Greetings everyone! I have not had a great deal of time for stories as this MRes course is a BEAST, but in the minutes I have before/in between lectures and late at night I have been scribbling down this story. When I finally finished it, I decided to use one of my "chill nights" to type it up and post it on here! Now, to warn you - I have not actually seen season 6 or the start of season 7, so my knowledge of what has happened comes from youtube clips, other fan fics and spoilers on . Thus, any errors from the original storyline are from my lack of viewing :P Also, when I wrote this, season 7 had not yet started so obviously I had no clue about the Levethians or whatever, so I kinda ignored what Cas might have been up to... :/
Anyhoo, it is mainly set after the season 6 finale, with a mention of the end of 6.13/start of 6.14. As those of you who have read any of my previous stories will know, I have a terrible obsession with Sam whumpage... so you can probably guess where this is going :P I hope you all enjoy some brotherly schmoop xD
For those who gave suggestions to other stories I could do, I haven't forgotten you - I am just struggling to write something that feels write. So far, my attempts have been shameful and I had to ditch them. Plus, with all this work, I'm struggling for time :/ but I will persevere!
I have completely forgotten to add a disclaimer to my previous stories, so I'll just add one: All characters are not owned by moi, and any concepts that have relations to the show are obviously not thought up by me, blah blah, I think everyone knows I am not claiming Supernatural to be mine. I would love it to be, especially the boys, but that is not the case :(
"All I'm saying is, everything's gonna be Ok," Dean comforted, although not truly believing it.
"I don't know Dean," Sam mumbled. "If I did this here then who knows how many other…"
THUD. Dean jerked around to where his brother once stood, to find that Sam was gone. He was momentarily bewildered by the disappearance, until a shuffling noise drew Dean's eyes to the floor. There he spotted a pair of long, gangly legs poking out from behind the bed.
"Sammy?" Dean questioned, trying to find out what was wrong with Sam. "Sammy!" he yelled when no response came and rushed to Sam's side. His little brother was sprawled across the motel floor, eyes wide and terrified. His back was arched off the ground, limbs shaking violently. Dean didn't need to be a doctor to determine that Sam was suffering from some form of seizure. Sam struggled to breathe, clenching his fists until his knuckles turned white, as though he was clutching the air in a desperate attempt to inhale.
"Sammy, talk to me!" Dean didn't expect much, but he had to try. The only seizures Sam ever had were during his demon blood withdrawal, but this was different. He wasn't being thrown into the air and slammed against the motel walls – in fact, he had none of the other symptoms of withdrawal. Dean wracked his brain, thinking of any medical conditions that could lead to fits. Epilepsy was the first to spring to mind, but Sam was not a sufferer. Sure, it can develop later in life, but to Dean it seemed far too spontaneous. Maybe his body changed during his trip downstairs, Dean thought – and that's when it hit him. Hell. Death's wall was failing – Sam was having a full-blown Hell seizure. Dean himself had suffered from many nightmares after his own time down south, but he never had a seizure. But it all made sense. By now, Sam's fit had ended and he had fallen unconscious. Dean didn't know what to do. Castiel's warnings played through his mind, and he feared the worst. He placed a gentle hand on Sam's shoulders and started shaking him, calling his name. He then grabbed his coat and shook harder – still no response. By now, Dean was close to losing it.
"S-S-Sam?" he stammered, on the verge of tears. He shakily checked for a pulse on Sam's throat, and sighed with relief when he felt the soft beating through the skin. With his other hand, he lovingly stroked his brother's hair, hoping the familiar gesture from their childhood would wake him.
"Come on, dammit!" Dean begged. He thought that Sam would have been strong enough to overcome anything, but he feared he would now be left with a permanently comatose Sam. He pleaded with his fallen sibling to wake, silently praying – yes, PRAYING – to anyone who would listen. At last, as though someone had heard his prayers, Sam opened his eyes. The hazel orbs were glazed an unfocused, and he gasped for air, as though he hadn't breathed in years.
"Hey! Hey, Sam! You with me?" Sam's eyes darted around in their sockets as he searched the room, frantically trying to gauge whether or not the things he now saw were real. His gaze soon landed on his highly concerned brother, who was hovering above him. Sam was beyond scared and he automatically stretched his arm out to cling to Dean, seeking protection. However, he quickly drew his arm back, a little embarrassed at his childish gesture. The look on Dean's face suggested that he would have gladly given Sam the much desired chick-flick moment, but Sam didn't want to cause Dean more worry by depending on big brother's help. So instead, he just nodded, panting as air slowly filled his lungs.
