Rating: PG-13

Chapter 7

You can't have a light without a dark to put it in. – Arlo Guthrie

The peaceful, black silence that had stopped the thrumming pain was interrupted by the feel of someone pushing against his side. Sam felt the nudge, felt his body rock slightly with the pressure and tried to burrow back into the soft darkness that had been keeping him safe.

The muffled pop of the silenced gunshot brought him one more level toward awareness. He wanted to groan but instinct told him to keep quiet, keep still. He realized his face was buried in the crook of one arm. He worked to blink his eyes, to pull himself awake.

"Now, Johnny's kid," Sam heard. The voice was unfamiliar, gruff, and sounded a bit like Eamon's. "Let's just get this business over with and we can catch up." Sam heard the unmistakable sound of the hammer on a gun being pulled back. He kept still, pulling his eyebrows together, trying to place the voice, trying to figure out why everything in him screamed to stay down, hold still. "Where's the Ardagh?"

"You got me." Oh, God, that was Dean. He remembered now. Dean had come in… had kicked the door in and appeared like an avenging angel, his eyes hot, his face battered. It was the last thing Sam remembered seeing. It was Dean's leg against him, he realized.

Sam heard what sounded like an explosion muted by distance. He didn't recognize it, but… but he could smell fire. Something nearby was burning.

"Where is it?" the gruff Irish voice repeated.

"I already told you," Dean's voice was empty, calm. Sam had heard the same tone before: when Dean was challenging the demon back at the cabin. "I don't know."

"See, I believe you do."

"Believe what you want. Doesn't mean it's true."

Sam shifted against Dean's leg, trying with that small amount of pressure to let his brother know he was awake, he was aware, he was listening. He felt Dean's leg move away from his side and he sensed his brother standing directly in front of him.

"Kid, everyone in this room can see you're practically dead on your feet. You aren't going to stop me from getting to him."

"Maybe not," Dean said. "But I'll damn well try."

Sam heard Dean pull in a breath, then grunt in pain. He heard flesh hitting flesh and the voice he didn't recognize spat out a muffled curse.

"I can do this all day," Dean's voice taunted.

"Well, I bore easily."

Sam opened his eyes, staring at the dark in the hollow of his arm. He'd heard death in the stranger's tone. Before he was able to lift his head, to move, to do more than open his eyes and take a breath, he felt a rush of air as his brother was propelled away from him. He heard Dean's body hit something unrelenting, heard the air leave Dean's lungs in a painful rush.

"You ready for more, kid?"

Sam heard something hit the floor. He tensed, starting to push himself up, completely aware, worried for Dean, ready to grab the man whose voice he didn't know and get him away from his brother.

"Or are you ready to try something new?"

The hand was on the back of his shirt before he knew what was happening. He was hauled up with a force of strength that surprised him. He realized he was facing Dean. His brother was slumped at the base of the support column, his legs folded under him, his eyes glazed, blinking wide in what Sam recognized as an effort to stay conscious. He was staring in horror at the man behind Sam who had suddenly shifted his grip from Sam's shirt to his hair and yanked his head back viciously.

Sam gritted his teeth as the unmistakable feel of cold, sharp steel met his skin and the sting of the blade began to pull across his exposed neck.

"No!" Dean cried out.

Sam knew that any movement on his part could potentially plunge the knife deeper, but there is a moment when training and logic are trumped by the instinct to survive. He reached up and grabbed at the arm holding his head. When the man only gripped his hair tighter, he clawed at the hand holding the knife. The hand paused.

"Where is it?" the man holding the knife growled at Dean. "Tell me or your brother gets a new smile."

"I don't know where the fuckin' thing is," Dean yelled back, his voice hard and tinged with panic. "Your boys there knocked out the only person who does."

Sam's eyes shot to Dean, then down to Brenna lying on her side, her face bruised and bleeding, unconscious. He looked back at Dean and saw a look in his brother's eyes that frightened him almost more than the knife still pressed against his bleeding neck. Dean looked like a caged, wild animal who was two seconds from pouncing on his captor.

"You think of asking her before you beat her up, Eamon?" the man holding the knife shot over his shoulder.

Sam suddenly realized that he hadn't heard Eamon or any of his sons since awareness had returned. They had been sudden and brutal in their attack when he'd entered the bar for supplies to take care of Declan. But they were silent now.

"Hey," the man with the knife barked. "I'm talking to you."

"You killed him, Jack," Sam heard Eamon say in a low, strange voice.

Jack…Sam realized. The voice… the man holding a knife at his throat was Jack Collins. He looked back at Dean, but his brother was staring at Jack, the dangerous look in his eyes amplified by the bruising around his face.

"I shot him," Jack snapped. "I better have killed him. Did. You. Ask. Her."

Sam tightened his grip on Jack's arm and was rewarded by a sharp jab as the knife pressed closer.

"Don't do it, kid," Jack's voice was in his ear, his hot breath across Sam's skin. "The only reason you're still alive is to keep that brother of yours on a short leash."

Sam tried to swallow and almost choked as his Adam's apple bobbed against the blade.

"Eamon!" Jack barked.

"You didn't have to kill him, Jack," Eamon replied.

The tone in Eamon's voice sent a chill down Sam's spine. It was devastation crossed with betrayal and shot through with insanity. Sam looked back to Dean, trying to catch his brother's eyes, but he saw that Dean was too far gone, too close to attacking to think to look at Sam.

"If I didn't have to, I wouldn't have done it," Jack snapped, and Sam felt him straighten, his body twisting slightly away. "Answer the fuckin' question!"

Sam knew this was the opening Dean had been waiting for. He closed his eyes, listening for his brother's feet to shift, his breathing to change. He heard Dean pull in air as he pushed himself to his feet, heard the four soft, rapid steps Dean took to approach, and opened his eyes just as the burst of air from Dean's swing rushed past his face. At the exact moment Dean attacked, Sam gripped Jack's arm, pulling the knife from his neck with every ounce of strength he possessed.

He felt the tip stab in, then fall away. He grabbed his bleeding neck and dropped forward, rolled to his back, and looked up. Dean never stopped moving. He knocked Jack off balance with the first blow - a sharp right to the chin. The minute Sam was free, Dean pushed forward, swinging with strength Sam didn't know how he had – wasn't sure he should have.

"Not while I'm around…" Dean was growling through clenched teeth between swings.

Sam lay gasping, watching Dean, holding his neck and feeling the blood seep between his fingers. Jack stumbled back in honest surprise as Dean jabbed up with his left, then immediately caught Jack on the chin again with his right forearm. Dean had landed four good blows before Jack recovered his wits. As Sam gaped, Jack thrust out his right hand in a powerful block, sending Dean stumbling backwards, crashing into Sam with a cry of pain as his wounded ribs connected with Sam's leg.

Keeping his hand tight against his neck, Sam grabbed for Dean, trying to pull him close, pull him away from Jack.

"Eamon, goddammit, focus!" Jack shouted over his shoulder.

"He was my son," Eamon said.

Sam searched the shadowed bar until he saw Eamon kneeling beside the body of Mick. He looked quickly to the other figures, feeling Dean next to him as he struggled to his knees. Liam and Danny stood next to Mick's body, staring at their dead brother in shock. Liam's gun hung limply from his hand, his shoulders were slumped. James, however, was staring at Jack and almost vibrating with rage.

"He was a soldier," Jack snapped, turning fully to face Eamon, his back to Dean and Sam. "And soldier's die."

"We have done every fuckin' thing you asked, man," James growled. "He worshiped you."

Jack tossed his head back. "Well, then as his god, it was my place to take his life."

Eamon pushed himself to his feet with a feral growl. "He was my son," he repeated.

"You forget why we're here?" Jack shouted.

Sam was starting to feel slightly lightheaded trying to follow the argument. He blinked. His vision blurred as his eyes danced from Jack to James to Eamon, and then suddenly Dean was directly in front of him. His hazel eyes glowing green with purpose, Dean stared hard at Sam for a brief moment, then fisted his hands in Sam's shirt, pulling him to his feet in a low crouch. Sam's head spun as Dean ducked under one of his arms and he leaned heavily on Dean as he awkwardly moved them around the end of the bar and sat them down in the shadowed corner.

