SUMMARY: Hunting's a dirty job and it would be really easy to drown in the filth if Sam and Dean didn't have each other's back.

DISCLAIMER: Sadly, I don't own the characters in Supernatural, and couldn't afford them even if they were for sale. Thanks to Kripke & Co. for letting me play with their toys in their sandbox.

SPOILERS: Set late in Season Six but no spoilers for that season. References to Jump the Shark, Sex and Violence, Free to Be You and Me and Bloodlust.

RATING: PG-13 for some swearing, violence, adult theme. But there's schmoop, too.

A/N: Director Guy Bee (Asylum, Frontierland, Family Matters – and next week's Hello Cruel World) recently tweeted a pic of Jared after the Dallas Cowboys fell apart in their first game of the season. Let's just say JP wasn't happy. :-) And that got me thinking about how Jared, or more specifically Sam, would react if something really pissed him off – to the point he snapped. This fic is the result. Unbeta-ed so any mistakes are mine alone. Enjoy.


Demon blood and siren's venom notwithstanding, they rarely lost it. Not on the job.

In their world, it was just too damn dangerous to let fury blind them. Loss of control made them vulnerable because evil in all its forms was always right there, just waiting for the tiniest breach in their defenses, ever ready to snake through.

But the evil they feared most wasn't anything they could shoot or stab; it was that darkness within, that rage that when unleashed, threatened to consume them, twist their good intentions and turn them into something they despised.

"You listen to me, boy, you're a hunter, not killer," Bobby had told Dean once after a particularly brutal hunt.

Dean had snorted at that, before reaching for his whiskey. "Yeah, huge difference there."

"Damn straight there is," Bobby snapped, his hand grabbing Dean's glass before it reached his lips. "And don't you forget it. Cause the minute you do, that's when you're gone – to a place there ain't no coming back from." He let go of Dean's glass and refilled his own. "I know it's hard. You spend so much time in their world, surrounded by their filth, you start to think, 'How am I any different?' But as long as you're asking that question, you're never gonna be so far gone that one of us can't yank you back."

The brothers had tested that theory more times than either cared to admit. But each time one teetered on the brink, rage muddying instincts and threatening to pull them into that emotional abyss, the other would be there to reach out and pull them back. Sometimes that lifeline was physical – a warning hand squeezing a forearm or biceps, or a fist twisted in the fabric of a jacket; other times, it was a simple look or a single word.

It was those lifelines that kept them safe, kept them human.

Dean remembered barging into the Milligan house and seeing Sam tied down to the table, blood draining from long gashes in his arms into large basins on the floor. When his brother had rasped out, "Dean, they're ghouls," all his fears for Sam, all his fury, even the sick twisting in his gut had been channeled into doing his job. He'd taken out the female with a single head-shot, then gone to help Sam.

But then the male, the Adam doppelganger, had tackled him and he'd snapped. Blinding rage over what these monsters had done to Sam, over what they planned to do, fueled every punch. And when he slammed Faux-Adam to the floor and smashed his head with the metal lamp stand, again and again and again, that fury took over. He'd stopped only to catch his breath, ready to start again if the thing so much as twitched, when one of those lifelines from his brother pulled him back from the edge.


With it, the rage receded, allowing the instinctive need to protect Sam to take over. The ghoul was forgotten, his focus was on his brother and, emotionally, he was back on solid ground.

And so the pattern went, each monster they faced testing them, tempting them, trying to wrest away control and, in the process, pull them past the point of no return.

This time, it was Sam who needed a lifeline.


"Want another beer?"

Sam shook his head as he clicked open a different tab on his laptop. "Nah, I want to figure this out. I'm missing something, I know I am."

Dean closed Dad's journal and scrubbed a hand down his face. "Dude, we've been at it for more than three hours. I'm going cross-eyed." He glanced around the bar, a hole in the wall in Newark with the unlikely name of Calamity Jane's. It had filled up considerably since they'd walked through the grimy front doors late in the afternoon and parked themselves at a table by the fire escape, but it still had a ways to go before it was full. "Maybe a beer and a game of pool will clear our heads. What do you say? Then it's back to work."

