Laura E Comerford.rtf by tongxiamy


									A/N: This fic was done for the Kazcon2007 Charity
Auction. The high bidder was Agt_Spooky, many
thanks to her!

                      The Game

Chapter 1

This place was rough even for Dean Winchester. He
hated these places, but the simple fact was he and
Sam were down to their last twenty dollars between
them. Using credit cards right now, with the Agent
Henrickson on their tails, wasn’t the smartest thing to
do. They’d avoid it at all costs. It was bad enough
Dean had to bring himself in here, it was worse he
had to bring Sam with him.

They’d come across the small establishment, bar
slash pool hall slash hangout for maniacal
psychopaths. Well, Dean figured, even maniacal
psychopaths needed to drink and be entertained.
However he would have much preferred to not join
To make it worse the psychopaths were fairly poor.
He was playing small stakes tonight, for more than
one reason. He liked his head where it was. Liked
Sam’s head where his was even better, so winning
large sums of money from any one person at a time
was out of the question. His plan was to get enough
money to fill the tank and get fifty or a hundred miles
away, find a motel and crash.

This place made his skin crawl. Sam in this place
was making his skin crawl and his heart race.

Shifting his eyes away from the shot he was lining up
for a split second to check on Sam, he couldn’t help
his lip from curling in a silent snarl. Not where he’d
been sitting ten minutes before, Sam had moved
seats…again. When they’d gotten there Dean got
himself involved at the pool table right off. The faster
he was in, the faster they were out. Sam settled
himself with files to read at a table in the back,
nursing a beer. He’d been yawing for over an hour,
would probably give up the beer soon in favor of
coffee if they had it here. The thought of these
people…and boy did Dean use that term loosely…on
caffeine was scarier than the thought of them as they
were now.

Two men, seedy even among these people, the type
of seedy men who gave other seedy men a bad name
lurked close to Sam, mildly harassed him for a bit.
The kid, ever wanting to stay in the background,
simply got up and moved. Once resettled he’d met
Dean’s gaze for a few seconds, half a subtle shrug, a
flash of a grin and an arched eyebrow…leave it alone,
no harm done, not worth the trouble. Dean remained
watchful, covert glances tracking his brother’s
movements between every shot taken at the pool

Dean would have preferred his young brother not be
here at all, but Sam always insisted when Dean was
out for a game, he come along. Generally Sam
stayed in the shadows, found a quiet corner, read
files, took his laptop if it was somewhere with Wi-Fi.
They made an effort to appear strangers to one
another. No one giving Dean a hassle over losing
money ever suspected the quiet kid in the corner was
his back up. People severely underestimated Sam,
thought he was harmless, meek. He wasn’t
aggressive, but he was far from meek and harmless.
Many a sore loser found out the hard way Dean
hustled with a partner, one quite capable of helping
him out of a tight spot in a fight if need be.

These morons stalking the kid around this bar were
different. Dean knew these types, had spent a lot of
time growing up keeping Sam (and himself) away
from them. He had an idea what they wanted, and if
they caught Sam alone, off guard, they’d get it. Dean
suppressed a shiver wanting to course down his back,
refocused on the pool table and shot. Another thirty
dollars in his pocket. He barely had time to take a sip
of his beer, make a casual sweep of the bar with a
glance, another check on Sam, before he was up for
the next game.

For the minute things were going well.

If he could win another fifty or better a hundred bucks
without incident they could leave. He wanted nothing
more than to grab Sam and get out. He intended to
do just that as soon as he could. Hopefully, in an
hour or so, they’d be far enough from this place it’d be
a bad memory.

The first part of the next game went smoothly enough.
Sam sat, unbothered, appearing to ignore everyone.
Dean knew better, Sam was as focused on him as
Dean was on Sam.

Lining up a shot, simultaneously glancing up, moving
only his eyes Dean barely stopped himself from
swearing out loud. Sam moved again. Met Dean’s
eyes and shook his head ever so slightly. The boy
would put up with this shit all night long if Dean
needed him too; it was what bothered Dean the most.
Quick and efficient, Dean landed his pool ball where it
was needed, another twenty was his. Straightening,
leaning casually against his cue he tracked the two
men across the bar with a covered glare.
Carefully replacing the cue stick, he clapped his
opponent on the shoulder. “Need to take a leak,
man.” Eyes skimming the players, “Anyone want a
beer?” He smiled at the group.

“Gonna come back so we can win our money back,
right?” One fat, toothless guy slurred.

“You betcha.” Dean’s smile widened, he laughed a
bit. “But first…” He waved at his pants.

Slipping through the crowd, Dean resisted the urge to
retrieve the cue stick and swing it on his way to Sam.
He’d moved to a table with a booth this time. One of
the men slid along the booth, sidling up to Sam. The
other blocked Sam from moving away. Dean saw
Sam’s eyes, wary and guarded, search him out. His
head jerked away from the man sitting next to him as
the guy reached for Sam’s face. Sam’s hand blocked
him, the guy standing on Sam’s other side dropped
one meaty, paw onto Sam’s shoulder.

A quick glance down, Dean swore to himself, the
table was bolted to the floor. Unable to over turn it,
Sam was completely trapped. Twisting through the
crowd, shouldering past people, ignoring the snarled
expressions, grumbling comments, Dean stopped at
the table, stood directly opposite Sam, hand coming
down firmly with enough force the two men heard the
thunk, turned to him. Dean kept his eyes riveted on
“Been looking all over for you.” Dean snapped out.
“You were supposed to meet me an hour ago.” When
the heavier of the two men, the one blocking Sam’s
escape route turned to him, Dean cut him off before
he could open his mouth. “Got a problem here pal?”
Eyes settling on Sam again, “Sober up.”

“No problem. Just some friendly conversation, eh
there boy?”

Sam glared at the guy for a few seconds before
focusing on Dean. Dropping his chin he mumbled,

“Yeah, you’re always sorry, aren’t you?” Reaching
across Mr. Side o’Beef, Dean took a firm hold of
Sam’s arm, pulled insistently until Sam moved slightly
toward the end of the booth, toward the slab of beef
blocking him.

“Whassa matter, horning in on your territory?”

Dean really hated this guy. “Here to get my brother,
he drinks too much.”

“Brother?” The guy laughed foul breath in Dean’s

“My kid brother.” Dean enunciated every word.
The guy studied him, then Sam, for a minute more.
Dean was beginning to think he was going to have to
start swinging. He’d be on his own; Sam was trapped
and until Dean could free him, he wouldn’t be very
helpful. His goal was to get out quietly, avoiding the
guys at the pool table as well, avoiding trouble. For a
few seconds it looked as if that weren’t going to

Side o’Beef, his arms were bigger than Dean’s thighs,
nodded to Dean, then turned and patted Sam’s
cheek. “Maybe some other time.”

“Yeah, another time.” Sam growled, sliding along the
seat to his feet, grabbing his files up, and stepped
close to Dean in one fast motion.

Dean herded Sam ahead of him, hustled the two of
them through the bar, a winding path taking them
away from the pool tables, toward the door. Sam
offered no resistance as he moved along, glancing
back every few seconds at Dean. Dean gave him a
slight push between the shoulder blades, more to let
the kid know he was right with him than to move him

“Ahh great little get-a-way spot.” Dean coughed,
cleared his throat as he stepped from the smoky,
acrid air of the bar to the crisp, fresh outside. The sky
was clear. Stars littered the deep purple sky. He
caught Sam looking up too.
“Yeah, we should come back again.” Sam said.

Dean heard the grin in his brother’s voice, knew he
was no worse for the wear, but needed to ask
anyway. “Are you all right? What the hell were you
thinking putting up with that shit?” He hadn’t meant it
to sound as harsh as it did.

Sam’s gaze shifted from the sky to Dean at once,
making Dean feel a twinge of guilt. It wasn’t Sam’s
fault the world was full of morons intent on badgering
them. “No harm done.” He muttered.

Which, Dean realized wasn’t quite the same as ok.
The kid was visibly shaken and what was he doing?
Snapping at his brother. Nice Winchester, real nice.
He met Sam’s eyes, turned the corner of his mouth up
a bit, nodding ever so slightly. “Good.” He made sure
to keep his tone soft. Sam gave him a hint of a shy
smile back. Sam hadn’t been the only one rattled by
the encounter.

“Asshole wasn’t even going to buy me dinner first.”
Sam snorted, then smiled in earnest at Dean’s
horrified expression.

“Not even funny Sammy.” Taking Sam’s jacket
sleeve, he tugged on it gently, moving off toward their
car. Sam stepped along behind him, Dean felt his
They’d parked at the farthest edge of the lot. Dean
tried to do that whenever he could, the car was farther
away, but the road was closer to the car. Easier to
get out fast, and he rarely was blocked in by drunken

“We got enough to fill the tank, I figure if we don’t find
somewhere to stop in an hour or so, just sleep in the
car tonight.”

Sam nodded, waited patiently while Dean unlocked
the car door for him. He leaned on the window frame,
eyes scanning the lot, darting to the bar door, in case
they’d been followed. After Sam folded into the car,
Dean hit the lock, pushing it down and shut the door.
He caught the smirk and slight head shake from his
brother. Sam had long ago given up trying to make
Dean stop doing these things. Dean reasoned Sam
probably knew he’d never stop, but he still felt
compelled to point Dean’s actions out to him every
now and then.

“Want to make sure you don’t fall out, ‘cause I’m sure
as hell not stopping to scrape your lanky ass off the
road.” Dean said, sliding into the car, starting the

“Yes you will.” Sam turned an amused gaze on Dean.
“No. I won’t.” Pulling a blanket from the back he
dropped it on Sam’s head.

“Um humm…sure.” Sam arranged the blanket over
his shoulders, draped it down to his feet. Dean
caught a glimpse of Sam twisting around to get
something else from the back. Dean’s leather jacket.
He didn’t wear it in the bar, it was too smoky, dirty and
gross in there. The thing was a bitch to get clean.
Sam folded it, propped it under his head for a pillow.

Eyes shifting sideways for a second before turning
onto the road, he complained, “You sleep on that
more than I get to wear it.”

Sam yawned.

“And don’t drool all over it.”

“I don’t drool.” Sam’s voice was already thickening,
his words drawn out.

“Ha! Bullshit you don’t.”

“Whatever. Let me know if you want me to drive.”
Sam yawned again, squirming around until he
apparently found a comfortable position, then settled
and stilled.

“Ok.” Dean agreed, knew full well Sam didn’t expect
him to ask. Sam liked spending their car time reading
through cases, or annoying the crap out of Dean.
He’d drive if Dean asked him to, or if he had to for
some reason, but Dean couldn’t remember a time
Sam requested, wanted to drive. Sam barely drove in
the two years since they’d been hit by the semi. He
never said anything to Dean about it, Dean never
pushed, but he knew the crash was a large part of it.
He could practically pinpoint to the days Sam stopped
driving and stopped being annoyed by Dean’s

Being too wired to sleep for a bit anyway, Dean knew
he had an hour, maybe two in him before wanting to
stop for the night. If there was no motel to be found,
he’d boost Sam in the back seat. It wasn’t the first
time they’d slept in the car, wouldn’t be the last.
Dean’s eyes spent the next twenty minutes shifting
between the road, his brother, rear view mirror and
the gas gauge. It was the gas gauge that had him the
most worried, it was sinking lower and lower to that
big, red ‘E’.

Finally the glare of lights from a gas station broke the
flat desert landscape, deep night. Dean hated these
back of nowhere roads, these places in general. Sam
never seemed to mind them. However, it wasn’t
Sam’s brother who always managed to find trouble in
them either. Happy they hadn’t been followed, Dean
pulled into the station. Reaching across Sam’s chest
he pushed on the door lock again, reassuring himself
it was securely locked. The car stopping, driver’s side
door opening, closing, Dean moving around never
caused Sam to so much as stir. He’d grown up in that
car. Dean thought sometimes it was the only place he
truly slept deeply. Warm memories of Sam as a small
child, tucked to Dean’s side while their Dad drove
flooded Dean’s brain. Some nights their father
packed them in the car just to get Sam, a cranky, over
tired toddler, to sleep.

Seem things hadn’t changed much.

Watching Sam sleep for a few seconds Dean
considered if he should wake him, or let him sleep. If
he woke the kid he could reclaim his jacket, maybe.
Shrugging off his unease, he was being silly, Dean
quietly exited the car. Filling the tank, Dean kept a
wary eye on the road, their surroundings. Still not
fully convinced they’d not been followed. The creeps
in the bar had been a little too persistent with Sam,
and Dean wondered why. There were plenty of other
people to pick a fight with, certainly others more
willing to accept their ‘offer’ than Sam had been. The
thought crossed his mind maybe the men realized
Dean and Sam were a team, but it still didn’t make
much sense. Dean hadn’t done anything other than
play pool, he hadn’t bothered anyone. The other pool
players had been friendly enough to him, didn’t seem
to mind the stranger in their midst. They’d been
maniacal psychopaths, but friendly ones.
Another mental shrug, Dean replaced the gas nozzle,
a glance back at his brother, sleeping, locked in the
car, Dean headed into the station, sand and gravel
scrunching under his boots. He wandered the aisles
for a minute, gathered up some snacks, sandwiches,
was on his way to the counter when he spied the hot
chocolate machine. Normally Dean was a coffee
man, but sometimes hot chocolate just sounded good,
this was one of those times. He got one for Sam too,
doubted he’d drink it now, but he could reheat it later.
He paid for his gas, purchases and headed back

The instant he stepped free of the station store he
knew something was wrong. Every nerve he owned
tingled and jumped, setting off more alarm bells in his
head than most fire stations owned.

It took a few seconds before his brain comprehended
what geared him up in the span of an instant. The
inside dome-light was on, Sam’s door was open.

Sam was nowhere to be seen.

“Sam. Sa-um!” Getting quickly to the passenger side
of the car, Dean’s feet tangled in the blanket, his
jacket hung half in and half out of the car. There was
no answer. Dean scooped them up, threw them in
the back seat.
Sam hadn’t left willingly. He’d never leave the door
open, never leave Dean’s jacket like that. The scene
was left to make it plainly obvious Sam had been
forced away. Yet Dean hadn’t heard a thing, no
startled yelp, no sounds of a fight, nothing. Sam
might not be aggressive, but he sure wasn’t
defenseless, not to mention he was taller than most
people. For someone to snatch him that way, jimmy
the lock open and grab him without at least Sam
landing a few punches made Dean’s senses whirl.
Other than the blanket, there was no sign of a

“Missing something?”

Dean spun to the voice, dropping his bag, the cups of
hot chocolate. He recognized that voice at once. It
sent chills through him, what was this guy? Where
was Sam?

Concentrating on keeping panic, desperation off his
face, not trusting his voice yet, Dean set his best
blank glare on the man. The side of beef from the bar
sat casually on a Hog, one leg to the side keeping the
bike upright. Dean purposely cleared any hint of
emotion from his eyes, his expression. He stared at
the man, knowing an answer wasn’t really required,
expected or wanted.

Dean lifted one eyebrow, cocked his head to one
side, folded his arms over his chest and waited.
“Maybe,” Side o’Beef spit tobacco juice out, slipped a
bit more into one cheek, “That sweet faced brother of

Barely able to stay calm, not pull his pistol from the
glove compartment and shatter this guy’s grin with it,
Dean forced himself still.

“Nice boy you have there.”

He was being baited, taunted, and he knew it. Eyes
meeting Side o’Beef’s Dean kept his voice low, even,
measured. “Where is he?” He forced the words past
dry lips.

“He’s not really what I’m looking for. Wanted a

“Try ESPN.”

Side o’Beef snorted a laugh, straightened and started
his bike. Grinning, missing a few teeth, he jerked his
head to one side in a ‘follow along’ motion. “Knew I
pegged you right.” He spun the bike around. In a
spray of dirt it careened onto the road.

Dean was in the Impala in a flash, roaring after the
guy. This wasn’t over a few dollars in a pool game,
he knew that. He wasn’t entirely certain this guy was
completely human, but he ventured a guess he’d
have time to find out. Fingers gripping the steering
wheel until his nails dug into his palms, leaning
forward, Dean never took his eyes off the bike in front
of him.

What the hell had they gotten themselves into?

Chapter 2

The kid was out cold and securely in chains, but still
Carter stood back. He studied the boy on the low
bed. It was bolted to the floor. The kid was in wrist
and ankle chains attached firmly to the bed frame. He
wouldn’t be going anywhere soon, which was Carter’s
intent all along. He hoped they could lose the chains

He could give this kid, if they were both lucky, twenty-
four hours before he was put inside. Curious about
this one Carter studied him, he wasn’t quite like the
others who’d come and gone through here before
him. Military in his actions, the kid fought like a
deranged tiger until he’d been overpowered by six of
Del Villar’s goons. But he wasn’t military. Carter
could tell that by his hair cut, or more exactly the lack
there of. The boy was in shape, all muscle, knew
moves, not just another college athlete. He was too
young to be an undercover cop, too much emotion in
his expression for anything of that sort. Far, far too
young to be in here.

The boy knew moves, that was for certain, defended
himself. Another certainty, he wasn’t a fighter. Not
this kid. This one had been brought here for a
different reason or reasons entirely. It churned rough
in Carter’s stomach. The kid wouldn’t go along, he’d
fight it. Maybe he was smart enough to try and
submit for a while, try to find a way out. That never
worked either, he’d seen others try. There was no
way out that didn’t include a body bag.

Carter stared down at the shaggy hair, long limbs,
lighter build. He had long enough legs Carter bet he
could outrun a freaked out cheetah if he wanted to.
This boy wouldn’t last much beyond one match in the
games, he might know how to fight, but it wasn’t in
him, he wasn’t one of them. Whichever way it
happened, this one was bound to die, and die soon.

As far as Carter was concerned it would be a mercy

Twenty four hours and this innocent looking boy
would one way or another be at the mercy of the
men—animals—that lived here. Fought here. Twenty
four hours if he was lucky.

The kid stirred, groaned something Carter almost
caught, a name maybe, he wasn’t sure. He watched
the kid’s eyes crack open slightly. Wincing away from
the light the kid closed his eyes for a few seconds,
brought one hand up to rub against them. The
heaviness and sound of the chains must have gotten
through to his subconscious. In the next instant the
kid was awake, eyes clearing, taking in the fact he
was here, chained, a prisoner.

In one smooth, fluid motion he was off the low bed,
rolling away from Carter. Probably caught off guard
by how short the chains were, or maybe he wasn’t
really coherent enough yet to process them, the kid
back pedaled away. Reaching the end of the chains,
pulling them taunt, he went down with a harsh grunt.
Yanking his arms toward his chest, the kid tested their
hold, lips curled up to a snarl; stilling after a few
minutes of frantic pulling.

Dark, haunted eyes met his, for a brief instant the
glare that shone out from under those bangs was
vulnerable, lost, alone, desperately needing to trust.
It morphed almost immediately to something hard and
emotionless. He’d been taught to do that, it was plain
as day to Carter. What he’d seen first, that was the
real kid in there, not this shell of a kid who’d learned
to hide his feelings. Carter wondered if there’d been
a reason someone this young was forced to learn
that, or had it been beaten into him by someone?

Carter certainly understood fully the meaning of the
expression ‘if looks could kill.’ This kid’s glare should
have bore him straight into the ground. Vibrant
intelligence sparked right along side the defiance.
With slow, exaggerated movements, aware the boy’s
eyes never wavered from him, saw every move he
made, Carter crossed to the refrigerator along one
wall, pulled out a bottle of water. Setting it carefully
within the kid’s reach, he backed away, settled on the
floor facing the boy.

“Go on, I know you’ve got to be thirsty. Check it out
yourself, the bottle is still sealed.”

The boy’s eyes darted around the room, taking in
every detail Carter was sure. Dark eyes rested for a
few beats on the partially opened door before shifting
to Carter, then the water. Looking up again, pinning
Carter with a cold stare, desperation and need for
someone lurking behind it, visible for only for a
second. Visible only because Carter had too many
years practice looking for hidden emotions.

He was looking for someone, this boy had someone;
someone he was expecting to see, wanting…no
needing to see. This boy wasn’t used to alone, he
didn’t like it, wouldn’t accept it. This kid was lure, bait,
a bargaining chip to provoke someone else, keep
someone else in line. Carter had seen too much of
this, for too long. This kid didn’t belong in here, those
that did were hard and bitter, killers. It was plain to
Carter, used to seeing inside people, this kid wasn’t a
killer, wasn’t hard. He could fight, yes, and would if
he had to, but he wasn’t an arena fighter.

That was part of Del Villar’s game the last few years.
He’d take them in pairs, or small groups. Men who
were friends, cousins, sometimes fathers and sons,
sometimes brothers, it didn’t matter. They all had one
thing in common; they were willing to fight for one
another. Unlike those who lived here, had done so for
a decade or more, these outsiders weren’t savages
dressed as men.

“You were with someone before they took you?
Buddies, parents?”

Nothing, no reaction. The kid avoided looking Carter
in the face, the eye. He couldn’t give anything of
himself away if Carter couldn’t see what the boy felt.

“Cousins, girlfriend, sisters…brothers?”

At the mention of brother the boy’s eyes popped up,
skimmed the room again before dropping to the water
bottle. Bingo. A brother, this kid was in here, and it
was likely his brother was here too, or would be
shortly. Carter was willing to bet the brother was
more aggressive, probably older.

Giving the water bottle a small shove with his foot
before backing away again, “My name’s Carter
Bitner.” He’d leave the rest of the details until later,
right now he simply wanted this boy to drink the
water, then he’d try getting him some food.

Voices, movement outside the door took the boy’s
attention back there. Looking, and hoping for that
someone…brother…to come waltzing through it no
doubt. A brother, it was plain to see, this kid loved
very much, worshiped. A brother who probably loved
him very much. A brother this boy was going to watch
die, eventually beaten to death in the arena.

“What’s his name?”

The kid’s eyes flicked to him, and there it was again,
covered as quickly as it formed. Desperate need to
not be alone, confusion, plain afraid, it all sluiced
through those dark eyes. “Dean.” His voice as soft
and open as his eyes were hard and guarded.
Carter’s heart bled for this boy, for his brother. He’d
not even questioned who Carter was asking about.

“What’s your name?”

Carter was pleased to see the boy’s shoulders relax
by the very tiniest degree as he leaned forward,
grasped the bottle of water and pulled it to him. He
held it, didn’t open it, eyes shifting again to Carter’s,
lost and alone lingered a tad longer this time. One
corner of the kid’s mouth twitched up for an instant,
he looked down at the floor between his feet, for the
briefest time Carter saw a boy with no idea where he
was, or what would happen to him, just a frightened

“Sam.” His voice sounded raw, Carter hoped he’d try
to drink some of the water; it would make him feel
better. Telling him this, however, Carter saw would
be a totally lost cause.

“How old are you Sam?”

“Twenty four.”

Christ this kid wasn’t even half Carter’s age. “How’d
you get here Sam? Where were you?”

Sam looked at the bottle in his hands, picked at the
label a few times before he cracked the seal. “We
were, my brother Dean and I, taking a road trip. I fell
asleep in the car, we needed to stop for gas. That’s
when they grabbed me, Dean must have gone
inside.” Gaze lifting to meet Carter’s the older man
was stunned by what he saw. The sheer faith in that
brother, the need to defend him was over powering.
“He’d locked the door, checked it when he got out, I
remember him doing that.”

Cold shivers rippled down Carter’s spine, chilling
straight through to his heart. That was beyond cruel,
taking someone in their sleep, stealing him from right
under his brother’s nose. He wasn’t sure this boy
didn’t blame himself for what happened. “It wasn’t his
fault.” Carter could say that with conviction and
confidence knowing it was truth.

Sam took a long swig of the water. “I know that, but
he’ll think it is.”

“It wasn’t your fault either.”

The boy studied him for a few seconds, drank more of
the water and fixed his eyes on the floor.

Again voices from outside the room drew his attention
to the door. This time Carter’s attention was drawn
there too. They’d changed, not the people normally
here, in his clinic. Standing slowly, easing the kinks
out of his legs Carter turned to the door in time to see
the huge man standing in the doorway, taking it up
completely. A quick glance back at the kid confirmed
Marlin had been involved in bringing him here, Sam
immediately recognized him. As before the emotions
Sam felt were pushed out of his eyes, as before not
quick enough Carter didn’t see them. Recognition,
shock, more confusion and anger, deep seated anger.

Sam stilled, other than looking from Carter to Marlin
and back again.

Moving into the room with a grace and efficiency
surprising for his bulk, he nodded curtly to Carter,
went to the counter alongside the refrigerator and
retrieved the keys. Sam was yanked roughly to his
feet. Two more followed Marlin, stood on either side
of the opened door.

“Twenty four hours, I always get them for twenty-four
hours.” Carter grabbed the big man’s forearm.

“Plans changed this time doc. Mr. Del Villar wants the
new arrivals in now.” He unlocked the chains holding
Sam to the bed, but not from around his ankles or
wrists. Standing next to him, even though Sam was
taller by quite a few inches he looked small in
comparison to Marlin’s girth. He nodded to the two
men with him. They stepped between Carter and

Marlin jerked mercilessly on the chains holding the
boy. Blood oozed from his cuffs, the kid’s startled
yelp made one of the two guards smirk. Scrambling
to regain his footing Sam glanced back at Carter for a
split second before being dragged out the door.

Carter watched, powerless to do anything, to help this
boy, help the brother this boy watched for, wanted to
come through that door instead of Marlin and his band
of creeps.

It’d be a mercy killing.

No, Carter decided, it was time to end this, time he
did something. This boy, if he survived the next few
hours wasn’t going to go down like the rest had.
Maybe before he died himself, if he could save just
one, he’d be doing something good to make up for all
the bad.

Chapter 3

Dean shifted between watching the miles spin by on
the odometer, and the Hog in front of him. Hands
clenched around the steering wheel, making his
fingers cramp. Back straining from holding so rigid,
muscles already protesting from the tension put on

The miles churned on, ten, twenty. They couldn’t
have had that much of a head start on him, yet Dean
never saw another vehicle. Paved desert road gave
way to packed dirt. Dean had no choice but to follow
this man, even if he didn’t entirely believe he was
being taken to his brother. Right now it was all he
had. He knew he was going south, but had no idea if
he’d crossed into Mexico from Texas or not. The
Impala jarred and bounced, dirt road was back to
paved again.

The Hog slowed, Dean kept pace with it perfectly. He
blinked dry eyes at the sight opening in front of him.
Stopping at a gate, the area was fenced in
completely. Dean felt as if he was driving into Area
51, only with more security. An airfield sprawled
along one end of the inside perimeter, they drove on
through. There was a hangar to the right, two strips
to the left, next to them some smaller sheds. Beyond
that was a large house with a pool. It was segregated
off from the rest by more fencing, barbed wire and
armed guards. After that a long building, two stories
stretched out in an ‘L’ shape. Watch towers dotted
the points of the ‘L’. At the corner point of the ‘L’
were three low, metal boxes approximately four or five
feet long, three feet high, doors standing
open…sweat boxes was what came to Dean’s mind.
The whole scene brought forth thoughts of prison.

This wasn’t a prison, not in the traditional way; Dean
saw that, sensed it immediately. Hot, bitterness rose
up his throat, swam under his tongue. Sam, was in
here? The thought sent chills racing through Dean,
made his breath catch in his ribcage. Sam was in
here alone, maybe hurt? Dean couldn’t help going
back to leaving Sam sleeping in the car, it was his
fault Sam was here. His fault Sam was gone.

Mr. Side o’Beef waved him to an area near one of the
watch towers, motioned him to stay put, parked his
Hog beside the Impala. Every nerve Dean owned
screamed to move, get out, fight, beat the crap out of
anyone standing between him and Sam. He’d do it
too; problem was he wasn’t sure where in this place
Sam was, or if he was even here.
Despite his wanting to make the man suffer for taking
Sam, Dean sat, tense and rigid in the car, still and
unmoving, non-threatening. Finally Side o’Beef
sauntered up, rapped on his window with rough, split
knuckles and waved Dean out. Stepping free of the
car, shoving the door closed behind him Dean met the
man’s eyes steadily, unwavering. If he were afraid,
this man, no one, would ever know. Dean Winchester
had stared into the face of far more menacing things
and not flinched.

The man motioned with two fingers for Dean to turn
around. Dean stared him down. “Where’s my

“You’ll see him soon enough. The more you
cooperate the faster you get your wish.” The man
was shorter than Dean, but far wider. Round, shaved
head reflected the lights from the watch towers.

“I goddamn better see him alive and unharmed.”
Dean let the harshness, sheer hate he felt for this
man out in his voice.

Stepping back a pace, the guy stared at him, “That’s
entirely up to you, how he is and how he stays. Now
turn around.”

Dean swiveled around on the balls of his feet, eyes
trained over his shoulder at his—Sam’s—capture.
His arms were jerked behind him, wrists cinched
together with a rough yank. Dean’s lips curled, he let
the harsh snarl loose from his throat.

Fingers threaded through Dean’s restraints, the man
shoved him forward. They walked a brisk pace to the
‘L’ shaped building. “Here’s the deal.
Everything…EV—ERY—THING… about that little
brother of yours depends on you. And I do mean
everything. You play the game, he’s safe. You play
the game, he’s fed, given water, shelter, doesn’t get
quality time in there,” he pointed at the metal boxes.
“You play the game and he’s,” Side o’Beef leaned in,
breathing hot in Dean’s ear, “Left alone.” The last two
words hissed from between the man’s teeth, sharp
and daring Dean to challenge him, to ask for their
meaning. Dean knew the meaning, knew the
implications that hung between himself and this man.

Dean forced his breathing to be calm, even,
measured. Forced the ice spears churning in his
middle to quiet.

They stopped at a steel door. The man hit a button,
waited for the responding buzzer. Dean was shoved
through a second later, spun around, and slammed
forcefully into the wall. Side o’Beef’s face shoved a
hair breadth from his. Dean’s eyes blazed, meeting
his captor’s without so much as a blink. This ass
thought he was tough? Let him face down a demon,
then he could come talk to Dean about tough.
“Name’s Marlin. We can play this a few ways. I can
either be your best friend, make sure that sweet faced
kid brother of yours is left safe and sound with you.
Or I can be your worst nightmare. It’s up to you pal.”

Dean’s eyes never once wavered from Marlin’s.
Dean had already faced his worst nightmare and
come out on the other side whole, with Sam. He
nodded a fraction. Marlin obviously thought he was
much worse. Maybe someday soon Dean might
explain it to him.

“What do I have to do?”

Marlin cracked his semi-toothed grin, “I knew I had
you pegged right, both of you. You’ll do whatever you
need to for that little brother of yours.”

There was no question, not even an allegation of one,
so Dean simply stood staring back at Marlin.

“What’s your name?”


“And the boy’s?”

Dean glared at him. These people could do what they
wanted to him, but they were going to leave Sam
Marlin shoved roughly against Dean’s shoulder.
“You’re not playing by the rules. I ask, you answer.
I’ll let that one slide, ‘cause I’m that sort of nice guy.
Now, let’s try again. His name?”


“Was that so hard?”

Dean was pulled away from the wall, walked with
Marlin down a long, narrow corridor. Escorted into a
small room, Marlin pointed to a single chair, the only
thing in it. “Sit. Stay put until I come back.”

The door was shut with a clank, and a very definite
turn of a lock. He had no idea how long he sat there,
unmoving. They’d taken nothing from him, his watch
still rested on his arm, but with his hands behind his
back he couldn’t see the face, see the time. Dean
counted. He reasoned it was nearly three hours he’d
sat there when Marlin returned.

This time he was escorted by Marlin and two others.
They climbed a flight of metal, open steps, down
another long corridor so narrow Dean walked ahead,
his arm held by Marlin’s outstretched hand. They
stepped into what looked like some kind of
observation room. It had a slanted glass front wall.
Three rows of seats, with cup holders, sat in two
sections side by side. A large bell hung in one corner.
Leaving the other two men in the corridor, Marlin and
Dean stepped into the room.

Again the clank of steel door on steel frame, the
sound of a lock turning.

He was taken to the window. “Not offering me a

Marlin ignored him. Reached out and rang the bell

Lights mounted below them snapped on, forming a
circle. There was a similar observation room directly
opposite, a half dozen men seated in there, drinks in
their cup holders. One story below was what Dean
could only describe as an old style arena. There were
no ropes, no mats, no nothing but a large open space
maybe twenty foot square. Encircling the arena were
caged areas containing six or eight men each, their
shouts were nerve wracking. The clamor reverberated
around the empty area in the center.

