Dean poured salt over Ruby's knife.

"The first time you picked up my razor - the first time you sliced into that weeping bitch, that was the first seal." Alistair said.

"You're lying."

"And it is written that the first seal shall be broken when a righteous man sheds blood in Hell. As he breaks, so shall it break."

Dean turned his back to Alistair and walked away, his eyes burning.

"We had to break the first seal before any others, only way to get the dominoes to fall right. Topple the one at the front of the line." Alistair leaned his head back, looked up and said, "When we win - when we bring on the Apocalypse and burn this Earth down, we'll owe it all to you, Dean Winchester. Believe me son, I wouldn't lie about that. It's kind of a..." he dropped his gaze to the left, and noticed water dripping from a leaky pipe, right onto the outline of the Devil's Trap, "...religious sort of thing."

"No, I don't think you are lying." Dean said, his eyes closed. He turned back to face Alistair, who had snuck up directly behind him, and jammed the salted blade through his chest, in between two of his ribs. Dean twisted the blade slowly, "I just don't think you understand exactly how much you broke me."

Alistair gasped in pain.

Dean grinned, and felt a rush of pleasure flow through him. Alistair thought he could hurt him - make him feel guilty, but this, this right here - wringing the truth from his old teacher, was far more important. He didn't need more guilt. What he needed was to hear Alistair beg - over and over again. He slid the blade in another inch, up towards the bottom of Alistair's heart and prodded at it, delicately.

Alistair made a pained, wheezing noise, but when he caught Dean's gaze he stopped, and nearly laughed. "There you are." Alistair said, with a bloodied grin. "I knew you were still in there. All we had to do was push." he coughed and more blood spilled out of his mouth, "Here I thought I'd be the one to bring you back home, but it was -" he coughed again and then laughed gleefully, "it was the angels that put you up to it."

Dean took a step back, confused.

"It's just so poetic. Here I was, furious with those winged halfwits for undoing all my hard work, but..." he grinned at Dean with pride, "...you're still you. They just buried your best parts."

"What the Hell are you - ?" Dean started to ask.

Alistair lunged forward, grabbed Dean by the neck and bent him down over the cart his supplies were on. He knocked the bottles and trays off and shoved Dean's face down towards the shiny metallic surface.

Dean saw his face and his eyes - his black eyes - staring back at him.

Alistair slammed Dean's head forward onto the cart - again and again. He pulled Dean back up, spun him around and punched him. Dean tried to catch himself on the cart, but instead of steadying himself, the sharp corner of the cart dug a gash into his forearm.

Alistair grabbed Dean by the hair and slammed him onto the cart one last time. Dean fell to the floor - bleeding and unconscious.

Castiel entered the room and stabbed Alistair with Ruby's knife - aiming for his heart, but hitting just below his shoulder instead.

"Almost." Alistair said, "God is on my side today."

Castiel twisted the blade, and Alistair winced, but pulled the blade out. They fought until Alistair shoved Castiel up against the wall and pinned him on a hook.

"Well, like roaches, you celestials. Now, I really wish I knew how to kill you. But all I can do is send you back to heaven." Alistair began to chant, forcing Castiel out of his vessel and back to heaven, when he was suddenly slammed against the far wall.

Sam was striding towards him, his hand outstretched.

"Stupid pet tricks." muttered Alistair.

"Who's murdering the angels? How are they doing it?" Sam asked.

"You think I'm gonna tell you?" Alistair smirked.

"Yeah, I do." Sam said, and twisted his hand, squeezing Alistair's soul. "How are the demons killing angels?"

"I don't know." Alistair growled, in pain.

"Right."

"It's not us. We're not doing it." Alistair's voice strained, and he marveled at the sheer strength of Sam's hold.

"I don't believe you." Sam was going to get the truth from Alistair. He knew he could. He would drag the truth out of Alistair's stolen mouth and then he'd kill him, slowly.

"Lilith is not behind this. She wouldn't kill seven angels. She'd kill a hundred, a thousand."

Sam dropped his hand, and Alistair's agony subsided, but he was still pinned against the wall.

"Go ahead. Send me back, if you can."

"I'm stronger than that now. Now I can kill." Sam said, unable to hide the pride in his voice. He held his palm out again, and Alistair lit up - burning from the inside. Sam let the rush of power flow through him and felt a strange sense of calm as Alistair suffered the full force of his fury.

Castiel stared at Sam, dumbfounded, while Alistair screamed in agony as golden light ripped his soul to shreds.

Alistair died far too quickly. He gasped one final time - a pained, wheezing sound - as Sam's power burned the last fragments of him. His dead, empty vessel slumped to the floor.

Sam glanced at Castiel, then back at his brother's unconscious form. Dean was bleeding from far too many wounds. Sam had gotten here as fast as he could, but he hadn't been fast enough.


Sam sat by Dean's hospital bed, watching the machines attached to him, in helpless frustration. Earlier tonight, he'd killed Alistair. He was more powerful than he'd ever been, but he couldn't do a thing to help Dean. He felt pressure building along his temples and looked up to see Castiel outside of Dean's room. Sam's anger came faster than he could force it back down. If he could, he'd tear the angel apart. It was hisfault Dean was lying in this damn bed. Sam followed Castiel down the hall and glared at him. "Get in there and heal him. Miracle. Now."

