Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author's Note: A little darker than what I usually write. This is for SandyDee84.

Thanks to Cheryl for the beta.

I wanted to split this into two, but there's not really a logical point for that, so... Here it is! Enjoy!

Summary: Six years after the Winchesters spent a few weeks in the small town of Campbell Pass, Sam and Dean are back in town on a case. They'll find that not all evil is supernatural, and this job will lead to the revelation of secrets Sam hoped to keep hidden. Set in Season 1.

WARNING: Attempted Suicide

Long Shadows

Sam doesn't know what's worse: the fact that he's going to die in this cold, damp, godforsaken basement, the fact that Dean's going to blame himself forever, or the fact that this whole miserable situation is, ultimately, Sam's fault.

He twists his arms futilely. The ropes are tight and his forearms are already a bloody mess, but he has to try.

He has to try.

For Dean.

Because Dean deserves better than this.

Sam swallows.

Somewhere out there, Dean and Dr. Kaplan are looking for him. He knows it. Dean is, because he's Dean, and that means he's always going to look for Sam, right up until he either finds him alive or –

Sam doesn't let himself think about the or.

Dr. Kaplan's looking for him, too, helping Dean. Sam's sure about that, because she's kind of awesome. And because after what happened that day six years ago she seems to think she has some sort of a responsibility to him.

That day.

Sam swallows. Dr. Kaplan did her best, he knows that. She put her career on the line for him, neglecting the report she should have filed with CPS, letting him go without even a psych evaluation.

She lied to Dean for him.

But that's over. There's no avoiding telling Dean the truth now, and Sam doesn't think he wants to avoid it anymore in any case. Dean deserves the truth, if only because he needs to understand why this happened.

Sam just hopes that six years is enough time that Dean won't be hurt by it.

"Sam," Dr. Kaplan says, sitting on the edge of the teenager's bed. "I need to notify your family."

"No," Sam says softly. He's pleading, really, and if he could bear to look up into her face he would turn on the eyes for all he's worth, but he can't. He can't face the sympathy – the pity – he knows he'll find there. "It was an accident. They don't have to know. Don't tell them. Please don't tell them."

"Sam, your blood screens came back. The truck hitting you was an accident, but there was Nembutal in your bloodstream. We very nearly lost you on the table because of it. Do you want to explain how it got there?"

Sam shifts uncomfortably, tugging at the soft restraints holding his wrists down. "Please."

"Sam." Dr. Kaplan sighs. "You know, I don't normally have a lot of patience for people who try to kill themselves. It's stupid and selfish." Sam can't help the flinch. She softens her voice when she goes on. "But I don't think you were being stupid or selfish, Sam. You don't seem like that to me."

"What do I seem like?" Sam asks, voice hoarse from the breathing tube that's just been taken out of his throat.

"You seem like a kid who was overwhelmed." She takes his hand, pats it, runs a thumb along the edge of the cloth holding his wrist to the bed. "Sam, I don't know if you know this, but it isn't always chronically depressed people who try to kill themselves. In many cases it's just a question of a momentary weakness. If you can talk a person like that down from the brink once, they don't usually try it again… Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?"

"You've talked me down from the brink?" Sam asks, a wry smile quirking his lips.

"Not yet. But I'd like to, if you'll let me." She puts his hand down. "You'll have to talk to someone, Sam. It's either going to be me or Dr. Glass. You won't like Dr. Glass. So it might as well be me."

Sam hesitates, but he realizes there's no escape. Dr. Kaplan is going to have this talk with him whether he wants it or not.

He shrugs and says, "If I talk to you, will you promise not to tell my family?"

"Give me a good reason not to, and we can discuss it."

Dean's world feels like it's ended.

No. Screw that. Dean's world has ended. It ended with Lola Dawes, wife of the first victim, smiling with all the enjoyment of a born gossip as she whispered to Dean and Dr. Kaplan that she saw a very tall man jump off Red Creek Bridge.

Dean hadn't even bothered to listen to her, at first, words flowing over him without leaving an impression because his entire being was focused on his missing brother.

Then something jogged his brain, something made him turn to Lola, Lola whom he'd actually considered hitting on the previous night, and demand that she repeat herself. She did, and the earth crumbled under Dean's feet.

It's still crumbling and he's still falling.

When he'd heard enough from Lola to know that there was no mistake, because Campbell Pass was a small town and as far as Dean knows there are only so many people on earth who can be described as 'taller than the bridge supports and kind of floppy-haired', Dean had turned to Dr. Kaplan, not caring that there was definitely naked pleading in his eyes, wanting only that she find some way to tell him Lola was wrong.

She did. "Sam wouldn't do that to you," she'd said, quiet and confident. Then, after a pause, she'd added, "But I still think we should go check it out."

And that's how they're here, now, Dean and Dr. Kaplan, looking at the huge, bloody footprints that could only have been made by Sam's giant feet. They go to the edge of the bridge.

They don't come back.

Under the bridge, right at the bottom of the ravine, water gushes around a blue streak that Dean recognizes as the jacket Sam was wearing in the morning. The jacket Dean gave him for Christmas because he saw Sam looking absently at it through a store window and somehow it seemed like the kind of thing Stanford Sam would wear.

Dean doesn't realize he's leaning too far over the edge until he feels a hand latch onto his wrist. He wants to shake it off – it doesn't matter, so he'll fall, big deal, Sam fell.

Sam fell.

Sam jumped.

Dean knows Sam's been – well, quiet. Still recovering from Jess. Still recovering from losing his normal life. But depressed enough to kill himself?

Dean shakes his head, and if the movement dislodges a few tears, he'd like to see who'd dare tell him he can't cry for his brother.

She doesn't untie Sam's hands when she brings him water. That would be giving him too much dignity, and his captor seems to want to strip him of every shred he has left.

She grabs Sam's hair instead, forcing his head back and pushing the bottle between his teeth. He chokes and sputters and winds up spilling more on himself than he actually drinks.

