The Alleyway

A/N: Well, I didn't really think Stale Beer and Cigarette smoke needed a sequel, but I've been struck down by a vicious case of writer's block, and everything that comes out is… stilted, forced, I don't know but it's just not working right now. This was the only thing that came out halfway decent, so I thought I'd post and see if it got the muse motivated. It's quite dark, not my usual 'happy ending' sort of thing, so be warned.

You probably don't really have to read Stale Beer and Cigarette Smoke to understand this, but I recommend it.

Reviews will bring sunshine into my life. :)

~Menthol Pixie

XXX

Sam jolts awake from yet another nightmare that he doesn't understand, gasping and terrified, panics as the bed sheets echo hands, holding him down. The darkness smells like an alleyway; dirt and garbage and cigarette smoke.

There's no escape…

Something touches his shoulder and he jerks back, falling off the bed with a thud in a tangle of blankets, biting back the scream that wants to rip out of his mouth.

"Hey…"

Dean. Every time, it's Dean that makes his raging heart calm down, his breathing slow, because Dean means he's safe, in a motel, not an alleyway, awake and not paralyzed. Dean let's the darkness fade from a suffocating cover back to the regular absence of light that is night time, and Sam doesn't understand why he's so scared of an alleyway that only his subconscious has any memory of him being in.

He can see Dean's silhouette, crouching in front of him now but still a good five feet away because they've both discovered that getting too close, or God forbid, trying to hold him, can explode into what Sam can only describe as a blind panic, because the world shuts out and all that's left is terror so encompassing that he can't breathe, can't see or hear, that escape is the one and only thing on his mind and, more than once, he knows that he's tried to fight his way through dean.

"You with me?"

No, Sam's in an alleyway that he doesn't recognize, being held by unfamiliar hands, he can feel their breath against his skin… except he's not. He's not. Sam forces himself back to the present. He's on the floor of a motel room, his face starting to itch from the drying tear trails, and Dean's there, so it's okay.

It takes another moment of what Dean calls 'Yoga breathing' – in through the nose, out through the mouth, and yes, Sam has teased him for knowing what 'yoga breathing' is – until Sam can speak

"Dean… what happened to me?"

Even in the dim lighting, Sam can see Dean's face close up as a murderous glint invades his eyes. He waits another moment, Sam supposes it's to make sure that he really is with it, not about to freak out, then raises himself from the floor and heads back to his bed.

He doesn't like Sam asking.

XXX

When Sam comes to, his back is against Dean's chest and Dean's arms are folded over his, firm enough that Sam can tell without trying that he wouldn't be able to break free. He snaps back to reality in an instant, falling still because he has been trying. Dean must've said something to calm him down but he doesn't remember what it was.

It's a different motel room, a different part of the country, and the same nightmare.

He can tell that he's been fighting, even if he wasn't aware of it, by the ache in his heels where they've no doubt been kicking against the floor, the sting in his fingers where he's probably been raking his nails across Dean's skin. He feels like he's falling apart and Dean is the only thing that keeps him grounded.

His brother's voice keeps up a steady litany in his ear. "It's okay, you're okay, Sammy, I've got you, you're okay…"

Sam's not okay, and he doesn't even know why.

They sit on the floor for a long while, Sam leaning against Dean, Dean leaning against the bed, and Sam breathes – in… and out - until he can't taste stale beer and cigarette smoke.

"Dean, what happened to me?"

He wants to know because he's cradled in Dean's arms like a child, because whatever it was, his head can't wrap itself around it and it keeps exploding out of him in nightmares and… this.

Dean stiffens behind him, and doesn't answer.

XXX

Sam starts to lose it in a bar.

Dean's always extra vigilant these days. Sam always pretends he can't feel his older brothers gaze burning a hole through him, but he's grateful for it nonetheless. He may not know what happened, but he knows enough to never want it to happen again.

Sam's fine, watching Dean play pool, although the music's giving him a headache and he's kind of bored. He's halfway through his second beer when a man slides into the booth across from him.

"You look bored," the man says, accompanied by a friendly smile with too much teeth, setting his own beer down on the tabletop.

Sam feels his body react before he knows what's happening. His heart starts warring with his breathing over which one can go faster, and he knows – how does he know? – that he's been here before.

"Hey, are you okay?" the man looks concerned but all Sam can focus on is his hand reaching closer to him, almost touching him.

Adrenaline bursts into his bloodstream and he pushes himself backwards but hits the torn vinyl of the seat back and can't go any further.

There's no escape…

Sam's trapped between fight and flight and he can't seem to do either. He's breathing so hard that he's getting dizzy and the room is melting into an alleyway.

And then, Dean's there. His face fierce enough to make any grown man cry he grabs the stunned man by his shirt and yanks him up, spinning him away from Sam.

"Get the hell away from my brother!"

Sam's outside before he even realizes that he's moving, being pushed down into the passenger seat of the Impala, his feet still on the asphalt and Dean's shoving his head between his legs.

"Sam, calm down! That's an order."

He can't calm down because he can't breath, he can feel himself shaking so hard his teeth are chattering and his hearts beating so fast he thinks it might just give out altogether.

"Sammy, Sammy, hey…" Dean's voice softens – Sam was never that good at following orders - one hand on the back of his neck, the other gripping his shoulder. "You're okay, I promise. Just breathe…"

It takes a while – it always does – but finally, Sam realizes he's staring down at his brother's boots and the bar's parking lot takes form around him. Not in an alleyway.

"Dean… what happened to me?"

Dean lets him sit up but he wont look at him as he gently manhandles him fully into the Impala and begins the silent drive back to the motel.

XXX

A Shapeshifter gets away in Boston because Sam can't follow it down the alley. He just can't. He gets two steps in and it's as if he's hit an invisible brick wall of his own making. He can't do it.

On the way back to the motel, Sam asks again.

"Dean, what happened to me?"

"Quit asking me that," Dean says, his eyes firmly on the road, a warning growl in his throat.

Sam wishes he could understand, because maybe it would help. Maybe it would make it better.

XXX

Sam wakes screaming, invisible hands holding him down, brushing against his skin.

"Sam, hey…"

Sam fists the bed sheets, bites his lip until it bleeds to make himself stop.

Dean hovers for a moment, then slowly, as if testing the waters, lowers himself down onto the edge of Sam's bed. He sits there with his head down, not looking at Sam, while Sam tries desperately to control himself.

"Dean," his voice shakes. He's about to ask the eternal unanswered question but Dean interrupts him.

"I didn't see them take you."

Sam's stunned still. His breathing hitches, then evens out and he stays silent, watching Dean struggle for words in the pale light that tumbles through the gap in the curtains.

"You were just… gone."

Sam sucks the blood off his lip, feeling suddenly afraid of what Dean's going to tell him.

"I found you in the alleyway, outside the bar."

Of course Dean found him in the alleyway. Sam has always known this. He may not remember it but he knows because he's there every night, until Dean finds him again.

"There were four of them."

Dean's quiet for so long that Sam thinks that maybe that's all he's going to get. Dean twists his ring around and around on his finger, his eyes are far off, in the past, and Sam thinks that maybe Dean's in the alleyway too.

"They drugged your drink," Dean utters finally, closing his eyes. "They were going to rape you."

Sam inhales, stares at Dean for a long moment. Then he rolls over, away from Dean, away from the light coming through the curtains, and wishes he'd never asked.

Knowing doesn't make it better.

XXX

Thanks for reading.