Sam shot Dean a look. "You need a beer to clear your head?"

Dean frowned at the empty bottles that littered their table. "Yeah, you're right. I've had enough beer. I need whiskey."

Sam snorted and turned back to his computer. "If you want a drink, get one. Get me one, while you're at it, but I wanna stick with this." He sat back, pulled his phone from his pocket and clicked on the text they'd received two days earlier: Major demon block party midnight Friday. 223 Caither St., Newark. Need manpower. "What is it about this message that seems… off?"

Dean glanced at Sam's phone, then shoved his chair back, the wooden legs squeaking loudly on the concrete floor as he pushed it away from the table. "I'd say the fact it came from a John Doe-son is a big red flag. Someone's yanking our chain."

"But why?" Sam looked up at Dean. "We're not the only ones who got the text. Bobby knows at least seven hunters who received it. And, okay, the name attached to the phone is bogus, but ditto for every phone we own."

Dean glanced around the bar. "Yeah, but we don't send out anonymous calls for help. If we ask, everyone knows who's asking."

Sam exhaled loudly in frustration. "Okay, it's a trap – I get that. But who set it? FBI? Demons?"

"Take your pick. And if I knew that, we'd be on our way to that warehouse, ready to spring a little payback on the asshat who set us up." Dean shook his head. "But we're not setting a foot near that place 'til we know what we're walking into."

"I know but... I'm missing something." Sam stared at the text message for a long moment before clicking off his phone and shoving it back in his pocket. "It's like I'm looking right at the answer, but not seeing it."

"Dude, it's the same thing I told you when you were a kid and freaking out over exams. You get so wrapped up in things, you can't see the forest for the trees. Sometimes you gotta step back, get a little perspective." Dean clapped a hand on Sam's shoulder. "I'm gonna hit the head, then get us some drinks and book us table. If we don't come up with something inside of an hour, you're playing some pool. No arguments."

"Yes, sir."

Dean gave his brother a swat but both were grinning as he picked his way through the tables to the long bar that ran along the side of the building. The bartender, a fifty-something guy with his thinning gray hair pulled back into a ponytail, looked up as he approached.

"Two more?"

Dean shook his head. "Change of pace. Whiskey, neat."

The bartender grabbed a glass. "Johnny or Jack?"

"Johnny." Dean reached for his wallet, pulled out a few bills and slapped them on the bar. "Make it a double now, and I'll have two more to take back to the table. Oh, and set us up for a game of pool about an hour from now."

The bartender nodded. "Will do. Drinks coming right up."

Dean rested his forearms on the bar, one boot tapping the foot rail as he again surveyed Calamity Jane's clientele. It was a mix of the usual suspects – a healthy number of blue collar Joes meeting for a beer after work, a handful of bikers, a couple of underage kids who'd likely swiped their dad's or older brother's ID just to get served, and a few bottle-blonde women who looked like they'd raided their teenage daughters' closets for their night-out wardrobe. Hustling wasn't the name of the game tonight – he and Sam just needed the distraction – but if the opportunity presented itself, the blue collar dudes were the obvious choice. He wasn't hustling kids and bikers always spelled trouble any way you looked at it. Another hour and he'd bet more than a few guys would be drunk enough, and full of themselves enough, to be easy pickings.

He was turning back for his drink when something slammed into him from the right, only a frantic grab for the bar stopping him from faceplanting on the grungy floor. His head snapped around to see a ruddy-faced bald man, his beer gut straining the buttons of his plaid shirt and overflowing the waistband of his jeans, standing beside him and well inside his personal space.

He grabbed clumsily for Dean's arm. "Sorry, man. Sorry," he slurred. "Guess I had one too many." He snorted at his own joke. "No harm done, right?" He slapped Dean's arm twice, then stumbled off before Dean could answer one way or another.