At least he doesn't have clothes to worry about. His jacket was the first thing she took, when they were still on Red Creek Bridge. She said she needed it to set the scene. Then she'd cut his arm, just inside his elbow. She'd cackled as she'd held a bowl under his arm, bleeding him to near-unconsciousness, explaining that it was all part of creating the perfect tableau.

His shirt had gone as soon as they'd reached her house.

Now all Sam has are his jeans, and after the hours they've spent on the filthy, mossy, grungy basement floor, water can only be an improvement.

"That's a good boy," she says, patting his cheek.

Sam pulls away, and is rewarded with a sudden pain in his jaw.

She packs a punch.

"Don't make me do that again," she says, looking at him reproachfully, like he was the one who made an unprovoked assault on a helpless prisoner. "I don't enjoy hurting you. You just have to learn your lesson."

"What's that?" Sam manages to ask around the blood in his mouth.

He's hoping that, if he can keep the psycho bitch talking, he'll stay alive long enough for Dean to find him. He doesn't think it's likely, but maybe.


"There's always a price to pay," she says, and suddenly she sounds dead serious. "Always. Do you understand me, Sam? You don't get a free pass. Ever."

Sam's eyes widen in understanding. "This is about last time."

"Yes, very good. I knew you were a smart one, even then. Not smart enough to keep from doing a stupid thing, though."

"Why do you even care?" Sam demands. "You don't know us."

"Because it isn't right, Sam. I thought so even then, but now that I've seen what it can do… What you did is unforgiveable." He feels something sharp scrape his chin, but it doesn't break the skin. "I could use more, you know. But you need time to recover. Maybe I'll bring you orange juice next time."

Sam gets the feeling being covered in orange juice is going to be a lot less pleasant than being covered in water.

"It's going to sound crazy," Sam warns.

"Sam. You're on suicide watch. I'm prepared for crazy. Tell me why you did it."

"I don't…" Sam hesitates, trailing off. He remembers the feeling, the despair in the pit of his stomach, the knowledge that he would never be good enough, never be strong enough, never be Dean enough, but he doesn't know what caused it. "I don't remember anymore."

"You mean you don't remember doing it?" Dr. Kaplan asks, frowning.

"No, no, I remember that… Remember the pills. I just… I felt horrible."


"I don't know. I guess nothing was going right for me yesterday."

"That can happen sometimes. Not a reason to kill yourself, though, is it, Sam?" Sam's almost scared to look at the doctor's face, certain he'll see loathing and condemnation. When he meets her gaze, though, there's only sympathy. "Sam? What else?"

Sam remembers frustration. He remembers hopelessness. He remembers trying to get through to Dean and only getting voicemail.

"My brother."

"Did something happen to him?"

"No… No, he's fine. I just… I couldn't get him."

"You were upset about something and you wanted to talk to him?" Dr. Kaplan's voice is warm with understanding. "Where is he?"

Sam laughs. "Must be looking for me by now. He was out last night… On a date. Some blonde chick who brought her car in for him to fix a couple of days ago. Dean sweet-talked her. Dean can always sweet-talk girls."

"And nobody else was home? What about your parents?"

"My mom's dead," Sam says. Maybe it's because of the drugs they've injected in his IV, but his voice doesn't catch on that the way it usually does. "Dad's out of town on work."

"I understand. Now you'll have to explain why you needed to speak to Dean. What happened to upset you?"

"I don't know." Sam's voice is shaking. He feels like a hysterical child. "I don't know. The usual crap. Dad called while Dean was out and we got into an argument and – I don't know. It was just – just –"

"Too much?" Dr. Kaplan asks sympathetically.

Sam nods.

Dean's scrambling into the ravine, completely ignoring Dr. Kaplan's warnings. His eyes are fixed on the streak of blue.

It's all that's left.

This morning there was Sam. There were hazel eyes looking into his with trust and affection and messy hair that he ruffled when he walked past Sam on his way to the bathroom a warm hand patting his shoulder when they found the second body. This morning there was the little brother who made Dean's world go round.

And now there's just a blue jacket caught on some rocks in a creek at the bottom of a small ravine.

Dean lands hard on the ground. He scrambles to his feet, ignoring the burn in his knee – maybe he's scraped it, who the hell cares – and runs to the creek. He's thigh-deep in water when he reaches the jacket.

He stretches out his hand, not touching, not daring to touch.

Because touching will make it real.

So far all they have is circumstantial evidence and the word of a hippie who was probably stoned. Everything can be explained away – the note in Sam's handwriting, Lola's account, even the bloody footprints on the bridge above them.

Everything can be explained away, but this…

This is Sam's jacket.

Dean's fingers close around it and his heart breaks.

Sam's soaked in orange juice too, now, and he was right about it being worse. It's sticky and he's miserable. He's starving and thirsty.

To make matters worse, she bled him again after she poured about a gallon of juice on his head. Maybe she thinks Sam's a frog and he can absorb it through his skin.

Sam's vision is blurring around the edges. He's getting light-headed.

He hears the door open, and then she comes down the stairs again.

"What do you want?" he asks wearily.

"I just wanted to check on you." Her voice is unbearably cheerful. "You know, big brother is looking for you, Sam. He asked me if I knew anything." She drops to the ground in front of him. "I told him all about how I saw you jump off that bridge. He didn't believe me, but he will when he sees everything I set up."

"Why are you doing this?"

"Because what you did was wrong," she says, like it should be obvious. "Dr. Kaplan let you off lightly. She didn't even tell your family. And then you left. When you came back now I was sure she'd tell your brother, but she didn't. And he has to know, Sam." She pats his chest, smiles, and presses cruelly down on the spot where his ribs are cracked. "He has to know how selfish you were."

"So what? You're going to kill me?" Sam shifts, trying to find a comfortable spot. "That'll hurt Dean, too."

"A little bit, maybe." She shrugs. "But he'll get over it. He'll get over you, and then he can be happy. He will be happy when you're gone, once he's had time to think about it."

