Sometimes the Darkness Wins

Disclaimer: Would that they were mine, but alas, no.

Beta'd: By Carocali and Muffy Morrigan who graciously pinch hit beta'd while Wysawyg is sick. Thank you gals!

Prompt: This is a present for Xeia for our Secret Santa story exchange on SFTCOL(AR)S.

Tag for BUaBS: Sam is affected by the possession more than Dean suspects. Can be physical or emotional.

Disclaimerx2: I've NEVER written a tag, Xeia, so I'm not sure this is what you were looking for, but I hope it's close enough for gravy.

/gulp

Sigh.

Here goes nothing….

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She'd picked his brain. Used it. Used him. All his fears, his brother's fears, used them to hurt him and his brother in the little dark corners of their minds. Dean's fear of abandonment, his own about being out of control, dark, evil. Dean's about failing to save him. His own that it was already too late. She'd used him to kill someone.

He felt spent. He shivered in the passenger seat and wrapped his arms tighter around himself. Dean, who had been sneaking surreptitious glances at him, noticed the action and cranked the heat. He tried to smile, tried to find the part of his soul that warmed at the love his big brother showed him, but he couldn't. That too was torn.

He coughed, a deep cough, phlegm rising to the top of his throat, but he swallowed it back down. God, I want a cigarette. The thought caused him to mentally recoil. She had given something back to him, it seemed. A lingering desire for something he never remembered doing.

Dean had told him about the cigarettes that they, well that Meg and Dean, had 'found' in the Beetle. Dean had joked with him about it, trying to lighten the mood by proving to Sam that he wasn't in control during that week, but that was part of the problem now, wasn't it? He wasn't in control.

She'd done it to prove a point about Dean and about him. He would not be able to resist the coming darkness and Dean would never believe he had fallen, incapable of redemption. Dean, of course, didn't see it that way.

"It's not like that, Sam," he said. "You weren't yourself."

"That's kind of the point now, isn't it?" he rebutted.

Dean shook his head, pointed a finger at him and opened his mouth to speak, but slammed his jaw shut tight over whatever he might have wanted to say. Instead, he staggered away from the desk and over to Bobby's fridge for a beer.

When he returned, anger sparked in mint green eyes that only moments ago had held only concern…and pain…Sam had seen the pain. He was not even sure he wanted to know why Dean was a bloody mess because he was fairly confident that he was responsible for that too.

Dean took a swig of beer and gazed over the top of the bottle at him. Sam held his breath, afraid to move. His insides were still scrambled, his brain a little muzzy. He felt disconnected not only from his own body, but from everything around him. She had violated his body and mind and left it damaged somehow, wrong.

Everything did not feel back in the places they were supposed to be, like maybe his stomach sat where his liver should be and he knew his heart pounded too hard against his chest. Or maybe it was that his chest had tightened because his lungs had a hard time filling with enough air and he felt as if he had just come back from one of Dad's marathon training runs that left him panting for breath.

He had not noticed that Dean had quit drinking his beer. He tapped the rim of the bottle against his chin and Sam could tell by the look in his brother's eyes that he was debating what to say next, if anything.

"She tried to make me kill you, Sam," he said at long last. "For sending her back to hell, for killing her brother, she wanted me to kill mine. She dragged Wandell back into the camera scope before taking that knife to him. Because she wanted me to see you kill someone. She thought it would be enough."

"It should have been," Sam replied quietly. She'd picked that promise from his brain as if it was the golden key. Meg had wanted to hit Dean where it hurt and it would have worked too, but she had not counted on Dean's faith in him or his undying love for his family. Ordinarily that would have made Sam feel happy, loved and safe. Now it filled him with dread. Or it should have, but he felt dead inside.

"Don't even go there, Sam," Dean snarled. "Not after everything that just happened. This should have proven something to you. Look at you, you're a wreck. You're beating yourself up over something you couldn't control and you're worried about going darkside? 'Cause I gotta tell ya, little brother. I ain't worried."

