Disclaimer: All things Supernatural belong to Kripke, not me (rinse & repeat).

A/N: Sweet Charity Fic commissioned and funded by the very charitable muffaletta , whose little heart desired a pre-Crossroads Deal, broken!Dean, savior!Sam fic, with some other stuff on the side. And she's being right generous and sharing with y'all. Here you go, babe. Enjoy. Beta'd by the awesome kimonkey7 . Mad props as always, the Monkeys. Title stolen from [Three years she grew in sun and shower by William Wordsworth.


Wells River, Green Mountains, VT

"You touch it again, I'm gonna snap your fingers off." Dean smacked Sam's hand away from the center dash console, shot him a look as chilly as the Impala's interior.

"Go ahead. I can't feel them anyway." Sam pointed at the heater. "Is it even on? It's snowing out there. You see that, right?"

"Dude, the heat is on. You got a problem with the temperature in here, you can wait outside." He passed his jacket sleeve over the driver window, peered out. "Is this guy late?"

Sam looked at his watch, raised his eyebrows. "Ten minutes, yeah."

"Maybe the orbs got him." Dean lingered over the 'orbs', a hint of annoyance belying the amusement. "This case is a bust, man. I'm tellin' ya now."

"I don't know. It's pretty well documented. People have been seeing white lights all over this area for years. This guy says he's got proof. And there's a lot of dark history around here. Native Americans massacred by settlers. Mass graves. That kinda thing." Sam shrugged.

Dean pointed as a flashlight bounced in the trees to their left. "Still," he said, shutting off the engine and cracking his door, "we can't talk about it over a few shots in a warm bar?"

"So, you are cold."

"Shut up, fuckknuckle. Let's go."

Dean leaned on the hood as the beam from the flashlight drew closer. He crossed his arms, hiked his hands up under his armpits and blew out a frosted breath. Sam traipsed forward in the snow towards the bobbing light.

"Fuck, it's cold," Dean barked. "My freakin' balls are aching."

Sam twisted to look at him. "Can we please just have one conversation that doesn't include a reference to your testicles?"

When he turned back, the flashlight beam cut directly into his face, and a voice said: "Sorry, Sam."

The Maglite smacked hard off his cheek, and Sam went over backwards. He heard Dean's shouted "Hey!" and elbowed up in time to see the glint of a handgun in the moonlight.

The guy got off three shots before Dean hit him freight-train hard, took him to the forest floor with a linebacker tackle.

Sam was still struggling up, hand to his cheek, when he heard the sharp report of the gun discharging again, echoing off the mountainside. He scrambled in the snow, found the fallen flashlight, and turned it on the forest.

"Dean!" He swept the undergrowth with the Maglite, was moving towards the frantic, wild sounds of the struggle, when he found them with the stark circle of light. He was still twenty feet away when he heard an almighty splintering. Dean yelped as they both dropped out of the flashlight beam.

Sam leapt forward, heard the crash and tumble in the darkness, and then silence.

"Dean!" He nearly went over the edge himself. Pulled up in time to stop himself from hurtling down the hidden incline in the forest floor. He passed the flashlight over the snowy debris, couldn't see any sign of Dean or their attacker. Then he caught a glimpse of movement just outside the Maglite beam, shifted it and found his brother. He was on his back, partially obscured by the undergrowth, lifting a lazy, dazed hand to flap at surrounding brush.

"Hang on! Don't move!" Sam called down. He sent the light arcing aound the forest floor again. Where the fuck is the guy with the gun? He fought his way back through the snow to the Impala, popped the trunk and bagged the Glocks, a few clips, and the first aid kit into his duffel. He shouldered it, hauled ass back to the top of the ridge. Another sweep of the undergrowth, and he was no wiser as to the location of the gunman. He started down the slope, a growing sense of unease prickling the back of his neck. Sam had picked a careful route halfway down the drop when Dean tried to elbow up, started screaming. It was a raw, wild sound; so completely unchecked and un-Dean that Sam forgot his caution, and took the rest of the slope in a few clumsy, uncontrolled leaps.

He got the flashlight stopped on Dean's left leg as his brother tapered into a running stream of teeth-strained expletives.

"God. HolymotherfuckingJesusH.Christ. Oh, shit. Fuck me."

Sam couldn't have said it better himself. He dropped to his knees beside Dean's hip. "Okay, I got the leg. Where else?"

Dean closed his eyes. "Oh, God," he moaned.

Sam yanked open his brother's jacket, palmed his chest. "Dean, where else? Are you hit?"

"I dunno. I think maybe my arm, and my hip is on fuckin' fire."

Sam sent an exploratory hand down Dean's arm inside the sleeve of his jacket, worked his fingers around until his brother hissed and snapped his head back against the snow. His hand came back out bloody. "Okay, that's a yes."

