Disclaimer: They're not mine. None of it is in this case. More's the pity.

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: Missing Scene from episode 4.16, On The Head Of A Pin. Sam's POV. What happened with the brothers while the angels were busy dancing?

Spoiler: This is a missing scene from 4.16, On the Head of a Pin. So, yeah, here there be spoilers.

a/n: This wasn't part of my whole Story Writing Plan, so I hope you'll forgive and indulge me. Especially you, Amy, if you're reading.

I don't usually write these. I think I've only written one or two other "tags" or "missing scenes" ...like ever. There are so many writers out there who evoke these so well, and with a much better purpose. I miss SilverKitten's tags, actually. But there was something about this episode that wouldn't let me go. I needed to know what was happening with the brothers while the angels were busy fighting.

I should maybe warn you… some of you might not like where I have Sam coming from. But, this is what I see right now when I look at him. Feel free to disagree. That's the beauty of an opinion. *smile*

So, this is my effort to settle my too-full head. I'm not trying to convey any purpose or meaning; I'm just spanning two scenes that I felt needed a little… more. Also? Thanks to you all who commented on my Stream of Consciousness for this episode. I'm channeling your comments.

This has not been beta'd. Read at your own risk of tripping over typos.

...You never needed any help
You sold me out to save yourself
And I won't listen to your shame
You ran away - you're all the same
Angels lie to keep control
My love was punished long ago
If you still care, don't ever let me know...

-Snuff, by Slipknot

I can feel it fill me up.

The first time I was terrified, sickened, ashamed. But then I felt the freakin' rush of power. Just like she said I would. And I was strong. The more I drank, the stronger I became. Until they couldn't control me. They couldn't throw me away, dismiss me as nothing.

I am going to be their end.

Pamela's words tripped me up. I thought about them while we watched her ashes fall to the ground. While Dean stood, silent, pensive, next to me, rain soaking his hair and running in trails down his face. I thought about it as we hugged Bobby goodbye. I thought about it when Dean handed me the keys, his hands suddenly looking small.

If you think you have good intentions, think again…

But she doesn't know. She can't. How could anyone know who hasn't felt this power? Who hasn't done the things I have done? Saved what I've saved? I can defeat them now. One by one. I can protect Dean as he's always protected me.

If he'd just get out of the way long enough to let me.

I grip the wheel as Dean's car—she's always been his… even when he was gone, she was his—eats up the road, drawing me closer to the destination Ruby revealed on the map. The power from her blood, filling my stomach, slipping into my system, gives me a heady, high feeling. If I move my eyes too quickly, the world around me blurs with prism-like after-images, teasing me with vertigo.

The radio is on. The radio is always on when I'm alone in Dean's car. The music steps in to replace the feel of him, the sound of his voice. The sound of his breathing. I slip my hand briefly from the wheel to turn up the volume, immediately returning my focus to the road.

"I'd erase what you say, scramble words in the way, but you can't take away… Turn away… Run away… Fuck with me…"

"Damn, you, Dean," I whisper, just to have something to say.

But it's not his fault, really. Not this. The angels wanted him because of his… experience. They never even bothered to look at me. To think that what my brother had been through in Hell might have broken him, their precious weapon, their chew toy.

I turn at a crossroads, following the map, the Impala skidding and slipping as I yank the wheel, feeling time tumble forward too rapidly.

"Don't say that it's over. I'd kill to be closer, a moment I'm passing to you. But to me, I will wait, and I'll take anything with your name. Don't say that it's over. You can't live without me…"

For the longest time, I had worried that whatever happened in the space between Jake's knife and Dean's deal tainted me somehow. Now I know that I'd been tainted long ago. Being dead had nothing to do with what had changed me. But it had everything to do with what had changed Dean.

It's more than the weariness that seeps from him, clouding his eyes even when he smiles. It's more than his nightmares that wake me but not him. It's more than the confessions and the memories. It's more than the spinning realization that angels have a purpose for him. It's so much more than the loss of the balance of power he held onto so tightly before the deal came due.

He's not my hero anymore.

Nobody is. I don't need one anymore. I don't need to be protected, guarded, shielded. I just need him to let me go. Let me do what he can't do anymore. Let me kill them all.

I see a building up ahead and my ears start to ring, as if a super-sonic signal has sliced across the universe creating a homing beacon. I turn off the radio and pull up to the curb, exiting the Impala with nothing in my hands. I don't need a weapon. I am a weapon.

I barely feel the ground beneath my feet as I move forward across the broken sidewalk and gravel-strewn lot. Her blood hums inside of me, tangling with my own poisoned blood in a dance of power. I try to calm my breathing, try to focus as I climb the stairs two at a time, but the periphery of my vision is psychedelic and my fingertips are tingling. I can feel Dean close. I can feel Castiel close.

And I can feel Alistair close.

I am practically trembling with the desire to vanquish as I move through the front door, seeking, searching, listening for the sound of my prey. I feel my limbs roll forward, ambling with grace I am unaccustomed to, the motion similar to my brother's old confidence. I find a door with stairs that lead down and I know.