“Where’s Sam?”

Marlin’s hand came up, grasped the back of Dean’s
neck, moving him forward to the glass. Lips just
almost touching Dean’s ear he breathed out a short
laugh. “He’ll come through that door in just a minute.”
Dean’s stomach knotted, his knees felt weak. Sam
was in there with those savages. His head spun,
intestines lurched when the complete insinuations
finally lighted long enough in his brain he couldn’t
deny them any longer. He had no control over the
trickle of sweat oozing along his spine.

Three men, three of the largest men Dean had ever
seen entered the arena below from a door which must
have been directly under the room. A door on the
opposite from Dean’s vantage point opened. Dean’s
heart rate quadrupled, his pulse hammered loud and
violent in his ears. He immediately locked his knees
to keep from crumpling to the floor.

Shoved through the door, in chains, was Sam. He
jerked around when the door slammed shut.
Someone stepped up to him, removed the chains.
Even from here Dean saw the red, raw skin around
Sam’s wrists. Turning back to face the middle of the
arena, Sam’s eyes skittered around, Dean knew he
was taking in every detail. There was no reaction
when his gaze skimmed in Dean’s direction, other
than to squint a bit. He couldn’t see above the first
level, the spot lights were too bright Dean realized.

The man who’d removed Sam’s restraints said
something to him, causing Sam to stare at him, then
the other three men. Dean saw him swallow
convulsively, nod, fists flexing and tensing.
The shouts from the caged
men…spectators…intensified. Sam’s eyes fixed on
the other three, everyone else retreated to the sides
of the arena. Sam would defend himself; he’d fight
only as much as it took to get away. He wasn’t an
aggressor. He’d try to avoid them Dean knew. Sam
wasn’t a fighter, not the kind they wanted at any rate.

Dean watched his brother, standing there, coiled and
ready, but refusing to make the first move. No one
else would see it, what was going on in Sam’s head,
but to Dean it was like watching a big screen movie.
Sam wasn’t the scare easy type of kid, not at all. At
least not when it came to things they hunted, things
that haunted. Nope, Sam wasn’t scared at all, being
here, whatever here was, surrounded by a totally
different type of evil. Not at all. Sam was freaking
terrified. He could see it in Sam’s eyes even from this
distance, way up here. These others, they’d see a tall
slab of muscled up kid, maybe as much challenge as
target. But they didn’t know Sam like Dean did. For
that Dean was grateful, Sam hid his emotions well
enough from his opponents, standing there staring at
them mildly.

Sam would never go after them, be aggressive, be a
killer. It wasn’t in his nature to fight, not like this.
From the time Dean was small, and Sam smaller,
Dean made sure his brother didn’t have to. Dean had
no one but himself to blame. It was his fault Sam
wasn’t prepared for this.
Marlin rang the bell once. The men advanced on
Sam, he took the first one down at once with a solid
punch. One of the others had Sam in a choke hold,
driving him to his knees in seconds then shoving Sam
away hard. Sam got the third man by the wrist, spun
him around, pushing him at the others, away from

“He might last this round, maybe one or two more, I’ll
give him that.” Marlin’s voice was right up against
Dean’s ear again. “You taught him good.”

“What do you want? Whatever you want, just get him
out of there.”

“Now that’s the attitude I like.” Marlin turned Dean’s
head away from the scene below to face him. He
leaned his free hand against the glass wall. “Here’s
the deal, you do what you’re told. I need a fighter, a
real hardcore, mean ass fighter. You win when you’re
told to win; you throw when you’re told to throw. You
make them,” Marlin turned Dean’s head to the group
of men seated in the other observation room, laughing
among themselves, “Mr. Del Villar and his guests
happy, do what they want. Make them money; you
get him, your brother. He’s left with you, no one
bothers him, bothers you. You screw up, he suffers.
He suffers big.”
Dean’s nostrils flared as he jerked in an almost painful
breath. “Get him out.” He snarled.

Marlin’s face split in a grin. Letting go of Dean he
rang the bell twice. The three men in the arena with
Sam backed away. Sam stood there, looking
confused, panting in deep breaths.

Taking Dean’s arm again, Marlin escorted him from
the observation room, down the corridor, down the
steps. The noise from the confined men lining the
arena was deafening now that Dean was down
among them. Dean waited just inside a door while
Marlin cut him free of his bindings. One final glare
into Marlin’s eyes and Dean turned, walked through
the door into the arena.

He caught a glimpse of Sam being hauled out, heard
his shouted, “DEAN!” Saw him double over when he
was sucker punched in the ribs.

Ignore it, ignore it all, Dean had to focus on his
opponents, his task at hand. Swiveling on the balls of
his feet when he reached the middle of the arena
Dean turned, faced the three men.

Chapter 4
Dean Winchester was a good parent, an exceptional
one. He’d been one of those blessed few individuals
who instinctually knew how to raise a child, even as a
child himself. He’d learned and practiced, honed his
skills as he’d done with hunting. But the fact
remained he’d have been an excellent parent no
matter what the situation, no matter the age thrusted
onto him. He knew Sam’s every nuance without even
looking at him, Dean wasn’t even completely awake
and he’d tuned into his young brother. Relief flooded
over him, through him, feeling Sam’s presence.

So it was plain to him when he woke up…came
to…Sam sat beside him, hip pressed against Dean’s
side. Dean even knew, without looking, exactly how
the kid was sitting, knees pulled to chest, arms
wrapped around his legs, glaring at something
beyond Dean, shivering slightly and not because he
was cold. As he drifted more toward consciousness
Dean realized he used Sam’s flannel for a pillow and
Sam’s jacket was draped across his shoulders.

Other sensations beyond Sam, knowing Sam was
there and alive filtered into Dean’s brain. He ached.
From the bruises across his chest and back, from the
hard, cold cement he slumped over, from the black
eye he was sure he had. He ached. Cracking one
eye—the one going to sport a shiner soon—open,
Dean groaned, lifted one arm, dropped it over his
face, finger tips brushing Sam’s arm.
Sam shifted beside him. Dean knew Sam was
watching him like a hawk. He knew the expression
Sam wore, heard the soft, sharp intake of his
brother’s breath when Dean winced from the

“They hurt you Sammy?” Dean’s throat was scratchy
and raw, splinters of pain caught and pulled as he
tried swallowing. He felt the quick shake of Sam’s
head reverberate through them both. Tapping Sam’s
arm lightly, Dean held up his free hand, in the next
instant was pulling himself up against Sam’s grip. He
almost stopped the groan from getting past his lips.
Arms resting across his knees, Dean took a few deep
breaths, tried not imagining what Sam’s expression
meant he must look like. The kid’s eyes never left
him. Inhaling and blowing puffs of air out his mouth,
he straightened briefly before leaning on his knees
again. “Look at me and tell me they didn’t hurt you.”

Sam watched him patiently, the meaning of Dean’s
words filtering into his eyes. “No, they didn’t. A few
punches, that’s it. Good thing you got here to save
me and all.”

Rubbing Sam’s shoulder for a few seconds with the
back of his hand, Dean felt Sam immediately relax.
“Yeah, boring night, nothing else to do.” Stretching
around Sam, Dean took a better look at their
surroundings. The room had a chilling resemblance
to a prison cell. There was nothing other than them,
the framework for two cots, a sink and toilet in a
cement ten by ten room.

Yeah, this day was looking better and better.

Gingerly rolling his shoulders, that not being so bad,
he moved on to pushing his arms back and forth.
Those movements progressed to twisting his torso
side to side, making him groan and cough a bit. He’d
taken a few good hits to his ribs, but there didn’t
appear to be anything broken, just bruised and

Using Sam as a brace Dean pushed sluggishly to his
feet, flexing and bending his legs on the way up.
Sam’s hand stayed under Dean’s elbow, steadying
him until he straightened completely, exceeding
Sam’s reach. Sam sat, looking up at him, his face a
mixture of expectation and anger. Dean had been the
one getting beat on and Sam looked horrible, he
wondered what was wrong with that scenario.
Suspicions bubbled through him, threatening to erupt
out of his mouth if he wasn’t careful, that more
happened to Sam since Dean last saw him than the
kid might ever let on.

Moving around the room for distraction as much as to
loosen his stiff, achy muscles Dean ventured a glance
to what lay beyond the barred door. A long corridor
stretched for several hundred yards on either side of
their ‘room’ both sides lined with more cells, a few
dozen on each side Dean reasoned. Some were
empty, some weren’t, mostly the doors stood open.

Grasping the bars Dean gave a gentle shake.
Locked. His moving about drew attention from the
other ‘inmates’ in the corridor, other cells. One man
cracked a toothy grin at Dean, pointed past him to
Sam and made lewd gestures. Dean started to flip
him off, thought better of it and turned around, back to
the bars.

“Did you see any-”

“Why the hell did you do it?” Sam cut him off, voice
deep and harsh, nostrils flaring, breathing hard. He
stayed rooted to the floor, tremors jerking across his
shoulders, arms.

“Why did I do what? Sammy…what the hell? You
think this is my fault?” That hurt. It wounded more
than any hit Dean had taken earlier in the fight. Sam
blamed him for this? Blamed Dean for leaving him in
the car, alone? Dean’s head swam, the nausea he’d
felt earlier returned with a vengeance, slamming
through him. Sam blamed him!

In a blur of motion Sam was off the floor, in front of
him, right up in his face. Out of sheer reflex Dean
shoved against his brother’s shoulder, moving him
away from the bars.
Sam shoved back, Dean stumbled a few steps to
regain his footing.

“Why’d you do it?!”

That just pissed Dean off, it wasn’t like he’d done
anything on purpose, or even something he’d not ever
done before, leaving Sam sleeping in the locked car.
Feeling the last vestiges of Sam’s seemingly never
ending hero-worship of him suddenly slipping away,
leaving Dean empty, his temper flared in a way it
rarely did. Hitting Sam’s shoulders hard enough to
not only move him away, but force him to the farthest
corner of the cell.

“It’s not like I haven’t left you for five minutes in the
car asleep before. Christ, Sam, how the hell could I
know? You think I’d do that if I had even a clue? You
think that hasn’t been eating me up?”

Sam stilled, blinked at him, jaw dropped, shook his
head a fraction. Whatever retort he might have had
obviously vanished from his head. “You think…” His
words stumbled, expression changed at once, the
anger dropping away. “Dean, none of this is your
fault. I never considered thinking that.” The sincerity
in Sam’s voice eased the hot knot in Dean’s middle.

“Then what are you pissed at me for?”
Fury snapped back to Sam’s face, though not as
intense. Dean watched his brother struggle to
maintain control, quell the emotions simmering just
under the surface. Sam’s eyes darted between Dean
and the activity in the corridor beyond the locked
door. Completely freaked, Sam wasn’t thinking things
through, being totally rational. Dean saw it plain and

“Why’d you do it? Go in there? I don’t need you
fighting battles for me…why’d you let them beat the
crap out of you?” Sam’s words rushed out between
harsh, ragged pants. Fists clenched, eyes wide and
moist, he jittered from the strain of keeping control.

“They didn’t exactly give me a lot of choice Sam. It
was fight or else. And I didn’t let anyone beat the
crap out of me.”

“I saw…” Sam’s eyes again flicked to some point
behind Dean, he swallowed. “I saw them Dean, there
were three of them, and I saw…” Again Sam’s eyes
were pulled from Dean to the corridor.

Dean glanced over his shoulder, but no one was

“It’s not like I can’t hold my own in a fight.” Sam
stammered out the last words.
“Sam, they told me go in there and fight or they’d
make you suffer, kill you. They grabbed you, us both,
on purpose, for some game. It was a fist fight, that’s
it. Hell, I’ve had worse—“ He stopped when Sam’s
attention again swung to somewhere outside their
cell, another convulsive swallow. This time Dean
turned fully, went to the door, looked up and down the
corridor. Several men were there, in groups of twos
or threes, watching without actually watching them.
Turning back to Sam, moving around so he kept the
corridor in his peripheral vision, keeping his voice low,
“I’ve had worse in bar fights, hell they didn’t even
have a chair to crack over my head.”

“I saw three of them descend on you! I didn’t even
know if they’d killed you till they brought you here.”
Sam was shouting, upper lip bouncing into a snarl.

Taking a few steps forward, closing the distance
between them, Dean laid a hand on each of Sam’s
shoulders. “How much did you see?”

“Enough.” Sam growled out, his shoulders were
tense as a bow ready to snap. He blinked in rapid
succession for a few seconds.

Dean tightened his grip. “Sam. I won.”

Jerking back, shaking, pulling a few deep breaths,
Sam stared at him. “You wa—“
Dean gazed back placidly. “I won Sammy.”

“But,” Eyes again flipped to the corridor, then back to
Dean, a few more jerky breaths before Sam’s
breathing settled to something closer to normal. “B-
but I saw…they carried you in here, unconscious.”

Pulling one hand away from Sam to rub at the back of
his neck, Dean gave him a lopsided half a smile.
“About that. They told me as long as I played along,
fought, you’d be safe, and we’d stay together. The
guy from the bar, Marlin, threatened all sorts of things
Sam if I didn’t, and I believed him. They wanted me
to fight, but those guys would have killed you. So I
did. When it was over I was taken out the same door
you were. And you were nowhere to be seen, and I
got,” he shrugged a bit, “Annoyed. Ended up getting
knocked out.”

“I saw them, those men, all over you. I didn’t know
anything. I thought they’d beaten you to death.”

“I don’t think that’s in the plan. There were no

Sam glared at the floor, a brief glance out the door
before his gaze dropped again. “What is this?”

“I don’t know Sam.” Dean’s fingers tightened around
his brother’s neck, he gave a gentle shake, squeezed
until Sam’s eyes, round and worried, met his. “But,
Sammy, we play along, follow the rules until we figure
a way out. Agreed?”

The glare Sam leveled at him made Dean tense.
“You’re just going to get beat up.” Sam’s words
hissed between clenched teeth.

“If that’s what I have to do until we get out, yeah, I am.
Cause right now I don’t know what else to do, and we
need to find a way out. If that’s what it takes to be
sure we both get out in one piece and alive, yeah I
will. And you’re going to goddamn shut up about it.”

Sam was angry, and Dean was happy he couldn’t
shoot fire from his eyes or Dean would be barbeque
about now. Sam could be as angry as he wanted,
Dean didn’t give a shit just then. At least angry meant

“But first, we’re gonna need to find a way past that
locked door.” Dean grumbled.

Fishing in his jeans pockets, Sam pulled out his lock
picks, holding them up. Offering Dean a shrug, one
corner of his mouth curling up for an instant, “I locked
us in.”

It was Dean’s turn to be stunned. For the first time
since he and Sam had gone into that bar Dean
cracked a true grin. “Good job!” Taking a few deep
breaths. “All right, we do this like we do anything
else. Collect our information, and we’ll need supplies,
food, water,” waving one hand half heartedly at the
cement floor, “Maybe a pillow or two.” Holding one
hand up, palm out, Dean caught the lock picks tossed
at him out of the air.

Checking the corridor, no one had moved around
much, Dean threaded one arm through the bars, a
few deft turns and their door popped open. He tossed
the picks back to Sam. He wanted Sam to be able to
lock himself in the cell if they were separated again.
The look Sam gave him, picks dangling off his fingers
told Dean he didn’t agree. Inhaling deeply just to
keep from slapping that look right off his brother’s
face Dean met Sam’s stare. “Sam, I can’t fight them
and you. Please. We need to be together on this.”

Eyes moving to the floor again, Sam immediately
relented. “Sorry. I guess fighting each other gets us
nowhere. I didn’t mean…it’s…this is…”

“Don’t worry about it.” Dean’s words skittered to a
stop when the color drained from Sam’s face, his
eyes slipped from Dean, to behind Dean then back
again. Turning Dean was barely able to conceal his
surprise and keep from taking a step back.

“Come with me.” Marlin filled the small doorway.

Dean stared him down, careful to keep any emotion
from his eyes, his voice. “Why?” He heard, was
acutely aware of Sam moving up behind him. Of how
the kid’s breath quickened ever so slightly.

At once on the alert Dean wondered what transpired
between Sam and Marlin between their stop at the
bar and now. Marlin had said, done something to
drive a spike of fear through his brother, Dean felt it
radiate off Sam to flow along his shoulder blades,
down his back. Dropping his arms so they hung
loosely at his sides, Dean took one step sideways
putting himself between Marlin and Sam, feet planted

“Ya did good, wasn’t so difficult now was it?” Marlin
folded both arms over his barrel chest, talked to
Dean, but let his stone cold gaze settle on Sam.

Dean suppressed the ripple wanting to course down
his back, spread to his extremities.

“Let’s take the tour.”

A quick glance back to be sure Sam was with him,
Dean nodded.

Marlin’s arm shot out, hand reaching for Sam’s cheek.
“He stays.”

Simultaneously Sam’s head jerked back, a harsh
sound grumbled from his throat. Dean’s forearm
came up, colliding forcefully with Marlin’s angling the
man’s hand down and back. Sam stood stock still
behind him. Dean felt the slight shift in Sam’s stance,
felt him tense up. What threats Marlin levied against
Sam he was unsure, but he had a good idea.

“I won. He goes with me.” Dean’s voice even, his
gaze never wavered from Marlin’s.

“Suit yourself.” Marlin said with a shrug.

Another brief glance back at Sam, Dean nudged his
side to draw his attention away from Marlin. Dean
gave his brother a look that read, stick close. The
look Sam offered back was a more than plain, no shit.

Once out in the corridor Dean got a full blast of the
horror of the situation they were in. Surrounded by
guys who looked like hardened criminals would shy
away from and call them bad company, he and Sam
were stuck in the worst survival scenario he could
ever imagine. As they moved along, eyes followed
them, eyes of men who when they looked Dean up
and down made his skin crawl. Guys who when they
sized up Sam, eyed him up and down made Dean
shiver, his skin crawl, had him honestly considering
killing anyone who came within five feet of his kid

“Ya got a day before the next fight. That’s how it
works.” Marlin said over his shoulder. “You want to
eat, have water, you go there.” He pointed to a small
area off the main corridor. “You want to work out, go
there.” This time he pointed to what looked like a
prison turn out yard, though the door to it stood open.
“Only you.”

When Sam started to say something, Marlin stopped
so fast Dean nearly collided with him. He whirled on
them, glared behind Dean to Sam. Dean looked
between the two. Sam clamped his mouth shut, lips a
thin, angry line. Dean turned back to Marlin, stared
with cold eyes at the man. Marlin simply shrugged,
again focusing over Dean’s shoulder to Sam, gave
them a smirk before swiveling around and striding
along the corridor once again. Sam was close
enough, Dean felt the muscles of his forearms bunch
and twitch.

Dean felt Sam’s eyes pierce the back of his head,
“You said a fight.” Sam spat in his ear. Dean dared a
quick turn of his head to meet Sam’s gaze, arched
one eyebrow and shrugged. Sam wasn’t getting it,
Dean had been clear in his explanation, but Sam
heard what he’d wanted to hear. He apparently
hadn’t wanted to hear about any more fights.

They rounded a corner, into a much narrower hall,
this one merely a passageway to some other part of
the complex. The walls were close enough Dean’s
shoulders brushed them if he leaned to one side or
the other. There were no rooms, or doors along the
length. Footsteps stalked behind them, coming
closer, no attempt at quiet. At the instant the
footsteps echoed right up behind them, Dean felt Sam
stiffen, jerk to one side, growling no real words.
Spinning around in time to see a hand grab at Sam’s
hair, his brother’s reaction was fast and intense.
Hitting both hands solidly against the man’s chest,
forcing him back a few steps, Sam surged forward,
arm cranked back to strike. The stranger’s fist
dodged under Sam’s arm, slamming into his mid-
section, stopping him. Sam bent nearly in half,
staggered back, gasping to pull the air back into his

Using the fact Sam was shoved back against him as
leverage, Dean grabbed Sam’s arm as he swung his
punch, pulled him back, and propelled him into the
wall. Dean wheeled around in front of his brother,
everything about him projected one sentiment…Mine!
“NO!” Dean snapped, harsh and low, holding out one
finger, daring this asshole to try something.

Ducking the punch aimed at his face, moving Sam
with him, Dean wasn’t quite fast enough. The man’s
knuckles grazed the side of his head, just over his left
ear. Black haze clouded in from the sides of his
vision, his ears rung, and the narrow hall tilted
sickeningly for a few seconds. Thrown off balance
Dean would have fallen, but for the fact he and Sam
were both jammed into the same small space. Sam’s
hands under his elbows steadied him. He felt Sam’s
heart hammering against his back, mingling with his
own wildly thumping pulse.

The guy glared at Dean. Dean glared back. Taking a
few deep breaths, keeping Sam securely sandwiched
between the wall and himself, he repeated, “No.” This
time his voice was harsh and just above a whisper,
nothing but pure threat.

“My mistake mate.” The guy backed up a step, but
not before throwing them both a cocky smile.

Marlin had stood, a few feet up the hall, watching in
silence. His gaze shifted from the man, to the
brothers. He turned on his heels, silently continuing
down the hall.

Grabbing Sam’s shoulders, Dean spun him around,
shoved him ahead, pressing the knuckles of one hand
into Sam’s back as they went. Ignoring Sam’s
protested, “Hey, Dean.”

“You know, when we were kids and I took you to the
zoo, I distinctly remember telling you NOT to poke the
bears.” Dean’s voice rose with each word until he
barked the last few in Sam’s ear.

Dean had never been so happy to walk into what
appeared to be a medical clinic in his life. The door
clanked shut behind him, the sound of a lock turning.
For the minute at least Dean might be able to take an
easy breath.

Chapter 5

Watching silently as the two young men were brought
into his clinic, the door locking behind them, Carter
turned his attention to Marlin. “You need something?”


“I can take it from here. I’ll call you if I need you.”
Observing the two during his exchange with Marlin,
Carter immediately decided the newest arrival was
the older brother. He wondered for a few seconds if
there might be others brought in with them, another
brother, or friend perhaps. Then decided no, it was
just the two of them. The looks passing between the
young men let Carter know they relied on no one but
each other.

The younger one, Carter searched his mind for the
boy’s name—Sam—the younger one was Sam.
Remembering he’d asked the brother’s name, it
thundered into his memory, Dean.
Dean, no one had to teach that kid to hide his
feelings. When Carter turned a mild gaze on him, he
was met with a cold, unyielding expression. No hint
of what truly lay beneath as Carter saw with Sam.
This one was born with the ability. Carter was willing
to bet it was he who’d taught his younger brother to
hide what he thought, how he felt, when needed. He
wondered again, what led to their even needing to be
this way. This new one, Dean, was probably not very
much older than Sam, a few years, five or six at most
Carter decided. The man seemed older than his
actual years, gave off an air of exactly what Carter
couldn’t finger just yet.

“You got a day.” Marlin turned his attention back to
Dean. Crossing the room to the door, Marlin settled a
nasty gaze on Sam for a few seconds. The older
brother moved just far enough to put himself between
them, meeting Marlin’s cold stare with an equally cold
one of his own.

Carter nearly sucked in a breath, and let his jaw drop
in surprise when Marlin backed down from this
newcomer, actually letting his eyes wander the room,
took a step back. It struck Carter, Marlin, maybe all of
them, might very well have met their match. These
two actually had a chance of surviving long enough to
get out.

In seconds Marlin recovered, pausing at the door,
eyes sweeping across the three of them. Carter had
seen this so many times he was long past being
intimidated by the man. “You know how to find me if
you need me.” Marlin bit out, hit the door once. It
was unlocked and opened. He stepped through,
leaving the door unlocked. All the while Dean’s eyes
followed him.

Turning just enough to look his brother full in the face,
Dean’s expression changed in a barely perceivable
way. Carter watched something again pass between
the two as they exchanged a look. Whatever sort of
life they had, one thing was clear, these two were
used to, comfortable with, the idea they had no one to
depend on but each other. Carter sensed it had
always been that way, would always be that way, and
that was the way they wanted it. He wondered again
what brought this about in them, what sort of life they
really did have. They had more than regular bonds
for brothers.

Dean’s attention moved back to Carter, giving him a
good view of the calm, calculating gaze from green,
steel eyes meeting his. Carter resisted the urge to
leave the room. Instead he pulled a bottle of pain
killers off the shelf, tossed it to the older of the two.
Dean caught it out of the air, glanced at it before
meeting Carter’s eyes again.

“I have stronger.” He didn’t expect the offer to be
“No, this is fine.” Dean’s expression softened a
fraction. Carter found himself taking in a deeper than
normal breath in relief.

“There’s water in the refrigerator.” He pointed the
direction with his chin.

Dean glanced in the direction Carter indicated, but not
before he shot another look at his brother. “Thanks.”
A few long strides brought him to the bottled water.

The fact he took two, handing one to Sam first didn’t
get by Carter. Sam took the offered bottle, small
smile that disappeared a second later. He leaned
against the counter, silently watching his brother. The
kid was more relaxed, less wary than he’d been when
first brought to Carter. The reason was crystal clear,
his older brother was safe, at least for the moment,
and more importantly they were together. What these
two had between them was a formidable weapon, and
more than what most had coming in here. Carter
wondered if anyone could break them as long as one
had the other.

“Let me see those.” Carter motioned to Sam’s wrists.
“Last thing you want is an infection.”

“You a doctor?” Dean’s words were clipped and hard.

“Yes.” Carter was sure to keep his own tone neutral.
Nodding, Dean cracked open the water, tossed two of
the pills and water down his throat. He leaned back
against the wall, watching with what appeared a
casual expression while Carter cleaned Sam’s wrists,
then gave him a tube of ointment to apply.

“It’s an antibiotic, bit of steroid in it, will take the sting
away. They should heal up ok.”

Sam nodded, “Thanks.” He rubbed some of the
cream on, stuffed the tube into his pocket.

Carter focused again on Dean, sighed. This nut was
going to be much more difficult to crack, but he could
see he’d made serious headway addressing Sam’s
abused wrists, though it was Dean who really needed
the attention. He saw the older brother’s shoulders
relax to something closer to normal, a bit of the
tension left his stance.

Moving to the door, he shoved it closed with his foot,
putting himself in an authoritative frame of mind. He
might well be a good bit shorter then either of these
two, barely skimming six foot, lighter and far older, but
he could be just as tough. The most prevalent
thought he had just then was thank god he’d never
needed glasses; it was difficult to keep the tough
façade he needed around some of the men here
without that attraction.
“Name is Carter Bitner, I’m the doctor here. Marcos
Del Villar. He owns this place, everything and
everyone in it. He’s responsible for you both being
here.” Carter began. “Del Villar’s got all sorts of
connections. Most the men here were transferred,”
his fingers scored the air with quote marks. “From
prisons, some came from other places. The majority
are real nut cases, I’ve lost count of the types of
psychosis I’ve seen here over the years. They hurt
just for the joy of it. There is nothing taboo here,
nothing. You’ll get a day or two between each fight.
There’s food, water, general supplies in the main
community area, next to the workout area. Don’t
expect it to be easy to get anything. The better you
do in the arena, the more you’ll get without having to
fight for it.”

Dean nodded once, “We got the tour.”

“How did you get here?” Sam asked.

“I was a doctor, surgeon. Got cocky, thought I could
do anything, knew everything. A girl died, it was my
fault, and I ended up going to prison for it. I never
made it, I landed here instead. That was fifteen years

“How do we get out?” Dean asked.

Drawing in a deep breath Carter faced him off
squarely. “You die.”

“We’re not dying Sammy, not here, not either of us.”
Dean glanced back over his shoulder. He’d changed
from his jeans and shirt to nothing but a pair of black
sweat pants once they’d reached the prep area
outside the arena. The doors were open, the fighting
arena in full view.

“This is nuts, you can’t fight them, not alone. Let me
go in there with you.”

Dean stopped, turned to face Sam fully. “Even if they
would go along, no way, I wouldn’t.”


“We’ll work on a plan later.” Dean nodded in the
direction of the few men milling around. Sam
understood. They needed to be careful, not let
anyone hear, trust no one but each other.

“There was a computer in the clinic.”
“Yeah, I saw that too.” Dean bounced on his toes,
stretched a bit.

Sam glanced at the arena, “Dean.” A fight between
some of the spectators in the cages ringing the arena
broke out, drawing both their attention that way.

Winding his fingers around Sam’s neck, squeezing
gently Dean smiled, tried to be encouraging. “It’s a
fist fight Sammy, how bad can it hurt? I don’t like this
either, but until we can find a way out, we have to play
along. I’m not risking what could happen if we—I,

“What could happen, what did they tell you?”

“Mr. Personality, Marlin, was pretty specific on what
could happen to you if I didn’t do what was required.
So, Sam, you and me both, we’re gonna suck it up
and do this.”

“I don’t need you fighting battles for me, how many
times do we have to do this?” Sam’s voice dropped,
thickened, anger flooded his face, eyes.

“No Sam.” Giving Sam a gentle shake, “No. Don’t
look all bitchy on me. After I get my ass kicked and
handed back to me someone has to get me out, that
someone would be you. Find us a way out of this hell
hole Sammy, and I’ll occupy their attention. Hopefully
get us some freedom. Sam we need to be together
on this, stick together, on everything.”

Before Sam could offer more arguments…because
heaven knew the kid could argue something all
day…Dean walked to the entrance of the arena,
before going in he turned, glanced back at his brother.
Sam stood, looking some mix of pissed off and lost,
watching Dean walk away. One brief nod, Dean
winked, flashed his brother a quick smile and a
thumbs up. Returning his nod, Sam gave him half a
smile and a soulful expression. As he went in he
caught a glimpse of Sam moving to a bench where
he’d be able to watch and stay in the prep area and
away from the main population.

The noise from the men in the surrounding cages, the
spectators, was as before deafening. Dean ignored it,
closing his mind to everything other than the man he
faced. He’d been given no instructions, no win or
lose. Dean would hang upside down from the rafters
and imitate a punching bag if they wanted him to, as
long as Sam was left alone, safe. Unless he was told
otherwise, he’d fight to win.

Sweat trickled down his back, across his shoulder
blades, as he moved in, muscles taut and ready.
Dean usually had the same advantage Sam did,
though not to the same extent, taller, with a longer
reach than most his opponents. Combined with speed
and well honed skills, Dean’s greatest advantage was
his ability to convince himself he wouldn’t lose, no
matter what. This opponent wasn’t unusual, other
than he probably out weighed Dean by a good fifty

Wasting no time circling or challenging, Dean moved
in fast. He wanted to get this done, preferably with a
minimal amount of pounding on him. He’d been in
plenty of bar room brawls, this was no different really.
Moving in quick, a few punches to the guy’s gut in
rapid succession, Dean had him spun around, arm
cranked behind his back, Dean shoved up with all he

“Heh, like it rough do you? How’s that little boy of
yours like it, that way too?” The guy snarled out, then
sucked in a breath, gulping a pained noise back into
his throat when Dean cranked again on his wrist and

“You’re real funny.” Dean snapped in his ear.
Bringing his knee up, he drove it into the back of the
guy’s knee, dropping him to the ground, stepping
back half a foot. The noise from the surrounding
cages escalated, if that was even possible.
Something flashed higher up along the wall, for a split
second his attention was drawn there.

Pulling his arm back, going for a well placed punch
that would hopefully knock his opponent out, he
caught sight of Sam being shoved into one of the
cages. Grabbed, and forced to his knees near the
cross bars, Sam elbowed his captor in the shins. The
man’s hand came down and slammed the side of
Sam’s head, forcing him still. Fingers grabbed Sam’s
hair, forcing him to watch the arena.

The man in his grip used those few seconds of
distraction to twist around far enough and kick Dean’s
legs out from under him. Hitting the ground with
enough pain and force to leave him breathless for a
few seconds, he took a few hard, pounding hits to his
abdomen, before managing to roll clear.

Hearing Sam’s single shouted, “Dean!” He ignored it,
ignored Sam. It hurt worse than the punches to do
that, but if he was distracted again they’d both suffer
for it. No way was a pack of sickos going to make his
kid brother sit and watch him being beaten to a pulp,
watch him lose.

As the other man moved in on him, Dean curled up
his legs, kicked out with enough force to throw the
man back several feet. Up and moving, Dean
pounced on the man, hitting first under the man’s ribs,
then smashing his fist into the man’s face with power
enough power to render him unconscious.

