May 3, 2008

Disclaimer: Sam's thoughts regarding his leaving for college near the end of this piece are purely the ravings of a poisoned and tortured mind, and do not reflect the author's opinion of Sam's choices. LOL!

Thanks to geminigrl11 for the beta. Reviews craved. I own nothing.

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What Doesn't Kill You…

January 25, 2009

Time Unknown

Pain was the first thing that registered. Mind-rending, white-hot, all-encompassing pain. He wanted to scream but couldn't. Nothing worked. His mouth, his throat, his lungs--it was like everything had been disconnected.

Through the fog of agony, his ears--which just started working again--detected faint whispers. The voices were quiet, but gravelly, like glass in a garbage disposal. The language was unfamiliar, which he felt should surprise him. It seemed like he should have knowledge like that.

If a disembodied pair of ears and an overloaded pain threshold knew anything.

The whispers slowed as the pain spiked, intensifying to the point where he wanted to pass out and go back to the oblivion from which he'd been slowly emerging. It didn't happen, though. He wasn't going anywhere.

Frustrated, he opened his eyes--he had eyes, it turned out--and was instantly blinded. The light around him was far too bright. As he snapped his eyes back shut, he caught a glimpse of someone, or something, in the shadows just past the blinding lights. It was a dark shape that vaguely resembled a human.

Sam's lungs chose that moment to return, and he gasped so hard that he choked, wheezing helplessly. A hand grasped the side of his head, and he flinched, expecting the pain to increase, but instead, the hand simply held him up. It was almost comforting.

"Calm down. Take it slow. It's almost over," a voice cooed. A voice he should know--

Dean.

The hand stroked his sweat-soaked hair. If Sam hadn't known better, he would've described it as kindly. Loving. But, he did know better. No one cared for Sam like that anymore.

He shied away from the hand, wanting to be alone, but his muscles refused to respond the way he wished, and his head merely lolled limply to the side. The hand didn't leave. Dean's voice was still there, too.

"You shouldn't have made me mad like that, Sam."

Sam managed to drop his head between his chained arms, finally dislodging the hand. There, better protected from the light, he could see clearly. His shirt and jeans were soaked through with blood--his, he knew--but the various cuts and gashes left by Dean's knife were gone.

So was the stab wound in his stomach.

Besides the dried, itchy blood and the poison that he could still feel burning inside him, there was no evidence of his injuries. Sam blinked, confused. How was that possible?

He struggled to raise his head, and felt the hand again, helping him. He squinted at Dean's blurred visage. Sam's tongue felt like sandpaper on his dry, cracked lips. He got out the word "how?" before erupting into a hacking cough.

"Slow, Sam. Try to swallow."

Sam did as he was told. Swallowing made it a little easier.

"Why--how--am I still alive?"

Dean nodded toward the shadows to their left. "Healer fixed you up. Lilith doesn't want you dead, yet. You got me into some trouble."

"Sorry if…bothered…you…." Sam felt like it should be sarcasm, but, instead, his words came out earnestly. He'd caused his brother enough trouble and pain for one lifetime, after all.

For a moment, amusement crinkled Dean's eyes. The look was fleeting, and quickly shifted to something that Sam might once have called affection. Sam was transfixed. He hadn't seen this look on Dean in eight months.

The expression faded fast, and was replaced by a frown. Dean stood, backing away with a frown. Sam wanted him to come back, but said nothing.

Without a word, Dean spun on his heel and stalked out of the spotlight into the darkness. Sam couldn't see anything, but he heard a door open and slam shut in the distance.

Sam sagged in his chains, not caring when the spikes inside his shackles dug into his wrists. Whatever the healer had done to him, it was merely damage control. His energy level was so low he could barely keep his eyelids raised. It felt like he'd been awake for days.

He huffed humorlessly. I don't even know what day it is….

Sam could feel the torturous poison pulsing through him with every heartbeat. It prevented him from passing out and escaping the pain. Resting his too-heavy head on his right arm--his completely healed right arm, the healer fixed everything--he sighed.

Pissing off Dean hadn't worked the way he'd hoped.

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January 26, 2009

1:35 AM

"SAM!"

His cries for help went unanswered, as always. His brother couldn't hear him.

There weren't any torture methods left to endure. They'd used every conceivable method and technique. Dean refused to believe that there could possibly be any more ways to inflict pain.

He saw two oily black demons approaching, slithering through the rusty web of chains, illuminated by flashes of hell fire.

Moments later, as he writhed and screeched in agony, he realized he had been wrong. There were more ways--

Dean shook off the memory and resumed his angry pacing outside the warehouse door. A few dozen feet away, two demons in possessed human hosts watched him as they lazily rested against a stack of crates. They appeared amused.

Fuck 'em! Dean kept pacing, trying to calm himself down. Sam. This was all Sam's fault. The kid wasn't supposed to be able to use that abused puppy look on him anymore. But, Sam had gotten under his skin somehow, the bastard.

Sam had betrayed him. He'd let him go to Hell even after swearing up and down that he wasn't going to allow it. Dean, idiot that he was, had let himself to be lulled into believing it.

Yet, when the time came, had Sam followed through on his promises? No. Sam had let Lilith sic the dogs on him, literally. Had he stopped Lilith? No. Used his super-special psychic bullshit to help his brother? No. Sam had done nothing, except deliver Dean right into Lilith's hands.

"SAM!!" Sam was out there, somewhere, trying to get to him, Dean was sure of that. He just needed to scream loud enough, break the oppressive veil of pain and misery that surrounded and pervaded his body. If he screamed louder, Sam would come.