I know he's down there.

Taking the stairs in long strides, I come to a room with a wide table, a heavy metal door with a porthole window in the upper center banked open across the room as if someone had torn it from its lock. I feel the corners of my mouth twist up, the pleasure of anticipation tightening my belly. I want this. I want to defeat him. Pay him back for all the pain he's caused. Show them, all of them, what I'm capable of.

I move across the room, assurance swelling my chest, thrumming high with the thrill of her blood, calling power to me as if I am magnetized. I step through the door and have eyes only for the demon. The demon spouting a Latin incantation that sends Castiel's eyes alight. The demon holding the bleeding angel high on a wall. The demon covered in his own blood, but defeating one of God's warriors.

But he can't defeat me. Not this time.

I raise my hand and feel the electric-like charge shoot down my arm and fill my palm with pins and needles. Alistair strangles slightly, loosening his hold on Castiel, angling his face toward me. I want to smile at the shock I see in his eyes, but I simply push him away from the angel, pressing him against the wall with the force of my will as they have done to us so many times before.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Cas slide to the floor, gasping, the heavenly light having retreated back into his soul, his eyes on me, his mouth parted in wonder or shock. I don't care. He's alive because of me. That's all that should matter to him.

Pinned against the wall, sounding as if he's chewing on glass, Alistair scoffs at me.

"Stupid pet tricks."

I keep my hand up, my power like a pressure against my palm, heating my blood as I amplify it.

"Who is murdering the angels?" I demand. "How are they doing it?"

Alistair twists his head to the side, working his mouth around the words, "You think I'll ever tell you?"

Snarling, I feel heat behind my eyes. "Yeah. I do." I curl my hand into a fist, twisting, pulling, imagining his guts as a rope, tugging until I can feel the brunt of his pain in my grasp.

Alistair's eyes roll up white.

"How are the demons killing angels?" I bellow. I hear my own voice deepening with the punch of power.

"I… don't… know!" Alistair grinds out, the pain I'm causing him twisting his head stiffly on the spike of his neck.

I tighten my fist, feeling the muscle and sinew in my grasp snap and twist.

"Right," I sneer, rotating my hand, my body shaking with the effort. My breath pumps from me, inflating my lungs with the force of a steam engine, my mouth going dry.

"Not… doing… it!" Alistair claims.

"I don't believe you!" I return, catching my breath, unable to tear him up inside much more and keep him in one piece.

"Lilith is not behind this," Alistair pants. "She wouldn't kill seven angels," his voice hisses like a mocking snake, sickening me with the truth of his words. "She'd kill a hundred… a thousand…"

I choose to release him for a moment, gaining my balance, assessing the possibility that he wasn't lying. Castiel begins to straighten up, his eyes large and shocky as he pins them on me. I ignore him, raising my hand once more, calm over-taking me.

"Go ahead," Alistair taunts. "Send me back… if you can."

I smile, feeling it stop just below my eyes. "I'm stronger than that now," I say, remembering how he'd tossed us around in the church, causing us to dive from the window, tearing us up, dislocating Dean's shoulder. Remembering how he flung Dean into the tombstone, but was unable to move me. Remembering how he'd tortured my brother. Tortured him until he broke. "Now, I can kill."

Castiel's look of amazement only serves to juice me up and as I close my eyes I feel my body thrum with might. I picture the blackness of Alistair's soul, the heat of his body, the bones and flesh and muscle trapping that soul inside his chosen vessel.

And I tear it apart, bit by bit, with my mind.

I open my eyes, wanting to see it, wanting to relish it. The fire inside illuminates his skeleton, sending his eyes wide as he screams in pain he's only made other souls feel till now. He shakes and quivers and for a moment I can't breathe, the thrill of it, the effort of it is almost too much. Alistair slides to the floor, his soul dead, his body merely a shell.

In a quick flash, I hear the memory of my father's voice. His pride at having the Colt, at being able to kill the demon, not just banish it, not just send it back to Hell. But kill it. His dark joy at having that power. How do you like me now, Dad?

Panting, I look over at Castiel, triumph turning my expression into an almost challenging glance. On the heels of my memory is a hot flash of shame at an angel having witness my secret. The secret I've buried so deep that the one person that matters to me most in the world doesn't even know. Not really. He suspects, he knows there are secrets, but he doesn't know. He can't. Ever. Not and still look at me with the eyes of a brother.

Castiel's tremble of uncertainty, the flash of raw emotion that cuts through his eyes has me glancing quickly away.

"Dean," Cas rasps softly.

And suddenly, I'm cold.

I turn my head to the left, my eyes searching the gloom for the reason I'd set out in the first place. I see him, lying at the foot of a steel, upright pentagram, strewn across a broken Devil's Trap, and my body is suddenly hollow. The power leaves me as quickly as it came, and my legs turn to water.