Standing, he gave into the impulse to kick the man’s
ribs before stepping away.
Dean turned, searched out his brother. Sam was no
longer in the cage. Getting the signal to return to the
prep area, Dean stalked the distance, eyes focused
ahead, ignoring the shouts aimed at him. When he
reached the outer part, away from the arena he
relaxed, rolled his head on his shoulders and came
face to face with the realization Sam was nowhere to
be seen.

Sam was gone.

Chapter 6

Not even a few minutes into this fight, and Marlin saw
Mr. Del Villar give the signal, the lone flash from a
light mounted near his observation booth. This new
guy, this Dean, was already chosen as one of his
personal fighters. It’d taken Marlin months to attain
that status. Months! Now this newcomer, a man he
brought in no less, was taking over. He’d moved
almost immediately to the position of one of Del
Villar’s chosen.

He’d hurt the man. Make him suffer in ways only
dreamt of in nightmares. Marlin wanted Dean to
suffer, and he knew just how to do it too. He couldn’t
touch the boy with Dean, his brother, but he had
plenty of ways to make him hurt. Make them both
hurt. If this Dean guy thought he was coming in here
and taking over he was sadly mistaken. Marlin
planned to teach him a lesson he’d never forget.

And the little brother, Sam, he was going to help.

Using the end of the match for cover Marlin had Sam
out of the cage and ushered away from the arena part
of the complex in minutes. He’d follow the rules; the
kid wouldn’t be hurt, not really. Marlin sure planned to
put fear into him, make sure he understood once and
for all who Marlin was, how important he was, and
what could happen if the brothers didn’t do what
Marlin required of them. He’d given the boy a few
hints, showed him Marlin deserved the fear he
inspired and more.

This time was more. It was what Marlin wanted this
kid here for in the first place. This was for pure

He prepared carefully, keeping Sam blindfolded,
bound until everything was just perfect. Marlin had
seen the younger of the two brothers, Sam, at the bar,
noticed him the minute the kid walked through the
door. Even though he arrived at the bar, settled
across the room from the pool tables, nearly fifteen
minutes after Dean, Marlin was fairly certain they
traveled together. He’d seen what most others never
would, the covert, silent looks passing between the
younger and older man. How the older one kept
watch over him, how he returned the favor. Well
there’d be no one to watch over him for the next few

Marlin hadn’t known at first what sort of relationship
they shared, but theirs was a deep, powerful bond.
Finding out they were brothers, seeing how they
depended on each other, that just made it sweeter.
As skilled at hiding his emotions the new fighter was,
Marlin saw at once he couldn’t hide them when they
concerned his brother. Toying with Sam for a while in
the bar gave him such a deep satisfaction, watching
the kid squirm, watching his older brother struggle to
keep at bay what Marlin knew…knew…his own
actions toward Sam that night in the bar did to Dean.
Watching them suffer because of each other sent a
thrill through Marlin, ignited every nerve ending until
his whole body quivered and shook with delight.

So he’d prepared quickly, efficiently. This time was
just for himself, himself and a kid named Sam.


Sam recognized Marlin’s bitter odor, rough hands the
minute the man came close to him. Marlin gripped his
bicep, fingers digging in painfully when Sam recoiled
out of sheer reflex alone. This man made his skin
crawl, literally, as few things he’d encountered ever
had. Led a short distance, still blindfolded Sam
tripped and stumbled. Each time his arm was
yanked, Marlin’s hot breath against his ear with
threats of retaliation, should he not keep up the pace.

They’d gone through two doors before stopping.
There was a slight temperature change. This room
was much warmer than anywhere else in the
complex. Sam suspected it wasn’t part of the main
area, and the ventilation wasn’t as good as the inner
section. Shoved to a chair, arms securely bound
behind him, though the gag was left in his mouth the
blindfold was removed.

He was in an empty space, maybe some sort of
garage, or storage area. With Marlin. Wonderful.

Sam immediately took a look around, cataloging
everything about the room, its possible location. He
could see sunlight filtering from high, small windows.
There was no sunlight, no windows in part of the
complex he’d been in. Nor were there any in the
clinic. The room was just a barren space. There was
nothing he could use as a weapon, no escape route
readily visible.

“Just you and me. Again.”
Looking up, Sam shivered despite the heat, despite
willing himself not to. Marlin blocked a rather large
part of his view of the room. Straightening, he pulled
his head away from the man’s foul breath. The back
of the chair stopped him from moving more than a few
inches, his hands held fast in cuffs behind the chair
back. Cuffs locked his ankles to the chair legs. Rope
he might have been able to free himself from
eventually, or at least gotten some wiggle room. But
cuffs, cuffs were impossible.

Sam was well and truly trapped.

Marlin bent in front of him, grasping Sam’s chin,
turning his head so Sam had no choice but to look
straight at him. Marlin’s face inches from his, breath
moist and warm on Sam’s skin. His free hand moved
behind Sam, fingers skimmed up his neck before
winding in Sam’s hair, pulling his head around.

“Let’s just have a chat, have some fun. You…” he
gave Sam’s head a slight shake. “Me and brother
Dean.” Still holding onto Sam’s hair, Marlin
sidestepped far enough for Sam to have a clear view
of the area just in front.

There was a table, a man…Dean?...arms tied down at
his sides. His knees bent making it difficult to judge
how tall he might be, ropes around his ankles
anchored somewhere under the table. A black hood
covered his head, neck and shoulders. He, the man,
wore nothing but a pair of black sweat pants. Isn’t
Dean, can’t be, not enough time. Or had there been?
Dean wore black sweat pants into the match. The
man moved slightly, toes twitching, trying to flex his
arms free. The muffed noises from under the hood
led Sam to think he wasn’t coherent enough to make
words, just moans and rumbles. Not enough for Sam
to know for sure the voice wasn’t Dean’s.

Marlin’s finger ran under Sam’s jaw, pulling his
attention away from the man on the table. Flinching
away from the touch Sam could only glare; the harsh
words he spit out were caught and jumbled by the
mouth gag.

“Yeah.” Marlin sniggered, patted Sam’s cheek before
he could jerk his head to the side. “I thought so.”
Moving away from Sam, toward the table, Marlin bent,
picked something off the floor.

Holding it up for Sam to see, making the younger man
straighten in the chair, struggle against his bonds
despite knowing it was a futile effort, Marlin ran one
finger along the side, not quite touching the blade he
held. Sam’s breathing was nothing but stuttering
jerks, he knew what sort of knife that was, hell he
owned one, though he’d never used it. Sam didn’t do
a lot of gutting. He wasn’t sure why he even had his.

Marlin grinned at him; eyes sparkled like a little kid on
Christmas morning. The knife he held by a solid
black, dull handle; there was a shiny band of gold at
the base, and another near the blade. The six inch
blade itself was a glistening contrast to the handle.
Smooth, glossed stainless steel, Sam saw the finely
honed cutting edge, how it reflected the light a bit
differently. Broadening out near the tip, the cutting
edge was hair thin, smooth, lethal, hungry to cut,
sharp enough to slip with ease through flesh,
devouring everything in its path. The sharp tip arched
gracefully around to a curved hook, maybe an inch in
length with its own razor-sharp edge, its own desires
radiated just as vibrantly.

Sam dragged his eyes from the blade to Marlin’s face.
The man’s eyes were a bit wide, from excitement, not
fear. They glistened and shone too brightly. His face
had a thin sheen of sweat, breath quickening when he
licked his lips, gaze sliding between Sam and the
table…man on the table. Sam’s stomach knotted
viciously, making his insides hurt and protest self
imposed abuse. Hot burning liquid crept up his throat,
making him swallow hard and push out big puffs of air
around the gag.

“See, I picked you the other night, picked you special
Sam. The minute I saw you I knew we’d have so
much fun. Too bad for your brother you didn’t think I
was worth your time then.”

All this, Sam wondered, because he’d blown off the
guy in a bar?
Marlin crossed the room, was next to Sam in a few
strides. He was close enough Sam felt the heat rising
off the man, the soft tremors of thrill going through his
arms, chest. Sam tried pulling away, there was
nowhere to go. Hand in his hair again, Marlin forced
Sam’s face right up to the point of the blade. He
turned it slowly, giving Sam a view from all angles.

“A beauty isn’t it?”

One convulsive nod was all Sam could manage.

“You don’t seem too excited by my favorite knife.
See, I’m not so excited by how you and your brother
here have been acting. Trying to find a way out.
Expected I suppose. You think I can’t get to you,
either of you whenever…” His mouth pressed close
to Sam’s ear, words hot and moist. “However I want?
Do whatever pleases me?”

Sam concentrated on stopping the trembling taking
over his entire body. It didn’t work.

“Let’s just see how this knife does on brother Dean’s
tough hide.”

Shouting, “NO!” Through the gag, it came out a deep
roar. “Please….NO!” The words were known only to
Sam, the sounds getting beyond the gag too jumbled
to make sense. He jerked side to side uselessly.
Completely panicked, his eyes darted from Marlin to
the man on the table, to the gutting knife and back
again. His vision swam, tears spilt over, impossible to
stop, his breathing deteriorated to something ragged
and broken.

Marlin’s grin widened.

Stepping back to the table without preamble, Marlin
drove the tip if the knife into the man’s flesh in the
center of his abdomen just over his hips. Sam tried
shouting more pleas to stop, the rough material in his
mouth scraped over his dry tongue, against drier lips.
The man shouted, screamed, back arching, feet
slapping against the table, muscles visible along his
chest and arms went tight.

It’s Dean’s voice…no, not, not deep enough,
maybe…Sam wasn’t sure. The screams escalated
when Marlin angled the knife slightly down to the
man’s skin, and ripped up. Screams surrounded
Sam, the man’s…Dean’s?...his own, he wasn’t sure.
They closed in around him, pressing against his head,
threatening to crush his skull. Sweat, tears, he had
no idea what it was trickled down his face, along his
neck, over his collar bone. Something clammy
slipped down his back. Breathe, he couldn’t breathe,
he couldn’t hold his breath either. His ribcage
expanded, contracted, wet sobs rolled out from
somewhere deep inside him, he was barely aware of
Hardly conscious of Marlin’s movements, Sam
watched lines of blood trickle from the slash created
by the knife. Black closed in, Sam squeezed his eyes
shut, sobbing, helpless to stop the man—his
brother?—from being cut apart.

“Oh no boyo.”

Sam heard Marlin’s steps close in on him, silently
begged Marlin to plunge that knife into his chest,
anything to make him stop what he was doing to the
man…Dean? Marlin’s rough fingers grabbed his chin,
shaking hard. “You watch, you watch every minute.
This is your fault and you will watch or I’ll do this so it
lasts for days.”

Looking up at Marlin, Sam barely croaked out any
sound at all. He could do this to someone for days?
Sam had no clue. But the man bound to the table
was still alive, there was still some chance.

“This brother of yours thinks he can come in and take
over. Thinks he can keep me from you. You’re
gonna learn otherwise.”

Marlin was back at the table, fingers wound around
the knife handle, digging into the soft flesh, cutting
through as if it were a starved beast with no other
thought than to feed. Jerking and stopping, eyes
traveling to Sam every few seconds, Marlin’s laughter
mixed with the man’s screams. The sounds coming
from the table softened with each yank of the hooked
blade; turned to agonized whimpers….then stopped.

Sam’s entire body felt as if crushed in a vice, nothing
made sense, there were screams, then not. Blood
oozed from the length of the man’s body…long
enough to be Dean’s? Looked the right build,
but…Dean? One thin line from somewhere near his
middle flowed a bit more actively, pooling on the
table, and dripping off in slow, drawn out threads.
The knife made a sickening sound as it caught on
bone near the man’s chest. Marlin giggled with
delight, he had to twist and turn it, work it free.

“Ohh, that really had to hurt, don’t ya think so Sam?”
Marlin’s fingers clamped around his neck, brushed
through his hair, across his ear, “Just think what fun
we’ll have when it’s just you and me, no Dean to look
out for you.”

Without warning he was on hands and knees on the
floor, free of the cuffs. Before he could react to the
fact he was free, Sam was hauled to his feet, a thick,
powerful fist slammed into him, catching ribs as it
drove him back. Sam stumbled away, crashed into
the table with enough force to move it, causing
everything to tilt and spin. Sam crumpled to the floor,
fingers yanking frantically on the mouth gag, pulling it
over his head and off. Again rough hands grabbed at
him, Sam scuttled away out of reach.
Marlin was right after him, grabbing Sam’s hair,
yanking his head around to face Marlin’s, then
shoving him the opposite direction, to see the man,
body, on the table. Pulling a pistol from behind his
back, Marlin stood, pulling Sam partially up with him.
One shot into the man’s skull, Sam was forced to
watch as the body twitched, toes wriggling, his head
jerked a bit under the hood. His entire torso
convulsed, fingers bound to the table curled then
extended. His chest stopped moving.

Sam lurched far enough forward to grab the hood and
jerk it away, falling backwards, catching himself on his
free hand, then kicking himself farther from the table.
“Dean.” He could barely get the word out. Grey hair,
blue eyes…grey hair, blue eyes…”I-itsss n-not D-
deeen.” The sound of his own voice startled him. Not
Dean, it wasn’t Dean, his brother was younger, had
blonde hair, green eyes. Sam lifted his eyes to
Marlin’s, glared at his tormentor with the coldest stare
he could muster. “He’ll kill you when he finds out.
You’re scared shitless of him or you’d never have
done this.” Sam hissed from between clenched teeth.

Grabbed from behind, lifted up and again a fist
slammed into his gut, doubling him over. “You listen
up kid,” Marlin snarled in his ear, “Next time it is
Dean. One word, you breathe one word, it’s him.
You two don’t follow the rules, play my way, it’s him.”
Let go so fast Sam dropped to the floor as Marlin
moved off. “Then it’s just you and me.”

One arm wrapped around his middle, Sam stood,
swaying and staggering across the room, shouting.
Marlin laughed, slipped through the door, slamming it
shut behind him.

Sam was alone. He turned back to the man…Dean’s
alive, alive, he’s alive…there was nothing Sam could
do for this other poor man. Spinning, anger surging
through him like an electric shock he smashed his fist
against the door. “Come back here you goddamn
bastard, hit me now! I’m not tied up, hit me now!”

The door flew open, banged against the outer wall
and swung partially shut.

Straightening, Sam stared at it. Leaning forward he
inched out, looking at the corridor. The empty
corridor. Sam got a few feet down the corridor before
his knees began jumping wildly, his heart hammered.
Unable to bear his own weight he slid down the wall,
head back, panting in huge gulps of air, nausea
swirled up from his middle, wrapped around his
throat, threatening to choke him.

Finally, he didn’t know how long, his head stopped
spinning, the pain in his middle eased enough and his
legs cooperated enough he could stand up. Leaning
one shoulder against the wall, Sam started walking.
He had no idea where he was in the complex, or how
to get back. Find Dean…he chanted it over and over
in his head.

Coming to a junction in the corridor Sam rolled to one
side, found himself looking at the desert, at outside. It
was a huge door, the kind for trucks to pull into. Wire
gating was the only thing between him and freedom.
He’d find Dean, they could cut through
this…somehow…they could get out. Staggering
forward the few steps, Sam’s fingers wound through
the gating, he immediately jumped back, yelping, and
grabbing one hand with the other.

It was electrified.

A quick scan of the immediate area didn’t show him
any power source or fuse box, but there had to be a
way to shut this off. It had to be plugged into

He had to find Dean, and do it fast. Having no idea
how long he’d been gone, he knew by now Dean
would be frantic looking for him. The last thing Sam
wanted was Dean dying for real. He pushed off the
wall, just picked a direction and walked. The place
couldn’t be that big, he’d find his way back sooner or
later, hopefully sooner.

They’d get out, or die trying.
Chapter 7

Dean made a fast search of the prep area. They’d
taken Sam out before he’d finished the other fight, so
the fact his brother wasn’t here now was disturbing,
but not wholly unexpected. Making his way to their
cell, Dean hoped Sam had done as he’d asked, gone
there, locked himself in. When he discovered it empty
his stomach knotted up to a hard, burning ball. He
headed back to the main area, checking the supply
room, Sam wasn’t there either.

Flat out commanding that neither of them go
anywhere in here without the other had gotten no
arguments from Sam. His younger brother never
openly defied him a day in his life, Dean didn’t expect
him to start in here. The few times Dean truly put his
foot down, refused to relent or out and out issued an
order to Sam, the kid always went along willingly.
He’d bitch about it all the way, but he’d go.

Ducking into the work out room, an older man was
there. He looked up, surprised to see someone it
seemed. Nodding at Dean, he was cleaning the
equipment. A fast scan of the room showed no one
else in it.

“You don’t want to be in here laddie.”
That surprised Dean. “Why?”

“Never want to work out where others can see what
you can do, what you have. Keep it to your quarters;
find somewhere out of the way.”

“Yeah, thanks, I’ll remember that.” Dean decided it
actually made sense. “Anyone else come in here
today, the last couple hours?”

The man bent down, made some adjustment to a
Nautilus, straightened and looked Dean up and down.
“You mean the kid with you?”

“I mean him. My brother.”

“Nope.” The man shook his head. “But then Marlin
wasn’t in here either.”

Dean was about to thank the man for the information
he’d just offered, probably at the risk of injury, when
he felt a presence behind him, saw the old man’s
stance, demeanor change, his gaze dropped to the
floor. Dean didn’t turn around. He did ball both hands
into fists, tensed and prepared to strike out.

“You have things to do elsewhere Harry.” Marlin’s
voice was hard, and not more than a foot from Dean.
“Yes sir, Mr. Marlin.” Sliding past the two men, Dean
offered small smile, nod of thanks as Harry slipped
out the door.

Dean swallowed, turned slowly on the balls of his feet,
stared emotionless at Marlin. Drawing in a deep
breath he kept his voice, low, lethal, all business.
“Where’s Sam?”

Marlin made a big show of moving his eyes around
the room. “Not here. But I’m sure he’ll show up.
Eventually.” He smirked, folding his hands in front of
himself. “Mr. Del Villar wants to see you.”

Dean leaned back when Marlin reached for him,
moved his arm away. “I’m not going anywhere until I
know where Sam is.”

A toothy grin and bad breath came with the response,
“I honestly don’t know where he is just now.”

“You hurt him, so much as touch him and I’ll—“

“You’ll what?” Marlin openly taunted. “And how do
you know I haven’t already? Touched him? Tastes
so very sweet he does.”

Dean ground his teeth together, took one step back
and in the next instant brought his fist up, slamming it
into Marlin’s jaw. His knuckles scraping across the
man’s face, making Dean’s skin sting and bite. The
beefy man was caught off guard, staggered back,
hitting the wall. He’d slid halfway down before
bouncing to his feet, coming at Dean like a charging
bull. Head down, roaring wordlessly Marlin rushed
him, slamming into Dean.

Flung backwards, thrown completely off balance, their
combined momentum sent both men crashing over a
lifting bench. The clang and clatter of the bar and
plates plummeting to the floor made Dean’s ears ring.
Multiple points on his back protested from sheer pain
when he hit the sharp framework of the bench.
Marlin’s knee slammed into Dean’s leg just under his
knee. A throbbing blossomed there, spread down his
leg, the denim of his jeans scratched and chafed a
raw spot. Clenching teeth against the pained howl
wanting out, Dean brought his fist up, hitting Marlin’s
head repeatedly; making the sore, abused skin on his
hand hurt more.

Straddling Dean, Marlin reared back to land his fists
again. Bucking his hips, partially tossing the man off,
Dean stretched one arm, fingers finding one of the
free weights they’d sent smashing to the floor.
Grabbing the plate he cracked it against Marlin’s ear,
eliciting an angry, satisfyingly painful snarl as the man
dropped away from him. Rolling to his feet, Dean was
moving at his opponent at once, striking hard and fast
at the other man. Ignoring the pain he caused himself
each time his fist landed on Marlin, the ache and sting
going from each connecting blow straight up to
Dean’s shoulders. He drove Marlin back, grabbed
one of his wrists, spun the man around and slammed
him face first into a wall. His free hand punched twice
into Marlin’s kidneys.

“You damn well better not have…” Dean growled in
Marlin’s ear.

The beefy man groaned and laughed. “One more
move and that boy goes so far out in the desert his
bones won’t be found for centuries.”

With a snarl Dean shoved away from the other man,
panting harsh and deep, forcing himself still. Marlin
straightened, wiped the back of one hand across his
mouth, then over his jeans. Bringing his fist up, he
drove it into Dean’s face, making the world gyrate and
whirl, sending him spinning to the floor. He hit with a
hard, aarruufff, catching himself on his hands just
before his face slammed the floor. Biting his lip to
keep any noise escaping, Dean slowly gathered his
arms and legs, pulling them under him, lifting his torso
off the floor.

“I said,” Marlin’s foot shoved against Dean’s side,
rolling him to his back. “Mr. Del Villar is waiting for

“Yeah, I heard you the first time.” Dean grumbled,
with an effort straightened, and climbed slowly to his
feet. Muscles along his back, ribs, legs ached more
than when he’d fought in the arena. There at least
he’d been able to stretch, warm up. Marlin’s hand
reached for Dean’s arm, stopped by the menacing
glare Dean produced.

With a shrug Marlin turned, not even checking to see
if Dean followed or not, he stalked the corridors,
leading Dean to the upper level of the complex.
Stopping at a wood door, he knocked once, waited
with hands clasped behind his back.

They were let into what Dean could only describe as
an office. A neat, upscale, plush office, complete with
muscle-bound goons on either side of the door. The
dark wood paneling went three quarter the way up the
walls, the top part painted a deep green. Three walls
were adorned with paintings, ugly paintings in garish
colors. Sam had done better with finger paints when
he was two, Dean decided. The third wall was
covered with animal heads and trophies. An Oriental
rug (Dean was willing to bet it was authentic) covered
most the floor, cherry wood flooring peeked out from
the area near the walls. The room was lit with lamps
placed every few feet, their light a cheery yellow glow.
Dean was disappointed, no fire place.

The man he faced, Marcos Del Villar, was just as neat
and upscale as his room. He might very well be the
neatest looking man Dean had ever seen;
nothing…absolutely nothing was out of place. Shorter
than Dean by a half foot, compact, muscular build—
the man had probably boxed, fought—cold light brown
eyes and short (neatly cut) brown and gray hair, he
looked the picture of nice, normal businessman.

Dean resisted the urged to hop right over the large,
cherry wood antique, neat desk and seriously muss
the guy up.

Del Villar motioned to one of the two leather, wing-
backed chairs in front of the desk. When Dean didn’t
move from his spot in the middle of the room the man
shrugged, “Suit yourself.” He sat behind his desk,
folding his hands, neatly, on the desk in front of him.

“Where’s my brother?”

“So much for pleasantries.” Del Villar’s eyes flicked to
Marlin and back to Dean. “I’m sure he’s safe and

“He’s not with me, he’s not safe.” Dean spoke
measured and even.

“Everyone in here knows the rules. Everyone follows
them.” This time Del Villar aimed a pointed stare at
Marlin for a few seconds. “He’s wandered off and
gotten himself lost, but no one will bother him. Not as
long as you do what I need you to do.”

Dean damn well knew Sam hadn’t wandered
anywhere. On a regular day Sam never just
wandered off, both brothers being dependable in that
regard, each letting the other know where they were,
and with whom. It had been that way as far back as
Dean could remember.

“I’ve already gotten the pep rally.”

“You’ve been added to my personal collection of
fighters. That will afford you some extra,” another
glance at Marlin, “Privileges. I suggest using them

“Oh, well another star to my resume.” Dean replied,
yawning for effect.

Del Villar ignored the remark and the yawn. “I’m sure
you’ll find your brother right where you left him.
Anything beyond that for him, or you, is entirely up to

Dean had to admit the man wasn’t bad, but he’d
verbally sparred with demons, and more importantly
Sam. Sam being the better opponent by far. “How
many fights exactly is it I have to win before we’re let

“That’s not one of the perks.” Del Villar actually
smiled at the question.

“Surprise, surprise.”
“Don’t give me any trouble, or you’ll be very, very

Palms firmly against the back of one of the chairs,
leaning forward Dean snapped, “If you didn’t want
trouble from me then you shouldn’t have let big and
brainless here grab my kid brother and bring us both

Dean caught a definite twitch of one corner of Del
Villar’s mouth. “You’re here now. Your brother is
here now. Guess you’ll both have to make the best of
it. His safety is all up to you.”

Really done with the repeated threat Dean was about
to give this dickhead his opinion of it when a sharp
cough behind him accompanied fingers wrapping
around his bicep. Turning he yanked free of Marlin’s
grip, gave Del Villar one final scrutiny over his
shoulder before stalking out the door.

Losing track of Marlin, Dean went immediately to the
prep area outside the arena, the last place he’d seen

“Dean.” Sam’s voice was raw, husky and had a
definite edge to it. Ducking out of the arena Sam was
next to him in a flash, looking haggard and shaky, but
otherwise all right.
“Are you ok? I’ve been looking all over for you.
Where were you? Did anyone-” His words faded
away, realizing Sam was no longer focused on him,
but at some point over Dean’s shoulder. He’d gone
completely still. “Sam.” Dean lightly touched his
brother’s arm, drawing Sam’s eyes to his.

“Y-yeah. I’m fine.” Sam’s voice was barely above a

Dean turned slowly, moving sideways in front of Sam,
a surge of pride swelling through him. The kid might
have been scared to death of Marlin, but he sure
wouldn’t back down either. Standing between them,
Dean glared, again projecting MINE from every pore.
Marlin smirked, snorted a half laugh and backed off.
He gave Sam one final stare before turning and

“What did he do to you?” Dean asked without turning
around. He felt Sam’s breathing slow as he took a
few deep breaths, held them and let them out again.


This time Dean turned to face his brother before
asking again, “What did he do to you?”

Sam’s lack of response was pretty much all Dean
needed. He’d gotten two steps before Sam grabbed
his shirt, tugging back. “Dean, no. He just hit me,
that’s it. Leave it alone.”

Whirling back to face Sam he didn’t get the chance to
say anything.

“Nothing more than a bar fight Dean.” Sam threw his
own words back at him. “He didn’t even have a chair
to hit me with.” Dean really hated having his own
argument tossed back in his face. “Don’t you dare go
off half cocked and leave me alone in here. Don’t you

The expression Sam wore when he forced the last
words out, stopped Dean cold. His insides
rearranged themselves, bit into each other with frigid
teeth. Marlin had indeed done something to Sam,
and Dean doubted this was the first time. He didn’t
know what, and Sam, for whatever reason, wouldn’t
say. One sure feeling Dean had was Sam’s silence
wasn’t his choice.

“C’mon.” Turning, he took the sleeve of Sam’s shirt,
not letting go until they were back in their cell and
locked in. “Looks like the welcome basket arrived.”
Piled on the floor were blankets, a case of bottled
water and some food.

“Oh goody.” Wincing, Sam slid down one wall across
from the barred door.
Dean watched for a minute. Taking one of the
blankets he hung it over the bars. Focusing his
attention again on his brother he saw Sam at once
relax. “Let me see.” Settling beside Sam he lifted his
shirt, gingerly probed the bruising under his brother’s

Digging in his pocket Sam tossed the antiseptic
Carter had given him onto Dean’s lap. “You look like
you’ve been hit by a freight train.” Stretching his legs
out, Sam relaxed a bit more, leaning more heavily
against Dean’s shoulder than the wall.

“Probably feel better if I had.” Dean leaned his head
back against the wall. Lifting the arm Sam leant on;
Dean bumped the top of Sam’s head until he pulled it
forward, Dean’s forearm slid between his head and
the wall. “Sam…”

“Drop it. Please?” Grinning suddenly, “You’ve hit me
way harder. Marlin hits like a girl.”

Having been hit by Marlin, Dean knew the statement
wasn’t true, but he decided not to press the issue.

“I found an access to the outside. But it’s electrified.
Couldn’t find the power source.”

“There’s a computer in the clinic.”
“Hmm. Might be helpful.” Sam’s words slurred ever
so slightly, his voice thick, a yawn made him wince

“We go back to the clinic then.”

“You do have that freight train collision look.”

“Sammy, gimme my arm back, it’s starting to fall
asleep.” Dean wiggled his fingers, trying to keep what
little circulation he had there going. “And that was the
only thing on me not hurting.”

“You put it there.” Sam mumbled, shifting down
farther, putting more pressure on Dean’s arm. “They
didn’t give us any pillows.”

Dean could tell by the way Sam’s words drew out,
softened with each syllable he was adrenaline
crashing just as fast as Dean was. A minute later
Sam’s breathing evened out, deepened and softened.
Dean’s arm was stuck until the kid decided to wake
up. What was one more ache at this point anyway?
His final thoughts as he too gave into crashing
adrenaline and dropped to sleep was they had a plan.

They were going to get out.

Chapter 8
“You think you can find the access door again?”
Dean asked, for the second time, adding a poke to
Sam’s foot with his toe hoping to grab his sibling’s
attention. Trying not to wince every time he moved
his legs was a challenge.

Sam looked up from the food they’d been left,
nodded, “Yeah.” His voice was rough and soft. Not a
combination Dean cared for at all, it meant there was
too much wandering around in Sam’s head.

“Let’s check that out before anything else.”
Stretching, turning his torso side to side until his spine
popped Dean took a minute to rub grating, swollen
wrists, working to rotate them, grimacing from joints
giving him only a partial range of motion. “Ahhh.”
Dean exhaled in stutters, “Better.”

Sam simply looked at him, sort of smiled and dropped
his gaze to his lap while he ate. “Uh huh. Sure.”

Dean sighed. “Sam.”

“We’re gonna suck it up and do what we have to and
get out. Remember? So stop asking if I’m ok. He hit
me Dean, that’s it. I promise he didn’t do anything
else to me.” There was no heat or malice behind
Sam’s words. The enunciation of the word ‘to’ left a
seriously bad taste in Dean’s mouth. Simple fact was
whatever had gone on while Sam was with Marlin was
going to stay inside Sam’s head for now. The fact his
brother had been threatened, somehow, to enforce
that silence ate at Dean relentlessly, viciously,
chewing a considerable hole in his middle from the
inside out. It would take a lot of threatening to stop
Sam from confiding in him.

Stretching again, standing and moving his legs back
and forth, adding a few knee bends to work the kinks
out Dean nodded. “Ok Sam.” He’d gotten sleep,
though neither of them had any idea if it was day or
night, nor exactly how long beyond a few days they’d
been there. The lights inside never changed, they
were on all the time.

Sleeping on concrete hadn’t exactly helped sooth
already achy muscles and joints. Wiggling his fingers
was an exercise in anguish, but if he didn’t move
them, do something for the pain and stiffness, his
hands would be useless in the next fight. Punches
hurt long after the hit was complete. At least bleeding
from the cracked skin had pretty much eased off…for
now. He’d cleaned them with the bottled water, was
happy for the cream Carter gave Sam. His kid
brother was more than willing to share. Waking every
few hours hadn’t exactly helped stave off his
weariness. It was his weariness, and waking every
few hours responsible for Sam’s guilt-laden attitude.

“You going to tell me about them?”
A sharp shake of Sam’s head, “I don’t really
remember much.” He said without looking up.

Demons might lie, but so does Sam Winchester…only
badly. “Uh-huh.” Dean caught the sheepish
expression when Sam looked up, gaze dropping a
second later. “It’s ok Sammy.” He reached down,
patted Sam’s shoulder. “How about while we’re out
looking for that door, and its power source, we find
somewhere to take a shower that doesn’t include an

That earned him a brighter look, a more enthusiastic
nod. Dean squatted down, resting his weight on his
heels. Reaching out, he lightly tapped Sam’s knee,
“You know there isn’t anything you can’t tell me.

Sam’s eyes warmed, he smiled in earnest this time.