"He won't. He's forgotten you."

Dean ignored the whispers. The demons lied, lied and hurt him. They wanted him to think Sam wasn't coming but he was. Sam was coming.

"SAM, PLEASE!!"

"Dean?"

He looked up at the sound of the little girl's voice. Lilith approached from the darkened warehouse's office area. She'd set up in there, with her demonic minions. Dean barely suppressed a sneer. He knew Lilith was responsible for releasing him, and he owed her for that, but there were limits. She was a demon, a damned liar, just like Sam. He would play her game just long enough to get back at Sam, then he was gone.

She had made it clear: he would be free if he killed Sam--slowly, so she could enjoy it. Dean had no problem with that. His brother had betrayed him. Sam wasn't worth saving. But, that was the extent of Dean's loyalty to Lilith. Once Sam was taken care of, Dean planned on hitting the road.

If Lilith wanted to argue with him about that, he would just have to introduce her to the business end of the Colt. Dean casually checked his shirt, to make sure the gun was still concealed, then turned to the approaching demon bitch.

"Is Sam alive?"

"SAM!"

"Sam's alive. He's left you for dead. He could have saved you, but he left you with us."

"SAM!!"

Dean nodded distractedly. "The healer is finished."

"Good," Lilith crowed, as if Dean had just announced he'd gotten the little girl a new Barbie. "Why did you stab him?"

"Sam left you for dead. He doesn't deserve to live. He betrayed you."

"He made me mad," Dean shrugged.

Lilith regarded him for a moment, seeming to want to say something, then just shrugged. "I want him to pay."

"SAM!

"If your father had killed him like he was supposed to, you wouldn't be here, suffering so…"

"SAMMY!!"

"He laughs, you know. He laughs when he thinks about the deal you made. He thinks you were an idiot. He laughs when he pictures you down here. Sam only cares about himself. You know this, Dean."

"SAM! PLEASE! DAMN YOU, SAM! PLEASE HELP ME!"

Dean nodded. "He will."

Lilith nodded, taking the hand of one of her bodyguards and skipping away, back toward the offices.

"He's not coming. He isn't even looking for you."

"SAM! SAM WHY WON'T YOU HELP ME?!"

"He never wanted to help you. Think about it. Do you think it would take a year for a genius like Sam to find a way to break a simple crossroads deal?"

"SAM!!"

"Don't believe us? Why hasn't he come? Surely a psychic as powerful as him can hear your screams. Ask yourself why he's left you here so long. He had the power to save you even before that night…."

"SAM?! WHY, SAM?! SAMMY! DAMN YOU, SAM! HELP ME!"

Sam didn't answer. Surely Sam could hear him….

Dean watched the deceptively childlike demon leave, then turned back to the warehouse door. His brother was inside. The brother he'd raised, loved more than himself. The brother who'd abandoned him, once for Stanford and Jess, once to Hell itself. The brother who'd betrayed him.

Dean stepped through the door.

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January 26, 2009

2:20 AM

Bobby pointed to a spot on the map, a building across the street from the warehouse in which Sam was being held. "Right here, the blueprints say the water main for that whole block runs through there. We bless the water at that point, then we set off the sprinklers in the warehouse. Every demon inside will be distracted enough for us to bust in and find Sam."

It was a workable plan, if not particularly safe for whoever had to get to that spot. It was pretty much the same tactic they'd used against Lilith in Indiana the night Dean died. The hardest part would be getting into the adjacent building undetected. Lilith's demons were everywhere, and Bobby, Ruby, and Ellen were all unfortunately well-known to the enemy.

"That's where I come in, right?" Deacon asked, examining the map closely. He pointed to an alley on the opposite side of the building from the warehouse. "Will they have this side street covered?"

"I don't know," Ruby interjected. "They didn't when I was snooping around, but Lilith's not stupid, and she knows Sam's friends are in town."

Deacon looked up, smiling faintly. "But, they don't know that we're stupid enough to try a frontal assault on forty or more demons."

"Which raises the question of are we that stupid?" Ellen asked, drumming her fingers impatiently on the table. The question was only rhetorical--questioning the tactics, not the plan--Deacon knew. She was as anxious to get to Sam as the others.

Deacon scanned the other three faces in the room. He didn't see much hope, only resignation. Shaking his head, he stepped back from the table and paced in a slow circle.

Since arriving hours before, he had noticed a serious drop in morale. Bobby and Ellen were both seasoned hunters, good at what they did, and Ruby, while untrustworthy and arrogant, seemed just as morose as the others. Sam Winchester, despite himself, had been holding this group together since losing Dean. His leadership, reluctant and unrecognized as it was, had been winning this war for them.

He wondered if Sam had any idea how much he was needed.

Still pacing, Deacon eyed the depressed group before him. "When Johnny and I were in Vietnam, our squad was pinned down by enemy fire. It was bad; they outnumbered us at least three to one. Our CO was down. John was trapped behind a tree between us and them, leg was all shot up, and nobody was stupid enough to go out and help him."

He glanced over, noting that the other three were still paying attention. "So, I decided it right there. A few of us lobbed grenades right into the center of the enemy's hiding place, and broke up the fire. I crawled out, and after tossing a few more grenades, I dragged Johnny back to our line and we got out of there."

Ruby was frowning at him. "Great story. What's your point?"