I move quickly away from Cas, approaching Dean in a crouch, my hands out in supplication, my eyes combing his battered face. He is hurt. Bad. Bruises in the shape of a cruel grip are forming on his throat and blood smears his face, running from his mouth, nose, and ears.

"God, Dean," I choke out. "What did he do to you?"

I reach out a suddenly trembling hand and press two fingers gently at the base of his throat, holding my breath. I feel a slow, thready beat of his heart and close my eyes in relief.

"We gotta get him out of here," I say, then cast a glance over my shoulder. I am alone in the torture chamber with my brother and the empty body of a demon's vessel. Castiel is gone.

"Dammit!" I swear, turning back to Dean. I lay the palm of my hand on his battered cheek, wiping the blood from the hollow of his eyes with the pad of my thumb.

His skin is cold, clammy, and his chest is barely moving. I part the folds of his jacket, looking for hidden wounds. My fingers brush against a damp spot on his chest and I ease up his shirt, searching the newly-smooth, scar-free skin of his belly and ribs for the source. A cut crosses the shallow dip beneath his sternum.

"I gotcha, Dean," I whisper, not sure if he can hear me.

I lower his shirt and look around. I can carry him out of here, but his wounds need more than my care, and Bobby is too far away. I could call an ambulance, but then how do I explain… well, everything in this room.

"You and me, brother," I say, feeling a sick sweep of need and weakness wash over me at the use of that word. "We're getting out of here."

As I slide my arm beneath his neck, Dean's breath rattles loosely in his throat and my stomach clenches. I tip him up into a sitting position and his head lolls forward. I begin to pant. Standing, I bend from the waist and put my shoulder into his chest, gripping one of his limp arms and backing up, slowly easing him to his feet, his head and shoulders draped over my shoulder and hanging down my back.

I stand slowly, my legs trembling with this weight, with this responsibility, and I bounce once, gently, positioning him better on my shoulder. Gripping his belt loops in one hand and the back of his knees with the other, I start to move from the room, leaving Alistair's shell slumped on the floor.

Let the angels worry about that. We've done enough for them today.

As I move through the outer room, I listen to Dean's labored breathing, willing him to wake, to push against me, to give me hell for such close contact. Willing my brother to fuckin' come back to me. My brother, not this hollow man, not this shadow.

I climb the stairs, feeling weak, feeling achy, feeling tears press against the backs of my eyes and build low in my throat. I curse them. I curse the weakness that floods through me at the thought of losing Dean again. I curse Castiel and Uriel, and all of their kind for making Dean do this, for not protecting him.

I curse them for letting him go to Hell in the first place.

Exiting the house, I stumble, gripping Dean's legs tighter. I hear his breath hitch, then rattle, and I know instinctively that I'm running out of time. For a moment I wish Ruby was here. I need her eyes on me. I need her smirk pushing me forward. I need her strength. I need her blood. I can almost taste the salty tang on the back of my tongue.

I decide to curse Ruby as well because I don't want to need her. I don't want to need anyone. Not even Dean. Because everyone I have ever needed has been taken from me and I am sick to death of hurting like that.

I reach the Impala and awkwardly dig the keys from my pocket, unlocking the rear door and swinging it wide. I put my hand on Dean's back, trying to ease him onto the seat, but he's too tall, too heavy, and I'm shaking too much. He slides from my shoulder, falling to the seat in a loose cascade of limbs, slipping off the leather seat and angling toward the floor. I grab his belt, stopping his fall, and climb in, a knee between his leg and the seat, lifting him gently back in place. His mouth falls lax and I can hear the breath fighting to escape through his damaged throat.

The blood on his chest has smeared across his shirt and I feel a patch of it transferred to my shoulder. I reach up and touch my shirt with two fingers, drawing back and looking at the red wetness staining my fingers.

My brother's blood. My brother's life.

The thirst for it suddenly sickens me and I tumble from the car, twisting sideways and falling to my knees as I retch dryly in the grass. Nothing vacates my body because I have used it up. I have channeled it all. All that I drank became part of me, and there's nothing left to do but breathe. I wipe Dean's blood from my fingers on the ground, swiping and swishing through the tough crab grass, trying to rid my flesh of the stain.

I am haunted by blood.

I have no idea where the closest hospital is, but we haven't survived this long without a sense of direction about these things. In general, the hospital in a town this size is near the center. I drive, somewhat aimlessly, hearing Dean's gasps rubbing with worrisome slowness against my ears in the silence of the car. I look up in the rear-view mirror and see his hand rest across his belly.

I can't see his face, but in my mind's eye, I remember another glance, another reflection, another time I carried my brother, broken and bleeding, into the back seat of the car, praying with everything inside of me to a deity I believed had to be watching out for us that he would live. That I wouldn't lose my brother when I'd just felt like I'd found him again.

"Dammit, Dean," I choke out, my knuckles turning white as they grip the steering wheel. "You can't do this to me. It's not fair. I almost wish…" I swallow, wondering why I am confessing this to my unconscious brother, why I'm bothering to voice these dark thoughts out loud at all. Maybe if I say them out loud, they'll stop eating me up inside every night while I watch Dean struggle through another nightmare.

