This story is just a parallel of the brother's lives in the year after they thwarted the apocalypse.

I swore I wouldn't start another story until I am done with the unfinished ones. However, this story was bouncing around in my head like a little kid, begging to be written so much that it's nearly done, so they're will not be any long waits for chapters. Scout's Honor. Please let me know what you think, even if you're not feeling it. Thanks!


Hopelessly Ever After

Dean would never remember the two days after Sam fell.

He found himself in the bathroom of Lisa's house, staring at the dusky blue walls. The threshold was salted, his pearl-handled revolver in one hand, a bottle of booze in the other.

He'd put the gun to his head so many times that there was a barrel-sized ring of pain on his left temple. But he was shaking so hard, rattling with the fury of grief, that even if he could find the strength to pull the trigger, it would probably miss its mark.

Grief was a numbing, icy cold inside of him, chattering his teeth and rattling his body. It was mounting and doubling and swelling. The whiskey didn't numb it, and the gun would break his promise.

So he stared at the walls, a twilight blue with white trim.

The doorknob rattled mightily. Dean stared at it blankly, not caring what was on the other side. The screws popped out, one by one, and even his dulled instincts had him training his gun in that direction.

The doorknob fell to the wooden floor with a bruising thud. Sunlight sliced into the room. Lisa barely flinched at the gun.

He couldn't speak or think. The world didn't make sense without Sammy. Up was down. Beautiful was ugly. Sin was sainthood. He guzzled the bottle as Lisa said words to him, hearing nothing but the roar in his ears, Beelzebub's sinister laugh in his ears. He was disarmed without a struggle.

"It's been days, Dean. Where's Sam? Did he…is he…dead?"

"I wish," Dean rasped, voiceless. "I wish he was dead."

Lisa's eyes were big and brown, and her face was open with compassion and fear. "What could be worse than dying?"

Something paternal clicked inside of him and he twitched violently, still huddled in the bathtub. "Where's Ben? D-don't let him c-come in. I need…"

Lisa cradled his face in her hands. They were warm and soft. Contact should have hurt, but it helped, like a balm over his ragged soul. "Ben's not here. I sent him to a friend's house. It's just you and me."

Dean grabbed her wrists, trying to find a foothold.

"Where's Sam, Dean? Should I call someone? I think you're in shock or something…you're freezing."

Dean shook his head, teeth chattering again. "Sam fell. He's gone."

"Oh God, I'm so sorry."

"Everyone else is dead. I don't have anywhere else to go. Sam was…Sam was everything I had."

Lisa pressed her forehead against his. "You can stay here. You know that." She climbed in the tub where he was huddled and pulled him against her. "We'll take it one step at a time."

"What's the first one?"

"Leaving the bathroom."

He gaped at the door like the foreboding, evil thing it was, because just beyond it was the life that he'd have to lead now: one without the hunt, without adventure, and impossibly without Sam.

It was impossible, more so than the justice of Sam being strapped to that rack, being hacked at, carved away.

Broken and gnarled with misery, he sobbed without tears and withdrew a little bit more until the walls of the serenely blue bathroom darkened and warbled as he sank further into despair.

"It's okay," Lisa whispered as she guided his head to her shoulder, "the first step is always the hardest. I'll stay here until you're ready."

-1-

Sam would never remember surfacing from hell. He'd just remember the glare of the sunlight artfully muffled by stormclouds. He blinked and breathed air into empty lungs, waiting for the grotesque punchline, Lucifer's great unveiling.

He liked to play with Sam, like a zookeeper taunting a caged bear. He dangled respites from unfathomable torture in front of him, let him be whole, let hope crackle and sparkle like a match to kindling, only to yank the rouse away and start in again with excruciating, soul-scarring pain.

This was the best one yet. Stull Cemetery, complete with wilted grasses beneath his calloused hands, air ripe with water in his lungs, and a weeping willow looming above.