"Did you fuckin' see him?" Dean twisted, tried to look around, and Sam got another earful of that nerve-jangling scream for his effort.

He pinned Dean with a hand against his chest. "Dude, you really need to stay still." Sam lifted his shirt, checked Dean's hip. Oh, fuck. Great.

"That was Peter Kavanagh. Where is he?" The words were labored, choked.

Sam was busy shoving gauze down the inside his brother's sleeve, froze when he said it. "You sure?" He tossed a look over each shoulder, tilted his chin to listen. He shook his head. "I don't know. I can't hear anything."

Two carefully spaced gunshots whipped Sam's full attention to the ridge above them. He stayed staring into the darkness, ears and eyes straining, until Dean gritted out: "That'll be the tires."

Sam's spine went cold. He snapped his eyes from Dean, to the duffel, to where the slope flattened out into the yawning woods. He poked one of the Glocks down the front of his jeans, shouldered the duffel. Then he grabbed Dean by the front of his jacket.

"Okay, sorry, dude, but we gotta move."


She looked like Jess. That was the problem.

"I can do this. It's not gonna be an issue."

Dean shook his head. "I don't see how it can't be an issue. She'll make it an issue, Sam. It's what they do. You can't go in there with your pants down like that."

"Dean, when was the last time you did one of these solo."

Dean squinted at the ceiling. "New Orleans."

"And?"

"And no, it didn't go so great."

When Dean failed to expound, Sam raised his eyebrows, looked at him expectantly.

Dean waggled his head. "Demon got away. Guy died."

"Well, in that case. Gear up. In you go."

"You know, sarcasm isn't generally helpful, Sam."

"Neither's a half-assed exorcism, Dean. I say we call Bobby. Get someone in to help."

"Dude, this thing has killed four people. And she's coming apart in there, man. She can't wait. We sit on our asses for another day, she's dead. I guarantee you."

"Dean, the chances are, she's not gonna survive this either way. You know that."

"You wanna go tell her Dad we're gonna sit on this another day? Play it safe while his daughter's getting ass fucked by a demon?"

Sam didn't want to. That's why Dean went in alone.


Two steps inside the cabin, Sam dropped the duffel and kicked the door shut behind them. It didn't feel like Dean was helping much, the last mile, but when Sam panted "Okay," into his ear, Dean took it as his cue. He grunted and buckled, nearly took them both to the floor. Sam stumbled, grappled with his brother's dead weight.

Dean had been helping out plenty.

"Okay." Sam lost the battle, settled for a semi-controlled submission to gravity. Dean landed on his side, temple glancing off the floorboards. Sam let go of his jacket collar, slapped an exhausted hand against his shoulder. "Okay, there'll do."

There was stacked wood and a fireplace against the eastern wall. It was probably standard practice, but after a two mile hike in three feet of snow, Sam was just about ready to apportion any stroke of luck to divine intervention. His breath frosted out of his lips, plumed downwards from his nostrils when he clamped his mouth shut, and tried to regulate the flow of air in and out. You stop, you're gonna get colder. Hypothermia cold. Dean cold.

Sam left Dean where he lay, spent a couple of minutes getting a fire going. A couple of long, treasonous minutes, back turned on his broken, bleeding brother.

But first things first. Sam needed the feeling back in his hands.

He let the fire build, hop-skipped a shortcut over Dean's crumpled form to the cot against the far wall. Dragged the thin mattress off the squeaky springs and dumped it on the ground behind Dean's back. He toed it up close against his brother and then squatted, grabbed a handful of jacket and a handful of jean. He pulled him in one fluid motion onto the aged cotton-lined stuffing.

Dean's left boot and lower leg made some independent decisions about the move, shifted impossibly along with Sam's stomach. The pain was enough to rouse Dean to the brink of consciousness, a brief dalliance with awareness that curled his lip and was gone.

Sam pinched numb hands around the corner of the mattress and dragged it, Dean and all, as close to the fireplace as he dared. Felt the growing haze of heat prickle his own numb cheeks as he worked off Dean's jacket. He retrieved the first aid kit from the duffel near the door, cursed his frozen fingers when they fumbled with the zip opening. He found the scissors, dropped them onto Dean's chest and held his hands out to the fire.

Thaw out, goddamn it. Sam waited until the tiny knives of feeling came back in painful force, worked his fingers through the handle of the sharps. Made a couple of exploratory snips in the air to gauge his level of control. He started on Dean's shirt – careful, wide chomps from bottom hem to neck - just as the sodden cuffs of his jeans warmed enough to send up the first rise of steam.