"Look at you, Dean," Sam countered, unflinchingly meeting Dean's fierce gaze. "You're bleeding, you're hurting. Hurting enough that you can't hide it and go ahead, try to tell me I didn't do that." He held up his right hand and showed it to Dean. "That's your blood, isn't it?"

"Oh, it's my blood," Dean shot back. "Meg shot me, she hit me and she dug your impossible strong, bony fingers into my shoulder. But it wasn't you, Sammy. Any more than it was Dad when the yellow eyed demon attacked us back in that cabin."

"She used me to do it," Sam replied, dropping both his gaze and the volume of his voice.

"That's exactly my point, Sam. She used you. You're not to blame here," Dean lectured. "Hell blame me if you want to. She used you because she knew…" Dean's voice dropped a pitch and his next words came out scratchy. "She knew the best way to hurt me would be to use you."

"I don't blame you, Dean," Sam replied, his tone a perfect mixture of incredulousness that Dean would suggest such a thing, guilt at his own weakness and anger at Meg.

They fell silent. Intellectually Sam agreed with Dean, he was possessed, it wasn't truly his fault, but it certainly felt like he was to blame. He felt responsible and if he was truly being honest, scared out of his mind. Here was the proof. Maybe not of what he was, but of what he could become and the only thing keeping him together right now was his brother. But Dean was only one man and Sam wondered if it would be enough. Dean could not be with him twenty-four/seven. The hamburger run in West Texas had proven that to him.

He fingered the burn on his arm absent-mindedly. Bobby had given him an ice pack for his arm and Dean one for his face and then left again, mumbling something about preventing another Winchester disaster. It felt like Bobby had promised to return long ago, but he could not really be sure of how long it had been. Time seemed to be another one of those elusive concepts that he could no longer comprehend.

He took a long, hard look at his big brother. Dean looked awful and not just physically, his eyes beseeched Sam to come back to him and let this all go. It was time to suck it up and give something back to Dean for everything he had been through this week. "By the way, you really look like crap, Dean," he said with a half a smile – one that he hoped looked genuine.

Dean removed the ice pack from his eye and replied in a pain-graveled voice, "Yeah, right back at ya." Sam huffed lightly as Bobby strode up to the table.

Bobby had asked them about Wandell, warned them about the other hunters and given them the charms to ward off another possession. They had left Bobby's after that, to put some distance between Wandell's friends and them.

Dean had insisted on driving in spite of the fact that he could barely hold the steering wheel with his left arm and Sam wondered if he could even see straight. According to Bobby, one of the things he had 'missed' was hitting his brother several times before and after digging into the hole in his shoulder.

Sam glanced over to his brother, his thoughts back in the present. Dean's face was pale, freckles standing out in stark relief against the white backdrop. Green eyes reflected pain and weariness, a weariness that seemed to run all the way to Dean's soul.

When the silence and subterfuge grew to be too much for his brother to handle, Dean asked, "You okay?"

Was he okay? He did not even know how to answer that. He was so far beyond anything that resembled okay. So he chose to ignore the question. "Sam?"

Killing Wandell, his hands covered in blood, watching as he died. Tormenting Jo, he started to shake again on the inside. Shooting Dean. He could never confess to that one. Dean wouldn't forgive him twice for the same sin, would he?

"Is that you in there?" Dean's teasing tone. The one that meant he was getting a little freaked out. It was time to answer before he pulled out all the stops.

"I was awake for some of it, Dean," he confessed. He could feel his eyes filling with tears, but by God he was not going to let them fall. He couldn't break. Not yet. "I watched myself kill Wandell with my own two hands. I saw the light go out in his eyes."

"That must have been awful," Dean replied. The response was canned and cliché, but the tone so completely sincere that Sam furrowed his brow. He stared at his brother's face. The pain was back, but Sam could see past it. Dean meant it.

He didn't deserve it. He wasn't looking for sympathy. He was looking for Dean to understand the bigger concern. "That's not my point," he countered. "I almost carved up Jo too but, no matter what I did, you wouldn't shoot."

