Okay, firstly I want to apologize to anyone who's been reading this, hopefully you wont find this too annoying! At first I wanted to write short chapters, but then it just seemed to work better with longer ones, so I've changed the layout a bit so that it flows more evenly. Nothing else has changed :) It's still very much a work in progress, set early S3 so spoilers for first 3-4 eps, and AU. Ta for reading x
Disclaimer: I still don't own them.
Dean's knuckles tingled and burned as he stared at the demon. Every bit of him wanted to smash its expression through its face and out the other side. Sam's words faltered as he read the exorcism from one of Bobby's old books, fingers trembling as they pinched the yellowed pages, eyes darting to meet Dean's for a moment. Dean caught the uncertainty there.
"Keep reading Sammy," the older ordered, glaring at the creature.
Sam continued, trying to keep his voice steady.
The creature spat and hissed, thrashing about in its bonds. Its soulless eyes met Dean's and its face cracked into a sick smile. Abruptly it laughed. "You're a joke, Dean Winchester. They say you're fine stuff but I see through you. You're nothing. There will be many in Hell looking forward to ripping you apart."
From beside him, Dean felt rather than saw his brother stiffen. Sam's words suddenly took a razor edge as the younger hurled them at the demon. Dean took his whisky bottle and tossed a measure of holy water into the thing's lap. Flesh and clothing sizzled, pungent smoke rising as it thrashed about, the legs of the old wooden chair it was tied to wobbling precariously. Looking at it now, Dean found it impossible to believe there could still be an innocent man trapped in there. A string of blood-stained saliva fell across its torn shirt.
They'd come across the creature thanks to a lead from Ellen. They'd traveled to the small town and had found evidence of demon activity, tracking down this one in particular and intercepting it as it had left a bar. They'd brought it to this unused building and Dean had all but thrown it into a chair while Sam pleaded with him to be careful as the man it was possessing could still be alive. But Dean wasn't up for bothering with such niceties, and had set about tying its bonds as tight as they would go, before upending a bottle of holy water over its head.
Things had been difficult lately. Hell, their whole lives had been difficult, but the last couple of months in particular had been a real nightmare. They'd been chasing every lead they'd been given from either Bobby or Ellen, covering more ground than they ever had yet getting nowhere. Demons were multiplying like fucking rabbits, and every second job was a freakin' exorcism- which was doing wonders for Dean's mental health, as every one of them seemed to take great pleasure in taunting him about his impending doom. He'd become a machine, not wanting to stop because stopping meant having to face the consequences of the deal he'd made to save Sam's life, which, he was sure beyond a doubt, he did not regret. He just hated seeing Sam coming apart in the process. The younger was, inarguably, exhausted and distressed about the whole thing. But Dean couldn't talk to him about it, because talking meant risking coming apart himself, and that was something he was desperate to avoid.
"How does it feel, Sammy," the demon gargled through blood-stained teeth, "knowing that your brother's going to Hell because of you?"
Out of reflex, Dean took a step towards his sibling. Sam, to his credit, didn't stop reading, but his fingers did shake a little more noticeably as he clutched the book.
"And Daddy, whose trip down under was also thanks to you, as well as your mother, and your girlfriend-"
Dean couldn't help himself. He was on the creature in an instant, its shirt bunched in his white-knuckled fists as he all but hauled it from the chair. It choked and wheezed, erupting in a fit of coughing as blood sprayed from its mouth and out over Dean's shoes and the floor. It obviously had internal injuries of some description. Dean realized that it was highly unlikely the man who'd previously owned the body would survive the ordeal, which was possibly for the best, he decided, poor bastard.
He glared down into the inky eyes and leaned in close. "You piece of shit," he growled, his voice a vicious snarl that cut through the air and made him wonder at the fact that it had come from his own throat. His fingers dug into its flesh as he gripped it around the neck. "You and your kind are the reason behind what's happened to our family over the years, don't you dare blame my brother for your actions." His grip tightened, blocking off its airway.
