Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: After watching the season finale (5x22), I just couldn't leave it like that. So this is my take on what might happen.

Spoilers: 5x22. If you haven't watched, don't read this.

It took one week before Dean Winchester proved God wrong. One week before he realized he couldn't do this.

He tried living normal, tried putting the past behind him and get into this fantasy of what normal life was like, and he couldn't do it. Every moment of every day, every second he drew breath, his thoughts were of his brother. So after one week, he told Lisa sorry, I can't do this, got behind the wheel of his car and drove away.

His path drew him to South Dakota and Singer's Salvage. His arrival stopped Bobby from going after a rugaru he was 'destined' to go after. Instead, they talked. Dean opened the floodgates and let it all out. He raged against the unfairness of their lives, he cried over the loss of his baby brother who never stood a chance, and he cursed destiny to Hell.

"You're gonna do something stupid, aren't you?" Bobby finally asked when the tempest tapered off and Dean just sat there on his couch, spent and broken.

"Define stupid," Dean muttered and snorted.

Bobby watched him closely, not sure what was waiting at the end of this path. "You're gonna try and get him outta there, aren't you?"

Dean raised his head, glanced in the direction of the older hunter, and attempted a smile. But he couldn't really smile any more. It was a grimace more than anything and it never reached his eyes. "He's not supposed to rot in Hell with Lucifer and Michael. He doesn't deserve that. He doesn't ..." His voice broke and so did the word-stream and he dropped his head again, stared at the floor between his feet where a single tear hit the wooden planks and the darker spot spread out slowly.

"He chose this, Dean," Bobby tried. "He saved the world, saved all of us."

"He's a kid," Dean snapped and raised his head to glare balefully at his friend and surrogate father. "He's not even 30 yet, Bobby. He's ... he's not supposed to ..." Again emotion got the better of him, cut off his words and made him drop his head again. The anger didn't last. Only the sorrow hung on. "He needs to have a damned life before he can give it up. And he hasn't had that. He ... I ..."

"This is as much about you as it's about him, isn't it?" Bobby asked, pulled up a chair and sat down across from Dean. "You feel you failed him, failed your father, failed ... whatever. But you didn't. If it hadn't been for you, Sam would not have been able to take control. He would not have been able to take that step that saved everybody from a fate worse than death. Dean, if you go back on your promise to him, if you start looking for a way to bring him back, you will defile everything he did this for. If you open that cage again, you're going to let two majorly pissed-off arch angels back out. And one of them at least thinks it's his god-given duty to lay waste to the world while the other will do it just for the hell of it. If you let them back out, then what? Sam's not gonna live. He's not gonna have a wonderful life. He's gonna be Lucifer's meatsuit until Lucifer gets enough of him and burns him out of his own body. Don't you get it?"

"Yes, I get it, Bobby!" Dean snapped and looked up again. "I get it. But I'm not gonna let them out. That portal the rings create is a one way portal. So I'm not gonna let them out. I'm gonna go in with them."

Bobby stared at him, took in the seriousness in his eyes, the underlying grief, the raw determination, and for a moment he couldn't think of a single thing to say. "What?" was the only thing that came to mind.

"It's simple, really. Sammy can't fight these two bastards on his own. Adam isn't gonna be much help because he wasn't raised a hunter. So, yeah, I'm going to open the portal, I'm gonna jump in there, and I'm gonna help Sammy kick their asses." It sounded so simple.

"Are you out of your frigging mind?" Bobby rose and his anger rose with him. "Are you trying to kill me?" he insisted. "Dammit, boy, what is it with you Winchesters? Why are you so eager to throw yourselves down the pit for each other and humanity? Don't you think this has gone on long enough?"

Dean rose too. "Me taking that dive isn't the end of it, Bobby," he said, picked up the colt he had dropped on the couch next to him, and held it out to Bobby. "I want you to give me one week. That'll give me time to find Sammy, to kick those two asshats into shape and get our butts up to the devil's gate. All you gotta do is open the door, let us out and that's it."