Fully expecting Sam to add there wasn’t anything to
tell, Dean watched him for a few seconds before
realizing that was all Sam was going to say. Pushing
to his full height again, he stretched some more.
Whether Sam remembered the exact details of the
nightmares he’d had or not, Dean was never sure.
One thing was certain, the kid always knew what
caused them and what they were about, if not the
exact details.
Three times Dean had been woken up, though the
last two Sam maybe really didn’t remember, he’d
barely thrashed, and only grumbled, not screamed in
his sleep. The first time, in his haste to shut Sam up,
not draw attention to them, Dean mistakenly pounced
on the kid, clapping a hand over his mouth, which
brought a fresh round of pain from his swollen hands.
Not completely awake, not realizing it was Dean, Sam
panicked and fought. There were a few tense
minutes of wrestling before Dean got his brother
pinned down, woken up and shut up. Consistently
Dean’s name was screamed, whimpered or sobbed
out of Sam’s mouth, his pleading for something,
during the nightmares. That combined with fighting in
the corridor outside their quarters, and no un-bruised
part of his body to lie on made for one restless stretch
of trying to sleep for Dean. Whatever transpired
between Marlin and Sam, Dean had been a major
component. He suspected, and dearly hoped, that
once they were out, free of this place and far away,
Sam would give him all the details Dean so
desperately needed, answer his questions.

“How many hours till you fight again?”

Dean shrugged, “I think a good fifteen or twenty.” He
glanced at his watch being careful to turn his arm
slowly, trying to avoid more stabs of protest from his
wrist, elbow and shoulder, “I think it’s been three days
in here, maybe closer to four.”
“Too long whatever it is.” Sam talked mainly to the
floor between his feet. He might not have pursued his
argument against Dean fighting more, but he was
plainly still thinking it. They didn’t have a choice right
now, they both knew it. Arguing over it did absolutely
no good.

“Gotta agree with you there Sammy.” Taking a deep
breath, letting it out slowly, Dean knew his next
statement was a waste of perfectly good oxygen and
energy, but he was going to try anyway. Sam
watched him expectantly. Dean realized his silent
words and body language herald something coming
out of Dean’s mouth Sam probably wouldn’t much
care for. “Sam, he…Marlin said I had to win when
they said, lose when they said. I don’t know exactly
what the losing means. Don’t…” how could he ask
his brother to do what he wouldn’t? “Please, Sammy,
don’t…I want you to stay here.”

“What?” Sam’s voice pitched higher than normal, his
head moved forward, eyebrows nearly meeting they
scrunched close together.

“Sam, I can’t…I came out and you were gone, and I
went nuts looking for you. If you’re here, locked in,
then I know you’re all right and I can concentrate.”

“Sammy, please-“

“NO!” Sam was on his feet, in Dean’s face so fast it
was all he could do to not step back. “Tough shit
Dean! I can’t sit here, wondering if you’re alive or

“I need to know you’re safe.” Dean shouted back.

“And I need to know you are.” Sam shot back. In
another breath he crumpled from large, angry and
twenty-four to small, twelve and the kid who wanted to
be everywhere and do everything his big brother did.
“You demanded we stick together in here, no matter
what. I can’t stay here.” Sam’s voice dropped to a
shaky whisper. “I can’t. I can’t. If you have some
stupid idea this is about watching you get beat in a
fight, news flash Dean I’ve seen it before.”

“No, Sam that has nothing…” As if Sam would believe
him. As if he believed himself.

“I don’t care about anything but knowing you’re ok. I
can’t stay here. You have no right to even ask.” His
arm jerked up, waving in the general direction of
Dean’s wrists. “Maybe we can find something for the

Dean sighed, reached up to scratch the back of his
neck, thought better of the move and let his arm drop.
“Show me this door you found, and let’s find out how
to get out. Because seriously Sammy? I don’t know
how much more of this I’m gonna be able to do.”
Admitting as much nearly did him in, and from Sam’s
expression, he saw it broke his brother’s heart.

Getting down to the corridor, finding the access door
wasn’t difficult. No one paid much attention to them
for once.

“How long did you wander around down here, this is a
freaking maze.”

Sam shrugged, “I don’t know for sure. I finally got
pointed in the right direction by some old guy.”

“It stinks down here.” Dean pressed the back of hand
to his nose, immediately regretting it, since that set off
a fresh round of throbs going straight down to his
finger tips. “Figures Marlin would live down here, with
the other sewer rats.” When he got no response from
Sam, Dean turned, arched an eyebrow at his brother.

Sam’s arm lifted as far as his waist, pointing out a
spot just beyond where Dean stood. “It’s just down
there a few more yards.”

Glancing up and down the corridor, Dean cast
another curious look toward Sam, who seemed to
have stalled out a few feet from the door Dean stood
in front of. The rancid odor came from whatever room
was beyond the door. A step closer, close enough to
poke at it, caused the door to swing open, Dean was
sure Sam paled a shade or two. Curiosity piqued by
Sam’s not so subtle, but silent response to the section
of corridor Dean randomly decided to stop and rest in,
he nudged his shoulder through the partially open

Sweet creation, Sam was in here? Dean froze, held a
breath for a few beats before being able to calm his
breathing. Blood, or more to the point blood stains
covered the floor, a table near the far wall. Another
glance back at Sam, he was far too pink and had too
much energy to have lost the amount of blood
evidenced here. Dean would have seen the wounds.
But some of it could have been Sam’s, some wounds
concealed by his clothing. Sam had been here, in this
room, Dean was as sure of it as he was every
movement of his fingers sent splinters of pain through
his knuckles. Sam didn’t just stop walking and lose
color from his face because of a few bad smells and
poor décor.

“Ya’ll right?”

Sam’s response was a sharp swallow, one jerked

Attention back on the room, Dean scanned the space,
taking in every detail. There was no other furniture
other than the table, a table with restraints. What the
HELL did that asshole do to my brother? Anger rose
from his belly, swelled through his chest, a fiery, slow
burning, slower moving wave that settled around his
heart, in his throat, threatening to choke him and stop
his breathing. Dean’s mind dredged up half a dozen
scenarios, none of them pleasant or good.

The soft rustle of cloth, a softer voice reached Dean’s
ears, now just a foot or so behind him. “He said it
was my fault.”

“Who said what was your fault?” Dean pushed the
door closed as he stepped back into the corridor. He
had no intention of going farther into the area if it
disturbed Sam so much. No intention of making Sam
feel required to follow him inside.

“Marlin.” Sam wouldn’t meet Dean’s eyes.
“Said…he…he said if I’d not ignored him when we
were in that bar the other night, none of this would
have happened.”

“And you believe him?”

Sam’s chin dipped a bit closer to his chest, gaze now
focused on the floor. The stupid kid believed Marlin?
“Sam.” He moved closer to his brother, reached out
and pulled on his shirt. “Sammy.” His tone insisted
Sam look at him. “Why is it when I tell you something
is your fault you don’t believe me, but when some
total stranger, who is loony tunes I might add tells you
something is your fault, him you believe?”
Lips twitching up a very small bit, Sam finally looked
at Dean. “You never blame me for anything, even if it
is my fault. I mean, man I shot you….twice…and you
said it wasn’t my fault.”

“It wasn’t and that’s not the point. The point is none
of this is your fault Sam. Jesus, why would you even
think to believe that bullshit? He’s a wacko,
psychotic, nut job Sam. No matter what you did we’d
have ended up here, or dead. He targeted us.” He
stopped, giving his words a minute to sink in, giving
himself a minute to calm down. “You were in here?”

A slow nod, Sam’s eyes shifted briefly to the door,
then settled on Dean.

“The blood?”

“Not mine.”


“It’s not. Can’t you just take my word for it?” Sam

Nodding, Dean tugged on Sam’s arm gently, “C’mon,
let’s check out the escape route.”

Shooting another look at the door, Sam willingly
trailed after Dean the few yards to the door. As Sam
described it was covered with wire grating. They
wandered up and down the corridor, carefully
checking the walls for access panels, wiring, junction
boxes, anything to give them a clue as to the power

“Must be on the outside.” Dean mumbled.

“Yeah. The only place I’ve seen so far that might
have plans or blueprints or something helpful is the
computer in the clinic. And there’s no guarantee we’d
find anything in there anyway.”

“I was up in Del Villar’s office, didn’t see anything
obvious, but really didn’t have the chance to take a
good look around.”

“When were you there?” Sam grabbed his arm,
spinning Dean around so fast he nearly lost his

“When I was looking for you, don’t get so pissy, you
didn’t miss much. The guy’s a bigger jackass than
Marlin. I think it was nothing more than him wanting
to check out the new guy for himself.”

Making their way to the more populated section of the
compound they discovered getting into the clinic was
more difficult. Unless he was actually injured, or the
doctor there requested their presence, the clinic was
off limits.
Returning to their cell they found more food left for
them, part of Del Villar’s perks Dean reasoned. He
managed to doze, made sure Sam got some sleep
too. This time they took turns. The second time
Dean woke up it was to the sound of material tearing.
Jerking awake and sitting all in one less than fluid, not
so coordinated move he stared around, at first
disoriented. Sam straightened, frozen in place a few
feet away, staring at him.

“You ok?”

Dean coughed, took the bottle of water Sam offered in
a slow, deliberate stretch. “Yeah.” He sighed,
glancing down. “Achy, but yeah. What was that
noise? I thought I heard something.”

Sam grinned, “About that noise, and the achy part.”
He held strips of what had been a blanket up for Dean
to see. He continued when Dean prompted with an
arched eyebrow. “I can wrap your hands and wrists.
Maybe that’ll help. I swiped these too. But I couldn’t
find any ice packs.” He produced some squares of
gauze from his jeans pocket. “Extra padding.” He
added with a small shrug. “Don’t know if it’ll help any,
but it can’t hurt.”

“You went out there alone?” Dean growled.
Rolling his eyes, Sam gave him a pained look. “What
and leave you in here alone? No way. There was a
supply cart near the clinic. I boosted this stuff when
we were trying to get in.”

When Marlin showed up, announcing it was time for
Dean to fight again, he did nothing to Sam beyond
smile ruthlessly. Ignoring him Sam stayed away from
him, which was more than fine by Dean.

They made their way to the arena, this time no one
bothered either of them. Dean’s status obviously a
well known fact now. Sam wrapped his hands, then
waited as before on a bench across from the
entrance. Not a soul went near him, which gave
Dean a deep sigh of relief. Stepping into the arena,
he felt a hand around his arm, pulling him back a

“Lose.” Marlin’s breath hissed hot in his ear.

Dean gave him a dirty look, yanked his arm free and
went into the arena.

Chapter 9

Dean’s head snapped back for the third time in a half
minute. Ducking the next thrown punch, Dean moved
in, ramming fists into his opponent’s middle, driving
the man back, allowing him a few seconds’ breather.
Feeling his face already starting to swell from the hits,
he needed a new plan. Lose, he had to lose. Dean
didn’t know how to lose. He thought about going
down with the first hit, but that probably wasn’t what
Del Villar had in mind. If he didn’t lose this fight, he
might very well lose Sam, something he’d not even

Dean had to lose. Worse yet, Sam was going to see
him lose.

Hands clasped together the man swung full force,
catching Dean’s jaw, sent spinning away and down,
pain erupting along his shoulders where he contacted
the ground. Another glance at Sam who had no clue
he’d been told to throw this fight, but had seen him
fight enough to know when Dean was allowing the
hits to have probably figured it out by now. His
brother’s face was nothing but agony. Funny that,
Dean was the one getting beat on, and Sam was the
one feeling worse.

Forcing himself to roll to one side, get up, Dean
shouted, going at his opponent with rapid punches.
The man backed away, regrouped and surged
forward, throwing himself off the ground, kicking out.
His foot landed at the base of Dean’s neck, forcing
breath from his lungs, clouding his vision, driving him
back. Gasping for air, struggling to reel in spinning
senses he saw Sam literally lunge at the arena
opening, shouting words Dean couldn’t process.
Someone grabbed the kid’s hair, wrenching him back,
shoving him to a bench. Dean felt a twinge along his
own back when Sam’s connected with the wall.

One arm wrapped around his ribs defensively, Dean
gulped for a breath again driven out of his lungs when
the man’s foot rammed his side. He was ready when
the second kick came at him, fingers clamping the
man’s ankle, and twisting hard, he flipped his attacker
away. The man’s considerable bulk slammed the
ground hard enough Dean swore it shook. Drawing in
a deep breath, Dean was up again, the roaring in his
ears he realized was cheering and shouts from the

With a burst of energy he moved forward, spinning
around, kicking out, Dean’s foot connected squarely
with the other man’s chest, sending jolts of electric
pain shooting right through to his hip. The man
stumbled back, regained his balance far too quickly,
charging Dean, flattening him. More solid, knuckle
punches to his ribs and side had Dean panting for
breath. Aiming for the man’s head, and connecting
with his neck instead, Dean rolled far enough to throw
his assailant off. Backing up a step he heard Sam
shouting his name, shouting at them to stop.

Wrist trapped in a steel grip, Dean was turned around
fast, arm yanked up to his shoulder blades the other
man’s knuckles drove into his lower back. Howling
through clenched teeth, Dean dropped to his knees.
Pain rocketed straight through the epicenter near his
kidneys, spread in powerful waves through his entire
body. Muscles along his back and sides seized and
cramped, ripples of spasms clenched at him as if he
was being squeezed in a giant vice.

Stumbling to his feet, straightening far enough to
brace his hands on his oncoming opponent’s
shoulders, Dean brought one knee up fast and hard,
crashing it into the man’s inner thigh. The guy’s
weight fell against his arm, throwing him off balance.
They went down together, knees and fists making
contact wherever they could.

Catching a glimpse of his brother, Sam was watching
him fight, watching him lose. Deep down he knew
Sam’s expression, the pain in his eyes had nothing to
do with Dean losing and everything to do with Dean
being hurt. It didn’t make it any easier for a man
whose prime motto was never give up, take out the
bad guy. Dean had won plenty of fights watching out
for his kid brother, he could lose one too if need be.

Except Dean didn’t know how to lose.

The man was on his feet again slamming his heel into
Dean’s side. He managed to shove away far enough
to get to his knees, holding himself up on shaky arms.
Again Sam’s voice drew his attention.
Lose, he had to lose. In front of Sam. For Sam.

For the briefest instant his eyes locked with Sam’s.
Barely aware of the movement above him, in the next
second shattering pain flashed through his head,
down his neck, coursed his spine and radiated out
stopping only when the world went black.


Carter decided to leave the two of them alone for
now. Dean’s injuries, while painful, or would be when
he woke up, weren’t life threatening. The younger
one didn’t seem to like Carter doing anything to his
brother while he was unconscious. Since he didn’t
have to, though it was always easier to patch these
guys up when they were out, he just let it go for the
time being.

That wasn’t to say he didn’t keep a close eye on the
two. Or rather the one, since one of them was out
cold in a bed in his clinic. Sam’s actions caused him
to wonder yet again what sort of life did these two
lead. Sam didn’t pace, or even seem overly worked
up his brother was unconscious. He appeared angry
at the damage caused to Dean, but not terribly
worried, like he’d seen it before. While he hadn’t
gotten more than a few feet from his brother, and
finally settled against the counter near the bed,
watching everything going on near them. Carter fell
under Sam’s scrutiny each time he’d come near the
older brother, it was a bit unnerving, but the kid was
polite and non-threatening. Carter was willing to bet
he’d be plenty of threat if provoked into it.

If he was going to help them, he had to get them to
trust him somewhat. Problem was he wasn’t entirely
sure which one to start with, whose trust he needed
more. Deciding he’d start with the one awake and
work his way from there Carter grabbed some
sandwiches and water, headed to the back of the
clinic where the two young men were. Food, he’d
found over the years, worked on boys, especially
hungry, stressed, scared boys. It was a basic fact,
nothing anxious ate, if he could get them eating his
food, he could get them trusting him. Make the flight
or fight response scale back and the hunger/survival
response increase and he’d be in business.

Turkey, he’d discovered, worked the best.

“I brought you some lunch.” Carter set the
sandwiches and water on a table near the bed.
Dark eyes went to the table, then to the unconscious
man, then to Carter’s face. “No, thanks.”

Carter smiled, the soft voice and eyes that took in
details he probably didn’t even know about his clinic
told a different story. The kid was plenty hungry.
Adding a short laugh to his smile, he pointed to the
sandwiches again. “You know you’re brother isn’t
going to get the rest he needs with the grumbling
coming from your stomach. I can hear it from here.”
Gaze shifting to the young man in the bed. “He’s
sleeping, you’re going to wake him up.”

A second glance at him, Sam apparently decided he’d
been busted, and might as well eat. Taking one of
the sandwiches and bottles of water, he retreated
back to the spot between the bed and counter.

Carter took another sandwich, “There’s cots in that
back room, pull one in here if you want for yourself.”

That caught the kid’s attention. He stopped chewing
and nearly choked when he tried swallowing and
speaking all at once. “We don’t have to go back to
our cell?”

“Not right away. It’s my job to keep Del Villar’s
fighters healthy. If he needs some recoop time, I can
keep him here for a day or two. He’s done what he
was supposed to, which means you get to stay too.”
Sam looked down, obviously overwhelmed. “Thank
you,” he exhaled.

Carter waited patiently for the kid to compose himself,
watched him without being obvious he was doing so.
“I’ve got some pretty decent pain killers. They’ll likely
keep him out a while longer.”

Sam chuckled, short and soft, “He’d kick my ass into
next week. You can ask him when he wakes up, but I
can tell you his answer will be no.”

“Is it just the two of you?” The question nagged at
Carter since these two arrived, what it was about
them that was so different, set them apart from others
having gone through here? Their bond wasn’t the
normal sort; the devotion they showed one another
was far deeper than what he’d seen in most.
Someone had loved this boy his whole life, no matter
what that life might have been like, and he supposed
it hadn’t by any means been normal. Carter heartily
suspected that someone was the other kid, asleep in
the bed separating them.

Giving him a somewhat surprised look, Sam nodded.
“Yeah. Our mom died when I was a baby. Our
father…he…uh worked a lot.” Sam ended his words
with a small shrug. Carter didn’t miss how the softly
spoken words stuck and hitched.
So, that was it, they’d always had only one another to
depend on, and could trust it would continue. It made
him wonder what something like that was like, made
him think how lucky the two of them truly were.
Silently he again renewed his promise to himself to
get these two out.

Nodding, Carter left them alone again, retreating to
another part of his clinic, keeping a keen ear on them
when they weren’t immediately in his sight. He’d
made a start, now he simply had to wait for the older
brother to wake up. He sensed he’d get no farther
with the younger one until both brothers were
coherent and alert.

It wasn’t too much longer when Carter heard voices
coming from the back room of the clinic. This time
Sam’s soft voice mixed with the slightly deeper,
slightly slurred, thicker voice of the other one, Dean.
Grabbing up some bandaging materials, and a few
other supplies, he headed back to join them. The first
thing he noticed was Sam had indeed moved one of
the cots into the room. As soon as Carter rounded
the corner, two mouths snapped shut, two sets of
eyes watched him. Sam’s hand slid out from behind
his brother’s shoulders, Carter reasoned he’d been
helping Dean sit up. Backing away a few steps, Sam
sat on the cot.

Dean leveled an absolutely chilling glare at him.
Carter had to work to put a pleasant expression on his
face, and stop the shudder wanting out from coursing
through him.

“I have to say, you might be the most over achiever at
throwing a fight I’ve ever seen. Next time just lose, go
down and don’t get up, don’t get yourself knocked
silly.” Carter began un-wrapping the material around
Dean’s nearest hand.

“That’s what I said.” Sam grumbled.

Dean rolled his eyes, moved Carter’s hand away, and
began the task himself. “I can do that.”

“I have stronger pain killers.”

“No, ibuprofen is fine.” Dean winced when the
material pulled away from bloody, raw knuckles. He
dropped them in a small basket offered by Carter.

“Told you.” Sam said.

Shrugging, “Suit yourself, let me know if you change
your mind.”

Surprisingly he was given a small, sincere smile.

“You did a good wrap job there.”

“Sam did them.”
Gaze shifting to the younger brother, “Good job.” The
only response was a slight nod. “I need to get these
cleaned and re-bandaged.” Motioning with one hand
to a small bathroom in the corner, “Can you go get
cleaned up?”

Moving stiffly and slowly, sucking in a few deeper
breaths, Dean inched off the bed, stood up. “Yeah.”
He reemerged a short time later, water dripping off his
hair, cleaner. When Sam grabbed him under one arm
to help him back onto the bed Dean gave him an
annoyed look, but nothing more.

“Blood in your urine?” Carter asked.

Dean snorted a quick laugh. “What do you think? Hell

“You’re pissing blood?” Sam was up, in motion, at his
brother’s side so fast Carter took a step back, even
though he was on the opposite side of the bed as
Sam. Most the color left the poor kid’s face. Dean
was apparently as surprised by Sam’s response as

Closing his eyes, leaning back, Dean patted Sam’s
wrist, then folded his hands over his middle. “Yeah,
Sammy, it happens a lot when you get hit a in the
back hard enough. I’ve had it happen before. It’s not
gonna kill me.”
“Not…what if your kidneys fail, that could happen,
couldn’t it?” Sam’s eyes went to Carter.

“It’s not likely, and he’s right, it’s fairly common to
anyone who fights on a regular basis. However if it’s
not gone in a few days you will tell me.”

Dean looked up at him, this time actually managing to
keep a neutral expression to his face and eyes. He
nodded and grinned suddenly. “Trust me when I say if
I don’t, he will.” A thumb jerked in Sam’s direction.
Sam offered them both a scowl and a disgusted

“All right, let’s get these taken care of.” Grasping
Dean’s closest wrist and turning the man’s hand for a
better look, or rather trying to, since Dean
immediately reclaimed his hand.

“It’s ok, I just need some rest.”

“It’s not, and you will sit here and let me take care of
it.” Carter grabbed again, this time managing to get
some bacitracin applied, haphazardly, before the
hand was jerked away again.

“I said—”

“Dean!” Sam grabbed the bandages and bacitracin
from Carter, “Stop being an ass.” Taking all of a
minute, Sam had the cuts pulled together, bandages
expertly applied, all the while ignoring protests and
rumblings from his brother. “He said we could stay in
here for a day or two.” Sam’s eyes went back up to
Carter’s, a mix of gratitude and hope.

Dean turned to Carter, but not before pulling his
hands away, sticking them under the sheet, hissing,

“Yes, you can. You’re, uh, pretty good at that.”
Carter pointed to Dean’s now hidden hands. He was
offered the most patient, pliant smile he’d ever seen
from anyone.

Sam turned his gaze from Carter to Dean. “And that
somehow surprises you because why?” It was
Dean’s turn to snort a disgusted noise.

“If you two are going to stay here any longer you’re
going to need to earn your keep.” This could work for
them all Carter suddenly realized. The younger of the
two wasn’t squeamish about blood; he had the size to
back up his actions. “I could use an assistant,
someone who knows how to put on a bandage? I can
arrange it so the both of you stay here longer.”

The two of them exchanged a brief look before Dean
nodded. “Thank you.”
“Good,” turning to Sam. “Some supplies were just
delivered, you can start by hauling them in and
helping me put them away.”

Another silent exchange between the brothers,
Dean’s chin dipped a small fraction. Sam nodded,
headed for the door, stopped there briefly, looking
back at his brother.

“Don’t take all day.” Dean grumbled, leaned back and
closed his eyes.

“You know,” Carter began once Sam was occupied
with moving the boxes. “The absolute only person on
this planet who cares that you got beat is you.”

“I didn’t get beat.”

“The end result was the same. Your brother cares
you got hurt, not that you lost, for whatever reason.”
Carter snapped.

“Is it that obvious?”


Dean huffed an elongated sigh. “Can I get some
sleep now?”
“There’s some sandwiches if you get hungry. Give a
shout if you need anything. Make sure you drink a
few bottles of water.”

Eyes moving to the tray of food, Dean nodded.
“Thanks again.” It was honest, sincere and grateful.
Carter had a suspicion this man knew what he was up
to, he was trying to help them, give them some small
amount of safety.

After he and Sam finished moving and storing away
the supplies, he’d gone with the kid to check on Dean.
The older brother was fast asleep, the tray of food,
and the required bottles of water empty.

Chapter 10

Sam paced through the clinic’s rooms, lost count of
the number of laps he’d made. Glancing through the
doorway, he watched Dean sitting in front of the
clinic’s loan computer. As far as he could figure it’d
been about three days. Three days since Dean’s last
fight, three days of trying to find out if his brother
pissed blood still, three days of Dean not looking him
in the eye. Three days of watching his brother suffer.
Three days of knowing what to do, but not knowing
Dean’s movements were almost normal, though Sam
caught him rubbing his sides a few times. His
appetite returned enough to make Dean bitch Sam
could eat all the steak and chicken he could stuff in,
while Dean was limited to pasta and as few proteins
as possible. A necessity for his bruised kidneys
Carter explained. Sam explained Dean might very
well kill them both for a burger, but Carter seemed
unconcerned, bravely—or maybe foolishly—giving
Dean meals of fruits and meatless spaghetti. Peanut
butter was allowed because the protein was different
than in meats according to Carter, Sam was sure
Dean’s confused expression mirrored his own, and
Carter insisted Dean consume gallons of water.

The look in his brother’s eyes, when he could catch a
glimpse of them, tore Sam in two, ripping a wound,
like no monster could, straight through Sam’s heart.
Not exactly sure what went through his brother’s
mind, Sam knew one thing for certain, Dean’s
thoughts revolved around losing his last fight. Dean’s
body was well on the way to back to normal. Dean’s
mind was far more pained than any bruise or hurt
caused by the physical abuse.

For days Sam desperately cast about for the words to
make his brother understand; to ease the hurt Sam
knew he’d caused, was fully his fault. There were few
things beyond Sam or the Impala Dean treasured, felt
a deep pride in; one of those things was his ability to
take care, protect. It came naturally to Dean, the
drive to watch over the world in general, Sam in
particular. It was who his big brother was. Sam
managed, without a lot of effort on his part, to crush
that, maybe destroy it totally. Sam didn’t have to ask,
he’d seen it in his brother’s face, how was Sam to
trust Dean to protect him if he lost fist fights? How
was Sam to convey to his brother it was he who
personified safety, protection, family, everything for
Sam, to Sam? How was he to convince Dean it had
been so since Sam’s earliest memory, and would
continue straight to his final thought in life?

How was he to apologize for forcing this on Dean,
express his considerable gratitude? How was he to
face Dean after the damage Sam caused?

The first day or two he’d taken a page straight from
the Dean Winchester handbook of difficult life
situations and tried to pretend the problem didn’t
exist. When that didn’t work, Sam tried waiting it out,
hoping the whole thing might blow over. That didn’t
work either, so Sam got serious with himself, and
sought out the words to convey to his brother, the
single most constant in his life, his single most
important person, his only family, the volumes Dean’s
actions spoke. He sought out the words to make
things right with his brother.

“Find anything?” Sam asked, pulling a chair up
beside Dean, straddling it, arms crossed over the
“Yeah, I did.” Dean grinned, leaning back from the
computer to give Sam a better view. Instinctively they
both glanced around, being sure their conversation
stayed private. “See this?” Dean’s finger traced a
line along the screen. He’d managed to find pictures
and simple layout plans of the building. “This is a
shot of the door you found, from the outside. Look
close just to the right, near the roof, right under that

Leaning forward Sam peered at the screen, nodding.
“It’s outside, might as well be on the moon.”

“Something has to come inside little brother, it’ll give
us an idea where to look. The walls are cinder block;
someone had to drill holes through to get the power
source inside.”

“We can cut it if we can find it.”

“Yep.” Dean leaned back, arms crossed over his
chest, smug smile spreading across his face. “And
now we know where to look.”

“Dean.” Sam took a deep breath, when his brother
twisted in his chair to face him, Sam immediately
shifted his gaze to his hands resting on his lap. He
had no idea how to even begin.
“What?” Dean prompted gently when Sam didn’t say
anything else.

“We need to talk about this.” Sam blurted out.

Smiling Dean turned his attention back to the
computer, “We are talking about it Sammy.”

“Not this.” He motioned to the computer.

“What then?”

“The fights. Dean, I know it’s been bothering you,

Holding up one hand, literally moving his chair farther
from Sam, “Stop, right there, I know what you’re going
to say, and just don’t. I know you’re going to say it
doesn’t matter to you, but it does to me. I know
you’re going to say how you can fight your own
battles, well I wasn’t given a lot of choice this time.”

“No, you have no idea what I was going to say.” Sam
snapped out more harshly than he’d intended. Dean
straightened, giving him an odd look before turning
away. “Dean.” Reaching out fast, Sam’s fingers
curled around his brother’s closest bicep. “Please?”
When Dean’s eyes met his, they were wary and
guarded, but at least he’d looked at Sam, wasn’t, for
the first time in days, trying to avoid him.
Dean raised his eyebrows, made no other gesture, no

A small victory Sam decided, his brother hadn’t gotten
up and left. Pulling in a deep breath Sam forged
ahead, not so bravely, but at least with determination.
Keeping his voice from shaking was nearly
impossible. “You did that for me. You think I don’t
know what was going on, you lost for me? I know
what the threats are, believe me. I know what Marlin
told you could happen. You could’ve flattened that
guy anytime if you’d wanted, and you didn’t because
of me. You let him hurt you this much because of me,
for me. I know it’s harder to lose than it is to win.”


“Shut up and listen to me. They tell you to lose, just
do it, don’t get beat half to death. It’s not worth it.”

“You sure as hell are worth it.” Dean’s voice rose on
each word.

“Not if I’m in here alone it isn’t. You die; they’re not
going to let me go. If we don’t get out together, we
don’t get out. If we don’t get out together nothing is
worth it.”

“I was only trying to make it look good.”
Sam huffed, “Don’t make it look that damn good.
Don’t think I’m not grateful, because I am, I can’t even
describe how much I am. I don’t care if you don’t
want to hear it, but you’re going to…thank you, for
doing that for me.”

Dean’s free hand reached up, patted Sam’s. “Neither
one of us is getting left behind in here. We’re going to
get out Sammy.” His eyes dropped to the computer
keyboard. “I’ll try to not be so bad at losing.”

“You’ve always watched out for me, even when I don’t
want you to.” Sam puffed a short laugh, “And I guess
maybe I should have said more often how damn good
you are at it, no matter how unorthodox your
methods…how important it is to me, how much I’d
miss it, how good it feels to know I’ll always have

Sam’s words obviously surprised Dean. He sat
quietly, patiently, watching his brother. What he’d
said sunk in, albeit a bit slowly, but his words wormed
their way into Dean’s head, nested firmly.

Nodding slowly, meeting Sam’s eyes and not looking
away Dean stood up. “Ok.” He took a few deep
breaths, nodded with more conviction. “Come on
kiddo, let’s show these morons they messed with the
wrong damn brothers.” He dropped one hand to
Sam’s shoulder, solid and reassuring. “We’re not
losing this game Sam, not you, not me. Whatever it
takes, I intend to beat them. We are going to win

Something loosened in Sam’s chest and stomach. A
vice lost its grip on him. As scary as this place was,
he and Dean were scarier, more determined. It
amazed Sam how Dean could convey so much with
one simple touch, we’re alive, we’re together, we
protect each other, it stays that way.


Despite Carter’s protests, Dean was back in the arena
twenty-four hours later. As before Marlin escorted
him to the prep area, Sam right with him. Sam
wouldn’t have stayed even if Dean dared ask again,
which he had no intention of doing. He’d come to
realize the only place either was safe in here was with
each other. Truth be told seeing Sam outside the
arena, knowing he was there, no matter how the
fights progressed, gave Dean comfort and

Sam hung back when Marlin was near, not getting
near the man. Dean wasn’t sure what disturbed him
more, Sam’s actions around Marlin, or his admission
he was scared and welcomed the defensive shield
Dean became when either of them was threatened.
He didn’t miss the way Sam’s eyes tracked Marlin’s
movements, how Sam went completely still if Marlin
managed to get within touching distance. How Sam’s
shoulders relaxed when Dean stepped between them.
Whatever threats Marlin levied against Sam, they’d
been powerful and convincing. If Dean had any
lingering doubts over how Sam looked at him, his
ability to protect his brother, they were washed away
by Sam’s actions near Marlin. Nothing changed for
Sam, Dean would always be his big brother, Sam
would always view him that way.

Marlin went as far as the entranceway to the arena.
He stood there, folded hands resting on his middle,
smug glint in his eyes. “Remember boy’o, screw up
and he’s all mine.” Marlin’s eyes slid to Sam,
standing a few yards away. Sam didn’t flinch, didn’t
move, didn’t back down from the stare either.

Dean snorted, “As if you’d get anything but hate and a
split lip from him.” He paused at the entranceway,
looking into the arena as he spoke to Marlin. “What?
No words of wisdom this time?”