It was a decent graze at his side; the bullet had cut a deep, jagged course through the muscle above his hip bone. Sam snipped the cuff of Dean's shirt, sent the open scissors up his left sleeve in one fluid motion. The second bullet had punched through Dean's upper arm. Passed straight through, clean entry, exit a little messier just beneath the shoulder joint at the top of his tricep. Sam didn't bother doing anything fancy. He splashed some antiseptic around the wounds, clamped some fresh gauze against them, and sent enough elastic wrap around Dean's arm and his waist to keep some pressure on the bleeding.

Sam paused long enough to pass a shaky, bloodied hand across his top lip, take a few deep breaths.

Calm down. Stop the bleeding, get him warm. One thing at a time.

They didn't get shot at very often. Went through a shitload of ammunition and salt rounds themselves, but in general, they were on the offensive when it came to guns. Sam was pretty sure, thinking about it now, that the only two times Dean had run afoul of a firearm, it had been his finger on the trigger.

Dean took his time coming round. Sam was ready with the painkillers, got them down his throat as soon as Dean was lucid enough to swallow on command. But even so, they took a while to kick in. Somewhere between the fog lifting and the Vicodin rolling in, Dean said, "Peter Kavanagh."

"Yeah."

"What a fuckin' mess."

Sam nodded, eyes traveling down Dean's leg. "Yeah."

"S'my leg still broken?" he asked stupidly, tried to lift his head to see. Sam palmed his chest, held him down.

"Yeah, don't look. It's fucked."

Dean blinked up at him. "Oh, man. That really fuckin' hurts."

"I gotta splint it. It's gonna feel better after it's splinted."

"Oh, goody." Dean closed his eyes. "Key word being 'after', right, Sammy?"

"I'll make it quick. The Vicodin'll help." Sam backed one lie up against the other, didn't look Dean in the eye for delivery.

"Was that sonuvabitch shootin' at us?"

"Yeah."

"You okay?"

Sam caught the laugh before it stumbled out. "I'm fine. I don't know that tackle was such a great idea, Dean."

"How bad?"

Sam paused, went with the truth. "Graze on your hip. Arm's a through-and-through. Could be worse."

"Right. Coulda snapped my leg, too."

"You're hilarious."

"Peter fucking Kavanagh, huh?"

"Yeah."

"What a fuckin' mess."


"How long does it…? I mean, is it normally…?"

"It can take a while. Longer with just one person." Sam kept his voice gentle.

Peter Kavanagh had a bewildered look about him, like a man who'd woken up at the instrument panel of a Boeing 747; alarms sounding, lights flashing, mountain looming in the windshield. Sam had seen it before. Lot of looks. Lot of different faces. Always wished there was something more to be done than handing out the parachutes.

Demons are real. Watch you don't get sucked into the engine there, on your way out the hatch.

"Did my daughter kill my wife?"

Sam bit his lip. "Not her. The demon. It seems likely, yes. I'm very sorry."

Peter blinked at the tabletop. "I don't have anyone else," he said, as though the fact had only just occurred to him. And maybe it just had. He looked up at Sam. "Lisa's it. I had Trish and I have her. There isn't anyone else."

Sam's eyes traveled to the door of the den. He could hear the even pitch of Dean's voice through the door, too low to distinguish his words.

He nodded at Peter. Sam knew a little something about loss. Recognized that aching void in the man across the table. He remembered that insidious empty, the constant weight and burden of staring down the barrel of a suddenly barren life. Gas tank full of je ne sais quoi. Sam couldn't say exactly how he'd got from there to here, but knew the steady timbre of his brother's voice on the other side of that door had a hell of a lot to answer for. Maybe just as much as time itself.

Sam understood what it was like, to have everything that mattered compressed into one person against your will.

"I'm very sorry."


"How long was I in there for?"

"The woods?"

"No, shithead. Lisa Kavanagh. How long?" Dean's voice was loose with the Vicodin.

Sam worked the scissors up the leg of his jeans. "About twenty-four hours. Like, a day, I think." His teeth were still chattering. Christ, he was cold.

"Twenty-four hours," Dean repeated, turned his face towards the fire, lids heavy. "Man, that job was brutal."

"Yeah," Sam said, "I remember." He sniffed, wiped a cold-numbed finger under a nose he couldn't be sure was running. Sam took a cursory look at Dean's mangled leg and hoped his visceral reaction to the inherent wrong of it wasn't evident in his face. "Okay, so I'm gonna do this. You ready?"

Dean shook his head a little. "No."

Sam slid a hand under the heel of his boot, paused when Dean tensed, clenched his teeth. "I'll make it quick."

"Whatever, man. Just do it."