"Come on, I'm getting you out of here!" Dean yanked a clearly agonized Sam off the ground and dragged him to the car, only returning briefly to grab their belongings.
That was a few months ago, when Sam had merely scratched the wall. Now, a deranged angel with a God complex that they had once considered a friend – even family – had destroyed the wall completely. At first, Sam had missed the seizure phase and fallen straight into a Hell-filled coma, not waking for several hours. When he did, his first instinct had been to save Dean and Bobby, but Castiel was now indestructible. The three hunters barely escaped that night and all were too concerned about what their newest foe would do next. Sam had tried to help the other two with research, but he would often need to lie down as another painful Hell memory resurfaced. Each time, Dean would sit with him as he cradled his aching head in his hands and attempted to break free of his vision. He mostly managed to keep himself grounded, thanks to constant reassurances and words of encouragement from Dean. Bobby tried to help, but Dean seemed to be the only one to get through to him when he was lost in his troubled mind. After each episode, Sam refused to talk about what he saw, claiming that saving Castiel from the purgatorial possession was their main priority. The real reason, however, was that Sam could see how upset Dean was and felt that telling Dean would make things worse. Recent events had caused Dean to relive his own time in the pit, and the guilt was eating at Sam constantly. He sacrificed himself that day at Stull Cemetery so that Dean could live a normal, content life, to forget about past traumas – well, and to save the world. He wanted Dean to have the ideal family life with a wife and kids – a life he had once dreamed of – not a life stuck with a broken younger brother who couldn't control his own mind. It made Sam feel weak – Dean never collapsed or seized whenever he thought of Hell. Sam may have been trapped in the Cage with two furious arch angels (one being the Devil himself) for 200 years more than Dean had been trapped in Hell, but he was still brutally tortured. So Sam wouldn't talk – he needed to be as strong as Dean. His idol; his only true family.
Dean was a total loss as to what to do. His brother was reliving Hell several times a day and all he could do was watch his inner turmoil. Sam wasn't coping, that was obvious, but the stubborn man refused to let Dean help. He might have been offended, had he not known his brother so well – he knew that Sam wasn't talking because he felt guilty. Guilty for what he had done in the soulless year; guilty that Dean was no longer living the apple pie life with Lisa and Ben; guilty that Dean was getting Hell nightmares again; guilty that his lapses in sanity and consciousness were slowing their hunt for Castiel; guilty for every damn thing that even went wrong in their lives. And that made Dean feel worse – his little brother, whom he had sworn to protect, was suffering alone because of him. Dean had to get through to him. Sure, Dean hadn't exactly shared his feelings with Sam when he returned from the pit, but Sam had suffered so much more and it was killing him. Dean didn't care if he was a hypocrite, he would not lose his brother again, especially if he could help him through his pain.
Almost three weeks had passed since Castiel had gone on his supposed revenge mission and they were no closer to tracking him down. Dean woke up at around 11.30 that morning, and for the first time in several weeks he had a decent night's sleep. He felt refreshed and hadn't been plagued by nightmares. He glanced over to the bed at the other side of the room that he shared with his brother in Bobby's house, unsurprised to find that it was empty. Sam had a tendency to wake up before dawn, thanks to his nightmares, and give up the prospect of sleep in favour of doing research in Bobby's study. He barely managed two or three hours of sleep a night and fatigue had set in. During the day he would doze on the sofa or in an arm chair, even at the dinner table. The naps never lasted long, typically interrupted by Hell memories.
Dean abandoned the comfort of his bed and took a shower, dreading another day watching his brother wavering at breaking point. He washed for about an hour, then finally Dean made his way downstairs. He was instantly hit by the smell of Bobby's cooking when he reached the bottom of the stairs.
"Morning Bobby! Man, that smells AWESOME!" Dean entered the kitchen and approached Bobby at the stove.
"Technically it's the afternoon," Bobby grumbled. "You don't think you're getting any of this, do you boy?"
Dean attempted the puppy eyes at Bobby. "But… But… surely you can't manage all of that by yourself? That fry-up would feed at least four!"
