A/N My annual birthday fic to myself. Set shortly after "Sex and Violence". I'm trying to remember Sam and Dean's mindset for the time, where Sam is on the brink of going darkside and Dean's on the brink of a breakdown, they're drifting apart, things are bleak but hopeful. It's been a while since I watched season 4, so I hope I did their characters justice for the time it's set without going too out of character. Especially Sam who's kind of an ass in the first chapter, (but lets face it, I adore him, but he was kind of an ass in season 4) but he'll smarten up pretty quick, I promise, don't let it turn you off! I'm hoping to make him still sympathetic in a time of the series when he wasn't very sympathetic (at least to me).

It's kinda dark, but hopeful.

Disclaimer: So I asked for two things for my birthday. 1. A day off and 2. Sam and Dean. I got neither. Sucks to be me. Oh well.


As soon as the key unlatched the door Sam kicked it open, dragging his brother in behind him. He roughly manhandled Dean to the nearest bed, rougher than he would've a year ago and then slammed the door shut. Dean hissed in pain as he landed, jarring his injured body. "Sam…" he grunted, his voice hoarse and weak.

"Save it," Sam hissed, storming to the other side of the room and grabbing the first aid kit, "what the hell were you thinking anyway? You could've gotten us both killed!"

Dean blinked, feeling the sting of tears form in his eyes. He squeezed his eyes shut to hold them in as fiery pain tore through his torn side and pulsed throughout his battered body, throbbing with every heartbeat. He was not going to lose it. No. Not now. His breath hitched as he shifted positions, rolling slightly to give Sam better access to the long, deep slice across his side.

"I'm sorry," Dean groaned, burying his face into the pillow, biting his lip to keep from crying out when he felt Sam sit beside him and carelessly yank his shirt up, putting antiseptic on the wound and started to clean it out.

"Right," Sam huffed, Dean could hear the eye roll in his voice, "of course you are."

"I know you're…mad," Dean sucked in a breath, feeling his body tremble with a sudden chill, "but do you have…to be such a…butcher?"

Sam blinked, suddenly acutely aware of how rough he was being. He paused to take a breath and gave himself a moment to calm down, let his anger of the past catch up with the present so he could stow it away for later if necessary. There was a time and place for that, and now was not the time to have a fit of rage, not when he was in the middle of patching up his injured brother.

"Right," Sam sighed, "I'm sorry. I just…you scared the shit out of me man! What were you thinking anyway? Why couldn't you have just let me handle it? I had it under control."

Dean groaned, eyes fluttering, "I didn't think. Y-you were in danger I just…just reacted."

"I had it under control," Sam repeated, there was a bite to his tone but he made an effort to be gentle as he continued his ministrations. Dean was already suffering because of his foolish, miscalculated actions, he didn't need to make it worse just because he was pissed. Sam had been playing the bait, waiting for the creature to come to him but Dean, who was already injured from the creature, had to regain consciousness just in time to jump in the way, between the danger and Sam, get slashed across his side and knocked Sam off balance in the process. It was a close call for both of them.

"Didn't know that," Dean whispered, flinching as Sam touched the antiseptic against a particularly tender spot.

"Well, I thought luring the creature was part of the plan anyway," Sam muttered, "you were already hurt and you aren't…" Sam didn't dare finish his sentence because that would be crossing a line.

Dean however knew what he was going to say, "I'm not what, Sam?" he asked, accusingly, surprised by the venom in his own voice, "Strong enough? Good enough?"

Sam sighed, "No. That's not what I meant." He knew it was a lie, they both did. He had already expressed that sentiment along with other hurtful things while under the siren's spell. He felt terrible for saying what he did, especially about Hell. He didn't mean it, not all of it. Certainly not with the intensity and hatred that he said it.

It was hard to reconcile what Dean had confessed on the side of the road and the Dean he knew and it frustrated him to see Dean so vulnerable and it made him feel helpless sometimes. He had enough on his plate without having to deal with a traumatized Dean. Especially considering there was nothing Sam could do that would help. It was the helplessness that angered him the most, to see his brother suffer and not know how to fix it. All Sam could think of to do was kill Lilith and all the demons that put Dean in so much pain and it angered him that he had to avenge Dean's pain behind Dean's back because his brother was opposed to his powers. Because Dean saw him as a monster.

