Remnants (Set between 4x08 and 4x09 but spoilers up to 4x10)

This is my first ever piece of Fanfiction. I don't mind criticism and I appreciate all reviews! Have a fantastic day.

There was a chill in the air that night, but the windows of the Impala were rolled down as it cruised silently along the smooth asphalt. Dean glanced at his brother slumped peacefully in the passenger seat and hit the accelerator. It had been a long day, and he was eager to arrive into the next town and find a motel room. According to his map, that town was Dudley, Georgia, and it looked to be home to less than 500 people. Dean sighed and slouched lower in the driver's seat, his hand brushing his hair back absentmindedly.

His fingers drummed lightly against the steering wheel and he hummed quietly to himself. Ever since Dean had been pulled from Hell, these were the moments he had learned to appreciate. The familiar purr of the Impala, the smooth evenness of the road beneath him- the moments where he was free of his brother's ever-watchful eyes. Dean knew that Sam was worried about him, knew that he heard the anguished screams Dean muffled into his pillow when the nightmares came. And he knew that on more than one occasion, Sam had gotten up to stand silently beside his bed, his long arms reaching hesitantly, wondering whether or not to try to pull his brother back from his torment.

And each time, after a few moments, Sam's arms would fall back limply at his sides, his shoulders slumped as he crawled slowly back to his own bed.

Dean knew that the burden he carried was affecting his brother, knew that Sam had questions. But Dean couldn't bring himself to answer those questions, to reveal his greatest shame to the person he cared about most. Sam would see him differently. Dean knew how that conversation would go. He could already hear the softness in Sam's voice as his comforting words flow slowly, as he told Dean that he still loved him and that he understood, filled with the pity that Dean couldn't bear to see reflected in his brother's deep brown eyes.

No, this was another burden Dean had to carry on his own.

Dean maneuvered the car hastily through the next few turns as the road grew more and more convoluted and the trees around them thickened. He hadn't realized that his eyes had begun to droop until he turned the next corner and was suddenly assailed by a neon billboard claiming to provide cut-rate automobile insurance for all makes and models. Dean's aggravated groan was cut short as his headlights fell upon the too-still form of a woman lying bloodied in the middle of the road.

Her dead eyes shone through thick tendrils of black hair, her mouth held open in a silent scream. Dean's foot immediately shifted to the brakes, but he knew there was no way to stop in time.

Sam's eyes flew open as the Impala swerved violently. He barely had time to brace himself as the car launched itself off of the road and directly into a giant tree. A low-hanging branch crashed through the windshield at full force, shattering the glass.

"Dean?" Sam called, his voice slightly lost in the hum of the Impala's still-running engine as he came back to consciousness. No answer. He winced slightly, reaching to touch the sticky liquid that flowed from the right side of his head down past his cheek. Sam's neck felt stiff and his left leg throbbed painfully.

"DEAN!?" he called again, louder, more panicked. Slowly, he turned his head to the left, struggling to see past the thick branch that had embedded itself into the driver's seat, missing Dean's head by mere inches.

Dean was slumped across the steering wheel, his face slightly angled towards Sam. Blood seeped steadily from a long gash on his forehead, and his eyes remained closed, even as Sam continued to scream his name.

"No. No no no no," Sam thought, his vision blurring as tears automatically welled in his eyes.

He fumbled desperately for his seatbelt, flinging it behind him as he dove across the seat towards his brother. Stray branches caught at his jacket, and Sam batted at them angrily, unable to reach Dean. He twisted towards the passenger door instead, attempting to stumble from the car but instead falling awkwardly to the ground as his ankle screamed in protest. Ignoring the shooting pain, Sam pulled himself back up, limping quickly around to Dean's side and using the body of the Impala for support. He yanked the driver's door open unceremoniously, gently shaking his brother's limp form.

"Dean? Come on man, wake up. Wake up Dean," Sam's voice broke as he tried to hold back his sobs. He glanced around the deserted street, catching sight of the smoke rising from the front of the Impala. The front end of the car was completely crumpled and the front left tire jutted out at an irregular angle. Shit. Definitely totaled.

Despite his growing panic, Sam's training kicked in and he reached for Dean's seatbelt, unfastening it while simultaneously checking his brother over for any further injuries.

Dean groaned, his hand twitching slightly as Sam gently dabbed at the cut on his forehead with his jacket, trying to stop the flow of blood. Sam let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and reached for his brother, wrapping his long arms around him.