Sam's words were faltering, but he didn't dare stop reading. Dean suddenly released his hold on the creature and it gasped and heaved in its bonds. Jerkily it attempted to kick at the older brother's legs, leaning forward and gnashing its teeth. Dean couldn't look at it anymore, and turned instead to lock eyes with Sam who was a shade paler than he had been a moment ago, with beads of perspiration forming on his forehead. Dean nodded once, and Sam nodded back.
"Adios amigo," Dean muttered under his breath, throwing his words back at the demon thrashing about behind him.
Sam took a deep breath and began reading the final part of the exorcism.
Neither of them expected what happened next.
The door suddenly exploded inward, and Sam was thrown five feet through the air to smash against a wall and crumple in a heap upon the concrete floor. Despite Dean's lightening-quick reflexes, he was unable to react fast enough, and in a similar fashion was hurled backwards, smacking his head on the corner of a table not too far from where Sam lay.
The last thing Dean's mind processed as his vision swam and he battled to stay conscious was a figure untying the demon they had strapped in the chair, and another rushing towards Sam at terrifying speed.
The last thought that passed through his mind as he lost his grip on reality was a sickeningly panicked one, as he realized he couldn't get to his brother in time.
And then everything went frightfully black.
Sam came to with a start, jolting so violently he jarred his back. It took his brain a moment to register that he was sprawled ungracefully upon a very hard, very cold concrete floor with his shoulder wedged against a wall. For a heartbeat he couldn't remember how to breathe. Everything hurt and he had to repeatedly blink his eyes to clear his vision. His ears were ringing. It panicked him that he couldn't hear properly. It panicked him that he couldn't co-ordinate his muscles to be able to call his brother's name. His conscience screamed at him to pull himself together, but the task seemed so distressingly difficult and his body wasn't responding the way he wanted it to. Scrambling as best he could, he managed to turn himself over. A man he'd never seen before was running at him, arms outstretched, fire in his eyes.
There was no time. Sam did the only thing he could think to do; he dived to the right and rolled out of the way. But the demon was fast, and Sam's head was spinning. It followed his moves and made grabs for his ankles as he back-peddled across the floor, frantically searching for a weapon of some description. His stomach clenched in a sickening knot as he caught sight of Dean's crumpled form a few feet away; the older man's back pressed against the leg of a table, blood streaming from his forehead. Futilely he called to his brother, hoping for a response. But Dean remained unmoving, and the demon's bony fingers snagged Sam's left ankle and jerked him sharp and hard across the concrete.
Sam's fist flew up. His knuckles connected with a crack against the possessed man's jaw. The demon fell back, giving Sam the chance to pull himself upright. Swaying to his feet, he spun around wildly, attempting to survey the room and assess the situation. The demon they'd tied to the chair was now free and moving towards his brother, while another appeared to be dousing the room in kerosene. Sam went to hurl himself at the demon making a move towards Dean, but was caught violently around the middle and tackled to the floor. He landed face-first, his teeth smashing together so hard he tasted blood.
Sam hadn't wanted to take this job. Hell, there'd hardly been a job in the past month or so that he'd felt like pursuing. His and Dean's lives had gone from bad to fucking dreadful over a very short space of time, and Sam honestly didn't know how much more he could take. His brother was dying, and Sam didn't seem to be able to do anything about it. Dean didn't want his help, didn't want to let Sam even attempt to fix things or undo the deal he'd made. It ripped Sam apart in every imaginable way to know that his brother, his blood, would choose to walk away instead of trusting him with the task of finding an answer. They weren't machines. They weren't meant to switch their emotions off and pretend everything was okay. Sam hated the trench that had sunk between them. It was dark, empty, and frightening, and it was growing at a terrifying speed.
With as much strength as he could muster, Sam jerked his elbow behind him hoping to catch the demon in the head, but the creature's strength had Sam pinned at an awkward angle and movement was near impossible. It grabbed a fistful of his hair and wrenched his head back so that he had a clear view of Dean and the demon they'd first captured holding the broken leg of the chair like a bat above Dean's head.
"Now you get to watch your brother die," the demon pinning him hissed.
