A/N: I recently participated in a charity auction run by the awesome K Hanna Korossy, and I was won by the also awesome Lissa Ann, who requested "post-Born Under A Bad Sign repercussion!emo!hurt!Sammy, wee!chester flashback(s) a bonus." I went for the bonus points. I hope you enjoy this!

The docks are cold, even though the building keeps him sheltered from most of the water's breeze. He watches and waits, waiting for his target, and

There. Not even looking around, still worried. Not focused. The perfect shot.

He follows behind silently, watching and waiting for the right moment, watching to see when the back'll turn. Too much trust, too much heart from this one, even when he knows better.

Only makes the kill sweeter.

He turns around at the cocking of the gun, eyes wide in horror and shock, but still doesn't move when it's raised, trigger pulled, hammer thrown, and


He watches Dean fall into the ocean, swallowed up by the water quickly turning red with blood. The current pulls him under, Dean's face frozen forever in fear, and Sam smirks.

Sam bolted up in bed, panting heavily. He closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose to try and steady his breathing. Nausea crept up, but he swallowed it back, focused on breathing. In, out. In, out.

When he could breathe without passing out or throwing up, he hesitantly turned towards the bed nearest the door.

Dean slept on, lips parted slightly, softly snoring. Whole, in one piece. Alive. One bullet-wound, but he wasn't dead.

Sam turned back to look at his hands in his lap. He stared at the blood underneath his fingernails and shuddered. Three days, and it was still there, his hands forever stained with blood. A hunter's blood. Jo's blood.

Dean's blood.

The light from the streetlight outside came through the center of the curtains, and with it, Sam could see his hands soaked and dripping with blood. He quickly moved his gaze upward, and found himself staring into the mirror above the dresser.

Staring into black eyes.

He shut his eyes tight and buried his face in his hands, all too late forgetting the blood. He couldn't feel it on his face, though, so he left them there to cradle his head. Three days, and the nightmares wouldn't stop. Every night, Dean died by his hands.

Every night since he'd been released from Meg.

They were on another hunt, trailing a spirit, something easy and routine. Something that didn't involve a lot of shooting; just salting and burning. Sam wasn't sure if Dean was doing it because he didn't trust Sam around guns, or because he knew Sam wouldn't trust himself around guns.

Probably the latter. The past few days, Dean had been nothing but gentle with him, cautious and careful, being obnoxious enough for Sam to not start saying Christo (and wasn't that an irony), but steady enough to be calm. Caring. Even though he'd been the one shot.

Sam flinched at the reminder and opened his eyes to stare at the bedspread covering his legs. If he kept them closed, he'd only see Dean being shot again. Or Sam digging his thumb into Dean's wound, seeing tears in his brother's eyes, seeing pain and fear but no fighting back.

Why wouldn't Dean fight back? Sam had more than earned that punch Dean had laid into him. Sam deserved more than a single frickin' punch, but Dean refused to deliver. Refused to do anything except treat him like he was porcelain, wouldn't even let Sam bring the issue up. Dean never treated him like glass, had never done it before, and Sam wasn't sure whether to be grateful or annoyed.

Like there was any choice when Dean was alive to be either one.

A memory teased at the back of his mind, another time Dean had treated him the same way. When he tried to reach the thought, though, it slid through his fingers. The only memory in his mind right now was of Dean falling over the side of the dock, eyes wide in pain and fear.

Sam slid the covers away in a sudden move and swung out of bed. There was no way he was going back to sleep. It was going to take everything he had to not remember what had happened when he was awake.

Besides, it was only three in the morning. It wasn't that far off until daylight.

The diner's bathroom sink was pristinely white, albeit cracked in a few places with age. Still, it was clean and shining, and the blood was only making it dirty. Wrong.

Sam gritted his teeth and continued to scrub at his hands.

They'd gone out for breakfast, Dean taking one look at Sam in the morning and apparently deciding he wasn't going to leave Sam alone. Not even to go grab breakfast. Any other day, and Sam would've seen it as smothering, would've been aggravated that he was being treated like a child.

Now, though, the fact that Dean wanted to be around him, didn't seem to be scared of him, was a fact that Sam was going to cling to.