Deacon stopped pacing and moved back to the map and tapped a spot about a city block away from the warehouse. "Point is, Johnny's baby boy is out there now, and we need to lob a few grenades. This sewer tunnel leads right under the building with the water main. I can go in here, well out of sight, and get to the main without any of them spotting me."

Ellen sat up. "Ruby didn't scout the sewers. That's a big risk, Deacon. There could be more demons down there."

"That's a chance I have to take. When I give you the signal, hit the warehouse. Go right in the front door, and set off the sprinkler system. No time to start a fire, so you'll probably need to blow something up."

Ellen smirked at that and muttered under her breath. "Marines…."

Ruby looked from the map to the others and back, then gathered her weapons and headed for the door. "Well, if we're going to commit suicide, let's get it over with."

"I wonder if Sam's all right," Ellen asked the room at large as she watched Ruby pack.

"Kid's made of leather," Deacon murmured, allowing a glimmer of pride to show through for John's youngest. "If the past eight months didn't kill him, nothing can."

He hoped to God he was right.

Ellen gathered what she needed and followed Ruby outside. Deacon was reaching for his bag when he realized that Bobby was staring at him. "What?"

"When John told that story," Bobby smirked. "He's the one who threw the grenades."

Deacon laughed. "Well, Johnny always was a spotlight hog."

The two men headed for the door, respective weapon bags slung over shoulder. Deacon tapped Singer's arm.

"Hey, is that grenade launcher still in the trunk? The one Dean picked up in Arizona? I have an idea."

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January 26, 2009

2:50 AM

The images were the worst part of his new life, the memories. They'd shown him things while he was in hell. They'd shown him Sam.

Dean had watched Sam, unable to close his eyes or ignore what he was seeing, for months after the night in Indiana. As if it wasn't bad enough that Sam had left him, trapped and tortured, when he'd had the ability to save him, Sam had added insult to injury, systematically destroying everything Dean and their father had left him, given him. Everything that had been held dear.

He'd seen Sam burning his body, his clothes, the photos rescued from their old house, even Dad's journal. Sam had rid himself of all of it, as emotionlessly as someone taking out the trash.

The image that Dean remembered the most clearly, though, was his amulet. He'd treasured it, that small gift from his beloved little brother more than anything else. They'd moved around so much growing up that Dean had become practically nomadic. No possession held meaning for him, since being on the move meant traveling light. Unnecessary books, movies, souvenirs, anything that didn't fit in the trunk or under the seat was always left behind. He'd discarded favorite jackets, shirts, weapons, food, but never once considered leaving the amulet behind. Apart from rare occasions like hospitalization or that damned shapeshifter, he never even took it off. Not willingly, anyway.

It was with horror that Dean watched Sam pluck that one most guarded object from his shredded body, stare at it for a moment, and then crush it under his boot. Sam's sneering laughter had filled his ears, and broken him more effectively than any demon's torture. He'd seen that over and over, at first refusing to believe it.

But, if it wasn't true, how was he seeing it? He'd seen Sam, he knew it was Sam, he knew Sam too well to doubt that. Demons lied, of course, he knew that, too. On the other hand, he was already in their clutches…so why bother lying to him?

The sight of it made his blood boil. Anger made his vision go red. How dare Sam? That amulet was his. It was a symbol, a marker of the moment the normal brotherly bond between him and Sam had become unbreakable. Despite Dean's love for their father, that had been the night he realized that no matter what happened, it was him and Sam. Forever.

It incensed Dean just thinking about it.

It was that anger, than betrayal that had fueled Dean more than anything else the last few days. He had loved his brother…so damned much. How could Sam abandon him like that?

It's in Sam's nature, they'd told him. And for once in Dean's life, Sam's actions started to make sense. The way he'd professed bleeding heart ideals, yet didn't hesitate to gun down Jake in cold blood. The way he hadn't hesitated to kill people like Gordon, or the possessed humans they'd been finding after the devil's gate opened, the Crossroads Demon herself. It all pointed to something Dean had purposefully ignored.

Sam wasn't human, not the way Dean had once thought.

The heartless things he'd done since Dean had last seen him, those were surprising, but they fit, too. The antiques dealer in Africa that Sam had killed, just to retrieve the Colt, the sailors he'd murdered during that same trip. The people in all those dark alleys that Sam cut down just to get to Lilith….

Sam wasn't the innocent kid Dean had always believed him to be, he was killer. Dad's last warning about Sam seemed more prophetic all the time. Dean should have listened to it more carefully.

Dean shook off his thoughts as he re-entered the warehouse's main floor. His brother was there, right where Dean had left him, chained beneath the spotlight. Sam looked exhausted, and Dean had no doubt he was. The poison that had coated the knife acted like a stimulant, keeping a person awake no matter how tired, no matter how far past the pain threshold the body was pushed. It was also very painful, like acid in the blood and muscles. The pinched look on Sam's face was one of the few signs of the agony he was no doubt in, though, and Dean had to admit to being impressed with his endurance.

Sam's freakish nature was asserting itself. A normal human would have been begging for death by now, but Sam's ramped-up strength and demonically-assisted immune system was keeping him together.

Dean slowed as he approached, looking the kid over. It was hard to believe that this man, whom Dean had protected his whole live, could be so callously disloyal. All the talk of brotherhood and family…it had all been so meaningless.

The rage burned in Dean's belly, and he stalked the last few feet to his bound captive and grabbed him by the too-long hair. "Rise and shine, freak."

Sam roused slightly, dilated eyes blinking lethargically, clearly delirious. "Dean…?"