"I almost wish you hadn't come back at all. Not like this. Not… broken like this. I almost wish…" I tighten my jaw, feeling it pop, feeling the ache in my teeth. "You'd stayed in Hell. I'd just started to figure it out, y'know? How to survive without you. How to get by. How to kill them all." I slap the palm of my hand against the wheel. "Now everything is all fucked up. And I'm running out of excuses to give you. I'm so tired of lying—"

A harsh, wet rattle interrupts my tirade and sends cold shivers down my spine.

I shoot a look over my shoulder. "Dean?"

Dean is choking.

He is laying flat on his back, his legs crammed up against the door, too long for the length of the seat. His lips are bluish and the blood and bruising stands out against the paleness of his face. The air that had been fighting to escape was suddenly trapped beneath the rapidly swelling folds of his damaged throat.

My brother is dying.


I reach back, trying to touch him, grab him, lift him. I can pin demons to the wall. I can tear their souls from their bodies, twisting and torturing them until they felt as much pain as they'd ever inflicted. I can kill them.

And I can do nothing to save my brother.

"Don't you die on me, man!"

I flatten the accelerator to the floor, my reaching fingers finding Dean's and grabbing hold. His skin is cold, his hand limp in mine. The choking sound increases and I feel his hand begin to shake as his body fights for air.

I toss another quick look over my shoulder and for one agonizing moment, I see his eyes are open, staring, straining as if to see me. Just to see me. I feel my own breath still in my chest, pushing my heart forward and up. He has been beaten to hell, he's suffocating, and all he wants is to see me.

"You're gonna be okay, Dean." I try to promise. I try to reassure.

As I divide my attention between the road and my brother, I see the sign I've been searching for. Hospital, 1.5 miles.

"Hang in there, Dean. We're almost—"

His fingers tighten on mine and I look back in time to see his eyes roll up, his neck arching weakly, his lashes flutter closed.

"NO!" I growl.

No, this is not happening. No, they are not going to abandon him. Not after all he's done for them. Not after he did this for them.

"Damn you, Cas! Where the fuck are you?" I bellow to the eerily silent car as I release Dean's limp hand to wrestle the wheel around a tight corner, flying with a scream of speed and smell of burning rubber into the hospital lot, slamming to an abrupt halt in front of the ER door.

I am out of the car and running around to the rear passenger door, my hand on the lever when two nurses run out, their eyes calculating, their hands gripping their stethoscopes.

"My brother," I say, realizing that I'm not breathing quite right, unable to get control of it. "I found him—someone beat him up. Bad." I yank open the car door. "He stopped breathing."

One yells through the doors for a gurney as the other leans in and checks Dean's pulse and pupils. In moments I am pushed slightly aside while strong, sturdy hands lift Dean from the embrace of the Impala and lay him, limp and bleeding, on the white gurney, wheeling him through the doors.

I leave our home behind to follow him inside.

They push him to an empty alcove and in a blur of practice motion have his shirt ripped open, electronic leads on his skin, an IV in his arm, and paddles warming up. I stumble one step back, hearing the buzz in my ears once more as a plastic tube is inserted into Dean's throat through his pliant lips. I see their mouths moving, see the tension on their faces as they bark stats at each other while they continue to move over and around my brother.

I can hear nothing. Nothing but the hum of my blood, the slam of my heart. And, strangely, Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven playing in elevator music over the speakers above my head. A black man fixes a bag to the plastic tube in Dean's mouth, pumping the blue balloon three times, then stepping away as another man presses the silver paddles to my brother's chest, avoiding the shallow cut across his sternum.

I see Dean's body rock up, tightening and bowing as the charge ricochets through him and I jump, my heart hammering against my ribs in reaction. The air pump is applied again, and then the paddles. This time I sense tears on my face as Dean jerks upward, his face showing no sign that he feels the jolts slamming into his heart, shocking him back to the world.

They step back, all looking at a small monitor, then nod in assessment. I stare at Dean. At his face. At the blood and the bruises. At the man whom I'd once thought unbreakable. At the brother who promised me nothing bad would happen to me as long as he was around. At the hero I'd depended upon. At the best friend I'd been missing for so long.

I stare at him, laying a few feet away from me, and I miss him with everything inside of me.

The medical personnel move around him once more, checking him over, fixing a long blue air hose to the plastic tube sticking out of Dean's mouth, and then a man in a white lab coat approaches me, his lips moving. I blink at him, unable to match sound to the motion of his mouth.

Until he touches me.

"…need to run some tests to be sure, but looks like a bruised trachea and some pretty severe contusions and lacerations. We need you to fill out some paperwork and then you can see him."

I nod, familiar with the drill, letting him lead me away. I don't know what name to put on the paperwork. Dean Winchester is dead. He and Sam Winchester died in the explosion that killed several law enforcement officials, including Victor Hendrickson. But what did it matter, in the end. We weren't going to pay for this. We'd find a way to slip free.

