This is the twelfth story in my series. It covers the year that Sam is in the Cage.

Disclaimer: I do not own or have the rights to anything of the Supernatural universe. I am just playing in their sandbox.


"You need to leave me the fuck alone… now," Dean spits out, his tone filled with an amount of hatred that just makes her scared and so sad it hurts. He doesn't ever talk to her like that. Never. But things have drastically changed in their lives recently and she understands. It hurts, but she understands.

"I'm just trying to help," Lizzy calmly reminds him as she stands in the doorway of their bedroom looking at him lying in bed, his back to her as he's curled up on his side facing the opposite wall. She silently reminds herself that she loves this man very much and continues to deal with the brute force that is Dean in mourning.

"Lizzy, you're not helping. You're being fucking annoying," Dean explains as he refuses to look at her. She's trying to make him do things that he just doesn't want to do. He wants to lie in bed, drink, and try to forget. That's it. Everything else she attempts to make him do she can just shove right up her ass because he's not doing it. "Just stop."

"How do expect me to do that?" Lizzy quietly challenges him, her side leaning against the doorframe with her arms crossed over her chest.

"Easy," he responds harshly, pulling the comforter tightly up to his neck. "You back the fuck off and leave me alone. I don't need the mothering." I need my brother back, he thinks to himself.

"I'm not mothering you, Dean," she returns, her tone almost defeated. Three days of anger and acidic responses to her efforts at helping him. Three days of her own silent suffering with no one to turn to. Bobby isn't even answering his phone since Sam jumped into the cage, needing the time away from hunting to regroup. She gets it but that left her with no one to talk to. She continues to suffer silently while Dean so clearly needs her but keeps refusing her.

"Sure as hell feels like it."

"I'm trying to be there for you."

"Well don't," he punches out, eyes closed as he refuses to listen to his own bitter and harmful tone that he uses with her. "I don't need you."

The thick silence that develops between the two of them nearly suffocates Lizzy. Such awful words he uses. As she tries her best to mentally remind herself that he's devastated and needs time, she finds herself breaking down quickly.

"Don't say that," Lizzy quietly asks of him. "Because I know that you don't mean that."

"Try me."

She breaths deep and silently lets the mantra she's used several times already start a loop in her head.

He doesn't really mean it. He doesn't really mean it. He doesn't really mean it…

"Stop expecting me to be ok," Dean tells her while facing the wall. "I can't be. I've lost everything. I've lost my entire fucking family."

"No you didn't," Lizzy kindly tells him while walking forward a couple steps, wanting to physically do something to help him but not knowing what, if anything, he'd accept right now. "You still have me. I'm right here."

"So what?" Dean brushes off, his words driving a knife into her heart. "You're only here because you have to be."

The pain his words deliver is excruciating. They both know she was made for him in the most literal sense, having had angels mold and shape her. But they both also know that their love is something huge, something that even the angels are surprised by, and they'd never leave the other wanting or needing anything because of that love. It's real what they have and right now Dean tries to say it isn't.

Freezing in her place, knowing she's about to cry and not wanting to do that in front of him right now, she knows she has to give up and leave.

"Alright then," her voice cracks, giving her away completely. "I'm taking a shower… just, just in case you suddenly realize that you do need me… that's where I'll be."

Making her way quickly down the hallway before she loses it in front of him (like he needs the added sorrow right now), she holes up in the bathroom. She turns on the water and as the steam fills the room she stands at the sink, gripping the edge of it and looking at herself in the mirror. Three restless nights have taken their toll on her. She's afraid to let Dean sleep through the night without someone to watch over him. With the amount that he's been drinking she doesn't assume he will make it through the night without choking on his own vomit or just plain stopping breathing. She even contemplated watering down the booze in the house so that he couldn't give himself alcohol poisoning but she knows he'd figure it out immediately and it wasn't worth the added fire. Watching him nearly twenty-four hours a day and only sleeping when he passes out during the day has left her exhausted. She's barely eaten, which is more than Dean can say, and her emotions are destroying her from the inside out.

As she undresses she begins thinking about Sam, where he is, and what's happening to him right now. Her brain lets itself travel to this ugly place several times a day no matter how hard she tries to block it. The thoughts alone horrify her and she knows that her own imagination isn't nearly creative enough to come up with the terror he's actually going through. She shakes her head to rid her mind of the train of thought. Thinking like that will only get her where Dean is right now… and one of them has to hold their shit together. That has to be her right now.

