"Supernatural" and all things Winchester are owned and operated by the Great Kripke; a true magician.


Get Your Head Back in the Game

by Fraidy Cat

Sam flinched and gripped the neck of the bottle more tightly as he raised it to his lips and took a hit of the Jack. A fine spray of whiskey pelted Dean's back as he hunched over his brother's other arm, stitching the deepest of the claw marks. "Dude," protested Sam, tensing in his chair, "you never even asked."

Dean paused, frowned and glanced up, steading the wounded limb on the motel room's rickety table. "What? I didn't have to ask, Sammy, I was there. You tripped over your gargantuan feet and couldn't get out of the way fast enough. Again."

Sam's brows knit in confusion and he raised the bottle again. Dean noted with some apprehension that quite a bit of the liquid had disappeared since the last time he checked. "Hey," he reprimanded gently, turning back to the task at hand. "Maybe you should take it easy with that. One more stitch oughta do it. Gigantor."

Sam lowered the bottle and snickered, a noise that was oddly punctuated at the end with a hiccup. "Not that, Dean. About hell. You've never asked me about hell."

Dean was happy he was tying off the last stitch. If he had to put that needle into his brother's arm again, he just might accidentally do it with a little excessive force. "You've definitely had enough of our friend Jack," he growled, snipping the thread with a pair of scissors and rummaging in the first aid kit for a tube of antibiotic cream. He looked at Sam with cold, dead eyes. "I'm sorry you got hurt, but if you go much further down this road I might hurt you myself. This is not funny, Sam."

Sam's own eyes glinted darkly as he balanced the bottle on the table, taking elaborate care. "No shit," he agreed. "Search your memory, Dean; I was dead for three days – where did you think I was? According to your own timeline, that's the equivalent of a year. So…" – he stopped, hiccupping again – "sho, maybe you've got a few years on me, but don't you think I'm at least a little qualified to understand what you've been through?"

Dean's mouth gaped open and an odd expression of both horror and hope crossed his face. He immediately dropped his eyes again and began to apply ointment to his brother's scratches, ignoring Sam's hiss of pain. "That's impossible," he said, shaking his head. "You didn't go to hell; you were a good person, Sammy – you've always been a good person." He threw the tube back in the kit and grabbed a gauze bandage, flashing Sam a look of guilt. "I ripped you out of heaven, didn't I?"

A smile flit across Sam's face so fast Dean almost didn't see it. "I had some time when you…were gone," he shared. "Looked it up. Pretty sure I'm six for ten when it comes to breaking the Ten Commandments." A bitter laugh escaped him. "I guess they call them 'Commandments' for a reason."

Dean finished taping the bandage securely to Sam's arm and shook his head again. "No," he insisted, looking at his brother again. "You didn't have handprints burned into your shoulders!" he pointed out triumphantly.

Sam leaned forward a little, almost sliding off the chair until Dean reached forward to steady him. The younger man whispered, as if sharing a secret. "Wasn't ripped out of hell by an angel. I was released by the demons as part of a deal." He smiled almost goofily. "Can you spell 'deal', Deano?"

He settled back in his chair and burped, while Dean gaped at him like a fish out of water. "I don't believe you," he finally said. "When did you ever sleep with a married woman?"

Sam responded to him seriously. "I think I'm good on that one, although I had to look up the definition of 'adultery' to be sure."

Dean had a wildly inappropriate urge to smile, and tamped it down. "I can't remember any of the others," he confessed.

Sam huffed. "Figures." He shifted in the chair, bringing his wounded arm to his chest and cradling it there. He looked pensive. "Well, I've taken the Lord's name in vain. Repeatedly. And how often do we stop on the road and go to church – you know, keep the Sabbath holy?"

Dean leaned back in his own chair, incredulous. "They send people to hell for that?"

Sam shrugged, yawned. "News to me, too. 'Course, I also lie – every time I put on a suit and flash a fake ID. And I'm pretty sure credit card fraud counts as stealing."

"This is crazy," Dean murmured, almost to himself. "You're good, Sammy. You always were the best of us."

Sam smiled sadly. "Which brings up the whole 'honor thy father' thing. If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not go there."