The blood continued to swirl around in the sink, and Sam imagined for a brief moment that it would stain. He turned the water to the farthest side of 'Hot' at that, desperate to get rid of the blood. Desperate to get rid of the reminder of what he'd done.

It was under his nails, too. He should've grabbed a toothpick from the diner to dig it all out with. Next time he had a chance, he would. He used his other fingernails instead, scrubbing and cleaning out the blood as best he could. The boiling water only made the blood look worse, darker, and Sam rubbed furiously, tears pricking the back of his eyes. God but it wasn't ever going to come off.


Sam jerked sharply at the sudden voice, then the following pound on the door. "You in there?" Dean called again.

Sam swallowed hard and tried to find his voice. "Y-Yeah, I'll be, uh, I'll be right out." He turned back to his hands, biting his lip to keep in the sob at how much blood there still was. He couldn't let Dean see this.

"You okay?"

Sam nodded vigorously, forgetting that Dean couldn't see him. "Sam?" Dean called again a moment later, and the doorknob rattled and clicked, the door sliding in.

In a flash Sam was against the door, holding it shut. "Just...just give me a minute, okay? I swear I'm okay."

"Then hurry it up," Dean said, but he sounded worried despite the annoyed words. "I want to hit the road, get to the house before dinner."

Sam glanced around the bathroom, looking for a solution to his hands. How was he going to be able to hide them from Dean? It was a wonder Dean hadn't seen the blood yet over the past few days, but how could he not? It was all right there, bright and obvious, covering Sam's hands from his wrists to his fingertips. He shuddered, tightening his hands into fists, then flinching at the sudden sting of pain.

Good; he deserved it. But Dean didn't need to see, shouldn't have to see it.

Finally deciding there was nothing in the bathroom to make his hands magically clean, or to help him hide them from Dean, he shrugged his jacket loose until the sleeves were past his hands. He tucked them inside, his fingertips wrapping around the fabric at the edge to keep the sleeves from slipping. It wasn't perfect, but it would have to do.

Satisfied, he pulled the door open and found Dean waiting on the other side. His brother's foot was tapping anxiously against the tiled flooring, and his eyes immediately darted to Sam's face, his worry obvious. Sam felt as if he were passing a test of sorts and shifted uncomfortably in the doorway. He felt the urge to hide his hands behind his back, but resisted. Nothing suspicious, business as usual.

Dean finally nodded slowly, still not looking happy or unworried. "Let's go," he said, and led the way out of the diner. Sam kept a firm grip on his sleeves and followed after him. No backwards glances, no hesitation in walking, no tense line to his shoulders. Sam knew that Dean was still watching him, though.

It was proven as much when they got to the car and both took their seats. Dean glanced over at him, no attempts to hide the search, and frowned at Sam's covered hands in his lap. "You sure you're okay?" he finally asked after a long moment.

Sam nodded tightly. Dean stared at him long and hard, then turned back to the wheel at last. The sigh of relief from Sam was silent, but still. Last thing he needed was for Dean to start looking more closely and see the blood. He'd have to find a better way besides drawing his sleeves down.

They pulled off onto the road, Sam lost in his thoughts.

The house was quiet, save for a small rush of air that blew through a broken window and the roof. It'd been abandoned for over a decade, and the subsequent ruin was already massive. The wood floor looked solid, at least.

Even still, traversing across it went slow. A few holes here and there had Dean frowning and sidestepping them. "I'm not sure I wanna try the stairs," he muttered. "If this floor's bad, and parts of the roof are missing, then the second story's bound to be even worse, right?"

Sam nodded absently, his eyes on the EMF in his hands. It was halfway across the graph, a small whine breaking the silence of the room. He raised it towards the stairs in question and saw it climb briefly to the top, then fall back to halfway when he pulled it back towards himself. It refused to stay at the bottom of the graph, though, like it had before Dean had handed it off to Sam at the door. He swallowed hard and tried to focus on the job.

"Entire house has to be full of something," Dean said quietly, and Sam raised his eyes to meet his brother's. Dean's look was full of understanding, and Sam felt himself flush at being so transparent. A long minute passed before Dean reached a hand out to Sam's. "I've got it, Sam."