"I'll tell him the truth myself," Sam offers. He doesn't think she'll go for it, but it's worth a shot. "Let me go and I'll tell him everything."

"You had your chance. It's too late now, Sam. Now he's going to find out… my way." Sam's head thunks back against the cement wall in frustration. "Oh, and one more thing." Sam looks at her. "Do you have any last requests?"

"Would you consider shooting yourself?"

It's the kind of smartass comment Dean would make and Sam pays the price when she gets to her feet and kicks him sharply in the stomach.

He wants to curl in on himself, but the ropes won't let him.

"So you've had a difficult year," Dr. Kaplan says gently. "And it came to a head with that argument with your father, and you wanted to talk to your brother but you couldn't get hold of him."

Sam flushes. It sounds stupid when she puts it like that.

"It seemed worse at the time," he mutters.

"I'm sure it did. What did you think when your brother didn't pick up his phone, Sam? Did you think he didn't care about you?"

Sam shakes his head. He's not going to have this woman thinking any of this is Dean's fault.

"He's always taken care of me. Even more than Dad. Sometimes he needs an evening off. Everybody does."

"That's not answering my question."

Sam knows he's not going to get away with anything less than the truth. He says carefully, "Maybe I thought – I guess I was thinking that taking care of me is an obligation for Dean. He's never had a choice."

"Does he resent having to take care of you? Did he say that?"

"No." Sam shakes his head. "No. It was just…"

"What, Sam?"

"We had a fight. A stupid fight, before Dean left for his date. I – I knew Dad wasn't going to see things my way and I wanted Dean to take my side and he wouldn't. He said Dad was right and I needed to grow up. And it makes me feel like such a kid, like I'm some sort of burden Dean's had to carry because nobody else wants to and – and –"

"And then the fight with your Dad came, and you couldn't get hold of Dean, and you snapped."

Dean doesn't know how long he sits there sobbing into the sodden, torn, bloodstained jacket he's clutching to his chest.

Sam's gone.

Dean should have left him in Stanford. He should never have gone there in the first place. When Sam wanted to come with Dean and track down the thing that killed Jessica, Dean should have put his foot down and made Sam finish out his year. Maybe stayed there with him until he was over Jess. Anything other than drag him back into the life he hated.

But Dean couldn't. Dean didn't.

And now because Dean was too weak to let Sam be happy and fight his fight alone, because Dean insisted on dragging Sam away from his normal life, Sam's gone.

Dean doesn't have a brother.

Dean doesn't have a brother.

He feels a hand on his shoulder and flinches away. He doesn't want Dr. Kaplan trying to make him feel better. She might be nice, but she knows nothing about them. She doesn't know that Sam is Dean's whole life, that keeping him safe is Dean's purpose.

Was Dean's purpose.

What's Dean supposed to live for now?

"Dean," Dr. Kaplan says gently. "Dean. Listen to me. I don't think Sam's dead."

Those were possibly the only words she could have said to get his attention right then.

Still clutching the jacket like it's the most important thing in the world, Dean looks up at her. "What do you mean?"

"Sam wouldn't do that to you," she tells him with quiet confidence. "Trust me. I know that. Can I see the jacket?" She takes it from his nerveless fingers. "Look. See the way it's torn?"

"Probably got ripped off him by the current," Dean chokes.

"No, Dean. Look." She pokes a finger through one of the rips. "See? This wasn't torn – it was cut. And the blood – no, look at it, Dean. The blood came later. Someone cut this jacket and then splashed blood over the cuts to make it look like…"

"Like Sam jumped," Dean breathes. "But he didn't."

Sam's a filthy, disgusting mess and he knows it. He's been tied up in the basement for at least twelve hours, on a floor that probably last saw a mop during the Civil War.

And now there are rats.

Sam can hear them squeaking.

They're not quite next to him yet. They're keeping a cautious distance, obviously a little afraid of his hulking shadow.

That's not going to last, though. They're going to realize how helpless he is. Sam's strength is gone. The ropes don't matter anymore; he doesn't have the energy to strain against them. Right now she could get rid of them and there wouldn't be a damn thing Sam could do other than lie here, light-headed from pain and blood loss, and wait for her to come back and kill him.

Maybe he should kill himself first.

It's a dull thought, but it takes hold.

He knows he promised Dr. Kaplan, promised her all those years ago that he'd never again try to take his own life. But this? This isn't suicide, this is just choosing between a quick death and being eaten alive by the rats that are coming closer now, probably attracted by the sugar in the soda she gave him to 'drink' half an hour ago.

Of course, he can't kill himself. He has no way of doing it. He's tied so tightly his circulation is almost cut off. He can barely summon the energy to keep his eyes open.

He wants Dean.

Sam feels it like a shock, the need for his brother's presence. He wants Dean to laugh him out of his mood, to tease him for being such a mess, to ask him if he's OK and give him a shoulder to cry on.

There's a sinking feeling in his stomach and Sam recognizes it.

It's despair, because his life sucks and the one person who can make him feel better isn't here. It's the same kind of despair that made him take that drastic step all those years ago, because his head was full of pictures of an endlessly bleak future where Dad was away hunting and Dean was either with him or having a night on the town and Sam –

Sam was alone in the dark in another motel room.

He wants Dean. He knows now, as he did then, that Dean will be able to talk him out of his depression. Dean'll know how to cheer him up.

Something brushes his ankle.

Sam sobs his brother's name.

"You think I'm stupid?" Sam asks.

Dr. Kaplan shakes her head. "No. I just think you're still not thinking very clearly. Now, your brother, Dean… He was the one you tried to call after the fight with your Dad, right?" Sam nods. "There must've been a reason for that. Why did you try to call him, Sam?"

"He's…" Sam hesitates, because there's no way to describe what Dean is to him or what he is to Dean. "He's my brother."

"I asked you a question earlier. I'm going to rephrase it now. Does Dean love you?"