"I'm hungry. Honestly Dean, I invite you into my home, free of charge I might add, and you still expect me to cook for you?" Bobby teased. "Fine, you can have some this time. Go get that brother of yours while I finish up here; kid really needs to eat something."
Dean nodded, the good humour quickly dissipating. He left the older man cooking brunch and made his way to the study where Sam, as usual, was on his laptop, trying to find strange occurrences state-wide that could indicate where their psychotic friend could be.
"Morning Sammy! Bobby's cooking an incredible meal! There's bacon, eggs, sausages, pancakes – even fruit for your pansy ass!" Dean gave Sam a friendly punch on the arm.
"S'okay, m'not hungry." Exactly the answer that Dean expected. Under different circumstances, Dean would have given him a speech about his health and how he'll never be a good hunter acting like that – making sure he threw in a humorous jibe and a brotherly arm pat so that Sam knew he was just worried and not mad. Now, he had to be cautious with how he approached his fragile sibling.
"Really? I'm ravenous! You should try something though, Bobby put a lot of effort into the meal. Just humour him, I can't handle his whining, ha!" Dean giggled at his own joke.
Sam smiled. "All right, if it will keep Bobby happy. I have to admit, his whining irritates me too."
That made Dean laugh harder, mostly from joy that his frankly pathetic ploy to get Sam eating had worked – plus, getting Sam to join in with insulting Bobby, like they used to, was an added bonus.
"Thank you Sam, you saved me!" That even made Sam laugh. Dean smiled at his little victory.
"So, while we wait, tell me – you find out anything?"
Sam sighed loudly. "Who knows? We don't know what Castiel is capable of now. Any strange events and deaths could be his responsibility. It's like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. I'm getting square eyes from looking at this damn computer for over eight hours."
"Jesus Sam, d'you get any sleep last night?" Sam shook his head. "Well you should have woken me up earlier, I could've helped you out."
Sam shrugged sheepishly. "I figured if at least one of us could get some sleep it would be a good thing. And you looked… peaceful…" Sam blushed, expecting an insult relating to his gender or sexuality.
Dean wasn't sure how to respond. Usually he would call Sam a girl, but recently, Dean didn't have the heart to insult him.
"Oh… uh… thanks. It was a calm night, no freaky dreams." Dean hoped that opening up a little may convince Sam to do the same.
Sam just smiled sadly. "Glad to hear it, you could use a break."
Dean was about to point out that Sam was the one who needed a break more than him, but he was interrupted by Bobby calling them through to eat.
Dean and Bobby ended up eating most of the food, with Sam merely picking at a pancake and a few berries – but at least he ate something. Sam offered to clear the dishes, but Bobby insisted that he took a nap in the living room, as he looked lie "death warmed up." Reluctantly, Sam agreed and Dean decided to sit with him while doing research – Dean's way of keeping an eye on his brother.
Sam was sprawled across Bobby's too small sofa, using Dean's leather jacket as a pillow (Bobby didn't bother with cushions on his furniture). His eyes were closed and he controlled his breathing to an even pace, hoping to convince Dean that he was asleep. He was exhausted, but he knew that as soon as he fell asleep, Hell would make an appearance.
"Sam, get some sleep." Of course Dean knew Sam was faking it.
"M trying." Sam mumbled.
"Well try harder. This lack of sleep can't be good for you." Sam groaned in agreement and turned to face the back of the couch. As Dean typed on the laptop, he began to quietly hum random tunes. Ever since Sam was little, he could always get his baby brother to fall asleep by humming to him. And it seemed that after 28 years, Dean still had the magic touch, because a few minutes later, Sam had genuinely fallen into a deep sleep.
A little over an hour had passed and Sam had managed to stay asleep. Bobby had gone into town to pick up some supplies and Dean did some research but, like Sam, came up with nothing. Dean closed the laptop, set it on the table and got up to fetch some of Bobby's old books, hoping they could shed some light on purgatory – it could maybe give an indication as to what Castiel was capable of. Dean reached the door when a strange noise stopped him. It sounded almost like a whimper. He turned to face Sam and saw that his brother was getting restless. The whimpers returned, along with some painful groans. Dean sighed. Aw Hell Sammy, will you ever catch a break? Only an hour went by before the nightmares came back, you need more rest! Dean moved over to the sofa and crouched in front of Sam. He cautiously placed a hand on his shoulder, gently shaking him and calling his name. That's when Sam screamed – a horrific, blood-curdling scream that was so loud that Dean stumbled in shock. Sam was thrashing around wildly, knocking Dean's jacket to the floor, and he was crying out in pain.
