DEATH'S HELPING HAND

By: Karen B.

Summary: Season six spoiler warning! Tag to 6-11.

Disclaimer: Not the owner!

AN: Adored the episode...stellar stuff! Just dreaming around - I mean playing.

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"Bobby! Open the door," Dean yelled in rushed panic as he hurried down the basement stairs.

"What happen?" Bobby asked, already up on his feet, reacting to the panicked look on Dean's face.

"Now!" Dean commanded, no time to answer.

Ignoring the prickly goose bumps running up and down his spine, Bobby undid the panic room's locks faster than he ever had before.

The door swung open. Both Dean and Bobby stopping cold in the entryway.

"Get away from me," Sam cried, trying to scramble backward.

Death moved toward Not-Sam and sat by his bedside, setting a bulky black case upon his lap.

Not-Sam half-raised up on the cot, pulling at his chains with no place to go.

"Don't. Don't," Not-Sam pleaded. "Please don't do this." He glanced at Dean briefly, knowing his brother wouldn't help. Not after what he tried to do to Bobby.

Dean wanted to run to Sam's side. To sit with him. Hold his hand. Tell him he was going to be okay. He'd meant what he said in the salvage yard. He was Sam's brother and he wouldn't let anything hurt him. But the barrier between them had never been so great. They had never been so far apart. Until Sam's soul was back in place, Dean would never be able to reach his Sam. No matter how much he wanted to. Not-Sam may as well have been an armored tank. He looked like Sam. Walked like Sam. Sounded like Sam. But this Sam - was not that other guy. He had no choice here. Was either Death's helping hand or his. And Dean's hands were tied.

Death opened the case wide. Beams of glorious light immediately stretched out to fill the room with near heavenly glow.

"Please. No. No," Not-Sam gasped loudly.

Death quickly told Not-Sam of the wall he would build.

"Don't you touch me."

"Don't scatch at the wall, Sam," Death said, promising Not-Sam he would not like what happened if he did.

"Please. Don't do this." Not-Sam was actually scared for the first time since he'd been topside - his soul was his kryptonite.

"No. No." Sam looked to Dean again. "You don't know. You don't know what will happen to me. Dean. Please," Not-Sam begged to the only person in the world who still seemed a part of him.

Ignoring Sam's pleading requests, Dean could only try to remain standing. Waiting and watching. Full of fear and sorrow for his brother. For himself.

Death carefully lifted the wounded soul from the case, like it would shatter at the slightest pressure. Lovingly and ever so reverently he lowered the soul - as if the light was the finest and most rarest and most fragile object on earth.

As the soul grew closer to its true home, the essence glowed brighter - moonlight, starlight, sunlight combined.

Death concentrated hard. Maneuvering and guiding the greatest thing a man could ever own; back to where it belonged.

Not-Sam's pleading had stopped, and the bloodcurdling screams - like something out of a nightmare - began.

There was nothing Dean could do. He tried to control his own jarring pain. His knees quaking and hot liquid threatening to spew out his mouth as he played witness to his brother's torment and suffering.

Under attack, and cuffed to the cot, Not-Sam couldn't escape. Though he tried. Tugging and pulling at the metal bracelets. Bond hands only able to reach so far. Fingers grasping as they opened and closed on nothing but air. In the end, all he could achieve was to arch his back up, tossing his head backward.

Gasp and gurgle.

Scream some more.

"Guuuaaaaahhhhh!" A rush flooded through Not-Sam like an ocean tide. Stealing the cold numbness and melting into something bubbling hot. "Awwwwwwe!" Not-Sam thrashed harder. Desperate to fight back the fiery red burning - the absolute anguish damn near killing him.

Yet, as painful as it was, Death wasn't bleeding the boy pale as nature normally called for him to do. He was shoving something priceless back to its rightful spot.

Bobby and Dean observed in horror as Not-Sam twisted and struggled for every breath. Every heartbeat. Swaying between life and Death's hand.

Shaking non stop, Not-Sam sucked air in so fast a throaty, gurgling sound came to the back of his throat like a knife blade stuck there - obstructing.

And then it was over.