Dean frowned at the confusion in the face that bordered on disbelief. The poison must have been hitting Sam harder than he thought. It wouldn't kill Sam, but he wouldn't be lucid for very long, either. Figures he'd check out when the going got tough….

"Well, Lilith wants us to get started again, Sam. What do you want to talk about?"

Sam didn't answer, just grunted when Dean released his hair, his head lolling back to rest on his arm once more. Dean grimaced, unsure why Sam's silence unnerved him so much. He was past this, past falling for Sam's innocent little brother act. Sam shouldn't be getting under his skin so easily.

Shaking off his unease, Dean unsheathed the knife and circled Sam. He'd have to be more careful this time, less involved. No stabbing the prisoner when he pisses you off. At least until Lilith was done playing around.

"There's gotta be something on your mind, Sam," Dean taunted, bringing the blade down on Sam's shoulder. Blood trickled slowly from the cut.

"You never knew how to shut up before, don't go quiet on me, now."

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January 26, 2009

3:30 AM

Getting into the building was easy. The sewer tunnel wasn't guarded and all of Lilith's sentries were on the other side of the street.

Deacon found the main water line right where the blueprints stated, in a sub-basement of the abandoned office building, and laid a protective line of salt along the door and windows of the small room. There was a rectangular, shuttered window just above his head, allowing him to watch the warehouse and the guards without them seeing him.

He unscrewed the access cover as quietly as he could, although he was fairly certain nothing would hear it. The pipeline was harder to force open, given all the corrosion, but after a few heaves, it gave way and the sound of rushing water filled the room.

All right, now the fun starts. Deacon pulled a string of rosary beads from his coat and said a quick blessing in Latin, then recited a longer Catholic ritual as he dipped the rosary in the water, and secured it to a bolt along the edge of the opening so that it would continue to work as the water flowed past.

Hope to God this works….

Deacon closed the hatch, and opened his cell, dialing Bobby. When the older man answered, Deacon said the code word.

"Grenade."

He closed the phone and stepped up to the window, silently sliding the glass open so he could hear.

Moments later, he heard a car screech to a stop somewhere just out of sight. Before the demons guarding the door could react, Deacon heard the distinct FWOOMP of the grenade launcher from the back of the Impala.

The large rolling door was ripped open by an explosion, a large hole forming dead center. Several of the guards were blown into the street, wounded, if not dead. Another FWOOMP sent a second grenade through the opening to detonate inside. The explosion, its force vented out in the confined space, blew the remains of the door off their hinges, leaving the place wide open and starting a fire among the stacks of boxes and paper inside.

If the sprinkler system works-- It did. Water burst from the ceiling, showering the remaining guards in holy water. They howled and tried to crawl away. Ruby appeared from around the corner, using her knife to dispatch the guards with frightening efficiency. Ellen and Bobby appeared, racing up to the door and pushing past the fire. The loud report of shotguns could be heard inside.

His job done, Deacon headed back to the sewer. After he retrieved his car, he'd meet the others, who hopefully would have Sam, and they'd beat a path out of town.

Assuming they all survived this crazy attack.

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January 26, 2009

3:05 AM

Sam didn't even cry out anymore, merely groaning as the knife traveled down his side, leaving a bloody gash in its wake. Dean frowned. Maybe he needed to slap Sam around a little to wake him up. The poison was working too fast.

As Dean moved back to the front of his prisoner, he heard Sam muttering something. He leaned in, trying to decipher the barely audible words, and stopped short. He couldn't believe it.

Sam was singing.

It was so soft Dean almost missed it, but Sam was definitely singing.

"Wanted…wanted…dead or alive…dead or alive…."

If this is my last day, I do not want it to be socially awkward.

Dean blinked, shaking his head as the memory surfaced.

Bon Jovi?

Bon Jovi rocks. On occasion.

Dean grabbed his head, the memory of his last night before the hounds had taken him literally hurting. He didn't understand what was happening. Sam was lost in delirium; he couldn't be doing anything to influence Dean towards sympathy. Besides, the spell drawn in blood on his forehead should have prevented that. The lyrics themselves were harmless, so what was causing--?

He gasped as the image of Sam burning his body flashed before his eyes, followed quickly by the scene of Sam crushing the amulet under his boot. Rage flared inside Dean, blotting out the sudden headache.

Sam. Sam had betrayed him…. Sam had abandoned him….

The anger overrode his caution, and he reached forward, yanking Sam's head up by the hair. The emotion tearing at Dean's insides was so powerful he was crying. Jesus, he was actually crying. What's happening to me?

"You left me," Dean snarled, pressing his face right up to Sam's and seeing the blown pupils, the sweat-drenched skin, and only growing angrier. "You promised you'd save me, you bastard. You let me die!"

Sam blinked slowly, as if noticing Dean for the first time. "Would have…would...have done anything…."

Dean sneered. "Yeah, I'll bet. You'd have done anything to get rid of me, huh? Anything to sell me up the river."

Sam seemed to try and shake his head, but failed, neck barely responding. "Would have…save you…."

Dean frowned. "What?"

Sam blinked once, and for a moment, the person beneath all the pain and poison peeked through, weakly, before sinking again. "Would have…done…anything…save you…."

Would have done anything to save you.

Taken aback by the obvious lie, Dean sputtered. "Yeah…yeah, right!"

The image of Sam crushing the amulet flashed again, leaving Dean angrier than before. He raised the knife to Sam's neck, intent on cutting the lying, manipulative little bastard's throat once and for all. To hell with Lilith.