“Better not screw up.” Marlin breathed hot in his ear.

Dean met Marlin’s menacing glare with an equal one
of his own. As he made his way to the center of the
arena, faced off his opponent he caught a glimpse of
Sam moving away from Marlin, settling on one of the
benches, keeping away from the other men in the

It was a quick fight, Dean was angry and painful, not a
good combination. He made short work of his
opponent, not wanting to spend a second longer in
there than needed. He was sick of this, sick of being
hit, sick of having his brother, himself, constantly
threatened. He took his aggression and frustration
out on the man he fought, beating the guy

Barely feeling any of the few hits and kicks he’d
received, going on pure adrenaline, Dean stormed out
of the arena. A second later he slammed to a halt, his
eyes meeting Sam’s. It took a few seconds for the
facts to process, for Dean to slow down enough to
grasp what was going on. Sam sat straight, back
pressed fully against the wall behind him. Marlin
stood between them. Smiling, the muscle-bound
creep was smiling. Chills ran through Dean when
Marlin threw his head back and laughed.

Sam flinched, began inching along the bench, moving
away. Color drained from his face. Sam had only
been permitted to see the outcome of the fight when
Dean was to lose.

Dean stared at Marlin for another few seconds before
a feral shout ripped out of him. He lunged at the man,
was immediately grabbed by two others, thrown back.
“Guess you screwed up boy’o.”

Tackled by two of Marlin’s goons Dean watched as at
the same instant Marlin spun, grabbed Sam, yanking
him off the bench.

“DEAN!” Sam nearly managed to jump away from
Marlin, skirt closer to Dean.

There were too many of them, Marlin had men all
over the area. Dean was forced down, back. One
guy’s fingers snaked through Sam’s hair, jerking him
back, while another slammed his fist into Sam’s
middle, stopping him from fighting back. By the time
Dean was back on his feet, clear of his attackers Sam
was gone.

Biting back a complaint that Marlin hadn’t given him
the instructions he should have, Dean contented
himself with shouting, “Bastard!” at the man.

Marlin chuckled; it was a low, vicious sound. “Don’t
screw up the next fight, you get him back. Until then,
he’s gonna spend some time with me. But, since I’m
such a nice guy, I’ll make you a deal, to make up for
my…” Marlin sighed, paced closer to Dean, but
remained out of reach, “Indiscretion. You find him,
you get him back.”
Dean lunged again, this time Carter appeared beside
him, one arm across Dean’s chest, forcing him back.
“You hurt him, so much as touch him—”

Marlin’s chortling filled his ears. “Like I said before,
how do you know I haven’t already. That sweet boy
of yours is just so tasty.”

The air closed in on Dean, so heavy it pressed
against his ribcage, prevented him from filling his
lungs. The huge room suddenly too small, the floor
unstable. Surging forward again, trying to press
through Carter’s arm, Dean was surprised by the
man’s strength. Carter shoved back, shouted at him.

Again Carter pushed against Dean’s chest, causing
him to stumble back. Moving his hands to Dean’s
shoulders, Carter shook him hard. “Listen to me.

Dean dragged his eyes from Marlin, focused on
Carter. When he looked back, Marlin was gone.

Carter was talking at him, the words finally getting
through. “He won’t kill your brother. He’s got no
control over you without Sam, and he knows it. You
can’t help your brother if you’re dead. Marlin needs
you, or he gets it from Del Villar. He needs you, so he
needs Sam.”
Gulping in a few deep breaths, Dean stepped away
from Carter, nodding. “Let me go. I’m ok, lemme go.”

“You two look like guys who’ve been in rough
situations before. So tell me, when you taught your
brother to survive, to fight, what was the first thing you
taught him?”

Dean stared at him. When he didn’t reply Carter gave
his arm a jerk.

“What was the first thing?”

“D-don’t panic.” Dean collected his thoughts, started

“Yeah, don’t panic. So don’t panic. Sam’s here
somewhere. We’ll find him. I’ll help you.”

“I got an idea where to start looking.”

No way was that creep Marlin going to hurt his
brother. No way in hell.

Chapter 11

Sam’s eyes riveted to the arena entranceway. Marlin
was too smug, too excited when Dean exploded
through the door, fast, sure strides carrying him
forward. His eyes met Sam’s at nearly the same
instant Marlin laughed, a low, vicious sound bringing
mirth to absolutely no one. The realization of what
happened stampeded through Sam’s mind,
simultaneously showing on Dean’s face.

The sound Marlin made sent cold spikes straight
through Sam, stabbing his spine, ribs, slithering
through him, turning to ice in his chest and stomach.
He had no control over the way his body jerked and
repeated spasms flinched across his torso.

Move! His brain screamed the single word over and
over. Yet, the jello the muscles of his legs and arms
became was less responsive, less cooperative. The
best he managed was to inch along the bench, stay
out of Marlin’s attention. If he could get away, Dean
would follow, not challenge Marlin, not risk his life for
Sam. Something hard and cold and unyielding
gripped his ribcage, making it nearly impossible to
inhale for a few seconds, breathing becoming painful.

Dean stilled; he and Marlin staring each other down.
Face darkening, clouding in rage, sheer hate, Sam
couldn’t remember when he’d seen Dean so angry,
beyond angry. Violence and panic chased one
another across Dean’s features before finally landing
on enraged in a way Sam had never seen before.

Then Dean went ballistic.
The primal yell coming from Dean scared even Sam,
he was sure Marlin took a step back before taunting
them both with words of how Dean screwed up.
Neither of them, Sam was sure, had to guess what
Dean’s punishment was to be. Dean was in motion,
going so fast he was a blur. It was frightening, his
speed and power. Sam saw it in Marlin’s face, his
eyes, Dean scared him in a way he wasn’t
accustomed to, maybe in a way he’d never been.

Marlin wasn’t alone; he had his men with him. It took
two of them, and even then they barely held Dean at
bay, shoving him back. Sam didn’t have a chance to
move, Marlin was fast too. Shouting Dean’s name,
Sam nearly ducked clear of Marlin’s grasp, using his
height advantage he barely missed being able to jump
clear, skirt around Marlin. Marlin grabbed his wrist in a
bruising hold, spun him around, arm shoved up his
back. More men appeared, descending on Dean,
pushing him farther away. Sam reached for Marlin’s
head with his free hand, but was blocked.

Fingers slithered through Sam’s hair, closed to a fist
and yanked hard. Pain seared through his scalp
extending down his neck as his head was jerked back
with enough force to throw him off balance, make him
dizzy. A fist slammed into his abdomen, low, just
above his hip. The blow left him gasping for breath,
hard knots of pain skimmed straight through to his
back, reverberated through him for several seconds.
He had the sensation of being dragged back, pulled
and shoved somewhere. Second and third blows
landed on his back, just below his hips. A voice far
back in the corner of Sam’s mind wondered at that
oddity. The blows to his back hurt momentarily,
would never stop him, barely even slowed him down.
He’d have a few bruises maybe, nothing more. It was
a stupid, useless place to hit someone. Sam wouldn’t
have wasted his energy on such a move.

When his breathing finally came in harsh gasps, but
at least he could inhale, and the gray cloud covering
his eyes cleared, which maybe took in reality less
than half a minute Dean was no where in sight, Sam
couldn’t even hear his brother’s voice anymore. He
had a good idea where he was being taken, even
though he was still disoriented, not able to pinpoint
the direction, his location.

Marlin was no where in sight, just the three men who
dragged him along. Catching his breath, he managed
to free himself, took a swing at one, downing him,
then kicking out hard and fast, caught one man just
above his knee. The guy staggered back, but the
third man was on him. Grabbing Sam’s hair, jerking
back and down, a thick arm wrapped his neck, pulling
back, cutting off his air. Again he was knuckled hard
and low on his back, high on the backs of his thighs,
across his hips. He’d feel the tightening and bruising
in a day, but right now Sam barely registered the hits.
The fist connecting three or four times with his face
definitely registered. Sam felt those.
The corridor tilted and swayed, spun erratically in
waves making his stomach lurch and flip, his
intestines crawl around themselves, his body kicked
and protested from the inside out. His knees became
nonexistent; Sam’s weight slid toward the floor. The
sound of voices, rough, nasty, protesting having to
haul his heavy ass somewhere…really they could
have just left him. Sam wouldn’t have minded or

As they dragged him, Sam got flashes and glimpses
through the haze that was his head of the twists and
turns. How much time past eluded him. Twice he
staggered; fell out of the hands holding his arms.
Before being hauled halfway up he was kicked along
his thighs and butt, the sharp toes of the men’s boots
creating dull throbs where they landed. The muscles
of his back and legs started to cramp and ache. Just
as the world stopped oozing around him in slippery
waves he was punched again in the side of the head,
stars and lights burst across his vision, clouding out
all else.

Sam startled back to partial awareness when he was
lifted off the ground, thrown onto a hard, cold surface.
Pain ricocheted through his back when the newly
acquired bruises met hard surface. He was stripped
to the waist, boots and socks removed, leaving him
wearing nothing but his jeans. Restraints were
cinched around his wrists and ankles with enough
force to bite into his skin. One was pulled around his
chest, cranked on until it made breathing difficult. Flat
on his back, knees bent, he could barely turn his
shoulders, his head was the only thing left moving

One of the men elbowed him a few times along his
groin. Body jerking reflexively brought stabs of pain
along his shoulders and arms from the pull against his
restraints. The actions made no sense to Sam. The
injuries wouldn’t stop him from running if he’d been
free; but he wouldn’t have run, running here was
useless, there was no where to go anyway. Neither
would they stop him from fighting, maybe slow him
down a bit. The blows hurt, they’d bruise, were
frightening and intimidating; nothing more. But then
Sam didn’t get his rocks off hurting people, so what
did he know?

Finally, blissfully they left him.


Dean barely avoided slamming his fist into Carter out
of sheer reflex when his arm was jerked on again. He
whirled on the man, and to his credit Carter winced,
sucked in a breath, but didn’t move, didn’t back off,
just stared at Dean with calm eyes. The only other
person who ever did that, held his ground against
Dean like that was Sam, and for a whole other set of


Where was he, what were they doing to him, going to
do to him? Marlin already intimidated Sam to the
point of the kid keeping his mouth shut, not telling
Dean what methods were used against him. That in
and of itself was frightening to Dean. Nothing kept
Sam’s mouth shut, not even demons prevented Sam
from relating any detail to Dean, and he usually knew
far more details than he generally cared to. Keeping
secrets from each other was in neither brother’s
nature; was difficult at best and not something either
chose to do unless powerfully forced into it. Dean
managed it once, and not with a lot of success, doing
so nearly killed him.

This all left Dean with nothing but his imagination to
fill in the blanks of what Marlin might have done,
might again to do his brother.

Carter tugged insistently on Dean’s arm. “We gotta
“No. This way.” Dean pointed to the corridor leading
down to the access door, the room Sam had been
taken to before.

“Uh huh. There’s something I have to make sure of
first, there’s other places.” Carter tipped his head to a
wall, indicating outside.

A shudder ran though Dean, thoughts of Sam
abandoned far out in the desert, no food or water,
exposed to the elements with nothing but a t-shirt,
light weight button down shirt, jeans and boots
banged around his head. With no weapons, no way
to hunt or protect himself, no shelter at night, how
long would someone last in those conditions? Dean
had no idea. How long would it take Sam to drop
from exposure, exhaustion, trying to find his way back
to their prison? Back to Dean? How would Sam even
know which direction to pick?

Numb, Dean followed Carter to the clinic, agreeing to
wait while Carter checked whatever it was he wanted
to check. The second the man was gone, Dean was
at the computer. The layout he’d found and the
pictures weren’t the best, but they were better than
nothing. He printed them off, folding and tucking
them into his pocket just as Carter returned.

“He’s in here somewhere, they haven’t taken him
outside, and there’s no one in the sweatboxes.”
Dean felt his stomach drop, closed in on itself and
clenched into a hard, hot acorn. He’d forgotten about
the sweatboxes, remembering only Marlin’s previous
threats to dump Sam so far out in the desert he’d
never be found. Mental images of Sam in one of the
sweatboxes invaded his mind, sent new shudders
through Dean. Sam, who was kind and gentle, would
ask Dean not to hurt these men, they were victims.
Yet, it was these men who thrived on Sam’s pain.
Dean figured he had it coming at times, but not Sam,
never Sam. Dean hated how often Sam was targeted
in someone or something’s efforts to make Dean
suffer, pay somehow.

Sam had been snatched to force Dean into fighting.
That much was clear. But there were pieces missing,
it didn’t all add up. Dean fought, did what they’d
wanted as long as Sam was left alone, left with him.
So why target the kid? Why harass and threaten
him? What purpose did that serve? Dean didn’t
know. His only conclusion was it served some
purpose not involving Dean. It brought Marlin some
sick pleasure.

“He’s intimidated by you, afraid of you. You know
that?” Carter broke into Dean’s thoughts. “I bet he
thinks you want to take over, have his job.”

Dean snorted, “I have a crappy job, why would I want
a crappier one? He damn well better be afraid of me
after what he’s done, after hurting my brother.”
They moved through the corridors without further
comment to one another. Carter seemed to have an
idea where Dean was going. They headed toward the
door, the room Sam had been in before, but were
immediately cut off at the top of the corridor. Unlike
his previous visit, this time it was swarming with men.

Carter’s hand on his arm stopped Dean before they
were spotted. “I think you’re right, he’s in there. We
can’t get close right now.”

“You got any guns, any sort of real weapons?” He
knew it was a silly question, but asked anyway.

Chuckling softly, “No.” He tapped Dean’s shoulder.
“Come on, we’ll get your brother back. But we can’t
fight these guys off. There’s too many of them. If we
try they’ll hurt him more. They won’t stay here long.”

“How do you know?” Dean whispered over his
shoulder, eyes leaving the door for nothing but
seconds, skimming across Carter’s face before being
drawn back to the door.

“Because that’s how he operates. I’ve been here a
while. It’s what Marlin does.” Carter’s hand rested
against Dean’s arm, fingers curling around slightly,
firmly. It made Dean turn to him fully. “I’ve always
been alone. It sucks. We’ll get your brother back,
you won’t be alone.”

Sam howled, shaking his head a few times. Small
water droplets flew in all directions from his hair. Only
his head moved freely. He could barely move his
shoulders, shift one at a time off the table. His voice
stuttered, gasps and harsh yells from the cold water
poured over him ripped from his throat. Shivers
coursed through him, rattling every part of him.
Giving a jerk with his arms, legs, he confirmed what
he vaguely remembered. He was wearing nothing but
his jeans, tied to a table. The table. A quick glance
around showed Sam he was in the same room as
before. Only this time it wasn’t some stranger on the
table, it was him.

Marlin’s harsh laugh drew his attention to his left.
There was no knife in Marlin’s fist…yet. Sam
shuddered, was he next to be sliced open, left to die?

Teeth clenched tight, Sam swallowed convulsively,
forcing a sob and a plea for his brother’s presence
back into his chest. He wouldn’t give Marlin the
Pacing the length of the table several times, Marlin’s
eyes never left Sam. They skimmed, wide and
excited over Sam’s neck, down his arm, the length of
his torso. More shudders ripped through Sam,
causing his muscles to shiver and jump of their own
volition. He tried to quiet his body, tried to be still.
The harder he tried the more he shook. The more
Marlin’s face and eyes lit up with sheer anticipation
and glee.

Sam’s stomach clenched, his chest tightened to a
hard knot, making it nearly impossible to draw a deep
breath. His fingers curled so tightly to a fist his nails
dug into his palms.

Marlin bent down, his face close to Sam’s. One finger
brushed lightly over the swell of Sam’s shoulder,
down the length of his arm, tracing the veins of his
forearms. Sam tried pulling away from the touch, but
he was bound too tightly. Each hitching intake of
breath sent slivers of pain through Sam’s chest.
Clamping his mouth shut, he glared back at Marlin.

“Guess it’s just you and me now. Breathe one word
to big brother, Dean and—”

“What is this, the sixth grade, don’t tell?” Sam
sneered back, sounding braver than he felt.
Rough fingers skimmed through Sam’s hair, across
his cheek. “One word and Dean gets everything I
showed you, and more.”

Squeezing his eyes shut, Sam turned his head away,
tucked his chin against his body.

“No.” Marlin demanded, jerking Sam’s head around
so he was forced to look at Marlin. “Not again. It’s
you and me, and this time you’re not going to ignore

Sam cringed, skin crawling when Marlin’s finger tips
ran across his neck, down his chest. Breathing deep
to quiet the shivers running freely through him, it
didn’t entirely work.

“You need to learn not to ignore me. Your brother
needs to learn he can’t waltz in here and take over.”
Marlin’s other hand rubbed his own thigh and groin,
his body rocked in time with his motions. “Your
brother, he was just a bonus, some icing on the cake,
see? But I’m in charge, not him. I knew I had to have
you, know what you feel like; bring you here as soon
as I saw you walk in the bar. The fact you have that
brother of yours, willing to do anything, fight to the
death for you. Think he’d so willingly kill someone for

Hysterical, cackling laughter bubbled out of Sam. It
took him nearly a full minute to comprehend the noise
came from him. “My brother is already wanted for
murder. That guy hit me too.” He supposed that
should have impressed Marlin, but he couldn’t tell if it
did or not.

Marlin’s fingers moved lower, pressing against his hip,
inching across his leg, to his groin. Sheer reflex had
Sam rolling away, or trying to; he was bound up too
securely to move much. Snarling some low, guttural
noise Marlin pulled his hand away, but Sam wasn’t
relieved. In the next instant white, shattering pain
ripped through him as Marlin’s fist slammed into his
testicles, pulled back and repeated.

Arching, screaming, Sam had nowhere to escape.
Nauseating pain throbbed through his belly, up his
chest, crawled to his head. His stomach lurched.
Barely able to turn his head in time to keep from
asphyxiating, Sam vomited. The putrid contents of
his stomach puddled next to his head, dribbled down
his cheek, oozed into his hair and ear.

“You need to learn. You both need to learn.”

Marlin was gone in a whoosh of air. Sam heard him
move to the door, it opened. A muffled voice
sounding more like crying, whimpering, came into the
room, closer to Sam. When the room stopped its
spinning and tilting Sam had a good view of Marlin
and the newest arrival.
A boy, probably two or three years younger than Sam,
fair-haired, sort of chubby was thrown to the floor,
hands bound behind his back, mouth gagged.

“Leave him alone.” Even as Sam rasped out the
words he knew it was useless. He was totally
unprepared for what happened next.

The kid’s face was shoved against the floor, Marlin’s
foot between his shoulder blades, he grabbed the
boy’s shirt and pulled, ripping it off. The boy trembled
and sobbed, begging around his gag.

“Stop it. Don’t hurt him.”

Marlin ignored him. Taking his knife out, he cut away
the boy’s jeans, underwear, pulling the cloth away,
leaving him completely naked, then shed his own

What was happening rampaged through Sam’s brain.
Jerking and straining against his bindings he shouted,
pleaded with Marlin to stop. The kid tried shoving
away from Marlin, but got nowhere. Bending over him
Marlin slipped the knife around the boy’s neck,
pressing but not moving it, not cutting. The boy
screamed when Marlin pushed closer, completely
over him, hips ramming forward into the kid with more
force than needed.
“You’re next, when your brother is gone, maybe I’ll kill
him myself, just like this.” Marlin’s voice was harsh
and raw.

Sam’s breath caught in his chest, acrid bile rose up,
burning his insides, his throat. He squeezed his eyes
shut to the sight of Marlin raping the boy, but he
couldn’t shut his ears off from the sounds. The boy’s
crying, begging for mercy, the slap of skin against
skin in an unwanted act assaulted Sam’s ears. Sam
begged Marlin to stop, not even sure his words were
spoken aloud or simply screamed inside his head.

 A sickening sound, and suddenly there was quiet
from the kid.

“We’re going to have so much fun when it’s just you
and me. He can’t really keep me from you, not

Sam heard Marlin move, pull his clothes on. There
was not another sound, other than Sam’s own harsh
breathing, his pathetic attempts to stop his sobs. The
door opened, closed, and Sam knew Marlin was
gone. Turning his head, cracking open his eyes, Sam
saw the boy through swimming vision. Head cranked
back at an odd angel, naked and in a pool of blood,
his throat slit. Lifeless eyes stared at Sam. Staring
back for a few seconds, Sam barely got his head
turned to the side before he vomited again,
succeeding in mostly covering himself in more of the
vile fluid.

Sam shouted, beat his head against the table,
struggled against his bonds. All to no avail. Another
person died because of him. Marlin may have
actually completed the act, but Sam was just as much
to blame. Dean, his brother, Dean was next. Marlin
intended to see Dean die, beaten to death in some
fight. What Marlin did to Sam after that, he didn’t

Chapter 12

Dean drew up fast and short when Marlin appeared in
the corridor outside the clinic entrance. Fists
clenched, he had to consciously tell himself to inhale,
exhale; count his breaths to keep from slamming the
man to pieces. That would have to wait for now.

He’d be saving that for when Sam was beside him.

“You and I, we’re not so different.” Marlin’s voice was
low, threatening, trying to goad Dean, bait him.

Dean’s answer was to lift the corner of his upper lip,
growl rumbled from low in his throat.
“I had someone once. His eyes were very much like
your brother’s so deep and emotional.” Marlin
cracked a grin that made Dean want to shiver. “Didn’t
have your brother’s delightfully long legs though.”

Dean stood stock still, following Marlin’s pacing with
his eyes. Don’t do it, don’t let him bait you, don’t start
anything, not until Sam is back.

“He looked at me like I was Superman. Thought I
was some kind of special hero when Del Villar picked
me for one of his personal fighters. Took me a month
or more to earn that position.” Marlin stopped,
standing in front of Dean, inches from him. “But that
was a long time ago. He’s not here anymore.”

Almost curious enough to ask who, and what
happened, Dean swallowed the words, pressed his
lips shut, concentrated on evening out his breathing.

“See I would have done anything for him, to keep him
safe. I did everything I could.” Marlin’s right eye
twitched, he crossed his arms over his barrel chest.
“Not so different. Just what exactly would you do for
your brother? Anything?”

Dean responded with one tight nod.

“Eighteen hours. You get eighteen hours until the
next fight. There’s someone I want taken care of.
This fight is to the death.” One corner of Marlin’s
mouth twitched up to a slow, vicious smile. “You win,
you get him back, and I get another of my little
problems taken care of. You lose…” shrugging, “I get
your brother, and his delightfully long legs and pretty
eyes. The way I see it, I can’t lose. We’re in my
territory, this place is mine. MINE!” Marlin stopped,
eyes settling on Dean’s.

Fighting the almost overwhelming urge to look away
Dean snapped out, “The only thing I want is to get my
brother and get out. I don’t want this. You want it?
It’s all yours. Everything except Sam.”

“I have him too. Pity you’ve no way of getting to him
before you fight.” Marlin sneered. “You’ll never
survive with the weakness in you your brother is.”

Staying rooted to his spot, Dean stared after Marlin as
he walked away, stride casual, sure. Dean’s entire
body vibrated with anger, tension, plain fear. The
man was insane, completely off the deep end. Marlin
was crazy dangerous.

Kill a man he didn’t know, had never done a thing to
either him or Sam. This wasn’t some possessed guy
he could shoot, end quickly and fairly painlessly,
mercifully. This was a guy, maybe like he and Sam,
an innocent victim he’d have to beat to death, kill with
his bare hands. Hardly quick and painless. Certainly
not merciful.
Stumbling back, Dean braced against the wall, pulling
deep, unsteady breaths into his chest. Dean
treasured his brother above all else, and now this
man, Marlin, had taken him away. Dean had no
options. Refuse to fight and Sam was gone, Marlin’s
prisoner until someone else came along who piqued
Marlin’s interest more. Or until Sam died from the
abuse he was sure Marlin would inflict on his young

Kill his next opponent and Sam would be released
back to him, until the next time Marlin had a ‘little
problem’ to take care of, turning Dean into a
murderer, a monster no better than Marlin. Sam
would never forgive him that, murdering a man in cold
blood, never see it as a necessity, saying Dean
should have refused; Sam’s life wasn’t worth it. His
brother would be lost to him forever, but at least Sam
would still be alive. Sam would hate him.

If he lost? The thought thundered through Dean’s
head. Losing this fight wasn’t an option. The dangers
to Sam were far too great should that happen. The
simple question remained, when it came right down to
it, would Dean be able to kill an innocent man? Yes,
he decided, for one reason and one reason only, for
Sam. His resolve was frightening, the desire to end a
life posing no threat to anyone, not Sam, not him.
Either way he looked at it Dean’s life was over. He’d
either literally die at the hands of his opponent, or
he’d lose his brother one way or another. Without
Sam, Dean simply wouldn’t survive. There was no
reason to; no point in living.

However this played out, Dean had eighteen hours of
life left.

Carter’s fingers around his arm, pulling him back into
the clinic jolted Dean back to the here and now.

“Hey, you with me?” Carter gave him a slight jerk.

Turning to the voice, Dean’s eyes took a few seconds
to focus. Swallowing hard, he nodded. Trailing
behind Carter, into the clinic Dean mumbled, “I have
to get into that room.”

“We will. What did Marlin do?”

“Nothing,” Dean shook his head. “I have another fight
in eighteen hours.” Scanning the room, he lowered
himself slowly into a chair. “Sam has our lock picks.”
He wasn’t making sense, but didn’t much care.

“Why do you two have lock picks? Just what is it you

Lifting his eyes to meet Carter’s, Dean didn’t have the
energy or inclination to lie. “We hunt demons, ghosts,
that sort of thing.”

“And for those you need lock picks?”
“You’d be surprised.” Dean snorted. “Sam’s got
them, in his pocket. I made him hang on to them, in
case he needed to lock himself back in our cell. I
need something I can pick a lock with. I have to get
into that room, and I don’t think kicking the door in is
an option.”

Carter rubbed at his jaw, “I don’t know, we can look
around, there has to be something you can use.”

“I have to get him out of there. Sam’s going to hate
me forever.” Dean watched Carter move about the
room, pulling open drawers, giving the contents a
quick look.

“I doubt your brother would ever hate you. And I told
you before, we’ll get him out, you’ll get him back.”

“My next fight is in eighteen hours. Marlin said I’d
have to…” The words caught and snagged painfully in
Dean’s throat. How would he ever be able to look
Sam in the eye again, provided of course Sam hung
around long enough after finding out Dean killed an
innocent man? Not just killed him; beat him to death
with his fists. Sam wouldn’t look at Dean as his big
brother any longer, he’d look at Dean as if he was a
monster, and he would be.

“He said you’d have to do what?” There was a
definite tremble to Carter’s voice.
Dean dragged his gaze up to Carter’s face, the man
looked concerned. “I have to get Sam out.”

“We will.” Carter produced something from the
drawers, held it up triumphantly. “What about this?”
He crossed the room, stopping in front of Dean, knelt
down beside him. “Dean, what did Marlin say?”

“If I want...for Sam, to get Sam…I have to…the next
fight, it’s a death match. I have to get Sam out.”
Dean looked at the object Carter held out. “Dude,
that’s a harpoon.”

Cracking a smile, “Well not quite, but it’s a damn long

“I’ll have to file the end down, but yeah, I think this will
work.” He held the needle carefully. It was nearly two
inches long, and beveled to a sharp tip. “Tell me the
truth; what will Marlin do to my brother if I don’t win?”

Carter shook his head side to side slowly. He sighed;
spoke softly, “I don’t know.”

They left the clinic; walked in silence to the area Sam
was being kept. The corridor was long and narrow, at
both ends crossed by other corridors. There was no
where to hide, no place to conceal himself to get
closer to the room Sam was in. None of the men
milling around in the space either side of that door
had any sort of weapons Dean could get away from
one, use on the others. He couldn’t take on the
dozen or so of them there, he’d never win.

Thoughts of Sam left in the desert, or the sweatbox,
worse yet spending the rest of his life here at the
mercy of Marlin took him over. What would the man
do to his brother, what had he already done? Dean
had too many questions, not enough answers. He’d
seen armed guards when he first arrived, if he could
get one of the guns he’d have a chance.

“You said they’d leave soon. They’re still here. I still
can’t get inside to Sam.” Dean snapped out, not
meaning to take his frustration, and fear, out on the
man who’d done nothing but try to help them since
this whole nightmare began.

Carter drew in a breath, his voice low and annoyingly
patient. “That’s usually Marlin’s M.O. He usually likes
to have his handiwork seen, keeps his fighters in line

Eyes sliding to his side, glancing at Carter, Dean
didn’t even try to suppress the wince working through
him. Sam wasn’t out in the desert lost, alone with no
provisions, nor was he trapped inside a sweatbox half
his size. He was in a room. Albeit a room with a
metal roof from what Dean was able to tell from the
pictures. Sam was in there, maybe hurt, probably
frightened and suffering discomfort, but he was alive.
No matter what he had to do, Dean intended his
brother stay alive.


Nodding, Carter offered a quick pat to Dean’s
shoulder, “We’ll get him, and work on getting the both
of you out.”

“Thank you.” Dean drew in a deep breath. “You go
on back to the clinic.”

“What are you going to do?” Carter sounded
suspicious, reminding him of Sam so much Dean let
his mouth turn up into a small smile for a few

“There’s something I need to do, check out before this
fight. I won’t be long.”

He left Carter, headed down the corridor to the main
part of the complex. Dean walked through to the
section everyone gathered in for food, supplies.
Looking at the groups of men as he moved through
the large space, not sure who or what he was looking
for. Spying Marlin near the far end of the room, Dean
didn’t even try to be subtle in his approach. Those
near Marlin edged away, giving Dean cautious and
wary looks.
“Which one is he?” Dean ground out, standing
squarely in front of Marlin, glaring defiantly into the
man’s eyes.

Marlin stood, silently glaring back.

“Which one?! You want him taken care of, then I
need to know what I’m up against.”

The grin that broke apart Marlin’s face sent slivers of
cold poking through Dean’s insides. Marlin nodded
slowly before stepping around Dean, jerking his head,
indicating Dean to follow. Marlin led him through the
area, to the opposite corner. Nodding at a man
probably in his forties, sitting with two other men,
laughing, eating their meal, “That’s him.” Marlin

“Go away.” Dean didn’t take his eyes off the group.
He heard Marlin’s snort behind him, then heard as the
man turned and stalked off.

Mind churning at light speed, Dean had no idea what
he was doing here, why he’d wanted to see this man,
confront him. He’d maybe hoped the guy would reek
of child molester who left small bodies in fields for
distraught parents to see. Then at least Dean could
say he did the world a favor, justify to Sam killing him.
Maybe he’d been a stock broker, an innocent victim
just as Sam. Whoever he was, he must have felt
Dean watching. In the next instant Dean found a pair
of pale, cool eyes sizing him up and down. This man,
the opponent he was to kill didn’t reek of child
molester, didn’t exactly fit the stock broker mold

Saying something to his friends, the man rose, walked
slowly, purposefully to Dean. They stood for a
moment, each one evaluating the other.

“I’m not surprised it’s you; I’m to fight you.” The man
said. There wasn’t even a hint of a question in his

Dean nodded curtly, tried swallowing, but his mouth
and throat completely dried up.

A half glance over his shoulder to the two men he’d
been sitting with. “You have someone here. Marlin is
holding someone over you, making you do this.”

Another nod. “My brother.” Dean let his eyes wander
from the man’s face to the two sitting farther away.
The lankier of the two had shoulder length, unruly
black hair. Dean’s heart seized, nearly stopped. The
expression on his face, the way he moved, the
baleful, innocent looking eyes all reminded him too
much of Sam.

“We all came in here at different times; I’ve been here
the longest. But now we’re a family of sorts, all I have
left, those two. I’m sure you’ve figured out there’s
safety in numbers here.”

Dean certainly understood that. “Sam. My brother,
his name is Sam. Marlin has him squirreled away,
locked up.”



“If I…if you win…” Another glance at his friends. This
man didn’t want to die any more than Dean did. He
had loved ones he wanted to protect just as deeply as
Dean strove for Sam’s safety.

“Without question.” Dean was having a difficult time
meeting this man’s gaze. “My brother?”

“Without question.”

Dean was about to leave, when the man’s fingers
snagged his arm. His other hand he held out to
Dean. “Name’s Tim Hren.”