Sam collapsed to the mattress. Lay there whimpering like a newborn puppy. All wet and weak and quivering.

Death eyed Dean in a way Dean had never been eyed before. "It is not about winning or losing, Dean," Death sneered, cantankerous and knowing.

Dean's heart thumped loudly inside his chest. He wanted to spit in Death's face. Order Death to never lay a hand on his brother again.

"It is how you play the game." Death turned into a faded black shadow. Rose to linger and hover over Sam a moment as if he were rethinking his actions. Then as quick as Death had come. Death was gone. Black shadow whirling into a tornado of icy wind, sending debris flying, then dissipated into nothingness.

Dean shivered. Death would come again. Come for them all. There was no doubt of that.

There was a natural order to things. Life was given. Death took it back. His power staggering. That was how it always was.

But not this time. This time there was one all important difference. Death didn't swoop in out of the shadows. Leaving behind an vacant corpse. Forcing loved ones to say goodbye. Gushing with tears of sadness. Left alone. Left behind. Frozen numb. Empty with loss.

Death had done the complete and total opposite. By his hand, Death left in his wake a living, breathing-harshly, soul filled being. Lying closed eyed, limp and exhausted upon a rickety old cot.

Eyes closed, Sam sluggishly raised his head up off the pillow. Arms and legs twitching as if tiny volts of electricity were zapping them, repeatedly. His hair was damp and slicked back off his sickly pale face. Shirt sweat-soaked. Wrists and ankles bleeding everywhere. Pain and suffering still evident by the way he scrunched his brows and twisted his lips.

"Son of a bitch," Dean cursed, wishing he'd used padding, but at the time he didn't see the need. He rushed forward, but was stopped abruptly by Bobby grabbing onto his shoulder and holding him back.

"Wait," Bobby ordered, firmly.

"For what?" Dean strained against the grip, but didn't try to move.

"For Sam's spiritual part to catch up to his physical parts," Bobby explained.

Dean waited - frantic on the inside. Poised in stillness on the outside.

Sam dropped his head back, harsh breaths cutting through the silence of the room. One tear slipped out from under his lashes. Then two. Chased by another and another and another.

Not-Sam never cried.

"Sammy?" Dean choked on the whisper.

Sam's mouth moved, forming the word he needed so badly to say…but the word wouldn't come.

"Sam," Dean called louder.

Sam turned his head, responding to his name - body movement returning as slow as his speech.

He blinked, glassy eyes immediately locking onto Dean. The simple act draining him tenfold. Everything was swimming. He was so dizzy. Stabs of pain threatening to carve out his heart, but he didn't have the strength to so much as whimper now.

He shivered as if sub-zero waters ran through his veins. There was something new, yet old inside of him. Something that wanted to butcher him. It scratched and clawed. Burned and itched at the same time, but somehow was held back from doing any real damage.

Sam forced himself away from the feeling, regaining his focus. "D'n," his voice barely there. "It's okay," he said.

Bobby still held tight to Dean's shoulder.

Then Sam did a very Sam thing. He smiled. A thin, weak, little boy smile.

"Oh, God," Dean gasped.

"Go to him, boy." Bobby let his hand fall away.

Dean didn't waver or hesitate. He went straight to Sam. Sat on the cot and leaned down low. "Long time no see, little brother."

Sam looked at Dean. Really looked. Not with the unimpressed, disinterested, unoccupied eyes he had only a short while ago. But the way Sam always used to look at him. With respect and love and something so much more than this world or any other could ever contain.

Sam opened his mouth, but again no words came. Pain and despair filled him to overflowing. Some things he remembered. Some things he didn't.

What he'd done to Bobby. To Dean. Oh, God. He remembered that. And that was enough memory for a lifetime.

Sam tearfully shook his head at Dean. Tried to raise a hand, giving up when the cuffs bit into his torn flesh. "Nuuuhhh," he moaned.

"Easy." Dean's fingers brushed through Sam's hair. "Get this shit off him," Dean called gruffly over to Bobby.

Torn from his own shocked reverie, Bobby dug the cuff keys from his pocket and went about unlocking Sam.

