Title: The Struggle Within

Summary: See Prologue. Limpage. Some bad language. Flashbacks. Tri-Winchester angst. Overload of sarcastic wit. Chained!Sam... all the fun stuff.

Disclaimer: Still don't own anything except for the crazy plot. No beta so all mistakes are mine.

Author's Note: Thanks again to those who took the time to review- you guys seriously rock! And to those who have added this story to their alerts. If you enjoy this extra-long chapter then please show some love by clicking that little blue button at the bottom of the page :D Love DarkmoonStar90 x X x

Chapter 3

Then...

John rested his head in his hands, and with his next words, Dean Winchester's world came crashing down around him. "The demon has him."

And just like someone had flicked a switch in his brain, Dean remembered everything. God, he remembered everything.

-Now-

Dean had had barely a split-second to notice that his brother had spun around with horror-filled eyes before they were both flung across the room like unwanted toys by an irate toddler. Dean hissed through his teeth as pain throbbed along his spine from the powerful impact with the wall, moving to ease his discomfort before he realised that he was being pinned to the wall by an invisible force. Son of a-

"Howdy boys."

And with those words, and the familiar figure that stepped forward from the shadows, Dean knew they were screwed. He managed to turn his head fractionally, catching his brother's eye, and he knew that Sam felt exactly the same way.

Meg Masters stepped forward with an eerie grace, similar to that of a tiger stalking its prey. Her eyes glinted malevolently from the opposite side of the room as shadows curled around her like close friends. "Expecting someone else? I'm offended, after all we had so much fun the last time we were together- you boys really do know how to show a girl a good time."

But if Meg was here, then who or what was waiting for John at the warehouse in Lincoln? Dad...

"You're no girl," Sam muttered, and Dean could visualise the patented Sam Winchester glare that accompanied those words without even having to see his brother's face.

"I'd really take that to heart Sammy... if I had one. But it seems that all that college education wasn't a complete waste of time after all." Meg grinned maliciously before her pupils turned completely black. Possessed-by-a-demon black.

"You're a demon?" Dean exclaimed incredulously but everything was settling into place: Meg Masters was a real bonafide girl despite her apparent invincibility... after all how many people could still make blackmailing phone calls after taking a tumble out of a seventh-story window?

The demon smirked, "In the flesh... or rather sweet little Megan's flesh to be precise. Quite frankly I'm surprised you didn't figure it out sooner, but we've learnt that you have certain gaps in your knowledge thanks to Daddy dearest."

Dean didn't know what to make of that statement: undoubtedly their father wasn't exactly the caring-sharing type but if it could be used to save lives, John Winchester made damn sure his boys knew it. However he didn't have a chance to ponder the implications of Meg- or rather, the hell spawn possessing her-'s words for more than a few seconds before she stalked past them. The demon stood in the doorway of the nursery, cast another sickly sweet smile back at Dean and Sam before calling down the corridor, "Bring in our other guests, boys."

Other guests? Dean wondered, automatically trying to move between his brother and the new potential threats. His efforts however were in vain, his muscle tendons screeched in protest as the demonic force continued to pin him to the wall.

Two possessed men walked into the nursery, their ebony pupils glinting sadistically at Dean and Sam as they dragged a man and a woman into the room. An invisible knife twisted in Dean's gut when he noticed that the woman was carrying a baby in her arms. He heard Sam's sharp intake of breath, "Monica," just as Dean realised exactly who they were. He had temporarily forgotten about the family they had come here to save with the revelation that "Meg" had played the Winchesters like puppets, but now the full weight of how badly they had screwed up was a crushing weight on Dean's shoulders. The two men carelessly shoved the family to their knees in front of Meg before forcing them to look at her.

"We've been having fun haven't we?" Meg smirked, her tone cloyingly sweet. Monica did not respond to the demon's words, continuing to clutch her baby with trembling arms and her husband was less mobile than a statue, completely petrified. Even the baby was unnaturally quiet and still, desolate horror bleeding into all of their eyes.

Dean swallowed, his fingers itching for a weapon of any kind- hell, he'd use his bare hands if need be- to tear the three demons apart with. He glanced down and saw the Colt revolver lying at Sam's feet where it had fallen from his brother's grip. He had never wanted Sammy's elusive abilities to kick in more in his life.