Swallowing hard, Sam tried to change the subject, frowning at how ugly and inflamed the wound looked, "Uh, I think I should wash this with some Holy water."

"Go ahead," Dean murmured softly, "better to be safe."

"Yeah," Sam nodded.

There was silence for a few moments as Sam found his flask and filled it with water, blessing it as he had been taught eons ago. Dean closed his eyes, his body trembling. Sam sighed and gently explained, "All I had meant is that you're not on top of your game right now, you're exhausted."

Dean opened his eyes and blinked at him but said nothing.

"I mean, when was the last time you slept?"

"I sleep."

"Not enough," Sam countered.

"How would you know?" Dean griped, "You're never…"

"Never what?" Sam asked softly, blinking wearily, "Never around?"

"Just get it over with Sam," Dean sighed, nodding towards the wound, "sooner the better."

Sam nodded, "Right. This is probably going to hurt."

"I know," Dean grimaced, clutching the pillow and gritting his teeth in anticipation.

Carefully Sam poured the Holy water onto the wound. It bubbled and sizzled, steam and blood pouring from the wound. Dean's back arched off the bed and he cried out, his bruised body seizing. Sam tried his best to hold him down as he continued to wash the gash, hissing in sympathy.

Dean closed his eyes against the onslaught of pain and suddenly he was back there, in Hell. Alistair pouring acid on his side, the heat burning through flesh, boiling his blood, tearing its way through to the bone while rough, clawed hands grasp his wrists, his neck, his face, his hair, pulling, restraining as the liquid fire ate its way through him. Dean screamed, begging for reprieve, for salvation that he knew wasn't coming.

Sam winced at the sound of Dean's cry and could see the moment Dean's mind left the room and went back there. He hated causing his brother pain, but he had no choice. If the wound was reacting like that then it was necessary. The screams angered and frustrated him because he had no idea how to fix it, how to ease Dean's distress, and as he did almost every night he vowed to hunt down the demons responsible for his agony and the night terrors that kept his brother up at night. There was nothing else he could think of to do.

The wound was still reacting, bubbling and steaming when he ran out of water and he frowned, biting his lip with worry. He grasped Dean's upper arm, holding him still and giving it a squeeze before leaving for the bathroom for more water.

Dean meanwhile collapsed bonelessly into the mattress, breathless and spent.

His mind returned to the present and he could hear Sam blessing more water and cringed at the sound of the whimper that escaped him when he realized that the onslaught of pain wasn't over. Dean wasn't sure he could take any more of it. The two realities, of Hell and of the motel room blurred and for a moment Dean was certain if he dared to look at the wound on his side he would see a gaping hole where his flesh burned away and parted to reveal the white of his bones as the remaining acid burned through the marrow.

He knew exactly what that felt like, he knew what it looked like, smelled like…he had been there before. When he closed his eyes he could see the sadistic glee in Alistair's demonic eyes as he leaned close, clawed hands caressing his battered body, forked tongue cutting at his ear as he asked him the Question.

"No," Dean murmured absently, his voice quivering and broken. Sam's voice cut through the flashback, the Latin blessing used to make Holy Water, and it pulled him back to reality. He gasped, his body flinching as he reminded himself that he wasn't back there, that Hell was nothing more than a terrible memory and he forced the memory back, he forced himself to stay in the here and now and know that the agony he was in was not because of Hell.

Through blurry vision he could see Sam return and he bit back a sob at the thought of more pain. He wasn't sure he could handle it. He knew he couldn't handle it and it only proved Sam's comment that he was weak. But at that moment he didn't care. Let him be weak, let him be pathetic so long as he didn't have to go back there, so long as he could have some release from the pain that haunted his soul ever since the ghost sickness harshly forced him to remember everything.

He felt Sam sit next to him and Dean's body twitched at the memories the treatment evoked. "No," he whispered, shaking his head, forcibly reminding himself that the pain was intense because it was Holy Water, not acid, and it was working to wash away any supernatural infection the creature's razor-like claws might've inflicted. He forcefully reminded himself lest his mind try and take him back there again.

"Gotta make sure it's clean," Sam said quietly, his voice void of emotion.