Sam's eyes fluttered. All he wanted to do was sleep, but he struggled to stay awake. Staring up at Dean. "M' soul?"

"Some assembly required, man. Nothing to worry about. I got you now."

Leftover pain still coursed through Sam's body. "Guh," he cried out, lifting the foot Bobby just freed and stomping down on the mattress, shaking the flimsy cot.

"Listen, Sam. It's fixed now. It's over. Concentrate on relaxing."

Sam bucked and coughed.

"Damn it, Bobby," Dean growled, more at himself than at Bobby. "Can't you hurry up."

"Screaming your fool head off at me, ain't helping', boy." Bobby flashed Dean a sympathetic look. "Almost done," he softened.

"Sorry," Dean breathed, going back to staring at the eternal soul-filled eyes blinking up at him.

Dean's own eyes stared to water. He swore under his breath, having to glance away briefly. Get a hold of himself. This was Sam. Given back to him with a bow. And to think just a bit ago Dean had actually considered using Death's ring. A sort of mercy killing. Euthanasia. Putting his soulless brother down. Saving his Sam from torturous misery.

"Done," Bobby undid the last of the cuffs, gathered them up in a jangle, and headed toward the door. "I'll give you two some time" he said with total understanding. "Got to get a room ready for our boy."

Dean nodded. "Thanks."

Saying nothing more, Bobby left the room.

"How you doing, Sammy?" Dean asked anxiously.

"D'n," Sam strained so hard to talk his eyes reeled upward. "Burns. It burns." His head lolled to the side, mouth dropping open.

"Hey. Hey." Dean eased a hand under Sam's shoulder and pulled him up against him. "What burns, bro?"

Not the wall. Please not the wall.

"Chest." Sam came to him limp and effortless, head falling like a broken toy to Dean's shoulder. "Nuh," Sam groaned. "Dee," he coughed. "I…I…"

"Don't. Easy now," Dean whispered in relief, knowing the wall was in Sam's head not heart - where his soul obviously lived. "You're going to be okay. Take time, Sam, but you will."

Sam roused. Tried to lift his head. Unwilling to sleep. Jaw moving against Dean's shoulder, wanting to talk. There were questions. Some he knew the answers to. Some he did not. "Wha'?" He swallowed.

"Sh." Dean gave Sam a small, well-meaning shake. "Don't talk," he ordered softly. "Just sleep."

Drowsy, slow breaths warmed Dean's neck, but Sam fought and wiggled in Dean's hold. His stomach churned, but he didn't even have strength enough to vomit.

"Sam, don't make me pull rank." Dean caringly lowered Sam back down. The kid's head sinking into the pillow. "I'm right here. Right here," Dean repeated in as gentle and reassuring atone as he could. "Now lie still."

Sam seemed to relax. He lay drinking in Dean's strength and comfort, staring intently. The pain lifting some. Breathing easier then he had in forever. Listening to Dean. Was he humming Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall?'

Sam almost fell asleep, but pushed himself not to. "Dean," Sam breathed the name.

"Dude, I think we've established that's who I am," Dean gave a light chuckle. "Stop fighting, Sammy. It's okay to sleep. It's been forever."

Sam turned his head away, clenched his teeth, "No escaping forever," he barely wheezed the words out, swirling, hazy fog trying to take him down.

"You quoting some friggin' hearts and flowers poet?" Dean snipped.

Sam gave a small shrug, yawning.

"No, bro. I know we can't," Dean seriously agreed. "But what we do…is always stick together. No matter what." He smiled. "Just think of us like Murtaugh and Riggs in the bomb under the toilet scene."

Sam snorted weakly out his nose.

"I'll be Riggs," Dean teased. You be Murtaugh."

Dean cupped Sam's face, lightly running his thumb in slow circles over Sam's cheek.

"Beats Rain Man." Sam's eyes closed and he let out a slow breath - sliding into sleep.

"Yeah, pal," Dean sighed. "It'll be legendary."

There was life and there was death and in-between was Sam and Dean. And neither would let anything separate one from the other - ever again.

The sappy, blah end!