Above them, on the other side of the bar, the fight continued.

"No, Jack," Eamon was saying, his voice cold, dead. "You don't have to remind me. It has been our cause since you ordered us to come to this God forsaken town."

"Then why the hell are we standing around talking about it?" Jack snapped and Sam heard the hammer of a gun pull back.

Dean took Sam's face in his hands, gingerly turning it to the left so that he could see Sam's neck. Sam watched him wince.

"Never a petticoat around when you need it," Dean muttered. "Keep your hand on that, Sam."

Sam blinked his understanding, keeping his eyes on Dean's face.

"He knows you…" Sam rasped out.

"Don't try to talk," Dean commanded.

Dean's brows were pulled together in a frown, his mouth tight, and a muscle in his jaw kept up a steady cadence of worry. As Sam watched, Dean pulled up the base of his black T-shirt, exposing his bruised torso and the wraps that bound his ribs. Sam realized what he was doing one moment too late.

"Dean, wait—" Sam tried, but Dean had already started to unwrap a section of his ribs.

Sam held still, pressing his hand hard into the wound on his neck, watching as Dean cast his eyes quickly around the floor of the bar and grasped a piece of a broken bottle to cut the binding away. The loose end began to slowly unravel from around his damaged ribs, but Dean didn't seem to notice. He leaned forward, rolling the end of the bandage into a thick ball, then quickly placed it over the wound on Sam's neck once Sam dropped his fingers. He wrapped the tail end of the makeshift bandaged tightly around Sam's throat, splitting the end and tying it off.

"Pop, don't," James was saying. "We're on the same side, here, right? I mean… we are, right?"

"Do you care nothing for the life of your brother?"

"'Course I do, Pop, let's just… just take it easy here."

"I'd listen to him, old man," Jack spat out. "All that should matter to you is getting that damn chalice and getting the hell out of here."

"You will not put this on me," Eamon growled. "If that had been your sole focus, we would not be in this situation."

Dean was tipping Sam's head to the side, ignoring the rapid turn of events above them, his eyes on Sam. Sam watched him grimace as he looked at the marks left by James' fists.

"Gonna kill them," Dean muttered.

"Dean—" Sam tried again.

"Don't talk, Sam."

"Brenna," Sam got out.

"I haven't forgotten her," Dean whispered, darting his eyes up.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Jack was yelling. "The Ardagh—"

"Was not your only purpose," Eamon spat. "You were looking for revenge."

"That has nothing to do with you," Jack said in a low, dangerous voice.

"It does now," Eamon answered. "Your revenge killed my son."

"You stay here, Sam," Dean said, his hand on Sam's chin, drawing his attention. "You hear me?"

"Where're you going?" Sam whispered, wincing slightly.

"Just stay here," Dean repeated, letting go of Sam's face. "I'll be right back."

As Sam watched, his left hand pressed against the ache in his neck, his right arm held close to his side, Dean scooted around the edge of the bar, moving as if he were whole, as if he had never been broken. Sam blinked. Dean had been like that since Sam could remember. Unless he were nearly dead or unconscious – which he'd been more times than Sam wanted to think about – Dean somehow managed to compartmentalize his pain, pushing it away to get the job done.

Sam kept his eyes on Dean as his brother leaned across the empty space to grasp Brenna's ankle. Neither of them realized when the argument above them quieted. Sam watched in horror as Jack's powerful hands grabbed Dean by the shirtfront, hauling him roughly to his feet, and with a guttural roar of fury, turned Dean and slammed him face-first into the wall that ran behind the bar. Dean's eyes closed tightly and Sam watched him bite back a cry of pain.

Jack pulled Dean away from the wall, turned him again and propelled them both out of Sam's line of sight. Sam heard the impact of his brother's body against another wall and this time Dean cried out.

"Ah, son of a bitch!"

Sam crawled quickly to the edge of the bar, reaching for Brenna's ankle, thinking furiously about how to get them out of this situation. As he pulled Brenna's limp form toward him and to the protection behind the bar, he heard Jack literally spitting at Dean:

"Declan couldn't do one thing right… all he had to do was get John to banish the wraith… couldn't resist a fight, that Johnny, and the stupid bastard couldn't even get that right…"

Sam heard Dean's body hit the wall again, and this time the sound that emanated from his brother gripped his heart. Sam carefully propped Brenna behind the bar, checking to make sure her pulse was strong, then ducked around the bar again. He saw Dean reach up and grab the front of Jack's shirt, his eyes hot with anger, his face pulled into a fierce frown. Sam blinked his blurry vision back into focus.

"What's the matter, Jack?" Dean gritted out through clenched teeth, the man's name sounding like a curse in his voice. "Things not working out the way you planned?"

Sam saw Jack's arms tense and his stomach clenched as Dean hit the wall once more. Sam shot his eyes over to the left of the bar and saw that James and Eamon simply stood and watched – not helping or hindering Jack in his attack on Dean. Liam hadn't moved from his post next to Mick. Danny had stepped forward, but had apparently been stopped by James' hand.

"Shut the fuck up, kid," Jack yelled, pulling Dean to him, hands fisted in Dean's T-shirt. Sam could see from his vantage point that the only thing keeping Dean vertical at the moment were Jack's hands. "Your dad's gonna live to regret sending you."

Dean's eyes flashed once. "I wouldn't be so sure about that," he growled, digging up strength from somewhere inside and shoving back at Jack as hard as he could. Jack stumbled back, but didn't release Dean.

Shaking his head in either frustration or wonder, Sam couldn't tell, Jack put an extra thrust in his step as he slammed Dean against the wall again. Sam winced as he saw the back of Dean's head hit the wall. Dean's eyes rolled once and Sam held his breath, watching for his moment. He tensed, scooting around the side of the bar so that he was completely exposed to Dean. Sam was staring so hard at his brother's face, he seemed to will Dean's gaze to him. Dean's green eyes met his and he shook his head once. Don't move, stay still. Sam pulled his eyebrows together, his head darting forward in a quick denial, but Dean's eyes immediately drained of emotion and he looked back at Jack.

"You think you know what happened that night, don't you, kid?" Jack was saying.

Sam held his breath, recalling Jack's familiarity with Dean, wondering how it was possible that this man, this enemy of the Kavanaghs, this man who was responsible for the death of Brenna's parents, somehow also had a connection to the Winchesters.

"You got no idea what you walked in on," Jack continued.

"I think I have a pretty good idea," Dean growled. "You were trying to kill my Dad."

"Your old man killed my brother," Jack threw at him.

"No possible way," Sam heard the sharp anger in Dean's voice. As he watched, Dean's mask slipped, exposing a brief visual of betrayal, then it slid quickly back into place.

"Easy job he said," Jack was twisting his fists into Dean's shirt. "Say a few words, poof, no more wraith."

Sam darted his eyes from Jack and Dean to Eamon and James. They stood still, watching the scene unfold. Keeping his eyes on them, Sam reached for a piece of broken glass and carefully wrapped his fingers around it.

"But he wasn't fast enough, your Dad. And the wraith took my brother," Jack shook Dean once.

"Sounds like the wraith killed your brother then, Cyclops," Dean snarled, his arms tensing as he tightened his grip on Jack's shirt.

Sam fastened his eyes on his brother's face. Dean's eyes darted quickly back and forth, directed at Jack's face, but Sam had watched his brother long enough to know that Dean wasn't seeing Jack. He was searching his memory, searching the past for some kernel of recognition, something to tell him what Jack was saying was false.

"You ever watch someone lose his soul, kid?"

"Got a pretty good idea what it looks like," Dean ground out, shifting against the grip on his shirt, working to unbalance Jack's grip.

"It sure ain't pretty," Jack said, leaning close to Dean. Sam tensed. "The way he screamed… he sounded like his body was being turned inside out."