"It's okay Dean, I've got you. We're gonna get you out of here. Hold on man, hold on," he pleaded, already reaching for his phone.

"S'm?" Dean mumbled. His eyes fluttered as he struggled to focus them on his little brother.

"Yeah Dean it's me, I'm here," Sam smiled slightly, worry tightening his features.

Dean moaned again, reaching reflexively to clutch his right side, his breath coming out in low, shallow gasps.

"Dean calm down man, just calm..." Sam's words stopped suddenly as he noticed the patch of sticky black fluid that soaked Dean's shirt and leaked between his fingers, dripping thickly onto his already muddy jeans. Sam's breath caught when he noticed the 4-inch thick tree branch that protruded from Dean's side, still attached to the larger branch that had crashed through the windshield.

"Oh God, Dean..."

"Sam?" Dean finally seemed to find his voice, his eyes leveling on Sam as he spoke, "Sammy, are you okay?" God only Dean. Sam normally would've snorted at Dean's complete disregard for the fact that a tree branch was sticking out of him, but at the moment, all he could do was gape at the wound.

"S'mmy?" Dean tried again, his eyes narrowing slightly as he caught sight of the blood on the side of Sam's face.

"Dean I'm fine but you...your stomach...Dean I don't know how to move you," Sam voice rose as he tried to push down the panic. Instead, it bubbled to the surface.

"Dean what the hell happened, man? I could've driven if you were too tired! Why didn't you wake me? What were you thinking?" Sam didn't mean for the words to sound so harsh, but it was all he could do to keep from breaking down.

" the road. Couldn't stop in time..." Dean murmured. "So much blood..." His eyes widened suddenly and he twisted fiercely against the branch that had run clear through his stomach, causing more blood to seep through his shirt.

"Dean stop!" Sam screamed, pushing Dean back against the seat and grabbing for his hands, which were desperately trying to break the branch in half in order to free himself. "Stop moving!"

Dean's struggles grew more and more feeble as his brother pushed against him, and finally he sagged into the driver's seat, but reached clumsily to grab hold of Sam's sleeve. His grip tightened and he stared pointedly at his brother, his eyes pleading.

"Sam, check the road. There was a woman...Sammy I think she was dead," Dean choked on the last word and blood cascaded from his mouth, staining the front of his shirt.

"Oh God Dean, hold on," Sam cried, forgetting his brother's instructions and instead dialing 911, his eyes never leaving Dean's pale face.

Dean struggled to remain conscious as Sam talked hurriedly into the phone, explaining the situation and giving their location. Once he had hung up, he squeezed Dean's shoulder, a reassuring smile on his face.

"They'll be here soon Dean, just hold tight for a few more minutes."

"Check the road Sammy," Dean muttered again, his eyes rolling back slightly, unfocused.

"Dean I'm not leaving you..."

"SAM. NOW," Dean shouted, coughing again as more blood poured from his mouth.

Startled, Sam gave Dean's shoulder another squeeze before turning away.

"I'll be right back," he said, disappearing from Dean's view as he trudged back up the slight incline leading to the road. He scanned the length of the street, taking in the tread marks left behind by the Impala and noting the irony of the car insurance billboard. But there was no body. No woman on the side of the road. Confused, Sam looped back towards the car, his pace quickening as he heard Dean's heavy, disrupted breathing from inside.

Sam saw the all too familiar flash of police lights just as he reached Dean, and within moments, the paramedics had taken control of the scene.

"We need a hand saw over here," yelled one of the EMTs, eyeing the stick in Dean's side. "We'll be as gentle as we can, but getting this thing out isn't gonna feel too good," he said, regarding Dean sympathetically.

Dean flashed a cocky grin, looking like he was about to crack one of his jokes, but instead he flinched slightly as the saw came into view. His gaze stayed trained on the saw as it was positioned above the branch embedded in his torso, but he kept his expression blank.

Dean sucked in a shocked breath, tears springing to his eyes automatically as the EMT took hold of the part of the branch closest to Dean's stomach and began to saw through it as carefully as possible.

Despite how hard the paramedics tried to limit how much the branch shifted inside Dean's body, Sam could see that his brother was still in immense pain. Dean squeezed his eyes shut, biting back a scream as the saw finally cut its way completely through the branch, causing his body to jerk slightly back into the soft padding of the Impala. A soft moan escaped his lips, and Sam flinched from it, not used to hearing such evident pain in his brother's voice.

