Chapter 1—Hangman

Oh momma, I'm in fear for my life from the long arm of the law.

Law-man has put an end to my runnin', and I'm so far from my home.

Oh momma, I can hear you a cryin', you're so scared and all alone.

Hangman is coming down from the gallows and I don't have very long.

----- Renegade, Styx

Dean knew he was in deep trouble.

While on a case in Minnesota, some small town cop recognized Dean and instantly had him on his belly with his hands behind him. From there, the FBI got involved and he endured three days of people calling him a "serial killer," "satanic bastard," "desecrator," and so many other names that he had already heard, plus a few new ones he hadn't.

He now kicked his foot against the hard cots flimsy frame and glanced at the steel door hiding him from the outside world.

"Not that there's much of an outside," thought Dean sarcastically. "It all basically looks like the inside."

Suddenly, in a burst of fluorescent light, the door opened. Dean looked up cautiously at the person who stood in the doorway.

"You got a visitor," drawled the man, who roughly yanked Dean up from the floor. He stood still as the guard shackled him. He then shuffled out of the minuscule room and waited patiently as the guard locked the door back.

"I'm not afraid of anyone breaking in," commented Dean. The guard glared at him and continued to fumble with the many keys he had on his key-ring.

"Honestly," said Dean as the guard finally straightened up, "there's nothing in there except my Bible and rosary." This earned him a shove forward from the guard, which caused Dean to stumble a little bit. From there it was silent, except for the clopping of the guard's feet and the shuffling shish-shish noise of Dean's.

The visiting area was small, and only two other people sat at the little tables, holding the phones to their ears. One person was crying with his head in his hands, and the other had leaned so far in that his nose was smushed against the plastic glass. The guard pushed him down in a chair and handcuffed him to the table.

"You know, that's very unsafe," stated Dean. The guard ignored him. "What if there's a fire?" The guard left. With nothing left to do but talk to whomever had come to see him, Dean turned to face the person. Whom he saw almost made him let out a yell.

Snatching the phone from its hook, Dean desperately called into it.

"Sam? Sammy!? Is…is that you in there?"

"Yeah, Dean, it's me."

Dean's eyes were blurred momentarily by tears, and he wiped those away.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, not taking his eyes off of Sam.

"I came to see you," replied Sam.

"No, no," said Dean, shaking his head. "I meant, why are you here? How did you know I was even in this place?"

"Bobby called me," responded Sam blankly. "Told me that you needed to see me." This time Dean leaned into the glass.

"Is that so?" he questioned, staring hard at Sam. "Listen, demonic son-of-a-bitch, I don't give a damn right now. I will come through this plastic and kill you."

"Dude, chill," Sam leaned in too. He reached up to his shirt and pulled it down.

"See," said Sam, gesturing with his chin towards the tattoo, "I'm still me." Dean leaned back.

"Why? After all of this time. After what I saw you do. After I told you to get out and never comeback!" Dean was practically yelling at this point. The man leaning into the glass had leaned back some, now shifting glances at Dean.

"I believe your exact words were, 'If you walk out that door, don't you ever come back'," pointed out Sam. Dean shook his head again.

"Why Sam?" asked Dean in a pleading tone. "Why now? You never bothered to call."

"It's a two-way street, Dean," Sam leaned in again.

"You're not going to die," he said quietly. Dean forced a fake laugh.

"Oh yeah, and how is that going to happen?" He raised his eyebrow.

"You just aren't," replied Sam, looking earnest.

"What are you going to do? Talk to some of your demonic bitches? Make a Deal? Use Black…" Dean faltered when he saw Sam's look.

"Okay, big boy, times up," said the pudgy guard.

"Make a Deal!?" yelled Dean, staring at Sam in shock. Sam said nothing, only hung the phone up.

"It's time to go," said the same pudgy guard

"Make a Deal!?" A note of hysteria entered his voice. "Sam, are you crazy? What are you..."

Two guards hauled Dean from his seat.

"SAM! NO!" he yelled as the guards dragged him away. Sam stared after him with a forlorn expression, then he stood up, and shoving his hands in his pockets, walked back out of the door.

