The Last Chapter.

That's right. This is the last chapter. It's been an awesome ride, considering how this fic started out. It began as a random idea, hey, what about some serious Sammy-Dean torture. Cas can save them. Sounds cool, which then became... well, this. In the beginning it was a four or five chapter fic that ended wth Cas busting in to save their asses and fix them up. In fact, Dean was actually going to be the one to break, not Sam. And Ariel was never part of it. Neither was Balty, or the whole blind/child/crazy Sammy. See what you reviewers do to me? I make up all this crazy stuff! But hey, I'm glad you gave me some of those ideas. This was a really fun fic to write, mainly because I'm a horrible person that loves writing torture scenes ;P And I'm glad that all you guys enjoyed it too.

But now it's time for the boys to sign off. Enjoy this last chapter!

Hellfire and burning pain ripped through him. God, how he just wanted to scream his heart out; maybe it would stop the agony that was charring every nerve, burning its way through his body. But he was soundless, unable to make a noise as he writhed and twisted, fighting the pain. His head throbbed in time with his frantic heart, pulsing fire around his body. There was no escape, no refuge – nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

He just wanted it to stop.

/\/\

"Dean?"

That voice. It was familiar, tinged with worry and fear. Where had he heard that voice before?

Oh right. Castiel.

Dean blinked his eyes open, light assaulting him all at once. He groaned and tried to sit up, but was pushed down onto his back again by a firm hand on his shoulder. It took him a moment to realise he was actually quite numb, with only little feeling in his body at all. Dean couldn't hold back the small smile. It was certainly a change, and one he could definitely get used to. He'd pick numb over intense agony any day. As his vision cleared, Dean saw a familiar sight – the ceiling of Bobby's house. Castiel stood above him, looking down with worried blue eyes.

"Dean? Can you feel anything?"

Dean chuckled lightly, "Not really. Whatever you did, do it more often."

He tried to sit up again, and this time Castiel helped him up carefully, warning him that if he moved too much then bones could still fracture despite the time they'd had to heal. Dean frowned in confusion at that.

"How long have I been out?"

"About three weeks," Castiel replied.

Dean took that in slowly, shocked. Three weeks was a long time to be out of it. He pondered that for a moment, letting his thoughts run away with him. Soon enough, they turned to the one thing he was worried about the most. He grabbed Castiel's arm and stared at him.

"Where's Sam? Is he okay?"

Castiel pulled his arm out of Dean's grip and moved away a little. Dean looked past him to see his brother, lying asleep on the bed next to him. He looked so peaceful, with eyes closed and chest rising and falling slowly. There was no sign of the torture he'd been through. Not a single sign of the broken mind that might still lie behind the sleeping face.

Castiel, seeming to sense where Dean's train of thought was going, spoke quietly to reassure Dean.

"Balthazar did what he could. We're…we're hopeful that he will be fine."

"Balthazar?" Dean asked, tired from confusion.

"That would be me," a British accented voice said as the angel in question walked into the room. Dean looked up for a moment to see the blonde angel striding in, seemingly cocky and self-assured. He moved over to Sam, brushing the hair out of the Winchester's eyes and pressing his palm against the other's forehead. He concentrated for a moment before pulling away.

"As far as I can tell, he's healing well."

"What did you do?" Dean asked, caution entering his tone. The last time they'd trusted an angel who'd just waltzed in like that hadn't ended well at all.

Balthazar looked at him curiously, "I put up some walls in his mind, if you will. As long as he doesn't start exploring up there they should hold."

"So he won't remember?"

The blonde angel shook his head, "He shouldn't."

Dean sighed in relief and collapsed back onto the bed. Sam was going to be okay. He wouldn't remember any of it. He wasn't blind, he wasn't broken.

Sammy's going to be okay.

"What happened to Ariel?" Dean asked suddenly, remembering the rescue. Ariel, fixing Sam like that. Jumping in to save Castiel from Lucifer. The blinding light tearing forth from her eyes and mouth. The way she'd screamed at them to run, like she'd changed…

Castiel breathed in a cautious breath, "Lucifer killed her. I managed to bring you and Sam here so Balthazar and I could heal you while he was…preoccupied."

"She's dead?" Dean wasn't sure what to feel. Happy that the bitch who'd hurt Sam so bad was dead? Saddened by the fact that something in her had snapped and she'd
tried to help them, and gotten killed for it? He was a mixture of emotions, all of them dulled by the numb feeling spread throughout him. Exhaustion was starting to
return to him, and Dean tried to keep his eyes open but found he couldn't.

He drifted off into a warm, unfeeling sleep where finally everything was okay.

/\/\

When Dean awoke again it was to a sound he'd hoped he wouldn't have to hear again. He shot upright, sweat shining in the low light filtering in through the window. Twisting to his left, he saw Balthazar and Bobby trying to calm down a raging, screaming Sam. The younger Winchester fought hard as Balthazar tried to hold him down and send him back to sleep. He was having none of it, kicking, flailing and screaming at the top of his lungs, a sound of absolute pain and agony. Bobby flicked a glance over to Dean when he noticed the other hunter was awake, and wheeled himself over to let Balthazar deal with Sam.