Before Sam could reply, Dean was stepping over, his hand catching Sam's to carefully take the EMF. Sam flinched away, and the EMF tumbled as Dean jerked in his own surprise. The EMF fell to the floor between them, a small whine the only sound in the sudden silence, while Dean stared in shock. Sam swallowed miserably and kept his hands tucked back and hidden.

He'd almost gotten the blood on Dean's hands. He hadn't meant to increase Dean's worry, which was exactly what he'd done, but he couldn't let Dean see the blood, and he sure as hell wasn't letting it touch his brother. It was bad enough it was on his own hands.

Dean finally found his voice. "What the hell was-"

The EMF suddenly gave a high pitched wail, causing both of them to freeze. The wail continued, nonstop, and Dean carefully picked it off the floor. The wail slid down to its normal whine, and with a glance at Sam, he lowered the EMF back to the floor. The wail returned, and Dean snatched it up while reaching for the bag slung over his shoulder. "Guess we're not going upstairs after all," he said, pulling out the shotgun. He handed it to Sam while he dug through the bag for his handgun, and Sam stepped away.

Dean paused in his search and turned to Sam, annoyance crossing his face for the first time in days. "Are you gonna be able to do this?" he asked. "You can't shy away from guns forever Sam, and I get it, I do. You're still freaked out about being possessed, but-"

"I shot you," Sam said as firmly as he could. "What part of that don't you understand?"

"It wasn't you," Dean insisted, and Sam snorted. How come there was still blood on his hands? Why was Dean still treating him as if he hadn't shot him?

The memory from earlier in the morning tried to surface again, but it was cloudy at best, and Dean was speaking again. "Look, I need you to have my back for this. This spirit's taken out twenty people already, and all the local authorities can do is lock the place down. We've got three suspects, but we need it narrowed down to one, which means we've gotta see it and possibly find out if it's tied to anything, because two out of the three suspects were cremated. It's a nasty sonuvabitch, and I need you with me," he said, his voice softer now. He pulled out the handgun and offered it next to the shotgun. "Which one?"

Without hesitation Sam took the shotgun, refusing to even look at the handgun. Dean sighed but set the bag on the floor, along with the EMF detector. "Let's see if we can't find the basement," he said quietly.

They made their way across the floor carefully, checking each room before moving on to the next. In the kitchen, they found a door, weathered but solidly closed. They took their places beside the door, guns at the ready. Sam's heart was racing in his chest for more reasons than the spirit, and the look on Dean's face told him his brother knew it. "You ready?" Dean whispered, and Sam gave a stuttering nod. No, he wasn't ready. He had a gun with ammunition in it, and his brother wasn't the least bit concerned. The sleeves had fallen back to their regular positions, leaving his hands wide open, which meant Dean had to be able to see the blood, didn't he?

Dean's fingers tightened around the knob, but before he could open it, the door flew open. Sam flew backwards, hands tight on the shotgun, eyes pinned to the figure that was now in front of him. It was an older man with eyes that bled, and the howl he gave made the hairs on the back of Sam's neck stand up. "Sam!" Dean shouted, and Sam's fingers shook as he lined up the shot. One shot, and it'd be enough to buy them time to get out.

The spirit turned fully to face him, and the blood slid down his face to the neck, the shoulder, Dean's shoulder bright red as he plummeted down to the cold waters below-

Then Sam was flying backwards, hitting the wall and knocking the wind out of him briefly. Dean was cursing, shots were fired, and Sam managed to get his breath back just as the spirit dove for him. He grabbed the shotgun and took off, hurrying back through the rooms.

Focus, dammit, he berated himself. This wasn't Dean; this was a spirit that was going to kill his brother if Sam couldn't get the shot off. Next time, Sam wouldn't miss. He'd seen the pictures of the victims, shredded apart and blood everywhere. He refused to have his brother's blood on his hands again.

Sounds from up ahead caught his attention, and he slid into the next room. The air was stirring up in the room, and Sam fumbled with the shotgun, trying to get his shaking fingers to check that it was loaded. Two rock salt rounds: perfect. He snapped it shut and hurried to pump it as sounds from the other room approached, and he flew out into the open to take aim as a figure rounded the corner.