Sam doesn't have to hesitate over the answer. Dean may not say it – they're not girls, after all – but it's there in the fact that he takes an hour off work everyday so he can give Sam a ride home from school, the fact that he listens indulgently to Sam chattering about his friends, the fact that he's – just – Dean.

"So the fact that he wasn't home…"

"Doesn't mean anything."

"Good." She leans forward, looking into his eyes. "Now, I want you to think long and hard before you answer me, Sam. How do you think Dean would feel if I were to call him now and tell him you just died of a self-inflicted overdose of an illegally-obtained barbiturate?"

It's several seconds before Sam can speak. At last he manages to rasp, "It would kill him."

"He wouldn't be relieved? Happy you're gone and he doesn't have to run after you anymore?"

"No. God, no. It would…" Sam shivers. Saying the words makes it seem more real. "It would break him. He'd never forgive himself for not stopping it."

"How long do you think it would be before he could move on?"

"He never would," Sam whispers.

"You know that," Dr. Kaplan says simply. "I've just been asking the questions, Sam. The answers have come from you. And you obviously care about your brother…"

"More than anything."

"Then why would you want to inflict that kind of pain on him? Does your life suck so much that you have to end it this way, even knowing what it'll do to your brother?"

"I'm sorry."

"Sam." Dr. Kaplan shakes her head. "That isn't the point. I'm not saying your life is perfect. It probably isn't. And I understand that at some point you'll want to do something about that." She hesitates. "One last thing."

She puts her hand on his head.

"But if Sam didn't jump… Where is he?" Then Dean shakes his head. "No. No. That Lola girl said she saw him. Maybe it wasn't suicide, somebody might have forced him, but she said she saw him jump."

"She might have been wrong."

"This exact spot on this exact night? What are the odds?" And then it hits Dean. "Unless… You think she has something to do with this? She… she kidnapped Sam or something?"

It sounds unbelievable, because Sam is Sam and Lola Dawes is about three feet tall and the only weapon she can handle is seduction and Dean's pretty sure Sam wouldn't have fallen for that.

"She must have done."

"But why would she do that? Are you… Do you think she's the one who's been killing all these people and making it look like suicide? She one of those whacked-out serial killers or something?"

"That's exactly what I think. And I think I know how she picks her victims, too."


"All the people you were investigating, the alleged suicides… People, I'll bet anything, who were already having suicidal thoughts but might not have done anything about it. Think about it. Anna lost both her children to illness within the space of a few weeks. Keith had just been laid off his fourth job in two months. Baker's wife left him for a man fifteen years younger. Simone lost the use of her legs in a car accident."

"She was picking people who might have had reason to kill themselves anyway so it would look less suspicious." Dean scowls. "But how was she finding them?"

"I've suspected for some time that she's a little… sensitive." At Dean's sceptical glance, she added, "I know you and Sam are hunters, Dean. I know a little about the supernatural. Lola's choices were too perfect – not just people horrible things had happened to, but people who were very upset and in at least three out of the four cases had mentioned suicidal thoughts to a therapist."

"But why Sam?"


Dean shoots her a sharp glance. He wants to ask her how she knows about Jessica, but the words that come out of his mouth are, "Maybe, but Sam's not suicidal. I would've noticed."

"Right now he isn't."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Dean's suddenly angry. "Look, if you're going to tell me that you knew something like this could happen and you did nothing about it – I know you and Sam have been keeping something from me, and I thought he just needed someone outside the family to talk to about stuff so I let it slide, but –"

"Dean." Dr. Kaplan is calm and firm. "Sam has been keeping something from you – against my advice. But he slipped me a dollar yesterday, so I'm bound by confidentiality. I will advise him to tell you everything, but for now we need to focus on finding your brother before Lola kills him."

"Oh, Sammy."

She has a light, and it drives the rats away before they can start nibbling his bare toes.

Sam wants to cry with relief, and he hates himself for feeling anything other than loathing for the woman who's reduced him to this.

"Come to kill me this time?"

The question is bitter and his voice is so faint that even he's surprised.

She smiles and sits next to him, sliding a hand under his chin to tilt his head up. Sam's filthy hair is falling in his eyes, but he doesn't have the strength to toss his head enough to flick it out.

She pushes it back for him, and it makes Sam feel even worse.

"Sammy," she repeats.

"'Less your name is Dean Winchester," Sam gets out, "you can't call me that."

"Oh, Sammy. When are you going to realize you're not in control anymore? I am. I'm the one who's going to decide if you die easy or you get eaten alive by rats. I don't think you could even resist me anymore, could you, if I staked you out in the middle of the floor and left you for them?"

"Screw you," Sam mutters.

If he's going to die horribly, he's at least going to have the satisfaction of having been rude to her.

"Big brother beat you to it," she sing-songs. "Maybe he'll do it again, too, once I've disposed of you. He'll be so sad and vulnerable, all ready for me to pick up. I'll make him happy again."

Sam tries to scoff, but it comes off as a sob. "You think you have a hope with Dean?"

"Why not? He won't know it's anything other than suicide, will he? He'll spend the rest of his life thinking you killed yourself because you were too weak to be what he needed you to be… Of course, that's assuming he ever even finds your body. Maybe he'll just think you ran away again."

"Don't do that," Sam says pleadingly, gathering his last reserves of strength for the words. He doesn't want anything for himself, not anymore, but maybe if he begs hard enough he can earn some peace of mind for Dean. "Look, you think I deserve to die because of a stupid thing I did six years ago. I may not agree with you, but I get it. But Dean – Dean didn't do anything. You're – at least you have to make sure he has closure. Please."

"You mean you want Dean to have your body to bury?" Sam squeezes his eyes shut and nods. "No, Sammy," she coos. "You have to say the words."


"Please what?"

"Please…" Sam forces the request out. "Please let Dean have my body to bury."

"That's a good boy." She waves a hypodermic syringe in front of his face. "Nembutal, Sam. Just like last time. But we're doing it differently. I want you to know what's happening, so I'm going to inject it in very small doses every fifteen minutes. We should build up to fatal levels in three or four hours. Now…" She rakes a meaningful gaze from Sam's bare feet to his dirty hair. "It's time, Sammy."