"SAM!!! SAM!!"

"Shut him up," barked the older guard. The other guard clamped a damp cloth over Dean's mouth, and he lost consciousness.

When he came to, he was strapped to some sort of slanted table.

"Ahh, you're awake," a cool voice drifted from behind him. Icy steps cracked against the hard concrete floor. A thin balding man appeared in front of him, carrying a bottle of alcohol and a cotton ball.

"Although," he continued, walking around Dean and rolling up Dean's sleeve as he talked, "it would probably be better for you if you were. Most don't like to see the needle go in."

"Why?" was the surrendered sigh. The man looked up at him in interest.

"'Why'?" he repeated, confused. "Would you like to see Death injected into you?" The man chuckled, as if the thought was that amusing.

"No, why do this?" asked Dean again, studying his arm with intent scrutiny.

"It's my job," replied the man, rubbing alcohol on Dean's arm. "I do what I'm paid to do."

"You could just as easily be employed in a hospital."

"Well, the hospitals don't pay as well," chuckled the man.

"So you find death amusing?"

"Well, I used to work in a morgue. Hated it. Always cold, it was. And cadavers are so dreary."

"Enough talk," barked a voice from behind them. The man mimicked the guard in front of Dean. Dean stretched a smile.

"Well," said the man. He squinted up at Dean. "Best not to prolong these things, I guess."

"Wait," Dean had an idea. The man raised his eyebrows.

"You know, I could talk all day, but I've got a job to do."

"I just want to write a note to my brother."

"Oh, is that the lanky one waiting outside for you?"

"Yeah, probably."

"Very well then," the man set the needle down and rummaged in his pockets for a minute.

"Ah, here we are," he finally said. With a soft click, the man gazed at Dean, pen and paper ready to inscribe.

"Can I write it?" he asked, first looking at the paper, then looking at the man. The guard grunted behind them.

"Of course," said the man, who released Dean's right hand. Dean took the pen from him and scribbled a small note to Sam. As he handed the pen back to the man, he hoped Sam would take his warning into mind before he did anything irrational.

"Okay, I'm ready," whispered Dean. The man nodded.

"Here we go," he said somewhat cheerily. Dean felt the prick and burn of the needle and a single tear trickled down his cheek.

"Here ya go, sweety."

The fat receptionist plopped a bag of Dean's stuff into Sam's lap. Sam looked up at her for a minute, then looked down at the bag. The lady seemed to be waiting for something, but when Sam didn't respond, she patted him on his shoulder and waddled away. A thin man replaced her as the door swung shut behind her. He materialized out of nowhere, just appeared in front of Sam.

"Your brother wrote this to you," he said, holding out a brittle hand to Sam. Sam took the small piece of folded-up, yellow square from him and stood up. The man seemed to straighten up as Sam stood.

"Dean…is he?"

The man patted Sam's arm in what he probably thought was an affectionate way. It only made Sam want to shiver.

"I'm afraid so," answered the man. "But he went calmly. Didn't even struggle. However, a single tear caressed his face before he closed his eyes." Hearing the man talk made Sam want to cry.

"Were can I get him?" His questions seemed so small, so insignificant.

"Right this way," replied the man, waving his hand to a door. Sam followed him through the door, slumping after the man as he was led down long, cold corridors. He had no perception of time, none at all. He suddenly felt like he was following the White Rabbit down an immensely long rabbit hole. He shook his head, having no idea where these thoughts emerged from.

"Here we are," said the man finally. In the dim light, Sam swore he could see his breath. The man unlocked the frozen door, and it swung open silently. Sam shuffled in after him.

"Number thirty-two, thirty-two, thirty-two," mumbled the man as he slid a translucent finger down the cold cupboards. "Ah, here he is, number thirty-two." The brittle man opened the door and slid out a body bag. Sam stared at the bag, wondering if Dean was dressed underneath it.

"I'm afraid they took his clothes," said the man, as if hearing Sam's unspoken thoughts. "Would you like to dress him?" Sam said nothing, only stared at the bag.