It took a while. By the time he was done tying up the wreck, Sam had his money on more than one surgery, and Dean was riding the twitch and tug of his rapidly settling shock. He forced another Vicodin between Dean's lips, followed up with a helping hand behind his neck and the bottle of water at his mouth. His brother was still reeling from the sensory overload, unresponsive enough that Sam thought about digging the damn pill back out of him. But then Dean coughed against the bottle, swallowed and seemed to get the message.

"I'm sorry, man. It's done. I'm all done."

The cabin slowly lost its chill. Sam crossed his legs, hunkered down at Dean's shoulder and seeped up the heat from the fire. Felt the bone-deep freeze begin to leave him.

After a while, the Vicodin kicked in and Dean loosened; relaxed and drifted. Sam didn't hear him at first, had to lean in close when he realized Dean was saying something. Felt a little chilly again when he heard it was Latin tumbling out of his brother. The back end of a ritual exorcism.

Sam lay a palm against his forehead. "Shhh. It's okay."

Dean's eyes fluttered. "I didn't kill her," he mumbled.

"I know."


Dean was essentially an optimist. Irritatingly so. He had a sort of canine unflappability in all but the most extreme circumstances. If someone felled a tree in Dean's path, he didn't lose any sleep over the inches by which it had missed him. Was more likely to take a piss against it than he was to take offence. Sam figured that kind of confidence came naturally when you'd spent the better part of twenty years doing a job tailored towards your uncanny instincts and easy athleticism. Dean didn't always land on his feet, but he had the means to get there pretty quick. When it came to his work, he had a faith in himself and his results that was hard-earned.

But he could also be hard, cold, and subscribe to the sort of emotionally void pragmatism that was a little frightening. It had taken Sam the better part of the last eighteen months to see that this yin and yang were far from mutually exclusive. One enabled the other, created a dichotomous balance that defined his brother as completely as the age-supple leather of his jacket, and the scent of gun oil mixed with the Impala's upholstery.

It always looked enviably simple, from where Sam was standing. Neat. Like switches flicking. But he knew it wasn't like that.

Still, when the voices in the den reached a pitch loud enough to be heard where they sat, Sam was glad it was Dean in there fielding the demonic Q&A. He shifted a little uncomfortably at the table, squinted a wordless apology to the man opposite him. He could tell by his pale face that Peter Kavanagh was unaccustomed to hearing the sort of language demons favored. Especially coming out of his daughter.

Sam wished fleetingly that Dean didn't sound so comfortable hurling it back.

He was starting to think a change of venue was in order when his cell rang. It was Bobby.

"Earliest flight's gonna get me there by ten. You want me on it?"

Sam paused, listened to the escalating tirade behind the heavy wooden door. "Yeah, we might need you."

"You got it. I'll call ya when I land."

Sam hung up and forced a smile in Peter's direction. "Okay. Peter? I think we should go. I know you want to stay, but I'm gonna be honest. This is gonna get worse."

The guy looked like Sam had asked him to take a step off the top of the Empire State Building. "That's my daughter in there."

Sam shook his head. "Not right now it's not, Peter. It's really not." He got up and crossed to the den door, rapped on it with his knuckles.

Dean pulled the door open a second later, face crumpling in consternation. "What are you still doin' here?"

"I didn't want to leave you alone. But we can't stay here. He can't listen to this."

Dean winced, waved him away. "Jesus Christ, Sam. Get him outta here. Holy shit."

Sam paused. "Bobby'll be here by midnight."

Dean gave his watch a cursory glance. "Six hours. Beautiful." He sent an arching eyebrow skyward. "Might be all over by then."

Yeah. Essentially, Dean was an optimist.


When Dean woke again, he was surprisingly, deceptively lucid.

"What's goin' on?"

"You've got a fever."

"Okay." Dean said it like Sam had given him an instruction he had to follow. He asked for some water and Sam gave him as much as he could drink. When he pushed the bottle away, Sam set it on the floor.

"Have a rest, then we'll go again. You need to get more water down."

"Yeah? What if I'm not thirsty?"

"You got a fever, Dean. You're losing fluids."

Dean shifted and tensed, face creasing through a wave of pain.

Sam palmed his shoulder. "Try and stay still."

"Dude, I don't think those painkillers are doin' squat."

Sam shook his head. "Trust me, they're doing plenty. I gotta be careful with this stuff."

"Okay, then whiskey. Gimme some whiskey."

"I'm not giving you any whiskey, Dean."

It was five kinds of wrong - that he'd been through it enough times to know - but Sam wasn't falling for the window of clarity. He'd seen his brother on the downhill slide before. This is what he did, right before he crashed. Dean Winchester threw fifteen minutes of this at you, then he dropped like a stone.

There was an apology interlaced with the confession when it came. "Hey, Sammy?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm not feelin' so great."


"I can't believe this is happening."