Dean rolled his eyes at the bartender as he picked up his drink. "I'd say he hit one too many about two hours ago." As the barkeep nodded, Dean downed the whiskey. He pushed the glass back to the bartender and nodded. "Hold on to the other two. I'll be right back." He tossed a look at Sam, who was still hunched over his laptop, then headed for the men's room, which was down a hallway at the back. The restroom was empty, and he quickly took care of business.

The dizziness hit as he was wiping his hands dry. Dean blinked and shook his head to clear it, exhaling audibly as he looked at himself in the mirror. "You're getting old, dude," he told his reflection. "No way should a few beers and one whiskey hit you that fast." He grinned. "Still a handsome devil, though."

Dean knew something was up when he suddenly felt really warm and his legs turned to jelly, forcing him to grab the edge of the sink to stay standing. Then the lights above the mirror developed weird halos and each drip of the tap echoed throughout the bathroom. "Son of a bitch." He grimaced at the pasty taste in his mouth and the sudden, overwhelming need to sleep.

He'd been roofied.

Dean missed on his first attempt to grab the tap, but succeeded on the second, turning it on and quickly splashing cold water over his face. He soaked his t-shirt and jacket in the process and left the tap running as he turned to stumble to the door.

Flashes of his walk to the bar to order his drink tumbled through his head on fast forward. The fat dude who bumped into him had been the shill, distracting him while someone behind him drugged his drink. That had to be it. He could blame three hours of boring research and too many beers for dulling his instincts but it was still a rookie move to fall for it, and one he'd give himself an ass-kicking for when he sobered up. If Sam didn't kick his ass first.

Sam. Yeah. He had to get to Sam. Sam would get him to the car. He'd be safe there until the drug was out of his system. And Sam would be safe, too. Then they could both be pissed at him in the morning when his head was back on straight.

Dean reached for the doorknob and his knees buckled. "God damn it." He groaned at the concentration necessary to push himself back to his feet then, after counting to three, pulled open the door, let go and more or less fell into the hallway. He slammed into the opposite wall and slid down it, landing on his ass before it fully registered he was falling.

Suddenly there were three people – or was it six? – standing over him.

"S'okay, fellas. Don't mind me." Dean mumbled, struggling to stand up again. "Just heading…heading back to my table."

"I don't think so." One of the strangers crouched beside him, pushing him back down. "I think you're coming with us."

"Why the hell would I do that?" Dean's heart started racing as, for the first time, his muzzy brain wondered why anyone would slip him a mickey. He scanned the three men standing over him. All three were about his height but older, and dressed in jeans, flannel shirts and ballcaps. The guy off to his right was now guarding the entrance to the back hall, ready to block anyone who tried to enter, while the other two flanked him. Dean forced a grin at the man crouched at his side. "Sorry, dude. If you're looking for a date, there's a few too many Y chromosomes in this Pick'n'Mix for my taste."

"Oh, I dunno, Dean."

Dean grunted when the man grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head back.

"I think you're kinda pretty. Prettier than anything I hooked up with during my time in the joint. We just might have time for some fun before we hand you over."

The stranger's words twisted Dean's gut far more harshly than the drugs in his system. Beyond the obvious threat, the man had used his name. This was no random mugging. "Guess I should tell you, I have a type – and you ain't even in the same neighbourhood. So just get the fuck away from me before you really piss me off."

The crouching man chuckled. "They said you had attitude." He glanced over at the man beside him. "Let's get him outside. I'll call Reggie when we're clear. He'll signal Tim to round up the other one. He'll come without a fight once he knows we've got his brother."

The shock of what was happening, and knowing they were now dragging Sam into it, helped Dean fight the drug-induced sleepiness. His struggles intensified as they hauled him to his feet. "I said get the f-"

His loud protest was silenced when a large, meaty hand was pressed over his mouth. "You can shut up voluntarily," a voice hissed in his ear, "or we can shut you up. Now choose carefully, because I really don't think you'll like what's behind Door Number Two."

Dean forced a glare at his captor, but said nothing. He knew that in his current state, he couldn't fight them off, but he was done helping with his own kidnapping; he allowed himself to collapse, going totally limp in their hold.

The two men grunted as they suddenly had to support his entire weight. "Stand up."

