I disclaim any ownership of SPN or its characters.

A/N: For Vail-Kagami's prompt over at SPN little-bro on LJ:

Prompt: Sam is either drugged or supernaturally whammied. He's left paralyzed and completely helpless. He seems to be unconscious, but he's aware of everything that happens to him. Whoever caused his misery knows that. The attacker hurts him, maybe rapes him, while narrating everything he's going to do, knowing Sam can't stop it.
Eventually he goes away and leaves Sam lying somewhere in the open. He's hurt, dehydrated. The sun is burning down on him, he has no way of chasing away the insects, and some large, hungry animal that he can't see is circling him, constantly gaining courage.
Rescue and lots of comfort to go with the hurt would be very, very appreciated.

Happy New Year everyone!

Carrion Men

"I know you can hear me, Sammy."

That voice … it was familiar...

"Don't you worry now. I bet if you try real hard, you might be able to open your eyes."

Sam had already been trying to open his eyes since he came to, but nothing happened and it wasn't just his eyes that refused to move either, it was his whole body. Panic held him in a vice grip and his heart pounded furiously in his chest, but he was powerless to run - he couldn't so much as twitch a muscle.

But he could feel … he wasn't numb and he shivered inside when a hand traced its way up his arm and the feel of rough skin against his own brought back an unsavory memory.

He knew now who it was that had taken him.

But his logical brain couldn't believe it - they had taken care of the man - he wasn't supposed to be able to get out.

"No matter. You might not want to open them right now anyway; I've got much that needs to be done."

Oh crap … how was this possible?

"You're probably wondering what happened, how I got out, how I found you, and why you can't move? So, I'll explain it all while I get set up here," Sam heard a clattering of sounds and his imagination supplied visuals of obscure instruments of horrific designs, none of which he wanted near him, yet he had no way to fight back. He could only hope that Dean was coming for him.

But then again … what if his brother was there with him and in the same trouble? Or worse, what if he had already been taken out?

No … Sam couldn't let himself think that. Dean would come. He always did.

"It was mighty inconvenient the way you and your brother buried me alive. I tell you ... three years spent underground in the dark, and with nowhere to go gives a man time to think. If it hadn't been for a hillbilly deer hunter that stole my cabin, I might still be there today. But imagine his surprise, when that man tried to dig himself a root-cellar to store his venison and found a chained and locked up refrigerator instead. The fool opened it of course - not that I'm complaining because he was kindly enough to provide me with a new heart, liver, and eyes - pretty much all I needed to keep me going for a good long while, but there was one thing he couldn't give me. You know what that was Sammy? …"

Sam would have given just about anything to tell the man to fuck off.

"It was to give you and your brother a taste of what I had to go through."

He tried again to force his eyelids open and they opened a fraction, but only enough for him to get a dim view of his attacker through his lashes. Over him loomed a patchwork face of crudely stitched together skin and stolen, dark brown eyes glared back at him with open hatred that only confirmed just how screwed he was.

Sam could move his eyes just enough to catch a glimpse of his surroundings. It was dark, save for a single light bulb that hung from a wire above him and off to the side just at the periphery of his vision, was an IV bag filled with a milky-white liquid. Sam didn't need to be able to see if the IV was attached to him, he knew it had to be and that whatever concoction was in that bag was what was keeping him paralyzed.

"Before, I only took what I needed and I took no pleasure in hurting anybody, but for you and your brother I'll make an exception."

Dr. Benton –

At one time, Sam had had the misguided hope that the man's medical discoveries would save Dean from Hell, but even Benton's miracle formula for eternal life wouldn't have been able to save him from that. Instead, Sam had almost become Benton's next organ donor and in hindsight, they should have killed him right after Dean turned the tables on the old man – chopped him up and burned the bits and pieces with a truck-load of salt. But Dean had been pretty pissed at the bastard and felt that burying him alive where he could rot endlessly in his own immortality would be a more fitting punishment.

But it was too late for that now – Benton was back from his internment and given the way he was picking up a scalpel and sharpening it against a wet stone, Sam wasn't going to make it out of this unscathed.

But where was Dean? Sam searched his fuzzy recollection of the previous evening. They had just finished a quick salt-n-burn in west Texas and Dean had gone to a bar to blow off some steam and make a little fast money hustling pool. Sam wasn't in the mood to watch his brother get pissed-assed drunk again and stayed behind in the motel to research more about the Leviathans, but honestly he just wanted a little peace and quiet. Unlike his brother, Sam preferred to unwind where there wasn't a crowd of people, especially when he saw Lucifer's amongst the faces almost at every turn.

