Dean heard the river before he saw it.
He picked up his pace even though he was tired and saw Benny smirk from the corner of his eye.
Ignoring the other man, Dean concentrated on getting to the source of the water and finding Castiel.
He wasn't completely sure how many days had passed since he'd arrived in Purgatory but Dean was certain that if Sam had found a way to help him escape, he'd already be cruising down some lonely stretch of highway in the Impala, blasting his favourite music from the speakers.
As he and Benny walked, there had been long silences which gave Dean the opportunity to think back to that day when he'd killed Dick Roman and the eldest Winchester was almost positive Sam had been far enough away when the shit hit the fan.
Which meant Sam was almost certainly alive.
Which meant Sam should have come for him by now.
Which troubled Dean, having seen no evidence that his brother was searching for him.
If Sam was alright, he should be using his big geek brain and his college education to get him the hell out of here. So why did Dean have the awful feeling no help was forthcoming?
Maybe Cas would have an answer once Dean found him.
"There it is," Benny announced with a flourish and Dean stared disappointedly at the small stream winding its way through the never-ending forest.
"Where's Cas?" Dean asked, narrowing his eyes in an attempt to catch sight of the familiar tan trench coat or shock of black hair.
"Not here," the man commented and rolled his eyes, "He's probably moved on by now."
Dean frowned, "But you did see him here, right?"
"Would I lie?" Benny asked and Dean didn't even bother answering.
"Cas!" he suddenly called and the man yanked him back, his hand gripping the collar of Dean's shirt.
"Hey!" the eldest Winchester exclaimed irritably, "Get off me!"
"We want to find your angel," Benny reminded him, "I didn't say anything about letting every beastie know our whereabouts."
Dean opened his mouth to protest but then closed it again. He couldn't argue with that logic.
"Which way did Cas go?"
"He probably followed the flow of the river."
"You didn't see which way he went?!"
Benny sighed, "I'm sorry, did you want me to stop him and ask for directions while I was at it?"
"Are you sure he would have gone downstream?" Dean asked suspiciously.
"No, but we don't want to go upstream," Benny answered and began walking alongside the riverbank.
With no other choice, Dean followed, grumbling under his breath.
Sam sat in the corner facing the door, knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around his legs. He was hungry but it wasn't that bad yet. It was impossible to tell time in the windowless room but Sam was sure only a few hours had passed since Crowley had begun his 'game'.
He ran his hands through his hair. The so-called king of Hell thought he had won, but Sam wasn't stupid. He wasn't about to fall into Crowley's trap.
With Dean gone and held captive as he was, Sam had no future, nothing to live for, even if he wasn't being held prisoner. Crowley didn't seem like he was going to change his mind and let Sam go anytime soon. Sam wasn't under any illusions either, he had few- if any- friends in the hunting community and he knew no one was coming for him. He knew it was terribly maudlin but Sam didn't care, nobody was there to see his weak moment. Of all the ways his life could have ended, Sam had to admit that this was pretty unimpressive. There was not going to be any heroics, no inspiring last words, nothing.
Sam closed his eyes, leaning his head against the wall and waited.
"Sam, honey," Mary Winchester's voice cooed, "You need to eat."
Sam closed his eyes so that he wouldn't have to look at his mother's face and sucked in a shaky breath. He lay on his side against the wall, too weak to sit up any longer. He was sure it wouldn't be long now. He just had to ignore his starving body's attempts at persuasion. It wouldn't even be the lack of food that killed him, dehydration worked much faster.
Crowley's expression had been unreadable every time Sam had refused to give into the bastard but the young man was sure the demon was displeased things weren't going his way.
Sam brushed his bangs away from his brow, his skin cool and clammy to the touch. He grimaced as his heartbeat suddenly increased for a full minute before finally slowing down again, leaving Sam panting to catch his breath, a feeling of lightheadedness washing over him.
"You don't have to do this, Sweetheart," Mary spoke up again and Sam groaned, "I can't bear seeing you like this."
"Shut up," the young man ground out through clenched teeth.
It grew quiet for a time and Sam drifted in and out of consciousness, not an altogether unpleasant experience.
A cramping in Sam's abdomen startled the young man and he curled up painfully, groaning in misery.
