This is part of the Safe Haven Writer's Challenge and a tag to 6.13. Hope you'll enjoy and will let me know. Hugs, Vonnie


Validus Una

This case hadn't gone well at all. Not that he hadn't anticipated something like this would happen, no really he had, but it actually had turned out a whole lot worse than he could have imagined it would. He hadn't wanted them to come here just because Sam had gotten those coordinates, after all, the only time they would run off for something like this had been when dad would send them. So he hadn't wanted to come here, but he'd come anyway, for Sam's sake. And he'd wanted them to leave as soon as trouble had started to pop up, but he'd stayed, because he'd known his brother had needed him to.

He'd run off in the past, heck, he'd even made Sam run with him, but those times where over. He finally had his brother back and he wasn't going let him go again. So if Sammy thought he needed to stay, then Dean was going to stay too. Man, how he'd missed his brother and how scared had be been that what he would get back would not be his little brother, but from the moment the kid had walked into Bobby's kitchen any doubt had dissipated. And this, the need to set things straight, to fix them if possible, even at the risks of tearing down the wall, this had been so pure Sammy and how could Dean be mad about that?

So he'd been worried sick, because of Sammy possibly having to pay for things RoboSam had done, but even more because of his brother remembering said things. He hadn't been sure, if he couldn't remember, because his body and soul had been separated during that time, or if those memories had been locked behind the wall with all the others about hell. If the latter had been the case, it meant that the wall was crumbling already, after only a week and he'd known he couldn't take losing his brother again, not now, not ever. He'd known what he would have to do this time. He would have to end it; for Sam, because he didn't deserve to suffer any longer and for himself, because without his brother there never be peace for him either.

At least Sammy had come through this hunt in one piece and now they were finally ready to blow this town. As soon as the kid had his things together they could leave. And he swore he was going to make sure that Sam wouldn't scratch, wouldn't even so much as glance at that damn wall. Maybe they should get into the car and drive off somewhere, just live, have fun, forget about hunting for a just a week or two.

Sitting here, packing, while trying to assure Sam that everything was going to be okay, while the target of this assurance was standing on the other side of the wall stuffing his things into his own bag, he could tell Sam didn't really believe a word of what he is saying. If nothing else, what the kid said next was telling him as much.

"I don't know Dean, if I did this here, who knows how many other thi…"

There was a thud, before Sam could complete the sentence, sudden and abrupt and without wasting a breath Dean was moving around the wall, taking in his little brother's freakishly tall body writhing on the floor like was looking for purchase.

"Sammy…, Sammy…, Sammy talk to me!" The words came out at the same time as he kneeled down beside his brother.

The way his Sam's freakishly long legs worked, it almost looked like he was trying to get away from something, yet he was flat on his back and without warning the action stopped and only the frantic swallowing and twitching of his face remained. Hazel eyes, almost green now, stared ahead; the frightened expression in them so terrifying to Dean, as it left no doubt about what was happening. The wall was leaking, possibly even crashing and hell was trying to claim, what it thought was rightfully its own.

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He really felt bad for having dragged Dean into yet another one of his messes, but if he was honest with himself, even if he would have known, who sent those coordinates and why, he still would have had come here. He just wished his brother wouldn't always have to pay the price for what he had done.

He really couldn't even start to count the occasions Dean had gotten hurt because of him. Shit, his big brother had gone to hell for him and how had he repaid him? He hadn't even lasted a month before he'd broken his promise and started using his freakish powers. Even his so-called best intentions were no excuse for getting hooked on demon blood and thinking he was so much stronger than Dean, when his brother finally had come back. And ever since then he had caused nothing but pain and trouble for Dean. It had come to the point, when it tore them apart and it really hadn't been anyone's but his own fault. And still, when it had counted, Dean had stood not just by him, but with him. He'd been the one, who'd given him the strength to fight on, to say yes to Lucifer, to come back, when the bastard had pushed him so deep under in his own body that he'd thought he would never surface again. And yet only because of Dean had he managed to regain control and in the end jump into the cage.

