"The Ballad of John and Yoko"

I'm tired. I can feel it in my bones, creeping through me like a dark and silent passenger, filling up the empty spaces in my body and making them ache. I feel old, world-wearied, weather-blasted, but when I look in the mirror I see the same deceptively youthful face looking back at me. There are no crows-feet creeping from the corners of my hazel eyes; no frown lines etched around my mouth tell the tale of the anguish that has wracked my soul over the years. I am like a clean canvas, but for the scars from bullet wounds, stabbings, claw marks, and countless other flesh-tearing injuries that have been permanently painted upon my skin. My body is a testament to my past. But my face? It says nothing.

I sit at the small table in our motel room, my laptop open and displaying the webpage for the local police department as I read through the latest press releases on the recent slayings. The police have no leads. They think they are dealing with a psychotic killer; but we know better. We're relatively certain that no human hand had any part in the gruesome attacks. Only shadows.

A gentle knock on the door draws me from my studies. I approach cautiously, tucking the pistol from the table into the back of my jeans, and open the door a crack. A pretty-faced brunette smiles at me in greeting. It's Ruby.

I open the door only slightly wider, not offering her an invitation inside.

"What do you want?" I ask her. I haven't spoken with her in weeks, not since deciding that my business with her and with my psychic powers is finished. I want nothing to do with her.

"Nice to see you too, Sam," she says dryly, pushing past me and parading into the motel room. She is smiling, but I notice her eyes darting about the room, searching. She's anxious.

"Where's Dean?" she asks. She's fidgeting and breathing fast. Hell, she looks terrified.

"He's out," I reply, furrowing my brow in concern.

Panic bubbles up within me and within seconds I am struggling to suppress the shaking that has started at my core. Something is wrong. I can feel it.

"Well we need to get him out of here," Ruby says. "Now."

"Ruby, what's going on?" I ask. The frightened timber of her voice sends a chill through me.

Her face is like stone, so serious, so set in a mask of doom, that I fear I know what she is about to say before she even says it.

"It's Lilith," she says. "She's coming. For Dean. Now."

My hands are trembling. There are a million questions that I want to ask – a million details I should be checking off of a list in my mind – but the only thing I can think to do is stare at her.

"So now would be a good time for you to pick up that magic talking device," she says slowly, evenly, and with only the slightest hint of mockery, "and call his sorry ass back here."

"Lilith?" I ask, feeling my lips and brain finally working together. "Why? How?"

Ruby gives me a look of long-suffering.

"Well apparently some of her major plans have been foiled by the angel posse," she explains vaguely, "and she's looking for some payback. She's going to take out God's golden boy to prove a point."

"Take out?" I ask, my heart in my throat.

"Well, more like drag back to Hell," she says. "She's still sore about him getting a free pass so she's Hell-bent on dragging him back to the disco inferno for some playtime."

My mind is spinning. Too many questions. And I'm not sure I want the answers.

"But she can't," I find myself saying, grasping for hope. "Dean's out of his contract. God let him out. She can't drag him back to Hell."

It comes out more like a plea than a statement, and I see Ruby's eyes soften in sympathy. But only for a moment. The urgency of the business at hand hardens her.

"She has the Colt, Sam," she explains soberly. "Bela gave her the Colt."

"The Colt?" I ask, completely at a loss for what that could possibly mean. Lilith could kill Dean with any old gun – she didn't need the Colt for that. And shooting him, even if it's with the Colt, wouldn't send him to Hell. But then it hits me. Cold ice washes over my body. I suppress the urge to vomit.

"The Devil's Gate," I hear myself whisper aloud.

Ruby nods.

"She's going to open it, Sam. She's going to open it, and she's going to drag Dean back to Hell."

Blood rushes to my head and I can feel the vein in my right temple throbbing.

"No. She's not."

888

I don't know what to do. Dean is on his way back now – my urgent message that he get his ass back here immediately was enough to get him moving – but I honestly don't know what to do once he arrives. How can I protect him? How can I keep him safe?

Ruby had suggested that we summon Castiel and leave Dean in his safekeeping, but that isn't really an option. As far as I know, angels can't be summoned, and even if they could, I don't know how. A frantic call to Bobby to see if he has any ideas yielded no results: he'll get back to me if and when he figures something out. In the meantime, I have a psychotic demon who is amassing what Ruby says is an army of demons to come and collect my brother, and I can't for the life of me think of a plan to keep him safe.