"You're a disappointment," John Winchester's gruff voice had Sam opening his eyes and glancing up at the apparition of his long-dead father wearily, "I trained you to be stronger than this, son. You're just going to lie down and let the demon win? You must be weaker than I thought."
Sam tried to reply, tried to defend himself from the verbal attack but his mouth was as dry as sandpaper. Instead, he closed his eyes and placed his hands over his ears to try and drown out the sound of his father's voice.
"Sammy, man," Dean's concerned hazel eyes peered into his brother's blank ones, "Don't do this. Don't go out like this. Show that son of a bitch we are tougher than this."
But no one's coming, Dean; Sam thought, his eyes stinging at the sight of his big brother.
"Hey, you've been alone before," Dean continued, "And that's never stopped you."
Sam didn't reply but closed his eyes. He felt awful. His heart was pounding in his chest, his skin was clammy and he was freezing cold. Waves of nausea rolled over him, his muscles cramping painfully.
Dean sighed, "I didn't want to tell you this, God knows you don't want to hear it… but, going out like this… well, you know you're not making the cut to go Upstairs."
Sam's eyes opened with a start as fear sliced through him.
No, he couldn't go back to Hell, there was no way. He couldn't do it.
Sam tried to sit up but was too weak and sprawled out on the cement floor again.
"D'n," he croaked, his brother's image having vanished after speaking, "D'n."
Sam swallowed painfully and turned his gaze to the heavy metal door.
With the terror of what awaited him if he died spurring him on, Sam took deep breaths, trying to stay conscious even as his body urged for sleep.
He didn't know how much time had passed before the door opened again and Crowley stepped inside, "Looks like you're about to win our little game, Moose."
Sam opened his eyes to slits and gave the tiniest shake of his head. He couldn't do it. If Crowley won this round, then so be it, but Sam could not go to Hell.
"What's that?" the demon stepped closer and crouched down before the young man.
Sam closed his eyes momentarily before opening them again. The room seemed to be spinning around him and his stomach was in knots.
"I… can't…" Sam whispered, his voice barely audible.
The King of Hell smirked and leaned in closer, one hand cupped around his ear as if to aid in his hearing.
"Speak up," he requested.
Sam almost didn't reply. It would be so much easier to close his eyes and sleep and never wake up.
But the thoughts of knives and meat hooks and fire would not leave the young man's mind.
"Please…" Sam managed to breathe, "Food… Water…"
Crowley stood and straightened his suit jacket, lips turned up in a malicious grin.
"You give up? Hm?"
Sam stared at him.
"Well, I must say you put on a good show, Moose," Crowley commented, "You had me wondering for a while if you were actually going to win."
"Too bad though, for you," the demon continued, "What is it they say in Chess? Oh yes, check and mate, I think."
Crowley turned around, the grin never leaving his face as he left the room and walked down the hallway, Samuel Winchester in the palm of his hand.
Dean stopped and watched tiredly as Benny continued on, oblivious to the fact that he was no longer following.
The man halted a few feet away and turned to face the hunter, his expression confused, "What's wrong now?"
"I feel like we're walking in circles," Dean told him and Benny rolled his eyes, "We can't walk in circles, we're following a river."
Dean ground his teeth together in irritation. He was frustrated and tired and hungry and dirty and he just wanted to get the hell out of here.
"I mean that it feels like we aren't getting anywhere," he replied as calmly as he could, "How do we even know Cas is following the river still anyway? Maybe he decided to go back into the woods."
Benny stepped closer to Dean, sizing him up in a way that the hunter found unsettling.
"There's nothing in those trees but death. Even for an angel. I don't see any reason why your friend would go that way."
Dean took an involuntary step back at the intensity of Benny's tone.
"We should keep moving," the man continued a moment later and turned so that his back faced the hunter.
Dean sighed and followed the man, lengthening his strides until he was walking beside Benny.
1. Thanks to Samstruck, cold kagome, jkf340, BranchSuper, mandancie, SamDeanLover28, sarah, jojospn, L.A.H.H, SUPERNATURALANGEL67, SPN Mum, Souless666, lillelouis for reviewing.
2. Thanks to everyone who alerted, followed and favourited.
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