Disclaimer: I own nothing. No copyright infringement intended.

Thanks go to SnarkyMuch2 for beta'ing this and for patiently steering me through the plotting and writing process.

~ Chapter Ten ~

Bobby heard the gunshot ring out, and he threw himself from the car. He didn't know which of his boys had taken the hit, but he knew whichever it was, he had lost them both. One wouldn't live without the other; they just didn't know how anymore. He raced back toward the Impala, and his heart sank as he couldn't see either of them.

"Sam! Dean!" he bellowed, his voice cracked with fear.

"Here," a soft voice replied.

He rounded the corner of the car and saw Dean kneeling on the floor, supporting his brother. His mind was taken back years to Cold Oak and the moment he had seen Dean cradling his brother's dead body. Now he was seeing the same thing again, and he couldn't bear it. Except he wasn't. Then, Sam had been silent and still, now he was shaking and sobbing.

"Is he…" Bobby couldn't finish his question. He didn't want to know where Sam had been hit or how bad it was. All he knew was that, for now, Sam was alive.

"He's okay," Dean said. "It wasn't him."

Bobby raked Dean's form for a sign of injury, but there was none.

"It was Lucifer," Dean mouthed, still clinging to his brother, and Bobby understood. Dean had told him everything that had happened in the warehouse, and he knew Sam had taken a shot at thin air then. Apparently, he had done the same again. Bobby's relief was so great it made his knees weak.

Dean clung to his brother, reassuring himself that he was really there and was okay. For a moment he had believed Sam was aiming for himself when he raised the gun, and no moment had ever lasted longer to him. He had been overwhelmed with relief when Sam shot to the left, at thin air.

Sam sobbed into Dean's shoulder, unable to rally any last defenses against the pain. Every moment of the last three weeks was assaulting him. Every time the fake Dean had chastised him for a mistake. The aching loneliness he had felt. The pain of knowing he was failing in everything. And most of all the crippling grief he had felt as each dead member of his family had whispered to him, telling him that killing himself was the right thing to do. It all broke over him, breaking his heart.

"It's okay, Sammy," Dean whispered into his brother's hair.

Both the guns had fallen to the ground. Bobby stepped forward cautiously and picked them up. Not convinced that the moment had passed. As he stooped to pick them up, he rested a hand on Dean's shoulder in a mute gesture of comfort. He would have liked to do the same for Sam, but something in the way Sam sobbed against his brother made him think that one touch would break Sam apart into a million pieces.

"I'm so sorry," Sam choked almost incoherently. "I didn't mean to… I never thought…"

Dean shushed him gently and fisted his brother's jacket. "It's okay, Sammy. I've got you now. I'm going to take care of you."

Bobby watched the emotional scene and wiped away the tear that tracked down his cheek and into his beard. His boys were breaking apart and all he could do was watch.

Eventually, Sam's sobs became whimpers and the whimpers became silence. In a way, the silence was even more frightening.

He pushed himself away from Dean and got to his feet. "Sorry," he mumbled.

He looked on the ground for his fallen gun and saw it in Bobby's hand. He nodded to Bobby and walked slowly back to the Impala. "We should probably go," he said quietly. "I set a house on fire." He slid in the passenger side and rested his head against the window, staring out at the scraggy graves.

Dean and Bobby exchanged a glance.

"You think he's okay?" Bobby asked, stupidly in Dean's opinion.

Dean raked a hand over his face, relief that his brother was alive battled against fear that this thing was far from over. "I think he's the farthest thing from okay, but at least he's alive."

Bobby nodded sagely. "We'll bring him the rest of the way back. Don't you worry."

Dean made no response. He just walked back to the Impala and slid into the driver's seat. For the first time he took a good look at his brother. Dark shadows encircled Sam's eyes and his skin was grayish. His face was gaunt and haunted looking. Unsurprisingly, he clearly hadn't been taking care of himself.

"We, umm, we've been staying at Rufus's old place in Montana," Dean said. "Bobby's place kinda got burned down by the Leviathans. I think we should head back there."