The prick of the needle is like a bee sting.

Sam's in a motel room. Dean's asleep and snoring. There's an empty bottle of whisky lying on the floor by his bed.

There's something wrong. Sam realizes it when he goes to pick up the whisky and his fingers pass through the bottle like it's made of air.

Dean stirs in his sleep, mumbling Sam's name.

Sam starts. Dean sounds… not like Dean. Not like Sam's Dean, anyway.

He sounds like he's crying.

The only time Sam's heard Dean cry was a couple of years ago when a black dog tore up his leg and Dad stitched it in their motel room. Sam, as usual, was sitting on the bed next to Dean to provide moral support, and as soon as Dad started on his leg, Dean turned his face into Sam's shoulder to hide the tears he'd never let their father see.

Now Dean isn't hurt – not a scratch on him as far as Sam can tell.

Dean stirs again, and mutters, "Bitch."

"Jerk," Sam says automatically.

Dean wakes up. His first act, as always, is to look across at the other bed – Sam's bed, which is empty, because Sam is busy standing at the other end of the room, being invisible.

"Sammy?" Dean whimpers.

He gets up, stumbles to the other bed, and curls up on it. He's clutching the pillow to his chest like it holds the key to all life's mysteries.

"Sammy," Dean says again. "Sammy."

Then he's sobbing. Sam, alarmed, runs to him, but of course he can't comfort him, because he can't touch him. He can only watch – and make a face at the smell of the alcohol fumes – as Dean falls apart.

"Where's Dad?" he wonders aloud.

"Hunting." Sam starts and turns to see Dr. Kaplan standing next to him. "You know he doesn't deal well with grief."

"Hunting?" Sam asks in disbelief. "Dean needs him, and he's hunting? He should be here!"

"Dean doesn't need him," Dr. Kaplan tells him. "Dean needs Sammy. And Sammy isn't here either."

"What happened?"

"Can't you tell? The ambulance couldn't get you here in time. You were DOA. I called your father and couldn't get through to him, so I had to call your brother to come and identify your body."

"You… no. That's – that's so –"

"Cruel?" Dr. Kaplan asks. "Is that what it is? Cruel to make him identify his brother's body? I just did what I had to do, Sam. I was just following procedure. I didn't will the body into existence."

Dean's filled with a new determination now that he has a smidgeon of hope.

Sam might be alive.

He doesn't believe it one hundred percent – he doesn't let himself believe it, because if he does and then they find Sam's body, Dean is going to kill himself. He's going to take out his gun and put it in his mouth and pull the trigger, because there's just so much crap a human being can take.

So he doesn't believe, but he lets himself hope.

Dr. Kaplan is leading the way. She's efficient and purposeful, and for a moment Dean wonders how she knows about the supernatural and their hunting lives. And, of course, the important question: just what secret is she helping Sam keep from him?

He wonders, but he doesn't dwell on it. He'll have time to agonize later. For now, he needs to get to his brother.

"Where does Lola live?"

"Nearby, but she wouldn't have taken him to her house. She's too smart for that."

"So where do you think they are?"

"There is one place…" Dr. Kaplan trails off and glances at her watch. "We have to hurry, though. It's ten miles outside the town in the opposite direction."

"What are we waiting for?" Dean hurries to the Impala. Just as he's about to slide into the driver's seat, he glances at Dr. Kaplan over the top of the car. "Look, there's one thing you should know. I don't like it when people go after my brother. If he's hurt in any way, I can't guarantee that Lola's going to get out of this alive. If you have a problem with that…"

"Why would I?" Dr. Kaplan asks, opening the passenger door. "If we're right, Lola Dawes killed at least four people."

Sam struggles to keep his eyes open.

He knows Dean is looking for him. Dean's never going to give up. Dean's going to find him, too. The only question is whether it'll be in time for him to find more than just Sam's body.

Sam's going to do everything he can to give Dean more than that, even if the only thing more he can give Dean is the chance for them to stay goodbye. Sam doesn't know if he can stay alive – at some point there's going to be enough of the drug in his bloodstream that no amount of willpower will keep his heart pumping – but, for as long as he can, he's going to stay conscious.

He's still tied up – he can't imagine why, it's not like he can try to escape, and surely it would give her more pleasure to watch him twitching in his death throes.

The rats are skittering in. They've realized he's no threat and they're getting bolder. Sam feels tiny teeth nibbling at his fingers, and he manages to twitch his hands enough to scare them away.

Not for much longer, though.

He hopes the drug will have dulled all feeling by the time the rats actually do get to him.

He hopes the drug will kill him first. Being poisoned is much better than being eaten alive by vermin.

Actually, screw that. While he's hoping, he hopes the next time he finds the strength to lift his head he'll see Dean kneeling in front of him, arms open to gather him up.

It's so stupid. So stupid. Sam knows he made a mistake, but it was a momentary lapse and he can't imagine why he's suffering for it now. He thought it was over after Dr. Kaplan told him she would keep her promise if he kept his.

He hears the door open and has a sudden, irrational hope that it's Dean.

Then he hears the hated clack-clack-clack of stilettos on the stairs, and his head droops lower. He can't face her again. He can't face her mocking or her viciousness or the gleeful smile he knows she'll wear as she makes him begher to leave his body where Dean can find it.

Sam lets out a breath, wishing he could use his psychic powers to will this over, one way or another.

It's a different place, a different motel room, and Dean's older. Maybe twenty-five, twenty-six.

He looks different. His face is hard and sunken, eyes shadowed, and he has a thin white scar stretching from his temple to his chin.

Dean looks terrifying.

Dr. Kaplan is still beside him. Sam asks her, "What is this?"

"You'd think Dean would be over it, wouldn't you?" Dr. Kaplan says in response. "It's been years."

"What happened to him?"

"He lost his reason for living. He's not trying to live anymore."

"What about Dad?"

"They haven't spoken in years."