Dean winced, and let almost a full minute of silence pass between them before he spoke again, in a yell that woke up a dozing Sam and made him lurch back comically in his chair. "MURDER!" he shouted almost happily. "There's something about murder, right? Come on, Sam, we both know you've never done that."

Sam stopped smiling, and started looking like he might be sick. "Madison and Gordon might disagree; along with countless hosts who went down for the count when I exorcised a demon."

Dean frowned again. "That's not fair, Sam. What is they say in war? 'Acceptable losses'."

It was Sam's turn to look at Dean with incredulous eyes. "You can't really believe that any loss is acceptable," he protested. "Besides," he added before Dean could respond, "each commandment is a fine example of contract law. The words are not, 'Do not kill unless there is good reason'." He shrugged again. "Pretty much just, 'Do not kill,' dude."

Dean stood and started gathering together the first aid supplies. "I am not going to listen to this drunken rambling any more," he stated unequivocably. "Just get yourself to bed and sleep it off, Sam."

Sam stood as well, a little shakily, rising above Dean and casting a long shadow on the wall. "It's not drunken rambling," he said, and indeed there was no trace of alcohol in his voice now. "I was in hell, Dean. I went to hell, and I would be there now if you had not taken my place." Dean was still trying to absorb that when Sam blindsided him with the rest of his opinion. "We are both going back there – this time forever – and there will be no way for either of us to escape…unless you get your head out of your ass and back in the game."

Dean staggered back a step. "Wha?"

Sam may have had half a bottle of Jack, but it wasn't to dull the physical pain of his injuries; it was to give him the strength he needed to look his best friend in the eye and break his heart and save his life at the same time. "I'm sorry that you experienced what you did; I am. I only had a glimpse of the horror, and it hurts me, Dean – it hurts me – to imagine what it was like for you. I'm not implying that you can turn off what you feel and just get over it; I'm really not." His voice softened and his expression grew gentle. "But I need you to pull yourself together. Stop drinking yourself to sleep every night and going into every hunt with a hangover." Sam braced himself for the most difficult words he would ever say, almost certainly the hardest words Dean would ever hear. "If you don't get your head back in the game, Dean, you're going to end up sending me right back to hell."

The blood drained from Dean's face as if he had been slapped. "You really were there," he whispered to himself. "A year. I left you there for a year."

Sam stepped forward and gripped Dean's shoulder. "Stop, now. No more guilt, Dean. You did the best you could – always. I believe that, with everything I have."

Dean sighed, and sagged under Sam's touch. He let his head fall to his chest, and stood breathing raggedly for a few seconds. At length, he looked back at Sam. "We just look ahead, now," he said, his voice subdued and scratchy.

Sam smiled. "Good idea, Dean. We leave the past where it is – both of us. Deal?"

Dean tried to smile back, managed only a wobbly grin. "Deal."

Sam moved his hand slightly to slap Dean lightly on the shoulder. "Take a shower," he suggested, nodding toward the still-littered table. "I got this."

Dean nodded, and didn't even try to argue. "Thanks, Sammy." He stopped to grab his duffle and disappeared into the bathroom.

Sam rearranged the first aid kit and gathered a handful of bloody gauze and sterile packaging for the trash. He carried it around the corner, into the room's tiny kitchenette. The shadow of the room's other occupant startled him, and he grunted, stumbled backwards and dropped his handful of trash on the floor.

Castiel's eyes followed the descent of a tuft of gauze, then rose to regard Sam solemnly, and a trifle sadly. "You continue to desecrate Number 9," he intoned softly. "Now you are lying to your own brother."

Sam lifted his chin defiantly. "I do what I have to, to save him."

Castiel nodded. "I see that. You did speak the truth in the end, however; next time, you will surely go to hell."

"Not if we win," countered Sam. "If we win, I will drag him with me to heaven. I swear I will."

Castiel sighed. He let his eyes fall to Sam's injured arm, where they lingered until Sam felt a slight tingling beneath the bandage. Then the angel raised his eyes to Sam's again. "It is imperative, then," he stated. "You must win."