all his essentials."

"I know." Ellen agreed quickly, "It's okay, Sam."

Sam watched her chuckling happily and his smile grew. "Well … just cos we live on the road doesn't mean we have to smell like we do."

At that, Ellen laughed harder and slipped an arm around his waist to give him a brief hug. "I'm certain this fussy streak has to come from your mom." She offered quietly.

Sam's smile grew and he shrugged slightly. "Yeah, I guess."

Ellen swallowed back the sudden lump in her throat and turned back to packing. Dropping the last few items into a bag and thanking Sam as he hefted the full bag into the cart, she counted out the correct cash and then followed him from the store.

It was the strangest feeling, after the utter chaos and heartbreak of the past few days, to now be strolling through the parking lot of the supermarket with Sam at her side. They blended in with all the other families stocking up for the week and to be given friendly smiles of understanding and nods of greeting from the other civilians was oddly refreshing.

Making their way to the clearing at the edge of the car park where the black Chevy was parked alone, Ellen suddenly remembered that a supply run such as this was exactly what she had been doing the day the roadhouse was torched.

"Ellen?"

Suddenly realizing that she had paused at the rear of the car and was lost in thought, Ellen shook her head and forced her smile to return. Looking down at the false-bottom of the Impala's trunk, she helped Sam load the shopping and blinked away tears.

"You okay?"

"Tired." She replied easily.

"Mmm." Sam agreed quietly, "I think it's a good idea of yours. Food, beer, bed." He sighed and grabbed the empty cart to take it across to where a line of others were parked.

"Yeah." Ellen nodded, closing the trunk lid. "Then we'll be fully refreshed to get out there and dust off a few more of those sons-of-bitches." Laughing, she was aware of him returning and turned towards him.

But it wasn't Sam. That much she had time to ascertain before the fist slammed into her temple and she was flung back, slumping over the tail end of the Impala. Her head full of pain and her vision blurring, she slid down to the ground and was vaguely aware of hearing Sam crying out in fury before the blackness took her.

XXXXX

Sound was the first sense to return and she listened to the panicked voices around her. Not recognizing any of them and then recalling with horror the last memory from before she blacked out, Ellen tried to sit up.

"Easy."

Ellen felt the hand that gently pushed her back against the asphalt and then felt something ice-cold being pressed against her face.

"You okay, ma'am?"

Blinking her eyes open, Ellen looked up into the worried face of the woman who was crouched beside her. Her focus then moved to the dark uniform and shiny gold badge on the woman's chest. Gasping, Ellen forced herself upright and her head swam as she sat back against the fender of the Impala.

"Easy!" The woman again urged in concern, helping steady Ellen. "You took quite a knock there. Can you tell me your name?"

Frowning in confusion, Ellen then saw the woman reach a gloved hand into a pocket on her shoulder and pull out a pen-light. She saw the emblem on the woman's uniform sleeve and sighed in relief.

The EMT shone the light into Ellen's eyes and smiled in relief. She nodded and held out the ice pack towards her. "No lasting damage."

Ellen placed the ice against her throbbing temple and managed a brief smile.

"The police are on their way, ma'am." The EMT offered, turning away to make a few notes on her large record pad. "You remember what happened?"

Ellen looked beyond the EMT to see the open doors of the parked ambulance and the small crowd of shoppers who looked on in concern and muttered to one another. And then sudden realization slammed into her. "Sam!"

"Hey!" The EMT hurriedly stood and steadied her patient as she suddenly got to her feet and leaned heavily on the trunk lid behind her.

"Sam!" Ellen shouted in a panic, her head spinning dizzily and nausea building as her eyes darted around the parking lot. "Where is he?" She spun to the other shoppers and searched their alarmed faces. "Did you see? Did you see who took him?"

Shaking heads and confused shrugs were all that greeted her and Ellen groaned in dismay, tears blurring her vision.

"Easy, ma'am."

"No!" Ellen shrugged off the paramedic roughly and stepped away from her steadying hands. "Oh god! Oh god!" She fumbled in her pocket and found her phone, her fingers trembling as she scrolled through the phonebook.

"Hey, Ellen." Came the quick reply.

"Dean!" Ellen sighed, her voice tight. She closed her eyes and hung her head, unable to find the words to tell him what had happened.

"What's taking you guys so long?" Dean chided merrily, "You brewing the beer, or something?"

"Dean." Ellen insisted, a little firmer.