"Sure Sam. Lie to me. Lie to yourself, I don't give a damn. You never cared about me at all, did you? Well…payback's a bitch."

He started drawing the knife across Sam's neck, anger pushing him forward while his instincts screamed at him to stop. After about an inch, the knife jumped, and something fell out of Sam's shirt, clinking on the floor. Dean pulled back and looked down to find whatever had fallen.

Dean's eyes caught the glint of gold in Sam's shadow, near his knee, and he gasped in shock.

It was his amulet.

Dean froze. The image of Sam smashing it flashed through his mind again, along with that burning hatred that always accompanied it. But, this time the image froze as his eyes examined the amulet lying just inches away from his foot.

Sam had smashed it, broken his word, their brotherhood…but the amulet was right in front of him, whole and undamaged, save the now severed leather necklace. Severed.

Dean dragged his eyes up to see blood spurting from the wound on Sam's neck, coating the knife and his hand. Sam was bleeding out. The blade had severed an artery.

Frozen in indecision, Dean just stared. Sam hadn't destroyed the amulet. But-- A voice in his head screamed for him to move, to do something…Sam was dying right in front of him.

Snapping out of it, Dean turned to the healer, who was watching from the far wall. "Get over here, now!"

The cloaked creature jumped in surprise, then scuttled over to them. Dean pointed at Sam's injury and barked. "Heal him! Lilith doesn't want him dead yet!"

The healer went to work, spinning its particular brand of black magic. Dean reeled. His eyes dropped back to the amulet. Scooping it up, all he could do was stare at it.

He'd watched Sam destroy it, over and over. It had been real, he knew it. But even month after agonizing month of viewing that scene in Hell while demons ripped at his soul couldn't compete with hard evidence. Dean had the amulet in his hand. It had fallen from Sam's neck and he was holding it in his hand.

Sam had kept it, worn it. Sam hadn't destroyed it. Sam hadn't--

A hiss from behind told him the healer was finished. Dean turned back to it and nodded. "Good. Now, get out."

The healer stared at him for a moment, obviously confused. Dean growled at it.

"I said leave. Now. I'll call you when I'm ready for you again. I want a little--private time--with my traitor of a brother."

The lies tasted foul in his mouth, but the healer seemed to buy into them. No doubt it had enjoyed Sam's suffering as much as Lilith. It smiled--hideously…Dean had never liked this thing--and moved off. Dean waited for it to clear the room before moving.

When he heard the door open and close, he moved cautiously toward Sam. The black magic that stitched the wounds closed lessened the poison's effects only slightly, but Sam would be a bit more lucid, for a few minutes, anyway. Dean knelt in front of Sam, pulling his slumping head forward and holding the amulet where Sam could see it.

"Sam? Sam," Dean shook his brother slightly, rousing him. Sam's eyes cracked open. "Sam, you kept this? My amulet…you were wearing it?"

Sam nodded groggily, but didn't seem to be following the same train of thought as Dean. Dean shook him again, a little more gently. "Why?"

"Reminded…me of…you…." Sam mumbled. The undertone of why else? was clear in his voice.

Dean's eyes welled up, partly from anger, partly from horror at what he'd done. Those mother-fucking demons…. "Sam…you didn't give up on me, did you?"

Sam's eyes rolled in their sockets, and Dean realized that his brother wasn't even here now, but in some place only he could see. "Just…you and me…."

Dean choked on a sob, leaning forward to press his forehead against Sam's. The note of faith in his little brother's voice broke him. After everything Dean had done, after eight months alone, Sam still hadn't given up on him.

I have to get him out of here. They'll kill him. Dean knew his life was on the block, now, too. Maybe it always had been. He was such an idiot.

"Oh, God," Dean gasped. "Oh, God, Sam…I've fucked us both, bro. They'll never let us leave. Lilith--"

"Stupid radio broke…couldn't…Bon Jovi tape's…stuck in it…."

Dean frowned. The poison's effects were pushing Sam further into delirium. Dean looked under the drooping eyelids and saw the dilated pupils, and the pain showing through in the face.

"Sam? Listen. If I break the binding spell, can you break the chains? Sam, focus man! Can you break the chains?"

Sam frowned, seemed to focus on Dean's face for a moment, then shrugged. Not the most encouraging there, bro….

Dean brought the knife up, but hesitated. The only way to break the psychic binding spell was to literally break the skin and the blood-painted sigils…but he'd already done so much damage with the blade…. He steeled himself. They didn't have a lot of time or a lot of chances, and it was very likely that they were both going to be dead very soon. "Sorry, Sammy. One more cut, then we're done."

The kid didn't even blink, just withdrew. No doubt convinced that the torture was about to begin again. Dean suppressed the urge to curse himself or scream in rage. He'd done this. He'd broken his brother so badly that--

Shut up! Just do it.

As carefully as he could, Dean slid the knife's edge right down the center of Sam's forehead, blocking out the small hiss of pain from Sam, lest he stop cutting. The wound wasn't deep, probably wouldn't even scar, but it did the job. The binding spell flashed angrily with translucent fire as the black magic was dispersed, then burned away rapidly. A second later, and Sam was free of it.

Not that it helped. Sam's head rolled back, limp. Dean grabbed the younger man's head, keeping it upright. "No time to sleep, now, Sam. Come on. Sam! Pay attention, man. Look at your chains."

Dean bit his lip, casting a wary glance over his shoulder. They were still alone for now, but he had no idea if Lilith was monitoring them somehow. If she was, they were getting in more trouble with every moment they stayed here.