After several more endless moments, the paramedics were finally able to remove Dean from the car, shifting him onto a stretcher and then into the ambulance, Sam climbing in close behind. A piece of the tree branch still stuck out of Dean's right side, and Sam swatted Dean's hand away as he reached to feel the blood caked around the wound.

"Leave it, you idiot," Sam frowned, his voice still thick with worry, "they don't want you losing any more blood than you already have."

Dean coughed, curling in on himself slightly as the pain tore across his stomach, but he managed a weak smile. "Don't...get...your..knickers in...a bunch S'mmy," he panted, his words slurring as he drifted slowly into unconsciousness.

Oh God. No. No, not again. Please not again.

Dean bit back a scream as the knife dug once more into his stomach, slicing away at his insides.

"Alistair, please." Begging had never gotten him anywhere, but Dean was past the point of caring. His face twisted in agony as his torturer smiled, once again sinking the knife into Dean's abdomen, blood already trickling steadily onto the floor.

Dean tried desperately to block out the pain and slide into unconsciousness, but as usual, he couldn't find his eyelids, instead forced to watch everything that happened to him. He struggled half-heartedly against the chains that held him, knowing there was no hope of escaping. So instead, Dean held onto the one thing that had always been his anchor down here.


At first it was just a thought, a bundled memory of his brother, but as the pain intensified, Dean found himself muttering his brother's name, over and over, trying desperately to forget the literal Hell that surrounded him.


He paused in his recitation, feeling a mild pressure on his palm. And just like that, it was gone, only to reappear at his forehead, moving back to his palm only a moment later. This was new. Not painful like everything else. It was...almost comforting. Alistair smiled playfully at him, and Dean wondered what this new development could mean.

A new kind of torture, perhaps? Creating false comfort, simply to have it ripped away from him? Dean sighed, not caring about Alistair's games at the moment as the pressure increased and warmth seemed to flow through him.

"Sammy," he whispered.

"I'm here Dean," said a familiar voice.

Dean gasped, his body jerking wildly as he tried to find the source of that voice. But he sank back down almost immediately, his eyes watering. No, that was impossible. Sam couldn't be here.

Sam wasn't here.

Dean let a sob escape his lips, only slightly aware of Alistair's gleeful laugh in his ear.

"Dean, it's okay. Wake up, come on man," the voice was so distinguishably Sammy's, so pure and pleading, that it seemed to tear yet another hole straight through Dean's already ravaged body. He would take the physical torture over this, any day. Finally finding his eyes, Dean squeezed them tightly shut against this new and overwhelming pain. And then he opened them again, shocked to find himself staring into the deep brown eyes of his little brother, Alistair's laugh still ringing in his ears.

Sam exhaled slowly, running a hand through his matted hair and glancing wearily at the slumped figure on the hospital bed. Dean had finally woken up two days after the accident, but it had still taken the better part of an hour to convince him that he was no longer in Hell. He hadn't awoken again for more than a few minutes at a time after that, and then only long enough to ask about his car and for the nurses to administer more painkillers.

Sam rolled his eyes, remembering how Dean had pleaded with the nurses to let him go check on his "baby", even though at the time, he was barely able to lift his head. Sam's smirk quickly faded, and he let his head slip into his hands as he thought back to the earlier memory. The one where Dean had woken with a shuddering gasp, only to deny Sam's existence, tears streaming down his face as he begged for his torturer to make the "mirage" of his brother disappear. No matter how much Sam had pushed and pleaded, Dean refused to meet his eyes, and when he finally did, Sam wished he hadn't.

Dean's eyes had been empty, the once brilliant green irises faded and dull. The only evidence that there was any life left in them came from the moisture that was seeping steadily, soaking the overly fluffed pillow that was propped beneath his head. Even now, those eyes haunted Sam as he watched his brother's fitful sleep. Dean twisted suddenly on the bed. His eyes flew open as he gasped desperately for air, his hands flying up to reach for something Sam couldn't see.

"Dean, I'm here," Sam soothed, and he reached out to steady Dean's flailing arms, carefully placing what he hoped to be the equivalent of a smile onto his face.