"I know it's difficult." Sam had a bunch of standard responses for these situations. I know it's difficult. Take your time. I'm very sorry for your loss.

Did you see which way the evil demon went?

Dean stayed away from this side of things. It wasn't that his brother didn't, or couldn't, empathize. The guy just sucked some major ass at expressing it. And he got frustrated with people who couldn't get past their life shattering event in a timely and information-disclosing fashion.

After a particularly cringe-worthy incident on a job in Boulder, they'd mutually decided Dean should keep his fucking mouth shut around the grieving vics. Wherever possible.

So, Sam absorbed the bulk of the emotional fallout. It was draining, required a delicate mix of inquiry and compassion to extract what they needed. And Sam was inescapably mired in the quicksand of his own dark history. His own ghosts were entrenched deeply enough, without the constant battery of freshly torn lives.

But maybe that was exactly why he was so good at this.

"I can't lose her." Peter was gripping his coffee mug as though it was the only thing left in his world on which he could rely.

Actually, Sam thought, you can. Chances are, you will.

Sometimes that was worse than the losing. Learning you could live without someone.


"Not exactly stealthy."

Dean wasn't looking at the fire when he said it, but Sam knew that's what he meant.

"You were freezing. It's freezing. I didn't have a choice."

"He's not gonna stop."

Sam pressed the snow-cooled cloth in his hand against Dean's forehead. You were freezing. And now you've got a fever. What the fuck, Dean? "Shut up, man. Just try and get some rest."

"I killed his daughter, Sam. Payback's a bitch, huh?"


Bobby cut straight to the chase when he finally called. "Girl's dead. You better get back here."

Peter took the news silently, the way roughly half of people did. Maybe there was wailing and gnashing of teeth later, when Sam was long gone. But a lot people, when you ripped their world apart, they just blinked.

There had been a girl in Iowa. Whole family gone in one night. First thing she'd said: I should have a pen. Still turned Sam in knots, when he thought about that one.

Bobby came across the living room as they entered, nodded grimly at Sam, and set a course for Peter. Collected him with an outstretched arm, backed him up against the wall firmly.

"You and me, we need to stay out here. Okay?"

Sam headed into the den, hairs on the back of his neck bristling at Peter Kavanagh's anguished, useless shout: "Lisa?"

Dean was on his knees near the far wall of the den, palms crossed over the dead girl's chest. It was the kind of robotic CPR that told Sam his brother had been at it for a long time. He stopped when he got close enough to the see the sweat dripping off Dean's clenched jaw, the grim set of his eyes fixed on the carpet beside her body.

Sam waited until Dean came back up off two measured breaths against her slack mouth. He blinked down at her vacant, dead stare while Dean resumed compressions. The rosary was still threaded through the fingers of his left hand, glinted in the soft lamp light.

"Dean."

"Yep." It was clipped and breathless.

Sam bit his lip, released. "Dude. She's dead."

"Yep." Dean sniffed, tossed his temple a little and sent a few heavy, salted drops from his brow. Got his lips moving again around a silent count.

Sam edged in closer, squatted down opposite him. "So, you gonna stop?"

"Yep."

But he didn't. Not right away. Sam let him go another minute before he got up, stepped over Lisa Kavanagh's body, and wrapped an arm around his brother. Pulled him up and away.

"She held on." Dean shook his head, chest heaving as Sam backed him up. He dragged a hand down his face, flicked a slick of perspiration from his fingers as he squared his shoulders against the wall behind him, screwed up his nose. "Man, she really held on."


Sam rummaged in the duffel, found both handguns, and checked the clips in each. He pocketed a spare for himself, crabbed back over to Dean.

It was a little over two miles to the Impala in heavy snow. And Sam had no way of knowing where the fuck Peter Kavanagh was. He figured it was highly unlikely the guy had just hung up his fiery vengeance boots and headed on home.

Sam squatted beside Dean, clapped a palm against his slick, hot jaw. "Dean. Dean, hey. Wake up."

The eyes his brother blinked open were glazed, unfocused. "Hmmmm?"

Sam thumbed his cheekbone a little, coaxed him out of his haze. "You with me?"

"Hmmmm."

"I gotta go get some help. I'm gonna go back to the car, see if I can call someone to come get us outta here."

"Wha-?"

"I can't get a signal here." Sam paused. "Dean, I don't think we can wait this thing out." He dropped a knee down beside his brother's hip, pressed the Glock into his right hand. He closed his own hand around Dean's on the firearm, lay it flat on his belly. "Take this. Dude, you gotta try and stay awake for me, okay?"

Dean's fingers shifted on the stock of the gun, an automated, unconscious drift to their natural grip around the weapon. He lifted his head a little, looked down at it. "Sammy, I can't…" Dean licked his lips, frowned. "This's a bad idea."