Everything is just unravelling too fast. Frustration builds, climbing up my neck and strangling me. An all-consuming feeling of despair washes over me and I have to suppress a sob as I choke back the pain. This can't be happening again. I can't go through this again. I can't watch my brother die again, can't sit by while he is dragged back to Hell to be tortured for eternity.

It was bad enough the first time, waiting for the countdown to doom. Then we hadn't really known what it would cost us. He hadn't known what the price of going to Hell would be. He had imagined it, but he couldn't have known. I hadn't known what the price would be – what living without him would be like. But now I did.

The waiting is torture. I look at my watch, telling myself that Dean should be back by now, but it's only been three minutes since I called him. He said he'd be here in twenty. I begin pacing, feeling like if I sit still the world will swallow me whole.

I don't know how to protect you Dean. I don't know how to keep you safe.

I'm almost surprised at how lost and panicked I feel. My hands are numb. My face is numb. I can feel Ruby's eyes on me but I can't bring myself to look at her. She wants to know what my plan is, but I don't have one. I could scream for the feeling of helplessness stealing over me because I don't have a plan.

"I need air," I hear myself say, detached and robotic. I head for the door and am outside in the chilly night air before she even has a chance to reply. Or maybe she did reply and I just didn't hear her. At this point I don't really care.

What am I supposed to do? You're all I have, Dean.

I take a few deep gasping breaths of air, sucking in the chill in an attempt to cool the infernal panic coursing through me. I just need to think. I can do this. I can save you. This time, I can save you.

My mouth is twisting with anguish and tears are stealing their way down my cheeks. I feel so lost.

How? I demand of myself. How can you save him? You couldn't save him the last time. You sat back like a good little brother and watched him be torn to pieces. You watched him die. You buried him. And you left him in Hell – left him for someone else to rescue in your place.

I don't know how to save you!

In my mind I see the cemetery in Wyoming. I see the ancient church, its dark, steel doors embossed with the tell-tale pentacle symbol, its lines broken and out of sync. I see a white-eyed little girl placing the Colt at the symbol's centre, the symbol springing to life, spinning, lining up the points of the star. I hear Dean screaming, pleading, and Lilith is laughing. The gates open.

"No!" I whisper. "No no nononono."

I banish the image. My hands are shaking so badly that I begin to draw attention to myself. Passersby stop and stare at me, thinking I am a drug addict or a lunatic. I don't care.

I can't let this happen again. I can't. Can't. Can't can't can't can't can't can't.

Won't.

I'm sorry, Dean. There's no other way.

I close my eyes and seek the calm centre within me, feeling my way deep into its black depths. The power, the darkness, my destiny. I feel it there, like a cold, tiny spark of light within me. It's dwindling from lack of use. It sparks up as I tap into it, responding to my approach like a puppy wagging its tail in excitement. It's glad to see me.

I will save you, Dean. I will wipe Lilith and every other demon that comes near you right off the map. I'll kill every last one of them. You went to Hell for me, and if I have to, I'll go to Hell for you.

The power springs to life within me, stronger now than I have ever felt it before. The numbness in my body suddenly vanishes, replaced by surging, pulsating energy. I gasp at how bright it feels, how warm. It feels good.

I look at my hands, feeling the energy coursing through me, almost expecting them to glow, but they look the same as they did before. My head is humming and I feel slightly dizzy, staggering on my feet as the power in me builds and swells. I wonder if it was like this for the other psychic kids when they gave in to it. Did they feel this rush? Did the world spin and hum for them?

The panic is gone. I'm ok. I'm better than ok. I know now that I can save Dean. I feel it as surely as the wind on my face or the earth beneath my feet. I can save Dean because I have power. I suppress a laugh when I realize how much power. It had been here all this time. I can do anything.

I watch as the street sign ahead of me twists into a perfectly symmetrical corkscrew, smiling at my handiwork. It was so easy. With a collective click, all of the cars in the parking lot unlock in unison, their engines springing to life, their headlights beaming. I could do a light show if I wanted, but I don't.

