I haven't written fanfic in a long time, but Supernatural grabbed hold of my muse and refused to let go. This was the result. It is going to be a multi-chap fic intended to fit in between Shadow and Hell House.

This work is as yet, not beta'd. If anyone would like to volunteer...

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural, nor any canon characters therein, and I am making no profit from this piece of fiction.

Black and Blue

Summary: Post-Shadow. A return to Palo Alto to help one of Sam's old friends could have dire consequences when Dean goes missing.

Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.

- Aristotle

Chapter 1 – Cabin Fever

The sludge coloured stain on the ceiling looked like an elephant pushing a wheelbarrow, Dean Winchester decided as he squinted up at it from his supine position on the motel bed. It was by far the most interesting feature that the room had to offer, and Dean had spent a long time looking. He wrinkled his nose, thinking he probably didn't want to know what the stain was, where it had come from, and how the hell it had found it's way onto the ceiling.

The room was dark, shadows clinging to the corners like cobwebs, despite the laboured attempts of several lamps dotted around the room. The weak light limping in through the window did little to assist it's fellows with the seemingly impossible task. Though it was mid-morning it felt dusky, the sun struggling to forage a path through the heavy storm-bearing clouds marring the sky.

He heaved a huge sigh, feeling the lumpy mattress beneath him dig into his back uncomfortably as his muscles relaxed downwards. The motels they stayed in were always more for expediency than comfort, but sometimes Dean fantasised about the feather-soft mattresses and plump pillows he was sure were on offer in the luxury hotels that existed in other peoples' realities, especially if he had a warm and willing body to share it with. His mouth curved upwards into a smirk at the thought.

It was about the only thing that could make him smile these days.


Sam had evidently glanced up from his laptop in time to see Dean's amused expression. The elder Winchester snorted slightly as his eyes flashed across the room to where his brother's form sat hunched at the small table with the laptop, fingers splayed across the keys as if he was a concert pianist preparing to launch into an epic recital.

They had apparently progressed to fully formed words now, as opposed to the monosyllabic grunts which had come to represent what passed for conversation between them over the past few days.

"Nothin'" came Dean's automatic reply before he'd even formed a coherent thought, his expression flattening as his mental shutters came crashing down. Any pleasure he'd derived from his daydream had evaporated the instant his brother had spoken and wrenched him back to reality.

Sam's features drew into a scowl, the still healing gouges on his cheek from the Daevas' claws stretching slightly as his lips pursed, and he huffed in annoyance as he returned his gaze to the computer screen before him.

Dean closed his eyes, feeling slightly guilty – Sam had made an effort after all, albeit a sullen and half-hearted one. Wiping a hand across his eyelids he willed himself to try and cobble together the energy to communicate with his brother. It had never seemed this hard, even during the tempestuous months which had preceded Sam's departure for Stanford. But then, Sam had been angry at their father and not at Dean himself.

The easy camaraderie they had spent months re-building – even if there had been more than a few hiccups along the way – seemed to have vanished the instant John Winchester had turned his back on his sons in that alleyway in Chicago, and Dean didn't know how to get it back.

More than that, he wasn't sure he even could.

"Anything?" he ground out, his gravelly vocal chords not having been used to this level of exertion over the past few days.

The debacle in with his father, Meg and the Daevas in Chicago had taken a lot out of him, both emotionally and physically.

He could still feel the pull of the stitches in his side that Sam had fastidiously applied after his brush with the Daeva, though after a few days of laying low the pain had receded to the occasional sharp stab if he twisted around too quickly. He'd gotten better at hiding that now though, so at least he didn't have to endure Sam's patented 'frown of disapproving concern'.

Dean quirked an eyebrow wryly as he thought about the one factor Sam's anger at him hadn't been able to diminish. It seemed his brother had hovering down to an art form, or at least he had until he was sure that Dean was actually getting better – or until he was sure that whatever pain Dean was surely hiding from him was at an acceptable level.

The elder hunter's emotional wounds weren't healing so easily however, they festered and nagged and refused to respond to treatment, like they had gained immunity from his overuse of avoidance tactics.