"It was the right move, Sam," Dean retorted. "It wasn't you."

"Yeah, this time," Sam shot back. Come on, Dean. Please get what I'm trying to say.

Dean raised an eyebrow and looked at Sam with a huge question visible on his face. Whaddya mean, this time?

"What about next time?" Sam asked.

Dean's eyes reflected he was having trouble figuring out where Sam's mind had gone. He did not see these events as related to Sam's worries about turning into something evil. To his brother they were honestly not even comparable events.

He had not thought for a moment that the possession might mean Sam had or would become evil. Sam could easily see Dean's mind racing to catch up to where he had gone. "Sam, when Dad told me…that I might have to kill you, it was only if I couldn't save you."

He paused and looked over at Sam. Sam saw determination, love and faith all float through Dean's naked eyes. His big brother was too tired and hurt to try to mask his emotions. "Now if it's the last thing I do, I'm gonna save you." Dean turned back to the road, the look of fierce determination disappeared and he smirked.

"What?" Sam asked, genuinely perplexed.

"Nuthin,'" Dean replied with another half laugh.

"Dean, what?" he asked, slightly annoyed. What could possibly be funny right now?

"Dude you - you like full on had a girl inside you for like a whole week," Dean laughed.

Sam felt a little bit of the heavy mantle of trepidation slip from his shoulders and he returned a chuckle of his own.

"That's pretty naughty," Dean finished with a tone that was all Dean.

They both chuckled for a moment or two before silence fell inside the Impala again. This time it was a comfortable silence and Sam watched as Dean's face slid from amusement back to tightly controlled pain. They couldn't go far on his brother's endurance level right now.

"How far do you plan to go tonight?" Sam asked casually. The steady cadence of his voice surprised him. He was shaking so hard on the inside he could not imagine how he could possibly sound so calm and put together.

"Couple hours," Dean replied, sneaking another peek at Sam. "Can you make it that long?"

"I'm not the one who's bleeding," Sam replied, matter-of-factly. "Dean, I think we should call it a night at the next available motel."

"I'm good," Dean tossed off.

Silence greeted Dean's retort. Silence so thick it permeated the entire car in seconds and covered the brothers in a thick blanket of awkward discomfort. "I'm not," Sam whispered. He didn't think he had said it loud enough for his brother to hear, but he had underestimated Dean's abilities.

Dean pulled the Impala to the side of the road so quickly that Sam's shoulder bumped the passenger window. Sam put a hand on the dash to steady himself. "Spill. Now," Dean demanded.

"Now?" Sam asked, his voice did quaver a bit this time. He twisted in the seat to face his brother who was gazing at him so intently that Sam squirmed under the scrutiny.

"Yes, Sam," Dean replied with a head nod. His eyes rolled slightly with the movement of his head before refocusing.

"Now, with Wandell's friends on the look out for something to string up?" Sam asked. It was a cheap shot at Dean's protective nature and he knew it, but he was counting on it generating results. He returned Dean's intense look with one of his own. "We need to put some distance between us and them, you said so yourself." When Dean looked ready to protest, Sam added, "And you're not going to be able to drive far with that shoulder and concussion…unless you want me to drive."

Dean's face shifted from protest at Sam's refusal to talk to protest at the thought of Sam driving the Impala. "I don't have a concussion," he contradicted. "You don't hit that hard."

Sam nodded in understanding. Deflection was a skill they had both honed to fine precision. "I'd still feel better about stopping sooner."

Indecision flitted across Dean's face and he opened his mouth to say something, but hesitated before speaking. "Okay," he conceded.

Sam raised an eyebrow not sure how he had won this round but, unwilling to risk Dean changing his mind, he said nothing. The ninety minutes it took to travel to a motel passed in complete silence. It must have killed Dean because his brother did not like silence unless he was hunting.

Even when Dean nursed emotional wounds he at least liked the radio on. Sam didn't know if Dean left the music off because he intuitively knew that Sam had a monster headache or if he was fighting one of his own. He guessed it was the former reason as Dean usually maintained that the pounding strains of classic rock actually helped if he had a headache.

