Summary: Sam is forced to play a game of life and death when his brother is captured by a psychopathic killer.

Timeline: First season, before the episode "Shadow".

Rating: M

Warning: Torture, violence, and bad language.

A/N: So I wrote this story on my darker days and after I read a book about The Joker, who can be pretty freakin' creepy. Taking that for what it's worth, hopefully you'll enjoy!



Ring around the rosy

A pocketful of posies

"Ashes, Ashes"

We all fall down!


Chapter One


"Did you know," he hummed. "That the nursery rhyme 'Ring Around the Rosy' goes as far back as the plague years?"

He snickered at this, or maybe the further information he held in his deranged mind was what pleased him.

"You see, in those years, victims of the plague were burned. The townspeople believed they could stop the disease from spreading by piling the dead and the dying into large heaps and setting them on fire. Children would dance around the bodies and their ashes, singing that song…" He tilted his head to one side as a smile crept to his lips. "It's always been my favourite nursery rhyme."

"You're sick," snarled Dean. "You're a psychopath."

"Now Dean, that isn't very nice," the man scolded, humor playing along his words as he suddenly tightened the thumb screws.

Dean screamed, unable to control the horrible sounds pouring from his throat. Every time the man stopped his torture he believed he would be able to remain silent the next time, but each measure took him by surprise. Memory was not reliable, for every manipulation seemed more painful and horrid than he recalled from the last.

"I am far from a psychopath." The man paused for a moment as if rethinking his reply, appearing unaware of Dean's agony or simply uncaring. "Yet I was never very good at admitting my faults." A large smile spread across his face, his lips peeling slowly back to reveal two sets of perfectly white teeth. "Or so my psychiatrist told me before I murdered her in her sleep."

Dean lacked a smart ass remark as the sharp pain in his fingers declined to a deep throbbing, the metal device easing slightly, broken bone shifting into unnatural position. That smile, those teeth, reminding him of skeletons; all those graves he had dug up; the remains he had torched; memories of decay, rot, and death. He could feel his stomach churning, threatening to release its contents at any moment, but he fought it back, determined to survive this with his dignity intact.

"Sam doesn't want to deal with me," the crazed man continued, talking more to himself than to Dean. "You say he'll never come. He'll never play my little game. Let's see what happens when I send him the messages of his big brother writhing and twisting, begging, screaming, pleading-"

"I haven't begged yet," Dean hissed between gritted teeth, his voice almost betraying him with a slight tremor.

But it wasn't the pain that caused his words to quaver, nor was it the bile rising in his throat. It was the look on Sam's face, the one he could imagine as he realized Dean had messed up. Dean had messed up big time.

I'm a fucking moron. I screwed up and now Sam has to pay. He always has to pay…

The insults were hurdling through Dean's head, each one directed towards himself, but he didn't allow the frustration to be heard in his voice. "I haven't begged yet," he repeated instead, this time barely a whisper.

"Oh but you will. This is only the beginning, Deano my boy." The man leaned in closer, breath tinged with mint, reminding Dean of those candies Sam had always loved as a kid; the mints he had begged Dean to buy every time they found themselves in a store that sold them. Smelling the familiar flavor on the man's breath - hell, connecting Sam with this son of a bitch - was enough to stop the memories. Enough to cause the fury in Dean to swell ten fold.

The anger was what kept him going, kept him strong. He needed it, because the man's breath kept coming - wafting into his face as he was forced to listen to the words spilling from the madman's mouth - and he couldn't stand it for much longer.

"At first you'll try to stay strong. You'll scream but you won't plead."

Dean could feel the cold metal of the device on his hand begin to constrict once more but his eyes were transfixed on the man before him; dark scraggly hair hanging limply on either side of a round face, pasty skin, blue eyes shining bright, almost unnaturally.

"Go to hell," Dean growled, but his words were ignored.

"You'll slowly break down," the man continued without interruption, his ocean rimmed eyes piercing into the clouded hazel of Dean's own. "And then you will beg. You will beg for mercy, for your life, and then finally… for death." He licked his lips as if they were honey rimmed before adding, "And I will give neither to you."