Sam nodded. "I know. It really is. But I gotta get some help, man. We gotta get you to a hospital. I'll be real quick. I'm gonna try and jam this door, make it harder to get in, but dude? Seriously. You need to try and stay awake."

"Gemme up."

"Uh-uh. You need to keep still."

Dean waggled the gun weakly against his stomach. He took a deep breath, sent the words up out of him with too much effort, and not enough space between them. "I'm not wavin' this thing around. You gotta leave me here I wanna wall behind me."

Sam looked around at the door, sized up the room. "Okay. Okay."

The relocation put Sam on the receiving end of some venomous, pain-induced accusations of impropriety against their mother.

He let it slide.


He hadn't thought a lot about Jess lately. Not in a conscious, I'm-thinking-about-Jess kind of way. She was always there, beneath the surface of everything else, her absence like an open door inside him that he didn't want to shut. But he hadn't really reminisced.

Jess used to pick things off the floor with her toes, like a monkey. That's what Sam was thinking, as they crossed the border into Massachusetts. Dean dropped his hands to the bottom of the steering wheel, shook his head.

"Man, that guy. He took that hard."

"It was his daughter, Dean."

"I know, but still. I gotta put money on it? Guy's got a gun in his mouth by the end of the week. Seriously. If he hasn't eaten one already."

"Nice, Dean."

"Hey, I'm just sayin'. Some people take a hit like that, they get up. Some people don't." He shrugged. "That guy ain't gettin' up."

"Maybe he will. Maybe you're wrong."

Two weeks after Jess had died, they were ten minutes too late to the scene of a poltergeist attack in Denver. Seventeen year old girl and her eight year old brother, painted across four rooms on the ground floor of their family home. Sam had sat on the edge of the motel bathtub that night and thought about it. Glock in his hand. He'd stared at the gun against his thigh for a while, waiting for something to tip an inner scale, one way or the other. But that was as far as he got.

Heard the Impala pull up outside, and that was the end of that.


Thirty minutes, Bobby had told him later. Dean had been in that den doing CPR on Lisa Kavanagh for thirty minutes after he lost a pulse.

CPR was hard work.

Hard work like walking through snow.

Dean was right. This was a bad idea. In all likelihood, Peter was in the trees somewhere between the cabin and the Impala. Waiting for Dean's injuries to force precisely this act of desperation.

It wasn't snowing any more, but Sam was relying on the weak moonlight for visibility. He didn't think waving a flashlight around was such a great idea. He was vulnerable and exposed, hairs at the nape of his neck bristling, senses straining for any sounds or movement outside his own harsh breath and snow-hampered strides.

Sam got a rhythm going through the powdery white. Crunch, sink, push, crunch, sink, push. Tried not to think about Peter Kavanagh, and the possibility of a bullet sailing into the back of his head at any moment. He hoped the guy wasn't smart enough to just let Sam pass, follow his tracks back to the cabin. Wondered if Dean was even capable of getting the gun up out of his lap, and got a surge of speed from the flare of fear that went up his spine.

You left him alone. He's dying back there, and you gave him a gun he can't lift, and you left him alone.

Sam realized he couldn't feel the Glock against his fingers anymore, had to look down to make sure it was still clenched in his frozen hand. He stopped, breaths venting visibly from his lips in the moonlight. He was off the trail. Sam turned, read the breaks in the trees until he found his bearings again, and altered course.

Don't get lost.

He was almost on top of the car before he saw it. Thirty yards directly to his left. He'd gotten off the trail again, nearly gone straight past it. Sam thanked whatever Gods had drawn his attention to the glistening fender, and hauled ass to the driver's side door.

Then he was eating snow as the first gunshot cracked the air like a stockwhip, whistle-thumped into the trunk of a tree on the other side of the Impala.

Holy fucking shit.

Sam rolled onto his back, scooted up against the Impala door. Got the Glock trained down past his feet.

Where the fuck…? He swept the forest, tried to force his focus soft, lose the hard lines of the trees and get some depth to his vision in the darkness. He saw movement to his right, just as another shot shattered the car window above Sam's head.

He pivoted blindly towards the muzzle flash in the trees and fired, trigger finger numb and stubborn. The shot kicked a line of snow up from the forest undergrowth. Sam couldn't tell if it found anything more substantial to halt its path. Didn't wait to find out. He scrambled around to the passenger side of the car, sat against the relative safety of the wheel, and tried to slow his breathing enough to listen beyond the rattle of air past his ice-powdered lips.

When Peter Kavanagh called out, Sam felt an insane, brutal wash of relief; he wasn't at the cabin.

"This isn't about you, Sam. I don't want to hurt you."