Now he was back and in the time since his return, he'd not only learned that he'd cost Dean his normal life, but that he'd also stood by watching him get turned into a vampire. And he'd almost killed Bobby, the man that had been more like a father to him than John Winchester, at least at times.

None of these things he really remembered. He'd known something was going on and so he'd pried them out of Castiel by making the angel think he already knew the basics. A move he wasn't really proud of. This hunt though made most of the memories of when he'd been here before return, which was worse than just being told. Sure he'd never doubted Cas had told him the truth and Dean had confirmed all of it, although with much hesitation, but although he had been horrified, still was, he also still struggled to own. And right now he wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not. What happened the last couple days though hit him like a sledge hammer, maybe because they were actual memories and made everything else more real. And it scared the crap out of him.

At least they had been able to kill the arachne sheriff, but that couldn't make up for him using the guy as bait, getting him turned and then failing to realize what happened. Because of him several more people lost their lives and more arachnes were out there killing innocent people. Nothing could make up for that. Not even his brother telling him that that the person, who'd done all this wasn't him, but his soulless self.

No, it was him, because he knew he had done other things in the past, while hooked on demon blood. Knew he'd killed that possessed nurse, by drinking her demon contaminated blood, right before he'd let Lucifer loose. Knew he had done things he would rather forget but never would be able to. So yes, the thing that had run around wearing his face and having his memories for the past year had been him, really, because it hadn't been that much different from being hooked an demon blood and doing evil things.

Something in the depth of his mind told him that there might just be a difference, but he pushed it away. There was no way he was going to make excuses this time. He was going to fix whatever he could, even if it meant remembering hell. He told Dean as much, because he didn't want his brother to think, he didn't know what the consequences could be and feel responsible if anything happened. He had his soul back and the memories of what he did and the thought of what else he might have done disgusted him and wouldn't let him rest.

He didn't want Dean to worry and suffer because of him, but more than anything he needed to proof to his brother, if not to himself that he wasn't the callous, coldhearted son of a bitch that did all those things. And maybe the wall was holding after all, because there hadn't been any flashes of hell.

Stuffing another shirt in his duffel, he listened to Dean promising that everything was going to be okay and he knew his awesome big brother would really try to keep this promise, but also knowing that this was way beyond Dean's control and he needed to tell him as much.

"I don't know Dean, if I did this here, who knows how many other thi…"

Hell hit him so abruptly; he was down on the ground before he could finish his sentence. Struggling to move away from the flames, he found himself pinned to the spot, the fire surrounding and closing in on him. Already he could feel its heat, could feel the blaze caressing his skin. As it started to burn and melt away, a desperate scream escaped his throat.

"Help…, heeelp…, heeeeeelp meee…!"

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Dean was still on the floor leaning over his brother. Tears filled his eyes as he desperately attempted to coach the younger man back from the brink of hell. Sam's eyes continued to be open and filled with terror, his facial muscles and the rest of his body tense, if not rigid.

This couldn't be happening, not yet, it was too soon for the wall to leak or even break down, yet it was exactly what appeared to be happening here. He just had gotten his brother back; he couldn't be losing him again already.

"Sammy, please, you have to come back. It's going to be alright, I promise, whatever you're seeing right now, it's not real!" He begged and pleaded, hoping on some level Sam would hear him.

His hands, which hovered over Sam, now reached out again and cupped the younger man's face. The instant skin made contact with skin, Dean felt like a bolt of lightning shot through him. Red hot heat surrounded him and without warning his arms and legs brutally torn to the side and secured to rough metal and stretched until the pain in his joints was unbearable and he no longer was able to hold back a scream. His body was ablaze, like the bolt was still running through him, yet when he opened his eyes, he realized it was a large hook protruding from his shoulder taunting him. He was back in hell and just to eliminate any doubt from his mind, Alistair's demonic grin appeared in front of his face to convince him.

"Aw, Dean Winchester, did you think you could escape me forever?" A monstrous sneer appeared on the demon's face.

"You're not real, Sam killed you!" The hunter pushed out through gritted teeth.