The shotgun fell instantly from suddenly numb fingers, the surprise on Dean's face sliding into fear, terror, and god, he'd dropped the gun, wasn't going to shoot-

Then Dean was tugging him forward and reaching for the shotgun as the howl came up from behind Sam. The spirit. One shot, and the howl increased before tapering off.

"We're out of here, now," Dean managed, panting. Sam couldn't even nod, and moved at last when Dean caught hold of his jacket and pulled him out of the house. They stopped quick for the bag and the EMF, and then they were out in the car, the only sound their harsh breathing.

Sam shut his eyes and clenched his hands tightly in his lap. He'd almost shot Dean again. He'd been so certain about getting the shot off, and if he hadn't hesitated longer than a second, Dean would have a chest full of rock salt. Again. Just like the first time Sam had shot him.

"As soon as we find a motel, we're talking," Dean said. His voice was low, but the emotion was indiscernible. Sam swallowed past the fear rising in his chest and looked out the window, away from the bloody hands. Anything but the blood he could practically feel.

His eyes caught the side mirror outside the car, and his eyes, pitch black, stared back at him. Sam shut his eyes and turned to lean against the door, biting his lip. Dean was staring at him, he could feel it, and the sudden thought that Dean had seen his eyes made his heart freeze in his chest. No. No no no.

He'd already tried sipping holy water the other day, but nothing. Of course, they knew now that holy water didn't work on every demon, and what if there was something there that couldn't be touched by it? What if he couldn't be touched by it?

He had to know. Had to know if he was still putting Dean in danger, if the possession had unlocked something deep inside of him, had to know if maybe he was still possessed. But how? The EMF, maybe; it'd been halfway in the house. It was in the bag between them on the seat. He waited until the car started up and began to move, then reached into the bag, his hand feeling through the weapons to find the EMF.

He finally opened his eyes and reached over to open the bag. There, in the center between the shotgun and the handgun, was the EMF, still whining at the halfway point. Sam stared before closing the bag with shaking hands.

"It's still juiced up from the house," Dean said, his voice cutting through Sam's fear. One hand stayed on the wheel while the other reached into the bag and pulled out the EMF. It still whined, even as Dean waved it around. "See?" He kept Sam's gaze, then placed the EMF back in its bag. "It's the house, Sam, not whatever you're thinking it is."

Right. Like Dean didn't know what he was thinking about. The only problem was, Dean wasn't believing him. Dean was trying to soothe Sam's fears, trying to make it all better, completely ignoring the possibility that Sam had been left wrong by the possession.

And god, Sam wanted to believe him. Wanted to believe he wasn't still possessed, that he was okay, but the blood on his hands, the black eyes every time he saw his reflection...

But Dean could be right about the EMF. Sam turned towards the window and bit his lip hard, tears burning in his eyes. His mind was a mess, jumbled thoughts turning each way, and Sam had to know. Had to know, one way or another.

The thought hit him just as they were turning into the parking lot for a motel. Sulfur. It was impossible for anything demonic to not leave a sulfuric trace somewhere, whether as a residue or in the victim's blood. It was what made the victims so weak after they'd been possessed.

Dean parked the car halfway between the office and room twenty, the last room on the strip. A long pause, one that made Sam bite his lip even harder, then Dean was stepping out, closing the door softly behind him. Still trying not to break Sam.

Yeah, good luck with that.

As soon as Dean entered the office, Sam reached for the handle and grasped it as hard as he could. His hand shook with exertion as he hung onto it for dear life. A few minutes later, when Dean came back out, Sam finally let go, panting slightly and shaking out his sore hand. Even as he did so, though, it occurred to him that he might've left blood instead of sulfur, and his eyes whipped over to the handle.

No blood. No sulfur, either.

A careful knock on his window made Sam jerk his head up. Dean was gazing at him through the glass, a frown set on his features. "Room eleven," he said, his voice muffled. Only when he headed for the trunk did Sam open the door.

If he wasn't leaving sulfur, then...

Blood. Blood never lied.