Sam looked up lazily and nodded. "Okay."

"You sure? We can stop at a motel or something if you need sleep."

"I can sleep here."

Dean wasn't so foolish as to believe that he brother was really going to sleep. Despite how clearly exhausted he was, Sam had been through too much to just stop and sleep now. If it pleased Sam to pretend though, he would allow it. He had no idea what to say to his brother anyway.

Bobby followed Dean and Sam out onto the main road, and he wondered at the conversation taking place in the other car. What could you possibly say after what had just happened. There didn't seem to be words strong enough. Bobby had faced countless monsters, demons and creatures that other people would run in fear from, but never had he been so scared as he was the moment he saw Sam with the gun to his head. He was still shaking.

They passed the still smoking remains of their old house on the way out of town, and Sam raised his head to look at it. Thinking that at least one good thing had come of the last three weeks, he closed his eyes and pretended to sleep.

They had to stop to rest in Wyoming. Dean booked them into a room and Sam fell fast asleep the minute his head hit the pillow. Dean wasn't so lucky. He knew all that had happened lurked in his mind, ready to play out in nightmares, so he skipped the bed in favor of coffee. Sitting on the small, ratty couch, he watched his brother sleep. The gentle rise and fall of Sam's chest hypnotized him. Back in the cemetery, he had thought it would stop forever.

The next morning, while Sam still slept, Dean knocked on the door to Bobby's adjoining room. Bobby answered the door, looking like he hadn't had a wink of sleep either. His eyes were tired and shadowed.

"Morning," he said gruffly, stepping aside to let Dean in. "How was your night?"

"About as good as yours by the looks of it."

"Yeah, nightmares," Bobby said. "You?"

"I didn't risk them. I went with coffee and the couch."

Bobby frowned. "That won't work forever you know."

Dean yawned widely. "I know it. But I just couldn't bear it last night."

"I know, son. How is he this morning?"

"Still sleeping. He looks like he'll be out for a few more hours yet. Did you get a good look at him?"

"I did. A few good meals should help, that and some sleep. I don't think he took good care of himself while Satan was in the driver's seat."

"It makes you wonder, doesn't it," Dean said. "What did he do while he was alone?"

"Other than hunting and hanging with his favorite hellion, you mean?" Bobby snorted. "I don't think we'll ever know for sure. Let's just say, I don't plan on grilling Sam on it."

Dean sighed. "Me either. He's been through enough already; there's no need to make him go through it again just to satisfy our curiosity."

Bobby poured them each a cup of coffee and they sat at opposite sides of the table, each avoiding the other's eyes. They both knew what they needed to talk about, but neither of them wanted to be the one to bring it up. Eventually, Dean spoke up.

"What are we going to do, Bobby?"

Bobby raked a hand over his face. "We help him. We listen if he feels like talking. We let him, lead us, but above all we keep him safe."

Dean huffed a laugh. "What do you think I've been trying to do all these years? I dedicated everything to keeping him safe and look what happened. Time and time again, I failed."

"You didn't fail, son," Bobby said softly. "Things happen. Life threw a few curves balls your way, but between the two of you, you have come out swinging. There's no reason you can't again."

"We've never had to deal with this kind of thing before, Bobby. Sam isn't just screwed. He's suicidal."

Bobby sucked in a breath. "Don't say that. It wasn't his fault; it was Lucifer."

"Yeah, Lucifer working with what was already in Sam's brain. He's a hallucination, Bobby. Whatever it was that happened to Sam, it was his own brain doing it."

"I don't believe that," Bobby said. "I agree some messed up stuff happened, but I don't believe Sam actually wants to die."

Dean shrugged. He didn't know what to say. He hoped it was Lucifer pulling Sam's strings and not some long inner suicidal desire. Lucifer he could handle, what he couldn't handle was knowing his brother was that bad off and that he had missed it.

"I better get back," Dean said, pushing back from the table. "I don't want him waking up alone."

