The shot rang out.
Dean wondered why he could still hear it echoing.
Opening his eyes he saw Sam was still standing there. But he was facing the wrong way.
Munro meanwhile had a puzzled look on his face, shifting his gaze from Sam to the growing stain on his chest.
"Impossible." he whispered and promptly fell to his knees.
His eyes never left them as he slowly tipped forward, landing on the floor finally with a dull thud.
Dean realised he was still holding his breath.
For a moment Sam didn't move then he turned round, his face pale in the dim light.
"Dean?" he said, his voice unsteady.
Dean noticed Sam was still holding the gun. He reached out, seeing his own hand was shaking.
"Why don't you give me that, huh?"
Sam looked down as if realising for the first time he was still holding it. He handed it over, letting go as if it was burning him. He looked up at Dean, his eyes full of fear and something else but before he could say anything there was a sudden deafening shriek that seemed to grow until it reached a crescendo.
"Dammit!" said Dean, covering his ears and dropping to one knee. He felt a sudden wind appear out of nowhere, swirling around the hall scattering paper and moving furniture. It was like being in the middle of a tornado.
The screeching got louder, cutting through his brain like a hot poker and he closed his eyes tightly. He was aware of something grabbing hold of him but he was beyond real thought at that point other than praying the noise would stop before his brain exploded.
And then it was over.
For a second the absence of sound was almost as disorienting as the noise itself had been. He opened his eyes and dropped his hands away from his ears, becoming aware that Sam was crouched over, literally shielding him.
Sam looked at him, his face just about visible.
"Yeah?" came the slightly shaky reply.
"You wanna give me a little room to breathe, dude?"
Sam blinked at him, then realised the danger had passed.
He stepped back, staggering to his feet with his ears still ringing. He looked over to where Munro lay, grimacing as he saw that the body had literally shrunken in on itself. It now appeared to be nothing more than a century old corpse.
"Huh. Guess all those spirits he sucked up must have been what was keeping him looking so fresh and shiny." said Dean.
Sam turned back to face him, his face incredulous.
"You're joking about this? I almost killed you and you want to joke about it?"
Dean winced as Sam's voice rose. He could see the impending blow out gathering speed and held up his hands.
"Before you start, we need to take care of Munro and get out of here, alright? We can talk about this when we get back to the motel. Now, look at me – are you ok?"
"Of course I'm not ok!"
"I mean do you still feel, you know, controlled?" said Dean, waving a hand vaguely at his head, and Sam actually paused to think about it. Besides a monster headache and vision that was slightly blurred around the edges he did feel himself again.
Albeit a version of himself that one step away from a screaming meltdown.
"No, I don't feel controlled anymore." he said and Dean grinned, smacking him on the arm.
"Well good. In that case go get the salt and the lighter fluid from the car, would you?"
Sam stared at him, unable to believe that Dean could just brush aside the fact Sam had held a gun at his head and almost pulled the trigger only moments before. This was something else, even for Dean.
"Dude, you wanna stay here all night?" said Dean, seeing that his brother still wasn't moving.
Sam opened and shut his mouth, then gave up and went out the front door to go get the stuff. As soon as he had gone Dean bent over, his hands on his knees, and let out a shuddering breath.
He'd really thought that was it, that Sam was going to kill him. He kept taking deep breaths, concentrating on not passing out. He didn't want Sam to know how freaked out he was but the entire thing had been too close.
Way too close.
Of course it didn't exactly help that it was almost a carbon copy of what had happened with Ellicott, except this time Sam hadn't been glaring at him in hatred he'd simply been not there at all. Dean wondered which was worse.
Then he wondered how weird their lives were that he had an actual comparison.
He straightened up. Ok, the important thing to remember was that Sam had fought back. He'd stopped himself. Hell, he'd stopped Munro. Dean was definitely gonna point that out loud and clear when the recriminations started as soon as they were back at the motel.
He turned round as Sam came back in, making sure he was the picture of nonchalance.
"Thanks." he said, as Sam handed him the salt.
He quickly covered what was left of the body and then added some lighter fluid for good measure. Handing both back to Sam he took a step back and dropped a lit match.
The flames caught immediately and burned brightly for a few minutes before dying down. There hadn't exactly been much left to burn when it came to it. They stayed until the flames were out completely, knowing that it paid to make sure, then Dean nudged Sam with his shoulder.
"Come on, lets get out of here."
Sam didn't protest, still looking dazed. Dean couldn't really blame him.
In the car Dean suggested it might be a good idea to check out and stop at a motel a little further away. Sam hadn't offered any resistance so they'd quickly driven back to their room, loaded the car and headed out. As Dean drove out of the city he felt himself relax a little. He glanced over at Sam, worried by the complete silence and the way his brother was hunched down in the corner of the seat.