"What's happening?" Dean asked, feeling helpless and lost. He didn't what was going on, or how to fix it, how to make Sam better and not hurt anymore. It was so frustrating to have to sit back and watch. "I thought you said he was okay!"

"He's pushing at the walls," Balthazar growled, forcing Sam down onto the bed and slamming a palm into the Winchester's forehead "If he's not careful he's going to end up like this permanently."

A moment later Sam began to calm down, no longer screaming or fighting. He relaxed and went limp, arm dropping over the side of the bed and eyes closing. But Dean could still see his chest shaking as Sam sobbed silently, tears of pain leaking from behind closed eyelids.

"You were supposed to fix him," Dean said as Balthazar turned to him and glared.

"I can't do everything," he snapped "I did what I could. I put up the walls. It's his fault that he's pushing at them. I don't normally do this kind of stuff – that's Ariel's field. But they should hold, if he doesn't keep fighting the walls."

"If he does…" Dean didn't want to know. But had to. He had to know what was going to happen if Sam kept fighting like a true Winchester against the unnatural blocks in his mind, Balthazar shrugged.

"I don't think I'll be able to put them back up if they fall; his mind's too damaged for another attempt. He'll be like that permanently," the angel said "There won't be anything anyone can do about it."

Dean felt Bobby's comforting hand on his arm, "He'll be fine. He's a strong kid."

"That's what's killing him," Balthazar had the gall to say with a nonchalant shrug before vanishing out of the room. Dean glared at the spot the angel had just been occupying. He really did hate angels. Castiel was okay, and Gabriel had been a relatively decent one – if you looked past the whole TV Land incident and the Trickster phases… But all the rest were basically traitors, liars, backstabbers, untrustworthy, cruel and self-absorbed. Zachariah, Michael, Uriel, even Anna. Ariel. Not a single one of them could be trusted. Dean was tempted to think that Balthazar was alright because Castiel believed in him – but they knew how that had ended last time, didn't they? The results were sitting right in front of them, in utter agony and sobbing from the pain, but unable to wake until he was fully healed.

Bobby seemed to sense what Dean was thinking (or he was really a psychic who could read minds, but that was too creepy for Dean) and spoke quietly, "Balthazar's a good angel, Dean. I promise. You weren't there when Castiel broke."

The younger hunter looked over at his mentor, the one he had called his father when the real one wasn't there, and stared in surprise, "What?"

Bobby sighed, "Castiel was convinced he couldn't save you. He was sure there was nothing he could do to find you or stop Ariel, because she was an archangel and he…well, he wasn't. You didn't see him. He was…just broken. He snapped. And that was when Balthazar turned up. He came and brought Castiel back from the brink. And from what I can tell, he likes to stay out of anything that might endanger him, but he was willing to risk his life to confront Ariel and rescue you two. He's good."

"We thought that about Ariel."

"Think about it Dean. Did she ever do anything to earn our trust? Balthazar saved your angel, Dean. Forget Ariel."

Dean sighed and nodded. He was more than happy to forget about Ariel. As much as she had changed, it really was too little too late. She'd waited too long before changing her mind and coming to their rescue, and what she'd done had only helped minimally. And as much as she deserved some respect for finally seeing the light and doing the right thing – as much as she deserved that tiniest smudge of respect – Dean couldn't bring himself to forgive her. He knew he never would. Trust was one of the most important things to him, and she'd broken it. And she'd hurt Sam. He would never forgive her, but he would forget her. At least as much as to forget the horrible things she did, but remember that small amount of goodness in her that had come to save them, and had stopped Lucifer from slaughtering Castiel. There were things to thank her for, and things to forget.

But never forgive.

"He's fighting too hard," Dean muttered quietly under his breath as he stared at Sam, starting to relax a little more now and the tears no longer flowing "He's going to
kill himself. For once, he needs to give up."

"He'll figure it out," Bobby said, though neither of them were sure if he was trying to convince Dean or himself "He's smart. He'll be fine."

"I hope so, Bobby."

/\/\

When he opened his eyes, it was dark. The pitch black kind of dark that meant you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. The kind of dark that scared him the most.

He sat up quickly, heart pounding and struggling to heave his breath in and out of his body. He tried to calm himself down. Panicking wouldn't help. He tried to think back to where he was and what was going on. The last thing he remembered was the job in St Morleys, hunting down that witch… Things just didn't make sense anymore – like why was he feeling so numb? Why didn't that numbness stop his raging headache? What was the small niggling sense in the back of his mind that kept pestering him? He brushed the hair out of his eyes and breathed in deeply. He caught sight of a thin sliver of light coming from under a door, and that small yellowish-white band calmed him immensely. Shaking slightly, he hauled himself up from the bed he was lying on and made his way to the door. Pushing it open, he was surprised to find himself standing in a familiar hall of Bobby's house. Why was he at Bobby's, and not on the hunt? He pushed the question aside, needing an answer to a more pressing question. Where the hell was Dean?