Dean was pleased to find Sam was still sleeping when he got back to their room. Sam looked so peaceful, Dean half hoped he wouldn't wake for a few more hours. He knew that when Sam woke they needed to have a serious conversation, and he wasn't prepared for it. If it was ever possible to be prepared for something like that.

Sam woke slowly. At first he was aware of the warm blanket enveloping him, and he burrowed deeper, not wanting to pull from the perfect sleep he had been having. For the first time in weeks he had slept without dreaming of the cage. In fact, he hadn't dreamed of anything, but the light forcing itself upon him through his closed lids refused to let him fall asleep again. He cracked one eye open and glared balefully at the window.

"You awake, Sammy?"

The voice made Sam bolt upright. His eyes snapped to the left, and he saw Dean sitting on the edge of the second bed. His breath caught in his throat.

"You okay?" Dean asked.

Sam nodded mutely, confused by Dean's kind tone. It was the nicest Dean had been to him in weeks, not since the… The memories forced themselves on Sam like a tidal wave, Stull cemetery, a gun, and Dean.

"You're here," Sam said hoarsely. "Aren't you?"

Dean smiled wryly. "Yeah. It's really me. I'm here."

Sam nodded slowly. "Good. That's… good."

Dean stood and went to the table. "We've got breakfast," he said. "Bobby went out for us."

"Bobby is here, too," Sam said, confirming it to himself.

"Yeah, he's just next door. Come and eat something," Dean said. "You look like you need it."

Sam swung his legs around and pushed himself to a standing position. He felt a little light-headed. He was also starving; he couldn't remember the last time he sat down to a real meal. He sat at the table and took the proffered Styrofoam package Dean was holding out to him. He ripped into it and found pancakes. They weren't hot, but they felt like the best thing Sam had ever eaten. He scarfed them down and downed the mug of coffee Dean poured for him. Replete, he pushed back from the chair.

"You needed that, apparently," Dean said with the ghost of a smile.

"Sorry," Sam said looking down at the table. "I guess it's been a while."

"Satan's not big on mealtimes," Dean said and then cursed himself for opening his mouth without engaging his brain. "Sammy, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…"

"It's okay," Sam said. "There's no need to tread on eggshells. It's the truth."

Dean sucked in a deep breath. He hadn't wanted to do this yet, but Sam seemed a lot more approachable than he had hoped. "We need to talk, Sammy," he said reluctantly.

Sam nodded. "I know. Where do you want to start?"

"What happened yesterday?" Dean asked.

Sam chewed his lip. He didn't know how to explain the confusion that was the previous day.

"I need to know what you are feeling, Sammy," Dean said. "I need you to tell me what I can do to stop it happening again."

"It won't happen again," Sam said instantly.

"I'd love to believe that, you don't know how much, but you don't get to a place like that in a day. What happened to make you believe you that killing yourself was the only answer?"

Sam shook his head. He didn't want to think of all that again. He just wanted to enjoy this peaceful moment with his brother. But Dean deserved better. He deserved to know the truth. Pushing aside his misgivings, Sam launched into his tale.

"To understand what happened yesterday, you have to understand what has happened since we parted in the warehouse." He cocked his head to the side as he considered. "That's when it happened, right? When I chose the wrong Dean."

Dean nodded. "That's right. You left with no one, but you seemed to think I was there with you. You were talking to thin air."

Sam frowned. He imagined how it must have felt for his brother to see him like that. He imagined how he would feel if he was put in Dean's position, and a sick tightening twisted his gut.

Dean misinterpreted his pained expression. "I'm sorry I hurt you, Sam. I was just trying to make you see."

"I understand," Sam said. "I see that now. But at the time, it was so confusing. Lucifer was talking to me, and everything he said made so much sense."

Dean scowled. Here they were talking about Lucifer, when in truth it was all Sam's brain. He didn't think now was the time to point that out though. Sam was talking at last, and he didn't want to scare him into silence again.

Sam shook his head, as if dispelling an upsetting thought, and continued. "I thought I was with you. For the last… How long has it been?"