Dean snorted weakly. "No can do, jackass. Maybe if you hadn't slipped me a mickey, I-" He grunted and retched when a fist plowed into his gut.

"Then shut the hell up," the ringleader snarled. "Gil, get the door open. We're teaching this little prick a lesson before we take off. Tim never said he had to be in one piece."


Sam yawned, sat back and massaged the stiff muscles in his neck. Maybe Dean was right; a quick game of pool might clear his head and help him see what was right under his nose. Failing that, a whiskey sounded really good right about now.

He glanced over his shoulder and frowned; there was no sign of Dean. Okay, he hadn't been gone that long, but something gnawing at Sam's gut said more than a line-up at the men's room was behind his brother's absence.

Sam started to get up but froze when he saw the bartender wiping down a table in front of the bar. He flashed back suddenly to doing the same job himself at the bar in Garber, Oklahoma, just before the hunters had dragged Lindsay in and threatened to kill her if he didn't chug the demon blood and hulk out on demand.

And that was it. The missing piece.

He grabbed his phone and scrolled back to the saved text message: Major demon block party midnight Friday. 223 Caither St., Newark. Need manpower.

Major demon block party was the phrase Tim had used in Garber to try to rope him back into hunting. It wasn't exactly definitive proof, but when combined with everything else, instinct told that's who'd set the trap. The last thing Tim had said in Garber was they weren't done with him. That had to be it.

His stomach lurched. If hunters were behind this, he knew they'd have the warehouse staked out, but what if they were scoping out hunters' hangouts, too? As much as they all excelled at living outside the law, they all had a pattern if you knew what to look for.

Sam scanned the bar again, suspicious now of every face that turned his way, but none were familiar. It wasn't like he expected Tim or Reggie to show up, reveal their hand so soon, but he suddenly felt claustrophobic and wanted nothing more than to find Dean and get the hell out of there.

He slammed shut his computer, shoved it and the journal in his satchel and moved quickly to the bar where the bartender was filling a pitcher of beer. "My brother – you see where he went?"

The bartender nodded. "Men's room – left corner, down the hall." He set two whiskies in front of Sam. "He paid for these. You taking'em?"

Sam couldn't shake the knot in his gut. "No. Here, mind watching this?" He handed over the computer bag.

The bartender frowned as he took it. "Expecting trouble?"

Sam swallowed. "Not sure." He turned quickly.

"Hey." The bartender waited 'til Sam looked back. "I saw three guys head back there shortly after your brother. They ain't come out either. You want the cops or you want back-up? I got two bouncers who-"

"No." Sam's heart was racing now as he spun toward the back of the bar. "I'll take care of it."

"Whatever this is," the bartender called after him, "you take it outside."

That earned Sam a few curious looks as he barreled through the bar.

Three men. The bartender said three men had gone down the restroom hallway shortly after Dean. He'd put his money on his brother in any one-on-one fight, but three-against-one? He didn't like those odds.

Pulling his gun from the waistband of his jeans once he was out of eyeshot of the bar patrons, he kept it behind his back as he kicked open the door to the men's room. He startled the hell out of the one guy at the urinals but there was no sign of Dean. He thought about checking the ladies room but quickly decided the door at the end of the hall marked Exit was the more likely choice.

He pushed open the door and listened, his gut twisting as he honed in on the sound of a fight in progress. He moved silently through the door and down the alley to where it turned a corner, praying that Dean was throwing the punches, not receiving them, as the sounds of the fight got louder.

But Winchester luck didn't work that way. As he reached the corner and peered around it, Sam saw two men holding Dean, pinning his arms behind his back, while a third used him as a punching bag. Dean's knees had buckled and his head snapped from side to side with each blow.

When Dean's head fell forward in the wake of the latest hit, his attacker smiled. "Get him up against the wall." When they slammed him into the bricks, he reached for Dean's waist and began unbuckling his belt.

"Get. Your Hands. Off him. Now." Sam couldn't stop his voice from shaking with rage as he stalked towards them, but his hands were steady around his raised gun.