Stepping under the hot spray of the shower, she sighs when the heated water warms her tired, taxed body. After everything, she knew that Dean would need time, would need love and support, and completely expected that he'd be difficult to handle. Hell, he's difficult enough as it is on an average day. While experiencing the loss of his Sammy, his world, he's been even worse than she had imagined. Sure, he drinks and doesn't eat, he's angry and sad and frustrated, he doesn't sleep unless he's blacked out from drinking… all things she was ready for. But she never saw the mean side of Dean coming.

They've been together on a daily basis for two years almost nonstop. In all that time of close quarters and constant contact, he's never said a single thing to her that was intentionally hurtful. Whenever he speaks of her or of them it's always positive, always hopeful and loving. These past few days… she doesn't know who the stranger in her apartment is anymore. Dean has aimed for the jugular with every few and far between sentences he's said to her. She asks him to eat, he tells her to fuck off. She suggests he's had enough to drink for the day and he says she's a bitch that needs to mind her own business. She mentions he needs to try and sleep, he tells her he doesn't need her.

He's lucky she knows how full of shit he is.

Thinking through everything and standing under the water in her own world that doesn't have Dean in it, twenty minutes later she turns off the shower. With a sad sigh she grabs her towel, dries off, and gets mentally prepared for whatever verbal insult he's about to hurl at her next. Towel wrapped around her body, she steps out and heads to leave.

"Shit," she hushes out when she catches the unexpected sight of Dean sitting on the closed toilet, elbows on his knees and head in his hands. "Dean?"

No answer, he stays there.

"Baby," she starts, kneeling on the tiled floor between his knees and looking under his bowed head. "What's happening?" She doesn't ask what's wrong after he scolded her for not knowing when she asked yesterday. What else could she think was wrong? His brother is in hell! That's what's wrong!?

No answer.

"Just tell me what you need," she pleads with him, never knowing what to say or do with him in this state. She's been wrong with every guess she's taken so far.

Dean shakes his head no at the same time as she hears him sniffle.

"Whatever it is you need, I'll do it. You know that," Lizzy attempts one more time.

This time, not a word spoken, he does let her know. Briefly looking up to her and meeting her eyes, his own red and his chin quivering, he swiftly grabs her. He harshly brings her into him, squeezing his arms around her so tightly it nearly hurt. Lizzy scrambles to get her arms around his neck and she holds on hard, a little shocked at the action. After the first night when they got back, Dean's all but avoided all physical contact with her. He doesn't hug her, hold her hand, he's even managed to not once brush against her while passing in the hall or sitting next to one another. And kiss her? No way. It's been the coldest three days of her life.

As she hugs him back, Lizzy lets a few tears of relief fall from her eyes. She's the opposite of how Dean is in this situation. She craves contact and love and warmth. She wants to talk and be held. She wants him to help her too but she knows he can't. Lizzy is the rock right now so she takes this moment for all it is before it disappears.

They don't speak. They barely move. Dean just needed this so badly.

What he really wants is to disappear completely. Falling off the face of the Earth sounded pretty damn good right about now. So did switching with Sam. Both things he knew were impossible. So instead he hides in his whiskey bottle and his pent up anger. Nothing feels right anymore… almost nothing. This felt right still. Lizzy always felt right. But the second he allows himself to run to her the guilt sets in.

Dean still has this. He has someone to help him. Sam's alone. He has love in his life. Sam doesn't. He has a woman showing him constant mercy and concern, even if he hasn't returned it. Sam gets a huge helping of whatever could possibly be considered worse than hell every second of every day. How is that fair? How it is ok for him to have this life and Sam to have his horrific fate?

It's too much. He snaps.

Swiftly pushing her away from him, Dean stands up and walks off. The very sudden change takes Lizzy way off guard. Soon she can hear the bedroom door slam shut and she's left once again to guess what the fuck she's supposed to do. At a complete loss, Lizzy does the one thing she can do right this second.

She sits onto the cold floor Indian-style and she cries.

Alone.


Alone.

He's seen a lot already in the short couple of years or so he's been down there. And a couple of years is just Sam's best guess. He never tried to keep track of the actual number of days. Eternity is forever and when you're facing torture forever the concept of time suddenly seems to lose all meaning or importance.