"I can't." Castiel answered.

"You and Uriel put him in there -"

"No."

"- because you can't keep a simple Devil's Trap together."

Castiel's eyes widened, "I don't know what happened. That trap...it shouldn't have broken. I am sorry."

"This whole thing was pointless. You understand that? The demons aren't doing the hits. Something else is killing your soldiers."

"Perhaps Alistair was lying." Castiel said.

"No, he wasn't." Sam snapped, and then he turned and walked back to Dean's room. Alistair didn't lie - he couldn't lie. Not with Sam's power crushing him like a vice. Sam could force the truth out of demons if he really wanted to. He could do so much more to them, if he wanted to- but he didn't. He just wanted to kill them.

Sam went back to his vigil at Dean's side and tried to stop dwelling on the angels, and their uselessness. His mind kept drifting - to Ruby, of all things. Even though his flask was tucked away in his duffel bag in the Impala, he could smell the sulfur-scent of her blood. He remembered again how easily Alistair had died and felt another leftover wave of satisfaction come over him. He'd avenged Dean- partially anyway. Lilith would be next. He'd been strong enough to kill Alistair, and soon, he'd be able to take down Lilith - he was sure of it.

He glanced back up at Dean's face. He was still unconscious. Sam knew Dean needed to stay here at the hospital. He needed to rest since none of the angels would lift a holier than thou finger to help him. Anger flared up in him again at the thought. The angels were just as dangerous as demons. Worse, even. Maybe there was a way he could get strong enough to protect Dean from them, too. There had to be.

Sam shook his head again, trying to clear his thoughts. His mind was going in an uncomfortable loop. Worry about Dean, frustration at not being able to help him, the thrill of victory at Alistair's death and the hunger for more blood. Why could he still smell it? It didn't make any sense...

...and then his gaze landed on Dean's bandaged forearm. The bandage was nearly soaked through with red. Suddenly Sam knew - without any doubt - why he couldn't get the scent of demon blood out of his mind.

"No, Dean..." he whispered, but he couldn't help himself. He opened his mind just a tiny bit, the way he would to sense any other demon, and reached out towards Dean. He felt the same black coiling threads of rage and power that he'd felt in countless other demons, but they were in his brother. They were his brother. Dean wasn't possessed. Sam could tell demons and human souls apart, well enough to identify Ruby or to recognize the same demon he'd encountered before and this, this washis brother.

Dean's hand suddenly moved, yanking the tube from his mouth. He took a deep breath, turned and looked at Sam with black eyes. "Hey, Sammy."

Sam tried to answer but couldn't.

"I felt that, you know." Dean said smiling, "You need to work on your subtlety." He tilted his head to the side, "Huh. You look...different."

Sam swallowed, "I do?"

Dean nodded, and then laughed, "This is freaking you out, isn't it?" He closed his eyes, deliberately, and when he opened them again, slowly, they were a normal, human, shade of green. "Better?"

"Dean, I -"

"Sam, if you so much as think about apologizing for any of this crap I'll break your nose." Dean sat up and ripped the needle from his arm. "The angels are playing us. Moving us around like goddamn chess pieces, and I'm sick and tired of it." He hopped off the bed and walked over to the chair in the corner where his clothes were lying, neatly folded.

Sam stood up. He felt like he should be helping, but he didn't know how.

"We'll hunt down Lilith ourselves. You and me."

Sam nodded. He'd wait until later to explain to Dean that Ruby had to be part of that equation too, because without her...he wouldn't be strong enough. As surreal as it was seeing Dean with black eyes, he still couldn't help but feel relieved that he was going to survive. Maybe now Dean would be more accepting of what Sam was doing - what he had to do. Maybe this was, in some twisted way, a good thing.

Their lives were complicated.


"Tell me how you did it." Dean said.

Sam startled awake. He'd started drifting off to sleep. He hadn't realized how exhausted he was until they'd gotten back on the highway. "How I did what?"

"How you killed Alistair. Did you hurt him first?"

Sam looked at Dean, "How did you know I -"

"It was the only thing that was making you feel better, when you were sitting next to me in the hospital. I can't read you, not really, but man were you broadcasting that kill." Dean laughed, "I'm pretty sure they heard you in the Pit."

Sam felt a weird mix of shame and indignation, "I had to kill him. After what he did to you, Dean. I had to."

Dean reached over and patted Sam on the shoulder. "Of course you did. I just wish I'd been there to see it. Did he scream?"

"Yes."

"Did he beg for you to stop?"

"No."

Dean smirked, "Killed him too fast. That's okay, we'll work on that."

Sam stared at Dean, "We'll work on it? You mean you're okay with what I'm doing - with me using my powers?"

"You killed Alistair. You can kill Lilith. You can stop the friggin' Apocalypse. Yeah - I'm on board."

Sam nodded, "Okay, but Dean - you don't know everything about how my powers work - what I have to do to get stronger."