I wrote down Dean's name, staring at the letters. Just the appearance of his name spoke of confidence, power. The name of a superhero, a legend, a hunter, a brother, a man. Not the name of someone that had been beaten and broken.

I wanted to kill them all. Every single demon. To take them down for daring to touch him. For not looking at me. For taking our lives for granted. I rubbed the bridge of my nose, closing my eyes for just a moment.

"Mr. Winchester?"

I lift my head, my neck protesting the swift movement.


"You can go see your brother now."

"How is he?"

"He is… resting. His trachea and larynx have been severely bruised and he's been beaten. Badly."

I stare at the man. As if I didn't know that.

"Will he be okay?"

There is a pause that I do not like.

"He'll need a lot of rest. We have him on a ventilator until he wakes to take the pressure off of his lungs and trachea. We've also propped him up to ease the effort of breathing."

"But… he'll be okay, right?"

Another pause.

"We'll help you take care of him."

I follow the man down the hall, feeling my breaths shorten, my heart rate increase. I blink rapidly, trying to rid my mind of the afterimages of Dad lying dead on the floor. Of Dean hooked up to machines to keep him alive. Of feeling the spirit of my brother in the room with me.

The nurse nods to Dean's room and I step through the door alone. Dean is dressed in a white T-shirt, the blue tube of the ventilator stretching from his bruised mouth to the machines that help him breathe. His legs are covered by a blanket and his upper body is propped up slightly. His eyes are closed.

I sink slowly into the chair next to his bed, staring, my eyes hot and dry.

"Look at what they let him do to you," I say softly. "Why didn't they save you?"

I should have seen this coming. I should have never let them take him. I knew he wasn't strong enough. I knew I was stronger. I knew how to get stronger. I let my awe of their existence hold me back. I let my instinctual need to follow Dean's lead give me pause. They haven't watched him closely enough. They didn't think about what he's been through.

"They let this happen to you," I whisper, reaching out and taking Dean's limp hand into mine. "I'm not going to let that happen again, man."

What happened to him? I know what he's told me. I know what he's revealed. But… hearing it is like listening to sports statistics. It's not playing the game. Where is my let's kill as many sonsabitches as we possibly can brother. Now, when he says that it will end bloody, but that we'll go down swinging, I hear a strange sort of hope in his voice. Not hope that we'll win. Not hope that we'll beat them. Hope that it will all be over soon. And I don't know how to get him back.

So, I'm going to take over. I'm going to step up. I'm stepping in. The stronger brother. The better hunter. He doesn't have to do this anymore. Not like before.

I can never tell him. I can't let him know how I'm able to step into the role he's held since birth. But I need him to let me. I need him to let me save his ass for a change. I need him to let me save us all. And it doesn't really matter what he needs. Not when we're faced with Armageddon.

Because I'm stronger than he is. I'm stronger than he'll ever be. Because he is just my brother. He's just a guy who sacrificed everything and got nothing in return. He's just a human who managed to survive Hell.

"I don't know why they pulled you out, Dean, but I'm not going to let them chew on you anymore."

I stare at his face, wanting him to blink, to flinch, to look at me. He is still, his bruises standing out like neon against his pale face. His lungs expanding thanks to the miracle of modern medicine.

You can't go, Dean, not yet. We were just starting to be brothers again.

My own words slip through the web of time and tease me. I close my eyes, rubbing the lids with the pads of my thumbs. Memories like still caption pictures flash across the dark insides of my eyes. In each image, there is my brother. Sometimes hale and hearty. Sometimes bowed and bereft. Sometimes bleeding, sometimes fighting. But always my brother.

I'm not gonna let you go to hell, Dean!

My head snaps up, and I swallow, the sound of my voice so loud in my head I have to clear my throat. I look around, but there is no one here but Dean and the machines that are keeping him with me.

Yes, you are!

I stare at him. At his mouth. At his face.

What am I supposed to do?

I feel the tears building. I close my eyes, denying them escape.

Keep fighting. Take care of my wheels. Sam, remember what Dad taught you... ok?

I open my eyes, leaning forward, knowing what comes next.

And remember what I taught you.

He'd taught me to survive. He'd taught me to live. He'd taught me to throw a knife, shoot a gun, make a silver bullet. He'd taught me how to talk to a girl, how to get them to talk to me. He'd taught me how to vanquish a spirit, how to kill a vampire, how to ride a bike, drive a car, deal with Dad. He'd taught me how to drink and how to work through a hangover.

The only thing he'd forgotten to teach me was how to stay the course without him next to me.

I feel a motion behind me and look away from Dean to see Castiel pass by the doorway. I am standing in an instant, anger radiating through me, propelling me forward with a new surge of power. I move toward him as he turns to face me, my body projecting my purpose before my lips figure out the words to form.

"Heal him. Miracle. Now!" I demand, pointing first at Castiel, then back at Dean's room.

"I can't," Castiel replies in his damned mysterious ways calm voice.