It felt like he had suddenly been dropped in an alternate universe where nothing and nobody made any sense any more. But there was a part of him that admired Dean for even coming up with this scenario. "You're talking about going up against ... the biggest bad and his big brother. On their turf. In a frigging cage. And you think you can just walk outta there?"

"It's worth a shot," Dean said with a shrug. "The way things are ..." He paused, the look in his eyes growing distant for a moment. Then he focused on Bobby again. "I can't live like this, Bobby. I can't live and pretend to be happy when I know my little brother's rotting in Hell. I can't. Sam couldn't let me go. I can't let him go. It's just as simple as that."


The cemetery was still, quiet, dead. It felt like the world itself was holding its breath, waiting for his next move. It burned, seeing this place again. It hadn't been more than a week, but it felt like a lifetime, and it hurt. For all intents and purposes, he had lost the fight. He had said no where Sam had said yes and he couldn't live with the outcome. Either way, he was going to spend eternity with his brother, in Heaven or in Hell. It didn't matter either way to him. All that mattered was that Sammy wasn't alone any more, that his brother knew how much he cared.


He froze, every muscle tensing, then slowly turned around. It couldn't be, could it? "Sammy?" There he was, alive and well it seemed. "Sam, is that you?"

"Yeah." Sam smiled faintly, his features a little tight.

"You're out." It was a shock to his system, really. He hadn't expected it to be this easy.

"No, Dean. I'm not. I ..." Sam flinched, seemed to crumble a little, and gritted his teeth. "I don't have much time. It's tough, this. Never knew how hard it is for ghosts to appear before someone. Dean ... you have to stop. You can't do this. Please."

It wasn't that easy. Nothing was ever that easy. Somehow, his little brother was reaching out for him from Hell itself and it broke his heart all over again. "I have to, Sam. Don't you see? How can I leave you down there?"

"You have to, Dean. You promised me," Sam insisted. He seemed to be more transparent now, like he was fading. "Don't do this. Don't let everything I've gone through mean nothing. Go back to Lisa, live your life. Please!"

Dean shook his head, spread out his arms. "How can I? And I didn't promise you anything, Sammy. I just didn't disagree at the time. But I can't do this. I can't leave you down there. You're everything I am. Without you, I got nothing. I've got nothing to live for, little brother. And I am not letting you face this on your own. I don't care what destiny says. I'm coming in and I'm gonna get you outta there. I don't care what it takes."

Sam doubled over and Dean found himself reaching out, his hand going through what should have been solid. "Can't ... stay." And with that, Sam was gone.

If his determination hadn't been set in steel before, it was now. He pulled the rings out of his pocket and threw them onto the ground, then spoke the words that would forever be ingrained in his mind. The portal opened, the dirt spilling away into darkness and nothingness and he didn't move, simply stood there and waited for the ground to fall out beneath his feet and when it did, he fell too, plunged down into the darkness and the ground closed again like it had when Sam fell.

For a long while, there was nothing but silence in Stull Cemetery. Then the birds began to chirp again and the wind stirred the long grasses again, while the sunlight reflected off four intertwined rings.


The idea – on some level – was sound. He knew that without giving it too much thought. But whenever he even got close to considering the hardships the boys would have to go through to even get anywhere near doing what Dean had in mind, his conscious thoughts shied away in terror.

He sat there, at his desk, with that damned colt in his lap, and stared down at it. He had made Dean a promise and he was damned well going to keep it. But what would the consequences be? If he opened the gateway to Hell, even for a little while, how many more demons would he set loose upon the world?

"One might think you'd be lost in deep thought there, Bobby."

He sneered, then looked up to face another demon he had no desire to ever lay eyes on again. "What in the hell are you doing here?" he snarled, raised the colt and aimed it at Crowley.

The fancy-pants demon raised both hands in a deprecating gesture. "Easy there, tiger. Heard about the bravery of one certain young Winchester and thought I'd drop in, show my appreciation and all."

