A/N: So, after that scene in the warehouse, Sam kept poking me. Sometimes when watching the show I get these scenes in my head and they won't go away. I ignore them and Sam or Dean say "Um, Muffy, about that scene, don't you think it needed something?" And inevitably they are right. For me, I guess, I thought there was a little more between the moment Lucifer disappeared in the warehouse and the moment in the Impala. Because it seemed there was more than just Lucifer to deal with. And in the end, I thought it needed something a little "Winchestery I've got your back, you've got mine." I mean, I wanted it to be the trust they have for each other in the end... Okay, I'll shut up and let you read... Oh, one more thing—this one is a little dark.

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR 7.02 Hello, Cruel World

My Left Hand

The warehouse stinks.

I'm not really sure how I didn't notice that when we arrived. The rush of air when Dean opened the door was that of an office building, that mixture of air conditioning, hot paper, body odor and perfume. They all smell that way, and that was what assailed my senses when I walked through—until the curtain was stripped away and I was standing with Lucifer in a stinking warehouse. Or was I?

Reality has been a little skewed lately. Scratch that, a lot lately.

The memories of Hell were—well are actually—bad enough. Thanks to that part of me that remembers the party in the cage, it's like a tooth with a deep cavity, always aching and every once in a while I accidentally do something to set off the real pain. The agonizing, horrific, can't really even express it pain. Dean once said that it was something the human body couldn't vocalize. Until you've been to Hell, you can't even begin to describe it, despite what so many people seem to think.

Lucky us, we've both been there.

Fire is licking up the walls of the warehouse, adding to the stench. Burning waste, human and other, metal bending in the heat. The slow drip of what's left of fellow souls rains down like an angry storm, the droplets falling on my coat, covering it in a combination of black and red. Staring at it, I watch one particularly large drop run along my arm, slowly tracing a pattern along the folds of fabric. I wonder who it was, what their sin was that they are being slowly roasted alive in this stinking place.

Pain suddenly flares in my left hand. I wrench my eyes away from the drop and focus on my hand, the thumb pressed deep into the wound, and up into a concerned pair of eyes. "You with me?" Dean asks, his voice harsh with worry. Other people might read it as anger, but I know him too well. He's in a place beyond worried, beyond scared.

"Yeah," I answer, nodding as well. I savor the pain. He was so right when he said it was different. So right when he brought me back to myself and saved me from Lucifer—again. And actually, judging by the thumb planted firmly in my hand, again.

"We need to go." Dean pulls his hand away and rubs the blood—my blood—off on his pant leg. He's not really thinking about it, I can tell, he's focused on me. That's why I didn't want to tell him about all this. He has so much on his plate, and I really wanted him to think, at least for a little while, that I was if not okay, functioning.

I nod again. I am functioning, I think. We start across the warehouse, heading towards the door that had led into an office building that became a warehouse. A sound to my left makes me stop. I try not to let my breath speed up in fear, but it does. I thought when Lucifer disappeared, all of this was gone. A claw scrapes along the concrete floor. Swallowing, I refuse to turn, instead I focus on Dean and keep walking. The door is still about fifty feet away, and moving. Farther and farther, out and away. The scraping is right beside me now. I will not look. I will not look. A huge hand, claws extended, reaches up and tears into me, the other ripping Dean apart in a single blow.

Pain in my hand. Dean's hand, his thumb digging in again. "Hey." He's there, whole, not dead, his spine still intact, not torn out in front of me.

"I'm here," I say, noting the strange tone in my voice. He hears it as well. My brother knows me too well. How the hell did I manage to hide it all from him as long as I did?

We set out again. The door is closer, the moment it starts to move away, the moment I hear something that sounds out of the ordinary, I brace myself. I am so caught between worlds. I want to believe Dean, I want to believe that I am here, in the world, cold harsh, stinking, but not Hell. It's not that I don't trust him, the rational me does. The problem is poor Sammy-from-Hell, he is there, whispering in my head, and he is broken beyond belief. Sometimes I'm a little surprised I can even walk with him inside me, talking to me, reminding me.

Then there is the other guy, that soulless Sam, because his voice is in here now too. In some ways he's worse than the other. His solution to the problem is a bullet. Well, several actually. One for Bobby, one for Dean and one for me. Solve the problem. "And you don't think that would be the best solution?" he says from beside me. I refuse to look at him. Talking to yourself is crazy, and this is a whole other level. "No more pain, no more Lucifer, just silence."

"Sammy," Dean's whisper is so harsh it sounds like it is forced out of him.

I look up at him, he has his hand up. The fear that had been there moments before has altered, it's no longer hidden behind the concerned worry, it's full-blown terror. I wonder why, then I feel it. I have the gun again, and this time it's not aimed at him. I can taste the metal.

"No more pain," Sam-without-a-soul says, his voice taking on a tone like Lucifer. Sliding my eyes to the right, I see myself replaced by Lucifer, the warehouse replaced by the walls of Hell. The cool stinking draft in the building becomes heat boiling the flesh from my body. "Just silence." The hammer goes back, it's like watching a movie almost. My eyes drift back to Dean. What's real?

"Not him, he's not real," the thing beside me says. "Hell, Hell is real. But you could have silence. You can end the pain."

Following my brother's lead, trusting him, I'd driven my own fingers into my hand to drive away Lucifer. Dean had done it to bring me back to him. The flesh is burning off my body, a chain wrapping around my neck. The gun clanks against my teeth. Is that real?

"Sammy," Dean pleads.

"Sammy," the other one laughs, goading me on.

This is it.

I thought it was earlier, when Lucifer left, but escaping Hell won't be that easy. I should have guessed. It's going to be every day, the choice will be every second of every day. The Sammy-from-Hell is a part of me, whether this is Hell or I am in the world, he is with me and those memories are part of me forever. What he—we—saw is etched onto my heart. What I—the me without a soul—may have done, I have to live with that every day. Forever. What if this is Hell? The hand holding the gun is shaking, clattering against my teeth. Every day, every single day facing this, or something like it. Every day. Will it get better? I don't know. Will I ever find a balance?

"Hell, every day. Every single day, no escape for you ever," the cruel voice whispers in my ear.

My reality, forever.

I have a choice to make. Silence or this. And I make it.

I hold my left hand out to my brother, it's shaking, the bandage bloody. Dean looks at me, that horrific fear in his eyes, and I see the moment he realizes what I am asking. He leaps forward, faster than I could have pulled the trigger and drives his thumb deep into my hand. The pain is excruciating. I drop the gun and it clatters to the floor, the sound echoing in the warehouse.

Dean keeps his thumb in my hand and pulls me into a rough hug. One-armed, tight. "You made the right choice, Sammy."

"I know, Dean," I whisper, leaning against him for an instant. What those voices, Lucifer, Hell forgets is here wherever I am, Hell or not—this reality—I have someone at my back here. Taking a deep breath, I stand, Dean gives my hand a gentle squeeze and pulls back. My palm still aching. It's weird, there is a phantom pain there, like Dean's hand is still there, anchoring me to reality, keeping me here, the way he has for my whole life. Dean meets my eyes, checking me over, physically and mentally. I nod and follow him out of the stinking warehouse towards the Impala. A soft scrape comes from behind me. I ignore it.

We've both been to Hell.

We're both out.

And I'm going to hold onto that, and when the wall starts to slip? I have that phantom pressure in my left hand to hold me here.