"What? Me and Bob are starving out here. And - "

"DEAN!"

The line went suddenly quiet. Ellen cleared her throat and took a deep breath. "It's Sam. Dean, someone's taken him!"


Cold.

It was the first sensation that began to return. And the first thought that came to his mind. Aware of his body trembling, he tried to curl himself up tighter and his heart slammed into his chest, I can't move.

Adrenaline surged through him and flowed down arms numb from being in the same restrained position for god-knows how long. Sparks of sensation stung his fingertips and he groaned softly, the sound appearing strange in the emptiness around him. Straining against whatever was holding him still and feeling recent bruises begin to throb, he sobbed in fright and paused to catch his breath.

What the hell is that smell? Strangely familiar, it stung his throat and made him gag in revulsion. He needed to get away from it. After a moment, he lifted his head a little and pain shot through his head and down his neck. He groaned as nausea instantly filled his entire being and his stomach heaved dryly. And then, wincing in disgust, he knew what the smell was.

Letting his head sink back down, he took a moment to let the dizziness settle and then tried opening his eyes. Even this small movement was impossible and he frowned in confusion, feeling the tightness across his eyes and forehead. Blindfold. That's reassuring.

Forcing a few steady breaths and taking in whatever detail he could fathom, he soon worked out that he was lying on his right side. His wrists were bound behind him and his ankles also tied tightly together. Tilting his face downwards, he felt cold concrete against his chin and then leaned back a little, his left shoulder meeting the wall behind him. Pausing for a second, he listened to the quietness and could make out nothing beyond his own rapid, frightened breaths.

Shopping. I was shopping with Ellen. Recalling getting back to the car and remembering broken pieces of the conversation they had been having, he then had a sudden flash of a black van and the two figures that had leapt at him.

Tears gathered and stung the back of his eyelids. Choking on a sob, he heard the odd sound disperse in the nothing around him and it was then quickly followed by another.

You let your guard down. After everything that has happened, how could you be so stupid! Too tired and too relaxed in her company, distracted by the menial task of re-supplying. You should have stayed alert! The voice in his mind chided him bitterly, angry and disappointed. Strange that it sounded so much like his father. Sudden grief at the notion brought further tears and he could not stop the desperate weeping that overcame him.

Noise.

Gasping in fright and suddenly quiet, he held his breath and listened intently. It came again; the clicking and scratching of someone fumbling with a lock. Then the clunk and faint whine of old hinges as a door opened.

Laying completely still and not daring to breathe, he felt the gentle rush of warm air from somewhere above him and then heard the first creak of a foot stepping on a wooden stair. Basement? I'm in a basement?

A few more uncertain steps filled the quietness and then the soft thud of a door closing. The footfalls then quickened and he could sense whoever was approaching hurrying towards him. They crouched down beside him and paused for a moment. He could smell a hint of feminine perfume and heard a slight sigh from somewhere over him.

Something heavy was placed beside him, a dull metallic twang ringing out as it met the concrete floor. Determined to lay still and appear unconscious, he could not help but flinch as the stranger moved closer and gentle hands rolled him backwards. At his reaction, the hands instantly left him and there was a pause.

Sloshing of water pouring near his face then made him realize how thirsty he was. Keeping his lips closed, he dragged his dry tongue against the roof of his mouth and was now aware of acidic taste of old bile. Nausea began to build once more and he instinctively swallowed it back.

Hearing something being wrung out in the water, he then felt the air in front of his face move as something was passed over him. He gasped in fright as the wet, lukewarm cloth met his skin.

"It's okay." Came a quiet reassurance.

Frozen still, again not daring to even breathe, he replayed the whisper over in his mind and did not recognize the voice.

"It's okay, Sam." She offered a little louder, "I'm not here to hurt you."

She knows who I am? In the face of all that had occurred in the past week and beyond, this could not be a good thing. Fresh panic brewed within and he bit his lip to keep back the frightened sobs that gathered. Pathetic! You need to stay sharp! Think of a way to get out of here! Stop crying like a damned baby!

The damp cloth returned and was gently pressed into the skin at his left temple, water trickling down the side of his face. And then something pulled at his skin, stinging painfully. He flinched back, instantly regretting the action as the pain inside his head grew.

"Lay still."