Sam nodded, not even turning his head.
Dean sighed. Yeah – sure you are, he thought.
They drove for just over an hour, Dean eventually spotting a motel sign and pulling off at the next exit. He checked them in, got the bags out of the trunk and went round to the passenger side.
Sam still hadn't moved.
He contemplated just opening the door and watching his brother fall out but then decided it wasn't exactly the right moment. Instead he knocked on the window lightly and Sam jumped a little.
"You gonna get out or you wanna sleep in there all night?"
Sam seemed to realise they'd actually stopped and he opened the door as Dean stepped back. He wouldn't meet Dean's eyes though, reaching out and taking one of the bags without a word and waiting for Dean to tell him which room they were in.
Dean bit back his frustration, knowing that losing his temper wasn't going to help. He was gonna have to tread very carefully on this one.
He led the way to room 206, opening the door and stepping back to let Sam pass. He locked it behind them and pulled the curtains closed, flicking on the light. Shrugging off his jacket he dropped the bag on the floor and sat down on one of the beds. He watched as Sam took off his own jacket and sat down on the other bed, still not looking at him.
"Sam, look at me."
Sam fidgeted uncomfortably but still kept his gaze firmly fixed on the slightly psychedelic carpet.
Sam actually flinched that time as Dean echoed what he'd said when Sam had been about to pull the trigger. He swallowed, praying that he wasn't about to throw up. He heard footsteps and the bed dipped as Dean sat down next to him. Part of him wanted to move away but the other part appreciated the closeness, the reminder that he hadn't actually shot his brother in the head.
Dean considered his words carefully before he spoke.
"Look, I'm not gonna try and make a joke out of this or shrug it off, ok? I know you were worried about this happening and you were right. And I'm sorry."
This time Sam did glance at him, but only out of the corner of his eye.
"Why are you sorry? I'm the one who nearly killed you." he said, quietly.
"You did not nearly kill me, Sam! Listen to me, that was Munro back there. Do you understand? He was controlling you, you had no choice."
Sam laughed bitterly.
"Right, like I had no choice when Ellicott was the one controlling me. I told you, it's me – I'm the one who is so easy to take over. I'm the one these people can use to do whatever the hell they want. Dad was right – one day the demon is gonna use that and he's gonna use me, to do god knows what. It's not safe to be around me, Dean."
Dean grabbed hold of Sam's shoulders, pulling him round and shaking him slightly.
"Don't say that, Sam! Don't you dare say that! There is nothing you could have done to stop this, do you understand? Nothing! It could just have easily been me if you'd let me go in and see the guy! Same with Ellicott. This isn't about you being easy to control it's about them being good at what they do! Look how many people Munro controlled in his time –please, Sam, you have got to listen to me." Dean pleaded.
Sam shook his head, feeling Dean's fingers digging into his shoulders. He still looked down at the floor miserably, feeling his eyes sting.
"I should have been able to stop him doing it. Why didn't I remember, when I came out of his office?"
"Because he didn't let you remember! Do you think all those people would have gone on to commit murder if they could have remembered what that son of a bitch was doing to them? He'd been doing this for nearly a century, Sam, I reckon he'd had time to pretty much perfect it, don't you?"
"They never remembered though. His victims, after the murders they all said they didn't remember anything – but I could. When he was controlling me I could hear your voice. I could see you. It was like watching everything through a fog, but I understood. I just couldn't stop it."
Dean shook his head, even though it was a wasted gesture since Sam still wasn't looking at him.
"Don't you see? You're missing the point. You did stop him. You snapped out of it – you didn't kill me. Of all his victims, none of them ever did that. Except you."
Finally Sam did look up at him, his eyes full of pain and guilt.
"I couldn't. I could hear your voice and I just couldn't. I could feel him, pushing and pushing, but I would have done anything not to pull that trigger."
Dean smiled at him gently.
"Which is exactly what I've been saying. How strong did you have to be, to resist him like that? You did good here, Sammy. You saved the day. So please, stop beating yourself up for not knowing he'd brainwashed you. And while you're at it, let go of this whole thing about Ellicott too, would ya? It's over – past tense."
"I still pointed a gun at your head though. I still almost pulled the trigger."
"The important word there, Sam, is 'almost'. When it came down to it, you didn't. That's all I care about."
Sam saw in Dean's eyes that it was true, that really was all he cared about. The only thing he could see was relief, forgiveness and maybe even a little pride.
He didn't deserve it.
He stopped, not knowing what he could say to apologise enough for what he'd nearly done. He didn't have to say anything though. Dean knew exactly what his brother was thinking and as far as he was concerned, it was unnecessary.