Bobby glared at the other man – demon – for a moment while his thoughts rambled through his head at break-neck speed. "Come here to finish the deal?" he asked quietly. If Crowley had lied – and let's face it boys and girls, that was a very real option – and the contract was still in place, then the risk remained that his time on Earth would end before he could keep his promise to Dean.

"Nah, the deal's off. That was the deal, after all. I just borrowed your soul for a bit there. And I don't need it any more," Crowley said and lowered his hands when Bobby lowered the colt.

"You got out when the gate opened, didn't you?" Ideas were dangerous things, but at this point he might actually get some useful intel out of this s.o.b.

"Well, I could come and go as I pleased. Before," Crowley claimed and slipped his hands into the pockets of his expensive, dark-blue coat. "Now I'm persona non grata down there, if you catch my drift. Loads of demons would like a piece of me. I did help put their frigging messiah back in his box, after all."

"Yeah, great help you were," Bobby growled and considered what options remained. Then he looked up to meet the man's eyes. "If I opened the gate at Stull, what would happen?"

Crowley stared at him for a moment. "Well, that depends, doesn't it?"

"On what?" Bobby asked sternly.

"On whether or not it was an announced deal. Why'd you wanna go and do that anyway? Don't tell me Dean is crazy enough to want to step into Hell to find his brother."

Bobby arched an eyebrow. Looked like Crowley was out of the loop there. "Nah, he's already in. I'm givin' him a week. Then he's gonna be at that gate with his brother, waitin' to be let out. I just wanna know how many demons are gonna come streamin' out with them when I do open that frigging gate."

Crowley stared back at him for a moment, his expression one of pure surprise. "You do realize that the chance of them making it is amazingly small?" he asked, to which Bobby nodded once, curtly. "Keeping that in mind ... well, since this isn't a big thing like the last time the gate opened ... there will most likely be no demons around unless they catch wind of what's happening. They don't hang around the gate, waiting for it to open. Most of them are busy being tortured somewhere. Or torturing others. It's not exactly a paradise of leisure down there."

That, at least, sounded promising. Bobby had no doubt that some demons would escape, but some he could handle. And if it meant he got the boys back ... well ... they could help put them back inside if they weren't too messed up.

"You're honestly considering this?" Crowley asked, the surprise still lingering in both his tone and his expression.

"Got no other choice. I promised Dean I'd be there and I don't go back on a promise," Bobby said. He knew that the chances of the boys making it were frighteningly small to non-existent, but nevertheless he would be at Stull in four days, with the colt, to open that damned gate.

"Well, I wish you the best of luck then," Crowley said, then half turned before stopping again. He seemed to have something on his mind, something other than the professed gratitude he had come here to express. "Tell you what. I'll throw in an extra little care package here. I'll make sure no demons are around if the boys should be there. And ... as a show of good faith and a thank you for getting the heat off me ... I'll let you know when to open the gate too. How about it?"

Bobby eyed him closely. "And what will that cost me?"

Crowley smirked. "You and the boys stay away from me."

That was not the worst kind of deal, so Bobby nodded. "Deal," he agreed. "We leave you alone if you help me get'em back."

"See you at Stull in four days then," Crowley said and vanished.

Bobby sighed. "I gotta be outta my mind, makin' deals with demons left and right," he muttered, put the colt down on the table top and continued his staring-match with it. Come Hell or high water, in four days time he would be ready to welcome the boys back. He just didn't have that much hope left in him right now that he actually believed they would be there.


The graveyard was quite, still and dead. Appropriate for a graveyard, Bobby surmised. He stood still in front of the doors and stared at them as if that would open them safely. He had been here since dawn, had paced around the place a bit. He was admittedly nervous, anxious, unsure. Most of all he was certain that Crowley wouldn't show and if that double-crossing s.o.b. didn't show up, he would put him on his list of things to kill. "Right at the frigging top," he muttered and for the umpteenth time pulled the colt from his belt and eyed it for a moment before shifting his attention to the doors and the 'keyhole' in the middle.