"Sammy," Dean relaxed almost immediately as his hands found the sleeves of Sam's shirt, his worn body sagging limply back onto the bed. He inhaled sharply, grimacing at the sharp pain shooting through his side, but maintained his grip on his brother. And when his eyes turned towards the youngest Winchester, Sam was relieved to find that some life had returned to them. Relief turned quickly to outrage, however, as Sam caught sight of the apology emanating from their depths.

"Sam, I'm s..."

"Dean, shut up," Sam barked. He attempted to shove away from his brother, cursing Dean's skewed priorities, but Dean only held on tighter, digging his fingers more firmly into the worn plaid of Sam's shirt. Sam was about to push away again, but Dean's expression stopped him. The look only flitted across Dean's features for a moment before he was able to regain control, but Sam had seen the pure, unconcealed fear there.

It was such a contrast to the Dean Sam had once known, and his eyes softened instantly as he lowered himself to sit next to his brother on the thin mattress.

Dean shifted slightly to account for his brother's weight, and he stiffened suddenly, looking slightly stricken. "Sam? The woman, on the side of the road...was she dead? I...I know I didn't hit her but she was...there was blood...everywhere."

Sam blinked. Never ceasing in his worrying for Dean over the past few days, Sam had completely forgotten the actual cause of the accident that had landed them here. He eyed his brother, choosing his words carefully. "Dean...there was no one in the road. I checked. You must have imagined it." Dean was shaking his head furiously before Sam had even finished speaking.

"No Sam, she was there, I saw her. It was..awful. I'm sure she was there...I'm sure..." Dean's voice faded with doubt at his own words. "I saw..." He tried again, but seemed to collapse in on himself instead, Sam catching his shoulder and holding him upright.

"Look Dean, do you think maybe it's you know...remnants?" Sam's tone was gentle, somewhat pleading.

"Remnants from what Sammy?" Dean asked, clearly confused.

"From Hell. I mean I know you say you don't remember, but based on the nightmares, it's obvious that you do." Sam shook his head, brushing off the protest on Dean's lips. "Stop it man, I'm not stupid. I see what's going on here. I know you remember. So what I'm saying is that maybe this woman you saw was just a..a kind of projection from your time there? And Dean? Look I know you said that talking wouldn't help, but maybe..."

"Maybe what Sam?" Dean interrupted, his voice rising "I will not put any part of this on you. Telling you about Hell won't solve anything. It's my burden, I'll carry it." Sam's eyes widened at the admittance. He hadn't known for sure until that moment.

Seeing Sam's face, Dean's features hardened momentarily, cursing himself for the slip. But then his face changed, seemed to sag slightly, and he adjusted his tone to what Sam assumed was supposed to be comforting. "You can't fix it Sammy. You can't fix me. Please stop trying."

But Sam was far from comforted.

"Another week? Are you kidding me? Hell no..." Dean was propped up in bed, looking considerably better but stills struggling to stay upright as he argued with the nurse. Sam sighed as he entered the room and observed the all-too familiar scene unfolding in front of him, resting his fresh coffee on a nearby table and striding quickly to the poor nurse's aid.

"Dean, chill man. The car won't be ready for a few days anyway, you may as well rest up." He shot an apologetic look at the nurse, who smiled timidly at him, backing out of the room with the promise of checking back in later.

Dean glared at his brother, but slumped slightly back into the pillows, barely suppressing a groan. Sam rolled his eyes and took his place in the now familiar cushioned chair next to the bed.

"Look at you man, you're a long way from one hundred percent. Staying here another couple of days won't kill you. I just...I want you to be okay," Sam's gaze slid to the floor as he spoke, his expression unreadable. Dean's eyes narrowed and he tried to catch his brother's eye, not speaking until Sam finally looked at him.

"Hey. Look at me. Sam, I'm fine" Dean soothed, ignoring the double meaning behind Sam's words. "I've been through far worse than this, trust me. I'll stay for a few more days, but the second my baby's fixed up, we're puttin' this town in our rearview." Dean's lips curled slightly. "I swear, the only redeeming quality of this damn state are the peaches."

Sam resisted the urge to roll his eyes again, recognizing his big brother's attempt to lighten the mood. And looking at Dean now, battered and bruised but still breathing, still making jokes, Sam couldn't help but smile back. It was a real, genuine smile, one that hadn't graced his face in a long time.

Dean had literally been to Hell and back, but he was back, and Sam was going to make sure to keep it that way.