He sounded calm. Oh, God. Please don't sound calm. Be panicked.

Sam tilted his head back against the chilled metal of the wheel arch and shouted the words up over the hood. "Then stop shooting at me!"

"I have to do this, Sam. I have to do it for her."

"My brother didn't kill your daughter, Peter. You know that. He was trying to help her."

"Where is he, Sam?"

"I'm not gonna tell you that. You know I'm not gonna tell you that."

"He broke four of my baby's ribs. He tell you that? They told me her chest was crushed." His voice broke on the last word.

Sam closed his eyes. Jesus Christ. Dean. Thirty minutes of CPR.

"Peter, I am so sorry about your daughter. I really am-"

"Her name was Lisa."

He sounded closer, more unhinged, and that was both good and bad news, as far as Sam was concerned. He didn't have time to be fucking around with this guy. He shifted against the car, shouldered the tire. "I know, Peter. Her name was Lisa. And she was a beautiful girl. You told me. I remember."

"She was my baby girl."

"I know how this feels right now, Peter. It's not always gonna feel like this. I promise you. You won't always feel like this. You need to stop."

"What? This is where you tell me it gets better? Give it time?" Peter spat that last word like it was poison, and Sam had to agree; he wasn't a big fan of the marching minutes himself right now.

"Something like that. Listen, Peter. You kill us out here, there are some people who aren't gonna like that very much. And honestly, I don't think you've got it in you. You messed my brother up pretty good, but we get him some help, like right now, he could be okay. This can all go away, just like that. All three of us out here hunting, Dean caught a couple of strays, fell and broke his leg. It could be that simple."

Sam knew it wasn't going to be that simple. Felt the realization twisting and gnawing at his insides.

You gonna kill this guy? No. 'Course not. It doesn't have to be that way. You put him down, and you get back to Dean. You don't have to kill him. Nobody has to die out here.

But somebody's going to, if you don't move your fucking ass.

He had to make the call, get back to that cabin. And he was going to have to go through this guy to do it. The only two questions remaining were how hard, and how fast.

"I think I'm a little bit past the hunting accident story, Sam. I'm sorry."

Peter's voice was thick with remorse now, and Sam leapt on it.

"Okay, that's okay. How about we just talk this out a little, huh?" He twisted onto his knees, peered up over the top of the hood. "I'm gonna stand up now, Peter. You're not gonna shoot me, are ya?"

"I told you, Sam. I don't want to hurt you. You're a good kid. This isn't about you."

Sam got his hands up over his head, Glock still in his right. "Good. I just wanna talk to you."

Peter came out the trees slowly, handgun still trained on Sam. "How about we start with where Dean is?"

Sam snapped the Glock down, and let adrenalin do the rest. He got off a single shot, saw it snap back Peter's shoulder before there was a second CRACK! A blinding muzzle flash precipitated the hot zizz of the bullet past his temple. Sam twisted reflexively, and hit the ground hard on his shoulder, Glock spinning off into the snow.

He got a hand up to his face, the flesh above his ear on fire, couldn't feel the damage with his frozen fingers. Saw blood in the snow when he rolled, grappled for his gun.

"You son of a bitch."

Sam twisted back, the yawning muzzle of Peter's firearm staring down at him. He turned, snow crunching beneath his hip, and kicked wildly at Peter's legs, brought him down beside the Impala's front quarter panel.

Sam scrambled, got on top of the guy, clutched at his wrist when Peter tried to being the gun up into his face. They struggled, gun shaking between them for an elongated half minute. Sam could feel his heart banging behind his ribs, his pulse throbbing through the open wound in his head.

"Peter, don't do this." One last desperate appeal.

"You've done this."

And maybe Sam had. Maybe he could have talked him out of it. But Dean was broken and bleeding on the floor of a cabin in the middle of a forest. His brother was dying while he wrestled with Peter Kavanagh in the snow. Sam felt a sudden, wild rush and leaned down through Peter's wrist, turned the gun and heard something snap in his forearm. Peter's eyes went wide and he made a strangled noise, then his other hand flailed up, grabbed at Sam's throat and gripped.

The gun went off between them, sharp like a bark; echoed off the mountain. Peter's fingers went limp around Sam's throat, dropped to the snow beside his hip. Sam palmed the ground near Peter's shattered jaw, took a few long, gun-powdered breaths, the firearm still smoking beneath his chin.


He called 911. When the girl on dispatch asked him which service he needed, Sam didn't stop to give it any thought.

"I need everyone. Send everyone. Now."

By the time he got back to the cabin, he was pretty sure Peter Kavanagh had shot off half his ear. It took him a while to jimmy the door against the cot frame he'd propped there.