Sam Winchester glanced nervously at his watch and then at the clock across the diner. They both read 9:48pm. As he unconsciously nibbled his fingernails his foot began to rapidly tap the dirty tiles beneath the table. He glanced down at his watch again.

"Can I get you another cup of coffee?" Sam looked up at the young waitress who had stopped at his table, and, upon finding her as a distraction to his current concern, declined with a curt 'no' before returning his eyes to the diner's front entrance. He didn't notice the thwarted look that suddenly gripped the young girl as she left to attend to another customer, but even if he had, he may not have cared. His mind was too preoccupied to trouble him with missed manners.

9:50pm. Dean was still nowhere in sight. He was twenty minutes late.

The storm outside was intensifying and the low rumble of thunder could be heard approaching, louder each time it reached his ears. Rain streamed in rivulets down the diner's large windows, distorting the image of the street outside and the few people who ran by, newspapers held ineffectively above their heads. But Dean had still not returned.

Sam had been reluctant to allow Dean to go to the motel alone, but his brother had insisted. He had claimed it wasn't safe for Sam and that he should wait for him somewhere far away. Somewhere the madman would never look, lost amongst the mass of buildings that created the tangled mess that was New York City.

Eight more minutes passed as Sam anxiously waited, his fidgeting quickly turning to nervous agitation. It was feasible that Dean's lack of punctuality was caused by the storm and the heavily falling rain, but something within Sam stopped him from completely believing the possibility could be true. The motel was not that far away, and his brother knew full well of the urgency of the situation. Half an hour seemed more than a reasonable amount of time for him to drive back, grab their stuff, and then return.

Then where is he?

A crack of thunder crashed and a blaze of lightning appeared in the sky, flooding the street with a brief radiance. At that precise moment, Sam sprung up from his seat, unwilling to wait any longer, and dumped a handful of coins on the table. Without noticing he had overpaid, he stepped out of the small diner and into the rain, his brown jacket almost immediately soaking through to his striped shirt beneath. Looking to his right and down the flooding street, Sam stuffed his hands deep into his pockets and began to make his way down the cracked sidewalk, leaving the warmth of the diner behind but gaining a small amount of comfort as he headed toward the motel.

Less then ten minutes later, Sam had reached the deteriorating building. The Impala stood in the parking lot, the rain streaming down its hood and windows, making it almost impossible to straighten out the images within. He was shivering, completely drenched, as he tried the driver's door and found it unlocked. He quickly glanced in but was disappointed to find no sign of his brother. The interior of the 1967 Chevy Impala was empty of any evidence that hinted to his whereabouts.

His attention then turned to the stringy, metal stairs a few feet away, leading to the motel's second level. The rain pounded his back as he had difficulty climbing the rusting steps, concern still encasing his mind and his long limbs shaking badly from the cold and the unquenchable panic that had taken seed in his stomach. When he reached the door to their room he found it slightly ajar, the open entrance reason for his pulse to quicken as he pushed it inwards to reveal the grimy room.

The space was flooded in darkness and Sam reached a hand in to flick the light switch. As an eerie glow filled the area, Sam was disappointed to find it vacant, no sign of his brother having entered it recently besides the open door. It remained exactly the way they had left it that morning. Nothing had been touched or packed.

A ringing tore through the constant sound of pattering rain and Sam immediately whipped his head in its direction. Dean's cell phone lay on the night table between the two beds across the room. Sam hesitated for a moment, but then quickly strode over and swiped the phone from its place. Flipping it open almost simultaneously, he held it to his ear.


"There are thirteen payphones in this neighbourhood, Sammy," a man's voice answered from the other line. Sam recognized it immediately, a mixture of emotions flooding through him at once. "In one there is a special phonebook. On the one hundred and thirteenth page there is a phone number written in red. Call it."

"What the hell do you want?" Sam said the words as if spitting out poison. "How did you get this number?"

"I have my sources, Sammy." A low chuckle sounded through the speaker. "You have fifteen minutes."

The younger Winchester hesitated for a moment before asking the question of which the possible answer caused his breathing to stop and his hands to tremble from something other than the cold. "Where's my brother?"


To Be Continued.