Meg followed Dean's gaze and spotted the antique gun lying innocuously on the ground. Crap, Dean swore silently. She turned towards the Winchesters and a second later the revolver was resting in her outstretched hand. "Didn't your Daddy ever tell you boys not leave guns lying around?" she chastised contemptuously before turning back to survey the family. "Oh dear, I think I broke them," Meg said wistfully with false regret. "Pity, I wanted to play some more but I think you Winchesters will be even more fun."

"Why don't you come over here and find out darlin'?" Dean drawled, drawing on the persona he used to pick up one-night stands in bars right across America. Anything to get the demonic bitch away from the family. Anything to get the demonic bitch away from Sam. "But I'm a private guy; don't want an audience, so why don't you let everyone else go outside and we'll have some playtime?"

Meg smiled, but there was a wicked, predatory gleam in her eyes, "How very gallant of you Dean-o but although this slumber party's been fun and all, there's someone who wants to meet you boys- especially Sammy."

Dean's escalating fear surged up a notch, threatening to overwhelm the diamond-hard control Dean had perfected from the age of four. He sensed that the night was about to plummet from bad to completely fucked up in approximately ten seconds.

And as another figure entered the nursery, Dean's prediction was proved true. Poisonous yellow eyes glinted in the darkness, before settling on the Winchesters, "Howdy boys."

-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-

"Howdy boys." A middle-aged man ambled into the nursery wearing a janitor's overalls and a sardonic smirk. His golden pupils pierced through the darkness and settled upon the Winchesters. "Well looks like you've finally found me; shame Daddy's not here, but that was the point after all."

Meg's usual imperious attitude appeared to have evaporated as she approached the demon. Her head was tilted down in submission as she held out the Colt revolver with an extravagant flourish. "Tweedledum and Tweedledee over there brought you a gift."

The demon possessed man examined the gun, "What a pain in the ass this thing has been," Azazel sighed. He turned to Sam, a theatrical look of shock twisting his features, "Were you going to shoot me with it Sammy? Oh the irony." He stowed the gun in a pocket on his overalls before turning back to Meg. "But I think this party is getting a little crowded, why don't you show our local guests out Daughter?"

Daughter? Dean inhaled sharply along with his brother as the night took yet another unnerving turn.

A flicker of surprise crossed Meg's face before it was carefully masked. "Yes Father."

Dean felt gravity return for a split-second as Meg's control over his body broke before the yellow eyed demon took over Winchester-pinning duty. Meg jerked Monica up with one arm, beckoning to one of the two possessed men who had taken the family into the room, "Take the husband." Without another backward glance, Meg led Monica and the demon dragging Monica's husband out of the nursery.

"She's your daughter!?" Dean exclaimed incredulously as he heard the faint slam of the front door. Surely the demons weren't simply letting the family go?

"You think you're the only one with a family Dean?" the demon replied. "Seems that way at times."

"Why did you let them go?" Sam interrupted, a rare note of true confusion entering his voice.

Dean was wondering exactly the same thing.

"Killing them would be fun and all," the demon responded casually, "but death is a release Sammy. Because now, that family will spend the rest of their lives living in fear; terrified that big bad scary demons will come back. And fear does terrible things to the human psyche: I give them a year before they're addicted to booze or drugs- or both. Ending their pitiful existence now would've been kind... kind's not part of my MO sadly, as you're about to find out." The possessed man approached the Winchesters, ignoring the twin looks of hatred directed his way. He stopped in front of Sam, and Dean's big brother instincts shrieked in protest as the demon placed a fatherly hand on his brother's cheek. "I've wanted to meet you again for a very long time Sammy- you could say that I've been watching over you like a dark guardian angel."

Sam somehow managed to catch Dean's gaze and Dean could see true fear beginning to bleed into Sam's eyes before it was quickly buried.

"Leave him alone you yellow-eyed son-of-a-bitch," Dean shouted as Sam unsuccessfully tried to shift away from the demon's touch.

The possessed man's eyes darkened dangerously, but Dean's ploy succeeded as he became the focus of the demon's attention. "Didn't your daddy tell you it's rude to call demons names? Especially when they can do this-"

The possessed man's hand cut through the air in a slashing motion, and Dean cried out in pain as his arms were sliced open. Scarlet liquid seeped freely from the wounds, soaking into the torn fabric of Dean's shirt as the sharp bite of pain temporarily paralysed Dean's mind.

"Leave him alone you sick bastard!" Sam yelled, breaking through the haze that clouded Dean's brain.