Dean could have taught a master-class on burying emotional trauma – he'd learned from the best after all – but this time the guilt, self-doubt and self-loathing were proving too much even for him to suppress. The more he tried to push them away, the more they rebounded upon him, re-opening the deep slashes and making them bleed anew.

The list was long: the terror and deep-seated sense of failure he had felt upon realising that he and Sam were being used as bait to lure their father to his death; the incredible euphoria of seeing his father whole and unharmed, only to come to the gut-wrenching conclusion that being together – being a family – would put him in more danger; Sam's anger at him for being the one to tell John to leave; Sam telling Meg that Dean dragged him across the country like a piece of luggage.

Sam saying he wanted to go back to college and be a real person again. Sam saying he didn't want to stay with his family.

Dean reckoned he could have kept a lid on all of these torments, it might have taken every weapon in his arsenal, but he'd have beaten them down eventually, if not for one inescapable fact: regardless of all that they had been through together, all they'd seen, all they'd done, the bond they had painstakingly rebuilt...Sam was only with him for revenge.

As soon as the demon who had wrought so much damage over their lives was gone, so was Sam.

Dean couldn't help but feel that he was a means to an end. He knew that Sam would lay down his life for him in a second, he'd never doubted that – even if it scared him more than he liked to admit – but he'd thought they were becoming a family again. He'd thought that was more important to his brother, but he should have known better. His father and brother seemed to make use of him when they needed him, but otherwise were happy to toddle off and do their own thing.

Without him.

It wasn't like he didn't want his brother to be happy. Hell, it was pretty much all he'd ever wanted. The only thing that had made sense to him in his screwed-up existence was protecting Sam, keeping him safe, making him happy. Without that job, he was nothing.

He just wanted Sam to be happy being with him. He wanted him to be happy being with his family. He wanted that to be enough for him. But it wasn't, and it never had been. Dean had been kidding himself if he'd thought that had changed.

"Nope" The reply floated across to Dean on the crest of a sigh.

Sam was hurting. Dean knew that, and was deeply frustrated by his own part in it.

It hadn't exactly been a walk in the park for Sam either, what with finding out Meg's true agenda and seeing his father for the first time since their apocalyptic pre-Stanford screaming match. Then Dean had to go and thwart him in his quest to join their father in the hunt for the demon who had not only murdered his mother and girlfriend, but who had utterly decimated the life he had loved so much.

Dean felt the guilt over his decision keenly, knowing how much pain it had caused his brother, and many times since had wondered if it had been the right one. But his father had agreed, and even Sam had relented in the end. Aside from that, he missed his father, and it had nearly killed him to let him go again.

"So not one single person in the whole of this great country has ganked it in a way that is remotely supernatural?" Dean snorted, shifting himself into a sitting position and ignoring the pull in his side as he moved.

Sam shot up suddenly, as if all the tension that had been coiling within him had finally sprung, and slammed the screen of the laptop down with an unexpected vehemence which made Dean flinch slightly.

"Dean, I've spent hours scouring the internet while you've been lying over there staring at the ceiling and there is nothing. Nothing! If you think you can do so much better then knock yourself out!" He flung himself backwards on his bed, hands covering his tired eyes.

Now they were talking in sentences. Progress in action.

"Naw Sammy, think I'll leave the research to my geekboy sidekick!" Dean joked, trying to diffuse the thick blanket of tension which had settled around them since Chicago, but it was like trying to put out a raging fire with a glass of water.

He got nothing. Not even a twitch.

The strained atmosphere hadn't been helped by the fact that they had been forced to spend the past few days holed up in this godforsaken pit of a motel room; a fate which had befallen them due to the Impala having suffered a breakdown which couldn't be fixed until a part had been ordered in. They'd made it as far as Sandwich, Illinois – a name which had caused Dean no end of amusement, until they'd had to spend three whole days there.

There was that, and the fact that nothing even in the neighbourhood of supernatural appeared to have occurred across the entire country.