Worse, he wasn't entirely sure breaking the binding spell would be enough. What if Sam's psychic abilities didn't rebound right away? The knife he carried wouldn't cut the shackles, and using the Colt would bring the guards running for sure.

He shook Sam again, rousing him. "Sam. Focus on the chains. Break, 'em, I know you can."

Sam blinked, eyes clearly briefly as they zeroed in on Dean's face. Pain caused the skin around his eyes to crease. "Dean?"

"Sam, please. I know it hurts, okay? I know. But you have to do this. Use your mojo and break the chains, Sam."

Something apparently registered, because the chains holding Sam's wrists suddenly snapped and swung away, followed by the sound of the ankle chains opening. Sam hadn't even looked at them. Unfortunately, with the chains gone, Sam's ravaged body had nothing supporting it. He crumpled like a rag doll, eyes drifting closed again.

Dean would have to carry him out.

The sound of an explosion stopped Dean cold. It was close. A second boom followed soon after, and shattered the windows along the far wall. Dean flinched as ice cold water showered down on them from the sprinklers. Gunfire sounded next, somewhere in the building.

Nothing else mattered, since the door flew open, admitting the little girl Lilith possessed, and one of her guards. The guard was barely walking, screeching as the water burned him. Holy water in the sprinklers, Dean realized. Others were coming, hunters likely. He also noticed that Lilith was walking just fine, unaffected.

You think something like that works on something like me?

Azazel's words floated back to him. He remembered that some demons were too powerful for things like holy water.

Lilith reached him, and glared at Sam, then at Dean. She screamed in fury--which was only slightly less intimidating coming from a ten year-old girl--and flicked her hand, sending Dean flying before his hand could reach the Colt.

Time was up.

Dean watched the scene unfold before him, almost in slow motion, as he struggled to rise and aim the Colt. Lilith picked up Dean's dropped knife and stood over Sam, about to deliver a killing blow. Sam's head raised groggily…and Lilith dropped the knife. She screamed as she was extracted forcefully from her human host. The thick black cloud hovered there for a moment, until Sam passed out again, releasing her.

Lilith was just getting back into her host when Dean pulled the trigger.

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January 26, 2009

Time Unknown

Sam had been going in and out for a while, slowly losing himself in the pulsing agony that the poison had been inflicting on him. He knew Dean had come back, and had felt the knife slicing into him again, but that was about it. His mind was wandering too much for anything to really register. Even the knife didn't hurt the way it had earlier.

Maybe Dean isn't cutting as deep. He wasn't happy that I almost died on him.

His mind drifted again, memories he hadn't indulged for months surfacing and dragging him down with them. Sam found himself remember that last car ride with Dean, on the way to Indiana…oh, God, he wished he'd ignored Dean and told him how he felt. Later, there hadn't even been time to say goodbye.

Instead, he'd chickened out, let Dean drag him into singing along the way they had when they were younger…when one of them wasn't near death almost everyday. Those had been happy times, even if Sam and their Dad were duking it out daily.

Dead or alive….

The words were strangely appropriate for them.

He should never have left Dean. His brother had sacrificed for him since he was a toddler, and Sam had bailed just to get away from Dad and a life that terrified him. How selfish was that? Dean had every right to hate him….

Speaking of Dean, his brother was staring him in the face, talking to him. Sam wondered if he was answering back. Not that it mattered. Dean never listened. He tried to focus anyway, Dean seemed insistent about that. Chains? Dean was shaking him. Sam struggled to stay away from the darkness that was beckoning. The poison wouldn't let him pass out completely, Sam knew, but there was nothing stopping him from zoning out for a little while.

Dean was still shaking him. Sam cracked his aching eyes open and stared at the insistent face again. He only heard the last part of whatever Dean was saying.

"--break the chains, Sam."

Oh. Yeah, okay. He had to work at it, but an image of his shackles emerged from the sludge of his thoughts, and Sam imagined them breaking. Can I go to sleep, now, Dean?

His arms and feet were suddenly free, and Sam tried to shift his weight, but all he accomplished was tipping himself over. Strangely, hitting the floor--as he knew he must have, since the room tilted sharply--didn't hurt at all. Sam decided to just rest here for a moment. There was no telling when Dean was going to start cutting him again, so he needed to enjoy every moment of peace he could find.

Someone screamed. At first, Sam wondered if he was the one screaming, but it didn't sound right. Too high-pitched. He struggled to raise his head and find the source, his blurred eyes finding a young girl standing over him with Dean's knife. No, scratch that, a demon. Sam frowned, and he reached out with his mind to shut her up.

The effort was exhausting, and Sam let his head drop again. He heard the crack of a gun shot, but didn't bother to look. If he was lucky, the gun had been aimed at him.

Nothing happened for a while, and Sam just drifted. The pain was still burning inside, but if he stayed very still, it faded almost into the background, becoming just bearable. He'd just have to stay still forever.

For a moment, Sam thought he felt himself being lifted off the ground, but dismissed it as improbable. Dean wasn't through with him yet, and Sam knew he wasn't going anywhere. He waited for the chains to lock over his wrists again, but nothing happened.

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February 2, 2009

Time Unknown

Consciousness came in flashes. Darkness, pure white, darkness, pain, panic, darkness, blood, all swirled through Sam's brain in a kaleidoscope of disjointed and confusing images and feelings. Nothing made sense anymore.

As far as Sam was concerned, this was what his once-ordered and practical life had devolved into during the past few months, a hideous amalgamation of pain and grief and blood, without end.