A young man in a pizza delivery uniform joins me on the veranda after having made his delivery, and I hear him say, "Please sir, may I have a farthing?" and I chuckle to myself at his forced British accent. I don't know what possessed me to put that thought in his head, but I laugh at its execution. Now I know why Andy was such a happy-go-lucky guy.

I feel like I have been reborn. Relief washes over me and I bathe in it.

I am back in the motel room. Ruby eyes me suspiciously as I enter, her gaze appraising, gauging. I think I see a flicker of recognition steal its way onto her features, but she tries to mask it.

"Get out," I say.

"What?" She's smiling, the truth hitting her. She knows what I've done. She can see the change in me. She can see it on my face.

"Way to go Sam!" she says with enthusiasm.

The muscle in my jaw twitches reflexively. Her obvious approval irritates me. I feel my face burning in anger. Is it because she realized it so quickly? I'm not sure I care.

Without another word, I stretch my hand out toward her, releasing a sharp blast of energy.

"I said get out," I say pleasantly, a smile spreading across my face as her eyes widen in shock.

She clutches at her throat and convulses, just once, as a stream of black smoke spills from her mouth. I watch the demon-spirit burn into the floor, condemned to Hell on my command, and am satisfied. Dean will be happy.

I drag the lifeless body of the girl who was once Kristy to the far corner of the room, hiding her behind my bed. She is out of range from the window, and I am confident that if anyone were to peek in they wouldn't be able to see it. I'll get rid of it when the night is older. Right now, I merely sit and wait.

888

The door opens quietly and I watch as Dean's fair-haired head pokes into view. He takes one tentative glance over his shoulder, making sure no one has followed him, and steps inside. He sees me sitting at the edge of my bed and he smiles at me, nervously, and then rushes forward, setting his duffel bag on the table.

"What's goin' on?" he asks. I can see the worry in his eyes. God, I must have terrified him with my urgent phone call earlier.

"Lilith," I say. "She's on the move."

"On the move?" he asks archly. "Well what does that mean? Is she opening another seal?"

"No Dean," I reply. It's hard to keep the excitement from my voice, and I suppress it as best I can. Dean thinks I'm burying my fear. His eyes soften and he gives me a weak but reassuring smile.

"She's after you," I explain calmly. It's amazing how calm I feel. "She's going to use the Colt to open the Devil's Gate… so she can drag you back to Hell."

Dean's eyes go wide. He swallows hard, trying to contain his fear, but I can see a slight trembling in his hands.

"How'd…" He's struggling to remain calm. "How do you know? Who told you?"

"Ruby."

"Ruby?" he asks defensively. His hackles are instantly raised, like a cat arching in a primal hiss. "What the hell was she doing here?"

"She came to warn us," I explain. "But she's gone now. She left."

Dean stares at me a long moment, watching me, trying to read my feelings in my face. But I know that my face shows nothing.

"And you believe her?" he asks sceptically.

I nod.

"Why would she lie?" I ask.

"Because that's what demons do," he snaps. I cast off the momentary flicker of annoyance because I know Dean is scared. He's trying to hide it, but I can see it clearly in his face.

"No," I insist. "She was telling the truth. She wanted me to summon Castiel to keep you safe."

"She did?" The expression of surprise on Dean's face is priceless. "Well that's just sweet. So what do we do?"

I can't decide if I should tell him. I want to keep him safe, but I know that the moment I tell him that I can save him with my powers, he'll hit the roof. He'll yell at me and tell me not to do it – and since I have already leapt headlong into embracing them, the point will be moot. Besides, I really don't want the grief right now. No, secrecy is the best option at this point. I'll let him think that we're running, and I'll handle Lilith on my own. I'll take care of him like he has always taken care of me.

"We run," I say quietly.

Dean laughs mirthlessly and begins pacing.

"Run?" he asks, trying to swallow past his rising panic. "Run? That's your plan?"

I'm surprised at how old he looks. I'm not sure when it happened, but I realize now, looking at his care-worn face, that he looks so much older than he did a year ago. His time in Hell has aged him. I hadn't wanted to admit it before, but now it seems painfully obvious to me how altered he is. His voice is huskier, his face paler.

Don't worry, Dean. I'll save you this time.

"Running is the only plan we have," I say. "We'll go somewhere safe – the panic room at Bobby's, maybe, until we can figure something out."