It was a plea more than an order and he was suddenly intrigued. Relaxing slightly, he felt her fingers carefully picking at something stuck to the skin at his temple and he suddenly realized what it was. Lying still, he grimaced as she managed to loosen the edge of the tape and gently soaked the cloth against the next portion.

It took a few minutes for her to carefully peel off the thick, sticky tape. She then gently washed the raw skin and seemed to sigh in dismay at the damage the binding had done to his face. Unnerved by her tenderness and somewhat relieved that she had not simply ripped the tape from his eyes, he then felt her move back from him.

It was bright wherever he was. The light stung his eyes as he blinked them open and more pain throbbed in his head. Slowly acclimatizing to the sensation and turning his head, her face came into focus and he saw her smile a cautious greeting.

She was young, maybe fifteen or sixteen judging from the band slogan that was splashed across her black cropped t-shirt. Sure he should not know such a thing but quickly deciding he was not to blame for whatever useless information the internet filled his mind with, he watched her sit back on her heels to regard him in interest. She tucked a stray lock of chemically darkened shoulder-length hair behind her ear and then he saw the redness of her hazel eyes. Intrigued by the fear and sorrow he found there, he then sensed something very familiar about her attractive, almond-shaped eyes.

"Amber."

Sam continued to watch her in wary silence.

"My name." She felt urged to explain.

Sam nodded carefully, his head throbbing with the movement and he managed a small smile, his dry lips cracking painfully.

"Here." Amber picked up the bottle of water she had used to clean his face and unscrewed the top. She placed the bottle against his lips and tipped it slightly.

The water was cool and refreshing. Sam swallowed with a grateful moan and then felt the liquid meet his stomach. Sure it was going to make a rapid return, he grimaced and turned his head towards the floor.

"Ew." Amber groaned. "Sorry."

Taking a few deep breaths and feeling the nausea settle, Sam shook his head slightly and managed another smile.

Amber replaced the cap on the bottle and shrugged slightly. "Hmm. That's kinda gross." She commented idly and got to her feet.

Sam watched her cross the wide room and now took in his surroundings. Definitely a basement, the place was filled with shelving, old furniture and various boxes. It looked like the sort of stuff that any average family would store beneath their house and it felt wrong to be in such a predicament in such seemingly normal surroundings.

Amber returned to kneel down in front of him and squirted a few bursts of detergent onto the drying puddle of vomit beside him. Wiping at the mess and grimacing in revulsion, she threw the soiled cloth into the steel mixing bowl and quickly wiped her hands on her faded jeans.

It was a decidedly weird situation. Sam smiled his thanks up at the young girl and again studied her pale face. Sure he knew her from somewhere, he was about to ask her who she was when a bang above them made her jump in fright.

"Shit!" Clambering to her feet, Amber tossed the bottle of cleaning fluid aside and gathered up the water bottle and bowl. "Shit! Shit!" She repeated urgently, hurrying to the stairs.

Sam heard shouting from somewhere in the main house and frowned in concern as Amber scrambled up the stairs. He listened for a moment but could only hear muffled pieces of the heated conversation that sprung up beyond the closed door. Frowning in concern, he could then hear the voices moving away and rested his head back against the floor.

At least the smell was gone. The intense, fake-lemon scent of the detergent did nothing for his headache but it masked the decidedly unpleasant aroma of his own sick. Closing his eyes, his mind raced with a thousand questions but, much to his disappointment, no clue as yet as to how to try and escape. The door to the basement then opened and he listened for the footfalls, hoping his potential ally was returning.

"I said get to your room! Now!"

Sam gasped and opened his eyes, seeing the shadow of a man flooding down the staircase. Aware of sobbing somewhere above him, his heart sank and he guessed Amber was in trouble for having ventured down to him. Afraid for her safety, it nonetheless gave him hope that she might present a way out of this.

The door slammed shut and Sam watched black leather mules descend the stairs. Then the man himself appeared. Medium build, dark short hair, unshaven and in need of sleep. The details etched themselves into Sam's memory. Smart grey suit trousers, light blue shirt, loosely hanging purple tie. He looked like a business-man who had stepped off a month-long flight, Sam decided, weary and crumpled. Not in the least bit menacing. Frowning in confusion, he watched the man approach him slowly.

"Awake, huh?" The man stopped beside Sam and stared down at him. "Good."

Sam turned his head slightly, his head and neck protesting at the angle he needed to look up at the man. His heart began to race as he saw the anger that crossed the man's flushed face and an unexplained hatred that suddenly filled his eyes.