"I'll check us in," Sam offered when the Impala pulled to a stop. He was surprised, but grateful when Dean did not insist on doing it himself. He needed out of the car and to get some fresh air. He waited until he received a nod from his brother before jumping out of the car and heading for the motel office.

-0-0-0-0-0-0-

Dean wearily leaned his head back against the seat. His head pounded with an ache of astronomical proportions. If the pistol whip to his head last night had not done it, the angry punches delivered by Meg via Sam certainly had. He glanced over to the motel office where he could easily see Sam talking to the night clerk. The guy looked positively nervous and Dean huffed lightly. Sam really did look like crap, slightly warm crap, on toast.

He knew Sam would be busy checking them in for a few minutes longer, so he took the opportunity to adjust the seat and the mirrors back to where he usually had them. He had not wanted to draw attention to the fact that they were out of place earlier because he did not want to explain anything to Sam. Not that Meg had used his little brother to cold-cock him in the 'fish' motel. Not that she had taken the Impala and left him there on the floor to go to one of their oldest family friends and kill him.

The passenger door opened snapping Dean from his thoughts and he mentally chastised himself for getting distracted. Sam must have caught the startled expression on his face because his brow furrowed. "We're in the room at the end if you want to move the car," he suggested.

"Got it," Dean replied. He waited until Sam shut the door before slowly backing out of the parking slip and down to the other end. He watched his little brother trudge slowly behind the car and was so preoccupied with Sam's defeated demeanor that he nearly failed to stop before hitting a concrete planter.

The passenger door opened again seconds after he turned off the ignition and Sam leaned into the car, a small grin on his face. "Little trouble with the brakes there, Dean?"

"Shut up," Dean growled without heat.

Sam chuckled and held out his hand. "Keys," he demanded.

Dean frowned. His little brother was not supposed to boss him around no matter how crappy Dean was feeling. An unreadable expression crossed Sam's face before disappearing and he quietly stated, "I just want to get the first aid kit and the duffel bags out of the trunk. I'll give them right back to you."

He realized Sam had mistaken his frown and hesitation as mistrust. He handed the keys to his brother. "Sam…"

"It's okay, Dean," Sam replied. "I understand."

Before Dean could offer a retort the passenger door quietly clicked shut. "Damn it, Sam," he muttered. "Why can't you cut yourself a break just once? I'm too tired to deal with this tonight." Although the moment he said it, he knew it wasn't true. He would deal with it no matter how tired he was or how much he hurt because he couldn't leave Sam feeling so…lost.

A light tapping at his window caused Dean to start again. Maybe Sam was right. He was obviously not up to par and needed a break if his little brother could get the jump on him twice. He slipped out of the car and joined Sam at the motel room door where Sam struggled to get the key into the lock. Tired or not, Dean could see Sam's hand shaking even in the dim lighting from the entryway light.

The third time Sam tried unsuccessfully to unlock the door, Dean snagged the keys from his grasp. "Let me get the door, you've got your hands full."

"Thanks," Sam replied. He stepped back to give Dean full access to the door.

Dean easily unlocked the door and entered the dark room, hitting his shoulder on the doorjamb on the way by. Blinding pain forced muttered words though gritted teeth. "Son of a bitch." He doubled over and weakly held his shoulder until the sharp pain passed. He stood up, surprised to see Sam had squeezed past him, turned on the lights and was in the bathroom washing his hands.

Sam gazed at him appraisingly through the bathroom mirror. "You okay?"

"No!" Dean growled. He nearly chuckled when Sam's eyebrows crawled up and disappeared in his hairline. "Son of a…"

"Why don't you sit down and I'll patch up your shoulder?" Sam suggested. Sam was using his, 'placate Dean' voice and it annoyed him.

"I'm good," Dean replied, ignoring the slight pouting tone in his own voice.

"Humor me," Sam replied with a smirk.