I feel bile rise in my throat as I look at this… this angel. This being that was supposed to watch over us. Watch over my brother. "You and Uriel put him in there because you couldn't keep a simple Devil's Trap together."

Cas looks away and I feel his shame as keenly as I feel my own rage.

"This was all pointless. The demons aren't killing angels."

"Alistair could be lying—" Castiel tries.

"He wasn't," I interrupt with a decisive shake of my head. They did this to Dean and they aren't getting away with it by springing 'what ifs' into the mix. I turn from the angel, my feet connecting with the tile floor of the hospital in a decisive stride as I return to my brother.

The hours pass, melding one into the other. I don't tear my eyes from Dean, wanting him to see me when he wakes, wanting him to know that I'm here. I watch him breathe, study his face, as familiar to me as my own. I stare at his hands, squared-off, blunted fingers, callused palms. The hands of a laborer. The hands of a fighter. For a moment I feel soft, a stirring in my gut that has me bending forward, wanting to reach out and grip his arm, wanting to connect, wanting to return to how it was before, wanting to hide safely in his shadow.

Wanting to atone for words—true or not—that I know are bouncing around in his head even now. The words I felt—I feel—but should never have confessed to him. To him of all people. Because until he had no choice, until he was literally ripped from my side, Dean has been there for me when I needed him.

I don't want to need him. I don't want to need anyone.

I lean forward, resting my elbows on my knees, my eyes level with Dean's chest.

I do need, though. I need Ruby, her strength, her power. I need Bobby, his wisdom, his resources. I need Castiel, his magic, his existence. And I need Dean, his fragility, his reality.

I reach out, resting my fingers lightly on Dean's arm. I feel his life, feel the heat of his skin, the coarseness of his hair, the coil of his muscle. I close my eyes, once more feeling his death. Feeling it keenly as I do every day.

I can still feel the loss of his spirit in that room in Indiana. I can still feel the warmth of his blood spilling over my hands as I gather his limp body close. I can still feel him grow cold as Bobby finally arrives.

As time passes, the steady beat of the IV pump and the heart monitor lull me into a semi-conscious state and I lean forward, resting my head on the bed next to Dean's arm. My memory floats so easily back to that night, skipping over the joy of seeing him alive in front of me, the terror of discovering what I can do with my mind and my will, the devastation of realizing that no demon will deal with me and I can't get my brother out of Hell, and sliding neatly into place as Dean looks at me one last time while the clock strikes midnight behind us.

His eyes had been full of sorrow and joy, a dichotomy of pride and regret, fear and release. His screams haunt me to this day, waking me as he fights himself and his own Hellish memories in the bed next to mine. I think of how I carried him from that room, laid him in the Impala, closing his eyes and letting Bobby drive. I think of Bobby's cracked, broken voice telling me how he'd been there when I'd died. How he'd watched Dean fall to pieces in front of him.

How he was done watching his boys die for this war.

I think of watching the night sky slip past as I held my dead brother on my lap, letting Bobby decide where we laid him, letting someone else lead the way. And I think of that suffocating sensation of claustrophobia when we dropped the dirt over Dean's wooden coffin.

I sit up with a gasp, blinking, looking at Dean hurriedly as the realization that many hours have passed as I relived the worst night of my life. I rub my tired eyes, looking over my shoulder, and realize that a nurse coming in to check Dean's vitals had woken me from my nightmare.

I am instructed to leave, to get some rest. I cannot leave him. I cannot rest while he is here. I move the Impala to a safe place. I call Bobby. I wander the halls. But I do not leave. Dean is here because he was doing the right thing, because he'd sacrificed himself for me. And with all my power, all my strength, I hadn't been able to stop it from happening.

As I watch my brother suffer, I vow that I will stop it from happening again. I will get stronger. As strong as I need to. I will take them all out. Kill them all.

As the day fades into night, I resume my place at his side, laying my hand on his arm, watching him. I want to speak, but don't know what to say. Then, the arm beneath my hand flexes and I look back at my brother. His eyes are moving rapidly under his closed lids and his body flinches, fighting the foreign sensation of the tube.


He blinks, his pupils wide, his eyes scared, his hands clumsily reaching for the ventilator.

"Dean, calm down. Nurse! Hey! Need some help in here!"

I press the red button on Dean's bed, grabbing for my brother's flailing hand.

"Easy, man. Hey, hey, easy, just breathe okay? I'm right here."

Dean's eyes find mine and I fight to not flinch away from the pain I see there. I hold his wrists down as he chokes, coughing, working to swallow and breathe around the tube.

"I'm right here," I repeat, nodding at him, feeling his hands grip my wrists back, feeling him fight to steady his breathing. "I'm not going anywhere, okay?"

He blinks once, a signal of understanding and acceptance, and he doesn't look away. I feel him drawing strength from my eyes and something surges inside of me. An old light that I'd forgotten. A power that lay dormant inside of me. A heat that shakes me from the gut.

In moments, several medical personnel are in the room, backing me away, taking over. Dean's eyes never leave mine, and I stand on my toes to keep him in my sight.