Sam swallowed looking at Dean's face, thinking of Dean going through that pain and still managing to banish the creature. A series of short explosions sounded from what Sam now realized was Brenna's house as the fire continued to consume. Sam was glad he'd thought to move their weapons to the Impala before he'd gone after Declan's body. He wondered what Brenna's potions would do when burned.

Jack shot a look over at Eamon, then back to Dean. "So when our cause needed a boost, Eamon here discovers the Ardagh, only there's a problem, see… it's being guarded by a wraith. And who did I know that could banish a wraith, huh?"

"And using an alcoholic bartender to summon it was your master plan?" Dean scoffed. "No wonder your brother didn't make it."

Sam bit his lip, wincing at the retaliation he anticipated for that remark. Jack tilted his head to the side, as if sizing Dean up.

"You know your old man had a shot at me that night."

Dean remained silent.

"You didn't know did you?" Jack chuckled coldly. "You thought you were Rambo, getting the big, bad man away from your daddy," Jack sneered. "Cut me good, too. But I got you back, didn't I? And your dad just watched it happen."

Sam swallowed, working to remember. The name Jack Collins meant nothing to him… and he couldn't recall his dad battling a wraith before…

"You distracted me," Jack was saying. "Let Johnny get the drop on me. But he didn't have the sac to finish it. I'm surprised you don't remember." Jack tilted his head, regarding Dean coolly. "Guess you were too busy bleeding. John let you lie there, blinking like a landed fish, and he waits. He just waits," Jack shook his head. "I was ready to end you both, and he can't pull the fuckin' trigger, not even to save you."

"So you're pissed because he let you live?" Dean lifted an eyebrow, his jaw muscle jumping once, his eyes half-cast as he hid his memories from Jack.

"He didn't let me do anything," Jack growled. "He was afraid."

"He was human," Dean shot back, twisting his hands in Jack's shirt front. "Which is not really a problem of mine."

"Don't make me laugh, kid," Jack shook his head. "I could knock you over with a sneeze."

"With that breath, yeah, pretty sure you could," Dean said.

"Doesn't matter now, anyway," Jack grumbled, looking back over at Eamon. "Declan got himself killed, apparently you," he looked back at Dean, "managed to banish the wraith… and these fools can't find the damned chalice."

Dean remained silent. Sam watched him blink, willing him to keep resisting, to not give in to the pain Sam was sure he had to be feeling. Sam could see the loose bandages from Dean's ribs slipping out from the bottom of his T-shirt. Jack must have thought Sam was dead or unconscious because his whole focus was on Dean.

"But according to you, Declan's girl knows where it is," Jack continued. "Which means," he let go of Dean with one hand, leaning more of his weight onto the other to keep Dean pinned to the wall. "I don't really have much use for you anymore."

Jack reached into his back pocket and pulled out the slim blade that was now tinged red with Sam's blood. Sam swallowed, his eyes darting quickly to Dean.

"Plus, as an added bonus," Jack swung the knife around with his right arm and Sam watched Dean's eyes widen and his hands shift from Jack's shirt to his arm, holding him off, trying to push him away. "I'll get to hand your body to your dad." He pushed against Dean's outstretched hands, forcing the knife closer to Dean's chest. "Couldn't ask for better revenge than that," he ground out.

"No!" Sam shot to his feet, swaying slightly as his vision caught up with the change of elevation.

He focused on Jack holding Dean against the wall, the knife creeping closer to Dean's chest as his brother's arms began to shake.


"Sam, stay back," Dean's voice was low, shaking with pain and exertion.

Sam stepped forward, raising the piece of broken glass as he advanced, but was caught across the chest by James. Suddenly coming alive, James pulled Sam roughly back and slammed his back against the bar, knocking the glass from his hand and holding him there with his forearm. Sam shook his head, working to blink away the cobwebs at the edge of his vision. He pushed against James, but blood loss, exhaustion, and his wounded arm were working against him.

He shot his eyes over to Dean and saw that Jack had shifted his left hand from Dean's shirt to his throat and was pressing Dean into the wall with that grip. Dean's arms were trembling violently against the thrust of the knife, his face pulled into a grimace of pain and Sam could see him fighting for even one breath.

Sam struggled against James' arm. "Let me go, man," he yelled.

James simply shook his head.

"He killed your brother," Sam said, locking desperate eyes with James' dead ones. "Let me try to save mine!"

James shook his head again and as Sam looked back at Dean he realized that Jack had been right about one thing. James was a soldier. And he was conditioned to save Jack. He could do nothing else. Dean's grip continued to loosen and Sam watched in horror as his brother's arms began to drop and the knife started to dig into his shoulder.

Dean grit his teeth, but a cry of pain worked its way past his defenses. "Ahhhh—"

Jack's grip tightened around Dean's throat, effectively cutting off his air, and Sam saw Dean's arms visibly weaken. Sam saw Jack take a breath and knew he was going to plunge the knife into Dean to the hilt. He pushed against James, struggling, kicking, fighting, but his weakened body was no match for James' stony resistance. Pushing against James with his waning strength he lifted his eyes to Dean. Dean's arms fell limply to his sides and his eyelashes fluttered. Sam knew in that moment that he was watching his brother die.

The explosion of pain in his head was sudden and vicious and oddly familiar. It was a hot spike of power behind his eyes and he cried out, grabbing his forehead. He shut his eyes as the thrust of movement rolled from him. His body trembled once and he opened his eyes.

As if in slow motion, he saw James flying away from him into Jack, knocking him off balance and crashing both of them into the wall with brutal force. Gasping, he shot his eyes over to Dean and watched as Dean's eyes rolled back into his head as he slid slowly sideways down the wall to land with a thud on his left side, blood running from the wound in his shoulder.

Sam's legs refused to hold him up. He sank to the ground, pressing the heel of his hand to his right eyebrow, his eyes on Dean's still form across from him, trying to see if his brother was even still breathing, if he'd been in time. He jerked in surprise at the roar that came from the pile of tangled limbs that was Jack and James. He looked over and saw Jack rise up with a look of blind rage in his eyes. Jack raised his knife and before James had a chance to lift his arms in defense, he stabbed it into the base of James' throat.

Sam blinked in shocked surprise at the seemingly senseless act of violence. He began to pull himself across the floor away from the bar and toward Dean. Jack sat back, a maniacal gleam in his eyes as James grabbed for his throat in denial. The gurgle of blood that blossomed from his lips told Sam that in minutes, James would be gone. Eamon realized the same thing. He stumbled over from his post next to Mick with a shout of anguish.


Sam continued to crawl slowly over to Dean, his head thrumming a steady beat of pain. Eamon knelt next to James, his hands hovering helplessly over the bloody knife wound as James' mouth opened and closed soundlessly. As Sam reached Dean, James gasped out his last breath. Sam wrapped his hand around Dean's arm, pulling himself close, and leaning over Dean's limp form.

"He attacked me!" Jack screamed at Eamon. "What was I supposed to do?"

Sam turned his back to them, his forehead on Dean's shoulder, his body covering Dean's broken chest, his arms reaching out to wrap around Dean's arms. His right hand met the sticky wetness of the knife wound in Dean's shoulder and he closed his eyes. He could feel Dean breathing weakly beneath him.

"Ni dhoirtfear fuil neamhchiontach choiche. Ach sruthoidh fuil na n-olc mar abhainn," Eamon's voice was low, deadly.

A small, cool hand touched Sam's over Dean's wounded shoulder and he lifted his head. Brenna was next to him. She'd crawled out from behind the bar unnoticed in the chaos. Bruises flanked her eye and mouth, and a cut on her forehead left a trail of blood down the side of her face. Her eyes were large and the look in them heartbreakingly sad. She wrapped her fingers around Sam's and pulled herself up next to Dean's head.

"Don't you dare, Eamon," Jack was saying, his voice cold.

Sam ignored him. He watched as Brenna gathered up Dean's head and shoulders and cradled him in her lap, curling her body over his lax face. She glanced up at Sam, her eyes going predatory. She tightened her fingers around Sam's hand.

"Stay close," she whispered to him. "Stay close to me."

Sam felt a tremor in her hand and looked down at Dean's face.

"We're soldiers," Jack growled. "Soldiers in an ageless war, Eamon."

Sam heard the click of a hammer and leaned in close to Brenna so that his forehead touched the top of her head, their bodies effectively shielding Dean's from the danger surrounding them.

"The war is over for you," Eamon declared.

As the first bullet was fired in what became a volley of anger, Sam and Brenna held on to each other and to Dean. Sam closed his eyes, closing out the angered curses screamed in a language he didn't want to understand. He imagined an impenetrable shield covering the three of them. Pictured it with complete clarity. He felt Brenna's hand tighten on his, felt Dean jerk as a gun fired close to them.

Eamon had said that Jack wouldn't leave anything in his wake – that he would come and destruction would follow. As Sam listened to the breaking glass and gunfire, the curses and screams, he knew that Eamon had never thought that by working for someone like Jack, he'd held a viper in his grip and the venom would eventually destroy him.

A sharp cry, a shot, and then the silence was sudden and deafening. Sam was aware of the sound of his breathing, of Dean's heartbeat, of Brenna's trembling gasps. He slowly straightened up from his protective position over his brother. Broken glass slid from his back as he sat up. He hadn't even felt it hit him. Brenna released his hand and he saw her straighten out of the corner of his eye.

Sam looked around. The bar looked very much like the battle zone it had become. Turning to look over his shoulder, he saw Danny's body slumped at the base of the bar, Liam sitting, unharmed, next to Mick, and Eamon holding James to him, a still-smoking gun clutched in a bloody hand. Hearing a wet, wheezing sound, Sam looked over toward Brenna.

Jack had pulled himself close to her. His back was slick with blood and Sam could see it running in a near-steady stream from his mouth.

"Where…" Jack gasped, looking at Brenna.

She lifted an eyebrow, taking in the gore and dismissing it. "You were so close," she whispered. "And you let vengeance rule you."

"Should've killed you…when I…had the chance," Jack gasped, struggling to crawl closer to Brenna, hatred in his eyes.

"Guess you didn't have the sac to finish it," Brenna said, her eyes cold.

"Tell… me… where," blood gurgled up in Jack's throat and he reached out a shaking hand toward Brenna.

Blinking slow, Brenna leaned close. "It's in the house, you bastard."

Jack looked at her, an incredulous expression crossing his face. He choked out a laugh, then tried to take a breath, rolling to his back. As Sam watched, the light left his eyes and the remaining breath in his body leaked out in a tortured hiss.

"Ach sruthoidh fuil na n-olc mar abhainn." Brenna whispered.

Sam watched Brenna carefully. A sound behind him drew his attention. Eamon had gathered James in his arms and stood. Liam lifted Mick's body over his shoulders. They walked past Sam, Brenna, and Dean, stepping over Jack's bloody corpse. Sam and Brenna silently watched them leave the bar. Sam looked back over at Danny's body. In minutes, Eamon was back.

He lifted his last son over his shoulders in a fireman's carry, then turned to face Brenna.

"The war no longer makes sense," he said in a broken voice.

"It's never made sense," she replied. Sam almost shivered from the chill in her voice.

Eamon looked from Brenna to Sam, then down to Dean. Sam resisted the urge to block Dean from Eamon's view.

"I kept waiting for him to give up," Eamon stated. "He would have made a good soldier." Sam thought that he might have heard something akin to respect in the Irish mobster's voice. He simply stared at Eamon silently. You have no idea, he thought.

Eamon lifted his eyes from Dean's still form and met Brenna's eyes. "Your parents have been avenged."

Sam looked at Brenna, watching as she lifted an eyebrow, her pupils narrowing so that she stared at him with cool green-gold eyes. A small drop of blood fell from the edge of her jaw and landed on her collar bone.

"My parents? What about Declan? You sent him to his death." Sam watched as her fingers curled in to grip Dean's T-shirt at his shoulders. "I hope you live a long life," she said to Eamon. "I hope this loss follows you. I hope it consumes you. I hope you die still feeling the pain."

Sam swallowed, watching the set of Brenna's jaw, then looked back up as Eamon turned silently away from her and carried Danny's body out of the door. The minute they were gone, Sam dropped his eyes back to Dean. His neck throbbed with his heartbeat and the bandage was slightly sticky with blood, but he could feel that Dean had wrapped it tight. The flow of blood was slowing. His hand trembled as he reached for Dean's arm.

Dean had been ferocious only minutes before. He was so still now. His chest barely moved with each breath. His head was canted to the side, resting on Brenna's leg, his arms crossed almost protectively over his chest. The still-livid bruises from the wraith's attack seemed to stand out like markers of pain on his skin. His lashes brushed the soft purple under his eyes that was brought to the surface by exhaustion. Sam tightened his grip on Dean and another explosion from the house shook dust from the rafters of the bar.

"Sam," Brenna said, drawing his attention. Her voice was a strangled vibration of sound. He looked at her, but he already knew.

"He's dying," Sam stated, surprised that his voice sounded so steady in his ears.

"We have to bring him back," tears pooled in Brenna's eyes. "We can't let him go."

"He's not going anywhere," Sam said, suddenly believing it. Suddenly knowing it. Dean had made a promise to John. Sam needed him to keep that promise. And Dean knew that. "He wouldn't leave me."

"He doesn't know how to come back," Brenna said, her breath hitching, finally beginning to succumb to the events of the past two days. "It's what I saw before… he doesn't know how to save himself."

"Then we'll have to show him," Sam said. He looked at Brenna. "Hey, don't you do this. Don't you lose it now. I need your help."

"Sam, I –" she pressed her lips together, clenching her jaw in a physical effort to keep the emotions at bay. "I have done everything I know how to do."

"No. Not everything," Sam whispered, dropping his chin and catching her gaze. "There's one more thing we can try."

She blinked, tears that had been pooling in her eyes flicked away by her lashes, her eyes clearing.

"I need you to, um, connect us again," Sam said. "Like you did back in New Orleans."

"Are you sure?"

"Hell, yeah, I'm sure," Sam said. He was not losing Dean. Not now. Not ever.

Brenna sat with Dean's head and shoulders still in her lap. Sam sat next to him, his left hand gripping Dean's right wrist. Sam took a breath and watched as Brenna's eyes widened and went predatory. She reached out to him and as he lifted his hand to meet hers he closed his eyes. The minute their hands met, Sam was falling.

He opened his eyes, taking a breath. He was standing in a near-empty room, dark except for the soft glow from an old halogen lamp sitting on a wooden table. He knew this place… it was the cabin. The cabin Dean had driven them to like a bat-out-of-hell when they'd rescued John from the Sunrise Apartments. He turned in a slow circle and almost jumped when he saw Dean sitting on a wooden chair in the center of the room, leaning forward, his forearms on his knees, fingers of his left hand rolling the silver ring on his right.

He was staring into the middle distance, not really seeing anything. He looked spent, exhausted. He looked lost. Sam licked his lips and took a breath.


Dean blinked, sliding his eyes to the side, seeing Sam.

"I wondered if you'd figure out a way to get here," he said.

"Brenna," Sam said by way of explanation. Dean simply tipped his head in acknowledgment.

Sam looked around them. He saw the door that had led to the bedroom Dean had laid their father in that night. The door was missing and instead of a bedroom, Sam saw John, sitting at a table across from a slightly younger Sam. They were smiling about something. Sam looked closer and saw that John was cleaning a weapon, the parts spread out on a white towel. Young Sam was handing him gun oil and talking. He couldn't hear what his younger self was saying, but that didn't seem to be the point of this particular scene in Dean's mind.

He looked back at Dean. His brother was staring at the floor again and this time Sam noticed something strange. Dean looked…gray. Faded. Something else caught his attention. The room was silent. Utterly silent. Almost suffocatingly so. Dean was rarely quiet, even in his sleep. Sam cast a quick look out of the window to the right of Dean. There were salt lines on the window sill - Dean protecting them even in his mind.

It was dark outside, Sam saw. Not just dark, he realized, but empty. Completely void of… anything. There was nothing outside. Dean was alone in the near-empty room, turning into a shadow of himself, and through the open doorway John and Sam sat in light and warmth, working in tandem with the tools of their trade.


"Yeah," Dean answered immediately, as if he'd been waiting for Sam to talk.

"Why are we here?"

Dean straightened up slowly, lifting an eyebrow. "You're the smart one. You tell me."

Sam shook his head. "Why this cabin, Dean? Why this place?"

"Good a place as any," Dean shrugged. "Last time we did this we were in a cemetery…"

"Yeah, but that place had a purpose," Sam argued. "You were there to fight…"

Sam stopped. Dean had fought the chauchemar in the New Orleans cemetery, but Sam had seen then that what he'd really had to defeat was the fear of the darkness inside of him – the fear that the darkness would consume him.


"Do you know why you picked the cabin, Dean?"

Dean straightened slowly in the chair, propping one hand on his thigh as he did so. He looked around as if just now recognizing his environment.

"You almost died here, man," Sam said, pulling his eyebrows together. "Dad almost – the Demon was here…"


"Let's go someplace else," Sam tried, not really sure if that were even possible.

"I like it here," Dean pushed himself to his feet and walked over to the doorway leading to the image of Sam and John. He leaned his forearm on the doorframe and rested his forehead on his closed fist.

"But, why?"

Dean lifted a shoulder. "It's the last time I can remember…hope."

"Here?" Sam was incredulous.

"Before the Demon. Y'know, when we thought it was Dad," Dean said. "We got him back… he was with us, and you were okay, and I…"

Sam had a sudden flash of memory. A memory of Dean before the Demon revealed himself. Of Dean's face, of his low voice, of the way his eyes stared at nothing. For you or Dad…the things I'm willing to do or kill… it scares me sometimes. When Dad had stepped out of that room, the room Dean was staring into now, and told Dean he'd done the right thing by using the bullet, Sam had seen his brother's eyes shift.

He hadn't seen pleasure or relief at those words. He'd seen doubt. Doubt that he could be enough to elicit pride in their father. That's what Sam remembered…and he couldn't understand why this place would give Dean a sense of hope. All Sam saw was loss. Loss of their father, loss of their family, loss of a part of Dean that Sam hadn't seen in his brother since they'd come to this cabin…

"Hey, Sam?"

Dean didn't turn from the doorway.


"You remember that winter we lived in New York?"

"New Yo—oh, you mean in that old house, in the country?"

Dean nodded, his eyes still on John and younger Sam. "You remember when we built that snow fort in front of the doors of the school?"

Sam grinned, nodding. He looked down. "I remember you wanted to impress Ellie Walker with your fort-building skills."

At that Dean half-turned from the doorway. "Dude, how the hell do you remember stuff like that?"

"'Cause it worked and I saw you kiss her."

"Geeze, Sammy," Dean turned his back to the scene in the other room, which had been Sam's intention.

"I was like, eight or nine, man. It totally grossed me out," Sam grinned.

Dean shook his head. "Explains a lot about you, Sam. Ellie Walker had lips like..."

"Dean, she was thirteen!"


Sam shook his head. "You're impossible."

"You remember how the night we built that fort we went on a job with Dad?"

Sam narrowed his eyes at the seriousness in Dean's tone. His pale, grayish face had pulled together in a frown, and his green eyes were alight with something like pain. He was free of bruises, and seemed whole, but Sam was unnerved by what he could see in his brother's eyes. It was almost like he was looking at…fractures. Split ends of Dean's soul.

"No, not… not really," Sam said, working to remember, to follow Dean's logic, to get to the end so that he could meet Dean there.

"He told us to wait in the car," Dean said, walking away from the bedroom doorway and facing the window, staring out into the nothing. "You were in the backseat, and fell asleep. I was waiting, but… well, you know me."

Sam narrowed his eyes, his gaze on the back of his brother's head. He remembered the cold of the day, the feeling of weightlessness that always accompanied a day where he and Dean behaved like actual kids. He remembered…

"Dad was scared that night," Sam suddenly said. Dean nodded, not turning from the window. "He didn't want to leave us alone…"

"He thought that Jack would come after us while Dad was out fighting the wraith," Dean said.

"Wait, what? You mean… Jack was right? Dad actually fought the wraith?"

"I forgot about it until Jack. It's not in the journal. Probably because he never finished the job," Dean leaned his forearm on the window, resting his forehead on his forearm once more. It was almost like he was too tired to keep his body upright on his own.

"Dean, this is about… about what Jack said, isn't it? About you, what, saving Dad?"

Dean huffed out a mirthless laugh. "I didn't save him; I just made the situation worse. I got worried when he didn't come right back like he'd said. I went in and saw this man holding Dad against a wall by his throat, and Sammy, Dad was almost gone, I swear to God."

Sam swallowed, his eyes on his brother. Waiting.

"I saw a knife stuck in the wall by the door and I didn't think. I just grabbed it and charged. I got the guy in the back of the arm and he let go of Dad," Dean reached up and pressed the flat of his other hand against the window as if for support. "He turned around and grabbed me and I just swung that knife. Got his eye. He was so damn strong, though. Got the knife from me and…"

"And what, Dean," Sam whispered when his brother paused.

"Cut me. Across the chest."

Suddenly Sam remembered. He remembered waking up in the back of the Impala, alone and scared, and seeing Dad run from the building with Dean in his arms. He remembered Dad throwing Dean into the back seat with a towel, and yelling at Sam to hold that there, don't let go, then driving off like the devil was chasing them. He'd never asked what happened – the way Dean and Dad had acted he'd been afraid to.

"I remember," Sam whispered.

"I don't. Not after that. I don't remember Dad pulling a gun on him. I don't remember Dad letting him live. I just remember trying to breathe and then Dad picked me up and he kept saying stupid kid, stupid kid, why don't you ever listen."

"He was scared, Dean," Sam said, not liking the droop of his brother's shoulders.

"Yeah, I know. Now," Dean said. "Back then, all I could think is how bad I'd screwed up."

Sam was silent.

"That next day the principal of the school found us, you remember?"

Sam nodded. "Yeah, the snow fort had frozen the door shut."

"Yeah, and Dad made us go knock it down."

Sam remembered how slow Dean had moved, how pale he'd looked, but he had never said a word. And he'd attacked the frozen fort with a vengeance that had frightened Sam. Sam shifted his eyes quickly to the scene in the room, sensing movement. John and young Sam had stopped talking and were looking into the room at Dean. John stood and walked to the doorway, staying in the warmth, staying in the light, but watching the darkness seep into Dean from the nothing beyond the window.

"What if I'd listened to him, Sam?"

Sam looked back at Dean. "What do you mean?"

"What if I hadn't gone after him. You think any of this would have happened?"

Sam narrowed his eyes, confused. "Any of what?"

"You think there's a choice with destiny… just like with death?"

Sam swallowed again. Dean's voice had dropped low, as if he wasn't even aware that he was talking to Sam. His head was still resting on his forearm, his other hand pressed flat to the glass. The nothing outside leaked through the cracks in the frame. Sam could see it subtly sink into Dean as he leaned against the window.

"What are you talking about, Dean?"

"She said that I could have stayed. I could have stayed with you," Dean whispered.

Sam shivered once. Dean's words fell on his ears like ice.

"But if I did, I would become what we hunt," Dean lifted a shoulder. "My luck you would probably have had to salt and burn my bones."

"Why are you saying these things, man?" Sam said.

Dean was starting to really scare him. When Brenna had last connected them, Dean had been Dean. He'd been hurt in the real world, then. Almost as badly as he was now. But in his mind, in that cemetery in New Orleans, Dean hadn't been hurt, hadn't been fragile. He'd been fierce. He had fought and killed the chauchemar without remorse. He had defeated evil, and they had come back. Together.

But this vision of Dean in front of him was… hollow.

"I am living on borrowed time, Sammy," Dean said, pushing against the window as if he were turning his back to a lover. "The crossroads demon knew it. She told me." He stepped from the shadows to the soft light of the halogen lamp.

Sam gasped. Tendrils of shadow clung to Dean from the window, hanging from the tips of his fingers like ribbons. Dean's face was practically white; his eyes appeared sunken into his face, the green of his irises set off by the purple crescents underneath. He looked worse than he had in the hospital after the heart attack. Worse than when he'd been on the ventilator. He looked like death had touched him.

"I was going to go with the reaper, Sam," Dean said, standing with his weight on one leg, his hands loose at his sides. He narrowed his eyes. "And for one moment… one split second of time, I was actually relieved."


Dean lifted a shoulder. "It passed. Pretty much because she turned around with that bastard's yellow eyes in her face and I woke up choking on a plastic tube."

Sam hadn't realized how close John had come to sacrificing himself for nothing. He looked back over at John standing in the doorway. He'd dropped his eyes, staring at the floor. Young Sam sat at the table, his eyes on John as well. Sam looked back at Dean. He wanted to reach out and grab him. He wanted to make him sit down. He wanted to wake him up. He wanted to fix this.

"Dean," Sam said, hearing the panic in his voice. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Dean, what do you want?"

Dean pulled his eyebrows together. "What do you mean?"

"Well, you didn't go with her. You're here. What do you want out of this?"

Dean shook his head, clearly confused. "What are you talking about? I want to save you, Sammy."

Sam took a breath. "For yourself, Dean. What do you want for yourself?"

Dean blinked.

"What about Brenna?"

Dean lifted a shoulder. "What about her?"

"I see how you look at her when she's not looking. Hell, how you look at her when she is looking is just as bad. I hear how you talk to each other. It was like that with me and Jess." Sam took a step forward. "When we first met, I thought she was a snob and she thought I was a jerk."

"Love at first sight, huh?"

"Pretty much, yeah," Sam grinned sadly. "It's like that with you two."

"I can't love Brenna, Sam."

"What? Why?"

"Because I'll hurt her," Dean said, his lips pressed into a line. "I can't stay. I won't stay. And Brenna, she…"

"I don't think she cares about that," Sam said.

"Doesn't matter," Dean shook his head as if that were the final word on the subject.

"You have to want something for yourself, Dean."

"I do," Dean said, blinking slowly as if trying to focus on Sam. "I want you to be okay. I want those visions to stop. I want you to live, Sam. Demon-free."

Sam sighed. "That's not for you, man."

"Sure it is," Dean argued.

"When we were in Chicago," Sam said. Dean pulled his eyebrows together. "With the deava's," Sam reminded him. "You said that you wanted us to be a family again."

"I still do, Sam," Dean said, casting his eyes down. "But that's gone now. And you were right. There's a hole inside of me. And it's growing. And it's gonna swallow me up. And the only thing that's keeping me from falling in is saving you from that demon."

"Dean," Sam said, trying to swallow past the lump in his throat. "What happens when you save me?"

Dean looked at him.

"What happens when that is gone?"

"I… I don't know," Dean shook his head slowly. Sam stepped forward again as Dean swayed. He was growing paler; Sam thought he almost looked fuzzy, out of focus. As if he was literally fading. The fractures Sam saw in his eyes grew. Sam felt a sharp pain in his heart as he looked at Dean's eyes.

"Dean, Dad didn't just make that deal so you could save me," Sam said. "He did it so you could live. You have to believe that."

Dean looked up at him, his eyes empty. Sam shivered. The nothing from the outside was echoing in Dean's eyes. Dean started to shake his head, and his knees buckled. He sat heavily on the cabin floor. Sam dropped to his knees across from Dean, facing him.

"You have to believe that Dean," Sam repeated.

"Sammy," Dean said, shaking his head. "You can't just… just decide to believe something."

"Yes you can," Sam snapped. "Yes you can, dammit."

Dean stared at him, empty eyes revealing the hollow inside.

"Who are you when I'm not here, Dean?"

Dean just shook his head.

"Dude, those women aren't falling over you because your little brother is standing next to you, I promise you that," Sam tried. "And your pool hustle only works when you're on your own."

Dean blinked.

Great, Sam, he chided himself. Without you he's a womanizing hustler? That's just perfect.

"When I left for Stanford," Sam said. "You kept going. You took care of Dad. You did the job. You did it all without me there."

"I didn't want to," Dean whispered.

"But you did it, man. You have always been the one out there. You were always the one," Sam closed his eyes tight, remembering so many flashes of Dean throughout his life that it almost overwhelmed him. "You made a life for us – kept us safe, all of us. You made our family."

"That's gone, Sam. That's all in the past."

Dean's eyes shifted past Sam to the bedroom. Sam tossed a quick look over his shoulder and saw John looking back at Dean, his eyes shadowed, his mouth set in a familiar firm line. The warm glow in the room behind him seemed to brighten. Sam looked back at Dean.

"But it is still you, man. You've done it before; you just have to do it for you now."

"Who says I want to?" Dean's voice was a frightening echo of the night in Oregon.

Sam shoved his hands in his hair, desperate. "You have to want to, Dean," Sam whispered. "You have to want something more…something for yourself, or you're gonna fade on me. I can see it happening now."

"I don't want to leave, Sam," Dean said, a flicker of something like life in his eyes. "I never wanted to go. I told Tessa that you needed me, that my family needed me… but, I… it's like I'm stuck here."

"No," Sam shook his head once. "I refuse to believe that. The wraith took your faith, man. Whatever piece of faith you had inside here, it pulled it away from you. You have to get it back."

"Kinda banished the wraith, Sam. Hard to take anything back from it."

"You have to decide, Dean," Sam said. "You have to decide to stay. You make the choice this time. No reaper, no demon," Sam swallowed, looking back over his shoulder, then turning his eyes to Dean once more. "No Dad. Just you."

"Why, Sam?"


"Why stay?"

Sam wanted to scream at Dean. He wanted to shake him. He wanted to rage against whatever had fated Dean to this life, the life that led Dean to ask why he should choose to stay. Sam knew what he wanted to say… for me, stay for me… but this time it had to be about more than him. He knew Dean would choose him over everything. He needed Dean to choose Dean this time, or the wraith would win.

His quick mind cast about desperately for an answer - an answer that was about Dean. He knew his brother better than anyone… yet he struggled to find something that would hold Dean. Something real that wasn't about women, or the Impala, or hustling people, or saving Sam. Then as if he'd heard John call his name, he looked back at his father. John's eyes were on him this time, not on Dean. He was smiling at him, his head tipped down in a slight nod, as if he were telling Sam you got it, you know how to bring him back, you know what will always keep your brother focused.

Sam turned back and stared, hard, at Dean. "Because Dad wants you to pick up where he left off," Sam said, echoing words Dean had spoken to him so long ago. "Saving people, hunting things."

Something flashed in Dean's eyes. Sam felt a glimmer of hope. He dropped his chin and peered up into Dean's eyes.

"Hailey, Lucas, Amanda, Charlie, Lori," Sam ticked his fingers open as he named the people Dean had saved in the last year. Dean lifted his head, jutting out his chin, his eyes shadowed, but he listened. "The Parks Family, Emily, Cassie, Alice, Kathleen, Ed and Harry –"

"You were a part of all of those, Sam," Dean interrupted.

Sam ignored him, continuing. "Michael and Asher, Sarah, Lenore, Andy, Jo, Evan Hudson," Sam took a breath and made sure Dean was looking at him. "Me."

"I haven't saved you yet, Sammy," Dean said.

"Dude, you have saved my ass so many times it would take us all week to count them."

"You've returned the favor," Dean said, the corner of his mouth pulling up in a small grin. Sam noticed that he seemed slightly clearer, more in focus, as if the fissures in his fractured soul were beginning to seal.

"Dean, it's what you do, man. You protect. You guard. You save."

Dean swallowed and looked down.

"What happens to the world if there is no Dean Winchester?"

"Thanks, Clarence," Dean said sarcastically, lifting his eyes to meet Sam's. Sam almost laughed out loud as he saw a little light hit Dean's eyes.

"I'm serious, man. You have to believe me, here. You have to."

"Sam, I didn't do any of that without you," Dean argued.

"Without you, I would have been lost, Dean," Sam said. "You saved me in ways you'll never know. Just by being my brother. Just by being there. By choosing to stay."

Dean blinked, looking down. When he lifted his eyes, Sam saw some of the emptiness had receded. Sam looked up to the windows. The nothing was still outside, but Sam thought he could detect light through the windows. He looked over his shoulder at the room that held John and younger Sam. This time they were both looking back at him, apparently waiting.

"So, the answer is yes."

Sam turned away from the images from Dean's memory and faced his brother, narrowing his eyes. "The answer to what?"

"There is a choice with destiny."

"I guess," Sam hedged, not wanting to say the wrong thing. Not when color was beginning to return to Dean's face.

"And if I believe that, it means you have to, too."

"Yeah, Dean, I believe it."

"That includes anything demonic," Dean said, suddenly focusing on Sam.

Sam froze. "Demonic?"

"No one is destined to go darkside, Sam," Dean said. "There is always a choice. If you want me to believe that there's something out there for me," Dean indicated with his head to the dark windows to his left. Sam saw that light from somewhere outside the cabin had started to turn the black to gray. "Then you have to believe that you have a choice in this whole destiny business."

"What, you're negotiating faith with me?"

"You bet your ass I am," Dean said. As Sam watched, the paleness of Dean's features was replaced by the normal tanned coloring and the green of his brother's eyes seemed lit from within. "I'm not coming back just to lose my brother, Sam. I won't do it."

Sam pressed his lips together, watching the fire flash in Dean's eyes with those words. He watched as Dean lifted his eyes to the room behind Sam. Sam looked over and saw with mild shock that John was back at the table, cleaning the gun, young Sam handing him gun oil and talking, and this time a younger Dean was sitting across from John, next to Sam. His eyes were down and he was running the blade of his bowie knife along the edges of a wet stone.

Sam remembered this now. He'd been telling them about an oral report he'd had to give in his government class. He'd been proud of his spin on the pros and cons of a democratic society and his father and brother sat listening to him. Just listening. Dean had thrown in a comment now and again, but John had just listened, watching them. It had been a good day. He turned back to the Dean in front of him.

"You got it, man. There is a choice with destiny."

Dean stretched out his right hand. "Promise me," he said.

Sam sighed and reached back for Dean. He forgot where they were. The minute his hand touched his brother's, he felt himself falling again. He opened his eyes, weak, trembling. He still sat next to Dean, but he'd released Brenna's hand to grasp Dean's. Brenna was watching him with her druid eyes, her body tense, her other hand pressed against Dean's face.

He looked at Dean. His eyes were closed, his breathing shallow. He'd forgotten for a moment how wrecked his brother was while he'd been inside his head. The blood from the wound on his shoulder had continued to flow and was soaking his shirt and Brenna's jeans.

Sam looked back up at Brenna, a question forming on his lips when he suddenly felt Dean stir. He opened his eyes, groggily blinking up at Brenna. She smiled down at him and Sam saw her unconsciously stroke the side of Dean's face.

"Where's Sam?" Dean rasped out.

"Right here, Dean. I'm here."

Dean shifted his eyes to meet Sam's. "You…" he gasped.


"You did good," Dean got out before his eyes closed again.

"Dean?" Sam leaned closer. He suddenly became aware of a high-pitched, familiar wail. It took him a minute to place it, but when he did, his panic level hit a new high.

"Oh, shit," he gasped, straightening up.

"What?" Brenna asked, reacting to his fear.

"It's a siren," Sam said. "Scratch that… multiple sirens."

"Probably the fire department," Brenna said, obviously confused by his reaction. "Because of the house. This is a good thing, Sam."

"Fire brings police," Sam said. "Dean's wanted, we're sitting next to a dead body we can't explain, and I have Declan's body in the trunk of the Impala."

"This is not a good thing, Sam."

"Dean?" Sam shook his brother once. Dean blinked his eyes open, staring at Sam, but not seeing him. "Dean, I need you to wake up, man. You have to listen to me."

Dean blinked again, and Sam could see barely see the green of his irises around his wide pupils.

"Dean, c'mon, man," Sam tried again, shaking Dean harder in his desperation. Dean hissed as Sam jostled his ribs. "Dammit," Sam cursed himself. "Sorry, Dean."


"Hey," Sam leaned in close so that Dean could see him.

"What the hell is going on?"

"Cops are here, man," Sam said.

"Shit," Dean cursed, reaching up for Sam's hand. "Help me up."

"Are you insane?" Brenna said, placing a hand on Dean's shoulder. "You can't seriously think you can walk out of here."

"We can't stay, either," Sam said, wincing as the wound on his neck throbbed once, hard.

The sirens reached the property and Sam tensed as he heard voices outside. He looked down at Dean, but his brother's eyes had closed again. His brows were pinched in pain, but he was out. Sam closed his eyes. He opened them when he heard a voice come close to the open doorway.

"Dean," Sam gripped Dean's hand in his and tried to pull his brother's limp body toward him. Brenna gently pushed from behind. Dean blinked his eyes open again. "Dean, I'm sorry, man, but we have to get out of here."

"Trying, Sam," Dean gasped out.

"I know," Sam pulled him closer and felt Dean jerked backwards against the pain in his chest.

"Jesus Christ, Sam," Dean gasped out. "Aw, fuck… Damn that hurts …"

Sam gritted his teeth, and continued to try to leverage Dean up, trying to put Dean's arm across his shoulders as he did so. Brenna lifted it and helped him balance as Dean trembled beside him. He was shaking so badly that Sam was having trouble holding on to him. Brenna stood close to Dean's wounded right side and tried to support without actually touching him.

"Yeah, Joe, I got this," said a voice as a man came through the opened door. "You swing around back and we'll –"

He stopped, catching site of the bloody trio standing just to the side of Jack's body.

"Holy Mary Mother of God," the man whispered, his startling blue eyes staring in shock.

Sam shifted Dean in his grip, feeling his brother lift his head. "Hey, Sinatra," Sam breathed, hoping the man remembered him, hoping for a break.

"Sinatra?" Dean muttered, focusing bleary eyes on the figure across from them. "Oh," he said, nodding. "Funny, Sam."

"What the hell…"

"Listen, man, you helped us out, um, yesterday," Sam looked at Brenna, who shrugged and nodded. "You remember?"

"The kid from the church fire, right? And his…" Sinatra's eyes tracked to Dean hanging limply in Sam's grip, his arm across Sam's shoulders, his head down.

"My brother, yeah."

"What is he doing out of the hospital?" Sinatra demanded, then looked around. "Scratch that, what the hell happened here? Who is this guy? Who hit her? Why are you bleeding?"

Sam licked his lips and took a breath. "I can explain," he started. More shouts from outside drew his attention for a moment and then he felt Dean's weight increase in his arms. "Never mind, no I can't. We need your help."

"Well, yeah, my truck's outside. I'll just get my partner –"

"Wait," Sam stopped Sinatra from moving further away with his cry of pure desperation. "Wait, no, not that kind of help."

Sinatra looked at Brenna, and then his eyes narrowed as he stared at Dean. "Kid, lay him down."

"No, listen," Sam argued.

"Lay him down, now," Sinatra barked.

Sam resisted the urge to reply 'yes sir' and started to ease Dean to the ground. It was only then he heard Dean's strangled breathing. He got Dean to the ground and the harsh, strangled sounds started to ease up, returning to a series of shallow gasps.

Sinatra immediately bent over Dean. "What's his name again, kid?"

"Dean. I'm Sam. That's Brenna."

"Dean," Sinatra turned Dean's face and flicked on a pen sized flashlight, that Sam thought he'd apparently pulled from thin air, shining the beam into Dean's eyes. "Dean, wake up for me, kid."

Dean obeyed, blearily blinking his eyes at Sinatra.

"Where does it hurt?"

"Chest," Dean gasped. Sam stared.

"Does your head hurt, too, Dean?"

"Yeah," Dean said, blinking. "Where's Sam?"

"I'm here," Sam said, his stomach clenching.

"Check him," Dean gasped.

"What?" Sinatra and Sam exclaimed in unison.

"Neck," Dean said, his eyes rolling closed.

"Hey, hey," Sinatra patted Dean's cheeks. "I need you to stay awake for me, Dean."

Dean opened his eyes. Sinatra looked up at Sam.

"Keep him awake, Sam. We need to get him to a hospital. Now."

Sam bit his lip. "We can't go to a hospital. I can't explain why, but –"

"Listen to me very carefully," Sinatra said. "You don't get him some medical treatment soon, you're gonna have to say goodbye."

For the second time that night, Sam's legs refused to hold him. He sank to his knees beside Dean, looked down at his brother's unfocused eyes, then back up at Sinatra. "Please, man, just… isn't there anything…"

Brenna put her hand on Sam's shoulder. "Sinatra," she said, pulling the blue-eyed EMT's attention to her. "This guy," she tilted her head to Jack's body. "Is a leader of an American-based IRA unit. He was killed by one of his men. Have the police check his ID and you'll find out I'm telling the truth. Only do it later because these guys," she tilted her head toward Sam. "Saved my life and if they are found out could mean serious trouble for them. Help us. Let the good guys win, just this once."

Sinatra had his eyes pinned to Brenna. "Who hit you?"

"The guy that killed this guy," she answered.

Sinatra looked back down at Dean. "You still with me, Dean?"

"Mmm," Dean muttered. Sam watched Dean blink at the man and couldn't tell if his brother comprehended what was happening around them or not. His breathing was shallow, the only color on his face from the bruises and the freckles across the bridge of his nose.

Sinatra took a breath. "I have my pickup outside. I'm… I'll have to figure out something to tell my partner."

Sam bit his lip, waiting.

"I know a place. A VA clinic. There's a doctor there. Kinda weird, but he's a good doctor."

"Weird is the story of our lives," Sam whispered. "Thanks."

"Keep him awake," Sinatra said. "I'll be back."

He shot to his feet and jogged out of the door. Sam watched him go, seeing through the windows of the bar the hoses of water being turned on to what was left of the house, as well as the garage and then the bar to keep it from catching fire.

"Sam," Dean rasped.

Sam looked down, grabbing his brother's outstretched hand. "I'm here, Dean."

"Declan," Dean said.

Sam closed his eyes. The body was in the trunk of the Impala. Which was parked outside the front of the bar. Where any cops on scene could look inside if they wanted.

"Give me the keys," Brenna said.


"I know a place to hide the car," she stuck her hand out, wiggling her fingers. "Give me the keys."

"No way –"

"Sam," Dean interrupted. "Give them to her."

Sam's eyebrows shot up. Dean was going to let her drive his baby? He dug the keys from his pocket. "You sure, man?"

"Just stay," Dean said. "Just stay here."

Sam nodded, swallowing. He handed the keys to Brenna.

"Don't leave me here," she muttered as she ran out of the bar. Sam heard the Impala's low rumble and was surprised when no one fighting the fire seemed to notice.

Sam looked down at Dean, who had closed his eyes again.

"Dean," Sam said, shaking his brother's arm. "Open your eyes, man. You stay awake, okay?"

Dean's eyes opened half-mast, staring at a space just over Sam's shoulder. "Did you wonder what I thought, Sam?"

Sam blinked. "When?"

"When you left. When Gordon found you."

Sam sighed. "Yeah, I wondered."

"You called me."

"I called you when I found the bullets on the roof. Gordon's bullets."

"You called me for help."

Sam watched as Dean's eyes closed and he forced them open, trying to obey his order, trying to stay awake.

"Yeah, I needed your help, Dean."

"Not enough to stay."

"I was stupid, man."

"S'okay, Sam," Dean closed his eyes. "You came to the cabin. You came after me."

"You remember that?"

Dean opened his eyes again. "Ellie Walker's lips…"

Sam grinned. "You remember each one?"

"Of her lips?"

"Each girl you kissed."

"Nah," Dean pulled his eyebrows together. "Too many."


"I'm irresistible," Dean grinned a slow, half-grin just as Brenna came back in through the back of the bar. He saw her and his grin vanished. "What the hell happened to you?"

Brenna shot her eyes to Sam. "Don't worry about it, Dean."

But Sam saw that Dean was actually more alert looking at Brenna's bruised face. He spoke up. "Eamon hit her, remember?"

"Bastard," Dean hissed. "I'm gonna kill him for that."

Brenna actually grinned, watching as Dean's eyes opened wider. "Danny knocked me out."

"He's dead, too."

"Well, actually –" Sam started, but Sinatra's voice interrupted him.

"Okay, listen," Sinatra said, running back in through the front door of the bar. "The cops are on their way. Truck's around back. Let's get you guys out of here."

Sam pushed himself to his feet and started to lean over to help Dean when his world suddenly went silent and black, then sound and light rushed back in. He blinked his eyes open and saw that he was back on the ground, Brenna's arms bracing him.

"Whoa," he muttered.

Sinatra was in front of him, looking at the bandage on his neck. "Good field dressing," he commented, "but you've lost some blood, Sam. Let me help your brother, you just concentrate on staying on your feet, okay?"

"'Kay," Sam nodded and let Brenna help him up.

Sinatra leaned over and eased an arm under Dean's shoulders, helping him to stand, then put Dean's left arm over his shoulder. "What's the other guy look like," Sinatra said, wincing at Dean's bruises.

"Well," Dean said, focusing on moving forward. "If you really want to know…"

"Dean," Sam and Brenna spoke up at the same time.

"Fine," Dean muttered. "Spoil all my fun."

They reached the back of the bar and went through the doors to see a black Ford F-150 pick up with blue rescue lights fixed to the roof sitting right outside the exit. Sam climbed into the bed of the truck, then turned and helped Sinatra ease Dean up.

"Easy, easy," Sinatra whispered as Sam worked to lift Dean over the edge of the tailgate. "Careful, watch that chest, that's it, keep him steady."

Sam and Sinatra mirrored looks of sympathy when Dean bit back a cry as his ribs bumped on the tailgate. Sam settled back against the cab of the truck, Dean in front of him, leaning against his chest. The sliding window between the cab and the bed of the truck was open.

Brenna climbed into the cab as Sinatra started the engine. Music instantly blared from the speakers of the truck.

"I'm your dream, make you real. I'm your eyes when you must steal. I'm your pain when you can't feel…"

Sinatra threw the truck into drive and leaned over to turn down the music with a muttered "Sorry."

"No wait," Brenna said. "It will help."

"That's my girl," Sam heard Dean whisper.

"Help?" Sinatra was saying. "Do I want to know?"

"Probably not," Brenna said.

"Sinatra?" Sam called through the open window over James Hetfield's growl.

"Virgil," Sinatra replied.


"My name. It's Virgil."

Sam waited a beat.

"You can call me Sinatra, though," Sinatra said.

"Thanks for this," Sam said, emotion choking his volume. He held Dean close to him, trying to ease his brother's shaking, supporting his broken body against him. "Thank you for helping us."

"Thank me after Iggy helps your brother. And you. And her," Sinatra said.

"The doctor's name is Iggy?" Dean rasped.

"Has a thing for Iggy Pop," Sinatra called as he turned down a deserted dirt road.

"Oh, you gotta be kiddin' me," Dean shook his head.