Title: Memento Mori

Summary: Takes place close to but before the S3 finale. Was also written before Candle In The Window so you may notice a slight scene similarity at the beginning. I was apparently in a bitey mood. Language, pain, disgusting situations. The usual. This originally appeared in Rooftop Confessions 2 by GriffinSong Press.

AN: I'm so sorry, but I have returned yet again with another miserable offering. I failed to respond to so many of your wonderful reviews from Candle for reasons both valid and lame that I'm sure no one is speaking to me any more. I understand. I barely speak to me on normal days. And unlike you kind people I have no choice about whether I want to spend time with me, everywhere I go, there I am.

Be that as it may, I hope this is something you may choose to waste time with and if you are sdo inclined to comment I WILL respond. If you just want to read and then go laugh your ass off at my efforts, hey, whatever does it for you. I love all of you regardless, even a glance at the main list to see what's up that lingers briefly on my name is appreciated.

If anyone is interested, I now have my own website, www (dot) thruterryseyes (dot) com. If you care to stroll by and take a peek, it's a work in progress. I have pages for all my stories set up and art for each one is up but so far Rituals is the only story that's posted complete. There will be an art section and various bits and pieces of things. I've never done anything like this and it's taking me a bit to get the hang of it. Ta to Bayre for pushing me into it and helping me. It's a helluva lot of fun but very time consuming.

If you are a fan of Moonstar I am in the process of posting an ILLUSTRATED version on my site that I have spent literally months finishing. It was a birthday present for my bestest friend Gaelicspirit and is now done. It has over 200 photo illustrations that are mostly manips I did especially for the story. I will be trying to post a chapter every few days cause it takes a while to do and it's a LONG story.

I hope you will come by and have a look from time to time to see what I have up. I'll probably start illustrating the rest of them but that will take a while. There is a guestbook and comment sections where you can just say hi if you like. Anything new I do will be crossed posted here as well as there.

Ta as always for the generous gift of attention. It is priceless.

Sam cursed moonlight as an inefficient source of illumination when trying to run through a graveyard filled with crumbling, broken tombstones that deliberately tilted into his path as he tried to circumvent them. Behind him he could hear the thuds of large calloused paws hitting the ground, the wet sound of slobbering, lolling tongues, and smell the rancid odor of wet, dirty fur and rotting flesh that even the falling rain couldn't dispel.

The luison's were gaining and he was well and truly fucked. The toe of his boot caught on yet another bit of broken stone and he went sprawling, literally sliding over the slick mossy stones and grass before coming to rest against a tree that had given itself up to a lightning strike decades before and was now a decaying hulk.

He scrambled clumsily to his knees, planting his back against the dead tree, fumbling for the gun he knew was out of ammo. Maybe he could club himself to death with it before the luisons got to him. Dead, they would only feast on his cadaver, live they would eat his soul.

"DEAN!!" he bellowed as the first beast rounded the corner where Sam had tripped, annoyed that it's dinner of decaying corpse had been interrupted, but ready for better fare.

The mate thundered along in its path, both of them coming to a crouched halt before Sam.

Red eyes glittered beneath their overhanging brows, snarling lips curled back over razor teeth that ran with greenish black drool. They growled and snarled in staccato snorts, steam blowing from their nostrils into the cold air. Filthy, heavily matted fur hung in clumps from their muscular bodies, thick, restless claws left scratch marks on the century's old stone pathway.

Sam mopped his hair out of his eyes, his own labored breath filling the air with miniature fogbanks. How long before they attacked?

He was suddenly thrown sideways by a powerful shove and deafened by a shotgun going off next to his head. The shotgun pumped again and one of the animals blew backwards in an explosion of fur.

"Dean, look out!" Sam yelled, seeing the remaining creature coil itself to spring, jaws opening even further if that was possible.