But Dean isn't feeling reassured. He's scared – it shows on every inch of his face – and my forced calm seems to be unsettling to him. He keeps looking at me sceptically, as if trying to figure out what's different about me. It's not a new haircut, I think to myself.

"I can't keep doin' this," Dean says at last, sitting at the edge of his bed and looking at me with incalculable sadness in the fathomless depths of his eyes.

"Doing what?" I ask. I feel something within me stir at his pain.

"Running," he says. "Fighting. Thinking I'm going to Hell every time I let my freaking guard down."

"Dean, we'll figure something out," I assure him. My voice is soft, but he's not convinced.

"No we won't," he says. He can barely hide the tremor in his voice. "They're just gonna keep coming, Sam. And if it's not Lilith, it'll be someone else. So long as I'm alive they're gonna be gunning to drag me back to Hell. I mean hell, they were gunning to get me there before I started playing for the God team."

I watch in silence, my face a perfect mask of concern, as he runs a weary hand over his face.

"And now that I'm topside again, I'm on Hell's Most Wanted list. It's just never gonna stop, Sammy."

The truth of his words shatters my security. I had just found it, had just made myself a nice warm nest in it, but now it's gone. I feel the uncertainty creeping back in. I feel the panic coming back. There has to be a way. I have to protect him. Failing a second time is not an option.

"Dean, you just need to calm down," I say soothingly, as much to calm myself as to calm him. "We'll figure something out."

I'll figure something out.

But he's pacing again. He mutters to himself, thinking out loud, and I watch him with tightness forming in my chest as the plan plants itself in my brain. It surprises me. It throws me off balance. I fall forward, slipping off the bed, as the air leaves my lungs.

I know what I have to do.

"Sammy!" Dean calls, rushing to my side and taking me by the hand, helping me to my feet. "Sammy, what is it?"

All concern for himself is gone. He places a steadying hand on my shoulder and eases me back into a sitting position on the bed. I look up just in time to see his eyes take in the sight of Kristy's corpse on the floor.

888

Everything is going wrong. I swallow past the burning in my gut and take deep breaths, trying to bring back the calm. I seek the rushing feeling of power within me, trusting it to wash over me and through me, blowing everything else away. With the power I can do anything. My mind hums again, and I feel ok.

Dean takes two obvious steps away from me, backing away in fear or revulsion. I can't tell which, but his eyes are wide. His face is white.

"What the hell is this?" he whispers.

It's all going wrong. I don't want it to be like this – and I can't bear for him to look at me like that. It fills me with shame, raising bile in the back of my throat. I push it back, feeling a surge of anger bubbling up within me. I was doing this for him.

"What the hell did you do?"

"I got rid of Ruby," I explain, trying to keep the edge from my voice.

But he's backing away. He's backing away from me. His eyes are so wide – those haunted, fathomless eyes, a roiling sea storming in green depths.

My face is hot. I can feel the heat rising, burning, turning my cheeks red and intensifying the humming in my head. The hum raises in pitch, turning into a shrill ringing.

"I did it for you," I explain. I have to grit my teeth to block out the heat.

He's reaching for the duffel bag. He's getting ready to leave.

"I've gotta go," he says quietly, still backing away. He's scared of me.

"NO!" I reply. I can't get over how calm my voice sounds. I am trembling all over, but when I look at my hands I see that they are steady. Steady like a surgeon's.

"Just, just calm down," I plead, getting to my feet and taking a few steps toward him. But I'm not really asking.

Dean's hand hovers over the duffel bag.

"I… I can't be here right now," he whispers.

I swallow past my fear and anger, solidifying my resolve. There is no turning back now.

"You're not leaving this room, Dean," I say. And before he can answer, I have already pulled the gun from the waistband of my pants, have already swung with deadly grace, have already made contact with the side of his head. He falls with a grunt to the floor, where he remains still.

"I'm doing this for you," I say through gritted teeth.

Because I'm going to save you this time.

888

I take one last look around the room and make sure that I have everything I need. My supplies are on the floor, and I smile to myself at how easy they were to find. A quick chat with the super and I was given access to the storage shed out back. They had everything I needed here. And after slipping him a twenty, I was assured that I could use anything I needed, so long as I put it back when I was done. No problem.

Dean groans loudly from the floor.

"Rise and shine, Sammy!" I whisper under my breath, thinking with a pang how I will never hear him say those words again. But it's the only way to save him.