He grabbed his bag and followed after Dean into the room, but kept moving through to the bathroom. "I mean it, we're talking," Dean started, but Sam already had the door shut. The bag was set on the closed toilet lid, the zipper pulled back, and it took only a minute to find his good hunting knife. He pulled his jacket off, then his button up, leaving himself in a gray t-shirt. Sam swallowed hard and moved back in front of the mirror, glancing up once at himself.

Black eyes stared back at him. He glared through burning tears, his whole body trembling with fear and anger, before he set the knife to his wrist.

The irony wasn't lost on him that he was shedding more blood that would wind up on his hands. His blood, at least, not some innocent hunter's. Not Jo's. Not Dean's, and that thought had him pulling the blade across the wrist from thumb to pinky.

Blood welled up immediately, and he brought his wrist up to see better. No yellowish tinge anywhere, in the blood trailing down his skin or on the blade. He let out a shuddering whimper and raised the blade an inch higher on his arm, then slit again. More blood, more blood without sulfur, and he slashed higher again, desperate now. He just wasn't seeing it right. It had to be there, had to be there, he was sure of it-

"Oh my god."

Sam's eyes darted to the doorway where Dean was now standing. His eyes were glued to Sam's arm, his face paler than Sam had ever seen it before. Slowly he raised his gaze to Sam's face, and for the first time since that horrible night on the docks, Sam saw fear in his brother's face. Fear he'd put there, and Sam scrambled to make him understand.

"It's-it's sulfur, looking for the sulfur, but it's not there, Dean, I can't find it, but the black eyes, it has to be," he stammered, before raising the knife and drawing it across his forearm again.

He'd barely pulled the blade back before Dean was there, grabbing the knife and tossing it somewhere. "It's not there, but it has to be," Sam pleaded as Dean cursed, voice shaking with fear, reaching for a hand towel and pressing it against Sam's forearm. "Dean, I-"

"I knew I should've talked to you before you went into the bathroom," Dean said. He caught Sam's gaze and held it, and Sam watched as tears began to fill his brother's eyes. Dean didn't cry, not unless their dad died, and Sam's mouth fell open into a shocked 'o'.

"I wasn't...I wasn't trying to kill myself, Dean, I swear."

"Really?" Dean asked, before he snorted angrily. Despite the anger on his face and in his voice, the tears welled up and over in his eyes, running down his face. "Because that's exactly what the hell it looks like, Sam. Since when the hell do you give up, or let a demon win? Huh? That's not my brother."

Sam flinched and shut his eyes tight. A hand caught his chin and raised it slightly. "Look at me," Dean said, softer now. "Sammy, look at me."

Sam opened his eyes slowly. The tears were still there on Dean's face, but the anger was gone. "Talk to me, man," Dean said, "please. What's going on in that freaky head of yours?"

"You can't see it?" Sam finally asked.

Dean frowned. "See what?"

Sam huffed out a laugh that sounded more like a sob. "My eyes, the blood-"

"The blood I had no trouble seeing," Dean interrupted darkly.

"No, on my hands. The hunter's, Jo's, yours," and Sam's throat closed up, choking off any further words.

Dean's hand slid up to cup his cheek. "Your hands are clean, Sam," he said softly. "There's no blood on them, I promise. The blood's not on your hands: it's on the demon's."


"It wasn't you," Dean said firmly, his tone daring Sam to argue with him. "You were a weapon and a victim, Sam. She used you to get to me. You wanna be upset with anyone, blame anyone for this, blame me. I'm the reason she used you, because she wanted to hurt me."

Sam shook his head hard enough to make the room spin. Or was that the blood loss? He stumbled a bit and blinked, and when he refocused, Dean's hand was at his arm, steadying him, his eyes wide and worried. "I don't blame you," Sam said, even as Dean led him out into the room, then pushed him gently onto the edge of the bed.

"Then don't blame you! Dude, you couldn't have stopped her. She locked herself inside you; you couldn't push her out."

"But my eyes," Sam said, his eyes finding the mirror on the opposite side of the room. Blackness stared back at him, and he looked away with a shudder.

Dean's hand caught his chin again and gently turned him back. "Dean, no," Sam pleaded, even as Dean crouched beside him and looked into the mirror with him.