Dean blinked up at him, searching in vain for any sign of remorse for the torture Sam was inflicting on his brother in Sam's eyes. But Sam's eyes were cold, detached, indifferent. It made his heart sink because a year ago Sam would be suffering along with him, broken up about being the one who had to hurt him to heal him.

"Please, no more," he begged, whimpering softly.

"Don't want to take any chances," Sam shrugged, lifting the flask over the wound.

"I c-can't," Dean grimaced, shaking his head.

"I know it hurts like h—a lot," Sam said, "but we've done this before, what's the problem? It'll be over soon." He lowered the flask and leaned forward, meeting Dean's pain filled eyes, brows pulling together in an honest question. "Dean?"

"Not from you," Dean whispered. He wasn't sure if he could tolerate the pain at all, let alone it coming from Sam. He did not want to associate Sam with the pain that reminded him of Hell, not with the past and present blurring together with flashes of Hellish memories and the torturous but necessary treatment for the gash in his side.

The words stung and Sam pulled back, nodding, "So what you're saying is that you'd rather take your chances than trust me to look after it, is that it?"

Dean shook his head. It wasn't a matter of trust, or lack of it because while trust was an issue lately, he could trust him with patching him up at least. He just couldn't quite grasp why he was afraid of Sam being the one to continue the agonizing treatment, but he was. Maybe it was the detached look in his eyes, making him look harsh and angry and uncaring, even though Dean knew deep down it wasn't the case. Dean's death hardened Sam, and Ruby's influence only made it worse but the kind, compassionate Sammy was still there, only now he was hidden and locked away. It was a mask, a coping mechanism that Dean understood all too well. Nonetheless he did not want the pain to pull his mind back into Hell and see that look in Sam's eyes, the look that didn't belong on his brother.

Slowly he reached his shaking hand out, "Give me the fl-flask."

Misunderstanding Dean's reasoning, Sam thrust the flask into Dean's hand and sat down on the other bed, watching him. "You want me to leave?"

"What?" Dean was surprised, "No!"

"Then what do you want from me?" Sam demanded, "I'm only trying to help!"

"I know," Dean shuddered, the pain in his side flaring, "J-just not with this!" He winced, "Shit this hurts."

Sam sighed in frustration, "You can barely hold the flask at all, let alone hold it steady enough to wash that wound with it. Would you rather I get the hotel clerk to do it? Because it needs to be done."

Dean didn't answer. In a strange way he would. He would rather associate the face of a stranger with the healing torture, but he didn't know how to articulate that, not with the dense fog forming in his head, making it hard to think.

Taking his silence the wrong way Sam rose to his feet, his anger and frustration masking the genuine concern underneath, "Fine then, call me when you can trust me." He started to leave but Dean called him back, barking his name weakly. Sam turned to him, "Yeah?"

Closing his eyes Dean sagged into the mattress, spent. "I c-can't…can't do this alone."

Sam sighed, and it was like air deflating from a balloon as all the petulant tension in his shoulders was released and he came back, sitting down next to Dean, "I know it's agony, we've both had this treatment before. You know how you felt when you had to clean a wound of mine with Holy Water, you think I enjoy causing you so much pain? I don't want to hurt you, never; I just want us to get this over with. Will you give me the flask?"

Dean gripped it tighter, his face tight with pain as he thought about it. Finally he shook his head, "I'm s-sorry. Just help me." He opened his eyes, hoping Sam would see the plea in them. Sam's face softened, revealing the worry and concern that hid behind his perpetual anger, Dean relaxed and Sam gripped his shoulder and thigh, holding him steady as Dean shakily started to pour the Holy Water.

The pain hit him hard and Dean's body bucked as he released a guttural cry in response. Sam leaned on him, holding him down, watching as Dean's eyes closed tightly, the muscles on his neck straining and the wound bubbling and steaming. Sam adjusted his grip, pressing his elbow against Dean's shoulder and moving his hand to Dean's forehead. "It's OK, Dean," Sam yelled over his pained screams, "it'll be over soon. It's OK."

But Dean didn't hear him. His grip on the flask released and it fell to the mattress, spilling the Holy Water. Sam grabbed it before it could all spill out, and the sudden release had Dean's body jerk forcibly but Sam quickly grabbed him again, and he winced at how tense Dean's muscles were. Even without the treatment Dean's body was reacting to the water and Sam was at a loss.