I lean over him and help him to his feet, and at first he's so groggy and confused that he leans into me for support. I cherish the contact, making a mental note of taking in the smell of his deodorant and clothes and that fair hair. But the moment is short-lived. He recoils at my touch, stepping away from me again.

"You don't have to run anymore, Dean," I explain.

Now that I'm ready, I feel quite calm.

He looks around the room in confusion, wondering why we're still here and why I had hit him. His gaze hovers for a moment over my tall frame, but I notice that he is avoiding looking directly at me. He will not meet my gaze.

"Get out of my way," he says forcefully, but I see that his hands are shaking. They're trembling, violently, as if he has been taken over with a case of the shivers.

"Why won't you look at me?" I ask. The heat rises in my face and I can feel my calm crumbling away.

"Get out of my way. I'm not asking again," he says, his voice deadly quiet.

Without even thinking, without even meaning to, I slam him against the wall, the force of my will so strong that he hits it with a loud thunk.

"Why won't you look at me!" I demand, pinning him in place even as I stride across the room toward him.

He winces in pain, shock settling over his handsome features. But he refuses to meet my eyes. He stares determinedly at a spot on the floor.

I want to scream at him in anger and frustration that he won't look at me. I need to make him understand why I'm doing this. I need to make him understand that I'm saving him.

"Dean," I say, forcing my voice to sound calm. "I need you to listen to me."

"I'm listening," he says hoarsely, eyes still fixed firmly on the floor.

I just want him to look at me. I place my hand under his chin, tilting his head up so that I can see his eyes, but he looks away. His lip trembles with suppressed grief and I see tears welling, glistening in his eyes. But he looks away from me.

"I'm letting you go," I whisper. "It's the only way that I can save you."

"What have you done?" he asks me, his voice breaking. "Sammy, what have you done?"

It's too much.

"You're not listening!" I shout. I can feel the frustration burning through me, drowning out reason and kindness. He's not listening and I have important things to say to him. And I don't have a lot of time.

"For once in your fucking life, Dean," I cry, my own voice warbling with grief and rage. "Will you just shut up and listen to me? I'm trying to let you know that I forgive you!"

His eyes finally snap to attention, looking into mine.

"You forgive me?" he whispers. I have never heard him sound so cold.

"I forgive you," I assure him. "For not being able to let me go. For damning me to this life – this destiny – when I was released from it."

"What are you talking about?" His skin is so pale it almost looks gray.

"You've damned me Dean," I explain, and for the first time since the event almost two years ago I realize how angry I am. All the things I had left unsaid because Dean had sold his soul, and Dean only had a year left to live, and Dean was going to Hell – they all come bubbling to the surface now and threaten to drown me.

"I was gone, Dean. I was… finished." It's hard to breathe. "I don't know where I was, but I know it wasn't Hell. It wasn't Hell, Dean."

He's looking at me now. Oh thank God! He's looking at me now. His eyes are so sad, so full of anguish, and now with that familiar self-loathing that he can never quite hide. But he's looking at me.

"Sammy," he whispers. I have never seen him look so frail. "I'm so sorry." The lip quivers again and his voice breaks. "I didn't know… I didn't think…"

"I know," I assure him. And I do know. I understand.

"I'm sorry Sammy," he repeats, a ring of desperation in his voice. "But this? What you're doin' now…"

I silence him with a finger on his lips. It's my turn to talk. Because I have to explain. He still doesn't get it.

"This isn't revenge," I promise. "It's mercy."

"Sammy, please."

I let go of his chin and make a turn around the room, trying to collect myself. His pleading sends a chill through me, and I'm mildly worried that it doesn't reach me as deeply as it should. I wonder why I feel so cold.

"I'm going to Hell," I say at last. "I know that. I've known it for a while. And as much as I wanted to live, a part of me welcomed death when I felt Jake drive that blade into my back. It was like a way out. A way to get to heaven or something… Like I had avoided my destiny."

I sniff past the tears that mist up my eyes.

"This demon blood in me is stronger now than it ever was, and now that I'm the only one left, I know it'll take me over. It already has."

"Not it hasn't!" Dean cries. But it's a plea, almost a question.