Dean cocked an eyebrow at him, "Educate me."


"Ruby!" Dean yelled again, slamming the hotel room door shut behind him. "Ruby?!"

"Yes! We'll keep her with us - just until we take down Lilith."

"You don't need her anymore, Sam."

"Of course I do, Dean. I need her blood to -"

"What - is she the only demon walking the Earth?"

"No, but-"

"Exactly. There are plenty of other demons out there. Not to mention, you've got a perfectly good, perfectly willing source right here."

Sam was so taken aback he froze where he stood.

Dean walked closer to Sam, shrugging off his jacket. "I mean it Sam, you've got me. I'll help you with this. I'll teach you, we'll practice together, and I'll give you what you need."

"Dean, no." Sam said, shaking his head, "I can't -"

"Why not? It's not gonna hurt me. I can keep this body going with a whole lot of damage now. Plus, I can get the blood back in a week or so. Just need to have a few burgers and plenty of fluids."

"Dean..."

Dean groaned, "Come on, Sam. We're going after Lilith! Together."

"We'll find some other way. Ruby can - "

"I swear, Sam, the next time I see that bitch I'm gonna tear her head off. You think she's been helping you?!"

"She has been."

"Right, by giving you just enough of her blood to get by for what - a couple of days? Of course she helped you out with Alistair, but I'm willing to bet you won't hear from her for weeks, and you want to know why?"

Sam's lips curled in a sneer, "Why?"

"Because she needs you to need her. She's using you, Sam. I'm telling you, she's up to something."

Sam nodded, "What makes you so sure?"

Dean's eyes flashed black, "I know how she thinks." He walked over to his duffel bag and pulled out a small knife.

Sam took a step back when he realized what Dean was planning.

Dean ran the blade across his wrist as he moved closer and closer to Sam.

Sam couldn't take his eyes off the thick red drops that were welling up where Dean had cut his skin. "Dean, what's the rush?" he asked, resisting the impulse to grab Dean's arm and bite down.

"You killed Alistair. Any demons who didn't see you as a threat before - they do now. They're gonna come for you, and when they do, you need to be ready. You need to be as strong as you were tonight - stronger - all the time. It's the only way we're gonna survive long enough to take Lilith down." Dean raised his bleeding wrist up to Sam's mouth.

Sam closed his eyes and tried not to think about the blood, but he couldn't help it. The smell was everywhere, and he wanted it, he needed it. His head was pushed forward onto Dean's bleeding arm, and he drank.


The blood always made time meaningless. Sam never knew how long Ruby would let him drink before gently pulling away, but tonight he waited for Dean to do the same and it never happened. A flicker of awareness disrupted his blissful haze and he wondered why Dean hadn't stopped him yet. He pulled back from Dean's wrist and looked at him questioningly. "Your blood...it's different - stronger."

"Huh." Dean smirked, "And here I thought I was about as low level as you could get, for a demon."

Sam looked at Dean's black eyes, and suddenly he understood, "You aren't possessing anyone. It's your soul, your body, your blood."

"Quit stalling." Dean said, and shoved Sam back down onto the cut.

Time disappeared again for a while.

Later, when the flow of blood stopped, Sam heard Dean say, "That's it. This well has run dry."

Sam pulled back and blinked, trying to get his eyes to adjust to the light of the hotel room. Everything looked so bright - overly saturated, the colors too rich to be real.

Dean got up and walked over to the sink. He let the water run for a few seconds, and came back over to the table. "Don't worry, I'll have more for you soon." Dean handed Sam a wet washcloth, "Clean up, and get some sleep."

Sam nodded, took the washcloth and stood up. His heart still felt like it was going double-time - the blood always made his pulse race, and just standing gave him a brief sense of vertigo, but beyond that he felt good - he felt strong, much stronger than he'd been when he'd killed Alistair. He walked over to the mirror and stared at himself. His face was smeared with blood, and there were thick red trails where the blood had run down his neck.

"Can you even see what you look like? What you really look like?" Dean asked, walking up behind him.

Sam tilted his head a bit in confusion.

Dean rested his chin on Sam's shoulder, peering into the mirror beside him, "Try to read me, right now. You need to know."

"I don't know how -" Sam started.

"Then learn." Dean said, "Man, she really didn't teach you shit, did she?"

Sam closed his eyes and focused on Dean. He wrapped his mind around Dean as gently as he could and looked.

When he opened his eyes again, he saw Dean - his brother, same as always, but underneath that was another image - still his brother, but his soft smile was a wicked sneer, his eyes were solid black and held the promise of pain.

Sam turned his gaze to his own face and gasped. His face was still covered in blood, but his skin looked like it was glowing. He lifted his hand and could see liquid fire flowing through his veins, running through his whole body. His eyes looked like two miniature suns and all of him radiated power.

"That's what they'll see when they look at you. That's why you need to keep your strength up. You think any of these spineless bastards are gonna lift a finger against someone like you?"

Sam's gaze drifted and he noticed Dean's hand on his shoulder. There was still blood on his fingers.