Cold and wet, Dean's stiff fingers fumbled the shell he was loading, sending it bouncing across the ground. Head snapping up, he raised the gun across his body, thrusting his arms outward as he was hit by the massive creature, knocking him backwards into the broken pile of headstones behind him. The gun flew from his grasp, hitting the ground close to Sam, almost on top of the dropped shell.

Dean was frantically trying to avoid the snapping jaws and keep the thing off his throat. His rigid arms were buried to the elbows in the greasy fur, choking from the stench enveloping him. His yells and the furious snarling of his attacker were equally matched on decibel level.

Fire burned along Dean's arm as fangs suddenly buried themselves to the gums in the flesh of his forearm. It felt like acid had been injected into him and he couldn't bite back the hoarse scream.

Sam snatched the shell and gun and loaded it on the roll as he rose to his knees and fired. He knew that he might hit Dean with some stray shot, but he had no choice.

Dean heard the shot and felt the burning sting of the tiny bits of iron and rock salt on his right hand. The entire weight of the animal suddenly descended on him in a limp, heavy pile, the rancid stench of the luison gagging him. He didn't know which was worse, lying on his back and drowning in the rain, or being crushed under this stinking pile of bone and fur.

"Get this off me!" he gasped, trying ineffectually to push it away.

He froze as he felt the ground under him shift; a sinking sensation that lasted about four seconds before the earth below his body gave way. Both he and the beast atop him disappeared into the black hole that opened up beneath them, falling into dank blackness,

Dean and the luison slammed into the ground below, a shower of dirt, rocks and cascading muddy water spilling in after them.

Dean coughed, certain the action caused the plates of his skull to separate and reassemble but somehow on the return trip the different bits didn't seem to be fitting back together just right.

"Shit . . ." he groaned, raising a hand to his head. He cried out as agony shot up his arm and exploded in his chest. Gasping and gagging from the pain, he grabbed the offending limb, sickened by the sticky slime encountered by his left hand. God, it hurt worse than the time that crazy Bender dude had decided to brand him with a red hot poker.

What the hell had happened?

His sudden roll to the side had mashed him up against a pile of cold, wet, stinking fur that was—holy fucking hell—moving!!

Pain be damned, Dean let out another hoarse yell and kicked himself away from the creature, scuttling backwards into the shadows as far as he could, the last few moments before he'd opened his eyes in this hole coming back to him.

He remembered Sam firing the shotgun just as the luison jumped for him. He glanced down at the small cluster of puckered wounds on his hand where the shot had grazed him. He remembered pushing at the luison's body and then…

His eyes shot up towards the ragged hole high above him, water still streaming in.

Aw shit! He was underground… underground with the fucking thing…

His haggard breathing was punctuated by grunts of pain as he tried to pull himself further away from the slowly moving luison as it gathered its wits and began to lumber to its feet, making huffing, snorting noises.

His body felt too heavy to move as he tried to pull his legs back. Had he hurt his back when he'd fallen? Where the hell was Sam?

Looking around the cave or whatever he was in, he could make out faint shapes; weak light was coming from the hole he had fallen through, along with the steady stream of brackish water washing from the stones.

Casting a nervous look at the still somewhat stunned luison, Dean opened his mouth and yelled. "Sam!! You need to get your ass down here!"

The luison jerked but didn't look at him.

Hell, he didn't even have a damned weapon! "SAM!! Where the hell are you? I could use some help here!"

The luison's head shook, more of the green slime from its mouth flying into the air. Dean grimaced as some of it splattered his jacket.

"Agh! God…" he growled as more pain flared in his arm, hugging it to his chest.

Yellow eyes snapped around as Dean growled, the luison finally taking notice of him, stiffening slightly, lips twitching in a quavering snarl as it responded with a growl of its own.