"It's ok, Dean," I say soothingly, coming back to him and taking his face in both my hands. "It has. I know it has because I let it. I told you – I'm going to save you. No matter what it takes, I'm going to save you."

"Lilith isn't going to get her filthy hands anywhere near you," I promise him. "And neither is any other demon, ever again. It all ends tonight."

"Sammy what are you talkin' about?" He's trembling all over.

"I'm letting you go," I tell him. The skin against my hands is cold and clammy. "I'm sending you to God."

He's sliding up the wall and I watch, my head tilted to the side in curiosity, as he grunts in pain as he resists the force of my will. But I won't let him go. I won't let him down. I raise him until he is just above my height, his arms spread widely at his sides. I remove his shoes and socks wordlessly.

"What are you doing?" he asks, his voice ringing with panic. "Sammy, what are you doing?"

"Shhh," I say. "It'll all be over soon." But that's a lie. It won't be quick. I wish it could be, but it can't. It has to be like this.

"Sammy!" he cries. "Think about what you're doing, man. It's me!"

"I know, Dean. That's why I'm doing it." He just doesn't understand.

"Dad wouldn't want this!" His voice is frantic. "And mom – what would she say, Sammy?"

It should draw my sympathy, but it doesn't. I feel my stomach rumbling with anger, hatred broiling inside me.

"Dad?" I hiss. "Dad's the one who told you to kill me, Dean. He's the one who sold his soul for you and then told you to kill me before he went. Do you really want to bring up Dad right now?"

I can't explain it, but I find myself wanting to hurt him. I know he doesn't deserve it, but the pain and hurt are so great that I want to feel his jaw crush between my fingers.

"And mom." My voice sounds hollow, even to my own ears. "Mom sold me to a demon. Do you have any idea what that feels like? Knowing that mom sold you to a demon?"

"She didn't know!"

I laugh mirthlessly.

"She was a hunter, Dean! Like hell she didn't know! She must have had a pretty fucking good idea when I was born ten years to the day after she made her deal with old Yellow Eyes."

Dean looks at me, lost, broken, hopeless, and I almost falter.

"Sammy, I'm sorry." It's another plea that I have to ignore.

"It's not your fault," I reply. But the seething resentment is there beneath my skin, itching.

"Anyway, when you die, you'll be able to go wherever they've gone. Which is more than I'll ever get. And that is my gift to you."

It's the first time I have actually directly used the word die. I know that he wasn't in any way unsure of my meaning when I said I was going to let him go, but it's the first time I've really said it.

He's quiet now. I watch as a few fat tears tumble down his cheeks, but he doesn't say anything. I think maybe he's resigned. I hope he has resigned. He's my brother – I don't want to fight with him in our last moments together.

In three long strides I've crossed the room to get my supplies. I crouch to the ground, reaching into the heavy canvas bag and retrieving my tools. They're heavy and rusty, and I wish I had thought to clean them first. But I admit, I had been distracted. This wasn't easy, after all. Somehow, it wasn't hard, either. It felt oddly natural. But it wasn't easy.

"Ok," I say as I return to Dean's side, two long tent spikes in each hand. "Just close your eyes and think about pie."

Dean begins to sob, a pathetic, helpless kind of blubbering that makes me freeze on the inside. It's the first time I've ever really seen him cry. Sure, I've seen him sniffle, I've seen his tell-tale lip quiver, and I've seen tears steal their way from his soulful eyes. But I've never seen anything like this. Even when Dad died, he hadn't truly cried like he was crying now. This is a heart broken – a man broken.

"Please, Sammy, no!" He pleads, his pain, his fear, his soul laid bare for me to see. "Please don't do this!"

"You'll thank me when you're free, Dean," I promise him. I'm amazed at how steady my hands are. My powers make me stronger than I ever thought possible, and I'm very thankful for the strength they're giving me now. Without them I would have crumbled – Dean's crying would have broken me for sure.

I set three of the four tent spikes to the side and pull the mallet off of the bed. Hands still steady.

"You can hum if you want," I tell him, hoping that will help. I hold the spike over his hand, readying to strike.

"Please, please," Dean begs, his voice so quiet I have to strain to hear him. "Sammy I lo—"

That I cannot bear. I drop the mallet to the floor and clamp a hand over his mouth, crushing his lips against his teeth. I want to smother him, smother the words from him to prevent him finishing that sentence. I can feel the tears stinging my cheeks as his panicked eyes bore into mine. He's looking for me, searching me, trying to find out how he lost me. I can see it. He doesn't realize that I'm still here. I'm just… different.