Sam felt his heart pounding against his ribcage as panic rose in a wave of nausea and bile. He tried again to call Dean's name, but his voice was broken and desperate, making him sound like a frightened child. The demon with the kerosene finished dousing the room and tossed the can aside with a hungry burst of laughter. His eyes glowed as he watched Sam struggle against the much larger man who held him down.
"I know it's ahead of schedule, but there's no harm in killing him now." The demon with the chair leg let his lip curl into a sickening smile, his eyes meeting Sam's. "Don't worry Sammy, you'll be following him soon enough. Then you can have a nice little family reunion, with Mummy and Daddy and Jessica. Make sure you pass on my regards, wont you. I find it highly amusing that out of the five of you, you were the only one who was ever meant to end up down there. But then, I think you've probably worked that out already. Am I right?"
Sam wasn't able to process what it was saying. His eyes were fixed on its weapon and on Dean's expressionless face. He was willing Dean's eyes to open, for his sibling to wake and take out this evil son of a bitch with enough ferocity to send its sorry ass screaming back to Hell. Dean could do that. He'd seen his brother do that so many times. Sometimes it had scared him, but he knew that if Dean awoke, he wouldn't be scared today. God, he wanted his brother to open his freakin' eyes. Dean needed to open his eyes right now.
Something snapped within Sam. Perhaps it was the very real prospect of seeing his brother beaten to death in a completely humiliating way and then being killed by the same wretched creatures in what would quite likely be a similar manner. He jerked and kicked as hard as he could, managing to whip his left hand free and latch onto the big man's jacket. As hard as he could, he pulled the man towards the ground. His actions didn't have their desired effect, exactly, but the weight on his back was released enough to allow him to twist around and stab the man as hard as he could in the throat with his finger tips. The man's right hand came up to protect his windpipe, and Sam took the opportunity to get a boot into his gut.
A strange thing happened then, and Sam's thoughts were sent reeling. The big man's throat opened up and light poured out while his eyes rolled back in his head as his body fell to the floor. Sam was spun around and pushed in the direction of his brother.
"Get him out of here," Ruby ordered.
Sam gaped at her, having to stop his fist as it flew at her face.
The demon with the chair leg was lunging towards them. Ruby turned to meet it with her knife and Sam noticed that the demon with the kerosene was lying in a pool of blood across the room, unmoving. Sam's eyes flicked from Ruby to his brother, mind trying desperately to process what was going on. Ruby's blade missed the demon and it grabbed her and threw her across the room. Sam picked up his feet and hurled himself towards Dean, realizing that now was not the time to be asking how or why.
Dean wouldn't wake up. Sam tapped at his cheek hoping for a flutter of eyelids but was rewarded with nothing. There was no time to try again to rouse the older hunter as the demon sets its sights on the boys and Sam saw it out of the corner of his eye, hurtling across the room, chair leg in hand. Ruby was pulling herself to her feet, looking pissed. Sam didn't pay her much mind as he threw himself at the approaching creature, desperate to keep it away from his injured brother. The thing hissed as Sam clocked it across the jaw, its eyes blacker than night and its teeth still stained with crimson. It stepped back from Sam's punches and pulled a lighter from its pocket. With a considerable amount of alarm Sam recalled the kerosene that had been splashed around the room, and realized what this one was about to do.
Whether Ruby noticed the lighter or not, Sam couldn't be sure. He dived at the creature at the same time as she charged, knife wielded. The demon reacted with speed, pulling Sam to stand between itself and Ruby. Luckily her reflexes were quick and she curved her aim, missing Sam's heart and wedging the blade into the thing's neck instead. Sam felt time stop for a splinter of a breath as the demon's grip on him released and the lighter dropped. It fell to the floor and Sam dived out of the way. With blinding intensity, the room they were standing in filled with fire.
Sam barely noticed Ruby as he threw himself to the floor beside his brother. The air was burning and smoke rapidly accumulated and rushed into his lungs, stinging his throat and eyes. Without another thought he scooped Dean up and threw his sibling over his shoulder. It was difficult to see the door through the haze but he ran at the space where he thought it stood anyway. Within seconds he was stumbling into the corridor, the smell of burning flesh assaulting his nose and making him gag. He couldn't breathe, and he felt like he was on fire. Adrenalin charged his limbs as he flew down two flights of stairs, bursting from the building and stumbling across a gravel car park.