This has become one of his least favorite tortures. Sure, the burning hurts like nothing else. So does the skinning, the stabbing, the disemboweling, and all the other physical attacks Lucifer likes doling out on Sam, using a corporeal form of the hunter to do what he must to make Sam scream until his lungs give out and his throat is on fire. But the physical stuff is child's play in the long run. Being a hunter for his whole life has left Sam not afraid of tangible forms of agony. He can handle that and down in the cage being able to handle something is the equivalent of taking a day off at the beach.

It's the mental stuff, the emotional assaults that always did their worst on him. Sam Winchester was nearly born a head case. His life, his loss of his mother before he could remember her and his upbringing with an absent and militant father sculpted Sam into the mess he is deep down in his soul. The little comfort he was able to sap from Dean through his formative years was all he had to base his emotional maturity on. Somehow he came out of it alright, not good but alright. And always craving more of what he never got.

Somehow, after being in Sam's head for a short time before going right back into the cage, Lucifer crawled right up into his melon and figured him right out. The devil knows what makes Sam tick.

After not so long Sam started to see a pattern. Luci liked to hand out physical pain, scratch that, he loved it. It was a release for him and since he was screwed out of his whole Apocalyptic role by one single, stubborn, strong willed human, the former angel sure found complete release through hammering Sam however he could creatively manage. And he was a creative one. With no actual, concrete rules to their world anymore Lucifer was free to get as intense, horrid, and just plain awful as he could imagine.

A few days to a few months of constant pain and blood and physical dismantling, Lucifer would take some time off. This is when the mental torture would start. This is when the worst of the worst would start.

Now Sam is locked away. Where, he doesn't know. It's pitch black, completely silent, and empty. And to make matters worse, the devil never let him have his body for this. It was just his mind, his soul, his separated being. He can't move, can't yell, can't do anything. He has no eyes, no limbs, no voice, nothing… it's just his thoughts and to Sam there is nothing worse than just having his thoughts.

Every time this has happened his mind started with memories. It's a different one every time. And what's worse, within this odd, black reality he's able to replay his memories as if they're actually happening. He can smell things, see them, hear them… even feel the physical and emotional sensations of them all until…

Well, he tries not to think about how his memories always end. He knows Lucifer tucks Sam away into this vast nothing so that he'll think about a memory just so Satan can destroy it horrifically for him every time. Instead he tries to take what little comfort he can in the fleeting moment.

"Alright, dude," Dean says to Sam as he tosses his jacket at him. "Let's go."

Catching his outerwear, Sam pauses for a minute before the bright smile creeps across his face. He remembers this. It's his ninth birthday. Dad didn't make it back and it wasn't much of a surprise. He had been prepared for mac and cheese from a blue box for dinner, maybe a new book if Dean had gotten the chance to go out and get him one (paying or stealing he never let Sam know… just depended on their cash on hand at the moment), and then staying up late since it was one of the few luxuries Dean could actually afford for Sam in the situation.

"Where are we going?" Sam asks with a bright face, even though he already knows the answer from memory.

"We're getting the hell outta here for a few hours," Dean explains as he grabs the motel room key. "We're not sitting in this room for your birthday."

"Ok, but dad said…"

"I don't care what dad said," Dean tells him, some anger and also a little hesitant fear in his voice as he says it. He sighs. "We'll be ok. I promise." He then holds out a decent sized silver knife to make sure Sam sees it as he tucks it away into his jeans until it's hidden.

"I don't want to get in trouble, Dean," Sam warns. Incurring the wrath of John Winchester was never fun.

"You're not gonna get in trouble," Dean assures as he walks over to drop a hand on his little brother's shoulder. "We'll be gone for only an hour, two tops."

Somehow, even back then when Dean was only thirteen years old, he had a way of making Sam feel safe and like everything would be fine.

"Ok," Sam smiles, excited to leave their shitty temp-home for something other than school.

"So what do you say… burgers or pizza?" This is where Dean's face lights up. Sam laughs a bit at that.

"Pizza," he says, knowing that at a pizza joint he could get something different than the usual grease fest that Dean gets them. It was his birthday after all and if he wanted a sandwich, he was getting a sandwich.

"Whatever you want Sammy. It's your day, right?" Dean says to him as he opens the door for them to leave.

"Right."

Sam remembers how that night went. They went to grab dinner at a hole in the wall called Tony's down the street. He had a chicken club and Dean got a small pepperoni and sausage pizza that he nearly ate all on his lonesome. They then went across the street to an arcade. He didn't know how at the time, but Dean had managed to scrape together ten bucks on top of the money he used for dinner. The second they got there he dumped a pile of quarters into Sam's jacket pocket and told him to have at it.