"You gave up everything for me," I tell him. "Everything I ever had, everything I ever was, is because of you." I nod, making sure he understands. He nods against my hand.

"I was able to do well in school because you helped me be smart," I say. "And every test I ever passed was because you convinced Dad to give me time to study. Every holiday, every birthday… every day that I ever had that meant anything to me, was because of you." I make sure that he's still with me. He nods again, tears still streaming down his cheeks.

"I. Am. Doing. This. For. You."

The tears are dripping off my nose and into my mouth, and for a moment I think I can't possibly go through with it. This is my Dean. My brother, my family, my everything. I choke back the wail of anguish that creeps up my throat, releasing a faint moan in its place. I don't want to live without him, but I know that I can. I let him go and made my peace when I buried him in Pontiac.

And this way is better. This is an ending that no demon can touch. Dean will be safe, his soul tucked away with God, wherever he is. He'll be as far away from Hell and its ravenous hoard as possible. My only regret is that I'll never see him again.

"Who knows," I tell him, my hand still tight over his mouth. "Maybe you'll come back."

He screams into my hand as the first spike plunges into his palm. I was going to do it manually -- I know how much the psychic thing upsets him -- but with one hand over his mouth, I can't manage it. He'll have to understand. With my free hand I wipe the sweat from his brow, shushing him, cooing to him, telling him everything will be all right.

"Or maybe you'll come down off of that wall under your own steam," I suggest, pressing harder with my hand over his mouth as the second spike plunges into his other hand. His screams tear my soul, but at least they're muffled. And at least I can hold him.

"Jesus could heal lepers," I remind him. "And he walked on water, and turned water to wine. And Moses parted the Red Sea."

"Maybe you'll walk right outta here ten minutes after I'm done and punish me with some serious stigmata, huh?"

The third scream is unbearable as the next spike pierces both crossed ankles. I bang my head gently against the wall, banishing the sound of his muffled shrieks and grunts. I feel my soul ripping apart.

Dean begins to shudder as shock settles in. I hope that he'll die, that it'll be too much and he'll just have a heart attack. But I know he won't. I know that the shock will pass, the trembling of his limbs will ebb, and he'll hang here for days before he dies. I have one spike left. I can help him along.

I release my hand from his mouth at last, stepping back to witness the beautiful carnage. It's all I can do to hold back the vomit that rises to my throat. I've done it. I've strung him up. I've crucified my brother. His beautiful form trembling and ashen, with crimson tides flowing from his hands and ankles. Splintered pieces of bone jut out from his ankles and I have to force myself to look away.

I understand now what it was like for Dad to sell his soul for Dean, and for Dean to sell his soul for me. And for the first time I understand, truly understand, why. I have destroyed myself. I feel it in the pit of me – that thing that made me me is broken. It shattered the moment I clamped my hand over Dean's mouth and drove that first spike into him. I'm never coming back. The road that I'm travelling only goes one way.

But Dean is safe. Martyrs are guaranteed a place in Heaven. It says so in the Bible. And now no one can touch him – no one but God. The trembling in my hands, for they had started to tremble the moment I laid eyes upon my sacrifice, begins to cease. As I make my way toward the bed, I steal a glance toward the window, making sure that no one has come to investigate the muffled screaming. Out of the corner of my eye I see a sight that stops my heart. For a moment – just a brief moment, my eyes are shining yellow in the light. I know now why Dean wouldn't look at me.

I pick up the last spike, trying to make up my mind what to do next. I can finish him now – end it quickly – or I can wait and see this thing through. It will take resolve, I know. I would have to stay here for days with him on that wall, watching him die slowly, listening to him plead. But if I wait, something could happen. Something miraculous.

I look at Dean, who is panting in pain, gasping in shock, and I wonder if maybe there is something special about him. I half expect to see him tear his hands away defiantly, the wounds sealing up on their own. I watch and wait, half-hoping, half-expecting it to happen. My hands are sweaty as I cling to that last spike.

"Sam," Dean whispers, and I rush to his side again so that I can hear what he has to say.

"I forgive you."

FIN.