"Almost four weeks," Dean said.

Sam was shocked that it had been so long. To lose yourself to a hallucination for an hour, or even a day, was bad, but weeks…

He pushed away the thought before it could overwhelm him.

"Weeks then. For the last few weeks I thought I was with you. At first it was okay, you were just being you, and then things changed. He, Lucifer, got worse…"

Sam trailed off and Dean knew he was avoiding certain topics to spare him. It didn't take a lot to imagine how cruel a Lucifer-Dean would be. He had persuaded Sam to kill himself after all.

"Then it got so I couldn't take it anymore," Sam said. "I knew there was something wrong with you, but I didn't realize what it was. I was going to call Bobby for help, but you, Lucifer, brought me to Lawrence. Things were pretty bad by then. Hell was creeping in all over, and I was seeing more than just you. I was overwhelmed."

"Is that why you wanted to kill yourself?" Dean asked.

Sam shook his head jerkily. "No! I never wanted that!"

"Sammy," Dean chided. "I found you with a gun pressed to your head, ready to pull the trigger. You obviously wanted—"

"No, Dean. You don't understand. I never wanted to kill myself. I did it because I thought it was what you wanted."

"You thought I wanted you dead?" Dean asked incredulously. "Why on earth…?"

"Look at yourself, Dean. Look at our life. See what I have done to you."

"Sammy, you've done nothing to me. Honestly, without you, I don't know what I would be."

"I've done nothing?" Sam said with a harsh laugh. "Dean, I got you sent to hell. I stole your childhood. I tore you away from Lisa and Ben. I let you get changed into a vampire!"

"None of it was your fault," Dean said doggedly. "Lisa and Ben was a mistake on my part. I was selfish to insert myself into their lives. The supernatural world was always going to catch up with me. You coming back was the only good thing to happen in that year. True, you watched while I was turned into a vampire, but that wasn't you. Not really. You had no soul, no conscience. As for me going to hell, that was my choice to make. I knew the consequences when I made that deal, and I did it anyway. Doesn't that tell you anything?"

Sam scoffed. "You had no choice. You were brainwashed into thinking you had to protect me."

"Dammit, Sam, is that what you really think?"

"It's what you, he, said."

"Don't do this, Sam," Dean said firmly. "Whatever it was he said to you, it wasn't me, and it's not what I think. Making that deal, going to Hell, it was worth it as it saved you. You were worth it to me. You are worth it. I would do it all again."

Sam tried to believe Dean, but it was hard. Lucifer's words had made so much sense. How could Dean possibly want him around given all the chaos he had wrought in their lives.

"I need you Sammy." Tears were collecting at the edges of Dean's eyes. He leaned across the table and gripped Sam's wrist. "Believe in that. Believe me, okay? You gotta believe me. You gotta make it stone number one and build on it. You understand? I can't do it without you."

Sam nodded. "Okay."

"Okay, you believe me, or okay, you're going to pull a gun the next time you're alone?" Dean hated that he needed to ask.

"I believe you," Sam said. "I won't try anything again."

"Oh thank god," Dean sighed. He pushed himself to his feet and rounded the table in two steps. Grabbing his brother's shoulder, he pulled him against him and fisted his shirt. "Thank you, Sammy."

"Dean," Sam said with a weak smile.

"Yeah, Sammy."

"No chick-flick moments."

Dean clung to Sam a little tighter. "Whatever you say, bitch."


So… That's was The Long Con. What did you think? Were you satisfied by the ending or are you left wanting more? I would love to hear from you, the good and the bad. Constructive criticism helps make the next story better. And there will be a next story. I am working on a story at the moment called Clean Slate. It's a S7 AU and is chock full of Limp!Sam. I will start posting soon, so if you haven't already, add me to your alerts.

For those of you that have reviewed so far, a huge thank you is due. I loved hearing from you and appreciated the time you took out to let me know what you thoughts.

Until next time…

Clowns or Midgets x