"You know what I see?" Dean asked quietly. Sam shook his head but kept his eyes on the mirror. "I see two brothers: one's got green eyes, the other's got hazel. I don't see black, Sammy. So either I need to send you back to kindergarten to learn your colors, or...it's just not there."

Sam frowned and leaned forward, eyes locked on the mirror. The black receded and disappeared completely, and suddenly there was nothing there but his own hazel eyes. Glistening with tears, but they were still hazel. Sam stared in disbelief before turning to Dean in confusion. "But...but I..."

Dean gave him a small, sad smile. "You gonna stop calling my brother a demon now? Because that's liable to get your ass kicked nine ways to Sunday."

Sam suddenly choked out a sob, shutting his eyes tight. A hand caught the back of his neck and tugged him down to rest against a soft but firm surface. "It's gonna be okay," Dean murmured to his left, and Sam let his tears soak his brother's shoulder. "I promise, Sammy."

"I shot you," Sam managed to get out.

"She shot me. Not you. And you're edging towards that ass-kicking again, you don't leave my brother alone."

It was a laugh Sam choked out this time, not a sob. "That's what I thought," Dean said, and Sam could hear the smile in his voice.

The next thing Sam could suddenly feel was pain, and a lot of it. "Um, ow," he said, pulling back to find the source of the pain. Dean was still putting pressure on his arm, which was a lot more red than it had been before.

"Ow?" Dean repeated incredulously. "You slice your arm open, and the reaction, delayed on top of it, is ow?"

"It didn't really hit until just now," Sam admitted. "How, um, deep did I go?"

Dean carefully lifted the hand towel away. Four thin lines stood out, blood red against almost paper white skin. Sam grimaced and took a hitched breath in. "You've had worse," Dean said, but he glared up at Sam all the same. "Seriously, though, what the hell was going through your head?"

"I was looking for sulfur," Sam said quietly. Dean's sigh was heavy as he stood from his crouched position. Sam risked a glance and saw his brother digging through one of their bags, face tight with anger and annoyance.

It kind of paled in comparison to the worry and concern Dean was showing, though.

When Dean returned with the first aid kit and pulled out the disinfectant, Sam spoke up. "I really wasn't trying to kill myself."

"I know," Dean answered, equally as soft. He laid Sam's arm down across Sam's thigh and began to dab carefully at each cut. Sam winced but said nothing. "Still doesn't make me less worried, though."

Finally, the memory from earlier in the day surfaced, loud and clear, and it was as if fifteen years fell away. Sam had been eight that October, Dean had been twelve, and-

"You okay?" Dean asked, coming over and taking a seat on the edge of Sam's bed.

"I feel like crap," Sam said, before coughing again. Strangely enough, it was his shoulder that hurt when he coughed, not his chest. "What happened?"

"Dad told you already," Dean said with a sigh. "You hit your head and fell into the water. That was why you woke up soaking wet."

"Yeah, but my shoulder hurts," Sam complained, rubbing at the area. He almost missed the look of trepidation on his brother's face, before it slid back into neutral casualness. Almost. "Dean, are YOU okay?" he asked. Why was Dean looking at him like that?

"I'm fine," Dean answered, before he rolled his eyes. "Just rest up, squirt. You'll feel better tomorrow."

"How long was I out?" Sam couldn't help but ask. "I mean, the last thing I remember, it was Tuesday, and now it's Saturday, but I don't remember going to school."

"Just leave it alone," Dean said, and Sam jerked in surprise at the harshness of his tone.

Dean gazed at him long and hard, before he hung his head. "You just...you scared us, that's all," he admitted softly. "I thought I'd lost my brother, okay?"

"But I'm still here," Sam said. He gave Dean a small smile of assurance. "Promise."

"I know," Dean answered, and for a moment, his eyes looked haunted. "But you weren't here for awhile, and...still doesn't make me less worried, though."

Before Sam could answer, Dean patted his leg and stood. "Call me if you need anything, okay?" he said. "I'll be out here with Dad."

"I was possessed before, wasn't I."

Dean paused, and Sam realized that he'd zoned out of Dean stitching up the lower two gashes. "When you were little," Dean replied after a moment. "We were up in Pennsylvania around Halloween, and on the way home from school, something grabbed you. I didn't recognize that it wasn't you right away, and neither did Dad. Not until about three nights later, and then..." He trailed off and shook himself, then began stitching up the third gash again.