The three men looked up in surprise. Sam had no doubt they were all armed but they'd been too focused on beating the crap out of his brother to think about drawing their weapons. "Let him go, then back away. And keep your hands where I can see'em."

None of them moved until the man who'd been throwing punches turned toward Sam, hands raised, his cold smile still in place. "Three-against-one, kid. You really think you can take all of us."

Sam shifted his stance and fired, hitting one of the men still holding Dean in the leg and stopping him from reaching for something metallic under his jacket, something Sam was pretty damn sure was a knife. Long before the man hit the ground, his scream of pain filling the alley, Sam's focus – and aim – was back on the ringleader. "Now it's two-against-one." He shot a look at the other man who was struggling to keep Dean upright. "Wanna see me improve the odds even more?"

The fight seemed to go out of him as he watched his colleague writhing in pain on the ground. He dropped his captive, raised his hands and stepped back.

Dean collapsed to his knees then toppled forward, a low grunt the only sound he made as he hit the ground. He didn't move, but his eyes slid open and he groaned – and those small reassurances were the only things that stopped Sam from emptying his clip into the two men still standing.

"Back away." Sam motioned with his gun to the injured man on the ground. "And take that piece of crap with you."

He held his ground while the two men hauled their colleague away from Dean and to the far side of the alley. Sam quickly sidestepped toward Dean, his gaze locked on his brother's attackers. "Dean? Talk to me, man. How bad is it?"

Dean's only response was another groan.

The ringleader chuckled as he watched. "You know, I'm really curious to see how you're gonna Houdini your way out of this. Your brother there's not walking out under his own steam, and to help him, you gotta take your eyes, and that gun, off us." He laughed again. "What to do, what to do…"

"I could just shoot you both." The anger-fueled tremors ripping through Sam were getting harder to control. "That would solve my problem real quick, wouldn't it?"

"It would." The man took a step toward Sam. "Problem is, I don't think a boy scout like you has the balls to cap us, all cold-blooded like. Look – no black eyes… no fangs… I'm just human, which would make you nothing but a killer."

Black eyes. Fangs. These men were hunters. "Never said anything about shooting to kill. I just-"

He grunted as something hard poked him between the shoulder blades, something that felt an awful lot like the barrel of a gun. That guess was confirmed by the wheezy voice that followed.

"Tide's turned, boy. Put the gun down – now!"

Sam swallowed but complied, kicking himself mentally for not hearing the man sneak up behind him. He slowly crouched down and placed his gun on the ground, before standing up again.

The ringleader lowered his hands. "You took your sweet, fucking time, Henry. Where the hell were you?"

"Sorry, Frank." Henry sounded out of breath. "We mickeyed that one over there no problem, but I had a tough time getting through to Reggie about this one."

Sam stomach lurched again. They'd slipped Dean a mickey; that explained how they'd managed to get the jump on his brother. And his instincts had been right – Reggie was behind this whole mess. But there was no satisfaction in being right, not with a gun jammed into his back and Dean barely conscious. Sam's gaze shifted to his right where a reflection in a barred window on the far side of the alley revealed the man behind him holding the gun. He was short, bald and red-faced, his beer gut overflowing his jeans underneath a size-too-small plaid shirt. He was clearly nervous; he let go of the shotgun with one hand to drag his wrist over his forehead, wiping away sweat, before quickly grabbing it again.

"He, um…" Henry nodded at Dean. "Reggie, I mean, said don't hurt that one. At least not visibly – not until this one," he poked Sam in the back, "agrees to his terms."

"You're a little fucking late with those instructions," Frank spat, wiping his hands as he walked towards Dean. "Guess it don't make a helluva lot of difference though since we have'em both." He smiled coldly at Sam as he used his foot to roll Dean onto his back. "So why don't we let little brother here watch while we finish what we started."

With that nauseating threat, Sam snapped.

He spun around and grabbed the shotgun so fast, Henry never had a chance to let go. Sam's hand closed over Henry's as he used the smaller man's fingers to pull the trigger. The shot hit Frank's lieutenant in the upper chest and shoulder, knocking him to the ground and out of play.