Dean would have pushed back further into the wall but his legs wouldn't cooperate. He could feel them and yet his orders to move were going unheard. "You better watch your ass, dog!" he snapped. "Sam'll be down here in a minute and kick it straight to hell!" He let his head fall back against the wall. Jesus Christ, Sam…

A chill went through him as it occurred to him there might have been more than two luisons. Maybe they had missed one…what if it had jumped Sam as Dean and his companion had fallen through that frigging hole…

"Sam!!" Dean screamed. "Answer me!!"

The dribbling splash of water and the low thrumming growl of the luison was all he got in response.

Dean shot the animal a look that should have killed it, but it merely continued to watch him with red eyes and curling lip. Dean started to shiver in the cold, damp air, his body beginning to ache unpleasantly. The pain in his arm was getting worse, his fingers tingling as sensation slowly drained away.

His eyes widened as he remembered his boot sheath. Sliding the blade in place before a hunt was so automatic that he had forgotten doing it. What the hell was the matter with him?

Trying to sit up enough to use his left hand to grub for the knife was almost more effort than he could manage. His legs moved spastically, without control, providing no leverage and his right arm hung limply at his side, fingers in a puddle of water he could no longer feel.

Grasping the fabric of his jeans, he inched along his body, managing to pull himself forward enough to tug up the pant leg and creep his shaking fingers toward the handle sticking out of the side of his boot, trying to tug it free.

The exertion was costing him, making him gasp with effort, his head splitting. Nausea was building in his stomach as he forced himself forward a little more. He couldn't get his thumb close enough to get a good grip on the handle and had to use his fingertips to try to grasp it firmly enough to pull it from the sheath.

"Shit…" he ground out, eyes rolling to the luison as it rumbled warningly, watching him, muscles bunching under the coarse fur.

Why hadn't it attacked?

"Good boy…" Dean choked, fingernails dragging up the layers of wood that formed the handle of his blade, catching just enough to begin to pull it from the holder. "Nice doggie…"

The luison darted at Dean suddenly, growling and snapping at his hand.

His efforts approaching superhuman, Dean lurched forward and managed to close his fingers over the grip of the knife, jerking it loose and slashing across his body with it as the luison leapt at him. Dean cried out as the impact with the creature's head jarred his whole body.

With a strangled yelp, the luison fell back, a long gash opened across its eyes and muzzle, bleeding more green slime that Dean could see even in the dim light, and filling the chamber with a horrible stench of rot.

"Take that, you animated piece 'a road kill!" Dean cried, gagging as the stink settled around him.

Dean's lunge had rolled him half over and he clumsily completed the roll, ending up on the opposite side of the small open area, legs splayed. He held the knife in front of him, spine of the blade against his forearm, edge out. If the damn thing tried to jump him again, he wanted it to feel the business side of the weapon immediately.

His chest heaved, and he coughed from deep in his lungs. He wanted to close his eyes as his head fell back against the smooth round stones in the wall, but the luison, hunched just out of his reach, made that impossible. It watched him with wary eyes, long tongue sliding out to lave along its bristled lips, catching runs of the slime dripping from the cut Dean had opened on its head.

"Who's the alpha dog now?" Dean wheezed, relaxing his arm enough to allow the fist gripping the knife to rest on his belly.

Sam had undoubtedly gone for help. Yeah…that was it. Sam would never leave me like this….

He's done it before…. His mind whispered.

The knife fell out of his grip as he reached up to work his hand over his face, hating himself for the sudden thrill of fear that ran across his skin.

Sam wouldn't do that…those other times…they were different…things were different…

The luison lifted its head and gave a low, moaning growl.

Dean's head snapped up. Grimacing he held out a shaking hand, forefinger extended.

"You shut the fuck up! You don't know anything about it, so just shut. The. Fuck. Up!"

Dean shuddered, eyes closing despite himself, chills wracked him where he still had feeling and where he couldn't feel…he didn't want to think about.

"Sam'll be here," he mumbled, breath shaking in and out, trying to swallow the bitterness climbing into this throat, threatening to choke him. He swiped the back of his hand across his mouth.