"I know. But it's over. Promise me you're not gonna dwell on this - promise me you're not gonna go around thinking this proves some random point about Dad being right over this stupid destiny crap. You're not that person, and I know that even if you don't."
Sam wished he could believe it as much as Dean clearly did, but these days he just didn't know what to think sometimes. He looked up again, seeing Dean waiting patiently for him to answer.
"I don't know if I can." he said, deciding honesty was the best policy.
Dean sighed, the answer not unexpected but no less frustrating.
"Fine. Well then think about this – out of all those people, out of the hundreds of victims that came under Munro's control, you're the only one who didn't go through with it. If you ask me that says a hell of a lot about the kind of person you really are. And you wanna know something else? I reckon it says a hell of a lot about our relationship as well."
He stood up, wanting to give Sam some time to digest that.
As he watched Dean go into the bathroom and heard the water start running, Sam replayed the words in his head.
As hard as it was to stomach, maybe Dean was right. Maybe he was focusing on the wrong thing. He hated that Munro had been able to control him, hated that yet again he'd had his brother on the wrong end of a gun. But it was true – he hadn't gone through with it. When it came down to it he'd simply not been able to pull that trigger, mind control or no mind control.
He felt some of the tension leave his shoulders.
Perhaps it did indeed say a lot about their relationship, that the bond between them was so strong it could overcome something as powerful as Munro. Maybe it was a good sign, that however much they might annoy and frustrate each other at times when push came to shove they were brothers. And nothing could really get past that.
When Dean came out of the bathroom Sam was still sitting in the same position, but instead of looking anguished as he had before he instead had a thoughtful look on his face.
"All yours, Sam." Dean said, gesturing to the empty bathroom.
Sam looked at him.
"Huh? Oh, right."
He got up and grabbed his things, still clearly lost in thought. Dean shook his head, hoping he hadn't started something. If Sam thought about this any harder he was gonna hurt himself.
Dean was watching TV when Sam came back out again, stretched out on his bed with one arm behind his head. He glanced out of the corner of his eye as Sam put his dirty clothes in the bag and sat down on his own bed.
It was silent for a moment as Sam kept his gaze on the TV. Dean had almost decided he obviously didn't want to talk about it anymore when finally Sam spoke.
"Maybe you're right."
"You know it would save so much time and effort if you'd just realise that every time."
Sam's lips twitched and he tried to look serious.
"Could you just not, for once? I mean it – I've been thinking about what you said, how the fact I couldn't pull the trigger says something about me. About us. And I'm just saying, maybe you're right about that part."
"Good. Because I am."
"I'm not saying you're right about everything though."
Dean rolled his eyes.
There was more silence for a moment, this time less heavy than it had been before.
"So no more wailing and teeth gnashing then, huh? We're gonna put this one behind us and move on?"
Sam glared at him.
"I do not wail and gnash my teeth, Dean."
"Right. Sure you don't."
Sam briefly reconsidered the whole brotherly bond thing.
"Fine – yes, we can put it behind us. But I want you to admit I was right though, about it being a bad idea me seeing Munro on my own."
"Nope, can't do that I'm afraid. You thought it was a bad idea because you were insisting Munro was gonna make you go all dark side and kill me. Since you didn't, that means I was right when I said that wouldn't happen."
"I still pointed the gun at you, Dean!"
"Yeah, but you didn't pull the trigger, Sam. Hence I am, as usual, right."
Sam stared at him.
Sam gave up. He knew when Dean was in this mood it was pointless. He pushed back the blankets and got into bed properly, pulling them back up once he was comfortable.
Dean yawned and decided Sam had the right idea. It had been a long day after all.
He got up and switched off the TV, checking the door one more time and turning out the light. He got back in bed and lay down with a contented sigh, surprised to find the mattress was, for once, quite comfortable.
"There is one thing though."
He glanced over towards Sam's bed.
"Next time we come across a job that has anything to do with some homicidal psychiatrist or any other kind of mind control, we leave well alone."
Dean considered this.
"Fair enough. Probably best not to push our luck."
"Good." said Sam, glad not to have had any argument.
As he lay there in the dark Sam thought about all those other victims of Munro's and said a silent thank you that he hadn't joined that list. Surprisingly he did feel better about the fact this time he'd been able to resist. And that might just finally lay the ghost of Ellicott and what had happened at the asylum to rest.
He glanced over at Dean, able to tell even from there that his brother was almost asleep, and smiled to himself.
They were lucky really.
Despite everything that happened, despite all the things they went through every day, they still had something that even a monster like Munro couldn't destroy.
And perhaps that wasn't a bad lesson to remember.