He remembered ordering a pizza, paying the delivery guy, eating a slice and then …

Ohhhh … Drugged …

The pizza must have been drugged, because the only thing he can recall after that was waking up immobile.

"And since your brother wasn't able to join us for this little reunion right away, I suppose I'll just have to get started with you and wait for him to come to us."

OOOOOOO

Dean fumbled for his room key and aimed it towards the key-hole with uncooperative fingers.

Sam was going to be pissed that Dean had come back so drunk at 3AM, but at least the bar had been within walking distance so he couldn't bitch at him about driving drunk. Besides, he was coming back $300 richer, so his little brother had no room to complain about his vices.

Finally, he managed to get the key into the knob and was able to get the door open. He stumbled into the dark room, trying to keep the noise of his movements through the room to a minimum so as to not wake his brother, but his spinning vision made stealth nearly impossible and his feet caught on every obstacle in his path.

Eventually, Dean made it to his bed and sat down wearily then bent over to untie his boots, but his laces were a confusing mess of knots and he was too tired to care whether he slept fully clothed or not, so he gave up on them. Sitting up carefully so as to not to get dizzy or nauseous, Dean glanced over at the other bed and realized that Sam wasn't in it. But, then again there was a light shining from under the door to the bathroom, so his brother must have gotten up for an early morning pee.

Dean had the sudden urge to go and pound on the door just to be a dick and scare his brother, but he nixed that idea as requiring too much energy. Instead he flopped back on the bed wishing he hadn't ordered that last shot of whiskey as the ceiling rotated above him and made his stomach want to contort like a Russian acrobat.

He closed his eyes and willed his rolling gut to calm since Sam was currently occupying the bathroom and puking in his bed was as an option that was right out.

Boy … the morning was not going to be kind to him when he woke up again, he thought just as his body gave in to the alcohol induced exhaustion and he fell into a deep sleep.

Dean woke again to bright sunlight hitting him square in the face and he flung and arm over his eyes to block out the light before it made his headache spike even worse.

"Guhhh," He groaned and slurred, "Shut the damn curtains, S'm."

There was no response.

"Sam?" He called out with a little more power and a little less queasiness.

Slowly, Dean sat up, rubbed his face and prayed that the Cuisinart in his head would stop turning his brain in to puree and let him die in peace. He looked around the room to find it empty.

It wasn't unusual for Dean to wake up to an empty room. Sam often got up before him and either went out to get breakfast or to go for a walk and commune with Mother Nature or some other crap like that. But, Dean suddenly got a creeping suspicion that something was wrong with the whole scene before him.

The other bed was made neatly, which was typical for his OCD little brother, but there was a nearly full pizza box sitting on top of it and a half-eaten slice lay haphazardly on the floor, which was definitely not Sam's style.

The door to the bathroom was shut just as Dean recalled from when he came in, but there was no noise coming from behind it.

Getting up from the bed was torture on Dean's aching head, but his need to find out what was up overrode his discomfort as he stumbled for the bathroom door. He didn't bother to knock first before trying the doorknob and finding it unlocked.

"Sam?" He asked as he swung open the door, but only his own voice echoed against the tile walls of the empty room.

Dean leaned back against the door jamb and fished around in his pocket for his phone while he swallowed the rising worry in his gut. He dialed while walking over to the motel room window, pushing aside the flimsy curtain and seeing that the Impala was still parked out front, but that didn't mean his brother hadn't taken off somewhere on foot.

Holding the phone to his ear, Dean listened as the line rang and rang with no answer.

OOOOOO

The single light bulb above casted ominous shadows across the dark room and Sam was growing increasingly aware of how hot it was in the small, confined space. Sweat beaded on his brow and dribbled down his face, into his eyes and soaked his clothes, but he couldn't so much as lift his hand to wipe any of it away.

"I know – it's quite warm in here. I'm afraid my new accommodations here in Texas aren't as comfortable as my former laboratory was, but beggars can't be choosers …"

The doctor raised the scalpel he had been honing up to the light and smiled approvingly at the newly sharpened instrument. He then turned his attention back to Sam.

"Now … let's see here…" Benton bent over and aimed the knife for Sam's chest, bringing it down towards him. Moving wasn't an option, no matter how hard Sam tried to force his uncooperative muscles to respond. His heart however, was one muscle that could still function normally and pumped blood furiously through his vessels and slammed against his ribcage.