"Damn…" he groaned, twisting his head, trying to ease the throb. "Dog…" he coughed again, turning slightly in case it became something more. "Dog, I'm not... feelin' s-so… hot...what the hell'd…you do to me…" Dean pulled his numb arm onto his lap and fumbled the blood soaked, slimy fabric up his arm, hissing as his fingers brushed his skin.

His roll to the other side of the chamber had placed him almost directly under the hole he had fallen through and he could see more clearly now as his eyes adjusted to the dimness.

The sight of his injured arm, even in the semi-darkness, was enough to make him sick if he hadn't been sick already.

"Jesus…" he choked, staring at the blackish streaks creeping up the skin of his forearm, generated from the ragged holes left by the luison's fangs. He didn't need to be told this was bad. Only with the greatest concentration could he even bend his arm slightly at the elbow and then the pain was enough to make him retch. Moving his fingers didn't even enter into the question.

Maybe Sam had gone back to the car to get rope…or a shovel…maybe he had thought Dean was unconscious… He'd be back…

Any minute now…

Dean hoped he brought water.

The hole he was in suddenly flickered blue as lightning from above illuminated the cave, followed by crackling thunder. Dean blinked, instantly distracted from the mess that was his arm, raising his head as lightning once again gave him a chance to see where he was. Using his left arm, he struggled to pull himself more upright.

With another warning growl, his companion came partly to its feet, head low, eyes glaring. One eye anyway, the other was mangled beyond use, dripping goo.

Dean grabbed the knife that had slipped down by his leg and held the blade across his chest. "Don't even friggin' think about it," he snarled in return.

Thunder boomed more loudly, and Dean could feel the vibration in the earth. Trying to sit up, he dislodged one of the large round rocks behind him and it tumbledloose, coming to rest on his right side. It made a hollow sound as it rolled. frowning, he reached over and picked it up, feeling holes and rough edges.

The next flash of lightning was just enough to clearly define the skull he was holding in his hand. It also showed him that every wall he could see in the small chamber was lined will skull after skull, neatly stacked rows of empty eye sockets and yellow teeth. Tendrils of vines and patches of moss draped the walls like a tumorous growth.

Dean made a sound of disgust and threw the skull away, wiping his hand on his clammy jeans. It was only slightly accidental that the skull landed close to the luison who snapped at it as it rolled by.

Great, he was attacked by a hell-beast that eats dead bodies and live souls, he had apparently been poisoned by the green slobber of the hell-beast and now his arm was rotting off- he couldn't walk, he'd fallen through a graveyard and into a goddamned catacomb and it seemed like he was the only one around who cared…could the night get any worse?

Cold rain began to patter on his head as it fell through the opening in the ceiling.

Even the luison drew back at the sound of Dean's screamed invective.

Dean's teeth had been chattering for a good half hour, his body shivering uncontrollably. He'd managed to drag himself slightly out of the way of the tiny waterfall over his head, icy water was puddling around his lower body, his clothes were soaking wet. He knew he had a fever, even though he was freezing. His brain felt like it was short circuiting and his mind was starting to wander.

The luison lay to one side, dragging it's mottled tongue over it's various wounds, watching him, biding its time he was sure.

If Sam didn't get here soon the damned thing wouldn't have to wait much longer. What the hell was keeping him? Getting stuff from the car shouldn't have taken more than a few minutes…get a rope, come back and pull Dean out of this stinking hole…

That's what Sam would do. He'd flash that 'everything'll be okay' smile and be right back to pull Dean out…Wouldn't he? Dean was sure if Sam knew he was down in this hole Sam would come to pull Dean out because that's the kind of stuff Sam did…

Dean's eyes drifted closed despite his best effort to keep them open. Pain was rolling through his body in slow waves, about the time one wave would ebb, the next would start to pass through. He'd been sick twice, but there was nothing he could do to ease the burn in his throat or rid himself of the taste, he'd barely been able to turn enough to keep from choking on it. Compared to the wet, malodorous smell of the luison it was barely noticeable.