"STOP! Please, Dean, stop this!" Aw crap! Dean thought angrily. Of course the freaking arch angels had to take my form to torture Sammy. If I could, I would kill Michael and Lucifer a thousand times over for what they put him through!
Dean leaned over his brother and pinned him down. "Sam! Sam, listen to me! It's not real! That's not me! I'd never hurt you! C'mon Sammy, come back to me!" It was useless. Sam was still trapped in his nightmare. Although the thrashing had calmed, he was still shouting at the Hell Dean, begging it to stop. Tears were falling down his cheeks and he wept through the agony he was suffering in his mind. It nearly broke Dean's heart.
"It's okay Sammy. It's not real, it's just a dream. They're not hurting you anymore. You're safe now." While still keeping Sam pinned, Dean carefully lifted an arm and stroked his brother's hair. Whenever Sam got nightmares as a kid, Dean would comfort him in this way. Of course, this wasn't just some silly dream about an evil clown – this was a trip down memory lane of Sam's time in the Cage. It had all been real.
Ten minutes passed until finally, Sam jolted awake.
"Hey kiddo, you Ok now?" Dean expected the usual "I'm fine, Dean" response, possibly with a series of questions as to why Dean was straddling him. But what happened next took Dean by surprise. Sam stared at him wide-eyed and then screamed again, struggling to free himself from Dean's grasp. Sam hadn't realised he had left the realms of his vision and he was down-right petrified of Dean.
If Sam wasn't so exhausted, he would have rammed something down Dean's throat as soon as he started humming. He knew Dean was only trying to help, but he really didn't want to sleep – he couldn't handle another dream. But good old Dean's humming was going to screw the "remain awake" plan. After a few minutes, he felt himself drift off into a peaceful slumber.
Not long after, Sam woke with a start. He was no longer in Bobby's living room, but in a strange motel room.
"Rise and shine Princess!" Dean chirped.
"Dean? Where on Earth are we? Why'd we leave Bobby's?"
"Wow, you really were out of it Sam!" Dean laughed. "We got a lead on Cas yesterday, but we had to stop off here 'cause you were so tired! Lazy sod that you are!"
"Did Bobby not come with us?"
"Ha, as if the old git has the energy these days!" Dean giggled to himself.
Sam instantly felt uneasy, certain that something was wrong. Bobby was just as desperate to find Castiel as they were, and he would join them if they found any sort of lead. As for Dean – he was acting far too much like his old self. Normally, Sam would have thought nothing of it, but recently Dean had been careful with his attitude. Dean was concerned about Sam's sanity, so he stopped insulting him – and he had actively encouraged Sam to rest, not slate him for it. No – the old Dean was back far too prematurely.
"All right. Mind if I call Bobby? Just to say hi." Sam tried to remain casual and searched for his phone. "Hey Dean, have you seen my cell?" I normally put it on the bedside table, but it's not there…"
"Oh yeah, here!" Dean thrust his hand in front of Sam's face to reveal his cell phone – smashed into several pieces.
"What happened?" Sam cried.
"I destroyed it." Dean pointed out, as though there was nothing out of the ordinary.
"What? Why would you do that?"
"Couldn't have you calling for help now, could I?"
"What? Dean, what's going on with you?"
"Geez Sam, you're a little slow on the uptake today! I'll give you a clue." Dean snapped his fingers and the entire room went up in flames.
"WHAT THE HELL –"
"Bingo Sammy! You got it in one!"
"Hell? I'm in HELL? No… no, I got out. Death got my soul out of Hell. I'm alive goddammit!"
"A hallucination, little brother. Thought it would be amusing to give you a false sense of security." Dean grinned almost manically, and Sam had to get away. The flames had encircled him, dancing tauntingly at every angle. He could feel his skin being scorched and blistered. He tried to suppress the scream building in his throat from the sheer agony, but he unwittingly let out a small moan that sounded almost like a whimper. This caused Dean to laugh hysterically.
"Oh this is priceless! Sam Winchester, fearless hunter extraordinaire, is whimpering like a scared little puppy because of a couple of burns!"