As Dean takes a deep breath and coughs the tube free, lying back, exhausted, on the pillows when an oxygen cannula is placed in his nose and wrapped over his ears, I step forward, my eyes still on his. One nurse checks his blood pressure while another injects some clear liquid into his IV. As the nurses fade away, finally done with questions and instructions, I close the remaining gap between us, resting a leg against the bed.

Never once has Dean looked away from me. His face is a map of pain, bruises leading from his forehead to his chin, his eyes shadowed, swollen, sad.

"Hey," I say.

He lifts his chin in reply.

"Alistair's dead," I inform him.

He blinks, looking down, then back up at me.

"Cas is okay, but took a few hits."

"He… kill…" Dean's voice is a study in tortured sound.

I shake my head. "No, Cas didn't kill him."

I glance down, trying to figure out how to tell him that it was me. When I raise my eyes again, I see that he already knows.

"Dean," I start, attempting to defend an action that shouldn't need defending. Wanting to reassure him that I'm doing this for the good of all. Trying to convince him that I know what I'm doing.

He looks away. And once again, I feel cold. As if the sun has slipped behind clouds and left me in shadows.

"I'm gonna grab some water," I say. "I'll be right back."

I turn from him and step out of the room, not looking back. I need air, space, a reminder of why I am doing what I'm doing. Of why I'm not who he thinks I used to be. Of why my choices are right. Are good.

I step into the night and look up at the sky. Stars fill the black, pinpoints of remembered light. I breathe deeply, needing my balance back. For a moment I allow myself to reflect on the fact that while I've felt power, while I've felt confidence, while I've felt strength, I haven't felt balance since Dean came back. Since they brought him back.

And I know exactly why that is. But I'm unwilling to change it. I'm unwilling to bring him in on the secret. I need to keep it buried. Because I'm so damned afraid of what will replace the doubt in his eyes when he looks at me.

I turn around and head back to Dean, ready to take on the blame, the accusations, the recriminations that I am sure will be waiting for me as soon as he is able to talk again. I stop just outside his room, though, when the sound of wings echoes softly from inside. I lean against the wall, my head back, my breathe held, listening.

"You okay?"

It was Castiel, I realize. I had been afraid that Uriel might pounce when Dean was weak, ready to obliterate him for failing.

"No thanks to you," Dean rasps, sounding like Sylvester Stallone after a few rounds. It hurt me to hear him.

"You need to be more careful," Cas admonishes my brother. I roll my eyes, shaking my head as I listen.

"You need to learn how to manage a damn Devil's Trap," Dean returns. I allow myself a grin. That's my brother.

"Uriel is dead," Cas says quietly.

I bite back a gasp, unable to believe it for a moment.

"Demons?" Dean asks.

"Disobedience," Castiel replies and I hear both regret and release in his voice.

Who killed Uriel? God? Cas? How? We'd never found out how the others were dying… was this the same killer? Was Uriel punished for not finding out who the killer was?

I start to turn to enter the room, to ask for more details when Dean speaks again. "Is it true? Did I break the first seal? Did I start all this?"

I can't breathe. I sag against the wall, listening to my brother's destroyed voice, unable to comprehend the question he's asking.

"Yes," Castiel replies. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to slam my fist into the wall. How could they have let this happen to him? How could they have used him like this knowing that was true? Why didn't they use me? "When we discovered Lilith's plan for you," Cas continues, "we laid siege to Hell trying to get to you."

"And stop me from breaking," Dean whispered.

"We were too late."

I close my eyes, pressing a fist to my teeth, biting my flesh to keep quiet. The angels had gone after Dean. While I was making deals with no results, while I was learning how to use my powers, while I was… with Ruby, the angels had gone after Dean. And they'd been too late.

He'd broken, climbed from the rack, and began torturing souls, starting the world on the path to the apocalypse.

"Why didn't you just leave me there, then?" Dean asks, his voice cracking.

"It's not blame that falls on you, Dean. It's fate."

I press my hand harder against my mouth.

"It is written that the righteous man who breaks the seal is the only one who can finish it. You have to stop it."

I feel heavy, a weight unlike anything I've ever experienced falling on my chest, pushing me to the floor as my liquid legs give way. I slide quietly, my eyes slipping closed as a buzzing sound fills my ears once more. I shake my head quickly, needing to know what is being said. I hear Dean's voice growl out, demanding to know what something Castiel said meant.

"I don't know. They don't tell me much. All I know is that our fate rests in your hands."

My head falls forward, and I dig my fingers into my hair.

"Then you guys are screwed," Dean says, his voice matted with tears, thick with pain. "I can't do it, Cas. It's too big. Alistair was right. I'm not all here. I'm not str—I'm not strong enough."

Castiel is silent for a moment and I tighten my grip on my hair.

"I guess I'm not the man either of our Dad's wanted me to be."

Pain cuts deep, bouncing around my heart, slicing me up inside and drawing a tight line across my lips as I continue to listen.