Sam shakes his head. That can't be true. Sam can conceive of himself not speaking to his father for years, but Dean? The good little soldier? No way.

"It's true, Sam," Dr. Kaplan repeats. "Dean's never forgiven either himself or your father for your death. He's never forgiven the world for continuing to exist without you. He's lost his moral compass."

Sam's stepping away from her in horror. "No. No."

"You think I'm lying? Don't you know how hard Dean tries to be fair and honest all the time? Why do you think that is? He wants you to look up to him."


"He doesn't sleep as much as he needs to. Uses drugs and caffeine to stay awake as long as he can and even when he has to sleep he only catnaps. You know why? Because every time he sleeps, he dreams of you being disappointed in what he's become."

"But –"

"Other hunters are scared of Dean, Sam. Your friends – Jim Murphy, Bobby Singer – they're scared of Dean. Even your father is scared of Dean sometimes. And the only thing Dean's ever really been scared of is something happening to you. Now that it has, there's nothing to restrain him."

"Please," Sam begs. "Please."

"Please what?"

"Please stop."

"Have you seen enough, Sam? Or do you want me to show you how Dean dies?"

"No –"

"Alone, torn apart by a Wendigo because he went after it without waiting for backup. Because deep down he wanted to die."

Sam's focusing all his energy on breathing. It's impossibly difficult, his lungs struggling to draw in oxygen, his cracked ribs aching with even the tiny movement. Just his luck that the drug that's killing him isn't enough to keep him from feeling pain.

He knows it won't be much longer.

It's a miserable way to die, with blood loss and thirst and hunger and pain and the soft squeaking of the rats in the darkness.

He thinks they're just waiting for him to die so they can move in.

"Dean," Sam sobs softly. It doesn't matter if he breaks now. There's nobody to hear. And saying Dean's name makes him feel like his brother is closer. "Dean."

"Dean," her voice mocks.

Sam flinches. He hadn't heard the door open, hadn't noticed the light, hadn't registered her heels on the stairs, but now she's right in front of him.

"You want your brother, Sam?" She kneels in front of him. Her face swims in and out of focus. "You want Dean? The brother whose heart you were willing to break because you were throwing a hissy fit? Is that what you want?"

"Dean?" Sam asks hopefully. Maybe she'll bring Dean, if only so that she can laugh at Sam some more when he inevitably breaks down in relief.

"I'll make a bargain with you, Sam." She reaches into her pocket for a cell phone and holds it up. "Surprisingly I'm getting three bars here. Enough to make a call. So it's time to test that brain of yours. Your brother thinks you're smart." She taps the phone. "If you can tell me the number, I'll make the call. You can talk to him."

Sam nods. He can do this. He knows Dean's number.

"Well?" she asks.

"Eight," Sam breathes.

"Good." She presses the key. A moment later, Sam feels her fist on his broken ribs. He gasps, the sudden stabbing burn making him see stars. "Oh, I'm so sorry," she says sweetly. "Did I forget to tell you that's going to happen every time you speak?"

Oh God. Sam's going to die before she can even connect the call.

"Next number, Sam?"

"Five," Sam gets out, bracing himself for the pain.

They're back in Dr. Kaplan's office. Sam stares at her, unsure whether to feel relieved or scared.

He decides on relief. After all, she did save his life.

"Who are you?" he asks.

"Your kind would call me a witch." Sam stiffens, and she adds, "The good kind, Sam. Like – well, I would say like Glinda, but I think I've got far more sense."

"So you're not a doctor?"

"Of course I'm a doctor. I went to medical school just like everyone else. My degree is real. But that's not important. Do you understand what I've been trying to tell you?"

"Dean cares about me."

"No. You already knew that. You told me yourself that he'd be devastated if something happened to you." Sam shrugs, and she says, "Remember what I told you about how some people who kill themselves do it because of a moment's weakness?"

"Yeah… You're saying…"

"I'm saying next time you feel tempted to do something like this, take five minutes to think about Dean. That's it. Five minutes, Sam. Far less time than you spend preparing for a hunt. Can you do that?"

"Yeah," Sam says. "Yeah, OK." He darts a glance at her through his bangs. "Please don't tell Dean."

"He'll have to come and get you, Sam. You have a sprained ankle – stumbling outdoors and into the path of a truck after consuming an overdose of Nembutal can do that. You're lucky the guy managed to brake or it would be far worse."

"Then just – tell him about the truck. Tell him I didn't look both ways or something. Don't…"

"Sam. Are you asking me to conceal the results of your blood screen from your brother?"

"Please? Please. He'll be – he'll be disappointed in me, and upset, and he'll blame himself. I don't want that. I won't do it again."

"Sam –"


"All right," Dr. Kaplan says with a sigh. "For now. But, Sam, this can't happen again."

"I –"

"Don't promise. If you can't do it for your brother's sake, there's no way you'll do it for mine."

They're at the front door when Dean's phone rings in his pocket.

He takes it out. It's a number he doesn't recognize. He's about to ignore it, because he really doesn't have time to talk to people now, but –

What if it's Sam calling for help?

Dean presses the button to answer the call.



Thank God Dean answered. Thank God Dean answered. Sam sounds weak and exhausted, and he doesn't know if the kid would have been able to dial the number a second time.

"Hey, Sammy," he says gently. Dr. Kaplan stops in her tracks and stares at him. Then she nods her understanding and disappears around the side of the house. "You've had us worried. We've been looking all over town for you. Where are you?"

"Dean." A soft sound, almost a sob, and then, "Sorry."

"Sorry? No, just tell me where you are and I'll come get you, OK?"


"Hey, yeah, I'm coming. OK? I'm coming. You just tell me where." Dr. Kaplan reappears, signalling towards the ground. Dean understands. Sam's in the basement. He follows Dr. Kaplan around to the back. "You think you can tell me where you are?"

Because Lola Dawes might be listening, and there's no reason to give their position away to her.

"Sorry. Dean. Hurts."