Sam had to escape. He located the door, shielded his face with his already burnt arms and bolted. He just made it, when he felt someone pulling him backwards.
"Tut tut, Sammy. Trying to run away again. Why do you always run away from me, your awesome big brother? Stanford was the last straw, I promised myself I wouldn't let you escape that easily again!" Dean was spitting at him, his face far too close to his own for comfort. But then Sam had a disturbing realisation: If Dean is in front of me, then who is holding me…
"Yeah, and not forgetting you dragged me down to Hell with you when I belonged in Heaven! Dean and I both went to Hell for your sorry ass!" screamed the person restraining him. Sam instantly recognised the voice.
"Adam! Please, let me go! I'm sorry, I'm sorry…" He was beyond panic now. Adam, his long lost little brother, was dragging him to a table, where he and Dean strapped Sam down. Once a helpless Sam was suitably shackled to the cold metal table, Dean retrieved a machete from his duffel. Adam took out a small pocket knife, muttering something about small, shallow cuts bring just as agonizing as the bigger gashes.
"Now, Sammy," Dean approached the table. "Give me one good reason why we shouldn't slice you up into several pieces?"
"No, please! I'm sorry, for everything! I'm sorry you both died because of me. I never meant for any of this to happen!" Sam pleaded with his brothers as they removed his shirt and pants to expose his bare, burnt skin.
"Hmmm… what do you reckon Adam?" Dean turned to the younger man, who continued to stare menacingly at Sam. He just shook his head.
"I agree, pathetic." And with that, Dean raised the machete above his head and swung it down to Sam's torso. Sam hadn't wanted to give them the satisfaction of hearing him scream, but the pain from the impact was unbearable. Dean continued hacking, causing more screams.
"STOP! Please, Dean, stop this!" he begged, tears flowing freely down his face. What made matters worse was that he wouldn't fall into a blissful state of unconsciousness, and he certainly wouldn't die. Being in the pit meant he was already dead. That in turn meant he could feel every agonizing blow. Adam had used his own knife to slice off Sam's fingertips, which was somehow more excruciatingly painful than the machete strikes. Sam sobbed and screamed, begging his brothers to stop.
"You know what's really funny?" Adam yelled to Dean. "He genuinely thinks we are his brothers! I totally understand why you love what you do, Lucifer!"
"Yeah. You know Mike, you've really gotten the knack of this torturing business." Lucifer, as Dean, congratulated his brother.
Deep down, Sam knew this was Michael and Lucifer, but when you are being brutally tortured by two beings that look and sound like your siblings, your mind tends not to listen to reason. But, as Sam lay there being butchered, he could have sworn he heard a feint voice calling him. He felt an unusual touch to the side of his head, and his bangs were moving – it was almost as though someone was stroking his hair. Like Dean used to. Dean. His big brother, who always protected him, who would never hurt him - until now. But Dean would never do that to me. That could only mean one thing – this isn't Dean. Gradually, his mind began to hear his subconscious.
"Lucifer, Michael," he managed to grunt out through clenched teeth.
"Ah goddammit, he heard you!" Lucifer growled at Michael.
"Hey, it's not my fault the kid's too clever for his own good."
"ENOUGH!" Sam shouted. "You are not my brothers. You – are – not – real!" He closed his eyes. He no longer heard the voices, and the heat of the flames had vanished. The pain had gone and he felt better. He was no longer lying on a cold, hard table, but a warm, soft surface. But he couldn't move – something was still pinning him down. He cautiously opened his eyes to find the obstruction, to be met by a pair of worried, green eyes.
"Hey kiddo, you Ok now?" Lucifer again, trying to make him feel safe, only to torture him further. He was never going to escape. He screamed in terror, not wanting to face any more torture. He struggled to free himself from the Devil's grasp – he was too strong.