So, really, whatever his mind was doing now wasn't all that different from what he'd been experiencing since the previous May.

The searing pain that seemed to envelope him was new, though. He vaguely remembered a knife, and Dean, and bright lights and more blood. There was always blood. On his clothes, in his thoughts, on his hands, dripping onto his forehead, flowing out of a gunshot wound in Madison's chest, soaking through Dean's clothes after the Hell-hounds finished tearing him apart…. Blood was something with which Sam was very familiar. But, the pain was new.

A dark shape loomed over him from time to time, and Sam would have thought perhaps that it was Death, or a reaper, had the shape not repeatedly forced something foul and thick down his throat. Whenever he gagged on that tar-like liquid, he would fall back into a nightmarish rush of memories, nearly all of which centered on Dean, but at least the pain receded a little.

Words would filter through the dark haze. "Easy…will help…antidote…."

The words made no sense to him, but every time, almost immediately, a warm feeling would pervade his body, his paralyzed muscles would unclench and his heart would slow. The warmth relaxed him, and before long he was sliding back into oblivion.

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February 3, 2009

Time Unknown

Sam opened his eyes and was greeted by a plain white field of nothing. It took a moment for his brain to conclude ceiling. He wasn't in the warehouse anymore. The room was darkened, a light source somewhere casting long shadows and creating patterns on the white stucco ceiling. Sam blinked a few times, trying to get his bearings. He felt no pain, just a faint headache, and he was capable of moving again. His muscles were weak, causing his arms to flop uselessly, but he could move around if he concentrated.

The bed dipped, and Sam's eyes slid over to find Dean sitting next to him. There was no fight or flight reaction, he just acknowledged his captor's presence with a tired blink. He couldn't muster enough energy for anything more elaborate. Dean didn't look offended, just reached over and propped Sam's head enough to pour something out of a paper cup into his mouth.

Sam swallowed gratefully, not caring what it was so long as his throat stopped feeling like the Mojave. He paused only briefly to worry about what he was drinking.

"It's just water," Dean reassured simply.

Sam licked his lips, then tested his voice. It was scratchy and hoarse from disuse, but it was working again. "How-- How long was--?"

Dean looked at him for a minute, trying to decipher, apparently, then nodded. "Almost a week. You were delirious from the poison, took a long time to get it out of your system."

Sam frowned, trying to piece together fragmented memories. "That oily stuff?"

"Yeah, antidote."

"Tasted…like ass," Sam muttered, a little petulantly. Dean just stared for a few long seconds, then smiled faintly for some reason.

"It's witchcraft, shortbus. You're lucky I could find the ingredients."

Sam fought to keep his eyes open; it would be all too easy to slip back into sleep. But, he had to know a few things, first. "Why're…you helping me?"

The already faint smile disappeared completely off Dean's face. Silently, he reached into a pocket and brought something out. When Dean reopened his hand, Sam saw that he was holding the amulet he'd always worn, save for the last eight months. Dean took Sam's limp hand and placed the amulet in his palm, squeezing the lax fingers around it.

"This is why."

Sam stared at the otherwise ordinary piece of jewelry for a moment, then looked back at Dean, who looked miserable. "I don't understand."

"Those bastards, they--" Dean swept the lamp off the nearby nightstand; Sam would have flinched at the display of rage if he'd had the strength. "They made me think you'd destroyed it. Showed me things…. They made me think you'd turned on me, betrayed me, Sam. God, I was so stupid-- I hated you so much for that…they made me hate you."

Dean was seething, and Sam was at a loss for words. Not that he would have done any better if he'd been at full health. What could he say that wouldn't sound trite or patronizing?

Not knowing what else to do, he reached out and opened his hand. Dean was caught off-guard, and stared at the proffered amulet as if it were a coiled snake.

"No-- No. I can't," Dean whispered shyly. It reminded Sam of the first time he'd given it to him. "I almost killed you. I don't deserve it."

Sam looked at the gift, then back at Dean, knowing that Dean was seeing it for what it was, forgiveness. What else did he have to give to his brother? What could he ever deny him? He shrugged as best he could. "Neither do I. So, you take it."

Dean stared at him for a moment, mouth working as though he wanted to speak, but had forgotten how. He reached out and took the amulet, fingers lingering on Sam's for the briefest of moments. Staring at the necklace, Dean made no move to put it on.

"How could I believe them?" he murmured.

"I saw some of what you went through," Sam admitted slowly. "I think they could have made you believe anything they wanted."

Dean eyed him, then settled back onto the edge of the bed with a weary sigh. He didn't move or speak, which became awkward after a while. Sam shifted, trying to sit up but failing miserably. The movement set Dean into protective mode, and he hefted Sam up gently so he could sit against the headboard, muttering with annoyance about Sam not taking care of himself. The familiarity of it all made Sam's eyes moisten.

A few minutes of silence went by as they surreptitiously peered at each other, neither certain what to do next. When Sam couldn't stand it anymore, he broke the silence.

"So, um-- I guess…I mean…you're really you."

Dean frowned, turning back to lift an eyebrow in confusion.

"You're not a…demon," Sam clarified.

His brother's eyes widened in comprehension. He shook his head. "I, uh-- I had some help with the tricks."

A black talisman appeared in Dean's hand. "Lilith gave it to me. It let me do some of the things a demon could do, like the teleporting and stuff. Made my eyes black, too."

"Why?" Sam asked simply, energy beginning to wane.

"All part of her stupid mind games," Dean shrugged. "She wanted you to suffer, and she thought if you thought I'd turned…."