Dr. Kaplan points at the door.

"I know," Dean says, managing to keep his voice calm although his blood is boiling. "I'm coming for you. You'll be fine. You just need to hang on for me a little longer."

"Where?" Sam asks.

"Right outside," Dean says. "Heads up."

He kicks in the door.

Dean's words give Sam a split-second's warning before the door explodes. Sam's not really in a position to shield himself, but he appreciates the sentiment.

Dean's coming down the stairs, taking them four at a time, the thud of his boots incredibly reassuring when all he's been hearing for hours has been the clacking of Lola's heels. There's someone else behind Dean. Sam thinks he recognizes Dr. Kaplan.

"No," Lola growls. Sam feels himself jerked violently forward, and a needle penetrates the skin of his elbow. "Another step and I'll depress the plunger."

She must be talking to Dean.

"You even think about doing that and you'll be dead before you hit the ground," Dean snarls at her. "Get away from him."

"Drop your gun."

"Get away from my brother."

"Don't you see?" Lola asks. "I'm doing this for you. I realized… When Keith died. If he'd cared about me, he wouldn't have done it. I could sense it, I could sense him wanting to kill himself but I never thought he'd actually do it."

"Let him go."

"He broke my heart," Lola goes on, ignoring Dean. "And after it was over I knew – I knew what people feel like when they – they're thinking about killing themselves. I just – I did it before they could. Before they could hurt their loved ones any more than they were already going to."

"Sam isn't thinking about killing himself," Dean growls. "Get away from him."

"Don't reach for your gun, Dean. I'll depress the plunger, and this one adds up to the lethal dose. You won't be able to kill me before I kill him. Sam needed a lesson."

"Listen, bitch –"

Dean's cut off by a gunshot.

Dr. Kaplan edged around him while Lola's attention was focused on him, and now she's standing with a smoking gun in her hand.

Lola stares down at her own chest for a moment as though both fascinated and revolted by the spreading red stain. Then the needle slides out of Sam's arm as, still clutching it, she topples over backwards.

Before she's even fallen all the way, Dean's hands are cupping Sam's face.

Dr. Kaplan shows Sam the sheet of paper containing his blood screen results before she rips it neatly into halves, then into quarters, and tosses it in the trash. It'll be incinerated in a few hours.

"Still on the computers, though, isn't it?" Sam asks.

She smiles at him. "I'll have it taken off. One of the IT people is my boyfriend."


"Really." She pats his hand. "Remember what you promised me, Sam. Think about Dean. Just think about Dean, and that'll be enough."

A sound makes them both turn. Sam sees a pretty girl a couple of years older than Dean checking his charts. "Sam, this is Nurse Dawes," Dr. Kaplan says. "Lola. She's been taking care of you."

Sam smiles.

Nurse Lola Dawes smiles back, but it doesn't meet her eyes.

Sam's wearing only his jeans. He has to be freezing.

Dean waits impatiently while Dr. Kaplan cuts the ropes. He'd do it himself, but he doesn't trust himself around a knife right now, and anyway he thinks he's doing Sam more good by sitting where Sam can see him.

As soon as Sam's free, Dean shrugs off his jacket, wraps it around his brother, and pulls him in. All his protective big-brother instincts are coming out full force with Sammy hurt and helpless. He wants to kill someone, and he wants to wrap Sam in about fifty layers of bubble-wrap, and right now he can't do either of those things.

Sam lets out a little sigh as he snuggles down to Dean's chest. His wrists, now that Dean can see them, are bloody and torn. So are his ankles. He must've been straining at the ropes. His ribs are bruised.

But what worries Dean are the marks on Sam's arm. Dirty, bloody bandages wrapped loosely over what have to be deep cuts, and needle marks.

He glances at Dr. Kaplan, who's busy examining the syringe still clutched in Lola's dead fingers. Her eyes widen when she sees what it is. That can't be good, Dean thinks frantically.

"Did she inject him with any earlier?" she demands.

Dean would love to say no, but he looks down at the needle marks and nods. Sam breathes an apology into Dean's shirt. Dean soothes him with a hand to the head, tells him they'll talk about it later.

"We have to get him to the hospital."

Dean nods again. He doesn't bother asking if Sam can walk. He just pulls him in closer, cradles him carefully, and stands.

His legs shake under the weight and his back protests. Sam isn't exactly small.

But he's Dean's brother.

Sam curls a hand into Dean's shirt.

"Come on, kiddo," Dean whispers. "Time to get you patched up."

Sam wakes up to the sound of Dean's voice. It sounds hoarse, like he's been talking for a while. It takes Sam a moment to get his bearings, and then he realizes he's lying in a bed with an oxygen mask strapped to his face. He tries to move his hand, but that makes his wrist burn, so he gives it up.

"Hold still, idiot," Dean says. "Your wrists are bandaged."

Sam opens his eyes. Dean's right there, not even a foot away, looking terrified enough that Sam knows it must've been touch and go for a while.

He tries to say his brother's name, but what comes out around the mask is a pathetic, unintelligible sound that makes him blush.

Dean understands, and he smiles, smoothing back Sam's hair. "It's OK, kiddo. You're OK." Dean doesn't sound OK, but before Sam can ask what's wrong, Dean says, "You almost died. How about next time you don't let the crazy chick get the drop on you?"


Dr. Kaplan comes in. She doesn't make Dean leave, for which Sam is grateful. Dean stays sitting on the edge of his bed, stroking his head soothingly whenever the doctor pokes too hard.

When she's done, she slips off the oxygen mask. Sam breathes in, and it's a bit of an effort but he can.

Dean looks so thrilled that Sam wants to hug him.

"Can I take him home?" Dean asks.

Sam doesn't know what he means, whether he means back to the motel where they've been staying or to a house they can squat in or just for a drive in the Impala, but he doesn't care. Anywhere that Dean thinks is home is fine by him.

"In a minute." Dr. Kaplan fixes Sam with a stern look. "You know what I'm going to say, Sam."