"Well, I'll do it," answered the man. He unzipped the bag, but held it close. "Would you like to step outside for a minute?" Sam said nothing again, nor did he attempt to move. The man shrugged as if people acted this way all the time, and pulled open the bag.

Dean lay inside, looking almost peaceful. There was an easiness about him, something that he never possessed when he was alive. He didn't lay there as if he were dead, but as if he were sleeping. It was so different from when he had first died.

Sam had to close Dean's eyes the first time.

Sam had to cover up Dean's bleeding, torn body.

Sam had to clean up the mess left behind.

Sam had to bury Dean.

"But not this time," he whispered to himself.

"'Scuse me?" asked the man, looking up at Sam. "Did you say something?"

"No," said Sam, just as blank as before.

"Oh, well, here he is," the man seemed a bit disturbed by Sam now.

"Thank-you," was Sam's clipped reply.

"Let's hope we don't have to do this again, shall we?"

"There's no one left to do."

The man frowned, and shook his head.

"Shall I wheel him out to your car?" he offered.

"No, I'll do it," Sam took the re-zipped body bag and hefted it up like a sack of potatoes. He walked out, down the cold corridor, out of the bright waiting room, and out into the freezing rain. This time he saw his breath for real.

After gently stretching out Dean in the back seat, Sam started the Impala's engine. He roared away from the prison. Something bumped against his leg as he took a turn to sharply. Glancing down, Sam saw the prescription anti-depression pill bottle rolling around in the passenger seat. Sam yanked the car over and heard Dean thump into the floor. He stopped the car and turned off the engine. He righted Dean, and then picked up the bottle. Shaking three white pills into his hand, Sam tilted his head back and swallowed them dry. Closing his eyes, a memory popped up, and Sam saw it as clear as if it had just happened.

Click. Click. Click.

"Sam, why won't you talk to me?"

No reply.

"Drowning your troubles isn't going to help."

"Yeah, well I'm not the one who went out and got these," Sam shook the pill bottle in the air, then threw back down with a clatter on the table. Ruby got up and stood behind Sam, massaging his shoulders as she did.

"You're tired," she whispered. "You just buried your brother, and you need to sleep."

"No," grunted Sam. He threw her away from him. "Get away from me! Go destroy someone else's life!"

"You still blame me for your problems!?" shouted Ruby. "It's not my fault Lilith stole my meat-suit. You know very well that there was nothing I could do once she ripped me away. It would have taken me a few hours to find another screwed up person to possess, and by that time, you would have been dead!"

They sat in silence for awhile after that. The only noise finally came from Sam, who started to pour salt along the windows and doorways. He sprayed painted a devil's trap on the floor and painted symbols on the walls. When he was done he snatched the little orange bottle from the table and emptied the three pills left inside. He washed these down with whiskey.

"Sam," groaned Ruby from the beaten up couch. She stood up, and being mindful of the devil's trap, wrapped her arms around Sam. Sam seemed to melt for a minute into her arms, then he pushed them away gently and stepped around her. Ruby closed her eyes as if she was concentrating, and turned around. Sam was sitting on the couch looking at his hands, as if they held an answer.

"What's wrong Sam?" asked Ruby. She strolled towards the couch and knelt down before Sam. His body went rigid; he didn't even look at her. He didn't flinch as she put her hands on his knees and shuffled herself forward so that she knelt between his legs.

"Is it this body?" she continued, taking one of his hands and placing in on her side. "Because it's wrong? None of that matters, Sam."

"Don't," he finally crunched out through gritted teeth.

"Don't what?" she asked innocently, taking his other hand and kissing it.

Sam snapped his eyes open. No, he would not relive that moment. If he did, he would also be reliving Dean's comment.

"Sam," grunted Dean. Sam stopped studying the carpet to look at Dean.

"What?" he asked, confused.

"TMI, dude," replied Dean, shaking his head.

"Dean, I told you I was coming clean about…"

"Yeah, but not that clean."

A single tear slid down his cheek at the thought. He wiped it away angrily and started Dean's baby up again.

"Not this time," he muttered through his teeth, as he shoved the car into gear and roared off down the road.