Spending a few seconds contemplating the man’s
outstretched hand, more like a paw. Tim Hren was
dark skinned, mostly bald, wide, and about as tall as
Dean. Nodding thanks and understanding, Dean
shook the outstretched hand. “Dean Winchester.”
Tim took a few deep breaths, then landed one of his
paws on Dean’s shoulder for a brief second. “You’re
a good man Dean Winchester.”

Before he could offer a response Tim returned to his
friends—family—back to his meal, Dean’s presence

Returning to the clinic, Dean lay on his bed, one arm
over his face, trying to block out the images in his
head. Images of a man just like him. A man who
would die, kill for those he loved. A man who
shouldn’t have to do either. A man who in another
place Dean might have a game of pool or cards with.
Perhaps just sit at a bar with his little brother, trading
remarks with this man over women, cars, or whatever
game played on the TV. A guy willing to forgive Dean
for killing him, being killed by him.

Other images rammed Dean’s thoughts. Sam’s
horrified expression when Dean told him how he’d
killed Tim Hren, the betrayal, disgust in Sam’s soulful
eyes when he realized what a monster his own
brother became, murdering an innocent man in cold
blood with his bare hands. Dean clung to the thought
Sam would be alive.

The seed of a thought dug into his mind, rooted
around, something Marlin said earlier nagged at him.
The thought grew, formed, along with it a plan.
Swinging off the bed, Dean left the clinic, moving
silently through the complex to the cells. Pacing
along, trying to look into cells without being too
obvious he finally found the one Tim Hren shared with
his two companions. He must not have been able to
sleep anymore than Dean. The minute Dean neared
his cell Hren met him in the corridor.

“I see I’m not the only one staring at the walls.”

Dean took a deep breath, this was an incredible
chance he was taking, but he saw no other way. “I
don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to die,
especially like this. I certainly don’t want to leave my
brother abandoned in here.”

“Yeah, well, we only have two options, you die or I

Eyes dropping to the floor for a second, then skimmed
the walls behind Tim, before meeting the other man’s
holding them steadily. “I think there might be option

Cocking his head to one side, arms crossing over his
chest, Tim leaned against the wall, one leg pulled up
so his right foot rested next to his left knee. “I’m

Chapter 13
Taking up position near the corridor junction, Tim
drew a deep breath, this was either going to work, or
not. The or not most likely culminating in his death. It
was either here and now or in a few hours in a fist
fight. Either way he looked at it, he might die, but this
was far preferable, and at least served a purpose.
This Winchester kid might have the right idea, just
might be able to pull this off. They’d still have to fight,
but it wouldn’t be a death match. What exactly they’d
do after they pulled this off, he wasn’t sure.

Tim made sure this new kid understood, getting his
brother back now in no way assured the other boy’s
safety. In fact it was probably going to drive Marlin
straight into crazy mode. The brothers would have
maybe twenty-four hours if they were lucky before
Marlin pulled something else. Right now he was still
not physically damaging the younger brother, but that
would change, and change fast if Dean didn’t
cooperate. Marlin set it up for Dean to be

He suspected Marlin might see this current plan as
not cooperating.

Getting those two out meant getting the whole damn
lot of them out. Tim agreed to help, he wanted out.
He’d spent a good portion of his adult life in here, it
was time to stop living in fear and fight back. Before
now he’d never really had an ally. Dean Winchester,
he’d discovered in a few short hours, was one damn
fine ally. He was tough, smart and driven. Three
admirable qualities in any man Tim long ago decided.
His strongest point was his brother, Sam. Turned out
Sam was an excellent motivator, even if he was
locked away at the moment.

Those two brothers would do anything for each other;
Tim didn’t have to talk to the other one to know that.
The type of love and sheer devotion Dean showed
toward his brother wasn’t given to someone who
didn’t give it back. Tim long ago realized bonds such
as those two had were the most powerful weapon a
man possessed.

So, he’d go along with Winchester’s plan, things
certainly couldn’t get worse.

The men he’d chosen to help, who’d gone along after
only a small amount of persuasion were men he’d had
open animosity toward for years. Tim was hoping that
might cover their tracks for a bit at least. Over the
years plenty tried standing up to Marlin, but always
alone. This was the first time anyone managed to get
some partners, some type of organization, though Tim
tried unsuccessfully a few times. He’d never found
anyone with the right combination of motivation, skill
and plain determination to win until Dean walked up to
him and announced there was option three.
The least he could do was pay the man back for his
efforts and help him keep his brother—his family—

Motioning to the other men taking up their positions
along various points of the corridors, the message
was passed along. Stepping out to full view, daring
Marlin’s goons with his eyes, body language Tim
strode halfway down the corridor.

“Hey, asshole!” He shouted to one of the others at
the far end of the corridor.

Yeah, one way or another, this was going to end,
these men, those two brothers, them all, they were
getting out.


The first thing to hit Dean was the stench.

Carter’s needle Dean fashioned into a lock pick
worked better than he thought it might. It’d taken him
less than a minute to get the door blocking him from
Sam open. He stopped, bracing one wrist over his
nose, letting his eyes adjust to the lower lighting, his
nose adjust to the awful combination of blood, vomit,
urine and things Dean didn’t want to identify. It was
bad enough knowing his brother was in here, had
been in here for as far as he could figure out about a
day. No food or water, Dean reasoned, no clean air
to breathe either. The air was foul, rancid, the
dampness from condensation off the metal ceiling
making it worse.

Carter gave a shove to his spine, moving him
completely into the room. He heard the man’s quick
inhale and turned far enough to see him pull his shirt
over his nose and mouth. If the smell bothered a
doctor, it must be bad Dean decided. Blinking to clear
his eyes, they stung, and swallowing to wash away
the foul taste collecting at the back of his throat Dean
went straight to the table his little brother was tied to.
He did his best to ignore everything, the puddle of
gelatinous goo he knew had once been blood, now
with flies collecting and buzzing around it. Small
white specks squirmed about, maggots.

Lying on the table, tied securely, Sam wore nothing
but his jeans. Even from a few feet away Dean saw
they were filthy and soaked with urine and sweat. A
quick scan of Sam confirmed in Dean’s mind very
little, or none of the blood was his. There was too
much of it on the floor, and Sam was too pink to have
lost so much blood. On second thought, Dean
decided Sam was too much alive to have lost that
much blood. Thankfully he had no open, gaping
wounds. The flies buzzing around him, over him
hadn’t had much choice of egg-laying locations. The
cinches around his wrists and ankles were pulled tight
enough to chafe, hurt and tug at the skin, but not to
cause open, bleeding lacerations, at least not yet.
Whether Sam had the sense to keep still preventing
bleeding and subsequently maggots or he’d done so
because of the pain, Dean had no idea. He didn’t
much care either; the main thing was no maggots
writhed around Sam’s flesh.

His first instinct was to cut Sam loose, snatch him off
the table and run. However, since his brother was
more unconscious than conscious Dean knew he
couldn’t, he’d scare the kid needlessly. He’d have to
get Sam somewhat coherent to get him back to the
clinic. Carter was there to help, but Sam being a
good eight inches taller than their new found friend,
it’d go much simpler if he could walk somewhat under
his own steam.

“Sam.” Dean kept his voice low, but firm, he wanted
Sam’s attention on him, not on what was happening
around them.

Stirring immediately, Sam mumbled something close
to Dean’s name, head turning to the sound of Dean’s
Laying one hand gently against Sam’s shoulder,
relieved he was neither feverish, nor too cold,
“Sammy.” Voice softer, gentler this time, “C’mon, let’s
get you outa here.”

“Dean?” Sam blinked a few times, eyes jerking
around the room, slipping into and out of focus. His
voice was rough, scratchy. He tensed, trying to sit up.
Muscles along his chest and abdomen jerked as he
flinched fully awake. “Dean.” Stronger, clearer this

“Right here, buddy. I’ll get you outa here.” It took
Dean less than a minute to release the cinches
trapping Sam’s wrists and ankles. Aware the entire
time Sam’s head rolled side to side, keeping his eyes
on Dean. “Can you sit up?”

Sam moaned, bit his lip and winced a few times as he
straightened and bent stiff arms and legs. Dean’s
arm slipped under his shoulders, helping him up.

“Ya with me?” One hand resting on Sam’s shoulder,
Dean peered closely at him. His brother’s eyes slid
over his face, took a few seconds to focus, to

Nodding, Sam’s hand pushed weakly against Dean’s
side, trying to move him away, “No…I’m…it’s…”
Dean’s chest constricted, squeezing tight against his
ribs, “Hey, stop, it’ll wash off.” Refusing to let go his
grip on his brother’s shoulders, or allow his hand to be
moved away, Dean nudged at him until Sam’s weight
was against him. Seeing Sam left like this, in this
condition wasn’t anywhere near what Sam was
feeling, Dean was sure. Deciding his brother would
make a piss poor hobo, Dean’s hatred for Marlin
intensified. Something he didn’t think possible.
Leaving the kid covered in his own filth was probably
one of the cruelest things that could be done. Giving
Sam’s lax shoulders another squeeze, “It’ll all wash
off.” He reassured.

How one person could do something like this, be so
intensely cruel to another human being was
completely beyond Dean’s realm of understanding.
Neither one of them had ever done a thing to harm
people, the opposite in fact. Yet, Sam seemed to
have a bulls-eye emblazoned on his back, he was
targeted so much, and so often for no other purpose
than hurting Dean.

This hurt Dean, wounded him so deeply and painfully
he felt it straight through to his soul.

Reaching up to pry Sam’s hair loose from the side of
his head, move it back, Sam’s arm blocked his,
pushed away and down, “D-don’t…please, don’t t-
touch…” Again Sam tried waving him off.
This time Dean took firm hold of his brother’s chin,
turned Sam’s head, forcing him to look straight at
Dean. “Sam. Stop it. It’s okay, kiddo, it’ll all wash
off. Now come on, off you go.” Dropping the arm
he’d had around Sam’s shoulders to loop around his
waist Dean eased him off the table.

Carter stepped up to take some of Sam’s weight;
Dean had to consciously stop himself from pulling
Sam away, putting himself between the two,
reminding himself this man was helping, not hurting.
Laying his arm across Dean’s shoulders, Sam
couldn’t stand on his own yet, but having Dean and
Carter take some of his weight he seemed more able
to hold himself up against Dean.

Stopping at the door, Carter stepped away; being
sure Sam was well balanced against Dean before he
ducked out to the corridor for a few seconds. Back in
he nodded once to Dean. “All clear.”

Tightening his grip on Sam, Dean gently urged him
forward. A quick scan of the corridor, Dean was
thankful it was empty for now. Their diversion
worked. Seeing no bodies brought a sigh of relief he
wasn’t expecting. These men had helped him, they
didn’t even know him, and had very little reason to go
along, other than the small hope of ending this
insanity. Dean wasn’t kidding himself in the slightest,
the hope of an end, a safe route out were miniscule at
the most. It was better than no hope at all.
With Carter helping they made their way back to the
clinic without much fuss or trouble. The entire
complex was eerily quiet, the normal amount of men
in the corridors gone. They saw no one. The small
diversionary skirmish Tim organized worked. He and
Tim knew they’d still have to fight one another in the
arena, but Marlin’s bargaining chip, his way to force
either of them into making it a death match was gone.
Pulling the same tactic again with Tim’s friends
wouldn’t happen, everyone was on guard, everyone
protected for now. It wouldn’t last forever, a day if
they were really lucky, but a man could do a lot of
work and planning in a day.

Dean made a start, he wasn’t backing down.

Getting Sam in the shower proved a bit more of a
challenge. After getting him to empty his pockets,
Dean wanted the lock picks back, and drink a bottle of
water, he shoved Sam, still clothed, in the shower, got
the water on to get the first layer of filth off. Letting
go, he planned on leaving Sam with instructions to get
his jeans and underwear off, and scrub down good
while Dean went and hunted down something else for
him to wear. When he stepped away from the shower
stall Sam suddenly turned to him, pale, eyes

“Dean!” He was breathless, one hand outstretched
toward Dean, swaying precariously.
Dean managed to jump forward, not slide off his feet
on the wet tiles and catch his tumbling brother all at
once. Staying as far out of the water as possible so
he wasn’t soaked through, “Okay, okay…it’s okay
Sammy.” Bracing one hand against Sam’s chest,
holding him to the wall and still under the spray of
water, Dean figured Sam could cope with the rest if
he had help staying balanced. “C’mon get those off.”

Peeling his jeans off while Dean kept him upright,
Sam flinched and grimaced, but got a bit steadier on
his feet. Dean took the offensive garment between
his thumb and forefinger, holding it away from him he
couldn’t help wrinkling his nose, “We’re burning

“Won’t have anything to wear.” Sam grumbled, his
voice barely above a weak whisper.

“We’ll find you something.” Dean tossed the jeans
away from the shower. Turning back, reaching
forward to get the soap for Sam, reasoning the less
Sam moved around the better off they’d both be, it’d
be easier for the kid to stay on his feet that way.
Dean hadn’t a prayer of stopping the harsh gasp
rolling out of him.

Bruises, hidden by Sam’s jeans, covered his skin
between his knees and hips. Along his side, across
his lower abdomen, and down his groin and thighs
were large purple and blue explosions of
discoloration, abuse and damage. Without warning
Dean’s own legs wobbled, becoming too weak to
support both of them. Pushing Sam against the wall,
“You okay? Stay there…it’ll wash off. Ju-just use lots
of soap.” He backed away, couldn’t breathe.

Sam was busy shaking water and lathered soap from
his hair, sending a second shower of water to bounce
off the walls and Dean. “Huh?” Looking up sharply
when Dean’s support and hand withdrew so fast, he
slid a bit, hand slapping the wall, fingers trying to find
purchase on the slick surface, “Dean, what the—?”
Then a deep groan.

“Sam?” He needed to get away, but needed to be
close, Sam needed him. Leaning against the wall
beyond the shower to stop the room from twirling,
breathing fast, trying to remember to take even,
slower breaths, hoping the gray and black haze would
clear soon. Dean shoved one fist against his mouth,
closed his eyes, concentrated on inhaling, exhaling.

The water cut off after another minute.
“I’m…Dean…it’s just bruises, you’ve seen me with
bruises. They didn’t do anything; just hit me, that’s
all. Dean?”

Pushing to his feet, using the wall for a brace, not
remembering when he’d bent his knees and slipped
down, to rest on his haunches, Dean wiped one hand
over his face. “Hang on Sammy.” Stepping away,
still not sure he wasn’t going to meet the floor face
first, willing his jumbled stomach to quiet the hell
down, Dean saw the pile of towels, a blanket and
some sweat pants Carter must have put there. Sam’s
jeans were gone.

A few more deep breaths, he could do this, he could.
Sam was his brother, and no matter what was done to
him, Dean could take care of it, focus on the task at
hand and cope with his own feelings later. Right now
Sam needed him, maybe more than ever. Dean was
at his best when needed, it was what drove him
forward. Taking care of his brother was his number
one priority, and frankly, he was damn good at it.

Closing his eyes, taking in one deep breath and
letting it out long and slow, Dean snatched up the
towels, and headed back into the shower. Sam
sagged along the door frame, “I thought you
abandoned me.” He offered a half-hearted grin that
faded the second his eyes met Dean’s.

“Needed to get the towels.”

Sam took the offered towel, dried his legs and torso
while Dean rubbed one across the top of his head.
Sam’s movements were slow; he was obviously
uncomfortable, the bruised skin and muscles pulling.
But Dean could see he wasn’t in horrible pain, in a
few days soreness and stiffness would fade away. It
wasn’t Sam’s bruised muscles Dean was worried
about, tormented by.

Dean didn’t leave Sam until he was settled in the bed,
cocooned in the blankets Carter supplied, at the back
of the clinic, the section the two of them made into
living quarters for now. He was back a short time
later, arms loaded with water, soup and pain killers.
Setting everything on one of the counters close to the
bed, Dean debated whether to let Sam doze more, or
get the water and food down him. Deciding his
brother needed to re-hydrate, as instructed by Carter,
more than he needed to rest, he laid one hand on
Sam’s shoulder, gently waking him.

“Hey, how you feeling?”

Taking the offered water, Sam nodded, smiled a bit,
“Cleaner. Thanks.”

“I brought you some soup too. Carter says if you
don’t finish all of it, and the water, he’s sticking a tube
down your throat and pouring it in.” Dean settled on
the cot beside the bed, “And I’d believe him if I were

Sam grimaced, nodding. He unwound the blanket
enough to allow him to sit straighter. “Dean—”
“Sammy, you know there’s not a thing you can’t tell
me, we can’t talk about, work through.” He hadn’t
meant to just blurt it out like that.

“You’re not listening to me.” Sam spoke slowly,
taking in spoonfuls of soup between every few words.
“They just hit me, Marlin didn’t do anything else. And
you know what, even if he did…as long as we both
got out…”

“You can tell me, anything, you’re my brother, you can
tell me.” Splinters of fear prickled through him,
thinking what might have been done to Sam, what his
brother might be too ashamed to admit, talk about.

“I know.” Sam’s voice was so soft, drained, Dean
didn’t know whether to believe him, dare to hope Sam
had truly been nothing but hit.

“We’re not going to have a lot of time. Marlin won’t
stop, not now. I don’t know how long—”

“I’m not leaving here without you.” Sam glared at him,
daring Dean to continue.

“Sam, I don’t know what’ll happen, they’re going to
come after you again.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Sam’s voice rose,
deepened to a thicker timber. “We leave together.
Together! Or I don’t go at all. I don’t give a crap what
I have to do or put up with to make sure we both walk
out. I’m not leaving without you Dean, just get it
through your thick skull. Get rid of any of your stupid,
self-sacrificing ideas about dying so I can go free right

“Sam there may not—”

“I’m not leaving without you. You die, I stay here. I
won’t leave even if they open the door and shove me
out. You even so much as dare leave me alone in
here and I’ll hate you forever.”


“I mean it Dean. I won’t leave and Marlin or whoever
can do whatever the hell they want. I stay here for
however long I live.” Sam was dragging huge, too
fast breaths in, his fingers clenched the bed frame,
watery eyes betrayed what his angry expression

Wiping one hand over his face, closing his eyes for
just a few seconds, Dean nodded. “Yeah, okay.” He
had no way of knowing if he’d die here or not, but he
could at least do everything in his power to live, to
make sure they both lived.

“Dean.” Sam insisted, though his voice now soft.
“I can’t promise you one of us won’t die. But I can
promise to do my best to make sure neither of us
does.” Reaching out, Dean’s fingers gently combed
through Sam’s still damp bangs, moving them away
from his eyes. “Together.” He managed a lot more
conviction in his voice than he was feeling.

A few hours later Dean sat in the dimmed lights of the
room, Sam had fallen sleep, curled on his side. Dean
hated when Sam slept like that, he mostly only did so
when he was troubled, frightened. He had no way of
knowing for sure exactly what Marlin had done to
Sam, to others before Sam. One thing he did know,
no one hurt his brother, touched his brother like that
and got away with it.

Marlin was done terrorizing, hurting. Marlin was

Chapter 14

Ducking the punch aimed above his ear, Dean
smirked, wheeled to the side and grumbled, “You’re
gonna hafta do better than that old man.”
“Who you calling old?” Tim returned with a smirk of
his own and a sucker punch to Dean’s gut.

Exaggerating his ooommpppff, making a show of
staggering back a few steps, Dean turned on his heel,
jammed his elbow into Tim’s side, sending the other
man sprawling to the ground amongst a chorus of
cheers and hoots from the ‘audience’ surrounding the
arena. A chuckle Tim stifled a second too late got
loose, sounding more like a moan.

“Dude!” Dean’s arms dropped to his sides for a
second, “Please do not sound like you’re enjoying it.”

Rolling to his feet just in time to miss Dean’s foot
connecting with his side, “Sorry. What they tell you?”

“Lose.” Dean ducked another punch more or less
aimed in his direction; dropped half way to his knees
then came up, shoulder pushing against Tim’s middle.

“Me too.” Tim grunted.

“You watched way too much WWF as a kid, didn’t

Tim cracked a grin. Dean covered it up quick with a
fist across his face.

“I loved it. How much longer?”
“We gotta give Sammy ten minutes; figure he’s been
at it for a few minutes now.” Dean hit the floor again,
rolled clear as Tim launched at him. Bit back his own
laugh when the man belly slammed the floor.

“Not funny.”

“Yeah, yeah. That pot belly you’ve got going should
pad you.”

“I do not,” Tim flipped around, catching Dean’s legs
between his own, yanked hard, taking Dean down.
“Have a pot belly.”

Pulling air into his lungs, rolling on his shoulders,
Dean pushed off the floor, “Whatever. You’re still old.
I shouldn’t have let him go alone, not in here.”

“Not like there was a choice, a group going down
there is too noticeable. One man, alone, stands a far
better chance.” Tim twisted, elbowing Dean’s ribs.

Dean faked a wince, doubled over. “Don’t have to like
it though.”

“Nope, you sure don’t.”

Simultaneously both clipped the other’s legs, taking
each other down. Dean’s back hit with a hearty grunt.
Tim flashed a quick grin, “Really do you have to
sound like you enjoy it?” A bell sounding once had
them both glancing at Del Villar’s observation room a
story above them. Up first, Tim reached down,
grasped Dean’s hand, letting him pull up against his
grip. “Think we pissed them off enough?”

Dean’s gaze slid to the empty area behind the glass.
“I don’t know.” Glancing at his watch, “I’m not sure
we gave Sam enough time, only been eight minutes.”
He pulled in a few deep breaths. “I shouldn’t have let
him go.”

Tim kindly patted his shoulder, “You had no choice,
and I’m sure he’s already back, waiting on your sorry
beaten ass.”

Snorting, eyes again shifting to the empty observation
room, Dean said, “I won.”


Another quick glance over his shoulder, Sam was still
alone in the lower corridor. Gulping a few quick
breaths, he hurried past the door to the room he’d
spent too much time in lately. The electrified gate to
outside, freedom, was a few yards further, the access
panel covering the wires supplying the electricity to it
just a few feet beyond. Once they knew where to
look, they’d found it, well concealed along the wall
near the ceiling, painted to match the cinder block
walls. Get there, disable it, get back to the clinic. If
Dean repeated it one more time he wasn’t going to
have to fight Tim, Sam was going to knock his brother
out himself.

Sam was probably even less thrilled about coming
down here alone than Dean, if that was even
possible. They’d timed it out, he’d need just under ten
minutes to get to the access panel, cut the wires, and
get back to the clinic. Dean and Tim were to provide
the distraction of a fight, keeping up their ruse long
enough for Sam to complete his mission. Marlin, Del
Villar and their respective goons would all be at the
arena. Carter was required to be there too. Having
been forced away from Dean’s other fights, except
when Marlin wanted Sam to see Dean beaten, and
considering the events of the last few days, Sam’s
absence from this fight was perfectly acceptable.
Marlin would expect Dean to leave Sam locked in the
clinic, where he’d think Sam would be safe.

Simple fact was there was no other way they could
come up with to do this. Another simple fact was
neither Sam, nor Dean, would be safe until they were
miles away, sheltered inside the Impala. Sam’s drive
to keep Dean safe was just as great as Dean’s drive
for his safety. So, he swallowed his fear and set his
mind to his task.

Even standing on tip-toe, stretching his arms as far as
they’d go, Sam just barely reached the access panel
to the outer junction box. A butter knife and suture
cutters were all the tools he carried. Unscrewing the
panel with the butter knife, Sam held the cutters
between his teeth. The metal covering came loose;
Sam caught it and lowered it carefully to the floor
before it could clang and clatter.

“Well aren’t you a bright boy.”

Every one of Sam’s muscles froze for a beat. First to
unfreeze was his mouth, scrunched into a self-
defeating grimace. Shit. SHIT! Turning to face the
source of the voice, Sam found himself nose to nose
with a rifle. A second man stood just to his right,
pistol aimed in the general vicinity of the space
between Sam’s eyes. A third man stood between
them. He was shorter, compact, terribly composed.

Marcos Del Villar.

Sam wouldn’t have needed Dean’s description to
know this was who he faced. Raising his hands,
palms out, Sam took a deep breath trying to calm
jangled nerves and kept his expression placid. At
least he hoped it was. He didn’t want to antagonize
this man, or anyone else in this place. Del Villar’s
eyes skimmed him head to foot, and back again.
Sam barely suppressed the shudder trying to work
down his spine.

“So, you’re what Marlin is making such a fuss over.
Understandable.” He turned to the man holding the
rifle, nodded toward the electrified door. “Open it.”

Sam watched as the man moved a tiny, fake stone
panel along the door’s frame to one side, hit a button.
The soft sound of electricity going off was followed a
second later by the clink of machinery. The door
pulled up along a track to disappear into the ceiling.

Del Villar took a step back, nodded once at the
opened door to the desert outside. “Go on.”

Sam’s mind whirled. Out. Freedom. Runrunrun. He
did some fast calculations. His feet literally itched, the
muscles of his legs trembled, straining to stand still,
think this through. If he could get to the Impala there
were weapons, tools to get back inside and to Dean.
He’d be armed, he’d be prepared. But where was
their car exactly? Sam didn’t know. The car might
have been moved, leaving Sam locked out, no food,
no water, no way back to his brother, in worse trouble
than he was now. Dean told him he’d driven it here,
parked it near an air strip. How far was that? Sam
had no clue, he’d been brought in at night,
blindfolded; he’d never seen the outside of the
It’d be a race between him and Del Villar. Could Sam
get to the car, get back before Del Villar had Dean
outright killed? Not a chance he’d take.

Pulling his eyes from the opened door, Sam let them
meet Del Villar’s for a few seconds, kept his face
calm, then dropped his eyes to the man’s shoulder.

Del Villar crossed both arms over his chest. “Like I
said, bright boy.” He stalked around Sam, eyeing him
up and down again. “Quite the prize Marlin has
picked out for himself. See, you present an
interesting problem and opportunity for me all at the
same time. Your brother, he’s an interesting man,
best I’ve had in here in a long time. First one in years
to really push Marlin, give him a good run for my
money, take him on. But, he needs to take care of
Marlin, get him out of the way first. He’s already got
some behind him.” Del Villar stopped, facing Sam
once more. “How far will your brother go to have you
back, safe, unharmed? Keep you from Marlin, from

The shudder imprisoned at the base of Sam’s spine
won out, ripped free and skimmed a few laps up and
down his back. The other man’s eyes slipped over
him as if he were indeed some prize to be won, some
fantasy fulfilled; nothing more than flesh and muscle.
Sam’s breath caught and held when Del Villar
reached out, ran one finger down his face, along his
neck. The urge to flinch away nearly overcame his
resolve to stay still, don’t fight, but don’t give in either.
The implications weren’t even remotely veiled.

“He’ll kill you,” Sam bit out. He barely got the words
to come out in a somewhat normal tone. How he
managed to stay upright was a mystery.

“Oh, I know.” Throwing his head back, his laugh,
hollow and taunting echoed around the corridor. “I
guess it’s a good thing I have you, isn’t it, boy? A
nice insurance policy. See, I can’t have your brother
and Marlin around. Too much to try and keep control
of. Marlin wins, he gets his reward, free and clear.
Your brother wins, I have you to keep him in line. It’s
win, win all around for me. And in the meantime, I’ve
got you to myself. Your brother’s little display earlier
didn’t win him any points. I don’t like being
embarrassed, but if he comes out the winner, I can
overlook one infraction.”

Sam didn’t know what to say. His opinion wasn’t
really wanted, so he kept quiet, still.

“You can cooperate, behave yourself; do what I tell
you to, what I want you to do. Or…” Del Villar
paused, shrugged the smallest bit. “I can have your
brother put down where he stands in minutes.”

Barely moving, Sam’s chin dipped in a small nod.
After all his making Dean promise not to sacrifice
himself, what was Sam doing? The same thing.
Except not. Sam wasn’t offering up his life, not
really, just himself. No matter what he had to do to
ensure he and Dean walked out of here, he’d do it,
and survive out of nothing more than plain spite. He
could fight for Dean just as stubbornly as Dean fought
for him. Dean would surely kick his ass for this, but
too bad. Sam wasn’t losing his brother.

Del Villar jerked his chin, and the door was closed.
Without further comment, Del Villar turned, led the
way along the corridor. The two armed men followed,
with Sam between them. He’d go with this monster
pretending to be a man, do what he had to do so he
and his brother could get out.


Dean paced the clinic. Carter and Tim both chose,
wisely, to keep out of his way, stay silent. He felt
them watching him, felt their concern. Carter, Dean
knew, genuinely liked Sam. Though Tim hadn’t much
contact with Sam, Dean knew he cared about what
happened to his brother.

Thoughts of Sam alone, hungry, thirsty, in the desert,
dumped out there, left to the elements mingled with
thoughts of Sam once again at Marlin’s mercy.
Having no clear idea what Sam suffered at Marlin’s
hands, other than what he imagined, the images he
dredged up now went from bad to worse to downright
horrible. Sam being abused, tortured all for no other
reason than Marlin’s sick entertainment, and to
provoke Dean.

Sam alone, hurt, frightened each thought, each word
Dean’s brain came up with intensified his anger, his
hate exponentially.

He was caged, hands tied until he knew where Sam
was. They’d planned for this, but Sam wasn’t in the
room he’d been held in previously. Dean was
unwilling to confront Marlin outright until Sam’s
whereabouts were known. It was obvious Sam was
discovered trying to cut the power to the door; not so
obvious was where the hell his young brother was.

If Marlin didn’t show his hand soon, Dean was going
to have to figure a way to draw him out.

“I shouldn’t have let him go, let him do it.”

“We’ve been over this, there wasn’t another way, and
he’d have just done it while you two were in the arena
anyway.” Carter said from across the room.

“It’s been hours, too long.” Dean spun, pacing back
the way he’d just come. “That’s my brother, I’m
responsible for him. I’ve taken care of him his whole
life, and I’m not losing him here, not now.” He
couldn’t help shouting.

“It’s been five hours, enough time. Dean’s right.
Think it’s time we take a walk, find Marlin.” Tim
headed to the clinic door. “No one is losing anyone.”


Sam was led up a flight of stairs directly connecting
the corridor with Del Villar’s private suite. He
suspected there was access to the lower levels of the
compound all through this upper level. That would
certainly explain how Marlin managed to move around
so quickly, be everywhere at once. He was left in a
small bedroom, nothing fancy, but not a prison cell
either. Marcos Del Villar offered him a predatory,
cocky smile, promising to be back soon.

Sam couldn’t wait.

Ten steps in either direction had him from end to end.
There was one thing of interest in the sparse room, a
window. Sidling up to it, glancing out Sam nearly
whooped with glee. Sitting a few stories below and
not too far from the compound was one 1967 black
Impala. There couldn’t be two here. Now he just had
to get out of this room, get from here to there.

One idea sprung to mind, he searched for others, but
they’d gone and run away. Sighing, he was going to
have to do this, but there really wasn’t another way he
could think of, and it wasn’t like he had a lot of time.

Moving to the bedroom door, Sam tried the handle,
locked of course. He jiggled at it a bit, tapped with
two fingers against the wood, cleared his throat

“Whaddya want?” A thick, raspy voice barked from
the opposite side.

“I…um…will Mr. Del Villar be back soon?”

Snickering, then, “Why, getting ants in your pants

Sam rolled his eyes, sagged against the door frame,
he could do this, he really could. “Well, yes, no, I
mean I’m not exactly presentable, if you get my drift.
Can I get a shower? Before he comes back?”

The lock turned, the door opened.

He shoots…
“Please?” Sam turned on the smile that impressed
most girls, having no idea if it would work, since he’d
never actually tried with the alternative, and added a
touch of round-eyed boyish innocence for good
measure. “I want to impress him.”

The guy made no effort to hide the leer, how his eyes
moved up and down Sam’s frame. He was going to
need that shower from the visual alone. “Maybe you
need some warm up.”

he scores…

“Maybe.” Sam had to make a conscious effort not to
gulp and licked his dry lips instead.

Face softening the guy nodded, grinned and rubbed
his thigh. “This way.”

“Thanks.” Sam said softly, reaching out and letting
his finger tips brush down the man’s shoulder, over
his arm as he stepped clear of the locked room.

The guy half turned back to him—this was too easy—
lecherous grin all over his face. In the next instant he
swaggered away, head snapped back, out before he
hit the floor from the impact of Sam’s fist.