How long was he supposed to wait? Today it was exactly one week since Dean had taken the jump and since he hadn't returned, Bobby assumed he had gone through with his asinine idea. "Of all the stupid, half-assed, idiotic ..."

"Now, now. Watch your language, Bobby."

Somewhat surprised, Bobby turned around to face Crowley. "Didn't think you'd show," he admitted and weighed the colt in one hand, not quit aiming it at Crowley and not quite aiming it away from him either.

Crowley spared the weapon a brief and somewhat cautious glance, then smirked. "Would I stand you up? After we made a deal?" He tutted and stepped up beside Bobby to eye the doors for a moment. "As I promised, the path is clear. No demons waiting inside."

Bobby turned back to face the doors. Chances were Crowley was lying his head off and there was a whole legion of demons waiting on the other side. Chances were that Dean and Sam wouldn't be among them. Chances were that he would condemn the world to more agony than it could take if he opened the gates. But – and this was where all the what ifs faltered – he had promised Dean and he was damned well going to give him a chance.

"Well? Aren't you going to open it?" Crowley asked and it struck Bobby that the demon sounded a tad nervous.

"What have you got to be worried about? It's not like you're risking anything by me opening this gate," Bobby growled.

"Really?" Crowley huffed. "Pardon me if I don't take your word for it. It's time. Open the gate, leave it open for no more than half an hour and then close it again. No matter what." And with that, the demon was gone.

"Frigging coward," Bobby snarled, jammed the colt into the lock and turned it. The whole process of opening the gate started up, clanging and clicking shattering the otherwise almost serene peace of the graveyard.

Bobby stepped back, away from the doors, and generally expected an explosion akin to the last time this event had taken place. But once the doors swung open, nothing happened.

With baited breath, he watched and waited while the minutes ticked by and still nothing happened. After what seemed like forever, he took a cautious step forward, tense as a bow. What should have happened hadn't happened yet, and he could only imagine what would happen in the next twenty minutes before he would have to shut the gate again. He knew that when that moment came, it would break his heart if he had to walk away from here alone.

Another step closer brought him in audible contact with the gate and the first faint sounds sifted through the shimmering heat rising out of the pit. In part he assumed that this gate opened a portal to Hell rather than an actual hole. He had never really considered Hell to be a physical place and hence hadn't been able to wrap his mind around what would happen to Dean if he made a physical entrance into an incorporeal place like Hell. The fact remained that he had no idea what Hell was other than something worse than his worst nightmares. And what he heard from the pit made the small hairs on the back of his neck stand on edge. Faint as they were, he would always be able to recognize screams of pure agony and that, mixed with indefinable roars that could only belong to the beasts of Hell, he felt the greatest inclination to just shove those doors shut again and get the hell away from this place.

A glance at his watch showed him that time moved slower than dirt at the moment. And yet those remaining fifteen minutes felt far too short. "Come on," he muttered under his breath. A part of him was afraid of raising his voice, of calling out for the boys. What if his voice carried and attracted unwanted attention? The last thing he wanted was to have to close the gate ahead of time to stop the minions of Hell from escaping.

The next ten minutes crept by, an eternity and a blink of an eye all rolled into one. His heart in his throat, he edged closer, tried to see something that might give him hope, but what little hope he'd had to begin with had fled moments before. If all had gone according to Dean's insane plan, he would have expected the boys to be there the second he opened the gate. But they hadn't been. And he hadn't heard anything other than what he would associate with Hell.

With five minutes to go – and he assumed it might be best to heed the time limit – the chance of this working out in their favor was dwindling into nothingness and he struggled with himself, with his survival instinct and old familiar thoughts rearing their heads again. While confined to that wheelchair, he had – as he had told Dean – taken a moment every morning where he had contemplated the easy way out. And every morning, he had soldiered on because of the promise he had made Dean, that he wouldn't give up, that he would stay in the game for the duration. Well, if the boys didn't show up and he had to close the door on them, thereby effectively locking them in Hell, he figured he would find Crowley again and make a deal with that son of a bitch. His soul for the boys' freedom.