He'd laid in worse things he guessed.

"Dog, I'm th-thirsty," he croaked, wiping his hand over his mouth, feeling sweat slicking his face. "D-dude, aren't you th-thirsty?" He forced the words out between his rattling teeth. Wasn't shivering supposed to make you warmer? Well, that theory was total horseshit.

Adding insult to injury, the luison moved its hairy snout and lapped up some of the brackish water from a puddle near its head.

The fucking thing was smiling….

"Damn…you," he muttered, a cough jerking his chest as he rolled his head against the skulls he was using as a backrest.

"Sam!!" he yelled. "Hurry up, man! M-me and Rin T-Tin Tin are f-freezing our asses off d-down here!" He cocked his head, listening for Sam's voice in response.


Dean stretched out his shaking left hand and cupped it under the steady dribble of water coming from the ceiling. Bringing it back to his mouth, he sucked what he could from the remainder in his palm and swished it around his mouth, spitting it out. It tasted like dirt.

He did it three more times before he finally allowed some to trickle down his throat in desperation. Dirty or not it eased some of the rawness.

Out of the corner of his eye he could make out the luison edging closer and he wagged a finger at it. "I s-see you...don't th-think I don't. When Sam…Sammy g-gets back f-from school you b-better just watch your ass." Dean coughed, holding his hand against his chest. It was a moment before he could clear his throat enough to draw in another ragged breath. 'He's…he's in St…Stanford…my b-brother Sam is...gonna be a l-lawyer. Marry J-Jessica…have a b-bunch of…bunch a…"

Wait…that wasn't right… Dean frowned, shaking his head slowly, pressing the heel of his hand to his eye. Jessica was dead...Dad was dead… Dean gasped, Sam was dead, too. Christ, he'd died in Dean's arms, kneeling in the mud…like the mud Dean was lying in now.

Dean blinked slowly, gazing around in confusion. "Sam…?"

Sam was dead, Sam wasn't coming.

Close by Dean's boot, the luison stretched out its neck. Lips curling back, revealing a flash of fang.

"My God…" Dean whispered. He dragged his hand down his face. That couldn't be…he…he'd sold his soul to save Sam. He had. He could still feel the earth under his fingernails from digging the hole at the crossroads, the cold night air as he'd waited for the demon, the burn of her lips as they'd sealed the deal. She'd tasted like dirt. Like the water he could still taste on his tongue—

But Sam still wasn't coming.

Sam had left him.


With a sudden lunge, the luison leaped at Dean's leg, snarling and foaming. Dean couldn't feel anything but pressure as teeth sank into his leg, its head jerking back and twisting as the luison bit again and again, filling the air with fetid breath as it huffed and snorted, one good eye rolling in ecstacy.

"NO!" Dean yelled, finding the strength somewhere to heave upright and bury a fist in the torn eye of the ravening beast, knife forgotten in the water. "Get a-WAY! You're gonna hafta fucking wait for me to die you hairy son of a bitch!"

Yelping as Dean dug into the injured eye, it fell back, snarling, leaving Dean's lower leg a mangled mess. The fact that he couldn't feel the damage didn't make it any less awful to behold.

Dean fell back, gasping, into the collection of craniums with a solid crunch. "Bastard!!" he spat.

He swallowed, trying not to be sick again. This was ridiculous, he was gonna be eaten alive by a fanged, smelly hairball, while he was sitting ass deep in a puddle of mud.

Looking around, body growing weaker with each passing moment, freezing, burning, desperately sick and in ever-worsening pain where he could still feel, being eaten alive suddenly didn't sound so bad.

He laughed as he realized that it was starting to look like he wouldn't be able to hold up his end of the bargain he had made. More to the point he wasn't gonna get his year. Did that make the deal void or did it just mean he went to hell a little sooner?