The demon surveyed the damage he had caused with sadistic pleasure before turning to Sam. "Tut tut, such language Sammy. What would your Mommy say? Oops I forgot," he taunted, tone saccharine sweet but his yellow eyes glinted maliciously. "I go by many names, but your Daddy knows me as Azazel for future reference."

Dean's lips twisted in a parody of a smile but he didn't rise to the bait.

"So what is this all about?" Sam questioned. "Why was Rosie chosen? Why was I chosen?" Sam's voice cracked slightly, a lifetime of unanswered questions weighing heavily on his mind.

"I was wondering when you'd start asking the big questions Sammy." Azazel's golden eyes savoured the emotional turmoil churning within the youngest Winchester. "You're a story for another time I'm afraid, but don't worry, I have big plans for you kiddo. But little Rosie... she's a cute baby and all, but she isn't special I'm afraid. However, she did have her own unique purpose. Demonic omens, six month old child... I knew your Daddy wouldn't be able to resist. And he's given you two boys to me practically gift-wrapped... Johnny should know by now that demons lie."

"Wow that's quite a double-cross; we'd give you a standing ovation... but you know, pinned to the wall and all that," Dean drawled insolently, trying to draw the demon's attention away from Sam at any cost to himself, even though his slashed arms were still bleeding freely.

"Always with the wise-guy act Dean-o," Azazel began, "but it's just that, an act, to hide all that nasty angst you keep bottled up inside you isn't it? You think you're so tough but you're weak really, always needing Daddy and Sammy but they don't need you do they?"

Dean stiffened as that particular verbal dart hit the bull's-eye on twenty-three years' worth of suppressed emotional pain. He gritted his teeth, forcing it down before offering the demon a lazy grin. "You really are a can short of a six pack aren't you?"

He had a moment of satisfaction as the barb struck before a horrible, blood-curdling scream from Sam cut through Dean like a chainsaw. "Leave him alone you sick bastard- Sammy!"

"Dee..." Sam whimpered, his chestnut hair falling over his eyes like a mask as blood dripped ominously from his eyes and nose. Streams of crimson meandered down Sam's face as the demon grinned insidiously. The demon gestured again and Sam cried out in agony as whatever the hell the demon was doing to Sam happened again.

"Not so smug now are we Dean?" Azazel noted smugly, relishing the dual pain emanating from the Winchesters. "If slicing you to pieces doesn't shut you up, then maybe giving your precious baby brother an aneurysm will."

Dean lowered his gaze, a silent submission despite the rage roaring in his chest. Each whimper escaping from Sam's clenched jaw was like a vicious uppercut as the jagged knife of Sam's pain and fear dug relentlessly into Dean's heart.

Azazel moved away from the brothers and Dean strained against the demon's invisible hold as Sam seemed to sag against the wall despite his inability to move. Dean's big brother conscious demanded that he end Sam's suffering immediately but Dean was all out of ideas. And Azazel was just getting started.

"Your entire life has been 'Look after Sam', 'Watch out for your brother'. When has your Dad ever thought about what you wanted, how you feel? No, it's all about precious Sam, even though he was the one that left. Isn't that right Sammy? You walked right out that door, despite everything that Dean had done for you. He gave up his childhood for you, and you threw that right back in his face."

Dean sucked in air through gritted teeth; Stanford was an open wound that would never truly heal. It had hurt like hell when Sam had left, but Dean hadn't spent the last year patching things up with his brother to lose him now.

"No..." Sam breathed. Blood was still oozing down his cheeks in scarlet streams and his face was becoming alarmingly pale. "It... wasn't... like... that."

"No? I think it was exactly like that Sammy."

The demon was playing with them, just like a cat would play with a dying mouse before it succumbed to its injuries and Dean was wondered how long it would be until the demon put them out of their collective misery.

As if the demon had been reading his mind- and much to Dean's unease that was a distinct possibility- Azazel's verbal onslaught ended. "This little chat's been entertaining and all, but I think it's time to wrap things up. Places to be and all that." The demon produced a rag and a small bottle from his overalls, before pouring a generous quantity of liquid over the rag. "Come here Sammy," Azazel beckoned as the demon clicked his fingers.

Sam tumbled down the wall, landing in an unsightly sprawl of long limbs. He barely had time to blink from his new position on the floor before the demon was on him, physically pinning him to the ground. "Say nighty-night to your big brother Sammy," Azazel taunted before he pressed the chloroform soaked rag over Sam's mouth.

