Notes: Prequel to Long Live the King, but can stand alone. AU after season three. Tell me what you think!

Warnings: swearing, mild gore.

Dean opens his eyes.

Dean immediately regrets opening his eyes, and squeezes them shut again, cursing internally. He has no idea what he did last night, but it had better have been freaking worth it. If he doesn't have a smoking hot girl in his bed he's going to be pissed.

. . . if he's even in his bed, which, upon further investigation, he's not.

He jerks upright, ignoring his head's loud protest. He's not in a bed, or on a couch, or in the Impala. He is, in fact, on the ground, in the middle of a graveyard. The only intact piece of clothing on his body is a jacket which was draped over his chest. It was dislodged by his sudden movement and the cold night air is beginning to bite at his limbs.

All that is enough to freak him out, but it's the still figure several feet away which sends terror coursing through his veins. The night is starless, but he can still make out the freakishly long limbs, the familiar line of the jaw.

"Sam!" he tries to say, but it's barely audible. His throat is raw as if it's been rubbed with sandpaper (as if he's been screaming). "Sammy," he calls, more strongly, already moving – only to be bowled over by some unseen force. Suddenly he's on his back again, this time with an invisible weight pressing down on him.

There are claws digging into his shoulders, hot breath on his face, and Jesus fucking shit it's a motherfucking Hellhound and he has no weapons and no clothes and he's going to die naked in a graveyard knowing that his little brother is either already dead or about to be because all the fury and fear and raw protective instinct in the universe won't enable him to fight off a Hellhound with his bare hands –

There is a soft moan from Sam's direction, and the weight disappears. Dean's heart rate speeds up even more.

"Hey, you stupid mutt!" he calls as he scrambles to his feet, operating on the panicked thought that maybe, just maybe, if he can distract it for long enough, Sam can get away. "Over – !" He finally registers what he's seeing, and cuts of abruptly.

Sam's head has lolled to the side through no movement of his own. His hair is shifting as if someone is brushing at it ineffectively – or something is nuzzling his face. The Hellhound is whining softly, and when Dean steps forward it immediately shifts to a low, warning growl.

"Son of a bitch," he breathes incredulously. The thing isn't attacking Sam. It's guarding him.

Sam moans again, and this time it's a word.


"Right here, Sammy," he says, his heart leaping. The night is starless and he can't see much through the gloom (what little he can see isn't encouraging), but Sam's talking and coherent enough to recognize his voice, and that's something. He tries to move forward again, but is met by a vicious snarl. "Cool it, Cujo!"

Sam shifts with another groan, weakly raising his left hand (his right arm is bent at an unnatural angle, clearly badly broken) to close it around what appears to be thin air.

"Amicus," he rasps out. "Frater."

It must be some kind of command, because the thing falls back to concerned whining, and when Dean takes another step forward it gives no reaction.

He's at Sam's side in an instant.

"Sam? Sammy. I'm here, it's gonna be fine, but I need you to stay awake. C'mon, man, open your eyes."

"No," Sam protests weakly, tilting his head away. "No, no, no . . ." Now that he's closer Dean can see the blood staining his clothes, soaking them, still seeping sluggishly from unseen wounds, too much, too fast –

"Okay, Sammy," he says, emotion making his own throat tighten. "I've got you. You're gonna be okay."

The night is starless, so he still can't make out the details. Hands shaking, he reaches down to peel back his brother's t-shirt. Maybe it's not as bad as it looks. (Oh god oh god please don't let it be that bad.)

It's not as bad as it looks.

It's worse.

Oh god it's like Cold Oak all over again and there's blood everywhere and fuck he can see bone and Sam's breathing is ragged and painful and it's bad, it's bad, it's so bad – it's – it's –

It's healing.

Miraculously, impossibly, the wounds are closing. The bleeding is stopping; muscles and tendons are reconnecting; skin is sealing flawlessly. Sam's gasps turn to whimpers and then to a high, thin whine as his arm twists back into place with a horrible crunching sound. Within a minute he's whole again, pushing himself upright, groping blindly for Dean. His eyes are still closed but he manages to latch onto him, hands clutching at his back, face buried in his neck, hot tears seeping onto his skin, breath coming in muffled, wordless sobs.

"Sam," Dean says helplessly, returning the embrace. "Sammy, what . . ."

Sam chokes back the sobs and pulls away slightly, tears still spilling out from beneath closed lids.

"What do you remember?" he asks, his voice shaking.

"What do I – ?" Dean stops. Thinks. He remembers his deal and Ruby and time running out. He remembers Bobby and his baby and singing Bon Jovi out of tune. He remembers New Harmony and Lilith and Hellhounds. He remembers Sam, screaming. He remembers pain.

He remembers dying.

"Sam, what did you do?"

Sam shakes his head, tries to pull away, but Dean won't let him. He keeps firm grip on his arm – firm but not rough, because his terror is outweighing his fury. Sam looks so fragile, young and old and exhausted, paler and thinner than Dean has ever seen him, and shit shit shitwhat did he do?


"'M sorry," says Sam, and he starts to sob again, despite his visible efforts to keep himself under control. "Sorry, 'm sorry, I couldn't – I had to – had to get you out. Had to."

The invisible canine whines in sympathy to Sam's distress, shoving its huge head beneath Dean's chin to snuffle worriedly at his brother. Dean's stomach turns, and not only because of the stench of blood and sulfur which the beast carries on its breath. They're in a graveyard, Sam was shredded and now he's not, Dean was dead and now he's not, and there's a Hellhound playing guard dog.

The pieces are starting to fall into place, and he doesn't like the picture they're making.

"Sam, show me your eyes."

Sam shakes his head, but Dean seizes his shoulders, pours every ounce of authority he can into his voice.


Sam opens his eyes.

Dean's fingers go lax as all feeling drains from his limbs. Everything seems to freeze, his heart stopping in his chest and his breath catching in his throat until it rushes out of his lips in a broken whisper.

"Oh god, Sammy."

The night is starless, and the only thing blacker than the sky is his brother's eyes.