And did he ever. He ran from game to game, never settling on one. He wanted to do everything and be a normal kid so badly that his excitement took over. And there were just too many games to choose from. About a half hour into the night Sam had realized that Dean never played a single game the whole time. He gave over every quarter he had for his brother to use.

"Dean! Come here!" Sam yells to his older brother that is sitting on a fake motorcycle that's a part of a racing game, keeping a look out for anything off and watching Sam have fun. "I'm gonna kick your butt!" he remembers clearly declaring while standing in front of a hunting game.

"Aw, Sammy," Dean starts to deny his brother. "You don't want to play me on that one."

"Why not?"

"Because when I kick your ass and make you feel like a loser on your own birthday I'm gonna feel bad."

Sam rolls his eyes. "Whatever, Dean. I've been practicing. I'm really good now."

"Not as good as me kid," Dean says cockily right back. "Besides, those are your quarters. You don't have to spend them on me."

"But I want to," Sam shrugs. He did. He wanted to share his fun with the one person who cared enough to do something for his birthday.

"Fine," Dean finally gave in as he picks up the bright orange game rifle. "But don't come crying to me when you lose."

"And don't get all angry and threaten to beat my ass when I kick yours." Sam smiles wide with his words. It was rare that he'd speak like that, like Dean did.

"Big words," Dean nods with impression while he aims at the screen as Sam drops some quarters into the game. "Let's see if you're a big enough man to back it up."

"I'm nine now," Sam says with an air of confidence and he remembers clearly hearing Dean laugh a little at this.

They used the last of their quarters on the shooting game, Dean winning most games but Sam beating him on the last one. To this day Sam's pretty sure Dean let him win but it's fine. It was a nice gesture.

"So, you have fun?" Dean asks, his arm around Sam's shoulders as they walk back to their humble lodgings.

"Yeah," Sam says, looking up at his big brother and feeling very grateful to have him suddenly. "Thanks, Dean."

"No problem," Dean answer back and then immediately stops short when he looks ahead. His face drops instantly. "Shit."

In front of their motel door was the Impala. Their dad had gotten back while they were out.

"I though he wasn't coming back until tomorrow," Sam asks up to his big brother with certain worry and fear.

"That's what he told me last night when he called," Dean tells him.

"What do we do?" Sam wonders quickly. "He's gonna kill us."

"No he's not," Dean assures as he turns to look at Sam. "I won't let him. This was my idea anyways."

"But you were just being nice…"

"Still went against orders. You didn't do anything wrong, Sammy. You hear me?"

Sam nods his head once to indicate that he did.

"OK. Just follow me and don't say much. Think you can do that for me?"

Sam nods again. Out of the two of them Dean always knew how to get through to their father. He knew him better and for whatever reason Sam never could back down from the man. His mouth and independent nature always got him into huge trouble.

The walk the rest of the way up the street is silent and once they reach the door Dean sighs to himself before entering the room.

"Where the hell have you been!?" John's voice booms out as he stands up from his bed the second they're in sight.

"I'm sorry, sir," Dean immediately says as he shuts and locks the door behind them. "I didn't want Sam's birthday to go by without any fun. I took him for pizza and we went to the arcade."

"I told you not to leave!" John yells as he steps forward towards them, Dean stepping in front of Sam as he does. "Something was killing people in this town! You could have been hurt!"

"I know. And it was my idea to leave, not Sam's," Dean falls on the sword. "I told him it was ok to go."

Sam remembers feeling guilty immediately with Dean's words. Sam knew they weren't supposed to go out and if he really didn't want to go out he wouldn't have. Dean was about to take the blame for both of them just to keep his brother safe from their dad's anger on his birthday.

"Dean, you know what's out there…" John starts.

"I do, and that's why I left prepared," Dean quickly rebuts, taking out his silver knife to prove that he didn't leave unprepared.

John gets up and stands in front of his pigheaded but usually rule abiding teen son. He takes the knife from him and holds it.

"Well, at least you weren't running around naked," John calms down a bit. "And it is Sam's birthday."

Sam smiles as he recalls how this night ended. His dad came home early to surprise them. He brought a cake and a hard covered copy of The Hobbit that Sam had been dying to get his hands on. He always used to take the book out of the libraries of wherever they'd currently be, but then he'd have to remember where he was in the story, return the book when they moved on, and then find the next local library to take a different copy out and figure out the page he was last on. He loved this book. Had it for years until they had to ditch town when he was fifteen and he left it behind in the rush.