Sam nodded slowly. Lilith's ploy had worked. He chose not to share that with Dean right now.

"Anyway," Dean continued, tossing the pedant onto the other bed. "I didn't know if I'd need it to help you, so I kept it for a while. I'm gonna burn it."

"Makes sense," Sam said neutrally. He was rapidly losing his battle with sleep, and his eyes decided to drift shut of their own accord. Dean helped him slide down onto the pillow, and being horizontal again pushed Sam deeper into the peaceful darkness.

Sam suddenly felt a hand on his forehead. "I'm so, so sorry, Sammy. I should've known better."

"Not your fault," Sam slurred.

"Yes, it is. I don't want you forgiving me like I took the last cookie, Sam. I-- I tortured you. I almost killed you."

"Almost doesn't count," Sam muttered, sinking deeper toward unconsciousness. "Call a do-over…."

Dean sounded serious, though. "Sam…I'm leaving. I just had to be sure you were okay before I-- Bobby and the others are on their way. They'll take care of you."

"Y'don't have to…." Sam said, words running together. He couldn't let Dean do this. Opening his eyes was next to impossible, but he tried anyway. "Dean--"

"Sam, you can't trust me. I don't know what else they brainwashed into me, and I don't want to hurt you again. I can't. I'm sorry, but I have to leave."

The hand disappeared, and Sam redoubled his efforts to wake up. He couldn't let this happen. "Where--?"

Dean's voice came from across the room now. "I don't know. I think…I think I'm just gonna disappear. It'll be easier for both of us that way."

No it won't! Sam struggled to say it aloud, but he was too busy trying to sit up again. He could hear Dean moving, heading away, toward the door, presumably.

"Dean? Wait."

The movement stopped, and for a moment, it was so quiet that Sam thought he was alone.

"What Sammy?"

The "what" was too much for Sam to manage at that moment, it would take too long, and Sam was out of time. Instead, he settled on three words that he hoped would make his point.

"Please don't go."

There was no sound, and Sam feared that Dean had just kept walking. His useless limbs left him trapped on the bed, so pursuit was impossible. When he heard the door click, he feared the worst.

"Sammy--" Dean began, sounding frustrated and angry and grief-stricken all at once. "How can we ever look at each other without remembering what I did? I don't want to be reminded of that. I don't want you being reminded. How could we get past this? Explain that to me."

Sam finally managed to pull his eyelids open, seeing Dean poised with his hand on the doorknob. He had no bags, no weapons, just himself. He was ready to escape the world permanently, and that was one thing Sam couldn't allow.

How could they get past this? Pretty simply, Sam concluded. Once they were past this, maybe the rest would fall into place again. Saying that to Dean, however, wasn't so simple.

"Method acting."

"Method acting?" Dean repeated, frowning at him.

"It's a place to start, damn it," Sam sighed, a smile tugging at his lips. "What do you want from me?"

Dean's hand dropped slowly to his side, letting go of the doorknob. He stared at Sam for a few long moments before forming a faint smile of his own. He shook his head.

"God, you're such a pain in my ass."

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February 20, 2009

1:45 PM

Sam absently rubbed his forehead while he waited for the security gate to rise. A small crease remained where Dean had sliced his skin open to break the binding spell. It was the only remaining physical reminder of his ordeal.

The gate opened at last, admitting the Impala and her passengers. Sam eased the car through the empty parking lot and parked close to the door of the storage facility. It had taken a few weeks for him to recover from the demonic poison, even with the antidote Dean had found for him. Thankfully, the last of the side effects had finally passed, and he was able to move around again.

Dean, on the other hand, seemed to grow worse as Sam got better. He was withdrawn, sullen, and refused to speak to anyone but Sam, whom he treated like fragile glass. His penance, it seemed, was to disconnect himself from everything--but treat Sam like a king. He hadn't even driven the Impala, despite Sam's offer.

Sam stared at their Dad's secret storage building for a long while before looking over at Dean, who was also staring.

"You wanna give me a hand?"

His voice snapped Dean out of whatever trance he'd been in, and his brother looked over at him blankly. "What are we doing here?"

Sam smiled softly and pointed at his brother's shirt, which only made Dean's frown deepen. "I thought you might want your clothes. Those are pretty rank, dude. It's been three weeks."

Dean blinked, not following. "You-- You kept my clothes?"

Sam laughed, not quite knowing why Dean's bewilderment was so amusing. "I kept everything, Dean. I just took it out of the trunk."

"Why?"

"I needed the room for more weapons."

Dean shook his head. "No, I mean…why?"

Sam's smile dimmed, but didn't fade completely. He didn't like remembering all those months spent alone. He tried not to think about it, most of the time. He'd seen Dean doing the same thing, though he knew his lonely misery couldn't compare to the hellish memories Dean was fighting to get past. The haunted look in Dean's eyes scared him a little, making him wonder if they would ever be able to move on.

But, hope was kind of the point.

"Because I knew…I prayed…that you might need it someday."

Dean stared at him for a long time before turning to look out the window. He discreetly wiped a hand across his eyes. Sam ignored it, allowing him his privacy. Dean was more emotionally raw since coming back.

"You really didn't give up on me, did you?"

Sam smiled again, opening the door instead of answering. He called over his shoulder as he stood. "You gonna help me lug all this crap to the car or what? Not your slave…."

He lingered beside the car until he heard the ill-tempered reply.

"I'm coming, bitch. Don't rush me."

Sam's smile turned to a grin as he walked toward the building.

They were almost home.

END