He was in hell already, he reflected with another slightly hysterical laugh, what difference did it make now? At least Sam would finally be free to live his life, be what he should have been, not what he had been made into. Sure, he might miss Dean for a while, but eventually he would come to grips with it, Sam was nothing if not practical. He would see it was for the best and get on with is life.

Forget it, Sam, Dean decided. Take the Impala and go. It's better this way… His head lolled to one side as his hoarse breathing slowed.

The luison lifted it head and regarded Dean speculatively, a throaty growl beginning to fill the air.

All it needed was a watch to check, Dean thought blearily.

Dean fumbled in the water at his side, locating his knife with difficulty. Trying to grip it tightly was even more difficult and his hand fell limply to his thigh, knife dangling from his shaking fingers. Dean ran a dry tongue over drier lips and forced his eyelids back up watching as the creature crept ever closer.

Be patient, for God's sake, you won't have to wait much longer, Dean heard himself say in his head but the words wouldn't come to his lips. The rise and fall of his chest had slowed to almost nothing.

You were right to leave me, Sammy…

Bracing himself.

He narrowed his eyes, forcing his stiff fingers to grip the knife more tightly and looked straight at the crouching animal.

Bring it on, bitch…


Electricity shot through Dean at the sound of his name.

Sam had come back for him! Holy shit, he'd come for him!!

The end of a rope smacked into the puddle by Dean's head and swung about as someone clambered down.

"No!" Dean cried out. "No, Sam! Don't come down!! The damned thing's down here with me!!" He thrashed helplessly. "Leave me! For Gods sake, go!"

Before him, the luison was settling back on its haunches, lowering its blocky form, preparing to leap as Sam's body came into view.

"Jesus, Dean, you scared the crap outta me! I'm not leaving you! I thought I'd never get you back!" Boots splashed to the ground next to Dean. Sam instantly went to one knee, his look one of both horror and relief, his hands reaching out to offer comfort and aid.

"It's okay, Dean. I'm here…you're gonna be okay-"

"No!" Dean cried, frantic as he watched the luison gather itself. "It'll kill you!!" he yelled, shoving Sam to one side with all the strength he could muster as the luison sprang forward.

Dean met it halfway, "Stay away from my brother!!" he screamed, thrusting again and again with the knife, seeking any vulnerable spot to strike, feeling the pressure of bites but oblivious to them, oblivious to everything but the threat to Sam.

"Dean! Dean, calm down, it's okay, it's alright!"

Dean fought back against the hands gripping his shoulders, swearing and screaming. "I have to kill it!!" he raged.

"For Chrissakes! Bobby, help me!"

Dean gasped, still struggling as something icy was pressed to his forehead and his body was held down by strong hands. His eyes snapped open.

"Sam?!" His eyes wouldn't focus and the light was too bright, he tried to block it but his arms were being restrained despite his efforts to move them.

"Bobby, close the curtains!" Sam exclaimed, loosening his grip, the cold wetness moving down Dean's face again and onto his heaving chest. "It's okay…it's okay," Sam murmured, speaking quickly, soothingly. "You're safe, Dean. You're okay…"

Dean pressed back into the bed.

Bed? What bed? What happened to the rocks? The skulls? The…

Sam almost fell off the bed as Dean heaved upright.

"No! The luison…" Dean's hands clutched at Sam's shirt, pain blasted up his right arm as he clenched his fist, but he ignored it. "It jumped you! I saw it—"

He looked around in confusion, seeing the familiar, ugly wallpaper of the room he and Sam always shared when they were at Bobby's. The never-ending stacks of books piled everywhere, equipment, charts and maps. Signs and sigils daubed on the walls…Bobby standing near the window, concern pulling his features in.

Sam grasped Dean's upper arms and gently pushed him back. "Lay back, Dean," he said in a low, even voice. "You've been sick. Really sick."