"It was bad," Sam finished for him. He only remembered the flu from the week after, of being constantly cold.

"It was bad," Dean agreed. "I was scared out of my wits; first possession, and it was my little brother. Dad was pretty rattled, too, but he wouldn't give up. Neither would I."

Still didn't give up, fifteen years later. Sam felt himself relax for the first time in days, felt a surge of love for the determined brother in front of him. "You wouldn't let her have me," he said, no question in his tone.

Dean stopped stitching and glanced up at him, looking surprised and more than a little relieved. "No, I wouldn't," he answered.

Sam only realized he was smiling when Dean smiled back.

It was two days later, in the restroom of a gas station, after the spirit had been laid to rest, that Sam saw the blood on his hands again. He froze and stared in growing horror, trying to breathe. He glanced up at the mirror above the sink, but only his hazel eyes stared back at him.

It wasn't real. It wasn't real. He closed his eyes and focused on breathing, in and out, deep calm breaths. When he was steady, he opened his eyes again.

The blood ran down his hands, staining the sink below, covering him from wrists to fingers.

"Oh god," he whimpered, turning the water on to hot and scrubbing as hard as he could. The sink was going to be stained, like his hands, and he'd been believing Dean the past couple of days that this wasn't his fault, the blood wasn't on his hands, but it was right there-

"You set Sam? The tank's full and if we want to make it to..." Dean trailed off, but Sam ignored him, scrubbing furiously at the blood. It seemed even darker in color now, cascading down his skin with the water, but it kept coming back.

Dean's hands were suddenly wrapped around his and pulling him away from the sink, keeping his hands separated. "Stop, Sam, stop already, stop, shhh, shhh, stop, it's okay-"

"The blood," Sam told him, struggling against his brother's hold. "My hands, they're still...they're still covered in blood."

"No shit, Sherlock," Dean snapped, twisting so he was in front of Sam. He caught hold of Sam's wrists gently, careful of the stitching, then showed Sam his hands. "You're scrubbing them raw. You're bleeding, Sam. This isn't anyone else's blood, okay? Only yours, because you're ripping your hands to pieces over this."

Sam frowned in confusion and looked at his hands. They were bloody and raw looking, bright red as if they were burned. He shifted them slightly in Dean's hold and winced. "There was steam, Sam," Dean said quietly, bringing Sam back to the sink. He turned the dial all the way back towards cold and placed Sam's hands underneath the steady rush of water.

As soon as his raw skin hit the water, Sam hissed and tried to pull away. "Easy, easy," Dean soothed. He reached and pulled a paper towel from the dispenser, then used it to pat dry Sam's hands. Extra pressure on the bleeding wounds, before the sink was turned off. "First aid kit's out in the car. We'll wrap 'em just to make sure, but they should be okay." Dean paused for a moment, then glanced up at Sam in concern. "Please don't tell me this is the reason you've been taking forever in bathrooms lately."

"Then I won't," Sam said with a wince.

Dean winced with him. "Dammit, Sammy..."

"It was...it's been all I can see," Sam said quietly. "I just want it gone."

Dean bit his lip in thought for a moment, then reached for another paper towel. The small bits of blood that had run from the wounds were carefully wiped up. Once he was satisfied with both front and back, he tilted the hands towards Sam. "No more blood," he promised. "See?"

He saw. For the first time in days, his hands were clean of any blood, and he glanced up at Dean with a relieved smile. "Yeah."

Dean gave him a quick grin. "Good. Now, first aid, and move it." He opened the door with the paper towels, tossing them with a grimace into the nearest trash can. He led the way out to the car, opening Sam's door before heading for the trunk. "Sit, and don't move. I'll fix it."

Random sounds from the trunk were heard, but Sam wasn't really paying attention. "You already did," he replied, his voice near a whisper. He closed his eyes and saw Dean, Dean on the docks, Dean in Bobby's house, Dean sewing up Sam's wounds, Dean gently leading him outside.

He breathed in once, his chest no longer tight, and smiled.