"Hey!" the thing yelled. "It's me! Sam, whatever you saw before wasn't real, but this is! It's not Lucifer, Michael or the Cage. It's just me, Dean. It's just us in Bobby's house. Please Sammy, stay with me! Trust me, I'm not going to hurt you." This didn't seem right to Sam. Lucifer had often tried to fool him by impersonating Dean, but he had never fully grasped the warmth and loving tone in his voice when he comforted Sam. Yet that's what he heard. Could it be that this was really Dean? He stopped struggling and stared at the man, trying to judge who it truly was. Dean nodded, but remained silent, understanding that Sam was attempting to determine if this was reality. Understanding – something else Lucifer never got right. Slowly, Dean clambered off the sofa, still retaining a firm grip on Sam's arm. He felt Dean placing something cool under his head as some sort of cushion. Sam reached to the object and instantly recognised it as Dean's jacket. The leather jacket had meant so much to Sam – it was a reminder of his older brother during the months he was alone on Earth whilst Dean was in Hell, and ever since it had brought comfort to him. Something else he doubted Lucifer could comprehend. He rubbed the material in between his fingers, yet his gaze never fell from Dean's face. Likewise, Dean never once turned away from Sam. Sam's mind started to settle and he was believing the possibility that this was indeed real.
"D-Dean?" he stammered. Dean smiled and nodded, but never uttered a word. He removed his grip on Sam's arm, and Sam allowed himself to curl up at the end of the sofa, clinging to the jacket. Dean moved from the floor and sat next to him. They sat in silence for a while, when Sam finally dared to speak.
"I want to believe this is real. That you're real. But… I just don't know how. Lucifer often tricked me with hallucinations, and what I just saw has made me wonder if my whole return from Hell was just an elaborate prank by Lucifer. Yet, when you spoke… it felt different to when He was you. You seem… right. Does that make sense?"
Dean placed a hand on his shoulder. "Yes. I can't even begin to imagine how hard this must be for you right now. Unfortunately, I don't know how to convince you that this is real – that's up to you. All I can offer is my assurance that you are no longer in Hell, and Lucifer and Michael aren't using you as a chew toy anymore. And I won't hurt you, I swear." Both brothers looked at each other simultaneously, and the look in Dean's eyes was so genuine that Sam couldn't help trusting that this Dean was the real deal. Even if he wasn't, he was going to cling onto this feeling, his last remaining hope.
"I – I believe this is real." Sam said definitely, turning away once more.
Dean grinned. "I'm glad. I want you to keep telling yourself that, especially during another flashback. Believe that this, here and now, is the truth."
A tear slid down Sam's cheek at those words. If this was one of Satan's tricks, it would destroy him. He needed this to be reality, for his like to be back. Most of all, he needed Dean. "I will," he whispered.
Dean spotted the tear making its way down Sam's face, and he realised then just how truly broken his brother was. He moved his hand to Sam's other shoulder so that his arm was encircling him protectively. Sam looked at him with moist eyes, the rest of the tears threatening to spill. Dean pulled him into a warm embrace, a sign he was giving the go ahead for the inevitable "chick-flick moment." Sam wrapped one arm around Dean's waist, whilst still clinging to the jacket (he wasn't ready to let go of his comforter), and settled into Dean's hug. Dean began rubbing his back, telling him to let go. So he did. The initial tears were silent, but soon they turned into heart-wrenching sobs.
"Help me Dean," he choked out. "I don't know how much more of this I can take."
Dean couldn't hide his sadness at the defeat in Sam's voice, and a tear of his own escaped. "I promise I'll do everything in my power to help you Sammy," he soothed. "Somehow, we'll work this out – we always do. You and me, Ok?" Sam nodded against his shoulder, but continued to cry. "It's Ok. It's gonna be Ok. I'm here, you're safe. Shhh." He cooed. He continued to whisper words of comfort to Sam, who cried harder. He tried not to think about the "what ifs," like "what If this is all a trick?" but he couldn't wholly escape those thoughts, thus increasing his desperation for this to be real. Again, Dean understood and held him tighter, assuring him that this was real.
Neither man noticed Bobby watching them from the doorway. The gruff hunter himself was close to tears, his heart breaking for the youngest Winchester. The boys were like sons to him, and finding one of them so broken, so lost, so afraid – it was destroying him. But he had faith in Dean to get Sam out of his downward spiral. They had been through so much together, none of which they deserved, and they had become so dependent on each other. If anyone was going to save Sam, it would be Dean. Quietly, Bobby left the brothers alone to heal.
Just to add - I'm not sure if the ending was a little abrupt, but I thought adding anything else wouldn't have had any benefit to the "plot". But anyhoo, let me know what you think! If you have criticisms cool, but please don't be too mean, I'm a sensitive soul *_*