Dean was perfectly prepared to admit that he was bored out of his mind. Even daytime TV had lost it's appeal after a while. And with nothing better to do, the two of them had been circling each other, baiting and sniping in a way that had started out harmless but had more than once strayed into dangerous territory.

A motel room had never seemed so small.

Dean rose stiffly from his bed and shuffled hopefully over to the window overlooking the parking lot to see if the rain had stopped, or at least abated.

It hadn't.

The parking lot now resembled a small lake, cars moored like yachts around the edge as the rain continued to fall and the storm drains struggled to cope with the deluge. Dean stood for a moment, mesmerised as the droplets bounced off the surface, creating tiny dancing pin pricks.

God he was bored. And a bored Dean Winchester was never a good thing.

"You know I almost wish you'd get one of your freaky visions. At least we'd have something to work with" He said absently, running a hand along the stubble on his chin. He should probably shave.

The tension which had been simmering between them had been bound to ignite eventually. Like the weather raging outside, the air in the motel room had been heavy with the promise of thunder and lightning, the tumult of the storm being necessary before clear skies could reign once more.

Dean had missed Sam's sharp intake of breath as the sting hit home so he was totally unprepared when a hand grabbed his arm and whipped him round, unbalancing him.

Sam narrowed his eyes as Dean winced at the movement and steadied himself, but made no remark.

Dean almost wanted to take a step back from the dangerous expression on his not-so little brother's face as he towered over him, but showing weakness of any sort went against every fibre of his being, even to Sam – especially to Sam.

"How could you say that Dean?" Sam's face was now inches from his own as his brother attempted to stare him down, the fury pinching his features betrayed by the pain his eyes couldn't mask.

"Dude, personal space" Dean snarked in reply as he deftly moved out of the way, guiltily trying to avoid meeting his brother's gaze.

"I can't believe you, of all people, would joke about this!" Sam threw up his hands in a gesture of frustration.

Dean couldn't either, but he was damned if he was going to give ground on this now. He was on a roll.

"I mean, after everything that happened with Jess...and-and Max Miller, and back in Lawrence!" Sam continued, his expression thunderous and his body rigid with anger. "What kind of screwed up life do we lead if we actually want people to die so that we have a job to do?"

That one struck home, and Dean reacted to the barb in the only way he knew how.

"Oh come on princess!" Dean threw back, his face twisting into a sneer. "What, you can't even take a joke now? College must have made you soft Sammy! You gonna start painting your nails now, huh? Should I start stocking up on body lotion?"

"Just shut up Dean!" The elder Winchester suddenly found himself falling backwards onto his bed with an undignified flailing of limbs as Sam gave him a furious shove. "I've had it with you!"

It had been said many a time that Dean Winchester simply did not know when to stop. It had gotten him into trouble on more occasions than he could count. It was as if his mouth sprinted on ahead, leaving his poor brain to stumble after, breathless and winded as it scrambled to perform damage limitation.

He pushed himself up off the bed, ignoring the pain in his side, anger now ignited and finding a plentiful supply of fuel in all of his pent up emotions. His hands began to ball into fists as he took a slow and controlled step forward, his eyes never leaving Sam's. "Well then why don't you just leave?" he gestured towards the door. "Nobody's stopping you! It's not like you even want to be here! Look, I'll even open the door for you, that's how much of a gentleman I am"

He should have expected the flash of pain and the explosion of white light behind his eyes as Sam's fist connected with his jaw. But somehow he hadn't.

He spun around with the force of the hit, falling forwards towards his bed but bouncing off the edge and rolling to the floor. Dazed, he could only stare impotently as Sam grabbed his jacked and threw it around his shoulders.

"Fine Dean. Have it your way" Sam ground out through clenched teeth, before flinging the door open and marching out.

Dean flinched as the door slammed shut, raising a hand gingerly to his already swelling lip and raising his eyebrows in mild surprise as his fingers came back red.

Dean felt his body sag as the anger rushed out of him like air escaping a balloon. Sammy packed one hell of a punch, but Dean was well aware that he had deserved it.

Please review, but be kind! I'd forgotten how scary this is!

Next chapter we'll hear from Sam.