Three more minutes and his heart sank. Preparation was always a good idea, especially with the odds of this going to Hell – quite literally – being somewhere in the millionth to one, so he pushed one door shut. He didn't want to do this, really. He wanted to stand here and wait until they turned up, even if it took an eternity, but he knew he couldn't, knew that the chances of this succeeding had been infinitely small to begin with.

One minute left before an era came to a screeching halt. Would he be able to live with this? Most likely not.


He stopped short, one hand on the second door. He had been ready to start pushing, to close it and lock this path into Hell again, but that faint yell made him stop short.

Before he could consciously contemplate what this meant, the still open door was pushed a little wider and Dean stumbled out, dragging his brother along with him. They both hit the ground, their clothes smoking, their skin dirty and bloody. But they where here, both of them.

"Now's the time to shut that gate, Bobby."

He glanced to his left and met the eyes of Crowley. "Give me a hand," he snapped, which, to his surprise, the demon did. Together they shoved the door shut and the mechanism sealed the lock and ejected the colt again.

Then Bobby turned to stare at the two young men and all he could do was stare. When push came to shove, he hadn't given this plan a snowball's chance in Hell of working. And yet here they were, both of them. "Well, I'll be damned," was all he could think of saying.


It was the silence that got to Bobby most. A request for information immediately after he had regained the power of speech had been answered with a brief 'not now' and he had given them that. Sam was in worse shape than Dean and they were both a mess. Once back at the house, Dean had taken Sam upstairs to the room they always shared when they stayed with him and for a few hours, he had heard nothing further. Whether they talked or rested was beside the point. But the not knowing was getting under his skin, making him antsy.

Just when he was about to go up there and demand an explanation, Dean turned up. He had showered, had changed clothes, and with all the sooth and blood gone, Bobby got a clearer picture of how many blows the kid had gotten. He looked bone-weary too, his skin showing signs of lighter burns here and there.

"You got anything to drink?"

Of course that would the first thing out of his mouth. Bobby almost slapped him upside the head out of sheer irritation. "Care to tell me how in the hell you managed to pull this off?"

Dean sank down on the couch in the same spot he had been sitting in one week earlier, but there was a distinct difference in his posture now. Despite the weariness, despite the bruises and cuts and burns, he looked more alive than Bobby had seen him in ages. To forego a tactical withdrawal, he handed the kid a glass of scotch, poured one for himself and sat down for what would undoubtably be a mind-blowing tale.

For a long moment, Dean just sat there, elbows on knees, the glass held in both hands, while he stared down into the amber liquid. Then he finally looked up and met the older man's scrutinizing gaze. "Thanks for being there."

"I promised I would be, didn't I?" Torn between wanting to yell at the kid and wanting to back off completely, Bobby found it impossible to settle on either emotion and just waited.

"Yeah," Dean agreed with a light nod and returned his undivided attention to the scotch. "Yeah, you did. And, believe me, I am grateful like hell that you were there. We were a fraction of an inch away from getting ripped to pieces."

He had questions, most of which would probably not find a decent answer, so he settled for the most simple one he could think of, a mere repetition of his previous question. "How in the hell did you manage this?"