Shock made Henry's reactions sluggish and Sam easily yanked the shotgun from his grasp, driving the stock into his forehead and knocking him cold. But as he snapped his head around, it was to see Frank pointing a Glock at him.

"Ah-ah-ah, let's put that down. My deal says I have to deliver you breathing – don't mean you can't have an extra hole or two." His face twisted smugly as he stepped forward, so sure he finally had the upper hand that he didn't see the hand that Dean lifted to grab his ankle, causing him to stumble.

It was all the distraction Sam needed. He still had hold of the shotgun by the barrel, so he swung it like a baseball bat, smashing the stock into Frank's hand and sending the Glock flying across the alley."

Frank bit back a yell but he was still standing. He glared at Sam, cradling his hand against his chest. "What now, hero? Gonna shoot an unarmed man. Cops'll love that."

"Why waste a good bullet?" Sam dropped the shotgun and launched himself at Frank. All ambient sound disappeared; there was no traffic noise, no leaking music from the bar, no honking horns or shouting from the street beyond the alley. There was just the sound of fists hitting flesh – over and over and over. Sam was oblivious to the pain that accompanied each punch he threw, each punch of Frank's that slipped through his defences and connected with his cheek or chest. He just kept throwing them, long after Frank was on the ground, long after the counterpunches stopped. He kept throwing them until a single word broke through the vacuum of his fury.


He froze, his left fist wrapped in Frank's shirt, his right raised by his ear, coiled and ready to explode as another blow to the man's face. He turned his head and saw Dean's battered face staring up at him, his left eye swollen shut, his right eye not far behind, his nose broken and bleeding, his lip split.

He gaze dropped to the man he knelt over, the fury inside him quickly threatening to consume him again because he didn't see the man he'd battered into unconsciousness – he saw the man who'd beaten his brother, the man who was reaching for Dean's belt, threatening to-"


His attention snapped back to Dean. Behind all the bruising, all the blood was a look that simply said Enough. It was the lifeline Sam needed. The fury dissipated, his coiled fist relaxed and sounds of the city again filled his head.

He opened his left hand and Frank fell from his hold as he pushed himself up and moved quickly to Dean's side. "Hey. Don't move, okay. Not 'til I check you out." His voice was shaking in earnest now. "You're gonna be okay. You're gonna be okay."

Dean was blinking slowly as Sam ran his hands over his arms, legs and torso. "They drugged me, Sammy."

"I know." Sam kept working. "That's the only way they'd get the jump on you, right?"

Dean's weak snort fueled a coughing fit that left him curled on his side, his face screwed up in pain.

"Dean! Stay with me." Sam had Dean's face in his hands now. "Do you know what they gave you? What drug was it?"

Dean forced his eyes open to look up at Sam "No…no."

"Son of a bitch." Sam glared at the four bodies littering the alley, two not moving, two groaning softly. He slid one hand down to Dean's arm and wrapped it around his biceps, squeezing lightly. "Don't worry. We'll get you to the ER. They'll figure out what it is. Make sure-"

"No." Somehow, almost unconscious, Dean managed a glare. "M'okay. Just wanna go home."

"Home? You need a hospital, not a crappy motel. You nee-"

"No." Dean flailed a bit as he reached for Sam's jacket to pull him closer. "Home. You… you fix this."

Sam glared again at Dean's four attackers. Shots had been fired, cops were likely on their way and from what Henry had said, Tim and Reggie were somewhere close by. He didn't have time to argue with Dean; he just needed to get them both out of there. "Fine." Sam slid his arm under Dean's back to help him up. "Lean on me. I'll take you home."


Dean woke up to the smell of strong coffee and the sound of computer keys clacking. He smiled sleepily, rolled toward them and started to push himself up – only to freeze in place, the smile turning into a grimace, when stabbing pain through his torso stole his breath.

"Hey, whoa." The computer keys fell silent and the bed dipped beside him as hands gripped his arms and gently pushed him onto his back. "Easy, easy…try not to move too much. Pretty sure your busted ribs will complain if you do."