The crowd goes wild!!!!
Sam bolted, deciding as he ran down the hall, headed
for the access to the lower corridor, he was never,
ever telling Dean how he’d done that. Not ever.

There were far less people up here, and he’d seen
the way, wasn’t lost as he’d been before. Racing
along, trying to keep his breathing and footsteps
quiet, Sam was back at the electrified door in minutes.
Just as he moved away the panel covering the control
he heard voices, shouts behind him, coming for him.

“Come on, come on.” He huffed impatiently at the
door, waving it along faster.

When the door was halfway up, Sam hit the button
again, getting just the results he’d hoped for. The
door’s progress up stopped, it shivered for a second
then started back down. Sam rolled underneath to
the desert, to freedom.

The Impala was on the opposite side of the complex.
To his left was the air strip, it was the shorter
distance. To the right was nothing but desert, it was a
longer distance, but less people were there. Sam
veered right. Running hard, not taking the time to see
if his pursuers had gotten through the door or not yet,
Sam put his long legs to good use, stretching them
fully he turned on the speed.

Running in the sandy desert was difficult; he was
sweating almost immediately in the midday sun.
Rounding the corner of the complex he was rewarded
with the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. A black
shinning pearl against the nearly white sand, paint job
glimmering in the sun was his, their, salvation. Sam
was never going to make fun of Dean again for being
unnaturally affectionate to the car. He planned on
planting a big kiss on her hood just as soon as he got

Racing across the expanse of desert, all he had to do
was get there, get the spare key from the wheel well
and these creeps would really learn who they’d
messed with.

Hearing the men behind him, shouting, Sam was
maybe five feet, almost close enough to touch, from
the car, a shot gun being fired exploded the air. He
felt the heat and friction from the bullet as it whizzed
by his ear.

Bending his knees mid-stride, he hit the sand, sliding
on his knees a few more feet, Sam came to a stop,
hands clasped behind his head, panting. The rough
sand tore through his sweatpants, stinging and
grinding in bits of sand along his knees and shins.

“And here I thought you were a bright boy.” Del Villar
snapped, fingers winding in Sam’s hair, yanking his
head to the side.
“Did you expect us to just lie down, roll over and take
it?” Sam spat.

“And we were getting along so well.” Del Villar knelt
beside Sam, pressed his face close enough Sam felt
the moisture from his breath. Standing, he shoved
Sam back at the same time. Holding out one hand,
one of his men laid a pistol in it. Pressing it to Sam’s
temple. “What I want, I get. Remember that boy.”

Sam closed his eyes, tried to quell the sudden
shaking of his limbs. Behind his head his fingers
clamped to each other with enough force to ache.

“Find the brother, bring him here and—” Del Villar
moved the pistol through Sam’s hair, ran his free
hand over Sam’s head, let his fingers skim down the
back of Sam’s neck. “Put him down.”

“No!” Sam shouted, his voice thick and wet. “No,
please, no. This was my idea, not his, no. He had
nothing to do with this.” Sam’s heart jack-rabbitted
erratically, the men and desert before him swam. “I’m
sorry. Sorry, let me make it up to you.”

“Cooperative all of a sudden, aren’t you?” Del Villar
stood, stepped away. “Your brother thinks he can
take over from Marlin, might be more bother than he’s
worth on second thought.”
“I’ll do anything you want, no argument, no trouble.
Please, leave Dean alone.”

Eyeing Sam, seeming to enjoy his begging, “Wait.”

Sam watched as the men stopped, turned, waited
orders. His stomach clenched around itself, his chest
constricted. “Please.”

“Touching.” Del Villar sneered. “But you need a
lesson. You need to have some of that fight taken out
of you, learn who is in control around here, who you
answer to. Who owns you.” He turned, walked away
a few steps, then said over his shoulder to one of the
men, “Put him in a box for now, that’ll cool his jets.”
He swung around to face Sam again. “You’ll be so
grateful when you see me again. I’ll have to think
about what to do with your brother, if he survives his
little meeting with Marlin.”

It took Sam’s befuddled mind a minute to process. A
sweatbox; he was being kept in a metal box in the
desert. Trapped inside, sweltering, fading away while
Dean was possibly executed.

Fighting to control his breathing, not look at the
cramped inside of the dark box, Sam closed his eyes
to the dizziness overtaking him, focusing on one
thing, one thing alone to get him through this, get him


Tim had to nearly run to keep up with Dean. They
both knew where to find Marlin, and Tim wasn’t
surprised Dean made a beeline straight there. He
also wasn’t surprised when Marlin acted as if he was
expecting them. They faced one another off just
outside the arena, near the cages.

“Don’t tell me, let me guess. Where’s Sam?” Marlin
sneered at Dean, openly taunted.

Dean stopped a few feet from him, barely glancing at
the men moving in, encircling them. Tim watched
Dean’s entire body tremble, sheer power preparing to
unleash. He couldn’t help thinking how happy he was
it wasn’t he it was being unleashed on.

“You hurt my brother.” The words were low, vicious.

“It was so good, such pleasure.” Marlin circled, his
voice purely sadistic.

“I want him back.”
Marlin snorted. “Talk to Mr. Del Villar. I hear he’s
taken a liking to your boy. A fine prize he is too.
Such a shame you don’t stand a chance of winning,
getting that prize back.” He swung at Dean, who
ducked clear, did nothing but stare down Marlin with
cold hatred. Tim sensed something gathering inside
the younger man, something that once let loose
couldn’t be stopped. He’d gotten an answer to his
question, where Sam was, there’d be no keeping him
from Marlin now, not that Tim even considered it.

One of Marlin’s goons moved in, but Tim was fast.
Grabbing the guy from behind, he wound his arms
under the man’s shoulders, picked him up, swung him
around and dropped him back down. “Nope. No one
interferes.” He swept an evil stare over the rest of the
gathering group, knowing who was behind them,
there to help. “No one!” He shouted.

Marlin swallowed harshly, took a few steps toward
Dean, “Get out of my way.”

Dean’s arm shot out, hand landing with a thud against
the wall, stopping Marlin’s progress. A sneer and a
slight shake of his head, Dean’s voice came out razor
sharp, even, determined, lethal. “It’s just you and

Chapter 15
Sam wasn’t so much different than his brother. Not
really. For a couple of guys who lived mostly in their
car they were both a bit claustrophobic. Granted
Dean’s was worse than his, but Sam’s was bad
enough. Sam was quieter, didn’t have Dean’s
bravado, swagger, but he had plenty of Dean’s other
traits. Hell, he even liked Dean’s music, not that he’d
ever tell Dean that. His big brother was the standard
Sam judged all else in the world by, including himself.

Dean wouldn’t panic, not even in here. He’d stay
calm, wait patiently, plan his moves, strike like a rattle
snake when given the opportunity, fast, sure, deadly.

Sam prided himself on having Dean’s traits, the good
ones, worked for them, strived towards them.
Everything good in him came from Dean, learned
from Dean, everything he needed nurtured by his
brother from before Sam could remember. He’d
spent his life with his personal hero, watching him,
emulating him, living up to the man that was Dean
Winchester. Even when Dean wasn’t with Sam, he
still was. It was Sam’s strength, his salvation. Dean’s
too. It had always been that way, always would be.

Dean wouldn’t panic. He’d draw inward, keep calm.
Be ready.
Sam wouldn’t give into the panic. He’d live up to the
standard he’d studied his whole life, the one set by his
brother. Sam’s brother was a hero and nothing or no
one would ever convince Sam otherwise. He’d be
ready. He’d make Dean proud of him.

Fighting the urge to pound his fists against the dark,
rough metal above him, try to kick out of the cramped
space, shout his brother’s name, Sam knew he had to
stay calm, conserve energy, slow dehydration.

He might be quieter than Dean, stay back behind his
brother, in his shadow, behind Dean’s walls, but that
didn’t mean he was any less resilient. Any less a
fighter. He and Dean, they were going to win this
game. This, Sam was determined to do.


Dean’s free arm shot out, hand balled into a fist he
slammed into Marlin’s jaw, sending him reeling away.

Immediately off the floor to his feet, head down,
Marlin charged Dean. Bracing, Dean was knocked
backwards into the wall with a muffled grunt. He
bounced off the wall, the momentum from his weight
propelling him forward. Two fast, hard hits to Marlin’s
head jarred Dean’s arm straight to his shoulder; pain
ripped down his spine. He didn’t care, ignored it.
This man hurt Sam in ways Dean could only imagine,
barely comprehend. No way was he getting away
with that, no way was he going to repeat it, further
terrorize the kid, anyone.

Marlin hit the ground, legs swiping in an arch, taking
Dean down. The impact from his back connecting
with the solid floor caused pain to bloom across his
back, sent shudders through his frame. Rolling on his
shoulders and away from Marlin, Dean was up a split
second before the other man. He instantly whirled,
striking out, his foot smashing into Marlin’s side,
catching him off balance, tossing him farther away.
Marlin’s body made an audible thud against the
concrete. In a blur of motion Marlin came at him.
Dean blocked a punch to his face with his arm,
ignoring the jolt coursing from wrist to shoulder. The
two quick hits to his ribs landed solidly, driving pain
straight through to his spine, breath from his lungs.

Staggering back, Dean gasped for air, barely
recovering when Marlin’s weight pressed him to a
wall. Thick, stubby, powerful fingers wound around
Dean’s neck, pressed his windpipe, further cutting off
his oxygen, darkening his periphery vision. Marlin’s
knee came up, drove hard and fast into his groin,
doubling Dean over with a grunt. Struggling to
breathe, spit dampening the sides of his mouth,
Marlin shoved him upright, slammed him against the
wall again. Using the wall as support, Dean struck
out with one foot, kicking Marlin’s leg just above his
ankle, making Marlin shift away just enough. Dean
bent the same leg at the knee, in one smooth, sure
movement drove it into Marlin’s groin with all the
speed and power he could get.

Marlin’s grip on his throat loosened just enough, Dean
got both hands between Marlin’s arms, shoved away,
then slammed them against his head, just above each
ear. Kicking out, Dean’s foot hit Marlin’s middle, and
again a shot to his groin, dropping him to his knees.
Dean jerked his leg up, clipping Marlin’s chin with his
knee. The other man reeled away, dropped to the
ground, catching himself and stopping his fall with
both hands.


Sam scrunched his eyes shut. Ignore the feel of the
sand as it bit, hot and sharp into his exposed skin. He
tried. Ignore the stifling, oppressive heat as it closed
in around him, on him, shrinking his world to a four by
four foot bit of space encased in broiling metal. He
tried desperately. Ignore was what his brain
commanded, rationalized. Problem was his body
wasn’t so intent on listening and complying.

The pinpoints of light from the small holes drilled
along the top of the box moved, elongated. The day
was drifting toward night. Sam knew that would bring
with it a whole other round of unpleasantries. This
physical hardship he could endure. It was the mental
one, the thoughts of what these monsters would,
might have already done to Dean. How many
different ways they could kill him. Those thoughts
plagued Sam, pushed away thoughts of all else.
Image after image of Dean being brutally slaughtered
because of him stampeded through Sam’s head,

He tried licking his lips, so dry even after a few hours
they were starting to crack. He couldn’t move around
too much in the cramped space, so he concentrated
inward, kept still. Each shift in position brought a
wave of dizziness, disconcerting in the least since he
was already on the ground. Dean wouldn’t give in to
dizziness, the pangs of hunger and thirst. Dean
wouldn’t give up.

Light and dark played a game of tag, swirling about
his head, somewhere behind his eyes, drifting
between conscious and unconscious. Stay awake
some voice commanded in his head, a voice
sounding more like Dean’s than his own. He’d do
what Dean wanted, stay awake. He’d try. Dean never
failed, the good soldier, the good son, always followed
orders, did the right thing, put others first. Not Sam.
He was never the good son. Yes you are. The voice
more Dean’s than his poked around his brain. Sam
was a good son, just not John Winchester’s.

His lower half, centered on his bladder, ached
mercilessly, throbbing, every move bringing stabs of
pain to jab his spine. If he fell asleep he’d have no
control. Dean wouldn’t fall asleep; he’d concentrate
on the growling of his stomach to keep him awake.
Dean wouldn’t fall asleep, it’ll all wash off, Sammy.

Dean wouldn’t care if Sam fell asleep, wouldn’t blame
him, would understand.


“I should have known having your brother was more
bother than his long legs would be worth.” Marlin
sneered, pushing off the ground.

“Yeah, well, you wanted a fighter.” Dean shot back,
keeping his distance to catch his breath.
Marlin circled, breathing hard, apparently needing to
catch his breath too. “Ya…what I really wanted was

“All this to get at Sam?” That caught Dean off guard.
“You sick bastard.”

The laugh from Marlin was low, evil. “Looks like I got
him too. You live, he does anything I want. I’ve had a
taste, and I want more. He’s my leash for you. You
die,” a shrug, “he’s still all mine.”

Shouting, enraged, Dean charged him. Two fast
punches landed on Marlin’s face sending the other
man spinning away. He would have hit the ground
had Dean not had hold of Marlin’s shirt collar with his
free hand.

Knee jerking up in three rapid hits, Dean connected
solidly and squarely with Marlin’s groin, hoping he
ruptured something on the other man. Doubling over
Dean’s arm with a harsh grunt, Dean let go long
enough to pull his arm free, clasp both hands together
and smash them into the back of Marlin’s head.
Sprawling to the floor, Marlin immediately struggled to
get up.

“Lemme help you out there.” Dean growled.
Grabbing Marlin’s shoulders he hauled him to his feet.
One hand braced against Marlin’s neck, holding him,
Dean drove his right fist into the man’s middle until he
felt cartilage give.

Grunts turned to a more gurgling sound, blood and
spit drooled from the corners of Marlin’s mouth.
Lifting his head far enough to meet Dean’s eyes they
glared at one another for a few seconds.

Using both hands, Dean spun Marlin around, dropped
him near the group surrounding them. His eyes
swept the crowd before landing on Marlin again. It
took a few minutes of panting to catch his breath
enough to speak. Crouching in front of the man,
Dean’s voice was calm and low. “You and I both
know you’re drowning in your own blood right now.”
Dean shook his head. “And you’ll never hurt anyone

As he stood, Marlin’s fingers clawed at Dean’s boot.
His mouth moved, forming words, but nothing but
phlegm and blood emerged.

Whirling around, Dean’s foot struck out, connecting
again with the soft, vulnerable spot at the base of
Marlin’s solar plexus. “Get off of me.” He looked
around at the others. “Do whatever you want to him,
but no one…NO ONE kills him. He dies on his own.
You should have ten, maybe twenty minutes before
he’s dead.” Taking a few fast steps, Dean wanted
away from there, the scene, the whole thing. I just
killed a man. He stopped, looked back over his
shoulder, “And burn his body when he’s done.” A
cynical laugh and a shrug. “Or get a head start and
do it now, I don’t care. Just make sure he burns.”

Dean left the area, the sounds of Marlin’s wordless
pleas, then screams mingled in his ears with the jeers
and taunts of those he’d terrorized for so long.

Chapter 16

Dean barely felt Tim’s fingers curl under his elbow as
he was propelled away from the arena. Killed Marlin.
Killed him. Sam. Did it for Sam. Sam will never
forgive me, hate me. A man, a human, though Dean
could make a case otherwise, Marlin hadn’t actually
been a spirit or demon. He half expected to see foul,
black haze spew from Marlin’s mouth as he died, but
he hadn’t. He was strangely disappointed at that.
Sam would never think badly of him if he’d killed a
man containing a demon or spirit. They avoided it at
all costs, but it did sometimes happen, they’d come to
accept it as a necessary and inevitable evil.

Marlin was a human, a man, not possessed, evil
nonetheless. A different type of evil and at the end of
it all wasn’t the stopping of evil important in and of
Killed him, I killed him, Sam will hate me. Not likely
jackass; it was Sam’s soft voice and kind smile Dean
heard and saw in his head.

Dean stopped, pulled away from Tim’s grip, staggered
back until he braced against a wall. Doubled over,
one hand braced against a knee, Dean gulped in
ragged gasps. He pressed the heel of his other hand
against his forehead, trying to stop the room from
tilting wildly, the world from spinning out of control.
He was vaguely aware of Tim’s hand on his shoulder,
his voice floated around just outside of Dean’s

Thoughts in the form of Sam’s voice filtered through
the haze of his brain…he would have killed you, I’d
be alone. Killed him, killed Marlin, beat him to
death…monster…heartless, cold-blooded murdering
monster…Sam will hate me…never see me the same

Get a grip, again his thoughts manifested in Sam’s
quiet voice. You’re my big brother, you’ll always
be most important to me…you’re my big brother,
now goddamn act like it! Eyes pinched closed,
Dean concentrated on calming his rapid breathing, his
racing heart…killed him. Marlin may not have been
demonic, or some other supernatural thing, but he
was evil just the same. Maybe even more so, he’d
turned on his own.
Straightening, using Tim’s hand to steady himself,
Dean caught his breath, brought the world into focus.
“I’m okay. I’m okay.”

Tim’s hand dropped away, he nodded curtly, watched
Dean with a sharp gaze.

“Really, I’m okay now.” Pulling his eyes to meet
Tim’s, “I have to find Sam. Marlin…” Dean’s voice
faltered, his balance betraying him. The only thing
keeping him from tipping forward and smacking the
floor was Tim’s quick reflexes.

“Easy. Take it easy for a minute.”

Dean nodded, righted himself once more, cleared his
throat. “Marlin said Del Villar took a liking to Sam,
has him.”

“I heard. I’m betting Del Villar let this go on, you and
Marlin. I think he didn’t want the two of you, thought it
would be too much for him to control. You were too
much a threat to Marlin, which ultimately threatened
Del Villar. Set it up so only one of you was here to
rule for him, was probably counting on you losing.”

“Guess he needs to rethink his plan. What will he do
to my brother?”

“Nothing Marlin wouldn’t have. You’re alive. He
needs Sam in a big way to keep control of you. Or at
least that’s what he thinks. I don’t think he’s had
anyone challenge Marlin. I tried, but without enough
backing, I didn’t get very far.”

Killed him, murdered him, cold-blooded murderer.

Sam’s voice overrode again, not murderer,
protector, defender…family, my family. Dean drew
more deep, calming breaths, drove out his panicked
thoughts, let his mind settle on Sam’s voice of calm
reasoning. Whether it was somehow really Sam’s
voice in his head, or all his imagination, nothing but
his own mind, it didn’t matter. Dean focused. There
was nothing he couldn’t do when he focused. Sam
had always been his prime focus, always would be. It
was all he really needed.

Squaring his shoulders, one final, slowly pulled in
deep breath, Dean mentally shook himself free.
Determination took root, digging in deep somewhere
in Dean’s chest. There it sat, grew, spread. Leveling
an even gaze at Tim, “I want my brother back, and
this is the last time I’m saying it. Because this is the
last time these assholes threaten him, or me.”

Needles of cold, moist condensation dripped slowly
onto Sam’s exposed skin. Sweat from earlier in the
day turned frosty, leaving a frigid covering over his
arms, legs, chest and back. Each of the spears from
the top of the sweatbox falling to him spread out,
added to the layer of chill encasing him. Night
brought far more than dark to his tiny prison. The
temperature dropped to near freezing, the desert was
a study in extremes. Sam didn’t like deserts.

Somewhere deep down, away from the torture his
own body had become, Dean’s hands, warm, sure,
strong, wrapped a flannel around Sam’s shoulders.
The flannel Sam swiped on his way out the door to
Stanford; the one he had still, folded neatly in the
bottom of his duffel. It was warm and comforting,
smelled of Dean, of home, safety, family, love. How
many times had Sam pulled it on during those years
apart for no other reason than it took him home,
brought them together, even if only for a few minutes
in Sam’s mind? Sam lost count in the first month.
The Dean inside his head gave his back a pat, told
him they weren’t engaged or anything, he just didn’t
want Sam sneezing all over his car. Dean seemed to
worry a lot about whether or not Sam might sneeze.

He ignored the fact the sand beneath him moved,
itched, crept over his skin leaving its own icy tendrils
along his flesh. Moving brought stabs of pain through
his back and legs, made his chest ache. Try as hard
as he could to stay still, every so often he had to try
and shift, grateful for the deep rumble of his brother’s
voice distracting him as he did so. Fire burned from
his middle, piercing and agonizing threads whisped
from his stomach. It circled his lungs, made his
parched throat raw, enflaming him from the inside out.
Maybe it was a good thing his vision blurred; he didn’t
have to see what crawled around in there with him.
Instead he concentrated on the picture his mind
formed, made larger than anything. His brother,
stable and steady as ever. His brother was with him,
would never let Sam be alone, lonely.

Dean’s voice told him to forget how his intestines,
stomach cramped, seemed to wrap around
themselves and tie into a tight knot of misery. Sam
might have cried he was so hungry, so hungry it hurt,
but he had no tears left. Blinking became like rubbing
sandpaper over his sensitive eyes, they scratched
and burned, even when he didn’t try to pry his lids
apart. He focused on Dean’s voice, how even a growl
seemed like a security blanket, how it demanded
attention using nothing but pitch and timbre. Dean
was always that way, out in front, the contender, the
guy on the front lines, but forever focused on the guy
at his side, on Sam.

Sam could focus too, he’d learned from the master
after all. Dean always had a plan, always knew what
to do, how to get through, survive. They’d get through
this too. Sam focused on Dean, his words, his face,
his every movement. Nothing outside could get
through the barrier that was his big brother to harm
him, really harm him on the inside. Sam was one of
the lucky few, he had not only a focus to fight for, he
had a shield fighting for him.


Carter might not have believed it if he hadn’t seen it
with his own eyes. This kid, Dean Winchester, was
some sort of cosmic force. Their discovery Sam was
caught, taken and put in one of the boxes looked to
be the thing to destroy Dean, bring him to his knees.
The anger, hate that sparked and smoldered in those
green eyes was beyond intense. It frightened Carter,
and no doubt everyone else who witnessed it too.
Dean’s words no one hurt his brother, they weren’t
just words, it was the code the man lived by. Coming
between Dean and Sam Winchester might very well
be a fatal action in any circumstance.

Dean went through a string of emotions right before
him. Carter felt the punch to Dean’s gut when they
knew what had been done to Sam as if it were he
feeling it for himself. He was sure if Dean could have
blown through the walls to the outside he would have,
his resolve was so great. Del Villar, through Marlin,
tried to take from both brothers the thing they most
cherished. It backfired on them. Dean did tell him
how he’d reminded Del Villar, taunted him with the
fact, Marlin’s death was Del Villar’s own fault. Dean
simply was the weapon. If they’d been left alone,
none of this would have happened, Marlin would still
be breathing. Pity his breathing stopped was Carter’s
wry response.

If the Winchesters had been left alone a whole lot of
people would still be suffering, live and end their lives
knowing nothing but hate and fear.

Del Villar’s anger was palpable. Drawn out by the
young man brought in here to fight, waiting for Del
Villar, Dean was like some cunning viper sizing up its
prey. Del Villar left no room for doubt. Dean killed
Marlin. Marlin who was—had been—Del Villar’s
favorite for years, his right hand man, a partner in
more than one regard. He’d expected Marlin to win,
for Dean to be dead. However, Dean won. Somehow
Del Villar twisted it around into Dean’s fault, when it
was in fact Del Villar who set Marlin against the
Winchester kid in the first place.

Word was spreading fast through the compound;
another fight was on the horizon. Not one for money,
or entertainment. Not one to fulfill some sick fantasy,
or save the life of an innocent boy trapped in a
sweatbox. This fight was for control, survival of the
masses, for what was good, to put down what was
evil. This, Carter understood, was what Dean and his
brother did, in whatever manner they needed. Put
down evil; defend those who maybe even didn’t
recognize what evil existed.

What words Dean used, Carter had no clue. All he
knew was in fact Dean and Del Villar were moments
away from confrontation. Carter was damn happy he
wasn’t on the receiving end of Dean Winchester’s
argument against Del Villar. There was one way to
the outside, to Sam, and for Dean that was a straight
line through Del Villar.

Carter watched Dean, coiled and ready, waiting. The
viper was about to strike. Dean Winchester didn’t
know how to lose.

Chapter 17

Dean’s eyes shifted from Del Villar’s face to the three
men following a few steps behind him. The three men
with automatic guns. “Guess you plan on a real fair
fight.” Crossing arms over his chest, he cocked his
head to one side, used his best smart-ass smile.
“Then again I haven’t seen a real fair fight since I got
Del Villar stopped just beyond Dean’s reach, though
Dean made no move toward him. “Insurance.”

“Coward.” Dean curled the corner of his mouth.
“You’re afraid I’ll win. If you weren’t you wouldn’t
need guns. You wouldn’t need my brother locked in a
box. You wouldn’t need to keep me in line.”

“But I do have your brother, and I will keep you in line.
You’ll do just what I want, when I want.” Del Villar
removed his sport jacket, held it out to one side, not
even looking to see if anyone would take it, trusting
someone would. “But first we have the matter of
Marlin to discuss.” He rolled his shirt sleeves up.

Keeping still was more than a major effort on Dean’s
part, but no way this asshole was baiting him into
doing something rash. He was smarter than this
freak, and Dean damn well knew it. “What’s the
matter, missing your pet already?”

“You killed him.”

“Yes, I did.” Dean glanced down at his boots, let his
eyes roam slowly back up to Del Villar’s, smile
spreading slowly over his face. “But then, that’s what
you wanted wasn’t it?” Flexing and bunching his
fingers a few times, Dean dropped his hands to his
sides, shaking them gently, then stilling them. “Marlin
tossed you aside, didn’t want to be
your…friend…anymore, did he? See, Marlin wanted
someone he thought he could push around, terrorize.
He thought along with that would come someone
who’d do your dirty work for the both of you.
Someone you could keep in line indefinitely. Guess
neither one of you got what you thought, now did

Del Villar barked a few short laughs. “I’m the one who
still has my insurance policy.”

“Sam and I, we’re both going to walk out of here, one
way or another. So, why don’t you just save yourself
the aggravation, give me my brother back, because I
will go right on through you to get him.”

“Big talk. Not buying it.” Del Villar side stepped,
began circling Dean. The guys with the guns, Dean
noted, stayed rooted in place. “But, tell you what I will
do. That brother of yours, he comes out of the box, I
think I’ve made my point anyway. He comes out. You
do what I tell you to do. He’s safe, unharmed,” Del
Villar’s face morphed into a wolfish grin making
Dean’s blood run cold. “Cared for. When I decide
you’ve learned your place, maybe—maybe—I’ll let
you have him back. Until then he stays with me. He
can bunk with me, I’ll make sure he’s nice and warm.
My insurance.”

Dean stood perfectly still, the meaning of Del Villar’s
words sinking in, settling deep inside every fiber of
what made Dean Dean. Staring the man down, a
breath, then two, and Dean became an explosion of
action. He was done talking.

Not even entirely sure how he’d done it, Dean was on
top of Del Villar before the command from his brain to
move his muscles was completed. The other man
staggered back, not a hope of stopping Dean’s
assault. They hit the ground, Dean pulled back as
soon as he connected with Del Villar, fisting the man’s
designer dress shirt in one hand tightly enough to
partially cut off his air supply. His other fist was a blur
moving rapidly up and down, delivering powerful
blows to Del Villar’s face, wiping that wolfish grin
away with almost no effort at all.

The entire part of the complex near the arena erupted
in shouts and cheers. Most the inhabitants
congregated, watching. Del Villar’s armed guards,
Dean noted, did nothing to intervene, hadn’t moved.

Hauling Del Villar to his feet, Dean shoved the man
ahead of him, tossed him inside the arena. “Let’s just
make this official.” Long, sure strides moved Dean

“Think you can beat me boy!?” Del Villar wiped the
back of one hand over his mouth, scowling at the
blood mingled with spit streaked across his skin.
Bringing his hand to his face he smeared the blood
over his cheek, down his neck, giving the impression
of war paint. Lips curling to a snarl, he screamed,
barred his teeth and charged Dean. “Shoulda never
let go of me, boy.” Dean stood his ground, waiting,
smart enough to bring the fight to him, not the other
way around.

In the next instant Dean was knocked flat, Del Villar’s
hands around his throat, pressing in and down,
cutting off his air. It was merely an inconvenience.
Pulling as much air into his chest, expanding his rib
cage as much as possible with the weight of the other
man on him, his hands around his neck, Dean let
loose a roar. Both fists coming together, smashing
against Del Villar’s head with enough force the skin
over his ears split, blood oozed out. Stunned, Del
Villar swayed, losing his grip on Dean.

Rolling to his knees and throwing the other man off in
the same motion, Dean drove his fist repeatedly into
Del Villar’s middle. Knuckles raw from previous fights
ground against the material of the man’s clothes,
sharp stabs of agony punched through Dean’s hands,
to his wrists. Pain rocketed down Dean’s spine,
radiated out, driving him. How Del Villar got away
from Dean, to his feet, staggering back, Dean wasn’t
exactly sure. Where the knife in Del Villar’s hands
came from either was a mystery to Dean as well.
Jumping away from the first few swipes, Dean ducked
under the third assault, Del Villar’s wrist in a vice grip.
Still the man kept moving, bringing one knee up,
driving it hard into Dean’s inner thigh, stunning him,
doubling him over. Those few seconds Del Villar
used to get Dean in a choke hold, knife pressed
against his side, just under his ribs.

Ignoring the pain in his groin, the dizziness caused by
Del Villar’s forearm pressing against his neck, Dean
drove his elbow into Del Villar’s side, brought his heel
down, grazing Del Villar’s shin, smashing into his
arch. Snaking his other hand up, Dean’s fingers
wound in Del Villar’s hair, shouting again, Dean
yanked as hard as he could, jerking the man’s head

Del Villar was thrown off balance. That slight bit gave
Dean the opening he needed. Twisting around, he
landed another solid punch to Del Villar’s jaw, sending
him reeling away.

A shouted, “HEY!” caused Dean to turn instinctively.
A metal pipe sailed end over end at him. He wasn’t
sure where it’d come from, or who, and he didn’t care.

Del Villar charged with the knife, running full tilt at
Dean. Standing his ground, feet shoulder width apart,
he held the pipe like a batter preparing for a home run
hit. Taking the advantage of Del Villar’s obvious
manic anger over the fact Dean was still standing, he
took two steps forward.

Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs…Dean
Winchester swung the home run hit.
The mushy, sickening sound of the pipe connecting
with Del Villar’s skull brought instantaneous and utter
silence to the complex. So much so Dean heard the
crinkle of his clothing as Del Villar crumpled to the
ground, lifeless.

Pulling ragged and desperate breaths into his lungs,
panting through the dizziness buzzing through his
ears along with the pounding of his blood, Dean
dropped the pipe. It’s hitting the floor next to his feet,
bouncing a few times, making the air ring was the
only thing beyond his own harsh breathing he heard.
The world narrowed to one focus point, one tunnel
leading to that end.

Turning to the men carting guns, the men staring at
their dead boss, Dean moved forward. Slowly at first,
then his stride lengthened until he was running.


Carter jerked when the arena went deathly silent.
Eyes traveling to Dean, he watched him attack Del
Villar’s stunned men. Silence turned to thunderous,
ear shattering clamor. Everyone was shouting,
screaming, hell Carter didn’t even know what.
Attention skipping back to Dean, he looked on,
fascinated as Dean grabbed the weapon from the
nearest of the guards with one hand, smashed his fist
into the man’s face with the other. The guard
dropped backwards, hit the ground. Carter saw his
chest rise and fall, but the man was out cold.

Dean aimed the weapon up, fired off rounds, then
swung it around to the two guards on their feet. One
man visibly blanched, backed away, even though he
still held his weapon. Carter could imagine what
Dean’s wild, fire-filled green eyes must’ve looked like
to the guy. The other one stood still, but didn’t
challenge Dean in any way.

“Where is he?” Dean shouted, his face red, veins and
muscle cords standing out along his neck.

One of the men shook his head once. Moving
forward, Dean shoved the barrel of the weapon close
to the man’s face. “Now, I want him NOW! Get him

Color draining from the guard’s face, he slowly bent,
laying his weapon at Dean’s feet. When he
straightened he held both hands up and out in
surrender. Nodding to the other guard, Carter saw his
lips move, but couldn’t hear his words. The other
guard followed his lead. Like a flash of electricity
ricocheting around his skull, Carter understood with
crystal clarity. It was one of the most primal laws of
life. Del Villar was dead, killed by his challenger, a
more powerful alpha male. Dean was in charge now,
whether he wanted to be or not.