Again it took a moment before Dean spoke. He sighed, lightly, then took a sip of the scotch before he raised his head again. "It was ... frighteningly easy at first," he said, his gaze locked on the middle distance, his tone almost dreamy. "I took the dive, didn't have a single clue what to expect. In part ..." He cut himself off with a snort and a halfhearted grin on his lips "... I guess I expected ... a re-enactment of my first visit down there. But ... I just fell and then I hit the ground and ..." He shook his head. "It's hard to explain. But once you're down there ... it's different. Things happen at a different pace. And there I was and there they were, two arch angels at each others throats. And let me tell you ... this thing about angels being beautiful ... that's a load of bull." He briefly focused on Bobby and the older hunter could almost see what Dean had seen. "And they're huge. Down there, they can't hide themselves inside a meat suit. I guess when they hit rock bottom, they were both ripped out of their respective vessels. And they were going at each other like nobodies business. Hard to believe they're brothers, the way they fought." He leaned back, just sat there for a moment looking thoughtful. Then he shrugged. "I found Sam. Turns out that because of Lucifer's original size, this ... cage isn't all that hard to get out of when you're human. 'Cause we're so small compared to the angels." He sneered a little helplessly. "Guess it was a good thing that Michael took the fall with Lucifer. Otherwise ... heaven knows what Lucifer would have done to Sam. I guess he got knocked on his ass a few times by the two of them going at it like they did. Adam was nowhere to be seen, so I guess he left, that little shit. He could have stuck around and helped Sam or something."

"He didn't have the benefit of being raised a hunter," Bobby said quietly. "Or your knowledge of Hell," he added.

Dean grimaced, but kept staring ahead of himself. "Yeah. I guess that's what kept us from getting torn to shreds when we left the cage behind. It took time. Loads of time. I was prepared to hole us in somewhere and wait it out if possible, but ... there's nowhere to hide down there. And there are demons everywhere. And ... other things." He shuddered, briefly hunched his shoulders and took a deep swallow from the glass, almost draining it. "Defies explanation, really," he added. "So, we made it to the gate just in time, huh?"

"You could say that. I was beginning to think you weren't coming," Bobby agreed. "So ... how is Sam? He looked pretty banged up."

"He was," Dean said with a nod. "Is," he added. "It'll take him some time to get over this one."

Bobby eyed him closely. "And you?"

Dean met his gaze dead on. "I'm fine," he said and Bobby actually believed it.

"So, you're telling me Sam's okay with you breaking your promise and coming in to get him out?" It was a question he had wanted to ask since the second Dean had stumbled out that door with his brother in tow.

Dean hesitated, then grimaced and looked away. "I think ... that's not what's foremost on his mind right now." He scrubbed a hand over his lips, then drained the glass and beckoned for a refill.

"And what do you think is foremost on his mind?" Bobby asked and filled the glass again.

"What he saw down there," Dean said without hesitation, but also without looking at him.

Bobby couldn't help thinking that what Sam had seen down there would overrule any possible disappointment he might have in Dean breaking his word to him. But he also had the sense that it might still have something to do with Dean. "And ... what'd he see down there?" he asked quietly.

A slight frown furrowed Dean's brow and he took a moment to consider that question before he focused on Bobby again. "Bad things," he said just as quietly and there was nothing but truth in his eyes. He smirked, but it was a dead smirk. It never reached his eyes and it raised goose bumps on Bobby's arms. "Let's just say that Sam now knows how far I'm willing to go to keep him safe."

Any urge to ask further questions died right there. Bobby didn't know what Dean had lived through the first time, only knew that Sam had once mentioned that hell time was far longer than their time and that his brother had been in Hell an equivalent of forty years. And the thought of what Dean might have done to keep demons and other things away from his brother while they fought their way out of Hell ... well, there were some things he just didn't want to know. Some questions were best left unasked.

"Well, I'm glad you're both back," he said instead and sent a brief glanced up at the ceiling. "You sure Sam's himself?"

"Yeah. We spent an equivalent of three years down there in close quarters. Trust me, Sam's back to his good old self," Dean said while watching Bobby closely.

The unspoken question was answered in the same silent manner by not being verbalized. It boggled his mind that the week he had waited had seemed so long while the boys had fought for their very souls for three long years. He could not contain these thoughts and decided not to ask for further explanations. The topic was closed and there was nothing further to discuss. "Good," Bobby finally said. "You boys may wanna kick back and relax for a bit now. Unless you think there's ... danger out there?"

Dean eyed him for a second longer, then smirked and this time it did reach his eyes. "Nah, I think we can take a breather. Sammy's gonna need some time to get to terms with everything. And, from what I could tell, there's no way either Michael or Lucifer will ever get out of that cage again. At least not in our lifetime."