Only when he'd reached the Impala did Sam stop. Lowering Dean to the ground he spun around and looked back the way they'd come. Ruby was approaching, jogging towards them and sending a brief glance over her shoulder at the flames licking the sky through the blown out window of the room they'd been in. Sam bent down to check Dean's pulse, his shoulder burning from his sibling's weight and his hands beginning to shake as his eyes met Ruby's. Anger flared within him, and he was on his feet, stepping towards her.
She went to speak but he cut her off. "Get away from me! Keep away from my brother!"
Her hands came up in a gesture of peace but Sam was wary of the darkness in her eyes.
"And don't give me any of that crap about saving my life, I don't need you, and I sure as hell don't trust you. Stay back!" He'd positioned himself between her and Dean.
Again she opened her mouth to say something but again Sam cut her off. "I don't know why you're here. I should kill you. Don't even think about saying you want to help me." His shoulder continued to burn and absently he rubbed at it. A glance at his hand revealed a small amount of blood, but nothing to grow concerned about.
Ruby narrowed her eyes and a splinter of an emotion that Sam couldn't quite read rippled over her features.
Sam leaned down and pulled the car keys from Dean's jacket pocket. Ruby took a step towards him, her movement causing him to spring up and extend a hand to keep her back. "I said stay away!"
"You're shoulder-" she started.
"-Is none of your concern! Back off."
Again her eyes narrowed. Sam stepped back and felt his way along the car door as he searched for the lock, not wanting to let her out of his sight. He shoved the key in and opened the front passenger door, reaching into the back and clearing the seat, scooping up an old shirt off the floor and rolling it to make a bandage for Dean's head. She continued to stare at him, making him uncomfortable. He fumbled with the bandage and clenched his fists as he stood again, not wanting her to see he was shaking.
"Sam, listen to me-"
This time his hand flew forward and latched on to a fistful of her jacket. He snarled as he drew her close. "No. You listen to me." His breathing was uneven and his eyes were still stinging from the smoke. "I'm getting my brother out of here, right now, and you're not going to follow me. You will not contact me. I am not having a conversation with you. Do you understand me?"
He pushed her away, but she didn't stumble. As gently as he could he lifted Dean from the ground and laid him across the back seat, using his jacket as a cushion. Sam noticed a dark patch of blood around his own shoulder, sticking his shirt to his skin. Irritably he pressed his hand against the burning and clenched his teeth as he scooted across the front seat to position himself behind the wheel. Ruby's eyes never left him, and he started the engine and glared back at her.
Sam put the car in gear, and in a shower of loose gravel sent them flying from the car park.
He drove as fast and as furiously as he could, desperate to put ground between them and what had just happened. His mind was reeling and he couldn't concentrate on decoding the mess that was running through his brain. There was blood on his fingertips, and his knuckles were white as he gripped the wheel. All he could think about was the fact that Dean wasn't waking up. And that a demon had articulated one of his worst fears.
He'd always worried that he really did belong in Hell.
Dean was dreaming. He was nine years old, wandering around a normal, suburban shopping center with Sam. Sam was his responsibility, his job for the day. Sam was… there one second and gone the next.
Swinging his gaze from left to right, Dean desperately sought his brother. The crowds were thick, and the people passing him by nudged him with their shoulders, their faces expressionless and unsympathetic. He called Sam's name, willing his voice to carry through the sea of people. He had to find his little brother. He had to make sure Sam was okay before time ran out. Dean couldn't explain the sense of urgency swelling within him. He just knew that it was imperative he locate his sibling. The clock was ticking, and soon the shopping center doors would close. There would be no more chances. Again he called out, but again there was no sign of Sam.
Suddenly Bobby appeared before him, his face set in an expression that was halfway between disappointment and sadness. The older hunter shook his head, his eyes locking with Dean's.
Dean wanted to appeal to Bobby for help, but there was something in the man's eyes that held him back.