'Tsk, tsk, tsk, do you really think your freakish little brother could kill me? It takes a lot more than a bit of demon blood to get rid of me. But I certainly would love to pay him back for trying." He cackled, "Guess I have to be content with watching, while I expose you to some of my favorite torture skills. I know how much you appreciate them. Let's see, how shall we start?"

He continued to ramble on, yet his words were lost on the older Winchester right from the moment he talked about watching.

"What do you mean by watching?"

"Oh, did I forget? How could I?" Alistair stated in mock dismau, "Well, let's fix that right now."

He stepped to the side, allowing Dean a free view of a metal grit glowing with electricity, which seemed to stretch endlessly to both sides and from top to bottom. Behind it he could make out Sam, suspended in air. Flames surrounded and reached for his brother, melting his skin away and eliciting a bloodcurdling scream for help. Eventually the cry died down as his body went up in flames and only ashes remained. It lasted for only a moment, before two figures appeared and snapping their finger, the younger man reappeared, physically looking unharmed, yet the expression on his face showing he was anything but.

"No, let him go, I'll stay!" Any fear disappeared from the older brother's voice and only determination remained.

"Oh Dean, you haven't change a bit, you're still the hero, if it just was that simple. You see, no one can get in there, or out. You are looking at the cage over there. Even if I wanted to, there is nothing I can do to help, but why would I want to? It's way too much fun to watch. So much in fact that I think I just sit back and enjoy the view of Sam getting tortured and you having to observe."

At that moment one of the figures on the other side stepped forward. Changing from Lucifer into…Dean, he touched Sam's face and gently stroked his cheek. Unable to hear what was said, the older brother could see by the terror on the tortured young man's face that it was more than a bit unpleasant. Lucifer then proceeded to pull a knife out and carve little pieces out of his younger brother's chest, all the while still looking like him. Deeper and deeper he carved, yet never deep enough to injure any organs, until Sam's whole torso was cut up and the young man seemed to be beyond expressing any more pain. His head was lolling on his shoulders and only for a second the torture stopped and the fallen angel started to touch his victims face again. With a jerk Sam regained consciousness and the devil moved on to his back, continuing the same process until he passed out again.

"No, please, you have to do something, please Alistair; I will do anything, absolutely anything you want, just save my brother." Dean was beyond desperate by now.

The demon gave him a crooked smirk, "See, I knew you would say that, problem is, you still don't get it, do you? This is how it is and there is no way to change it!"

Another piercing scream from Sam made Dean's head move back into his brother's direction. Although it was clear the younger man was unable to see the real him, he was calling out to him for help, bloody tears running down his face, as the devil now starting to carve deeper into his abdomen.

Straining against his own bonds, Dean yelled out as loud as he could, "I'm right here Sammy, hang in there, I get you out somehow."

Alistair sat by, tears of amusement appeared in his eyes, as he laughed, "This is just too much fun!"

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His skin melted away and he could feel the flames eating up his flesh. He no longer screamed, his voice box burned by the fire. They said burns of this degree no longer hurt, as the nerves were too damaged at this point, yet all he felt was pain. Even as his body burned down to the bones, he was still experiencing the most excruciating pain he'd ever felt. Only as he evaporated into dust did his awareness seize and with it the pain, yet for just a split second, before he was whole again and now face to face with his torturers.

Lucifer stepped closer now, changing into Dean and caressing his cheek, while Michael remained in the background, wearing a neutral expression.

"Ah, Sammy Winchester, back so soon? You didn't really think you could get away from me?"

"No, don't…, please, don't look like him…"

"What? I'm disappointed in you; I would have thought you would like to see your brother." The devil sneered, and without changing back, he pulled out a knife and starting to carve into Sam's skin.

The young man still suspended in air, yet unable to move as much as a finger, bit his lower lip in an attempt to hold back a scream, yet the torture was too great for him to continue for very long. Finally darkness mercifully descended upon him, yet it lasted for way too short, before it was replaced once more with the bright light of hell.