"I tried to kill it…" Dean insisted, but allowed himself to be eased back into the clean sheets and the to soft mattress that normally killed his back. "I couldn't let it hurt…" His voice faded as the sudden burst of strength drained out of him in a rush, leaving him weak and shaken, his arms falling limply to the bed.

He noticed then, that his right arm was encased in a velcro cast from the base of his fingers to his elbow. The fingers below the cast were unnaturally pale and his entire arm ached. The muscles felt as though he'd been doing hundreds of one-armed push ups.

He tried to reach over with his left hand but gave it up after a brief effort, letting his hand fall across his stomach.

Sam watched him carefully, following Dean's look. Making a face, Sam gestured toward Dean's arm. "The luison cracked the bones when it bit you…" he began, looking a little uncomfortable. "I...uh...I kinda…finished the job…trying to get the things jaws loose." He had actually used the barrel of the shotgun to pry the luison's mouth open. He shrugged slightly, lifting an eyebrow. "Sorry."

"It bit me…" Dean half whispered. His throat was so dry.

"Yeah, Dean-" Sam broke off, looking up as Bobby appeared at the side of the bed with a glass of water and, thank you, Bobby, a straw. He smiled his thanks and accepted the glass, reaching down to help Dean lift his head and take a few sips.

The clean, fresh water was the best thing Dean could ever remember tasting. He couldn't stop the small sound as Sam took the straw away, extending a thumb to brush away the drop of water that rolled from the corner of Dean's lips.

"That's enough for now. You can have some more in a minute." Sam set the glass on the table, smiling slightly as Dean followed it with his eyes.

Bobby squatted down by the bed and gripped Dean's arm. "Glad to see you with your eyes open, Dean. I was beginning to wonder if I was gonna see that again." He smiled, gave Dean's arm another squeeze and stood. "I'll be downstairs if you want anything."

"Thanks, Bobby," Sam said softly, rubbing his eyes.

Dean turned his head to look at Sam. His brother looked like shit. His face was drawn, the circles under his eyes testifying to little sleep. Dean twitched his fingers at him. "You…okay?" he rasped.

Sam stared at him. He snorted a laugh and shook his head. "Jesus, Dean! You've been running a fever and hallucinating for a freakin' week…you vomited more than Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Dean, you damn near died! And the first thing you do when you finally wake up is ask me if I'M okay?" Sam's voice broke. He quickly turned away, but not before Dean saw the tear slide down his face.

"…sorry," Dean said, voice barely audible. He forced his hand out to brush Sam's arm with his fingertips.

Sam glanced back. Dean would never understand. "No," he replied, drawing in a shaky breath, wiping a hand across his eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm tired…it's been a long goddamned week."

"Sam…" Dean cleared his throat, grateful when it spurred Sam to offer him the glass of water again for a few more blissful swallows. "What happened? You shot it and it bit me…I remember that. But, I…how did you get me out…the dog…" Dean was getting agitated as he tried to speak.

Sam leaned forward, pressing a hand gently against Dean's chest. "Get you out of what?" he asked, puzzled.

"I fell into the catacomb," Dean said, frowning. "The ground gave way and I fell in, me and that damned…" he closed his eyes, pressing his hand to his forehead, as a dull throb bloomed there.

"Dean, you need to stay quiet," Sam said in as soothing a voice as he could.

"No!" Dean exclaimed, trying to rise up in spite of Sam's restraining hand. "The luison fell in with me…I was waiting for you to come . . . It kept attacking me but I couldn't fight it off anymore…"

"Dean, sshhhh, please, calm down, okay? You've still got a fever, just calm down." Sam pressed his weight against Dean, forcing him back.

Dean groaned, rolling his head against the pillow.

"Dean, listen to me. You stopped the luison from attacking me; it jumped you instead and bit you. Bobby told us their saliva was poisonous, but I've never seen anything like this. I guess the whole time it had its teeth in you, it just kept dumping that shit into your system. You were unconscious before I got to you." Sam softened his voice. "You didn't fall into anything. The luison was…dead…when I pulled it off you. I got you back in the car and hauled ass back to Bobby's as fast as I could."

