Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural or the boys.

.::takes a deep breath::. Okay, this is my first dip into this fandom so don't be too harsh! I'm extra nervous. I've seen the first five seasons a bunch of times but from there… Sixth season twice and then only one time from then on for obvious reasons… -.-

Anyway, SPOILERS (not only about this episode); this is a tag to 8.15, Man's Best Friend with Benefits after they talk in the Impala at the end. I do have other ideas for SPN and I'm hoping this'll help motivate me to write them. Those will be set in earlier seasons, most likely. I'm sure other people have written this as well, but I was excited about it, especially since it's my first SPN fic to get myself started in the fandom. I hope you like my take in any case. :D

Please let me know what ya think. Hope you enjoy! n.n


Breathing Slowly

He had told his brother that he was fine. And he was... When his eyes were open and he was distracted.

Whenever he closed them images blazed a trail of pain and anguish and screams in its wake, back to a place he had escaped and had finally gotten past; only because of Castiel.

Now he lay in the dark, trying to control his breathing so his brother wouldn't wake up from the bed beside his and question him.

Dean had noticed his skittish, wide-eyed look as they drove down the road for hours, leaving the town far behind them. They had barely spoken after he'd coughed up blood, each lost in their own personal Hells and, even though Dean denied it, he knew that his older brother was shaken by the memories as well. He knew that was the only reason Dean wasn't pestering him for the truth and his feelings.

He had drifted off once after lying down for hours. Dean had seemed to have no problem sleeping, immediately falling asleep and staying that way, but Sam had a suspicion that that was mostly due to the whisky he consumed beforehand. Maybe he should have taken the offered drink…

He could hardly close his eyes for a few seconds before the memories returned and he'd snap his eyes open to stare at the ceiling above him, a streak of gold from the streetlight making its way in through the crack in the curtain.

Castiel had taken away the phantom Lucifer and made the memories tolerable but he still had the memories, could still feel the flesh being ripped from his bones.

He swallowed thickly, pushing back the nausea. It was a good thing he'd also barely touched his dinner—it hadn't helped the sideways glances his brother had been sending his way, however.

He let out a puff of breath in frustration, forcing himself to stay still.

"Go to sleep, Sam," a gravelly voice broke the silence, causing him to jump at the unexpected sound.

"Sorry," he whispered and winced at how shaky his voice sounded. He wondered how long Dean had been awake.

The older man leaned up on his elbows, fully focused on his younger sibling.

Sam heard the blanket rustling in the next bed and frowned. "I'm fine, Dean," he stated firmly; this time his voice didn't waver at all. He really wasn't in the mood for talking and was really hoping to avoid it. He had been able to evade talking about his Hell and he wanted to keep it that way.

Dean responded with a grunt.

He could feel Dean's stare in the dark.

After a couple minutes of silence, he held his breath and didn't dare move as he listened. He heard Dean's breathing even out, showing that he had fallen back asleep and let his breath out slowly in relief.

Hoping his brother would drop the subject later as well, he forced his body to relax, and continued his staring contest with the ceiling for a couple more hours.

His mind wandered and he was terrified at where it took him. What if during these trials to lock the demons in Hell for good, he somehow got pulled in? He'd be stuck there forever. Would Lucifer find a way to get him back for putting him back in the cage?

He was immensely relieved that Dean was asleep for he would have been unable to hide his utter fear over his thoughts, being back in the pit…

Forcing himself to stay still, trying to distract himself from the nasty turn his thoughts had taken, he shifted his head to look at the clock between the beds; 4:32 AM glared back at him mockingly.

His eyes were getting heavy again and he didn't think he could keep this up for the rest of the night. He wanted to stand up, move, do anything to keep himself occupied, however, he couldn't even pull out his laptop since everything would wake Dean. As it was, he hardly moved.

Another twenty minutes and the ceiling won the contest as his eyes closed on their own, sleep claiming him.

Darkness suffocated him.

Someone screamed.

Flesh burned.

Something cracked.

Another scream.

He was strung up in chains.

Flames danced before his eyes and licked at his heels.

And screamed.

Piercing pain.

A taunting voice echoed, surrounding him.

He realized it was he who was screaming.

The flames grew.

"Sam!"

He snapped wide awake, his breath quick as he tried to breathe through the searing heat.

Green eyes looked worriedly into his; a comforting hand on his shoulder.

However, he bolted upright, backing into the headboard, lingering images of Hell at the forefront of his mind. He tried to swallow his panic, his pain, his fear.