As the fallen angel continued his gruesome task on him, his victim wanted nothing more than to escape back into the darkness of unawareness again, yet he wasn't allowed such reprieve, as he instantly he was returned. By the time Lucifer started on carving deeper into his abdomen, Sam managed to push out a last piercing scream, this one not for help but for the only person he needed more than anything, his brother, too spent for anything more after that, only occasional whimpers escaped his throat.

Finally letting up and snapping his fingers to heal the mortal wounds, the fallen angel nodded towards his cage companion and the archangel stepped forward.

"Ah, Sam Winchester, we have a special surprise for you." He grinned, "There is someone close by and yet unreachable for you, as he is outside the cage, who has been watching you. It is time now for you to also see him.

He waved his hand, effectively lifting the fog, which until now obstructed the view at anything further away than a few yards, revealing the view to the area outside of the cage.

Sam gasped, as he spotted his brother tied to the rack, a large meat hook sticking out of his shoulder and blood running down his body. Alistair was sitting almost casually beside him, yet the younger Winchester barely acknowledged his presence, it was Dean, who he was staring at.

"Dean, no, how…?" He whispered, confusion and terror beyond the physical pain taking a firm hold of him. Still gasping and trying not to hyperventilate, he finally managed to call his brother's name out in what he thought was loud for the other man to hear him.

Roaring laughter escaped the angel brothers, as they slapped one another's shoulders, "Can you believe it? He actually thinks his pathetic brother can hear him." Michael pushed out.

"Yeah, maybe we should have let him think he did and awesome Dean just chose to ignore him."

"Guess I didn't think of that. Oh well, maybe next time."

"Looks like we did well, so!" the dark angel said, "See that look on his face, it's priceless, even better than just carving him up."

"Let him go, he has nothing to do with this." Sam demanded, horrified by the conversation.

Michael snorted and Lucifer once again stepped up to him, his face distorted into an evil grin, "Little Sammy, after all this time still so innocent and naïve. Even if we could release your brother, do you really think we would? Now where would be the fun in this? It's just so amusing to see how much it hurt you to see big brother down here. Let's just watch what good old Alistair has in store for him." He turned back to his own brother, "You know, Ali is almost as good at torturing those lost souls as I am. Not quite, but he comes pretty close."

"We better make sure that Sam here can't close his eyes, wouldn't want him to miss one second of what's going to happen to Dean, now would we."

He snapped his fingers and immediately Sam felt his throat gripped by an invisible force until he anything more than a moan would have taken more air than he was allotted, while another power seemed to hold on to his lids, making it impossible for him to close them, no matter how hard he tried. Forced to look straight at the rack with his brother on it, he saw the head demon rise and pick up a large bottle. Slowly he poured it over Dean's body, eliciting loud screams from the older hunter, as steaming acid ate away on his skin until parts of bone were visible.

With the wave of a hand, Dean was healed and the demon started again, this time torturing him by pushing a small hook into his body and pulling it from his left shoulder down to his right hip, before repeating the same on the other side. His brother was yelling out in pain, but suddenly the screams stopped and the pain distorted expression on his face changed into one of complete detachedness. After a few second, his body became transparent and finally disappeared.

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Dean felt tears running down his face, the pain of seeing his brother tortured in hell and not being able to help, more than he could bear. His eyes still fixed at the younger man inside the cage, he noticed fog descending into the space between them, blocking his view.

"No, no, you can't do that." He stammered, "I need to see him."

"And you will again, later." Alistair wore a satisfied expression, as he slowly stood and reached for a bottle on a small side table, "Your turn now."

He splashed the contents over him, the acid instantly burning away his skin and flesh. Even though he tried, the older Winchester was unable to hold back his screams and just when he felt like passing out, the demon waved his hand and healed him, yet only to pick up a hook and drag it through his chest and stomach.

This second torture, although painful, was not as unbearable and although he screamed, it almost helped clear his mind. Flashes of his past experience in hell came to him and with a sudden clearness he knew this couldn't be real. This had to be a deception, a trick of his mind, or something else, unexplainable. But this, this wasn't real, he was certain off it.

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As Dean disappeared before his eyes, Sam knew he should be happy, yet where did they take him? What if wherever his brother was now, was even worse than this?

The restraint on his voice and eyes was suddenly lifted and desperate for answers, he begged, "Please, what did you do to him? Where is Dean? Please, I need to know!"

Remaining unable to move, his eyes flicked over to the two angels and expecting sneers and sarcastic remarks, he was surprised to find bewildered expressions on both their faces. Almost at once both schooled themselves, yet it was too late, this one glance had been enough for Sam to glimpse an inkling of the truth.

"You're not real; I'm not back in hell. This is my mind playing tricks on me."

Without warning a whirlwind took hold of the fallen angel and his brother and both, as well as the cage and everything surrounding it, were pulled into it. For a moment he could see a large brick wall, the cyclone coming through a small opening in it. As it retreated back into it, he could hear a tear-filled voice calling. It was distant, but slowly it came closer and with it became clearer, until he could hear it calling his name.

"Sammy, oh God, Sammy, you have to come back. Please, I can't do this without you, not again. I'll die first." His brother's outline appeared in front of the wall, right were the hole was, blocking it from his view

"Dean…" he screamed, desperate to get to him. He had to save him, couldn't let his brother die. "Deeeeaaan" he cried out one more time, as everything became quiet and dark around him.

A deep-seated fear took hold of him, yet this one not of hell and Lucifer, but for his brother's wellbeing. It lifted him and tossed him high up, before plunging him through the dark and into the light. Without any further delay, he grabbed hold of his brother's shoulders, pulling him into an embrace and holding on for dear life. Not his, but Dean's life.

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As soon as Dean felt awareness come back to him, he realized two things, one that he was still cupping Sam's face and two that his brother was still staring into nothingness with the same terrified look in his eyes. Changing his hold to support Sam's head and upper body, he waited for just a moment, hoping the younger man was going to come back to him. Finally realizing that this wasn't going to happen, he allowed his tears free rain and started to beg.

"Sammy, oh God, Sammy, you have to come back. Please, I can't do this without you, not again. I'll die first."

As there was no response, he was ready to do the only thing he could think off, short of ending it right there – pack his brother into the car and take him back to Bobby's place. If the old hunter couldn't help, than that would be it, for both of them. Before he could move though, he noticed a change in Sam's eyes and with shocking suddenness, his name came from the younger man's lips in a long scream. Just as suddenly hazels looked at him and arms wrapped around his shoulders, pulling him down and into a breathless hug.

It took the older Winchester but an instant to return the embrace, the second one in a little more than a week and not even feel 'chick flicky' about it. Whatever happened, Sam was back again and that was worth all the chick flicks in the world.

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It was three hours later, when Dean looked over to his brother sleeping in the passenger seat of the Impala, making sure nothing had changed since the last time he checked, two whole minutes ago. They had blown town as soon as the younger man had been able to get up with his assistance. Sam had been exhausted and weak, yet had in typical Winchester manner stubbornly insisted they needed to talk.

After comparing notes about their experiences, they still hadn't been sure about what had caused the older man to get pulled into Sam's flashback/vision. In the end, they had come to the conclusion, that somehow it had been Dean being there that had his brother allowed to return to reality. And to Sam it had been more than that, seeing his brother standing in front of the break in the wall had convinced him that Dean was the mortar, which held those bricks together.

Knowing his big brother hadn't been ready for yet another chick flick moment, Sam had left it with a 'thank you' and a look that spoke volumes, after which he had finally allowed himself to get drawn into a dreamless sleep.

Dean smiled, it was a concerned smile, yet also one filled with hope. They made it through one tear in the wall and Sam survived. Every tear might weaken it, yet as he saw it after today, if he stood with his brother, he might just be able to reinforce it and make it stronger instead. Maybe not the greatest outlook, but let's face it, for a Winchester it was better than most everything they faced in the past. So if it was good it enough for Sam, it was going to be good enough for him and he could live with this. They've always known that together they were stronger.

FIN