"Sammy!" Dean yelled as Sam choked, his blue-green eyes widening as the demon's brutal hold tightened. The young hunter's body jerked futilely as he tried to escape the demon's grasp but Dean could see that Sam's pupils were dilating as the drug took control of his body."SAM!" Dean thrashed against the demon's willpower as Sam struggled to overcome the effects of the chloroform. Sam's blood-smudged eyelids flickered open once more before they slipped close and didn't reopen.

"Stubborn to the last, just like Mommy," Azazel commented as Sam fell into drug-induced unconsciousness and the demon removed the soaked rag from Sam's mouth. The remaining possessed man stepped forward from the shadows, picking his brother up with as much care as he would pick up a refuse bag, and flinging Sam across his shoulder.

"Don't talk about our Mom," Dean hissed, mostly out of reflex his fear for his brother turned his blood to ice-water. Sam...

The demon batted the remark away with one hand before nodding to his accomplice and then turning back to Dean. "You know, it's been nice and all Dean, but I really don't think this is going to work out. You just aren't my type," Azazel said coyly. "We're heading off to a private after party and I'm afraid you're not on the guest list Dean-o. Don't worry though; we'll make sure Sam's having a screaming time... literally."

"Leave my brother alone! Sammy!" Dean shouted, straining against the invisible force pinning him to the wall.

"Sorry Dean, he's going to be out for quite a while yet. Besides, it's a bit late for that now- over thirty years too late in fact. Little Sammy is going to be our very own American Idol. He's going to do the most awful, horrible things and he's going to love every second of it. But you're not going to be around to cheer him on from the sidelines I'm afraid." Azazel jerked his head and Dean crashed to the floor, like his brother before him, in a tangle of still numb limbs.

The demon pinned Dean's body to the floor before he produced a coil of rope which he preceded to wind around Dean's arms, fastening his arms behind his back.

"I don't normally do bondage on the first date," Dean quipped incorrigibly, proud that his words held his usual sass and didn't hint at the suffocating fear growing within him. He tried to throw the possessed man off but his limbs remained uncooperative. Have to get him off, have to get to Sam...

"No wonder Daddy left you all alone if you're always this mouthy," the demon taunted pugnaciously. "Actually I wonder if he'll even care that you're dead when his precious baby boy has been taken by the Big Bad Wolf? You give up your life for his crusade and he just runs out on you in the middle of the night: life's a bitch isn't it kid?" The demon patted Dean on the head condescendingly before moving away to the other side of the nursery.

"This is kinky and all but it's not gonna hold me for long." Although Dean's game face was being held together by the thinnest threads of self-control, he was already anticipating his father's anger at his failure to protect Sam.

"True," Azazel conceded. "But it'll hold long enough. Say bye-bye to your brother Dean-o."

And the demon clicked his fingers and suddenly fist of flame punched at Dean with an angry roar as Rosie's ignited. Dean blinked against the intense orange-gold light and then he was alone in the nursery. "No! Sam!" Smoke billowed as the fire surged towards Dean, soft pink teddy bears turning black as flames devoured them. Dean automatically turned away from the flames, belatedly realising that he could actually move again.

Dean struggled against his bonds, shuffling away from the fire's deadly embrace before collapsing a couple of metres away from the door. Thick smoke settled upon him like a lead blanket and Dean felt his strength seeping out of his pores. His limbs felt like they had been weighed down and grey smoky hands were fastening around his throat. Dean crawled forward a few centimetres more before sagging to the ground once more, his eyes stinging from the smoke. No... have to get out... have to save... He forced his head up from the floor, flames dancing in his vision as the room swirled around him. His lungs were screaming for air and Dean felt unconsciousness beckoning with false promises of safety.

"No... Sam... Dad." Dean slumped to the ground as the flames crept towards his vulnerable body. "Sammy," Dean breathed, his head falling towards the carpet as his eyes slipped close for what could be the final time.

-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-

He could hear voices but it felt like he was underwater, all of the sounds jumbled and merging together. His chest was unbearably tight and it felt like someone had shoved rubber bands down his throat. He shifted restlessly, wanting to sink back into the abyss of unconsciousness where pain was only a memory.

"Dean, wake up!"

Dean had been responding to that drill sergeant tone since he was four-years old so he immediately forced his eyes open.

"Umm... are you all right sir? Mr McGullicuddy?" a soft feminine voice enquired. Dean had a brief moment of confusion- who the hell is Mr McGullicuddy?- before reality came back to him with sickening clarity. And once his blurred vision cleared, Dean realised his bed was surrounded by people. His hospital bed. Shit.

"You were hyperventilating," his father's gruff voice offered, and Dean turned his head slightly, seeing that his father was sitting at his bedside. Dean glanced down and saw that John was gripping Dean's right hand tightly between two of his own. What the hell was going on? If Dean hated chick-flick moments then John was downright allergic to them.

And then Dean remembered.

Sam. Oh God. Sammy... Dean clenched his teeth as the memory of Sam screaming under the demon's torment flashed in his mind.

"Do you wish your father to leave? We overheard an argument before you passed out," Dean's doctor- Dr. Matthews, a balding, middle-aged man- questioned, casting a suspicious glance at John.

The dreaded oxygen mask had returned, and Dean raised his free hand to push it aside, "No!" Dean replied instantly. Can't lose anyone else. "I mean..." Dean hesitated, regretting his sharp answer, "I want him to stay."

"Fine, as long as he does not adversely impact on your recovery." The mere glance from the doctor had now become a full-blown glare but John just sat impassively, staring the doctor down. That stare tended to cause most people to fall silent instantly- as long as their name wasn't Sam Winchester- and a muscle in Dr Matthews' cheek twitched but he let the issue drop. "Now some officers will be along shortly to take a statement but I want you to rest until they arrive. And I do not want to see that mask removed from your face again until I remove it myself."

Dean knocked the oxygen mask back over his mouth, secretly relishing the cool hiss of oxygen as it eased the burning sensation in his chest. But his heartbeat was soaring- what the hell was he going to say to the cops? So Officer, I went to save a family from the demon that killed my Mom- yeah that's right, a demon- but I ended up being left to die in a burning house. Oh and it's taken my brother, can you start a manhunt please? His breathing faltered for a moment before Dean forced his fear and doubts down behind the emotional mask he had created as a child.

John squeezed Dean's hand briefly, but if the doctor had noticed Dean's harsh intake of breath he did not comment on it. "Now I'll be back on my rounds later on, and we can discuss your treatment further then. For now, rest and oxygen therapy is what you need Mr McGullicuddy." The doctor nodded stiffly to John before leaving the room, closely followed by the young nurse. It was a testament to how rattled Dean was that he did not even attempt to check out the rear-view; in fact he hadn't bothered to properly look at the nurse at all.

It was then that Dean realised that he was still holding hands with his father, and he wasn't sure who let go first, himself or John. Awkward silence remained for a few beats before John broke it, "I guess you remembered what happened at the house."

"Yes sir," Dean replied mechanically, his eyes settling on a random spot on his hospital blanket. He risked a quick glance at his father and found he was in an almost mirror position, eyes downcast and dull.

John looked up, catching Dean's gaze before he could look away. "We need to get out of here. Your doctor's already asking questions we can't answer and let's not get started on the cops. I've already picked up supplies, so the sooner we hit the road the better."

"To find Sam?"

John sighed heavily, looking every year of his age. "I called Bobby earlier while you were still unconscious, he's looking into it. We'll head to South Dakota and re-group."

Dean pushed the oxygen mask aside, "And we're how long from Bobby's exactly? Sam needs us now." Dean shot his father a venomous glare, before he broke off into a violent coughing fit. He noticed John flinch briefly before his father's anger ignited.

"Don't you think I know that?" John exclaimed, the last threads of his self-control fraying. "When I think about what they could be doing to him..." John trailed off, his gaze returning once again to the fascinating linoleum floor before meeting his son's glare dead-on. "Look, we have no idea where they've taken Sammy; the trail's cold and unless you have any more intel, we're looking at a three-thousand mile haystack." John turned away from Dean, moving with intent towards the various pieces of medical equipment surrounding Dean's bed.

Dean lowered his gaze, "No sir." He shoved the oxygen mask aside entirely, ignoring the protests from his damaged lungs before sitting up with a muffled gasp. An awkward silence reigned for a few beats before Dean sighed, "I didn't mean to pick a fight. I just want him back."

John switched one of the monitors off before turning back to Dean, and resting a heavy hand on his shoulder, John's own unspoken apology, before setting to work on one of Dean's IVs. "Yeah I know buddy. If I'd know what was going to happen..." John trailed off, not meeting his son's gaze. "I only wanted to protect you, both of you." Dean didn't reply and let the conversation drop.

After detaching Dean from the numerous medical devices and dressing him in some clothes John had smuggled in, the Winchesters finished the final preparations for their premature exit from the hospital. John's gaze was fixed on the corridor, he was anxious to leave before the police officers arrived to question Dean, and Dean wasn't overly eager to make their acquaintance either. He ignored how much of a struggle pulling in a full breath of air seemed to have become as he finished buttoning up his shirt.

Dean had flinched when he noticed that the shirt his father had taken from the Impala's trunk was in fact Sam's. Jeans were impossible to share due to his not-so-little brother's never-ending legs; but they could share shirts easily enough when the need arose. In fact, Sam's shirt had probably been stuffed in Dean's duffle and John had simply assumed it was Dean's. As the thin blue fabric had settled across his skin, the scent of cheap washing powder and something uniquely Sam had hung in the air around Dean, stirring memories of a squirming baby and a laughing toddler.

Dean clenched his fists and tried to ignore the fact that his nails were making crescent-shaped indentations in his palms before another threat to his crumbling self-control came as John solemnly handed Dean his amulet. An eight-year-old Sam had given it to him as a Christmas present and Dean had barely taken it off since. As the cold metal settled against his chest, it was like a kick to his stomach. Suck it up Winchester, crying like a sissy won't help Sammy.

"Ready?" John questioned, lifting the now almost-empty duffle bag onto one shoulder. Dean didn't have a chance to answer as he fell victim to another coughing fit, swaying slightly before the room stopped moving around him. Dean took a steadying breath before returning his gaze to his father. "Yes Sir."

John's intense stare settled on Dean, and Dean knew that he hadn't been successful in hiding his moment of weakness. But John did not comment on it, and he turned to head out of the hospital room, "Right Dean, move out."

Dean stepped out of the hospital room, only to narrowly avoid walking directly into his father's back only a few steps later as John came to a complete halt. He glanced around his father's frame to see what had caused John to stop, and cursed in several languages as a police officer came in to view. They both turned around and started walking away from the rapidly approaching officer.

Winchester luck came in one variety- bad; and this held true as Dean and John walked straight into the path of another officer exiting one of the lifts. Dean staggered back, his fingers twitching for a weapon as he pasted on his best innocent smile before the man's words and ebony pupils wiped it clean from his face.

"Going somewhere Winchesters?"

-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-

Sam had spent the last few hours?- days? weeks?- yelling until he thought his vocal chords would snap in protest. But nobody seemed to hear him, or if they did, they were perfectly happy to ignore him and Sam's isolation continued. He had been expecting the demons to appear and introduce him to their unique brand of hospitality as soon as he woke up, but in some ways just waiting for it all to begin was even worse. Sam had experienced the feeling many times as a teenager, sitting through a tense family dinner listening to the silent tick of his father's brain, waiting for the inevitable explosion.

The cold of the stone floor seemed to seep into his pores and it felt like he was gradually turning into ice in slow motion. The metal chains clinked together as Sam shivered relentlessly; the thin t-shirt and threadbare jeans he was wearing was doing little to keep him warm and goose bumps were forming on his exposed arms. Rivulets of crimson twined around his wrists and down his hands as metal bit into vulnerable skin. His stomach clenched every so often with hunger but the demonic "room service" hadn't shown up at all.

The soldered manacles meant that the usual array of Winchester-Houdini tricks were completely useless, and Sam had no idea what was travelling through the pipes he was attached to, so trying to rip the pipes of the wall wasn't exactly an option either. The chains may have allowed him to reach the wonderful sanitary facility, but he couldn't get within five feet of the stairs leading up to the basement door before he was pulled back. Out of ideas, Sam had taken to rattling his chains restlessly in a half-attempt to make more noise, but even he knew it was merely a distraction from his increasingly desolate thoughts.

Every time he allowed his mind to wander, his mind was filled with Dean's slashed arms and his brother's screams. The memories of what had happened in the house haunted each heartbeat, how could everything have gotten so fucked up? They'd been so certain that the trap was for John, they hadn't even paused to remember Pastor Jim's number one rule for hunting: demons lie.

His last memory was of passing out with Dean screaming his name but he was completely on his own now. Was Dean okay- was he even still alive? I'd know, Sam whispered to himself, trying to cling onto that last hope. I'd know if he was dead, I just would. And Dad; Meg obviously hadn't turned up at the warehouse so where was his father now? Alive? Dead?

Sam closed his eyes, forcing the hysteria brewing inside him to subside. Crying doesn't solve anything Sammy. His thoughts took on the rhythm of his heartbeat- Dean. Dad. Dean. Dad. Dean. Dean. Dean.

A soft click penetrated Sam's daze and he automatically sat upright, his back perfectly straight. Green-blue eyes settled on the shadowed figure in the basement door before quickly sharpening to a venomous glare.

"Howdy Sammy," Azazel greeted genially as he stepped down the staircase. The dim light of the basement accentuated the demon's yellow eyes and as the demon approached Sam, he had the feeling of being stalked by a particularly vicious predator.

"Where's my brother?" Sam questioned hoarsely, his voice like sandpaper after his earlier vocal efforts.

The demon frowned in feigned concern, "Sounding a little rough there kiddo." Azazel knocked on one of the whitewashed walls, smiling patronisingly, "Soundproofed; can't have you disturbing the neighbours after all." The demon paused, letting the implications of that statement become clear to Sam. Nobody will hear you. Nobody will find you. "So do you like the décor Sammy? A bit of an upgrade from one of those forty-dollar-a-night motel rooms you call home. Or does it bring back memories of sweet little Jess? You were going to ask her to marry you weren't you?"

"Shut up," Sam snarled. "Where. Is. My. Brother?"

"Oh Dean," Azazel replied, his tone off-handed and completely insincere. "Sorry Sammy but big brother's dead, burned up just like one of those flame-grilled burgers he loves- oh sorry, loved- so much."

"I don't believe you," Sam denied vehemently. No. If Dean was dead he'd know, he'd just know.

"Suit yourself kid," the demon said dismissively, waving Sam's comment away with one hand before leaning in closer to the youngest Winchester. "But enough about Dean, I think it's time you and I had a little chat Samuel."

"Sorry, but I'm not really in a talkative mood," Sam replied insolently, turning his head away from the possessed man.

Azazel growled in displeasure and invisible fingers tightened around Sam's throat. "I'd lose that smart-mouth if I were you Sammy... didn't get Dean very far after all," Azazel replied venomously.

Sam flinched, the words like a powerful punch to his stomach. No, don't let him get to you. Demons lie. Demons lie. Sam swallowed, before raising head defiantly to meet the demon's gaze,"Don't call me Sammy," and then the metaphysical punch became all too real as the possessed man's fist drove straight into his abdomen. The room spun in a kaleidoscopic swirl around him as nausea threatened, but the pain was worth it. Sam could be just as mouthy as Dean when the mood took him- something John Winchester knew all too well.

The demon seized Sam by the collar of his shirt and gravity seemed to reverse as Sam slid up the wall, his chains hissing angrily."I think you're forgetting who calls the shots around here, Sammy," Azazel commented, his tone as soft as steel.Sam struggled to focus, the sensation of being trapped in an out of control merry-go-round remaining.

Sam's lungs were screaming for oxygen as his eyelids began to flutter but suddenly the demon smiled and Sam's body crashed to the floor. Sam slumped against the wall, breathing heavily but he continued to meet the demon's gaze. "Stubborn" should have been his middle name.

The demon backhanded him, "You're testing my patience, boy, but I like a challenge, makes it all the sweeter when they finally break." A sharp pain blossomed across his left cheekbone, competing with all the other aches for attention. Sam's gaze slipped to the concrete floor as he breathed in heavily. But despite his physical reaction, the demon was grinning, albeit in an unnerving psychotic manner. "I knew there was a reason why I put my money on you," Azazel murmured, a strange tone of fondness? entering his voice. A hand settled on his right cheek, forcing Sam to look up and gaze into sulphurous eyes. "So you think you can beat me kiddo?" the demon drawled, the possessed man's eyes alight with manic anticipation. "Well Sam, let the battle commence."

-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-SPN-

Author's Note: I've written the YED as possessing that poor janitor because I loved Fred's performance in IMTOD and AHBL. The YED was just a shadow in "Salvation" itself so I've taken creative liberty. Reviews are love and hope to have Chapter 4 up soon- DMS x