Dean stared at him, brows drawn together, face a mask of confusion.

"It's true, Dean. Hell, you convulsed for the last five miles it took to get here. We had to dump you in an ice bath to stop it." Sam's voice quavered as he recounted the last part of his mad rush back to Bobby's. There was no way Sam could convey his feelings of fear that Dean was going to die before they could get back.

The sight of Dean's arm crawling with the black lines of the luison poison as it climbed toward his heart…the frighteningly-swift paralysis that gripped his legs and slowed his breathing, bringing on hallucinations that had Dean raging madly against Sam and Bobby's efforts to hold him…

Those images would never leave Sam, along with a host of others that he would rather have forgotten.

"It was a hallucination, Dean, a nightmare. That's all. You were never alone; I was right here the whole time. Dean, I would never have left you." Sam's hand cupped against the side of Dean's face. "Never," he repeated.

Dean's fevered ramblings of the past week echoed through Sam's memory. Sam wouldn't leave me like this… He's done it before… Jessica's dead...Dad's dead…Sam's dead...

Forget it…You were right to leave me…

"I'm here, Dean, I'm here, okay?" Sam swallowed, tears threatening to spill at the sight of Dean's wide, confused eyes. "And I'm not dead. Because of you. You saved me." Sam's voice broke. "You always save me."

The corner of Dean's mouth quirked slightly. "You're m'brother, Sam." As if that explained everything.

And maybe to Dean it did, Sam thought sadly.

Dean shifted his head away slightly from Sam's touch. "I knew…I knew you'd come…I told that damned thing you'd come…" Dean's eyes fluttered closed. A fine beading of sweat was starting to glisten on his face.

Sam put the back of his hand against Dean's forehead. This was the first semi-lucid moment Dean had had that lasted more than a few minutes before the fever swept over him again. It was gonna be another long night, but at least this time, Sam was fairly certain Dean's periods of clarity would be coming more often and last longer. Bobby had said the poison would work its way out of Dean's system, but it wouldn't be pleasant and it would take time – the fever was where the danger lay.

"I tried to kill it when it jumped you…in the cave…" Dean murmured, eyes lifting again. "You came for me…I couldn't let it hurt you. Didn't care…'bout me, I was dead anyway…" Dean made a sound that might have been a laugh. "Hell just wasn't as far down as I thought…"

A muscle tightened in Sam's jaw. Dean had thought he was abandoned, dying, trapped beneath the earth with a beast of death he couldn't fight off to save himself…but he'd fought it off to save Sam…even though he thought Sam had left him.

"Dean…" Sam began.

"But you came…" Dean's voice was an exhale of relief.

The words tore Sam's heart. He reached out and squeezed Dean's hand, feeling Dean's fingers tighten reflexively in his grip. "I'll always come for you, Dean," he said, leaning close so Dean would hear him, believe him.

After a moment, Sam closed his eyes, sitting back. He was so tired. He rubbed a hand across his forehead, pushing his hair back out of his eyes. He looked down at his brother.

Dean was watching him, sweat glistening on his brow, the lines of pain that had been ever-present around Dean's eyes for the past week, relaxing slightly.

"You saved me," Dean murmured, eyes drifting shut, the tiniest curve of a smile on his lips. His head turned to the side as he drew a long soft breath. "You saved me."

Sam's face tightened suddenly, his eyes narrowing as he studied Dean's pale, hollow eyed features, the shadows under his eyes. Seeing the trust, the love, the damned never-ending devotion, the willingness to sacrifice all, to give up everything.

But Dean had bartered his all to get Sam back and he had nothing left to give.

Sam reached out and traced a gentle finger down the side of that weary, careworn face.

"I haven't saved you yet," Sam replied softly, then his voice hardened.

"I haven't even started."

The End

End Notes: If anyone made it this far, ta so much.