Dean returned Sam's almost smile with a genuine one of his own. "Fine," he relented, flopping down on the first available bed. "But I'm doing it under protest. You're not exactly Florence Nightingale. Your bedside manner sucks."

One of Sam's eyebrows lifted and he titled his head marginally. "This, coming from you?"

"What?" Dean asked, scrunching up his face. "I'm great."

"Stop whining, Sammy," Sam mimicked, quite well if Dean was being honest. "Chicks dig scars."

A half-smile graced Dean's face. "That's true."

"So, suck it up, Dean," Sam replied, a slight tug on his lips making a brief appearance. "This one is bound to be great for picking up women."

Dean groaned when Sam tugged on his jacket. He shrugged his arm out of the sleeve and let Sam pull it off his injured side. The shirt came next and Sam wadded it into a ball and banked it off the wall. "Hey, that's one of my favorite shirts," Dean protested.

"It's one of your only shirts," Sam corrected. "We'll get you another one."

"Says the guy who doesn't hustle pool," Dean said. He watched as Sam carefully prepared the supplies he would need from the first aid kit. "I don't need stitches," he remarked.

"How about you let me decide?" Sam asked. He continued to pull out supplies and stack them on the bedside stand. "You wouldn't confess to needing stitches if you'd been eviscerated."

"Would too," Dean shot back. He pulled a pillow behind his back and braced himself against the headboard.

"Doubt it," Sam muttered. He turned around to face Dean with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in hand.

The look of apology in his baby brother's eyes forced Dean to close his. This was going to hurt – a lot. "Dean…"

"Just do it, Sam," Dean stated, his voice rough.

He felt the cool liquid enter his body, but nothing else and then it hit him. "Aargh," he grunted. Sammy wasn't any better of a nurse than Jo had been. He groaned again and opened his eyes only to find Sam's liquid hazel staring back at him.

"I'm sorry, Dean," Sam whispered. He cleared his throat, a wet, mucous-filled sound and his voice was stronger when he added, "It's going to need a couple of stitches."

"Couple? As in two?" Dean responded, his voice tight with restrained pain.

"Okay, more like five or six," Sam conceded. He unwrapped a Betadine swab and started to clean the area around the bullet wound.

Dean could not help but notice Sam's hand was shaking. "Are you okay?" he asked again. His eyes searched Sam's face for the truth, but the last two days left him questioning his ability to read his brother.

Again as before, his question was met with complete silence and Dean knew the answer to his question. His little brother was not okay. He was doing a bang up job of pretending if you did not take into account the thousand yard stare, the skittish behavior, the guilt he wore so heavily it literally weighed his shoulders down or -- most of all -- the unreadable pain in his eyes.

Sam had not confessed to much of anything yet and Dean knew he had to weasel it out of him tonight while his defenses were down. Sam's ability to suppress his feelings was almost as good as his own. He had learned from the best after all.

Black thread tangled in his line of sight and drew his mind back to the here and now. Sam, with his Parkinson's shaking, was about to stitch up the wound in his shoulder. He leaned forward, grabbed Sam's wrist and held it until his brother met his gaze. "What's the matter?" Sam asked.

"Are you okay?" Dean asked for a third time. He tried to gauge his little brother's reaction, but Sam's face was disturbingly impassive.

"Just concentrating, that's all," Sam obfuscated. He gently tugged on his wrist to release it from Dean's grasp, but Dean held firm.

"Sam, this is me," Dean replied. "Do you really think I can't tell when something is bothering my little brother?" He released Sam's wrist, leaned heavily against the wall and winced when the pain in his shoulder flared in protest.

"It's nothing," Sam stated, turning his attention back to the needle and thread. "Do you want anything for the pain before I do this?"

"No," Dean snapped. "What I want is for you to just tell me what you're thinking about. What I want is for you to stop obsessing over something you had no control over. What I want is to get this whole thing behind us so we can move on from here."

Sam turned to face Dean, but did not make eye contact. Instead, he remained focused on the wound on Dean's shoulder. He positioned the needle over the wound and asked, "You ready?"

"Yeah, do it," Dean stated. As the first pass of the needle entered his skin, Dean turned his head away and clenched his other fist. He gritted his teeth unwilling to utter another complaint, but he felt the beads of perspiration break out along his forehead.

The needle broke the skin again and Dean swallowed back another groan. Shit, that hurts! By the time Sam finished stitching his shoulder Dean was drenched in sweat. "I'm sorry," Sam said. "It's done."

Dean loudly exhaled a breath he did not realize he had been holding. He breathed deeply several times, listening as Sam bandaged his shoulder and repacked the kit. When silence fell, Dean opened his eyes and searched out his brother.

Sam sat perched on the edge of the bed, hunched over with his elbows resting on his knees. He cradled his head in his hands obscuring his face. "Headache?" Dean asked.

"Yeah," Sam replied, his voice barely above a harsh whisper.

He reached out a hand to Sam's shoulder, but quickly pulled it back when Sam nearly jumped off the bed to escape his touch. "Sam…" Dean started, completely surprised by his brother's reaction. Normally, when Sam was hurting he took comfort from contact, he didn't shy away from it.

"I think I'm going to be sick," Sam announced and stumbled blindly for the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

Moments later, Dean could hear the sounds of his brother heaving. He knew Sam did not want to discuss what had happened and how he felt about it, other than of course, the guilt that leaked around the rough edges – and the fear.

He debated checking on Sam, but he knew the intrusion would not be welcomed. He closed his eyes and waited. It already seemed as if an eternity had passed without a sound from the bathroom. A banging sound came from the bathroom, then a clanging, three pounds on the bathroom door and then silence.

Dean had his legs off the bed and was working towards standing when he heard the shower turn on. "Sam?" he called. Silence again. "Sammy?" he asked, louder this time.

"Yeah, Dean," Sam replied. "I just want a shower before bed." A mirthless chuckle sounded through the door. "I, uh, seem to need one."

Dean sighed and hunched forward before running a hand through his short hair. "Just not too long, okay?"

The response from Sam took so long to arrive that Dean considered storming over to the door and kicking it in. Frustration was a fine motivator at times and Dean felt particularly frustrated at the moment. "Okay, I'll be out soon."

Dean twisted until his legs were back on the bed and he lay down. How could he make his little brother understand? He was not worried about Sam turning evil. His brother kept him grounded in humanity. Sam kept him from losing himself to the darkness of the hunt – the pain of loss.

They had lost so much to this way of life, keeping the evil at bay. Sam helped keep him from becoming someone like Gordon or one of a handful of other nearly sociopathic hunters at the Roadhouse. He may have saved Sam's ass more times than he could count, but Sam saved his soul.

Sam did not seem to understand, never had really, that what Sam gave to him, his love, his trust, his annoyingly persistent arguments about what was right, fair or humane equally matched what Sam claimed Dean gave to him: love, loyalty and protection. Sam was his little brother and that alone was enough for Dean. If it was the last thing he ever did, he would save Sam.

Dean settled back deeper into the pillows and crossed his arms, using his good right arm to support the left. It took the pressure off his shoulder and it helped the pain at least marginally. He did not want to take the pain killers Jo had given him until Sam got out of the shower and they had a chance to talk. His shoulder was killing him and exhaustion nipped at his resolve, but he could wait.

-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-

Sam let the water cascade over him, washing away oily grime he had picked up from somewhere, Dean's blood that had gotten inside his shirt and a sticky residue out of his hair. He could not remember how any of those things had happened, but it was proof once again that his body had been used by someone else to hurt other people and it had left him feeling soiled both inside and out.

He shivered and turned up the hot water. After he had been sick earlier he had washed his face and hands and sat down on the floor with his back braced against the tub, unable to face his brother. Dean's pale face and haggard expression were tearing up what was left of his soul. He felt hollow, as if organs and bones had been pushed to the side to accommodate Meg and everything had not returned to its normal spot yet.

Sam's thoughts traveled to only moments ago when he had spotted Dean's blood on his upper arms. It had taken him a moment or two to figure out it had happened when Dean had grabbed his arms to gain his attention back at Bobby's. He had physically recoiled and accidentally kicked the trash can over. When he stooped to pick it up, he had knocked the toilet paper dispenser down. The metal roll had fallen to the floor and clanged noisily before disappearing under the toilet tank.

Frustrated at his inability to regain control of his own body, he'd banged on the door. He'd felt so displaced, so out of place in his own skin that he had started the shower, hoping to wash away some of the guilt and maybe, possibly, feel clean again.

He shampooed his hair and scrubbed his scalp vigorously. He leaned back to rinse the shampoo and his mind traveled through the last week in tiny clips and pockets of memory emerged. He remembered a little more each time, but only of certain events. Killing Wandell, tormenting Jo, and shooting his brother raced by closed lids. He hugged himself and rocked gently trying to purge the memories that were crystallizing in his mind.

He remembered the slight kick of the gun and the look on Dean's face right before he went over the edge of the dock and into the water far below. Internally he had been screaming with rage and denial and he acutely felt Meg's satisfaction at both killing Dean and using Sam to do it.

He had tried with renewed effort to push Meg from him and fight back, but it proved a useless endeavor. She was firmly ensconced in his body. He had grown tired quickly and his last thought was that he had killed his brother and lost the fight against evil. Dean should have killed him when he had the chance.

The next thing he remembered was lying on the floor at Bobby's house with a pale, but very much alive, Dean sitting next to him. The next few moments had passed in a blur, Dean punching him, his arm throbbing from the burn Bobby had used to destroy the lock and free him from Meg and aching ribs from…something…probably the struggle with Wandell.

Sam shivered and realization of just how long he had been in the shower sank in. Reluctantly, he turned off the water and toweled dry. He wrapped the towel around his waist and exited the shower. The linoleum felt cool under his feet and he stood resting his hands on the sink, looking into the mirror.

His reflection surprised him. After his experience he expected to be able to see the changes in the mirror, but he couldn't. He looked the same as he had a week ago and that seemed impossible considering how different he felt.

Sam picked up his toothbrush and squeezed a large amount of toothpaste unto the brush. He brushed his teeth and tongue without mercy before rinsing his mouth clean and putting the toothbrush back in the kit.

Sam scrubbed a hand down his face and marveled at the stubble on his chin. Jess had complained any time he had been so engrossed in studying that he forgot to shave. She claimed his whiskers burned her face and that she liked clean-shaven men. He had never gone a day without shaving since then.

He made short work of shaving and dressing before easing the bathroom door open. He hoped that he had taken enough time that Dean would be asleep. He really did not feel like talking. All he wanted to do was sleep. He felt like he had been asleep for a week, but his body told him differently. He was exhausted.

The room was dark, but Sam easily found his way to his brother. He leaned down and saw Dean's eyes were closed and his rhythmic breathing told Sam he was off the hook. Dean was asleep. He flopped onto the empty bed and crossed his arms behind his head. Sam sighed deeply and closed his eyes. "My Daddy shot your Daddy in the head."

Sam gasped, his eyes flying open. He breathed shallowly trying to regain control. He finally had a handle on his emotions when Dean's voice sounded through the darkness. "Sam, you can't do this again."

"Do what again?" Sam asked. He laid rock still trying not to give anything away by body language. Dark or not, Dean seemed to possess an uncanny ability to ferret out what he was thinking simply by looking at him.

"This. The nightmares. Blaming yourself until it practically kills you," Dean replied. Sam heard the rustling of sheets and then a low groan.

"You didn't take any of the pain killers, did you?" Sam asked, changing the subject. "I think I left them right beside you. I'll get some water."

"Sam, slow down," Dean commanded. "And quit trying to distract me."

"I'm not trying to do anything," Sam protested, sitting up. He flicked on the switch and blinked against the sudden onslaught of light. He took a good look at Dean who was pale and obviously hurting. "Take the pills, Dean."

"No," Dean replied. He winced when he shifted into a better position to see Sam. Sliding his legs off the bed, Dean pushed himself into a sitting position, keeping the hand of his good arm pressed solidly against the mattress for balance. "Talk."

Sam frowned. "We've already talked. Nothing's changed, has it?"

"You tell me," Dean responded.

Sam huffed and looked away from Dean. "There's nothing to tell. I don't remember that much, probably only what Meg wanted me to see."

"And, you're okay with that?" Dean asked, scrunching his face. "Somehow that doesn't seem like my emo little brother to me."

Sam huffed again, turned to face Dean and ran a hand through his still damp hair. "What do you want me to say, Dean?" he asked, frustrated. "I don't feel much like your little brother right now."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Dean asked, his voice raising. He leaned forward until he was separated from Sam by mere inches.

"I, I don't know," Sam replied, dipping his gaze.

"No way, Sam," Dean stated. "You can't drop a bomb like that and shut down. What did you mean you don't feel like my brother right now?"

Sam sighed. "I just meant I don't know how I feel right now. I feel…I feel like I'm living someone else's life. Almost like I'm just observing, not really here, you know?"

"Like the past week?" Dean asked, cutting to the heart of the matter. "Do you feel like she's still here? Because I saw her leave, I saw the black cloud of demon smoke shoot out your mouth. I saw you fall to the floor. Trust me when I tell you, she's gone."

Sam winced at Dean's blunt words. "I know she's gone. I can feel the empty space she left inside me," he replied softly. He met Dean's gaze and saw the concern that overpowered the pain that had filled them only moments ago. Dean wouldn't let this go. "I just feel…"

"Defeated?" Dean supplied, "I can see that, Sam. In her words, she used you as her own personal meat puppet and she did it to hurt me. She couldn't have chosen better and if you're going to let that bitch knock you down then she won."

"I'm sorry, Dean," Sam replied. "I can't even explain it. I just don't feel right and I…I can't stop seeing and hearing some of the things she forced me to do."

"The things she used you to do," Dean corrected quickly.

Sam scrunched his brow at Dean's comment. It was not like his brother to get hung up over semantics. "What difference does that make?"

"One implies you had some choice in the matter and lost. One doesn't. You remember that, Sam," Dean replied. "She locked herself inside of you and no matter how hard you fought you weren't getting her out again without help. Nothing that happened was your fault."

Sam examined his brother's expression and found nothing there to indicate Dean wasn't telling the truth. "I know," he replied. He did know it wasn't his fault, it just didn't feel that way.

"You really believe that?" Dean asked, his eyes searching Sam's face. "You believe it isn't your fault?"

"I know it isn't," Sam replied. "That'll have to be enough. Someday maybe I'll believe it."

Dean nodded. "That's as much as I can ask for I guess. He twisted in the bed and carefully laid back. "Try to get some sleep, Sam."

"Take the pain killers, Dean," Sam said by way of reply.

"Nah, I'm good," Dean stated, closing his eyes.

Sam inwardly sighed and sat staring at his big brother. Dean didn't want to take the pills because he wanted to be alert. Sam wasn't sure why exactly, but he was sure it had to do with him. It was either because he was afraid Sam would disappear again if he wasn't paying attention or because he wanted to listen for nightmares. Sam hoped it was the latter as it was the lesser of two evils. Dean should just be worried about getting a good night's sleep.

He ran a shaky hand through his hair, his body still rebelling against the abuse Meg had put it through, before turning off the light and lying back in the bed. He didn't want to sleep. The nightmares would be back and there was nothing he could do to keep them away.

TBC

……………………………………………………………Supernatural………………………………………………………

AN: I'm not kidding. When I finished this chapter and hit the word count button the field registered: 6,666 words. Kind of freaked me out and I added an author's note just to push it over the top (of course, that was before revisions). LOL.

As usual, I can't be trusted with a plot bunny. This one-shot grew into two chapters. :)

Incidentally, today is my one year anniversary of posting fic on this site. Woot!

Merry Christmas, Xeia. Thank you for organizing the Secret Santa exchange!