A/N: Another response to the h/c meme(which can be viewed at http:(slash)(slash)spuffy-girl(dot)livejournal(dot)com(slash)136133(dot)html.) this time for spuffy_girl. Also, for some reason, my oneshots keep coming out in present tense. No clue why, but I suspect it's the dramatic music I play while I write.

Disclaimer: Title, epigraph are inspired/written by Guster. SPN is not mine. (Season 5 would be on-air right now, and there'd be lots and lots of hugging if it was.)
Spoilers for (and taggish to) the finale.

"Swimming in adrenaline,
The sky is caving in,
But I will remain the honest soldier."
- Guster, "Lightning Rod"

It happens without warning.

One minute Sam is standing, discussing "what's next?" plans with Dean and Bobby in the relative safety of Bobby's panic room, and the next he's on the floor, back arched, eyes closed, limbs rigid, and mouth open in a silent scream.

Dean falls on his knees next to his brother just as Sam goes limp, eyes popping open. Dean curses and shuffles so that he's bent low over his brother, Sam's head cradled gently in his lap. It's been over two years, but Dean still recognizes a vision when he sees one. Sam's pupils are blown so wide they nearly drown out the irises, and when Dean places his ear near Sam's mouth, he can hear his near-silent whimpers of "No," "please," and – most heartbreakingly of all – "don't."

Dean's got one hand locked on Sam's elbow and the other threaded through his hair as he softly says, "Hey, Sam, I gotcha, I gotcha. C'mon, Sammy, come back now, I gotcha, it'll be alright."

After all, those quiet statements had always worked in the past. No sense in jinxing tradition.

A glance up at Bobby shows the older hunter's ready, a glass of water in one hand and a bottle of prescription-strength ibuprofen in the other. His face is stoic, but his eyes scream out their concern as he locks his gaze with Dean's. "It's a long one," he mutters.

Dean nods once, massaging Sam's scalp as he starts muttering in Sam's ear again. Too long, he thinks grimly as he stares at Sam's sweaty face and wide eyes and listens to his quiet, pain-filled whimpers. There's no sign that this vision is going to let up anytime soon, and Dean shifts to ease the strain on his lower back.

And just as suddenly as Sam dropped, he's shooting up again.

His head and shoulders collide with Dean's chest, and they end up falling to the floor in an ungraceful heap. Dean flinches as one of Sam's flailing hands collides with his nose. "Whoa, whoa, Sammy, calm down," he grunts, shifting so he can get a grip on his brother.

Sam struggles for another moment before going limp again, and Dean takes advantage of the moment to wrap his arms around his little brother in a genuine but futile attempt to keep the world away from him.

He can feel Sam's chest heaving as he gasps for air, and Dean finally notices that Sam's whimpers have turned into a steady string of words.

"–oh god oh god we have to stop him we can't let him do it we can't it's all my fault–"

"Sammy!" Dean barks, and the shout is so sudden that Sam falls silent by instinct, face turning to look up at Dean. Dean suppresses a wince. Sam's pupils are still far too dilated, his forehead's scrunched in its classic Sam-has-a-massive-migraine look, and there's a thick stream of blood flowing from his nose.

Sam's hands are claws as he latches them onto Dean's forearms. "Dean, please, we have to stop him," he gasps, voice hoarse and desperate.

"Slow down, Sam," Dean says softly. "What did you see?"

Sam's fingers are digging painfully into his arms, and somewhere in the back of his mind Dean knows he'll have another set of bruises to add to the ones he already has from their final showdown with Lilith and Ruby. The thought is immediately silenced as Sam speaks again.

"Lucifer," Sam wheezes frantically, eyes searching Dean's face. "He's going to Lawrence, Dean. He's going to wipe it out. Dean…"

Dean stares at Sam for a long moment before a movement out of the corner of his eye causes his head to jerk up. Bobby's kneeling next to them, holding out the water and two large pills. "Here, Sam. You're gonna need a clearer head if we're gonna figure out what to do next," the older hunter murmurs softly.

Sam doesn't respond, either because he's ignoring Bobby or (more likely) because he's so distraught he didn't hear him. "Here," Dean says, prying one hand out of Sam's grip to grab the pills and glass from Bobby.

Bobby stares at the pair of them for a moment before clapping Dean on the shoulder. "Let me go grab another book from my library. It might have something to help us out," he says gruffly.

As he stomps out of the room, Dean glances down at his brother again. Sam's still looking up at him with wide eyes, silently begging Dean to fix this, to make it right, as if somewhere deep down he still believes Dean can do something like that.

Dean swallows and shakes Sam a little. "Here, dude, take these," he orders softly.

Sam blinks, glances down at the pills and glass trapped in Dean's hand. He sits up straighter, pries the pills away with shaky fingers, and dry swallows them before grabbing the glass and draining it. Then he's staring at Dean again. "Dean, please, we have to do something."

For a moment, Dean's strongly tempted to growl, Screw it. He's sick of this, sick of fighting monsters, sick of watching his family get ripped to shreds by evil, sick of facing down the end of the world with only a few people on his side.

He's never been fond of Lawrence, either, not since that fateful night, and part of him wants it to burn, to turn to rubble, to crumble into ash in retribution for everything he lost in that town.

But there are innocent people there, people they've spent their lives trying to protect, and he can't just abandon them to this fate, this Hell on earth that's about to be unleashed on them.

He's a soldier, after all. It's his job to protect the innocent.

He tightens his grip on his brother, reaching up to thread a hand through Sam's hair as Sam buries his face in Dean's shoulder. "We will, Sammy," he promises quietly. "We will."

And even though they both know the clock is ticking way too fast, they sit there in silence, clinging to each other. Dean has no idea what they can do to save Lawrence, to stop the Devil himself, but if there's a way, they'll find it – together. Because somewhere, deep deep down inside, Dean still believes that maybe he can fix this, and that maybe, just maybe, he can make this right.

As long as Sam is beside him, Dean's convinced they can pretty much do anything.