What Carter also recognized was Dean didn’t care a
hoot about being in charge. Dean had one, single-
minded goal, get he and his brother out of this place.

Shoving the man who’d just put down his weapon
ahead of him, Dean and the guy disappeared to one
side of the arena, in the direction of the main gate.
The sweatboxes were close to that entrance, standing
as a silent warning to everyone coming inside. When
Carter reached the entryway, struggling to breathe
properly, he paused, let his eyes adjust to the brighter
desert sunlight glinting off the sand. The change from
temperature controlled air, to the natural, much
warmer air made him puff and drag in air, forcing
himself to slow his breathing.

Holding the automatic tucked to his side, aimed up,
Dean ran at the sweatbox, the other man a step
ahead of him. Carter didn’t think about how his lungs
already burnt from the exertion, he sprinted after
them. It frightened him, the wild, desperate flash to
Dean’s eyes.

He was close enough he heard Dean’s enraged,
heartbreaking demand to open the box. The other
man shook his head, backed away a step. No one
but Del Villar had access to the key. They had no
idea where it was kept.

“Open it!” Dean thundered, this time pointing the
weapon at the man’s chest.

Tim Hren appeared beside him, and then
outdistanced Carter in a few strides. Sliding between
Dean and the other man, he defused the situation
faster than Carter thought possible. Pushing the man
away, “Go find an axe or crowbar or something.” Tim
snapped at the guy, giving him another shove. The
man ran to the airplane hanger nearby.

Carter stopped beside them, leaning over, hands
against his knees, breathing hard. “We’ll…get…him
out. It’s just a metal box. He’ll get out.” His words,
meant to comfort, came out rushed and uncaring. He
simply wanted to stop Dean, afraid he’d turn the gun
on the lock, likely shooting Sam in the process of
liberating him. Dehydration and hunger from being in
there for two days, Carter could fix, gunshot wounds
were slightly more difficult.

Fortunately Dean didn’t seem to notice, he was too
focused on the box. Carter saw, Dean had surpassed
his limits, his drive to free his brother moving him
dangerously beyond rational thought processes.

“Gimme that.” Tim took the gun from Dean,
apparently having the same thought from the look and
small, relieved smile he offered Carter once the gun
was safely away from Dean’s hands.

The man returned, pry bar at his side. With trembling
hands he slid the bar’s end between the lock and box.
Tim helped him, pushing down, but the steel refused
to give. When Dean shouted again to get it open, to
get Sam out, Carter grabbed his arm, tried making
Dean focus on him. It simply proved to enrage Dean
even more.

Grabbing the pry bar, Dean yelled at the box,
“Sammy, close your eyes. I’m gonna hit this thing,
get you out.”

What he was likely going to do was give his brother a
heart attack from the deafening noise about to
reverberate around the small, metal box. Honestly,
Carter couldn’t see another way either, finding the
damn key would take a lot of time; it was probably in
Del Villar’s safe anyway. Besides which getting Dean
to leave the box would in all likelihood prove deadly.
Two powerful hits to the lock and it popped apart.

The end of the box fell away. Sam tumbled out in a
heap, squinted, jerked away from his prison. Weakly
dropping an arm over his forehead, shading his eyes,
Carter still saw him trying to focus, eyes flitting to
each face until settling on the only one Carter was
sure the kid hoped to see. Dean dropped to his
knees, at once scooping Sam up, pulling him away
from Tim and Carter.

“We have to get him inside. I can help him.” Carter
reached for Dean’s arm, again meaning to reassure.

Jerking away violently, taking Sam with him, Dean’s
rage turned on Carter, snarling out, “Get away from

Carter did a quick assessment. Sam was only
somewhat coherent, and more focused on Dean than
anything else. “Dean listen—” Carter resisted the
impulse to recoil when his words brought a murderous
glare from Dean. Twisting to face Tim, he mouthed,
“Get a stretcher.”

“Dean.” Sam’s breathless plea silenced Carter. His
eyes met Carter’s for the briefest instant. “Let him.
Don’t want to die.” Sam’s hand dropped from his face
to his brother’s arm.

More unconscious than not, Sam still knew his
brother, and knew how to bring him back from
whatever brink Dean teetered on. Carter went with it,
knowing Sam wasn’t anywhere near dying, though he
probably felt like it at the moment. The kid had to be
horrendously thirsty, the hunger pangs, Carter knew,
would be torturous by themselves. The sweatpants
Sam wore were ripped near his knees. The skin
along his shins and knees scraped raw, and must
have been bleeding, were now dotted with maggots.
The poor kid had to be a mass of agony, confused
from what must have been terrifying noise inside the
box, and just plain miserable, maybe wishing he’d die
about now, but nowhere near dying. Sam and Carter
both knew it.

Dean’s attention immediately riveted to Sam. His
features clouded over at the sight of the abused skin,
writhing with maggots, split lips and desperate eyes.
Dean’s own eyes moved up, meeting Carter’s, quietly,
desperately pleading, begging.

Moving painfully slow, Carter reached out, touched
Dean’s bicep lightly with his finger tips. “We need to
get him to the clinic. Tim’s coming back with a
stretcher.” Getting no further violent reactions,
Carter’s fingers gripped Dean’s arm. “He’ll be fine.
He will. You got him out in time.”

Dean swallowed, nodded tightly. Sam’s hand slipped
away from Dean’s arm, his body sagged into Dean’s.
Apparently Carter was getting no further help from
Sam for a few hours at least. Relief flooded Carter
when the wild, panicked glaze left Dean’s eyes,
replaced by determination and reason.

Dean had won. In the short time Carter had known
the Winchester brothers he’d learnt one thing about
them, they didn’t know any other way.
Chapter 18

If Carter thought getting Dean patched up while Sam
stood scrutiny was nerve wracking, it’d been nothing
compared to taking care of Sam while under Dean’s
intense gaze. Sam phased in and out, during the
brief times he stayed awake, he was quite
cooperative. During the in between times, Carter was
happy for Dean’s help, keeping his brother still. He
had a difficult time, keeping the tremor from his
hands, knowing one wrong move, one unapproved
action and Dean might quite likely snap. Carter could
honestly lose a finger, or more.

He felt sorry for Dean. There was only so much a
person could take, being on edge constantly like that,
and Dean obviously had reached his limits. In
another day or two, Carter was sure, when Dean saw
his brother was recovering, when it sunk in they
weren’t under constant threat any longer, Dean would
revert to himself. Feeling sorry for him and staying on
the safe side of him right now were two entirely
different things. Carter concentrated on staying on
the safe side, he’d offer up some sympathy for both
boys later.

Mainly concerned with getting some fluids into the
younger brother, his injuries attended to, Carter
started with the maggots and gashes. While Dean
distracted Sam by coaxing him into drinking, Carter
cut away the material of his sweats. As much as
cleansing the wounds had to hurt, Sam barely
flinched, though his fingers wrapped in Dean’s shirt so
tightly his knuckles were white, his breathing hitched
and deepened, coming in rapid gasps. As he had
previously with Dean, he offered Sam a sedative, but
just as his brother had, Sam refused. Carter wasn’t

Once Sam was showered, Carter considered an IV
until he saw that everything he set in front of the boy
to eat or drink Sam literally inhaled. If anything,
Carter had to slow him down. Throughout the entire
process Dean stood nearby. Any action or motion not
absolutely needed earned a glare, every touch
analyzed for necessity, Carter was sure.

Carter was afraid to even think about suggesting
Dean move away from his brother long enough to
have his own injuries seen to. Retreating away from
the section of the clinic the Winchesters stayed in,
Carter stayed where he could keep an eye on them,
but give them plenty of privacy.

Sam worked to keep from hissing every time he
moved. He wanted to bend and unbend his stiff limbs
to ease locked muscles, to get things circulating the
right way again. At the same time he wanted to be
still, his legs ached, throbbed relentlessly. Though
the small white bugs were no longer crawling over his
skin, stinging, eating away, every time he closed his
eyes he saw them, felt them. Being only half lucid
while he’d been brought back to the clinic, during the
process of attending to his wounds, made the horror
worse, not better. Every flutter of the sheets now had
him wanting to scramble away from his own skin. He
was quite sure if he’d had to care for them himself,
he’d have just let his legs fall off.

Every wrong inhale, the slightest wince, ratcheted
Dean back into overdrive. Try as much as Sam saw
Dean did, he couldn’t hide the trembling of his hands,
the unsteady breaths he took. It was almost as if he’d
been pushed into permanent fight or flight mode.

Leaning his head back, concentrating on staying still,
forcing relaxation, he wasn’t locked in a dark box, he
was in a bed, a room with lights, his brother not two
feet away. Pacing.

“Dean, sit down, relax man.”
Dean sat, for about three seconds before his leg
started bouncing. In less than a minute he was back
up, shuffling around the room, antsy and agitated.
Sam sighed, opened his eyes, and watched his
brother for a minute. Dean had hardly said three
consecutive words in the past few hours, but he didn’t
need to say anything for Sam to know what was going
on in his head. There was a time Sam constantly
pushed Dean to talk. It took him sometime to learn,
Dean told him plenty, never kept his feelings inside,
not really. Sam had simply needed to learn to listen a
different way.

Spotting the now too familiar tube of antiseptic cream,
some gauze and tape on the counter near the bed,
Sam mentally thanked Carter for his foresight.
Pushing up, slowly moving his legs to the side of the
bed a rebellious groan got up his throat and by his

Dean was beside him so quickly it made Sam dizzy.
“What’s the matter, what do you need?”

Dipping his head at the cream and gauze, “Can you
hand me those?”

“Yeah, sure.” Gauze and cream were set gently on
the bed beside Sam. “You need to change the ones
on your legs?”
Shaking his head no, Sam snatched Dean’s wrist
before he got wise and got away. “C’mere, get these
taken care of. You wouldn’t let Carter do it again,
would you?”

“He didn’t even try.” Dean grinned suddenly. “I think I
scared him a bit.”

Sam snorted, spread the cream over Dean’s split
knuckles, then taped the gauze across the raw skin.
“Dude, you were pretty scary. I’m glad you warned
me about hitting the box, it was like hearing a bomb,
from the inside.”

“Sorry. Seeing my little brother in that thing, well it
shook me up. A lot.”

“Yeah, me too.” Sam let go of Dean’s wrist,
bandaged his other hand, willingly set on the edge of
the bed. “Maybe you should ask Carter to suture this

“Just pull it together, wrap it good, it’ll be okay.”

Sam nodded, smiled, he’d expected as much.
Finished applying the bandages to his brother’s
hands, he spoke quietly, stared down at his own
hands now still in his lap. “I think if you didn’t get me
out when you did I might have just gone crazy, or
given up, anything to get away from—”
“Sammy.” Dean’s voice was rough, raw. Sam looked
up at him, really studied him for the first time since
tumbling free of the box. His face was puffy from
abuse, the bruises had bruises. A small cut under his
eye wasn’t looking too good. Yet, Dean could smile
at him. Sam knew there was one and only one
reason his brother hadn’t been beaten to a lifeless,
bloody pulp while here.

“Thank you.” Sam blurted out. Lifting his hand far
enough to point for a second at his brother’s face,
“You should get cleaned up, that cut will get infected.”

Dabbing at it with one finger, Dean nodded. “Little
sucker hurts like hell.” He pushed gently against
Sam’s shoulder, “You need some rest.”

“Dean, I’ve been in one spot for two days.”

Giving him the first genuine smile Sam had seen in
too long, Dean pushed more insistently until Sam slid
down in the bed. “Unconscious from exposure and
resting are not the same thing.”

“Where are you going?” Suddenly, with no
reasonable explanation Sam didn’t want Dean leaving
him alone.

“Gonna get cleaned up, and uh,” Dean rolled his
shoulders, wincing and moving his head side to side
as he did. “And I think get some of those pain killers
Carter is always bragging about. I won’t be long, half
hour at most, I promise.”

“Okay, thanks.”

“When you’re rested up, we’re outa here Sammy.”

Sam’s eyes darted to Dean’s face. He couldn’t help
the fast stutter of an inhale. Dean nodded, not
meeting Sam’s eyes, turned abruptly and walked
slowly away.

There was more to Dean’s statement, much more.
Sam simply had to extract it. He didn’t let himself
relax fully and drift to sleep until Dean returned, was
stretched on the cot next to him.


Dean couldn’t help it, well maybe he could, but he
didn’t want to, not now, maybe not ever. Sam was a
grown man; Dean knew that, it wasn’t the point. The
point was Sam was his brother, his family. Some
days Dean had trouble seeing beyond the little boy
he’d sheltered, loved, and raised to the strong and
capable young man Sam had become. Some days
Dean wanted that little boy back. It’d been so much
simpler. He suspected it was a simple parental
instinct amplified in his case because he’d been so
young himself when he took on the role of more than
Sam’s brother. Letting go of it somehow translated to
letting go of Sam.

Sam had been Dean’s responsibility since before
Dean understood what that meant, since before Dean
could remember. He had no intention of stopping
now. He’d never shirked a responsibility in his life,
especially not the one that was his brother. It was a
responsibility he loved beyond all else.

So, leaving Carter alone with Sam, to check over his
wounds, it wasn’t an option. The fact Sam didn’t ask
him to go, or even give him an exasperated look, but
tossed a grateful glance, a hesitant, brief smile in his
direction made Dean know his decision, instincts were
correct. Just because they’d both grown up didn’t
mean they didn’t need support, reassurance from
each other.

Keeping out of the way, knowing he’d be next on the
list of cuts and bruises to examine Dean leaned
against the far counter. Sam’s knees, while no longer
covered with squirming maggots, still bothered him
after a day. They stung and itched. Sam wouldn’t
look at them, and Dean wouldn’t consider making his
brother care for the wounds himself. Though minor,
they bothered the kid, and not just physically. As
much as Dean wanted away from this place, he
wanted medical care for his brother more. Right now
the best medical care they were going to get was
Carter Bitner. Dean wasn’t exactly feeling up to a
long distance drive either. Another day and they’d
both be in much better shape to travel.

Not paying much attention to the conversation
between his brother and the doctor, Dean leaned
back, stretching his sore back. He was able to relax
for the first time in more days than he wanted to begin
to think about. The words passing between Carter
and his brother hovered somewhere along the edges
of his mind, more registering the sounds than the

Sudden, sharp intake of breath from Sam, his
peripheral vision just catching his brother’s body jerk
to one side, hearing Sam’s startled, “Ow...stop.”
Seeing Sam’s hand brush toward Carter, trying to
shove away from the older man at the same time sent
Dean tumbling straight over the edge. Seems he
wasn’t as far back from the precipice as he’d thought.

Across the room, Dean didn’t register much until he
slammed, forcefully, into Carter’s side, shoving him
away. One hand braced against Sam, fingers
gripping his brother’s arm like a vice, Dean snarled
out, “Get away from him. Don’t touch him.”
Carter stumbled away, barely regaining his balance in
time to keep from hitting the floor. All color dropped
from his face, reminding Dean, rather roughly, despite
it all, Carter feared Dean.

“Dean!” Sam lurched forward, grabbing onto Dean’s
shoulder, his voice thick, quivering. “Stop, Dean. It
was the antiseptic…on my knee…it’s okay…Dean.”
When Sam gave a gentle, but insistent tug on his
shoulder, Dean spun to face his brother. Sam’s voice
softened. “I’m okay, he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Waving at his knee, sheepish expression creeping
across his face, Sam ducked his head a bit, “It stung.
That’s all.”

Eyes dropping to Sam’s knees for a few beats before
he raised them slowly then turned in Carter’s
direction. The man hadn’t moved, was frozen where
he’d stopped, staring wide-eyed at Dean. Carter’s
hands shook by the smallest degree, but he stood his
ground. He hadn’t survived this place as long as he
had by backing down to every threat, Dean realized.
Carter Bitner may very well be one of the bravest men
Dean had ever met.

He swallowed, ashamed that this was how he repaid
Carter’s kindness. “I’m…I’m sorry. Sorry. I thought,”
he got some dry sound out of his throat, an attempted
laugh. “I guess thinking wasn’t what I did. Carter—”
One hand coming up, Carter licked his lips, managed
a small smile, “Don’t worry about it. I understand.”
He took a few deep breaths, nodded to Sam. “Those
still have to be cleaned, the dressing changed.”

Dean had to give the man credit, he sure put his
patient first, above everything, even his own safety. “I
know.” He glanced back at Sam, waiting quietly for
Dean to regain his composure. From what Dean saw,
Sam could barely look at the wounds on his legs
without breaking out into a cold sweat. Any
movement over the damaged skin there had Sam
fidgeting, brushing imaginary intruders away. The kid
looked like he was trying to escape from his own flesh
half the time. Would Sam, Dean wondered, look at
him the same way when he found out exactly what
Dean had done, the price of their freedom?

“I need to finish. They’ll get infected, he’ll get sick.”
Carter spoke softly.

Nodding, Dean drew in a deep breath, releasing it
very slowly. Walking out of the room wasn’t an
option. Sam, though he hadn’t said as much in
words, he’d said it in his expression, actions; he
wanted Dean there, maybe as much as Dean wanted
to be there with Sam. This was more Dean’s issue;
Dean’s fears of what may have been done to his
brother, Sam wasn’t talking about. All three of them
seemed to know that.
Dean met Sam’s eyes, looking for an answer, wanting
to see what his brother’s feelings, wishes were. Sam
gave him that mild, willing expression. The one he
used that read it was Dean’s call.

Coughing, clearing his throat, Carter took a few steps
forward, but not close enough to be within reaching
distance. “You know, those are going to need care
for a week or two, and I’m guessing you both aren’t
hanging around that long for me to change the
bandages a few times a day.” Another tentative step,
he directed his words to Dean. “You’re going to need
to know what to do anyway.” Carter’s gaze shifted to
Sam, knew he was doing the right thing by the boy’s
expression. “Sorta mean to make a guy take care of
those if he doesn’t have to. Probably better if you do
it for Sam.”

“I don’t…” Sam’s voice was rough, cracked and
trailed off. His eyes dropped to the floor, avoided
looking at his legs.

Dean almost laughed, after all they’d been through
their entire lives, and Sam was traumatized by
skinned knees and shins. Hand covering Sam’s
shoulder, Dean let his fingers rest there. Nodding,
feeling Sam relax under his grip, Dean asked, “What
do I have to do?”

Carter wasn’t surprised when twenty minutes after
leaving the brothers on their own, Dean followed him
out to the main part of the clinic, and that he was

“I’m sorry.” Dean repeated. He drew in a deep
breath, not meeting Carter’s eyes. His words plunged
from his mouth. “I raised him. I didn’t think, I just—”

“Hey, it’s okay, it is. No hard feelings, I understand.”
Carter sat on the closest chair. “I remember Sam
telling me it was mostly just the two of you, your dad
worked a lot, mother died.”

“I raised him.” This time it was more like a plea, what
Dean spoke. His eyes flicked to Carter’s, darted
away just as quickly. “He’s gonna…” The words
faded away.

The meaning, true meaning of Dean’s words, his
unspoken questions mixed in with the apology,
wormed into Carter’s brain. Folding his hands in front
of him, Carter spoke slowly, evenly. “Dean, do you
know what I saw when you broke the lock on the
sweatbox and Sam was out?”
Dean shook his head, said nothing.

“You probably didn’t see what I did. I saw this kid
come tumbling out, this kid who’d been abused and
hurt, tortured, if not as much physically, then very
much mentally. He came out, and looked around at
the faces of all his rescuers. Thing is he was looking
for one person, just one. When he saw you, what I
saw was this guy who cared about one thing, his
brother, his hero was alive and right there. I haven’t
known you or your brother long, but I do know neither
of you is stupid. Sam knows, or has a good idea what
you did, what you were forced to do. I honestly don’t
think he cares beyond the fact you’re alive.”

“There are things I don’t know. Can you—is there a
way you can know for sure?”

“If he was raped? The bruises are consistent, but
beyond that, no. Does he act like it? No, not at all.
Marlin was all about visual aids, he was damn good at
them. My guess is he did that to push you. But if you
want to know for sure, you have to ask Sam.
Whatever he tells you, believe him. I’m guessing he’s
going to tell you the truth. I’m also guessing he
expects the same courtesy from you.”

Carter watched Dean’s face, could see him digesting
their conversation, practically see the wheels of
Dean’s mind churning. He felt the man’s pain,
turmoil, realized his brother was more than a sibling.
His anguish was deeper, more difficult to ease.
Carter could only hope the brothers would find a way
to mend each other.

Chapter 19

Dean eased the Impala to a stop, shifting into park.
Cutting the engine, he leaned back, let his head drop
onto the seat. He let out a slow, long breath, drew
another in and let the next out in an even longer
exhale. The inside of the car was illuminated by the
lights from the small office and vacancy sign of the
motel he’d stopped in front of.

Shadows from a sign post and shrubs near the
parking lot cast the inside of the Impala in lines of light
and dark. He let his head roll first to his left, with a
yawn he gazed out the side window. Another yawn,
arms dropping from the steering wheel to his legs,
Dean let his head drift right. Sam dozed; he’d barely
twitched when Dean pulled off the highway, dropping
their speed, and was completely unbothered by the
car’s stopping.
Reaching across his brother, Dean felt for the door
lock. Cool metal touched his hand, his fingers curled
to a fist, his arm pulled back as if he’d been stung.
He watched Sam sleep for a few seconds more
before laying a hand on his brother’s shoulder. He let
his fingers curl over the swell of muscle under Sam’s
clothes, pressing down with gentle pressure before he
gave Sam a small shove.

“Sam.” A more insistent shove. “Sammy.”

“Mmm..?” Sam stirred, shifting around and
straightening. Rubbing at his eyes, he blinked at
Dean owlishly before looking around. He squinted out
the window, rubbed the back of his neck, and
straightened even further. “ ‘M awake.”

“We gotta get a room.”

Yawning, Sam nodded, blinked sluggishly and pulled
up on the door handle. He gave it an odd glance
when the door wouldn’t open. “Okay.” A quick,
sidelong glance slipped toward Dean, “Gotcha.” Sam
pulled the lock up, opened the door and pushed out of
the car. He stretched and twisted, took a better look
around before giving Dean another groggy nod.

Dean climbed slowly out of the car, wondering if he’d
ever not hurt again. His body, stiff from hours of
driving, creaked nearly as much as the old car when
he pushed the door shut behind him. Sam plodded
around the car, followed him to the motel office, not
saying a word. He didn’t have to. Dean knew Sam
understood Dean’s hesitation, his unwillingness to
leave him, sleeping, in the car. Maybe someday, but
not yet, not today. He did consider, for a moment,
what testimony that gave to their car, their home, and
Sam’s sense of security inside it, he could almost
immediately revert to old habits without much thought
to what ifs. Sam trusted when he was in their car with
Dean, didn’t question their safety there.

Making a quick scan of the parking lot, it was empty,
he glanced back again to be sure Sam, still more
asleep than awake, trailed behind him. Ten minutes,
and a few more yawns from Sam and they were in a
room on the other side of the motel complex. Sam
wasn’t too asleep to beat him to the shower, however,
sneaky kid.

Dropping heavily on the end of one bed, Dean clicked
on the TV. They were in the next state and it was still
the only thing all over the news, every station, every
newspaper, everywhere. He sat and watched the
broadcast. The picture was of what looked like a very
high tech, state of the art, prison, though Dean knew
better. One end was still smoking from the blaze
ignited there, burning the bodies left inside along with
that portion of the compound. Burning not evidence,
Dean knew, though it would appear that way, but
burning the threat of possible future attacks. Del
Villar, Marlin, they’d been angry, vile men, Dean sure
didn’t want he and Sam to have to face them as
whatever they became after death. He wondered if
the fire department ever found evidence of salt, or if
that melted away, burned with the rest.

Dean didn’t much care as long as the salt did its job.

So engrossed in the broadcast, how dozens of men,
many of whom had been reported missing years ago,
some still wanted felons presumed escaped in
transport, had been found in this secluded, secret
prison. Some anonymous caller, the reporter
informed, tipped off authorities a day ago to this hell
hole. The place was being compared to slavery rings.
Maybe that was the next step, Dean had no idea.

It had taken Carter about a day to drive home in
Dean’s mind, the place became his responsibility.
Dean became leader the second he’d dropped Del
Villar, dead, to the floor in front of all the ‘spectators’.
It was an unwelcome, unwanted, and hated
responsibility but his nonetheless. There were some
there who’d do no harm to anyone, but they were the
minority. Men like Tim Hren and his partners who left
under the cover of dark. Tim and the two with him
headed south Dean knew, to Mexico. Hopefully to
find some nice sea-side town, live out their lives in
peace. Dean hadn’t been terribly surprised to find out
Tim had been in social work, gangs—he dealt with
violent groups. No wonder he’d survived there as
long as he had. How Tim ended up in that place,
Dean never did find out and couldn’t help but have a
few moments gratitude he’d been there.

Others, they knew, had to somehow be remanded
back over to proper authorities. Men with out
conscience, a reason to live, cold-blooded
psychopaths who’d kill for the sheer thrill it brought
them. Sam and Carter cooked up their final plan
while Dean took care of the bodies, let loose those
who deserved freedom. It’d been Carter who’d made
the call. The state police would believe him Sam
reasoned. He had no reason to fabricate the events.
So, Carter made the call from Del Villar’s office. Ten
minutes later he, along with Dean and Sam drove
away. None of them looked back. They’d left Carter
at an airstrip several hundred miles to the north. A
friend of Bobby’s would fly him to somewhere he’d be
able to live in relative seclusion, away from prisons
and cops.

Water drops hitting the back of his hand made Dean

“Sorry.” Sam chuckled, toweling his hair dry while he
stood beside Dean, watching the TV. “This is going to
go on for weeks.” He moved away after a minute,
crossed to his bed, pulled on a T-shirt and sweatpants
cut off just above his knees. Another few seconds
and he was back at Dean’s side, bandaging material
and antiseptic cream held in one hand, palm up,
toward Dean. “Do you mind?” The question came
out only slightly louder than an exhale.

Dean wondered if Sam was ever going to put the
infliction of the wounds behind him, he supposed it
was just going to take time. At least Sam didn’t look
like he wanted to crawl out of his skin every time
something touched his knees and legs, though he still
avoided looking at them.

Patting the bed, at the same time scooting over to
make room, Dean nodded, smiled. “Sure thing
Sammy.” He took the stuff from Sam’s hand, waited
while Sam settled on the bed, moving far enough he
could lie on his back, knees bent, feet propped on the
edge of the bed. Dean twisted to make it easier to
apply the medicine, bandages. “How they feeling?”

“Better.” Sam had one arm thrown over his face,
obscuring his eyes. “He…um…it was my fault.
Marlin said it was because of me.”

Dean smoothed the tape down on the first bandage,
anger welled up, how dare that man say that. “Sam—”
It came out little more than a growl.

“The first time, there was this guy. I was tied to a
chair, and a man, your build, I couldn’t see his face,
there was a hood over him. He was on the…” Sam’s
voice faltered a bit. He took a few deep breaths
before continuing. “He, this guy, tied down to the
table, Marlin told me he was you.” Sam gave a small
shrug, making him shift a bit, “I couldn’t get close
enough. I had no way of knowing if it was true or not.
He was alive when…” Again Sam’s voice faltered.
Dean stilled, hands dropping to his lap, he twisted
farther to face his brother. “Alive when Marlin took a
knife, gutted him.” Sam’s voice cracked, “Told me it
was you.”

Dean closed his eyes, forced himself to stay still, to
not turn around and beat the wall as hard as he could.

“He, Marlin, he told me if I said anything, next time it
would be you. Then the other time, when he left me
in that room, tied down…he brought in this kid…”
Another half shrug, “I don’t know maybe my age, a
few years younger, I don’t know. Marlin ra-raped him,
then slit his throat. Told me if I didn’t behave, next
time he showed me someone it would be you—I
believed him.” Sam propped himself on his elbows,
stared at the wall opposite the bed. “He said it was
my fault, if I’d gone along with him at the bar that night
he’d have never done any of it.”

If Dean thought he’d been angry before, it doubled in
size on him, pushing out against his ribcage like some
monster. Hate, pure blind hate, was the only thing he
felt toward Marlin. He’d known what he was doing, of
that much Dean was sure. Marlin managed to pick
the things Sam feared most, and turn it on him. Fear
of losing his brother, fear of causing harm to someone
else. Marlin had taken those fears buried inside Sam
and played on them. Dean was suddenly glad he’d
killed the man.

“You killed him, didn’t you?”

Turning far enough so he could meet Sam’s eyes,
Dean nodded. He might have been glad he’d killed
Marlin but admitting it to Sam wasn’t any easier, in
fact it was damn hard.

Sam pulled himself up, sitting straight, picking at the
newly applied bandages to his knees until Dean
smacked his hand away. “What would you think of
me if I said good?”

The sudden and intense influx of relief coursing
through Dean, oozing into every bit of him, was nearly
overwhelming. He stared at the ground between his
feet, blinked a few times to clear away how it swam
and blurred. “I’d think we were both justified.” Dean
said quietly.

Sam’s hand rested on his shoulder turning him a bit
more. “Dean, he didn’t do anything else to me. The
worse thing they did was hit me. Before you got
there, he and his buddies threatened a lot, used pretty
graphic descriptions.”

“They didn’t—” He tried to turn away, but Sam’s steel
grip held firm.
“Look at me.” Sam’s voice was soft. “Dean?
Please?” When his eyes met Sam’s he shook his
head. “No. Dean, no. I promise, I’ve told you

For the first time since he and Sam had gone into that
bar, Dean was able to take in a full breath. His chest
loosened enough he could maybe get the rest out, tell
Sam what he needed to say, what Sam needed to
hear as much as the things Dean needed to hear.

“My fight with Tim, originally it was to be a death
match. Marlin wanted one or both of us gone, told me
I could take care of one of his little problems for him.
He told me that’s what I had to do to get you back.”

“He what?” The anger, sheer disgust in Sam’s voice
made Dean want to cringe away from him. It was all
he could do not to. “He thought what? You were
going to pick some stranger over your own brother?”
Sam snorted, “Damn he had you pegged wrong. That
bastard! He got what he earned for doing that to

Had Sam’s hand still not been on his shoulder Dean
might have collapsed off the edge of the bed. “Del
Villar too. I killed him.” He barely rasped out the

“That’s how we got out, I figured as much.”

“They got just what they deserved. You don’t think
they wouldn’t have killed us, others? What about all
those before us? Who knows how many you saved,
spared, Dean. You’d never let that happen. You’d
never let me down.” Sam clicked off the TV. “Let’s
go sit outside for a bit, I’ve been cooped up enough to
last me a while.”

“Good idea.”

To Dean all that really mattered was what Sam
thought of him. He could see on Sam’s face, what his
little brother thought of him would never decrease, if
anything it had grown. Dean would always be Sam’s


Carter Bitner stepped from the cool damp of the
church cellar into the bright South Dakota sunshine.
He carried a plaque he’d made and wanted to hang in
the small school. When they’d left Del Villar’s
complex Dean had made a few calls to a friend of his,
a man named Bobby Singer. He was a good man,
Carter saw that instantly. But then, anyone Dean
trusted so much would be nothing less.

Bobby had brought him here, to this speck of a town.
These people were poor beyond belief, but they
welcomed him. In return for his medical skills he was
given shelter, food, friendship. Others came through
here, mostly men, tough and smart. Men like Dean
and Sam Winchester, men like Bobby Singer. The
things they did, and how they accomplished what they
did Carter was only now beginning to learn. He cared
for their injuries, they cared for the small village with
nothing more than some houses, a church and a

Some days he’d help the pastor with the school
lessons. Being around the children, it was his reward
for the years spent in Del Villar’s fight prison.

Carter breathed in deep the clean, fresh, free air.

He hung his plaque where everyone coming through
would see it. People needed to know, children
needed to learn there was one way in life, fight for
what was yours, protect it with everything in you.
He’d seen that in action, knew it for what it was, a
valuable lesson. Carter knew better than most, one
had to be strong and sure. Carter knew it was the
Stepping back, he admired the wood carving he’d
spent the past few hours on, with a small nod and a
smile he straightened it, pleased with its look, with the

The meek shall inherit nothing.

                        The End

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