"Bobby-" Dean started uncertainly.
But Bobby's face turned away.
The crowds grew thicker and filled the space between them until Dean could no longer see his friend.
A whisper kissed his ear.
"Like father," it said morosely. "Like son."
Dean's eyes pulled open and he gasped, arms flying about, right knuckles making contact with cold glass and sound flooding his ears. He was on his back, in a car. He was in his car. Where was Sam? His eyes wouldn't focus. He couldn't sit up straight. There was pain in his head and blood on his tongue.
"Sammy-?" His voice was barely audible. He struggled to get his bearings as the car roared along an uneven road. He managed to curl his fingers over the top of the front seat and pull himself halfway upright. Oh God- Where was Sam? He couldn't see his brother. He needed to know where his brother was. He had to find Sam. He couldn't remember what had happened. He couldn't remember getting in the car. He didn't know how he'd hurt his head.
"Sam-" His vision focused on the hunched figure in the driver's seat and he realized Sam was clinging to the wheel, hurling them through the black night at frightening speed. In the rearview mirror Dean caught a splinter of his brother's expression; brow furrowed to form a deep crevice down the centre of his forehead, eyes narrowed and set like stone. Something was wrong. Something had happened. A particularly rough patch of road sent cracking pain through Dean's skull, forcing him to squeeze his eyes closed. He almost fell back upon the seat but managed to hold on. "Sam-" he said again, a little louder this time. "Sam, what's going on?"
The road became incredibly bumpy and Dean's fingers slipped, causing him to fall. He felt cold vinyl against his cheek and the familiarity of Sam's jacket bunched behind him. He wanted desperately to pull it out and cushion his aching head, but he couldn't co-ordinate his limbs and his eyes were dropping closed. "Sam-" he tried again, but his voice was a mere whisper.
Ruthlessly he was pulled back into the confusing mess of disjointed dreams.
The next time he woke properly, Sam was hauling him from the car. Sunrise was staining the horizon and they appeared to be in a dodgy looking motel car park. Sam wrapped an arm around his waist and supported him as they made their way towards one of the rooms. Had they been driving all night? Sam was telling him everything was fine, that there was no need to worry and that they both simply needed a decent night's sleep. But Dean could see through his sibling's lies, and there were dark circles around Sam's eyes that screamed of exhaustion. Dean couldn't help but notice his brother wince as they crossed the room to one of the beds. As Sam lowered him to the mattress, he all but demanded, "Are you hurt?"
But Sam just leaned over and arranged the pillows behind Dean's head, fumbling with the comforter and ordering his brother to lie back while he went to retrieve the first aid kit and their bags from the trunk.
Dean caught his wrist when he returned with the first aid kit.
"I'm fine," Sam insisted, pulling away and reaching to undo the blood-soaked shirt from Dean's forehead. "Just sit still. I'll be quick."
Again Dean asked what had happened.
Again Sam avoided giving a full explanation.
Dean felt a weight like a great rock forming in his stomach. He didn't like not being in control. He didn't like having such great gaps in his memory. He didn't like that his brother was looking after him, instead of the other way around. And he didn't like the look in Sam's eyes, because it made him think that there was probably more to the story, and that there was something going on.
Sam popped the pain killers and ordered Dean to swallow some. Dean knew that it was safe to sleep, and that Sam would no doubt check on him at regular intervals during the night to be sure he hadn't slipped into a coma, but a little voice was screaming at him to stay awake.
"You sure you're okay?" He once again questioned his brother, though he knew full well what Sam's answer would be.
Sam barely turned as he crossed the room, first aid kit in hand. "Get some sleep, Dean," he replied in a strained voice, walking into the bathroom and placing the kit beside the sink.
Dean caught the twitch of a smile Sam threw in his direction before closing the door.
Big brother knew that twitch. It had flickered over Sam's features countless times since they were kids. It was Sam's way of saying that he didn't want to talk. Unfortunately, it also confirmed what Dean had feared, as it had always been Sam's way of trying to hide the fact that something was wrong.
Dean opened his mouth to call after his brother. But sleep came and claimed him before he had the chance.