Bobby rose and Dean followed suit. For a long moment they just stood there and stared at each other, then Bobby grabbed a hold of him and yanked him into a fierce hug. "I'm damned glad to have you both back, son."

Dean returned the hug just as fiercely. "You have no idea, Bobby. You have no idea," he whispered.


The moonlight was what kept him in the here and now. Just to be able to sit there and stare up at the moon, fat and full as it was, made a world of difference. It drove away the shadows that threatened to consume his soul. He had never really envisioned the hardships of Hell, had never even gotten close to understanding the true meaning of what Dean had gone through and he knew without the shadow of a doubt that what he had faced down there had been nothing compared to what Dean had faced.

But the terrors of Hell itself were not foremost on his mind. Scary as they had been, he hadn't faced them alone. And that was where the tape broke, where his mind came to a hitching halt every time he even got near that topic. The topic of what Dean had done to get them through.

The first emotions that had rippled through him when he had realized that he was no longer alone in this nightmare, had been equal parts disappointment, regret and anger. The fear that his sacrifice had been for nothing, that the world had been overrun by demons and everyone had died and ended up in Hell had made him despair. But then Dean had grabbed him, had hauled him to his feet and propelled him past the two towering combatants and through a crack in the wall. From thereon in things had gone from horrible to worse. Days had become weeks, weeks months and despite their prolonged stay, Dean had never relented. He had pushed him to keep moving, had forced him to stay alert and marginally hopeful.

He hadn't believed they would get out. As the months became years, his hope had faded and died, but still Dean kept moving, kept fighting, kept ... He stopped that train of thought with a shudder. What Dean had done to get them out defied explanation. A part of him knew that his brother's determination to get through this without too many side-effects was what propelled him. He also knew that Dean's previous stint in Hell had prepared him for this very thing. But it still didn't make it any easier to accept what Dean had done to get past the demons, past the ... creatures.

Would he ever be able to sleep again? He doubted it. He was so tired it was a physical ache. They hadn't slept, had kept moving, been on the run from one horror after another, and he knew he would never have made it if Dean hadn't been there. He would have ended up like Adam. That was one little detail he hadn't told Dean about in those years they had fought for their very souls. The main reason for that he hadn't dared leave the cage behind. As terrified as Adam had been, he had refused to linger, had expected that the rest of Hell couldn't be worse than being locked in this place with the two combatants. So he had left, had slipped out through the selfsame crack Dean had pushed him through. And Sam would never forget the sounds, never forget the horror. He hadn't seen it and a part of him was grateful he hadn't. But he would never be able to forget those sounds.


He jerked, wasn't used to the silence yet, and gave his big brother a brief glance. It wasn't that he blamed Dean. He didn't expect his brother to continue this type of fight for survival. There was less at stake up here than there was in Hell. But he also knew it would take time before he could come to terms with all he had seen. "Hey."

"You okay?" The bed gave a little when Dean settled down on the edge.

"Yeah," he lied and wondered if he ever would be again. "Tired."

"Yeah, me too," Dean agreed. "Think you can sleep?"

Sam snorted. He had no idea how Dean had managed to pull it off in the beginning, the sleeping. "Under the bed, maybe," he said and chuckled joylessly.

"Then sleep under the bed. It's not like anyone will mind," Dean said.

Sam glanced at him, noted the wry little smile on his brother's lips.

"I might join you. I'm not feeling too good about open spaces yet," Dean admitted and glanced sideways at him.

They had everything in common now. Only Sam didn't think he would ever have been able to do what Dean had done to get them out. He was grateful they were out. He was relieved beyond compare that there was a moon up in the sky and that the sun would be out tomorrow. He would never, ever forget what his brother had done for him. But he would never, ever look at his brother the same way again either. Hell had put its mark on Dean and Sam now knew what his brother would do to keep him safe. And that alone would make things okay in the end. It was scary as all hell, but it would make living a little easier now.

The End