The Dark Side of Life

Chapter 1

The unrelenting cacophony of pain, sound, and lighting flashes suddenly ceased and Dean's eyes shot open in confusion, the last of unshed tears slipping down his cheeks and a scream dying in his throat. Dean struggled to slow his breathing and his rapid heartbeat, knowing that he needed to calm down if he had any hope of grasping what the hell was going on now. He wondered if whoever or whatever was running the show had grown bored and wished to move on to Act Two of his torture. However, although his ears still rang and his muscles still vibrated from the agony that he had been enduring for God knows how long, it was blessedly quiet and Dean no longer felt the tight pull and searing heat of multiple metal hooks jabbing into his flesh. What he could feel was that he was no longer suspended at all and beneath him was what felt like soft cushions. After his eyes adjusted to the change in light, Dean recognized that above him was a dingy white ceiling. He sat upright on what he now saw was a worn couch and looked around quickly, unsure of how or why he was seeing what he thought he was seeing in the room around him. It looked like…it looked like…what part of hell would look like Bobby's house?

"Dean?!" he heard Bobby exclaim with what sounded to be a mixture of elation and relief from somewhere nearby.

In an instant, the older hunter was at Dean's side and wrapping his arms around the younger man in a bear hug. Still in shock, Dean tried to pull away from his "friend," wary of this new scenario, but Bobby held him tight. Sure, Dean had wished a million times to see his close friend again, for human contact, but he was not an idiot. He knew that he was not really seeing Bobby or sitting on his couch. As Dean's mind sorted through the dismal possibilities, he realized that likely the horror that was about to commence was of a much more sophisticated nature. In this part of hell, he realized that he would probably have to watch this Bobby suffer. Watch him die…maybe over and over...

"It worked," Dean heard Sam's voice say flatly.

Dean's head snapped to the left and he couldn't help gasping in surprise when he saw what appeared to be his little brother standing only a few feet away. Sam too? Of course. It was hell after all, Dean resigned, and it was no secret that his little brother was and will always be his weak spot. Tears sprung to Dean's eyes once again. Seeing the likeness of Bobby and his brother…there were no words. No matter how short lived this moment would surely be, it was so good to see them both…so good. Dean watched as Sam repositioned the strap of his army green duffle bag on his shoulder. As much as Dean dreaded was about what was going to happen next, he couldn't make himself tear his eyes away from his little brother just yet. He wanted to burn this moment into his mind in the hopes that it could keep him from focusing on other gruesome events that were sure to come...

"Sam," Bobby said as he pulled away from Dean to rush and block the young hunter's path. "Let's talk about this first!"

"Dean's okay so I have to go now," Sam said in the same emotionless tone.

"Don't you even want to say anything to your brother first? Give him a hug goodbye? At least look at him, God damn it!" Bobby yelled as he motioned to where Dean sat.

Their exchange of words confused Dean. He was unsure of what point it all served unless... Could it be? Was it possible that he was okay? That somehow he had GOTTEN OUT of hell? No. NO. It was just part of the insidious game. But…. BUT what if it wasn't? Dean briefly turned away from the other two men and quickly ran his hands over his body. Wiggled his feet. Everything looked fine. Felt fine. Even his clothes looked free of blood! He tentatively put his foot to the floor and pushed on it. His leg felt stiff, but strong. Like it could hold his weight. God, did it feel good to feel solid ground beneath him again.

"I know that you don't agree with it, and I'm sorry about that, but it was worth it, Bobby. A year in exchange for eternity," Sam said as he unsuccessfully tried to again maneuver past the older man.

"They won't need a year!" Bobby implored. "And it doesn't matter what I think! What about Dean? You know he doesn't want this!"

Sam's eyes darted to Dean and Dean saw the tears in them. Caught the fear and uncertainty in them as well. Although he knew he still would not yet trust the answer, Dean couldn't help but ask.

"S-sammy?" Dean rasped, his throat dry, as he swung his other leg from the couch onto the floor and stood up on shaking legs. "Talk to me. Am I…am I…out of hell?"

Tears fell down Sam's cheeks now as he parted his lips into a small, sad looking smile.

"Yeah. You're out of hell, Dean," he answered in a shaky voice.

Dean paused as his brain processed his brother's words. Out of hell. He said out of hell. How? HOW??

"What happened?" Dean asked his little brother, continuing to go along with this "reality" for the time being, realizing that he probably had no choice but to do so anyway.

Sam looked away again and did not answer the question, choosing to turn and address Bobby instead.

"Please...please just...don't make this any harder than it already is," Sam begged as he hastily wiped the tears away.

"Don't think I could, boy! Because this is already pretty damn hard!" Bobby exclaimed.

An unbearable realization suddenly hit Dean like a punch to the gut.

"WHAT DID YOU DO?" Dean yelled after he stumbled around the couch to his brother, grabbed his shoulders, and began to shake them.

Sam easily wrenched out of Dean's grasp and shoved him away. Caught off guard by such his little brother's uncharacteristic action, Dean fell back against the couch, but righted himself quickly to again face Sam.

"Sammy," Dean said as he gently put his hands on his brother's shoulders this time.

Again Sam broke free and stepped back, no longer looking Dean in the eye.

"Don't…don't touch me," Sam said, as if it was all he could do to keep himself together. "I can't...I can't do this now."

Dean did not again reach for Sam, but was not detered from asking the most difficult question of all.

"If I am out of hell and I mean if," Dean reiterated, "did you…did you give your soul for me?"

"No. Not my soul, Dean," Sam answered as he straightened his posture and the unreadable expression returned to his face. "My service."

As if on cue, a loud bonging began to sound from the other side of the room. Momentarily distracted, Bobby and Dean turned to look at the source. A black clock hanging on Bobby's wall had begun to strike midnight. When Bobby and Dean turned back a few seconds later to resume their conversation with the youngest Winchester, they discovered that Sam was gone.

Thanks for reading! FYI, it may be a bit until the next post, since I am working on some other stories and am getting married at the end of this month. Thank you in advance for your patience.