When he slid inside, Dean brought the gun up out of his lap in a wild, uncontrolled arc and actually pulled the fucking trigger. The bullet splintered the cabin wall a foot from Sam's head, and sent him sprawling for the floor.

"Dean, it's me! Jesus Christ!"

He crawled cautiously across the floor, felt the bloom of hope at finding him conscious rapidly fading. Dean was still trying to raise the gun again, the strength failing him, when Sam reached him. He closed his fingers around the stock, pulled it loose from his brother's jumping fingers, and slid it away across the floor.

"It's okay. I called them. They're on their way." He gripped Dean's jaw, tilted his face to look at him, fingertips resting against the thready rush of blood beneath the stubble there.

Dean stared a thousand yards through him. "I didn't kill her," he breathed, and his voice hitched on a full body tremor. "Sam's comin'."

Sam smoothed a hand up through his sweat-drenched hair. Oh shit. "I'm back. S'okay." He twisted, found the wall with his back as he sat, and pulled Dean close against his chest.

Closed his eyes against the twitching, shaking mess.

"They're on their way. Just, hold on."


He woke to someone gripping his upper arm.

"Hey. Buddy, let him go. You gotta let him go."

Dean.

He felt the weight of his brother's body in his lap. Dean wasn't moving. He snapped his eyes open, fingers curling against his brother's chest. Met the concerned face of an EMT half a foot from his own.

"Let me take him," the guy was saying, and Sam looked down at Dean's slack-jawed, chalk-white face, eyes not quite open and not quite closed. Couldn't tell if he was --

No. Sam shifted, renewed his grip. "I wasn't asleep."

I fell asleep. How the fuck did I fall asleep?

"Okay, buddy. That's okay."

"He's not dead." Sam wasn't quite sure why his stomach flipped the way it did, like he might vomit, when the EMT shook his head in agreement.

"No, he's not, buddy. But he's not doin' so great either. So, you gotta let him help him." He leaned in, put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "I'm gonna help him."

Sam let go.

Dean was suddenly gone from his lap, left a gaping canyon of airy, unwanted weightlessness against Sam's chest. Made it somehow harder to breathe. Then someone was pointing a light in his eyes, and he held up his palm, squinted.

"What's your name?"

"Sam."

"Sam, did you hit your head?"

He lifted his fingers to the open flap of skin above his ear, felt the dried rivulet of blood down the side of his face and thought: What kind of a stupid question is that?


It was a couple of days before Dean was clear enough to ask.

"What happened to Kavanagh?"

"He's dead." Sam shifted uncomfortably in his chair, cut his eyes to the bedside table when Dean squinted, raised his eyebrows.

"You killed him." There was a hint of surprise in the realization.

"He showed up at the car. I had to get back to you."

Dean got a hand up off the hospital sheets, shook his head. "Sammy, don't get me wrong. Guy flipped. I'm not judgin' you. Just… fuck."

"Yeah." Fuck. Sam recalled the snap of Peter's arm beneath his hands, and his stomach tilted a little at the memory. He glanced up at Dean, saw concern and wariness vying behind his eyes. Sam swallowed down a rise of nausea.

I killed a man.

He hadn't dispatched any spirit, or released any poltergeist. Peter Kavanagh hadn't been possessed, or cursed. He was a man.

Dean sniffed, tilted his chin a little. "You were in a tough spot, Sam. You made a call." He dipped his eyes to his lap, picked at the edge of the sheet when Sam met his gaze.

They rode out an awkward silence for a while, until Dean's inner pragmatist caught up with him.

"Cops?"

"I got round three of Tell-It-Like-It-Isn't this afternoon. I don't think they've made any connections yet. But, yeah. We're gonna have to get you outta here. I'm workin' on that."

"Car?"

"Friend of Bobby's. I don't know who the fuck he bought, but he had the damn thing off the mountain and in the hospital lot before you were out of surgery. Guy called himself Roach."

"Roach?" Dean gave him a lopsided grin.

"Yeah," Sam huffed off a laugh. "Thought you'd like that. Says you owe him a beer."

"I owe a guy called Roach a beer?" Dean cocked an eyebrow. "Yeah. That's sounds about right."

Sam looked at his watch. "Okay. I gotta get going. Go talk to these cops. I'll swing by after, see how you're doing. You need anything before I go?"

Dean shook his head. "No, I'm good." He waited until Sam was almost to the door before he called him back. "Hey, Sammy."

Sam turned, hand on the doorframe. "What?"

"Just… it doesn't mean anything, you know? You did it, so as far as I'm concerned, I don't need to ask if it needed to be done. And you shouldn't either. End of story."

Like flicking switches.

Sam wished it could be like that. He nodded, tapped the wall on his way out.


Thanks for reading :-) Pdragon76