The scalpel descended and Sam closed his eyes in anticipation before the inevitable came, but instead of pain, Sam heard fabric being torn as the doctor methodically dispatched his shirts until he was completely bare-chested.

"Ahhh … Very nice skin you have, Sammy." Benton honestly praised as he ran his rough hands along Sam's torso, his fingers lingering over a few of the scars Sam had gathered over his lifetime, "Yes, it's a little scarred in spots, but it's nice and smooth otherwise and should do just fine." The doctor sighed as he continued his examination of Sam's exposed body and made a contented noise.

Get you hands off… you damned mother fucker … fuck off… fuck off…

Sam wanted to throw up or at least ball his hands into fists and pound the fugly bastard into a bloody pulp. All he could do however was pray for him to get it all over with quickly.

"Don't worry … I won't take much. I only need a little for a couple of grafts that didn't take."

Benton chuckled a little to himself and steadied the scalpel over the skin of Sam's abdominal muscles, "Usually, I'd say 'hold still' at this point, but I suppose that isn't necessary this time, is it?"

Sam felt cold stainless steel touch his skin and then pressure. His eyes flew open the moment that pressure turned to stinging pain that erupted along his stomach. Unable to cry out, there was no way to blunt the agony as the doctor cut into the skin and flayed it expertly from his body in strips, tugging and pulling the flesh away.

Tears leaked involuntarily from his eyes, clouding his vision and Sam screamed in his mind as the procedure continued on and on. Though he couldn't see it, he could feel the warmth of his blood seeping onto the table under him and pooling around his sides.

Benton smiled gleefully as he worked, humming a song to the tune of Sam's misery until he finally raised his knife, lifted the skin he had taken from Sam and inspected it thoughtfully.

"Yes … this should do just fine." He placed the skin into a bowl then set it off to the side.

Sam's heart continued to beat a staccato rhythm in his chest as the mad-doctor set the blood covered scalpel down.

"Couldn't have done it better myself…"

Sam heard the voice well before he could see it and his eyes darted towards the corner of the room it emanated from.

He's not real … not real… He repeated to himself as a figure came into the light.

His first instinct whenever he heard that voice was to raise his hands – to squeeze the wound on his palm so hard that the pain could remind him that Hell was just a memory – that he was out – that the devil who had tortured him for years on end was still in the pit and couldn't touch him anymore.

But he couldn't move – couldn't raise his hands and Lucifer's voice was getting stronger.

"Who says I'm not really here, Sam?" Lucifer grinned as he came closer, "Who says that I haven't come back just to pay you a special visit and watch over Benton's handiwork?"

"What are you looking at, boy?" Benton asked, blocking Sam's view of Lucifer standing watch in the corner, "Hoping that brother of yours will just walk through the door and save the day like he did last time? "

Benton shook his head while a smile spread across his face, "Not this time, Sammy. But don't worry ... I'll make sure he finds you soon. I can't promise that he'll be able to make it in time, but I can assure you that I have big plans for him as well."

Sam squeezed his eyes shut to block out Benton's face and Lucifer hanging out in the shadows.

He then heard the zipper of his jeans slide open, and he felt a tugging as he registered the fact that he was being stripped of the rest of his clothes, but he refused to open his eyes – it was all he had left under his control and he chose to remain in the dark.

Every so often Sam would feel a hand run up and down his arm or his leg, and he would hear Lucifer's soft laughter in the background until finally, God showed a little mercy on him and everything went blissfully silent.

OOOOOOO

Dean was at his wits end.

Unfortunately it wasn't a new feeling, and Dean felt like he was always on edge - always waiting for the next disaster to strike - waiting for Sam to lose what was left of his sanity.

Sure, Sam said he was fine even with his memories of Hell restored to him and he had all the appearances of holding himself together, but Dean knew his brother and it was only a matter of time before he cracked even worse than he already had. He knew that Sam's experiences in Hell were far worse that he would ever admit and knowing how fucked up Dean had been after his return trip from the underworld, he knew how hard it was to push those memories away.

Dean could only hope that Sam's disappearance wasn't because he had flipped out or had hurt himself in any way - that it wasn't a repeat performance of the breakdown Sam had in the abandoned warehouse after the Leviathans got loose. Dean had been able to talk Sam down from the ledge that time, but just barely - Dean had never seen his little brother so spooked, nor so completely unstable and if that had happened again this time around, he didn't think he could forgive himself for leaving Sam alone while he went to the bar and got smashed.

Driving continuously, Dean covered nearly every square inch of the town and yet there was still no sign of his brother. His phone was nearly dead as he dialed Sam's number again while driving past the motel for the third time. He'd been expecting the phone to ring off the hook and go to voicemail once again, but there was always that hope that this time around Sam would pick up and tell him that he was okay and when the other line picked up and he heard breathing on the other end, he felt an immediate relief that was so strong that he had to pull over.

"Sam? Sam … you there? Where are you?" The breathing on the phone turned into a soft chuckle and Dean felt his blood turn to ice-water. Whoever it was on Sam's phone, it definitely wasn't Sam.

"Who is this? Where's Sam?" He demanded to know, his voice beginning to crack with rage.

"He's waiting for you," a soft voice with a gravelly, southern accent replied. It was a familiar voice to Dean, but one he couldn't put his finger on, "You better hurry … it's rather hot out today."

"WHERE IS HE ?" Dean shouted into the phone.

"County Road 126, three miles north of O.H. Ivey Reservoir." There was a click and the line suddenly went silent. Dean had to restrain himself from throwing his phone out the window in frustration, but he knew that wouldn't help Sam. Instead he reached behind into the backseat and pulled Sam's laptop out.

Ten minutes later, Dean had the location of the reservoir from Google maps and was pushing the accelerator of the car to the floor. It had to be at least a two hour drive, but Dean was determined to make it in far less time than that.

All along the way, the voice on the phone haunted Dean … Where had he heard that voice before?

OOOOOO

He was burning and his skin was on fire.

Heat consumed his flesh and charred the edges of his flayed skin. In the background and through the flames, he could hear laugher, deep throated and mocking his pain. Chains held him tight – there was no escape, no way to free himself or fight back as the prince of darkness in all of his hideousness filled his vision and smiled cruelly.

"Go ahead and scream, Sammy. I love that sound ..."

Sam's eyes flew open and he was immediately blinded by the harsh rays of light striking his retinas as he gasped for breath.

His hand wanted to immediately to go for his other and squeeze the remnants of Lucifer's voice from his head, but his body wouldn't allow for even that simple movement. He squeezed his eyes shut again, chasing the memories of fire, and the smell of charred flesh out of his head, but they continued to linger there in the background as his only constant companion.

His heart raced within his chest as he dared to lift his eyelids once again and his eyes darted from side to side as he tried to get an assessment of where he was. He didn't know where he was, but one thing was certain, he wasn't in that dark room with Benton anymore and he wasn't in Hell with Lucifer… but wherever he was … it was close.

He was outdoors now, naked save for his underwear and lying in a rough patch of earth. Sharp pebbles dug into his exposed back and above him the sky was a brilliant blue, without a single white cloud to block the hot sun as it beat down on him relentlessly from overhead.

He was just as immobile as he had been with Benton, but the doctor seemed to have disappeared along with the IV of whatever drug had been used to paralyze him. He presumed hopefully that its absence meant that the effects would wear off soon and he could move again and get himself out of this situation.

Sam tested his muscles, tried to turn his head and he was cautiously optimistic when he was able to move it a fraction of an inch. However, it was not nearly enough for him to do much more than that and he was exhausted by the amount of concentration needed. To add to that, there was a pain in his gut from the slices of skin Benton had stripped from him that made even that little movement groan in agony.

It occurred disjointedly to Sam as the heat continued to smother him, inescapable in its intensity, that Benton knew that by the time the drug had worn off enough for him to move significantly that he would succumb to the blood-loss, heat and naked exposure to the elements.

Sam closed his eyes again. The sun, unable to be blocked out by his eyelids, continued to blind him even with them closed and it felt as though its light might burn its way directly into his brain. At the same time his mind cruelly began to focus on the thought of cool water in his tongue and splashing down his dry throat.

Sam tried to think of something else, of anything other than how hot, thirsty, tired, or in pain he was, but each one of those things screamed at him for attention that he was powerless to provide.

Instead, he tried to focus on keeping his breathing deep and even to combat the panicky feeling in his chest. Slowly, it started to work and his racing heart slowed and his mind began assess his situation a little more logically. He would be okay – he'd been through worse and if he died … well … that was okay as long as he didn't go back to Hell.

But was he worthy of Heaven?

Sam had thought about it often before. He certainly was no saint – he had been Lucifer's vessel after all and if that didn't disqualify him from the pearly gates, then he wasn't sure what would.

Then again, maybe he would be a spirit – neither a soul of heaven or Hell – stuck in between forever –

Either way … if it meant he didn't have to constantly remind himself that Hell was memory, that Lucifer wasn't still playing games with his mind – maybe – maybe death wouldn't be so bad.

But still … it would pretty much suck to die out in the middle of nowhere in only his underwear.

Sam let his eyes open again to the sky. Birds circled above … waiting.

He realized that they were waiting for him – waiting for him to kick it so they could pick at his flesh until he was nothing but a pile of sun-bleached bones.

Suddenly he wasn't so calm and he wasn't so resigned to death.

OOOOOO

It was nothing but scrub brush … miles and miles of it.

Dean swore repeatedly as he drove slowly down the dirt road and passed endless rows of gnarled mesquite trees, hoping to catch a glimpse of anything even vaguely Sam-like in the barren, waste-land.

Nothing.

Endless amounts of nothing.

OOOOO

Something woke Sam up. He hadn't even realized that he had passed out, but he must have because one moment he was lying there looking up at the unending blueness of the sky, getting dizzy watching the birds circle and insects buzz around his head, and the next he was opening his eyes again, straining his hearing towards a squawking sound off to his right.

Sam gave turning his head another go. This time, his neck allowed the movement without too much effort, but as soon as he had a look at what was causing the sound, he swallowed hard.

Three, maybe four feet away, two of the ugliest birds Sam had even laid eyes on before walked around on the arid ground. The two turkey vultures hopped and flapped their wings, chasing after the other, both fighting over who would be the first to feast upon Sam's rotting corpse, both growing bolder with each second that Sam lie immobile on the ground.

He realized that he might look like a carcass ripe for the picking and the smell of his drying blood was attracting them to his spot. It was only a matter of time before the birds got the courage to get close enough to start in on him.

Not dead yet…

Sam focused his energy on what he could move – on whatever he could do to prove to the beasts that he was still alive and not worth eating just yet.

His fingers moved and he found he could paw at the ground. He made a fist around a rock which he could just barely grasp, but there was little else he could do with it, his arm muscles still too weak and an uncooperative for him to chuck it at the birds, but at the same time, he found that his facial and jaw muscles had loosened up considerably and he gave his voice a try.

The first sounds out of his throat sounded more like strangled goose calls than words, but with each syllable he managed to make a few noises that were loud enough to keep the birds at a distance.

For now at least it was working.

He was still in trouble though … the sun was just as hot, if not hotter and without a drop of water or a way with which to get it to his mouth he was completely screwed unless someone found him, which was unlikely in such a barren and abandoned place.

Sam closed his eyes again and tried not to think about water and about how thirsty and hot he was. It was a monumental task, especially as sweat began to roll down his face.

One bead dribbled down from his nose and came to rest in the corner of his mouth. He flicked his tongue out and caught the salty sweat on it, savoring the tiny amount of moisture it provided and he was able to collect a few drops of sweat in this fashion, but after a while, there was no more sweat to give him any sort of relief.

It wasn't long after that that Sam started to feel coldness wrap around his body despite the heat beating down on him.

He knew what it was – he hadn't been raised by John Winchester to survive in all situations to not recognize the symptoms of heat stroke when they hit.

"The sun's so hot, I froze to death …" He heard singing.

The birds nearby flapped excitedly and squawked, getting closer. A fly landed on his chapped lips and rubbed its legs together.

"Susanna don't you cry."Lucifer sang in his ear.

OOOOOO

Dean wasn't stupid. He knew he was walking into a trap the moment that bastard answered Sam's phone, but what choice did he have?

Dean had already failed Sam in so many ways – he hadn't been able to protect him from Hell – he hadn't been able to keep Castiel from tearing down the wall in his head and he hadn't been able to keep that Leviathan from nearly braining him to death with a crow bar - and then there was Amy -

He wasn't about to let him down – not again.

Dean passed by what had to be the same damned scrubby mesquite tree for the hundredth time and suddenly stopped the car. A plume of dust and dirt flew up from the wheels and through the haze, Dean saw clearly now what had caught his attention.

He quickly stepped out of the car and cupped his hands over his eyes to shade them from the broiling sun as he peered off into the distance.

About a half-mile from the road stood a copse of dead trees and on those trees, he could make out the large, black bodies of birds. There had to be at least twenty of them, hopping from barren limb to barren limb while others flew in hungry circles in the sky over them as if in anticipation for something on the ground.

He knew right away what they were – vultures … waiting for something to die.

"God …" Dean muttered.

The heat was staggering and if Sam was out there – if he was hurt and out in this sun –

Shit …

He never realized that the dog-days of summer could come so late to Texas and that even in mid-October there could be 100 plus degrees temps and Sam may have been out there already for hours.

He hurried to the trunk and popped it open, pulling out supplies and weapons, then grabbing as much water as would fit in his bag before slinging it over his back and taking off at a sprint.

Dean barely felt the sting and scratching of the mesquite trees' thorns as he plowed through the brush and ran. He had only one thing on his mind – get to Sam.

He suddenly came to a screeching halt.

Two bare feet was all he could see peeking out from beside a large boulder.

"Sam!" He yelled as he ran again.

There was no movement or reaction, but two birds sitting in a nearby tree took flight as Dean rushed forward and covered the remaining distance separating him from the body lying on the ground.

Dean held his breath as he rounded the boulder and got a full-view of everything. Sam lay stretched out on the ground nearly naked, his skin bright red, hair plastered to his face, lips chapped raw and bleeding and worst of all, he had two long wounds on his abdomen running horizontally across his stomach. Dean swallowed a lump of bile down, but he didn't stop for even a second before he was on his knees beside his brother and cradling his head between his hands.

"Sam? C'mon man …"

Dean could feel the heat radiating off of his little brother, but he could also feel the light thump of a pulse under his fingers and that alone left him flooded with relief.

But Sam wasn't out of the woods and Dean needed to cool him down. He shucked off the bag and dug immediately inside for the water. He took one bottle and opened it then lifted Sam's head up so he could tip a small amount onto his lips.

This finally brought some kind of reaction on Sam's part. His tongue flashed out and licked at the water and at the same time his eyes fluttered open. Encouraged by this sign, Dean tipped the bottle up a little further and poured a healthy measure into his little brother's mouth.

Sam lapped at the water greedily until he coughed and sputtered. "Whoa … take it easy, Sam … a little bit a time, okay?"

Sam coughed weakly again and sighed. He looked up at Dean uncomprehendingly, his eyes bright with fever and pupils blown, "Real?" He asked in a voice as rough as the ground that sat on.

Dean had seen that confusion and fear on Sam's face before … he saw it almost every morning when Sam woke up drenched in sweat from whatever nightmare memory of Hell Lucifer had cooked up for him during his time there. Dean grabbed Sam's hand and squeezed down on the scar that was still healing. "It's me, Sammy … I'm here … I'm real."

"D'n?"

"You're gonna be fine, dude." Dean assured him while pouring a little water onto his little brother's forehead to cool him down a little.

"Water." Sam sighed, "More?"

"Yeah … I got plenty. Here we go." Dean tipped the water bottle back up to Sam's lips and his brother sucked down huge mouthfuls until the need to breathe won out and his head fell back into Dean's hand.

"Isssa … itsa tra - … trap." Sam mumbled.

"Yeah … I kinda figured. Don't worry – I'll handle it and get you outta here. Can you walk?"

Sam shook his head, "Ben—Benton."

"Shhh … I know, I know … I recognized his voice … don't worry. I got this…"

It was just as Dean said this that he heard a whizzing sound behind his head and his vision exploded into a painful white. He fell to the ground, stunned, but was able to fight the encroaching darkness and scramble blindly for the bag and for the weapons he had stashed inside.

He rolled just before the large branch that had hit him before could make contact once again, but the action caused him to lose his hold on the bag and it fell next to his brother.

Dean rolled just as two gnarly hands grabbed him by the collar and hauled him up. For a crazy, old coot, Dean had to admit that whatever juice had kept the man alive all of these years made the demented doctor far stronger than should have been possible.

"Good to see you again, Dean." Benton hissed as he pulled the younger man close to his motley face, "I knew you would come for your brother … now we can have as much fun together as I've had with Sam."

Dean struggled within the doctor's hold, shirking back as much as possible from his deathly smelling breath. Benton gave Dean a sinister grin then tossed him easily through the air until his back made a painful impact with a nearby mesquite tree. He crumpled to the ground, his vision darkening as footsteps crunched across the rocky ground towards him.

He sought to find his feet while various aches in his muscles slowed him down and then he felt Benton's hands grab him once again. He was only halfway being pulled up when a gunshot rang out across the barren countryside and he fell to the ground once again.

Dean looked up to see Benton stagger back in surprise, a hole neatly carved into his features between his wide eyes. His view shifted to Sam, who remained on his back, his head hovering just over the ground and the .45 Dean had stashed in the bag still smoking in his hand. A second later, Sam's hand dropped as if the weight of the weapon had suddenly become too much for him and his head fell to the ground.

Taking advantage of the moment before Benton could get over his shock at being shot by the injured man on the ground, Dean dived for the bag and for the other weapon he had taken along with him for just such an occurrence.

In one smooth movement, he reached into the bag and had a machete in his hand.

With a growl of rage; he came to his feet, swinging.

Benton made to block the attack by raising his hand to his head, and Dean felt the blade make contact with the doctor's wrist, felt it crush through skin and bone until the appendage was sailing through the air completely severed.

The doctor howled with pain and anger, but Dean's rage was far stronger than Benton's and he saw only red as he swung the machete again with every ounce of force he could muster through his arms. Benton's eyes made brief contact with Dean's the moment the blade impacted with the side of his neck and his mouth opened to cry out, but no noise could issue forth as the machete cut clean through his vocal cords and windpipe.

Dean followed through with a complete arc, feeling little resistance and he watched in detached satisfaction as Benton's head detached from his body and fell to the dirt.

But he wasn't done yet, his anger still wasn't satisfied and Dean continued to wield the machete -chopping, hacking, slicing, and destroying every bit of flesh and bone in his path until a voice called out to him from behind.

"Dean … stop …"

Dean stopped mid-way through hacking another piece of Benton away from his torso. He panted heavily and felt the blade slip from his hand and clatter to the ground.

"Overkill much?" Sam weakly joked before letting his head drop back to the ground.

Dean abandoned the doctor's body, certain that he was no longer a threat and went back to his brother, who had given up the fight to stay conscious. With what strength he had left, Dean pulled his brother up by his arms into a sitting position while Sam's head flopped forward.

The hard part was somehow getting his gigantic brother into a fireman's carry, but Dean was still running high on adrenaline and his need to get Sam to safety overrode any pain or exhaustion he felt creeping in.

"'Kay … We're puttin' you on diet after this, Sammy." Dean groaned as he staggered to his feet under the weight of Sam's limp body and carried him all of the way back to the car.

OOOOOO

Sam woke to a dim-lit room. A single light hung from the ceiling and cast grim shadows on the walls. He turned his head and saw a clear plastic bag hung crudely from the bed post beside him connected to a tube that traced its way back to the inside of his elbow.

He groaned and felt his heart quicken and his breath catch in his throat as he squeezed his eyes shut.

He was back … Benton …

His breath came in short pants, he couldn't get enough air in his lungs… he had to move … had to get out.

But he couldn't move …

Couldn't breathe ….

No air ….

No … no… no…

"Sam!" Sam felt a hand on his chest. "Stop … calm down, you're gonna pull that IV out if you keep moving. You need to keep it in – it's keeping you hydrated."

The hand left his chest and he felt two palms cup his cheeks, "Breathe … okay? Just breathe … in and out …"

"Dean?" he gasped. Not Benton?

Not Lucifer?

"Hey … it's okay … you're gonna be fine."

Sam dared to open his eyes and he realized that he was writhing around on the bed and his paralysis had apparently worn off. He stilled his muscles then tried moving his arms, legs and head independently just to confirm to himself that he was back in control of his own movements.

Sam searched his brother's face and the blood rushing in his ears in time to his pounding pulse began to quiet down.

"You with me, Sam?" Dean asked and Sam swallowed hard as he nodded shakily.

Dean looked relieved then patted his cheek, "Good."

Now that he was calmer, Sam took note that he was back in their motel room, covered in cold, wet towels and half-melted chucks of ice that made him shiver.

His brother must have picked up on his confusion and started to explain, "Sorry, I had to cool you down, but I couldn't risk taking you to a hospital–." Dean didn't have to explain that part, neither he nor his brother were really particularly fond of hospitals, especially after they nearly got turned into the main course for the leviathans at the hospital in Sioux Falls.

Dean really did a good job getting him cooled down, maybe too good a job because now Sam was shivering and freezing. He tried to shift out of the uncomfortable coverings and sit up, but a sharp pain from his stomach stopped him cold and left him moaning and wrapping an arm around his injured skin.

"Hey! What did I just say about moving?" Dean nagged. "I just got you all bandaged up."

"C-cold …"

"Hold on." Dean pressed Sam back down then started to unwrap the cold towels from his little brother and toss them into the sink in the bathroom. Once all of the towels were gone, Dean grabbed the IV bag from the bedpost then wrapped his other hand around Sam's arm, "C'mon … let's move you to the other bed. It's not all wet."

Sam was all at once grateful to be moving and sorry that he had. Everything hurt - from his sun-burned skin, to the wounds over his gut, to even the hair on his head. But, Dean was gentle and carefully helped to lower him into the dry bed before draping a light sheet over him.

"Where're you gonna sleep?" Sam asked.

"Floor."

"Dean, don't be stupid. It's a queen sized bed – there's room."

"I'm not sleeping with you."

"We slept in the same bed all of the time growing up."

"Yeah, well … grown men don't share a bed unless they're … you know …"

"Oh please … You don't have to kill your back sleeping on the floor just because you're afraid sharing a bed might be a risk to your masculinity."

"Okay … fine. But no cuddling … you stay on your side and I'll stay on mine. And absolutely no blanket hogging, got it?"

"I'll try to restrain myself." Sam quipped back sarcastically, taking a bottle of water that Dean offered him while placing a hand on Sam's forehead and checking for fever. He appeared satisfied that he had cooled down sufficiently enough for Dean to relax a little.

"That better be all gone by the time I'm done in the bathroom." Dean ordered before slipping into the bathroom and starting the shower. Sam leaned back on his pillow and tried to relax despite how uncomfortable his burned and injured skin made him, but he was exhausted and it didn't take much for him to drift off into a dream-filled and uneasy sleep.

OOOOO

Dean turned off the water then climbed out of the shower and started to dry off.

Sam was going to be fine, he reminded himself, but he still felt shaky and unsettled after the day's events. At least he had had the satisfaction of chopping Benton up into a pile of bits and pieces for what he had done to his brother and he had to take what little victories he could when they seemed so few and far between lately.

Dean dressed in a pair of loose-fitting sweatpants, then left the steamy bathroom and walked back into the room where Sam lay sleeping on the bed.

At first glance, Sam looked to be peacefully slumbering, but as soon as Dean sat down on his end of the bed, he heard the soft hitch in his brother's breath that signaled that all was not well inside his head. Tears leaked from the corners of Sam's eyes and cascaded down his face as he let out another heartbreaking and pain-filled whine. Dean's big brother instincts kicked in at the sound and he reached out to touch Sam's shoulder, hoping it might bring him a little comfort, or at least let him know that he wasn't alone.

Sam jerked awake immediately, "Don't!" he cried out, panting like he had just run a marathon while fear and confusion warred across his stricken features as he sat up. The sudden movement caused Sam to squeeze his eyes shut and gasp in pain, clutching his injured abdomen.

"Whoa … hey. Sorry." Dean raised his hands to steady his brother and ease him down against the pillow. Sam's eyes darted towards him, torn between relief and uncertainty while at the same time he grabbed the palm of his hand and began squeezing it forcefully.

Dean knew right away that Sam was having a difficult time distinguishing nightmare from reality once again, but whether that nightmare was from his most recent encounter with Benton or from Lucifer, he wouldn't know unless Sam offered to tell him. However, his little brother had been pretty tight-lipped about his experiences in Hell, never giving Dean any details about it other than to say it was 'bad'. While Dean could understand his reluctance to talk about it – he worried that Sam wasn't holding things together nearly as well as he wanted Dean to believe. Sooner or later, he feared that Sam would snap completely and that he'd be left with only a shell of a brother when the fall-out cleared.

"No … no ... I'm sorry, Dean … I'm just … sorry." Sam repeated, releasing his hand then swiping at his teary eyes, embarrassed by his lack of control over his emotions.

"Don't be sorry, Sam." Dean scooted a little closer to his brother until they were sitting, touching shoulders. "You know – you could always… I dunno … talk about it and stuff ... " He shrugged, pretending to be indifferent so Sam wouldn't feel as though Dean was trying to pry anything out of him that he didn't want to talk about.

Sam gulped and swallowed convulsively, a clear sign to Dean that he was fighting to keep tears at bay. "I just … I guess Benton freaked me out a little, ya know? I couldn't move – I couldn't fight back – it was just like –"

Like Hell, Dean finished his sentence in his head.

"Yeah … I get it."

"There just wasn't anything I could do – and I hate feeling like that. I hate not being able to fight back."

"It's over now, Sam. You don't have to worry about Benton." Or Lucifer, he did not have to add aloud, "And anything else that comes along…" Dean let his voice drop to a softer tone, "We'll fight together."

Sam nodded wearily, looking down at the hand in his lap, occasionally rubbing the scar on his palm.

They sat in silence for a while until Sam's eyes began to droop and his heavy head landed on Dean's adjacent shoulder.

Dean smiled a little to himself.

So much for no cuddling, he thought as he drifted off to sleep.

The End