Sam closed his eyes, feeling the drag of gravity that hadn't been there before. He felt the scrap of his soiled jeans, the rough lilt of bark through the soft cotton, the crack of his bad knee when he shifted.

There was a thunderous rumble, from above, and Sam clenched his fists and braced for terrible, gutting pain, but only saw a scorching flash of light followed by rhythmic snap and crackle. Sam scrabbled against the tree, bark sandpapering off his skin, eyes darting around.

The cemetery was alive. Vibrating and undulating like some dark thing was slithering through the tangled grasses and viney boughs. Leaves rattled and swayed. It took him too long to figure out that the silver drenching the field, and budding on gravestones was rain.

There was no rain in The Cage.

His heart didn't beat in The Cage; and it was racing now.

Sam laughed, hoarse and crazed. He pressed his palms to the wet earth there and laughed again before shifting his weight to his arms to try to find the borders of his body. It was longer and heavier than he remembered. He pushed upwards and managed to balance his cumbersome weight on the balls of his feet. Standing up was more difficult than he imagined.

After the sixth time he fell, he lay in the dirt, letting the driving rain washing him clean and renew his senses. He crawled a few feet until his hands knocked against something rough. He lifted his head to discover a hand-made cross lashed together with what looked like a strips of plaid flannel. The water gathered and prismed off something in the middle. Sam's warbling vision couldn't decipher what it was, but his fingertips tactilely painted the picture his mind couldn't. It was a ring of silver. It represented purity.

Sam held it up and rolled it between his fingertips. It was painfully familiar. It took him too long to identify the ring. Memories of a time before cutting bars, bewildering pain and an ominous, devilish voice were far-flung and blurry. By the time he'd remembered that he had a brother, that he'd fallen into The Pit to right a lifetime of wrongs, the ground was slick with mud, the sky was darker.

Sam was sitting on his grave.

The silver ring was Dean's, who'd must have constructed a cross there in an effort to cleanse it. It was a hunter's blessing. It was the best he could do.

With a snap of fabric, Dean's ring was tucked into Sam's pocket, the fallen brother determinedly clamored to his feet and began his first staggering steps home.

He staggered out of the cemetery, aching and weak. There were pockets of shadows in the trees that lined the road. Sam's heart constricted as primal fear lit up his body so fast it nearly dropped him. He was shaking again, and now fighting rattling tremors on top of the exhaustion and pain.

The snap of the gravel beneath his bare feet was the locked of Lucifer's Cage, trapping him for eternity. The rustling crackle of wind in the trees was the growl of approaching hellhounds. The flashing crimson and white of the approaching firetruck was the blinding light and the slickness of blood that he saw as he fell. It was all coming back, the torture that disintegrated his very humanity, and the assault on his physical body was devastating.

"Sir, can you tell me your name?"

"Are you hurt?"

"Sir, where are your shoes?"

"Were you assaulted?"

There was a warm hand on his arm, and the swimming from of a woman with a badge. Sam jerked away at the contact, snarling like an abused stray. All of his instincts told him not trust it. He couldn't trust it to have it taken away again. This was just an elaborate joke with a macabre punchline.

"I'm sorry, sir. I'm trying to help you."

He backed away from the approaching officer, agitated and dizzy. She could be a ghoul or a demon. She could be anything.

"Sir, can you talk to me. Maybe tell me your name."

"…I'm n-no one," Sam gruffed.

The cop moved frighteningly fast until she was suddenly in front of him. "I want to help you. Please give me something."

Sam couldn't think. The light hurt his eyes. The rain on his skin reminded him of horrible things, like congealing blood and his own slippery intestines. He swayed, barely upright on his feet. The cop darted forward, hands on his arm and back. From some anguished place, Sam screamed. Sam was falling again, plummeting into paranoia and madness. He was powerless to stop it. He'd a warrior for eternities, and he simply couldn't fight anymore.