"Had enough Dean?"

Alistair's voice rang through his head and Dean opened his eyes to see him in his true demon form, standing over him dipping a ladle into a large cauldron, the smell of the acid inside making his eyes and nose burn, the droplets that boiled over and splashed onto his bare skin burning and eating away at his flesh.

"P-please, stop," Dean begged, his voice nothing but a hoarse whisper.

"Of course," Alistair grinned, "you just have to do me one small favour and this will be over, forever."

Dean looked into his eyes, a cold glare on his battered face, the hooks and chains restraining him biting through raw skin, "No."

"Very well," Alistair shrugged, filling the ladle with the boiling acid and pouring it along his belly and side.

Dean screamed, body wracked with spasms, acid boiling through his flesh, burning through his muscles and sinew to eat away at his ribcage as the chains and hooks that bound him pulled and tore at his limbs.

"Shh, Dean please," Sam's voice cut through his nightmare, "it's OK, it's almost over. Calm down, you're OK."

Opening his eyes he couldn't see Alistair anymore, instead he saw Sam and felt a cool touch on his forehead as Sam gently wiped the blood and sweat from his face. Dean relaxed, nearly weeping with the thought that maybe Sam had come to rescue him. He quietly wept Sam's name, the thought seeming too good to be true.

But a distant memory nagged at him, one he couldn't fully grasp. A memory of a blinding white light, so blinding it burned his eyes away, and a sound so horrible his eardrums had exploded and an intense agony on his shoulder as his soul was yanked away from Alistair's grasp, his existence in Hell extinguished as he woke up in a pine box.

He gasped desperately in confusion because it didn't make sense. Sam grinned suddenly, the look in his face sending chills down his spine. Sam's face twisted, obscured until he could see Alistair standing over him again. This time holding a syringe. A large one. He stuck the syringe in the cauldron and smiled wickedly. Dean's eyes widened in dreaded anticipation, "Please, n-no Alistair, not that please!" Dean begged, whimpering as Alistair gleefully stuck it into the wound on his side. The acid was released into his bloodstream and he could feel it pump through his system, he screamed as it tore through him, his own heart pumping the liquid fire throughout his body. His flesh smoking and sizzling as it burned from the inside out. Suddenly Alistair gripped the cauldron and dumped the contents on him and Dean thrashed and screamed until all was black.


Dean was finally unconscious and Sam could only hope that his sleep was for once dreamless.

Sam collapsed onto his bed, his own body trembling. He wasn't finished treating Dean's wound, the Holy Water was still causing a reaction which meant the poison wasn't completely flushed from the wound. He had finally resorted to injecting him with a sedative to calm his thrashing. But the words that were released from Dean's mouth floored him, shaking him up in a way he couldn't imagine and Sam knew that Dean had left the motel room, the present and had gone to the past. Any doubt that Dean's mind had taken him back to Hell was gone when Dean called him Alistair.

Running a hand down his face Sam looked at his unconscious brother, "No wonder you didn't want me to do it."

He rose to his feet and placed a hand on Dean's sweaty face, wincing at the heat. "I should've known. I'm sorry. But we both know it needed to be done." Dean's muscles were still taut with pain, twitching with spasms that wracked his whole body. "Needs to be done," he corrected breathlessly, the past tense unfortunately couldn't apply because he wasn't finished. He headed to refill the flask and bless more Holy Water but stopped in the middle of his tracks. It wasn't working they way it should, and he was getting to that point where he feared the treatment might cause more damage than the wound.

Sam bit his lip and realized they went into the hunt without all the facts because they did not anticipate this. Most of the time a wound like that only needed one dose of Holy Water to clean out the supernatural effects, but this? He grabbed his phone and glanced at Dean, noticing the wound at the very least wasn't bleeding as badly as before. Still he got a fresh towel and pressed it against the wound as he went through his contacts, bypassing Bobby's name to call Ruby. She would have the answers.

A/N Don't worry. This fic is Ruby-less. Just that at the time of the series, I think Sam would've called her for help first. Next Chapter coming soon.

Thanks for reading. Please review? It would make me happy! Good or bad. Reviews make lovely birthday presents! :P