When the pain dulled, Dean peeled open his eyes and blinked against the blurry vision that filled them. "Pretty sure you're my brother but you're kinda fuzzy."

Sam's voice softened. "One eye's swollen shut, the other's not much better. Probably be a day or two before you're seeing straight – unless Cas drops by, but he's MIA right now."

Dean cleared his throat. "Wanna sit up."

"Okay, let me do the work."

Dean smacked Sam's arm grumpily. "Dude, I'm not a kid." He pushed himself up, then collapsed back onto the pillows with an agonized yell when sharp pain ripped through him again. "Oh, son of a bitch."

"Breathe through it, breathe through it." Sam had one hand on Dean's back, the other wrapped around his biceps. He stayed there, steadying his brother, until Dean's breathing levelled out. "Better?"

Dean nodded.

"Now will you let me help?"

Dean glared up at Sam. "You may be out of focus but I know that's a bitchface."

Sam snorted. "You know the drill. Wrap your arms around you chest and exhale. On three…one…two…three." He gently pulled Dean up, retaining his hold until he'd stacked enough pillows behind his brother to support him, then gently eased him back. "Okay. You good?"

"Close enough."

"Want something to drink."

Dean nodded. "Coffee – biggest cup we've got."


Dean's eyes snapped open to glare at Sam. "Sammy, don't be a bitch. I'm in pain here. I want some Joe."

"No. I got you some pretty heavy-duty painkillers, but they don't play well with caffeine." Sam pressed the pills into Dean's hand. "Right now, I think you need these more."

Dean stared at the pills. "Speaking of not playing nice, how're these gonna mix with whatever was in that mickey?"

"That drug's out of your system." Sam shrugged at Dean's puzzled look. "Dean, you've been out for two days." He checked the calendar on his watch. "Damn near three."


"Yeah." Sam sat down on the edge of his bed, opposite Dean. "You were attacked Wednesday night. It's lunch time Saturday."

"Son of a bitch." Dean tossed back the pills, chasing them with a long drink of water. "I remember the bar, remember realizing I'd been roofied…gets about as fuzzy as my vision after that."

Sam shifted uncomfortably. "Three guys tried to grab you. Four if you count the one that snuck up on me when I was trying to get you back."

"Grab-" Dean scowled. "They trying to roll me?"

Sam shook his head. "They were hunters – working for Tim and Reggie."

"Tim and…" Dean's scowl deepened as he tried to place the names. "Wait, they're the-"

"Yeah." Sam swallowed. "The hunters from Garber."

The plastic of Dean's water bottle crackled as, subconsciously, he tightened his grip. "They were after you again?"

"Makes sense. They said they'd be back." Sam stared at the floor. "And that phrase used in the text we got – major demon block party – Tim used that in Garber. I did some digging while you were out and it looks like all those other hunters who got the text are friends of theirs, called in to help grab me and corral you as insurance. Some were watching the warehouse, others were checking out bars, diners, motels where hunters hang out. That's how they found us."

"And when we slipped their noose, what'd they do?"

Sam shrugged. "Regrouped, I guess. I'm sure they'll try again, but I covered our tracks pretty well so it'll take'em a while."

"So what'd they want?" Dean's eyes flashed angrily. "You to hulk out on demand?"

Sam shook his head. "I guess. Or maybe they just wanted to take me out – take us both out. I wasn't sticking around to find out. I got you back to the car, grabbed our stuff and got us over the stateline before stopping."

Dean nodded slowly, then glanced around. "Kinda surprised to wake up in our dump-of-the-week. With me out cold, I couldn't fight you on a hospital which is always your first choice when I'm messed up like this. Why no whitecoats and hot nurses?"

Sam's jaw clenched. "I didn't want you anywhere Tim and Reggie could track you. So Bobby knew a guy who knew a guy who knows this state's version of Dr. Robert. He came by, checked you out and took a sample of blood to ID the drug. Once he did, told me there'd be no lasting damage and it would flush quickly, I moved us again. No one knows we're here so we're good."

"Damn, Sammy." Dean shook his head. "I've got nothing – on any of that."