He made his way down the hall and down the stairs, gripping the rail tightly as his legs felt like they were about to collapse underneath him. Slowly, carefully, he followed the sounds of familiar voices. Finally he pushed open a door and stared.

/\/\

Sammy's awake.

/\/\

"Sammy?" Dean stood up – Sam noticed the wince that crossed his face and made a mental note to ask about it later – and stared at his brother, standing in the doorway.

"Dean?" he asked, confused as to why everyone – Bobby, Dean and Castiel – were staring at him strangely, like he'd grown another head or something "What's going
on?"

There was a moment of silence as the brothers locked eyes. Sam saw the fear in Dean's eyes replaced with utter relief, a glint of happiness returning to those green depths. Dean walked across the floor slowly, as if it hurt to do so. And then, standing only a foot away from his brother, Dean threw his arms around Sam and hugged him.

Confused, Sam tentatively hugged him back, unsure as to what exactly was going on. Why was Dean acting like this? It certainly wasn't normal Dean Winchester behaviour. When Dean pulled away, hands still on his brother's shoulders, Sam stared at him while he tried to figure out if something serious had happened that he didn't remember.

"What happened? Why are we at Bobby's?"

"What's the last thing you remember?" Dean answered the question with another. Sam frowned, but replied cautiously.

"The witch job at St Morleys. Why?"

Dean grinned and ran a hand through his hair, "It's nothing."

"Some bad stuff went down at St Morleys," Bobby spoke up "Both of you were hurt and you were out for a while."

"How long?"

"About two months."

Sam stared in shock, "Two months? What the hell went down on that hunt?"

As Bobby explained that the witch had been into some seriously powerful stuff that they hadn't encountered much before, and that she'd targeted Sam specifically which explained the loss of memory, Sam frowned. It made sense. But somehow, in his mind, it didn't. Something didn't add up. As he thought about this, his headache intensified within his skull, reverberating and making him groan and grab at his head.

"What is it?" Dean asked, panic and worry obvous in his tone. Since when did Dean panic?

"Just a headache. It'll be fine," he dismissed it, but Dean was having none of it, and neither were Bobby or Castiel.

"You should get back to bed," Bobby said.

Castiel nodded his agreement, "You need to rest."

"Apparently I've been resting for two months," Sam grumbled under his breath and rolled his eyes, not understanding why they were so adamant about this. After all, a little witch voodoo wasn't anything too serious, was it? But Dean steered him out of the room and back up the stairs, and Sam realised he was too tired to argue or fight with him. He let Dean take him back to the room. Within seconds he was flat on his back on the bed with his eyes threatening to close on him in sleep.

"Dean?" he asked, wanting to get this question out before he forgot about it. Dean was already by the door, ready to leave. The hunter paused and looked back, "Yeah?"

"What really happened? That whole story was bullshit."

Dean chuckled. Sam rolled his eyes. Had they really thought he was that stupid and out of it not to realise when they were lying to him?

"You don't want to know."

"Yeah I do, Dean. Stop screwing around."

"I'm not."

The seriousness of Dean's tone was enough to make the retort die on Sam's tongue. Dean didn't use that particular tone unless it was life or death; something so important that he didn't want any argument on it – he just wanted it done with no questions asked, needed it done with no questions asked. Dean turned his gaze on Sam and the younger brother saw the same tone reflected in his eyes – he wasn't kidding, and he needed Sam to understand that. It was more than his big brother voice. It was more than his 'I'm in charge now' voice. This was something different altogether.

"Please Sam. Just trust me on this one. You don't want to know. So don't ask. Ever. Can you promise me that?"

"What am I, five?" Sam scoffed, trying to lighten the tension. But the way Dean's eyes darkened with pain and regret, that look of loss and remembered horrors that
Sam had seen so many times after Dean's return from Hell, made Sam shut his mouth and listen.

"Promise me. Don't ask. Don't think about it. Just forget this ever happened. St Morleys was an average witch hunt that went wrong, and that's all you need to know."

"What happened…" Sam trailed off again, seeing Dean staring at him. He sighed.

"Promise. Okay?"

"I'm serious Sam."

"I know."

Dean nodded, understanding. They didn't do heartfelt. They didn't do this sort of stuff at all. And so that reluctant reply was Sam's best attempt at a serious answer. He wasn't going to make Dean feel any worse than he obviously already did. Dean shut the door quietly behind him, and within seconds, as the soft darkness closed over him, Sam dropped off to sleep.

/\/\

He's strong enough to realise when to give up. The walls are holding. He promised.

He'll be fine.