"Calm down, Sam; I'm here. Slow your breathing," Dean encouraged, words pouring out at the sight of his brother. He slowly moved onto the bed next to the kid, his hand moving back to Sam's shoulder.

"I'm here, Sammy," he repeated, giving a gentle squeeze as he shifted his knee, bumping Sam's lightly, trying to get through to him.

Sam focused solely on his brother, the physical contact, his litany of encouragement, his breathing, grounding himself to this reality—to the cheap motel room they were currently holed up in and his brother who smelled of alcohol.

He fixed on Dean's hand as he held onto his shoulder as though to keep him together.

Gradually, the panic subsided and his breathing calmed with it.

The constant stream of reassuring words had stopped as Sam steadied himself.

The younger Winchester shifted his gaze to the nightstand, noticing for the first time that the lamp had been turned on. He gaped as 5:27 AM stared back at him, for it had felt so much longer than an hour.

Then Dean was gone.

He felt his panic start to rise when there was suddenly a glass in front of him. This time he didn't turn down the whisky and slammed it back in one gulp before moving to the edge of his bed, putting his head in his hands but kept his eyes open as he stared at the floor.

The older man took the glass back and placed it on the stand as he settled on the bed across from Sam, his knees touching again, comforting him.

"Sam…" His brother sounded exhausted.

"Dean," he pleaded, his voice sounded hoarse like he'd been yelling, and he didn't want to think about that.

Dean sighed and ran a hand down his face.

It had scared the shit out of him when he had awoken to the sounds of his brother shouting in pain. Thinking he was under attack, he had instantly grabbed the gun from under his pillow but had seen nothing to aim at and it had nothing to do with the darkness. He had turned the light on, his gun still firmly in his grip in caution and had immediately seen the problem.

Looking at his younger brother now, it was obvious just how 'fine' he was by his sweat-slicked hair, his pale features, and the haunted look in his eyes.

"We need to talk about this," Dean said sternly, staring into hazel eyes.

Sam shifted slightly, but said nothing.

"Sam," he warned as his brother's eyes flitted somewhere to his left.

"What, you mean, am I seeing Lucifer?" Sam snapped, shooting up to pace at the end of his bed.

However, he halted his frantic movements, realizing what he had just said.

Wide-eyed, he looked at his older brother and then swept his gaze to the side as though he expected to see the fallen angel but quickly looked back at Dean with a look of relief. "No. I'm not," he answered for the both of them.

And Dean released a breath that he hadn't known he had sucked in and held at the question thrown at him.

Sam let out a shaky breath and ran a hand through his long hair.

He started pacing again.

He vaguely heard the bed creak, signaling Dean's movement and nearly jumped when another glass of whisky was before him. "Sit," Big Brother Dean said simply, his voice soft, and Sam knew he was in for it.

He did as he was told, tossing back the whisky and then fiddled with the glass, refusing to meet the intense green eyes he knew he'd find watching him if he raised his head.

"I don't want to talk about it," he finally muttered as the silence stretched; Dean's eyes boring into him.

Dean moved back next to Sam and squeezed his shoulder in comfort. "I know, Sammy, but this… This is going to kill you. So I'm willing to have a sharing and caring moment…" he said smiling, trying to lighten the mood a little.

"I was Lucifer's plaything!" he shouted as though it explained everything and, in a way, it did. He didn't want to play Dean's game. "What do you want me to say? That he tortured me. And Michael...! That sometimes when I open my eyes I'm afraid I'll be back in the pit!"

The glass fell from his trembling fingers, bouncing on the carpeted floor, his hands moving to clench his hair as he breathed heavily after the words that had spilled without thought.

"I'm here, bro, and I'm not going anywhere; neither are you," Dean reassured, suddenly completely serious, his grip tightening on Sam's shoulder for emphasis and staying that way as he stared into wide hazel eyes. After all the crap they had been through, after all the arguments they'd had… Sammy had finally decided to stay and be in this together… Oh yeah, they were sticking together, even if he was pissed that Sam had taken on the first trial.

Sam gave Dean a weak smile in return, his mind still in turmoil but eased by his brother's presence, and knocked his knee against Dean's.

"What do you say we get out of here?" the older man asked, slapping Sam's leg as he stood.

Sam nearly sighed in relief and quickly nodded, moving to pack his things.

Soon the two Winchesters were back in the Impala, once again driving down the highway.

Thirty minutes later, Dean shifted his gaze to Sam and smiled. He knew Sam was far from over Hell—if anyone ever could really be—but he knew that he'd be alright. He'd make sure of it, trials be damned.

The younger hunter had his head against the window, facing Dean and was fast asleep.