"Find someone else," Dean pleads, his voice barely audible. "It's not me."

After a moment I realize there is no more sound coming from the room. I sniff, lifting my head. Castiel stands in front of me, his blue eyes fragile. I look back at him, challenging him, defying him not to ask me. He's seen my power. He's seen what I can do. He's heard how shattered my brother is. How can he not ask me to save us all?

Without a word, Cas leaves, and I push myself to my feet, taking a breath. He may not have asked, but that doesn't mean I won't still try.

I roll around the edge of the doorway, my shoulder on the frame. Dean is looking away, his face in shadow, his body somehow smaller in the hospital bed.


He flinches, but doesn't look at me.

"Doc says you're gonna be okay."

He nods.

"We can probably AMA you tomorrow morning."



I step closer to the bed. He still doesn't look at me. I see the shimmer of tears on his cheeks and my heart clenches in pain for him and a sick kind of disgust that he's been weakened like this.

"What, Sam?"

"I'll take care of you, okay?"

"I'll be fine."

"I know, but…" I step closer. "I just want you to know—"

He looks back at me, his eyes hot, for one moment the deadness that had been dogging him for days before the angels came for help was kicked to the curb.

"You want me to know that you're strong," he rasps. I blink as he continues, the sound of his voice like a stab in the gut. "You want me to know that you don't need me, but that I need you. I get it."

"No, Dean, that's not—"

"No?" Dean looks away. "You wasted a demon, Sam."

I nod, though he isn't looking at me.

"Nothing I do can compare."

All I know is that our fate rests in your hands.

"You don't have to compare," I try lamely.

He sighs, closing his eyes and I have a sudden, fear-driven urge to shake him, force him to open them once more.

"Just go, Sammy," he says tiredly.

My stomach clenches and I place my hand over my belly. He hasn't called me Sammy in a long time. Hearing it now, in a voice destroyed at the hands of our enemy, balls up fury, fear, and frustration into a fist that punches me from the inside out.

"I don't want to."

"I need you to go."

"No," I shake my head. "I'm not leaving you, Dean."

He looks back at me and the shadows have crept back, weariness and pain taking over once more. I cross my arms, a stubborn display of will. A ghost of a smile tugs up one side of his mouth.

"Fine," he says, closing his eyes. "Have it your way."

I will, I silently vow.

"You need anything?" I ask as I reach for the chair, settling back in to the vigil I'd assumed when we first arrived.

Dean shakes his head, and I see his throat bob as he tries to swallow. I pour some water from a pitcher near his bed into a cup and insert a straw, leaning close. He works his lips around the straw and swallows carefully.

"Wanna go see Bobby when you get out?" I ask, trying to think of something to offer that he could look forward to. Something other than the weight of saving the world from a destruction it seems he brought on in the first place.

Dean shakes his head.

"What do you want to do?"

"Stop hunting," he says roughly. "Live another life. Not watch people die. Feel no pain."

I sit the cup back on the stand, looking down at the floor. My brother would never have admitted that. My brother lived for saving people, hunting things. My brother is not this broken man before me. I miss my brother.

I miss him like hell.

"Don't know if that's in the cards, Dean."

"I know," he sighs, his wounded eyes slipping closed. "Believe me. I know."

We sit in silence for a moment. I consider telling him that I'd heard what Castiel had said. I open my mouth, the confession balanced on the tip of my tongue, when I see his chin tremble.

"You tired?"

Eyes still closed, he lifts an eyebrow slightly, the motion telling me everything a spoken answer would have.

"Get some sleep."

"Where you goin'?"


He lifts one lid, his glance taking me in.

"You sure 'bout that?"

"Where would I go, Dean?" I ask, honestly wondering what path his imagination has taken me on. "Where would I go when you're…" Hurt. Broken. Unable to defend yourself.

"I don't know, Sam," he rasps, his eye closing again, his head rolling sideways on the pillow. "I don't know anymore."

The Sam I knew is gone…

He was right. Because the Sam he knew was weak. The Sam he knew needed his brother to be his shield. The Sam he knew didn't have the power to kill demons at his fingertips.

There is a new Sam, now. And no matter what some psychic says about me, or what some angel says about Dean, I'm not losing my brother again. Not like that. Not to them. I am strong enough now to keep him safe. Even if I can't give him back the piece of himself he lost, I'm gonna show him that what's left over is good enough.

He doesn't have to be my hero anymore. He can just… be.

I lean back in my chair, watching my brother as his body gives in to the results of punishment.

I watch him as he breathes shallowly. I watch him as his shoulders relax. I watch him as sleep claims him. And when I'm sure he's asleep, I slip my hand into his, holding on loosely.

"I'm gonna take care of this," I say to his closed eyes. "It doesn't have to be you."

Everything is tangled and cracked, no clear path from here to the end, no solution beaming like a beacon of light for us to follow. The one to save us all lays beaten, wanting to hide, wanting to escape. And then there is me.

I will get us through this. No matter what it takes.


Closer by Burn Season

Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin