A/N 1: grief is a funny thing, and I find myself compelled to write just to get something written. And once written, I feel compelled to post. Thank you for bearing with me.

A/N 2: I can't tell you how much I've appreciated all your thoughts and prayers and notes in this continuing horrible time. Getting through these losses is harder than I could have ever imagined (and much like Han Solo "I can imagine quite a bit…") So, thank you to everyone for your thoughts & prayers, and for reading, reviewing, recommending, my stories. I am trying to respond to everyone.

A/N 3: this is a story I wrote because I wish that some horrible things just weren't true.

Winter in Montana apparently lasts forty-six weeks of the year. We managed to pull up to the cabin late that night, just as the bi-weekly blizzard roared down around us. By the time we got from the car to the door, we were splattered with thick, heavy snowflakes, and dragging exhaustion behind us like an anchor.

"First shower?" I asked and Sam jerked his chin in my direction as he pulled his top, damp layer off.

"Go ahead. I'll get some food started."

I nodded and grabbed clothes to go get clean. Fortunately we'd seen the storm coming and stopped to get some real food and supplies on our way here. I mean, Sam can do amazing things with Spam, powdered eggs, and freeze dried onions, but even 'amazing' can wear on a guy after a while.

So, I came out from the shower to a hearty meal of brown & serve rolls, hot canned beef stew, and cold beer. Sam had built a fire in the fireplace and even with the gale force winds trying to blow through the cabin, the place felt safe and snug.

We didn't talk much while we ate and since Sammy cooked, when we were done I cleaned up and banked the fire while he took his own shower. He took a longer shower than I had, warming up and easing sore muscles as much as just getting clean probably, and by the time he came out, dressed in sweats, long sleeved t-shirt and wool socks, I was already laying on under my blankets in bed, with an arm crossed under my head and a magazine in my other hand.

Sam turned the light off next to his bunk and sat on the mattress, holding his dirty clothes rolled in his hands. He didn't lie down, he didn't set his bundle down, he sat there in the mostly dark, staring at the floor for a minute or two.

Between two hunts and seven states, Sam'd been quiet. Not 'tired' quiet, he'd been getting enough sleep. Not 'sick' quiet, he was feeling okay. It was his 'thinking too hard about something to talk about much else' quiet.

This now was his 'getting up the nerve to talk about it' quiet, so I kept my eyes on my magazine and my attention on Sam.

"Hey, Dean?" He asked me after that minute or two of staring at the floor and with just those two words, every late night conversation we'd ever had in darkened rooms came crowding back into my memory. Hey, Dean - will Santa really find us? Does Greta Peppenhagen really like me? Are you sure Dad's really not mad? Did I really do okay driving the car for the first time? "Hey, Dean? If I remember something happening to me in the Pit that I don't remember remembering happening to me in the Pit, did it happen?"

This was day thirty-seven of Humpty Dumpty being put back together again. At the end of his torment, those last few days, those last agonized hours before Sam finally broke and ran, in his misery and lethal insomnia he'd told me – frantically babbled out to me – every evil thing being fouled into his ear.

So I knew that this was more than knives and acid and razor wire. More than despair and agony and decades of blood and guts and brains on toast. My torture had been geared to breaking me. Sam's torture had been about being entertainment for his cage mates. His torture had been about emotional rather than physical agony.

"No, it didn't happen." I told him.

"How do you know?"

"Because not being sure is the worse torture."

He nodded and looked away and rolled his bundle of dirty clothes in his hands like he wasn't sure what to do with it.

I sat up and crossed my arms over my bent knees.

"You want to talk about what you're remembering not remembering?" I asked him. I didn't want to talk about it, but Sam needed to talk about it, otherwise he wouldn't have brought it up.

But he shook his head and rolled his bundle and shrugged one shoulder.

"It's not the memories as much as the hallucinations. I mean – when I think about the hallucinations, when I was hallucinating I had memories of – things – happening that I don't remember when I'm not hallucinating."

When I'm not hallucinating. Present tense. I did not like the sound of that.

"Sam?" I sat more forward, desperate for the answer. "Radio Free Hell has gone off the air, hasn't it?"

"What? Yeah – yeah, all quiet." He assured me immediately, gesturing to his head. "It's just memories. It's – it's nothing."

"Sure, it's nothing."

Sam looked up at me and tried to have an answer to that. I could see that in his face. He was going to try to give me a totally casual, 'this doesn't bother me', answer, an honest answer. But then he realized that he couldn't pretend it didn't bother him so he couldn't answer me because he didn't want me to know that it bothered him.

"Is there more beer?" He asked, even though he'd been there in the store and knew as well as I did how much beer we still had left. He dropped his laundry on his bed and went to the door of the enclosed, poorly heated porch that served as our walk-in fridge in cold weather.

"You want something stronger?" I asked him. If I could get him drunk, I could get him to talk to me. He stopped with his hand on the door and half turned back to me.

"Yeah. Sure. Where is it?"

"Right here. Grab the glasses."

I sat up on the edge of the bed and reached into my duffel next to my bed for the bottle of whiskey. Sam brought two shot glasses and stood there like he didn't know what to do.


He sat, sitting next to me on the edge of my bed. A particularly hard wind blew around and into the cabin through the cracks and seemed to be trying to swell the little building from the inside.

I poured and we drank and Sam stared into his empty glass.

"I don't want it to be true."

Of course he didn't want it to be true. That's why there was no memory of it outside the hallucinations.

I took a breath to keep myself calm and to make my answer sound reasonable. Maybe I couldn't save him from one hundred and eighty years of actual hell, but I was going to do my damnedest to save him from a lifetime of reliving it.

"It's not true." I told him.

"How do you know?"

"Because all of your hallucinations were fake. Weren't they? All of your hallucinations were lies. You hallucinated that I hadn't saved you, that I couldn't save you, that I didn't even try. You hallucinated people being hurt that you couldn't help. Loud music, firecrackers. But none of it was real. Your hallucinations weren't real, so your memories from inside your hallucinations aren't real either. They were only things that you fear. They were all lies."

Sam took a minute to think about it, and I took a minute to hope – pray – that he trusted me enough to believe me, and that he believed me enough to trust me. Just like he always used to.

Of course Santa will find us. Of course Greta whats-her-name likes you. Of course Dad's not mad. Of course you drove the car fine.

Finally, he nodded. Not relieved by the answer, but more resigned to it.

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess you're right."

"Of course I'm right; I'm always right. Remember that – it saves time."

He huffed and rolled his eyes so wide it had to hurt, then took his shot glass to the sink. He moved his dirty laundry into his backpack and buried himself under his blankets.

"'Night, Dean."

"'Night, Sammy."

Love seeketh not itself to please,
nor for itself hath any care,
but for another gives its ease,
and builds a Heaven in Hell's despair

William Blake