"Not surprised." Sam shrugged. "You were in and out for most of it – mostly out." He swallowed as he looked directly at Dean. "I'm sorry."

Dean scowled at the apology. "What the hell for? From what you just said, you saved my ass."

Guilt was written all over Sam's face. "It wouldn't need saving if they weren't after me."

"Oh, come on." Dean shifted again, his arm snaking suddenly across his ribs to brace against the pain as bone grated on bone. "Don't be a drama queen."

"Drama-" Sam was on his feet, eyes flashing. "They drugged you. They beat the crap out of you. When I got there, they…" Sam looked like he was going to throw up. "Frank was taking your belt off, Dean."

Now Dean felt sick. "But… but you stopped'em, right?" He forced a smile. "Rode up on your white horse and-"

"Don't." Sam shook his head. "Don't turn me into some kind of hero over this. It was me they were after-"

"This time." Dean's voice was low and he waited until Sam met his gaze before continuing. "Damn it, Sammy. If we're gonna play Mine's Bigger Than Yours over lists of enemies, we're gonna be here a while. Why the hell do we tag team, huh? So we've got back-up when one of is the target du jour. Today, or whatever day it was, was just your turn. End of story."

Sam snorted at that. "So if it's my turn, how come you're the one beaten to bloody pulp?"

Dean scrubbed a hand down his face, wincing as it brushed against his broken nose. "'Cause I let my guard down and let myself get roofied. That's on me. You can kick my ass for it later when I feel better. I'm not gonna kick yours because you're doing a better job of beating yourself up than I ever could."

Sam said nothing for a moment, then sank back down onto his bed. "This job…the way it gets into your head…" He swallowed. "When I saw what Frank did to you, what he wanted to do... it was like some switch flipped and all I could think about was stopping him. I…I could've killed him. Almost did."

"But you didn't, did you?"

Sam slowly shook his head.

"Dude, come on. It's no secret how hunting rips you up inside." Dean took a quick drink of water. "After Dad died, you know what I was like. When I took that one vamp's head off with the logging saw? I felt squat. Should've made me lose my lunch, right there and then, but it didn't hit me 'til days later, 'til you insisted we help Lenore. Whatever dark place I was in, you pulled me back."

"And then you wanted me to deck you." Sam almost smiled. "Nice coping skills."

Dean snorted. "Look, all I'm saying is what we do is always gonna mess with our heads, there's always gonna be a reservation at the looney bin with our names on it. We've just gotta make sure that when one's in trouble-"

"The other's there to pull him out." Sam kneaded the muscles at the back of his neck. "And pray we don't go over the edge at the same time."

"Amen to that." Dean raised his bottle of water in a mock toast.

Sam nodded. "Thanks." He smiled at Dean's puzzled look. "For throwing me a lifeline this time."

"Welcome." Dean grinned. "Wish I could remember what I did, but you're welcome. Now do we have anything to eat. I'm starving."

Sam shook his head, and glanced over at the cooler. "There's fruit, yogurt, muffins…" He snorted at Dean's look of disgust. "Or, I can run across the street to the diner and get you something hot and not so good for you."

"Now you're talking." Dean pulled a face. "Funny how that could describe most of the women I've hooked with as well as diner food."

Sam grinned as he grabbed his wallet from the nightstand and shoved it in his jeans pocket as he stood up. "You need anything before I leave?"

Dean shook his head.

"Be back in fifteen." Sam headed for the door. He hesitated as he passed their duffels, then bent down and pulled Dean's Colt from his bag. Turning back, he slid it under the pillows on Dean's right. At Dean's raised eyebrow, he shrugged. "Can't be too careful, right? Just in case. Just don't shoot me."

Dean smiled as Sam turned again toward the door and disappeared through it. "That's what I'm talking about, Sammy. Lifelines."


A/N: I can't link pix here, but if you want to see the pic of JP that inspired this fic, go to: http (colon)/campl(dot)us/eNYw - Don't think I'd ever want Jared mad at me! *g* If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. Until next time, cheers.