"Don't over-exert myself and don't mix beer and pain meds?" Sam asks hopefully.

"Sam." She sounds just this side of pissed. Sam reaches out blindly, finds Dean's jacket, and clutches it. Dr. Kaplan's eyes track the movement. "That's exactly what I mean, Sam. Don't you think you're being a little silly about the whole thing?"

"But –"

"I think it's important, after all that's happened. There's no sense keeping it secret now. It's your decision." She pats his free hand. "But I can tell you one thing. Your brother isn't going to hate you."

Sam flushes, sneaks a glance at Dean, and sees that he looks horrified.

"Hate you? What the hell, Sam? This what you go around telling people? That I hate you?"

"Dean, no, it's not that –"

"Then what is it?" Sam doesn't respond. Dean looks like he wants to shake Sam and is holding back only because Sam's injured. "What is it, Sam?"

Sam looks at Dr. Kaplan, who gives him an encouraging nod, and then back at Dean.

"I have something to tell you."

"I'm going home, Sam," Dr. Kaplan says quietly. "I said I wouldn't tell your brother you tried to kill yourself, but I can't lie to him. You understand my career is on the line. I've managed to get in touch with him. He'll be here in half an hour or so. You can leave as soon as you want after that."

"Thank you."

"Sam –"

"I won't," he promises. "I won't do it again. I didn't think, but you were right. I can't hurt Dean like that."

"Good. Remember that." She goes to the door, pauses, turns. "Take care of yourself, Sam."

Dean drives them outside town and stops as soon as he sees a nice, secluded spot on the shoulder of the road. He gets out, knowing Sam will follow, and sits on the hood. A moment later, Sam's next to him, shoulder just touching Dean's.

"Well?" Dean asks. "What is it? Why does Dr. Kaplan think you're afraid I'll hate you?"

"Because I was," Sam admits quietly. Then, like he thinks it's an improvement, he adds hastily, "I'm not now. Really."

"When were you?"

Sam shoots a glance at him under his bangs. "Promise you won't get mad?"

"What are you, six? Of course I don't promise I won't get mad. If you've done something stupid I will get mad." Then Dean nudged Sam's shoulder. "But, if it's any consolation, I promise I'm not going to hate you."

Sam sighed. "Remember when we were in Campbell Pass before?"

"When we were in high school? Yeah, I remember. Couple of weeks, right? That was the time you nearly got yourself run over by a truck and I had to come pick you up at the hospital."

Sam nods, not looking up. "Dr. Kaplan was my attending."

"Oh, so that's how she knew you. How come I didn't see her when I came to the hospital?"

"She left. I… There was something I didn't want her to tell you, and she agreed but she said she couldn't tell an outright lie about it, so she handed over to the doctor on the next shift and left."

"But you're going to tell me now?"

"Yeah." Sam sneaks another glance at Dean. Dean, on a sudden impulse, wraps his arm around Sam's shoulders. "Dean, I…"


"The truck driver barely grazed me. Knocked the wind out of me, but that was it. The reason I needed Dr. Kaplan was…" Sam presses closer to him, and Dean tightens his arm. "Nembutal. I tried to kill myself."

Dean can't breathe.

Sammy tried to kill himself.

Dean can't breathe, Dean can't think, and it's several minutes later that he realizes he's holding Sam so close that he can practically feel Sam's heartbeat against his own ribs.

"What the hell?" Dean gasps.

"I'm sorry," Sam murmurs into his shoulder. "Dean…" Sam pulls away, backs off enough to look Dean in the eye. "I never meant to hurt you."


"It'd been a tough week and I had an argument with Dad over the phone and it seemed like nothing was ever going to change. Just one small town after another, living outside the law and killing things until we got killed. And it just… it all got to be too much. I wasn't thinking, Dean."

"But… what the hell? You couldn't talk to me instead of deciding to off yourself?"

"I – I wanted to. You were off with that girl… Shawna, the one whose car you fixed."

Dean takes a moment to be amazed that Sam remembers the names of his one-night stands. Then he says, "So… When I came to the hospital, they'd just taken you off suicide watch?"

"I'm sorry."

"Did you ever try it again?"

Dean asks the question like the fate of the world depends on his answer. Sam's glad that this answer, at least, is both true and – maybe – reassuring.

"No. I – Dr. Kaplan was good. She made me promise, in exchange for her not telling you, if I ever felt that – that depressed again, I'd take five minutes to think about what I was going to do and how you'd feel about it." Sam meets Dean's eyes, needing Dean to believe him. "I never tried it again. I promise."

"Have you ever felt like… Since Jessica…"

"No. No, Dean. I miss Jess, you know I do, but I've never wanted to… no."

"OK." Dean's hand cups Sam's chin, and then tugs Sam's head down to rest on his shoulder. Sam thinks it's so Dean doesn't have to look at him while he says whatever he's planning to say. "Sammy… Lola… You know how she set the scene on Red Creek Bridge?"

"I know."

"I thought – for a moment there I actually thought maybe you'd killed yourself, Sammy."


"Don't – that's not the point. Thing is, you don't have to imagine how you think I might feel if you do something like that. I can tell you how I'll feel because I felt it." Dean's hand slides into his hair. "I felt like I had nothing left to live for. I felt like if I just concentrated really hard I could will myself to stop breathing, because that was how little I wanted to keep living."


"Don't do that to me, Sammy. Ever. Please."

"I'm sorry."

Dean shakes his head. "How come you got to the hospital that day?"

"I was out on the street when I did it. I didn't want you to have to – to find me like that. I got a little… uncoordinated and the truck guy almost hit me and… Well. You know the rest."

"Thank God," Dean breathes into Sam's hair. "Don't… Never again."

"I promise." Dean's arms are warm and strong, like he'll hold the entire world off if Sam will only let him. Sam's head sinks to his brother's shoulder. "I promise."

Because Sam knows one thing now: no matter what happens, no matter what crap gets thrown at him, no matter how much it costs him, he's always going to fight to stay with Dean.

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