He remembers this being one of the rare times their father found it acceptable for him to keep on the road with them.

"I'm sorry, Dad," Dean says, truly meaning it.

"Me too son," John responds, staring oddly at Dean for a moment before twirling the knife in his hand once and then plunging it hard into Dean's chest.

"No!" Sam shouts. This isn't supposed to happen! This isn't right!

John leans down close to Dean, his eye locking onto his sons and the panic washes over the boy's face.

"Dad?" Dean barely gets out as he grasps his hands over his dad's fingers still clutching the knife.

"I'm sorry that I let my son turn out to be so pathetic," John keeps taunting as he turns the blade, making the adolescent Dean scream. "So weak."

"Stop it!" Sam panics as he forces his way between John and Dean. He pushes his father as hard as he can, making the man somehow step back a bit. Dean collapses to the floor in a heap as his voice whimpers out with pain and fear. Sam dives onto the floor next to him, pulling the knife from his chest. "Dean!"

"Sammy." His weak voice calls out to his younger brother. He looks up to Sam but before he can say anything Sam is airborne.

He hits the far wall of the motel room with brute force, suddenly getting pinned in place by an invisible force.

"Hang out a bit, hm?" John's voice says to him. He turns to face Sam and his eyes roll up into his head until there's nothing but blank white.

"Alistair," Sam says with recognition as his small body struggles to move.

"Good on you, kiddo," he smirks with John's face. "Relax, would you? You're not getting down until I want you to."

"Let them go!" Sam shouts, the horror coating his young voice.

"Hm, I don't really think I'll be doing that for you," Alistair says in a snarl as he looks back to Dean on the floor as he's curled up and clutching his chest atop a growing pool of blood… so much blood. The sounds of his labored breathing and groans of sheer agony killing Sam from the inside out. "I want you to see what I should have done before I let this pathetic, self-hating waste of space try and torture me. My grasshopper so very much disappointed me."

"NO!" Sam screams out but it's no use. The next horrifying hour, or hours as it seems, consists of Sam watching the worst possible thing his brain could ever conjure. He is helpless and forced to view everything Alistair does to his brother, things so horrible he can't bear to let his brain even process it all. Things he was never sadistic enough to ever create on his own.

When it was all said and done, when there was nothing recognizable left of his own brother but a bloody pile on the floor, Alistair turns John's body around to face Sam with a smile.

"Been waiting to do that for years," he says with pure glee while wiping a smudge of Dean's blood off his cheek with his sleeve.

Sam has no response. He just lets the last of his tears make their slow decent down his face filled with ire. Of all the things he's seen, felt, experienced down in the cage, this was by far the most daunting. His memories, one by one, are going to get picked off and changed, turned ugly and cruel instead of being the few bright spots he had left.

Alistair steps right up in front of Sam, their noses just a few inches away from each other. "You know Sam," he starts and Sam watches as the face of his father transforms into that of Nick, the meatsuit he knows as Lucifer.

"I think I'm actually starting to have some fun with you."

"Go fuck yourself," Sam spits back in a low, yet slightly worn, tone. He's back to his adult form and once more made corporeal. He's in his own body which means he knows what comes next.

"Nah, I prefer to fuck you, Sam," Lucifer smiles. "Well, fuck you over at least. Unless you're into that sort of thing..." Nick just stares at Sam with a suspicious smirk. "I always did think you were a little fruity. Thought maybe you and Dean had a thing going on for a while there. Long hours together, no one else ever around…"

Sam clenches his jaw and says nothing. He knows now that the more he says the more Lucifer has to work with. It's better to stay quiet.

"Ah, damn. I was wrong," Lucifer laments. "And here I was thinking I was onto something. Oh well."

As Sam feels the pain start, this time from deep within as Lucifer reaches his hand straight into his gut, he barely flinches. His tormenter looks at him with an odd expression.

"Nothing? No screams or swears or begging for your big brother to save you?" he asks with shock.

Sam keeps a straight determined face. After seeing Dean get pulled apart like that right in front of him nothing could hurt more than that.

"Guess I'll have to turn up the heat then, huh?" Lucifer smirks and the new level of physical pain Sam yet to feel hits him like a freight train.

As Sam scream out in sheer agony, Lucifer laughs and finds some form of delight within his cage walls.