"Tell me." The man began in a quiet, icy whisper. "Why did you do it?"

Sam had no reply, a hundred possibilities running through his mind as he tried to fathom who this family was and where he had seen Amber before.

"WHY?"

The shout filled the room and pierced Sam's already painful head. He flinched back and closed his eyes.

"What sort of a monster are you …?" The man continued, his voice softening as he crouched down in front of Sam and regarded him in curious disgust, as if he was examining the foulest creature to have crawled up from the ground.

Sam slowly shook his head and frowned slightly, trying to convey his confusion.

"I know what you did to her. They showed me the photographs."

His heart pounding in his ears, Sam watched the man nodding slowly and something about the hint of a smile that pulled at the stranger's mouth made Sam's stomach flip over.

"But all the evidence in the world can never explain why …" The man leaned a little closer and sighed wearily, "Or be enough to convict you, it seems."

Sam's frown deepened and he instinctively began to move back against the wall, uncomfortable with the closeness of a man so obviously tortured by whatever it was he had been through.

"Not a trace of DNA." The man placed one hand on the concrete floor to steady himself as he leaned even closer to Sam and suddenly smiled. "But it was you."

"Wh - ?" Sam cleared his throat and tried to find his voice. "What was?"

"Right." The man laughed gently and shook his head.

Sam followed him as the man stood back up and dragged his hands through his hair. His fingers were trembling and the cotton shirt under his arms wet with sweat. Feeling suddenly sorry for the state the poor guy was in, Sam found himself wanting to help him.

"LIAR!"

The toe of one of the expensive shoes slammed into Sam's abdomen, forcing the air from his lungs in a loud burst. Unable to breathe in and seeing bright white flecks dancing behind his tightly closed eyes, Sam curled around the pain.

"Why did you do it? Huh?"

Blinking his eyes open and biting his lip against the agony in his gut, Sam finally sucked in a breath and groaned weakly. Watching the man warily and seeing him take a few steps back from him, he watched the fury reddening the guy's tortured face.

Gripping fistfuls of his hair and pacing back and forth, the man then once again smiled thinly. "No matter. No matter." He sighed out a loud breath and dropped his hands by his side. "Maybe the police can't arrest you." He shrugged slightly, "But I have you now."

Sam huddled as far back into the wall as he could manage as he was suddenly advanced on again. He held his breath and watched in dread as the man halted inches away from him.

"And I will make you pay for what you did."

The threat hung in the still air of the basement as the man turned away and galloped up the stairs. He flicked off the lights and hurried into the main house.

Hearing the door slammed shut, Sam was suddenly plunged into darkness. He listened to the click of the lock and could make out footsteps retreating. Tears stung his eyes and he gave a short sob, the action pulling at bruised muscles in his abdomen.

Sudden determination gripped him and, ignoring the pounding in his head and the pain in his gut, he struggled up onto one elbow. Come on, genius. You saw the stuff piled up down here. Find a way out, dammit!

Exhausted by even this small movement, Sam took a moment to catch his breath before then slowly pulling up his knees. Shit, that hurts. Groaning with effort and pain, he somehow got his feet round in front of him and panted in exertion. His eyes were starting to pick out the slightest detail that he could make out around him and he peered down at the binding above his boots.

Gaffer tape, huh? Right. Need something to cut it with. Edging forward, he bum-shuffled away from the wall and towards the shelves he remembered seeing close by. And then he was suddenly yanked back. The motion pulled at his already strained shoulders and he halted, his arms held up behind him by something.

Tugging carefully, Sam groaned in dismay as he felt the rope that was tied to the tape that bound his wrists. Straining against the tether, he grunted in anger and pain. It's just tape! Pull, you big baby! PULL!

Burning pain tore down his arms and across his chest as he pulled hard. Sure that either the tape would give or he would tear his arms from their sockets, he used the tether for support and got to his feet. Leaning forward and using his weight against the binding, he felt sticky tape tearing and pulling at the skin of his wrists.

Suddenly something gave. Sam shot forward and toppled over, his bound legs collapsing under him and he realized in horror that his wrists were still taped together.

He could not stop the forward momentum. Trying to recall what might have been in front of him and falling worryingly fast, the gruff voice in Sam's head again began to chide him in disappointment. Then his nose slammed into the side of the bottom step with a sickening crunch and nothingness engulfed him.

Tbc ...